Old friends fit like comfortable shoes

Searching for my old school buddy, Wayne, I moved through the ballroom and the New Year’s Eve party crowd. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years, not since high school graduation.

Then three weeks ago he’d called me out of the blue. Said over the phone that he’d like to see me, had something to tell me, and he’d be here at this party tonight. He’d leave a ticket for me at the front door if I’d come.

I told him I’d be here and hung up. Over the days that followed, I debated. Did I want to see him again? After all, I ‘ve changed a lot since I was no longer that seventeen-year-old kid he’d hung with. We’d both been on the football team. I was a quarterback and he my receiver, and we’d done everything together. Chased the cheerleaders. Cruised in the bright red Mustang we’d fixed up. Fought in the same fights, always standing up for each other. Gone to the best parties, seeing who could out chug-a-lug the other. We were the Boomer Brothers, the toughest dudes around. Everybody said so.

Then high school was over and Wayne left town. I never found out why. I only knew that he was the restless sort, always looking for a change. The last I heard he’d gone off and joined the Army.

Finally New Year’s Eve morning, I decided I’d come to the party tonight. I made my way through the crowd, checking out the features in each face, trying to figure out if it was really him. I looked across the room and saw someone who could be Wayne. I hesitated, then headed towards the guy. A few feet away I realized that it wasn’t him.

He isn’t here. Why don’t I just leave? Though I wanted to see him, I wasn’t sure how he’d take me these days. But, over the phone, he’d sounded like he really wanted to see me. I decided to keep looking. I guess I’ll find out real soon. If he’s here, that is. I’ve looked everywhere. Where could he be?

I started moving through the sea of faces again, glancing at each one, giving each a quick once-over. Still no Wayne. I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight.

Then, a foot or so away, I saw a face, his face. I would recognize those intense, dark blue eyes anywhere. They were his eyes alright. But that couldn’t be Wayne.

I took another look at his face as I got closer to him. It was definitely my old buddy. But what had happened?

Over the phone, I hadn’t recognized his voice at first. It had changed that much. And now I understood why. But how could I ever have guessed that he had gone and done what I had done?

I ran up to him and hugged him.

“Wayne, you’re a woman too,” I said, releasing him from my hug and acknowledging our sex change operations.

“My God, John, these shoes are killing me,” he said. “When I made the change, I never realized how hard it was going to be to get decent shoes.”

The Eyre Affair

ea3Don’t usually review books here. But I know some of you are champing at the bit for some recommends. There’s a new year coming up and you’re looking for reading material. So I thought I would give this reviewing thing a go. If you enjoy Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, The Eyre Affair by Jasper FForde is definitely your cup of tea. The heroine, Thursday Next, is a LiteraTec, a detective who investigates literary crimes. She has a dad who is pretty darn good at manipulating time. As she says, he has “a face that could stop a clock.” Literally it can stop a clock.

Cloning is the thing and so Thursday has a dodo. Unlike some, Pickwick has enough dodo in him to be a dodo. There are consequences when they don’t. There’s random strands of pink flamingo in some. Also she has an uncle who is not a dodo. He is named Mycroft after Sherlock Holmes’ older brother, and he is very smart. Brilliantly so. He is an inventor, coming up with gadgets like the ChameleoCar, the Rosettionery and the Olfactograph.

In the Thursday Next world, you find characters with names like Victor Analogy, Filbert R. Snood, a poetry expert named Finisterre and Liz Barrett-Browning, a receptionist at the Finis Hotel, “the last word in comfort and style.” It’s a world where poetry enthusiasts take the name of their favorite dead poet. It’s a world where surrealists riot on the fourth anniversary of the legalization of surrealism.

The novel takes place in 1985 but it is a 1985 that isn’t our 1985. Napoleon and Wellington were both killed at Waterloo. The Crimean War is still going on, and it’s been a draw between the Brits and the Russkies since 1854. Thursday is a veteran of the conflict. Russia is still ruled by a czar. Wales has a president-for-life, Owain Glyndwr VII, and it has made itself into the People’s Republic of Wales. The French have occupied the Isle of Wight. People get their news from the Toad News Network. All this is presenting the SOC, the Scene of the Crime.

Now for the Crime. The hand-written manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens has been stolen. Yes, it has been purloined. The Charles Dickens here may not be the real Charles Dickens but the one who plays Charles Dickens in the book. Sound confusing? Well, the way the thief got away with the manuscript is even more baffling.

All roads lead to that arch-villain, Acheron Hades. He’s so dastardly villainous that he could teach Doctor Moriarity and The Red Skull a few tricks. Since Thursday is one of the few who know Hades’ face, she is transferred temporarily to a different SpecOps group. And then she’s on a stake-out.

She spies Hades in a building across the alley, discussing the time of day with his brother. Hades is such a baddie that he kills his brother, Styx, when he thinks his brother laid a trap for him to be caught. Styx isn’t smart enough to lay a trap.

Thursday and her partners are off, after Hades. Soon the partners are dead and she is unconscious and wounded. It is like she’d been pursuing a phantom, only Acheron Hades is no phantom. All she has left of the chase is “some broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a bruise to die for.” A copy of Jane Eyre saves her life. In the hospital, they tell her the villain is dead. Despite the evidence, she’s not so sure.

She decides that she’s transferring to Swindon for a change of pace. Then, of a sudden, a red sports car shows up in her hospital room. Two blinks and it doesn’t vanish. From the bowels of the automobile, a woman urges her to take the transfer. Funny thing. She recognizes the woman. Of all the people she could be, the woman in the car is Thursday Next. As she checks out of the hospital, she discovers Rochester from Jane Eyre fame aided her at the SOC, saving her life.

So she’s off to Swindon and going by airship. It’s a twenty-seater too. She stops to see her mom and her Uncle Mycroft and Aunt Polly. Thing is that Mom’s in Swindon while Dad’s having an affair with Lord Nelson’s girlfriend.

While Thursday goes off to do what Thursday does next, her Aunt Polly visits the insides of a Wordsworth poem, thanks to one of her husband’s inventions. Then everything goes black. It looks like both she and Uncle Mycroft are kidnapped. As the readers weave their way through the book, surprise upon surprise keeps cropping up. Surprises like who the other person was in the sports car that Thursday drove into her own hospital room.

Lest you think the book is just a mystery caught in one time continuum or other, that would be thinking in the wrong direction. There’s the romance between Jane Eyre and Rochester. Thursday still has the desires for another Crimean veteran named Landon. She’s playing the piano in the Cheshire Cat bar and he joins her, his fingers matching hers on the keyboard. But it’s at a time when there is still a lot of bad blood between the two. Whether they’ll get together is part of the guessing game of the novel.

There’s a lot of fun to this read, and a lot of favorite literary characters too. All thanks to Jasper Fforde, a novelist who gives Monty Python and Doctor Who a run for their money. Read The Eyre Affair. You will like it. I know I loved it. And don’t worry about the time continuums.You might find yourself in one where time slows down and you get to read all those books you’ve been meaning to read.

One thing is for sure. Jasper Fforde might just make you want to read Martin Chuzzlewit written by the real Charles Dickens or give Jane Eyre a spin.

Is there a particular funny book you’ve read lately?

Guitar Man

Finally got it. Been wanting it a long time. It’s been on my wish list for God-knows forever. Santa came through this year. It was all wrapped up in green holiday paper and a nice red ribbon. Even had a bow. It’s a new, six string, electric Zephyr Breeze, the best air guitar ever made by the hand of man. Now that’s what I consider a big wow.

All those years of singing in the shower and practicing “Still My Guitar Gently Weeps” in my bedroom have paid off. I am ready to go public. I may not be good enough to stand next to Spinal Tap but I am pretty good doing what I do.

If Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson can do it, why can’t I? Do what, you ask? Be You tube guy and have a career in my chosen endeavor. What do those guys have that I don’t? Oh, sure they’re ever so cutesy-wutesy. So, big cheese. I’d die my hair blonde if I had hair. I can be the first bald-headed teen idol. And once I get all that fame, I can be the next train wreck the way the Biebs is doing.

Besides I have something going those two don’t. I write my own songs. And I do know who the Beatles were. Last song I wrote started off with these lyrics:

“Other guys have girl friend troubles.

Me, I am lactose intolerant.”

Now I’m a ready teddy. I really know how to boogie. And tune my guitar. My next step is to get in the groove and start my own band. I plan on playing lead and singing. Already I have recruited four others: an air bass player, an air rhythm man and an air drummer. The fifth in the band will be a woman on air keyboard. We’re going to really rock.

Were going to call ourselves Air-o-smith but that sounded like another band. So we’ve come up with something even better. We’ll be Pluto and the Plutonians. I will be Pluto and I plan to scream out the lyrics on “We want our planet back”.

CHORUS:

“We want our planet back, jack.

You don’t give it back

We’ll give you a great big whack

Put you in the black.

1. I’m way out in space

In the Nothing Zone

Minding my business

Leaving others alone

Circling ’round the sun

With my five moons

Nix, Hydra and Styx

Kerberos and Charon

2.Sure, four other planets

Have a whole bunch more

And some have not one

But I’m not keeping score

Along comes this guy

Says that I do not

Deserve planet status

Want to say, thanks a lot

3.All this time and more

I’ve been holding up

My end of the system

And not passing the buck

Stopping all those rocks

Some kind of a crowd

All those big asteroids

And meteors earth bound

4.Taking more than my share

Of the many lumps

And now you’re treating

Me like some kind of chump

So won’t you pretty please

Give me some good cheer

Make this a great season

Give me Christmas this year.”

Should be a hit, don’t you think? I know I do.

Three Cats’ Christmas

Three cats under the Christmas tree
Buster, Sister, Mama Peaches
All purring their yuletide carols
On this the night before Christmas.
They’ve kneaded their joy, now they rest
Curled up next to tinsel and snow,
Dreaming their dreams of Santa Paws
Meowing his jolly ho-ho-ho,
Hoping for some kitty-katnip
And a ball of yarn for their play.
Maybe a mouse or even two.
They dream and sleep this night away
But soon will come the Christmas morn
And all will be right with these three
For they will wake with a good stretch
And a big yawn under that tree
After a game of give-and-take.
They’ll hurry for their bowls of food
And munch and crunch and lick their paws
Clean and they’ll be in the best of moods.
Then they’re off for the Big Outside.
But before they rush out they take
One last turn ‘round the Christmas tree
Just so the three can celebrate
How long long ago a Babe
In a manger lay in the cold
Without a blanket or cover,
And no more than a few hours old,
When one scrawny and feral cat
Crawled in and curled about the Child
And kept the Baby warm that night.
Let Him sleep with a sweet, sweet smile.
The morning came, the sun did rise
Up east and warmed the Child below
While the cat slinked away, no more
To be seen but all the cats know:
How that Cat gave all that he had
Enough to keep away the freeze.
So now in heaven there’s a Cat
That never has to scratch for fleas.
As our three cats go out to roam
This Christmas day they take delight.
It was one of them, some Unknown
Company to Jesus that night.

Ho, Ho, Reindeer Go

I’m-a Santa Claus

And I put my paws

In big red mittens

Soft as a kitten

Driving my sleigh

The reindeer way

I ride through the air

To children everywhere

Ho ho Reindeer go

Ho ho Reindeer go

My reindeer fly

Through the night sky

From the North Pole I go

Flying high and low

Over hill and dale

I’m answering mail

Making wishes true

For the many and few

Ho ho Reindeer go

Ho ho Reindeer go

It’s Christmas Eve

And my sleigh does weave

Up and down

Through every town

Leaving my toys

Under trees for boys

And sweet little girls

With their smiles like pearls

Ho ho Reindeer go

Ho ho Reindeer go

Back home to the elves

I return to the shelves

All that I didn’t

Deliver when I’d ridden

So many a mile

Over land and isle

Now I get to rest

Cause I done my best

Ho ho Reindeer go

Ho ho Reindeer go