The Tooth Brush Song

“I brush my teeth with a Sonicare toothbrush before every show.”  –David Copperfield

“I brush baby teeth during every show.”  –Jeff Brown

You’ve got to brush, brush, brush, brush your teeth.

You’ve got to brush, brush, brush, to get them clean.

You’ve got to brush, brush, brush, every day.

That’s how you fight tooth decay! 

I composed this brilliant and educational song for my daughter when she was only two years old.  I sang it with the great feeling and compassion only a father concerned about his kid’s oral health ever could.  

Simon Cowell:  That was terrible, I mean just awful. 

Interesting Fact:  There’s a little dance that goes along with it too. 

The last time I mentioned the tooth brush song to my daughter (she’s 23 now) she said she couldn’t remember it.  This revelation shocked and disappointed me because, come on, I’m talking about the tooth brush song here!  

I think the lyrics of this beautiful work of poetry just might be the most impressive and creative achievement of my entire writing career.  How could Jessica, my only daughter, forget the toothbrush song?  I guess all I can do now is hope my two year old granddaughter has a better memory.  That’s right– I’m teaching it to Hailey now. 

I scooted a small step stool up to the bathroom sink.  “Come here, kiddo,” I called, “it’s time to brush those pearly whites.”  She came running and climbed up as I squirted a tiny dab of baby toothpaste on her toothbrush.  I grinned, cleared my throat, and sang, “You’ve got to brush, brush, brush, brush your teeth.” 

“Cup,” she said, reaching for the rinse glass.  

“First you need to brush,” I replied, handing her the toothbrush.  “Do you know what to do?” 

“Uh, huh.”  She nodded and stuck it in her mouth.  

I pointed at her and continued, “You’ve got to brush, brush, brush, to get them clean.” 

After a few brush strokes, she crinkled her face and yanked it out.  The toothbrush plopped on the sink and she exclaimed, “Yucky, Papa.”  She reached for the cup again.  “Driiink!” 

I filled the water glass and handed it to her.  She took a deep swig and gawked at me as if she didn’t know what to do.  

“Um,” I said, “go ahead and spit, Hailey.” 

Water erupted from her tiny mouth and dripped down the front of her shirt.  

“In the sink!”  I grabbed the towel and wiped her off.  Her shirt was damp, but she didn’t seem to mind.  “Here’s how to spit, Hailey.”  I demonstrated by leaning over the sink and saying, “Ptooey!” 

“Heehee.”  She pretended too.  “Phooey!” 

Another Interesting Fact:  Four out of five babies surveyed recommend learning to brush from their grandpas that still have teeth.  

All in all, I think our first joint tooth brushing experience went pretty well.  We may not have gotten the best cleaning job accomplished this time around, but I feel I’ve helped instill good brushing habits in my granddaughter.  I plan to keep her brushing in the future by using lots and lots of positive reinforcement.  

Her shirt was still wet, so I grabbed the hairdryer off its hook.  “Let me dry that for you, Hailey” 

“Aaaaa!”  She scrambled down the stool and ran down the hallway.  

I turned out the light and mumbled in the dark, “And that’s how you fight tooth decay.” 

Special Note to the Producers of Sesame Street:  If you’d like to use the tooth brush song in your show, please contact my agent.

The Perfect Escape

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”  –Joseph Campbell

“The big question is whether you’re going to say “yeah baby!” or “woohoo!” on your next big adventure.” –Jeff Brown

 

“Our spouses are crazy for not doing this,” I exclaimed, as my daughter and I signed the liability wavers.

A man held a harness out in front of me and asked that I “step into it.”  I’m doing this literally and figuratively, I thought.  As I pulled it up to my waist, I noticed it had all kinds of clips and clasps and slide adjustments. 

I definitely needed an adjustment.

“Go ahead and tighten the side straps yourself,” he said, as he helped Jessica with hers.  I could tell he didn’t want to be anywhere near my, uh…lower extremity region.   This was fine with me, so I did the best I could.  When I was done, I felt ridiculous, yet strangely kind of sexy.  I’m certain I looked like a Village People reject. 

Panelist Judge: Sorry Jeff, but we’ve decided to go with the construction worker.

Jessica and I donned our helmets and gloves and started climbing the stairs of Tower 1.  

My wife took this picture of Tower 1 from the safety of the ground.

The zip is a two part flight from Tower 1 to Tower 2 at Bloomsbury Farm in Atkins, Iowa.  The zip line expert waiting for us at the top was very friendly and didn’t appear have any qualms about being near my lower extremities.  “Those straps need to be tighter,” he said in an authoritative voice.  Then he breached my personal space and pulled them so tight I would’ve messed up Macho Man if I were singing at that particular moment. 

This shot taken from the top of Tower 1 is from the Bloomsbury Farm website. There were hundreds of people roaming the grounds the day we were zipping.

We were 51 feet high and had a bird’s eye view of the entire farm on this sunny fall day.  I could see hundreds of people wandering the crowded agritourism grounds, enjoying the hayride, pumpkin patch, and corn mazes.  There were two zip line cables attached to the tower above our heads.  They were 700 feet long and ran parallel to each other.  Tower 2 was our destination and there was only one way to get there:

Go back down the steps and walk.

Okay, there were two ways to get there, and sliding down the cables while dangling from underneath was clearly the most reasonable.    

The zip expert attached Jessica’s trolley and safety rope to the left cable.  Then he hooked me to the right and asked, “Do you guys want me to count down?”

I thought a prayer might be more appropriate, especially since we were about to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God.  (FYI:  I was really hoping that second part didn’t happen.)  I asked my daughter, “What do you think?” 

Grinning ear to ear, she said, “Sure.” 

“3-2-1 jump!”

Jessica leaped off the platform.  I followed. 

“Whoopee!”

There we are!

The cable bowed slightly as it took my full weight and the trolley made a “zzzzzzzzz” sound just inches above my head.  I would’ve felt the wind in my hair, but I was wearing that stupid helmet.  I could see my daughter speeding ahead of me as I started to rotate counterclockwise.  My mind raced as fast as my body…

Oh look, that’s where I came from.  Oh look, that’s where I’m going.  Oh look…    

For the record I didn’t actually yell, “Whoopee!”  In fact, I didn’t say anything at all.  The whole experience of zipping down the cable was absolutely exhilarating; I’m just not the kind of guy who goes around hooting and hollering every time something exciting happens.  Oh sure, I let out an occasional “woohoo” in print, but in real life? 

It’s just too embarrassing.

My wife thinks it’s interesting that roller coasters and zip lines don’t bother me the slightest, but the thought of getting home too late to let the dog out gives me nightmares.  “It’s all about escapism,” I told her.  “When I’m doing these fun activities, I don’t have time to worry about things like the economy or the cost of replacing our carpet.”

Before I knew it, my daughter and I were peering off the edge of Tower 2.  She beamed at me, ran a few steps, and jumped.  I took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and followed.    

“Wee!”

Yeah, I didn’t say that either.

Jessi comes in for a landing.

Jeff without a care in the world.

To learn more about Bloomsbury Farm, visit their website at http://www.bloomsburyfarm.com/

I’m Number One!

“Winning is about heart, not just legs.  It’s got to be in the right place.”  –Lance Armstrong

“Winning is about heart, not just legs, and finding the right place for my gigantic, shiny, colorful, and prestigious trophy.”   –Jeff Brown

I want to start this column by thanking all of the little people who helped make this happen.  I’m talking about the guy working behind the counter at the parts store, I’m talking about my wife who helped me get it ready to paint, and I’m talking about my dad who did all of the work that required any sort of skill and knowledge.

Most of all, I want to thank the citizens of Ely, Iowa, who bestowed upon me one of their most magnificent and prestigious awards.  (I’m sure it’s akin to receiving the key to their city.)  Of course, I’m talking about the second place trophy I received at the annual Ely Fall Fest 2012 Car Show. 

YES.  I’m number one!  I’m number one!

Okay, I’m number two.

Well, technically, my car was number two in the Stock Chevy 1960-1973 class.  I went with a friend who drives an original Starsky and Hutch car, and it did well in its class too.  His car is actually a lot nicer than mine, but this column isn’t about him, it’s about me.

I’m number one!  I’m number one!

Okay, I’m number two.

I bought my 1963 Chevy Impala 4-door hardtop way back in the early nineties for $1700.00 because it met all three of my criteria buying any vehicle: 

  1. It was cheap.
  2. It was reliable.
  3. It was cheap.

(I suppose you could add “rusty” to my criteria, but I consider that to be more of a term of endearment than a selling point.)

I guess I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Chevy Impalas, especially the ones built from 1958-1964.  In fact, I’ve owned four ‘63’s over the years, including the white 2-door hardtop I drove in High School and the red and white convertible I had in my early twenties.  (I curse the day I sold that one.)  What can I say?  I like the body lines of the early Impalas.  I think even the 4-doors like the one I have now are cool looking. 

Interesting Fact:  One day while driving with the windows down, a young guy pulled alongside me, beamed, and said, “I like your car.  It’s ssssssexy.”

Hollywood appreciates 1963 Impalas too.  If you were a fan of the TV show The Wonder Years, the Arnolds drove a ’63 4-door hardtop in the early episodes– just like mine!  In the 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise drove a light blue ’63 4-door Impala.

Another Interesting Fact: Sometimes when I’m driving my Impala, I pretend that I’m Tom Cruise–­­­ not the weird Scientology Tom Cruise of present day, but the cool Tom Cruise of the ‘80’s.      

I’ve put a lot of elbow grease into my car over the years.  I’ve added power steering, power breaks, and a fancy bumper guard to the front.  Not to mention the fact that I’ve taken the whole thing apart, sanded it, painted it, and put it all back together again.  Despite all of this, it’s still hardly a perfect show car, just a fun drive.

This is why I think it’s so cool that I won this award— this gigantic, shiny, colorful, and prestigious trophy.  The only problem is I have to find a place in my house to properly display it.  The ideal spot would be on my mantle above the fireplace, but since I don’t have a mantle or a fireplace, I’ve been trying different areas out. 

As I’ve been carrying it from the living room to the kitchen and from the bedroom to the bathroom, my wife just looks at me and shakes her head.  She thinks all of this attention has gone to my head.   

Not to worry because I know how to handle her.  I just point to the trophy where it clearly states that I’m number one. 

YES.  I’m number one!

Okay, I’m number two.

***

This picture is from a July car show.

My ’63.

Watch Out For Those Surges Over Some Seats!

This is our “before” picture.

“Wild Thing, you make my heart sing.”  –The Troggs

“Wild Thing, you make me have to change my socks and boxer shorts.”   –Jeff Brown

Hold on!  Hold on! 

*SPLASH*

As a sheet of frigid water descended on my wife and me, my mind raced back to a half hour earlier.  We were standing in a parking lot near our station wagon.  The rear hatch was open and I was gazing inside.  A battle was raging in my brain between my extreme dread of getting soaking wet and my fear of looking like a complete wuss to a group of strangers.

“Are you ready?” asked Vickie.

I grabbed my navy blue rain coat and held it up.  “I’m trying to decide if I want to wear this or not.  Do you want yours?”

“No, it’s hot out here.  The water will feel good.”

She had a point.  It was warm (in the seventies) especially standing on the asphalt in the sun, but I knew it would be cooler on the water– a lot cooler.  In the end my dread of being uncomfortable trumped my fear of looking stupid and I tied the coat around my waist.  “Let’s go,” I said.

Vickie and I were enjoying a weekend at Wisconsin Dells and we were embarking on the 1200hp Wild Thing Jet Boat Tour.  The ride is marketed as 50% fast, 50% slow, 100% fun with power stops, 360 spins, sprays of water, and surges over some seats.  As we waited for a bus to pick us up and take us to the Wisconsin River, I glanced at the group of my fellow passengers.  They were all wearing shorts and t-shirts and I could read their minds.

Total Stranger#1: Do you see that goofy looking guy over there with his raincoat tied around his waist?

Total Stranger#2: Yeah, I’m surprised he didn’t bring his blankey.  What a wuss!

The ten minute bus ride was, well…hot.  There were approximately 40 of us all together, and we were glad when we made it to the river and boarded the boat.  The Wild Thing had a camouflage paint scheme and passengers were seated about six across.  There were large plastic containers tucked under the seats and the captain was ensconced in the back in an elevated, Plexiglas encased bridge. 

He spoke through a loud speaker.  (I’m paraphrasing here.)  “Welcome everyone to the Wild Thing.  If you have any valuables you don’t want to get wet, please place them inside the plastic containers in front of you.  I guarantee you’re going to get wet, if not completely soaked.”

I glanced at my wife and smirked as I untied my raincoat and put it on.  “You know, Vick,” I said as I zipped it up, “if you get wet and cold and want my raincoat midway through this ride, don’t you worry.”  I lifted the hood up over my head, pulled the strings tight, and continued, “There’s no way I’m giving it to you.  Hahaha!”

She shook her head and grinned.  “You’re so mean!”

The captain went on.  “Notice the handrails in front of you.  When I say “hold on” I want you to grab them tight.  We’ll reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour and make frequent abrupt stops.  If anybody falls out of the boat, I’m not going back for you.  Hahaha!”

This guy, I thought, is pretty funny.

Then the captain revved the boat’s engines and we accelerated up the river.  I felt the skin on my face forced back by air pressure and my hood flipped off as the captain shouted, “Hold on!  Hold on!  Hold on!”  The boat decelerated and spun to the right, kicking up a huge wave of water.

*SPLASH*

I looked at Vickie.  Her hair was soaked and her eyes cried out to me, “Can I borrow your raincoat?”

My eyes responded, “You’ll have to pry it from my cold wet fingers.”

But there wasn’t time because we were soon tearing up the river again.  We’d begun a series of accelerations and decelerations, followed by underwear drenching waves.  The captain occasionally remarked, “Here’s an interesting rock formation that looks like an elephant’s behind.  Hold on!  Hold on!”

*SPLASH*

“Here’s where Native Americans used to camp. Hold on! Hold on!”

*SPLASH*

I did manage to notice through my water specked spectacles that it was a beautiful day. The sky was cobalt blue, lush trees flanked both sides of the wide river, and there were numerous other boats whizzing by.

“Hold on! Hold on!”

*SPLASH*

I don’t remember much else.  All I could think about was how soaked my shirt, pants, and yes, my underwear were.  The flimsy raincoat was no match for the waves, but I was glad I brought it because it helped keep me warm in the 70 mph wind. 

When the boat finally pulled back to the dock, Vickie and I scrambled off the craft and tipped the captain on his, err…driving skills.  There were future passengers lined up on our way back to the bus.  One of them noticed how wet we were and I heard him say to his wife, “Maybe we should have brought raincoats.”

On our drive home the next day, I asked Vickie what part of the vacation she liked best.  “Was it the ride on the famous Army Ducks?  How about that awesome water-ski show?”

She looked at me thoughtfully and replied, “I think it was the Wild Thing ride.”

I remember thinking her opinion was all wet– along with my shirt, pants, and underwear. 

We managed to get one of the total strangers to take this “after” picture of us.

Special Note:  If you don’t mind getting wet and you’re in the Wisconsin Dells area, I highly recommend the Wild Thing Jet Boat Tour.  Here’s a link to their website http://www.dellsducks.com/wildthing.html

However, I strongly urge you to go on a warm day and wear a scuba suit under your raincoat.

Cow Head Envy

A boy and his cow head.

“If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.” –George Bernard Shaw

“If you can’t get rid of the cow head in your closet, you’d best screw some 60 watt bulbs in its eye sockets and make a light fixture out of it.” Jeff Brown

“Grandpa,” I asked, “Do you have any cow heads around here?”

I was nine years old and spending some summer time at my grandparent’s farm in southern Iowa.  Grandpa wore a white t-shirt and it stood out starkly against his dark tan skin.  He grinned and nodded.  “You know what?  I think I do.”

You might think it was an odd question to ask, but I look back on this moment as one of the finest of my youth.  I’d wanted a cow skull for a long time.  Two of my friends had cow skulls, and I was the odd man out, cow head speaking.

I was especially envious of Mike Shoup’s.  His dad had it rigged up with red lightbulbs in its eye sockets.  When it lit up with that eerie glow, I was sure it was the neatest thing I had ever seen in my life.

Yep, I had cow head envy; and I had it bad.

As I look back, I think this might be the first time I ever succumbed to peer pressure.  It seemed all my friends had cow heads; so naturally, I had to have one too.

Later on when Grandpa presented me with the skull he’d retrieved from one of his pastures, I was ecstatic.  It was dirty white and had a single horn sticking out of the top.  There was no lower jaw (darn) but it had all its upper teeth.  For a nine year old boy who was interested in things like dinosaurs, volcanoes, and frogs, it was love at first sight.

When my younger cousin saw it, he immediately recognized its value too.  “Do you have any more cow heads?” he asked.

“Sorry,” said Grandpa, as he adjusted his cap, “but I’m fresh out.”

I remember thinking, “Thank God I asked first.”

I don’t remember what caused the unfortunate demise of that poor cow.  It might have gotten stuck in the mud and drowned.  All I really know is its misfortune was good luck for me.  When I brought it home I was instantly the most popular kid on the block.  Believe me; you’ve never experienced popularity until you’ve been known as “that kid with the cow head.”

Interesting fact:  Curiously enough, I never gave it a name.  I’ve always referred to it affectionately as “the cow head.”

It was soon the basis of many scientific experiments.  My friends and I eagerly peered into the braincase through the spinal cord hole with a flashlight.  The conversations always went something like this:

“Whoa, I can see its brain.”

“Dummy, it doesn’t have a brain anymore.  It’s decompressed.”

“Whoa!”

I think dogs are way overrated.  Let me tell you this:  There’s nothing in this world stronger than the bond between a boy and his cow head.

As time marched on and my interests evolved, the poor noggin got put into storage.  I suppose you could say I took the cow head for granted.  Sure, I still thought it was neat to have one, but I didn’t have the space to properly display it.

That all changed when I bought my house.  Finally I had a garage– a man cave.  I dusted it off and rigged the old skull up with 60 watt light bulbs.

Walla!

It was a stylish and economical light fixture.

Another interesting fact: You’ll never find one of these at a Pier 1 Imports outlet store.

My daughter threw a Halloween party when she was in Jr. High and for the first time in all the years I owned it, I finally got around to screwing some red light bulbs into its eye sockets.

And when it lit up with that eerie glow, I was certain it was the neatest thing I had ever seen in my life.

Note to Temp: 30 Helpful Hints to Live by while I’m Away

“I’ve got two tickets to paradise.” –Eddie Money

“I’ve got two tickets to Graceland and other less notable places too numerous to mention here.” Jeff Brown

You’ve been doing a great job helping my Dad and me in the lawn care business this summer.  Next week, however, I’m going on vacation to Graceland and other less notable places too numerous to mention here, and you’ll have to take up the slack.  Your work to this point has been impressive, but you’re not a Jedi yet.  Here are some little golden nuggets of information that might help.  Good luck!

  1. For fun and entertainment, I like to give my days themes.  For example, there’s Manual Labor Monday, I Got Something in my Eye Tuesday, Man, I drank too much Mountain Dew Wednesday, Cripes it’s hot Thursday, and, if you make it to the end of the week without a heat stroke, you can look forward to Casual Friday.  Yes, leave your suit and tie at home.
  2. Even though it’s Casual Friday, and it might be really hot outside, I strongly encourage you to wear a shirt.  We try to look professional here.
  3. For the umpteenth time, this goes for you too, Dad!
  4. If it’s Man, I Drank too Much Mountain Dew Wednesday, and you urgently need to get to a bathroom, don’t be afraid to tell my dad.  Chances are he has to go too, and, besides, he’s already used to making frequent stops at the local convenience store because, let’s face it, I have to go ALL OF THE TIME.
  5. Be sure to bring a screwdriver or a stick or something to scrape with when you’re mowing Dog Poop Alley.
  6. I don’t call it Dog Poop Alley for nothing.
  7. If the tractor we lovingly refer to as “The Brute” doesn’t want to start, I’ve found it helpful to stroke her hood and whisper in her carburetor, “Wehrenberg.”
  8. That’s just weird.
  9. Hey, it works.
  10. If you break down or run out of gas, you can be sure that it will happen very far away from the truck (i.e. the tools and gas can) every single solitary time without exception.  This is Newton’s Fourth Law of Mowing.
  11. When you’re at Fuss Bucket’s house, be prepared for tons of helpful advice on your mowing pattern and trimming methodology.
  12. I have other hilarious and descriptive nicknames for Fuss Bucket too.
  13. Oh, yeah?
  14. Yeah, but there’s no way I’m writing them here.
  15. Do you have anything else to say to the temp?
  16. Yes I do.  In the immortal words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”
  17. Who the heck is that?
  18. You know, that character from the eighties TV show Hill Street Blues.
  19. The temp is seventeen years old.   He isn’t going to get that stupid reference.  He wasn’t even born until 1995.
  20. Now I’m really feeling old.
  21. Any other words of wisdom?  You’re near your 650 word limit.
  22. Who says I have to keep this under 650 words?  It’s not like I have an editor.
  23. This is painfully apparent.
  24. Well, wait a second.  I do have my wife occasionally check for typos and dangling participles and stuff like that.
  25. Okay, I’m waiting for it.
  26. What?
  27. Your dangling participle joke.
  28. After thinking intensely, the punch line escaped me.
  29. Real professional.  Do you at least have a good ending for this column?  You know– something profound that pulls everything together and wraps it up in a nice bow?
  30. Not really.  Did I mention I’m going on vacation?  I’m feeling pretty lazy right now, so I think I’ll just rip off some song lyrics from Eddie Money.

I’ve got two tickets to paradise,

Won’t you pack your bags, we’ll leave tonight,

I’ve got two tickets to Graceland,

And other less notable places too numerous to mention here because I’m way over my word limit!

How I met W. Bruce Cameron and other Famous People

“I still get excited about meeting celebrities, because I don’t think I’m a celebrity myself.” –Allan Carr

“I still get excited about meeting celebrities, because I don’t think I’m a celebrity myself, mainly because I’m not a celebrity.” Jeff Brown

I’m not usually the kind of guy who does a lot of name dropping, but my wife and I recently hung out with Colin Hay after one of his concerts. If you’re wondering who Colin Hay is, (Who can it be now?) he’s the Scottish-Australian musician who first made his mark during the 1980’s as the lead singer of the Australian band Men at Work. He’s now touring as a solo artist and played at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a few months ago.

Anyhow, Vickie and I hang out with Colin all the time now. Well, technically not all the time. It was just that one time, but we didn’t have to wait in line very long and I got to snap the neat picture at the top of this story. This experience of rubbing elbows with a famous person has given me confidence that my wife and I will soon be running in the most popular crowds.

Yeah, baby, I’m in with the in crowd and I go where the in crowd goes.

For instance, I once saw the weatherman from Channel Nine in the grocery store. Wow, I thought, that’s the weatherman from Channel Nine. I can’t believe this.

For some strange reason I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

Oh my God, I kept repeating in my mind, I wonder if he signs autographs. Maybe he gives personal weather forecasts. This is so cool because that guy right over there is the WEATHERMAN FROM CHANNEL NINE.

Okay, I admit I can get a little star struck. I’d probably have a heart attack if I ever ran into the salesman from the late-night used car commercials. This is so cool because that guy right over there is going to get me a great deal on a ’94 Chevy and I’m pre-approved, GUARANTEED.

Last summer when I attended my first writer’s conference in Detroit with the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, I was really excited about seeing W. Bruce Cameron in person. I’d been a fan of his humor column for years and I really enjoyed his book Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter.

Sure enough, when my wife and I pulled up in front of the hotel where the conference was being held, Bruce was standing out front talking to the concierge. “This is definitely the right place,” I exclaimed to Vickie, “because that guy right over there is W. BRUCE CAMERON. I wonder if he signs autographs. Maybe he gives personal weather forecasts. Wait a second, that doesn’t make sense!”

I finally got the nerve and opportunity to talk to him the next day. “I love your book!” I said, maybe a bit too eagerly. “I could relate because I was a father of a teenaged girl when I read it.”

He looked at me uncomfortably.

My mind raced. Jeff, think of something intelligent to say. Don’t blow this.

“And your humor column– I really like your column a lot.”

As I uttered those words, those seven little words– I really like your column a lot– my mind screamed out, No! I did not just say, “I really like your column a lot.” But, it was true.

To be perfectly clear, in case you weren’t paying attention, I said to the accomplished columnist and novelist W. Bruce Cameron when I met him, “I really like your column a lot.”

He continued to look at me uncomfortably.

As I mentioned earlier, I can get a little star struck.

The conversation dragged on a bit longer. I said to him that I hoped to maybe build a career of sorts writing columns.

Then he looked at me like I was crazy.

Bruce mentioned that it was getting harder for him to come up with column ideas because he’d written so many already. This is why it wasn’t a huge shock to me when I read earlier this year that he was discontinuing his column to devote more time to writing novels.

If I quit writing this little blog, I wonder what the headlines will say. Brown Discontinues Column to Pursue Career Mowing Yards.

I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to make a career out of writing columns. At this point in time, it doesn’t look very likely. One thing is for certain.  If a total stranger ever comes up to me and says he really likes my column a lot, it will absolutely make my day.

Imagine this…

A few years from now a couple of women show up at my first book signing. One says to the other, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. Do you see that guy sitting right over there signing books?”

“Yeah, that’s the weatherman from Channel Nine.”

“No, I think he mows my yard.”

W. Bruce Cameron’s humor column is still syndicated with Creators and can be found at:  http://www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/humor.html

Note to Self:

“These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. ”  –Introduction from Star Trek

“These are the voyages of the John Deere I like to call Enterprise. Its mission: to boldly mow where no one has mowed before.”  Jeff Brown

Here I am out in the field.  Literally.

Well, technically I’m not in a field, it’s more of a Creeping Charlie and Not-So-Dandy Lion wildlife preserve, but this customer’s yard is so huge it might as well be a field.  Working with Dad in the lawn mowing business sure got an early start this year, and business is blooming.  Hahahaha!

That’s so funny because instead of “booming,” I used a word more closely associated with plants.

Note to self: I need to cut my caffeine consumption in the mornings.

There’s nothing like starting the day with a pot of coffee and a can of Mountain Dew.  Yes, my brain is in overdrive!

Note to self:  I probably should have gotten a job with a private bathroom.

Be still, my intestinal tract, there’s nowhere to go out here.  Oh well, at least this outdoorsy career keeps me physically fit, although my feet are killing me.

Note to self: Daddy needs a new pair of mowing shoes.

I sure hope today goes better than yesterday.  It was humiliating when that little girl kept yelling at me from her bedroom window, “Get out of my yard or I’m calling the cops.”

Note to Little Cretin:  No, Virginia, there’s no Santa Clause.

This terrain is bumpy!  I must distract my brain from my expanding bladder.

The Twin Paradox is a thought experiment in special relativity in which a John Deere lawn tractor makes a journey into space and returns home to find it has fewer hours on its engine than its identical twin that stayed on earth.   Consider this tractor traveling from Earth to the nearest star outside our solar system 4 light years away at a speed 80 percent the speed of light.

The round trip will take 10 years in Earth time (i.e. everybody on earth (including the twin) will be 10 years older when the tractor returns). The amount of time as measured on the tractor’s clock will be reduced by the factor ε=√1-v2/c2.  In this case, the traveling tractor’s engine will only have 6 years’ worth of wear and tear on it when it gets back to Earth!

THIS ISN’T WORKING AND MY BLADDER IS GOING TO GO SUPERNOVA.  I wonder if anyone would see me if I went over there by that bush.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Note to self:  Probably an indecent exposure charge and a write-up in the local newspaper.

I want to be in the paper, but not that way.  Too bad my column writing career isn’t going as well as the mowing business.  I firmly resolve to get up at 4 AM tomorrow and write a new blog.

Note to self:  Hahahaha!

I suppose I’ll end up mowing yards for the rest of my life.  When I was a kid, there was an old woman in town that mowed yards for a living.  Mean people called her Crazy.  I wonder what the locals will call me in coming years.

There goes Eccentric Jeff.  He used to be respected in this town until he got caught watering somebody’s grass. 

Maybe that newspaper editor I sent sample columns to last week called me back.  I’ll check my phone right now for missed messages.

Crap.

Note to self: Buy beer on the way home tonight after you visit the shoe store.

Little Cretin:  Officer, you won’t believe what that bad man did to my parent’s bushes!

This is an Important Message for Rodney

“I don’t answer the phone.  I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.”  –Fred Couples

“I don’t answer the phone.  I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be an androgynous voice on the other end asking for Rodney.” Jeff Brown

Hello Rodney.  How are you?

This column may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.

You don’t know me and I technically don’t know you.  For instance, I don’t know where you live, what kind of car you drive, who’s your daddy, or even what your last name is.  I am, however, painfully aware of your existence in the universe.

Believe me, Mr. Rodney Whatever Your Last Name Is; this isn’t because I ever wanted to be.  Oh, contraire, this knowledge of your beingness was forced upon me shortly after I got my cell phone number. The first not so subtle clue that you exist and are leading a more exciting social life than me came in the middle of the night, and it went like this:

Phone rings.

Jeff: (Fumbles for his glasses.) Where the heck is my stupid phone?   (Races to the living room and finds it stuck between the couch cushions.)  Hello.

Woman’s Voice:  Is Rodney there?

Jeff:  No, you have the wrong number.

Woman’s Voice:  (Giggles.)  Oh, I’m sorry.  (Hangs up.)

Rodney, from the sheer number of late night calls I received and continue to receive since I was issued my phone number several years ago, I gather you have lots of friends.  You must be pretty charismatic to have such following.  Whether its day or night, whether I’m on a ladder, eating dinner, or in the shower, you’re always in demand.  Sometimes it seems everyone in the country wants to reach out and touch you.

So do I, Rodney, so do I.

I have to admit you have a bigger social circle than me, and I was getting jealous.  That was until the second wave of calls started coming in that went like this:

Hi Rodney, how are you today?  Before I proceed further, I need to tell you this is an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

I explained to the debt collector that I was not you.  He took this information very well.  In fact, he liked my explanation so much that he called me a week later to hear it again.  He still calls occasionally, and each time I have to patiently explain to him that I’m not you, or as I often refer to you now– Mr. Popularity.

Apparently this confusion over our identities has extended to the government because I’ve been receiving messages from an androgynous robot voice that works for the Iowa Department of Revenue.

This is an important message for Rodney.  Please call us back at…

I tried to ignore the weird calls at first, but they came every day for two weeks straight.  Finally, I wore down and replied.

All of our agents are busy.  Please hold.

You’ve got to be kidding.  First they harass me incessantly, then they make ME call THEM, and then they have the nerve to put me on hold.       

How may I help you?

Your androgynous attack dog told me to call.

Is this Rodney?

No, my name is Jeff.  Please remove my phone number from your list.

Sorry for the inconvenience, Sir.

I’ve had this conversation with the Iowa Department of Revenue four times in the past twelve months.

Anyhow, Mr. Rodney, since I have no other way of contacting you, I have an important message for you here right here in this column:

The library really wants you to return those overdue books.

A Pretend Picnic Packed for Two

“There is a flower within my heart, Daisy, Daisy.” Harry Dacre

“There is a flower within my heart, Hailey Baby.” Jeff Brown

Hailey, Baby, give me your answer, do,

I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.

My 17-month old granddaughter, Hailey, shoved a plastic spoon laden with imaginary food (I liked to think it was a scrumptious bite of lasagna, but I suspect it was strained peas) in my mouth.  “Yum, num, num.” I said, smacking my lips loudly.

“Hee, hee,” she exclaimed.

Then it was my turn to feed her.  I took another plastic spoon, scooped up some imaginary Hamburger Helper, and pretended to feed it to her.  “Over the lips, past the gums, look out tummy, here it comes!”

She bit the spoon.  “Mmmmm.”  Then she smacked her lips.  “Apple?”

“Yes,” I said.  It’s certainly not Hamburger Helper; it’s 100% pure organic applesauce.”

“Mmmmm.”

I was on my knees and we were playing with a toy kitchenette, complete with plastic plates, plastic pots and pans, plastic fruits and vegetables, and yes, a tiny cardboard box of Hamburger Helper.  (Cheeseburger Macaroni, if I remember right.)  She grabbed a plastic French fry and shoved it down a tiny plastic ketchup bottle.  Her eyes got real big.  “Uh oh.”

“Oh no!” I exclaimed.  “What are we going to do now?”  She handed it to me.  “Okay,” I said, “I’ll try to get it out.”

It won’t be a lunch that tastes fantastic-

Because it’s made of plastic,

The yellow crinkly fry was really stuck in there, and my fingers were way too big to fit down the neck of the pretend bottle, so I turned it upside down and shook it.  The fry popped out just enough for me to grab with my fingertips.  I pulled it out.  “Here you go, Hailey Baby,” I said, as I gave her back the wayward fry and bottle.

She smiled at me appreciatively, which made me feel like I was king of the world.  Then she shoved the fry back inside.  “Uh oh!”

Soon we were filling a picnic basket.  “Here’s a nice plastic hardboiled egg,” I said.  We had our basket packed with other nutritious plastic items too like plastic hamburgers, plastic hotdogs, and about a dozen or so plastic potato chips.

Interesting fact: Junk food, even in plastic form, is still more attractive and tasty than the healthier plastic alternatives.

I noticed some of the fruits and vegetables were cut in half.  Well, they weren’t actually cut; rather they were vacuum formed in halves with Velcro taped to the side them.

Another interesting fact: Most children won’t eat the Velcro, although that’s where all the vitamins are.

The Velcro gave me an idea.  I found two plastic onion halves and Velcroed them together.  Then I found a plastic butter knife.  “Check this out, Hailey.”  On the floor, I cut it in half with the knife.  The ripping sound the Velcro made was surprisingly realistic and I handed the knife over to her. “Now it’s your turn.”

I put the onion back together and held it steady.  With her diaper sticking out of the top of her blue jeans, Hailey hunched over the plastic vegetable.  She pushed and pushed with both hands and the Velcro went rip, rip, until she cut it all the way through.

“Yay, Hailey,” I exclaimed, “You did it!”

She raised her arms in victory.  “Yay!”

Then I gave her a hug.

FYI:  I don’t normally teach babies how to use knives, but in this particular instance, it seemed perfectly appropriate.

Besides, I was really craving some freshly sliced plastic onion for my plastic hamburger.

But you’d look sweet, right next to me

On a pretend picnic packed for two!