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JIm Pfiffer

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  1. I love trees. They are pillars of strength, patience and longevity. They help clean the air and water and build our homes. When I need to ponder problems or recharge my batteries I do so beneath the peaceful shade and comfort of trees. They do so much for us. The health of Earth and our lives depend on them. That’s why I share the following letter from a tree regarding climate change. Dear Humans, Hot enough for you? It’s going to get worse. You’re shattering record high temperatures around the world leading to droughts, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels like never before. Why? Because of global warming. You’re doing little to nothing to stop it. Worse, many of you insist that it doesn’t exist. Wake up and smell the pine needles. We can help you. We’re taking in and storing the global-warming carbon that you exhale and produce by burning fossil fuels. Get this. When we die, we release much of that stored carbon back into the ever-warming atmosphere. We’re your ticket (made of foil, of course) to helping reduce global warming. We grow most everywhere and thrive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. There are 60,000 species of our kind, but 30,000 of them are endangered. More than 440 of our species have fewer than 50 individuals left in the world. Yikes! That scares the leaves off of me. You think you run the show here on Earth. You don’t. Your legacy is laughably short compared with the more than 370 million years that we’ve been around. Life isn’t easy for us. We’re stuck where we take root. We can’t run from fires, escape gypsy moths or move to a new neighborhood when you send in the bulldozers. We do so much for you. We produce the oxygen you breathe. Your civilizations were built with our wood for homes, businesses, furniture, boardwalks and pine coffins. We give you fruit, nuts, maple syrup, turpentine, medicines and even pine tar for your ash baseball bats. Want to hang a tire swing, build a treehouse for your kids or make a bark canoe? You need a tree. Our roots clean your water, slow erosion and reduce flooding. We provide free windbreaks and snow fences. Our leaves filter air pollutants, provide shade and release water vapor into the air to cool hot streets and cities. We filter the air, pump nutrients into the soil and reduce noise pollution. Birds, animals and insects need us for homes, food and protection. We helped Newton discover gravity, tested Eve’s devotion to God and gave you a diagramed framework for your family tree. Our natural beauty calms your emotions, soothes your mental health and empowers your spirit. We inspire poetry and music and happily sit still for landscape paintings. Done so for thousands of years. If not for the “spreading chestnut tree,” where would the “village smithy” stand. We do all this, and you repay us by polluting the Earth and doing dumb things, like cutting us down to make paper and then writing “Save the trees” on that paper. WTF? Who the hell came up with the brilliant idea to carve your initials in our bark? And why do you guys pee on us? Do you think we like that? How would you like it, if the next time you stood next to us, we squirted sticky sap all down your pant legs? Why the hell are you so puzzled about a tree falling in the woods and making a noise? Do you know what noise I fear the most? A chainsaw. Shakes me to my root hairs. And don’t get me going about Christmas trees. We’ve dealt with Dutch Elm Disease, Gypsy Moths, blight, root rot, wilt, Spotted Lantern Flies, Emerald Ash Borers and more invasive insects than you can shake a stick at. Did you know that every 24 hours, 27,000 of my brethren are cut down to make toilet paper? That’s a real pain in my ash. (Yes, we have a sense of humor. How else, do you think we deal with you? We’re not asking you to completely stop cutting us down. Just use common sense when doing so. Repay us by replanting us. We’re renewable. We have a saying among us: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now. We can’t force you to take real actions to reduce global warming. Our only defense is paper cuts? That ain’t going to work. We provide you with so much, improve the environment and assure the Earth’s future. Never mind hugging us. You should be taking us out to dinner. Instead, you pollute us, mow us down and slash and burn us into oblivion, when we can do so much to help reduce climate change. It doesn’t make sense. You got me stumped. Bewildering yours, A 250-year-old old oak tree Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  2. As you probably know by now, this year is the 50th anniversary of the devastating flood of ’72. You know this because the media loves over-reporting on the anniversaries of historically terrible events, like natural disasters, wars and the Jerry Springer show. Not everything flood-related was bad. It helped me get a job as a bartender and bouncer. The bar was the Pub, located at the site of today’s Southport Town Hall in Bulkhead. It was owned by a sweetheart of a woman, the late Ann Savino, and was one of a few taverns in the region that didn’t get flooded, making it one of the hottest bars in town. Every night, the place was packed with people drinking 25-cent Miller drafts, grooving to Sly and the Family Stone on the jukebox, eating cheeseburgers and French fries from the grill, and sharing flood stories. Back then, the legal drinking age was 18. The place became so popular and so crowded with young people that Ann turned to me for some help. “Pfif, we’re having a problem with a lot of underage kids coming in here,” she told me. “You seem to know everyone. How would you like a job checking proof at the door for $2 an hour and free drinks?” I accepted the offer and hugged her with “I can’t believe it” thanks before she finished her sentences. There was one small problem. I was only 17 and about to start my senior year at Southside High School. Ann thought I was 18, because I had shown her a fake ID my first time in the bar. Yes, I know it was wrong for me to use a fake ID, but you have to remember, it was the summer of the flood I was only 17 and I had no moral compass. I wasn’t going to let that minor detail get in the way of my responsibility to see that no underage guests got through the door. So, there I was, all skinny 140 pounds of me, sitting on a bar stool, next to the open door, a rum and coke with lime in my hand and ready to proof anyone who looked as young as me. I was on top of the world, controlling who got in and who didn’t at one of the most popular night spots in town — I let in the pretty girls and threw out their boyfriends—while enjoying free drinks and getting paid for it. This resulted in some interesting encounters, like this: Me: “Hold it there, buddy. I need to see ID.” Customer: “You’re kidding, right? Hell, you’re not 18. Let ME see YOUR ID!” Me: “That’s the wrong thing to say to a bouncer. You’re outta here, pal. And don’t come back until you’re of age.” Most of the time, the underage wannabes left without issue. Sometimes they wouldn’t leave without a fight. A good bouncer prevents fights. I wasn’t a good bouncer. When challenged, I stood my ground. I had three things going for me regarding my self-defense abilities. I was crazy. I knew how to wrestle and box. I was crazy. Back then, we settled our differences with fists, not guns, knives or drive-bys. The fights were short and rarely resulted in serious injuries, except for one’s ego. For me, the summer of the flood made my life like that of a razor, always in hot water or a scrape. When I wasn’t checking ID and dodging punches, I was behind the bar, learning how to pour a good draft and mix a tasty cocktail. Back then, mixed drinks were popular and they had crazy names like “Grasshopper,” “Harvey Wallbanger,” “Singapore Sling,” and “Rudy Giuliani.” Thankfully, I had an “Old Mr. Boston” bar book that listed the ingredients for almost every cocktail. During one really busy night, an impatient guy was pounding his fist on the bar for me to get his order. I told him to take a nerve pill and that I would be with him as soon as I could. When that time came, I asked him what he wanted, and replied “I want an American Quarter.” I didn’t know how to make an American Quarter, so I got out the bar book and turned to the “A” section, scanning it for the recipe. “What the hell are you doing now?” he asked with impatient scorn. “I’ve only been bartending for a few weeks. I don’t know all the drinks so I’m looking yours up to see how to make it. So, cut me a break, okay?” “What are you talking about?” he said as he held up a quarter in his fingers. “This Canadian quarter doesn’t work in the cigarette machine. I need an American quarter.” The flood not only got me a cool job but it taught me three important skills: How to make a perfect martini. 2. How to duck a punch. 3. How to do a foreign currency exchange. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and Elmira Telegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  3. Several months ago, my wife, Shelley, and I lost our best friend and soul mate. Her name was Sammy. She was our pet dog of a dozen years. She had cancer and we had to end her suffering. I’m still grieving the loss. I’ve had pet dogs all my life and I’ve had to decide when to end the lives of five of them. It never gets easier. I’m never sure if I’ve made the right decision. Did I end their lives too soon, when they still had many “good days” ahead of them; or did I wait too long, because I wasn’t ready to “goodbye,” and my pets suffered needlessly? It was more than a dozen years ago that Sammy came into our lives. She was a beautiful brindle-hued Heinz 57 mix that we adopted from the local SPCA. Before that, Sammy had been a stray that animal control officers caught while she was eating from a deer carcass in the grass median of Route 328 in Pine City. I became her adopted dad and she became my best friend, always eagerly and excitedly waiting to greet me at the door every time I returned home as if I had been away at war for years. She would meet me with a smile on her face and her tail wagging so rapidly it wiggled her rear end. Her tail wagged through her heart. Dogs instinctively know how to be kind and share unconditional love. It takes people years to do the same. That’s probably why dogs don’t live as long as we do. They are born with life’s lessons deep in their hearts. She shared those lessons with me. I learned so much from her. She was my constant companion and a respite of happiness and stress relief at the end of a difficult day. She loved to be loved and petted. She would lie next to me on the couch with her head on my lap, as I read or watched TV. If I stopped petting, she would gently nudge me with her paw or nose to get me back into petting gear. She was friendly to everyone she met. She taught me not to judge people and to not be too hard on myself when I made mistakes. She loved car rides, with her head out the window, ears flapping in the wind, and her nose savoring the countless fragrances that blew by her. Sammy didn’t chase sticks, play catch or do tricks. Instead, she fetched fun and love in everything she did. She showed me how to enjoy life’s little moments of glee and wonder. To love and be loved by a dog is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We spent hours hiking in the woods, cross-country skiing on nature trails or sitting in the grass next to the river on a sunny day. Often, while hiking, she would run ahead of me, and I would duck behind a tree and hide. When she would look back and see that I was gone, she would stop and perk up her ears, before darting back to find me. I would jump out from behind the tree to startle her and send her tail and butt into hyper-wag, as I laughed hysterically. She would tilt her head quizzically and look at me as if to say, “You’re so immature. What am I going to do with you?” Then she was off and running ahead again searching for more fun and adventure. Now, when I hike those trails, I envision her up ahead, glancing back to be sure I was still in pursuit. At times like those, her loss feels unbearable. She was the most lovable dog I’ve known. If I sat down and leaned forward, she would come up to me and rest her head against my forehead, and just sit there quietly, head-to-head, as I rubbed her belly. At night, she lie next to my wife and me in bed, slowly taking over more and more of the mattress as the evening progressed, until I would awaken precariously balanced on the edge, about to fall to the floor, while she comfortably hogged the rest of the bed, snoring, with legs outstretched and head tucked into her chest. Dogs, like all animals, are good a hiding their pain and infirmities, an evolutionary defense that keeps them from being preyed upon by predators looking for the weakest in the pack. After he cancer diagnosis I paid close attention to her behaviors, physical condition and her eating and sleeping habits, looking for signs that would tell me “It’s time, Jim. It’s time.” As her health grew worse and I struggled with making the heartbreaking final decision, I took her to one of our favorite outdoor spots, beneath a quiet stand of shady white pine trees in Big Flats. She laid next to me on a soft bed of pine needles as I petted her, prayed and asked the universe to give me a sure sign that it was time to bid her farewell. Tears filled my eyes, as they do as I write this column. She crawled closer to me and rested her head on my shoulder to tell me that it will be okay and that she would let me know when it was time to say farewell. I hugged her and wept like a baby. Sammy taught me that it was okay to cry. They say that losing a pet is one of the saddest and most difficult traumas we deal with in life. It’s true. Her death was a double whammy because she was my rock of strength and she always made it easier for me to deal with loss and sadness. Her death carved out a hard emptiness inside me that I’m still struggling to fill. Sammy was true to her word about telling me when it was time to say goodbye. One day, in a matter of hours, she started showing signs of a “vestibular disorder,” of balance. To her, the room was in a never-ending nauseous spin. She couldn’t stand up or walk without stumbling and falling over. I knew it was time. I called the veterinarian, who came to our home to help us end Sammy’s suffering. The farewell was painless for Sammy. She died softly and comfortably in our arms, amid our hugs and tears. I try to ease my sadness by telling myself that my deep grief shows that Sammy was loved and had a great life. Sammy, old girl, this one is for you in honor of your life, our wonderful times together and all the love and happiness you shared with us. You made my life more enjoyable, joyful and meaningful. Best of all you taught me to be a better man. And that is one damn good tail-waggin’-and-butt shakin’ Father’s Day gift. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and ElmiraTelegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  4. Summertime means fishing time on the Chemung River. Mark Twain spent many summers in Elmira writing about Huck and Tom, and most likely fishing the river when he needed to clear his mind of writer’s block. If Huck and Tom were here today, I bet we would witness something like this: The scene: Huck and Tom are sitting on a grassy bank on the Chemung River, the sun warming their backs, long stems of grass dangling from their mouths, straw hats on their heads and cane poles in their hands. Huck: “I sure am glad we played hooky today and went fishin’.” Tom: “Me too. Fishin’ is powerful and more enjoyable when you’re not supposed to be doin’ it, but supposed to be doin’ somethin’ that ain’t a lick of fun, like readin’ and ‘rithmatic.” Huck: “You speak the truth, mostly, Tom, but dang my luck, the catfish ain’t bitin’ today. I ain’t had so much as a nibble. Do you reckon my worm is done drowned by now? Tom: Best way to find out is to lift your hook out of the water and take a look see. Huck (doing just that): “Well, blame it all! Ain’t nothin’ but a speck a worm left on my hook. Them sneaky fish done stole it bit by bit without so much as a tug on my line.” Tom: “It sure ain’t fun bein’ a worm. Have you ever wondered how worms came to be fishin’ bait? They are ugly and squirmy and you can’t tell the head from the tail nor what’s in between. But the fish sure like em. I wonder what a worm tastes like.” Huck: “My pap ate a worm once. Claims he was sufferin’ from the fantads and in need of a drink to settle his shivers and quivers. Said he ate a worm on a dare for two fingers worth of whiskey. Said a worm tasted like a worm and was easy to swallow, being all slick and slimy. Said he’d eat a pickle barrel full of em for a bottle of whiskey. Then he cuffed my ears a few times for askin’ bout such nonsense.’” Tom: “Why would a soul think a fish would be attracted to a worm, all drowned and droppy and hangin’ off a hook like a wet stocking draped over Aunt Polly’s clothesline. What must that man been a-thinking?” Huck: “Never mind what he was thinkin’. I wonder what the worm thought, gettin’ yanked out of his home, impaled mid-body with a hook and then throwed in the river for the fish to have at it, piece by piece.” Tom: “I never seen it that way, but you’re right as rain. The worm just mindin’ his business and he got evicted in a most violent manner, then thrown into a coffee can in a tangled wriggling ball of neighbors, in-laws, strangers and probably some worms he ain’t never got along with.” Huck: “Yeah, and we make the messy hookin’ ordeal easy on our minds by tellin’ ourselves that ‘worms can’t feel a tinge of pain, but we know better, cuz when that hook goes in, they writhe, squirm, wriggle about like water on a hot skillet.” Tom: “Then we toss them in the river, where they try with all their worm worthiness to tread water for as long as possible, but even the most ignorant being known that’s worms can’t tread water for long. It’s a good thing worms can’t talk cuz if they could I dare say they would let out a fiery string of cuss words that could stop a river in its bed.” Huck: “Jim told me that, one time, he found a bewitched worm that could talk. The worm had once been a man, a man who was the grandest and most celebrated fisherman on the Chemung River. Fished it day and night, sun and rain and ice and snow. Said he knew every fishin’ hole, beaver dam and hidden snag. Said a water witch turned him into a worm cuz he trespassed on her island without her say so. Jim was about to hook that worm when it started begging and pleading with him to spare him. Promised he would tell Jim about the best fishing spot on the whole darned river, a place where the fish are so hungry and plentiful, you have to hide behind a tree just to bait your hook.” Tom: “So did Jim let that worm go free and discover the secret fishin’ hole?” Huck: “Nope. Before he could answer the worm, a big old catfish jumped clean out of the river and swallowed the worm, hook, line and cane pole in one big gulp, and dove back into the water faster than a lightnin’ bolt on the fourth of July.” Tom: “I sure would like to know the whereabouts of that secret fishin’ hole cuz the fish here are especially stubborn and ornery and won’t cooperate. I say we put away this fishin’ foolishness and go exploring on Clinton Island.” Huck: “That sounds like a right good adventure, and maybe we find some buried pirate treasure. What we gonna do with the rest of the worms, toss them in the river, like we usually do?” Tom: “No, I reckon that today we let those worms go free. Find them some good rich river silt where they can start a whole new worm village. You never know, there might be a talkin’ worm in there.” Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and ElmiraTelegram.com Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  5. “These rock! I can’t believe how great they sound.” I said that after trying on my Bose audio sunglasses that played music from my smartphone. The glasses were a birthday gift from my thoughtful little sister, Pat. The microscopic speakers in the frames produce a clear and deep sound that rivals any full-size stereo system, and they don’t need an extension cord. How we listen to music has changed drastically since my high school and college years in the ‘70s. Back then, stereo systems were large, cumbersome, expensive and needed a U-Haul truck to move them. Today, that same system fits in the frames of my glasses. Love technology. When I was trying to grow up, my generation’s sound systems reflected our status and coolness. If you wanted to make the sweet stereo scene you did so with speakers like JBL, KLH and SOL if you couldn’t afford a top brand. We rocked the Casbah with stereo components by Marantz, Kenwood, Sansui, Sherwood, Sanyo, Phillips, Technics and Pioneer. These electronics had more knobs, dials and switches than a nuclear power facility. They had something called “Dolby noise reduction,” which didn’t make sense because we wanted more noise. It was supposed to improve the listening experience. I don’t know if it did or what it did. Neither did most of my friends, but that didn’t stop us from pretending that we did know and were forever asking “Does it have Dolby?” “I want Dolby!” “I need Dolby.” “Do me with Dolby!” Big was better. Gigantic was best. We engaged in speaker wars, as they were the most important music system component. We were forever asking, “Who made them?” “How much did they cost?” and “Can they make the neighbors call the cops?” We rocked on to the pulsating pressure waves of speakers that were so tall they had penthouse apartments. The more speakers the better. We had woofers out the wazoos, tweeters ‘tween ten and twenty, and mid-ranges loud enough to be heard in the mid-Atlantic. I had more decibels than common sense. That’s why today I often say, “Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear you.” If you were really cool, you removed the foam fronts of your speakers to expose the beat-throbbing black paper diaphragms pulsing out the tunes with sound waves you could actually see compressing the surrounding air molecules at Mach 1 (Of course, you had to do several bongs to be able to see those compressions). Big was better and more was mandatory. We went from one speaker mono Hi-Fi to two-speaker stereo, four-speaker Quadra-sound, mucho-speakers surround sound and anything more than that was a live arena concert. My stereo system in college took up an entire wall in my apartment and had to be wired into the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide enough juice to pump up the volume. It put the “BOOM!” in Baby Boomers, baby. One time, I played a George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers album so loud that the spare light bulbs in the hall closet glowed to the beat. If I stood directly in front of the speakers, it would cause me temporary sterility. (My girlfriend, at the time, loved George Thorogood.) Back then, there was a popular magazine ad for high-end speakers (I don’t remember the brand) that showed a dude sitting in front of his speakers and the sound waves were knocking over his drink, blowing back his hair and pushing back his chair. That was my sound system goal – using acoustics to move solid objects. We equated loudness with good times, good parties and good chances that our ears would bleed. The more we drank, the louder the tunes. Give me more Budweiser’s, more watts, more amps, more channels, more decibels, more mega-hits and more bleeding eardrums. The louder the tunes, the more we drank. The more we drank the louder the tunes. Today, my liver quivers thanks to listening to Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One beer” with the volume turned up to “rattling windows.” My sound system featured a: turntable, receiver, amplifier, tuner, cassette deck, reel-to-reel tape deck, two speakers, mixers, boosters, pre-amps, post-amps, amplified amps and an extensive collection of albums, 45s and tapes. Today, all that is packed into my sunglasses frame, featuring the “revolutionary Bose open ear audio design” that lets me listen to George and his Delaware Destroyers without destroying my eardrums, and still “hear the world around me at the same time.” An online tutorial explains how they work, how to use them and how to control the volume. But it doesn’t answer my one pressing question. Does it have Dolby? Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and Elmira Telegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  6. Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer grilling season, so I decided to grill the old-fashioned way – with charcoal briquettes. It’s one of the few times that I can play with fire and accelerants and not get yelled at. I normally use my cheap Wal-Mart gas grill. It’s fast, convenient and relatively easy to use. But it doesn’t give my steaks that tasty, smoky flavor that comes from cooking over charcoal. The gas grill makes my strip steaks taste like, well, Wal- Mart. Ick. That’s why I used my old Weber kettle-style grill with the rounded top and a half- bag of Kingsford Briquettes that I found in the garage. I followed the standard backyard three-phase/four-step-phase process for trying to light. Phase I 1. Shake my head and say some bad words at the billowing cloud of charcoal dust that enveloped me, blackened my face, hands and clothes, and incited a coughing and choking fit. 2. Pile the briquettes into a pyramid shape that kept collapsing and falling apart until the third try. 3. Douse the pile with lighter fluid. 4. Hold a lighter flame to the briquettes going from one to another trying to get one to ignite, for Christ’s sake! After several tries a corner of one of the briquettes took a flame and began to burn, making me smile and giving me hope. After a few seconds, it fizzled out in a mocking wisp of smoke, making me swear and giving me grief. Phase II 1.Angrily squeeze the lighter fluid bottle emptying it all on the pile. The pile is now primed with accelerants and ready to explode when lit. 2. I stand back several feet, as the strong smell of petrol permeates the air. I use wooden kitchen matches to light the fire. The first few matches don’t light or snap in two. When one finally flames to life, I use the recommended “light it and throw it” by tossing the lit match into the pile, but the match goes out as it arcs toward the petrol pyre. After several tries, a match stays intact and stays lit as it lands on the pile. The backyard explodes in a mushroom cloud of blinding yellow and orange light and intense heat that fries a nearby plate of hot dogs waiting to go on the grill. 3. I go in the house and have a beer while waiting 10-15 minutes for the briquettes to turn into that perfect cooking heat of glowing orange-red embers with white and gray ash trim. 4. Return to the grill to discover that the briquettes are still black and as cold as the beer I go get while telling myself to “stay calm” and “be an adult.” Phase III 1.Pour copious amounts of lawnmower gasoline, paint thinner and tiki torch fluid on the smoldering pile. It sends a thick column of white chemical-laced smoke into the air that causes passing birds to fall from the sky. 2. Do the light it and toss kitchen match routine until I get so frustrated, that I throw the whole damn box into the grill. Still no flames. I crouch down to blow on the smoking briquettes hoping to raise a flame. My wife shouts from inside the house “When are you going to learn? I’m calling the fire department!” 3. The pile explodes into a conflagration that burns my face, singes my eyebrows, and sends me falling backward on my butt. 4. I hold the top half of the grill by the handle and use it as a heat shield while I use the extra-long-handle spatula, in my other hand, to push around the flaming briquettes to reduce the flames to a forest fire and show the now- arriving firefighters that I have everything under control, and they can return to the station. I stay by the grill tending to the steaks until they have a nice charred crust and are a pink medium-rare inside. I remove the steaks and let them rest for several minutes to trap the tasty juices and maximize their full flavor potential. I plate the steaks cut off a tender piece and place it in my mouth-watering maw in anticipation of the first taste of summer. “Damn it! Tastes like a can of gasoline!” I shout. From inside the house, my wife shouts “When are you going to learn. I’m calling for a pizza.” Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and Elmira Telegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  7. I’ve had pet dogs all my life. They are loyal, playful and great companions. I’ve learned a lot from my canine friends and discovered that they have their own set of social rules and norms. Below are some of those rules: Toilet bowl cocktails should never be served before 4 p.m. and always remember to put the seat up. Never wear those silly dog sweaters. If your owner insists that you do, run away. Run Spot, run! If you unexpectedly pass gas, blame the cat. When walking on a leash and you see a squirrel, always wait until there is no traffic before violently yanking your master’s shoulder out of the socket and pulling him into the street while giving chase. During social gatherings, refrain from talking about your “bad case of worms.” Bad dog! It’s never acceptable to say, “It’s a dog-eat-dog-world,” even in jest. When riding in a car, bring paper towels to wipe your nose prints off the window. If you stick your head out the front passenger window to enjoy the rushing air, make sure no one sits in the rear passenger seat with the window down because your slobber will splatter all over their face. Remember, all breeds of dogs are created equal – except those annoying yapping poodles. If your wagging tail accidentally knocks over someone’s drink, it’s acceptable to use a cat or poodle to wipe up the spill. Good boy! Pointing is acceptable when hunting pheasants or grouse, but not in social settings. Never lick yourself and then lick your master’s face. After your master bathes you and brushes and trims your fur, it is acceptable to find some stinking garbage or dead animal to roll in. When on a date, the male dog should always let the female dog select the rotting and festering dead animal carcass. It’s okay to run away if you hear your owner spell any of these words: “b-a-t-h, v-e-t and n-e-u-t-e-r.” To not embarrass your master, when on a walk and you have to poop, wait until your master is looking the other way and pretending that he has no idea what you are doing. Good girl! When out on the town with friends, don’t act like a pack of wild dogs. Remember, we’re domesticated. Sit! Stay! If you accidentally soil the carpet, blame the cat. Blame the cat for everything. When a human scratches your belly, be sure to respond with that cute and allegedly uncontrollable “rapid leg thumping.” It will likely get you a few biscuits. Rollover! When your master tries to hide pills in your food, it is acceptable to spit them out, but be sure to cover your mouth to avoid spreading germs and bad dog breath. No matter how mean your master may be, seeing eye dogs should never ever walk them into utility poles, not even on a double-dog-dare. Don’t race to the door barking every time the doorbell rings, because it’s hardly ever for you. Stay! When in doubt, sniff it, pee on it and walk away. When your master comes in the house, even if he has been away for a few minutes, excitedly wag your tail, bark, jump around and lick his face like you haven’t seen him for seven dog years (It may get you a belly rub and a biscuit). Your bark may be worse than your bite, but your farts are lethal. Go lay down! If you are in obedience school, never use the excuse “I ate my homework.” When on a dinner date, and you’re not sure which fork is your salad fork, don’t worry. Real dogs don’t eat salad. Never ever attend a flea market. Duh! Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and ElmiraTelegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  8. When is technology going to invent an easy-to-use garden hose? I’ve tried them all: flat, round, expandable, indestructible, flexible, steel-coil, rubber, polyurethane and even pantyhose. They’re all difficult to use, heavy, stiff, cumbersome, kinky and a big pain in the grass. A hose full of water is heavy and stubborn. It fights me like an angry anaconda, wrapping its coils around my ankles and tripping me. I have to tug, lug and slug it around the yard to water my spring-planted grass seed. It retaliates by getting stuck under vehicle tires, knocking over flowerpots, sweeping toddlers off their feet and pinching itself around the corners of the garage. I respond by whipping it up and down, sending angry shock waves undulating along its length, trying to unkink the kinks and showing it who’s the boss. Instead, I knock over more flowerpots and occasionally my wife. The water-stopping kinks are always at the far opposite end of the hose, where I can’t see them. So, I have to backtrack along the hose until I find the kink, unkink it and help my wife to her feet. Meanwhile, because I forgot to turn off the nozzle, the unkinked water flow resumes, sending the nozzle bouncing around, careening off vinyl siding, a picnic table and spraying water through an open window, and all over my wife, who by now, is angrily marching to the garage to get a shovel to smack me in the head. Nozzles aren’t much better. They break easily and leak after a few uses, because their cheap washers are obviously made of sugar or some other water-soluble material. Nozzles have many settings, from “mist” to “biblical flood.” I mostly use the powerful “jet” setting that produces a laser-like stream that can blow grass clippings from sidewalks, destroy sandy ant nests in the cracks of my driveway and shoo away neighborhood dogs that are pooping in my yard. That’s why I own a Yardman 44-caliber, heavy-duty, orbit 10-pattern nozzle that’s so powerful it comes complete with a 10x power scope, holster and silencer. I could use it to dig a Panama Canal in my backyard. Worse than unruly hoses are cheap hose caddies. I must hold mine down with a bent knee, turn the spool crank with my right hand while struggling to neatly guide the hose onto the spool with my left hand, but it ends up being a mess of knots, crossovers and crossunders that will take me until next spring to unravel. Meanwhile, at the other end of the hose, the nozzle is being dragged across the lawn and driveway, bouncing and popping along, as pieces of it snap off and fall in its wake. When I try to unroll the hose, I get one-third of it off, before the lightweight caddy falls over and plays dead. I let out a streak of cuss words that causes flowers to wilt and leaves to fall from the trees. By the time I get the hose unrolled, unkinked, lugged around and the leaking nozzle screwed on tightly, the birds have eaten the grass seed. Several years ago, I bought one of those “magic hoses” advertised on TV, which shriveled up like an accordion when not in use, and guaranteed to never kink, bend or pinch. If I left the water on while not using it, it ruptured with a loud pop and sent water shooting into the air. I tried several others and they all ruptured. Magic hose my butt. Technology has given us cordless phones and computers. It needs to invent a hoseless nozzle that provides water flow without a hose. In the meantime, I have to go water the lawn and do it quietly, cuz my wife has that damn shovel again. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and ElmiraTelegram.com Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  9. Don't blame me. Blame NatG
  10. Do kids dance anymore? When I was a kid, schools and churches held teenage dances almost every weekend, featuring live bands, chaperones and underage kids puking from drinking Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. If you are a Boomer, you remember Boone’s Farm wines, or maybe not, because Boone’s Farm wines contained formaldehyde, for real. If you drank it, you’re lucky if you can remember your name. Fortunately, I only drank enough to forget my last name (I have it sewn into tags on all my clothes). Anyway, what the hell was I talking about? Oh, yeah, dances. Dances were as much a part of growing up as pimples, skipping class and after-school detention. We never had DJs at our dances. Hell no. We grooved to live music by local bands with totally hip and cool names like Ma’s Apple Pie, The Puzzle and The Boone’s Farm Boomers. (I made up the last one, but wouldn’t that have been a great name for a groovy Boomer band?) Dances provided us the opportunities to work on our social skills, meet girls and get beat up. Every dance, in every grade, had at least one oversize bully who had flunked so many times he was dating the female teachers. Every dance also had at least one big mouth wiseass who got punched by the bully. That wiseass was me. My friends and I didn’t go to dances to actually dance. Hell no. “Dancin’ was for nerds” was our motto. It was a great motto because we didn’t know how to dance, even though some of us, after our second or third bottle of Boone’s Farm, tried to dance, but we always ended up looking like nerds stricken with a neurological disorder that made us jerk about like fish flopping around on shore. There were always a couple of guys who were good dancers. One of my close friends, Tony, was one such guy. All the girls wanted to dance with him. Of course, we made fun of him, for it, to compensate for our dancing disabilities and to make us feel better because we knew he would be holding hands with a pretty girl as he walked her home after the dance, while we would be stuck holding hands with a National Geographic magazine. So, if we didn’t dance, what did we do at a dance, you may ask? I’ll tell you what we did. We practiced dance segregation. We spent the entire dance standing around on one side of the gym, punching one another in the arms and making farting noises with our armpits, while secretly watching the girls, on the other side of the gym, and wondering why it was cool for them to dance together and go to the bathroom together. I still don’t get it. One time, I tried dancing with a guy, as a joke. Got punched in the mouth. Slow dancing was a different story. Every guy can slow dance. Put your arms around a girl and move from side to side, hopefully in time with the beat and without kicking her ankles. “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, was my favorite slow dance because it lasted nearly as long as eighth grade (the first time). I was never sure where to put my arms around a girl while slow dancing -- her neck or waist, hold her hands or grab her by the shoulders like she was in for a good shaking. So, I stood there with my arms limp at my side and let the girl position them (usually tied behind my back). It was during these slow dances that I realized I was the closest I was going to get to kissing a girl for a long long time and I wanted the song to last a long long time. I tried to impress the girl by softly singing along, in her ear, to “Hey Jude:” “Remember to let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better, better AAAHHH!” I know I impressed her, because she whispered back, “Your singing voice sucks, you’re spitting in my ear and if you don’t get your hands off my butt, I’m going to retie them behind your back.” In sixth grade, when everything in life was awkward, I thought girls were icky. We had to dance with them in gym class. I think we did the foxtrot, cha-cha or some other lame dance we would never again do in our lives. I didn’t hold my dance partner close back then. Nope. I held her so far away that I was in the locker room and she was on the gym floor. In seventh grade, most girls had a growth spurt and were taller than the boys. When I slow-danced, my head was at just the right height to rest on my partner’s bosoms. Got slapped in the face. One time, on a dare, I asked our really hot junior high French teacher if she wanted to dance. She didn’t have time to answer before I got punched in the face. How was I to know she was engaged to the class bully? Que diable? Now that I think about it, I know why kids today don’t go to dances, because those dances make memories that will last a lifetime, no matter how much counseling you undergo trying to erase them. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and ElmiraTelegram.com Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  11. Aging slows me down. Everything takes longer, especially my body’s plumbing. It’s leaky, no longer up to code, and a hassle to prime the pump, especially in the middle of the night, when it wakes me up to play “red light green light” at the toilet. Many guys my age have the same problem and will try most anything to be able to pee at will. Some of them talk to it, trying to coax it into action. (Not me. Not my style. Besides, it wouldn’t listen to a word I say.) I imagine that one of those other guys’ conversations would go like this: Some other guy: (Standing in the dark, bare shins pressed against cold porcelain for support, trying to stay semi-asleep so he can quickly fall back to sleep while waiting for it to get flowing.) “What’s the deal? You woke me out of a sound sleep at 3 a.m. mumbling about having to go ‘like a racehorse,’ and now you sit there doing nothing. What’s the holdup?” It: “You’re standing at the side of the bathtub, you idiot. The toilet is behind you.” Some other guy: “Screw you. I’m half asleep? Get a move on. We don’t have all night.” It: “I’m doing the best I can at my age (the sound of a few dribbles that slowly becomes a sporadic stream). Some other guy: “Was that so hard? Why do I always have to threaten you to get you to behave? When are you going to grow up and act your age? It: (Suddenly stops in midstream). Some other guy: “WTF? Why did you stop? You know how hard it is to get going again. Do you want me to really grab a hold of you and give you a good shaking?” It: “Cut me a break, okay? It’s your prostate’s swollen ego that’s causing all the delays. Get in his face, not mine!” Some other guy: “OK, I won’t yell anymore. Here look, I’ll even turn on the faucet and run the water to help you get into the right stream of consciousness.” It: (A tinkle, a sprinkle, a spurt and finally a strong stream). Some other guy: “That’s a good boy. That feels a lot better, now, doesn’t it?" It: (Nods in agreement.) “Yo, dude! Watch where you’re going! Stand closer. I’m not as big as you tell everybody.” Some other guy: “YOU just pay attention to what you ARE doing, okay? You don’t have the mental capacity to do more than one thing at a time.” It (muttering): “What did I do to get stuck with you? I’ll never know.” (Retaliates by suddenly turning down the spigot to “water torture drip” and giggles). Some other guy: “You think this is funny, huh? Keep it up and I’ll slam the seat down on you so fast it will make your head spin. We’ll see who laughs last.” It: (Grimaces and shrinks back in fear, but quickly returns, ready for business. It takes aim, but nada). “Damn that prostate! Looks like he’s in a tizzy again. We’re shutting down again until he takes a chill pill.” Some other guy: (Grabbing the toilet seat and threatening to slam it) “I got you ‘chill pill’ right here, mister. You get a move on, or so help me god, this seat is coming down hard and fast.” It: (lets loose with a powerful stream that would make a firefighter proud, strip paint, and win a sword fight). Some other guy: “Was that so hard? Why do we have to get into a pissin’ match every time we do this? We’re partners, remember? Let’s get some sleep and we’ll discuss this further in the morning.” It: “Whatever, dude.” Some other guy: (Getting back in bad and quickly falling asleep, but suddenly awakened 20 minutes later) “WTF? Now what?” It: “I guess I wasn’t done. I gotta go again. I’m sorry (snickers).” Some other guy: “You can stuff your sorries in a bag, buster. I’m not getting up. You’re going to have to hold it ‘til morning.” It: “Suit yourself, but there’s an old saying, where I come from: ‘Better to wake up and pee than to pee and wake up.’ Looks like I’ll be getting the last laugh. “By the way, I heard, from a reliable source, that the writer of this post not only talks to his plumbing, but he also whines, begs and grovels trying to get it to cooperate. Pitiful. I’d hate to be connected with that guy.” Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page ElmiraTelegram.com and Twin Tiers Living.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.
  12. Technology is great, but I long for the days when I was smarter than my truck. I bought a new 4WD Toyota Tacoma pickup truck two years ago, and I’m still trying to learn the purpose of the scores of switches, buttons, knobs, levers, dials, gauges, meters, lights, vents and portals. The truck’s dashboard is called an “instrument cluster” (sounds like a candy bar, to me), and bristles with more electronics than the Space Shuttle. It overwhelms with flashing lights, buzzers, bells, multi-information displays, and enough menus to open my own restaurant. I don’t know what most of them do. It tells me when I’m due for a tune-up, tire rotation, oil change and haircut, and has more microphones and speakers than a recording studio. There are so many options that I have three owner’s manuals, and some of the pages are written in other languages, requiring me to hire a United Nations translator to help me find the fuse box. One of the manuals recommends that I learn about the truck’s functions by watching a 30-minute Tacoma video or calling my dealer for instructions. See what technology has wrought? I have to take an online course, study with a dealership tutor and spend my spare time reading manuals in order to enjoy my truck. Doesn’t make sense. The manuals require a lot of cross-referencing, repeated visits to the glossary, and fist-pounding frustration when I don’t know the name of the part or function, I’m trying to look up. I tried to find the wattage for one of the two interior lights on the overhead console. It took me 10 minutes to discover that the light is called a “front personal lamp.” By the time I found it, the bulb on the other light had burned out. The truck has radar in case I want to track incoming enemy fighters. I’m searching through the manuals to see if it also has sonar or a Tomahawk missile system. I discovered an automatic “garage door opener switch” on the console. I keep pushing it, but my garage doors don’t open. Maybe it’s because they are “lift-by-hand doors. According to the manuals, the truck also has several functions that I haven’t used because I don’t know what they do: “active traction,” “crawl control,” “slip indicator” and “jettison external solid-fuel boosters.” With all those buttons, I constantly fear that I might push the wrong button by mistake and my transmission will fall out or the passenger seat will eject my wife out the window. One time I pushed the wrong buttons and dimmed all the lights on my dashboard making it difficult to see what I was supposed to see. I spent hours going through the manual trying to discover how to rectify the problem but was unsuccessful. Truth: I had to drive the truck to the dealer, and the manager and a technician spent 20 minutes figuring out how to make the lights bright again. My truck has more warning lights and alarms than a nuclear reactor operations center, and they tell me when a door is ajar, a seat belt isn’t buckled, or my fly is open. My instruments are decorated with tiny stick-figure people and icons that are supposed to be recognizable worldwide. My cluster is decorated with lightning bolts, skid marks, sunbeams, and what appears to be a tiny stick man sitting on a toilet. I will NEVER EVER press that button. I put a piece of duct tape over it. Can’t be too careful. The manuals list all the functions and options available on all Tacoma models. I don’t know which ones I have and which ones I don’t. The manuals list a “brake override system,” a “BSM outside rearview mirror indicator,” and a “longitudinal and lateral inclination indicator.” I’m inclined to believe that I don’t care about my truck’s longitude or latitude, but I do care about its attitude, especially when it gets stubborn and locks the doors without permission or locks one door and not the other, depending on its mood, I guess. When it’s in a really foul mood, the truck makes it difficult for me to use the driver’s seat shoulder harness. I’ll try to pull the harness across my chest, but it keeps stopping short, and I have to play the “yank and tug” game until it surrenders, and it lets me pull it smoothly across my chest and buckled it. I get mad, during this tug of war, and angrily jerk at the belt, trying to show it who is boss, but to no success. By the time I’m buckled in I’m in full road rage mode before I even leave my driveway. Friggin’ technology. I expect it will take me several more years to learn about all my truck’s functions and options. That will give me the rest of my life to figure out how to reset the truck clock back to daylight savings time and program my Sirius radio stations. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page TwinTiersLife.com and TwinTiersLiving.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.
  13. When it comes to sports, we want more of everything – speed, scoring, tackles, slam dunks and car crashes. Major league baseball has few if any of these. The game is slow, boring and loses fans every day. Baseball is like us Baby Boomers, the older we get the slower we get. If the game gets any slower, it will go backwards. Games will end in negative scores. Today’s average nine-inning Major League Baseball game takes three hours and 10 minutes, and only 18 minutes of that is actual play. Fans like fast-paced action at the speed of light. Baseball is played at the speed of smell. If it doesn’t change soon, it will become more boring than soccer. That’s why Major League Baseball is trying to improve and speed up the game. It can start by ending the big lie called the World Series. This end-of-season playoff doesn’t include teams from around the world, but only teams in North America. That’s one of the reasons that the sport is losing fans, interest and ratings. Here’s an idea, make the game affordable for fans. For a family of four to afford a trip to the ballpark, they must refinance their home, cash in their life insurance, visit a loan shark and win the lottery, and that just covers parking costs. It doesn’t help that greedy owners and players regularly delay the season, like the recent 99-day lockout, demanding more money because they can’t possibly live on mere multi-million-dollar salaries. The poor things are forced to own used Ferraris and Lamborghinis instead of brand-new rides. So sad. The sport is trying to re-brand itself, become more exciting, and stop its waning appeal with fans. The sport is experimenting with pitch clocks, removing the defensive player shift and letting runners use the relief pitcher golf carts to run the bases. (I made up that last one, but wouldn’t it be an exciting game if the baserunners could use a speeding cart to mow down the second baseman and stop the double play?) Here are a dozen more ideas to make the game more exciting: 1. Batters can hit the ball off a tee or toss it in the air and hit it, or just throw it wherever the hell they want. 2. Every fielder has a ball and can get the runner out by throwing it at him and hitting him like kickball. 3. Once a team is ahead by more than 10 runs, all of the team’s batters must stand the bat upright on the ground, put their forehead on the bat knob, and spin around it ten times before batting. 4. If a fan catches a foul ball, the batter is out. 5. Narrow the outfield warning track to 5-feet-wide to make for more fun and exciting player collisions with the wall that can be shown on the “Ridiculousness” TV show. 6. If a pitcher purposely plunks a batter, the batter can stand a few feet away from the pitcher and throw a fastball into the pitcher’s crotch. 7. Each team manager controls the outfield sprinklers and can turn them on when an opposing player is running to make a catch. 8. When the kiss cam points to a player he must immediately run into the stands and kiss the nearest person to him, be it a man, woman, child, usher, mascot or baseball commissioner Manfred (if it is Manfred, he must be kissed on the mouth). 9. Batters can doctor their bats by stuffing them with Superballs, springs and plastic explosives. 10. Baserunners caught in a rundown can use two fingers, to poke infielders in the eyes, ala the Three Stooges. 11. Everyone loves fireworks. Each player gets one bottle rocket that he can use, any time during the game or warmups to fire at opposing players who are batting, running bases or fielding balls. 12. Baserunner must chug a beer and eat a hot dog at each base before advancing to the next base. Bonus idea: Every time there is a player strike or owner lockout, all fans get free game passes, one for each day of the work stoppage. I’m sure you readers have ideas on how to improve the game. Share them on the comments site on this page. If Major League Baseball doesn’t incorporate some of my suggestions soon, it will be going, going gone. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and Twin Tiers Living.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  14. Don’t you hate it when you have something simple to do and you think “No sweat. It’ll take but a few minutes,” but it doesn’t because, like everything else, it’s become more complicated? (That wasn’t a rhetorical question. So, if you really don’t “hate it,” you might as well stop reading). My latest “thought it would be easy” task is buying new bedsheets. I discovered that sheets have greatly evolved from the standard white, sorta-scratchy, non-fitted twin bed sheets of my younger years. I think they had a thread count of 14 or 15. Sheets have become high-tech. Bed, Bath & Beyond sells sheets with “Tru Grip technology for a non-slip fit.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sleep in sheets that grip. Who knows what they might grip hold of during the night? Yikes! Thread counts are paramount, with numbers in the thousands. Sheets that “breathe” are popular now. I don’t need them. I have enough snoring, sighing and open mouth breathing in my bed, as it is. I don’t need sheets adding to these respirations and breathing down my neck. Sheets are no longer made of simple Dixie cotton. Nope. Today’s high-end sheets are made of Egyptian cotton. I wonder if you sleep in those sheets when you wake up and get out of bed, do you walk like an Egyptian? (Do they make sheets from Egyptian papyrus? Hope not. You could suffer serious paper cuts while tucking in the corners). They make sheets out of bamboo. Don’t know how or why. They would make me feel like I was in an Asian jungle. I’d never get to sleep worrying about what poisonous vipers and hand-sized hairy spiders were hiding between the sheets at the bottom of the bed. Not putting my bare feet down there. No way Jose! Some sheets are “thermal regulating,” to “regulate your body temperatures, so it will warm you up if you’re cold and cool you off if you’re warm.” Really! How do my sheets know if I’m warm or cold? Do they use a hidden thermometer? If so, I sure hope it’s an oral. My research showed that silk and satin sheets still exist. Don’t like ‘em. They remind me of shiny Hugh-Hefner-porn-pajamas. Worse, I would slide off the bed and injure myself in my sleep. My sheet-buying research showed me that the textile industry is still trying to convince us that there are such things as “wrinkle-free,” “no ironing,” and “permanent-press.” Bullshit. You know it. I know it, even the manufacturers know it, but the lie persists. Same goes for self-cleaning ovens. I was amused to read some of the syrupy and silly copy that is written to describe sheets and to play on your subconscious. Here are a few examples of actual descriptions. The words in parentheses explain the copy’s subliminal images and messages: “Crisp, Cool Percale” sheets that “feel like a lightly-starched dress shirt.” (Gives you that itch to dream of doing office work while you sleep. Great for buttoned-up Type A personalities, go-getters and butt-kissers.) “Egyptian Cotton Butter-Soft Sateen Collection” with “sheets so soft you can’t help but melt into them.” (Like enjoying a warm midnight snack while you sleep or making you dream about adding warm butter to your love-making repertoire, or maybe a pyramid). “Soft Jersey Knit. Like sleeping in your favorite t-shirt every night.” (For people who don’t wear PJs to bed, but don’t want to be completely nude.) While sheet material and manufacturing have improved, one bedding problem still exists the dreaded fitted sheets. The elastic corners make it difficult to determine the sheet’s top and bottom from its sides. So, you must do the trial-and-error spin and tuck method, until you get it right. As for folding them, forget it. You need square corners to fold squarely. Yes, I know there are online videos demonstrating the super-secret-magic method of folding a fitted sheet, but who has the time or the desire to watch them? I have laundry to do and beds to make. How ‘bout you watch the video and then come fold my sheets, you obsessive-compulsive duvet-loving loser. You probably iron your sheets, don’t you? Get a life. Recently, I lost one of my favorite t-shirts. Couldn’t find it anywhere, until I did the laundry and took a folded sheet from the dryer. The shirt was tucked into one of its corners. Friggin’ fitted sheets. Fitted sheets do have one advantage. They’re easy to spot amid the piles of neatly folded bedding in the linen closet. The fitted sheets are balled into a wrinkled, crinkled and ruffled smushed-down pile. Why must our linen closet shelves be neat and look like a Bed, Bath and Beyond Me? We’re only going to unfold the sheets and put them on the bed where they will get wrinkled. A closet is a handy storage space where you hide unsightly things that you don’t want guests to see. I’ve never visited a friend’s home and had him say “Welcome to our home. Let me show you around. I’m especially proud of our linen closet. I think you will be too.” So, after looking at hundreds of sheets online, I selected a set and saved it to my laptop. But I can’t remember where I put it. There’s only one thing to do. Order some memory foam pillows. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, West Elmira Neighborhood, SouthernTierLife.com and TwinTiersLiving.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.
  15. It’s the slap felt ‘round the world and discussed ‘round the clock. Will Smith’s roundhouse smack of Chris Rock during the Oscars reveals one of the hazards of being a humorist. What Will did was wrong and inexcusable. Yes, Chris cracked a bad joke, but it didn’t deserve him being sucker smacked on live TV. I worry that this incident will encourage others to go slap-happy on comedians and humorists if they don’t like the words they say or write. I don’t want to have to wear a mouthguard and Everlast protective headgear when I’m out in public. Hell, I’m lookin’ over my shoulder enough, as it is. I’ve never been slapped, hit or otherwise assaulted for anything I’ve written. What comes out of my maw, is another story. I’ve been slapped, punched, kicked, hair-pulled and doused with assorted cocktails for many of the dumb and wise-ass words I’ve voiced. It taught me the number one hard rule of comedy: It’s ALWAYS at the expense of someone or something. Humor pokes fun. It insults. It harpoons life with lampoons. To do so ALWAYS requires a goat. That is the essence of the sense of humor. Even the simple groan-inducing pun has a goat, and that’s the listener. Humor is a complex phenomenon that can’t easily be explained. We laugh because we feel superior during humorous or unexpected situations. That’s why we laugh when we see someone trip and fall or get hit in the crotch with a baseball. We know it hurts and is embarrassing because we’ve probably experienced the same gaff. The laughter brings needed levity and stress relief to an otherwise serious situation. It's all based on one’s sense of humor. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same sense of humor. Some poor saps have none. They are easy to spot as they are forever proclaiming that they possess “a great sense of humor.” Your sense of humor is like your sense of taste. I don’t like garbanzo beans. You may love them. It doesn’t mean that you are or I am any less of a person because of it. We just have different tastes. But that doesn’t stop people from believing that there must be something terribly wrong, for example, with anyone who eats raw oysters. “How can you eat that crap?” they ask with such incredulous disdain that they infer that the mollusk lover eats shit. Will Smith has a sense of humor, how else could he have done the “Wild Wild West?” But his sense isn’t as expansive as Mr. Rock’s. It has limits. Its boundary, the line you don’t cross, ends with making fun of his wife, who lost her hair due to a medical condition. Those property lines are where humor runs into trouble and morphs into “I don’t get it,” “I don’t think that’s funny,” “I’m getting pissed” and “KER-SMACK!!!!” The joke goats will laugh as long as they see the humor in the joke. When they can’t, they headbutt. Surveying, understanding and respecting those boundaries affect your sense of humor. Upset readers have told me “You stepped over the line with that last column. You went too far.” I stepped over THEIR line. My comedic property lines extend way beyond those of most people. They’re cosmic in acreage. Those endless boundaries let me find humor endlessly, which is important, given all the dumb things I say and do. I laugh them off. It makes life more fun and protects my fragile and aging male ego. Unfortunately, political correctness, cancel culture and wokeness make it more difficult, and now, hazardous, for us to express our thoughts, ideas, slants on life and sense of humor. You have a right to criticize my writing and my humor and explain to me how and why it offends you. That’s freedom of speech. Most writers and comedians want public feedback, good and bad. But that feedback doesn’t include violence, or a punchline will become just that. If my writing ever makes you so angry that you want to strike me, at least give me a heads-up so I can don my mouthpiece and headgear. Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page, Twin Tiers Life.com, and Twin Tiers Living.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.
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