Outsmarting the CIA

It’s funny how you can forget stories until you run into someone, but I was reminded recently about my interaction with the Dean at my college in 1999.  My junior year, I was asked to undertake a covert operation – find out if classes would be cancelled the next day.  The weather was going south that December evening, but the next day was a scheduled round of early morning classes and final quizzes for a lot of the guys in my fraternity.  My college also NEVER cancelled for weather.  The campus was small and it wasn’t a commuter school, so someone “heard” they hadn’t cancelled school since the 1970’s.

I was volunteered to call the Dean, posing as someone’s dad, to ask if school would be cancelled.  Was it for my killer wit?  No.  My sharp mind?  No.  Just based on the fact I have had the deep voice of a 45 year old man since I was 15.  I agreed and formulated a quick plan in my head.  I would act like the dad of an off-campus student trying to make sure his son was safe.  In fairness, I did stuff like this in high school.  I called people’s parents posing as other parents to let them know their kid wasn’t partying.

I picked up the phone and called the Dean.  He had, prior to coming to our campus, been in the CIA for 25 years.  He’s even now got two published books on covert operations.  Adding to the difficulty, there were about twelve people in the room with me trying not to laugh.  The following is my best recollection of the conversation.

The phone was dialed, ringing directly into his house.  “Hello?”  “Hello, Dr. Clark, I am very sorry to bother you at home, but my name is Ken Whitmire.  My son lives off-campus and we have heard a lot of nasty weather is heading that way and my wife is really concerned for his safety driving around tomorrow.  I wouldn’t call, but my son won’t answer his phone.  My wife thinks he’s lost power or phones; I think he’s probably getting into trouble, YOU KNOW HOW THEY ARE AT THAT AGE.”  I then cut a really corny dad laugh HA HA HA HA.  The Dean chimed in, “Oh to be that age again, I hear you!  HA HA HA!”  We had established rapport; time for phase 2.

“Well, again, I hate to call, but we didn’t know if classes were going to be cancelled – you know how women are, she’s really worried and can’t relax.  (Lowers voice)  It would really help me out to get her calmed down.  (Back to normal voice, extra cheesy dad mode)  You know how women can be when they’re worked up!”  “I hear you!  HA HA HA!”  We both had a chuckle.  Him again, “Well, I can tell you we haven’t announced anything, but we are definitely going to cancel classes tomorrow.”  Me: “Well, that’s great.  You really helped us out (and me HAHAHA).  I appreciate that; now I guess I have keep calling my son.”  “Good luck with that!”  “No kidding, thanks again for your help.  Have a good night!”  “No problem, good night.”

I hung up the phone – the entire time the primary instigator of the incident had been pressing his face into my back to keep from laughing out loud.  The room was a smattering of muffled laughs and buried faces.  I shot my arms upward, “CLASS IS CANCELLED!”  Cheers erupted from the group and beers were cracked.  Another beer run was scheduled and the music was cranked.  Chris, the subject of the call, didn’t find out I used his dad’s name for about ten years, but he told me his parents thought it was hilarious.  Part of me thinks I’m really good, but another part of me realizes he saw through my idiocy and just was cool with us getting hammered on a Tuesday.  Either way, fortune favors the bold.

Working at the fair

When I was heading into eighth grade, my family moved back to Ohio.  I had no friends and not much to do, so I was talked into volunteering to help at the food stand at the county fair for my Grandma’s church.  It meant I got into the fair for free, where if my hammer skills were solid, I could win a cigar – seriously, it was the early 90’s.  They’d even light it for you.

I had no time for smokes, though, because Grandma Eunice’s church stand was hopping.  The go to was a greasy pork patty sandwich.  Now, if you’ve never been around a middle school boy, they can eat at a level unprecedented among all ages and genders.  My mom used to buy .49 cans of Chili Mac to keep me from bankrupting the house.  I’d eat 2-3 a day in addition to regular meals.  Probably why I’m fat now, but I digress.

My grandma liked to talk to strangers (that gene skipped me) and wound up messing up several orders.  I ended up eating five of the greasiest pork patty sandwiches you’ve ever seen.  The first three were good, the fourth was tough and Grandma guilted me into eating the last one.  “We can’t throw away that sandwich, just eat it, you’re a growing boy!”  The ride home was four miles, but over a road that looked like it belonged on a Bond movie.  Up, down, up, left, down, right, up and repeat.  I made it about 80% of the way and violently puked out of the window.  Six pounds of non-FDA regulated swine meat ejaculated from the depths of my gastric system.  To this day, I’ve never eaten a pork sandwich or worked at the fair.  My dreams of being a carny lie shattered on the ground.  It may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Turn off your TV, there’s comedy right down the street

I have been active in stand-up comedy since 2007.  I worked very hard when I started.  I recorded my sets and typed out every single joke on my computer.  I then played them back and rated them 1-5, scrapping the 1’s, reworking the 2’s and even diving into the 5’s to make sure they held up.  I haven’t done my closer from 2011 since 2013 and I was on the road up to 10 nights a month then.  I didn’t like the joke anymore.

When I hit the road, I ran into a ton of much older headliners who started in the comedy boom of the 1990’s.  There was Showtime, HBO and comedy clubs…or bars calling themselves comedy clubs.  A person could start stand-up and within a few months, be on the road full time making $100 a show for 10-15 minutes hosting, not even counting shirt sales.  I talked to guy who quit his job less than six months after starting and was pulling in over a grand on a good week with shirt sales not traveling more than 100 miles.  When I started, it was fading; now it’s largely a fairy tale.  Netflix has dozens of stand-up specials with but a click and you can stay in your underoos with your pre-licked ice cream or IPA.  Comedy Central runs all day and night.  Want a comedy special/TED talk?  Got it online.  Want political comedy, even (why I have no idea) alt-right or alt-left?  You can find it on YouTube.  It’s all there.  Now road gigs I get offered don’t even offer hotels.  The shit ridden roach traps that cost the bar $29 a night are even slipping away.

For me, I went from single guy with no regard for his real job to a sales rep running training and tech support while married with two young kids, so I couldn’t even do the road if I wanted to (and I don’t), but it is my duty as someone who has been doing stand-up for over twelve years to say this: get your ass to your local comedy shows.  If I had a dollar for everyone that said, “I’m going to catch your next show!” and didn’t, I would have a helicopter to fly me to my shows.  There are plenty of complete turds in comedy, trust me, but there is no substitute for live comedy.  NONE.  You go out to dinner and have no idea who the chef is, what the bartender knows about making drinks and if your Uber driver even has a license, but I can assure you one thing for sure: the comic you support tonight or tomorrow at your local show is busting his or her ass for the sheer purpose of making YOU laugh and isn’t getting paid well to do it.

This isn’t a finger wagging or a tongue lashing; it’s an informed suggestion .  The internet has made some comics (not many) rich and famous and has buried the rest.  Your attendance won’t make or break the local comic, but even if the show isn’t to the level you wanted, the live aspect cannot be recreated on something you watch streaming.  I have done roasts, stand-up, improv, sketch and even voice and video recordings for comedic purposes and I can guarantee I gave it all I had.  You won’t regret it, unless you’re a heckler, then I will split your soul open wide and devour it.  If you do regret seeing a comic, it’s your fault for not coming to a show I’m on and if you don’t enjoy me, you’re dumb and don’t like laughing.  Or puppies.  Or alcohol.  Or sex and coffee and America and cheese and stuff.

Why I could never be a middle school teacher

I went to a cookout this past weekend and my daughter is very social, unlike her father.  She ran out to a group of kids, so I followed her over.  An eleven year old boy stepped towards me.  “I WANT YOU TO BRING FIREWORKS NEXT YEAR!”  I have no idea who this kid is.  “Um, I don’t have any fireworks.”  He was unphased, “WELL BUY SOME, DUH!”

Now, my first carnal instinct is there situations is to attack.  Insults bubbled up, but were suppressed, a testament to my inner growth from becoming a father or something profound like that, I guess.  I went safe.  “I don’t have any money, these kids take it all.”  He then looked at me, “WELL MY ADVICE IS DON’T HAVE KIDS.”  Bold little bastard, this one.  Should have given his parents that advice in 2007, sounds like.  “Too late for that, ya think?”  He then stared at me and ran off to kick a soccer ball.  I felt like all the insults I swallowed would then come out of me like a swarm from John Coffey’s mouth on the Green Mile.  Time for a beer.

“Must…resist…insulting…preteen”

Ranking the months

It’s 5000 degrees right now and Independence Day is over, so July sucks hard.  What are the best and worst months, no one asks?  Well, I’m happy to answer for you, from worst to best.  This is Midwest rankings, btw.  I can’t speak for Arizona or some ungodly place like Florida with their foot long mosquitoes and 100 degrees in October bullshit.

February – If this month was 30 days like all the others, we would put this month in the electric chair.  It’s at the end of winter, Valentine’s Day is the most depressing holiday for half the country, and even someone with a Marie Osmond personality has had enough with the failed resolutions and garbage weather.

January – Same thing as February, just closer to New Year’s and Christmas, plus you probably have cool new stuff to help with the BS…for a few weeks.  All your bills from the Christmas rush are due, so good luck.

July – NOW it’s hot.  You thought a few days in June sucked.  I use Gold Bond powder to walk to the mailbox.  Once July 4 passes, there’s nothing to look forward to, sports are awful this time of year, and bugs have invaded.  Fruit flies, ants, mosquitoes and flies plus sweat and BO.  Go away, July.

August – Like July, but with back to school – boo.  Only the fact football starts back up and there’s hope for normal weather on the horizon give this hope.  No holidays at ALL.  Someone cool born in August do something great and I may bump this month up.

March – March is filled with hope…until it snows again and you curse it up and down.  It’s warmer!  Two days later six inches of snow cover everything.

April – April stinks and it rains every day.  There’s mud as far as the eye can see, but at least it’s better than March.  Maybe Easter, maybe not.

June – June is cool, usually, but knowing 90% humidity is a month away dampens this month a bit.  Plus bugs start showing up and if you haven’t figured it out, I hate bugs.  And sweat.  And talking to strangers, but that has nothing to do with June.

November – Not my favorite month, but it has a major holiday where you only have to eat a lot on a Thursday where I then get the Friday off work also.  So November is a huge overachiever.  Also Veteran’s Day, plus election time means no more political ads.

September – Solid month – starts with a three day weekend for Labor Day, college and pro football off and running, temperature goes from balls to stuck to leg hot to Holy hell I’m not instantly drenched every time I sit down in my car.

May – Best month in that it finally quits freaking raining, it’s warm out but not hot, the massive clouds of death mosquitoes haven’t fully hatched and you can actually go outside (if you’re the type of sicko that likes to be outside and away from a TV or video game system).  Sun doesn’t actually go down at six PM.  First three day weekend of the year with Memorial Day.

December – Christmas.  My birthday (which I used to like before I got old).  Everyone mostly in good mood.  Cold but not stupid depressingly so.  OK, let’s face it – Christmas pretty much saves this month.  That and all bugs are dead or hibernating or back in hell where they belong.

Winner – October.  Mild temperatures.  Football in full swing.  Best time for nature.  Halloween is my favorite holiday other than Christmas.  Best time for fire parties.  Pumpkin everything for the white girls (if you shove a pumpkin beer in my hand, I will slap the shit out of you).

Stuff no one told me before I had kids

My daughter can argue with a rock that it’s not a rock for an hour.  We can let her pick out her shirt, pants, hairstyle and socks, but if the shoes are wrong, it’s go time.  WHY IS OUR KID JUST LIKE US?

My son poops about 26 times an hour.  His latest fun game is wake up, somewhere between 1:30 and 4 and have to play so he can drop a deuce.  Doesn’t sleep in any later on the weekends though!

No one told me I would talk about poop and pee this much.  Sure, I was given a general indication, but poop and pee and potty is about 40% of the talk these days.

My daughter ate everything under the sun, then the magnetic poles tweaked or some meteor passed too close to the Earth and now it’s ham, chicken nuggets and ice cream.

My son will literally grab and destroy, throw or at the least mess with everything.  He tried to break the microwave, pulls pots and pans out, picks up glasses of water you set down for 12 seconds, throws credit cards anywhere and even invented a cool game called toss stuff in the trash or toilet.

I thought I would be one of those “we don’t watch TV in this house” parents for about a week, then I realized an iPad in a kid’s hand is the only way you’re getting anything done.

Whomever said the twos were terrible must have sold their kids to the circus when they turned three.