Dear Skymall Forum

Dear Skymall Magazine,

I never thought that something this erotic and crazy would ever happen to a guy like me, but when you travel, you always take that chance, right?

The setting was so romantic. But who doesn’t find airports sexy? When I saw him, he was wearing a white shirt. William was his name. Machines around me blinked and buzzed.

“Take off your shoes,” he said. William knew what he wanted. I found myself unable to resist…legally.

“Are you wearing a belt?”

“Yes,” I said in a weak whisper.

“I need you to take it off. Any rings?”

Yes, I am married, which made the encounter all the more surreal and unspeakable.

William said that I had my choice:  He could take naked pictures of me, or he could run his hand up my thigh. Since the idea of a security agency taking naked pictures of me is, to me anyway, the most bone-chilling, Orwellian nightmare I can imagine, I opted for the latter.

William explained every move he was making, and with every move, you could tell that William really knew what he was doing; almost like he had been trained.

My one regret is that William never looked me in the eye. Where do you go, William? Where do you go?

“Alright,” he said, “thank you.”

What an odd thing to say, I thought. In our brief encounter, gratitude was the farthest thing that either of us were feeling. And yet I found myself saying “thank you” right back to him. How deep does this rabbit hole go?

As I put on my belt and shoes, William had already moved on. What did I expect? As I walked on towards my gate, I felt that I had left a little part of me with William. Was it dignity? Humanity? Self respect? Or a combination of all three?

And poor William drove home that night like he did every night, his hands numb from juggling junk. 

Neither of us will sleep well tonight.


Pancake Bites Man

Unlike many people, my wife included, I love the McGriddle. If you just say the word “McGriddle” in front of my wife, she launches into the cutest, involuntary gagging that you’ll ever see. For my wife, the syrup pockets explode like infected pustules, but for me, they erupt like balloons turgid with comfort.

I love all of the ingredients separately (pancakes, sausage and syrup), so why wouldn’t I love all of those ingredients fused together in a delightful sandwich-like abomination? It is an all-out assault of taste and texture. Every area of the tongue, sweet, salty, savory and pancake, are stimulated at once.

Well, one company got all of your letters about how you wanted your McGriddle in single-bite form, but it’s not the company you might expect.

Dunkin Donuts’ Pancake Bites are not just delicious, they’re atomically delicious. Around the nucleus of sausage, several shells of flavor valences vibrate, creating a probability of satisfaction.

The pancake surrounds the pork nugget like a white blood cell on bacteria. A thin layer of sweetness coats the breakfast ball like the sweat on an exhausted lover’s cheek.

I take in my nourishment like a baby bird, predigested by Food Science.

All this, and roughly 100 life-giving calories per “bite.”

For those of you that would profane it with a comparison to a common corn dog, I say to you:  Move over, dog, man’s mouth has a new best friend.


Twinkies and Belly Buttons

My friend Dave made a suggestion to me that made a lot of sense. After reading a recent political blog of mine, that appeared to be ghost written by Sylvia Plath, he said:  “I look forward to a post about Twinkies or Belly Buttons.” Which said to me:  “Dylan, your sense of humor has been moping around your brain, wearing sweatpants for a week and living off microwave popcorn; lighten up, man!”

He’s right. During the last couple days, there’s been an electricity in the air; like the charged atmosphere right before a redneck fight in a hot townie bar. All it needed was one “Hey buddy, you just bumped into my girl!” to turn into a sweaty brawl fueled by impotent rage. And I was right there in the fray giving some stink-eye.

Afterwards, Facebook lit up with gloating on one side and pseudo-intellectual suicide notes on the other. Cooler-headed friends have called for a moratorium on all posts of a political nature. I have agreed to participate provided the ban also includes all Facebook status updates like:  “Whoo im glad THATS over with!! ;p LOL.” What are you trying to communicate? Are you inviting me into the conversation, or is it just a Status Fart?

See, there I go again. Picking a fight. What happened to “the Dude abides?”

Dave, this is for you:

Here’s an actual conversation that I had with my Grandmother when I was 3:

3-YEAR-OLD DYLAN:  Gramma, what’s this?

GRAMMA:  That’s your belly button?


GRAMMA:  That’s because, before any baby comes to Earth, God pokes him in the belly and says:  “You’re done. (Poke.) You’re done. (Poke.) You’re done.”

I laid awake that night thinking:  “What does He do to the ones that aren’t done?”

Of course today, I know that God feeds those babies to the angels. (That’s where we got the name “angel food.”) The angels devour the angel food babies like piranha and, 8 hours later, the angels poop out Twinkies.

And that is why Twinkies have such a long shelf life.*

You’re right, Dave, I do feel better.


*Actually, optimum freshness lasts only about 25 days.

An Open Letter to Russ Feingold

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”–Louis D. Brandeis (Helped develop Americans’ “Right to Privacy.” Legal scholars cite him and his opinions on “Free Speech.” Went after the Wall Street fat cats and the crooked bankers in his book, Other People’s Money and How They Use It back in 1914.)

Here’s another one:

“The real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth. Wherever men rule by reason of their wealth, whether they be few of many, that is an oligarchy, and where the poor rule, that is democracy.” –Aristotle (Greek)

If you really want to rile a politician, call him “oligarch.” It confuses the hell out of them.

For the record: OH-lĭ-gark  n. A member of a small governing faction.

And yet we elect second-hand millionaires to represent us. We blame Washington for being “out of touch” with real America, but we never question our own decision to put them there.

Maybe we put our faith in millionaires because we hope to be like them someday, and if they know how to become millionaires, maybe if we vote for them, they’ll go to Washington D.C. and make us millionaires, too. But that never seems to happen. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

Frankly, I think that, despite all the “American Dream” rhetoric, the millionaire die has already been cast. It’s likely that the only trickle down that you’ll see from a millionaire would be the result of the Estate Tax (I’m sorry) Death Tax.

When you and I become dead millionaires, we’ll be glad we fought against it.

Look, I know this sounds like sour grapes, but our collective memory lasted only 23 months? What are we, goldfish? 23 months of political capital? That’s it? If you told me to lose 10 pounds, I’d ask for 24 months.

I’m really proud that I participated in democracy yesterday (BTW:  I know that Americans technically live in a Republic and not a Democracy, but I’m using James Madison’s definition of “representative democracy”).

Anyway, I think we all feel a twinge of pride when we vote.

But what if that wasn’t what we were participating in? What if it was an Oligarchy? Would we be equally proud?

Thanks for being one of the good ones, Russ.


Costumes, Sporting Events, and That Guy

When I saw Tom Petty last Summer, I wore a tour t-shirt from a previous tour. A friend of mine laughed at me:  “Oh my God! You were totally ‘That Guy.'”

“What guy?”

“The guy who wears a tour t-shirt to concert.”

I later ascertained that he stole that bit of wisdom from Jeremy Piven in the 1994 film, PCU:  Flunk ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Now, maybe you agree that wearing a tour t-shirt from a previous tour to a concert by the same artist makes one “that guy,” but if your only research into the validity of your opinion is PCU:  Flunk ’em if they can’t take a joke, well, that’s a flimsy footnote at best.

I’ll tell you what I think is weird:  People who wear t-shirts from other bands to a concert. Like someone at a Tom Petty Concert wearing a Steve Miller Band t-shirt (I’ve seen it).

What is he communicating with that t-shirt choice? Did he buy tickets to the wrong show? Is he suggesting to the rest of us that we would all be better off at a Steve Miller concert? Or is he trying to infuriate Tom Petty somehow? You know, like maybe Steve and Tom shared a girlfriend at some point, and by wearing a Steve Miller Band t-shirt, the guy’s trying to throw Tom Petty off his game.

That’s the guy I think is “that guy.”

Besides, nobody thinks you’re “that guy” when you wear a Green Bay Packer jersey to Lambeau Field.

And especially at this time of year, Halloween, you should be very careful about wearing costumes to a sporting event. Yes, it’s Halloween and it’s a built-in excuse, but consider this:  Wearing a costume might assure that you get on national TV, but this is only cool when your team is winning.

If your team is losing, you are the depressed guy in the giant chicken costume. Is there anything more humiliating? And then, when you get on national TV, everyone at home will say:  “You think you’ve got it bad; at least you’re not “that guy.”


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Me and Stan Freberg

“The story of Little Blue Riding Hood is true. Only the color has been changed to prevent an investigation.” -Stan Freberg (1953)

They say that you should never meet your heroes. That’s probably because they would never live up to your expectations. Thankfully, that doesn’t pertain to portraying your heroes…at least in my case.

I learned this when I was recently cast as pioneer of radio and television, Stan Freberg as part of PBS’s aptly-named Pioneers of Television series. This particular volume (Season 2) is due to be released in January of 2011.

First of all, it was PBS, so it paid for crap; a tote bag and an Antiques Roadshow coin purse, but I would’ve done it for free. Thankfully, they didn’t ask me to.

You may not have heard of Stan Freberg, but I guarantee you’ve heard him. If you’re a fan of Mad Men, you heard Peggy and Joey performing Freberg’s “John and Marsha” from 1951, a send-up of the acting style of the day’s soap operas.

If you’re a fan of Warner Bros. cartoons, he was the voices of Tosh the Gopher, Pete Puma and Beaky Buzzard.

On radio, The Stan Freberg Show replaced Jack Benny in 1957, which featured sketches such as Elderly Man River and Puffed Grass, the latter a satirical commercial that foreshadowed Stan Freberg’s impact in the world of television and advertising.

Stan Freberg, arguably (although I don’t know who you would find to argue it), is the father of the funny commercial. Before him, television commercials were very serious, informative, and focused solely on the product. Freberg posited that a funny commercial was the way to go, with the product as a character or a simple reference. Here’s one of Freberg’s commercials for Cheerios. And another for Sunsweet Pitted Prunes, also starring his friend Ray Bradbury.

Sure, if it wasn’t Stan Freberg, I’m sure somebody would have hit upon the idea of a funny commercial, but it just so happens that he did…to the tune of 21 Clio Awards (the award for advertising).

Anyway, it seems that Stan Freberg and I share a resemblance. Judge for yourself:

And while the producers could not have known it, the similarities didn’t stop there. I won’t bore you with my résumé, but with every category therein, I owe something to Stan Freberg; my writing, my radio work, my whole sense of humor was the result of listening to those old comedy albums featuring those old radio shows.

And in January, 2011, I’ll have Stan Freberg as an acting credit.


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97% Of You Won’t Read This

However, I wish you would.

The preceding title is intended to be provocative; it is intended to stir you to action. It is also phrase that is often seen in Facebook status updates as in:

“God has provided this glorious day. 97% of you will NOT repost this.” 

While I’m encouraged by the first sentence, the second sentence always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. As a result, I recently responded with the following status update of my own: 

“My name is Dylan. Unfortunately, most of you WON’T repost this. By writing that, I am attempting to manipulate you by implying that if you DON’T repost this, you are like most people; in other words, ordinary. Ironically, by re-posting this, you are, in fact, joining a group that, if taken to its intended conclusion, will consist of most people. Or maybe you won’t repost this because your name isn’t Dylan.”

I thought it was funny. I mean, why on earth would anyone repost it?

Well, some people agreed that it was funny, and went so far as to repost it, despite the confusion it may create in people reading their profiles. But, based on some private responses from people whom I consider friends, some were NOT amused. For that reason, I decided to explain in a forum that wasn’t limited to 230 characters. (BTW, there’s no character limit in the “comments” section either, so feel free to express your opinion at whatever length with which you’re comfortable).

Personally, I find the phrase “97% of you will NOT repost this” and its cousin “Unfortunately, most of you WON’T repost this” to be passive-aggressive and snarky for the reasons I illustrated in my status post. In addition, it implies that I was expected to repost your sentiment, and my failure to do so indicates some sort of deficiency/laziness/insensitivity on my part. In my opinion, it employs the psychology of exclusivity (97% of you don’t get it) while at the same time manufacturing value with implied scarcity (the remaining 3% of you are cool). All with CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

That’s a long-winded, academic explanation.

Long story short, by saying:  “97% of you will NOT repost this,” you are placing me in one of those two camps which makes me, the reader, feel judged by you, the writer (or the copier and paster). I’m either with you, or I’m less than you, and there’s no need to do that.

Please know that my feeling about those two phrases is in no way intended to diminish the spirit of your status update. For the record, I, too, believe that “God has provided this glorious day.” I also believe that cancer is horrible, strong women are good, and that domestic violence is wrong.

In the spirit of compromise, may I suggest the following: 

“God has provided this glorious day. 97% of you will NOT repost this.”

Like, like, like.

I’m sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings, and I’d like to thank the 3% of you that read this to the end.


You Gotta Have Faith

So I was watching CNN this morning, and they did a segment on Faith Healing because, as you know, CNN is the world-wide leader in news.

In short, this gospel singer from Buffalo, New York (who looks strangely like Hoda Kotb from the Today Show) had been in a wheelchair for 25 years, until, one day, she was faith healed.

The scene on CNN was this woman stepping out of a big, black limo and walking up the steps to her mother’s porch. She moved slowly and a little unsteadily but, to be fair, it could have been the six-inch Stiletto heels. I mean, come on, lady. Sure, you’re healed, but to go from 25 years in a wheelchair straight to hooker shoes; that’s tough to pull off, even for God.

Perhaps a comfortable pair of orthopedic shoes or maybe a modest pump would have been more appropriate. But I guess all things are possible with God.

But then I got to thinking:  If God did this, if God healed her, you’d think God would want to make a show of it. You know, put His best foot forward (pun very much intended).

I mean, I could see her walking like this after, say, months of hard work and physical therapy; the kind of therapy that has been painstakingly developed by doctors and scientists. But if this was some sort of miracle by the hand of God, you’d think He’d go ahead and give her the Platinum Package. You know, send her bounding up those steps like a love-struck teenager.

Now, she never mentioned the nature of her paralysis, and there are some skeptics out there saying things like:  “It’s possible that she could walk the whole time, but chose not to.” I assume it’s only a matter of time until God smites these skeptics with the full force of his wrath.

I, for one, am thrilled that faith-based healing is making a comeback because, let me tell you, science is hard. You know what it takes to become a doctor these days? Who has that kind of time? Besides, given the choice between a quiet evening mapping the lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve and Dancing with the Stars, well, it’s literally a no-brainer.

Sure, American kids are internationally ranked 21st in science and 25th in math, but they’re #1 in faith, baby.

Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani all the way! Sure it’s a long shot, but you gotta have faith.


The Drunken WHAAA?

Yesterday, my wife and I and the rest of her family and in-laws drove to Fox Lake, Wisconsin to get family portraits taken. If you’re wondering where Fox Lake, Wisconsin is, I drove there, and I still don’t know. After trying to smile naturally for 30 minutes and at least managing a toothy grimace, the family went to a traditional Wisconsin supper club afterwards.

Across the parking lot was a bar called “The Drunken Clam,” and on it was this sign:

I’m sure you found the error on the poster and the attempt to repair it.

So many things went wrong before this sign was hung.

First, at the printer:  “Really? They really want it to say that? Well, okay.”

Then at the bar:  “Sure, it’s a mistake, but we can fix it.”

After attempting to alter it with a black Sharpie:  “Perfect.”

I think what disturbs me is that the proprietors weren’t disturbed enough to get it re-printed.

If you’re looking to attend, Fox Lake, Wisconsin is actually in Mississippi.


Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste

I did a radio bit this morning at Veolia Environmental Services. (You can listen to it here.) On radio remotes like this, I like to research the company and tailor the segment to them. Generally, you never know who is listening, but when you’re doing a remote, your audience is right there in front of you. I rationalize my pandering and glowing review of the company by knowing that the jokes are more entertaining to all present when they’re “inside.”

At any rate, Veolia is a waste management company, so for the last three days, I’ve been researching waste as defined by “the stuff we throw away.” If I didn’t have to research the topic, like you, I probably wouldn’t. I’d do any of a number of other things that my life requires. For the most part, I was trying to find facts that I could fold into jokes, but a larger, kind of macro view of society began to emerge.

It started with this recycling fact:  80% of what we throw away is recyclable, yet America’s recycling rate is 30%.

That led to the question:  Why? And the answer is simple:  Because we don’t care enough to do it. Despite what we say, if we really cared, we’d act.

Then I read this:  Recycling creates 4 times as many jobs as landfilling. Every other commercial you see or hear from now until November 2nd will feature a guy in rolled-up shirt sleeves, running for government office, crowing about the jobs his opponent lost and/or the jobs he will create. And here we, you and me, with no need for a government mandate, can create jobs simply with our behavior. We are free to do that. And yet…

Also in those campaign commercials, the guy in the rolled-up shirt sleeves will promise change because that’s exactly what we tell them we want. And yet they never do, do they? Why do you think that is?

Well, politicians are kind of like teenagers:  They’ll run off to their room and try to get away with whatever they can. They’ll do just enough to not get in trouble. They’ll turn up the music so we can’t hear what they’re really doing. Politicians are kind of the same way:  They run off to Washington D.C. and try to do whatever they want. The minute they walk into their new office, they spend most of their time and energy trying to keep it. And they’re music is the words and political platitudes that they know we want to hear. They can’t help it; it’s their nature.

Telling them we want change isn’t working and isn’t going to work. Politicians don’t listen to what we say, but they do pay attention to what we do. They also follow our dollar like cats stalking the dot from a laser pointer. What politicians truly pay attention to is where we spend our money; that all-American concept known as the Free Market.

Politicians talk about the Free Market as if it’s either good or bad; capitalism at it purest, or the destroyer of worlds; the greatest thing since watermelon-flavored heroin or the worst thing since, well, watermelon-flavored heroin.

I prefer not to judge; the Free Market is both a sword and a shield depending on who is wielding it. But, nevertheless, it has power. And the Free Market will reveal our hypocrisy with blinding light.

Nod when the guy in the rolled-up shirt sleeves says we need American jobs and then shop at a megastore featuring 500,000 square feet of stuff made in Sri-Lanka, Taiwan and Honduras? The Free Market has made its judgment before you can take out your credit card.

Want to help the environment but prefer individually wrapped chicken breasts? The Free Market will decide how you really feel.

Government is who we elect with our votes, and the Free Market is what we elect with our dollars, and make no mistake, our government will bow to the Free Market every time.

And either we use the Free Market, or the Free Market uses us. It can’t help it; that’s its nature.

There’s an awful lot of impotent rage in America today; you don’t have to look hard to see it. We feel trapped and lost and angry, and we’re looking for something to hit. The good news is we do have some power. Essentially, we can vote with our actions; with our behavior and our pocket books. And, as for an American Idol contestant, you can vote as many times as you want.

I promise, the next blog post will be funnier.