My Day On NBC Sports


If Sunday Night Football broadcast my day at work:

AL MICHAELS: Good morning bureaucracy fans and welcome to another exciting day at work with Dave. What do you look for in today’s match-up, John?

JOHN MADDEN: Well, Al, if past performance is any indicator, I’m guessing Dave will be late today. We’re always ready for a 9 A.M. kick-off but Dave is what we call a “late starter.”

AM: Whoa, wait a minute. It’s only 9:05 and here’s Dave. Have you ever seen such an early arrival before?

JM: Yes, but not often. I have to assume that he’s got a meeting.

AM: You’re right; it’s a meeting. He didn’t even glance at the computer screen. Instead he’s picked up a folder and he’s heading down the hall to the conference room.

JM: Hold onto your seats, bureaucracy fans. As a veteran player, Dave is a master of the morning meeting.

AM: His supervisor is standing up and it looks like — yes — she’s asking Dave for a progress report on his project! How can he possibly handle this unexpected offensive movement?

JM: Savvy veteran that he is, I don’t think this is going to throw him. Let’s listen in.

AM: Am I hearing right? Did he just give a whole status report off the top of his head complete with stats and future projections?

JM: That’s right, Al. From what I know, it’s all fabricated but it sounds great. But will it be good enough to fool his boss?

AM: Whoa! She bought it! Touchdown! And now here’s the conversion. It’s up…and it’s good. She’s agreed to wait until next week for the final report.

JM: Wow! He’s definitely playing without a net today, Al.

AM: He sure is, John. And look at the move on the way back to his cubicle.

JM: Can you believe it? He told Fred there were free donuts in the lunchroom and then dropped the status report file in Fred’s inbox.

AM: A perfectly executed screen play from one of the all-time great buck passers.

JM: And he still has the presence of mind to backtrack to the lunchroom, take the last of the coffee and not make a new pot.

(Lunch break)

AM: For viewers who were watching Fred’s lunchtime nap in cubicle 402, welcome back to the coverage of Dave’s day at work. It’s 2:30 and Dave is back in his cubicle. He looks a little wobbly. Is he injured John?

JM: I don’t think so, Al. We’ve got a report from Dave’s restaurant and apparently Dave had two glasses of wine with lunch today. It’s gonna be a tough afternoon for him, no doubt about it. This is where the veterans show what they’re really made of. I’ve seen Dave in worse shape than this in the morning and still make it through regulation without being touched.

AM: I don’t know, John. He’s looking a bit shaky. The head is wobbly and the eyelids are fluttering. He could be out for the count.

JM: Oh! Look at that move! He placed a dozen upturned thumbtacks on this desk. I haven’t seen a move like that since Dick in Accounting drank half a container of White-Out to stay awake.

AM: John, I’ve just got a report that Dave’s boss is headed towards his cubicle. This will show what he’s really made of.

JM: If I know Dave, he’s got a couple of tricks up his sleeve.

AM: He better, John. That porn site on his computer screen could really throw him for a big loss.

JM: What a pro! If I’m not mistaken…yes, look at that. Just before his boss enters Dave’s cubicle, he taps the mouse wheel twice and switches the porn site to an Excel spreadsheet. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it.

AM: Let’s look at this again on the replay. Wow, what a play! And see there how he quickly picks up the phone, motions to his boss that it’s an important call and waves her away? Amazing. Clearly he was under the weather and not playing at 100% but was still able to pull it out. What a gutsy performance.

JM: I think even Dave realizes that he accomplished something special today which may explain why he’s leaving early at 3:30.

AM: Except no one knows he’s leaving early. Since he left his coat in his car and his computer is still on, he’s out the door before anyone realizes that he’s gone.

JM: What a performance from a veteran worker.

AM: Ordinarily we’d be back on air tomorrow morning at 9 A.M. with more of Dave. But tomorrow is a Friday so chances are our next broadcast won’t be until Monday. Or maybe Tuesday, right John?

JM: That’s right, Al. A wily pro like Dave will always keep you guessing.


Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations


Selected entries from Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations (first edition):

Socrates (469 – 399 B.C.)

“I didn’t know you could make tea from hemlock.”

Jesus (ca. 1 – 33)

“Now after I’m gone, don’t go adding a bunch of elaborate rituals.”

Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506)

“Who the hell set the course west?”

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

“”rancis, would you mind lending me a hand with these plays?”

John Milton (1608 – 1674)

“Paradise Gone? Paradise Misplaced? Paradise Missing? Damn, this title is elusive.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

“That bastard son of Adams’ will probably win the Presidency even though he didn’t get the most votes.”

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

“Mary, I told you these half-price theater tickets were no good.”

John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937)

“What the hell are we going to do with a million barrels of oil?”

Adolph Hitler (1889 – 1945)

“No, seriously, some of my best friends are Jews.”

Lyndon Johnson (1908 – 1973)

“What pleases me most is a consensus arrived at through reasoned and gentlemanly discourse.”

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

“The national debt’s tripled. When is this trickle down crap gonna kick in?”

Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994)

“John, Bob…I feel the fairest thing to do is release all the tapes.”

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

“Ask not what your President can do for you; ask what position you can assume for your President.”

Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – )

“Remind me again, Philip, why we had children.”

George W. Bush (1946 – )

“They voted me in again? And they say I’m stupid!”

Bill Clinton (1946 – )

“What this country needs is a good, self-lubricating cigar.”

Al Gore (1948 – )

“I categorically deny, refute and gainsay any allegations to the effect that I am boring.”

Mel Gibson (1956 – )

“No, seriously, some of my best friends are Jews.”


Ode to a Spouse


In the throes of romantic love, some of the world’s most famous poets wrote great poems full of expressions of undying love and eternal devotion. But what if those folks had been stuck in a difficult thirty-year marriage? Might their poetry have been a bit different?

William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to day old bread?

Thou art more crusty and less full of taste.

Rough edges do dull the aging buds half dead,

And bread’s expiration hath all too short a date.

Sometimes too hot the two-slice toaster shines,

And often is the morning toast burnt;

And all freshness from each slice declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course unlearnt;

But thy eternal mouldy face shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that pockmarked frown;

And Death shall shudder under your shade,

When your countenance suggests a frightful clown.

So long as I can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this eternally punishes me.

Lord Byron

She snores a beauty, all damn night

With sleepless climes and starry skies;

I shudder at the very sight

Of each evil aspect of her eyes.

Thus married to that awful fright,

Which peace each day to me denies.

One dram the more, one bottle less,

Had half impaired my pitiable face

Which hides from every graying tress

To gather some small private space

And dream of leaving all this mess

To quick rejoin the human race.

And on that cheek and o’er that brow

So lined, so harsh, so virulent,

The shrieks that win, the scowls that show,

Of years in silent torture spent,

If I could get some peace below,

Without my ears so rudely bent.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I tolerate you? Let me count the ways.

I tolerate you to the depth and breadth and height my patience can reach,

When sweeping out of sight the ends of cigarettes and pizza crusts.

I tolerate you to the level of your college stereo,

With its excessive volume and bass control.

I tolerate you barely, as the shredded underwear

That clings to your sagging cheeks.

I tolerate you purely as an exercise in self abuse.

I tolerate you with a passion usually reserved

For rancid cheese and dirty socks.

I tolerate you with a patience I seemed to lose

When the kids left home.

I tolerate you with the breath, odor and hygiene of a locker room,

And, if God choose, I shall but tolerate you better after death.


Late Night Court Jester


Good evening and welcome to the castle. I’m your host, Ethelbert the Court Jester, and we’ve got a great show for you tonight.

Joining us tonight is Grimbold the Court Juggler, Oswold the Lute Player and, from the castle over the hill, Merlin the Amazing Sorcerer. And because it’s Tuesday, we’ll once again be playing “Stump the Alchemist.”

It’s great to be here. Actually, it’s great to be anywhere considering the death rate from the plague. Boy, that stuff’s a downer. They’re not kidding when they call it the Black Death.

I want to thank those of you who had to stand in line for two hours to get in. What with the heat and the flies and the pox, I’m sure it was no fun.

How hot was it, you may ask? It was so hot that the dead body collector had to make both his rounds after sunset. It was so hot that the castle guards on the catwalk didn’t have to boil their vats of oil. It was so hot that even the fiery hell of eternal damnation was looking like a good place to cool off.

I just walked in from the village on the outskirts of the castle near the brook by the meadow and boy are my feet tired.

For those of you who came here tonight by ox cart, is that path from the village to the castle crowded or what? My brother Ethelred got so confused that he missed the off-ramp for the castle and the last I heard he was half way to Nottinghamshire!

And what about those crazy ox cart drivers? I’m not saying they’re terrible drivers but if you have to buy a new ox every other week, it’s time to take a few lessons.

Say, did you read about the King’s latest proclamation? No? Well, I guess with a literacy rate of five per cent, it’s surprising anyone read it.

Speaking of reading, I can barely make out the cue cards. I guess that’s what happens when you hire some young kid who speaks this fancy new Middle English. I’m not saying my English is old but I still read Beowulf in the original version.

But if you like the new Middle English, you ought to check out this Geoffrey Chaucer fellow. He was here at the castle last week and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind taking a Bath with his wife.

We have some of our knights here tonight. Could you fellows stand up and take a bow? Oh, apparently they can’t. I guess that’s what happens when you wear your armor 24/7. I don’t even want to know what they use for underwear!

How many of you read about this item in the news? Well, actually, I’m guessing none of you did. As I said, with a five per cent literacy rate, it’s not like anyone’s carrying a library card – whatever the heck that is.

But maybe you heard it from the town crier. Yesterday Jon Sawyer, the inventor of the sawmill, died at the age of 82. Sadly, Jon got caught in his own invention and will be buried at 2, 4 and 6 o’clock. Smithy, could I get a rapid beating of the drums for that one?

How’s that for irony? Our drums player is named Smithy and the castle blacksmith is named Drumsman. Really folks, you can’t make this kind of stuff up.

Anyway, we’ve got a really great show tonight. We’ll be right back with Grimbold the Juggler, Oswold the Lute Player and a special appearance from Joan of Rivers. But first a word from our sponsor, the great folks at your local Grog & Mead drive-thru. Please give it up for Anonymous and the castle’s Limited Ensemble of String and Wind Instruments.


Omnibus Parking Lot Regulations


All-Purpose Parking Lot Regulations

Please note that the hours of operation are for our convenience, not yours.

Please take a ticket when entering the lot. Failure to take a ticket will result in payment of the maximum daily rate squared and/or impoundment of your vehicle.

Please leave a $20 deposit with the attendant as well as your driver’s license and at least two major credit cards.

Please leave your keys with the attendant. We are not responsible for any damage to your vehicle, additional tire wear or excess mileage reading on your odometer.

Please ensure that your gas tank is at least 3/4 full.

Please do not complain if your radio presets have been changed. Accept that some people have different tastes in music.

Please do not lose your ticket. It is your only hope of ever retrieving your vehicle.

Please do not quibble about the extra fifteen minute charge. Accept that not all clocks are perfectly synchronized.

Please do not complain to the attendant about exorbitant parking charges. He cannot understand you.

Please note that no one has ever successfully qualified for the “Early Bird Special.”

Please park in designated parking spaces only. If there are no free spaces left, please leave your car with the attendant who will make space for it.

Please do not complain about scratches, dents or multiple striations on the bumpers and sides of your vehicle. Please remember that space is at a premium.

Please stop if you feel speed bumps as this lot does not have speed bumps.

Please do not park in the handicap spot unless you have a valid permit or have been mugged after entering the lot.

Please do not complain about food stains on your back seat. Our employees have to eat somewhere.

Please lock all valuables in your trunk. Management is not responsible for any lost or stolen property.

Please do not leave bodies in the trunk. That is management’s responsibility.

Please do not lock your glove compartment. This will avoid unnecessary crowbar and screwdriver damage.

Please do not complain about used condoms or syringes in your car. We’re just trying to make a living.

Please do not complain that it would be cheaper to park your car on the street. If you could have found a space on the street, you wouldn’t be begging us for a spot. Have a nice day.



Misfortune Cookies


Even the most famous writers have to make a living. Recently retrieved archival material reveals the failed attempts of several famous authors to break into commercial writing.


To: Jean-Paul Sartre

From: Parisian Fortune Cookies Company

Thank you for your list of “realistic” fortunes for our cookies. Unfortunately, we cannot use your submissions at this time. We are returning your list. Please feel free to try us again when you’re feeling better.

The Editors

Realistic Fortunes

1. Your life is a continuous cycle of despair.

2. Your god is dead.

3. Life has no meaning, at least for you.

4. Choice is your eternal curse.

5. Health and prosperity are but words in a dictionary for you.

6. Your waist size will exceed your chest size.

7. You will die a horrible, painful death.

8. The glass is half empty and it has a crack.


To: T.S. Eliot

From: Sunnyside Greeting Cards Inc.

We regret to inform you that the greeting card verses you submitted do not meet our needs at this time. We are therefore returning your submissions. This is no reflection on the quality of your writing. We receive many more greetings than we can use.

The Editors

Modern Greeting Card Verses

You grow old

You grow old

You shall wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled.

Happy 60th Birthday!

You lie there like a patient etherized upon a table…

Get Well Soon!

Shape without form, shade without color…

Paralysed force, gesture without motion.

Happy 25th Anniversary!

This is the way the world ends — not with a bang but a whimper.

With Sincerest Condolences.

Best wishes from us on your wedding day!

There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing…

No end to the withering of withered flowers.


To: Ernie Hemingway

From: Merrill Lynch Financial Newsletter

Thank you for your proposed “literary” stock forecasts (enclosed). While we do not question your expertise, we feel your work is not a good fit for our publication at this time. Please try us again in a bull market.

The Editors

Literary Stock Forecasts

IBM: Three letters suggesting a man soiled himself. Where is the nobility in that? There is no future in such sad musings.

GM: The letters are effete. They are the lispings of a homosexual. Who would buy such pitiable stock?

Studebaker: The word boldly states “grace under pressure.” A company with such a name can be destroyed but not defeated. Buy and hold dearly.

Disney: A man cannot face himself if his portfolio contains cartoons. This Walt, with his pencil-thin mustache, is no real man. Divest.

Zenith: I awoke to find myself next to a television. It was a wondrous thing, a good thing. It promised more than I could hope for. I made Zenith mine. You must do the same.


To: e. e. (?) cummings

From: Acme Advertising Agency

Thank you for sending your sample product slogans to us for review. You have a unique style; however, it does not fit our print media needs at this time.

The Editors

it’s spring when the world is puddle-wonderful

so too is downy freshener



a)s w(e loo)k


th(e) new SELECTRIC

f(ro)m i-b-m

anyone lived in a pretty how town

thanks to century 21

you shall above all things be glad and young

the cream nivea your face will wear

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

thank you coffee god for this amazing

maxwell house


The PETV Newsletter


People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables — August Newsletter

Well, it’s August, and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. But, as we know, not for long. As you read this newsletter, thousands of combines and harvesters are viciously cutting down our silken-eared brothers and sisters throughout the Midwest. Idealistic Hammerstein lyrics aside, Man’s irrational war against nature continues.

Summer is a difficult time to marshal support for our cause. But, as the fall harvest nears, it is crucial that we redouble our efforts against the unthinking forces that are decimating our vegetable friends.

Hats off to those of you who have engaged in recent guerilla activity. To Warren S. of Kenosha, Wisconsin: “Well done.” Your daring raid of the Green Door Vegetarian Restaurant achieved extensive media coverage not only in Kenosha but throughout the tri-state area.

For those of you unfamiliar with Warren’s exploits, check out his web site at And to help underwrite his efforts, don’t forget to order one of his “Tofu is Murder” t-shirts — only $19.95!

Those of you in the Fresno Valley area of California are to be commended for your novel approach to this year’s “Stop Stalking the Asparagus Campaign.” By spray painting over 150 acres of that noble vegetable, you saved countless stalks from a painful and premature death by steaming or boiling.

Unfortunately, our green brethren were tragically smothered to death by the chemicals in the paint. It is our hope that this grievous error will lead to more progress in the development of non-toxic, vegetable-friendly protest paints.

This brings us to our latest endeavor — fruit salvation. Thanks to the tireless lobbying of the Tomatoes Are Fruits Committee, we have expanded our mandate to help all our fruit friends from coast to coast. That means we are now committed to stopping the fall apple massacre, the summer peach and pear killings and the year-round citrus slaughter. Remember, fruits have feelings, too.

We know that many of you find that progress is slow and frustrating. So many of the self-styled “vegetarians” have, in actual fact, no love for vegetables at all. People who devour everything from bananas to beans have no right to call vegetables their friends. But we must continue to educate the ignorant masses.

In furtherance of this aim, we have expanded our celebrity endorsement search. Our contacts with various fashion super models were ultimately unsuccessful as the vast majority of these women are big celery and lettuce eaters. But we’re not discouraged! Stay tuned.

On the PETV diet front, some exciting progress has been made. Now, in addition to water and vitamin supplements, univores can dine on vegetable substitutes made from cellulose and recycled fabric. There is, of course, the risk of counteraction by PETTAC (People for the Ethical Treatment of Trees and Cotton), but we are working to maintain civil relations with that group. Meanwhile, the Diet Committee is preparing for the holiday-season release of its interim report entitled “Cannibalism: Is Eating the Flesh of Vegetable Murderers Really That Wrong?”

With a new year on the horizon, now is an excellent time to ask, “What can I, as a malnourished, dangerously underweight member of PETV, do to stop the wholesale slaughter of fruits and vegetables?” Keep fighting the good fight. Remember, every fruit or vegetable you save from the harvest is one less suffering plant in our world. With new initiatives like Adopt-a-Turnip and The Free Range Tomato Project, and subject to the availability of ambulatory members, we CAN make a difference.


The Water Lover’s Newsletter


Dear Subscribers,

It’s hard to believe another month has passed but here we are again sharing our expertise with you about the world’s best beverage: water. We hope you have enjoyed some of our previous picks and are ready and eager to sample some more.

It’s been an exciting month and we’ve discovered some new waters that will knock your socks off. And for the dedicated aquaphile, we’ve revisited a few old favorites with some surprising results.


This is the first Australian water we’ve tried and we suspect it won’t be the last. Who knew Alice Springs really had a springs? Well it does and Emu comes right from the source. Clear, wet and splashy, Emu leaves no aftertaste. Just that wonderful thirst-slaked feeling that locals must get after a long, hot day in the Outback. At $2.95 a bottle, you’ll want to put a few “down under” your own water cellar.


Just when you thought the great waters of France had been exhausted, there’s L’Attrape. Less a water than a potion, L’Attrape provides a spiritual experience not found in other drinks. Aged in oak casks for fifty years, this “l’eau regional” has a stillness and flatness that echoes over time. Although filtered at the source, you may still wish to decant before serving to ensure a pure, clear, oak-free beverage. At $10.95 a bottle, these won’t last long.

Las Vegas

Young, bold and splashy, Las Vegas has a crystalline 24/7 clarity that brightens up any table. Unlike older, more mature waters, Las Vegas is bottled directly from the municipal taps to give you the exciting taste of today. It’s the same great-tasting water high rollers all along the Strip use to freshen up their spirit of choice. Buy a case for your next big party. But don’t keep for more than a year as Las Vegas is a “l’eau nouveau” and doesn’t age very well.


Exotic and unpredictable, Ganges is a water for those who want to take a chance on adventure and live a little dangerously. Clear, colorless and odorless, Ganges nevertheless may have a fecal coliform count of anywhere up to 1,000 ppm. Often goes best with a slightly saline water administered intravenously.


New from Evian is Redistillé, billed as “the essence of water.” The clever folks at Evian have taken their famous spring water, distilled it and then distilled it again and then distilled it once more. They then pour it through a tightly knit sweater. Evian dares you to find any hint of taste, flavor or color in their new product. When you’re looking for a perfect impurity-free, palate-cleansing drink, Redistillé has everything you’re looking for and less. Lay in a case or two and don’t worry about aging. The first bottle will be as tasteless as the last.


Ordinarily, we don’t recommend spring waters sold in 18 liter plastic containers. But L’Office is different. It’s a clear, fresh, campy water meant to recreate the “joie de vivre” and “esprit de corps” of the old 1950s office water cooler. Buy your own retro cooler for as little as $279 and get two or three containers of L’Office for your next home party. Watch as your guests are magically drawn to the cooler and let the fun begin.


If you’re at a loss for what to get friends and family for a gift, look no further than WaterPak. WaterPak is twelve mini-bottles of the best waters from around the world. Without breaking the bank, you can let your friend or loved one try a dozen of today’s trendiest waters. From the clear, flat taste of Switzerland’s Alp to the flat, clear taste of Colorado’s Rocky, they’ll enjoy the best the world of water has to offer. And for those who can’t get enough of a good thing, WaterPak is now introducing their Water-of-the-Month Club.

La Piscine

As children we were all warned not to drink the water from the swimming pool. Now, just in time for the dog days of August, La Piscine’s refreshing hint of chlorination lets you experience the forbidden taste of summer without the guilt. Pop one open whenever you’re stuck inside on a humid day — or throw a bottle in your beach tote for the best of both worlds! Just don’t drink more than 12 fl. oz. in a day, per the La Piscine warning label.


The Editors


A Cannibal’s Wine Cellar


“The trial of [Armin] Meiwes…offered a lurid glimpse into the dark side of cyberspace. It took the public into the mind of a man who built a death chamber in his half-timbered farmhouse and dined on parts of [Bernd] Brandes while sipping South African red wine.”

— Los Angeles Times – January 31, 2004

Excerpts from the first draft of “A Cannibal’s Wine Cellar,” a work in progress by Armin Meiwes:

Apart from a mandatory metal autopsy table and meat-hanging hooks, every cannibal’s basement should include a good wine cellar. May I recommend these vintages from my own personal collection:

Château Puyfromage 1999

You won’t pay an arm and a leg for this ruby-colored, aromatic red, although you may want to serve it with an arm and a leg. A hearty Bordeaux with hints of raspberry and oak, it goes well with almost any roast limb.

Pol Roger Brut 2001

What better way to celebrate the first meeting with your new victim than with French champagne? Whether or not you manage to ingest his severed member, this dry, medium-bodied bubbly is definitely a great way to say “thank you for being you.”

Beaujolais Villages 2000

The light, fruity bouquet of this well-known Burgundy complements a pan-fried rib steak garnished with garlic and mushrooms. Remember, if your “friend” was over 40, be sure that any excess fat is trimmed before cooking.

Black Opal Shiraz 1998

It’s always difficult to know what to serve with organ meats. But the deep purple color and hearty flavor of this Australian wine underscore the stronger tastes associated with heart, kidneys and liver. For a really tender treat, slow cook the organ meat in a Shiraz-based marinade.

Niersteiner 1999

A touch of sweetness in this classic German white bodes well for any lighter cuts. Whether it’s a breaded slice of breast or a serving of braised sweetbreads, a Rhine Valley white like Niersteiner will never overpower these delicate-tasting meals.

Valpolicella 2002

When those odds and ends become ground round, there’s no better low-budget hamburger wine than Valpolicella. Break out the barbecue and enjoy your grilled manburger with a big, bold Italian red. Goes great with a homemade pasta sauce as well.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1997

This is a special-occasion wine and the special occasion may well be an entire roast thigh turned on your barbecue spit. Invite a few flesh-eating friends over to enjoy a “runner’s roast” washed down with a couple of bottles of France’s best.


Any of the semisweet golden offerings will go great with everyone’s favorite dessert — mincemeat tarts. The tangy taste of this fruit-flesh pastry confection is accentuated by the smooth sweetness of the Sauterne.


When you’re having a friend for dinner and you’ve invited others to join you, it’s always nice to finish the evening with cigars and port. Any of the Portuguese brands of this fortified sweet wine will go well with after-dinner noshes like finger foods or man jerky.


Horatio Alger Redux


I came from humble beginnings — a hardscrabble, small town in Midwestern America. We called it home. Others called it Humble Beginnings, Colorado. Whatever the name, I knew one thing: the place was hardscrabble, that much was true. It was a hard town to work your way up and out of, one of those places where generations seem to always work for the family business. It was a great town. But I wanted out.

At age 16, I quit high school. A voice inside my head told me to go to work at the local 7-11. I did. The voice inside my head also told me that I was thirsty, and that I should look around my home for beverages which I could drink. I did that, too. And five years and many Gatorades later, I was still manning the graveyard shift sipping a Grape Fierce with $35 in the bank. A success by most standards. But I knew there was more in life for me.

One late winter night in 1977, I punched in my customer’s order — two Slim Jims, a pack of Marlboros, and two tallboys of Bud. The cash register read $7.77. I took that as a sign and the next day I quit the 7-11. I emptied my bank account, bought a bus ticket, and headed for Chicago. Something told me my fortune was waiting for me on the shores of Lake Michigan. I rode that lonely bus all night, preaching to the night riders beside me about proper electrolyte replacement.

Chicago presented a wealth of opportunities. It was just a question of choosing the right one. Would it be the eager software company, the faceless pharmaceutical giant, or the lamp repair store?

The choice was obvious. I went to work for the retail store. Something told me that lamp repair was going to be big and I wanted to ride along the crazy wave. Well, three years later, I was working the day shift and had $100 in the bank. I was clearly on my way.

Then, suddenly, a light bulb shattered somewhere and it was 1980 with the recession looming. I lost my lamp repair job, as penny pinchers switched back to track lighting with dimmer switches. For some, that would have been a disaster. For me, it spelled opportunity.

I picked three letters at random from my Scrabble game and came up with N, Y and C. Another sign! It couldn’t have been clearer: My destiny awaited me at Yazoo, North Carolina.

Clearing my bank account of its $250, I took a Greyhound to Raleigh and then hitchhiked to Yazoo. When I waved the aging trucker with the now Berry-Blue tongue goodbye, I saw the rusting sign calling out “Welcome to Yazoo”. I had arrived.

As luck would have it, the local gas station needed a reliable, non-dehydrated pump jockey. I applied and was immediately accepted. My past life experience had paid off. Unfortunately, Yazoo was a competitive town and the gas station was the toughest of the tough. But I persevered and ten years later I was head night shift attendant with $500 in the bank.

I was happy in Yazoo. Life was good. I had a dim room above the garage and gold-plated job security. I was living an American’s dream. But it felt too easy. Surely there was more. So when the customer with the out-of-state plates asked me to “Fill ‘er up, and go heavy on the lead” and the total came to $11.11, I knew it was time to move on and grab that brass ring.

I pulled my three lucky Scrabble letters from my plaid pocket and tossed them on the snack counter. Up came C, N, and Y. I was either an S short of a Woodstock reunion or I was headed to Canton, New York.

I took my savings, purchased a second hand Ford Pinto and started driving north. Three days, two accidents, and one ruptured gas tank later, I arrived in Canton.

With a population of only 5,000, it was clear that there were enormous opportunities in Canton. I couldn’t wait to ride this nascent engine of growth all the way to the top.

The sign in the Dew Drop Inn window said “Clerk Needed, Is it You?” C, N and Y. It was literally and metaphorically a sign. I pulled it from the window and marched confidently to the front desk. And that’s how I became the night clerk at the Dew Drop Inn.

The years flew by and I found myself as nighttime manager of the inn. Plus I had the undreamed of amount of $2,000 in the bank.

I should have been content. But I wasn’t. I knew there had to be more. So when a lit cigarette fell from my mouth onto some bed sheets and the Dew Drop Inn went up in flames and I was fired and threatened with a lawsuit, I took that as a sign to move on.

I tossed the Scrabble letters once more and up came N, Y and C. Maybe it was time to try the Big Apple, the home of America’s dreams: North York, Connecticut.

So I cashed in my chips, bought a ten-year old Yugo and headed southeast. Go southeast, middle-aged man. Follow that dream.

And ten miles outside of Schenectady, I ran headlong into my dream — a 1999 Mercedes driven by a successful upstate neurosurgeon on the wrong side of the road. My car was totaled, I was hospitalized for ten months and it was unclear if I’d ever sip another Fruit Punch Gatorade again. But I felt like I had made it.

And I had. Even with the contingency fee arrangement, the final settlement netted me $7 million. Just enough to buy a mansion in North York, a new Beemer, and a swimming pool full of Cherry Ice.