* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our pride in our automobile is exceeded only by our ability to fake humility about the same. Matt Hunter is your chauffeur.

The Humble Sports Car Owner


2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Pedestrian: Nice car, buddy. The one percent must be fun.

Henry [leaning against car]: What? Oh thanks. Yeah, I won this at a casino. You see, I have a gambling problem and this car, unfortunately, is a manifested symbol of this problem. I know what you’re thinking — “Oh what a terrible problem to have. You get a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta with an eight-cylinder V12 engine and super-frame chassis out of this deal.” Well, my problem got out of hand, so my wife divorced me, took the kids, and seized our house in the settlement. Now this car is all I have, and it’s a constant reminder of my horrible addiction. Yes, I’ve gained a nice car, but I’ve lost the true prize — my family…and love [tears up].

Pedestrian: …oh.

Henry: Do you know how hard it is to sleep sitting upright in Italian leather?

1965 Aston Martin DB5

Acquaintance: Wow, Michael. Can someone say midlife crisis? Ha ha!

Michael: [looking down] Huh? Oh, this thing. I just got it from my deceased father. He passed away last week from carbon monoxide poisoning, and it’s what he left me in his will. Did I want his riches? No. Because he didn’t have any. He put all his money in this damn car. He couldn’t even afford to put me through college! I spent years competing with this thing — while my Dad dropped another five grand to fix the gearbox, I was struggling to maintain my job to pay for community college. So is a 48-year-old who still works at Home Depot allowed to have a midlife crisis?! I wouldn’t know. I can’t afford one.

2014 Bugatti Veyron

A beautiful girl pulls up to the stoplight next to Anthony. He accidentally revs his engine.

Girl: [yells out her window] What are you compensating for, asshole?!

Anthony: [Looks at her] Oh, this. This was my one wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m dying from a rare disease that I got at birth and I only have a few weeks left to live. My family’s never had a lot of money, so my wish was to drive a nice car for a week. The Bugatti Company was kind enough to loan out this car before I pass [coughs].

The light turns green. Anthony drives the speed limit.

2014 Corvette Stingray

Jack walks slowly from the parking lot to the restaurant where his co-worker waits outside.

Co-worker: [overly sarcastic] Boy, Jack, could you park any farther away? I can barely see your car from here! Ha ha! Ah, I get it — you don’t want some knucklehead parking next to ya’ and scratching that beauty.

Jack: [sighs] Actually, I park far away cause my physical therapist says I need to do as much walking as possible to get my legs rehabilitated. Ever since my battalion’s Humvee came in contact with that IED outside of Baghdad and that shrapnel ripped through my calf, I haven’t been able to walk normal.

Co-worker: Well, pretty coolio that you bought yourself such a suh-weet ride when you returned to the States.

Jack: No. It’s from the American government. Some sort of sick consolation prize, I guess, for being a wounded vet. I could have used money instead for my family, but no, the government wanted to put me in an “American-made machine” to support the country. Disgusting. America’s the real machine. A war machine.

Co-worker: …Okie doke. Well, at least this warm weather’s nice for walkin’.

Jack: The heat that rises off that arid parking lot only reminds me of the brutal temperatures I faced every day in the Iraqi desert.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are all about the Twitter and the multinational corporations. And sometimes the two together, thanks to Devin Schiff.

3 Reasons You Should Follow Corporate Twitter Accounts


Think about your favorite 140-character crafters: Entertainers? Politicians? “Gurus”?

Where are corporate Twitter accounts on your list? Our business brands are engaged in a good and just effort to cut through the meaningless clutter of our consumer culture. They encourage us to see our lives for what they really are.

But we don’t listen. We dismiss the depth of their cultural understanding by saying, “What is all this advertising on my timeline?” We frown at their wit and ignore their attempts to engage us. Why?

The products that these companies spend their hard-earned money developing, manufacturing, and putting on shelves in buildings near our houses form the fabric of our lives. Doesn’t this mean that corporate Twitter accounts understand us best of all?

It does mean that. Let’s all follow corporate Twitter accounts. Here are three reasons why:

1. They create meaning

Corporate Twitter accounts have a profound understanding of why people identify with certain things. They synthesize relevant contemporary phenomena in unique and authentic ways.

This perceptive perspective was evident in a recent tweet by the beautiful minds behind the CheezChips® Snack Crackers account. It reads: “#WordOfTheYear,” with an accompanying Instagram of the word “selfie” imprinted on delectable CheezChips, one letter per cracker.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Did you know that “selfie” was the word of the year? You do now. So that’s one thing. But what the McLuhan disciples at CheezChips accomplish in a single tweet goes much, much deeper.

The artful inscription of “s-e-l-f-i-e” on the CheezChips effectively creates a selfie of the snack crackers themselves. What an incisive commentary. This tweet demands that we consider the sociolinguistic implications of practicing this solipsistic form of self-portraiture. Also, #nofilter. In a world concerned about embedded patriarchal and heteronormative social constructs, CheezChips teaches us a lot about defining yourself on your own terms. #SayCheez!

Imagine if Jackson Pollock had to release hundreds of his little spilled masterpieces a week, and you’d have some idea of how hard it is to produce so much meaningful content on demand. But corporate Twitter accounts do it, because today’s media cyberscape is relentless and you need coverage you can count on.

2. They help you improve yourself

Have you ever been at a loss for words? Probably. Look at your Twitter. You’ll find weeks where you had nothing to say. Just like famous name you recognize Ralph Waldo Emerson, you’re suffering from a deficit of #self-reliance.

Every single day corporate Twitter accounts selflessly invite you to speak your mind. They ask thousands of stimulating questions that provoke answers. Questions such as: “Which flavor of #CheezChips is your favorite?” and “What kind of #Monday is the best #Monday for a #CheezChip?” and “In honor of the #DayOfTheDead, what else (besides #CheezChips) would you want to be buried with?” Now your open mind is spinning off to the limitless curiosities of the human spirit.

Whether you answer these questions immediately (CheezChips Tangerz™ Chipotle Mayo Burst, partly sunny, a picture of your family) or print them out and post them on the wall of your dining room as a conversation piece, it will feel good to know that you’re participating. #SayCheez!

Corporate Twitter accounts want to hear YOU. We know you want to discuss conversations. To share ideas. To challenge everything.

If you talk about us, we’ll find you. And you should hope we find you, because that’s the first step to finding yourself.

3. We’re all going to die someday

Corporate Twitter accounts understand that life is fleeting — we don’t waste your time. Instead, we try really hard to connect with all of you. People don’t understand how hard we try. When we write, “Retweet if you were going to party tonight, but then you found your hidden stash of #CheezChips,” it’s not just an idle commentary on how life plans are often altered by external forces.

It’s a cry for help. For all of us.

You think I want to confront existential issues in the face of the Sisyphean thought-generation dumpster fire that is Twitter? No, but as the guy behind the CheezChips corporate Twitter account, I have a public duty to perform.

No one’s ambition is to be the Digital Social Strategist for CheezChips. This is the best I could do. I don’t deserve any better, I know that now. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up. Actually I really wanted to be a fire engine, but I settled for fireman and I’ve been settling ever since. Now look upon me, trying to make you relate CheezChips Healthz™ Italian Wheatgrass crackers to the #FirstDayOfSpring like some kind of Pavlovian wind chime ringing desperately in an empty room. #SayCheez! I hate myself.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, retweet this, or come find me wandering the snack aisle at Target, wondering how it went so horribly wrong.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always ready to admit our mistakes. Especially when they were really made by Erik Cofer.

We’d Like To Apologize For Last Season’s Egregious Oversights


As you can probably imagine, running a television series is no easy task. We try our best, but even so, sometimes we err. Many of you have brought last season’s errors and incongruities to our attention, and for that we thank you. Rest assured that the concerns you voiced have been heard loud and clear.

For instance, several fans sent us visual evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the gilded silver vase resting atop the Henderson family hearth in episode 3 appears in episodes 4-7 as a gilded bronze vase. The silver vase was dislodged and destroyed in the midst of a rehearsal for episode 4. We improvised the best we could, but alas, it clearly wasn’t good enough. Please accept our sincere apologies.

Others have stated their displeasure at the use of contemporary music to accompany a show putatively set in the 1970s. Again, that’s our bad. Ditto with the cell phones. With a show as intricate as this one, these little anachronisms will occasionally rear their ugly heads.

Perhaps the most befuddling question we repeatedly received was “What happened to Cecilia’s pregnancy?” None of us could recall Cecilia ever becoming pregnant, so we went back and reviewed the tape, and sure enough, the previous season ended with a dramatic close-up of Cecilia’s positive pregnancy test. That was a pretty embarrassing gaff on our part — admittedly punctuated by her revelation in the ensuing season premiere that radiation from the thermonuclear terrorist attack had rendered her infertile.

And we could have sworn that we had chronicled the nuclear holocaust at the end of season 3, but it turns out we decided at the last minute to end on Edward’s birthday party instead, which is of course where Cecilia took the pregnancy test. Once we realized this narrative omission, the confused faces of our actors made a lot more sense — as did your puzzled and indignant responses to the new post-apocalyptic plotline.

The copious death threats you’ve made on the lives of our writing staff solidify your status as an attentive, learned audience. You perceive every detail, and have no qualms about bluntly informing us when we’ve offended your sense of televisual authenticity. It’s really a treat for us to write, produce, and direct a series for fans as savvy as you.

We’re always seeking new ways to surprise you guys, but not every attempt to do so proves successful. We truly had only your gratification in mind with the big twist in episode 8 that Ken was actually a cyborg. Little did we know at the time, we were only fooling ourselves. As you, our viewers, have astutely pointed out over and over again, Ken was already revealed to be a cyborg five episodes earlier. Now we know why the idea seemed so familiar to us. Anyway, egg all over our faces on that one. (Of course, it sure would have been nice if a certain actor had spoken up before we proceeded to design a pseudo-cybernetic body cast for him for the second time, but hey, there’s only so much you can ask of someone being paid $25,000 per minute of screen time.)

And yes, you’re all totally right. Not only would Sarah not be twerking to the Miley Cyrus song playing on her iPhone when she’s suddenly invited to compete on Wheel of Fortune in 1973, but she also wouldn’t be live tweeting her whirlwind of emotions on the set. That’s another anachronistic blunder on our part, no doubt. Nonetheless, the persistent e-mails reminding us that Wheel of Fortune didn’t first air until 1975 kind of seem like piling on.

With the network’s renewal decision rapidly approaching, it’s understandable that so many of you have questioned the show’s future viability. We absolutely have every intention in the world of continuing the series, though we acknowledge that killing off the entire cast in the season finale seems to indicate otherwise. Don’t worry, we’re diligently devising a way to bring everyone back — yes, even Ken, whose half-human, half-machine body was ripped to shreds by that new radiation-generated hybrid species introduced in the last two episodes.

Once again, we’d like to apologize for the numerous faux pas that may have diminished your viewing experience this past season. We will not, however, apologize for the alien abduction subplot introduced in episode 7 and promptly abandoned after episode 9. Continuity issues aside, those were three rock solid episodes, and we defy anyone to attest otherwise.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we occasionally take a contrarian view on the subject of kidnapping. Special correspondent Tyler Gooch has the facts in his first piece for us.

To My Son’s Kidnapper


Dear Kidnapper,

My name is Glenn Adams. I am Jeffrey’s father. My wife Sharon and I received your ransom note requesting $250,000 for the safe return of our son. We would like to inform you that we do intend to pay the ransom. But it will probably take us until next Friday to round up the money. So if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on Jeffrey for us until then, we would really appreciate it. A few things you should know about Jeffrey though:

Jeffrey has quite an affinity for candy (we assume that that is how you lured him away from the playground). Please do not let him have any candy containing peanuts; he has an allergy. While the peanuts will not kill him, they will cause his hands to swell up and he will begin to urinate everywhere. Do you rent? If so, you can pretty much kiss that security deposit goodbye.

While we think you are a bad guy for taking our son, we do feel like we should give you fair warning. Jeffrey will often signal to you that he has a secret he wants to whisper in your ear. Do not lean in to hear the secret. Most of time Jeffrey will just spit into your ear, though on occasion he will have an actual secret. What he whispers to you will be horrifying. My therapist is still trying to help me deal with the night my son whispered, “Dad, we don’t need to put up the flyers about Mr. Snuggles.” You see, we had recently lost our family cat, Mr. Snuggles, and printed out flyers offering a reward. I mistakenly asked why the flyers were unnecessary.

I then sat in disbelief as I learned, in vivid detail, how Mr. Snuggles was, in fact, never lost, but had instead met a grisly demise at the hands of my son. After Jeffrey finished depicting this gruesome scene in his soft, innocent whisper, he stepped back, looked me in the eye and said, “I guess there IS more than one way to skin a cat!” He then cackled maniacally as he ran down the hallway in his dinosaur pajamas. Every night since, I have lain awake in bed, unable to picture anything but a suffering Mr. Snuggles. If you forget about this and do bend down to hear a secret, pray that you only get a loogie in the ear.

Jeffrey repeats a lot of the words and phrases that he hears adults use, even curse words, so please watch your language around him.

This is going to sound a bit odd, but always protect your femoral and carotid arteries. We once let Jeffrey read an anatomy textbook that piqued his interest. This was our greatest failure as parents.

I am sure that by this point Jeffrey has begun repeatedly asking you for carrots. For your own safety, please soften the carrots in boiling water before giving them to Jeffrey. If you must serve Jeffrey raw carrots, please make sure that he does not sharpen them with his teeth and make sure there are no rubber bands nearby. He will fashion a rudimentary bow and arrow and launch the carrots everywhere. The soft carrots do less damage to the drywall and your flesh.

If you have some sort of physical deformity, it would be best not to let Jeffrey know or see. He will mock you mercilessly. Kids can be so cruel sometimes.

As you may already know, our son does not like it when you call him “Jeff.” If he asks you to call him “The Demon Prince of Darkness, Sorrow and Hellfire,” then please refer to him accordingly — he is just having one of his “episodes of lunacy.” It should pass shortly.

Do not mess up the correct uses of “good” and “well.” This upsets him. Also, try to avoid adverbs when possible. Use passive voice at your own risk.

If you happen to fall asleep without locking Jeffrey up, he will put your hand in a glass of warm water. We’ve tried to get him to stop, but boys will be boys.

All in all, we are desperate to get our little Jeffrey back, but again, it will take us until next Friday to get the money together for his ransom. If you need us between now and next Friday, please contact the Myrtle Beach Best Western. This feels weird to say to our son’s captor, but thank you.


Glenn and Sharon Adams

P.S. Please don’t let this letter frighten you. Jeffrey is a good kid but a bit quirky. If this letter does frighten you, do not try to get rid of Jeffrey by abandoning him in the woods. He has certainly already picked up your scent and he will be very upset when he inevitably finds you. Trust us, abandoning him will not work.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would never rank the identity of a typeface as being of greater importance than the content it embodies. But Ronald Dario would. He's peculiar that way.

A Note About The Type


The text of this book is set in Gunta Liebe, which is a type family developed in 1957 by German typeface designer Stefan Wagner. Gunta Liebe was initially designed in an attempt to streamline visibility and to impress Austrian architect Gunta Miedinger (née Muller), who worked at the Bauhaus school at the same time as Wagner. The two met for the first time at an office Christmas party and shared an enthusiastic conversation about their mutual fondness of the shape, construction and handling of the beetle. The interaction left the type designer quite smitten with the young architect. Miedinger (née Muller) later said that she “thought we were talking about the popular car at first,” but soon “realized that [Wagner] was actually referring to those really gross bugs. I told him that I had to use the toilet and left the party altogether. He was way too excited about bugs.”

Inspired, Wagner decided to change the font’s name from Abssichwalz — named after the late grandmother who raised him — to Gunta Liebe. Wagner believed that dedicating a completed typeface to his new crush would be the grandest romantic gesture possible. In a journal entry from 1958, Wagner wrote he had “told Mother and Father about sweet Gunta, but frustratingly, they only feigned interest.” Mother and Father were the names of Wagner’s two favorite cats, whose faces he would later have tattooed onto his inner thighs.

In February of 1959, Miedinger (née Muller) met and fell in love with Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger, developer of what is now known as Helvetica. When the news of their relationship reached Wagner, he reportedly felt a “betrayal that quickly escalated into madness” and “basically stopped interacting with his friends and colleagues.” Wagner’s family never heard from him again, which he would later blame on his decision to put Johnny America — his other cat — in charge of his day-to-day correspondence.

Wagner spent the next 18 years obsessively focused on the completion of Gunta Liebe, going through 402 iterations of the typeface. One colleague remembered him as “a very focused man,” recalling the sheer will that Wagner displayed as he “traveled around the city, collecting any printed material that used Helvetica,” which Wagner then “ate for sustenance and also in the hopes that it would ‘take away some of Helvetica’s evil power.’ Sometimes it was hundreds of pamphlets, or an entire shelf of books, or even the awning from a butcher’s shop! But he never complained or hesitated — he just consumed.” Wagner’s desire to perfect Gunta Liebe and win back Miedinger’s (née Muller) affection prevented him from working on or delivering any other project for the Bauhaus. Stefan Wagner was officially terminated from his position in 1966, after taking an extended medical leave caused by an almost lethal number of paper cuts in his mouth, esophagus and stomach.

For nine years, Wagner lived in a constant state of fatigue — likely due to his subpar living conditions (abandoned beef rendering plant) and poor diet (expired tins of meat seasoned with rolling tobacco). In the long effort to finish Gunta Liebe, Wagner tried many strange experimental techniques. He would lock himself in a cold cellar for weeks, depriving his body of food, clean water and sunlight in a ritual that he believed would give him the motivation to finally complete the type family. Instead it gave the designer a severe case of toxic shock syndrome, which caused a series of hallucinations that he called “visions.”

Wagner wrote about his most inspiring vision, recalling “a giant cat coming to me with Miedinger in her mouth.” The giant cat then proceeded to “throw that villain into the air, catching him and swallowing him in one gulp,” and the vision ends with the giant cat “[pulling] out Max’s skeleton whole, still connected, and presenting it to me as a gift.” In the subsequent journal entries, Wagner mostly writes about visions in which he is making “glorious” music by “playing on [Miedinger's] skeleton ribcage like a xylophone” and “creating beautiful piano pieces by pressing down on Max’s huge, crooked teeth like piano keys.”

Wagner contracted pneumonia in 1974 and lived with the condition for 11 months before finally succumbing to being hit by a small furniture truck and then immediately having his head run over by a slightly larger furniture truck. His body was cremated and — as instructed in his will — his ashes were scattered across a thick paste, mixed thoroughly, and smeared across the Bauhaus campus.

The Miedingers were married for 52 years, passing away from natural causes at the exact same time, peacefully and in each other’s arms after more than five decades of a loving and entirely conflict-free marriage. The financial success of Helvetica afforded the couple the luxury of building a guard tower and moat around their home after a series of mysterious events that resulted in Miedinger (née Muller) waking up with her toenails clipped and several inches of hair missing.

In 1988, the final iteration of Gunta Liebe was discovered inside a chest full of preserved beetles that were dressed in miniature women’s clothes and wearing crude wigs made out of human hair. The book containing the completed version of Gunta Liebe was found wrapped neatly in a parcel addressed to Miedinger (née Muller), never mailed. The other 401 iterations of Gunta Liebe and the majority of Stefan Wagner’s journals were reportedly incinerated by accident shortly after the director of the Bauhaus found a sandy paste in his coffee.

Wagner was survived by his three cats, whose inbred descendants are the sole beneficiaries of any and all proceeds made from Gunta Liebe.

The secondary type is Futura Bold.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your source for pickup lines that are absolutely, positively guaranteed to work every time. Michael Fowler knows, because they worked for him. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Surefire Lines


She was the kind of girl you meet at the planetarium. Soft-spoken, creased jeans, killer dimples. I told her that the asteroid that came by this year, the one the size of two football fields, had missed us by 359,000 miles, not even close. Sure, when it would come back around in 2059 it’d pass a lot closer, 135,000 miles, but that was still a football field or two of leeway so there was nothing to fear. I left her smiling and combing my mustache with her tongue.

She was the sort of woman you run into at the energy company payment window. Tight shorts, clean sneakers, heart-shaped calves. I told her I wasn’t afraid of high heating costs this winter, and that was because I heat my home with radon. This naturally occurring and cost-free radioactive emission provides the evenly distributed and comfortable energy of a hundred x-ray machines without even the need of a thermostat. I left her joyfully adding up the money saved and savoring the BTUs in my lips.

She was the type of tomato one bumps into at a chess tournament. Braless, homeschooled, atmospheric. I told her I was one of the fastest players in the world, not because of the quickness of my thought, but on account of the velocity I imparted to the pieces. In the opening, my king’s pawn had been clocked at 50 miles per hour, and in one game I moved my bishop along a diagonal so quickly my opponent briefly lost sight of it. Bowled over, she replied that she’d rather be knocked down and kicked by me than given expensive gifts by a lesser man.

She was the kind of babe you run into at the optician’s. Striped, bilingual, ambidextrous. She urged me to try contacts, and I said I would, provided that the optometrist put them in tiny frames that went over my ears and connected them with a curved piece that fit over my nose. A minute or two later she “got it” and laughed, then played footsie with me in the waiting area, and at the same time offered to clean my apartment for only $29.95 a month — a deal!

She was the kind of gal you spot at a shoe store. Palsied, breathless, street-smart. My last boyfriend made shoes, she said. Was he an elf? I asked. She slapped my back in instant camaraderie and promised me action.

She was the sort of bird you encounter in the Honey Baked ham line during the holidays. Cold, starving, dressed in rags. As two strangers, we entered the line at the front of the store, and by the time we spied hams in the distance, we were in a relationship. Later on in the day, when we arrived at the condiments, I saw it wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t just leave her. Try the honey-mustard sauce, I advised; it seemed the least I could do. She offered to lick the stuff out of my navel and drink my saliva through a straw. Coolio!

She was the sort of lady one sits beside at the library. Fishnets, sandalwood scent, hair in a bun. I told her I gave library books as holiday gifts, enclosing a note that said, I think you might appreciate this, and by the way, it’s due back in two weeks. At her place she “read” my testicles, saying they were as deep as Dostoevsky.

She was the sort of chick you find on the tour of Elvis’s home in Memphis, Petticoat Junction or whatever it’s called. Pallid, free-wheeling, altruistic. I told her Elvis had the same kitchen that my mother in Cincinnati had, built in the same year, 1957. I would have felt at home toasting cheese sandwiches with Elvis on his Hotpoint Range, stacking 45′s on his Magnavox hi-fi, or watching TV with the King on his 24-foot vanilla shag sofa. The chick asked me if my mom really had a 24-foot vanilla shag sofa, but not before inviting me over to her place for an afternoon of choke-play and twerking.

She was the kind of colleen you meet in the front seat of a Ford. Cornfed, shoeless, monotheistic. She got upset that I dozed off while driving, though she dozed off too. Once I was driving by a farm, and when I woke up, there were chicken feathers and bloody carcasses all over the windshield. I managed to pull into a rest stop before she woke up, and I was just removing the last feathers when I saw her looking at me with suspicion. I said, A flock of low-flying geese flew right into me, and I’m the sort of savvy navigator who steers away from hazardous fowl, protecting his lady’s sweetly put-together package. At that she tore open my shirt, said I love the stuffing out of you too, handsome, and sprayed my chest with soda, just to watch the lazy liquid crawl down my bod.

She was the kind of mama you might sidle up to while skydiving. Alert, shadowy, iron-deficient. As we steered our silk toward the ground, I told her the history of skywriting. It started by accident, I said. A man’s biplane caught on fire, he bailed out in the smoke and flames, and after he hit the ground he looked up and saw: Eat at Bob’s. Later on, as we folded up our chutes, she “got it” and started laughing. She came to my place that evening and hand-rubbed my brisket, then greased my griddle. As a finale she tweaked my circuits and rotated my distributor, for reals!

She was the kind of miss you approach at an animal rights meeting. Sensitive, long-fingered, fringed with cat hair. I told her my dog was a very perceptive and intelligent animal, able to tell my mood in a second, and if he had any doubts a few whacks across his spine with a broom handle clarified the matter. I also liked to run out my front door with my BB gun shouting Geronimo! and shooting squirrels and robins in the chest. You might think this would diminish me in her eyes, but after I broke down in tears and said I needed her guidance, I soon lay face down on the bed in her apartment as she whipped me to attention with pine nettles.

She was the kind of doll you greet in a shark cage. Bleached top, tattooed shanks, bleeding gums. I told her I was called, in that gracious Southern tradition, Beer Breath. Since we were underwater, I had to repeat myself several times before she understood. Later on deck our captain, a sailor from Croatia, said he could defend us from any shark, no matter how large. She and I soon spotted a great white sixty feet long, and I whispered to her, we’re going to need a bigger Croat. After sundown she “got it,” then took me below deck while tittering and scalped my kelp.

She was the sort of dame you see holding up a bank. Masked, borrowed clothes, armed. She wanted reassurance that the pocket umbrella sticking out of my jacket pocket wasn’t a gun. It looked a lot like a gun. It was metallic and had that tooled look and handle-like grip, so when I roll it up tight and stick it in my pocket, it could be a gun. What with all the violence going on these days, you couldn’t be sure. Smiling broadly, I replied, softly, It’s a 38-caliber London Fog. That’s all I said, just: It’s a 38-caliber London Fog automatic with a hair trigger, softly and distinctly. With that she ordered me into a corner and fed me a kiss that I felt down to my arches, then back up to my molars. She whispered that she admired my insouciance, and if she didn’t get caught or shot she was a lead-pipe cinch.

She was the kind of cookie you stumble across in an ancient civilization. Riddled with parasites, toned from plowing, mummified. I met her on Extinct.com, the interactive website for girls from Mesopotamia and other defunct spots. Did you know you were the last of your kind? I asked her. And if you did, why didn’t you have kids? She mumbled something about how her dad didn’t like her going out with the Etruscans or Phoenicians in her neighborhood; they didn’t mine enough silver and seldom bathed. Liking what I heard, I said maybe we two could get us a little house in the Fertile Crescent, revive the Mesopotamians. She said, I’m 4500 years old and dead; it would be a long shot. I told her not to put herself down like that, but then I logged off. Usually I chased anything in pantyhose, but maybe a Mesopotamian chick was too much of a stretch. How far could pantyhose stretch, anyway? Still, the next day I checked out some futuristic babes on Roommates@Mooncolony.org and found one who said she’d live in the Mare Tranquillitatis with me in 2050, if she liked the way I sounded. I’m still trying to come up with a line that long.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where romantic dreams meet cold hard reality in a savage head-on collision that is nonetheless heartwarming and amusing. This week, first time contributor Linda DeMers Hummel wants someone to adjust so much more than her pipes.

Pipe Dreams


Let’s say it’s been a while between dates. Let’s say seven months. Let’s admit that the produce aisle at Whole Foods isn’t the bastion of solvent men it’s cracked up to be. My kickball league was useless. And I had to drink so much while Speed Dating that every potential love of my life ended up looking like he had an identical twin coming out of his shoulder.

Not that today is a date — or at least not yet — but I am branching out. Sure, some might call it settling, but mostly they would be the assholes on my kickball team. This morning, three carpet layers and a plumber are coming to my house. I’m hoping just one of them won’t be a dolt. Does that sound condescending? I hope not because I’m already fast-forwarding to a party next year, where he and I can share our story with the seven people in the tri-state area who still haven’t heard it. “You won’t believe how we met,” I’ll say, gazing into his insanely chiseled face, “Honey, you tell them. You tell it so well!”

Okay, suddenly I’m having a lucid moment. Odds are good that the carpet guys haven’t changed much since their high school days of getting buzzed under the bleachers while cutting second period Algebra. Good chance they’re birthers, and they say “dude” every fifth word. All right, the carpet guys are officially off the table. Maybe.

Which leaves (okay, judgy kickball people) my imaginary plumber. He’s all tall and rugged. White teeth and healthy gums. And his backstory! There’s a really good reason why he’s a plumber instead of a Stanford grad and I, for one, can’t wait to hear it.

“Ma’am?” The carpet layers are the first to arrive, and one look confirms why I broke up with them. Right out of the gate, they have no control of their past participles and make absolutely no eye contact as they carry the big bolt past me. Perhaps their breakfast of barbecued potato chips and orange soda hasn’t given them the stamina they were hoping for. That’s just a guess though. Maybe I’m just not their type.

Two rooms away, I can hear their every word, courtesy of (just speculating here) too many AC/DC concerts. They speak with all the stealth of my 92-year-old Uncle Mike, who’s been known to give an entire room a rundown on his latest bowel movement when he thought he was whispering to Aunt Sarah.

Their conversation starts with a mystery: “I know my grandfather was in a war, but I’m not sure which one.”

“Well, we could figure it out by the year he was born,” says the mathematical carpet layer.


“That’s easy then,” says the historian carpet layer and Jeopardy contender. “Had to be World War Two.”

“Wherever it was, he told me it was cold as fuck. Where’d they fight World War Two anyway?”

“In Vietnam.”

I wonder if the plumber will be on time. I love him more now than I did an hour ago, and that was a lot.

Isn’t it cute that I know so much about him? He’ll carry a dog-eared little notebook everywhere he goes. He’ll stop intermittently to jot down his thoughts, and I won’t even care that I’m paying him $800 an hour. And once my disposal is running again, we’ll meander out to the patio. How does he manage to smell like a sprig of lavender after a day of unclogging people’s pipes?

“This?” I’ll say, “Oh it’s nothing!” Just the last Merlot from my 2006 Napa trip, breathing for 35 minutes, just as the sommelier recommended. And, surprise! Bruschetta I’ve made with basil harvested an hour ago from my herb garden, and olive oil directly from Umbria. Somehow I know it won’t attract flies on the back patio, which will leave us ample time to gaze into each other’s souls. Maybe you’ll read aloud your latest poetry that came to you as you were installing a showerhead across town.

Finally, a knock at the door! Am I reading too much into this, or was that knock the perfect balance between vulnerability and strength?

His brown uniform is emblazoned with an embroidered patch: CHUCK. That’s quite a mustache you’ve got going there, Chuck. Had a quick beer and a cigarette on your way over, did you? No need to smile. Really. Enough with the teeth.

“This way to the kitchen,” I say, remembering the perky steps I’d been practicing. Perky no more, I just point to the sink.

His first words as he climbs underneath are: “Jesus Christ!” This is not as alarming as it might sound. I hear this kind of comment often because I tend to let things go until a crisis may be looming. So I’m not worried. That, plus love is dead.

“See this?” he asks, pointing with his flashlight. “You’re lucky you didn’t get electrocuted. Who the hell put this in?”

“My ex-husband.”

Did Chuck just stick his head out from under the sink and look me up and down? Did a warm breeze just blow through my hair, and did my lips form a perfect sensuous rosebud? Chuck has just taken a deep breath.

“Can you fix it today?” I’m trying so hard to look serious that I may instead look like a woman who’s just finished a ventriloquism class.

He goes to his truck to get the part he needs. While he’s gone, the carpet guys have a spirited discussion about the California Gold Rush or the rule of the Habsburgs — it’s hard to tell.

Chuck is back, but uh oh, he has combed his hair. I want to blurt out, “CHUCK, it’s me, not you. The bruschetta isn’t happening, okay? I don’t even have an herb garden!”

I sit at the kitchen table to pay some bills. Chuck is under the sink, humming, his legs splayed out on my kitchen floor. I wonder what pathogens are living in those rubber soles of his.

“So how long were you married?” he asks.

“Fifteen years. A long time!” I give those last three words the punch of a lifetime, and might, at any second, add, “Darn tootin’!”

“My wife and I just had our tenth anniversary,” he says loudly, so I can hear him over the carpet layers, who have moved on to stories about hookers, though they may be talking about hookahs — not sure.

“That’s great!” I say.

Chuck pulls his upper body out from under the sink.

“Not so great,” he says.

“The disposal?” I ask, hoping to God we’re talking about the disposal.

“We live like brother and sister.” He pauses. Is that a meaningful look? Oh dear, it is.

I look down as if I didn’t hear him, or maybe that adding 9 + 7 needs my full attention. We go a few minutes in silence.

“It’s cold for June,” he says.

Tell me about it, Chuck.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, otherwise known as the cutting edge of education reform, led by that most sagacious and perspicacious of reformers, Gardner Mounce. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't even know how to spell sagacious and perspicacious. And as soon as we close the achievement gap, we might even know what they mean.

How To Close The Achievement Gap


Dear teachers, administrators and faculty of Tennessee public schools,

I am your new Secretary of Education, Mark Jessler, and I was elected to accomplish one thing: to close the achievement gap between the underprivileged and the privileged schools. As you know, every time the underprivileged schools raise their test scores, the privileged schools raise theirs even more, so that year after year the achievement gap is wider. How are we to fix this?

Easy. We unteach the privileged students.

Unteaching the privileged students will be easy. The state is working hard on rewriting the textbooks incorrectly, but until those are ready, the teachers at the privileged schools should stop using the current “correct” textbooks and start utilizing a little technique I like to call Uplifting Misinformation (UM). UM is the process of transforming the hard facts of life into fun-filled lies. From now on, the Holocaust was a summer camp and the Trail of Tears was a prog band. UM achieves two purposes: it makes our privileged children happy to believe that history is as pleasant as a puppy’s yawn and it ensures that they fail all of their state history tests.

But UM is not enough. That’s why there’s stage two: Evasive Reinforcement by Motivation (ERM). ERM is the technique of praising a student instead of providing them an education. If a student asks who the president of the United States is, tell them that they are if they choose to believe! If a student asks what’s two plus two, tell them nice shoes! If a student says of their shoes, “Thanks,” you say, “George Washington! 5! Your eyes are baby stars!”

Pretty soon our dumb kids will be as smart as our smart kids, and our smart kids will be as dumb as our dumb kids, and then who’s the smarter? Me, Secretary of Education Mark Jessler, that’s who. Or is it whom? Who cares? Now for both cases it’s “whum.”

There are some of you whum may be wondering: “Mr. Jessler, are UM and ERM enough? What should we do about our privileged students whum are about to graduate? Those whum have spent ten or eleven years in our state’s finest, most privileged schools?” In that case we move to the most extreme stage, stage three: Willful Utilization of Ze Actual Truth (WUZAT). It was created by an Austrian colleague of mine. WUZAT may come as a surprise to you, because it is the undoing of everything we have taught our students in public schools. WUZAT means to reverse the traditional teachings of the public schools and divert our students through honesty. If we tell high caliber students the dismal truths about public school and its curriculum, they will inevitably question everything they have ever been taught in our school system, and their fragile psyches will crumble. It is our final stand when UM and ERM have failed. You will all receive the WUZAT pdf that contains the WUZAT truths, but it should only be used in extreme cases. Some sample WUZAT truths:

• Truth #5: We made up Sine, Cosine, and Tangent to mess with you.
• Truth #9: If you suspect that your teacher hates you, you’re right. In fact, all of your teachers hate you.
• Truth #102: Years ago we were supposed to revise the mandatory sixth grade reading list you all received (which includes Lolita, American Psycho (Illustrated), and just the baby-on-a-spit scene from The Road). That’s on us.
• Truth #20: Diagram this sentence: The unemployment rate for young high school graduates is 29.9%.
• Truth #58: You think you choose the prom king and queen? Grow up. This is bigger than you and me.

By using UM, ERM and, in extreme cases, WUZAT, we can save Tennessee. Just think, if the underprivileged schools increase their pass rate by 10% and the privileged schools decrease theirs by 15%, then we can eliminate the achievement gap in two or six or some number of years — I don’t know. Don’t ask me to do math. I was homeschooled.

Mark Jessler

Secretary of Education

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our Candy Crush addiction is in perfect alignment with our company's mission statement. Wait a minute, didn't Mike Seperack just say that?

My Candy Crush Addiction Is In Perfect Alignment With Our Company’s Mission Statement


I know, I know. I’ve been a bit distracted lately. I may have missed a meeting or two. I’m no longer on track to complete those goals we set up at my last performance review. I just want to set your mind at ease. My addiction to Candy Crush totally supports our company’s Mission Statement.

Go ahead and read over the Mission Statement. It’s posted on the wall right behind you. I’d read it myself, but I can’t look up from my phone right now. I’m close to completing this level, and I need to stay focused. But do you see that part about “Continuous Improvement?” That’s what Candy Crush is all about! The first few levels are simple. You line up three in a row of the same color, you clear the jelly, and you move up. Nothing could be easier. But it doesn’t stay easy. Things get real in a hurry. Or as real as they can in an alternate universe that sort of resembles the by-product of a drunken one-night stand between Bejeweled and Candyland that ended with broken latex and achingly sweet regret.

Now look at the third sentence. It says, “We strive to maintain a customer-centric approach.” What do you think our customers really want? Detailed product specifications? Accurate delivery dates? Please. I talk to these people every day. They might pretend to care about that boring crap, but that’s just to keep their bosses happy. What our customers really want are extra Candy Crush lives. And the only way to send them lives is to be logged into the game at all times. Just ask my buddy Kevin how clutch I was, sending him that life at three a.m. last Wednesday. Did I mention that Kevin’s first cousin is the husband of the Director of Purchasing for one of our biggest clients? I don’t see how I could possibly be any more customer-centric than that.

And what about that part about “Promoting Synergies Across All Business Platforms?” To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not even sure what that means. But yesterday I completed levels 102 and 103 while sitting in the dreaded fourth stall of the men’s room. You have to admit I’m promoting synergies across platforms most of your employees don’t even what to think about.

Now check out the end where it says, “Maintain a Lean Enterprise.” Do you realize I’m holding down the Candy Crush sector of this organization all by myself? That frees up everyone else for all that mundane stuff that is also important in its own way, like marketing and shipping, and actually making whatever it is we make here. And I’m on it around the clock. You’ll never need to worry about hiring a third shift Candy Crush Coordinator as long as I’m here.

This task I’ve taken on is not easy. Candy Crush is not all fun and games. The Lollipop Forest is a deep, dark, sticky place. And don’t get me started on the sugary horrors of the Peppermint Palace. That place…it stays with you forever. So when you get close, but can’t quite complete a level, the urge to hurl your phone across the room and scream “Suck my sour balls!” gets pretty strong. And I know that can be distracting to other employees. But now that you know what’s at stake, can you blame me?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are happy to write excuse notes for anyone who asks. And apparently we're not the only ones! The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York is also up to the task.

M.T.A. Late Notes


“Delayed Train? Skeptical Boss? MTA Will Give Passengers a Late Note” — The New York Times, December 9, 2013

Dear Anita Stone-O’Gratin,

Your husband, Peter O’Gratin, wants you to know that his failure to show up for your 25th anniversary dinner was through no fault of his own. It is the #1 train’s fault. Peter claims that he stood on the Sheridan Square subway platform for 33 long minutes (although our records show a delay of only six). Peter further avers that when the train finally pulled up, he was “knocked back onto the platform by a surging crowd,” whereupon he “fell over and twisted his ankle.” Fearing another delay, Peter hobbled OUT of the station, purchased two dozen long-stemmed roses and reputedly re-entered the transit system at Union Square, where he was digitally and repeatedly commanded to slide his MetroCard again “at this turnstile” (resulting in another delay: 45 seconds), only to be told that his fare was INSUFFICIENT. Taking this as a sign that the roses would not be enough to quell your anger, Peter exited the station, this time with the intention of buying you a 24-carat diamond pendant in a platinum setting! Unfortunately, by the time Peter and his “swollen ankle” reached street level, your dinner slot for Le Bernardin had elapsed.

Honestly, Anita, the MTA doesn’t know what it would do if it were in your shoes. Peter’s story sounds pretty fishy. (Why not just hail a cab?) We can, however, vouch for the small delay on the Seventh Avenue line, which may have created a domino effect detrimental to the celebration of this important milestone in your marriage. (Your “Silver,” are we right?) We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you can patch things up!

xoxoxoxo, the MTA

Dear Dr. Lemon:

This is to excuse Jane Highbottom from her upcoming colonoscopy scheduled for Friday, May 23rd. Miss Highbottom regrets canceling again and asked us to tell you that it is not because she dreads the prep and can’t possibly get that much vile-tasting liquid down her throat and out her behind. Nor is she the least bit alarmed at the prospect of you sticking a mile-long tube up her posterior and looking through it while she lies there unconscious. Rather, anticipated congestion on the BMT line prevents her from keeping this appointment. Certainly a man in your profession can sympathize with Miss Highbottom’s concerns about overcrowding. If only something could be prescribed to clear up our tracks, purging us of the thousands of strap-hangers clogging our lines during rush hour.

Respectfully yours, the MTA

Dear Mrs. Wolman (Jason’s mom):

We are writing to explain why your son, Jason Wolman, didn’t call you last Sunday: track circuit failure on the IND. Jason was planning on phoning that night but was afraid of waking you by the time he finally got back to Park Slope. (As if you ever sleep!) He wants you to know that he must have been standing on the platform for 80 minutes — a slight exaggeration; by our calculations, it couldn’t have been more than 45 — and that his cell doesn’t work underground. (We reminded your son that the F goes above ground in Brooklyn.)

At this point, the MTA is having trouble deciding whether Jason is right (and that “he really intended to call”) — or you are (and that “he never thinks about you”). In either case, we sincerely hope you won’t stick your head in the oven.

All our love, the MTA

P. S. At least you can’t say we never write.

Dear lookin4luv:

The MTA is pleased to confirm studmuffinn69′s explanation for not showing up last Thursday night at the Oyster Bar, leaving you stranded in Grand Central Station for hours on end. In an effort to serve our customers better, we’re also passing along studmuffinn69′s assurances that he did NOT scope out the place, find you 80 pounds heavier than your picture indicated and falling off your barstool. His no-show was solely due to crossed signals on the IRT. Studmuffinn69 is not feeding you a line (not about the Lexington Avenue Line, anyway) and asks that you stop badmouthing him on okcupid and fetish.com.


Dear Mr. Giblets, CSW

We write this in strict confidence to protect the rights of your patient, Caroline Wiggins, as well as the MTA from any legal action that might be initiated from the aforementioned. Caroline has asked us to corroborate her reason for being late to her therapy session on April 29th: “a sick passenger” on the #2 train conveying her from Grand Army Plaza to Columbus Circle.

Our records indicate no such sick passenger — except possibly your patient. Of course, you are more qualified to make that determination (although we couldn’t help but notice that you’re not an actual MD). The MTA strongly recommends that you continue asking Caroline to face her real reasons for being late (i.e., resistance to the therapeutic process, unresolved issues with her father, incomplete transference). And to stop displacing her own problems — inability to show up on time and stick to a simple, straightforward schedule — onto the Metropolitan Transit Authority. (Frankly, she sounds incurable.)

Good Luck! — The MTA