#38 - My Top Four Most Amazing Vomiting Experiences—a Three-Part FtF Exclusive

4. Any time I take
vitamins without consuming a hand of bananas first

3. The Last And Final Time I Consumed Food From JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704

I believe JJ should probably think about changing the name of his establishment to JJ’s Near Fatal Fish & Chicken because that stuff was almost the end of me. It made me barf the third hardest I have ever barfed.

It was a football Sunday when JJ made his attempt on my life. I don’t remember who was playing, but I know I was psyched enough about the game to go get a bunch of wings from the newly-opened JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704.

Everything was fine during the actual eating phase of the experience, but about three hours later I started getting that feeling—you know the one… “Am I going to barf? I think I might barf. Yes? No? Is barfing going to happen? Can I prevent this? Maybe I should go in the bathroom. Wait, maybe if I…. NO! Barfing! BAAAAAARF! BAAAAAAAARF! BARF! Barf. Spit. Spit. *dab eyes*”

Often, after you throw up, you feel better. It’s kind of the nice, downhill coast with which you’re rewarded for enduring the long ascent of Mt. Upchuck. But the affliction I contracted by consuming the food from JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704 afforded no such concession. Why? Because the barfing never stopped. I threw up, I’m going to say, every seven minutes for about nine hours. I threw up so much that night that when I finally fell asleep around noon, I slept until 8 am the following day and woke up with two black eyes and ripped abs.

Oddly, this is not the only horrible experience I have had involving JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704. Obviously, I have forsworn the rancid, typhoid-laced food from JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704, but JJ has found other ways to punish me.

Last night I was coming home from a baseball game and I needed to pick up diapers. In a parking lot adjoining JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704, there is a Walgreens. It was late, but the Walgreens appeared to be open, so I parked the car and got out. When I reached the door I discovered two things: Walgreens was closed; and there was a maniac who appeared to have leprosy leaving JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704. The maniac was screaming his head off and waving a piece of chicken in each hand.

Now, when I say this gentleman had leprosy, obviously, I am being hyperbolic. I was not able to verify his condition with any kind of medical accuracy, but I do know that his hair and skin were both falling off in clumps and that he was extremely angry about something. (His leprosy, I assumed.)

Because the leper and his chicken and his ranting were all coming my way, I started heading back to the car. Unfortunately, I was wearing a full baseball uniform including metal cleats. My outfit not only slowed me down, but also attracted the chicken leper’s attention. I made it into the car and started it up, but the leper was already upon me. He was hastening up to the car making signs with his peeling hands that indicated he “just wanted to talk.” For the life of me, I not could think of anything I needed to hear from a chicken-wielding leper in an abandoned parking lot at 11 pm, so I eased down on the gas pedal and steered around him.

I drove a little ways through the parking lot until I got stopped by a red light and the oncoming cars on Washington. As I looked for a chance to enter the flow of traffic, I peeked into the rearview mirror to check on the chicken leper. Here’s what he was doing: he was shambling along behind me giving me the finger as hard as he could. Not content to merely raise his finger in my direction, he was actually pursuing me and holding the finger up to maximize the amount of time I was exposed to it.

Having been well and truly fingered, I peeled out into traffic. The chicken leper turned on his heel and headed back to JJ’s.

So, in conclusion, if you are ever offered a choice between eating at JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704 and having your hands permanently sewn to your balls so that everyone you see for the rest of your life thinks you’re masturbating in public, go with the ball surgery. JJ’S FISH & CHICKEN AT 2835 EAST WASHINGTON AVENUE MADISON, WISCONSIN 53704 will make you throw up for nine full hours and is chock full of lepers.

0/4 stars.

Next time on this Very Special Episode of FTF’s Top Four Amazing Vomit Experiences: Chris eats a sprouted potato!

#37 - Having to Eat a Whole Loaf of Bread To Prevent Vitamins From Making Me Vomit

Why, oh why, do vitamins need to be so powerful that I’m forced to consume a bag of flour to keep them from making me puke my guts out? How am I supposed to believe that something is healthy when, unless I take drastic measures, swallowing it usually results in my vomiting violently?

I have to say, I’m skeptical about vitamins. Well, actually, I should say I’m skeptical about vitamin supplements. I’m sure vitamin A, the actual nutrient, is just doing its thing—strengthening my ocular nerves. And vitamin E is probably just trundling through my system plumping up my soft tissues (or whatever it does.) I’m also pretty sure I don’t have scurvy, so I’m getting vitamin C from somewhere. But I did a story a while back with a guy who runs a testing facility that does independent lab evaluations of supplements and other “health products,” and he was quite candid about how shoddy a lot of them can be.

The reason I was speaking with him in the first place was that, at long last, the government has established a set of Good Manufacturing Practices for the supplement and vitamin industry. The magazine I was working for wondered to what degree this lessened the need for vigilance in its army of six-pack desirers.

His answer, I’m sorry to report, was essentially "not at all." He made it very clear that while the new standards dictated a level of reason in the actual manufacturing processes used to make the pills, powders and tablets, they would, 1. NOT be enforced, and 2. Still enacted no control over what's in the supplements themselves.

He said, for example, that if someone were manufacturing an echinacea supplement, the new standards would require them not to use sawdust or cotton fibers as a filler in the tablets. But they would not specify how much eccanacia needed to be in the product, what part of the echinacea plant should be used to make it, or even that echinacea actually be shown to have any effect in the first place.

I asked him the keys to identifying bad supplement products and he said the number one red flag was “borrowed science.”

“Look at hoodia,” he ranted, “there is not one clinical trial showing that hoodia does anything at all, but it’s now all over the weight loss market based on a speculative effect that it might have.”

He also cautioned people interested in taking supplements to seek out independent evaluations that provide guidelines on how much, and what type of, the active ingredient they should take.

“Just because there’s evidence ginko biloba can improve memory doesn’t mean the supplement you’re taking will provide it. How much do you need to take for it to be effective? What part of the plant contains the desired ingredient? Will the tablet or pill break down sufficiently to have any effect?”

Personally, given the shoddiness and witchcraft that are obviously rampant in the supplement industry, the highly questionable prospect of the products having any results at all, and the fact that the god damn things make me throw up about 40% of the time, I’m just going to eat a mango.

Soon: My Top Four Most Amazing Vomiting Experiences!

#18 (Continued) - MALES! Sighted Bringing Their Own Full-Size Pillows On Planes By Race

White: 1
Other: 0

White: 22 (1 male)
Other: 0

*Thanks to Stacy for this sighting. She claims a young man, between 18 to 24 was carrying a pillow at a NY-area airport on 7.23.08! We fervently hope this man was only carrying the pillow for his wife, daughter, sister or girlfriend, but Stacy says she watched him for a while and that he was alone! Too horrible to contemplate, really.

(If you sight an own-pillow carrier, please email [email protected] with your tally, their races and your route. Or, alternately, just add the same information in the comments section below.)

#18 (Continued) - Females Sighted Bringing Their Own Full-Size Pillows On Planes, By Race

White: 1
Other: 0

White: 21
Other: 0

*Thanks to Leon in San Diego for this sighting. He says the OPC was around 20-years-old and toted a Strawberry Shortcake pillow. He adds that it was 8 am when the sighting occurred, and that he is feeling increasingly inspired to carry his own pillows on planes. As he is an Asian American male, FtF doubts seriously he will follow through on the threat, but he did also send us this piece on pillow carrying by USA Today's Craig Wilson.

*Route: San Diego - San Jose

(If you sight an own-pillow carrier, please email [email protected] with your tally, their races and your route. Or, alternately, just add the same information in the comments section below.)

#36 - Aimless Insects

I am not a man who likes bugs. Oh, there are a few types I have a grudging respect for: Spiders seem to have a plan. My thoughts on Ladybugs are well known. Ants, I once read, make up 10% of the collective weight of all the animals on Earth, so I'm not about to go pissing them off. But can someone, anyone, please explain to me why we need to have cicadas?

Let's look at the life cycle of the cicada: They live in a larval state, feeding on tree roots for 13-17 years, then, simultaneously, and in gigantic numbers, they all hatch and fly around stupidly bashing into things, trying to mate and making an annoying sound. (Actually, that's kind of what I did as a teenager.)

But my point is... why? What purpose do they serve in the engine of the Earth?

My wife and I were on Cape Cod a couple weeks ago and as we drove down we passed through a cicada hatching. Basically, this consisted of about a million giant bugs flying around blindly at the approximate speed of paper airplanes and getting killed by cars.

When I realized that, as adults, cicadas don't even eat--that their whole goal in life appears to be making an annoying sound until they can get whacked by a truck--I began to seriously question their right to exist. I mean, I begrudgingly respect the fact that, in their little-understood ability to hatch simultaneously during the same two-week period of a 17-year gestation, they seem to have one of the same low-level superpowers I do, but overall, while there may be more malevolent insects out there, there are few more aimless.

Mosquitoes instantly spring to mind as a species we could do without. They bite and spread disease. But at least bats and birds and spiders eat mosquitoes. What the hell could eat a half-pound cicada? A condor? A wolf?

Honestly, they're just a big waste of time.

Three Other Insects That Can Take A Damn Hike
3. Green Flies – Also known as Blow Flies, Blue or Green Bottle Flies, these guys are just a case of natural overkill. If you've ever been sitting on the beach and suddenly felt like you got shot in the back or the leg, you were either just the victim of a Green Fly or have actually been shot and should seek medical attention. My case against the continued existence of these flies boils down to the fact that they're powerful far in excess of their requirements for survival. Why should a fly that bites humans need the most powerful jaws in the insect kingdom? Are they just mean? Did they originally feed on rhinoceroses before developing a taste for man? Get rid of 'em!

2. Those Clouds of Gnats - Why? Why? What purpose is served by a tiny, tiny, insect that conglomerates around the heads of animals upon which is doesn't even feed (and occasionally costs the Yankees important playoff games?) The only thing I can think of is that it's the same survival instinct that drives smaller fish to form feed balls. For instance, maybe a sparrow that's thinking about taking a pass through a cloud of yummy gnats suddenly takes a second look and thinks, "Hey! That's not a cloud of gnats! That's a human head!" But here's the thing: feed balls don't work! I've seen Blue Planet, man, and ALL those fish get eaten! There's about a .0003% chance that a fish that enters a feed ball is coming out, and that only occurs because all the sharks and tuna and sailfish were full. So, clouding gnats: Knock it off! We're on to you.

1. Palm Grubs - Okay, I admit it. This is just personal prejudice. But someone once offered me a palm grub to eat and I've never been the same. My contact with palm grubs occurred on the good ship Dawn On The Amazon II when I was cruising down the Peruvian Amazon. Before embarking, the captain, crew and passengers toured a market in the town of Iquitos where we secured provisions. Along with many tasty and enticing items, they also bought a number of things I'll call "jungle fare." Palm grubs were one of these. A palm grub is a bristly, pulsating, thumb-sized larva with a shiny black head, and the kitchen staff kept a writhing, disgusting box of them on a windowsill in the galley. My great fear was that the palm grubs would appear as an unlabeled, unrecognizable ingredient in something else--so, I'd eat a portion of casserole and the cook would pop out and say, "!Senor, guess what!?"

I was so afraid of this that I actually went into the kitchen to check that the grubs were still there before every meal. (You'll find a link to footage of my grub counting missions below.) In the end, the grubs were sliced open, stuffed with cheese and bacon, skewered and grilled. But even that delectable preparation did not allow me to eat one.

I'd love to be one of those fearless types who'll eat anything, but when it comes to bugs, I'm sad to say I'm not. I've eaten bear, boar, rat, camel, snake, camen, alligator, giant gerbil, horse, giant snail, kangaroo, reindeer and probably some things I've forgotten to list here, but looking at those grubs, I knew to a surety putting one in my mouth would make me vomit. In fact, writing about it right now is about to make me vomit.

Here's why.

If, because I don't actually know anything about the Internets, that video doesn't work, you can also find it here.

To read more of my thoughts on things that are disgusting and dangerous far in excess of their size, see this story about the violence of parasites on CNN. The piece was originally written for Mental Floss Magazine, and you can read about superheroism through surgery in that magazine here.

#35 - Humorlessness

I submitted my post about the climate of fear and humorlessness in which we're raising our kids to blogcarnival.

They didn't like it.

Your post does not comply with the Carnival guidelines, found here:
http://www.jhsiess.com/carnival-family-life. Thus, it will not be included in the Carnival.

For the record, my friends' daughter has severe peanut allergies and has almost died several times. NO, it is not all in her head or the basis of shoddy science. She carries epinephrine everywhere she goes and would LOVE to be a normal kid who eats anything, but it simply isn't possible. Imagine the fun her family has trying to fly anywhere, just for starters.

Moreover, "don't beat" written in a daycare log is not remotely funny on any day at any time. Do you have any idea how much responsibility those people have, the number of times they have to defend themselves against false accusations, the number of times the accusations are true, or the rigors they have to go through just to get insurance so that they can stay in business? You're lucky your kid is still enrolled.

So even were it not for the giant offensive finger at the top of the page, given the tone, tenor, and misinformation set forth in your article, I would have serious reservations about including your post in my carnival.


Wow! Can you imagine I suggested people like that are humorless?

First of all, this reply is everything my story was talking about. I never denigrate the sufferings or deny the existence of actual food allergy sufferers. I'm sure that's difficult in the extreme and I sympathize. The point I am making is that a drug company that makes a food allergy treatment seems to have exaggerated the number and severity of food allergy reactions in order to sell more medication. This has been widely reported and debated throughout the media. Check out some excellent reporting on it here and here. (And for non-food allergy specific evidence that such practices are de rigueur for pharmaceutical companies, check out this piece detailing the drug giants' attempts to deny drastically poor Africans the right to import or manufacture generic HIV meds.)

My larger point, however, is that the damage being done to kids when parents are frightened into buying into this drug company’s exaggerations--along with the countless other things we're told to fear by people conveniently selling products meant to assuage those fears--is greater than the danger we think we’re protecting our kids from.

A Danish study quoted in the point/counterpoint piece above (one which actually confirmed the results of two earlier studies) found that while 15% of parents reported their children as food allergic, upon oral challenge, only between 1 and 2.3% actually were. And even if we take 2.3 to be the number of actually-allergic kids, it's statistically very unlikely that reactions to those allergens would manifest on the violent end of the spectrum. So, always allowing that there are kids with real allergies, we have to challenge ourselves to be brave, to use our grown up brains, make the extra cognitive leap, and answer the following question: Do the benefits of protecting >2.3% of kids with real allergies outweigh the benefits of telling 12.7% of kids they have allergies when they don't?

My piece also attempted to point out that over diagnosis of food allergies is but one symptom of the general climate of fear in which we're raising our kids. I argue that while we may be protecting them from skinned knees and sunburns, we're giving them hypertension and diabetes in the process. The reason parents are such easy targets for advertisers and drug marketers is that being a parent, especially a thinking, caring parent, is scary as hell! And the more you read and know, the more things there are to get scared about.

You want to know how easy parents are to scare? Let's look back at the email from blogcarnival. JHS accuses me of distributing misinformation. But what actually happened?

I researched and read numerous sources and presented what I learned along with some theories on what it might mean in the world at large. JHS discounted the numbers I presented because she knows one kid with allergies. One. This is just the kind of panic reaction that the drug company in question is taking advantage of. I know it feels like that one kid you know cancels out all the numbers and research, JHS, but that’s not the case.

I understand that reaction. I know the crushing terror of thinking something might happen to your kid that you failed to prevent. It’s easy to be scared and it’s hard to be brave when it comes to your kids. People with things to sell know this and take advantage of it--it's an old school advertising technique called a fear appeal. Would it be easy to seal your kid in bubble wrap before you let him outside? Of course. That way, you know he won’t get hurt. But remember: this isn't supposed to be about you. Overprotecting your child is easy, but it's also selfish. The hard thing, the adult thing, is to knuckle up and sit there and worry and deal with the bumps and bruises because you believe, in the long run, your child will be better off learning that pain is fleeting and living in fear is sad and ridiculous.

And as for the panic mentality in the daycare system, I'm sorry. You're right. Putting "Do Not Beat" on that form was not funny. It was hilarious. And the director's super-serious reaction made it even more hilarious because as soon as she realized she was on the phone with someone like me, not someone like you, we had a big laugh.

You mention the "numerous false accusations" of abuse leveled against daycare concerns. Well, who do you think would be more likely to issue such a charge, you or me? That's right. You. So which of us then is really responsible for the "rigors they have to go through just to get insurance so that they can stay in business?" Again, you.

As for the propriety of having a giant flaming middle finger at the top of a webiste to be read by dour, glowering mombots, well, you may have me there, JHS. But I'm glad you got to see it.

#18 (Continued) – Interview With an Own Pillow Carrier (White)

I was home for a few days last week and I encountered reader Ali (short for Alexandra, also my cousin) who mentioned blushingly that she was “one of those white girls with the pillows.” I decided to interview her to learn more about her pillow carrying practices, so we met on Instant Messenger, which is the preferred method of communication for White Girls Who Bring Their Own Pillows On Planes.

FtheFollowing: Okay, let me know when you're ready?
Ali: ok.. ready. how many questions am i in for?
FtF: 5 or 6
A: k cool
FtF: Or as many as I feel like asking, damn it.
A: haha
FtF: Okay, so, question one: What's up with the pillow?
A: well when traveling either by plane or car its nice to have a soft place to lie your head… makes sleeping easier and more enjoyable. also it’s a bit of home when you’re away, a comfort thing. and hotels do have pillows, this is true… but sometimes they suck or they don’t give u enough
FtF: Do you ever feel bad for your seatmate when your pillow spills over into his air space?
A: hmmm.. i try to fold the pillow in half so it’s smaller. and no because they are usually jealous that they didn’t think to bring their own pillow.
FtF: I don't think they are. But fine. Do all your friends bring their own pillows too?
A: my sister definitely, and most of my friends. but only on shorter trips, I'm not about to lug my pillow cross country or to a different country.
FtF: Do you have other-than-white friends who do this?
A: no.
A: one half-Asian friend actually

FtF: So, when did white girls get the word that you were supposed to bring your own pillows on planes? Is there a newsletter?
A: no newsletter. i think it comes from moms. That’s who taught me. all moms probably received the newsletter saying it’s a good way to keep your kids quiet. I think then the habit just lingers.
FtF: I would say that's plausible. You develop a dependence on the pillow in childhood and then you never kick the habit. Perhaps there was some kind of book or magazine which suggested to white, 80s moms: "If you want to keep your daughters quiet on planes, let them bring their own pillows." And now we're seeing the lingering vestiges of that advice.
A: exactly!
FtF: We may have just cracked the case! Would you ask you mom next time you talk?
A: sure.. no problem.. i'll see where she got the idea from.
FtF: One final thing: Let's get back to your half-Asian friend. How half Asian is she? Does she speak the Asian language she's associated with? Is her name Brittany or Madison?
A: her name is Alyissa.... her mom is fully Chinese and speaks the language but my friend is not fluent. She’s very American. NYC. her dad grew up on Long Island.
FtF: She sounds pretty white-Americanized. But the mom worries me. She casts some doubt on our theory that pillow carrying derived from white, American moms reading a common publication. Was the mom a dedicated assimilator? Maybe as an FOB, she was trying to become more American and might have encountered the same parenting advice sources?
A: to be honest i don’t know too much about her mom.. I studied abroad with this girl.. she was my roommate.. and she was totally American but i never actually meet her mom.
FtF: Okay.
A: I should mention that my dad is completely against the whole trend. in fact, he gets a little angry if we are traveling together and we bring the pillows. But the irony is, I'll often find him trying to steal our pillows in the hotel rooms
FtF: We, as in you and Jackie? [Ali’s sister.]
A: yes and nancy [Ali’s mom.]
FtF: Whoa. Your mom brings a pillow too?
A: she will not leave home without it
FtF: Interesting. In your estimation, would this hold true for your friends as well?
A: their moms also bringing pillows u mean?
FtF: Yes. Do most of your friends and their moms bring pillows on trips?
A: I think most of my generation brings pillows. but most of our mothers do not.
FtF: And when you do this, your dad is like, "Again with the pillows? What the hell?"
A: sounds like a direct quote...
FtF: Have you ever encountered problems as an own pillow carrier? Have you ever had anyone be like, "Move that goddamn pillow, whitey!"
A: no.. most people are understanding, you just slide it through security with the rest of your stuff
FtF: And does it ever feel weird to be walking through the airport with a pillow?
A: no. but you do run the risk of forgetting your pillow or losing it
FtF: Oh Jesus Christ no!
A: it’s scary!!
FtF: You think maybe now that we've had this chat, you'll feel differently about the pillow?
A: a bit.... i will totally think twice about carrying my pillow on my next trip. but I have a feeling I will still bring it... I was away last week and didn't have my pillow and I just wasn't quite as comfy when i was sleeping.
FtF: Thank you so much for your valuable contributions to sociology.
A: any time!! glad i could help.
FtF: Sleep well. On planes.

Hypothesis: Own-pillow carrying was spawned when a large portion of 80s moms read or heard a common piece of advice in a widely-distributed, white-targeted parenting publication.

Call To Action: We at F the Following believe this is the most penetrating piece of research yet released in the study of own pillow carrying by white women, and encourage everyone to contribute their thoughts and observations in the comments section below. Are you a white girl whose mother encouraged her to bring a pillow on a plane? Are you a non-white girl who brings a pillow on a plane? Have you encountered a white or non-white girl carrying a pillow on a plane? Do you wish to point out that the concept of "race" is a social construct and that therefore it is actually impossible for a "white" or "non-white" girl to bring a pillow on a plane? Please let us know.

#18 (Continued) - Females Sighted Bringing Their Own Full-Size Pillows On TRAINS, By Race

White: 12
Other: 0

*Thanks to Andrew for this sighting. Although the pillow carriers were spotted waiting for a train, not a plane, this is still a massively important finding. The only downside here is that Andrew reports the 12 white girls, all with their own pillows, were members of a cheerleading squad. This makes me think he might just have been watching an adult film.

*Route: New York - New Jersey

White: 20
Other: 0

PS: Exciting news! I have found and scheduled an interview with an actual own-pillow carrier. Stay tuned to fthefollowing for the important sociological results of my conversation!

(If you sight an own-pillow carrier, please email [email protected] with your tally, their races and your route. Or, alternately, just add the same information in the comments section below.)

#34 - People Asking Me for Directions

There is some contention in this household about the fact that no matter where I am--whether I'm standing in my own neighborhood, or in a foreign land--someone will always come up and ask me for directions. My wife thinks it's because I look non-threatening and people feel safe approaching me. I think it's because I'm a man who looks like he knows what's up. Either way, the fact remains, I could be standing on the street in Nigeria and someone would ask me for directions. (Little would he know I was just waiting to help a member of the Nigerian royal family secretly transport a fortune in contraband currency to the US--an effort for which I would be handsomely rewarded.)

The truly odd, and somewhat annoying, thing about being a guy who always gets asked for directions is that I also happen to be a guy who never knows where anything is. This, I admit, is my own fault, and happens because I never pay attention to where I am or how I got there. I am aware of this as a deficit in my personality, and when I get lost I'm endlessly frustrated because, once again, I'd promised myself that this time I'd really concentrate.

Picture this perfect storm of annoyance: I'm lost. I'm standing on the street recriminating myself for not paying attention to the directions (again!) when someone comes up and asks me where the art museum is in a city I've never been to before. Yeah. F that.

A lot of the time I get asked for directions, it's in a big city like New York. Now this, it seems to me, makes sense. I would think in a place with a large population there are a large number of directions being asked for, and therefore, whether I'm being perceived as non-threatening, or as a Man Who Looks Like He Knows What's Up, I should logically receive a heftier slice of that traffic. I'm also unsurprised when I get asked for directions in places where I look like the average largeish, white native: Germany, Sweden, Austria, all of your 'lands (Eng, Scott, Ire.) But the most remarkable and, in a sense, "collectible," instances of People Asking Chris for Directions are those that occur in a place where I'm clearly foreign.

My Top Two Instances of Being Asked for Directions in Places Where I'm Clearly Foreign

1. I was in a fish market in Saigon, Vietnam and I had just finished shooting Bag-of-Frogs-Bag-of-Eels-Lady (who, by the way, killed the frogs people bought by grabbing their legs and smacking their heads on the ground.) I was standing on a street corner engaged in an odd interaction with the older gentleman pictured below. He looked very friendly and was sitting on a strange, hand-cranked tricycle contraption that someone had clearly Frankensteined for him out of a wheelchair and some discarded bike parts. I was staring at him, and he was staring at and me, when he slowly raised his hand and held up four fingers for a long time and with great significance. I was trying to figure out what "four" might mean in our relationship, when a woman started tapping my elbow. I looked down and she said something in Vietnamese which, obviously, I didn't understand. I gazed at her shaking my head for a few seconds until a young hustler type screeched up and chased her away with a furious display of pointing. It wasn't until she nodded her thanks and headed off in the direction he'd indicted that I realized of all the people in the market that day, she'd decided the six-foot-two, two hundred forty pound white man was the one who knew the way to the manta ray stall. (Or someplace like it.) Once I'd fully registered my amazement, I checked back in with ol' four fingers, but he was already cranking off down the street.

2. Once again, this occurred in a market. This time in South Africa. I was part of a small group and we'd been shopping for crafts and things in Cape Town. I had finished my shopping early and was standing next to our wise and wonderful driver, Abdul. Abdul and I were cloistered under a grove of trees with about eight other cab drivers enjoying the shade and talking. Other than Abdul, who was a caramel-complected Egyptian, and me, all the other drivers were black South Africans. In spite of this, a young guy seeking a certain cafe decided I was the one to ask. I merely raised my shoulders and deferred to my companions and then we all laughed once he'd headed off.

Now that I think about it, that small stand of trees saw a lot of action that day. Not only did it bear witness to my second favorite instance of being asked for directions, it was also the site of the single greatest one-liner I've ever been a part of.

The Single Greatest One-Liner I've Ever Been a Part of
1. As I mentioned, Abdul and I were standing under some trees. While these trees were the perfect height for Abdul, they were a little too short for me and the lowest leaves brushed my forehead.

"Abdul," I said, "I think I need a taller tree."

"Stay there," Abdul replied. "It will be taller."

#31 (Continued) - Very, Very Low-Level Supervillains in the News!

Thank you John Walsh for bringing this incidence of low level supervillaindom in the news to my attention. The Mild Five! will get right on the case!

According to Inland Southern California's Press Enterprise, three Lake Elsinore men kidnapped a woman, beat and handcuffed her, drove her across the border to Mexico and left her there. The woman, it turned out, was the girlfriend of the ringleader and the kidnapping occurred because, as Lake Elsinore detective Joe Greco explained, "She's a pain to the boyfriend."

Admittedly, this story sounds strange, but only on a human level, until you read that one of the kidnappers was a man named Robert "No Nose" Gardner!

Whoa! Wait. WHAT!?!

“No Nose” Gardner? That’s a very very low-level supervillain if I’ve ever heard of one. Having a huge, super sensitive nose, of course, would be a great power. But simply not having a nose? Well, that's a very, very low-level superpower to be sure.

I think the Mild Five! may have found our nemesis! The Joker to our Batman! One thing though: I think “No Nose” is a bad nickname. By all nicknaming conventions, shouldn’t a guy with no nose be called “Big Nose” or “The Shnozz?” Anyway Mr. Garner, just a bit of advice from a guy who’s been in the VVLLSP game for a while.

The victim in the No Nose case “solved” her own kidnapping by… DA DA DA DAAAAA!!!!… taking a $300 cab ride from Mexico to her boyfriend’s house and then demanding he pay for it. He later claimed, in a TV interview, that they were just "kidding around" and "having adult fun." As a very, very, low-level crime fighter, I find that very, very hard to believe.

Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs who once claimed he avoided a knife wielding attacker in Florida by “willing himself invisible.”

Being Invisible = Superpower

Merely Believing You Can Turn Invisible = VVLLSP

If you spot a case for the Mild Five! please email me at [email protected].

If you would like to join the Mild Five! please leave a comment here describing your low-level power and how you intend to use it or email the same information to [email protected].

#33 - Antarctic Yo Mama Snaps

The picture above was taken on my trip to Antarctica. (Click on the pictures to view them in their full-size glory.) I was sitting on a rock watching 10-ton chunks of ice break off that glacier in the background and fall into the bay. As the sun bathed the glacier, the melting, cracking ice sounded like rifle shots and when a piece fell off and hit the water you could watch a bobbing ripple of small ice chunks roll miles out to sea.

The reason the glacier looks blue in this image is because... it is! Over the centuries and millennia the weight of the top layers of ice presses all the air out of the ice on the bottom. This leaves the ice perfectly clear. So clear in fact, that until you see it up close, you don't really realize that you've never seen perfectly clear ice before. It is a very good idea to take a hunk of this ice back to your vessel and sink it into some bourbon and drink it.

Ice which has been pressed in this manner over millions of years also refracts every color of light except blue. So, when you look at a large enough hunk of it, it actually appears to be glowing blue from the inside.

As our small, intrepid group marveled at the incredible spectacle of house-sized chunks of glowing blue ice crashing into the frigid waters of the bay, I took out my notebook and began writing. I could have sat there all day, but eventually the ship's horn sounded and we started back. As we picked our way through the penguins and seals on the beach, my new friend Patrick asked what I'd written down about the experience. I was then sheepishly forced to admit it was the following list of Yo Mama snaps I imagined might have been made up by a group of kids growing up in the streets of Antarctica. (If there were streets of Antarctica.) I was thinking that since there are only about five or six things in Antarctica, their Yo Mama snaps would have to take root in some pretty barren soil.

Hey, I don't control the ideas. I just write 'em down.
  • Yo mama so old, she lists her place of birth as Pangaea!
  • Yo mama so poor, she can only afford a genone penguin, not a gentoo!
  • Yo mama so stupid, she counts penguins like this: "gentoo, genthree, genfour..."
  • Yo mama so stupid, she thought chinstrap penguins were Chinese!
  • Yo mama so fat, she sat on some snow and made blue ice!
  • Yo mama so stupid, she thought a fur seal was a seal, not, in fact, a sea lion, as evidenced by its protuberant ears and its ability to "stand" on its front flippers.
  • Yo mama so stupid, she thought Antarctica was cold because of the snow and ice, not because the rays of the sun strike Earth's atmosphere at an obtuse angle and must penetrate a thicker slice of the atmosphere at the poles!
I'm pretty sure someone got served during that encounter. And it might have been me.