Kangaroo walks into a bar

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‘We got a million of ’em’

Last week’s silly family sayings (see ‘What’s not to lichen?’ for some nifty examples) seemed to strike a chord, so I thought I’d regale you this week with some equally silly family jokes.

(I was going to write about late March snowstorms and sprinkle the story with some extremely cute photos of kids hiding in snow forts and whatnot, but I can’t get my darned scanner to work. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best. Snow — even funny stories about it — seems so over now that’s it’s finally Spring, don’t you think?)

Speaking of regaling, the photo at the top of this post shows The Child wowing the crowd at my Dad’s retirement party (that’s Dad,  making the introductions). She had two guaranteed-to-crack-’em-up jokes at that age, and she told them both. Here’s the first one:

Kangaroo walks into a bar, orders a martini. “That’ll be fifty bucks,” says the bartender. The kangaroo looks shocked, but reaches into his pouch, pulls out fifty bucks and hands it over. Whereupon the bartender hands him his martini. The kangaroo’s sipping away when the bartender remarks “You know, we don’t get many kangaroos in here.” Kangaroo: “Well, I should say not. Not at these prices!”

Middle Younger Brother Roger gets a turn at the mic. Not sure what joke he told, but I bet it was a dandy

Now, before you smarties remark in the comments that male kangaroos don’t have pouches, let me say in The Child’s (and my) defense that it’s just funnier that way, with the pouch and all. Oh, here’s the other joke. It had to do with a lady and a duck:

A lady was walking along a country road, carrying a duck. Why, I’m not sure. But this farmer passes her and calls out “What are you doing with that pig?” So the lady says “This isn’t a pig, you silly man. This is a duck.” And the farmer goes “I was talking to the duck.”

I know I know. But I bet your family has jokes like that. You know, jokes that get told over and over, and never fail — at least among your own family members or maybe a long-suffering family friend or two.

Even The Dude’s family had family jokes. I don’t remember his mom telling any jokes, but his dad did. Dude’s Dad was a doctor, so he specialized in medical humor. Here’s one I remember him telling (and telling more than once).

There was this man who was diagnosed with a horrible contagious disease requiring complete isolation — and a special diet. His doctor tells the guy that the only thing he’ll be able to eat is flounder. “Flounder?” asks the sick guy. “Will eating flounder help?” “Who knows?” says the doctor. “But it’s the only thing we can slip under the door.”

The Dude’s Dad, quite possibly teaching the Dude and his Brother Bill the flounder joke

Okay. Brace yourselves. Because The Dude’s Dad wasn’t just a doctor, he was a urologist. So he had urology jokes. I kid you not. Here’s his favorite:

A guy goes to his urologist and says “Doctor doctor, I’ve got a problem!” “Well, what seems to be the trouble?” asks the urologist. “I have five penises.” “Five penises?!? My goodness! How does your underwear fit?” “Like a glove.”

Baddaboom. He told this joke a lot. Usually at the dinner table. Cracked up those Whitmores every time. The Whitmores, though, were usually more into sight gags. Though, perhaps not surprisingly, even the sight gags often involved underwear humor.

Oh, before I forget, there was a joke that was told by both Henrys and Whitmores. I made this discovery when I told the joke this snowy weekend at our friends’ place up in the Catskills. You’ll be happy to hear that our friends remained our friends even after they heard this one:

There were these three old prospectors camping out, looking for gold. None of them liked to cook; in fact, they all hated it. So they drew straws to see who had to cook. And they decided that if anyone complained about the food, he would have to take over the cooking duties. So this one guy draws the short straw, and has to cook. Every night he makes the food (usually a stew) more and more disgusting — he puts in too much pepper, he throws in a rotten tomato, he even uses dog food instead of hamburger. Nothing works. The other guys grit their teeth and eat whatever he makes. Then one night he gets an idea. He heats up the dishwater and serves that. First guy takes a spoonful, makes a face, and says “My stars! This takes just like dishwater.” The cook starts to grin, thinking he won’t have to make dinner anymore — when the guy adds “…but good, mind you!”

Okay. I can hear you all crying “uncle”, so I guess that’s enough of that. But before I leave you to take a nice relaxing swim up at Asphalt Green, let me return to Dad’s retirement party, and something else somebody said that was pretty funny, even if it didn’t involve kangaroos or even ducks.

My Dad was a man of many hobbies, pursued with great passion, but usually one at a time. He would become enthralled with something, like golf or even oil painting, and do that one thing with great intensity. Then a new interest would pop up, and, well, let me just say that we had a lot of fly-fishing gear down in the basement.

So. At the time of his retirement, Dad was into growing roses. Really into it. He had dozens of rose bushes and dozens of prizes for the roses he grew on them. One of his favorites? The Dolly Parton.

Not sure if this is a Dolly Parton, but it’s a darned pretty rose

Anyway. As a retirement gift, Dad’s colleagues went in together and got him a computer. When they presented it to him, my Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked to those assembled “Well. There go the roses!”

See you next week. If my scanner’s working, I’ll show you some cute snow photos. Or not.

New York City. March 2017

What’s not to lichen?

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‘When it comes to family humor, everything is relative’

If that title up there involving a “composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationship” tickled your funny bone, then maybe you are a long-lost Whitmore cousin. Puns featuring obscure scientific terms tend to run in The Dude’s family.

In addition to the lichen pun, which is recited every single time a patch of it is crunched underfoot on a hiking trail, there’s the one featuring euonymus. You’ll be out riding in the car some fine fall day when The Dude, spotting this fiery red bush alongside the road, intones in a sing-song voice “I wanna miss, they wanna miss…you wanna miss”. His Dad did the same thing. Cracked him up every time.

The Dude’s family, cracking each other up. ‘Smile and say euonymus, everybody!’

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That’ll teach you

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‘My high school field trip to the state penitentiary’

So I was having my hair cut last week and telling Anthony about last week’s post — the one about driving and road trips — and had gotten to the part about how in my high school the Drivers’ Ed teacher was always the same guy who taught gym and something called ‘social studies’.

Drivers’ Ed/Gym/Social Studies teacher Mr. K

We got to talking about how different high school was way back when, even in Brooklyn, where he grew up. How we had classes like Industrial Arts (AKA ‘Shop’) and Home Economics (‘Home Ec’) and organizations like FFA, which stood for Future Farmers of America.

I don’t know whatall went on in Shop (except that it looks a tad oily) since Shop was strictly for boys. In fact, boys were required to take either Shop or Agriculture. Girls had no choice, but were similarly required to take the aforementioned Home Economics. I don’t know where the ‘economics’ came in, since basically we were taught cooking, sewing, setting the table — all skills designed to make us better wives and mothers. Interesting note: Home Ec was taught by a Miss Ford, who was neither. Continue reading

“Drive,” she said.

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‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was. Continue reading

Let sleeping dads lie

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‘Remembering my Dad, who took napping to a whole new level — mainly horizontal’

Last Friday would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary. I say ‘would have been’ not because they didn’t stay married. No, it’s because my dad, alas, is no longer with us. Dad made it to 80, which made him pretty happy. But just barely, which made the rest of us pretty sad.

The last photo my Dad ever took. That’s Older Younger Brother Scott — and Me — at Dad’s 80th Birthday Party. Taken with my camera, by Dad

Anyway. This past January 13 got me thinking about my Dad. And if you too knew him, whether as ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle Dale’, ‘DJ’ or ‘Deej’, ‘Henry Dale’ (which is how his mail was often addressed and how our friend Regina insisted on addressing him), or even as ‘Scotty’ (he apparently had a tartan plaid fixation as a child), you know that you can’t think about him without also thinking about some of his, well, ‘quirks’.

Yes, quirks. Dad was full of them. For example, he couldn’t stand the sound of crunching. Raw vegetables being consumed in his presence made his head spin around. (Ice? OMG.) He hated crunching so much that when he went on a trip to drum up business for the civil engineering firm he helped found, the still-going-strong Henry, Meisenheimer and Gende, we Stay-at-Home Henrys would take advantage of his absence to go crazy chomping down on every raw carrot or celery stick and/or pretzel or cracker we could get our teeth into. Continue reading

Many happy returns

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‘Observing Boxing Day, the American Way’

Yes, yes, I know. ‘Many happy returns’ is something you say on someone’s birthday, not Christmas. But yesterday was ‘Boxing Day’ (and, incidentally, Monday, which is when I start pondering what the heck I’m going to write about on Tuesday).

I sort of knew that December 26 was a British Holiday that originally had to do with boxing up Christmas goodies for the servants. Who had to work (duh) on Christmas Day (see Holiday episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ for colorful detail) so they did their celebrating the day after, with the help of said donated largesse from The Master.

But — voila! — when I looked up ‘Boxing Day’ on good ole Wikipedia, there was this secondary explanation:

In modern times, it has taken on the meaning of boxing up unwanted Christmas gifts and returning them to the shop.

Yesterday I also happened upon an article in the Wall Street Journal about stores gearing up for our kind of Boxing Day. Apparently, about 10% of all gifts bought in stores are returned, and 30% of gifts bought online are. But guess how most are returned? In stores. So the smarty-pants stores stock up on stuff that you might really like in exchange for That Thing Uncle Joe Got You. Continue reading

The Breakfast of Champions

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‘Some random thoughts on The Think Drink’

So. I’m walking into my apartment lobby and run into a couple of neighbors. Well, I didn’t literally run into them, which is a good thing because I was clutching an extremely large container of coffee. A venti quad skim latte, to be exact. Which is four shots of espresso and some frothy skim milk. It’s really big, and really good, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Well, after making some remark about coming by later to ‘scrape me off the walls’, my neighbors waltzed off to buy Christmas cards or wrapping paper or evergreen fronds. Or something. While I came upstairs to write this piece. (And sip my coffee.)

I love coffee. If some doctor told me I couldn’t drink it, I would have some pretty serious issues. I think it’s delicious, and I also think it gets your brain firing on all cylinders. I’m not the only one. Years ago there was an ad campaign for coffee with the tagline ‘The Think Drink’. And, to this day, Young Attractive Persons use coffee as a study aid. (See photo at the top of this post as proof; Attractive Person pictured is the son of one of my friends, preparing for a final exam.)

Proof that coffee fuels creativity as well as study. Note mug on table as well as spoons on noses

I grew up with Attractive Persons who were always drinking coffee. ‘Would you like coffee?’, ‘Coffee’s in the kitchen’ or even a simple ‘Coffee’s on’ was how one was greeted at the door. In fact, while digging out pictures for this post, I realized that it was a rare family photo that did not feature a Henry or Peterson adult clutching a mug. Continue reading