Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Conversation I actually just had:

(Phone rings).


"Hello, this is John Ray from Microsoft. We've detected malware on your computer put in place from a device in Australia, and it's very important that I help you remove it. If you'll just get to your computer..."

"Excuse me, but I'm not about to do anything on my computer based on an incoming call. I'd be happy to look up Microsoft Support, call in and verify your information and then call you back. What was your name again?"

"John Ray."

"Great, and what's your number?"


"I just want to verify you're who you say you are."

"No sir. This is a scam call."

Now, I knew it was a scam call, and I was having a little fun with him, but I never dreamed I would get him to say the words, "this is a scam call."

I wonder if he missed one too many of his son's birthday parties today.

Monday, September 12, 2016


"People don't change."

You hear it a lot. It's largely untrue; most of us change over time, as we accumulate experience and knowledge. There are exceptions, and those are, generally, pretty sad.

At one of my high school reunions, I ran into an old classmate who hadn't changed at all. His clothes, hair, interests, attitudes and opinions all were frozen in amber. He'd aged a little, but it was like theatrical aging makeup applied to the 70s teen he'd been. As we caught up and we downed a few, he reminisced, glowingly, "remember all the hell we used to give Lee Jones?"

Yeah. I remembered.

Lee was autistic, I know now thanks to 21st century understanding and some personal experience. He was taller than anyone in his class, had greasy, brown hair, thick, unstylish glasses, and wore the same green army-surplus overcoat day in and day out, regardless of weather. He spoke with an odd, operatic, "Marvin the Martian" formality that was easy to mock if you were a talented mimic and social-climbing little weasel, like I was.

I knew, somewhere deep down, that it was bullying. I didn't do it to his face but I gleefully did my Lee initiation in exchange for laughter and whatever tiny social real estate it could secure, and in doing so endorsed and facilitated the worse things that came Lee's way.

I chuckled when they yelled cruel jeers at him. They threw things at him, and I snickered. And when one day, after Lee offered an annoyed protest, one of them hit him in the face several times, I stood by and did nothing.

I think about Lee from time to time. I have no idea if he finished high school or if he's even still alive. My fondest wish is that he found his niche and became a tech millionaire, deleting us all from his memory and going on to have a wonderful life, but in those pre-ADA days when autistic teens were ignored or branded troublemakers, those successes were even rarer than they are now. I think about him because I wish I'd done better, I wish I'd BEEN better.

...and because every day I send my incredible, super-smart, quirky, funny, odd-talking, teenage, autistic son to a public high school. Filled with high school students. Sometimes I pick him up and he's sad or frustrated and when I ask why, he won't say. And I hope his schoolmates are better than Lee's were, or if they're not better, then someone with more character than teenage me is standing by.

So yeah, unchanged drinking buddy at that long-ago reunion. I remember, but not with a smile. I hope if I saw you today, you wouldn't remember it fondly either.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Tao of Lion-O

So. This is how not meditating is like ThunderCats:

I watched a lot of ThunderCats in the late 80's. I was in my late 20's, so I don't think I was their target demographic, but the show came on between college classes and work, and, well, Cheetara.

The cats' main adversary was Mumm-Ra, an egyptian-style mummy who would transform from a desiccated figure straight from the sarcophagus to a freakishly-muscled mastermind who brought the fighting felines to the edge of ghastly defeat many times.

Sometimes, in the ThunderCats' most desperate moments, the wise mentor-ghost Jaga would appear to Lion-O (the team's leader), and remind him that if Mumm-Ra were to catch a glimpse of his reflection he would immediately whither down to his barely-animated mummy incarnation. Lion-O would find a way to show the dude a mirror, and game over.

...and I thought, "if you were fighting this guy all the time, wouldn't you maybe make a point of remembering that?"

And that's where the mediation comes in. There is nothing I do for my health that requires as little money, time, equipment and space but provides as much benefit as mediation. For some reason, though, I go years without setting aside the time to do it or even remembering its value.

I mean, JEEZ -- I run! I do pushups! I take stairs and ride a bike when I can! But a few minutes in a quite room doing nothing (or at least as close to nothing as possible), THAT's the thing that makes me shrug and say "meh -- I'll get around to it some day..."

I wonder if Jaga's available. I mean surely, Lion-O's got his "show the freaking mummy his reflection, for god's sake" habit in place by now. 

I need you Jaga. Help a cat out.

Friday, December 25, 2015

If you're wondering why those tales of my adventures in no-day-job comedy never showed up, it's because I went to back to work a month and a half later. The new job (at the same place) is more in line with my strengths, so I believe I'll be able to do it as hard as I can while I'm there and forget about it when I leave, meaning it and comedy won't have to duke it out.

I'm still a comic. Well. A comic with health insurance. Does that count?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Furniture Salesman No More!

So, this happened last week.
I left a job I'd held for 18 years, a lot of good friends, and a sense of security behind for an uncertain future. It was necessary for me to leave for complicated reasons (not all of which I'll share), but suffice it to say it was my call, on good terms and unavoidable.  
And now I'm out on this ledge, ready to pursue a career in comedy. And I keep thinking of Pauley's question when 60-year-old Rocky Balboa told him he'd be boxing again: "what -- you don't think you've peaked?"
I'm going to make it work. I'll either make my living making strangers laugh, or I'm going to make just enough money at a day job somewhere to make it work. What I'm not going to do is take a career that demands all my time and attention. If I work outside comedy, I'll be working to shore up the bills and support stand-up, not "doing comedy in my spare time."
It's scary. Fun. Uncertain. Fulfilling. And I'll be telling you about it here. Watch this space, and we'll cover the adventures of an ex-furniture salesman.
...because I haven't peaked. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

God damn it.

Family Research Council and innumerable others warned about this, and it has come to pass. The Supreme Court has failed to defend my "traditional" marriage, and now it is meaningless.

That January day in 1986 when my wife and I stood in front of a Greenville, NC magistrate and said tearful vows in front of two impromptu witnesses (another magistrate and a parking ticket lady) -- disappeared.

The time she called me with the news she'd felt our first baby move for the first time (she was at home watching Overboard, and I took the call at a Kmart service desk, in those days before cell phones) -- nothing.

Celebrating each other's triumphs and bolstering each other during failures, holding hands at tense hospital times, laughing at family in-jokes that no one else will ever get -- gone.

All of it gone.

Swept away by an activist court's evil choice to give same-sex couples a shot at those same experiences and memories.

You bastards. You should have defended my marriage. From the gays. And their gay "marriage wiping out" powers.

Now it's all over.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Laid-Back Hypochondria

I was bicycling in very cold weather recently, so I was wearing the assortment of layers and accessories necessary when your workout creates a personal wind-chill factor. I work hard during my bike rides, trying to keep my heart rate above 150 for at least a half hour.

Halfway through my ride, I noticed my right eyelid was drooping. I rubbed my eye a little, hoping the sagging would go away with a little massage, but no luck.

I thought about possible causes. I kicked around stroke and Bell's Palsy. I remembered the Ptosis that caused Stallone's drooping lids. I wondered if this was one of those seemingly-unrelated symptoms you have when you have a heart attack, like shooting pains in your arms.

I mulled it over for the rest of my ride and made up my mind to Google the condition and send my doctor a note.

As I was taking off gear, though, the condition went away. A little experimentation revealed that the headband that covers my ears on colder rides was pushing my brow downward, creating a little slack in my eyelid. Cured.

I'm not really surprised by my hypochondria. I've met me, and that's completely consistent with my past experience with myself. What surprises me is my completely nonplused attitude. I didn't react with "OH MY GOD, I'M HAVING A STROKE!", or "IT'S A HEART ATTACK!" My response was "crap. I have to deal with this now."

Ten-year-old me would have mixed feelings. I would have been appalled to learn that I'd grow up to be afraid a simple bike ride would take me down, but I think I'd have had a sense of pride at the manly way I faced that perceived mortal threat.

That's at least a little bit like being Batman, isn't it?