Monthly Archives: May 2015

For Esme, with Love and Slobber


I learned recently that my submission to America’s Funniest Home Video had been rejected.

Not that it came as a surprise. The footage is grainy, with crappy sound, shot on an early iPhone (which I guess is redundant). Still, I challenge producers to capture anything as unabashedly trusting.

But it got me thinking about viral videos. What makes them such a barometer of the zeitgeist? Why does Winnebago Man speak to our inner Walter White (beyond the guy trying to sell Walt’s vehicle of choice)?

Why does David After The Dentist philosophize so eloquently to our inner stoned child?

Or Keyboard Cat strike a chord in the inner animal in all of us, or at least maestro?

Then I realized: they work because they’re not trying to. When so many things are produced, prepackaged and beta tested, we rarely get an unrehearsed moment. Which makes them sing like Socrates.

And there was another through-line: none of them give a shit about recognition. In fact, when I told Teddy and Esme they weren’t going to be on AFHV (Esme’s favorite show), they went right back to sleep. I think they actually  would have preferred not to have been awakened with the news (unlike those Oscar contender phonies who claim to be asleep when the nominees are announced at 5:30 a.m.).

Perhaps the hounds had a point. Maybe it’s about consciousness, not clicks. Maybe it shouldn’t even be called a viral video; viruses are nearly always unfortunate news. A good viral video can heal the soul, even when it captures life in all its love, frustration, Novocain and pet hair.

Even when it tastes like Boston Terrier.


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Birthdays, Cursed Days and the Galapagos Islands


I got sick in June, 1979, on a Friday the 13th.

As a 14-year-old, I knew the day was supposed to be unlucky. But I didn’t really feel cursed. Not when the docs diagnosed me with juvenile diabetes. Not when they said I’d have to give myself two shots a day. Not even when I saw mom cry for the first time, as we sat in the parking lot outside the doctor’s office.

I understood it a few days later, watching a TV documentary about the Galapagos Islands. The narrator explained how Charles Darwin came up with his survival-of-the-fittest theorem on a visit to the islands and its thousands of indigenous residents. Iguanas, parrots, penguins.

But the animal that caught my eye was the great sea turtle, the icon of the islands (which are named after a specific breed of tortoise). With a little luck, the narrator said, a tortoise could live to 50, 60, even 100 years. More.

For some reason, 50 stuck in my head. It just seemed so old. That’s a half century. Grown-ups are that age. Parents are that age. Why, I’d even bet some people in their 50s are…grandparents.


But I must have somehow, finally realized the Friday the 13th curse. I remember asking myself, for the first of many times: “I wonder if I could live as long as a sea turtle.”

It’s not an easy age to reach, the narrator said. Not even for the sea turtle. It had to survive the beach scamper from sandy egg to surf. If they avoided the birds, hatchlings had to survive the sharks and seals who love baby turtle soup. But if it could reach adulthood with its shell intact, the narrator said, a sea turtle can enjoy a long, fruitful life. Like, a half century fruitful.

So I began a countdown to a goal that seemed as unreachable as dunking a basketball. Fifty. Thirty-six years away. Five lifetimes, it seemed. As a boy, dad would say I was so impatient that I’d ask “what’s next?” five minutes after arriving somewhere.

And for so long, 50 did seem unobtainable. I was a shitty diabetic who could not accept that, overnight, I wasn’t allowed Bazooka, Starburst, Hershey bars. So I ate them with my friends, afraid of standing out.

I quickly succumbed. By the time I was 30, I’d had 17 eye surgeries. My kidneys were failing. I went on the transplant wait list for a new kidney and pancreas. Then, 50 didn’t sound so far off. Forty did.

But, at 35, I got the call that Samuel Flegel, a 17-year-old who was brain dead from a motorcycle accident, had come to save me. My perfect genetic match, he joined me in January 2000. sam

Suddenly, 50 wasn’t such a fantasy. And the years initially flew by as my new body broke into a sprint that took me to Australia, Japan, Mexico. 15, 14, 13, 12, the years peeled.

Five years in, the nausea came. Perhaps to remind me that Father Time and Mother Nature are still here. Not vindictive, but merciless. A divorce, a move, a resettlement accounted for the years, though they seemed to move slower. Nine, eight, seven…

Ten years in, and the engine truly felt sputtered. I watched hatchlings who should have long outlived me die in the beach scamper. Samuel. Libby, the first friend to offer to be tested as a viable donor, died in a motorcycle crash. Michael, who was tested and ready to donate a kidney, died of a brain tumor. Dad’s sudden death in his sleep made me wonder if I were meant to see the marathon tape. mikeybillybowles

The years were slowing to molasses. Four..three…two…

But something inside me awakened. Perhaps it was Michael. Or dad. Or a confluence of losses that made me realize how many people wanted me to get there. Who offered their bodies to see it so. That there were so many hatchlings, including the one I carry, who would never have a chance to outlive the great sea turtle. But they wanted me to.


Hey, fifty.

I’m here.

What’s next?


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Wanted: Converts with a Conscience


I was watching an episode of Counting Cars (it’s fascinating, even if I don’t understand half of what they say). This guy was getting a tattoo of the Second Amendment inked over his right shoulder. He mentioned he’d like a tandem car, one with  flags, slogans, Constitutional snippets and a Minuteman, flexing like a Mr. Universe contestant,  sneering over the hood. The guy wanted it to be the muscle of all muscle cars. Up to $120,000. He should have included at least a teeny thank-you to the First Amendment, which gives all Americans the right to be stupid.


Still, should a passing pigeon decide to bless you with a liquid-marshmallow breakfast on your Corvette hood, there’s not a gun in the world that will shoot that holy water from the sky.

But I have a right, as well. And, as an ordained minister (credentialed in Arkansas, for god’s sake; you really haven’t heard of Google, huh?), I herby announce the birth of Aesopism. So I guess our Holy Day will be May 2nd (4:32 p.m., Pacific Coast Time).

Like the bible, torah and koran and tipitaka, there shall be an Aesoptic Sacred Text, The Fable of the Sun and North Wind. Unlike those insomnia-fixers, ours shall be simple.

It is a well-known Aesop fable, but our religion shall also be accurate. The text is below:

The Sun and North Wind had a bet over who was stronger. To settle the wager, they tried to remove a man’s cloak. The Wind blew as hard as it could, trying to whip it, force it off the human. But the harder it blew, the tighter the man clung. The Sun slowly warmed the man until he removed the cloak.

That’s it. The only Aesopian code of conduct.

Should the believer choose (choice underscores all preachings), there is an Optional Dining Grace: “Blessed Whatzit, thank you for today, and please let us chew your bounty with closed mouths.”

We accept all faiths, creeds, colors, sexes, genders, life choices and hairstyles. Animals, too, and all shall be eligible for the Aesopian highest order:  The Sinning-But-Trying.

Being forward-thinking, we shall have a slogan, perfect for bumper stickers: “Like religion, without the dummies.”

There shalt be but One Commandment: Thou shalt not selfie.

Our gospel and chorus are below:

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