29 May

The rule of Brat

A couple years ago, I went to the Memorial weekend brat fest at Hilldale and ate three brats. It was there that I discovered that such a thing should not be attempted. Two brats would have been acceptable. But three brats was excessive. It made me a bit nauseous — and by “it,” I mean the third brat.

With this in mind, I’m proposing a new slang phrase: “the third brat.” Its definition would be “taken to unnecessary excess.” See if you can start incorporating it into your everyday, casual speech. Here are some sample sentences:

Now I admit, we were telling poop jokes, but that last one you told was the third brat!

Man! John and Kelly had their hands full with just two kids. Jason is really a third brat. (watch your pronunciation on this one.)

Look, I know you need to prove you’re a man and all, but the Ironman is just the third brat.

Just relax, Megan; the party will be great. You’ve got an incredible spread here: smoked cheddar waffles, spinach coconut soup, vietnamese root vegetable slaw, curried quinoa, and roasted carmelized balsamic onions. This swiss chard strudel is the third brat.

27 May

Merry Tim-mas

On the first day of Tim-mas, my true love gave to me a memory foam pillow! She had ordered it online and it came yesterday. She couldn’t save her excitement for the next 11 days, so she revealed it yesterday, allowing me my first night of sleep on the glorious creation last night.

On the second day of Tim-mas, my true love gave to me a wetsuit! She poured lots of energy into a very effective search for an ebay wetsuit. She researched different brands, sizes, price ranges, etc. It just so happened that one of the best deals came through a few days ago, so we bought it, and it arrived today. I even got to christen it this afternoon in Lake Wingra. Open-water swimming is freaky. I kept thinking about how scary it would be to see a dead body or a huge shark-like fish in the murky green water underneath me, and then those thoughts would throw off my breathing and I’d take in a mouthful of water and I’d start to panic a little, so I’d stop and just float there (cuz you can do that in a wetsuit), and then I’d realize that I was 90 degrees off my original trajectory, so I finally gave up. But the wet suit is great, and hell, I’ve got to figure out how to swim 2.4 miles in open water come September.

But there are still 9 more days of Tim-mas (which culminates on June 5th), so I’m excited to see what the next week and a half brings.

25 May

First Lines

Last week, I started writing down some “first lines” — initial sentences to stories that don’t yet exist. It was an exercise in attention-getting and tone. Here are a few I came up with:

  • Well, I’m finally eating bananas again.
  • When Will walked up the gangway to the ship that night, he thought he heard a voice from the misty shores behind him whisper, “Don’t go.”
  • I like to take walks through my neighborhood on cool May nights when the air is damp and bug-free and smells of flowers; I peer in through the open windows of well-lit living rooms and take mental photographs of lives I could be leading.
  • By the time the dogs came, we were well-hidden under a rusty mower in a stand of overgrown brush.
  • That Dairy Queen bitch can bite my ass.

Then I took the exercise to my creative writing class and they came up with the following:

  • Not many preschoolers could count to 13 before I could, for I had three extra fingers when I was born.
  • I stood out on the front porch with a shotgun in my hands, waiting for that son of a bitch to come back.
  • The night me and Bobby found that turtle was the night I became a man.
  • Taking a deep drag on my cigarette, I looked the scrawny teen over: “What do you want kid?”
  • I couldn’t think of how to begin this story. We’ll, I guess now I did.
  • As the key clicked in the lock, the door swung open to reveal a dark shadow blocking the way into his apartment.
  • “If he asks, the spangles were not my idea,” Sara informed her sister, holding back giggles as she stared at the sparkling, feathered jumpsuit they had created for their brother Steven’s first ice show.
  • I put on my professional face and prepare myself for another boring middle-aged self-pitying hag whine endlessly about how miserable she is when, unexpectedly, I recieve a call.
  • “Yowch!” screamed Jack as he hobbled, grabbing his left buttock, towards the only light he could see through the flowing tears. “Not again!” he cried.
  • With sweaty hands twisting her sleeves, her eyes dart around the crowded airport, finally catching the sight of a clock. She screams.
  • I got punched in the face today, only this time I didn’t deserve it.
23 May

The Cat’s Ass

In my creative writing class, today, we went over a story by Eric Puchner called “Essay #3: Leda and the Swan.” In it, the narrator uses the phrase “the bee’s knees.” One of my students misunderstood the phrase as meaning nervous, a good guess but not quite right. This particular student even rephrased the expression a little, saying, “she said she had bee’s knees.”

Another student clarified, “no, that’s an expression. It’s like the cat’s pajamas.”

“Yeah,” I added, “or the cat’s ass.” I was met with 27 blank stares. “What? Nobody’s heard of the cat’s ass?”

The entire class burst into a mixed chorus of no’s and laughter. “What’s it mean?” the nervous bees knees girl asked.

“It’s just like the cat’s pajamas only a little harder, I guess.” And then just for the hell of it, I added, “tough guys say it.”

They just plain didn’t believe me. Minutes later the bell rang, and my fellow teacher walked into the room to set up for her class, which was gathering in my room for the next hour. One of my exiting students said, “Ms. Hyzer, you’re the cat’s ass,” to which an offended Ms. Hyzer said, “Well thanks a lot.”

“You’ve never heard that expression?” I asked. Indeed she hadn’t. In fact, she was just as skeptical of its existence as my students. Later in the day, Ms. Hyzer took the issue to another colleague of ours, whom she dubbed “the source.” He wasn’t familiar with the cat’s ass either.

At this moment, I might have said to myself, “Jeez. First Ambesol, now this. What’s going on?” But let me be clear on the following: I do not doubt the cat’s ass.

Still, I was curious about its origins, so I looked it up. I should note that at this point, my cat Winnie jumped up on the computer desk and started pacing back and forth in front of me. I kept looking around her and occasionally pushing her ass out of my face. As I was doing so, I typed “cat’s ass” into google, which immediately responded with, “Did you mean: cat’s pajamas?” Just kidding. In fact, there were over 1.4 million hits for “cat’s ass,” the first of which is a link to a forum in which some humorless Canadian tells of a very humorous situation:

I have currently heard the use of “The Cat’s Ass” on American television. I was very surprised since I thought I originated the phrase. I was doing my Ph.D. research in Scotland (late 1980’s) when I was introduced to the phrase “the dog’s bullocks”. I though it was somewhat amusing to reinvent the phrase in an attempt to make a boring Canadian seem more exotic. I came out with the phrase “The Cat’s Ass”. I have done some research on Network theory and Small world theory and know it would be very quick to propagate a new phrase throughout social circles. Any thoughts.

Despite this guy’s lifeless writing, I found this really funny. Actually, I nearly choked on the Gatorade I was drinking and sprayed some of it on the cat’s ass. Good thing she was there or I would have destroyed my keyboard.

An aside: you know when a kid in the cafeteria drops a tray and all the other kids start going, “oooh”? Or when a principal walks into a classroom and requests a private conference with one kid and everyone else starts lowing “ooooooh” like cattle? I’m pretty sure I know the kid who invented that.

Anyway, most of the results on the first few pages of the google search have to do with the phrase “the cat’s ass.” One even gives this incongruous example: “Have you tried these stuffed mushrooms? They’re the cat’s ass!” I mean c’mon. That’s like saying, “this swiss chard strudel is tits!”

Several of the sites had names like “urbandictionary.com” or “pseudo dictionary”; like their names suggest, they were sites dedicated to phrase origins and slang. Though there was one site titled “my cat can kick your cat’s ass,” and a later entry that boasted “Poop Stuck to Cat’s Butt advice by Janet Choi, Kenny Hamshaw.” Ironically, poop stuck to your cat’s butt is not the cat’s ass.

The fact that I have enough time this week to write about the cat’s ass, however, is.

22 May


Okay, so I’ve been corrected. Twice. “It was Ambesol, not Anbesol,” according to my critics.

See, that’s what I thought originally. And then I looked it up cuz I wasn’t sure if it was Ambesol or Ambesil (or maybe Ambecile). I attempted the a-m-b-e-s-o-l spelling through google and I came up with 900 some hits, none of which were very obviously the mouth-sore-relieving product of my memory. But there was a prominently-placed “Did you mean: anbesol?” at the top of the search results page, so I clicked on it and found the search results for a-n-b-e-s-o-l. There were over 72,000 of them, including a link to “the answer for oral pain relief,” called Anbesol.

You gotta keep in mind, however, that these commercials were back in the 80s, well before the internet became the source of (dis)information it is now. I tend to trust my own memories when they’re confirmed by a few other people, but I tried Ambesol in wikipedia and came up dry. Anbesol, however, yielded an entry.

Still, the damn baby said “Ambesol,” I’m sure of it. I tried one more search, this time typing “ad advertisement commercial baby says ambesol anbesol.” Nothing promising came up, though google helpfully inquired, “Did you mean ad advertisement commercial baby says anbesol anbesol?”

So now I’m at a loss. Memory vs. the Internet. Who wins?