Frass from Your Oddest Planetary Brother

My list of miscellaneous notes has grown long enough to tip over. Some subjects are worthy of mention, but not full treatment. So I offer what follows as a kind of frassy salad. Reviewing a couple month’s worth of scribblings, I’m hesitant. If you read on, there’s no way to un-know what you’ll stumble upon. An idea or two might make you want to scour your mind with Ajax. And I’m pretty sure you’ll conclude that I’m about your oddest planetary brother. All this said, here’s the list. Have smelling salts handy.

1. We’ll start with the benign and merely annoying. Some mornings after dropping off wife Kathy at Erie’s Regional Cancer Center, I stop at a grocery store for a quick grab: cranberry juice, newspaper, sugar-free dark chocolate (don’t eat too much or you’ll have explosive flatulence). At 7:40, you might expect a quick transaction. Nope. About an hour ago, two lanes were open. One was occupied by a guy who had a lot on the belt, including a bizarre number of darkish bananas. At the other, a polite woman wanted smokes, but the cashier had to call for a manager to fetch them. Oh bother. Here’s the trouble: the store has roughly an acre of self-checkouts! Of course, none of them were open. In the most nonchalant way possible, I asked why. “They don’t open till 9:00.” I had already figured out the reason: somebody has to be standing by to troubleshoot. So this is a convenience how?


Handy self-checkouts . . . useful as dog turds on a skating rink!

Additional consumer incident: a couple weeks ago Kathy and I wanted to buy a chair at Bon Ton. We had a little time at around 8:00 p.m., went to the store, and located the chair. Kathy went on a reconnaissance mission to find an employee. I was beginning to think Rapture when she finally returned, slack faced. A cashier in another department informed her that we could not buy the chair, since nobody was working in Furniture. We walked out of the deserted store in silence, expecting to encounter tumbleweed or Rod Serling. I did say that Bon Ton could sit on what was supposed to be my new prayer chair with atomic force, and I wasn’t going to make the purchase on principle. Kathy returned the next day and bought it. Whatever.

2. I did away with my graying beard last week for a reason you’ve probably never heard. If I go any length of days without shaving, a dozen hairs sprout from my lower lip. Not from the flesh just south of my lip, but my lip. You know, the landing strip for Chapstick. So now I’m baby faced, not that anyone takes much notice. It’s not like when George Clooney or Brad Pitt shave off their ugly-ass beards and everybody, men included, are relieved. I’ll also mention that I can no longer dig wax out of my left ear with a fingernail, since a tuft of hair has taken up residence on my eardrum–at least I assume it’s hair. Could be moss. “What’s next?” I ask myself. I’m hoping not to experience the fate of the Coleman’s beloved lab mix Watson, who has a stiff, inch-and-a-half bunch of silver hairs growing bull’s-eye center out of his rump-hole. It’s a marvel, but kind of pathetic.


Watson years ago ready for trick-or-treating–before his unfortunate hair event.

3. Just now, Starbucks friend Barb handed me a gift card. How sweet! We were talking about miscellaneous topics, and I mentioned the kidnapped school girls in Nigeria and the South Korean kids who went down with the ship. “It’s your day off,” Barb said. “Happy thoughts.” Thanks, sister.

4. The Coleman family is about to get our 1981 Electric Commuticar back on the road after repairs made by Renaissance son-in-law Matt. Behold:


The “Goudalet,” so named because somebody told the previous owner that the car looks like a wedge of gouda cheese approaching. Kathy will be driving this bad boy to work.

5. Talented photographer-writer friend Mary Birdsong told me that the term for caterpillar poop is frass. Though spellcheck denies it, frass covers multiple varieties of insect droppings. (Side note: Mary took what I think is a stunning macro-photograph of a butterfly that will grace the cover of a frassy book I’ve got coming out in June. It’s called Your Grandmother Raised Monarchs . . . and Other Wonders Before Your Time. This collection of notes will get handed to my grandchildren when they come of age. Meanwhile, you can read it if you want. Watch for details, please!


“Daily Minder”: 1.) Eat leaf. 2.) Drop frass pellets. 3.) Eat another leaf. 4.) Drop more frass pellets. (Credit: Wikipedia)

6. Thoughtful friend and fellow Lutheran pastor Mark Fischer posted on Facebook the following quote from President Eisenhower, which comes from an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953. I reserve my only comment for the caption:


Ike was a Republican, right?

7. For nearly twenty years I’ve written pretty much in solitary confinement. That is to say, I seldom write more than an hour a day and have had minimal contact with other writers. I think that this fact is partly to blame for my present need to reconsider my use of contractions. How stupid is that? I’ve published a decent pile of work with another book on the way (though the upcoming one is indie published–so be it), and at fifty-two years old, I’m rummaging around with the apostrophe. Here’s the rule I’ve come up with: if a contraction has more than one possible meaning, scrap it. Example: Bush’s beans can mean beans belonging to Bush or Bush is, as a person, beans. Avoiding confusion trumps casual tone.

8. Here are a couple of delightful additions to my vocabulary of expressions. Wife Kathy mentioned the first: “rode hard and put away wet.” Urban Dictionary‘s illustration: “when someone has not taken care of a horse after a hard day.” Ah, so many possibilities here. The other two come from friend and parishioner Judi Pacileo: shoveling smoke, which means worrying about and planning for something that probably won’t happen; and chin wagging, which refers to fun, relaxed conversation. Enjoy!

9. I’m oddly proud of grandson Cole, who at five months old swore for the first time when he was out shopping with Mommy and Grandma. Mommy (Elena) captured the moment for us all:


Proud Grandma Kathy with our future Mensa grandson, who seems to be saying, “Guys don’t like shopping.” I’m a little verklempt here!

10. Speaking of Cole, I baptized the little pootums this past Sunday. I should say we because my sister Cindy, also a Lutheran pastor, and I splashed the water and said the words together. Such a joy. But I mentioned to you that by the time you finish this sophomoric slog, you’ll consider me a weirdo–and probably a heretic. Here’s the deal: Cole’s sponsor (Godfather) is my son Micah. Elena and son-in-law Matt asked me if that would be okay. There’s only one snag: Micah is an atheist. My first thought was, “Aw, shit!” But I did what I always do. Prayed, sat with the issue. And a sacred irony settled on my heart. Most sponsors or Godfathers or Godmothers are frankly nothing of the sort. Most are given this awesome responsibility because they’re somebody special in the parents’ or kiddo’s life. And I’ll wager fully one half of sponsors-Godparents never acknowledge what ends up being an honorary title. Never. Ever. With thoughtful atheist Micah, Cole is going to get an honest-to-goodness spiritual companion, somebody who will accompany him where his spirit takes him. As a matter of fact, Cole will learn from Micah a distinctly Christian gentleness and sense of mercy and justice. There were promises in the baptismal service Micah couldn’t say, but there were other promises written on his face. Again, the promises many parents and sponsor-Godparents make are simply lies. So, I said yes to Micah being Cole’s Godfather. As Sister Joan Chittister once said, “Okay, go ahead and throw tomatoes. This [shirt] is washable.”


This picture gets blurry as I ask: “Could the God I love use my beloved atheist son to lead my beloved grandson to a God-pleasing place?” Lord, hear my prayer.

11. Okay, you’ve stayed with me for a long time, so here’s your payoff. I had an exchange sometime back with my blogging bud at She is one funny woman, so please visit her blog. The topic of our brief back and forth had to do with males and farts. The only thing I’ll say in my defense is that she started it. In her post “Boys are gross” she describes walking into her five-year-old son’s bedroom, which the kid had fart-bombed all night long. (It’s a quick read, so klick the link.) His manly output combined with his astute description of his state of health forced me into this comment: “I never met the kid, and I’m proud.”

Naptime made the mistake of responding with a question: “Men. Tell me John, why is it the potency of the fart and not the loudness that is the prize? I don’t get it.”

Here was my answer (and remember, if you read on, you can’t un-know this):

“Okay, see, there’s a fahhht hierarchy with men, whose sense of humor never graduates middle school. Third place goes to one that simply issues a loud report. First place goes to a quiet one in a confined space that takes another poor soul by terrible, horrid surprise. And second goes to a subset of first and can best be explained with an example. My daughter and son-in-law were driving along when my daughter said, ‘Sniff, sniff. What is that smell?’ Son-in-law was quiet. ‘Sniff!’ daughter said. ‘Hey, did you fart?’ ‘Yes, I did,’ confessed son-in-law. ‘Aw, dammit,’ daughter said. ‘I explored that.’ The cruelty of the second place winner is in the receiver’s conscious decision to sample and evaluate. Ok, this day’s work is done. I’ve unveiled the mystery of flatulence and modern man.”

I suppose this is more than enough for one day. And what I said about throwing tomatoes: that was a lie. I’d appreciate if you took it easy on me with my heresy. I don’t seem to be able to get anger stains out of my soul.

16 thoughts on “Frass from Your Oddest Planetary Brother

    • Grading papers. Last day of semester. Ugh! I loved teaching, but man, grading them papers. Hope it’s all over now. Peace, John

  1. It’s all your fault I’ve pulled a muscle-a pentocostal, no, an intercostal, laughing so hard! Thanks alot!

    • I aim to please, Nancy. So . . . there’s a teenage boy inhabiting your sense of humor, too, huh? Cool beans. John

  2. I will save this to read later but you had me at the first line. I always wonder what to do with my own many miscellaneous observations. They each seem so compelling at the moment but I often wonder about the underlying pattern at work when I am not aware of it.

  3. You should let it out more often, John. I love your posts, whatever the topic, but you’re really funny. It’s what has drawn our completely different blogs together in the first place.

  4. Nicely done. With a teenage boy in the house (not to mention a 45 year old teenage boy in the house), I could do a few thousand words on just the flatulence from chicken wings.

  5. Loved the notes/brain dump. I don’t think you’re weird. You remind me of someone I’d like to be neighbor’s with (or have as my church’s pastor!). And you’re right, you can’t un-know that fart commentary. Jeesh! 😀

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