Finally, my town is known for something other than exploding whales

image Being that my family and I live in a coastal town, we are privy to a run of grey whales passing by on their way to and from the gulf of Mexico twice a year. Whether this migration is the result of natural instincts or male whales refusing to ask for directions is unclear. What I do know is that our small town of Florence, Ore., recieved national attention back in 1970, when a whale caracass washed up on a nearby beach. Though tourism skyrocketed during the first few days, that began to change as
nature took its course and a two-mile radius began to smell like a port-o-potty at an outdoor sushi convention.

City officials were suddenly faced with two crucial questions:

1) How to dispose of tons of rotting whale as quickly as possible?

And

2) Would the “I Had a Whale of a Time in Florence” T-shirts arrive it in time? Continue reading

For writers, word selection is a lot like natural selection

image Several weeks ago in my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, I talked about three of the most important tools a writer wields when it comes to establishing their voice. Does anyone remember what they were?

For the sake of time, and my feelings, let’s just assume everyone remembers those tools and, in a series of uncontrollable outbursts, begin shouting:

TIMING! TRUTHFULNESS!

and…

and…

CUERVO!

No, the third tool is not Cuervo. It’s RELATIVITY. Although I think we can all agree Cuervo does have a way of making even the most abstract things seem relevant.

In this case, however, Relativity means ensuring the reader can relate to what we’re writing about. This is especially true when it comes to personal experience and family anecdotes. For example, that hilarious story about how Aunt Frida got mad and stomped through the garden won’t be nearly as entertaining to readers as it is to you unless, like you, they already know Aunt Frida was a mule. I realize that’s an overstatement, but unless you take time to lay the foundation of your story in a way that involves the reader, they will likely sit down and refuse to follow. Continue reading

Want to date my daughter? This video could save your life

As my youngest daughter approaches the end of her middle school years, she has been catching the unwanted attention of teenaged boys. And when I say “unwanted,” I’m mostly talking about me. Statistically speaking, I was a teenaged boy once. I know what goes through their minds, at least when they’re not eating, sleeping and farting. But during that hour when they aren’t doing those things, they should be ashamed of themselves. That being said, if those same teenaged boys knew what was going through MY mind when I see them looking at my daughter, the teen pregnancy rate whould drop by 90 percent, with the other 10 percent being investigated by the Catholic Church as “potential miracles.”

So before the summer begins, I’d like to offer this video to any teenaged boy thinking of dating my daughter. It’s only 15 seconds. And there’s some language.

But it just might save your life…

This is what it looks like when bikers and flowers collide

image For three days each year, our little coastal town of 7,000 welcomes about 500 bikers and another 15,000 visitors to get crazy and celebrate… A flower.

A rhododendron, to be exact.

No one knows why.

But it’s been going on for 108 years and, for those three days, our town becomes an unlikely concotion of flower enthusiasts, Free Souls bikers and tourists all co-mingling over beers aand bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Think of it as “Sturgis meets Mardi Gras,” with a little Rose Festival thrown in. Personally, I think the bacon-wrapped hot dog is reason enough to celebrate, so I’m not going to suggest ending the festival anytime soon.

If you read Friday’s post, you know the festival kicks off with the arrival of the carnival — something that is always a bitter-sweet reminder of the loss of my best friend to cancer several years ago. As much as the festival reminds me of that loss, I also remember how much Jason loved this weekend each year, and some of the crazy things we did. Usually after a few beers.

Like when we dressed up as bikers and hung out with them at The Beachcomber. Continue reading

If you want to golf with me, bring your hardhat

image Though I’ve only been golfing a few times in my life, it was clear that my reputation had preceded me at the course last weekend. I know this because golfers immediately traded ball caps for hardhats, then scurried down into the sand bunkers like allied forces preparing for heavy fire. As I took a practice swing, the surrounding trees emptied of all bird species — not in a smooth, organized pattern, but in a frenzied explosion of flapping and panicked birdsong that left three Canada geese lying unconscious in the rough.

Speaking of which, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize once again for the tragic death of that swan near the putting green. Had I known the difference between a putter and a pitching wedge, things might’ve turned out differently for that majestic creature.

Because of my past experiences, I was determined to make things different this time.

How?

By becoming more comfortable with the game. I immediately went online for help and, thanks to the power of the Internet, found myself on a pornography website after typing in the first term on my list:

Mixed foursome.

For anyone else who might be looking to the Internet for golf-term clarifications, I’d also suggest avoiding Scotch foursome, shag bag, hooded club, loose impediments and (this really goes without saying) woodie. Continue reading

A wickedly wonderful friend this way came — and left much too soon

This view from our office's back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

This view from our office’s back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

As I walked to work this morning, the sun was still resting below distant Badger Mountain. The streets were quiet and the air was still as I made my way along the sidewalk, past the carnival that claims the visitors parking lot across from our home each year. Last night it was alive with the sounds of oiled metal grinding behind colorful facades — rocketships, dragons and race cars — as carnival-goers screamed and laughed in rhythmic cycles throughout the evening.

But this morning, the neon lights are out. The colorful merry-go-round is drapped in blue tarps. There are no screams or laughter. Only the occasional murmur of snoring from inside the narrow carnie sleeping quarters stacked side by side on tractor trailor beds. I cut through the carnival, stepping over a braid of thick electrical cables that eventually spread like veins through the park, bringing life to thrill rides, snack shacks and carnival barker microphones.

Each year, I make this walk to work through the Davis Carnival.

And each year, I think of my friend — and the memory of a warm, terrible spring evening that occured this same night more than a decade ago… Continue reading

Vengeance will by mine, Mr. Hairy Spider…

image For the last two nights, my youngest daughter has come running down the stairs about 10 minutes after going to bed. The reason? A big, hairy black spider she said is roughly the size of a Chihuahua. Being a dutiful father, I immediately rushed upstairs the first night and, to my utter horror, walked in to discover…

Absolutely nothing.

“It was on the ceiling just looking at me,” swore my daughter.

The next night, she called from upstairs so she could keep an eye on it. As I came to the door, the spider apparently dropped down the wall and behind her dresser. With my daughter standing behind me, I yanked the dresser away from the wall and shrieked in terror when, AT LAST, I laid my eyes upon…

Absolutely nothing.

Again. Continue reading

The reason our newspaper won’t let me do its radio ads ever again

image It was a little before 8 a.m. when I got a text from my editor, telling me she forgot to let me know I was supposed to do a radio spot for the newspaper. Our annual Rhododendron Festival is coming up this weekend (Yes, you’re all invited!) and our newspaper is a premier sponsor of the festival.

Me: [What time?]
Editor: [Be at radio station in 15 minutes]

The last time the newspaper asked me to do a radio spot was about five years ago. That’s when I introduced the slogan:

Siuslaw News: Your Source for Local News. Twice Weekly. Unless We Lose Count…

They haven’t let me near a mic since then. Continue reading

Some people should have to earn the right to use fire

image (When you consider that we once carried embers around in hollowed out animal skulls for fear of losing the potential to make fire, it seems we’ve come a long way as a species. Then, again, I’ve seen chimps driving motorcycles — it doesn’t mean they’re in line at the DMV.

Case in point: Some of you know, in addition to being a columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. I generally try to keep those parts of my life separate because, more often than not, the experiences in my firefighting life have no place on a humor blog.

However, there are exceptions.

What follows is a re-enactment of sorts, pieced together from personal observations and details noted during an incident at a local campground this past Mother’s Day weekend…)

“You kids stay away from the grill! It’s gonna get very hot!” Mr. Kingsford said, ripping open a bag of briquettes labeled “easy starting.” Over his Bermuda shorts and a 49ers T-shirt, he wore a red and white striped apron with the words “It Ain’t Ready Yet” emblazoned on the front.

A prophecy, really.

After stacking the charcoal into a pyramid, he grabbed a quart of lighter fluid and proceeded to empty half of it over the briquettes, one hand patting his pockets. “I need matches!” he hollered, then pinched the cigarette from his lips. “No I don’t — never mind!” Continue reading

One of the most important skills for a writer? Survival skills

image Over the years, my wife has gotten used to my (admittedly bad) habit of leaning over and whispering “expendable character” whenever I see someone who I know is going to die. I should clarify I only make these predictions while watching movies, and not, as a general rule, at the grocery store, in hospital waiting rooms or at family reunions. That’s because in movies, these types of characters are easy to spot.

For example, the soldier who pulls out a photo of his “girl back home” while talking with his buddy on patrol — Spoiler Alert: He’s not making it through the next scene alive. And if he mentions he’s proposing to “his girl” after getting discharged tomorrow, chances are he won’t even finish his dinner rations before keeling over from sniper fire or eating expired creamed corn. The same goes for anyone who mentions having a “bad ticker” or who has a nagging cough; anyone who says they’ve stopped wearing a bullet-proof vest or life jacket because “you can’t cheat fate”; and definitely any character who keeps a mouse or baby bird in his shirt pocket. Continue reading