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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What’s that in the road — a head?

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‘On Swedes and their noggins’

Last week, in ‘Close, but no cigarette’, I wrote about malapropisms. You know, like when someone warns about ‘upsetting the apple tart’ or says they put too much ‘canine pepper’ in the soup. (Thanks for that one, Ruth!) Infamous Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once mentioned ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ in a speech. And, of course, Donald wants our nuclear weapons to be ‘top of the pack’.

This week, I’m going to write about Swedes and their heads, a subject dear to my heart, since I am in possession of a classic example. But first, speaking of heads, did you ‘get’ the title? ‘What’s that in the road — a head?’

When I was a kid, our mother would regale us with stuff like this all the time. Like, she would say (or sing, actually) ‘She has freckles on her but…she is nice’ (with extra dramatic flourish on that word ‘but’) and we kids would absolutely crack up. There’s nothing like the word ‘but’, with or without that extra ‘t’, to make a little kid weep with laughter. Incidentally, the next verse was ‘and when I’m in her arms, it’s paradise’. Continue reading

“You looked so nice I almost didn’t recognize you.”

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‘Appearances can be deceiving. Or something like that.’

So. Today is February 14. And yes, I did get something red and shiny for Valentine’s Day: my nose. Maybe by next week — when it’s (fingers crossed) only a miserable memory — I’ll find this cold amusing enough to write about. We’ll (sniff) see. In the meantime, I’m going with what I originally planned.

Which is a riff on Being Compared to Someone Else.

You know. Like when someone comes up to you at a family reunion and says something along the lines of “You remind me so much of your Aunt Net”. (A real Aunt of Mine whose name was Annette. She wore a hairnet, which is how she got that nickname. Or so we kids thought.) Continue reading

“I’m watchin’ him!”

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‘The “Playdate”, back in Midcentury Modern Times.’

Last week I wrote about the Midcentury Modern custom of sending a high-school social studies class on a field trip to a maximum-security prison. I say “custom” because, frankly, I was astonished to find that many of you readers out there had done the very same thing. (And that’s not counting those of you who went to the very same high school as me.)

This week I’m curious to see how many of you grew up experiencing the Midcentury Modern version of the “playdate”.

“Playdates”, for those of you who don’t have, haven’t had, or don’t know anyone with children, are when parents or caregivers (what we used to call “babysitters”) set up specific times and places (“dates”) for kids to get together to “play”.

I just love that there is an actual Wikipedia entry for “playdate”. If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s what it goes on to say: Playdates have become common because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.

Hmmm. Just what “kind of play” was this? 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