Monday, November 26, 2007


By Chuck Durang

There is doubt and much speculation about the origin of skiing. A form of locomotion as well as recreation, it probably came about early in the prehistory of the Northland. The Swedish Hoting ski, discovered in a peat bog, dates back to 2000 B.C. It may be that, as some people skiied into peat bogs, others were moved to abandon the sport. Its current renaissance began in more recent times with the advent of mass production no-deposit, no-return barrels.


Skiing is the sport of propelling oneself over snow upon two boards, called skis, each about six to eight feet long and approximately three inches wide. It is similar to surfing with more boards, clothing, and Ace bandage.

There are several types of skiing: downhill, slalom, cross-country, jumping, and uphill. All require different types of skis except uphill, which is executed without skis, being the art of going back uphill to retrieve the skis you have fallen out of. We shall discuss here only downhill skiing, which is basic to other forms.


To be properly equipped for skiing, one must have skis, which are attached to boots by means of bindings. Poles are the final necessity. Luxuries include loud clothing, Blue Cross, and a large capacity for hot buttered rum. Skis must be attached to the bindings so as to fall off easily in case of emergency. Boots should be attached so as to stay on. Most Poles come from Poland. Care of the equipment is most important due to its cost as well as for reasons of safety. For utmost safety, skis should be waxed and then left on the porch where they can be stolen before going out on the slopes in them.


The beginner should learn the art of skiing in the following steps: (1) how to put skis on and take them off (it has been suggested that it is wise to stop here), (2) how to ski on level ground, (3) correct running positions, (4) how to turn and stop, and (5) how to call for the Ski Patrol.


Walking with skis on is impossible and should not be tried.


Place the pole close to the tip of the left ski and the right pole back of the right ski and lifte the right ski clear and swing it around parallel tto the left ski but facing in some other direction. Transfer weight to the other ski, balance on the right pole, then swing the left ski and pole around. Tape all sprains and commence in the new direction.


There are several methods of climbing uphill in order to ski down again, none of which are correct. The semi-sidestep, on gentle slopes, consists of walking with short strides uphill at an angle. The sidestep, on steep slopes, eliminates the forward motion. The herringbone is found in the herring, a small food fish of the North Atlantic. The ski tow is a coward’s way out…


Placing knees and skis together, push off onto the slope with the poles, and prepare to meet thy Maker. Positions for downhill running include the normal upright, with weight evenly distributed, the traverse, for crossing a slope with most of the weight on the lower leg, the lunge, with knee bent according to conditions (if conditions cause knee to bend more than 180 degrees, you are doing something wrong), and the prone, with most of the weight upon the face.


There are tour methods of stopping: the sideslip, single stem, double stem or snowplow, and crash. By shifting the weight while horizontal to a slope, a controlled slowing called sideslip is executed. Turning the tip of one ski out and slowing by the resulting drag is a single stem, and tuning both skis out results in either one of the last two named methods.


The stem-turn is accomplished by removing all weight from the ski that has not been turned out, then turning it to a position parallel with the stemmng ski. The Christiana, or Christie, is a fast skid turn made by keeping the weight forward and swinging the hips to slide the back ends of the skis around. The Telemark is a turn for deep snow first used in Telemarken, Norway. It requires a protractor and shovel.


Fall Line- the shortest, most direct line down a slope or cliff
Gelaensprung- a jump or obstacle encountered while running downhill
Kanone- a hot-dogger
Oversprung- a Jump of 90 degrees ending in a full stop-as, off the roof of the lodge.
Ruecklage- a backward lean from the ankles
Wreckage- an extreme backward lean
Sitzmark- means exactly what you think it means
Schuss- a straight descent at high speed
Scheiss!- expostulation frequently heard at conclusion of Schuss.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Pet Clam Owner's Manual

by The Clam Works


The rapidly-growing popularity of the clam as a family pet is
easy to understand. Few animals are less trouble to keep as
pets. Their needs are small, their demands minimal. Extremely
even-tempered, they seldom bite even small, boisterous children.
They never become restive on long trips or in situations that a
cat, for instance, might find very stressful. They are never
noisy, messy, or destructive, and require no grooming nor special
care of their living quarters. Their company is remarkably
soothing, and they can reduce the most intense personality to the
brink of coma.


Pet shops are best, as with most pets. They have the knowledge
to deliver the healthiest clams, up-to-date with all their shots
and handled with care and expertise. Unfortunately, many pet
stores are reluctant to handle these creatures, as they are a
very inexpensive, hence low-profit, item. Don't take no for an
answer. Keep pestering them until they produce your clam.

Another possibility is the Marine Organism Humane Society. Look
for them in your Yellow Pages.

You can also try your town's Clam Pound.

Or just go down to the beach and pick one up.


As soon as you arrive home with your new pet, you should take
steps to assure the animal's contentment and the bond between
you. Hold the clam to your cheek for a few hours. While doing
this, listen carefully for sounds from the shell. You may hear a
tiny heartbeat, or possibly the sounds of moving furniture. Hold
your clam closely until its breathing becomes regular. It is not
necessary to wait for purring to start; this would be a bonus.


Some people keep their clams in an aquarium, similar to that used
for tropical fish. Others prefer a terrarium, sometimes shared
with turtles or gila monsters. You must be certain you have the
proper kind of clam, however, so that your new pet doesn't drown.
It is usually safest to keep your clam on your desk or under your
pillow. It is critical that you maintain the temperature in your
clam's quarters between 60 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit, or it will
die just like that.


No one is sure what clams like. (Alfredo DiMaggio thought he
knew, and opened a restaurant for clams in San Francisco, but it
closed in a week and a half.) To touch all bases, we recommend
immersing your clam once a week in vegetable soup, and placing it
next to a hamburger every month or so.


You should watch your clam closely if you want to witness the
miracle of life. Every twenty or thirty years, the shell will
open and a bunch of little clams will come out, not unlike clowns
from a Volkswagen. Put two clams together in a darkened shoebox
or a "Clam Motel" ($49.95 from The Clam Works) and see what
happens. Well, you can't actually see, because they won't do it
except in total darkness. But if you could see, whooeee!


Teaching clams to talk takes a long time. Like parakeets, only
longer. In fact, teaching them anything takes a long time, and
they probably can not be taught to ride bicycles or do math.
They may sing, but can not comprehend harmony or syncopation.
Other than these few limitations, clams can be trained to do
almost anything a human six-year-old can do. But you must be
patient, and not give up your efforts during the clam's lifetime.



Listening to music is one of your clam's favorite pastimes.
Clams' musical tastes are very eclectic, and your clam will be as
happy listening to rock 'n' roll, jazz or classical music.
Country & Western does annoy them, however. Some clams like to
watch television, especially in the company of their masters, but
most quickly become bored.


Be sure you allow your clam an hour or so every day to meditate.
You can tell when your clam is meditating because it will be very
quiet and will not respond to external stimuli. Best to leave it
alone at such a time, and come back later.


Most clams lack the height to play basketball, the bulk for
football, or the speed for the hundred yard dash (except under
water in a strong riptide). But their armor makes them ideal for
ice hockey, and they are especially pleased when allowed to be
goalie. Clams are short on competitive spirt, so you won't want
a clam on your team if you are obsessed with winning. On the
other hand, there is no documented case of a clam having a heart
attack on a squash court. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Clams most enjoy non-competitive sports like sledding (they
don't even need sleds) and spin-the-bottle.

Clams do enjoy any sport that involves speed. They love to roll
down steep hills on a roller skate, but be sure they are strapped
in securely. In 1947, 641 clams rode the winning Soap Box Derby
racer in Dayton, or Toledo, or wherever they do that.


You will not have any battles over "homework time" with your
clam. In most states, clams are not allowed to go to school and,
therefore, they have no homework.


Clams rarely object when their masters dress them in goofy
clothing, so you can spend hours in such pursuits. You'll have
to accept the fact that most clothing fits your clam imperfectly,
and use your imagination. Your clam will prefer not to be
required to wear your shoes, though.


In the main, clams are avid readers. Even more, they like to be
read to. Among their favorites are tales of the sea and portions
of the "C" section of the encyclopedia. They don't care if you
"act out" the stories you read to them, or use different voices
for different characters, so go ahead if you want to.


Don't be silly.


Clams are very good at hiding, and can remain still for decades
while you search for them. They hate being "it," on the other
hand, and will stubbornly refuse to even look for you.


Your clam will love to have a birthday party, every few weeks if
you are up to it. You can invite as many neighbor clams as you
wish. It is especially amusing to drip a little warm wax on your
clam's upper shell and place a candle right there. You will
probably hear your clam chuckle if you do this, although it is
unlikely to laugh out loud.


Clams are easy to buy for, as they have nothing. A few cautions:
as your clam does not have wrists, you will have to consider a
pocket watch. A sausage-and-cheese basket is always good. Clams
love scarves, but avoid plaid. No clam has ever turned down a


Clams make excellent travel companions. Most airlines will not
require you to ship your clam in a carrier in the cargo hold, or
to buy a separate ticket. Your clam can ride right in your
pocket, nestled among gum wrappers and lint, and be happy as a,
er, clam.

When visiting notable historic or scenic sites, be sure to hold
your clam high over your head and turn slowly for 360 degrees, so
that he can enjoy the sights, too. It is not necessary to
respond to tactless inquiries on the part of passersby or fellow
tourists, unless they are police officers.


Unlike children or spouses, clams are not very demanding on a
shopping trip. Content to be with you, they will not ask to be
bought this, or that. Given the clam's agreeable nature, women
will be pleased to find that they will stay at the mall as long
as you like without complaint, and men are usually happy to find
they are ready to leave whenever you are.


Clams like to write poetry. Most people don't know this, since
none of it has ever been published. With their customary
equanimity, clams are not upset by not having found the right
agent over the centuries. Most people don't read poetry, anyway,
so a large body of published clam verse would probably escape
their notice.

How do clams move around? For the first few years, they don't.
For food, they depend on something drifting by, or Domino's.
Then they build little sets of wheels (sometimes this is the
cause of those noises inside the shell that we mentioned earlier)
and extrude them when no one is looking. Actually, humans did
not invent the wheel; somebody just spotted a clam doing this

When and why does the shell open? When it's good and ready. The
shell is opened to admit guests, eat a large fish, or yell.
Clams seldom yell, of course, because not much bothers them.
Don't try to open the shell by force, as this can harm or even
kill the clam. Just wait and watch for a few years, occasionally
pressing your ear to the shell and listening. If you hear no
noises from inside for a period of ten months or more, your clam
is probably dead and you may risk opening the shell.

Do clams manufacture pearls? Clams do not manufacture pearls,
unless they are oysters, and vice versa. They do manufacture
costume jewelry and bowling trophies when there are jobs open at
the plant.


Your beloved clam is accommodating to the last. When he has
reached the end of his days, you can save space by burying only
the "inside part" and painting the shell for use as two ashtrays.



"No clam fancier should be without this valuable guide."
-- Sir Edmund Falls-Downing, Ph.D., D.V.M., Rear Admiral

"Best chowder I've ever tasted!"
-- Chef "Boomer" Raviolio, Buster's Tavern and Gourmet
Chow Spot

"Once I put it down, I couldn't pick it up again."
-- Melanie Tewe, Tewe and Froh, Upson Downs, Pellets.,
Goomshire, Furg., England

"I still don't get it."
-- M. Dukakis, Brookline, Massachusetts


Al Politzer, of Omaha, says "This book takes the prize!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007


An Adventure in Real Life...

by C. F. Durang

Not many who were there will ever forget the exact
time: Thursday afternoon, May 17, at 2:38 P.M. The power
went off everywhere in the distant Richmond suburb of
Fiddle River, including the mammoth Harold's Mall.
Between the third and fourth floors of Abercrombie
and Klune, the upscale department store, the escalator
came to a halt with a grinding squeal, just as the lights
went out. There was total silence for a few heartbeats,
then the agitated voices began.

"What's happened?"

"Oh, my God, we're trapped!"

"Where are you, Alice? Alice, where are you?"

"Help me, somebody help me, please!"

"Save my baby. Never mind me, save my baby..."

As the voices reached a crescendo in the dimness of
the store, where even the air conditioners were silent,
Harlan Stanwort suddenly realized what had happened.
Harlan, an assistant floorwalker in Ladies Socks and
Scarves, was on the third floor, below the trapped
people. He raced to the escalator to take charge.

"Quiet, please!" he shouted up the narrow incline.
"Quiet--don't panic! Everything will be all right if you
don't panic! If you panic, everyone will die!" This
quieted them right down.

"The first thing we have to do," Harlan shouted,
"is find out how many of you are up there. Start
counting, with number one here at the bottom. Everybody
take a number and we'll know how many there are."




"No, I'm three!"

"No, me! I said it first!"

Harlan knew they were on the ragged edge of panic,
and if they began fighting among themselves, all would be
lost. He made a quick-thinking decision: "Okay, you can
both be three. Go on from there!"


"No, I'm four! I was here first..."

*** *** *** ***

High above the huddled masses, on the fifth floor,
Lorraine Quiche, a Fitter-Stretcher in the Ladies
Underwear department, heard the distant cries over the
drip of the leaky toilet in the ladies' room. She too
knew what had to be done, and rushed to the telephone.

Dialing "O" for Operator, Lorraine sobbed, "This is
Abercrombie and Klune! We need help. There are hundreds
of people trapped here between the third and fourth
floors! Send the police, the fire department, and the
credit bureau right away." Then she rushed to the inky
black stairwell to try to help.

On the fourth floor, Lorraine met Howard Feemster, a
striking auto worker from nearby Rummage Landing, and
they decided to try to help the trapped people from
above. Stripping Men's Haberdashery of neckties, they
raced to the brink of the precipice.

Two people on the very top reached out toward them
with fear and supplication in their eyes. Below they
could hear anguished voices calling:


"No, I'm sixteen!"

"Neither of you are--I am!"

Lorraine and Howard forced themselves to ignore the
desperate people only inches away from them--so near, yet
so far--while quickly knotting ties together until they
had a line several yards long. Then, tying one end
around the leg of a display mannequin, they tossed the
other to the closest people, only to watch in horror as
they began to fight over the end of the lifeline, a blue-
and-grey Pierre Cardin rep-stripe.

"Stop that, for God's sake," yelled Howard, bashing
the nearest combatant with a freestanding ashtray. "You
have to help each other. Wait your turn, knot the line
around your waist, and we'll pull you up!"

*** *** *** ***

As the pumper from Company 2 screeched to a halt in
front of the ominously darkened store, Ralph Digby leaped
from his spot on the running board and sprinted toward
the scene of the disaster. With one swing of his axe, he
opened the unlocked door and stepped into the silent
Sportswear department. A wild-eyed clerk from Candy and
Diet Foods ran up to him, babbling almost incoherently.

"Upstairs! Upstairs! Between the third and fourth...oh,
my God, the humanity..." She subsided into a table of
shorts and Digby headed for the stairwell, taking the
steps two at a time and slicing his left shin with his

As he emerged onto the third floor and stood with
blood filling his left boot, the enormity of the task
struck him. Harlan Stanwort was almost in tears trying to
keep order, as he shouted up the paralyzed escalator.
And worse, the air conditioning was gone, and people were
starting to sweat!

Looking down, Ralph noticed that water was rising on
the floor; it was already two inches deep. "Where's that
coming from?" he snapped at Harlan.

"From upstairs...from upstairs. There's firemen up
there hosing down the whole floor."

"My God," said Ralph Digby. "Is there a fire up

"No, no fire. But there are firemen, and that's
what they do!"

Digby knew he had to get that water stopped before
it was too late. But with the escalator out, how to
communicate with the men on the fourth?
Before he could even think about that, another
crisis: a body came hurtling down the escalator's
handrail, clutching two and a half neckties and
shrieking, "Damned cheap neckties! I'm doomed!" The
body rocketed off the handrail and plunged into a living
room set, on sale, fortunately landing in an overstuffed

"That's it!" Digby cried. He yelled to Harlan,
"Get all the soft furniture you can at the foot of the
escalator--and put some under the whole length of it just in
case--then get them to come down the bannister!" Then he rushed
to the stairwell, leaving Harlan Stanwort to labor heroically
under his orders.

*** *** *** ***

On the fourth floor, Lorraine and Howard were
running out of neckties and hope, when Digby burst out of
the stairwell door.

"The water! Where's the water coming from?"
Howard gestured wearily to the far side of the
store, and Digby raced between the bras and girdles until
he came to a team of firefighters hosing down a trio of
looters under the watchful eye of Hamilton St. Rudge, the
store detective.

"Stop!" Ralph Digby cried. "Stop the water! It's
filling up the third floor." He slipped on the wet tiles
and skidded into the moistened malefactors, but his
message had gotten through. One of the firemen went to
call a halt to the water.

*** *** *** ***

Meanwhile, on the third floor, Digby's plan was
working. Most of the frightened shoppers had been safely
evacuated by means of the handrail, although one had
fallen from halfway up and exploded a beanbag chair
Harlan had placed under the escalator for just such an

One small child, afraid to mount the handrail,
remained on the escalator, halfway between the floors.
Harlan Stanwort inched his way up, hand over hand, foot
over foot, and carried the child to the safety of the
fourth floor.

Just then, as if on a signal from above, the lights
and the air conditioning came back on, and the escalator
began to move.

"Thank God," said Lorraine Quiche.

Howard Feemster ruefully shook his head and said,
"I'll be sticking to the elevators for a while."

*** *** *** ***

Lorraine, Howard, Harlan and Ralph Digby were all
given the keys to Fiddle River by a grateful mayor and a
cheering populace in a ceremony at Harold's Mall the
following day. Tragically, Ralph had to be released from
the town jail where he had been dragged with the soggy
pile of fourth-floor looters, and has permanently lost
the use of his left boot.

Things have returned to normal in Fiddle River, but
a small plaque at the foot of the third floor escalator
in Abercombie and Klune is a permanent reminder of that
heroic day--not that anyone who was there can ever


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Images of the Author

Here is the author at work, attempting to set a recent post to music. The result was a Concerto for Fnorton and Harp.

The Fnorton is a woodwind instrument about 25 feet long, with a mouthpiece at each end, and the place where the music comes out in the middle. It is played by blowing in one end, then running to then other end and blowing there. Modulating the two blowings creates the resulting tone. Thus, besides musical talent, the performer must possess great foot speed.

The world's foremost fnorton virtuoso, Sir Edmund Falls-Downing, participated in the first public performance of the concerto, with the harpist Edna St. Louis Missouri. The event was pleasing visually as well as musically, as the fnorton occupied most of width of the stage, and the harp was placed perpendicular to it. While Miss Missouri remained calmly seated, Mr. Falls-Downing raced back and forth behind the fnorton.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck during the adagio third movement, when Mr. Falls-Downing turned the wrong way and ran in front of the fnorton, causing him to go right through the harp.

His friends and music lovers may visit him in the hospital, Our Lady of Perpetual Remittance, in rooms 246 through 253.

Other places to hang out...