Monday, May 30, 2016

The Sounds of Summer - by Michael Buzzelli

It was just around the corner. It just took a long time to round that corner. Summer is here.

Monday night I drove down Banksville Road and noticed they put water in the Dormont pool. You know how the dog gets really excited in the car when you near the park entrance? That was me. I scrabbled around the car, saying out loud, to absolutely no one, “The pool has water in it. The pool has water in it.” It was shimmering, glistening and blue. It was also about 60 degrees out that night, but it didn’t matter. The pool has water in it.

I’m a summer person. I like walking barefoot in the grass. I like to spread out on a beach towel and read a book. I like to jump and splash around in the pool like a drunk manatee. I like fresh air wafting through my bedroom. I would hug a tree, if I didn’t mind getting bits of bark on my new shirt.

I’d write a poem to summer if I could write poems. For those of you who think my humor writing is horrible, you should read my poetry. My poetry is like Ipecac. It induces vomiting.

I can think of very few downsides to the season. OK. There’s the added noise pollution. If you’ve ever had a neighbor rev their lawn mower at seven in the morning on a Sunday, you share my pain. Ten extra demerits if he also has a leaf blower.

When I lived in Los Angeles, the apartment had a gardener who would use a metal rake to clear leaves from the sidewalk. Imagine the sound of metal scraping along on the cement. Scritch. Scritch. Scritch. Why he was there doing it on a Sunday at 7 a.m. is beyond me. It took every ounce of restraint to not chuck my alarm clock out the window. Any heavy object from the nightstand would have been sufficient, provided I hit him on the head.

There’s another noise of summer I don’t like. The windows are rolled down and I am hearing other people’s music at the stoplight. I don’t want to hear your music. I don’t want your sounds to overpower my sounds. If I wanted to listen to (place name of famous country singer here), I would have tuned in to (place name of country radio station here). I’m over here learning about the town of Humansdorp in South Africa from Ari Shapiro and Audi Cornish (no, I didn’t make up the name of the town or the people). But I can’t hear about the life and times of three-time Olympic athlete Cornelia B├╝rki (from Humansdorp) because someone done someone wrong in the back of a pickup truck (or whatever).

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Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The emperor gets some artwork - by Michael Buzzelli

A few weeks ago when I was in Washington, D.C., I went to the recently renovated and revitalized Renwick Gallery. I love art and alliteration (apparently).

I went to see “Shindig” by Patrick Dougherty. He’s a stick sculptor. For real, though. He works with twigs. He builds giant people-sized bird’s nest-like structures. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s a really impressive pile of twigs.

Look him up. I’ll wait.

When you say to people you stood in line for 30 minutes to see twigs arranged in a pattern in an art gallery, they think you’re a little crazy. I take comfort in the fact that I was not the only one.

If starting out with giant bird’s nests isn’t weird enough, artist Jennifer Angus took an entire room and decorated it with dead bugs in elaborate patterns. Dead bugs. Five thousand insects carefully arranged and pinned to the walls. It was actually pretty until you got up close. If something can be pretty and disgusting at the same time, it was her work “In the Midnight Garden.” I learned later in a short film about the project that the hot pink walls were painted with a natural dye derived from a tiny cochineal insect. Let me be clear: The walls were painted in bug secretions.

There’s that awkward moment when you place your hand on the wall to steady yourself as you tie your shoe and realize you’re touching bug “secretions.”

I’m not an idiot. I know what secretions are. I am the idiot who would accidentally touch it.

The show was called “Wonder,” and it did instill a lot of wonder. I sat down at the gallery to watch a short video about every piece in the collection.

One piece was a rubber and metal labyrinth, made from recycled flip-flops. I didn’t love it, but after the film I liked it even less. The film was so pretentious that my eyes rolled so far back in my head I thought I would be staring at my brain.

Picture it: Discordant notes clang on a black background. Words appear and disappear on the screen, one after another, words such as “sustainable,” “organic” and “earthy.” The buzziest of buzzwords. I was waiting for “paradigm shift” to show up. Then, words such as “faithful” and “rebellious” popped onto the screen.

No. Your art can’t be both faithful and rebellious. You’re not casting out money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem.

You are talking about some old shoes that are welded together to create a maze! My sarcasm gun went from the stun to kill setting.

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Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future - by Michael Buzzelli

Not to brag, but my bedroom is in a different time zone. It’s 7:30 in the bedroom, 7:20 in the bathroom and 7 in the kitchen. I’m either a time traveler or the clocks are wrong. Since I don’t have a DeLorean or any sort of contraption fit for H.G. Wells, I decided it was the clocks.

During a brief power outage some time ago, the clocks became untethered from reality as we know it, unmoored from the very time stream. It’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. In other words, I set them incorrectly. There is good news. The microwave is not blinking midnight any more. Except at midnight.

It turns out the kitchen clock was the closest to right. It wasn’t completely right, but it was the closest. The most right timepiece was the cellphone, which gets its information from space (which makes very little sense when you think about it). Luckily, the cellphone was the only timepiece in the house that didn’t rely on my abilities.

Frankly, it’s a good thing the kitchen clock was close to right. It was the hardest to change. I had to take it off the wall and use a Phillips-head screwdriver to properly align it.

A bunch of clocks on different times can make a person crazy. Crazier, if you will. Now I had a dilemma. I’ve gotten used to knowing that the bedroom clock is 20 minutes fast. I’m afraid if I reset it to the correct time, I will forget it is right and sleep later than I planned. Twenty minutes is a hefty amount of time to sleep through. Except at midnight.

Now I have to wake up, check the alarm against the cellphone and decide if it’s time to get out of bed. In the early morning, it seems like an incredibly complex mathematical equation. It’s not. One is right and one is wrong. I should just go by the right time, but it’s usually an interesting text or Facebook message that prompts me to rise from my slumber.

Of course, the clocks are the only thing that’s running fast in my house.

That’s a blatant lie. I live in the same house with a marathon runner. My niece Brittany lives in the basement apartment since her parents moved to Ohio. It’s just not as funny to say nothing runs fast in my house except the clocks and my niece. See. Nothing kills a joke worse than the truth. Except at midnight. For the rest of the story, click here

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A fruit by any other name - by Mike Buzzelli

Last weekend, I was in D.C. I went to a wonderful little Lebanese restaurant where I didn’t know how to pronounce anything on the menu. I usually point at the menu and say, “I’ll have that.”

Luckily, it was all delicious.

When dining on foreign cuisine (foreign to me, at least), I usually go for the eggplant dish. In Middle Eastern restaurants, there’s always at least one eggplant dish, and a side dish with beans. Frankly, in any Middle Eastern restaurant you’re fine as long as you like garlic.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like eggplant, mostly because of the name. It’s a hideous name and a hideous-looking vegetable. So I did my research, and by “research” I mean I looked it up on Wikipedia

Side note: Dear College kids, please don’t follow my example and use Wikipedia as a research tool. You might believe British pop star Robbie Williams eats domestic pets in pubs for money, or that David Beckham was a Chinese goalkeeper in the 18th century, or Conan O’Brien assaulted sea turtles while canoeing (all misrepresented “truths” formerly on Wikipedia).

But I digress, like I do. The eggplant is not a vegetable. It’s a fruit. Who knew? It’s a nightshade, like the tomato. None of this mattered to me. I just wanted to know where they got their hideous appellation. I couldn’t understand why the elongated, purple, squash-shaped thing was called eggplant in the first place. Then, I did learn they come in an off-white shade, and some little white ones sort of looked like eggs, and it began to click.

I learned you can call an eggplant an aubergine. It sounds much more exotic that way. Though, it means “Benson” actor Rene Auberjonois is really Rene Eggplant, but nobody remembers the eggplant-named actor. He was the original Father Mulcahy in the movie version of “M*A*S*H.,” and he played some no-nosed alien on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which always sounded like a porn parody of the famous Sci-Fi show.

Meanwhile, back in the Lebanese restaurant, I ordered m’saka, which sounds a lot like moussaka, but is very different. M’saka is a cold eggplant dish with chickpeas, tomatoes and garlic.

Before you say, “Cold eggplant! That’s disgusting!” I want you to know that I was thinking the exact same thing when it came to the table. However, I could have licked the plate clean. Unfortunately, I decided some time ago that I shouldn’t behave like a small, feral child in a restaurant. Well, at least, not any more.

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Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Monday, May 2, 2016

An alarming call to arms - by Mike Buzzelli

The alarm goes off and I’m thinking, “Didn’t we just do this?!” It seems to me I would like mornings better if they didn’t come so early. The alarm goes off. I get up. I do it.

It’s just not my thing. This working for a living baloney is for the birds.

Side note: Do birds eat baloney? The pigeons of Pittsburgh probably only eat jumbo.

But I digress, like I do.

I’ve been having a little trouble getting out of bed when the klaxon sounds. It doesn’t help that most alarm noises are horrifying sounds, an eerie whine, a blaring bell, Creedence Clearwater Revival or Led Zeppelin.

When we were young, back in the early Paleolithic, my brother Rick and I shared a room. Rick liked classic rock. I didn’t. One year, he got a clock/radio for Christmas. Apparently Santa Claus was unaware that I had to share the room with him, because that was one evil gift. He could only go to sleep with the music on, and I had to have silence every night before I could fall asleep.

Every night, I had to wait for a snore before I could shut off the clock/radio and get some shut-eye. Then, the snoring kept me up.

Every morning, it would go off at seven, set to WDVE.

In high school, from my freshman to senior year, I woke up to “Stairway to Heaven.” EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.

I can’t even hear that song today without having convulsions. I had murderous thoughts about the clock/radio. I had dark fantasies about being alone with it … and a ball-peen hammer. Back then, classic rock was just called rock. It was called that because we used to bang the rocks together to make music.

Needless to say, I can’t wake up to music. I have PTSD. One “There’s a lady who’s sure … All that glitters is gold” and I’ll crack.

If you needed music to fall asleep, how was it going to wake you up?

Rick was notoriously difficult to wake up. It was like he slipped into a coma every night. I’d be the only one who would be listening to the music I despised.

I remember one particular morning when I walked over to his bed and nudged him to see if he was still alive. He woke up, punched me in the face and went back to bed.

He was late a lot. There’s only so many right hooks to the jaw you can take before you say, “Maybe you should wake up on your own.” My limit was one.

For the rest of the story, click here
Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!