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Funny Messy Life
9 minutes | May 7, 2022
Band Dad - 078
The past few weeks have been extra hard on me, and as I sit here and write this out, I really don’t feel like it. See, on top of everything else that’s going on in my life, my son is graduating high school, and I never thought about the idea that we would be experiencing so many “lasts”. I’m definitely a proud dad, but there is pain that tags along with it. So I think it’s time to vent a little as my oldest child becomes a man. I’m Michael Blackston, and as much as I don’t want to have to admit it, these are necessary events along the path of my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Pomp and Circumstance rings loud and quite obnoxiously in the distance. I used to like that song. It’s regal. It tells a story of celebration and accomplishment. And lately it rudely smacks me upside the head with the sour flavor of truth. Now the song doesn’t ring as jolly as before, because my son Noah is graduating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for him. Any parent with a strong-willed child who doesn’t like to be told what to do can relate to the sigh of relief that comes with the aspect of never again having to make sure projects are done on time and homework is turned in. We’ve had some epic battles over the years, but that relief is bittersweet. It means we also lose the anticipation and excitement of football season and sitting right next to the band so we can glance to our left for most of the game and watch that handsome boy play his saxophone in his snazzy uniform. So let’s start earlier. Way earlier. When I was in sixth grade, the band teacher at the middle school came around to test the students and see which ones were suitable to start band the next year. To my recollection, they gave us some sort of ear test and graded us based on how we understood tones, beats, and the essential elements of music. I think the grades were something like, Superior (obviously the best grade), Good, Okay, Good Enough To Play The Triangle, and Just Give Up And Join The Chess Club. I believe I was the only one in my class to be graded a Superior. I might be wrong, but I’ve worn that badge this long, and I don’t intend on taking it off until someone tells me differently. I do know I actually scored a Superior, and I remember the band director begging me to join the band. I didn’t though, because I was already going to be in chorus, and I was terrified of learning an instrument. My wife’s story is similar. I don’t know how they were tested, or what she scored, but I know she never joined the band, even though she has always had a gift for music, and eventually earned a degree in Vocal Performance. She tells me to this day how much she regrets never joining the band, and I feel the same way about my decision. Our son Noah, did join the band, and began as a trombonist. He liked the instrument, and had a knack for it, but it wasn’t long before we found he was better suited for something else, and he took up the saxophone. He would sit in his room at night and wail away on that horn, actually making the right note once in a while, and we loved every second of it. Once a friend made the statement that he bet I couldn’t wait to find a reason to get out of the house when that started, and I surprised him. I told him it was just the opposite. I often sat in the recliner just outside of Noah’s door and soaked in the notes - every single one, good or bad - that came from the lungs of my son, and out of his sax. And I wasn’t lying. Kayla and I both found immense joy in those moments, and soon enough, more and more notes found their marks until songs and rhythms began to fill our house. In eighth grade, he was asked to join the high school marching band a year early, an honor not everyone gets. Next thing we know, the concerts and recitals, of which there have been so glorious many, were replaced by the grueling business of band camp, practice every day after school, and Friday nights under the lights of one of Georgia’s finest, and most notable stadiums, The Granite Bowl. Year after year, we sat in first sweltering heat, then rain as the season changed, then crisp cold as we watched him play. We sat just to the right of the band and the pride we felt is something I hope I can hold onto until I take my final breath. He would look over in our direction every once in a while, between playing and having the time of his life with his friends, and he would catch us staring at him. I’d give him a goofy smile and look away, letting him know it was okay to be making those memories on his own. I took so many pictures when he didn’t know the camera was on him, and looking back over them, I see him change and grow from a little boy who struggled to carry the weight of the instrument after a long day of rehearsal, to a young, vibrant man full of confidence to take on whatever the world could throw at him. Before our eyes, he has become a person those around him look up to - a leader. He only just missed getting appointed to be Drum Major his senior year. He was upset at first, but seems to have learned from it. The band experience has developed a deep love for music of all kinds. He has a wide range of appreciation and you never know what’s going to come up next on his playlist, but specifically, he has picked up the guitar. That’s normal, I know, but my son thinks big, and he showed it in one of the coolest ways just the other night at one of his last concerts with the band. I wasn’t surprised to see him step up there and thrill the audience with his sax as he and three others played in an impressive saxophone quartet, but it was the finale that felt liken a scene right out of a movie. The band teacher introduced EC Pop - the first ever rock band comprised of students from the band who got together and decided it was time to ratchet things up a bit. They performed Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, and my boy, shiny red electric guitar in hand, walked to center stage as the lead singer and frontman of the group. It was a dream come true for him, and by the time the song was over, they had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. One of the students watching from the band section pulled out their phone, lit the flashlight, and started to wave it back and forth as the band onstage rocked out. Before long, people all over the audience were doing the same thing, and my heart was about to burst. What a night! What an experience! What a boy! There’s only one of those “lasts” that rivals that one, or maybe even beats it, at least in the hearts of the band kids and their parents. With every marching band, there is, of course, the school fight song. Of all the music that is played, it’s the fight song they know the best because they’ve played it so much. A thousand times, it seems, they blasted out their melodic battle cry to spur on the Blue Devils, and it never occurred to me that there would come a time when they would play it for the final time. I’ll never forget the way my heart felt broken, and at the same time somehow jubilant for them. At the end of the final home game, the underclassmen stepped aside and allowed the seniors a gift. They would play the fight song one last time in that place. I watched with tears in my own eyes as those kids who would soon have to leave childhood behind, proudly proclaimed with horns, and woodwinds, and percussion, their allegiance to not only a school that gave them so many great memories, but also to each other. Because no matter where they went from there, or how far apart they were, there would always be one thing that held them together. Elbert County High School band, Class of 2022. We’re going to his final concert tonight, and I’m already in an emotional place, so I’m not sure how well I’m going to take it, but I’ll have to take it. And on May 20, he’ll walk across in front of his class in that same football stadium that echoes with music and memory, accepting his diploma, and resolving a melody that it took years to play. For Noah, he looks to the future, although he’ll peek fondly back on those times, all too soon remembering them as “The good old days”, but for me, it’ll be a little hard to swallow. I’ll always look back to the boy who didn’t like to turn in his homework, but never, ever failed to make me proud.
11 minutes | Apr 29, 2022
I Changed My Mind - 077
There’s a snarky saying about how women change their minds. It goes something like, A woman’s mind is cleaner than a man’s because she changes it more often. In my experience, women won’t mind you saying that when you’re with a group of people and everyone is smiling, laughing, and generally having a by-golly swell time. Experience has also taught me that there is a time and a place for everything. Saying that when it’s only you and your wife in the car after you’ve been arguing about where to eat because at first she wanted a burrito, but now she’s decided she’s in the mood for baked ravioli, and she’s already giving you the stank eye because you said something like, “Make up your mind”, … you probably ought to think about not whipping that nugget out of your grabbag. She ain’t in the mood for your shenanigans. I don’t really think it’s that fair of a quip anyway, because I am A Man, By Thunder, and men can be just as wishy-washy. From Atomic Red Studios, which is being moved again because I keep changing my mind about where to put it, I’m Michael Blackston, and I’m about to highlight some decision making issues from my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Ladies, don’t let your man get away with it. I’m on your beautiful indecisive sides all the way. He’s likely to one day say something about how you can never make up your mind, and if I’m right, you’ll immediately be able to bring up some of the things he’s guilty of in that same arena. For me and a lot of other guys I know, it’ll show up in the category of our toys. We’ll tidy it up and call it collecting, or upgrading, but in reality, it often comes down to indecision. I know musicians - especially guitarists (Good LORD, guitarists are bad about it) - who are never satisfied with the last instrument they bought. They saw it in the guitar store, played the most impressive riff in their personal catalog, while pretending not to care who’s listening, loved how it felt, and just had to have it. Then when they get it home, they decide it doesn’t play right. The action isn’t as good now as it was in the store when they were hammering out Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption as everyone else around them secretly rolled their eyes. There’s a funky twang in the pickups they suddenly don’t like. And Is it me, or does that sunburst look different in this light? They have changed their minds. Case in point, Atomic Red Studios, and my setup for recording these podcast episodes and other audio. I’m not going to try and remember exactly how many different versions of my studio there have been, or in how many different places I’ve tried to put it. It doesn’t matter, because here’s the problem: I keep going to great lengths to make a new, better version, then changing my mind about it. This last place seemed to be perfect. I was allowed to convert a small room at my church, free of charge, into the perfect studio space. My house is small, and there’s just no room for a sound studio, so I went to great lengths to set one up at the church. The plan was to record Funny Messy Life, as well as audio books, and do voiceover work. Okay, I counted, and if I’m not leaving anything out, there have been approximately 562 versions of my studio, none of which gave me the great audio I was looking for. The problem with the church site is, any time I want to record, I have to get stuff together and go there. A home studio is more convenient for me because none of the stuff I do so far earns me one red cent.. I have, at last count, ten different microphones. I started with one - a SURE SM58. Old Reliable. The trustworthiest of trustworthy microphones. It’s so durable you can glue a hook to it and use it as a fishing lure, and it’ll still work when you plug it in. It’s been a standard in the professional vocal world since the beginning of time. The SURE SM58 is the microphone God used when He said, “Let there be light.” But I heard about another microphone that would be better for my podcast. It would give me the rawest, most natural sound for my voice, and I could always do adjustments in editing. The guy at Sweetwater swore by it, so I bought it. The new mic cost me $250, and I loved the way it sounded. At least I did for a minute. When I decided my voice sounded richer with the SM58, I said to my wife, “Wife, I hereby change my mind! I shall returneth to my SM58. And henceforth, I shall call it my favorite. So sayeth me.” She didn’t believe me, of course. She’d been down that road before, and she was right. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed something of good quality that I could take on the road and use to record podcasts in my hotel rooms. It needed to connect directly to my laptop via USB port, and before I knew it, Dave Jackson of The School of Podcasting fame was recommending a dandy little microphone by Audio-Technica. “I must have it!” I decreed. Luckily my wife was nowhere in sight, and I was near Birmingham, Alabama. There’s a music store there that had it in stock. “I shall journey forth to the store, and there avail myself of the equipment I require. Then, and only then, shall I find contentment.” I bought it, and I loved it. I still do. But I also continue to find myself drawn to my SM58. Then I heard through my research on successful voice overing, that the RODE NT1 was a fantastic microphone for serious voice actors getting started. Michael was moved within his spirit to act, and thus, he sent a message to the owner of the ad. “Is this microphone still available?” The owner replied, “Yes. Yes it is.” ”I must have it!” Michael bade and light shone upon his face. The angels rejoiced, and glory shone upon the face of the earth. In reality, God was probably shaking His head. “He never learns.” I bought it and used it quite a lot, but …. I’ve recently gone back to using the SM58 mostly. I feel like this is boring. It probably is, but it serves to show just a hint of my own indecision. Like I said, there are ten microphones altogether, as well as other equipment, each supposedly better than the next. I mentioned the restaurant thing earlier, but I’m worse than my wife about it. I have days when I wasn’t something, I’m starving, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is I really want. It’s not that there’s an epic battle going on in my mind between pancakes and pita bread. I don’t want any of it. Nothing! I’m about to die to eat something, but I don’t want anything. It doesn’t make sense. It’s like a culinary glitch in The Matrix. It happens to me all the time, and I’m helpless to do anything, but flop around on the ground like a tantruming child, flailing my arms and legs hither and yon, and whining about life worse than an overly woke socialist. By the way, if that last statement offended you, we likely aren’t a good match. So where was I? Ah yes, arms thrashing, and legs akimbo. “I wanna eat, but I don’t want nuthin’, but I’m hungry, but nuthin’s good, but I wanna eat!” It should not surprise you that in these moments, my wife has perfected the art of the side-eye. She’s never gone as far as to say, Idiot, out loud, but it’s there on her face. She doesn’t appreciate the highly evolved man-cision system I have in place, and how because I have such a developed and complicated process to navigate regarding the intricacies between one thing and another, there is sometimes a disruption that causes a failure of calculation, resulting in said flailing arms and legs akimbo. When she reads this, she’s going to give me the side-eye. I know it. I still don’t know whether or not to use this piece for the podcast/blog/swim in Lake Me at all. I’m having a hard time making that decision. It’s difficult finding the time to record these episodes lately anyway, but I guess I could get some pvc pipes and blankets and carry a sort of portable studio with me on trips. Seems like a lot of trouble, though. I’m not sure. I could cut the pipes in half and connect them with joiners. That way I could throw the whole thing in a duffle. But what kind of duffle should I get? Plain? Black? Georgia Bulldog red? Something with a logo? Maybe I could make an Atomic Red Studios logo and print it on a plain, Georgia Bulldog red duffel. That would be neat. The Atomic Red Studios duffel could actually carry the Atomic Red Studios. Is that over thinking it? I don’t know. I can’t decide.
15 minutes | Apr 22, 2022
Welcome Back ... Back - 076
Let’s see … how should I describe my back issues? Um …. If there was a further sublevel of hell past anything Dante came up with where the devil himself would say, “Nope, nope, nope!”, then you pushed into a dank corner of the sewer system of that hell where stagnant, rotting remnants of the bowels of the worst demons that have ever existed have gotten caught in a gooey, churning cesspool, it might - and I say might - come close. Because, my friend, your humble host recently slipped a disc in my back, and the subsequent agony was the worst thing I’ve ever endured. It’s part of the reason for another lengthy delay in episodes of this podcast, and I’m about to tell you alllll about it, including the lessons I’ve learned, both spiritually, and in the area of my own stupidity. From Atomic Red studios, I’m Michael Blackston, and if you thought a whiny man with a cold can be bad, wait till you hear about this latest test of my endurance straight out of my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ I sit and prepare this episode of the show feeling rather comfortable and relatively pain-free. The name of the restaurant I chose rhymes with Hizza Put, and I’m enjoying a simple order of breadsticks with extra seasoning, and a cup of alfredo sauce, instead of marinara to dip them in. (Yes, you can ask for that.) I’ve sort of gotten addicted to the breadsticks from Hizza Putt because when this whole thing started, it’s all I could think of when people insisted I eat something to stay alive. And once I decided it was an sensible enough request, it was just easier, when my wife annoyed me by asking me to make decisions in my state of pain, to scream, “Breadsticks!” Now, let me be clear. My wife was not actually being annoying. What she was doing was trying her best to take care of a man in his late forties who was floating in a pool of hell’s poop water. In reality, my wife, God bless her, was an absolute saint, along with several others who helped me, or prayed fervently for me, or both. In fact, I found out just how amazing my support system really is. So here’s what happened. I’m going to go back to before Christmas, because I believe it’s the start of the whole thing. I’ve known for years that I have a weak back, and there are a couple of reasons for that. Since I was a teenager, I’ve dealt with back trouble because: I have always hated to exercise, so I have a weak core, and … I gots Gamp Back. “Hey, Mike … what in the name of all sewer stankwater pain is Gamp Back?” I’m glad you asked. If you listened a few episodes ago when I talked about my perfect Christmas, you’ll hear me emote lovingly about my grandpa and how he would sit quietly watching his family as we lived our lives around him. He called himself The Gamps, obviously a babytalkish way to say Gramps, and it stuck. So while he was watching us, there were likely times he was doing so in agony from a back that gave him trouble, and because genes have this cute way of repeating themselves down a family line, a whole bunch of us ended up with torsos that easily make the decision to test the boundaries of our pain tolerance by taking a spinal version of Rumspringa. That’s the period of time where young Amish people are allowed to break from tradition and do shameful things, like chewing gum and moving their feet slightly to a beat. During Spinal Rumspringa, members of our family will develop the aforementioned Gamp Back. Knowing this was a possibility, I should have insisted that my son, who is a young, strapping 17-year-old, change his own tire. It was that last stupid lug that did the trick. Whoever put it on must have summoned the power of Thor, and like the God of Thunder’s hammer, the lug did not want to budge. I was apparently not worthy. Yet, I insisted I was still man enough to do it, and I did, but not before I felt a slight twinge in the lower left side of my back. “Haha. That’s gonna smart for a few days,” I laughed like a character from Father Knows Best, and finished the job. But it bothered me a little from then on. I mean, it wasn’t bad enough that I paid it much attention, but it was constantly there, putting a damper on all of my tide yuling, shelf elfing, and Christmas tree oh-ing. Then right after Christmas, I started noticing some pretty severe sciatic nerve pain that didn’t want to go away. I wanted it to, just like you want those shiny strands tinsel to stop showing up on your clothes when you get them out of the dryer, all the way into August.The only thing worse than that is the flake green plastic Easter basket grass. Regardless of how I describe it, the pain was relentless. My wife got tired of hearing me complain about it. It’s not that she wasn’t sympathetic with my injury, but after a while, it was clear I needed to see a doctor and and get on some kind of medicine that made me loopy to see if I could get some relief. Me being me, though, I thought that was just silly. “You need to go to the doctor about that, and get on some medication that makes you loopy to see if you can get some relief.” “Nah. It’ll go away. I’ve had it before, and it just has to work itself out.” “It’s more serious than that. You really need to make an appointment. You need something for the pain.” “Silly woman, I know my body.” “Why would you refuse if they can help you? You’re not a young, strapping 17-year-old boy anymore. You’re not even strapping.” “The waiting room would be crawling with COVID. I ain’t goin’. OW! My Leg!” “WE NEED SOME RELIEF!” I also needed to see my doctor about getting back on a serious plan for my diabetes, so she threw that at me and said, “Oh, and by the way ... You’ll be mentioning your leg and back.” Fine. I made the appointment and he gave me some steroids for the pain, along with a good talking to about Cadbury Creme Eggs and the role I’ve allowed them to play in my life. Spoiler alert: They are not the hero. To my surprise, the steroids made me feel a LOT better, and pretty fast. So fast, in fact, that just before going on a trip to Alabama, I moved a block of granite in my backyard without help because I STILL would not believe that I was neither young, nor strapping. Then I worked a weekend where I set my posture badly and didn’t move for about six hours, then turned around and drove home five hours. I think I also found an early stock of Cadbury Creme Eggs and crammed them into my face like a honey badger. I soaked in a bath once I got home, and it felt great after the drive. It was hot, and it was soothing … for a couple of minutes. Then I noticed something. The muscles in the lower left part of my back and my left leg began to tighten in a painful way. I removed the pretend pipe from between my teeth, and stated, “Gee, that doesn’t just smart. That’s a sure enough, gosh-golly bite from the jaws of a hell hound. And is that sewer water I smell?” At first it was uncomfortable, then worse, then unbearable. Now, as you know from earlier, I’m not one for doctors, but I quickly decided to calmly, make another statement to my wife. I said, “OH GOD! YOU GOTTA TAKE ME TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM! I’M DYING, KAYLA! THIS IS IT! I AIN’T GONNA MAKE IT OUTTA HERE, BUT WE HAVE TO TRY. WE HAVE TO TRY!!!” She rushed to my aid, and we rushed to the hospital. That, itself, is its own story, but not for right now. Actually, the hour ride to the hospital that’s NOT run by drunk llamas wasn’t bad. Something about the way I could place my legs gave me a decent amount of relief. I was seen by the ER, given drugs that made me loopy, and sent home. The next few days went as follows: MY WIFE - “How are you feeling?” ME - “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! MY WIFE - “Still that bad? Is there anything I can do to help the pain?” ME - “You can … GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I’M DYING! BRING ME A PEN AND PAPER! I NEED TO WRITE OUT A WILL!!!!!!!!!! MY wife - “Let me at least get some food in you. What would you like?” ME - “AHHHHHHHHHHH …. BREADSTICKS! HIZZA PUTT!!!!!” During the night, I writhed and moaned like a baby because I could get no relief, no matter what positions I tried. Sitting up, lying down, legs in the air, legs off the side of the bed, Bound Lotus, Congress of a Spider Monkey … all of them. Kayla couldn’t sleep, but she did everything she could to care for me. Again, she’s been a saint. That was pretty much the long and short of our lives for most of two weeks until we could get in to see a chiropractor. I’d never been to a chiropractor before, and I was skeptical. I hobbled in like Quasimodo, and answered their questions as best as I could. “Where does it hurt?” “GAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” “How long has it been hurting?” “AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!” “Are you able to eat?” “BREADSTICKS! HIZZA PUTT!!!!” And then, a man entered the room. There was a heavenly glow surrounding his head. At first I thought he was holding a lamb in his arms, but it turned out to be a white towel to put under my head. He gently took my leg into his hands and taught me a motion that moved in concert with him to loosen the nerve. He bent my body in a couple of ways I never would have thought possible, much like I used to twist and contort my sister’s dolls when I wanted to practice ancient torture methods, but somehow, this felt amazing. He then leaned in, pressing his body weight into me with the skill of a medical Samurai (please don’t come at me with something like, Chiropractice, Chiropracticality? Chiropractation? Chiropractation! … isn’t technically medicine, fah fah fah!) I don’t care. It was to me. Actually, it felt like a miracle because when I left, I could actually walk. And that night, I could sleep. And the next day, I considered moving around some of the blocks of granite in my backyard. Actually, I took his advice, and have been doing everything exactly as he instructed. I saw him the next day for another adjustment, and saw him twice a week for the next six weeks. And after that, there will be at least a monthly visit for the rest of my life because I am a staunch believer now. It wasn’t just him, though. There was a ton of prayer and promises to act right, pray more, read my bible, and never ever again attempt the congress of anything with the name of an animal in it. In addition, my fam
40 minutes | Mar 4, 2022
Ghosts of Podcast Past - C1G (Stage Stories Part 2) - 075
Part of a conversation with my friend, Toni King from a previous podcast called, "Cue One Go - The Theatre Show". We're talking about things that happened onstage.
33 minutes | Feb 25, 2022
Ghosts of Podcast Past - C1G (Stage Stories Part 1) - 074
Due to my busy schedule, I'm going to be giving you a look back into the history of my podcasting. In this episode, I'll introduce you to my friend, Toni King, who co-hosted a podcast with me called, Cue One Go - The Theatre show. I really miss C1G and I hope listening to this episode brings you as much joy as it did for me.
13 minutes | Dec 31, 2021
The Uncanny Consequences Of Being Me - 073
The Uncanny Consequences Of Being Me The title of this piece reads like a fancy-pants movie they’d show at a film festival where the people in the audience all eat their popcorn with a fork so they won’t get their fingers greasy and spot up their turtle necks and skinny jeans. I’m sorry about that. I don’t mean to make you feel like you’re one of those people. You might prefer your popcorn the way I do … floating in a bucket of butter oil that resembles a gigantic vat of cereal that’ll stuff your arteries like a Thanksgiving turkey. I mention my arteries because they’ve been on my mind lately. My doctor told me they’re as clogged as a man’s who eats movie theatre popcorn the way I do. Which got me thinking … I’d love a bag of that Lance Movie Theater Extra butter popcorn I talked about in episode 71, titled Diary of a Rage Monster. Which got me to thinking … I’d probably not be able to find it anyway because that’s how things go for me. Which brought to mind … Hey, I wanted to write about that! Well, now that you’re supremely confused, let me bring it back around to the title of this piece and tell you about my bad luck. From Atomic Red studios, I’m Michael Blackston and I’m calling this The Uncanny Consequeces Of Being Me because sometimes that’s what it feels like to live my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Have you ever heard of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It’s composed as a series of correspondence between two demonic forces - Screwtape, and his nephew Wormwood. The nephew is a rookie demon assigned to a poor, unsuspecting human and his job is to bother the man enough that he never comes to know God, or worse, curses Him altogether. Screwtape is a crusty old veteran and is trying to help his nephew in learning the ways of evil and messing with humans. It’s a classic book that has helped many understand the powers at play in the realm we can’t see, and I have come to believe I have a Wormwood of my own. I understand that not every inconvenient thing that happens to me is the work of evil minions. Just because I crank the side of my finger in the ratchet thingy that tightens the straps when I secure granite to my trailer doesn’t mean the devil did it. Just because I drop a piano on my two big toes like I told you about in episode 16 - I think - the part titled, I Can Do It All By Myself, doesn’t mean Satan waved his hand and caused the piano to fall. Just because I look like an idiot when I try to bust a move doesn’t mean the forces of evil are actively trying to stop the beat. No. Those things simply mean I’m clumsy, stupid, and a terrible dancer. But alas, there is uncanniness afoot, and it happens when I find something I adore. I’ll become enamored with the item and start to desire it with the desire an obsessed man will desire a thing and suddenly, even though I’ve seen it everywhere, it’s gone. Nowhere to be found. Vanished into thin air and as unseen as the whisps of a flatulent butterfly. Okay, most of the time it has to do with food I shouldn’t ought to be eating in the first place, so I suppose one could argue that it’s actually the forces of good that are directing my path. However, since I get so turned upside down about it, I feel better laying the blame on my own moron of a demon, or maybe he’s a genius. In light of that, I believe I’ll borrow from C.S. Lewis and present my own version of correspondence between the teacher and the newbie imp. I’ll call him, Sugar Poot. (I’m sorry, Mama - it’s the first random nickname that popped into my head and it made me laugh out loud in the restaurant. I spit out my tea and got it all over my shirt. Sigh. Thanks a lot, Sugar Poot.) The master bad guy will be Vernon McDirtbag. Here go the conversations I think might take place between them: Dear Uncle Vern, I reckon mama’nem told ya I got my first assignment this week, and I been tryin’ real good to git him to fly off’n the handle. It ain’t workin’, though. I was plannin’ to hurt him right off by makin’ him git a splinter when he was loadin’ up some granite, but the idgit beat me to it when he pinched his finger in the ratchet thangy what tightens up the straps. Can ya give me some pointers? I don’t know what I’m doin’. Yourn truly, Sugar Poot Dear …. I won’t call you Sugar Poot. What was your mother thinking? I shall refer to you as S.P. Also, my name is Vernon, not Vern. Anyway, I will attempt to give you a few suggestions as to how to keep your man off of the straight and narrow, but you must realize that from what I understand, you have quite the task ahead of you. He is already a child of God, even if he does sometimes erroneously write things that make his family shake their heads. Being previously saved, your only recourse will be to lay spots upon his testimony. Our Adversary has him in His hand, but that doesn’t mean your man is perfect, or unshakeable. He is only human, after all. Think of things that will cause him to stumble. Things that will invite him to sin and to do so publicly. I wish you devil speed in your endeavors, nephew. Yours, Vernon Dear Uncle Vee, A-Ight, I tried whatcha said. I give him a real bad time last week when I heard him sayin’ he wanted some of that Lance Movie Theater Butter popcorn. He was goin’ out of town, and it was late, and he was feelin’ snacky. He just figured out he likes that stuff and he’s got a real addiction to it, so y’know what I did? I made sure every bag of it between his house and Carbon Hill, Alabama was plum out. That’s five hours of drivin’ without his precious popcorn bag, Uncle Vee! You orta seen him. He was madder’n a Crimson Tide fan the day Nick Saban announces his retirement. I got him good! Only thang is, he didn’t do nothin’ bad about it. He jest stewed the whole way, fussin’ to hisself about how that’s always how it goes. The second he finds somethin’ he likes, it’s gone. I’m gon’ try it again, though. Soon as I find somethin’ else he’s a-cravin’. Yer dedicated ‘prennice, Sugar Poot Dear Nephew Sugar …. S.P., While I’m impressed with your fervor, I must say that your error is obvious. The answer is in the description you give of your man’s reaction to not being able to get his teeth around the scrumptious, buttery kernels of popping perfection. He said it always happens. Nephew, if you are to move him with temptation, you must seize upon the things that catch him off guard. It sounds to me that he is used to this sort of disappointment, and therefore harder to push in a negative direction. Yes he, as you called it, stewed, but in the end he survived, and I dare suspect called upon his Lord to help him with his state of mind. Do not worry, nephew. These are rookie mistakes and to be expected. Think outside the box to get him so frustrated that he makes a scene in front of others. And to add insult to injury, perhaps you may entice him to do so on a day when he is wearing his Jesus shirt like he talked about in episode 67 of his podcast, Funny Messy Life. Here’s hoping for a better report next go ‘round. P.S., My name is VERNON, not Uncle VEE! Yours in evil, VERNON! Dear Daddy McDee, Oh boy, did I git him this time! He was on the road again. I been noticin’ that he kept eyeballin’ them white chocolate Reecie Cups, but he never bought one. I mean, he likes Reecie Cups, but the rag’lar ones. He’ll eat them thangs, and anythang else chocolate fer that matter, like he never knew he was a diabetic. Hard as I tempted him, I couldn’t git him to partake in the white chocolate ones. But then he did it. He tried one. You oughtta seen the look what come over him when he took his first taste. I mean, them thangs was everywhere, so I let him git one more pack of ‘em on the way home, then I waited. Next trip he headed out, I put it in his head. MMMMM, BOY! Wouldn’ a white chocolate Reecie Cup sit good on yer tongue? Put it on ya head, ya tongue‘ll slap ya face to death tryin’ ta git to it! Well, he took the bait and I made every one of them packs of candy between his house and Brookhaven, Mississippi disappear. That’s ten stinkin’ hours of travel without gettin’ the kind of Reecie Cup he wanted and I thought I had him ready to cuss, but he didn’t. He took a deep breath, pulled over at an exit that had a theater, and went to a movie. Daddy McDee, my man bought a gigantic tub of popcorn and had ‘em give it five layers of butter oil. It sloshed when he walked to his seat, uncle. It sloshed! I can’t compete with that! I don’t know how I’m gon’ earn my medals of evil if’n I can’t even git a man to cuss about a piece of candy. I’m forlornded. I give up, Sugar Poot Dear S.P., This is our final correspondence. I can’t deal with you, so I’ll let my sister - your mother - be your mentor. After all, she is the one that named you Sugar Poot. However, I will urge you not to give up entirely. My promise is that your man is currently in the flesh. That means he has weaknesses in the armor he wears, that is if it’s armor of his own making. Whenever you notice he has taken up the Armor of God, you have no chance. But stay firm and resolute. He doesn’t always put on the Armor of God. He knows our Adversary leads him to, but he doesn’t always follow. In those times lay your best shot. You’ll be able to spot them. He will whisper something hateful about his fellow man, or look twice in a direction he should not. Perhaps he will drop a piano on his big toes and curse like a sailor. He wears his own armor then, and it is full of vulnerable, open spaces. In the meantime, don’t call me Vern, Uncle Vee, or Daddy McDee. As a matter of fact, just don’t call me. Lose my address, Vernon So there you have it. I fully expect that when I find something I really enjoy, in due time, it will become utterly, and uncannily, unavailable. P.S. Eventually I was able to find the popcorn and the Reece’s Cups. Swamp Guinea stew is a whole other story, like I mentioned in the last episode. It’s just uncanny. Yours in comedy and messy life, Michael
16 minutes | Dec 25, 2021
Special Christmas 2021 Episode
A Christmas interview with my 8 year old daughter, Merida.
15 minutes | Dec 24, 2021
My Perfect Christmas - 072
My Perfect Christmas I told you so. I suspect a few of my regular listeners didn’t believe me when I said I’d be back to Funny Messy Life after a brief hiatus, but here I am. I’ve been gone for a few weeks because it’s hard to find the time to write out full episodes of this podcast when there are other things that I have to do in place of it, like editing the final draft of a novel, which is what has been going on with this last break. But every break has to come to an end at some point, and while I’m not done with editing Mr. Long Said Nothing because my life is too full with obligations, I’ve been thinking it’s time to get back in the podcast saddle. The question was this: Should I jump on back in now, or give myself the rest of the year and jump back in at the beginning of 2022? I mean, it’s only about a week now, right? Then something happened. I received a Christmas card from my friends, the ________, in Minnesota and my heart soared. By the way, _________, I wanted to send you an email to thank you, but I got a fancy pants new iPhone and in the data transfer, I lost your info, so drop me your email address if you don’t mind. Anyway, I decided that if someone who knows me through this podcast feels strongly enough to send me a card, then maybe others of you do too … just maybe not as much as the __________’s because they put that they were my biggest fans right there on the envelope, so …… SO! - without further ado, I’m Michael Blackston and Merry Christmas! Here is the first episode back after my hiatus, and now I present to you, for your holiday pleasure, a few words that describe what I think would be the perfect Christmas in my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Let us start by jingling all the way back to my childhood in the 1970’s and 80’s to get the family Christmas tree. In. my extended family, we had a tradition. We always met at my grandma’s house on Sunday afternoons for lunch and a few hours of fellowship. The grownups gathered around the kitchen table after the meal, while the kids were expected to go outside and frolick merrily around the property, regardless of whether or not it was 20 degrees, or 150. If it was 150, we came back in at the end of the day with sweaty, gritty dirt lines circling the perimeters of our necks. I may have mentioned before that we called these rings of grime and funk, Granny Beads. If it was twenty degrees outside, we’d still have them, but they’d be frozen into magical frozen filth beads. Either way, the adults would inevitably tell us at the end of the day, after being the very ones to banish us to the hours long whimsy of nature, Y’all smell like the outside! But every year a couple of weeks before Christmas, it was the entire family who got to smell like the outside. Why? Because it was our tradition for everybody to march into the woods together and pick out our Christmas trees from the wild cedars that grew behind Grandma’s house. The men took up their saws, we kids ran untethered through the forest like we didn’t have no good raisin’, and the women kept a keen eye out for the perfect tree when they weren’t yelling at us kids. “Quit runnin’ around like y’all ain’t got no good raisin’!” Every once in a while, one of the young ones would find a tree we wanted to take home. “Let’s git thissun, Deddie!” But it was never the right one. It usually had a huge bare spot in the middle, or the top looked like the Jolly Green Giant had used it to scrape the granny beads out of the creases on his jolly green neck. Eventually, the angels would descent, shining a holy light on the perfect tree, and the man who claimed it would begin the arduous task of cussing it down. Did I say cussing it down? Ha ha, no. Of course not. I meant cutting it down with interesting, and quite colorful words as a way to encourage the saw to stop getting stuck in the sap midway through. Once we got the tree home and decorated, the house smelled delightfully of cedar and burning cedar needles as back in those days we thought nothing of stringing a dead tree with huge glass bulbs that got hotter than Satan’s armpit. In effect, our house smelt like th’outside! And that’s number one on my list of things that would make a perfect Christmas - going outback of Grandma’s house with the family just one more time to pick out the Christmas tree. Next, I think I would want the family to gather again a couple of weeks before Christmas at an old southern restaurant that no longer exists, except in our fond memories. I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of everybody going to Swamp Guinea (prounounced SWOMP’ - ginny), but they are responsible for some wonderful memories. It became another extended family tradition, and I suspect maybe my Grandpa started it all. Swamp Guinea was an wood cabin sort of place that smelled of fried everything and sweet tea. It was an all-you-can-eat family style gorge-fest where our family met to tear into chicken, shrimp, catfish, hush puppies, cole slaw, and stew like we didn’t have no good raisin’. The place is closed now, and this year we tried to re-imagine the tradition with a trip to another similar place called Booty’s. I didn’t care for it, but we were all together and that’s what was important. Well, Grandma wasn’t with us for the first time, so I guess that might have had something to do with it not being the same. The thing is, the stew I just mentioned would also always make an appearance at our Christmas Eve gathering. Someone would order a pot of Swamp Guinea stew and bring a loaf of bread to the table. Lately the stew was from a different place, and it’s good, but it’s not Swamp Guinea. At least we were all together at Grandma’s. So for number two, I think just one more meal with the family at Swamp Guinea would help make the perfect Christmas. Stepping back to the tree situation, one of my favorite memories of Christmas was always the family decorating the tree in the middle of Grandma and Grandpa’s living room. The box with all the ornaments would be brought in and everyone would be invited to find the ball with their name on it. I think my sister might have started this event years ago because she’d seen them doing on Days Of Our Lives, but it stuck and it became ours as well. The kids hung theirs as high up as they could go, while the teens fought for position at the topmost point of the tree. One of my cousins would never be outdone and to this day, the tree’s topmost ornament bears the name, Chuck. It’s there again this year, except the tree was brought to my aunt’s house because the house we’ve always known as Grandma’s has been sold. New places, new traditions. Never quite the same. Grandma and Grandpa would sit back and watch the crowd laughing and being jolly as we decorated the tree, sometimes so loud it seemed we didn’t have no good raisin’, and they said few words. They just took it all in. And that’s number three for me in my ideal description of the perfect Christmas. Then there’s Christmas Eve. After the meal that included all the trimmings, including the stew, we would all retire to the living room to open presents. The kids would have been begging to get to this part for a while now, and having digested, the adults would relent. At that point, a couple of people would be appointed to pass them out from the enormous pile under the tree and the fun would start with everyone ripping up paper and throwing bows into the air with reckless abandon, as if they didn’t have no good raisin’. Someone always ended up with a bow on their head, showing it off to everyone like it was the first time anyone had ever thought of it. A lot of time that person has been me. There are a couple of gag gifts that have made their rounds over the years: an old coat that no one wants, and two plastic guitar-shaped popcorn … things with Elvis on the label. These gifts must be kept and regifted the next year. Every year, someone dares someone else to eat the popcorn and we laugh. Once again, the Grandparents, ,and for several years, only Grandma, sat and watched and got showered with gifts, but said little. This was their gift - to see the family they created share a wonderful time. I suspect this description matches a lot of others around the world in cultures that celebrate Christmas, but each one will have their special little things that make it unique to that family. Ours will be different this year. Grandma passed this year and like I said, the house was sold. It’s funny, I always call it Grandma’s house, but there was Grandpa, too, until he passed. That was his way, though. To quietly sit in the background and enjoy watching the rest of us. When I think back on it, I can still see the look on his face, the slightest upward curl the edges of his mouth, and the twinkle in his eye as his family lived their lives in front of him. That’s what he always worked toward. It was his greatest mission - to provide those moments for the rest of us. In the end, it became Grandma’s mantle to sit back and watch. The older she got, the less she would say as she sat at the side table in Sundays in the kitchen while the rest of us talked and laughed, and on a rare occasions, argued. I felt bad for her sometimes and didn’t want her to feel left out, so I’d ask her … “You okay over there, Grandma?” She would smile and say, “I’m just listening to y’all.” Coming in at number four, one more Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa at their house on the Washington Highway. I want to pull in one more time and see the lone tree out front lit with bright, multicolored lights. I want my headlights to shine just one more time on a sign out front by the road that read, Joseph Mills Photograghy. I want to walk inside and immediately hear gales of laughter and smell the stew. And I want my hug. God, I miss my hug. It’s all different now, and I’m settled that the only choice we have is to continue to love, laugh, and live. In those moments, we will usher in new traditions and the world will, as it always has, move on. There are a bunch of other things that would help put the perfect season pin to the season, but this year, these feel like they rank at the top for me. Maybe I’ll revisit this list and add to it
18 minutes | Oct 1, 2021
Diary Of A Rage Monster - 071
Well, I felt really stupid this morning. And then I felt even more stupid around lunch time. And then I felt supremely stupid at the end of the day. Why? Because I was having a bad day. Actually, check that. There was nothing particularly bad about the day. I was having one of those days when it seemed like everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - was out to irritate me. From Atomic Red Studios, located in a secret bunker somewhere in Northeast Georgia, I’m Michael Blackston and sometimes I have days when waking up on the wrong side of the bed is an understatement. The problem is, the stuff that gets under my skin, really shouldn’t. By the end of the day, I can find myself in a ridiculous headspace, and I’m not alone. I’ve seen footage of people just like me. One young man at a gas pump got so angry with a door compartment on his motorcycle that when he’d had enough, he reared back to kick it. Luckily for the bike, his friend intervened and wrestled him back from his maniacal discourse before anything bad could happen. So, with a heart of transparency, let’s peek inside the pages of a diary. The diary of a rage monster. _________________________ First, I had gotten up at 4:30 am to get started on a trip to Sumter, SC for work. I’ve been traveling less recently, and I’ve been leaving out the evening before when I do travel, so I can get a good night’s sleep in my hotel room before getting up to etch my fingers to the bone. It’s a nice routine, but Sumter is close enough to where I live that the drive isn’t so bad and I often just get up little before the roosters. I like Sumter. There’s plenty to eat, a movie theater should I decide to drop 80 bucks for a single ticket and concessions, an Air Force base that’s cool to pass by because I can pretend I’m Maverick from Top Gun, except I’m not in my twenties, driving a cool motorcycle, and about to go make out with Kelly McGillis. Other than that, it’s almost identical. And they actually have a Swan Lake in Sumter. They have an actual lake with swans. All that to say there was no reason for me to already be having a bad day not an hour into my commute. Dearest Diary, This morning broke my slumber finding me well in temper. My good wife and the firstborn of my loins, the male child, had been away at concert the previous eve, in the communeship of Buckhead, near the capitol of our fair state of Georgia. I was aware of the late hour they should return and had dressed our second born, a girl child, in her night clothes and bade her pleasant dreams. She went amicably, allowing me the advantage of an early turn-in myself, being that I must wake prior to the crow of the cock. I feared the tally of hours might not be enough for my sleep, but upon waking, I felt refreshed and eager to turn a key to the day and all the promise that lay waiting beyond that mysterious door. The initial hour of my drive was without event, and I dare say the next ones might have followed suit, had my hunger not played the beast and my bladder cried out also. I shall stop, then, I uttered to no one in particular, and led my iron carriage into the next store of convenience. There I found the necessary venue for silencing the cries of my bladder, and though my intent was not to gather food here, for I had seen the golden sign ahead that told me the time was Bo and my mouth lathered at the thought of a buttery biscuit stuffed with Cajun filet, I did, indeed, endeavor to procure a vat of cola from the fountain. The fountain brought forth a delicious brown syrup and water mixture in a cascade over a mountain of crushed ice inside my cup, and did so at the mere touch of my finger. My spirits were on high with the aspect of such cold refreshment and soon, I should feel my taste buds seizing, then giving in to the salivatory seduction that is the Cajun filet biscuit with two slices of cheese. Could such rapture be met with foe, and at so early an hour? Surely I would have thought Nay! But alas, fine diary, rock would soon strike flint in the form of a thin, plastic lid. A cluster of them to be exact. The discs that were to be the barrier between the contents of my cup and the possible soaking of my lap had been stacked anew and tucked tightly into a space by what I can only assume were the minuscule hands of a baby midget. I was scarcely able to insert my own fingers well enough into the stack, for they are fattish and resemble the stubby links of sausage one might request at the House of Huddle. My ire became piqued as I contemplated my course, wondering why on God’s green earth the attendant would be loathe to leave room for the selection of a singular lid. I settled upon the idea of using a fingernail to lift the corner of the topmost lid, and while I was successful in my endeavor of sliding a nail underneath, the lid would not come forth. Once I tried to lift it, then a second time, now thrice, but to no avail. It was stuck to its brothers like a glue of the most voracious variety, making impossible the prospect of retrieving just one, or any for that matter, for the entirety of the cluster of discs was too large to be withdrawn from its keep. I roasted with enmity toward the lids, marking inwardly how silly I must seem to God, Who created all and gave the discs no soul, nor reasoning. It did not matter. BLAST THESE CURSED LIDS OF PLASTIC!, I shouted and an employee the size of a thimble next to me became startled. You! I said indignantly and squeezed mine eyes to slits toward him. You, sir, have brought shame upon this place by so carelessly packing these discs. And now, lest I prevail, I shall risk the appearance of incontinence with a large wet stain upon the front of my pantaloons. A pall upon you sir, and may shadows of woe consume thy house! Dude, I’m just doing my job, he bade haughtily and I stormed away. I am sorry, dear diary. I have acted the fool. Yours, Michael Most Honorable Diary, I am a man unhinged of late. While I was eventually able to rescue a single plastic lid from its dungeon of a hole, thereby keeping my clothes dry during my commute, my day, I fear, has become more hateful still. It would seem I have been visited by an illness that knocks at my door oftener than I care for. I cannot seem to hold anything in my hands today, causing all manner of embarrassment and irritation. Mother calls this condition The Dropsies. I call it hell! Diary, I am unable to efficiently produce the etchings for which I am called to do if every time I pick up my hand piece, I knock over my glass of tea, or my iPhone, or accidentally poke a customer in the eye. How then, shall I seed my wallet? Surely an artist with clumsy hands does not curry the favor of those seek a master. Therefore what shall I do if this new development persists? I will tell you. To quote a lyric from OLIVER, I shall scream. I shall scream, I shall scream, I shall scream. The final straw with this fresh bane was when I dipped my hand into the bag of popped corn I have punched earlier, and, intending to grasp a quantity of several at once and shovel them into my mouth, my plan was thwarted once again by my painfully sausage-like fingers. They clasped a goodly amount of the kernels and had no failure removing them from the bag, but alas, the task was too much for such a poor excuse for extremities and the very moment before I was able to cram them into my mouth, the pressure holding them together loosed and the entire lot exploded from my hand like so much buttery shrapnel from war’s tastiest grenade. The popped corn flew in every direction except for whence it was meant, and I flew into a rage, cursing their very existence of the snack. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! I clutched another handful from the bag and vaulted it against the wall bedside me, somehow hoping to cause pain to something inanimate, fluffy, and light. I called it names and I rebuked the evil emitting from the bag that lay before me. Foul treat, I despise you! Whisps of Satan! Your stench both draws and repulses me! Be gone, for thy taste is a billowing siren song where dwells sadness and despair! Workmen stared in the direction of my outburst, knowing not how to react, until I one of them approached and offered to rid me of this thorn in my side. You gon’ eat that? I fear for my sanity, diary. Pray for me. In your debt, Michael DIARY! Why do I even bother placing quill to your parchment?! This is the very problem, is it not? Here am I spilling the worst of my personal flaws to a book, as if there were a living, breathing entity within the binding that would benefit me by council. Ha! Perhaps it was the fatalist part of this entire matter that I made the first stroke, lending the idea of consciousness to any object wherein its molecular structure, there be no hint of blood. I have jumped off the cliff. Now, by the end of this day, I see that wayward cup lids and an episode of the dropsies were mere trivialities compared to the fit I have now pitched at yet another item that could not possibly bear a soul, nor ill intent. ‘Twas merely a water bottle, and nothing more. It made no malevolence against me, spoke no threat, yet by the end of the matter, I had beaten the poor bottle against the pavement of the sidewalk. I only wished for it remain inside of the plastic bag I had earlier designated as a trash receptacle. I meant good by it, that I should be the good steward and stow my garbage away from the rest of decent society, to contain it properly. I needed it no more, for it promised not another drop of refreshment. But the bottle would not stay in the bag. I placed it there, g
11 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
Southern Card Declined - 070
I make my home in the Deep South. Northeast Georgia to be exact. I was born and raised here, I love our traditions, I love and respect my mama, I’m proud that there’s a church on every corner, and my rear end is plopped on the couch every Saturday in the fall because behind God and family, college football is king. Go Dawgs. BUT ….. I’m not your typical southern boy. In fact, I spend my days expecting any minute to hear a knock at the door because I’m finally getting the visit from the South-Land Authentication Authority Works, otherwise known as S.L.A.A.W. They’ll be asking me to hand over my southern card. “Ye’uns ain’t from around these parts, ere ya?” “Yes, sir. I was born and raised right here in the Peach State. I like grits!” “Oh yeah? Cooked or instant?” “Instant.” “Hand over that cahhhhhhd!” It’s true. I prefer instant grits to cooked every single time. It’s what I grew up with and I like the taste. I particularly favor the brand with the Quaker guy on the front. That alone isn’t enough to have my southern card revoked, though. I know others - others who prefer to remain nameless - who like instant grits over cooked. One little hiccup in a person’s heritage does not a traitor make. Unfortunately for me, there is a long list of things that traditionally give a southerner their stamp of approval, and I don’t match up with a lot of them. For instance … I don’t like country music. Many of us around here don’t but I get physically ill when I hear most of the stuff coming out of Nashville today. There was a time when I was quite engaged with the country music scene. I worked for two different country music radio stations and during that time in the mid-nineties, I enjoyed it. Now though, my snobbery which emerges from my distaste for poorly written lyrics and cliched creativity has me plugging my ears with closest thing to me, even if that thing is an ice pick, or a chunk of broken glass. I don’t like cornbread. (What?! Say it ain’t so!) It is very much so. I like a corn dog and I can eat my weight in hushpuppies, but don’t ask me to take a bite of an actually by golly piece of cornbread. I’ve tried. Believe me. I just can’t make myself like the texture of it alone. There’s something different about a greasy hush puppy dipped in an ungodly slop of tartar sauce. I tried dipping cornbread into tartar sauce and it’s not the same. While we’re on food, don’t offer me fish of any kind, including fried catfish, bream, or bass. (MMMM, boy! You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Them’s good eatin’.”) I know, but I’m the guy that makes it necessary to have the alternative chicken strips at every fish fry. You might be thinking, Well I don’t have chicken at MY fish fries. And that’s fine. Just don’t invite me, because I ain’t coming. Neither me, nor my wife will eat anything that comes from the water. Again, we’ve both tried. It all tastes like fish and we hate the taste of fish. But Tilapia doesn’t have that fishy taste. Yes it does. We’ve tried it. But Mahi Mahi tastes more like chicken than fish. YOU SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES!!! And while we’re still on the topic of food, I eat my fried chicken with a fork. (Fried chicken, suh, is to be eaten with your hands.) Well, good for you. I don’t like the smell chicken flesh leaves on my fingers and it’s super hard to get that smell off. Collard greens? No thank you. Eggs. (Boy- I say BOY! Is there gon’ be anything on this list what don’t belong in the food pyramid?!) I’m starting to see your point. Other than country music so far, it’s all been about my finicky palette. Still, eggs are a staple of breakfast and I can’t stand to even smell them being cooked. I’ll eat them on occasion as long as they’re really well scrambled and have a whole block of cheese mixed into them. Otherwise, keep them away from me. Even my sister, who loves eggs, will go to the trouble to get the “wiggie” out of every egg she cracks before doing anything to it. I shouldn’t have to explain what the wiggie is, but I will, since it’s a word she made up years ago. It’s the little white stringy thing that’s always attached to the yolk. Now you know. And you’re better for it. I don’t write “Thank You” notes, or at least I haven’t in the past. I’m changing on that as I get older, but not because I think it’s the right thing to do. If you receive a gift or service from someone you won’t see face to face, sure. Of course, you should send a note of thanks. BUT, it’s just my personal opinion that if you give me a gift and I personally, to your face, with a big ol’ hug and a tear in my eye, thank you, from my mouth to your ears, then I have thanked you. I have learned the hard way that this is a hot button topic for some people. I know folks who get red hot under the collar because it’s their opinion that you should send a thank you note every time someone says bless you after you sneeze. Those people are the reason I have a stack of 20,000 of the same thank you card I bought at the bin store for a dollar. (Well, I NEVER!) I guess not, but now you have. We have our own opinions and mine is just as valuable as yours. I don’t think I need to remind you what they say about opinions anyway. I think keeping a dog on a chain is animal cruelty and if you’re caught doing it, you should be chained and left in the heat of the day, yourself. This isn’t a particularly southern thing, but I grew up seeing my share of people treat their animals this way. When I hear some redneck that just crawled out from under a rock say, It’s just a dang dog, I have to stop and ask God to help me see that person through His eyes. Why? Because my eyes in that moment, want to see that person strung upside down by their toenails and skinned like a catfish. Pets outside are fine as long as they’re taken care of and have room to run around. I’m talking about the people who think it’s okay to attach a huge, heavy chain around a dog’s neck and leave them a filthy bowl of water. I hate trucks with irrationally large tires and no muffler. I look at stuff like this from a psychological perspective. When a dude blares past me in a pickup so loud it could wake the dead and sitting jacked up so high on its tires that you just about need a ladder to get into it, my first thought is, Somebody has insecurity issues. Somebody doesn’t feel seen nor heard. Yet, for so many young boys in the south, that sort of ride is a dream. I think the same thing when a car has the radio booming so loud it rattles the windows. Give me a quiet, sensible, comfortable automobile. I have absolutely zero need to go “Mud Ridin’.” I have no use for hunting. (Them’s fighting words, boy!) Don’t get me wrong. I actually don’t have a problem with hunters who do it the right way. It’s just not for me at all. I tried it years ago when I was young. I got into it for a while and I shot a couple of deer, but since that time, I’ve changed my ideals. I don’t personally have a need to kill something with a face to be happy. Hunters who kill for food and utilize as much of the animal as possible have my respect. I believe animals were placed on earth for various reasons, and some of those reasons include supplying humans with food, shelter, clothing, and tools. But for me, while I really enjoyed the thrill of the hunt when I was into it, i would engage in that activity now with a camera instead of a gun. Not because I’m opposed to guns, but because I don’t need to help thin out the whitetail deer population. There are plenty of others around here willing to do that. So take my card, if they must. I’m more interested in being a country united. I’m southern for the most part, and I’m proud as punch about my heritage. There are just a few kinks in the chain that hangs between the posts at the Mason/Dixon line.
12 minutes | Sep 4, 2021
Twas The Night Before Dentist - 069
You want to know what having ten teeth extracted at once will do for you? It will make you long for your happy place, that’s what it’ll do for you. I’ve made no secret that I’ve had some pretty major dental issues and I’ve been transparent about it. Why hide it? It’s part of who I am. And now, my dental issues have come to a head in a way that required drastic action. I had to get a denture plate for my top teeth. In the long run, it’ll be a good thing. As a matter of fact, I’m already reaping the benefits because I now have an attractive smile, but the hours leading up to E-day were stressful. What, exactly, is E-day? That’s what I’m going to tell you about. I’m Michael Blackston. Strap yourself in if teeth-related stuff bothers you, because that’s the town we’re going to visit from my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ E-day for me was August 16, 2021. The “E” stands for “extraction”, so Extraction Day! … not a day in your calendar where you would expect to plan a cookout, or exchange gifts, or sing happy songs about the joys of getting cavities. Oh the rot in your mouth is frightfuuuullllll! Oddly enough, I trust my dentist in the area of comfort to the point that I didn’t feel a ton of trepidation about it. Maybe I just pushed the thought to the back of my mind with other topics like paying overdue taxes and asking forgiveness for buying another microphone without running it by my wife. Whatever the reason, I didn’t think about it until it started getting closer to the day. For one thing, I had already had to reschedule it once. I had made a plan with another dentist. I was still going to get the teeth extracted, but instead of a denture plate, I was going to go for the more expensive snap-in implant prosthetic plate. I told myself I was too young to have dentures, and I have a friend who got the snap-ins and loves them. Being a performer, I was concerned that I might be in the middle of an awesome rendition of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera and my teeth would fly out of my mouth unexpectedly, poking Christine Daae in the eye, and sliding down her face cartoon-like in a trail of spit and Cheezit crumbs from the snack I’d had right before the show. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for my wallet, when I went to the dentist the Friday before my first scheduled E-day to pay for everything early so I didn’t have to worry about that with a numb mouth dripping spit, and blood, and Cheezit crumbs from the snack I’d had just before the appointment, I found out that particular dental office was being run by drunk monkeys. They didn’t have anything together, so I told them to forget it. I’d go somewhere else. After talking to several people who wore regular dentures, and being assured of the quality of suction available nowadays, not to mention the expense if half that of the snap-ins, I became convinced that a regular denture plate was the way to go. So I made an appointment with a former dentist I trusted. I mention all of that to say that I was just ready to get it done, and that might have contributed to my peace before going in. As the days drew nigh, though, the reality of what I was about to have done began to hit me. Snap-ins or not, it didn’t matter. Either way, those teeth had to come out. People asked me a lot of questions the closer I got to E-day ... They gon’ put you to sleep? No. They said they’d give me gas, but to put me to sleep would be more expensive and was something I’d have to have done elsewhere. It was too many steps. Won’t insurance cover that? I don’t know. I don’t have insurance because a self-employed man with dental insurance is rare. Dental insurance for a self-employed person requires $30,000 a month and selling your soul to Satan. So they ain’t gon’ put you to sleep for that? See my answer to the first time you asked me that. And by the way, this line of questioning isn’t making me feel any better about it. Can I have one of them Cheezits? As it turned out, I didn’t even get gas. They didn’t offer it, and by the time they got through sticking me eighty times in the gums with a needle, I was numb enough that I didn’t figure I needed it. As the days wound toward August 16th, I started to think more about it. On the Sunday before it, had I not been singing on the Praise Team at church, I would have knelt down at the front and bathed in a little of that sweet altar juju. I spent the rest of that Sunday afternoon getting the requisite well wishes and folks telling mew they’d be praying for me. One theatre friend told me to Break a leg! Then it was night. The sun went behind the horizon and things began to take on that eerie feeling. It’s like watching a scary movie at noon and thinking, there’s nothing to it, then trying to go to bed later that night and hearing every crack and shift of the old wood that holds up the house. I started to realize what having ten extractions actually meant. Having ten tooth extractions at once means that someone is about to extract ten teeth out of your face at once, but it’s more than that. They’re going to then send you home with a hundred pounds of gauze because that’s how much it’s going to take to soak up everything that tends to ooze from ten gum holes where teeth used to be. What’s wrong, honey? Kayla realized I was crying. I can’t do it. I can’t go through with it. Yes you can. It’ll be over before you know it and I’ll be there with you. It’s all gonna ooze … I don’t wanna ooze! Go to your happy place. That was a good idea. I should go to my happy place in my mind where I could at least fall asleep among the things that I love. And I did. I love Christmas. Christmas is my happy place. Disney World is also my happy place, but there are too many characters walking around there sporting big, perfect teeth. I didn’t want anything to send my mind back in that direction any sooner than necessary. So, I chose Christmas as I drifted off to sleep and dreamed …… Silver bells … manger scenes … lights, and laughter, and family, and ….. Twas The Night Before Dentist Twas the night before dentist and all through my mouth Not a tooth understood what my nerves were about Preparations were made at the surgeon’s with care And tomorrow, first light, I’d lay back in the chair The children were wrestled and sent to their beds While visions of toothless me rent through their heads And mama with her phone out and me in a mask Had just settled in before morning’s bleak task When into my slumber, my mind took control And sprang into fantastic story time mode At once, I was partying, quite happy to go To the dentist and loose my teeth, row after row The celebrants danced and they played in the sun As a farewell - a send off - to the unfortunate one “It’s me!” I proclaimed with a face full of cake Why this hullabaloo? It feels more like a wake When what to my curious eyes should be brought But a fistful of strings, their attachments aloft “It’s your ride to the dentist!” said my Mother with cheer Offering me the large present of helium gear I took them suspiciously, and questioned as why I should not go by car, but instead I should fly “‘Cause BALLOONS!” She responded, then bounded away With agility not in her wheel house today She left me there standing with strings in my hand And bright rubber orbs floating high o’er the land The party continued as I took my flight Hovering just a few feet, for my weight is not light As I drifted off townward, they waved their goodbyes And I set my eyes downward for my journey was nigh First I sailed out of course and got stuck in a tree While the guests from my party stood pointing at me Away to adventure, I corrected my course For awaiting were dentures and a pie hole of sores Now needle, now mouthwash, now suction, now spit On face mask for gas, so I’ll not give one … care Through the town toward my destiny as onward I flew When suddenly a carnival appeared out of the blue Now the tree I’d encountered had popped some balloons So my flight was more labored than first I’d assumed Yet alas, what came bumbling amid all the sass Of the carnival atmosphere now come to pass But a filthy, drunk clown, stumbling toward me and he Held a crop of balloons, which then filled me with glee “I say, my good clown, might I buy them from you At a dollar apiece?” But he said, “That won’t do. You may not! They are mine!”, quoth the clown with a heave And my dream jumped ahead once he’d taken his leave What to do? What to do? I shall linger all day And be late to the dentist. “Oh, I hate clowns!”, I say But just as this freak show appeared from nowhere In an instant it disappeared into thin air What was left was the sound of a siren ablast But no sign of confusion my mind had amassed It was time to wake up, and the sound? My alarm For the hour had come to, in truth, face the storm I was oddly at peace as my wife drove me there With no hint of balloons, or drunk clowns, or the fair So I now have no teeth at the top of my mouth Only sore, bloody holes and some pain meds to tout And oh yes, there’s the denture I’m getting used to You can probably tell by the "esh" shounds I do But you’ll hear me exclaim, ere I end this tonight There just isn’t much pain, and I’m speaking alright
12 minutes | Aug 20, 2021
Getting Old Is Getting Old - 068
It’s refreshing to be able to find a place to rest from a road trip and ease my mind from the perpetual gray asphalt desert that the interstate can be. There was a time in my career when I could hit the road at 3 am and keep moving till I got where I was going, no matter how far the destination, with the exception of bathroom and food stops. But I’m getting older by the minute, and I can’t make my trips as easily without taking a break. No duh, right? Every minute that passes, you’re another minute older, Captain obvious! It’s just that I used to be able to ignore it. I can’t ignore it anymore. I seem to be falling apart - something my younger self was warned about, but I pushed away from my mind because that was in The Future … Well now I’m coming to terms with the reality that my body has its own agenda. It wants to call it quits. It’s my body’s grand scheme to rot like that bag of salad you said you were going to eat, but then threw to the back of the refrigerator and forgot about. That salad got soft. Things turned colors they weren’t intended to turn. There is a smell coming off it that causes you to make a certain kind of stink face and when you finally take it out to throw it away, you exclaim, “That’s OLD!” From Atomic Red Studios in the heart of Granite Country, I’m Michael Blackston, and while some of you might still call me a youngun at the age of 48, I‘m not feeling it anymore. Let’s get acquainted with some of the things that are flashing bright red as a great big warning sign in my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ The first thing a doctor would tell me is that my biggest issue is my diet and exercise habits, or lack thereof. Dear old doc would explain that of course I wake up feeling like Mr. Magoo after he’s been run over by a dump truck hauling a ton of broken wheelchairs and walkers. When a person goes to bed at night after eating a family sized frozen lasagna and three Little Debbie Fudge Rounds, that person will naturally wake up with the sensation that they got too close to the cars of a Tilt-A-Whirl and all of the passengers were contestants on The Biggest Loser. Add to the fact that the last time I engaged in any sort of real, regular exercise, I was unable to grow facial hair, and there’s the answer. I know I haven’t helped my cause over the years, but my body still hates me. And I think that even if I ran five miles a day and ate only tofu and broccoli, the things I’m about to mention would still be going on. Let’s start with my teeth. I’ve mentioned before what a nightmare my smile is. I could be the grinning poster boy for horror movies, but theatres would never allow it because people would be too disgusted after looking at it to buy popcorn. My teeth started crumbling in my twenties and never looked back. For a while, I was able to fix my smile with veneers. Very expensive veneers, I might add. Thanks to my dad, I was able to put off the inevitable for a while, but because my teeth have always been weak, even that decayed after a while, and now the inevitable is at the door. At this writing, I’m eight days from getting dentures. I’m still having trouble with the thought of it. It’s not the extractions of the bad teeth that are left. I can handle that. It’s the fact that I’m having to get DENTURES! At least for right now, it’s only the upper teeth that have let me down. The bottoms are getting crowns. Again, an expensive endeavor. I’ve always been a singer, and that’s what I’m most worried about. I haven’t know anything but singing since I was four or five years old. I recently had an … episode … while I was traveling and had too much time to think while the gray desert loomed ahead of me. I began to think about what life would be like if my new upper plate restricted me from singing or speaking. I love my visual art, but if you asked me which activities mean the most to me, it wil be first leading worship at church, followed by performing on stage. And guess what? DING DING DING! You guessed it! Both of those things involve me using my big ol’ loud mouth. And that’s not to mention the fact that I hope to start a speaking ministry when I get my teeth situated, or that I’d like to continue voice work like this podcast, recording audio books, and doing voice overs. I won’t be able to do any of that as effectively if I sound like I have an enormous, unwieldy, apparatus in my mouth because I have an enormous, unwieldy apparatus in my mouth. So I freely admit that I had … an episode … while driving alone in my truck. As I noodled it through, and imagined myself in front of the congregation at church, sounding like Sylvester the cat, I started to lose it. It sounded something like this: “Noooo, God! No, God, Please no, no! No! NOOOOOOO!!!!” After that I cried a little and pled … pleaded? Pledded? I pledded with God not to make my speech and singing a huge, mushy mess of spit and incoherent babbling. Here’s the good news, and I swear this isn’t a joke. This happened. Immediately after that, I realized I needed to pee, so I pulled onto the next exit and while I sat idle in my car, I felt led to do a search on YouTube for Singing with dentures. And after I fixed the autocorrect, which wanted to help me search for videos about Stinking Wig Dennis, I found a video that lifted my spirits. I think I was pointed there by God. It was by a beautiful young woman who was a singer who wears a full set of dentures, both top and bottom. And they’re not implants. They’re actual dentures. First, I noticed that she’s beautiful and the teeth look great. But then she said so many people who are aware of her dental issues have asked her if it affects her singing, so the whole video was made to set their minds at ease. She sang a few verses from a Christian song I happen to love, and she sounded amazing! She said she had not been affected at all. Now, I realize that’s not the case for everyone, and I fully expect a period of getting used to speaking around mine and during that time, I may very well sound to t he congregation like there’s a Pharisee hiding out in my mouth, purposefully trying to make me unintelligible. But now I have hope. If I’m meant to lead worship, God will make a way for it and I’m content with that. Teeth aren’t my only bane. I have a back that used to be stronger. I could do a hundred sit-ups at one time in my life. However, a few months ago, I decided that I needed to tighten my abs, but I was in a hotel room and had only the floor to aid me. I laid a towel on the floor to act as a barrier between my body and all manner of filth that lives and thrives in the carpet of a hotel room. Not creating a barrier between you and them is asking for trouble. You want a Pharisee in your mouth? Because that’s how you get a Pharisee in your mouth. I prepared myself that since it had been quite a while between now and the last time i did a real sit-up, there might be a hint of resistance. But there wasn’t a hint of resistance. When I tried to perform the sit-up, there was all out maniacal laughter from my back region. Exercise hoity-toities call that your Core. My Core was mean to me. HAHAHAHAHAHA! You thought you were going to get up from this position without being creative, much less perform even one measly sit-up? What were you thinking, my naive friend? How old are we now? Eighty? Feels like we’re eighty if I’m being honest. Dude, you might even have to call for help to get up at all. OOPS! You left your cell phone WAAAAY up over there on the counter at the sink and you got to know that hotel phone is CRAWLING with Pharisees! HAHAHAHA! You’re stuck! HAHAHAHAAAAAA!!! Yeah, I couldn’t do a single sit-up. Since then, I’ve slowly remedied that and my core is a tad stronger, enough that I can do a few sit-ups, but starting a finicky pups mower is a whole different story. I woke up one morning a few weeks ago barely able to walk and I couldn’t figure out what I’d done to my stupid “CORE”. It got better after a few agonizing days, but I did it again a couple of weeks later, and I recognized the pattern. On both occasions, I’d insisted that the push mower would start if I just yanked on the string long and hard enough. Neither time worked, but both times saw me waking up the next morning feeling like the victim of a Grizzly Bear in rut with bad eyesight. I realized where I had made the Faux Pas. And the sight in my right eye is still bad from the attack of the Shingles I endured back in March of 2020. It got into that eye and blurred everything out. I hoped it would clear up after a while, but not so. It’s not as bad by the end of the day, but again, first thing in the morning, I can’t see much at all and that’s not great for someone who makes their living as a visual artist. I’m already nearsighted in the other eye, but for now I can see clearly enough from my one good eye to do my work. Someone asked me to describe the effect from the Shingle Eye. I said it’s like a Grizzly Bear with bad eyesight is in rut and is having an epic battle with a Pharisee in the middle of a snowy field. They kick up all that snow and that’s what I see in the morning. The maladies tally like the list of food items at the world’s largest buffet. Shoulder pain that flares up when thar’s a storm a-comin’. Pale, pigmentless skin that combusts when exposed to the sun and the scars that remain come in the form of cancers. My hearing has been leaving me for some time. You generally have to say everything to me twice. I had a fungus once that left my big toe permanently yellow. I mentioned the teeth, there’s, and the back. Type 2 Diabetus. Tinnitus. Which occurs as occasional ringing in my ears and I’m frequently able to hear my pulse in my head when I’m laying just right. I have a few skin tags. I call them my Love Dangles. My fi
10 minutes | Aug 13, 2021
My Jesus Shirt - 067
The older I get, the more I realize Mama was right … Your mouth can get you in trouble. Actually, the older I get, the more I realize Mama was right about a whole lot of things, and I try to implement the lessons I’ve learned as much as I possibly can. Take my chickens, for example. They’re always hatched before I count them. Well, they’re mostly hatched. My chickens are sometimes hatched before I count them. On occasion. Occasionally, I will wait to count only the hatched chickens. Once in a blue moon. Maybe it’s obvious I’m hard headed. And I have a mind that doesn’t always run my words through a filter, so I have to be careful about what comes out of my mouth. That’s why I have a shirt that I bought at the World of Wally to help me remember who I am. I’m a Christian and I should behave like one. My shirt says Team Jesus across the chest. When I’m wearing it, I feel like I’m getting a little extra mental discernment before I speak because people can see before I open my pie hole, what they ought to expect from me. But it can have its disadvantages too, and that’s the subject of this episode. From Atomic Red Studios in Northeast Georgia, I’m Michael Blackston and this is Funny Messy Life. _________________________ "So if you’re a Christian, what are the disadvantages of wearing a Jesus shirt?" It’s just what I said … People have immediate expectations based on what they know about Jesus. The word “Christian” actually means, Little Christ. We’re supposed make our best efforts to represent that name and His teaching. We are to try to be as much like Jesus as we can. I believe a person’s best witness is how they are seen in the eyes of other people. So, if you’re mouthy, like I am, and if you have a hard time filtering your thoughts before you spit them out MO-ron style, like I do, it can set a bad example if you’re misbehaving while wearing a shirt with Jesus brandished across the chest. Yes, it does help me to think more deeply about how I behave, but when I DO mess up, there I am with the name of the Son of God emblazoned for all to see. It’s a good thing, but it can be dangerous if you’re not careful. I know what I should and shouldn’t do or should and shouldn’t say according to my belief system, but I’m not perfect. There’s going to be something that I stumble over and somebody else might see that and start thinking, Not only is he a MO-ron, but he’s a hypocritical MO-ron. That doesn’t mean I’m going to play it safe though, and not wear my Team Jesus shirt. I have faith and it’s a discipline I need in my life anyway. It doesn’t escape me, however, that this would be a really boring piece if I left it there sitting in a puddle of psychological self-awareness and potential piety. Instead, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking, Michael, please give me an example. There MUST be some situations you can think of - some mental packet of mayonnaise you could squeeze onto the meat of this sweet, sweet literary burger. And you’d be right. In fact, that’s a good place to start. With condiments. Imagine I walk into a dingy diner where the walls are covered with people’s names written in Sharpie. This place has been a staple of this tiny town in the middle of Alabama since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I deem this land the property of England and I shall endeavor to befriend the natives, teaching them the proper way to live and also the way to die if they don’t agree to the way I teach them to to live. And also, if I want what they have, but they refuse to give me it. I shall teach them how to die then as well. But first, we shall build dingy diners so fellow sojourners might scribe their names onto the walls with their quills whilst dipping fried potatoes into a paste deriven from the tomato plant! There’s no such word as “deriven”, sir. I claim it for England! What if I would like to dip MY fried potatoes into a paste made from the tomato plant, but when I go to tear a small corner of the packet, it catches a seam and rips all the way down the side? Don’t you even try to tell me that’s never happened to you and you know how aggravating it is. I’m wearing my Team Jesus shirt though, and while my initial reaction is to become angry because everything I’ve touched today has either fallen, broken, or rolled under the most impossible crevice, and now THIS, I can’t scream at the top of my lungs. CURSE YOU, UNWIELDY KETCHUP PACKET! THINE STRAW BE THE LAST! I have to think about Who I represent and act calmly. My rage must be contained in that moment. If I’m to say anything at all, it will have to be along the lines of, I forgive thee, imperfect packet. I shall try another. Or in the event that I have to text something important to someone, but due to the fact that I have short, stubby, sausage fingers, I keep misspelling everything. I’ll immediately want to throw my phone at the wall and declare, VILE DEVICE! HOW SMALL IS THY KEYBOARD! SUCH THAT MINE DIGITS DENY THEIR RIGHTLY POSITIONS! A PALL UPON THY MAKER AND SHALL THEE SUFFER ETERNALLY HENCEFORTH! But nay. That’s not nice. Anger is sometimes warranted, but it’s my own pudgy fingers that are to blame. I think about my shirt and I’m moved to adjust my thinking before I speak. How I wish my fingers and your keyboard were fairly met, dear phone. Verily, I say that it is not your fault. I shall pick up the pieces of you that have shattered to the floor from your contact with the wall, and I shall weep over you. We shall meet again on the other side in the new contract I’ll have to sign now because I have behaved poorly. Obviously in this example, I didn’t catch the initial rage in time and I would have to repent if it were real. I would have to look down at my shirt in shame. Michael, I think you’re being little over-the-top. No one is going to expect you to walk on water just because your shirt says “Jesus”. True. No one will expect that, nor would I want them too. Still, we live in an age where you can’t blow a gasket and expect it to be forgotten as soon as it happens. There is the potential that your poor decision to flip off the guy who cut in front of you will find its way to the internet, and if you have a Jesus bumper sticker on your car and it’s the guy behind you filming, you’ve just made all of us look bad. People judge with big blankets, so if we claim to represent a certain way of thinking, then act in a manner counter to that, most people will cast a stinky eye toward the whole lot. I didn’t say it was right, but it’s the way people are. In light of that, it wouldn’t do for me to walk into a pot shop in Colorado wearing my Team Jesus shirt and holler, Gimme the FATTEST doobie ya got! I don’t smoke anything, of course, and especially not pot. I’ve never had occasion to request a fat doobie. In fact, other than this piece, you’re likely never to witness me use the term again, unless it’s squashed between the bookends of the words Scooby and Doo. But if I did do something like that and you were there, purchasing your own fat doobie (there I go again, saying the word, doobie), which is legal to do in the state of Colorado, wouldn’t you cast a tiny bit of judgement in my direction? I think you would, if we’re all being as honest as Abe here. I understand what my weaknesses are. I’ve let my mouth get me in trouble since I started talking. It’s nice to have something extra on me every once in a while to sit there in the back of my mind, saying, I know you want to want to avoid that person in the store that won’t stop talking once you let them get started, but you’re supposed to be a representative of Christ. It says so right there on your chest. Certainly you didn’t put on that shirt and expect you could act any silly old way, did you? Now get over there. She might want to tell you all of the gory details of her bunion problems, but she also might NEED to tell someone about it. Lend her your ear, Christian. There’s even a blessing in it for you. I know listeners might think I take my belief in Jesus lightly, but I promise that’s not the case at all. I simply have a solid inclination that God has a great sense of humor and appreciates a good laugh. Seriously though, I do pay a little closer attention to the way I behave and treat people when I’m wearing that shirt. It’s not that it gives me more power, but it’s sort of the same thing as people touching a cross they have around their neck in a difficult situation. It’s not a talisman, but a reminder of who I proudly am. I’m a child of The King, that’s who I am. I don’t need T-shirt to tell me that. But it doesn’t hurt.
18 minutes | Aug 6, 2021
Take This Job And Shove It - 066
Today, I’ll tell you that I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m blessed to get to do what I do for a living, and although the road getting here was long and winding, frequently taking turns onto dark and unfamiliar lanes, I can definitely track God’s plan. Some of those lanes got bumpy though, and those were never long. I’m going to tell you about a road along my career path that only lasted a couple weeks, and one that only lasted a few months, but both share a single common fact … I was not cut out for them. I’m Michael Blackston and at the time of this writing, the country is going through a new pandemic called an employee shortage, which is what prompted me to tell you a few new stories about my own work history during my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Like I said, at this writing, the United States has a huge problem. Nobody wants to work because they’re getting free unemployment money from the government. There are two types of people in this scenario … Those who are willing to work because they can and have enough integrity, self-worth, and, by glory, intelligence to know that a society needs its people to pull their weight. Those who COULD work, but instead will ride this wave of political stupidity, with their lips suckled firmly around the government teat, as long as their fat, lazy, sorry, no-good, trashy selves can ……… not that I’m judging. I do understand that there are those who legitimately require government assistance to survive for whatever reason. I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about the mush-brained, crawled out from under a rock, scum of the earth, pond scum that have no excuse, and have brought the country to a halt because they refuse to go back to work until they have to. They know who they are, and they don’t care. But that’s not even what I wanted to talk about here. And now that my rant is over, I can get back to the stories that are adorable little islands in the middle of Lake Me. The problem with my work history is that I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, I’ve always wanted to work for myself, largely because I get a lot more done when I’m the boss of me than when someone else is the boss of me. That’s why until I found etching, I never stayed at one place for more than 2 years. I can’t remember for sure, but that might be the amount of time I worked for the Walmart portrait studio in the mid 1990s. It wasn’t the worst job I ever had, but I didn’t really enjoy it, especially when it came to the selling part. I was working there when I got married and I began to think that I needed to make more of an income than the weekly block of cheap, moldy cheese and half bag of oats it felt like that job paid me. My stepdad was working for a motorcycle place in town and there was an opening, so he put in a good word for me. It was all commission sales, but the potential to make a better income was there, so I took the opportunity and quit blowing bubbles to make babies smile. It was also nice to not have to take the same photos every month for a woman that kept coming in to try and get headshots, but always made this wide-eyed extreme face like Dracula if you open his coffin in the daylight and he’s naked. There was an inherent problem with me selling motorcycles, though. For one to adequately and effectively sell motorcycles, it helps to actually know something about motorcycles. I mean even one thing would be nice. I knew then, and pretty much still do now, exactly zero things about motorcycles. I think they’re cool and all, but I’m afraid of them. Moreover, I’m afraid of the lack of respect a lot of other drivers have for them. When a potential customer came in and I had to try to sell them this metal horse with the potential of untold power they could wield under them, I had nothing to give. Actually, the power was very much told. I just didn’t know the details. And the customer could tell it immediately. That job was horrible for me because I realized at that moment in my life that in order for somebody to be the best salesperson they can be, there must be at least the slightest interest and belief in the thing they’re trying to sell. On top of the skyscraper of cards stacked against me the very second I first walked through the doors, was the personality of the owner. He was from New York, or New Jersey. I can’t recall which, but he had the accent to go with it, and the countenance. I love my northern brethren. I think we can learn a lot from each other, but just as there is a difference between a Good ol’ boy, a Redneck, and Inbred Mouth Breathers, there are levels of culture above the Mason-Dixon Line. There are Those Who Hail From The North, there are Yankees, and there are DANG Yankees. If you’re in the category of Those Who Hail From The North, You’ll typically visit the southern states with some respect. If your ways are of interest to one of us, you’ll gladly explain it in a mutual dance of culturally enlightening gooeyness. The plain old Yankee has good intentions, but from to time, will forget that they’ve entered a realm where the southern drawl is as thick and syrupy as the sugar in our tea. They have a difficult time getting their heads around the fact that Grit isn’t just a sandy kind of substance that gets between your toes when you’re walking barefoot, but also a term for a starch that can be served on a plate in a myriad of delicious ways. Still, they get that it’s an “us” thing and they can leave it off their order. The Dang Yankee doesn’t care that you have your own culture in a particular region. They think you should be throwing parties because they finally deemed you worthy of coming to your area to teach you savages the ways of the intelligent man. He scoffs at your attempts to say hello, even if you don’t know him. He sneers at your grits on the menu and makes snide comments about them to the serving staff. He calls you names like, Yokel, Idiot, and In-bred Mouth Breather. He’s not always wrong, but he also doesn’t keep it to himself. He wants to bring his culture down here and burn yours to the ground like Sherman marching to the sea. The word “Dang” might be replaced with a variety of more colorful words depending on the culture level of the person saying it. This guy was a caricature in every sense of the word. He was a Dang Yankee. When somebody who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the breadbasket of New York culture, they send to go with the loud, neurotic Italian persona, and this guy hit that mark to the hilt. Remember when I said I don’t like to be “bossed”? I don’t like to be bossed. This guy was the owner, so he had the right and obligation to boss me, but he took it to a whole different level, or at least different from what we’re used to here in the south. He took it to Dang Yankee level. Allow me to dramatize a particular scene that really happened. And this will be nearly word for word. (The scene opens with Michael bent low beside a motorcycle, polishing the chrome. He is alone in the store, except for a couple of other employees. There are no customers either inside, or outside. I repeat, there are NO customers. The boss enters the showroom and, without slowing pace as he heads toward the door to leave, shouts to Michael.) BOSS. Hey, Mike! How’s about you sell somethin’? MIKE. There are no customers either inside, or outside. I repeat, there are NO customers! BOSS. I don’t wanna hear excuses. Sell somethin’! (End scene) That happened and that was his mentality. It was something to that effect every day, so after a few months of working for a man who thought he was The Godfather, and making little to no money, I left for the golden promise of fortune in the loan business. I tell all about that in episode 23, titled The Loan Man. I just don’t do well with management that refuses to be logical. I can handle a competent boss. I worked for a little under a year as a locksmith under a boss who loved his employees and treated us like family. He died recently, and I didn’t know it until well after the funeral. It’s a shame. I liked to go back into the shop every once in a while just to say hello. I did have one bad experience that turned into a tasty bite of You Get What You Deserve sandwich. There was a tiny independent fast food restaurant where I lived called, Katherine’s Kitchen. Back in the day, it was famous for its fresh, made from scratch biscuits. There were a couple of ladies in the back that cooked them, and there was some kind of special southern ju-ju they put into the dough. They were amazing biscuits, and people lined up to order. A normal morning was busy, and it always took someone on the outside walking from car to car taking orders so they didn’t get backed up. But I on Saturday mornings during college football season when the Clemson Tigers were the home team, the line was all the way out of the drive way and into the road, and it stayed that way for hours. Saturday mornings at Katherine’s Kitchen would have given a Chick-fil-A crew a run for its money. I had worked there for a week, so I was still a rookie, when I met a certain manager for the first time. He’d been on vacation when I started, and I had already worked one Saturday morning shift. My first day meeting him was on a Friday. We did not hit it off. He was a sloppy, ignorant, loudmouth of a guy, who must have been extremely insecure around me, because he wasted no time throwing his considerable weight around. Nothing he said to me was in a kind way. He didn’t even behave like a drill sergeant who runs you hard because he’s honing you like steel on steel. No, this guy was a belligerent blowhard who had someone under his authority and he liked to be a bully. I took it for the first day, but dreaded going in t
11 minutes | Jul 29, 2021
The Ugly Dutchling - 065
I’ve been toying with some ideas about new kinds of stories to tell you. Originally, I thought I could get listeners to send in tales about their own funny, messy, lives because, let’s face it, I’m getting older, but I haven’t lived forever. I’m gonna eventually hit a wall and there won’t be much left to tell about my life. I’m starting to see that wall in the distance and I’m not ready to stop running my mouth. Pair that with the fact that nobody seems to want me to tell their stories and I have to start figuring out where my content is gonna come from in the long run. Then it hit me … every town in the world, from the biggest to the smallest, has interesting stories. I don’t want to dive into folklore too much - the podcast LORE by Aaron Menke does that just fine already. I don’t want to give an interesting history in the lives of famous people - the podcast The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe accomplishes that extremely well, thank you very much, and Mike’s got one of those amazing, deep voices that’s so buttery, Paula Deen would toss it in one of her recipes if she could. I recommend both of those podcasts highly, by the way, and I never miss an episode. But I realize that I could tell interesting stories whenever I come across them that seem to be at the heart of a place, and I came to that realization when I found myself reading a pamphlet from my own hometown, Elberton Georgia. It’s a story rich with history, brotherhood, southern pride, and some drunken shenanigans peppered in. This is the story of Dutchy. I’m Michael Blackston and while it might not be my own tale, it is a good one to tell about my own hometown’s Funny, Messy, Life. If you know anyone who works in the granite monument business, ask them if they’ve heard about a small town in Northeast Georgia who claims to be The Granite Capital of the World. They’ll say you’re talking about Elberton, Ga, named after Samuel Elbert, whose grave you can find in one of the famous old cemeteries in Savannah. We believe ourselves to be the number one supplier of granite in the world and if you argue about it, well … them’s fightin’ words. Sometimes people will ask how our little town got involved in the monument industry in the first place, and the story might surprise you. It starts, oddly enough, with an ugly, squat statue that everybody hated from the moment they laid eyes on it. It was 1908. His name is Dutchy. That wasn’t his name, originally. He didn’t have a name, originally. He got his name the way a lot of us have - meanness and the need people feel to put words to an emotion. Some kids get tagged with nicknames like, Stinky, Booger, Slim, or Back Seat Bertha … Dutchy got his name because of the way he looked. Those details are on their way. The American Civil War had ended 30 years earlier and the Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to erect a monument to the Confederate dead. I’m not really sure what Elberton did before then, but I’m pretty sure a lot of folks plowed the land, farmed the land, and made babies on the land. The monument industry wasn’t even a blip on the radar, which hadn’t been invented yet, so maybe I should change that to The monument industry wasn’t even a footnote in the Farmer’s Almanac. Anyway, when the Daughters of the Confederacy moved on getting the monument made, the first granite finishing plant in Elberton was created for that purpose alone. Later, that finishing plant would stay in business and become the first in a succession of granite sheds that dot Elberton’s landscape like God was holding a bunch of sheds in His hands because He wanted to carry them all into the house without having to make two trips, but there were too many, and He dropped a few in North east Georgia. A sculptor was commissioned to carve a statue out of the gray granite that runs forever under our feet. If you’ve ever heard of Stone Mountain just outside of Atlanta, it might interest you that what that huge piece of rock amounts to is an obnoxiously large boulder poking through the earth. It’s a piece of granite. The vein that it rises from runs all the way under our town a couple of hours away. We happen to sit right on top of probably the richest section of it. Apparently, the sculptor they hired, being Italian and unable to google American Civil War, didn’t know much about how a confederate soldier was supposed to look and did what my teenage son would call a ratchet job. I understand “ratchet” means bad nowadays, and not necessarily a tool I can never find the right bit for. The citizens didn’t like it one dang bit and they named him “Dutchy” because they said he was squat, ugly, and wore the uniform of the heathen north. They claimed he looked more like a Dutchman than a God-fearing’ Confederate soldier. In those days, it wouldn’t do to dress your statue like a soldier that wasn’t God-fearin’, and worse to make him look like he ain’t from around heeyah! That’s why it didn’t take long before the local children were calling him names and pointing at him as they pushed their wheels with sticks through the town square. It’s said that people would throw rotten vegetables at him and that old men would give him Whut Fer with their eyes as they passed. Poor Dutchy. He didn’t ask to look the way he did. The world was still as politically incorrect as it could possibly be. There was definitely no one who had yet “woken” so they could tell us all how we have a right to our own opinions as long as our opinions jive with theirs. He was the victim of the ultimate bullying situation. The whole town was against him. And it was about to get worse. One night, when some of the young men had been drinking heavily, once of them started up some meanness about Dutchy. I feel like what I should do here is develop a scene for you. It’s what could have possibly been the conversation that led up to the disaster that happened to Dutchy later that night. I’ll take my best stab at what that might have sounded like. (Scene: A dingy side bar right off the town square. The tables are made of wood. The chairs are wooden. The spoons and forks … wood. The teeth of the waitress … also wood. A group of men sit at two tables next to each other. They all smell of dirt, granite dust, watered down beer, and barn animals. Man 1 stands up.) MAN 1. Yankees! I hate me a Yankee! CROWD. YEAH! MAN 1. We’d have won the war if’n that yella belly, Lilly-livered so and so had’na signed that paper at Appomattox! CROWD. YEAH!! MAN 2. I shore wish they’s sump’n we could do about it. CROWD. YEAH!!! MAN 1. Whut if’n I told ya thar IS sump’n we can do about it. CROWD. Yeah? MAN 1. Yeah. Thar’s one of ‘em standin’ on a pedestal right over yonder. He’s an ugly cuss, boys! Looks like a dang Dutchman what don’t fear the Lord and I thank it’s high time he got whut’s comin’ to him. CROWD. YEAH!!!! MAN 1. Whaddya say, boys? Wanna pull him down and bury him? CROWD. YEAH!!!!! MAN 1. Wanna drink some more beer before we do?! CROWD. YEAH!!!!!!!!! (BUURRRPPP!) In the dark of night, a group of severely drunk townsmen got some rope and lassoed the statue around the neck. A few of them hollered, Yee-HAWWWW! A few more threw up in the bushes. Before pulling the statue down, they dug a pit at the base of the pedestal where Dutchy stood and when it was ready, they all grabbed a part of the ropes. There was laughter and merriment by the ones who pulled, and triumphant shouts of victory. The south will rise again! Long live the Confederacy! Thar IS a God, ya heathen Dutchman! The ones over at the bushes had now passed out, so they wouldn’t remember a thing come morning. Dutchy came toppling down into the grave that had been dug for him, his legs breaking apart from his torso as he hit the ground. The drunk men replaced the dirt into the grave and went their ways, becoming a unique part of Elberton history. I remember my mom driving me and my sister to the square one afternoon in April of 1982. The memory is foggy and broken, a memories become over a span of forty years, but the right pieces are there. “What are they doing, mama?” There was big equipment at the base of the memorial that had replaced Dutchy after he was brought down. A crowd had gathered, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody was drunk. “They’re digging up an old statue. It was there before the one you see now.” We watched for a while and then moved on, recoding this piece of history into our “Where were you on the day …” memory banks. The town officials hired the proper people to dig him up and give him a bath. The once pristine gray granite was caked with a century’s worth of red Georgia clay. And now he resides in his own room at the Granite Museum about a mile away from where he was buried. He gets the respect he deserves now, and if you’d like to get a look at him yourself, there’s plenty about him if you search online for “Dutchy Elberton”. You can even find a photo of the square when he was unveiled in 1908. But if you’re close by, take a side trip into Elberton and visit the museum. We’re awful proud of Dutchy now. He’s sort of an unsung hero around here. I’m sure he’d be happy to make your acquaintance and have a little company. He might not look like much, but you can’t keep a good man down forever. Live on, Dutchy.
17 minutes | Jul 24, 2021
Bad Decisions - 064
As a whole, I’m happy about how my life has turned out so far. Hopefully, there is plenty more left of my story, but you never can tell. We live second by second, and minute by minute. I first learned about life in that context through Rick Springfield’s epic eighties ditty, Love Is Alright Tonight from his Working Class Dog album. That album is one of the things in my life I do not regret. My sister and I sang that song at the tops of our lungs while the LP played on her stereo before karaoke was a thing, and those are happy memories. The pattern on life’s wallpaper is not always pleasing, though. Sometimes you sit back in your chair, staring at the stains and faded designs that mark the walls of your life and you think, “That part wasn’t pretty. Or smart. Or made any sense at all, you complete moron.” It’s the complete moron marks of my history that I want to talk about now. The ones that were made in permanent marker. You can’t erase them because if you could, there wouldn’t be anything there to remind you not to be that stupid ever again. From Atomic Red studios in the heart of the Deep South where God would have placed Eden to begin with if it hadn’t been so stinkin’ hot in the summer, I’m Michael Blackston and these are things NOT to do that I’ve learned during my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ Starting from earliest to most recent, I will tell you a couple of things I’ve learned never to do, ever, for the love of all that is pure and holy, ever. Maybe you have the stomach of a goat. Perhaps your bowels are able to tolerate things like the Carolina Ghost Pepper, the mayonnaise at a county fair, and dudes over 30 singing emo music, without it putting your body in a state of incapacity. If that’s you, then congratulations. Enjoy the fair and grab yourself a turkey leg right before getting on The Scrambler. In fact,,,,,,, that reminds me of a disgusting thing that happened to my while riding The Tilt-A-Whirl with my cousin who did stupidly stupid things with me. And now I’ve made a note in my Stories-To-Tell app for this podcast/Blog/thingy. I don’t have that kind of intestinal fortitude, though. I can hold my own under normal circumstances, but when you introduce conflicting delicacies from the culinary world, as delicious as they may be separately, or in concert with their kind, my body will protest. It will say, “Nay! Thou shalt not combine these two things, you complete moron!” I found this out the hard way when I was somewhere around 18 or 19 years old. Part of the issue i have, being mildly Obessive Compulsive, is that everything has to balance. I’m uncomfortable with odd numbers, so as a younger man, it never occurred to me that I could eat just one of anything and make it out of the day alive. Enter my mom’s burgers, fried on the stove, greasy and perfect. I always ate two of them covered in two slices of cheese each, and lousy with mayonnaise. On this evening, I remained true to my ritual, but it was also the Christmas season and my mom had bought some eggnog at the grocery store. I love eggnog. I don’t much care for eggs prepared by themselves in any way, except for scrambled, and even then there better be a 2 to 1 cheese to egg ration. I’m cool with them as an ingredient, though. If I can’t taste the edginess of it all, it’s fine. I especially like it as a nog. And being that I wanted to enjoy some nog as a postlude to my cheeseburger feeding frenzy, and being mildly Obsessive Compulsive, I down two large glasses of the stuff immediately following supper. It didn’t happen for a while. It would have been nice if my stomach had given me some notice so I could mentally prepare myself for what was to come … Hey, buddy! I don’t want to alarm you ‘er nothin’, but later, you’re gonna regret what you just did there. I’m just giving you a heads up because this isn’t going to be a minor inconvenience. Nossir, this here is gonna be something you’ll tell your grandkids about. It’s going to be so bad that you will beg God to take you home to sweet ol’ Beulah Land because my friend, you’re gonna feel like you’re absolute hell. Alrighty then. We good? Great! That’s not how it went down, though. I went to sleep happy. I fell asleep quickly, and dreamt of frolicking with beautiful teenage Sugarplum fairy girls. We kissed and fawned all over each other while eating the biggest, greasiest cheeseburgers to be found in Sugarplum Land. And between our soft smooches, we sipped eggnog from the blossoms of candy roses. But you what it’s like when you dream. Things can turn fast. My beautiful fairy glided her delicate hand along my cheek, but didn’t stop there. It made its way past my neck to my chest, moving downward, and stopped on my stomach. In a flash, the delicate hand transformed into a cheeseburger fist, only the cheese pour from between the buns was made of broken glass and rusty nails. She sank her burger fist deep into my belly and the pain was terrible, like having the Super Bowl firmly in your grasp, then the coaching staff deciding NOT to run the clock out and letting the other team come back from a 28-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat you. Actually, no. When that happened to my Falcons, I think that was worse than the fairy with the cheeseburger fist full of glass and nails. When I felt the pain, I looked into the eyes of my beloved teenage fairy. (It’s okay to write this because I hadn’t met my wife yet, and if I had, it would have probably been her in the dream and we never would have gotten married because, well … cheeseburger fist.) Her whole face had changed from the fantasy of my good dreams, into an evil, grotesque creature of my nightmares. She grinned from ear to ear in a smile that stretched impossibly the full width of her face. Her teeth were wedges of rotten pickle and she drooled rancid county fair mayonnaise from the corners of her lips. Her wild eyes had grown enormous with insanity and the delight of what she was doing to me, and she began to cry happy tears that looked curiously like thick tendrils of eggnog. I woke from the dream enduring the worst pain in my gut I’d ever experienced. It felt like I was a man having a baby. I thought maybe I was. Somehow I’d been impregnated by my dream fairy/ogre and I was about to deliver a demon child with cheeseburgers for hands. I made my way slowly into the hall towards the bathroom, propping against the wall with my hand to keep myself upright. I looked down at the floor at one point to make sure my eggnog hadn’t broken, and finally made it to the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. I sat on the toilet just as the worst surge of pain so far erupted in my bowels. I tried not to scream and wake up my parents, and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up on the floor between the toilet and the sink. My mom was pounding on the door, calling my name. “Michael, are you alright? Answer me! I heard a huge crash in there.” I came to my senses just enough to answer her. “Don’t worry. It’s just gas.” Since that night, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what the volume of the food comes to, if I eat even one greasy cheeseburger and chase it with any sort of dairy product, I’m going to get the same result. My fairy demon will return to me in my sleep and stab me with her meat hands. Five or six years later, I found myself working an overnight shift at a large market, 100,000 watt powerhouse radio station in Greenville, SC. I’d been there for a few months, so I knew where they kept all the goodies, like CDs to give away, T-shirts, coozies with the station logo, and products that had been given to the station by sponsors. It was good thing that I knew where to look when I found myself trying to take phone calls from drunk listeners and at the same time, nursing the worst headache I’d ever had. “WESC this is Mike.” “Hey, buddy! How about playin’ that Achin’ Breakin’ Heart song by Rilly Bay Sarce?” I’ve noticed that nothing good usually follows a guy starting his sentence with, “Hey, buddy!” “I don’t think I recognize that one. Who am I talking to? What’s your name?” “Puddin’ Tame! PBBBBTHHHHH HA HA HA! Hey, buddy … hey! My old lady loves that song and I’m tryin’ to get her goin’. You know what I mean?” “Oh, you mean the one by the guy whose little girl is going to win everybody’s heart on the Disney Channel one day, then lose everybody’s lunch for them a few years later by acting a fool. I tell ya what … I’ll try to get that on for ya.” That’s what we always told people who insisted on us playing requests when we weren’t allowed to play requests. I’ll try to get that on for ya! Anyway, that’s the kind of thing I was dealing with while my head felt like it was being beaten senseless by Miley Cyrus’s microphone. Luckily for me, I remembered the goodie supply. Actually I remembered the GOODYS supply. We played spots fort he popular headache powder, and they had sent us a thousand year supply of the stuff. There was a case of it in the cabinets above the coffee pot. I’d taken GOODYS before, so I knew it was fast acting, and would hopefully take the edge off of my headache. I went and got me a pack. I sat back down in front of the control board. The song that was playing was about to end … something by Toby Keith, or Reba McEntire maybe, and I went live to introduce the next song and tease the weather before I took my medicine. Oh God, let me live long enough to get through this so I can take the GOODYS as soon as the next song starts. “92.5 WESC - Good Times and Great Country. It’s gonna be wet for the remainder of the weekend, but don’t worry. I’ll give you the forecast and
12 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
Questions For God - 063
I don’t want to be one of those old men that constantly gripe about stuff because I’m just generally mad. I like to think I have a positive outlook most of the time, but I’m no different from anybody else in that I have my days. Even when I’m putting together a piece for the podcast, I at least give it an honest shot at putting a light, humorous spin on things if I’m complaining. There are some things though, that no matter how happy I’m feeling at the moment, no matter how full of flavor my crunch berries were that morning, no matter how much Ram I currently have in my Rama Lama Ding Dong, I will always hate them with every tiny, sinuous fiber of my being. I’m going to tell you what those things are and why, even though I respect and fear God to the uttermost, I’ll have a few questions for Him when I get to Heaven. From Atomic Red Studios in the Granite Capitol of the World, I’m Michael Blackston, and this is a thought provoking episode of Funny Messy Life _________________________ (The following is a pre-enactment. It’s how I think things are gonna go down once I’m comfortably in my heavenly mansion, which is inside a 24 hour Krispy Kreme, and God drops by to see how I’m settling in.) (Cue the music.) (There’s a knock at the door.) ME: Who is it? GOD: It’s God. (Pause) I’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty. (God howls with laughter.) Not really. (Longer pause.) It IS really God, though. I saw that the light was on. ME: OH! Sorry! Come in. GOD: This is niiiiice. You know, I’ve always remembered fondly on the day I created the doughnut, but all anybody ever appreciates is that chicken place. And they don’t even know how to spell “chicken”, ha! ME: I for one, am a fan of the doughnut. I’m glad You made that happen. GOD: Well, I saw that it was good. ME: God, can I ask You a question? GOD: Sure. ME: Promise you won’t get mad. Because I don’t mean any disrespect; I’m just curious. GOD: I’m not mad now, Am I? I already know what you want to ask Me anyway. ME: You do? How … ? Oh, yeah. The conversation will continue over fresh glazed doughnuts and coffee … (sorry Mormons, but God drinks coffee), and he answers my questions satisfactorily. Because He has His reason for everything; I just won’t understand them entirely until I get up there. With that in mind, I’m going to post the questions and answer them with the explanation that I believe, in my imperfect flesh, might be God’s reasoning. And because God has a cameo in this episode, and He already knows what my questions are, I’ll let Him ask them for me. Question #1. GOD: Mosquitoes are food for bats, but fire ants? What’s that about? Fire ants are a direct punishment for God for the fall of man when Adam and Eve bit that fruit. The Bible is extremely detailed - astonishingly so, but it doesn’t contain everything that was ever said by every character in it. I won’t add to the words of The Bible, but I’m certain that among the things God was explaining would be a punishment for going ahead and eating the apple He specifically told them not to nosh, He included that curse. “Survey says, ….. Fire Ants! How do you like THEM apples?!” Do we even have Aardvarks in the American south? I’m sure they’re a delicacy for some animal. Armadillos maybe? They kinda look like an Aardvark wearing sheet metal. It’s the only thing I can think of as a decent reason for fire ants. Food for Armadillos and a curse on the face of mankind to be endured through the ages by barefoot picnickers and anyone who dares walk anywhere in any grass anytime in the Deep South. Hate is a strong word - a terrible word. We don’t use it nonchalantly in our home, but I hate fire ants. Kayla won’t let me set the mounds on fire, but I often fantasize about what it sounds like as they die their tiny little devil deaths when they take the ant bait back to the queen. I imagine the squeals of agony and cries in the dark as they leave this earth to spend forever in hell and I find joy in it. Revelation tells of the end times when Satan and his demons will be thrown into the fiery pit to be tortured for all eternity. I’m kind of hoping that pit will be full of fire ant hills. Question #2. GOD: People need electricity, but the Power Company? What’s that about? Just a notch below Fire Ants is the Power company. I hated them when I lived in a different state, then I hated the new power company when I moved to Georgia, then I hated my current power company when I moved to another county. I used to think that as I got older, my pure, unadulterated loathing for the power company would subside. I would understand them. I thought I would learn to appreciate their culture of cold, unloving greed and megalomania. But no. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to think of them in the same category as fire ants. Of course, I don’t fantasize about people who work for power companies dying horrible deaths, but I do enjoy it when I see another house with solar panels on the roof. I imagine that for every solar panel that’s added to a roof, a power company executive loses another golf ball. I think God will tell me that He created them to test our capacity to love. Humans are easily disgruntled and carry grudges for extended periods of time, so maybe the power company is a way to teach us to see others through God’s eyes. Sometimes, because we are told we should love everyone, we must learn to let God love them for us because we are weak. Even the wretched among us deserve love. However, I fully believe that if power companies could find a way to operate off of pain, they would harness the evil of fire ants and feed on the tears of small children. Question #3. GOD: Jorts. What’s that about? There are jeans and there are shorts. Another curse on mankind, I’d wager. God was so upset with Adam and Eve that He felt the need to create the existence of a knee-length jeans/shorts hybrid. Fortunately for the world’s first couple, God couldn’t bring Himself to make them wear them, so He gave them the option to choose leaves and animal pelts to cover themselves. Later, He would still show mercy and allowed us the more fashionable toga, but eventually, our crimes would become so fierce that he flooded the whole earth, only to find that we would repopulate and create Florida Gator fans. That’s when the curse of the jort hit us full throttle. Extra pockets couldn’t even save us from the horror. God sent us a rainbow after the Great Flood as a promise to never render His judgement in that way again. We’ve gotten no such promise about the jorts, and so we must endure it until the end of time. Question #4. GOD: The Funny Bone. What’s that about? We all have one and we’ve all konked it on something. I’ve always wondered what was so dang funny about it. It’s pain. I don’t tend to laugh at pain. I handle pain about as well as any normal person, but that has never included slapping my knee, other than to bring the feeling back into my pinky finger. Because that’s what happens when I bang my funny bone on a door jam. The feeling goes out of my pinky finger. I might slap my knee then, followed by shaking my arm all about like I’m playing some weird solo version of the Hokey Pokey, but laughter never, ever happens. My suspicion on this is that God enjoys humor. Every other point on our body that is encountered rudely will behave in a similar fashion. It will hurt to varying degrees, but it is clearly pain. With the funny bone, it’s still pain, but it’s different. Our reaction to it is different, and, I suspect comical for Him to observe from up there on high. When we hit our funny bone, we stop for a second as the realization consumes us. Our eyes cross, and it usually feels to me like it happens in slow motion. Our mouths gape open for a silent moment, then the sounds come. “uuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!” When you’re around company and you hit your toe on the bottom of a bedpost, you scream immediately, sharply, and try to compose yourself. Someone will have to ask if you’re okay or what happened. When you hit your funny bone, you have to announce it to everybody within earshot, and everybody within earshot will make the same face at once. It’s that cringy, teeth bared grimace that might be followed by hissing sounds. It goes something like this: You’re in Dollar General and you’re mad because they don’t carry the cases of Propel flavored water and now you’ll have to go to Walmart after all when you specifically came to DG to avoid having to do that. It’s July, and in your irritation, you barrel down the aisle without paying attention to how close you are to the shelf full of Christmas decorations. You konk your funny bone a good one on the corner of the shelf and the hilarity ensues. “uuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!” Your eyes cross in slow motion. “Funny bone! I hit my funny bone! Everybody, I just hit my funny bone!” Everybody within earshot makes this sound … “HISSSSSSSS!” “I hit my funny bone, everybody, and I can’t feel my pinky now! OH GOD!” And God, well He’s up there holding a glazed doughnut and all of heaven hears … “HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA! Funny bone!” I think I ought to make a disclaimer here for anybody hearing or reading this who is thinking, “Did Michael just punch his ticket to hell with this one?” The answer is no. I’m a staunch believer that if God made us in His image as we’re taught, then He has a sense of humor, but I also prayed over this one before I
13 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
A Day In The Life Of An Ape - 062
I have a laundry list of insecurities that keep me in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Uncertainty about whether or not the last thing I sang was on key, uncertainty about whether or not the last thing I wrote was up to par, uncertainty about whether or not the last thing I painted or etched would cause the viewer to retch and look for the closest bush. I even worry about the sound of my own voice because it never fails that I’m addressed as “Ma’am” at a drive-thru, no matter how deep I try to make my voice to avoid it. Just as I sat down to write this, my son sent me a text. And I quote: “Well, McDonalds just ‘yes ma’am’d me. So this is how that feels?” The two of us sound a lot alike when we talk, so I’m afraid he has a life full of annoying drive-thru lanes ahead of him. One of the ways I’ve always combatted being insecure around people has been to mirror their personalities. There’s a word for this that crossword filler-outers everywhere will recognize. It’s called “Aping”. For the most part, the ability to mimic a person’s personality has been a good thing for me, because the result is that I’m able to get along with almost anybody, but it’s never on purpose. It just happens, and I’m always afraid someone’s gonna notice it and call me out. “So there I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden that hag comes out her front door and hollers for me to get off her lawn, like I’m the only one that digs up the neighbor’s flowers!” I reply with, “Giiiiirrrrrl, no she DIT-INT!” I’m not thinking about it. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction. But now, my neighbor thinks I’m on her side, and I really can’t say anything to her as she walks away from my bare rose bushes with three dozen long stems in her basket. That’s an exaggeration; I don’t have rose bushes, but you get it! I’ve decided that to make my point even stronger, I should dramatize a day in the life of an ape like me. Maybe it’ll help you get to know me a little better and to understand that the struggle is real. From Atomic Red Studios, I’m Michael Blackston, and this is a reflection, so to speak, of my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ The alarm rings to signify the beginning of a new day. I don’t feel like I got enough sleep last night, but I have a schedule to keep, so I go to the bathroom, then take a look at myself in the mirror and sigh in disgust. “Dang. Just dang.” I try to cheer myself up with a joke because I think I’m clever. “Time to scratch my rocks.” I laugh at myself. I’m not clever, but that joke never gets old. Once I’m out the door, headed to pick up whatever rock I’m actually gonna scratch, I know that I have to detour in the direction of coffee. Unfortunately for the drive-thru attendant, the last thing I watched before going to bed last night was MasterChef, and one of the hosts of that show is Gordon Ramsay. Can I take your order? Yes, I want you to make me the most amazing medium cup of coffee. Cream and sugar? Ah … cream, my darling. 6 to be precise, but no sugar. You can toss one phenomenal packet of Splenda in the bag, along with a stirring straw. $1.75. Pull around. This had better be a delicious cup of coffee, my darling, otherwise, what am I even doing here? Ordering coffee. Ordering coffee. You just don’t get it, do you? Wow. Wow wow wow! The coffee is fine, giving me no excuse to shove it back through the window, shouting, “LOOK AT IT!” I need to put gas in the tank before moving on, so I pull into a station. At the pump adjacent to me, there’s a teenager who helped me with a theatre set at some point or another. How are you, Julie? (We’re just gonna call her Julie, because I don’t want to use the actual names of any of the other young ladies who’ve helped me with sets over the years.) OMG, I’m totally doing awesome! How are you? (Here it comes) I’m totes awesome, too! Hecka busy, though. Right?! It’s like somebody turned on a busy faucet and totally forgot to turn it off! Right?! Right?! Totes right! Of course, I live in the Deep South, where not only does everybody know everybody, but they sincerely want details. I get to the office of a granite manufacturer to pick up my stone, and Reba greets me with a smile. Well, hey! How’s ya mama’nem? I saw ya daddy day before yestiddy at the Walmart. He was lookin’ good, but said his knees was bothering him. I don’t doubt it, little lady. Paw’s knees’re bound ta give him the devil’s time as much as he’s on ‘em. Cain’t do nuthin’ with that man. Well, tell yer people I said ‘hey.’ AH-ight. Y’all come go with us. I reckon we better stay where we’re at. It’s probably good that I’m pretty much left to myself while I work, because it gives me an opportunity to reset. I can put on my headphones and wrap up into a world of sound that I’m in complete control of. Maybe I’ll listen to some podcasts, some audiobooks, or that new 80s station I found. Maybe I’ll dial up The Office and let that play in the background. Whatever path I stroll down in my audio journey, it’ll be like wrapping my head in a sound burrito. It won’t matter what ingredients are inside it, except for cheese. I promise there will always be plenty of cheese. That’s the kind of place my mind can go when I have nothing coming into my head from the outside, and more than likely, it will also influence my lunch preference. Mexican it is! A burrito sounds like a winner, and so when that hunger bell strikes, I’ll head off to … well, the Bell. But then again, nah. I think I want to be served. There’s a great Mexican restaurant where I live. I still wonder how close the food in those places comes to real, honest-to-God Hispanic cuisine like you’d get at one of those side street places in Mexico with no ceiling and dirt floors, and there’s a mariachi band playing. No, I don’t mean one hired to entertain you, but a mariachi band made up of old dudes wearing actual sombreros they built out of straw, and playing instruments they also made out of straw and adobe, but sound awesome. That’s real Mexican cuisine. I don’t think their food comes out of the oven to your table in those places within two minutes of ordering it. But that’s okay. I’m hungry, and they’ll keep refilling my tea while I write yet another amazing podcast episode. There’s just one problem. The authenticity of the food might be suspect, but the authenticity of their ethnicity is not. Those are real Mexicans running the place, and as my son will attest, that’s a recipe for disaster due to my subconscious aping. Allow me to explain. I’ll keep it short, as I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before. My son travelled with me a couple of years ago to Alabama for a job. It was the summer, and he had not yet decided there were better things to do with his summer than to go on work trips with dear old dad - things like sleeping, sleeping, and sleeping. There’s a great Mexican restaurant in Jasper, Alabama, too, called Pepito’s, and I introduced Noah to them. The server was quite chatty that day, with his thick Hispanic accent, and although I didn’t intend to insult him or humiliate my son, I think I might have managed to do both. He was talkative enough that his accent got into my head, so that when he asked if I wanted beef or chicken in my quesadilla, I answered with a resounding, “Cheeeekin!” I know that teenagers overdramatize how badly their parents embarrass them sometimes, but it’s safe to say Noah’s basically crawling under the table was justified. Once the server was gone, he decided it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, and he still won’t let me live that down. The good news is, I’m able to walk away from lunch without coming across as a great big racist, and I can continue my day. I’m not ready to go back to the etching yet, but I remember that the bin store sometimes gets a new shipment on this day of the week, and off I go to find some treasure. Maybe I should have picked a different day. When I get there, just as my concentration settles on finding more audio equipment I’ll never use, the guy next to me decides that I look like just the person to talk to about this wonderful place he’s found. He’s from out of town, and this store is magical. Problem is … he’s from WAAAYYY out of town. What’ll you be tryin’ t’foind? The parrfect thing to tek home to ye’ woyf, mehbeh? (It’s on) Tha parrfect thing fer me’woyf don’t exist, let meh tell ya! Well bless yer little Irish heart, and every other Irish part! Now I’m in trouble. He thinks I’m one of his people, which isn’t hard to believe. I have the skin of an Irishman, the hair of an Irishman, the blue eyes, and now, apparently the dialect. Why do I do this stuff to myself? I have to come up with something. Ya think we’d be lucky enough to find us a pint? I understand you can always sound like the real deal if you mention a pint to these guys, and why not engage in a little unfounded, romanticized stereotyping? If ya, do, let me know, and we’ll drain it together. But I wager around these parts, the tongues’ll be awaggin’ at that. He has no idea how right he is. I lead worship in a Baptist church. That’s why I keep a light conscience. There’s no need to fear th’ wind if yer haystacks’re tied down, I say! Aye. No sport actin’ the maggot when there ain’t a need, me boyo. We go ou
13 minutes | Jun 19, 2021
Into The Woods (not the musical) - 061
I’m a Type 2 diabetic, which means that I should stay a safe distance from sugary delights, such as ice cream, milk chocolate, cakes and pies, spoons full of sugar to make the medicine go down, and soft drinks. I thought I was being a good boy when I started ordering diet drinks, but then people seemed to take a wicked pleasure in bursting my healthy eating bubble by happily admonishing me with the news that … Those are just as bad for you as the regular drinks because your body thinks its really sugar and the blah blah blah blah blah! They’ll tell me that, and in my mind, they’re throwing their heads back in maniacal laughter as they take a ridiculously long drag from a straw jammed down into a ridiculously enormous, full-on, jacked up with sugar, absolutely real Pepsi. When that happened to me recently, it naturally sent me into a tailspin of memory of playing in the woods with my cousin who joined me in the doing of stupidly stupid things. And that’s the stuff this episode is actually about. From Atomic Red studios, and frankly, the Huddle House in Hartwell, Georgia, where this was written and I used really sugar in my coffee (yeah, but that orange juice is horrible for you. Just HORRIBLE!), I’m Michael Blackston and this is a rustic, woodsy look into my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ How do the diet drinks tie in already? My cousin and I spent a lot of time in the woods. Back in our day, the woods were the Play Stations. Our XBoxes were actual boxes that we painted an “X” across because X marks the spot, and we needed to remember where we’d buried the broken glass, poisonous mushroom spore bombs, and sticks we’d whittled to sharp points for when the vampires finally attacked. We were prepared, son! And if you go back there now and look close enough, beneath the briars, and pine needles the earth uses to record the passage of time, you’ll likely come across a number of aluminum cans from the mid to late 1980s - Diet Coke cans, to be precise. They’ll be faded, even completely robbed of their former red and silver glory, but they’ll tell you a story. First, I guess it’s the story about what litterbugs we were. Young boys don’t generally think about the environment, and we were no exception. But the real story is one of adventure, one of intrigue, and no small amount of Tomfoolery. It’s because we needed those drinks if we were to survive the Georgia summer heat as we made our huts and blazed the intricate trails that wound throughout the property we called, Our Land. But the drinks were off limits. Oh, yes! The Diet Cokes belonged to my grandpa, who was a Type 2 diabetic, and had been told not to ever let anything with sugar in it pass his lips again. Our instructions were to stay out of the refrigerator, and especially, stay out of J.C.’s Diet Cokes. They watched us like a hawk because they knew that we knew that they knew that we knew that they were watching us, and if we were to get our hands on them, it would take a special forces unit to successfully acquire the target. Luckily for me and my cousin, we thought we WERE a special forces unit, and were, therefore, the right men for the job. The Big M’s! That was the name of our secret club, but it wasn’t just any normal club like the ones other boys created. There was no scrap plank of wood hanging over the entrance of our main hut with our name scrawled in the clumsy handwriting of a twelve year old with a bucket of old paint and a gnarled, worn out brush. Our club was a secret. Shhh! No one could know about the Big M’s, except for those in the organization. We were as invisible as the C.I.A - our existence as sacrosanct as the Illuminati. We had plans and drawings of our future underground lair - a bunker to beat all bunkers, complete with armored war trucks, an ice cream bar, and entire room dedicated to playing with our action figures. And the one thing that was an absolute, chiseled in stone must, in order to be a member of the Big M’s was that your first name had to start with the letter “M”. My best friend at the time, also named Michael, was officially a member, but as I recall, it was a thing akin to the first drummer for the Beatles. My cousin’s name starts with an “M”, and we were together all the time, so really, it was about the two of us. We had the skills, the stealth, the know-how, and the guts to execute Operation: Grandpa’s Cokes and get away with it. We performed this covert action time and time again, but we couldn’t throw the empty Diet Coke cans in the trash back at the house. Therefore, the ground in the woods seemed to be the next best option. We did a lot of preparation for battle in those woods. At that time, Sylvester Stallone had roused our tiny pre-teen hunger to fight anything and everything with an M16 in one hand and an Uzi in the other. Arnold Schwarzenegger also did his due diligence when it came to that, so we saw ourselves as the next wave of ninja killing, terrorist destroying, death machines. We submerged ourselves in the Chuck Norris of it all to the degree that one of the places we always went when we landed at the local department store was the toy department, because at that time, toy companies not only sold realistic looking plastic assault rifles with some rattling contraception inside them that made a sound like playing cards on bicycle spokes when you pulled the trigger, but they weren’t yet required to put the silly orange tips on the end of the barrels. Not that I don’t understand the need for those orange tips. I’m just saying that a black Sharpie marker fixes that little problem right quick for a kid with even a thimble full of creativity. Our first exercises to prepare us for war happened with our fists gripping the stocks of guns that were really sticks that happened to bend the right way. If you look hard enough and squint your eyes just right, most branches will do, shape wise, as some form of firearm. Imagination is a wonderful thing. But even more wonderful was the wielding a replica of the real thing, even if the ratta tat tat sound was closer to that of the giant wheel on The Price Is Right than to actual automatic gunfire. “I got you! You’re dead. You have to count to twenty!” Those were the rules of combat in the woods behind Grandma’s house. If you got shot, you had to stop and count to twenty before returning to the game, fresh and unharmed, as if you’d never been riddled by a hundred invisible bullets from a gun that had the power and audio equivalent of someone blowing you a raspberry. Most of the time, you toed the line. If you heard the sound, and the immediate cry from your opponent, “I got you!”, it was over with no argument. That was, at least, until the count of twenty had been made - basically the same thing as “respawning” in video games today, and assuming that you agreed. Sometimes you didn’t agree. Sometimes, you were sure that the bullets had hit the trees between you, or that you were running so fast, that your enemy hadn’t been able to accurately aim their weapon. It was in time like those that a sort of debate took place between the shooter and the supposed dead soldier. “I got you!” “No you didn’t!” “Yes I did! You have to count to twenty!” “You missed!” “No I didn’t! You have to count to twenty! “No I don’t! You missed!” There’s a dance that takes place between the two parties. It sounds eerily like a political debate, only more sophisticated. During the counting of twenty, of course, the shooter gets to disappear into the woods and re-establish covert sweetness. We either played war or made trails and huts in the woods. There was also a good bit of exploration, but never too far. In the end, we stuck to what we knew. In the winter, it was easier because the thicker layers of clothes kept us from being lacerated head to shoulder by briars. In the summer months, it was a sweat fest and we were constantly on the lookout for snakes. We only saw one during our childhood. Later, as adults, the two of use took a nostalgic stroll through those woods and saw a big, beautiful black rat snake coiled up under a tree. I’m certain that as much time as we spent out there as kids, we must have been inches from the strike of a copperhead or two, but the only snake we encountered was harmless. Since then, I’ve grown to love snakes and have educated myself on them. I squeal like a kid on Christmas morning when I see one in the wild now, but back then, a snake was a snake, and I held the irrational fear of them that probably 90 percent of the population does. We were walking along one of the many trails we’d beaten down with the sticks we called our babies, and suddenly from the trees to the right, a bright green noodle stretched across our vision, right in front of our heads. It might startle me for that to happen today, but only for a second. After that, I’d likely reach out and take it in my hands, name it something silly - Mr. Snookeypants - and take it back to the house for my family to play with before releasing it, frightened and confused, back into the woods. As it turned out, twelve year old me, along with my twelve year old cousin, who did stupidly stupid things with me, squealed, not like kids on Christmas morning, but like terrified children at a gory Halloween carnival, and ran back the way we came. I remember we made it to the house and burst through the door to tell the others of the monster we’d just encountered, looking death straight in the red, glowing eyes. Oh yes, by the time we made it back to the safety of the house, the snake would have had red, glowing eyes full of fire. It would have curled it’s head back in that classic “S” shape, ready to strike. Before doing so, it would have opened its great maw of a mouth, revealing fangs as sharp as surgical scalpels, the
18 minutes | Jun 12, 2021
The Power of My Pleasure - 060
I will never understand why fast food chains use anything other than the Chick-fil-a model for customer service. Until Chic-fil-a came on the scene with their We’ll-Do-Whatever-It-Takes-To-Make-You-Feel-Like-King-Special-Britches philosophy, we were all fine with, “Welcome to the Altar of the Arches. What can I get ya today?” But now, we can see a new world of possibility when it comes to customer service, if only every other chain would buy into it. It’s a super-duper morning here at your Chick-fil-a. It’s our pleasure to serve you todaaaaaayyy!! For some reason, even though these other companies have trouble keeping employees, and their lines aren’t looped around the building twice, they don’t seem to care nearly as much about how their customers are treated. This episode is about a couple of times when customer service wasn’t just below the standards of your typical Chick-fil-a, but it dove into ridiculously bad. And it’s about a better world we may all experience if we’ll just embrace the pure, unadulterated power, of two little words … My pleasure. From Atomic Red Studios, I’m Michael Blackston, and this is my Funny Messy Life. _________________________ I’m not proud of my actions - the ones that resulted at the climax of the situation I’m about to tell you. I am a Christian, who strongly believes that how we respond to negativity can set the tone for not just those around us, but those who happen to be downstream to those around us later in the day. In other words, there’s a butterfly effect that starts with us, and can brighten or ruin the day for a bunch of people. It’s up to us to decide who we want to be. The bad news is that on this particular day, I wanted to be a stressed out director of a stage show that was opening the curtain to an audience sooner than later, and in the car with me was my stressed out Co-Director and wife, as well as my Assistant Director, and Set director, who happened to be my stressed out sister. We were running late, but we had to stop to pick up food because otherwise, we would all die before the show was over. We decided a popular fast food chain that serves Mexican fare would be the best choice, because it was on the way, supposedly fast, and cheap. Simple burritos are hard to screw up, right? No. Not right. Mistakes are common among those who consider themselves a human person, and I’m no exception. In my profession, I will occasionally make a mistake, and there are much larger consequences for those mistakes than if you screw up a burrito. And yet, I manage to own those mistakes in a humble, customer friendly way. I would think that with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on the line, I might have at least some reason to be in a less than happy mood if I make a mistake. But it wasd MY mistake, not theirs, and as long as they treat me with civility, I will try everything in my power to fix it with both parties happy in the end. Enter this burrito that will soon take a prominent role in this story, not to mention a short flight. You will recall that I said we were already in a hurry, and supremely stressed. There was a show to put on, and inevitably, cast members would be late, somebody would be feuding with somebody else. I don’t think this was opening night of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, when a massive storm raged up right as everyone was supposed to get there, the wind literally blowing my wife to the ground in the middle of the street, and the rain flooding the entirety of stage right only an hour before curtain, but we expected something to happen to cause us panic. That’s why it was important that the order taker listen carefully as we drove up to the intercom. None of us in the car like lettuce or tomato on our food, so we all three made a simple order of beef burritos with no lettuce or tomato. First, the person on the intercom was rude. Unlike Chi-fil-a, their salutation did not come over the speaker riding a rainbow. “Whatchoo want?” I’m thinking Really? I ordered the burritos. No lettuce, no tomato. We pulled forward and paid, received our bag of burritos, which was basically tossed into the car, unceremoniously by a worker who wanted to be anywhere but there, and pulled over to check it. We thought that would be a smart move, using the service we’d gotten up till then as an example. Every burrito had both lettuce, and tomato. I took the bag inside and got the attention of a worker. She walked up to me with an irritated look on her face, and said, “There a problem?” I could have handled the situation in a couple of ways. I could have matched her body language and responded as if her very presence evoked the temptation to throw up. IO could have mirrored her obvious distaste for anything that resembled a customer, thereby verifying the age-old I’m rubber and you’re glue philosophy. But I didn’t do that. I understand that appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes people are just having a bad day. I would not mirror her, but instead, I would smile and calmly explain the issue. “I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am. These burritos were supposed to be beef and cheese only. No lettuce, no tomato. I truly do not mean to be trouble, nor, in fact, rubber.” The young lady sneered and snatched the bag violently from the counter like I had insulted her mother, her pet bunny, and her priest. I watched the person remake the order. I could not see their hands, but I was focused on their lips to make sure nothing got spit on. The young lady shoved three new burritos into the bag hard enough that I’m surprised they didn’t break through the bottom. It reminded me of those superhero movies when the hero has just realized their powers, and everything they touch ids destroyed by their newly found strength. Except that this woman knew exactly what she was doing, and looked up me as she handed me the bag, as if to say, That’s what I do to burritos in paper bags! She didn’t say a word - just thrust the bag toward me, and turned around in a huff when I took it. I should have looked at them again, but I thought at least they probably got the order right this time, and I was in that much more of a hurry now. We sat in the car, hurriedly grabbed our burritos so that we could get to the theatre, where certainly, we would find out somebody had used up all the eyeliner pencils and foam makeup wedges. This was a show about Egypt, after all, and nobody in the cast naturally looked anything like an Egyptian. We each opened the wrappers, and of course, there was lettuce AND tomato on each one. I sighed, and calmly took the burritos back into the restaurant. The young lady was not as happy to see me this time, as she was before. “What’s wrong now?!” I was pleased with my demeanor. Mr. Rogers, himself, would have been very proud. But as it goes, pride cometh before the fall. “These still have lettuce and tomato on them. They’re supposed to be beef and cheese only.” Here is what she said … “Just eat the D*#@ burritos!” I, being much more euphoric than I had a need to be, asked for the manager, who came up to the counter. He was a large, sloppy looking, Neanderthal of a man, wearing a scowl reminiscent of Tommy Lee Jones on a bad day. Have you seen Tommy Lee Jones on a good day? It’s still a scowl. “What’s the problem?” he asked me, not as would a manager at Chic-fil-a, smiling from ear to ear, and simply delighted to be able to solve a problem for his valued customer. This guy yelled the question at me like he was daring me to say anything negative. I took a deep breath. “Good sir, these three burritos were ordered to be beef and cheese only. No lettuce, no tomato. They came to me with lettuce and tomato, so I brought them back. They were returned to me wrong again. Now, I understand mistakes are made. I believe when I get to the theatre later, I will find a drunk hobo has peed all over the set. However, while I have been pleasant and patient all the way through, your employee has been rude, disrespectful, and the opposite of customer friendly from the moment we gave her the order.” Here’s the manager’s reply … wait for it … “So?” I was dumbfounded. “What do you mean, so?” I asked. He smirked and said, “Whatchoo want me to do about it?” I had come to the end of my euphoria. Now, the stressed, late, irritable director of a show was about to rear his ugly head. A show, by the way, that would no doubt meet me at the door with news that a pack of rabid possums had taken residence in the sound booth. What did I want him to do about it? I looked at the burrito I had taken out of the bag to show them, then I looked back at the smirking manager. I looked back at the burrito in my hand, then back at him. Then I decided what I wanted him to do. This is a true story. I told him he could eat them, shoved the bag on the counter, and threw the burrito, like a major league pitcher, hitting him dead center of the chest. It takes a lot to make me angry enough to do something like that, but I’m not stupid. He was a large man, so I decided not to ask for a refund. Instead, I turned heel and made my way to the car in the quickest fashion I could manage without looking like a scaredy-cat. “GO GO GO GO GO!!! I’ll tell you in a minute, just GO!” I screamed when I got in the car and slammed the door behind me. I don’t remember if we had time to stop anywhere else for food, or if we ran
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