In A Coffee Shop



In a coffee shop
I stop
And sip
And watch.

A mother and her young son,
Helping him with homework.

A college girl and her laptop,
Two high school boys glancing,
Laughing at their imaginary scenarios,
Glancing.

A boy with earbuds inserted
Fingers a portable computer game.

An attractive woman in her forties enters,
Turning the head of a lonely man
Disinterestedly reading a newspaper
To keep from staring.

The attractive woman orders a regular coffee of the day
From the aproned young man behind the counter
With his stylishly close-cropped facial hair.
Because she is mad at her husband
She smiles at the skinny young coffee vendor
And puts a five dollar bill into his tip jar.

The mother opens a wide, brightly illustrated picture book,
“The Magic Flute,”
And tells her son about Mozart.
“Oh yeah. Mozart!” says the nine-year-old boy,
“I love that guy!”
The mother, who looks dark and Italian, smiles.
Her light-skinned, fair-haired boy
Looks more like his father,
A happy, enthusiastic, silly boy,
His arms and legs animated by the hits of the eighties
Playing in the background.

The college girl looks up from her laptop
To see if anyone is watching her,
So I try not to be noticed,
Middle-aged man that I am,
Too old to be admiring such a pretty young girl,
Not beautiful,
But pretty with the gloss of untarnished youth.
She sees the high school boys glancing at her
And turns her attention back to her laptop screen.
They are too young and silly.
She will know him when she sees him,
The one she is waiting for.

The lonely man, comfortable in his well-worn suit and tie,
Watches the attractive woman with the faded gold hair
And imagines her whispering:
“I love you,”
But he will not speak.
He is also in his forties but still waiting,
Waiting for an invitation.

The earbud boy chugs his coffee,
Picks at the acne on his chin,
Swings his backpack over one shoulder
And walks out the door.
He doesn’t want to say anything to anybody.

The dark-skinned mother says:
“This is my son who will love me forever.”

Her young son says:
“Let’s have fun all the time!”

The college girl says:
“Can you hear me O secret love? I am here.”

The lonely man is afraid to speak,
He expects disappointment.

The attractive woman says:
“My husband has fallen asleep and will not wake.
I am not ordinary.”

The two young men say:
“What a joke. People are so stupid!”

The skinny coffee vendor says:
“Why can’t I be like you? Why am I the servant?”

And I say:
“Here in this small coffee shop,
All the constellations of the universe.”

None of us say these things out loud.
One by one we finish our coffee and leave,
Pretending we are separate.


~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved



The Age Of The Pure Self


 

Anarchy,
Not just for the dispossessed anymore,
It's catching on like wildfire,
A fad,
A new sport for the upper crust,
For those separated from the great mass
By privilege,
Power,
Perception.

This perception of superiority,
Now this is the motive force,
Not just for the well-to-do anymore,
No,
Even the lowest inhabitants of the social order
Feel superior these days.

Now,
In our cities and our streets,
In our homes and office buildings,
In all manner of public and private places,
Now,
No one is safe from this self-righteous anarchy.

This is war.

To each their own pure self,
The pure self that needs no law,
That bends to no man, woman or child,
That considers not its own frailties,
Sees no larger world beyond itself,
Enforces its iron rule without mercy,
No matter how trivial or mundane its kingdom may be.

Nor more humility,
No backing up,
No admission of error,
Of guilt,
Of responsibility.
All actions and motives of the pure self are beyond question.

We encounter one another
In our day-to-day lives
And exchange the menacing glance.
All is understood.
Ours is the age of the pure self.


© All Rights Reserved






Collections


The first things I collected were stuffed animals, but only two of them slept with me at night. Of all my friends and playmates, I dearly loved the little gray cat and floppy brown and tan spotted dog who slept under the covers and kept me from feeling lonely at bedtime.

I’ve never lived anywhere very long without cats. I sleep with a little calico cat named Sally now.

I collected small metal cars and loved to drive them around cities I made from colored blocks.

I collected 45 rpm records, songs I heard on the radio. I listened to them over and over again. Each week when I went to the music store for my trumpet lesson, I bought a new “single” to add to my collection. I pretended I was a disc jockey and would announce each record I played.

One summer I won a contest on radio station KFWB by being the first caller. I talked to disc jockey Gary Owens and he sent me a Gary Owens coloring book and KFWB bumper sticker.

When I was 42 years old and working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Newport Beach, California, I did daily newscasts for a local FM radio station. Someone once told me they heard me in a supermarket where the station was playing.

I collected coins and stamps, ordering them from catalogues and putting them into albums. I looked through everyone’s pennies, trying to find a 1909-S VDB, the rarest of Lincoln pennies. It never turned up. I learned that the reason certain coins and stamps were worth so much money was the same reason I’d never find them.

I began investing seriously in my late 40s, having more luck in recognizing an undervalued stock than knowing when to sell it. I learned that for many investments, value and worth are temporary.

As I grew up, my collections shifted from things to experiences. I collected friends, lovers and accomplishments. I collected books I’d read. I collected knowledge and learning. I collected songs and poems I wrote. I collected performances I played as a musician. I collected the talented musicians I played with. After I became a newspaper reporter, I collected my best published stories. I collected every famous and interesting person I met.

I collected family photographs, all the way back to great grandparents, arranging them in albums. I collected my family, my parents and grandparents, the years of my marriage, the companionship of my sons. I'm waiting to collect a grandchild or two.

I collect memories and as I grow old they reveal meanings to me I’d never fully understood. I collect the acts of kindness I’ve received and try to pass them on to others. I collect wisdom and continue to learn and relearn the lessons I’ve been taught from those still living and those who have passed on, their words still speaking to me.

I collect knowledge of the joy and sadness in this world, the tragedies and victories of the spirit, the damnations and the revelations. Sometimes it’s all too much and so I pack some of my collections away in boxes and label them, knowing I can always go back and unpack, knowing I’ll never look inside some of these boxes again, knowing all things change and life should move forward, mindfully forward.

My house is full of things useful and decorous, impractical and silly, remnants of a long life. I look at these things and they remind me of who I have been, who I still am. I suppose I will never completely discard my past, as long as it has something to teach me. I suppose all that I’ve collected has been an attempt to preserve happiness, wisdom and love.

Someday I will leave all these collections behind, passing these objects and their meanings on to others, but keeping the joy of having lived on this Earth in my eternal heart.





~ Text and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




The Other Virus


Trump has a virus.

I do not refer to the coronavirus. This other virus is far more deadly. 

The notion that the erratic course of the Trump presidency was the result of a localized infection centered mostly in the White House, aided and abetted by compliant media outlets and servile politicians, was further dispelled by the anarchistic minions who stormed the U.S. Capitol bearing Trump flags and assorted MAGA accessories.

Talk about a pandemic!



The virus that infected and elected Trump has spread to every nook and cranny of the Republic.  It is a pandemic of willful ignorance, spread by those who believe their certainty inoculates them against rational examination.

Yet even the impermeable Trumplings of America are but a subset of a global pandemic of authoritarianism whose existence depends on the strangling of truth and the obedience of ignorance.

In how many countries has democracy been overtaken by authoritarianism? Too many. Who can stop and reverse this advance of totalitarianism? The United States of America comes to mind. Despite the best efforts of Trump, his minions and his compliant political apologists, our recent elections do indeed seem like a turning point, a turn away from the abyss of another Trump administration and a restoration of sanity.

But let us never forget the names of those who defended the evil untruths of the Trump administration that have torn our citizenry apart.

Sanity, leadership, character and conscience: These virtues are not Republican or Democrat virtues. They are human virtues that must guide the course of our nation. May we defend them against the evil, soulless intentions of those who would subvert our Democracy.

May we call out the defenders of ignorance. May we demand educated, knowledgeable leaders in all walks of life to speak out against tyrannies both small and large. And may the freedom-loving people of the world once again look to the United States of America as an example, not of chaos, but of enlightened governance.

The great work lies ahead. The great work calls us. We must answer.


    What happens in America happens to the rest of the world.
     ~ Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and dissident


Ideology And Pragmatism

 

I don’t think people carry around with them a fixed ideology. I think a majority of people, they’re going about their business, going about their lives – they just want to make sure we’re making progress.”

“We’re not going to rule out ideas because they’re Democrat or Republican. We want to just see what works.”

~ President Barak Obama at White House press conference ~  November 3, 2010


Yes, civilization represents the evolution of ideas about freedom, compassion and justice.

Yes, there are ideologies that enshrine these ideals, that are worth defending.

Yes, there are ideologies that seek to destroy our democratic way of life.

Our greatest freedoms come from the evolution of ideologies, the flexibility of ideologies, the tolerance of ideologies, the willingness  of ideologies to accept new realities, to discard the mistaken notions of the past and embrace change.

In our political system, it is the realization that we are all human and subject to error and mistaken judgment that moves us forward.

In choosing between ideological  certainty and the real world of human experience, America has thrived because we as a people have been willing to accept the truth, even when it challenges long-held beliefs.

No one can predict the future. No one  knows where all the decisions we make will lead us as a nation. But with a pragmatic eye open to reality, even when it comes into conflict with a sacred ideology, we can learn from the real world of actual events and embrace change.

Because none of us can predict the future,  because none of us knows everything, because none of us is perfect, we must set absolute certainty aside. We must come together and compromise. We must extend our vision beyond a nation of winners and losers who are constantly at war and continue our journey together toward a more perfect union.





Suburban Twilight

















Suburban twilight,
Punctuated by porch lights
Welcoming weary workers home.

“Hello darling,”
She says,
“I missed you,”
Her bare shoulders
Framed by the thin straps,
Too loose,
Of her tiny, translucent dress.

This never happened to me.

A bunch of soccer ball boys,
Too young to go on a date,
Stand together in a jagged circle
On a grass-dirt field
While their parents lie to each other
About nothing in particular,
Waiting for the game to begin.

Back on the boulevard
Commuters swim upstream,
Fighting their way back
To the suburban spawning grounds
For a few hours of fun
Before it all shuts down in sleep,
And regret.





~ Poem and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Uber Al Fresco



The comfort of a limo with the thrill of a convertible. Caution is advised when reclining seats while vehicle is making sharp turns in busy intersections. Not recommended for freeway driving.


~ Words and Photo by Russ Allison Loar 
© All Rights Reserved





Poetry Class


“Nothing beats an 18-year-old pair of hips.”

It’s from a poem. Her poem. That blond-haired girl in my college creative writing class, reading her poem out loud, a poem about her love of sex, of having sex, preferably with lean 18-year-old boys at the zenith of their sexual energies.


Within a few days of her recitation I noticed she began coming to class with the professor, a man not quite twice her age who evidently was quite willing to submit his hips to her critical assessment. 

Yes, they had definitely paired off, but unfortunately, the academic quarter came to an end before she had a chance to construct a poem about this new sexual experience.

But why should I let that fact limit my own imagination?

You Are Not My Daddy



Yes, you are not my daddy.
Yes, you are not my boyfriend.
Yes,
Yes,
Yes.

Oh my God,
Yes!

~ © Blond-haired College Girl

There’s nothing like a college education to expand one’s imagination.


© All Rights Reserved





Kids Need Discipline!





















The school board Tuesday night unanimously approved
the death penalty for dress code violations.





~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Paul and Lora Guajardos
© All Rights Reserved

You Did Not Return My Shovel


I really need it bad.
You left and took my shovel.
It’s made my life so sad.

It was my only shovel.
I had it all these years.
I own no other shovel.
My tool shed sheds such tears.
I can see it now,
Shining in the sun.
Glowing in the rain.
O my lost shovel,
Causes me such pain.

I am cold in the night
Cause my shovel’s not in sight.
How can I carry on
When my shovel’s lost and gone?

Someday when you’re in hell,
You’ll know the reason why.
You horked my beauty shovel,
And digging made you die.



~ Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved




Biden Dorks Out



Vice President Joe Biden appears to temporarily lose his mind during President Barack Obama's "jobs" speech to Congress, September 8, 2011. Actually, he was licking his lips due to dry mouth.




A Lie






I was playing with a baseball I’d found in my front yard when two older boys walked up to me.

One of them said, “That’s my baseball. I hit it over here all the way from the park.”

The park was about three miles away, but I was seven years old and I believed him. I gave him the baseball. The two boys walked away laughing.

Lying in bed that night, thinking over the events of the day, I realized those boys were laughing because they had told me a lie and I believed them. They were laughing at me.

I decided I wouldn't be so stupid next time. Despite my decision, so many years later, I’m still surprised how skillfully people can lie.








~ By Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




We Americans












We Americans
Speak of our founding fathers,
Our proud heritage,
As if it were all etched in stone,
Authored by God,
This young country,
This work in progress,
Fresh from ignorance and sin,
Sinning still.




What Do You Really Think?



What do you really think?

No,
Not what you’ve heard,
Those predigested generalizations
Tailored to specific constituencies,
Foot soldiers amassing in the unity of certainty.

What do you think that’s genuinely yours,
Uniquely yours,
The product of your own ingredients,
Of your own mental exercise,
Unaltered by expectations of approval
Or disapproval,
Stripped of cliché,
Of second-hand observations . . .

Summon the truest voice within and tell me,
What do you really think?


~ Poem and Photo by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Accumulation


When I was young I had a small wooden box, a souvenir from a family trip to the giant redwoods. We drove through a hole in one of the trees and stayed overnight in a cabin infused with the wood-sap-green perfume of the forest that surrounded us.

Inside my box I kept:

1. A polished orange agate
2. A worn Canadian quarter with a moose on one side
3. A dark red matchbook from a fancy restaurant
4. A small magnifying glass in a black plastic frame
5. A brass pocket knife
6. A 4 cent stamp with Abraham Lincoln’s picture on it
7. A fingernail trimmer

I had a portable record player and a collection of 45 rpm records with pictures of the artists on the paper sleeves. Elvis! I had picture books of nursery rhymes, jungle animals, Peter Pan, automobiles, a school book with illustrations of Columbus discovering the new world, children’s poetry and comic books. I had baseball cards of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax! I had a set of small rocks glued onto a cardboard mounting, each underscored with their names and geographic origins.

I had a half-dozen or so stuffed animals who shared my bed.

I had drawers full of inconsequential objects such as red rubber bands from Sunday newspapers, paperclips, a bottle of dried-up glue, spare change, pens and pencils, a ruler, a small plastic stapler and scattered staples, a Scotch tape dispenser, assorted notepads, folders, three-ring binders, old birthday cards, Christmas cards sent to my family and forgotten photographs taken when we were all dressed up for some holiday.

I had plastic guns and rifles, dozens of small metal cars with real rubber tires, and a few hastily glued model airplanes.

I had a closet full of clothing picked out by my mother and drawers of underwear, socks and pajamas. I had pairs of worn tennis shoes and rarely worn dress shoes that made blisters on my heels.

I had a red and white Schwinn bicycle with large tires. I attached playing cards to the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. When I attached a balloon it sounded even better, but the balloon would soon pop.

I had so much more, so many possessions for such a young boy, and yet so few when compared to this adult life where the clutter of accumulation dims the childhood wonder I had when everything was new.


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved





This Idea Of Free





I am so used to this idea of free
I forget how many in this world
Are shackled by ideas,
So many in this free country,
In my hometown,
Shackle themselves with ideas,
Rules for living,
Or no ideas at all,
Just behaviors,
Self-destructive behaviors
Masquerading as freedom.

So confusing,
This idea of free.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Known




Sherwood Rowland ~ Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

I first interviewed UC Irvine chemistry professor Sherwood Rowland in 1987 when I was a reporter for the Irvine World News, the first of many subsequent interviews. It was during the time of the Montreal Protocol On Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a worldwide effort to limit and eventually ban the industry-wide production and use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Rowland, with postdoctoral research assistant Mario Melina, discovered that CFCs were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer, a conclusion that was heavily criticized during the early years of his findings.

When I first interviewed him in his campus laboratory, he told me that global warming was the most imminent threat to the planet. To my surprise, he said that in addition to the man-made chemicals that were warming the planet were gas emissions from cattle—cow belching!

He was very generous with his time during that first interview, despite the fact that I was just a small-time reporter for the local newspaper. He even showed me his ice core samples.

Rowland and Melina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.


~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Rick Loomis\Los Angeles Times
© All Rights Reserved




One Cup Of Coffee















S o many of us are struggling,
Tormented by work and money,
Dysfunctional families,
Disease and decadence,
Political injustice,
Weather,
Inertia.

Yet each morning,
After only one cup of coffee,
I am glad to be alive
One more day.




~ Russ Allison Loar
~ Artwork by Christian René aka runnerfrog
© All Rights Reserved




On Moonlit Freeway













On moonlit freeway
I see the weariness in your eyes,
A few stray strands of hair
Around your face
Illuminated against the black
Inside your car.

It is late.

We who work overtime are driving home
In silent, anonymous autonomy.
Though I’ve seen you a thousand times before
In full fluorescent sun,
Numbed by office decor and decorum,
Tonight in my rearview mirror
I see the phosphorescence of your truer self,
Your innocence.

It is the innocence of the oppressed
Who, after overtime is through,
Have nothing disingenuous left.





~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Princess Marjorie



M y mother saved things.

She had $50 bills hidden in an envelope beneath a stack of unread magazines in the cupboard of an old nightstand.

She had a small box of Kennedy half-dollars inside a small safe, underneath stacks of envelopes bound together with rubber bands. There were $50 bills inside some of the envelopes.

There were lacquered jewelry boxes and plain cardboard boxes filled with necklaces, rings, pendants and pins in dresser drawers beneath undergarments, old mail, pill bottles, pens and a lifetime of assembled ephemera. There were some valuable heirlooms mixed without distinction among trinkets from the many countries she had visited with her late husband. Photos taken by her husband were collected in box after box of incredibly boring slides which were viewed once or twice when friends came over, then stuffed into cupboards and never seen again. Marjorie and her husband did not seem to enjoy their travels as much as they enjoyed accumulating them to be admired and envied by their friends.

My mother was 15 years old in 1929, when the stock market crashed, followed by years of economic turmoil. But her parents were wealthy and the family was protected from ruin. She was a spoiled, only child who was smart and talented. She was a top student, played the piano and the violin, and pretty enough to be pursued by legions of young men, her friendship desired by admiring young women. She was a small-town princess whose photo routinely appeared in the society pages of the local paper.

So many in her small town had fallen into poverty during the aftermath of the Great Depression. So she saved. Everything.

By the time I was a teenager, her garage had turned into a museum of the useless and obsolete. She had saved all my father’s old electric shavers, though they didn’t work very well anymore. But they had value, somehow.

She saved cookie tins, so handy for storing things, even though she had more than twenty empty tins stuffed into a cupboard beneath her dead husband’s cluttered workbench. You never know when you might need one, she thought, and if she threw them away, in just a very few days she’d suddenly have a use for them, and then it would be too late.

After her electric garage door opener had to be replaced, she would not let the repairman take away the old, greasy, rusty, 12-foot-long mechanism. There might be parts in it that would come in handy some day.

The garage was packed full of stuff like that: old corroded sprinkler heads, scrap lumber stored in the rafters, old magazines, cardboard boxes that had come with her televisions, her coffee maker, her microwave. There were cracked plastic buckets filled with tattered kitchen dish towels and rags. Boxes of old calendars, coffee cans full of nails and screws and other mysterious, hard-to-identify parts saved by her late husband.

Inside her house every drawer was packed full. Many contained unopened mail, solicitations she meant to review, stacks of envelopes bound with rubber bands. She kept every greeting card she’d ever received, every letter, all the way back to when she was a little girl.

One might guess she was a sentimental person. But sentiment was barely in evidence as she accumulated her way through life. Sentiment was, at best, a fleeting afterthought, a momentary pause in the pursuit of acquisition. She never looked at the things she saved. Much of it was packed away in places too difficult to easily access. Each card and letter she saved was a kind of honorary award, bearing testament to her worth. They were her small trophies; homage paid to the princess.

I could go on and on, describing in great detail all the unused kitchen appliances, the unread books, the cabinets full of figurines, crystal, ceramics and silver – so many things only the privileged could afford to own, things that were never taken out of their places and handled, looked at or enjoyed.

But even in this small accounting, my writing becomes a repetition of the compulsions that surrounded me as a child, the compulsions that infused my soul, against which I have fought every day of my adult life.

Inside my mother’s garage, inside her drawers, in her closets and cupboards, in her attic, in every empty space, a lifetime of accumulation gathered randomly, while on the outside, her splendid home was neatly decorated, her most expensive possessions on display, touched only by the housekeeper who kept them dust-free.

My mother married a successful salesman, too young and sheltered to realize she’d fallen in love with a sales pitch, not a man. They were far from soul mates. She was Lady Di. He was Homer Simpson. She kept her husband at arm’s length as the years passed by, in his appropriate place, untouched, on his side of the bed. After a few years, she accumulated two children. First my sister, then I were adopted – an appropriate pair to show off at the country club.

As time went by, her husband and her children proved to be quite troublesome. Instead of showering her with praise, devotion and servitude, we actually required love and affection. Since she could not put each of us in a display case, she entombed herself within a display case of her own making. She became untouchable, permanent, unchanging, unwilling to share her carefully constructed and accumulated life. Yet we were relentlessly human and asked for more than she could give, and grew to resent her.

She came to realize she’d made a mistake. Life had been perfect when she was the only child, the small-town princess, admired by all she knew. She could never become the supplicant, required to make an earnest entreaty for love. She was superior and would never admit any kind of emotional need. And so she accumulated things and pre-empted any emotional connection by treating those around her with cruel contempt.

She was known in the community as a rich and respected woman who lived in a grand house full of splendid possessions. But she was utterly impoverished in spirit, without those intangible things which are our true possessions, which are the true measure of our lives.

This was my mother, the Princess Marjorie, sovereign of a vast wilderness.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




The Newer Colossus



















Don’t give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
I extinguish my lamp beside the golden door.
Go away.
We’re full.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





Heh, Heh, Heh





L aura was breathing harder now, her head resting against George’s shoulder as they sat in his pickup truck at the drive-in movie. It was a long movie and she had been up since the crack of dawn. She was asleep.
"Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route,” Princess Leia tongue-lashed the handsomely handsome Han Solo.

“Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your highness!” Han rhetoricated mockingly.
“Aaugh!” Laura screamed, awakening to the sound of laser fire pontooning from the small metal speaker box hooked on the passenger side window.

“Laura, what’s wrong?”

“Oh George, I just had the most frightening dream of my life. I dreamed you were president and I was First Lady and a band of bearded evildoers blew up New York City!”

“Heh, heh, heh,” George spontaneously chuckled, draining his fourth Budweiser. “Heh, heh, heh. That’ll be the day.”




~ Story & photo morph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





But Seriously Folks

 



Thank you ladies and gentle worms. Tonight, I’m going to start out with a tribute to all of you. That’s right, a musical tribute to human beings.


{Sleazy lounge singer voice}

♪ Hey there!
Yes you there!
Didja know there,
That you’ve got:
Two legs,
And you’ve got:
Two arms,
And you’ve got:
Two brains,
Inside your head, yeah! ♪


Needs a little work.

But seriously folks, I just want you to know I’m a believer in clean comedy. Yeah. Clean comedy. That’s my thing. Clean comedy.

So, these two bars of soap were walking down the street and they’re having a really heated argument. This one bar of soap is getting furious—out of control. So the other bar of soap says, “Hey! Don’t work yourself up into a lather!”

Oh yeah, it’s clean!


(Rim shot)

I was just talking backstage with legendary comedian Buzzy Vava Voom. He just flew in from a 37-year run at Joey Knuckles' Steak and Stein in Lost Wages, Nevada, and boy is his airplane tired!


(Bass drum hit)

“Buzzy,” I said, “what’s the secret of your success? How do You be funny?”

Buzzy says to me, “Kid, don’t get too personal with your humor. Nobody wants to hear about your personal problems. So if you really hate your wife, don’t do wife jokes because the audience will see that you really mean it and they won’t think you’re funny.”

So, taking Buzzy’s advice about keeping my personal life out of my humor, for those who have seen me perform before, I won’t be doing the bit about the wacky arsonist, the naked parking attendant, or the bit about falling in love with grandpa’s cow.



(Muffled laughter)

There was this guy with a big penis who walks into a bar, sits down on a barstool and orders a beer. The bartender slaps the beer down on the counter and the guy with the big penis hands him a twenty dollar bill. A couple of minutes later the bartender comes back and gives him a five dollar bill in change and says:

“We don’t get many guys in here with big penises.”

The guy with the big penis looks at the five dollar bill, looks at his beer, looks back at the five dollar bill, then looks at the bartender and says:

“How come?”


(Sustained, awkward silence)

“But seriously folks, you know, my wife is such a bitch . . .”



~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Monster Trucks and Sausages















Someone gave me free tickets to the monster truck show at the county fair, entitling me to be among the privileged few to witness a huge, elevated truck smash into a motor home.

As I chewed on the tougher parts of my fat-laden giant sausage, I surveyed the enthusiastic monster truck audience, watched them cheer for the wheelie-popping trucks, and mused on just how fragile our participatory democracy truly is.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photograph by FlagWorld.com
~ From My Incarnation.com
© All Rights Reserved

My Afternoon With Alex





The charming and erudite host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, is surprisingly sardonic off camera. The studio audience—about 100 split between members of the general public on the left side of the theater, friends and family of the contestants on the right—had plenty of opportunity to ask him questions during down times between segments, sampling his slightly snarky sense of humor.

I got in the first question, a technique I used as a reporter, knowing that even at a major press conference there is often a reluctance to ask the first question. So I prepared my question in advance, rehearsed it mentally and was ready to go when Trebek asked for questions from the audience.

I asked if he'd ever been a game show contestant; if he would ever be a contestant on Jeopardy! before he retires; and how did he think he'd do as a Jeopardy! contestant.

He said he'd been a contestant on a few game shows, but would not be a contestant on Jeopardy! because then someone else would have to host the show, and "he might be better than I am." How would he do as a Jeopardy! contestant? Trebek said he would probably do well against his "peers." Then, looking directly at me, he said, "I see by your white hair that you might be one of my peers. I would crush you!"

A middle-aged man in the mostly middle-aged audience asked, "How do you pronounce all those foreign words?" Trebek answered with overemphasized, drawn out speech: "W-i-t-h M-y M-o-u-t-h."

I also talked to crisp-toned announcer Johnny Gilbert, asking how many tapings per day the winners do. He said they tape five shows a day. For Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings to win seventy-four consecutive games, he had to win five games in a row, then get up the next morning and go win another five games. Whew indeed! The show tapes Tuesdays and Wednesdays, three weeks a month, nine months a year.

Gilbert introduced two of the three Clue Crew members who were at the taping—Sarah and Jimmy. When the pair stood up and waved to the audience, I saw that Jimmy was wearing a maroon hoodie with "HARVARD" emblazoned on the front in big letters. Yeah, OK. You're smart.

A Few Candid Moments

A fortyish woman asked Trebek what his favorite karaoke song was. He replied, "My favorite karaoke song?" then turned his head to the side and pretended to spit on the floor, saying: "I hate karaoke."

Another audience member asked him what he thought about rap music. As he began to criticize it, he seemed to pause and take a quick scan of the audience, then said he disliked most of it because of the bad language and negative references, adding that he thought it was a bad influence on youth. "Not all of it is bad, but most of it," he said, apparently not wishing to condemn the entire black youth culture.

Surprise! Trebek Doesn't Know Everything

When one of the contestants incorrectly answered "era" instead of "eon" in response to a science question requiring a three-letter word with two vowels, Trebek told the young man that "era" was not a scientific term. One of the fact checkers disagreed.

(Era can be generic, such as the era of horse and buggy, or scientific, such as the Paleozoic era.)

Trebek seemed to think "era" had only a generic meaning. But after the fact checker disagreed, he walked over to the front of the stage where a semicircle of fact checkers are located in a pit behind computer screens and telephones, and picked up one of their dictionaries. He seemed genuinely interested in making sure he had the correct information, although the staff photographer who took candid photos during the taping of the show moved quickly into position to take a few shots of Trebek studiously peering into the dictionary. He lingered just long enough to ensure a good publicity shot.

Trebek Is 73

When asked what books he's read, Trebek said he reads a lot of nonfiction, "political stuff," and also likes novelist "John . . ." and then couldn't think of the author's last name until an audience member called out: "Grisham." Then he mentioned finishing a book during a recent trip, but could not remember what it was. "It'll come to me," he said. It didn't.

So even the sharp-witted Trebek, adjudicator of all knowledge, cannot escape the symptoms of an aging mind. Or perhaps it was just overload, considering all the data that had passed through his brain by the last taping of the day. It was the fifth and last show during a day in which he'd already articulated 264 questions with but a very few misspeaks. Is this reassuring to those of us who worry about occasional memory loss? I don't know, but I'm gonna keep playing.



(Written March 2014)


~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Those Who Would Be Dictators

 

In my quest to become a wise and enlightened being, I listen to the words of others. I seek the truths of our existences. And there is no shortage of those who claim to possess these truths. There is no shortage of those who have developed methodologies, philosophies, theologies, psychologies – rules for living. Their rules for living.

 Yet, is it not true that so many of the horrors of humankind are perpetrated by th
ose who would be dictators, whose visions must never be questioned? So they portray themselves as merely the humble servants of God, of Allah, of the Sacred Writings, of The Public Welfare. That is all the justification they need to enforce subservience and to exterminate those who disagree.

Even in the evolving democracies of the world, in the United States, are we not surrounded by little dictators working hard to impose their vision of the truth upon us all? Consider how many books have been published in which the chosen few hand down small tablets of truth about our lives, small tablets of truth which they have received from on high. The questions of the heart and mind have all been solved, by them.

Isn’t American democracy rooted in the idea that each of us must be free to discover our own truths – spiritual and otherwise – about the lives we lead? Why, then, do we continue to revere and respect those who oppose free and unfettered thought?

To do good works is praiseworthy. To be charitable to those in need is kind. To help the ignorant discover the value of ethical, moral behavior is a worthy endeavor. But to promote the belief that any one theology and its book of rules constitutes unquestionable eternal truth is to mistake the human for the divine. Even if a word, a sentence, a paragraph, an essay, a pamphlet, a book, is divinely inspired, it had to be written down by a human being. We have no books that were penned by supernatural beings and published on other planes of existence. We are the creators of these things, regardless of whatever divine or supernatural source we credit or invent.

Yet those who would be dictators would prohibit criticism, and so they say their words – whatever their source – are infallible. How often is this simply a tactic to deny any challenge to their dictatorial will?

We are taught to respect traditional beliefs, practices and institutions, yet our evolving democracy has expanded freedom by exposing the injustice of many traditional beliefs, practices and institutions.

I believe in the evolution of the soul, an evolution that requires us to examine our beliefs, practices and institutions, and change them, improve them, and sometimes, abandon them.

I taught my children to be suspicious of those who pretend to know the truth, as if we were all on the same journey, living the same life in the same body. I taught my children to listen to the wise counsel of parents, friends and community, then find their own way in this world. The path each of us must take in life is unique to each of us and cannot be predestined by a parent, a priest, a psychologist or a politician. We should reject those who want to control our thoughts, even those who are merely self-help guru celebrities. Given the chance, they too would be dictators.

Listen to the words of those who open doors for you, who enlarge the possibilities of your thought, who encourage you to trust your own conscience and seek your own way through this life. There are many enlightened voices, even those who would be dictators possess wise words which they offer like cheese in a mousetrap. Never let anyone take over the job which is yours alone: the growth of your heart, your mind and your spirit. This is why you are alive, to do this work that only you can do, to grow a larger soul.

Please continue.