Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Challenge

I have a four year old son, Charlie. He's a natural comedian. Of course, he still needs to work on some of the finer points of his delivery. For example, take this thigh-slapper:

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Well, he tries. His original material needs some work, though. His latest thing is to set up a joke and see if you can provide the punch-line. I'm not very good at this. I have a sense of humor, of course, but I don't think of myself as funny.

Ever notice that when we give rich folks a tax cut they create lots of new jobs... CHINA!

See? Not funny. Anyway, since many of you dear readers are far more gifted with this (Sul? Shimp? Lime? I'm looking in your direction) I thought you might help my little man out and complete his last effort. Your answer doesn't have to be suitable for a preschool audience, just funny. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, complete the following:

What did the Slinky say to the grilled cheese?

My answer: Don't worry, I'll spring for dinner. See? Not funny. 100 completely useless bonus points for the best answer. 25 useless bonus points just for participating. You know you have a better answer than mine. Let's hear it.

Respectfully Yours,


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cape Ann Dreamlight

Fishing Fleet in Port

I dream a sea awash in ships:

Irish leather-skins,

Wooden dories,

Yankee whalers.

A transatlantic coffin ship,

Irish leather skins

Packed in human humidity

And rats


Bright white and blue

Gloucester trawler’s huffing funnel,

Smiling crew,

Hanging metal nets

Shine, anticipating.

Leather skins stand at the rail,

Set in sepia tone,

Eternally waving goodbye.

Ghost-driven, rust-eaten,

Trawler risen from the deep,

Her crew, no longer smiling, sleep

A deep, amniotic sleep

Unknown to air-dwellers.

I dream a sea awash in ships

Crossing, passing, intersecting,

Leaving foamy traces in their wakes.

I am sand and sea-foam.

I once clung to pilings

In stinking Queenstown harbor.

A passing wave caught me

And carried me to America,

Depositing me on the shore,

A seed asleep in the sand.

It is said that nothing will grow in sand

But I did.

And though it is said that we are dust

And to dust we shall return,

I am sand and sea-foam.

I will return to the sand.


With thanks to Lime for her encouragement.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010


1884 - 1949

If you knew by the title alone to whom I was referring, HUZZAH! If not, today I offer a short tribute to one of my favorite humorists, the unjustly neglected Will Cuppy. At the mention of his name, I usually get one of two responses: either "Will Cuppy? He is HILARIOUS!" or "Who?" There seems to be little in between. I hope you fall into the first category. If not, I hope this brief introduction will quickly move you into it.

A columnist and book reviewer for the New York Herald-Tribune, Cuppy also contributed essays to the New Yorker and other magazines. Many of these were collected in his books including: How To Be A Hermit, How To Become Extinct, and, perhaps his best known work, The Decline And Fall Of Practically Everybody. If these titles alone have failed to spark an interest, please seek psychiatric help.

He researched all his subjects meticulously, collecting hundreds of notes on 3"x 5" index cards, before he would write a word. His true talent was finding the humor in the factual, and his essays always contain numerous footnotes, almost all of them true. I present here a small sample: The Goldfish, from How To Become Extinct, and let his work speak for itself.


The Goldfish

Goldfish come of a very old family, but it seems to do them no good. They have no place to go.1 Goldfish were invented by the Early Chinese, who had little to do.2 They have been cultivated so long that they are now useless. Goldfish have most uninteresting habits. Several times each year the males drive the females around the aquarium to teach them a lesson.3 Queen Victoria had a goldfish.4 The Common or Ten Cent Goldfish has xanthochromism and cares less. He is the only kind known to some people. These people are just as well off. The Fantail is more expensive because his tail is bifid or trifid. The male fringetail is a matter of taste. He has long floating draperies and is often petulant.5 When enraged, he flounces about, but nobody cares.6 He is also subject to twitters.7 He cannot help it, because he was always like that. The Japanese Lionhead or Buffalohead or Shishigashira looks very strange and probably is. Do not worry about your goldfish. The chances are eighty-two to eighty-one that whatever you do for them will be wrong.8

1 The Olivaceous Goldfish of the Potomac River has succeeded in escaping from ornamental fountains in Washington. The Bar-Tailed Flathead, the Large-mouthed Bass and the Common Perch do not try to escape.
2 Much the same thing could be said of printing, which broke out in the province of Kansu in 868 A.D. The Early Chinese simply could not let well enough alone.
3 These races provide the only clue to the sex of your goldfish, the females invariably being the ones in front. In a small bowl, however, it is difficult to tell which one is in front.
4 This statement is offered without documentation. It is based upon the self-evident truth that if Queen Victoria did not have a Goldfish, then history has no meaning and might as well stop.
5 Goldfish quickly take on the attributes of their owners. Show me a peevish, ill-natured goldfish and I’ll show you the usual family.
6 He particularly hates being bumped into by Tadpoles. If looks could kill there would be some dead Tadpoles in most aquaria.
7 Cutting down on his flake food sometimes brings him to reason. If not, better trade him for something else - almost anything else.
8 Goldfish are fond of nibbling at a bit of Anacharis, also called Waterweed or Ditchmoss or Babington’s curse. Mr. Babington really had a frightful time with it. There are nine kinds of Ludwigia in the United States. You don’t need all of them.


Well, there you have it, and I hope you enjoyed it. If you need additional convincing, you can read How To Be A Hermit online here. If that doesn't do it, there may not be much hope left. Well, I tried. As the man himself said:

Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons.

Now get yourself to a library or bookstore and pick up a copy of The Decline And Fall Of Practically Everybody, willya?

Respectfully Yours,


Monday, April 5, 2010



A good Lent is mentally and spiritually exhausting. It leaves your heart raw. Like a good fight with a loved one, it strips away old resentments and shines light on the dark places in our souls. We go into the desert to confront our pain, our loneliness, our demons: ourselves.

We look at ourselves honestly, and we let Christ guide us into the desert, for he is the Way. We look at ourselves honestly, and we find the truth painful. Yet there too, we encounter Christ, for he is the Truth. We bring ourselves, sinful and sorrowful, to the foot of the Cross. We lift our hearts up to him and offer him the one thing we have that is truly our own.

In that, we die with him. We rest in him. We are reborn and rise with him to new life, for he is Life. The Resurrection is real. It is not something from the past. It is here now. It happens each day in our hearts. Every time we turn to him, every time we choose to bring love into the world, every time we choose the good of another over ourselves, we rise to new life in him.

Easter is not a memorial of something long ago. It is a reality to be experienced now: every day, every minute, here and now. Listen to St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Christ is risen: not long ago, but now. Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Not Christ was risen; Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Here and now.

Respectfully Yours,


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

To All My Friends
To the Old Ones and the New Ones
To Those Who Are Near and Those Who Are Far Away
To Those On Earth and Those In Heaven
To Those I Know and Those I Have Never Met
To Those Who Agree and Those Who Disagree
To Those I Have Never Heard of
In the Hope That We May All Meet in the One Light

Thomas Merton

+ + +

A Blessed Easter To You And Yours

Cricket & Porcupine

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with all the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.

Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.

Genesis 2: 1-4


They took Jesus' body, and in accordance with Jewish burial custom bound it up in wrappings of cloth with perfumed oils. In the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. Because of the Jewish Preparation Day they buried Jesus there, for the tomb was close at hand.

John 19: 40-42


So begins the story of the heavens and earth at their recreation. In a garden it began. In a garden it will begin anew. Why not rise early tomorrow, while it is still dark, and listen as the first bird breaks the silence?

Respectfully Yours,


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

The old spiritual is familiar enough. Yet it asks a question that deserves an answer. Were you there?

In a temporal sense, no. We were not there. Christ himself said "It is finished." He was sacrificed once for all on the hill of Golgotha 2000 years ago. We were not there.

It is reasonable enough. We are temporal beings. We are limited. In both duration and direction, our time is limited. We were not there.

But what is time to the Eternal Word? Something far beyond our ability to even conceive. In a mystical sense, the Passion transcends time; the Crucifixion transcends time. We are the mystical Body of Christ. He left us to be his eyes, his hands, here on Earth: to do his Father's will until he comes again.

The choice is ours: to live in his love, or to crucify him. Every time we choose hatred over love we hold him to the cross. We drive in the nails. We stand at the foot of the cross and mock him. Come down from that cross and save yourself! How fortunate for us he did not.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? I think I was.

Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Respectfully Yours,


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday

I was blessed with the stomach flu last week.

No, really. There's nothing like a good case of dysentery to help you focus on basics. It's unpleasant, I admit, but life is like that. Sometimes we only learn things the hard way.

My son brought the virus home from school last Friday. You all know how that goes. No sooner had he asked "Dad, what's for dinner?" than he was violently ill, all over the kitchen. All over. Mop-and-bucket ill, not a job for paper towels.

For what little good it might do, I shepherded him into the bathroom. I left him to recover a bit while I completed my transformation from cook to janitor. I cleaned the kitchen, then settled my son on the couch with a TV, a blanket, and a bucket. I was still hoping for the best.

An hour later he was sick again. Almost definitely a bug. Damn. I estimated the chance of catching it myself at well over 90%. He called me. He was miserable and wanted to snuggle up. What else could I do? 95% now. Of course, he wanted me to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight. There was nothing for it but to roll the dice and pray.

By the next morning, my wife and second son were down. 99%. I did what I could for them and made a quick run to the market to provision up for the coming storm: saltines, chicken soup, ice pops, and ginger ale. Please, Lord, let this cup pass? By afternoon, the clouds rolled in.

100%. Thy will be done.

That night, my prayers took on a different quality: a certain urgency. It's not a religious experience, per se; but it is a cleansing process. The lessons are there, if you look for them.


It's nothing special, really: to care for your children when they are sick. When they need your love, you give it to them, regardless of the consequences. You worry about them first and the virus later. It isn't what a good parent does. It is what an ordinary parent does. It isn't above-and-beyond. It's the minimum. It is nothing special.

If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that?

Of course, I love my children. I love them more than I ever thought I could love anyone. If you have been blessed with any, you understand. I give them the best I have. Sometimes, this isn't so good; that is the way of it. Good or not, it's the best I have. Still, it's the minimum. It's nothing special. It's where we start. We are called to more.

Much, much more.

Do you understand what I just did for you? You address me as "Teacher" and "Lord," and fittingly enough, for so I am. But if I washed your feet - I who am Teacher and Lord - then you must wash each other's feet. What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.

This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.

Certainly I love my children. I give them the best I have or, at least, I try. Their needs outweigh mine. Love is as love does. This is nothing special.

But we are called to show exactly this kind of love to everyone.


That would be something special.

Respectfully Yours,