Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Previously: Good grief, I wish I had a blade so I could cut myself out of this joke. But, Kippy was serious.

And now: So Kippy really was serious about the Sling Blade musical idea. He went on and on about it for days. His ideas continued to careen between just plain silly to out-and-out, world-class, state-of-the-art, carbon fiber stupid. It was that monumental in its outrageousness. In keeping with that theme Kippy wanted to sign on John Mayer and Katy Perry for the music. Yes, this was getting completely out-of-hand in it’s ludicrousness. But then, Polly of all people steps in with an idea how they could do it on the cheap and reach a maximum audience. Polly? Really? Guess she ran out of Sterno.

4239946302_5b79b499d1     2608725369_14a8b377d7 Hey!…it could happen.

Polly, in one of her Sterno-induced, hallucinatory urban stumbles, wandered unknowingly into a cafe where they served caffeine libations exclusively. Being somewhat unaware of the proper protocols, she sat down at another’s table and started merrily hammering away on their unattended Mac. Before long, she was watching soft-core food porn and wondering where she’d be able to score some risotto. Not that she knew what it was, but it looked soft enough for her to eat, given her current dental condition. She was hooked, (yes, we all know how addictive a personality she has), and before long was tabbing back and forth and checking out every conceivable podcast she could find. But that, as all good things do, had to end. The computer’s owner returned and had Polly cruelly and emphatically reintroduced to the sidewalk. But not before she had the idea.

Polly as lucidly as possible shares her idea with us. “Put the friggin’ play on the www. interweb!” OK, so she didn’t fully understand the net, but it was a start. And we all had to admit there was more than a little merit to her idea. First of all, the production costs would be way cheaper. Score one for Polly. Secondly, we didn’t need union talent. Way to go again for Polly. Thirdly, and this is what attracted most of us, probably hardly anyone would see it sparing Kippy (and the rest of us) enormous embarrassment. Kippy loved the idea because he thought he’d be leading the vanguard in a whole new art form. It appears he didn’t know much more about the internet than Polly. We are not without mercy and decided not to tell Kippy he wasn’t the first, or second, or… you get the idea.

3823517383_2eb37048e5 This really shouldn’t be happening!

So, now Kippy is creating his list of investors, or “angels” as he calls them, to invest in this sure-fire theatrical hit. The rest of us all quickly pleaded financial hardships so Kippy could go hit up the unsuspecting yet hopeful “angels.” To quote Dante, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” It wasn’t going to be pretty. And that was before his scholarship idea.

Previously: “Pops, how’d you like to be a lawyer?”

And now: Pops was so deep into debt with Tranks, he had to just stand there and ask “What now?”

“Pops, you watch any late night TV? You know the stuff, meet girls, get rich, lawyers, that stuff?” Tranks asked. Barry in the meantime had brought a gift of corn dogs over to Pops as a reminder of what they had done together in the recent past. Barry was anything if not subtle.

11802394_8461416465 Corn dogs…yum? Not really.

“Tranks, look, I don’t know anything about lawyers. And Barry, by the way, thanks for the corn dogs, Polly loves ’em.” Pops did not pick up on the subtlety that Barry was pushing.

“Pops, this little joint would be perfect for a PI lawyer to operate out of. Cheap, seedy, bad food, and it’s got a bathroom. It’s perfect.”

I have to admit it, Tranks was resourceful. Certainly not above the law, but hey, who here is? He wanted to install one of his not-quite-bright minions as a personal injury lawyer in Pops place. If I knew this was on the level, I’d vote for it. Lawyers, even the bad ones (well, how do you make that distinction?) tend to class up the place. Or would in Pops’ case. However, I’m pretty sure this guy would not have passed the bar, at least not one without alcohol sold in it.

“Look Pops, it’s a no-brainer. We’ll take only those cases in which the perp has been charged with resisting arrest. Do you know how easy it is to defend those? I’ve come up with a fool-proof defense.” Tranks claiming something was fool-proof was an oxymoronic statement, right up there with political ethics. But since I hadn’t had a good laugh that day, I was willing to listen and suspend disbelief if possible. Afterwards, possible was not the operational word, “required” was.

“OK, Tranks, this’ll be good. Let’s hear it,” I offered.

“Fog, you do speak after all. I may have to hire you next. Anyway, this is the deal. Say, I decide I want to smash you in the face and I do it. And I get you good. Do you stop me? No. Why? Because I did it unexpectedly. You didn’t know what I wanted or was going to do. Same thing with the cops. Let’s say now that I’m driving a little on the fast side. Ehh, maybe a lot. Anyway, a cop comes up behind me and flashes his lights. I pull over and stop. The cop gets out and walks over. With me so far? Good. He asks the dumb question, ‘Do you know how fast you’re going?’ Well, yeah, of course I do, I was driving the damn car. Figuring he just wanted to talk I politely answered him and told him it was nice talking with him but I had to be someplace soon. And I drive off, leaving him by the side of the road. Aside from driving maybe a little too fast. I haven’t done anything wrong, right? But he gets in his car, puts on the lights, calls out for back-up and catches me further down the highway and charges me with resisting arrest.

4008096740_221b4763d0 Dramatic re-enactment.

“That’s where this whole thing works. Like me smashing you in the face, you didn’t know what I was going to do. So, how did I know what he was going to do? Did he mention he was going to arrest me? No. Could I read his mind? No again. So how the hell can he get me for resisting arrest when I didn’t know that’s what he was going to do. It’s brilliant, I tell you. I would have had to have known that’s what he was going to do in order for me to resist it. Brilliant. I thought of that myself.”

Brilliant was right. In the same way a 15 watt light bulb is brilliant. This was not going to end well.

Previously: If Barry “took care” of Ahmed, I’d never have a falafel again. I had to get involved.

And now: Just what I wanted. Barry was not a favorite of mine. He was bad looking, but smelled worse. Just one affliction short of an unpleasant trifecta of human refuse. But he was there wanting his money. Well, not his actually. He was just the faceman, if you could call it that, for an even worse individual, Tranks. Yeah, like Cher he favored only one name but at least Tranks wasn’t in evidence.

This was not Barry’s regular time to come calling. So, if he was there which he was, something was up and it wasn’t going to be good. There was some good news in his presence…he didn’t want his money this visit. But he was there on Tranks business. Could this day get any worse? Uhhh, yeah.

It seems that the PETA dust-up was of Trank’s doing. He thought a diversionary tactic, such as the buffalo mozzarella cheese flap, would deflect attention from his real and much more miserable activity. Tranks was running a scam animal rescue operation. He and his gang of community college miscreants were rounding up dogs, there’s a good reason for leash laws folks, and advertising them as rescue dogs.  Hey, no overhead except for the dog food bought at Target. He commanded a high dollar for each one of these Sarah McLachlan represented pooches. Gordon Gekko once said “Greed is good.” Tranks paraphrased that to “Guilt is good.” And it paid off for a while until PETA got wind of it.

5305214442_56a5231e04 Gordon Gekko, not Tranks.

In order for Tranks to get his pups out of town, he had to stage a diversion, hence the Great Buffalo Mozzarella Protest. Damned if it didn’t work. But now Pops was branded as some heartless capitalist and animal hater. OK, he is a capitalist, but he loves dogs. Certainly not as what PETA portrayed him. That said, he wasn’t selling much vegetarian pizza these days. Thanks Tranks! But the diversion was just that for all involved. See, Barry was there to let Pops know what Tranks wanted from him now. An offer that he surely could not refuse was coming down the barrel of this gun and we were all waiting for the blast.

“Pops, Tranks likes you and wants to save you some money and make you some money. You interested?,” Barry coughed up. Those words were like music to Pops but it was the symphony he was about to regret.

Barry continued on with his phlegmy monologue, “It seems like Tranks is really missing his meat pizzas. He wants you to start offering them now.” Pops was suspicious with good reason.

From under his flour-crusted eyebrows, Pop looked at Barry and asked, “Why?”

Barry replied without giving away anything, “Because Tranks has come into quite a supply of fresh meat and wants you to start using it.”

“No, no, no, no,no!” Pop screamed. “No meat! No meat! Did you see what happened here with all those hippies protesting my pizza? No. No!”

“Well Pops, it ain’t gonna be that easy. You see, Tranks has to get rid of those dogs somehow and you’re gonna make them the specialty of the house. Get it?”

4895522092_c111398306 New specialty of the house? Stay tuned!

If Pops could have gotten any whiter, hard considering he was covered in flour, he would have passed for Pat Boone. This was not how he saw this day continuing. “Fog, son, help me with this. Polly, ahh, no forget it Polly. Fog, you, you gotta do something! Barry, you gotta be kidding right?”

Barry wasn’t kidding nor was the newly arrived Trank. OK, it wouldn’t have seemed possible but Pops turned even paler. Could anything be whiter than Pat Boone?

Previously on The Bruce: But, still I now had protesters to deal with along with the ominous thick envelope on my dashboard.

And now:

Leave it to some oozing, warm-blooded, do-good organization to screw things up royally. Pops had been making his buffalo mozzarella pizza for years without a hitch and along comes some hairy-armpitted, unkempt group hell-bent on exacting their pound of flesh or in this case, cheese, from this poor working stiff. Polly was besides herself, which isn’t unusual since she often battles with one if not several of the personalities that dwell with her cranial cavity. Talk about your extended family. Distended would be more like it.

340512743_508b5f403b Part of the extended Calamari family.

Fortunately the protest was peaceful if not somewhat malodorous as most of the protestors hadn’t had intimate relations with a bar of Zest for some time. But then again, Pops pretty much smells the same way all the time, shower or not. But he was getting the kind of gleeful press one reserves for Sarah Palin. The press smelling blood, which again in this case was NOT the case, was going for it all and at the center of it was Pops and by extension Polly and me. And Ahmad wasn’t too happy either. And there was that envelope too.

We called a few of our friends, lapsed Guardian Angels, to help us quell the crowd. The appearance of them in their worn but still proudly worn red berets was enough to instill just the amount of fear into the cheese-huggers. No doubt the large clubs they were carrying also had some effect on them and they left none too quickly. Polly returned to  huffing her almost depleted Sterno can, Ahmad said a prayer with his beads, and Pops offered free pizza to all who helped out. Me, I was just pissed.

The nearest we can figure is that this was a poor version of a flash-mob with nothing better to do, but isn’t that what all of them are about anyway? There didn’t appear to be any real organizing group behind it and we put it behind us. But, now I had to open that envelope.

There was a return address on it, but not one I could identify with anything specific. It was heavy, pretty thick, actually. I opened it with no small amount of trepidation fearing it might contain some biological equivalent to Polly’s cooking, known to render all who partook immobile almost immediately. It’s why Pops did all the cooking. It was Pops manuscript. He had an idea for a book and had sent it out to who knows how many publishers. He thought the world would beat a path to his door with his vegetarian pizza recipes. Pops was nothing if not ever-hopeful.

Well, it was no surprise. The publisher hated it. They thought a cookbook with the questionable title: Roadkill for Vegetarians might turn some people off. Hell, it might even offend them. Pops was crushed. But since he was of good peasant stock, he thought, he believed, another publisher would find the intrinsic merit of this gustatotrial tome, that it would only be a matter of days before it hit the New York Times best seller list. Hey, stranger things have happened in the Calamari family.

DSC_0374 Cover art for Roadkill for Vegetarians cookbook.

So the mystery of the envelope was solved; the mob was dispersed; Ahmed was back to polishing the same frigging glass; in short all was as it should be. But not for long. Barry came in looking for his weekly order of baksheesh.

I just can’t stand to read the news anymore. Somehow or another, I’m terrified that the media will find out about my misdemeanors, felonies, and general poor behavior and have a field day with it. When one who is so famous and yet shuns the media spotlight, one lives in constant dread of being found out. One does. Really.

So, while waiting in the ne plus ultra waiting room of some mid-America airport, I happened upon the worst purveyor of such treacle, nay, trash – USA Today. While the paper itself has shrunk in on itself in size, it still harbors ambitions, however misplaced, of being a real newspaper. But one read of it will inform you otherwise. Unless you are entertained by the state-by-state snippets in the back of this publication passing for news, everything reeks of low-level sensationalism. Such is the fodder of the masses.

But read it I did for I am always in dread as mentioned before of being found out. Happily, there was no mention of my name or any of the aliases for which I’ve been known. Yet, I fear it is only a matter of time before things not perpetrated by me are soon ascribed to same. So it is with that in mind, I wish to inform all dear readers of the following:

I did not get Kate (or Pippa) Middleton pregnant. While an enticing proposition, I am innocent.

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I did not get anyone elected. For that, one would have to vote. I categorically did not. Nor am I responsible for the “fiscal cliff”. That’s just hearsay.

I did not bench Mark Sanchez – whoever he is.

I'm just gonna dance right over there, and tackle your ass...

I have no friends with benefits. But they are grateful for universal healthcare.

I have never seen a trilogy of anything nor will I. I do have some pride left after all.

That is not me in those nude photographs, but I wish it was. Whoever it was was having a good time and looked really good.

I am not the love child of Dr. Phil and Roseann Barr. The resemblance, while remarkable, is accidental and unfortunate.

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I did not, have not, will not leak any information to any intelligence gathering organization ever…unless a substantial advance is provided. And even then, I reserve the right of exaggeration as a negotiating tool.

I will never have a phone smarter than me.

I did see the movie ABBA, but I don’t talk anymore with the people who took me there. No use in encouraging them further.

I have never been caught in a compromising situation with Lindsay Lohan. Yet.

I have never made an illegal campaign contribution to a candidate who lost.

I have never cheated on a test unless you count paternity tests.

I do not believe in digital technology without latex gloves.

397164782_cc260a7bf0

That’s about it. I could of course claim innocence for so much more and maybe some of that would be true, but it’s getting late and there are people outside with cameras and lights. What in hell do you think THAT’S all about?

This is the other Bruce and I’m not happy. Not happy at all. Do you hear me? Not happy!

And you wanna know why? Probably not and that’s why I’m unhappy. I’m more than unhappy. But I promised Bruce I would confine that kind of talk to the bar or behind Mrs. Crosby’s more than ample backside.

Bruce has been moping about and there doesn’t seem to be anything any of us can do about it. We’ve offered him his favorite girly drink, Club Soda, Elderberry Wine, nightshade, a slice of lime, and Rose’s Lime juice with an expresso bean thrown in, but even that can’t seem to stir him from that damned funk he’s in.

Just add the nightshade and the coffee bean and Bruce’ll be happy…maybe..

And here’s the dirty little secret behind his crappy attitude. You. That’s right, You. Or really the lack of You’s. Each day he looks at the numbers on this blog and gets more and more pissed. If Bruce is pissed, then you can only imagine how I feel. Spittin’ nails, right!

Look, I don’t want to air our dirty laundry, but I can’t stand it when Bruce is this way. He’s mean to his wife, kicks the dog (and the cat, but she deserves it), and is just generally lousy to be around. Each day he toils on this blog and feels like he’s unappreciated. (Awww, poor little Bruce!) But hey, aren’t we all?

So, Bruce is threatening to leave this endeavor of ours and go to work for Rupert Murdoch. He claims he has had it. He might even run away. Talked about arrested development! Join the circus! See if I care.

He says why should he do most of the writing, as if you couldn’t tell, right?, if no one is going to read it. I keep telling him that the market (of which he thinks of as urbane and sophisticated) isn’t really there or if it is, doesn’t care. Bruce, look, maybe you’re not that funny after all. That was probably not the right thing to say. What do you think?

I can’t see this blog going on without him. What would I call it? – The Bruce? Not on your life! Of course, I could go out and find another Bruce, but truthfully, it wouldn’t be the same. We’d have no history, we probably would be too similar and that wouldn’t work. I guess I could use my brother, but he isn’t a Bruce, he’s a Richard and that’s all that needs to said on that count. He’s not even a pale comparison. This is not how I thought I would spend my final days in the nursing home. Disregard that last remark. I am fully capable and functioning and don’t use Depends… often. I’m just really upset over this.

Last night, Bruce went to a gun show of all things. That’s usually the thing I like to do, but hey. He came back with a Kroger 90mm hand cannon complete with mother of pearl grip and elephant ivory sightings. He said it was formerly owned by Cher. At least that gave him some comfort. It’s what he may intend to do with it that has me scared. We need to talk him down off this ledge.

It made him happy for a moment until we took out the firing pin.

Please let Bruce know you love him. Tell your friends to read this too. Maybe even follow. Write him comments. Send him cookies. It will make my life much more bearable and will continue the fine writing that you’ve all come to love. Or like maybe. Tolerate? Please? Otherwise, it could mean the end of the Two Bruces blog. Unless you know of another extremely talented Bruce. It could happen. I’m open to suggestions.

I called like I usually do to see if the other Bruce was ready to have our regular morning cappuccino, but there was no answer on his Star Flight 89 phone. That was odd as the Star Flight 89 is supposed to be capable of receiving and answering calls even when off. This didn’t distress me too much as Bruce was probably sleeping it off after being out the night before celebrating our housekeeper Mrs. Crosby finally getting her GED. Now we can probably expect her to ask for a raise as she is now a high school graduate or some such paper equivalent. Fat chance on that one! She came highly recommended but still is a thorn in our sides.

Mrs. Crosby before the party.

Anyway, I did not pay it much attention until lunchtime rolled around and Bruce didn’t show up for our daily stir-fry lunch of radicchio and tofu with a little Prego sauce tossed in for color. He never misses that one. So I tried calling him again but to no avail. I went to his home but his wife wasn’t there as well. Where the devil could they be? I must admit I was getting worried as Bruce had earlier testified in the trial of a politician who had sent incriminating photos of his nether region to the National Enquirer in hopes of getting a photo spread for his re-election. No surprise it didn’t work; but he did get an offer as a back up singer to Lady Gaga. He declined as he swore he didn’t know who she was – more proof that the electorate once again sent a total doofus to Washington. The politician swore Bruce would pay for his testimony. Could it be the Washington insider had already wreaked his revenge on Bruce, his wife and their beautiful children Taffy, Tad, and Milo?

Law has it that an adult is not missing until 24 hours have passed. With Bruce’s notorious short attention span, that 24 hours may as well have been 24 weeks. Time passes both slowly and quickly simultaneously for Bruce. Maybe Einstein was right about his theory.

Dinner came and went and still no Bruce. I called the police and inquired about an Amber alert but was told it was only for children. I tried to convince them of Bruce’s childlike wonderment of the world which made him eligible, but they would not cooperate. If anything happens to Bruce, I will personally hold them responsible. In the meantime, I think I’ll call Liam Neeson for help – he’s been down this road a couple of times.

Not the Liam Neeson I envisioned, but hell, he’ll do.

It was a sleepless night for all of us. Bruce’s lawyer called for whatever reason we’ll never know. Perhaps he was psychic. He wanted to know how Bruce was. How did he know? Was he involved somehow? Very strange until we found out he was looking for Bruce for an unpaid invoice. Typical lawyer.

This absence of Bruce carried over for a full week and a half with no sign of Bruce. And then we got a postcard from Bolivia. It seems he was taken hostage by a bunch of striking Bolivian tin workers demanding a ransom or they would separate Bruce from some of his vital organs. Needless to say this would put a big crimp in our plans for the upcoming opera season. It’s always something.

In a masterful stroke of diplomatic genius, I took over all the negotiations. It seems after a week and a half the tin workers were more than willing to turn Bruce over, ransom or no. Between his demands for a bed made properly, food cooked to his liking, and a general overall non-stop week and a half of whining, they had seen the folly of their undertaking. But they were not going to get off the hook so quickly. Oh, no.

While it’s true we wanted him more than they did, we would parlay this into a positive and come out smelling like roses, though when we did retrieve Bruce, he smelled nothing like any rose we’ve ever seen. Our negotiations went quickly, so desperate were they for relief. We got everything we demanded and probably could have gotten more but why be greedy?

Suffice to say, they paid royally for their misadventure. We now have: a lifetime subscription to Opera News, unlimited car washes for the Pignasaurus, five years worth of those entertainment coupon books, and a promise that sometime in the next couple of months they will take our housekeeper, the insufferable and over-paid Mrs. Crosby off of our hands. Hah, and they thought Bruce was a handful! I can hardly wait to see what she’ll get us!

For the longest time. ever since we were in prep school… wait, that’s not entirely true. Bruce went to prep school, the Lucey Loughless School of International Affairs, which accounts for his taste in Ralph Lauren retro-prep style clothing complete with Fair Isle sweaters and club and knit ties, not to mention his xenophobia. All that stuff you hear about old school ties – it’s real. If I never see a button-down shirt again, it’ll be too soon.

Bruce’s inexplicable taste in clothes.

I, on the other hand, am a product, for better or worse, of the illustrious public school system of the great state of New Jersey, grades K through 12 to the third power. (OK, so I had to repeat Senior year a few times.) To say that I was a stellar academic performer is to also to state that Michael Chiklis has a great head of hair. It’s not true, any of it. But during my time in the state’s institution of enforced education, good old RSP, (Rahway State Prison – and it’s because I couldn’t afford a real mouthpiece and had to accept a Public Defender who couldn’t argue a case off of a shelf and had to do time as a result – I was innocent!), I availed myself of all the provided materials and became an expert in diplomacy. Little did I know at the time that Bruce was on a similar track, but while he was inside looking forward I was still inside looking out. I guess being born to the “right” parents do count. But I’m not bitter…much. I’ve really gotten much better and don’t have the need to strike out at someone as often. See, diplomacy works.

So after a dinner with our wives, Bruce and I did the cooking, (we are both quite good – another skill I learned inside) since the inestimable but damnable Mrs. Crosby had the night off again. We sat down with the ladies fair and shared a bottle of an old Port we picked up at our neighborhood purveyor of such fine spirits, Target. That place is amazing! But, as usual I digress. We were quite dismayed at the state of affairs on weary, old Mother Earth. It then dawned on us that we were letting our incredible skills go fallow. Why are we not lending ourselves to the world to make this a better place in which to live? Yes, indeed.

We set about to create a business plan which would provide our services to countries and governments  of every size, shape, and financial ability. We will not do this for free! Nossir. Peace does not come cheap. We also determined that there couldn’t be only one approach to winning the peace. Every nation, each despot, must be handled individually. Some may need a more nurturing approach – that would be Bruce. Others might need something a little more forceful and direct – that would be me. Others might need a hybrid approach with a little bit of both us. I will say this, the hybrid is the most effective but is not for the faint of heart.

Not exactly the UN, but it’s a start.

One of the hybrid approaches is something we like to call “Good Diplomat, Bad Diplomat” or GDBD. Popularized by bad police dramas, this has the advantage of letting the participants decide for themselves how they would like to proceed with our retaining the authority to over-ride it as we see fit. You want peace? Of course, we’d be happy to help. What’s that? You don’t like that country and you want to go nuclear on them? Wham! How’s that for nuclear? Capisce? That’s just one approach.

A singe-minded approach is also quite effective. Some people, attorneys and judges, might say it’s coercion. We like to say it’s just bringing persuasive pressure to bear until we achieve the desired outcome. It’s sort of like Esalen toilet training but for countries. This is called the Torquemada App.

Yet another way of achieving our/their goals is called the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Decision. (Bruce has such a dark sense of humor.) Simply put, we play the two parties off one another until they’re almost there and then introduce a third player. The third party intimates action along the lines of a scorched earth policy. This of course screws everything up with its Triangulation and threat. All of a sudden, each party is more amenable to meeting demands in hopes of shutting out the interloping third party. It’s brilliant, it works, and no one gets hurt…usually.

So, there it is. We naturally cannot go into more detail here, but should you or your country be in need of seasoned and/or ruthless Diplomats, we’re your guys. Look for our ads in Soldier of Fortune magazine. We’re in the back of the magazine right next to the Male Enhancement ads, you know the one, that’s it with “Why is Bob is smiling?”

Good Diplomat/Bad Diplomat. Not the Two Bruces, really.

Spinal Tap is one of the funniest films ever made. Period. End of discussion. Bruce and I agree on this wholeheartedly. Rarely does a film come around that so entirely embraces and then redefines the medium that all others which follow are merely rehashes of someone else’s idea of art. Feh, we say to the poseurs, Feh! Filled with clever bon mots and stingingly pointed one liners, Spinal Tap has almost as many quotable lines as Shakespeare. It is that good.

One of the lines that stands out is when Nigel Tufnel is describing his new amp as being more powerful than all other previously manufactured amps, “This one goes to eleven.” Yes it does, yes it does. It is one better, one stronger, one louder. Who could ask for anything more? Why, we do. If that simple but brilliant thought process could be applied to anything, we could quickly improve the world’s condition quickly without having to come up with a single creative idea on our own, thus putting us out of business. Thinking that hard is, well, hard. There isn’t that much Tylenol in the world to cope with the myriad headaches created by such effort.

This one indeed goes to 11!

So it is with that in mind, we have applied a similar yet equally effective adjustment to the literary 21st century equivalent of Spinal Tap, and that’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Coming just in time for holiday gift giving is our new book, Fifty-One Shades of Grey. Figuratively speaking, this book goes to 11. It is better, it is stronger, and it is certainly louder. If 50 is good, then 51 must better, right? Damn straight it is!

And like the group Spinal Tap’s music, ours too is completely derivative. No new ideas, just more of the same warmed-over, groin-grinding, bodice-busting, beach-season reading pulp guaranteed to titillate or at the very least offend. After all, art exists to shock. If you liked 50, you’re gonna love 51! Or so says the new advertising campaign to be launched next week.

Now it would be easy to just build on what 50 has created. If that many people liked it, how hard could it be? After all since the reading level in this country is so low, we must make certain it can’t have many poly-syllabic words. (Bruce so loves using that word. He thinks it makes him sound professorial. Personally, I think it makes him sound effete, but who I am to deny him his small pleasures?)

Wait until you read 51!

We have made a concerted effort though to create something mildly different though. Were we to have actually read 50, we feel like we would have been plagiarizing it and that is just too much work. Everything about 51 is our concept of what 50 is, could have been, and maybe will be when it grows up. So without further fanfare, here is an excerpt from our upcoming novel and its already planned sequels. So, ladies, get the kids to bed; send the husband out to find the latest drug-induced flavor of Ben and Jerry’s, get the bottle of Pinot Grigio out of the fridge and pour yourself the first of many glasses, and turn the fan on. It’s going to get warm in here.

Excerpt: “My name is Steele. Ms. Steele to you. I’m here to see Mr. Grey or whatever he’s calling himself these days.”

His assistant was not thrilled with the tone I’d taken so pre-emptorily. She was probably used to being the cheese around here. Well, I was about to curdle her 51 ways until Sunday.

“Mr. Grey is not in,” she hissed.

Hissing back, I let my voice claw her pretty, little, vacant head, “Don’t give me any of that crap. His new car is in his spot and I saw his door close as I came in. Are you going to get out of my way or am I going to have run over you?” She was no longer the cheese now.

After a longish stare fight, Steele’s door opened and out walked the man. He was not what I expected. He had the look of an emaciated Eastern European left too long in a dank, cheap night club without any Stoli available. Deprivation’ll do that to you. “Ahh, you must be Ms. Steele, Anastasia. I’ve been expecting you. Come in.” Looking at his seething assistant, he told her it was alright and that she could go back to her day-trading.

“So Ms. Steele, have you brought the package? Is it complete?”

I gave him the once over, well the twice-over. For someone with a prison pallor, he commanded attention with his smoldering dark eyes, his short hair, and his Christian Bale “Mechanic” look. I liked it. I leaned over his desk and slowly, enticingly opened what he was so in need of and expecting. “Yes, they’re right here. Would you like to taste them?”

“No, that’s not necessary, thank you. I ordered six boxes of Thin Mints, four Samoas, and two Peanut Butters. I trust they are all there?”

End of excerpt.

Hooked? No doubt. Good, huh? No, not really but then neither is 50 Shades of Grey. But, ours is one larger.

Even though Bruce and I are both four-star B.F. Goodrich chefs, we do like to dine out and often. Sometimes it seems as if we’re only doing it to make ourselves feel better about our own superior culinary skills. Really, if you are going to lay down some serious currency in search of an exemplary dining experience, cost, while not the perfect barometer of quality, should be a guide at the very least. But alas, it isn’t. We’ve both have some stunningly good meals at small holes-in-the wall that one usually walks past on a daily basis. Correspondingly, we’ve also barely avoided ptomaine poisoning at some very toney, posh restaurants favored by another tire manufacturer’s stars. Go know.

A favorite hole-in-the-wall place.

However, over the years, we’ve come across a nearly fool-proof method for determining, in advance, as to whether or not a restaurant will make the grade. It’s rather simple, but then again the most elegant solutions are.

Here’s one way of knowing: if a restaurant has to promote its’ cuisine by decor, (excessive, gaudy, minimalist, thematically driven), be wary. Be very wary. We are going to share some additional examples with you. Yet, with all of this said, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy yourself. We’ve had some wonderfully bad Chinese food from take-out kiosks at gas stations. Go know once again. What it does imply is that the food will be: over-priced; undercooked; bad; just alright; maybe even cheap; or just plain terrible. But not excellent. Never. Ever. Again, be very wary.

So, without further ado or prejudice (we love everyone!), here are the critical warning signs for restaurants by type and in no particular order or preference.

Chinese: excessive red paint, lots of faux Chinese art, Chinese lanterns everywhere, and a menu with “Specialties of the House” (that just means it’s been in a pot all day long waiting for you!) And anything named after a David Carradine movie or TV show is a dead giveaway. Run!

See?

Steak: This one can be misleading as there are so many permutations: Western decor, private men’s club, and anything with what is called a “petite filet” on the menu; it’s a steakhouse, damn it, not an Ethan Allen furniture store! Ketchup should not be available, even if the bottle is in a plain, brown, paper bag.

Italian: opera music in background, Chianti bottles with candles in them, red and white checked tablecloths, drapes on the walls intimating secret rooms, trompe l’oueils as decor, and meatball grinders on the menu.

Spanish: Avoid at all costs if there are pictures of bull fighters (and bull fighting posters) and Flamenco dancers on the wall. That just looks like Hobby Lobby and you wouldn’t eat there, would you?!

Japanese: fish tanks in lobby, Sumo wrestling on the TV above the bar. Wine – only Sake. Beer’s OK.

Seafood: Lobster tanks with your dinner waiting for its impending death, nautical decor, dead preserved fish on the walls, bibs, and anything printed with a lobster motif on it.

Bagels: Decor matters less than menu here. This is a big one as the princely bagel has been bastardized by the Anglo-Saxon culture – no bagels allowed with blueberries, cherries, chocolate, asiago cheese, cheddar cheese, ham, cinnamon, sushi, jalapeno, etc. If any of these exist, run away. And certainly, a bagel should not be the size of a temporary spare tire.

A proper “Everything” bagel.

BBQ: Do you really believe that your favorite BBQ place is NOT owned by a corporation? Why does all the decor, everywhere, look like it was purchased at a Pier 1 sale? Anyway, spaghetti is never to be BBQ’d; nor is there any reason for a BBQ Pizza. Never!

Pizza: Checked table clothes (again!), Italian flag motifs, any corporately designed, new “Italian” dish such as the “Guisepizza”, WTF is that?

Diner: This is more of a what’s missing means stay away. Here more is more and that’s the way it should be. If there is no cake and pie carousel or case at the front counter, get out fast. If the menu is not at least 16 pages long with everything being a specialty of the house (and they are), you’re in the wrong place. If there are a lot of smoked glass mirrors and brushed aluminum, that is a plus. Bonus tip: if the waitresses are not chewing gum or smell like an ashtray, it ain’t a real diner.

Poifect (in a Joisey accent). (Bruce insisted we stoop to such low humor on this one.)

Gastropub: Really? Get out. This is a medical procedure waiting to happen – to you!

Mediterranean: Carved (really mass-produced stamped) wood chairs and tables (most likely made in China), grape leaves in every dish and painted on the walls, and bouzouki music in background. Zorba does not live here anymore!

Vegetarian: This surprised us the most. We thought they just went to the produce counter and chowed down right there. Key give-away – hemp wall hangings, table clothes, tofu-inspired art, and rough fabric napkins (they’re good for Mother Earth!). Soulful guitar players are an enormous warning to stay away at all costs.

There are of course more examples, but we didn’t want to belabor the point. Dining out can be a wonderful experience, made more so now that you are properly prepared and know that for which to avoid. Otherwise, you’re on your own. Be wary, be very wary. And don’t forget the Zantac.