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Offices to which I apparently have been elected and now serve

Peyton PriceI win elections all the time. Most of the time I don’t even know I’m in the running until I end up with the job. Then I’m like, “What the…? I don’t even remember a primary.” But democracy is the best and always rewards people with wisdom and good judgment by pressing them into positions of service. It’s that venerable tradition that makes our nation great. Consider this list of offices to which I apparently have been elected:

Landline Designate, Special Envoy To The Unknown Caller And Dentist’s Receptionist

Official Taster Of Restaurant Cokes That Might Be Diet Or Possibly Pepsi

Dictator Of Email Responses To Relatives Requesting A Multi-Day Visit

Peacekeeper With Regard To All Disputes That Can Be Resolved With IMDB

Chief Collector Of Empty Cups, Dirty Socks And Pens That Were Free But Don’t Really Write

Recorder of Food Establishments Banned Following A Family Member’s Visit and Subsequent ‟Hard Times”

Executive In Charge Of Batteries, Replacement And Dead, Sizes AAA Through D (Not The Watch Ones)

Border Patrol And Customs Inspections Following Incursions by Dog-Walking Neighbors Who Carry A Baggie For Show Only

Commissioner Of Art Made By My Own Children (PTA Sham Delegate)

Supreme Leader Of People Around Here Really Needing to Go To Bed At Some Point So I Can Watch Game of Thrones

— Peyton Price

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches From Behind the Picket Fence. You can find her at suburbanhaiku.com.

Olympic swimming should hold a 20-foot wave competition

Sammy SportfaceThere should be an exhibition swimming event at this upcoming Olympics.

In a pool without any lane line buoys, eight random Olympic swimmers should stand on the starting blocks. They dive in.

Soon after they hit the water to swim freestyle, an artificial 20-foot wave ascends exactly like the ones you see at amusement parks such as the Busch Gardens pool park. It breaks from the left side and crosses over the entire pool from lanes one through eight and the water gushes over the edges onto the deck.

The swimmers have to navigate the choppy waters. Five seconds later, another artificial wave breaks, this time from the right side.

While this is happening, the swimmers will go underwater and start grabbing at the legs and ankles of the other swimmers to slow them down and take them out of their rhythm. This will be kind of like that game swimmers play in the diving well called barracuda or sharks and minnows or whatever.

Underwater skirmishes will break out all over. More artificial 20-foot waves will curl up and pound down — every five seconds. Guys will dunk each other’s heads underwater. No one will let anyone get too far ahead. If anyone takes a lead, the pool electronics will be programmed to automatically build up another wave aimed directly at the leader to slow that guy down.

The pool will look like the Atlantic Ocean does during a full-blown hurricane. Swimmers will be struggling to stay afloat. Exhaustion from wrestling each other underwater and fighting to keep their heads above water to breathe will vex them.

The biggest problem they will have to contend with, other than the onslaught of waves, will be the fact that the race is a 500 freestyle. Twenty laps in hydraulic mayhem.

Fans in the stands will become raucous. It will have the feel of a World Wrestling Federation event, all out of control and unpredictable.

They will root for the guys who are behind in the race. They won’t want the first-place guy to get ahead. Leaders will be the bad guys. They will cheer for anyone who gets ahead to have a huge wave come his way to slow him down and make it tough to get anywhere fast. The race will become like a gladiator scene without shields and knives. Some blood will be drawn from skin abrasions. There will some thigh bruises and shoulder separations.

No one will win the race. No will finish the race. No will allow anyone to get through those laps.

The crowd will be beside itself. On the decks water will continue to pour. Some fans will get so excited they will jump in the water and wrestle with the swimmers themselves.

Others who stay in their seats will start doing the “Wave” cheer.

After an hour, the meet official will blow the whistle declaring the event over and that there is no winner.

There will be so much water drenching the deck of the pool that they will have to bring out water vacuums to soak it all up. This will delay the meet  for three hours.

NBC will air the event live. Someone on their social media team will post a Tweet about it with a link to the video. The tweet will go viral and be retweeted 786,598 times on the first day.

It will be the story of the 2016 Olympic Games besides Michael Phelps finishing second in the 200 meter individual medley behind Laszlo Cseh of Hungary or Ryan Lochte or both.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

Duke of Oil

 

Jerry ZezimaIt’s not every day that you get the oil changed in your car (in fact, it’s every 3,000 miles) and drive away feeling like you’ve just struck oil.

But that’s the way I felt recently when I spoke with Tony Didio, a service adviser at Hyundai 112 in Medford, New York, where my car routinely goes for oil changes, filter replacements and medical procedures such as open-hood surgery.

Tony is a car doctor who has prescriptions not only for a healthy vehicle (“If you can’t stop, those are the brakes”), but for a healthy lifestyle (“Never stand in front of a shooter at an archery range”).

Tony also is an archer who has a point.

“I’m right on target,” he told me.

“That pun made me quiver,” I responded. “Do you know what Custer wore at Little Bighorn?”

“What?” Tony said.

“An Arrow shirt,” I answered.

Since I don’t have a Pierce-Arrow, which stopped manufacturing automobiles a decade and a half before I was born, I asked Tony about my 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe.

“When you change the oil in my car,” I wondered, “do you use extra-virgin olive oil?”

“No,” Tony said. “I’d use that on pizza. But we don’t serve it here.”

Ironically, Tony began his automotive career at his father’s pizzeria in Plainview, New York.

“I was 12 when I started working there,” said Tony, who’s now 65. “But I was always interested in cars. I used to clean off the ones that came over on boats from Germany, so I switched from olive oil to motor oil.”

In 1971, Tony officially entered the car business when he went to work for a guy who was a mechanic for legendary race-car driver and designer Briggs Cunningham.

“Did you ever want to race in the Indy 500?” I asked.

“No,” said Tony. “But I’d have a better chance there than I would here. New York drivers are crazy.”

“You’re a New York driver,” I pointed out.

“Yes,” Tony acknowledged. “But I’m not crazy enough to ruin my car. Then I’d have to fix it.”

He’s had to fix plenty of other people’s cars in his 45 years in the business, during which he has learned that women know just as much about cars as men do. And they’re not as cheap.

“Like the guy whose brakes were worn down to the rotors, metal to metal, so I changed them,” Tony recalled. “The guy got all bent out of shape, just like his brakes, and insisted I put the old ones back in because he didn’t want to pay for new ones. Then he drove off. I was waiting for him to come back with a smashed front end because he couldn’t stop. I should have put him up on a lift and examined his head.”

Tony hasn’t repaired cars since he slipped on a patch of ice while carrying an engine and threw his back out.

“I threw it out, but nobody would take it,” Tony said with a deadpan expression, which he admitted is better than an oil-pan expression. “You have to have a sense of humor in this business,” he noted.

Tony, who loves to joke around with his customers, recalled the time a woman heard a ticking sound in her car and thought her husband had planted a bomb in it.

“I guess they weren’t getting along,” Tony said perceptively. “So I told her I was going to call 911. I kept her in suspense for about 10 minutes. Then I said, ‘I’m only kidding. There’s no bomb in the car.’ She was greatly relieved.”

Tony said people are always telling him that he should be a stand-up comic.

“I can’t stand up that long,” he said. “My feet get tired.”

But not too tired for this husband, father and soon-to-be grandfather to stand in the kitchen occasionally and, recalling the pizza days of his youth, make a delicious Italian dinner.

When I told Tony I’m not handy enough to be either a mechanic or a cook, he gave me the secret of his success: “If you just remember that motor oil goes in cars and olive oil goes on pizza, you’ll be OK.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Surviving your spouse’s high school reunion

Myron KuklaI just got back from attending my wife’s high school reunion.

While I find going to my own high school reunion is interesting, fun and full of stimulating people with interesting lives — going to someone else’s reunion is usually boring. That’s because you don’t know anybody and you don’t have anything in common with these people but your spouse.

But I had a great time at this year’s reunion of my wife Madeline’s class. That’s because I was prepared.

I knew from past experience that within five minutes of arriving at the reunion my wife would disappear for the rest of the night and I’d find myself sitting at a table, chit chatting with complete strangers.

Conversations at these tables usually follow a set pattern like a quiz game. “Who are you with? Where do you live? What do you do? Would you like to see pictures of our grandchildren?”

This time was going to be different. For this reunion, I decided I was going to be a classmate from my wife’s class.

So when the reunion invitation arrived from her high school, I went and pulled out Madeline’s old yearbook and began thumbing through it with her. She would stop and reminisce over each photo and talk about the people until she got to the picture of Tom Washington.

“I wonder what ever happened to him. He left town after high school and has never come back for a reunion.”

Right then, I decided I would be Tom Washington at my wife’s class reunion.

I studied everything I could about him in the yearbook and then created an imaginary life for Tom for the past 35 years.

At the reunion, when my wife disappeared, I took my name tag off and put on one that read “Tom Washington” and began mingling with grads I recognized from the yearbook who didn’t know me.

I’d walk up to someone from the class, throw my arms open and cry: “Babs Johnson!  I bet I haven’t seen you since algebra class. You look great.”

Three things would happen when I did this.

First, this look would cross their face that said: “Who is this person? I should know him because he knows me.” Then their eyes would go to my name tag and a look of recognition would cross their face when they saw the name Tom Washington. Then, they would get a confused expression as they looked back at me.

“Tom Washington. How are you? Didn’t you use to be an Albino?” they’d ask.

I had great fun for Tom. He really should have been there.  I told different people that I, or rather Tom, had once built a kitchen cabinet for President George W. Bush, helped Bill Gates find his car keys in the Microsoft parking lot and gave NASA shuttle pilots personality tests.

After a while, though, I got tired of that and took a different approach. The next person who asked me what I had been up to, I told them I had spent the last six years in the state sanitarium for the criminally insane. “But I’m much better now,” I would assure them, then add:  “Just as long as no one plays the Macarena while I’m around.”  Then I would glance over nervously at the band.

After a while, I figured Tom Washington had enough fun for one night, so I took his name tag off and began telling people I was Joseph Ratzinger.  “I used to be the Pope, but I got tired of it. Now I’m an extraneous church appendage.”

They’d smile and say, “That’s nice. Would you like to see pictures of our grandchildren?”

After a while doing that, I went to look for my wife.

“Where have you been?” she asked. “I guess we missed it. Pope Benedict XVI was here earlier although I don’t remember him being in our class.”

Before too long, people started coming over to our table asking if we’d seen Tom Washington yet.

It seems word had spread that Tom had been in President George Bush’s “Cabinet,” was “key” to Bill Gates and Microsoft and was a “test” pilot for NASA.

The big payoff of the evening came when one of the men at the table popped in and said, “I don’t care if Tom Washington landed on the moon. From what I’ve heard, if they start playing the Macarena, we’re out of here.”

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is a Midwest writer based in Holland, Michigan, Tulip capital of the world. He is the author of several books of humor including Guide to Surviving Life: A 3,487-step Guide to Self-Improvement and Confessions of a Baby Boomer available at www.squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks. Email him at myronkuklabooks.com.

For once in my life

Rosie SorensonShut the front door! There must have been a Harmonic Convergence or a return of Halley’s Comet or some astrological cataclysm today because I just found out I’ve been a fashion plate all my life and didn’t even know it.

There I was, sitting at my computer, wearing my work uniform of black knit pants and the heather gray sweatshirt I bought in London’s Camden Town in 1997.  Still looks like new.

I opened the latest email newsletter from “Lenny,” created by Lena Dunham, the writer, producer/director of the TV show, “Girls.” I read quickly through the introduction and stumbled across the word “normcore.” I promptly Googled it and found an article on the Vogue-UK Website describing this latest “trend.” Which is really not a trend. The article was accompanied by photos of people wearing my favorite non-designer clothes: jeans, t-shirts, sneakers with no labels and plain black fanny packs.

Leave it to the fashion industry to co-opt my “look” and the “looks” of millions of us, which is to say, those of us who don’t think much about our “look.” The Kardashians have a “look.” I have, according to the article, “high-end pedestrian dressing.” Although in my case it’s more low than high.

The writer of the article goes on to quote the New York trend agency K-Hole’s publication, Youth Mode: “Normcore doesn’t want the freedom to become someone . . . Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity that opt into sameness.” I’d like to know in what MFA program that author learned to write such a strangled, tangled seaweed of a sentence. Do you get the feeling the fashion industry is trying a bit too hard? Like they’re running out of fads so now they have to co-opt the way millions of us dress every day? So they can steal the look, raise prices on ordinary garments and gouge us ever more?

Ah, capitalism. No one ever said it was pretty.

The article continues with a quote from designer Richard Nicoll:  “I’ve been inspired recently by my idea of The Special Normal and The Perfect Boring. Trusty wardrobe staples that last but have something unique and personal. . . . “Normcore says, ‘I have soul and intelligence. I’m unique and I don’t need to shout about it.’”

Reminds me of Al Franken’s “Saturday Night Live” character, Stuart Smalley, who stands before a mirror and says, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!” If you say it often enough, it might become true.

But wait. Now that I look more carefully at the article, I see that it was published in 2014. Oh, no. For the amount of time it took me to drink a cup of coffee and read the article, I was “in,” I was “hip. I was normcore. Now I’m just another trend, come and gone. Back to being plain old boring. Sigh.

That’s OK. The stress of keeping up with normcore was killing me.

Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster HollowHer work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Ritch Shydner

Ritch Shydner, author of the newly released Kicking Through the Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Boom, has been described as “an incredibly funny observational comedian.” He has made numerous guest appearances on late-night TV as a comic. He also played Al Bundy’s co-worker on Married with Children and appeared in Designing Women, Roseanne and feature films such as Beverly Hills Cop II. He has written for Roseanne, The Jeff Foxworthy Show and HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man. This is his second book. In 2006, he compiled stories of comedians on the road for I Killed, which he co-wrote with Mark Schiff.

Unbucket list

Fighting midlife inertia, Sherry Stanfa-Stanley stares down a year of fear through what she calls The 52/52 Project. Her exploits range from visiting a nude beach with her 75-year-old mother to going on a raid with a vice squad and SWAT team to crashing a wedding — where she accidentally catches the bouquet. While finding her courage in the most unlikely of circumstances, Sherry ultimately finds herself.  For midlifers, fatigued parents and anyone who may be discontent with their life and looking to shake things up, try new things, or just escape, Finding My Badass Self is proof it’s never too late to reinvent yourself — and that the best bucket list of all may be an unbucket list.

Exiting Brexit — 10 ways for the UK to offset leaving the EU

Paul_Lander(This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post. Reposted by permission of the author.)

A Reverse Mortgage for Buckingham Palace — Nothing will put a smile on those Buckingham Palace guards more then knowing their paychecks won’t bounce.

List Scotland on EBay — Kilts, bagpipes and, if you “Buy it Now,” Sean Connery will tape your phone machine message. Hurry before the EU beats you to it.

Adele is now available to play weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Sweet 16s. “Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like me to sing at your event.”

Tour Liverpool with Pete Best — Enjoy historic, scenic Liverpool with one-time Beatles’ drummer Pete Best. What fun and, if you think leaving the EU sucked, hey, you’ll be reminded that it’s still not as bad as leaving the Beatles.

Photo op with Keith Richards — Have your pic taken with the Rolling Stones legend. It’ll be worth every pence spent and, face it, everyone looks smashingly well when standing next to the legendary guitarist.

Denny’s Wimbledon — Who better company to sell the Wimbledon naming rights to than the home of the “Grand Slam” breakfast. Not only will it pay for the tourney, but also be a reminder that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Make riding London’s The Eye ferris wheel over and over again mandatory — Not only will it fill the national treasury but ride it enough times and you’ll have that going-around-in-circles, nauseous feeling…much like the UK the morning after the vote.

Royal Shakespeare Theater’s Put Your Name in a Shakespeare Play Sale — Big bucks for changing King Lear to, for example, King Larry from Paterson, New Jersey. Or, lesser bucks, for Hamlet to proclaim, “Alas, poor Gunter from Dusseldorf! I knew him.”

Air2nb 10 Downing Street — What better way to spend time in London than at the Prime Minister’s flat. And, with no other actual employment opportunities, there’s a good chance you’ll get a “cheerio” with your morning Times of London or Daily Mirror from former Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Sharon who will be there to serve you tea and leftover humble pie.

Replace the double decker buses with Le Cars — Not only will the savings on petro be enormous, but every time a bus goes on its route, it’s a potential world record for stuffing people in a mass transit vehicle. Win-win.

— Paul Lander

Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written stand-up material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in Huff Post Comedy, McSweeney’s, The New YorkerSanta Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. In 2015, he placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual column contest in the online/blog/multimedia category for his pieces in Humor Times and was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month.”

Reflections of Erma