The right joke at the right time

Credit: Disney (or whoever owns these guys now)

So last week at work — or “at” work, I guess, since we were all in our respective homes — we were doing the video conference meeting. Part of it was one of those “get to know you” games that everyone says they hate, but secretly like because people like to talk about themselves, especially in no-pressure settings.

A coworker revealed that she worked in a prison laundry right out of school.

I took a breath. The prior week, my friend Shawn shared with me a joke related to a prison reading program. It’s something that would be classified as a dad joke these days, a pun so bad, you want to shake the hand of the man who created it — and then maybe slap him.

I kept my mouth shut. She was talking about a prison laundry. Nothing to do with reading. And I have a knack for derailing meetings with my own crap anyway.

But then she said, “Honestly, it was one of my favorite jobs, because you had to spin the sheets forever, and I got loads of reading done.”

Oh, god, I thought. The perfect set-up. It had to be done.

After a couple of other folks commented on her prison laundry gig, I jumped in. “So you read a lot of books while on you job? At the prison?”

“Yeah. Tons,” she said.

“Soooooo,” I started. “Would you say that the job had a lot of … prose and cons?”

Then there was the split second of anticipation. Would it land? Or would I just see a screen full of confused faces? I didn’t know if a joke that is much more apparent when read would work, but thankfully the virtual room full of editor and writer types got it immediately.

The groans that went up were the sort that punsters feast on, the kind that can get you through an entire winter. And that’s the entire story.

If you haven’t bought my latest book yet, it’s on sale for $1.99 on most e-reader platforms until the end of the week. Amazon, B&N, Kobo. You can also get the print version everywhere book are sold. And if you have read it, leave a review on Amazon or GoodReads or what have you.

The last five books I read …

Hey, you there. Yeah, you. Looking for some books to read? Well, I’ve been reading and since I read a little bit of everything there’s probably something in the below list you’ll like. I recommend them all. So, in reverse chronological order, the last five books I read were …

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. My friend Shiela recommended this one to me, partly because it mentions my hometown of Opelousas about a hundred times. The novel starts out centered on twins Stella and Desiree, Black girls born in the fictional Louisiana town of Mallard. But Mallard has an interesting history. It’s a town settled and populated by light-skinned black people who could pass for white (which might sound familiar to folks from the area). No spoilers, but that ability is central to everything that follows in this multigenerational novel that leaves Mallard for New Orleans, D.C., Boston, L.A., New York and back to Mallard again.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. Drew recommended this wild ride about Willis Wu, a man unable to see himself as much more than Generic Asian Man in the film of life. His outlook is so constrained that his biggest dream is maybe one day becoming Kung Fu Guy. It’s a weird, wild ride and a refreshingly challenging read.

White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton. I came across this one on Twitter. I think I was following this Denver-based author before I knew he was an author. I’m always looking for fun reads, especially ones that update or play around with a genre and that’s exactly what White Trash Warlock does. There are elves and gnomes and warlocks (and Lizard People!) here, yes. But “here” is modern America, with the action starting in Oklahoma and moving to Denver — with side trips to a parallel universe. It’s the first in a series.

The Halldark Holidays anthology, edited by Gabino Iglesias. What if we took the concept of those cheesy Hallmark holiday movies and … turned them into horror stories? That’s the premise that Iglesias, the author of the mind bending novel Coyote Songs, dreamed up late last year. He put out a call for submissions, found a publisher, picked stories, paid writers, and put this anthology together in three months. (I submitted but my piece was chosen.) The result is 22 stories that range from gory to terrifying to downright funny. My favorite of the lot is “What Happens in the Dark Will Soon Happen in the Light” by Michael Harris Cohen.

Last One Out Shut Off the Lights by Stephanie Soileau. Full disclosure: To my knowledge, I’m not related to the author, but Louisiana being Louisiana, I half expect one of my Soileau relatives to make the connection for me. This literary debut of short stories is set mostly in Southwest Louisiana, and anyone from the area will recognize the humor and warmth of the people — but also the pig-headedness and less charitable traits. Cajuns, rednecks, and immigrants move against backdrops of swamps and refineries. The last story in the collection, “The Boucherie,” was probably the most charming. But I’ll say that “Haguillory,” which started off funny, took a turn that had me almost throw my phone across the room.

If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you think. And if those don’t do it for you, you can always pick up my latest, Duck Duck Gator. It’s available everywhere, but the e-book is on sale for $1.99 for a limited time.

Did this dog-licking deer try to break in and murder me?

Friday afternoon while working from home, the Ring camera alerted me to motion out front.

It was the FedEx guy.

Five minutes later, more motion out front.

It was UPS.

I retrieved both packages. And not four minutes later, more motion out front. Figuring it was USPS, I made my way to the door and peeked out the side window before opening it. It was this guy.

He looked into the window. He licked the deck a bit. He seemed to be waiting for me to open the door. Then he walked down the deck to peek in the other windows.

Maybe he wanted our Christmas presents. Maybe he was hungry. Maybe he wanted to get in the house and slaughter us all. You never know with a deer.

He then walked back to the front door. I was sort of surprised he didn’t shout out “Candygram!”

Our front door has a little hatch in it. You know, in case we ever open a speakeasy and people have to give us a password to get in. I opened this and told the deer to go away. He simply moved closer to hear what I was saying.

Eventually he gave up and wandered off.

Or so I’d thought. Turns out he simply went around to the back of the house to check out the back door situation.

Sneaky bastard. He did leave eventually.

A neighbor told me he had to chase this guy off because the young buck was licking the dogs through the fence!

Oh. And the deer made the news for following people in the park down the hill. I think this person was being overly dramatic with the attack language. But more dog licking was involved!

I’m starting to think it was this guy from earlier this year who followed me around out in the yard.

That one seemed interested in dogs as well

Anyway. It’s cute and all. But don’t feed the deer.

This is my brain on Christmas music

It’s not even Thanksgiving and I’ve already listened to days’ worth of Christmas songs courtesy of SiriusXM in the Subaru and the Alexa on the kitchen counter. And since there are only about 15 good Christmas songs, you end up listening to the same ones over and over again — which does something to the brain. So, below, thoughts that have flown through my addled mind while decorating (yes, the tree is already up) and cooking.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Imagine all the people who sang this song in 2019. “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight,” my ass. (I also always want to end this song by singing “Have yourself a merry little Christmas cow.” Because I think a happy little Christmas cow would make a person happy.)

Continue reading “This is my brain on Christmas music”

Don’t skip leg day, bro

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To some of you, this is going to sound like a borderline insane question. 

Do you wash your whole body while showering? 

Normal, well-adjusted people who aren’t nasty are probably wondering, “Ken, what are you talking about? Of course. You get in the shower, let the water run over you and soap up your entire body for that fresh, clean feeling. EVERYONE does that.”

Apparently, everyone does not! 

According to more than a few tweet discussions I’ve seen on Twitter this year — and anecdotes from friends of friends — there are people who basically just skip their legs when showering. They reason that if their legs were covered by pants and did not sweat, then said legs are not dirty enough to require a full lathering. 

And it’s not Twitter. This behavior was the subject of a segment on the Today show!

I’ll admit that I’m not the cleanest person in the world. If it’s a cold winter day and I didn’t leave the house or if I just sat in an office all day, I might skip a whole damn shower. Or try to. When Cara cottons on to this, it turns into a whole thing. 

But when I do take a shower, I wash everything. Top to bottom. Including legs and feet, which, let’s be honest, are getting harder and harder to reach the older I get. 

So when I found out that there are people out there who skip entire regions, I was shocked. It was like finding out that Santa Clause isn’t real or that Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” is just a cover song.

Some of these leg-skippers claim to wash their naughty bits and feet as well. But do they? DO THEY? If they’re skipping a full third of the body, can we take them at their word that they’re soaping the sacks and cracks? I’m not so sure. 

Am I making too big a deal of this? Is this the wet wipe discussion all over again

Do you wash your entire body when you shower? Or are you a filthy leg-skipper? 

You can’t test-drive a house. And that’s insane

Prior to moving into the new house — yes, we bought a house — I’m sitting in our rental, listening to the various noises it makes when the heater kicks in or after a toilet gets flushed.

And it occurs to me that we just spent a ton of money on a place where we will sleep, conceivably for the next 30 years, and we have no idea what it sounds like at night.

You can test-drive a car. Some dealers will even let you take them home for 24 hours. You can try on your clothes. Hell, you can sample beer, wine, and food before buying. Some animal shelters will let you try out a dog or cat to make sure it’s a good fit for your family.

But a house? Nope.

Continue reading “You can’t test-drive a house. And that’s insane”

From the Gumbo Files: The Cajun Traveler Recipe

img_8740Here’s another gumbo recipe that Louisiana folks can argue about. More importantly, most non-Louisiana folks should be able to pull off.

I’ve written extensively about gumbo on this blog and elsewhere, so much so that I get tired just thinking about linking to the other pieces — and the arguments that usually ensue. There’s always some joker from Texas, or New Orleans, or North Louisiana — or even better, who has never set foot in Louisiana, but his grandma was from there — who’s gonna stroll in and tell you all about how wrong you are. “IF IT AIN’T GOT OKRA IT’S NOT GUMBO.” Nope. You’re wrong. Get out of my face. Or some fellow Cajun food snob will pop in with, “Mais, you gotta make you own roux, cher, or it don’t count no.” Mais, I’m here to tell you, you couldn’t tell the difference in a blind taste test. (The point is, people like to argue about food. Also, Cajun gumbo is different fro Creole gumbo is different from New Orleans gumbo.)

Anyway, my longtime friend Toby Dore, aka The Cajun Traveler and proprietor of the Cajun Hostel, has just posted his Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe. I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I moved from my basic gumbo recipe toward my advance recipe, it was after watching Toby cook a massive gumbo for one of his annual Christmas parties. I swiped a few steps from him. Clearly, he knows what he’s doing. And he makes a particularly bold old-school choice with one ingredient.

The good thing about this recipe is that it should be easy enough for most non-Louisianans to master and create an authentic Cajun gumbo in their own home. Just don’t skimp on the sausage!

Drama at the Laundromat! 

Showed up to pick up my laundry this morning at 7:50. The laundromat opens at 7:30. Guess what.

It was closed.

“He ain’t here yet, bro” said a bro from across the street. “I even called him. Said he’d be here in five minutes. That was 10 minutes ago.”

Not a minute later, our friendly laundromat guy shows up, opens doors, grabs MadBro’s shirts and hands them over.

MadBro’s bill was $12 but he threw 5 down on the counter and said “That’s all you fucking getting from me cuz I been waiting outside 20 minutes.” Then he grabbed his shit and left.

Laundromat Guy didn’t even realize what had happened until MadBro was out the door. “That guy only gave me five dollars. He owed me twelve. Makes no sense!”

And I, your always cool, calm and collected narrator (cough) said, “I guess some people are just mad all the time.”

(I paid my bill in full and tipped the amount appropriate for people who wash my nasty clothes and then fold it all nice and neat.) 

THE END

A few words about Charles Wheaton, my parrain

Daddy on the left. Uncle Charles on the right.

In South Louisiana, the Cajun French word for godfather is parrain. Good luck pronouncing that correctly. It’s one of the few Cajun French words I know that isn’t a curse word. Parrain.

Last night my parrain died. Charles Wheaton. My daddy’s younger brother.

I saw him last year at my brother Daniel’s wedding. But the last time I had any kind of extended conversation with him was a few years ago, in Opelousas. I’d swung by the group home where he was still working at the time, before the state of Louisiana decided that taking care of adults with developmental disabilities wasn’t worth its time or money. Uncle Charles had some choice words about that.

But what we actually talked about that day, and what sticks with me, was my first novel. The one about the priest. He told me he got a kick out of the book, that he loved it. And let me tell you, that’s going to go down as one of the proudest achievements in my writing career. Because Uncle Charles was the storyteller of the family. I might be able to write a story or two, but Uncle Charles could start talking and the whole house would fall silent. Only for a minute or two, though, because it wasn’t long before people were practically falling off of furniture from laughing so hard.

I seem to remember his stories starting with, “Hey, yall remember that old boy.” His stories were often about some old boy. Back in the day. That did something that was hilariously unspeakable. I remember at least one that involved a horny farm boy, an unwilling animal, and a load of one party’s excrement dropped into the other’s pants. Uncle Charles didn’t worry much about mixed company. And he often seemed to delight in making pearl-clutchers clutch their pearls just a little bit harder.

Continue reading “A few words about Charles Wheaton, my parrain”