Let’s End the “Ha-Ha”


In my time as a writer I have been involved in three critique groups where I was given very valuable input. Sometimes it hurt. But it’s always in the spirit of giving and change for the better. And in that vein, I’d like to suggest a new universal rule—no one should write “ha ha” after what they conceive to be a joke in an email or text.* Anymore. Anywhere.

Now it’s good to back up criticism with information or facts.

  • People should be allowed to figure out if something is funny for themselves
  • If you have to explain a joke, it isn’t funny. Same logic with the “ha ha,” if you have to imply that it’s funny it might not be.
  • If you think you’re funny but unsure, and the “ha ha” is a nervous tick, go to an open mike at a comedy club. You will find out if you’re funny very quickly and then you’ll either drop the “ha ha” because you will no longer be insecure or you will drop it because you realize you’re not funny.
  • You know you’re putting that in there so that you get an LOL back.

Now let me make it clear. I’m ok with the lol. I think it’s an honest response and I use it responsibly. Lower case to denote small giggle or chuckle, uppercase when it really has been out loud. And let me caution you to also use them in moderation and efficiently, because you are in no small way responsible for the Ha Ha Monster —they’ve come to believe they’re funny because of too liberal use of lol. I’m even ok with the smiley face. That’s just a safety net to make sure the other side knows you’re kidding. Because it is hard to convey humor. I get that.

But when it comes to the ha-ha, I recommend you laugh to yourself when you think something’s funny. Let’s not make the Ha Ha and the LOL into the laugh track of modern society. Otherwise one day children will have lost their sense of humor the same way that people think How I Met Your Mother is funny. Because they’re been told it is.

*And bloggers or those interested in blogging, that goes double for you.

On This Day in History

For my mom on her birthday.

Something something years ago an Italian and a Pollack got together. Who knew? Back then that combination was about as rare and reviled by each ethnicity as say, a Republican getting together with one of those Middle East chicks that can’t uncover their face.

Anyways, these two touched fingers, same way my parents conceived me, and 42 minutes later out popped mom. That wasn’t her first name it just gives me the willies to call her by her first name; seems disrespectful at my something age. I’m not afraid of my age I’m just afraid that you’ll do the math and the aforementioned mom will get mad that I told her age.

So she did the things most kids do: the dishes, the laundry and all the cleaning. Her mom wasn’t super nice. But her Dad was cool and he taught her how to eat a big hunk of Italian bread with a stick of butter and not throw up.

Eventually she married this Norwegian dude who got lost skiing or whatever they do in that cold ass country. Then they did that finger thing – twice – and had two kids.

Then blah blah blah, they grew up, disappointed their parents by not touching fingers with another woman cause she would make an awesome grandmother. There’s still time. But mom was pacified by her ever planning of parties and the daunting task of topping last Year’s Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Meantime the present is when it matters and she’s a vibrant something something year old woman with an inquisitive mind, the cooking skills that would make Julia Child lose her silly accent and your mouth water and the love for her family and friends Gandhi would be jealous of.

So here’s to my mom. You rock.

How to Eat Pizza

My father is Norwegian, which means he married an Italian woman because he wanted better food! I have grown up eating Italian food and my brother and I were always grateful for lent, because in our house that meant Friday=pizza! I’m sure my mom would tell you that’s because we were picky eaters and didn’t want to eat fish, but as an adult I know that she prefers pizza over fish, especially mine.

I learned how to make pizza as a young man and my folks love my pizza, so I make it for them every time I visit. My retired, gentle, polite parents become 7 years old again, asking from the comfort of the television set if it’s ready yet.

“I only got two hands here! Oh!”

Being from Chicago, everyone asks, and assumes, that I would like Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Funny, they never assume that I’m a gangster, that I vote twice, or do I have scars from being blown about by the Windy City; the other stereotypes Chicagoans have faced.

I don’t really like Chicago-style; it’s too thick and packed and I like being able to walk after I eat. My pizza is somewhere in between-not quite that thick but not quite New York thin. Which is fine, what’s up with that whole folding thing? I can see why because of the size, but I like looking at my pizza when I eat it. I think it’s beautiful, especially when the cheese is golden brown. And there’s nothing more fun than the cheese stretching out from your mouth to the slice in a long string. That don’t happened when it’s folded.

But let’s get to one of my pet peeves and the title of this edition of Amusingz: Pizza should not be eaten with a fork! That’s why the crust is there. You grab it with your hand, the other end is pointy so it goes in your mouth easily. Come on!

Now deep dish is sometimes eaten with a fork due to the weight, that is when a pound of mozzarella (pronounced mootz-a-rella, not matz-arella) cheese and two pounds of sausage (pronounced sausage) top each slice. Then, if you’re a wuss, you’re allowed to slice the first 5/6 off, so that it doesn’t just fall off onto the plate. But once it’s stabilized, grab it and go! That’s the thickest crust of all and therefore the best handle.

So, please, eat your pizza with your hands, and I’m off. I’m hungry.

I’m a D**k

I went to Best Buy today and I think I gave the “sales associate” a little more attitude than necessary. But I’ll tell you why in a second. At first the guy seemed cool. I was looking at the new Macbook Pro and he just sort of stepped in front to give a demo, explaining what he was doing even though I told him in the first minute that I’m on my 7th Mac. He may have had some hearing problems because he had these green things imbedded into his earlobes. It’s called gauging and I don’t know if it’s to help with or treat hearing loss, I only know that it looks really frickin’ weird when they’re not in and there’s a whole in the ear lobe. (I know it’s got nothing to do with hearing loss, I think it’s kooky)

So after the demo, which was impressive not because of him but because Apple has done it once again (( attention any promotion people, please leave a comment and I’ll send my complete address because I’m sure that no other blogger is looking to trade promotion for a brand new shiny laptop with a kick-a$$ retina display and thinner than a California Pizza Kitchen’s Pizza (attention any California Pizza Kitchen promotion people, I love your pizza and there’s one here in Long Beach so please leave a comment and I’ll send you my address for those coupons))). Oh wait, I was in the middle of a sentence…

So after the demo, I told him I was here for a printer and did he know about them too. Now he had a button or a sticker on his collar that read Geek Squad, and he wasn’t wearing one of those AWESOME blue polo shirts (or yellow) that identify the sales people (attention any Best Buy promotions people, I do not want one of those shirts so please don’t leave a comment) so he could have been a repair guy who just happened to be on the sales floor. But here’s my thing: if you can’t sell, if you’re not good on the sales floor, STAY IN THE BACK where the lighting will hep your pale complexion and you can eat junk food all day because no one will see your acne.

So here’ s the d**k part. I get real aggravated when people can’t do their job. I have a father that taught me manners when I was very young (there’s your Father’s Day card Dad, hope you like it) and I started working when I was 16 at a Speedway gas station/convenience mart in beautiful Schaumburg, Illinois. Somehow, whether it’s in my genes or training, I was good from the very beginning: I knew how to greet people, how to say thank you, would remember what cigarettes they bought and pull them out before they asked for them. But you know what I figured out on my own? When I did my job better it made my life easier. When someone came in ready to bitch to a high school student about the gas prices (which were in the 60 cent range in 1979, when we walked ten miles in the snow to school) and I had their cigarettes out or I greeted them with a smile, man I just shut them down. So as this dude got worse, it just brought out all the smart-a$$ in me. You’re not going to look at me-bam. You’re going to look away from me when you’re talking-bam. Had enough yet? You’re not going to listen and answer the questions I’m asking? You’re going down son. I’ve worked with smart alleck rich kids all my life and dealt with hecklers drinking unlimited beer or wine on the dinner theater stage (I should go into that one in another blog. Noted.) — you’re a walk in the park.

I’m sorry, but you get me unsatisfied and that part of me comes out. I don’t want to say that people can blame things on genetics or the way they were raised. Look around and figure out what works in this world. I don’t want you to lose your job, I bet you’re a nice guy. I bet all your friends that you play World of Warcraft with would attest to it.

Ok, I just went too far. The dude’s probably nice. Really he was pleasant. But come on folks, this world needs common sense more than it ever did. I bet you could find some. I bet there’s even books on it at the library. I bet I could start a business where I write books about it and conduct seminars all over the country.

On second thought, keep being the way you are and Best Buy please leave a comment for me with the contact information to human resources so I can send them my promotional material for my new corporate seminars Don’t Be a D**k.


Sunglasses are Cool, On Everyone But Me

sunglasses are just too difficult

I used to wear sunglasses all the time in an attempt to a) be cool b) promote an air of mystery c) keep my contacts from burning like hell when something flew in them. But somewhere in my late 30s, I started getting up early, liking the sun and wanting to see without a drop shadow, so I stopped wearing them.

Well recently, while visiting Chicago, my mom commented on how she was surprised that I didn’t wear sunglasses because people with blue eyes blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Now it’s not that I don’t listen to my mom, I just tend to do that with everyone. I apologize to you all if you thought I was listening. It is a biological defect that promotes a healthy imagination and therefore is valuable in my lines of work as performer and writer, but..it’s really rude. Sorry, I’m seeing someone.

So when I got back to Long Beach in late March I decided I should try wearing sunglasses again, simply because the sun never shuts off in Southern California and I was afraid that my mom told me that the blue fades and you end up with brown eyes. There’s nothing wrong with brown eyes, I just have a lot of clothes that bring out my blue eyes and I can’t afford a new wardrobe at this time.

The Back of the Head Move

So upon donning sunglasses again I began to take notice of a few “cool” moves that I felt I needed to adopt. The first one is the habit of wearing the sunglasses on the back of the head when they’re not obscuring your clear vision. I saw this on Diners and Whatever Else (again with the short attention span) with Guy Ferrari. What? Oh sorry, Fieri. He’s always wearing them on the back of his head and at first I thought that was so he looked like a punk version of Cousin It to people behind him. But then I realized that it’s just cause it looks cool, so I tried it. Well…

I have a shaved head. So one of two things happens: either the sunglasses won’t stay in place and just keep sliding down my neck no matter how many times I push them up, or, they get so slimy because I do have a shaved head and I sweat a lot. Which means that I must constantly wipe them off with my t-shirt and then I just look like a drooler. Either way not a pretty picture.

The Back of the Shirt Move

The second thing I saw, at the grocery store, was a guy who took his sunglasses off, folded them closed, then reached behind to hook them on the back of his t-shirt. Nice. That way you don’t have a crew-neck t-shirt doing a lousy impersonation of a v-neck. So I tried it. Well it didn’t hook. They fell into the back of my t-shirt and I spun around like a dog chasing his tail trying to dig them out.  I scratched my back horribly in the process.

The Loser

After failing at the first two moves, I went back to my old standby: I lost my sunglasses. Or left them somewhere. Or they’re behind something. I don’t know, I just remembered that I used to go through them fast. So I’m just giving them up again. Brown eyes aren’t bad; they’re more mysterious.

The Curse of the Omnivore

For about the last 25 years I have been primarily vegetarian.  There are exceptions: like I said in the blog the other day my mom’s Italian meatballs  rock (just have to qualify Italian because I didn’t like Swedish meatballs even as a kid.) I have sushi maybe five times a year and I’ve recently been introduced to Wahoo’s fish tacos and they are delicious. But seriously, it adds up to about a dozen times a year that I have anything labeled “flesh.” (Girls, that doesn’t mean everything)

But here’s the thing: I don’t care. I am not into it because of animal rights, I have owned leather shoes and I really, really don’t care what you eat. I wish the opposite was true.

I do my best not to proclaim my vegetarianism because then it becomes a label. I can go along with anyone to any restaurant and merely discreetly order a salad and no one has to be the wiser. Because when it comes out that I am a vegetarian I am often faced with The Wrath of the Omnivore!

I don’t exactly know when it became fashionable to label oneself an Omnivore. Obviously that word has been around for a long time, but there seems to be a movement. I don’t know if the bacon guys started it, because there seems to be more bacon around on top of burgers than ever before. I don’t know if it’s the chicken guys; maybe they teamed up with the bacon guys because chickens are more wiry. Or maybe it’s the beer guys, because I know when I used to drink even I wanted to eat White Castle. Or maybe people just want to eat meat and they can sniff out those of us that don’t and they’re on the attack. Whatever it is, I’m suddenly faced with people telling me that I’m wrong and that we’re naturally omnivores. So that got me thinking about whether that was true. And if so, how far would it go back. Picture two early homo-whatever they were when they were cavemen.

“Ungh” (translate: Want some fruit?)

“Garngh Ungh” (No I want to eat the animal to show I’m more powerful)

“Ungh La Loo” (Really, cause this fruit is way prettier, makes me want to eat it more than that hairy beast)

“Garngh Gahungh Rahungh” (Yes, but I need to eat him before he eats me)

Points (Too late)


Again, I’m not hear to preach my side, so please don’t preach yours. I just know that when I eat a vegetarian diet I feel better. Please realize I will never give up pizza and go vegan. So if you feel better having a  double bacon cheese burger and that gives you energy like my diet does then help yourself. I don’t know CPR.