Posts Tagged ‘funny’

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Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 33: ‘Farcical’

December 31, 2016

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There’s something about stand-up comic Clayton Williams that I’ve liked from the second I saw him hosting at Mr. Goodbar some two years ago for their ‘Uncle Jerry’s Comedy Showcase’.  He’s got a comedic style and a completely off-the-wall delivery that I’ve never seen around here.  I couldn’t wait to get him on the show and I knew he was going to be great, but I had no idea how great.  By contrast, Co Host Becca Barnum has been on my radar for one reason or another for the last year.  When I had someone in film on the show, she just so happened to be in some of the movies, when I had someone with a cosplay background, she just so happened to be in the same cosplay groups, and so on, and so on.

The dynamic was so magical and the conversation was so fluid while we were filming that I barely scratched the surface on my questions, and that’s okay.  We kept on talking after the show and they both got an invite back at a later date and time.  Oh yeah, here’s the show:

Thanks to Clayton and Becca for doing such a great job and thanks as always to Producer Richard Wicka.  We wound up with what I’m sure will go down as one of my favorite show memories, but there’s still a lot more to be made.

Happy New Year!

Tom

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Travesty & Mockery iBooks/Pulp 716 next Saturday!

November 4, 2016

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I figured it was time to join the ebook revolution.  While studies have shown that a lot of readers are switching back to print books, I personally prefer to read digitally.  It takes up less shelf space and the books are cheaper.  In addition to designing the layout and interior for the print copy of Travesty, Bill Dyson quietly worked on the ebook editions for both Travesty and it’s predecessor, Mockery.  You can find them both for $9.99 and $6.99 (respectively) right HERE:

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Mockery

And finally, I’ll be signing books next Saturday afternoon, November 12th at Pulp 716 in Lockport along with cover artist and pal Mark McElligott.  Due to old age and other obligations, I won’t be promoting Travesty as actively as I used to, so this may be your only chance to get a signed copy of it before spring.  I hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Tom

 

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Big Words Video 29.1: Jesse Winterhalter-‘This Is A Comedy Show’

October 7, 2016

About a year ago when I was shooting video for Heather Stack’s appearance on #BigWordsVideo at the Tudor Lounge, I saw Jesse’s stand up act for the first time.  He’s got this magic combination of intellect, hilarity and…a very dark place.  His set was fantastic.  With everyone else who was booked, it took a year before he could come on the show.  Thankfully, Jesse got Roger Pleasant, Roger’s four duffle bags of cameras and myself in for his headlining stint at The Tralf for ‘This Is A Comedy Show’.  It made for a great Bonus clip:

This is the part where I beseech you to SUBSCRIBE to the show for more Bonus clips, behind-the-scenes footage and other surprises.  So do that.  #BigWordsVideo will return this month with actor Jason John Beebe!

Seeya soon,

Tom

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Travesty Now Available!

August 19, 2016

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I’m pleased to announce that Travesty, my 12th book, has been released!  After five years of writing it on and off (before and after Icarus On The Mend, my limited print run memoir), proofreading, polishing and then collaborating with Mark McElligott on the wraparound cover art as well as graphic designer Bill Dyson on the interior, fonts and book design, Travesty is live and ready for purchase.  You can buy the book direct from lulu.com HERE:

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There’s also a permanent Quick Link on this site’s ‘Link Section’ for return visitors.  For reasons having mostly to do with my work schedule, I will not be actively promoting the book until late October, so you can buy BEFORE the official launch on lulu. Amazon.com, B&N.com and other fine retailers in the mean time.

This book was a direct sequel to my 2011 humor collection Mockery, so if you enjoyed it, you can get more of what you loved here.  Every book evolves in some unpredictable way while I’m working on it, and this one went from my trademark psychotic rage-based rants into more of a throwback silliness that I had when I initially started writing in my teens.  It’s also the first collection that was laid out according to theme instead of a chronological table of contents.  Three essays were cut, the proofreading process was rigorous and the final edition underwent a font size expansion for those of us who don’t like to squint.  I’m very proud of it, and McElligott and Dyson both did a terrific job with the small suggestions and concepts I bounced off of them.

In addition, this is the first Doubt It Publishing title to be launched with it’s own ISBN number.  That may not mean much to you, but that’s a serious sea change in the way I’m doing business and the way the book is distributed.  At 40 years old with 12 books behind me, I’ve started making an effort to preserve what I have while planning for the future.  Travesty is not my final book, but I’m taking a break before I chart a new course.  I hope you enjoy it.  This won’t be the last time you hear about it.  Please help spread the word by Sharing the link on your social media, ‘Like’ the book on Facebook,  List the book if you’re a Goodreads member and by all means, tell all your friends!

Sincerely,

Tom

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Travesty Inbound!

July 20, 2016

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Hey all!

After five years of working on the book on and off, rigorous rewrites, edits and scrubbing for typos, #Travesty, my eleventh book of humor, is almost ready!  It clocks in at a respectable 204 pages and it’s going to retail at $19.99.  Above, you’ll see the gorgeous wraparound cover with art by Mark McElligott and fonts William Dyson II.  I’m really excited about this book.  I’ve put a lot of myself into this book.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but not yet.  It’ll be ready this fall from Doubt It Publishing!

Stay Tuned,

Tom

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Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 26: ‘Matriarch’

July 13, 2016

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This was an episode I looked forward to taping for a very long time.  I saw Heather’s standup back in September (see below) and, from talking to her on and off, knew she’d be a lot of fun in the studio.  She’s a natural comedienne, she’s funny, off-the-cuff and incredibly clever.  After two co-host hopefuls dropped out, I tapped Brian Bogucki at the last minute and it turned out that he had a Buffalo Comedy connection! Six degrees of Buffalo, indeed.  We all had a great rapport right off the bat before the cameras started rolling.  Some shows are painful to watch afterwards and this wasn’t one of them.  I thought the pacing was great, the jokes were organic and the conversation just flowed.  I wish every comic was this ‘on’ when they came on.  There’s a lot more coming down the pike, too.  In the mean time though, see for yourself:

Thanks to Heather, Brian, and of course producer Richard Wicka for allowing all this insanity in his home every single month.  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!  #BigWordsVideo will return in roughly two weeks with Rochester director Charlie Simmons!

Tom

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Big Words Video 26.1: ‘Lewd & Lascivious’ & 26.2: ‘Lysergic’

July 5, 2016

Comedienne Heather Stack is self-assured, conversational, and yes, really funny on stage.  Since she was originally booked for #BigWordsVideo back in October of 2015, I met her out at her open mic at The Tudor Lounge the month before to shoot some footage.  What follows is her opening set as well as a bonus bumper clip between other comics.  As Heather (and Tyrone Maclin) have explained to me, one of the host’s duties while running an open mic for other comics is not to run too long.  It was fortunate that Heather got a good opening set in before an evening of other great comics.  See for yourself:

 

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Wardrobe Malfunction

May 2, 2016

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Author’s Note:  The good news is that the rough manuscript for my next book Travesty is finally complete.  The downside to is that I’m completely exhausted, so I didn’t write anything new this month.  As a result of that, I’m re-running this popular rant about my lack of fashion sense.  It originally ran on BuffaloComedy.com in early 2015.  Enjoy!-Tom 

I have never been mistaken for a peacock.

My fashion sense makes no sense whatsoever. Throughout my life I’ve been clueless as to what’s hip, what’s sensible or even what’s practical where my wardrobe is concerned. I got off to a very rough start. Early childhood photos feature our hero wearing hand-me-down plaid bellbottoms (long after they were trendy and before they made a comeback), soccer jerseys (which, if memory serves, I only played soccer for a week until a girl kicked me in the shins and I discovered a lifelong disgust for orange rinds) and a candid middle school church play photo where I’m wearing loud orange dress pants with a rayon/polyester flannel. All of these pictures have been destroyed so that no boy ever makes the same mistakes that I’ve made. In 40 years, my dress style has improved at more of a slight geological pace.

Our grammar school Phys Ed coach nicknamed me ‘Tommy Shoelaces’ because I could never be bothered to tie my shoes. There’s a rare First Communion photo with a light gray dress coat and elbow patches, for godsakes. In high school, I accidentally bought a woman’s trench coat from Burlington Coat Factory and wore it for months before somebody pointed it out to me. I didn’t wear jeans until I was about 26 because I thought it was a sign of conformity and now they’re almost all I’ll wear. They’re easy, comfortable and hold up in hardworking environments.

The story goes that Einstein had five identical suits because it saved him from wasting valuable problem-solving when it came time to pick out an ensemble every day. I have also never been mistaken for Einstein. Tim Burton always wears black because it’s an easier wardrobe choice. This hasn’t helped his directing choices as of late. Most men are inherently too lazy to bother figuring out what they want to wear every day. This is a running theme.

It was brought to my attention just this year that turtlenecks are not cool, that they’ve never been cool and that no man should be caught dead wearing them. I never received this alert when it originally aired. What’s wrong with turtlenecks? They worked for Steve Jobs! An entire generation of beatnicks ran with them and they did okay. All of a sudden some fifty years later they’re not ‘hep’ anymore? That’s the problem with fashion trends: they’re so fleeting. I can’t keep up even if I tried or paid attention.

On a sunny day a month ago I notice that a lot of men were wearing soft, almost effeminate pastel plaid short sleeve shirts. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of those. It seems to me like there’s an upper echelon of pretty men who are on the crest of what’s in and what’s out and then there are the great majority of middle-aged men who just grab whatever passes for the new style that happens to come off the rack at Target or J.C. Penney’s. I literally just figured out in January that a ‘Moto’ leather jacket was short for ‘Motorcycle’, which explains why the cuffs are shorter. Perhaps someone pointed that out to me, too.

The women in my life are either very tolerant, love me anyway (with the exception of my ex-wife) or they’re content to make small, subtle suggestions as to what I should or could wear. Or they just assume that I’m stubborn, resistant to change and generally cantankerous. They’re right on all counts. The bulk of my closet (which could never be remotely misconstrued as resembling a wardrobe) consists of free videogame vendor t shirts from a prior job, bizarre impulse purchases from high school that I don’t even fit into anymore but tell myself I may fit into again some day, a few eclectic sweaters that would have made great stand-ins on ‘The Cosby Show’ and comic book themed shirts riddled with cigarette burns from my part time job at a comic shop that’s been closed for at least two years. So to summarize, if you took a cursory glance at my shirts and pants you’d assume that I’ve never gotten laid, will never get laid, and have no plans to get laid even by accident.

Some people want to stamp out world hunger and others aspire to a Pulitzer, but it’s my lifelong dream to have a tailored suit sculpted to my hairless and misproportionate gorilla-like-carriage that I can wear for all of the weddings and funerals that I don’t get invited to. A year and a half ago I stumbled onto a really comfortable $8 cotton shirt. I bought four of them in four different colors. There’s a cargo shorts drawer that’s more of a graveyard for shorts that are destroyed as well as jean shorts, which no one has ever deemed to be in season for any season that occurs on this planet. It would take me three or four incarnations just to be looked down upon by a metrosexual, and I guess I’m okay with that. It’s easier to accept that you have no clue how to dress than to try really hard and fail miserably. Are feather boas coming back around? That’s okay, I don’t have any yet anyway.

I can pull off capri pants, right?
Tom Waters

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Discourse Correction

April 4, 2016

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“When I have nothing to say my lips are sealed.

Say something once, why say it again?”

-The Talking Heads, ‘Psycho Killer’

Talk doesn’t have to be cheap. One of my bugaboos is meaningless small talk. I would rather wait out a long, uncomfortable silence than fill the void with inane chatter that accomplishes nothing and fails to further conversation. In my line of work, it’s referred to as an ‘ice breaker’, but during the rest of my waking life, I’d vastly prefer a dead vacuum of words instead of offering up nonsense.

It’s been said that you should never talk about politics, religion or the weather. I don’t remember if that was in reference to sales, getting your hair cut, foreplay or simply polite discussion between strangers, but nobody abides by that rule. People who talk about the weather make me fucking nuts. In Buffalo, debate and dissent regarding the weather is a living, breathing, malleable organism, and everyone has a talent for locking and passing along the most far-fetched, fantastical forecast. Given a range of light flurries or the next ice age, your average horse’s ass will throw out ‘Fred The Weather Clown is calling for a meteor the size of Brazil made of solid black ice followed by a flurry of dippable Dots.’ Out of a hundred predictions, average temperatures and year-over-year norms, it’s never a middle-of-the-road prediction. Maybe that says more about the dolts who drudge it up to perfect strangers, maybe not: ‘Team Hurricane 3000 claims an 84% chance of Armageddon preceded by lakes of fire and spotting in women aged 55 to 60.’ It must be Biblical fact then.

Sports fans make the rather large assumption that you also like talking about sportsing. I don’t. My friend Rich plays into this and seems to think he can reach a common ground with people and find out more about their thinking process by knowing about sports and talking with his friends about it. I’m not willing to go that far. I really don’t understand the return on investment sitting on my ass on the couch for entire Sundays yelling at the television. There is enough in my life to upset me without transferring my ambitions and personal happiness onto a corporately held entity parading as a franchise. What I really don’t get is people droning on about sportsing out in public while their sport of choice is currently in progress. If it was important to you, wouldn’t you be at home having a discussion with your television while it was airing?

And religion is a non-issue. Most sane people don’t engage, foster or bring up religion with strangers. Most of us are spiritual and not religious, whatever that means. A great many of us sacrifice live bait to our Aztec snake gods naked during a blood moon while coated in Hershey syrup in a very private and personal way, so we don’t feel the need to bring it up or indoctrinate others. The people who bring up religion as an ‘ice breaker’ are typically the people I run screaming from. I have nothing against religion since it’s never done anything grievous or humiliating to me, but I have no interest in discussing it with people outside of my role-playing, Safe-Word-uttering coven. The less said the better.

If anything, politics are offered up without any solicitation, urging or insistence, and the people who normally inject it into the atmosphere are also the people with the most militant, half-cooked, far left or far right of center viewpoints anyway. I’m surprised at the political non sequiturs I hear without any forewarning or lubricant. Things like “All my taxes go to Albany, thanks very much, Mr. Governor!” from the affluent upper-class doctor or “It’d be great to own a small business if it weren’t for Ralph Nader.” from the guy with 45 bumper stickers and a man bun. I try not to engage or encourage these kinds of people because their jumbled calls to arms can only invariably be followed by rampant bigotry, generalized silliness or unfounded carpetbaggery or skullduggery.

*Confession: I’ve wanted to include both the terms ‘carpetbaggery’ and ‘skullduggery’ into an essay and felt that this was my best shot. I hope that some day you will grow to accept and embrace my decision.*

Finally, there is what passes for what’s left of the Monday morning water cooler discussion. A great majority of us don’t have the indulgence of a water cooler at our place of business, haven’t personally seen a water cooler in 2.5 years, and have never had a discussion as a result of being in the vicinity of a water cooler. Now that we live in a hip, post-‘cut the cable’ revolution era where there are 7,000 different stations, streaming services, Viewmaster Exclusive one hour puppet passion plays and other programs, we’re at a loss for a universally shared experience.

If it’s a reality show or a talent competition, my emotional investment is -7 multiplied by zero fucks, carried by I Really Don’t Give A Shit. Whatever that adds up to, that’s where I stand on either program. I don’t need to know which industry darling won the finals at the Polynesian Breakdancing Awards or who took home the gold on ‘Bosnia’s Got Marginal Saucier Skills’. The point is that there are more shows than there are people now, so whatever you watched or downloaded or uploaded into your retinas last night that was exciting isn’t necessarily a show that anyone else on your continent tunes into.

I understand that it’s difficult to find common ground with complete strangers in everyday life, but I would rather be myself or dive right into the meat of a conversation than default to small talk because it’s easier. The weather doesn’t matter to me, I’m not hardwired for sports, religion is a landmine and a lot of people have horrible taste in television. I guess you could call me a real people pleaser.

Tom Waters

 

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Dante’s Double

March 1, 2016

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You could fill Lake Erie with the amount of hot sauce I’ve ingested.

Nothing would live, grow or thrive there, so basically, it would be the same lake. I’ve been eating chicken wings at least once a week since I was around 17. Technically, chicken fingers were my gateway poultry. My buddy Ron and I got together every week to play video games and we commemorated the event with chicken fingers. And hot sauce. When I got my first apartment, I got my first fryer. Shortly thereafter, I gained about 40 pounds. Studies show that those two events were interconnected somehow. With no self control and the understanding that I was too lazy to deal with the mess of making wings at home, a new tradition was born: wings once a week. This is the point where I could say ‘A hero is born.’ or ‘This is the stuff of legend.’, but my artistic license expired yesterday. It’s best in this situation to borrow from the poorly named 1980’s Fred Ward star vehicle Remo Williams and go with ‘The Adventure Begins’. Cinephile Note: The adventure began and ended with that horrible movie. Let’s get back to the wings…

There are a lot of things that Buffalonians lay claim to: losing at football, losing at hockey on a technicality, losing on ‘Best Places To Live’…you get the picture. Chicken wings really did originate in Buffalo though, at the famous Anchor Bar in the city. Chicken wings happen to be the one thing about Buffalo I embrace. In the rest of the country they travel under the nom de plume of ‘Party Wings’ (makes sense), ‘Hot Wings’ (I like to use that one because it drives my boss into a fit of rage) and yes, ‘Buffalo Wings’. Hot Tip: If they’re listed as ‘Buffalo Wings’ on a menu, you’re probably at a chain restaurant that doesn’t have the faintest idea how to make chicken wings and you’ll end up with a soggy, buttery embarrassment in a plastic basket. ‘Buttery Embarrassment’ also happens to be how I refer to the loss of my virginity. Chicken wings are deceptively simple in their execution. Cook until crispy, douse in hot sauce with a fire hose and mix with butter for those with indigestion.

Around here, the base hot sauce is Frank’s Red Hot. I was not paid for that endorsement, but would like to be. Most places use Frank’s. In the rest of the country I’ve seen diners that give you a 2 oz. shooter of Tabasco for 30 chicken wings (I’m not sure how that would even work), Sriracha (which I’ve never had but would like to try) along the southern border and a lot of sad kitchen-made pastes that were more ketchup than anything else. Spoiler Alert: Ketchup does not resemble hot sauce in any way, shape and especially not form. My palate is so accustomed to Frank’s Red Hot that I’ve gone off in search of other strains of sauce. As a hot sauce enthusiast, you build up a tolerance to heat over time. Useful Factoid: A unit of heat with peppers is measured in ‘Scovilles’, whichb were named after the inventor of the system.

Unlike the rest of my family, I have the constitution of a billy goat. My older brother gets an upset stomach after oatmeal and my younger brother chews on Tums like they’re Tic Tacs. I was not paid for either of those endorsements, but would begrudgingly accept payment in the form of check, money order or chicken wings. By the time I was 25 or so, I’d worked my way up from Medium wings (half butter, half hot sauce) to hot wings (all hot sauce) to more explosive options. Sauces that incorporated jalepeno peppers (they deliver that extra mule kick to your mouth at the end of every bite) habanero peppers (which add a very distinct flavor to the sauce while incinerating your insides) and eventually, ghost peppers. Ghost peppers are no joke. On the Scoville scale, ghost peppers reside somewhere in the vicinity of Dante’s final circle of hell, if that circle included screaming, crying and praying on the toilet all at the same time.

Many argue that the hotter wings that are available aren’t enjoyable. While there is a small subsection of guys who feel the need to prove their masculinity by devouring wings they normally can’t handle, often can’t handle during their demonstration, and definitely won’t handle ever again without a medical staff on standby, some of us have worked our way up to it. Crying is a factor. It’s more of a chemical reaction than an emotional catharsis. It also takes place if you happen to wipe your eyes with the same napkin you used to wipe your sauce-spotted hands with. Or if you don’t wash your hands and scratch your eye hours later. Don’t do this with ghost peppers. Ghost pepper sauces will make you their bitch. Plain and simple.

I hate to say it, but I may have reached an age where I have to start traveling down the heat index. My endurance with the hotter sauces may have reached its apex. For every cause there is an effect. That, and I can’t imagine carrying an IV of blue cheese around with a stainless steel diaper when I’m 50. It’s time to put on the brakes a bit. Blue cheese is for punks. It’s an easy way out of the heat that serves to mask or neutralize it. Milk neutralizes the pain, too. I prefer soda. My Buffalo brethren insist it is called pop. They’re wrong. That’s neither here nor there, though. I like a nice cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper with my wings. I was not paid or coerced by the good people at the Diet Dr. Pepper bottling plant, but would feign refusal and quickly accept large monetary gifts in the form of gold doubloons or solid ingots stacked in a triangular fashion.

Nowadays, I order a double (20) of wings every Thursday because you get a price break per wing at 20 and I can always finish them off for an additional meal time. The additional meal time may take place before I get up from the table the first time. There’s a great debate between drums (drumsticks) or flats (the actual wings) with solid arguments for both. Drums are easy to eat in public and they tend to crisp up better if you prefer yours crispy. I’m a flats man. My dad was a flats man and his father before him. We’re flats people. Honestly though, I like flats because they’re more tender, they soak up more sauce, they taste better on the reheat and they don’t have as much gristle as the drums. Believe me, I’ve done the research.

By a stroke of luck (and the one good genetic card dealt to me), my severe height has cancelled out any blood pressure issues that might accompany someone who eats a double of wings every week. It’s right on par. If I were a superhero, that would be my super power: Slightly Average Blood Pressure. Villains everywhere would tremble at the sight of my triage. I’ve been training for this all my life. Now I just need an outfit that’s stain resistant to the corrosive concoctions I crave.

Fired up,
Tom Waters

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Breath Of A Salesman

February 1, 2016

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One of the first things I learned about fine-tuning my pitch was a little trick called ‘clearing the mechanism’. No matter what I’m in the middle of when an Up (my turn on the sales rotation) comes in to look at *Widgets*, I’m trained to take a step back, clear my head and check my breath before I give a couple or a One-Legger (husband or wife flying solo without their significant other) my undivided and complete attention. Let’s face it: Nobody wants to buy anything from someone who smells like they stumbled into a garlic clove patch for lunch, stuffed an entire can of spinach between their teeth or a salesman with pretzels and coffee breath issuing from their word-hole. I take a moment, focus on the journey we’re about to embark upon together and roll into it.

Paunch is a dead giveaway for a good salesman. I’ve met a few energetic, wiry, skinny types, but on the whole, you can spot a top earner by the love handles spilling over his belt. A guy who’s a top performer is also a guy who’s putting food on the table, eating well, or splurging his Spiffs (cash incentives for upselling) on fancy dinners out. The gut also has a lot to do with avoiding real work. Born salesmen are noticeably absent when manual labor is going down, electing instead to follow up on Leads, Prospect a fresh Up, ride a desk, smoke a cigarette, decide to get lunch or play with their phones. While I don’t own a smart phone, I still know how to play Scrabble, troll *Social Media* and check the weather. Go figure.

I never thought I’d wind up in sales. Some children can tell you by grade school that they want to grow up to be a lawyer, a fireman or a claims adjuster for a multinational corporation. Those kids were boring then and I find them boring now. At last count, I’ve had 38 jobs. Maybe not that many, but I’ve got a desk drawer full of name tags, personal business cards for companies and stores that don’t even exist anymore, lanyards and other assorted company memorabilia that hold no resale value except as mementos of associate positions and career paths that have been derailed, stunted or emergency ejected. If you take a cursory glance at my resume from five years ago, you’d find that I have a strong background in management, customer service and retail. I’m surprisingly happy, fulfilled and neither pressured nor coerced to admit that I’m good at it. We’ve all had jobs that we suck at where we drag our feet in every morning, count the minutes, keep our heads down and do our best to barrel through it. At least I have. This job isn’t that for me.

Salesmen get a bad rap. Most people conjure up a stereotypical used car salesman in their heads: Insincere, cheesy, and sleazy. I am none of those things. While I have a great fondness for cheese (especially ALL the Jacks), it has never rendered me cheesy. When I’m deep into a pitch selling *Widgets*, I try to find the warm, fuzzy place in my heart where Empathy resides. When I’m at the top of my game, it’s because I found that sweet spot. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which is shocking considering that I’m such a sarcastic asshole the other 98% of the time that I’m awake. From what I’ve gathered, all of us save the very best of ourselves for that window of opportunity when we’re making money based on our personality. It’s the nature of the beast.

Developing a pitch is like crafting your own lightsaber or finding your own spirit animal, take your pick. It’s a fine-tuned dress rehearsal tailor-made to the customer you’re dealing with and spun from your best attributes. For me, it’s equal parts empathy, customer service, humor (naturally), informal interview, body language and honing my listening skills. Hearing what people are saying and giving them ample time to talk are easier said than done. We’re conditioned to run our mouths and take what we hear on the surface, so it’s taken some time to be more considerate and to keep my word-hole shut. People love to talk about themselves, so in a lot of scenarios, just letting a couple or a person open up and actually listening when they do will seal the deal.

We all follow a Process where I work. I’m not going to tell you what that process is. There are blood oaths involved, animal sacrifice, full moons…just kidding. I’m just not going to reveal the mystery. My best analogy is that our Process is similar to a classic symphony. We all have to hit on the same notes, but the way that we play them and the inflections we give them are our own. Ego gets in the way once in awhile, and when that happens, I typically start to misfire. Whenever I think that my way is better I start tanking, and it takes a painful reappraisal of what I’m doing wrong to get back to the basics. Admitting that I don’t know everything and that my style or my opinion can sometimes be wrong. This is earth-shattering stuff to accept if you’re an old dog who’s reluctant to new tricks.

We are an impulsive, flashy and cynical lot. My boss collects watches. Another boss plays tennis and skis like there’s an Olympic medal at stake. I collect dress shirts, computers, movies, essentially anything pop culture that isn’t nailed down when my commissions come in. Most of the salesmen I work with treat golfing like it’s a religion. Golfing’s not for me. Like most sports, it takes too much time, there’s too much open exposure to the sun, I’m not a patient man, and as an Irishman, I’m a sore loser. And a sore winner.

I could pen a motivational manual about our cynicism. ‘Buyers are liars’ is a common mantra in sales. People will say whatever they can to get out of a closing scenario and skate out to ‘think things over’, ‘talk to the wife’ or ‘sleep on it’. All of those excuses are bullshit. I’ve learned to look for the real reason behind the Stall and dig for an honest answer. If an Up walks out the door, I’m trained to react emotionally as if they aren’t coming back. Let it go and move on to the next one.

One of my favorite lines out of all the training sessions, webinars and philosophical tracts I’ve attended, watched and read is this: Life is interesting, so be interested. I couldn’t agree more. The people I meet and talk to come from all different walks of life. They all have their own families, stories, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Like I said, when I’m deep into a pitch and really nailing it, it’s when I’m diving into who people are and what makes them tick. Following up on what they’ve told me and finding out more. And it always helps to pop an Altoid after we’ve all had fried blooming onions. You may not know this, but they’re curiously strong.

Second prize is a set of steak knives,

Tom Waters

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Creature Of Habit

January 4, 2016

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‘I’m still waiting on my Fruity Pebbles.’

This is not a sequence of words in the English language that any grown man should ever say to another human being. Hearing that line at an e-cigarette purveyor made me seriously reconsider the overall manliness of the guy who uttered the line, my own masculinity, and the choices behind my decision to join the e-cigarette demographic. Vapers at large are a douchey and superstitious lot. I have a serious issue identifying or comparing myself with them.

They fall into the same camp that subscribes to unemployable and scary homeless derelict beards and their accompanying beard oils, effeminate pastel flannels which I am also not a fan of, and sturdy combat/work boots worn by those who will never see combat or gainful employment. The term ‘e-juice’ is also a phrase that I’m uncomfortable with. It sounds disgusting. And the hundreds of different flavors are often embarrassing to say aloud. Pink Kiwi Dildo, Green Tea-Bag and Root Beer Ball Sac spring to mind. I’m a creature of habit (clearly), so I stick with Peanut Butter Cup (not exactly an affirmation of my Man Card) during the day and Cuban Cigar at night.

Over a year ago I decided to quit smoking because I couldn’t bear the thought of dressing my son up and taking him outside during the winter to feed the monkey. That was my line in the sand, and I felt like I’d be the worst father in the universe if I did that. It was not a conscious choice to avoid cancer or take better care of myself. After smoking between a pack a day to two packs for the better part of twenty five years, I gave it up because I was unwilling to make my boy an unwitting accomplice to my habit.

Little did I know that to many people, it’s a lifestyle. There are accessories, a level of mechanical aptitude for advanced e-cigarette smokers (rigs, mods, and erector set bongs), and a practiced and self-entitled pretentious sense of cool that accompanies blowing billowing clouds of mist into the atmosphere. When I was a kid, most corner stores had candy cigarettes for kids. They were bubble gum sticks packaged to look like cigarettes that let off puffs of powdered sugar when you blew on them. It was a great way to teach kids how to smoke before they were allowed to smoke. Looking back, I can’t believe that something like that would make it past the marketing phase, but they were different times.

Cigarette smoking (and e-cigarette smoking, by extension) aren’t any more sophisticated, cool, hip or European than the candy cigarettes were. We’re all blowing cancerous candy clouds of smoke. When I see a kid crossing the street with a tricked out brick contraption billowing great goddamned plumes of vapor, it doesn’t look terribly cool to me. I won’t argue for or against electronic cigarettes, but the logic behind it makes sense to me. Rather than ingesting a few thousand poisons, I’m taking in the one that counts: nicotine. The devil I just met is better than the devil I know.

When I initially went into a shop and made my first point of contact, my only request was for something small. Size doesn’t matter to me, and it didn’t seem practical to put my mouth around some monstrous metallic cock in public. I don’t understand how we live in a post-Industrial culture that can cram a computer into a wristwatch, but the technology hasn’t come far enough along to create a nicotine dispersal unit that’s smaller than the candlestick in Colonel Mustard’s Den or a box of Cracker Jacks. Many devices are built to house a pair of batteries that would outlast five nuclear winters; I just wanted something small that would fit into my pocket and make it through a typical day. Three devices later, I found a rig without serious structural flaws that did just that.

Somehow I have more paraphernalia now than when I was a pothead. Instead of pipes, one-hitters, roach clips and rolling papers I have miniature e-cigs, medium rigs, small droppers, larger bottles, ‘wicks’ (which aren’t really wicks per se, but metallic cylinders or ‘atomizers’ that are referred to as wicks) and battery chargers. Every component, part and parcel has a ‘No Garbage Can’ logo on it, so the unused garbage may be as difficult to dispose of as uranium, old prescription drugs, guns, porn or E.T. cartridges. Not that I’m speaking from experience…moving on, then.

I know too many people who have tried to quit cigarettes cold turkey only to go back to it. There are more still who turn to e-cigarettes after decades of smoking thinking that they can step down and quit within a few weeks. I’m giving myself a few years to gradually wean myself off of nicotine. There are actually days when I forget that I have my device with me, or I realize that I haven’t puffed on it for a few hours, which is pretty incredible considering that I used to smoke every hour on the hour like clockwork. Unless I’m stressed, it’s often an afterthought. Or when I’m in the mood for the infused flavor blast of Pink Kiwi Dildo.

Vaping in the boy’s room,
Tom Waters

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On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prozac (Updated)

December 14, 2015

 

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Author’s Note: This little ditty is from my 2008 book If They Can’t Take A Joke (Authorhouse).  I think about this one every time the holidays come around and it deserved some rewrites and revisions.  This is good practice as Travesty approaches the finish line, because I’d like to rework every essay in the manuscript one final time before its release in the Fall of 2016. 

Happy Holidays!

Whelp, I’ve survived the holiday gauntlet. From Thanksgiving until January 1st, there is no reprieve. No sanctuary, no shelter, no quarter from family, family meals, stress, anxiety, depression, aggravation, noise pollution, and hustle and bustle on a scale of mental exhaustion. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Why not celebrate the holidays by running your immune system into the ground, gaining weight, drinking like a fish, and maxing out your credit cards? Holidays are hell on adults, always have been, always will be.

I didn’t really notice it until this year, but more people collectively lose their shit this time of year than any other. I don’t know how I kept mine together aside from the fact that everyone lost their mind around me while I watched. I’m reminded of the relationship between Hunter Thompson and his trusty sidekick in the film/book Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas; one of the two always kept their wits about them while the other loses them. They took turns. I made it straightaway up until three or four days before New Year’s before commencing into total collapse.

My grandfather died five days before Christmas, a fact which never escapes anyone in my family. It’s been six years, but deaths in the family are like cattle brands. Nobody mentioned it this year, but I’m sure we all thought about it. Looming like the ghost of Christmas past, memories of my grandpa and his subsequent passing left an indelible mark on our holidays forever. It seems as if the good ones always go around the really important occasions. That, or there are too many holidays to count, and it just appears that way. Maybe that’s the end result of old age and the stress of the season. I felt my age this year, and perhaps the burden of Christmas shopping and card sending and table settings will put me six feet under when I get older, too.

I’m so sick of shopping and hunting and gathering that I’m considering moving to another country next year between the months of November and March. Maybe I’ll move to Iceland, where they still believe in faeries, Bjork’s music career, and where they have a holiday that celebrates and encourages adultery (I’m not making this up). I’m not a big fan of standing in line on Black Fridays. Leave that to the fucking soccer moms. I don’t chase down bargains or make the six a.m. toy runs the stores like to torture us with. It’s complete madness. Nothing will get me out of bed before eight o’clock (unless, of course, I’m still awake from the night before). By December, people get a glazed, psychotic look in their eyes standing in the checkout lanes. Desperation, exhaustion, and materialism bear down on their tiny brains. Stupid people are much more likely to lose their minds around the holidays because they have less of it to go around. You see them screaming at cashiers, elbowing their way through toys, and clothes-lining Christmas carolers.

One expends a lot of energy participating in family meals, get-togethers and holiday jaunts. Entire days off are chewed up driving to a destination, sitting and talking with loved ones, having a meal, exchanging gifts, toasting champagne, and so on. This leaves you with the feeling that not only don’t you have any free time, but there’s a microverse of frenetic activity that’s taken its place. While I prefer to nap frequently and laze about on days off running the occasional errand, these become a thing of the past in the winter months.

Nothing makes you feel more alone than holidays, especially New Year’s Eve. We’d all like to picture ourselves kissing our intended at the stroke of midnight rather than basking in our own solitude. This is one of the many factors that pushes people right over the edge into insanity. Seasonal violence has a cause and effect. It’s modus operandi is the surmounting pressure that drives people to drink and play bumper sleigh ride with their new luxury sedan, strip the Christmas lights off the tree and hop off of a chair, or gobble up that bottle of sleeping pills like a tender morsel of Christmas ham.

Let’s not forget the big two stressors, either: finances and weight. The average American gains twenty pounds between November and January. So many holiday snacks within reach; fruitcake, turkey, Christmas cookies, egg nog, and scotch. One month on the lips, a new year’s resolution on the hips. Most people worry year round about their budgets, and racking up gifts on multiple credit cards doesn’t help. It’s a holiday recipe for a breakdown.

It’s a good thing the holiday triathlon only comes once a year. It’s probably not any one factor that freaks people out so much as the sum of all of them. That, and the end of another year and the realization that we didn’t do nearly as much as we wanted to in the months preceding it. Expectations for the coming calendar combined with disappointment over the previous one. The thought that we’re getting older at the speed of light, and that another year has gotten away from us. Should old acquaintance be forgot….just give me one solid day off. And let me hide out from family, friends, and shopping centers.

Checking the expiration date on my NA eggnog,

Tom ‘yuletide’ Waters

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Sly Waters & The Thievius Justinius (Updated)

November 23, 2015

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Author’s Note: With the holiday season coming up, I’d like to kindly remind you to spend your video game shopping dollars anywhere besides Gamestop.  They are an evil, soulless corporation that doesn’t care about their employees, their customers or their stockholders.  I strongly recommend Oogie Games.  They’re local, they’re friendly and they’re competitively priced.  I thought I’d kick the holiday shopping season off with a little ditty about my time at Electronics Boutique from my third book First Person, Last Straw (2004, Authorhouse).  Enjoy!

I fear for the future of our country. I’m horrified of the children of tomorrow. They are barely literate simpletons with attention deficit disorder and poor social skills. Easily excitable and incapable of focusing on any one thing for more than five minutes. I worry about where their attention span will go (or how far out the window it will go) by the time they’ve reached my age. Lord knows mine is shot, but I used to be sharp. It happens some time during your reluctant box step into adulthood. You’re sitting at a traffic light dwelling on credit cards, romance, or a sitcom from the night before and bubbling up from your subconscious you think, “I believe I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich today”. I’m father to a million children, and they are all addle-brained simpletons lacking in manners. I know because I’ve worked at a video game store for a year now, and it breaks my heart.

It’s not just a freak occurrence or a problem with the local water. One of my saner customers told me that he’d traveled far and wide and ran into the same character no matter what gaming store he’d been to. The most annoying scamps who won’t take a hint. Kids from 6-17 who come into the shop wide-eyed and making a mess in their pants over the fantasy land laid out before them. To them it’s a paradise filled with a million delights. Portly plumbers leaping through the air in raccoon suits, robots blasting the hell out of each other, cars running down hookers; a total sensory overload. And with no cue of body language or encouragement on my part, they shamble up to the counter and start speaking in tongues.

They relate every gaming experience they’ve ever had, rich with adjectives and spittle. Games that are coming out. Games out that they haven’t yet played. I despise these demon seeds. They don’t go away. They don’t take a hint. Shit tumbles out of their mouth whether you listen or not. I walk away from them, turn my back to them, flat out ignore them, snap at them, and they don’t notice. They go on uninterrupted, neurons popping off in their tiny little brains like stove top popcorn. And I hate them. I stop talking to them to concentrate on my work and they continue. I’ve learned that there’s more to life than the conquests and victories you’ve achieved inside of a television. One day I hope that they will too, and piss off somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, but in the words of Randall in “Clerks”, ‘This job would be great if it weren’t for the fucking customers’. There’s a lot of things that the corporation neglected to tell me during the interview. Before this, I had a cushy office job with a security company. They installed and serviced home alarm systems. It was 9-5, Monday through Friday. I had my own office, my own desk, and I learned to drink coffee and talk on the phone a lot. I handled the bad psychic end of the business, fielding customer complaints and cancellations across Western New York. I was the company punching bag. A lot of people would consider it the perfect job, but not me. I’m not cut out for 9-5. I really mean that. I’m terrible with free time. I’d been courting Electronics Boutique for a year and a half. I was a loyal follower. I hope I wasn’t as annoying as the bastard children of Ms.Pac Man, but I can’t be sure.

They started me off at a new store in Niagara Falls. I’ve worked in Orchard Park, Cheektowaga, Clarence, and Amherst. I’ve worked in three different malls. I’ve been in music, toys, security, pizza, books, movies, phones, carpet, and outside sales. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls. The people who live in Niagara Falls are a delicious blend of crazy and poor. I don’t know if they’re crazy because they’re poor or poor because they’re crazy, but it makes for an interesting mix. Every five feet there’s a hotel, motel, outlet store or buffet. The traffic is like nothing I’ve ever seen. People drive eighty five miles an hour in all speed zones and come to a screeching halt before turning into a plaza. It’s my theory that five people live in Niagara Falls and the other motorists are zipping into and out of town to get the hell somewhere else. I don’t blame them.

The second day I closed at the new store, someone wandered by outside asking us if we wanted to buy razor blades. The musky smell of poverty is thicker than the trash that rolled onto our lawn outside from the motel next door. This is when the job was still a dream come true. The manager who hired me got pregnant and moved to Florida to be with her family two weeks after the store opened, leaving me clueless, confused, and without an authority figure to report to. I’m an assistant manager by the way. Curt, the gentleman who took over, was a welcome relief. Curt was a soft spoken, semi-balding guy in his ’30s who did DJ work on the side. We both loved redheads, salt and vinegar potato chips and sarcastic wit. We made a good team. He came over from the downtown Buffalo store where I trained, so we already had a good rapport.

The first three months were like paradise. I love video games. I’ve been playing them since I was 6 and it’s been a constant hobby. It was like a dream to walk in every morning and have the store to myself, turning on the demonstration units and processing mountains of interesting titles I’d never played along with old classics that reminded me of simpler times in the industry. The business has grown up a lot in the last thirty years. It’s exploded. To think that we’ve gone from quarter-operated Pong units making millions in bars overnight to a multi-billion dollar a year market with 20 Playstation 2 units worldwide and Super Mario representing the 2nd most recognizable icon next to Mickey Mouse is amazing. To be a part of that machine is pretty interesting. It’s evolving at the speed of light, and it’s probably only a matter of time before 3 dimensions give way to 4 in the console market, and the next big game is a bigger deal than the next movie sequel. In a world full of stale ideas, all the fresh ones are arriving via polygons, cel-shading and bump-mapped Xanadus. But there’s more to life than games. And forty hours a week inside of a peripheral hobby can be trying.

Nobody in retail enjoys the holiday season and if they tell you that, they’re lying. After Thanksgiving, the flood gates open and torrents of vicious, greedy, obnoxious customers issue forth breaking against your point of sale like a sea of assholes. They all want personal attention, the lowest price in five states, and to take out all their seasonally related stress out on you. You see the worst of people during Christmas season in retail. Short tempered, short-changed, and short-sighted, they push your limits to the breaking point. Mantras of interpersonal wisdom like ‘The customer is always right.’ and ‘Treat every customer like your only customer.’ wear thin by December 24th. In my business, it is a war, and we’re on the front lines with no reinforcements arriving.

Following the wave of grandparents and parents seeking the object of their children’s affection are the children themselves. This job has made me hate kids. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate all kids, just other people’s kids. Watching them scurry around for twelve months unattended and neglected, I think it would be more humanitarian for me if their makers put them in a cage before they left the house. I babysat for years when I was younger. I worked at Toy’s ‘R’ Us later on and still managed to tune annoying rugrats out. As of today, my paternal instinct is gone. Snip the rip cords and stomp on my balls because I don’t want any children if they’re going to grow up like the ones I’ve seen. Crying, whining, simpering little shits who are given every comfort under the sun to shut them up. Ill-behaved adolescents who haven’t been raised to say please and thank you or keep from wigging out in public. They’re like a cloud of Tasmanian devils, swirling through the front door and leaving a path of destruction in their wake for us to clean up and arrange so that the next half-witted offspring can trash it all over again. We go to great pains to alphabetize everything for easy reference and parents feign ignorance and focus on something else while their demon spawn rearrange whole sections into a case study in entropy. Poor people should incinerate their eggs and buy pets. Stupid people are better off taking a bullet for humanity and pulling out during sex. If that’s too blunt, walk a mile around one of the stores I’ve worked at.

In January, I was asked to take over the store in downtown Buffalo. They’d been robbed at gunpoint. One of the managers was robbed making a deposit. Before they put a security gate in, someone drove through the front window. The store opened on September 11th, 2001. If it was built over a sacred Indian burial ground, I wouldn’t be surprised. Ever the corporate whore, I declined the promotion but agreed to transfer over and help pick up the pieces. Nobody else in the district wanted a piece of this location, so it was worth beucoups brownie points.

Instead of me, they gave the store to Tony, my current boss. Tony worked at the store and had a knack for not taking shit from the customers. If someone threatened to kick his ass (which happens pretty often at the store, to all of us), he’d agree to take it outside and show them his black belt degree. We’re roughly the same age, and, while we don’t have much in common, we’ve worked well together. We took a store that was on the brink of disaster, cleaned it up, and ran it like professionals. Why the past tense? Because I’m leaving in a few months. I’m getting my own store. And it’s a relief, because the downtown location is a living nightmare, every day.

In Buffalo (not the concept of Buffalo in the whole Western New York togetherness sense of the word, but the city of Buffalo itself), there are good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods, invariably right next to each other. There are sections that you just don’t drive through, get near, or talk about. The city itself is a dying metropolis with no jobs that’s driving its residents slowly mad. It’s a poor, run-down, depressed city. And like a rain gutter, all the trash runs downhill. So where do they go to buy their games? My store. We’re at the epicenter of the city bus route. We’re the heart of the city, located near a Target and a score of other discount stores for the financially impaired. Give me your poor, your tired, your white, black, and hispanic trash. Give me your humble bottom feeders and generations living off of the system.

The first of the month is like a holiday in our store. It creeps up on us and one day, you come into work wondering why it’s so busy for a Tuesday or a Wednesday and it hits you. Oh shit, it’s the first of the month again! But of course! People come tearing into the store throwing money around like George Soros, frittering away their allowance from Uncle Sam. These are the same people who trade their games in at the end of the month, or try to scam us and get their cash back so that they can pay the rent because they blew all their money on the first of the month. Don’t get me wrong, though, we get a lot of people who blow their Social Security Disability checks, too. Crazy people deserve our tax dollars, too, don’t they? Why get a job when you can get a prescription and sit on your ass at home playing video games and talking to your other personalities?

The bottom of the financial ladder contains every stereotype you can fathom. I’m not a prejudiced person, but working at my store has really strained that viewpoint. The majority of the black people who come in to shop smell like they rolled around in a marijuana sauna, or they reek of cheap gin and beer. At eleven o’clock in the morning. Some of the black guys who come in pay for their games by peeling a few twenties from a wad held together with a rubber band, and they don’t look like business analysts. I’ve never seen a hispanic person come in alone. They always seem to roll up in a beat-up, rust-eaten conversion van and pile out of the vehicle family reunion style, in packs of thirty seven. Like a hive mentality, they’ll rip the store to shreds in fifteen minutes and leave having spent ten dollars. The white trash is no better. Three hundred pound mothers with three teeth, hair that doesn’t look like it was washed this side of the century, and a white t-shirt with more stains than rolls of fat smack their ill-behaved kids off the walls when they whine for games. I saw an Italian mom put her twelve year old boy in a half nelson this summer and slam him against the hood of her car because he was throwing a tantrum. It’s pretty disheartening stuff. This must be what talk show audiences do with their free time.

And it turned out that the one black guy we had on our staff was behind the store robbery. That was a real blow to the team morale. Not only did he rob our store, he robbed two other stores within the company and the deposit mugging happened a month after he got hired. Our sewage system has backed up and flooded the back room with shit three times since I got there. So it’s no wonder that the other stores think of us as the hemorrhoid of the region. The first manager who took the store was led out in handcuffs for stealing (along with the rest of the staff) and the second manager up and quit because he was too pissed off with the clientele. My boss and I have made a go of it longer than any other management team since the store opened. What’s our secret? We’ve been through a lot.

Management is a case study in stress and tolerance. How much can you take before you flip out and start breaking things? I smoke a lot of cigarettes. That takes the edge off a bit for me. When I have an absolutely horrific day at work where my face is beet-red and I want to scream against the back of my hand, I go home and sit down in front of the t.v. with a stiff belt of whiskey or bourbon. Not the healthiest way to cope. Plus I’ve got a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m paid very well right now, and when I leave and get my own store I’m certain to get more. Playing career leap-frog is exhausting, and I’m sick of starting over and working my way up through the ranks. It’s a great company with a lot of perks. Health, dental, 401K, employee discount, and lots of freebies. You could fill a closet with all the promotional t-shirts the game companies give out. The majority of them come in black and extra large. The companies assume that most gamers are overweight and like to hide it. They’re right. We’ve got a lot of lofty sales goals and expectations, but I’m not worried about them. We’re a great team that’s been through a lot and whatever doesn’t kill you gets you through another day at our store. Or rather, if you get killed, you can start again from a save point.

Tom ‘Power Up’ Waters

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‘Breaking Dad’ (Revised & Updated)

November 16, 2015

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Originally appeared on Buffalo Comedy.com September, 2014.

Imagine that you’re made responsible for a meth addict in your own home. Said meth addict trashes everything in your house on the regular, doesn’t get the memo when his entire body is running on empty and it’s time to go to sleep, and he can’t ever be distracted when he has a goal in mind (which is usually some insane directive like opening and closing a cabinet eighteen hundred times in a row or throwing all of your clothes on the floor to climb into a laundry basket and hang loose). Oh, and he makes a B.M. about five times a day and laughs directly at you making eye contact while he’s pissing on you. These are the beginning stages of parenthood.

I have a fifteen month old little angel named Benjamin. His favorite hobbies are: yelling at the top of his lungs while he barrels through the kitchen at warp speed 5, pulling all of my diet soda out of the fridge, throwing it on the floor and then yanking the shelving out, squeezing blueberries between his thumb and forefinger and grinding them into the carpet, and light napping. He has two speeds: psychotic hypomania and unconsciousness. His interests include: spinning wheels to figure out what their general deal is, terrorizing my rescue cat Morris and shitting out pigments that are as yet undiscovered by our standardized color wheel.

I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything combined and cubed. This has to be with the help of some strong evolutionary failsafe programmed into any parent’s DNA sequence. We protect and nurture our young so that we can maintain and occasionally further our species. You have to love them because they’re nigh-impossible to appease. Note that ‘nigh’ is the key adjective in that previous sentence.

I’m the first parent ever who thinks that their child is the cutest thing that ever scampered, scurried or scuttled. I’m the first parent ever who takes ten thousand pictures of his child blinking with snot running out of both nostrils, apple juice dribbling down his chin and the remnants of his lunch molecularly fused to his clothes like a hybrid Jackson Pollock painting and finds the photos to be adorable. I’m the first parent who thinks that when he pulls his own socks off, shoves a round peg into a trapezoid hole or monkey punches his fists into a xylophone that these are the early signs of genius. I can’t help it. I’m proud of my boy. There’s no avoiding the wave of emotion symbiotically associated with this tiny little perfect facsimile of myself.

I wrote a long time ago (‘March Of The Diapered Soldiers’ from First Person, Last Straw) that I didn’t know how to deal with newborns. If you can identify with that statement, let me make this small suggestion: practice, practice, practice. All it takes is the patience of a saint, the endurance of an Olympic athlete, the medical training of a Home Health Aide, the innate psychic abilities to determine how said newborn feels without verbalizing their emotions or even sending corresponding facial signals, and the olfactory knack of blocking out most of the smells that you’ll encounter around the clock. That’s it. If you can get the hang of that whole situation, you’re good. If you haven’t mastered some, any or all of that, there’s plenty of on-the-job training.

Caring for a child that you had a fairly substantial role in creating is the best way to comprehend the philosophy of living in the moment. You’re forced to mirror your baby, you can see the cogs and wheels and lights and buzzers going off in their head and because everything is new for them, everything becomes new for you again. Laying on the floor and looking sideways changes your perspective on the world so much that you want to do it again. Studying a toy in a way that you truly want to know what the object is inside and out and what it’s purpose is in your life helps you to understand it completely. Seeing other babies, meeting other human beings for the first time and marveling at animals, trees and motor vehicles are all experiences that you cherish and appreciate. Every second of every day is new and fresh and exciting. I haven’t lived in the moment like that since, well, since I was a child. Zen masters urge their followers to see the world through the eyes of a child. There’s a reason for that. It’s so you won’t take the world and everything it has to offer for granted.

If you asked me sixteen months ago or more, I would have told you that most stand up comics lost their edge and stopped being funny once they had kids. That might still be true. I can’t be objective about my life. No one can. Now, though, I get where all of those comics were coming from. They refined their demographic and started appealing to a different audience, mainly people who took the next step in their lives and decided to have children. I’m not saying it’s selfish not to have kids or that it’s a nobler decision to have them. Don’t even try to pull me into that debate. If you have them, though, you better love ’em with everything you’ve got. Go out, procreate and see if I’m wrong. If I am, you can piss all over me and laugh at the same time. I already went through the training module for that one.

buying up stock in Gerber,
Tom Waters

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There Will Be Piss

November 2, 2015

Elmo

“I can do anything I want!”
-Benjamin (whilst flying a cow riding a Jeep and wearing a Batman costume)

My son could grow up to be a serial killer or the President Of The United States, but I’d rather he grew up to be a decent person instead. Raising him is a soft touch. It’s my job to keep him grounded without crushing his dreams at the same time. I don’t want him to turn into every Only Child I’ve ever met, an entitled little shit, a schoolyard bully or another kid from the post-Millenial generation who gets trophies for failing. Everyone tells me that the Terrible Threes are a lot worse than the Terrible Twos. Right now we’re somewhere in between. Developmentally, it’s an exciting and frustrating time. He’s learning the power of Please along with the crushing realization that No is also a possible response. We’re learning and doing a lot of things for the first time (or some cases, the first time in a long time) together.

Here’s the thing about potty training: You’re going to wind up with piss everywhere. Piss on the bathroom floor, piss in the bed sheets, piss on the couch, piss on the ceiling, piss on the cat…in a nutshell, piss everywhere but the potty. To the best of my understanding, the goal of potty training is to eliminate all the variables and piss on absolutely everything until the only option left is the potty. Make friends with piss because there’s going to be a lot of it. I also strongly recommend a foam-based antibacterial agent. In every room.

Eventually, there’s a golden shower at the end of the rainbow. Or is it a light at the end of the urethra?  You know what I mean.  After months of urine-soaked pets, irreplaceable collectibles and all-weather indoor carpets that aren’t covered for Acts Of Juice, you can look forward to upending a concave race car with piss sloshing around in it into the actual toilet. Or some other officially licensed movie/cartoon/toy-inspired miniature commode. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s my duty as a daddy. There was a ‘doody’ pun that could have been utilized there, but I fucking hate puns, so I sidestepped it.

And for the record, I really, really hope that Freud was wrong, because I don’t want to mess my kid’s entire life up by either rushing him to the toilet or telling him to take his sweet time. Sigmund Freud was a cokehead with a cross sampling of kinky Austrian housewives, so he was probably wrong. In the unlikely event that he knew what he was talking about, I’ve chosen to stop using a flare gun when my son sits down on the toilet. I have a distinct memory of crapping my pants in Kindergarten and getting sent home, so I would not be classified by Freudian standards as ‘Anal Retentive’. Subsequently, I grew up to be a portrait of perfect mental health (plus or minus three neuroses). I had a small amount of psychological blowback that stems from getting sent home from Kindergarten for crapping my pants, though. At least it didn’t happen last week at work.

There’s a bittersweet realization every day I’m with my son that he will only be two years and four months old once, or two years, five months and five days old once, and so on. This age will never come back around and no matter how I try to slow it down or wring every second out of every day, it goes by too quickly. I understand why couples keep having children now. They want to go back. They want to hang on to it. This sweet, bear-hugging cuddly age will only last so long and then it’s gone forever. I’m going to be the daddy blowing his nose into his shirt sleeve the first day of Pre-School. Possibly the dad who kisses his son on the cheek dropping him off at middle school. I’ll be the old man blubbering in the back of the auditorium at his high school graduation. But I’m projecting. I really do love him to pieces, even when he’s being a little monster. On those days, he takes after his mother.

I’ve learned to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally enjoy or do by myself. We’ve been to every park, nature reserve and playground in a five mile radius. Helpful Hint: Most playgrounds that are structurally engineered for three foot persons are not also suitable for those who are six foot three. We’ve been to a number of petting zoos. Helpful Hint: Wear durable shoes. You’ll know why later. We’ve been to ice cream parlors, toy stores and donut shops. That’s where the word No (strongly, firmly and with conviction) comes in handy along with a predesignated exit strategy in the extremely likely event of tantrums.

Being a parent means training a tiny life form what it is to be a human being. I’m still wrapping my head around what that means, but I’m doing the best I can. It means saying sorry after you bomb a long pass into someone’s foot with a five pound musical snail. That it’s not acceptable to eat microwave popcorn at 8:30 in the morning. Or that it’s not okay to watch the feature length motion picture The Incredibles immediately after watching the feature length motion picture The Incredibles. What’s great is that I got sober shortly after he was born, so we’re both finding out how to adjust to the world together at the same time. To be quite frank, my peeing aim is only slightly better.

Signing our name in the snow for our postgraduate semester,
Tom Waters

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Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 14: ‘Facetious’

October 24, 2015
Publicity Still for Episode 14 by producer Richard Wicka.

Publicity Still for Episode 14 by producer Richard Wicka.

Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, we had to do a last-minute guest shuffle for Episode 14.  Luckily, veteran Buffalo comedian Tyrone Maclin was already on the boards for June and he was available.  He’s a consumate professional, evidenced by the fact that he agreed to come on the show the day before the studio taping after getting a tooth root pulled and going something like 3 days with no sleep.  I was impressed!  He was a great guy to meet, really funny, and he’s at the heart of the entire comedy scene that’s in full swing right now in the region.  Co-host Henry Gale was our wild card, and he did a great job with that role.  Enough yakking though, here’s the episode:

Thanks are in order to Tyrone, Henry and producer Richard Wicka for inviting this insanity into his home and his studio on a monthly basis.  Please take the time to Like and Subscribe to The Big Words I Know By Heart Channel on Youtube for updates on new shows, bonus clips and other exclusive content!  I’ve got a rigorous shooting schedule for the next month, so you’ll hear from me a lot sooner than you think.  Musical legend Alison Pipitone is coming up in less than two weeks!

Excelsior!

Tom

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Big Words Radio Turning Point

July 26, 2011

The fourth year for Big Words Radio could be the final one.

 

Downloads have been dropping steadily for the last two months.  I like to stay productive, but I don’t see a discernable benefit to putting so many man hours into punching up a prospectus, booking guests and slaving over the production, sound editing, intro and outro music and everything else involved with each show if the audience isn’t there.  This time last year the show was on a roll while it was nearing extinction on Mypodcast.com.  Roll the calendar forward by twelve months and we’re moving in the wrong direction.  I’m not quite sure what’s happening or where my crowd went where the radio show is concerned.  The books are selling better than they ever have.  Site hits here & everywhere else have been blowing up.  The new Twitterverse following is growing exponentially.  Big Words Radio is dying a slow death & it doesn’t make sense.  Like some hosts I could pretend that the show is better than ever, but I deal in facts and abide by honesty.

Here’s what’s going to happen: If I don’t see a marked increase in free subscriptions on iTunes or a spike in downloads on Mevio.com by the end of this summer, the show is over.  It’s that simple.  I’m not going to keep investing what little free time I have into trying to make people laugh with over the top outrageous comedy if you’re not down with the cause.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Now’s the time to show me if you’re listening because if you’re not, I’m not doing it anymore.  I’ll pick up my toys and go home.

Maybe the podcasting boom has burst.  Maybe all of you are busy this summer (very probable).  Maybe my readers only have so much time that they’re willing to devote to waxing my ego.  I get that.  In case you haven’t noticed though, I deal in absolutes.  If the show isn’t growing, then it’s time to close the door.

My career as a writer is turning a very sharp corner this year in an incredibly positive way that I never imagined it would & it’s all happening this year at a lightning pace.  As a podcaster, not so much.  Half of my life is most likely over, so I’d like to make good use of the next half.  Please let me know how to invest my time wisely.

Some radio hosts and some writers can create without one person reading or listening.  I’m not that kind of person anymore.  I’ve got too many plates in the air to play by those rules.

If you want the show to go on, hop onto iTunes & subscribe to Big Words Radio in the podcast section under the ‘Comedy’ listing.  Download your ass off.  There are almost 92 hours of material that’s pretty damned funny.  It’s been a good run, but it might be time to hang up my hat and say farewell.

If you don’t have an iPod, surf on over to:

http://www.bigwords.mevio.com

Download 5 episodes.  Download 92 episodes.  Tell a friend.  Listen in your car.  Please spread the word.  It’s been real and it’s been fun, but this could be the tail end of it.

 

It’s up to you.

Tom Waters

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