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Nov 30, 2018

 When it comes to interesting stuff in the world, little compares to the intricate workings of the human mind. From kids to the elderly and entire lives in between, we can make simple things hard, difficult things easy and sometimes we let the mundane stay mundane. It doesn’t matter how you choose to ride the wave in the ocean of your own existence, I can promise you’ll pick up a few barnacles in the form of stories along the way, like I have.

 I’m going to break a few of them off the bottom of my own surf board and tell you about my struggle with loosing weight, my daughter’s sense of independence, and what you might call my flirting with kleptomania. I’m Michael Blackston and while I have no idea why I used a nautical theme to get us into it, because there’s nothing nautical about any of the stories, you’re about to enter my world. Something I like to call my Funny Messy Life.


 I’ve talked about my diabetes at least a couple of times now and while I make light of it because this is a comedy thing i’m dong here, I want you to know I do take it seriously. It’s just that I have an addiction to certain kinds of foods and an aversion to exercise and those things combined join forces and create this enormous disease Voltron-like robot that shoots chocolate candies and buttermilk biscuits at my sedentary body in a non-stop barrage of delicious cannon fire. That’s why I’m currently engaged in ...

The Battle For The Last 20 lbs

 I have twenty more pounds I need to lose and everybody seems to be against me. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe it’s anybody else’s duty to make it happen, but I’m starting to believe there was some sort of summit among the people I call “friends”, the people I call “family”, and the people I call “strangers” to put an end to my weight loss goals.

 It’s everywhere I turn and the evidence is overwhelming. As I sat in a popular retail store, I saw from my vantage at a booth in a popular sub shop that is attached to the popular retail store, that just past the Don’t-Accidentally-Bring-Something-Through-That-Wasn’t-Properly-Scanned-Or-We’ll-Embarrass-You-With-An-Alarm-That-Makes-Everyone-Think-You’re-Stealing-From-Us-And-Because-This-Is-A-Small-Town,-Your-Grandmother,-Pastor,-And-That-Dude-That’s-Just-Sitting-There-Waiting-For-His-Wife-To-Hurry-Up-For-The-Love-Of-All-That-Is-Holy-Will-Know electronic wall, was a series of shopping carts with the has-beens of another by-gone holiday; the Carts Of Misfit Candies, if you will.

 We’d just finished Valentine’s Day, so the display was unashamedly tempting with its sign that read 50% off all items. There were eye catching red cardboard containers shaped like hearts and enormous aluminum foil wrapped chunks of milk chocolate goodness shaped like hearts; - everything was shaped like hearts - and it beckoned me with the love and satisfaction that the shape offers. I sent a thought toward the carts; Be GONE, heart shaped candies! Back to your foul and evil hidings where lie delicious calories and tooth rotting decadence! But they stayed right where they were.. I tried to keep my attention focused on the task at hand, which was writing an award winning blog article, but my eyes kept returning to the carts (we call them buggies in the American deep south), filled to their tops with what my pastor calls the pleasures of the flesh. The chocolate kind, you pervert!

 So far, I’ve resisted; I’m resolute and steadfast in my goal of losing the final twenty pounds. But it’s not just this store that’s waged war on my health. It’s my family, too.

 We get together at my grandmother’s house most Sundays and enjoy a meal. There’s always fried chicken, usually mac and cheese, potatoes, and it never fails that there’s either biscuits or rolls. There are normally a couple of different desserts and my grandmother always has candy in jars and ice cream in the freezer. Iced tea, anyone? There will inevitably be two gallons of it and several soft drinks. Yes, I brought a five-gallon drum of cheese balls, but I swear it was peer pressure. I walk around the table that has been set out with all of the stuff I just mentioned, fully intending to eat like a reasonable human being, but I end up forced to follow the pack, or in this case, the herd because we never stop grazing the entire day. I’m not happy until I pile my plate high with everything that would scare the stripes off Richard Simmons’ shorts. I’d mention the vegetables that are always there on the table and plenty of them, but because I’m mesmerized by the beast of gluttony and its wiles of tasty crap I’m urged to eat, I find myself blinded to the vegetables and the healthier alternatives. Yes, I AM blinded and not just by science. It’s this jones I’ve got for stuff that tastes good that blinds me. And diabetes. I’m told that soon diabetes will blind me if I don’t get a handle on it.

 It’s everybody else’s fault. If they would bring only healthy food, I wouldn’t feel obligated to wheelbarrow in a container of cheese balls that are not only a source of poor health, but as you might remember from earlier episodes, are also the source of a terrible Saturday morning a few years ago.

 But suppose my family didn’t mind my losing weight and suppose they didn’t make attempts (and succeed) in knocking down my dietary convictions, there’d still be the outside influences.

 All the towns of this nation have joined in the Let’s Make Michael’s Heart Valves Resemble A Clogged Drain Full Of Hair And Fingernail Clippings Except With Grease war. I can’t take a leisurely stroll without passing what the enemy has termed a “Fast Food Restaurant”. These are major weapons disguised as convenience. They’re stationed strategically at every corner, and everywhere in between those corners, touting their fast, delectable ease. I must keep an open eye to all incoming MOVs (Menus Of Value), and the task isn’t easy. And speaking of convenience, another piece of artillery the enemy employs against me has the word directly in its name. Convenience Store. Where there’s not a fast food restaurant, the mortar rounds of this war, there’s a convenience store. I liken it to a 50 caliber machine gun. Even the auto parts stores have a candy display!

 And then there are the agents who call themselves “Friends”. These are the covert ops human people who dash to and fro inside the confines of my trust, watching for every opportunity to trip me up. They might bring an enormous chocolate chip cookie to the theatre on my birthday for “all the cast to share”, except they insist I take the leftovers home. They listen intently as I say I have twenty more pounds to lose and then reply in a wickedly sincere voice, “You’ll be WAAAYYY too thin if you lose that much. You look great now.”


 It’s hard to know who you can trust.

 I’m asked what I’d like for Christmas, knowing they’re only setting me up for failure. They know I’ll say a movie gift card and my mind will go directly to the large bucket of popcorn I’ll drown in so much butter that my face will glisten around my mouth by the time I walk out because I cram the popcorn into my pie hole by the handfuls. (Go ahead and laugh … that actually happened.)

 So I ask you; where is my army? I have my wife’s support and that’s wonderful; we support each other. But the rest of everybody remains my enemy in a conflict to loose the last twenty pounds. I blame the people around me; I refuse to blame myself. If I weren't bombarded with temptation at every turn and if there were no demon imps marking every mile of my existence, just waiting for me so they can hold up an apple fritter and a gallon of chocolate milk, I wouldn’t be in this fix.

 I resolve, however, to win the war. There may be battles that deliver blows in the form of individually wrapped, bite size candy bars, but I’ll keep fighting on.

 Unfortunately, behind each buggy filled with the last holiday’s candy, there’s another holiday approaching fast.

 Best to keep my armor on.


 I’ve come to believe that people are hardheaded from birth. We don’t have to be taught that feature - we want things our way from the moment we breathe our first taste of oxygen. We come out, we start to cry and scream. Why? Because you woke us up and turned on the lights. And it never stops from that moment. We like it the way we like it and we’ll tell you about it. It even shows up in our every day activities. Take men for example. We’re never lost, we just sometimes don’t know where we are and we don’t need to stop and ask for directions. Or take my children for another example. My daughter is five and a couple of years ago, I wrote this piece. Let’s go back in the past when we had to endure a lot of ...

I Can Do It All By Myself

 The phrase, I can do it all by myself, is a lot cuter when uttered from the tiny mouth of a two and a half year old. My daughter is growing way too fast and she’s at that stage now where she wants to do many of the things that we used to help her with all by herself.

 I love that when they’re young, partly because of the cuteness factor, but also because of the hilarity that can ensue as the show progresses. It might sound mean to laugh at her misfortune, but she can get into some messes that, let’s just face it, are hilarious.

 Unfortunately for mankind, but fortunately for the medical field, the adorableness of it all doesn’t last. Eventually the, “Aww – how sweet” replies from the masses turn into, “You’re an idiot.”

 It’s because while we grow up physically, we don’t necessarily grow up mentally. Men tend to be some of the biggest offenders when it comes to this. I know – I’m living proof. To be quite honest, I probably ought to thank God that I’m not just “proof”, leaving out the “living” part.

 Kids are innocent. They want to be like the adults that are taking care of them. That’s why it might not be such a great idea to practice your vices where they can see and emulate you. For instance, what if you smoke around a child and one day while you aren’t looking, he takes a cigarette from the pack an aunt left on the arm of the chair and puts it down the front of his pants between skin and underwear, hoping to get a chance to try smoking it later? What if it’s mid-July and that child is very forgetful? And what if, because the cigarette has been down there all day and the child has begun to sweat, it breaks apart and the tobacco disperses all about his parts and crevices? Do you have any idea how sweat and skin mixed with the chemicals in cigarette tobacco react and create a burning sensation like you decided to do your business sitting on a fire ant hill?

 Well, I do. Because I was that child. And as my mother noticed, upon helping me out of my pants to see why I was jumping up and down, attempting to beat out invisible flames in and around my crotch area, that I had attempted a smuggling operation down there, she decided a burning on my backside might balance out the pain.

 It didn’t. It added to my pain.

 You might think I’d learn, but again, I didn’t.

 The I Can Do It All By Myself mentality somehow became firmly tattooed into my subconscious mind so that I hate getting help with just about anything.

 Forget going to the doctor. I’ll suffer through something with prescriptions of my own making way more often than I’ll darken the doors of a doctor’s office. Soup and Nyquil are my go-to methods for fixing anything from Bronchitis to a stab wound. And whiskey.

 But it doesn’t stop there and I’m not the only one who behaves this way. Something tells me a good portion of society refuses to admit they need assistance. Here’s a story that’ll make you scream, “Are you the most idiotic person in all of mankind?!”

 I was building the set for a local live production I was directing with my wife. The show was Bye Bye Birdie, the wonderful 50s era musical. The first scene calls for a piano in the office of a music producer and I wanted an old classic upright. We happened to have one that was unable to be used, sitting in the orchestra pit. The theatre had decided to scrap it when I had a bright idea. I would gut it so that the shell could be lifted easily from the pit and onto the stage. I would create a prop piano that looked like a working one, but was very light and maneuverable. After all, there’s been need of a prop like that in other shows and it would be nice to have something that wasn’t as heavy as a working piano.

 To gut the piano, I’d have to remove the soundboard from inside it, which required that it be laid down on its back. Remember, this is an old, classic upright; the kind with the tall top. Those are out-of-this-world heavy and it takes several men to move one any distance.

 I had my men scheduled on a Saturday to help with laying it down, but for reasons that could not be helped, both were unable to make it.

 What to do?

 I didn’t want to delay getting this prop ready. We were in a time crunch, but more importantly, I was excited about doing it and I didn’t want to wait. So there I was in the orchestra pit, alone on a Saturday, with no one to hear my screams and I decided, “You know what? I Can Do It All By Myself!”

 I shifted the piano forward and backward to get a feel for its balance and thought it could be done if I let it down slowly. And it was working, too, until I got it about a foot from the ground and felt my back make the familiar revelation, “If you don’t let go, I’m about to FREAK OUT!” I’d tangled with my back enough to know that it was not joking and I let the piano drop the rest of the way. It made a loud sound, but didn’t break. That would have been okay if only I had thought to pull my feet out from under its path.

 The piano landed on my two big toes.

 At first, you know the half-second before the pain hits and you realize you’ve maybe changed your world forever with your stupidity, it wasn’t that bad. My mind went to a place of, “Hmm. Something feels funny.”

 But then I felt the shock and pain of an old, classic upright Steinway with the tall top crushing my toes and my mind took a new course of thought. “AHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

 I was forced to tug my toes out from under the piano, which was applying so much pressure that my feet came completely out of my shoes and left them there. I stood there for a while, afraid to bend down and look at my toes and totally convinced that they were crushed and I might have to be assisted out of the pit. But when I finally managed the courage to have a look, I was surprised to find they were only bruised and I could move them. It was painful, but they could move and I was able to walk to some extent.

 My suggestion is that we realistically look at the task ahead of us and make an intelligent decision in regard to how much help we need. After the piano incident, the most common advice I heard was, “I told you to stop trying to do everything by yourself!” The second most common phrase was, “You almost just changed your world forever with your stupidity!”

 I would ultimately lose both of the nails from those toes and the one on the right decided to go all rebel and grow weird so that I’d later suffer the in-grown toenail I told you about in episode four.

 By the way, that’s an episode that will regale you with how I decided I could perform my very own toe surgery …

 All By Myself.


 The human condition is an interesting thing. We put stuff into our bodies that we know will kill in the long run, just to get an immediate - albeit temporary - satisfaction. We try to do things without the help of more knowledgeable or capable help because we want to think more highly of ourselves. And now, I’m going to tell you about a little compulsion I have when I travel. I can help but wonder about everything that’s not nailed down ...

Is That Free?

 As I walked into the kitchen this morning, I performed my usual habit of laying out all of my supplies for the day, java-wise. I’d already brewed the pot and the smell of ground coffee beans permeated the room so that every individual fiber of hair in my nostrils awakened and said hello to the promises of a brand new day - all except that one long nose hair that was being stubborn and refused to be plucked. Having long nose hairs that need to be plucked is a subject for another day, but it’s coming. Oh yes, it’s coming.

 Anyway, after getting the coffee brewed, my next step is always to lay out a stir stick for my cream and sugar and a small napkin to lay the stir stick on so that it doesn’t touch the surface of the counter. Yes, I’m a little OCD, but it also looks pretty and makes me feel all fancy pants.

 I accomplish this task by opening one of the plastic packets of coffee supplies that hotels keep in the rooms for their guests. The packet comes with one sugar, one creamer, one pink packet of sugar substitute, one stirring straw, and a small napkin. I use milk and liquid sugar. I hate the pink packet stuff, so I carefully store those for emergencies. I never know; I could be lost at sea and need to whip out my cell phone to call and ask my wife to have my emergency coffee supplies shipped to my life raft. Even the pink packets could be handy in that situation to scare away the sharks.

 That leaves the stir straw and the napkin for me to primly place and arrange perfectly on a corner of the counter in front of the coffee pot. I may then step back and observe my work and the probability of lots of cups of coffee. I have a problem when it comes to coffee and I admit it, but that’s an article for another day.

 The whole coffee thing isn’t the subject of this story anyway. It’s that little plastic packet of goodies offered for free by the hotel. I have hordes of them because I travel a lot and before I leave my hotel room, I steal everything that I feel could possibly in some way be spun into the round about area of semi-probable okayness to take with me.

 In an effort to make you understand the gravity of my problem, allow me to put it into story form as we stroll through my exit strategy from whatever hotel I’ve stayed in. I’ve decided to tell it a narrative as if I were recording an audiobook. Why? Because I plan to start recording audiobooks and I need the practice.

 Michael stretched and a gave a long yawn as his mind wrapped around the sound of the alarm going off across the room. For a brief moment, he considered staying in the bed. After getting to sleep so late due to staying up writing on a play destined for Broadway, or at least an after-school function in a small town in Idaho, he felt like a couple more hours might just be the ticket. After all, he was the boss of him. He could make that call if he felt so inclined.

 But the day beckoned and after the stretch, his blood began to flow a little faster so that he thought more clearly. He was, in fact, the boss of him, but his clients were the bosses of the checks he needed them to write. That thought poked him awake the final bit and Michael jumped out of bed toward the alarm to shut it off and pack up. He’d be leaving for home after work today and there was lots to do before he left the posh lodgings that had kept him for the last two nights.

 He showered and groomed to satisfaction, all except for one long, rogue nose hair that refused to be plucked.

 “Curse you, long nose hair! You taunt me,” he growled into the mirror at the curled line of string that grew from his nostril and would torture him all day as it made him feel constantly like he had a booger there for everyone to see.

 But there were more important things to consider now. There were things not nailed down. And there were some nailed down he thought the staff probably wouldn’t miss.

 After packing his essentials, Michael surveyed the room to itemize the bounty so he would forget nothing. There were little soaps and shampoos and conditioners. This room even had a tiny hand lotion. There were disposable coffee cups and plastic packets with supplies.

 He packed them all into his suitcase and noticed there was room there for more.

 Michael felt his adrenaline begin to rush through him as he contemplated the haul that might possibly be loaded into his bag.

 There was an unopened single roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. Michael often needed toilet paper. He snagged it and noticed the towels laying on the floor. He considered those damp rags for a second, but decided against it because he knew how badly he had smelled going into that shower the night before.

 The television in the room was too large to fit into his bag, but not the pen and pad of scratch paper that lay on the nightstand beside the bed. There were pillowcases on the pillows that would definitely fit, but again, Michael remembered rubbing his nose on them during the night in a senseless attempt to wipe away a phantom booger. The thought of packing the pillowcases did not appeal to him, so he moved on and out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 In the hall, to Michael’s delight, was an unattended maid’s cart overflowing with provisions intended to replace the stuff the other guests had used. Michael opened his bag and crammed as much as he could into it.

 He looked up and down the hall to make certain he had not been spotted and pressed the button for the elevator. As he entered, he heard a cry from the vicinity of the cart, “Oh no they dit-in!”

 Hearing this, Michael pressed the "Close Door" button rapidly eighty times.

 In the lobby, the smell of breakfast lofted throughout the place. There were freshly baked frozen biscuits. Michael didn’t care for frozen biscuits. He was a master of the scratch-made kind and preferred them to the ones from a bag. Most everyone he knew now pulled them frozen from a bag and it saddened him that there were only he and a few ladies with blue hair that still practiced the craft of making biscuits by hand. But that’s a story for another day, he said to himself and stuffed five frozen biscuits into his coat pocket.

 Before turning away, Michael noticed peanut butter and jelly packets aplenty in dishes directly in front of him. He scooped a large portion of each into the pockets of his jeans, adding a few pouches of oatmeal and instant grits for good measure.

 Turning from the food bar, he made his way to the checkout desk for his receipt.

 The attendant met him with a smile that seemed to say underneath it, I’m supposed to smile because I’m paid to, but I’m hung over and if you complain about any little thing, I will choke you with one of those biscuits you have in your pocket. And I know you have them because there’s a trail of bread crumbs leading from the bar to exactly where you’re standing.

 “How was your stay?” he beamed.

 “It was fine,” Michael replied in a voice that wasn’t so much complaint ridden, but was intended to convey that the amenities of this place are a bit lacking. “Just checking out and need my receipt.”

 As the attendant bent toward his computer to view the screen, Michael palmed a grouping of pens from the counter, jar and all, and placed them quickly underneath his baseball cap.

 Upon offering the receipt, the attendant also offered to Michael that there suddenly seemed to be something strange about the way his cap fit on his head. Michael snorted and something in his nostril tickled him there. He wiped his nose and thanked the attendant for everything, bidding him a good day.

 As Michael made the approach to his car, he heard a voice behind him calling out and he feared the worst. He’d be relieved now of his stashes and informed he was no longer welcome at the Super Duper Motel 4.

 But the attendant from the counter was holding up a set of keys as he came running and said, “You left these.”

 Michael thanked him again and took them from his hand. As the attendant was quipping something original about how he wouldn’t get very far without those, Michael also took the master key from the attendant’s belt.

 As he drove away, he thought, "They could have at least had mints on the pillows."

 The End.

 Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. I’m no thief, but I do take everything that is supposedly “Complementary” every time. That's why it's there, right?

 And now my coffee cup needs refilling and I have to go to the bathroom to blow my nose.

 Feels like I might have a booger.


 If you ask me, human beings are the most interesting things on the planet, followed closely by baby goats videos on the internet. I hope these three stories intrigued you at least a little bit and if they did, let me know.