* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to say that there is no Michael Fowler but Michael Fowler, and thou shalt have no other Michael Fowlers before him. If you wish to obey his divine will, click on the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

My Vision

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

Inquisitive people sometimes ask me what my vision is. I might be flattered by the question, but I attach no meaning to it. Those who ask it no doubt sense something in me. A deep insight into human affairs and profound humanitarianism might be one way to describe it. The grace of a perfect physical specimen with chiseled features and lightning fast hands might be another. Simply put, I give the impression to some that I have a way with me. But the truth is, those who detect any such qualities in me are deceived. There’s less to me than meets the eye, and of visions I have none.

Still, people stop me and say, sirrah, you have lived many years. Yes, they can tell at a glance I’m pushing 25, since there’s something mature in my wariness. What follows is that since I have lived so many years I must be learned as a judge. That is a requirement for one so advanced in years as I. But who says it is? Why can’t I have learned nothing, felt nothing, reflected on nothing, and remained as senseless as the day I was born? Well, I believe I can, and have, but a few others will simply not believe it.

The typical interlocutor wants me to be specific about my vision. I should lay out, for his or her inspection, my personal philosophy and political persuasion. But I am careful to reveal none of these, for one simple reason: of philosophy and political awareness I have none. Of age-old wisdom and of world-historical truths I know a perfect nullity, nor have I heard of any. If I ever did hear of any such thing, I have long ago forgotten what it was all about.

To hear of my innocence only enrages my inquisitor, who now pleads with me to speak freely and off the cuff, as if I have a great secret to impart. And while I should speak openly and with perfect candor to him, I must at the same time be specific and employ sharp, incisively worded descriptions of my inner state.

But of sharp, incisive descriptions I have not a one, and I will tell you about my inner state: it is the hollow interior of a gas-filled balloon. I tell my tormentor, if it is clever phrases and penetrating insights that you want, go and read a novel issued by a small university press. The public library contains many such. There you’ll find golden phrases and clever coinages and hidden meanings aplenty, enough to gag a shark.

Now my witness is beside himself with disbelief. He objects that I cannot have lived through my life without at least once reflecting on its nature and its meaning, and on my proper place in society. He takes it for granted that, at the very least, I have had a fine meal or two and made love to a beautiful or in any case a healthy woman. And these deeds do not go unremarked. He insists that despite the obvious fact that I am man of from zero to three words, I must have something to say about these far from humdrum experiences.

I reply, in a lifeless tone, that of reminiscence and deep reflection I do not partake. In comparisons and metaphors I place no trust, nor do I dally with them. With allusions and tropes and participles and other odd verb forms I have no truck.

What happens is this: when I am involved in even the most volcanic incident, I tell myself what is happening in plain English and note its importance to me, and then let it go.

Let’s say I attempt to beat a man senseless after a few drinks in a bar, and what with his overbite my ear ends up in his breast pocket. I tell myself, there is a sharp pain where my ear used to be, and a tremendous loss of blood, but enough already, the situation is adequately felt and described.

I might, while reciting those words, move my head up and down as I speak to myself. But that’s it. That fully describes my interior life at that moment. The only other thing that might occur to me is to scream at passers-by to for god’s sake call an ambulance.

I work folding men’s trousers in a warehouse eight hours a day, and my boss there once tasked me to describe my point of view. He perhaps mistook me for Jean Paul Sartre or John Maynard Keynes, although I carry with me no books.

He pressed me obdurately about it, you wouldn’t believe. We were having lunch together and sections of his sandwich began falling out of his mouth — horrible, half-masticated vegetables and crusts. I said, bro, life in my opinion is like folding trousers. Some trousers are cotton, some are khaki…but here words failed me. I knew there were other kinds of trousers, corduroy and woolen for instance, and some have buttons and others zippers, but I couldn’t go on, and I told the boss I had finished.

It’s strange, said my boss. The plan you presented to me yesterday, for restricting overtime and shortening the work week with no decrease in productivity, is what I’d call a vision.

I don’t know, I replied tonelessly. That’s going a bit far.

You know, the boss told me then, your coworker Sal has a vision.

Sal, a vision? I said. How can that be? I have folded trousers with Sal for two and a half years, and did not know this. What is his vision? I asked.

It’s the same plan as yours for cutting down hours, came the answer, but Sal combines that with a modern system of inventory. Also, he says that one day soon he will be the boss of you.

That night after work Sal’s body was found folded up like a pair of trousers in a city trash receptacle, quite separated from his vision, which was nowhere to be found. A vision can be a dangerous thing, and I have naught to do with them.

 

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every day is We Love Michael Fowler Day. Do you love him too? Prove it by clicking on the link below to buy his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

Good And Teed Off

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

One of the mysteries of the human mind is why we become angrier as we age, frequently going from high-spirited youth to mellow middle age to peed-off senior in an arc of only five or six decades.

You’d think oldsters would be happy. They bought everything they wanted or needed ages ago. The house is paid for, or cashed in for a long-desired smelly condo or rusty RV. Their kids are gone or in any case don’t call them, their parents are dead, their friends are dead, even their pets are dead — what’s not to enjoy? With so many of life’s problems solved and nuisances done away with, why aren’t these oldsters radiating happiness like wrinkled little nuclear reactors?

I think I know the answer. The conundrum that ticks off most bags and geezers is that they’re not dead yet.

That they still have to go through death aggravates them. They’ve already gone through everything life can throw at them — marriage, divorce, rising gas prices, overpriced cruises, quantitative easing, preemptive war, purchasing an unnecessary home security system, loss of hair and bone mass and memory, a traitor in the White House again — and still it isn’t over. They still have to die, and they can’t get over that.

I’ve seen this ravaging of the brain first hand. When I was a child, I had a lovely shriveled grandfather of about 70 who seemed to adore his retirement outside the mines. Aside from of a nagging, chronic cough and an addiction to coal dust, his life appeared idyllic. He had a large vegetable garden, and whenever I visited he’d take me out in the yard to show me where a mole was digging underneath and eating his produce’s roots.

“See his hole?” he’d say as he pointed out the animal’s tiny tunnel. The two of us were delighted in nature’s way. After thirty minutes of finding the hole here and there in the garden and Grandpa saying “see his hole?” each time (obsessive compulsion was part of his pleasure), we’d go inside where he’d sit before his potbelly stove chewing tobacco and spitting most of it into a tin can, and the rest down the front of his wooly vest. I’d sit beside him on a slack sofa that smelled of Mail Pouch and read a Classics Comic from the 1950s. Sometimes, when he moved his head the right way, I’d stare with affection deep inside his hairy nose.

Maybe grandma would sit beside us, and what a friendly old woman she was. She liked nothing better than to send me down to her dank, cobwebby root cellar for a jar of pickle relish, then throw a fit and whip me when I returned with beets instead, as I usually did since I couldn’t tell the difference in the dark.

Caught up in her game, if that’s what it was, she would grow red in the face and order me outside to fetch a “hickory-t,” a hickory branch off the tree in the front yard that she would lash me with for punishment, though I never received a single blow due to her poor aim and hysterical laughter.

What a cheerful, carefree couple! What fun we had when I visited them, though I’m glad Granny never got me with that “hickory-t.” I was a delicate child, and a whipping with such an unsanitary implement might have given me eczema.

Press ahead ten years. I’m a teen now, and my grandfather throws his mail-order teeth on the dinner table and growls at everyone, drooling. He smells more and more like a spittoon and won’t bathe. Has the mole’s hole, still visible in the garden, caused his mind to snap?

And Grandma is so irritated by having to cook for her grandchildren, even though she jarred all the greasy beans and acidic jam she could ever need 50 years ago and the glass containers line her root cellar, she can’t stop grousing. Every time she catches sight of me, a tender youth showcasing dental braces and his first pimples, she brands me a draft resister and a socialist agitator. Whoa, Grandma and Grandpa! What the hell happened to your easy demeanor?

The worst part is, both my grandparents received Medicare and excellent medical treatment, and at age 80 had ten or more years of constant anger to look forward to before they could finally croak and relocate to the family gravesite down by the creek. My grandfather’s mood in his last decade varied from rage to sullenness, and not once did he crack a smile to reveal his crooked Sears & Roebuck teeth. My grandmother got to the point where she could scarcely bear another day of perfect health and uninterrupted leisure and died a joyless, broken woman at 96.

And it isn’t just my grandparents. My wife recently put her mother in a retirement center (read: pre-graveyard) so that Myrtle could receive the around-the-clock watering and pruning that she requires. There she sits on the second of four floors of similar bags and geezers who are either boiling over with rage or comatose on medications. There’s no in-between state.

On an early visit I tried to embrace the old babe in a heartfelt hug, and she raked the lengths of my uncovered forearms with untrimmed, yellow fingernails (how did they grow so long in a week?), requiring me to apply antiseptic. And that was on a good day, when she was relatively calm and not fastened to the sides of her bed in a straitjacket.

Ah, peaceful old age. And don’t think for a moment the oldsters enjoy all those medications they’re forced to take. It’s only young people who like drugs. In fact, they love them. But your typical home resident is just doddering out on them. Nor is their zest for life enlivened by any activity no matter how festive. From a Sunday enema to balloon volleyball, it’s all a drag. More than a drag, it infuriates them.

I think I know how this transformation takes place. At around age 75, the riddle of death takes hold of a person’s mind. The sheer insolubility of the enigma affects you like sticking your hand in a running blender, realizing you’ve lost all your fingertips, but for a split second there’s no pain, only dumb wonder.

That split second is the time you have to figure out death. It grows into years without any increase in your understanding and with the same sense of dread. You keep waiting for the answer like you wait for the pain in your fingers.

As the moment expands, it dawns on you that there is no answer, not a hint, not ever, for you or anyone. At last you’re going to have to pay for those lost fingertips. The pain is coming, and there’s nothing you can do.

That’s when you get good and teed off, and you stay that way for a decade or so.

Then it hits you.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe working out is what you do when your love life doesn't work out.

Thanks For Joining Aloha Fitness

By:
emfarwell@gmail.com

Hey, thanks again for joining Aloha Fitness, the first and only gym designed to help people get in shape post-breakup. We’ve already been over to the Instagram Photo Center, which is open twenty-four-seven, links to your account, and can take as many as 100 rapid-fire shots of your newly rockin’ bod so that your ex can see what they missed out on. I showed you the Cuddle Training Corner, where you can be consoled by professionals with dual certificates in advanced cuddling and diet science. Now, I’d like to show you our pride and joy, The Aloha Equalizer.

Our fitness and research team meticulously studied the regimen of the Royal Canadian Air Force to understand how they get so swole every year. Eventually, our lead scientist, Sarah, figured out how to combine every exercise the brave men and women of the RCAF do into one machine for maximum shred potential.

You’ll notice there are two dozen pulleys and leg presses, a needle wall, and a little spigot that gently shoots out a steady amount of fire. Anyone can take a shot at this, but there’s only one way to use it in a way that tones your body and doesn’t rip out your spinal column.

If you had signed up for our premium package, I’d be happy to show you that exact, very precise way right now, but since you opted not to pay $500 a month for the option to have a weekly massage in our Break-Up Spa, bi-weekly life coach consultations and daily fitness classes held between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., you’ll just have to trust your instincts.

You’ll notice that the Equalizer has a series of multicolored lights running top to bottom, which we thought would lend a sense of fun pizzazz to a machine that otherwise pushes you to your breaking point every time you use it. If you can ever figure out how to use it, you’ll notice that the lights get higher the more calories you burn.

At Aloha Fitness, we like machines with extra stuff that indicate you’re crushing it. On the AbFucker 9, confetti shoots out every time a muscle gets stronger. Likewise, the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Officially Sponsored Leg Day Quad Press plays the song from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. The better you do, the less it plays.

As our magenta walls say, our motto is “Loyalty. Respect. Loyalty.” Like all good mottos, it consists of three easy words chosen at random, but it’s meaningless unless we live up to it. So, for every 500 calories you burn, on any of our machines or in any class, you get a ticket that can be redeemed in our Ripped Rewards area. Most of the selections are standard gym prize counter fare, like stuffed dumbbells and googley eyes, but if you can get 20, 100 or 500 tickets, you’ll see why Aloha Fitness has become the preferred regional gym chain for more than 10,000 people in the tri-state area.

If you get 20 tickets, we’ll interview you about what you look for in a partner, and then quietly set up a first date with someone, which will go neither badly nor great. Since you’ve been killing it at our gym, we’ll even pay for half your meal, because you deserve it. To clarify, we’ll pay for half of what you, as an individual, are eating. So, we’ll cover half of half of the whole meal. Again, you deserve it.

For 100 tickets, we’ll arrange for a teacup pig, puggle or Labrador puppy to be dropped off at your house or apartment. From there, it’s up to you to meet someone at a dog park or teacup pig-friendly bar. You’ll get a full week with the animal, so hopefully you’ll meet someone who likes you for you, not just because you have a cute pet. Also, please be aware that if you get the pig, you may get some stalkers. The pig is very adorable, and therefore has some adorable restraining orders against certain people. If you get stalked, you have to handle it. Aloha Fitness only handles the pig.

For 500 tickets, we’ll arrange for you to meet with Bryce and Courtney in our Muscle Mates Love Center. Bryce is just the guy we get our weed from, but Courtney is a certified dating coach and professional matchmaker. If you get invited into the Muscle Mates Love Center — and I can’t stress this enough — Courtney will set you up with your soulmate. If you get to this level, not only will we pay half of half the bill on your first date, but we’ll even pay a fifth of a fifth of your wedding expenses, should you stay with us up to and through that time. If you’re still with us when you have a baby, and are willing to name your baby Aloha Fitness, or at least have it tattooed on your baby’s face, we’ll give you a free month for you, your baby or your partner, provided they’re still a member.

For 1,000 tickets, we’ll rename a room of the gym in your honor for twenty-four hours. During that time, you’ll be provided with a key to that room, and will be free to use it as you see fit. Most people tend to use it either as a reveal room, where they invite an ex or two to the gym in order to show off their new bod and get closure, or as a space for an ice cream social. If you go the reveal-and-confront route, we’ll cover any legal fees you may incur. However, if you want to use the room to hold dairy, which Aloha Fitness frowns on, then you’ll need to pay for everything yourself.

Most gyms wouldn’t risk legal trouble by getting involved in the love lives of their members, but that’s what we like to call the Aloha Difference. Yes, you might sue us if we set you up with someone who becomes a casual stalker, or if a pre-school won’t accept a baby named Aloha Fitness, or if your soulmate falls for Bryce, which has happened more than we care to admit. However, we also understand that after using the Aloha Equalizer and spending some time in the Cuddle Training Corner, you’ll find that you’re ready to love harder and more confidently than you ever loved before. Now, go out there and start working out, because the Ripped Rewards area closes at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every day is New Year's Eve, at least when Michael Fowler is writing about it. If you feel sorry for the old guy, don't put a penny in his hat, buy his book. Follow the link below to purchase his humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

New Year’s Eve At Bob Evans

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

This year my wife and I went to Bob Evans restaurant to ring in the new year, or to come as close to ringing it in as we care to get. We chose Bob Evans not only because it serves our favorite kind of down-home comfort food with breakfast at any hour, but has no alcohol, an elderly, quiet clientele, no TVs mounted on the walls, and no celebratory atmosphere at all. It doesn’t stay open late, requires no reservation, and is hardly ever crowded. At five p.m. on New Year’s Eve the place was almost deserted. We found a parking spot right by the front door and followed a young man and his wheelchair-bound father right on in to the sober greeter.

We once stayed out past ten on New Year’s Eve and tasted alcohol too. The experience threw off our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms to the equivalent of twelve hours of jet lag. My wife, who suffers from moist palms and anxiety, swears it also gave her a calcium deficiency, and I’ll never forget the ringing in my ears that lasted until mid-February from that drum kit across the floor. Add to that being jostled by perspiring, red-faced celebrants, and we vowed never to repeat the experience, and never have. We haven’t even felt the temptation. We’re not kids anymore after all, with both of us pushing 38. Some things are better left to the hardened, besotted, carefree young.

With seven hours to go before the big calendar change and that gaudy ball dropped off the tower in that frozen, overcrowded city synonymous with filth and high blood pressure, my excitement started to build; that of my wife too, I assume. I decided to start off with a piece of pumpkin bread from the famous Bob Evans bakery, while my wife, scarcely able to restrain her enthusiasm, went with banana bread. Both are delicious, and our waitress, whom we have known for months and is a business student at a nearby college, smiled in understanding.

She was cheerful despite having to work the holiday. But then, she’d be out the door by closing time at nine, when the night was still young, and who knew what shenanigans this twenty-something had in mind? We didn’t ask, and she didn’t tell, likely because she thought we would disapprove. For her discretion alone I knew I’d be leaving a sizable tip, somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of our unusual $20 tab. But then, if we shared a piece of cheesecake at the end, in honor of the special night, the gratuity might set me back as much as $3.75, a daunting thought. I hoped my wife had brought along a discount coupon, but at her age she’s forgetful about such niceties. If you’re thinking dementia, so am I.

I sat trying to decide between an evening breakfast of a small egg-white omelet with a tiny bowl of fruit and the gargantuan roast turkey dinner with six sides, a sumptuous meal I hadn’t ingested since Christmas a week ago, and my wife faced her usual dilemma of how many pancakes she felt up to. We both looked up as a pair of immortals took a booth near ours. My wife and I smiled at each other, since this duo certainly didn’t look liable to put the kibosh on our evening with any untoward jubilant behavior or celebratory noisemaking, unless gramps had some noisemakers in his pockets or granny began belting out “Auld Lang Syne.”

In fact, they ignored us completely and looked about ready to fall asleep before they ordered. The first thing gramps did, after the waitress arrived, was spill ice water all down his Rick Santorum vest. I listened in amusement as he finally ordered the pot roast, and she a Cobb salad, both with hot tea. I was amused because my wife and I had ordered the identical meals for ourselves not two weeks ago, almost identical, except I got steamed broccoli and this old bird wanted green beans. Wasn’t that amusing? I thought so, and it seemed to be getting the new year off to a good start, though technically the new year didn’t start for another, what was it now, still more than six hours. I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep through them, burping turkey.

All was thrown into jeopardy, however, when a family of five came in, including three children. I saw the tension in my wife right away, her fixed stare and then the involuntary tightening of her pale, thin but very damp hands around her utensils. I myself was not immune, and feared some childish disturbance from the three-year-old or infantile outburst from the baby that would turn the peaceful eatery into Times Square. My wife and I had not been blessed with children, and had never desired any. We had her cat when we were first married, but by agreement had it put down because it mewed, sometimes at night. What a pest that creature had been. It had also required food and grooming, can you believe.

Twenty minutes later my wife and I were beaming and content. Our meal hadn’t been disturbed, and the children of that other couple had been of the seen but not heard variety, increasingly a rarity in today’s society where a single howling brat often disrupts the serenity of an entire Walmart store. Nor, at this early hour, had there appeared a single patron in a party hat or trumpeting on a paper horn. I decided on a full 15 percent tip, and I drove us home sated with gravy and maple syrup.

All was well until we reached our neighborhood. Cars now lined the street near those homes that were party zones, making navigation difficult. Once at this time of year, when we were new to the neighborhood, my wife and I unwisely accepted an invitation from the people next door. We had already become bitter enemies back on Arbor Day, when their child planted a tree near the fence that separates our properties. It was the merest sapling, yes, but a ticking time bomb that after twenty or thirty years would grow to hang over our property and one day probably fall, killing us. We weren’t about to forget this pending threat to our safety over some silly holiday, and after graciously eating one or two of their slimy and rancid hors d’oeuvres, we departed very early, even for us, and were in bed by eight.

My wife couldn’t help throwing a glance at their place as we mounted our front steps, and I felt her body grow tense and clammy from her hands to, well, everything. I knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t the tree, which may have died in a stunted state during the last frost, but she knew that at midnight they’d be setting off fireworks and ruining our sleep, as they did last year. Right on the stroke of midnight had come this noise, not terribly explosive but like a bag of popcorn in a microwave in a distant room down a long hall, that woke us up and left us trembling with rage in bed.

She had denied my request for intimacy then, and continued to do so for the entire year. This year, I saw, would be just as chilly. All because of that popping sound. Darn noisy neighbors.

But there’s one thing my wife and I agree on any time of year: that fresh bakery bread at Bob Evans is delicious.

 

 

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