There are plenty of ways to describe my personality and most of the good ones rank pretty low on a political correctness scale of one to ten. A few screws loose is popular. Kind of a wackadoo is a cute one. Then there's one of my favorites, That boys is nutballs! It's okay. I've gotten used to it over the years and I really kind of wear it as a badge of honor. Sane people are boring and droll about their days NOT talking to themselves in funky cartoon voices or breaking out in Broadway showtunes if someone repeats, in normal conversation, even the hint of something in common with a show.
“There is nothing like a daaaaaame … nothing … in tha … WOOOOOOOORRRRLLLLD!!”
The point is that if you ask anyone about me, they'll probably include something like, Yeah, he's a couple bricks short of a load. However you slice it, the truth is …
You may be right, I may be crazy. I'm Michael Blackston and these are a few pieces of insanity from my Funny, Messy Life.
I’m trying to learn good marketing techniques so that I can reach the widest audience possible. One of the most important things I have to keep in mind is that the content I provide needs to be delivered on a consistent basis and it’s got to be something that’ll catch people’s attention. Another handy idea is to throw in a topic every once in a while that’ll get someone's dander up in a way that makes others take notice of their excitement and/or outrage. So in the spirit of stirring things up, I’ll go ahead and set our sights on the yuletide and proudly shout from the mountain top …
Let There Be Christmas 365 Days A Year!
I can hear you right now screaming at your phone or computer screen. From the sound of things, you’re as jubilant as I am about the prospect of carols on the radio 24/7.
I'll admit with sing-song merriment that I'd absolutely cast my ballot, arriving at my local voting center with, yes, bells on, for such a festive turn of culture. Would that our halls be decked ever more with tinsel and candy canes and tiny white lights! I take joy in the thought of banisters wrapped year-round in bows and shelves lousy with elves.
“But Michael, such conditions brush past the other holidays. Thanksgiving won't even be here, yet the stores will fill their inventories with December stock and I don’t like it.”
I reply, “COAL FOR YOU!”
Not really. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to further your rampant Grinchivity with such non-jolly treatment.
Instead, “FRUITCAKE FOR YOU!”
But in fairness, I do understand your point. It’s just that I'm thankful every day and while I do see the need to celebrate other excuses to get together and eat, I don’t see why we can’t do those things wearing hats with reindeer antlers and blinking lights. Wouldn’t that just be fantastic? I’m not suggesting we forget our homage to the Veterans or not remember the fallen who fought for our country. To be honest, I’d be more than happy to lay aside my Golden Scepter of Sugarplum Dreams on those days, (I have one, by the way, made of old Gummi Bears, used candy foils, a birdbath pole I stole from the neighbor’s yard, and some gorilla glue) but I want to Trick or Carol on Holly-ween!
Again, I can almost hear you protest.
“Michael, I get enough of that stuff in the several weeks leading up to Christmas. I’m ready for Spring after that, you imbecile.”
But I CAN’T hear you. I've stuffed my ears full of red and white striped marshmallows.
Come on, go along with me on this. There’s room in our everyday for Christmas, isn’t there? Or is your heart as cold as Mr. Forty Below's? Get your inner Scrooge out of that VW Hum-Bug and grip your hands around the steering wheel of a One Horse Open Mer-sleigh-des! I apologize for the blizzard of bad puns, but you made me do it. Just sayin’.
So if you’re not with me, where do we go from here?
We’ve obviously come to an impasse. You want “variety” in your year. I want Christmas every day. I suppose we’ll just have to - as the bumper stickers say - Co-Exist. I’m okay with that as long as you don’t say anything negative to me when I sneak up to you, softly, quietly, like Santa on July 4th, and whisper as sweetly as a snowflake, “OH THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL!”
“Okay, Mr. Christian, what about Easter?”
Ya got me there. We don’t need to mess with Easter, unless you want to slap a red, floppy hat on that stupid bunny. Otherwise …
CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS!
At least I have those of you who are in my camp - Team Christmas - to lean on. I know those people exist because I see them even now on social media posting their wondrous glee at the coming season and causing no end of stress to the heartburn of society, also known as Team Seasick Crocodile. (Don’t get the reference? You would if you were a member of Team Christmas. We’re still taking applications, by the way. Although, looking at your Christmas Cheer credit history, I can’t promise you’ll be approved.)
Of course, this entire thing has been aimed at the secular essence of Christmas, which I do adore. But I would be remiss if I didn’t close out with the precious real reason we celebrate. You could take away all the lights and all the glitter. You could erase the fat man and the presents. As long as you give me the baby Jesus and songs of salvation come to earth, that’s truly Christmas for me.
I celebrate that Every. Single. Day. (Whether you like it or not.)
And by the way, I’m told by the head office that we WILL be able to approve your Team Christmas application.
We’re just going to need the title to that VW Humbug.
I feel like I should remind new listeners that most of these stories originated as blog articles before I came up with the idea of turning them a podcast. Most of the time, I edit out the parts that mention anything being written or my readership, However, I like the line near the beginning of this one about writing in a Huddle House, so I'm keeping it in. Just pretend it was your imagination if it bothers you when you hear it - like you were drunk or high or something. After all, there are others to think about, even if it's just you and me. Why? Because it's about me and ...
Me's A Crowd
I’ve done a lot of live stage performance over the years and have learned to really get into my part and transform for an audience. Character roles that challenge me have become my favorite way to express myself on stage and I feel like I’ve been training for them my whole life. The reality is that my acting career will more than likely be corralled to amateur stages and that’s just fine for me, but it doesn’t stop me from doing the things now that I've always done in order to continue the journey to perfect my craft.
What are those things, Michael? Huh? Give us your golden wisdom!
Wait a second. I’m sitting in Huddle House trying to write this while a version of the barber shop scene from Coming To America plays out at the next table, except instead of an argument over history’s best boxer, it’s whether or not one of our past Sheriffs is a racist because there aren’t enough black deputies. It’s hard to concentrate and the discussion is getting heated. I don’t want to put in the earplugs I keep in my computer bag for fear of insulting them and becoming a subject of their very loud and angry conversation. Anyway, the truth is I talk to myself. A lot. That’s what I do when I’m alone to hone my stage skills.
Now before you look at me sideways and cock an eyebrow while chewing on a toothpick like one of the old dudes at the next table is doing, let me explain to you that any actor who is worth his or her salt will tell you they’ve been guilty of doing the same thing.
Let me to explain further.
Actors have a base need to be part of a scene. We need to be “ON” at all times, including, for instance, when we’re driving alone in our cars. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve engaged in conversations with “characters” of my own design, only to turn and see an old lady, a cute young woman, maybe a burley construction worker, or even a mime pretending to drive an invisible car, looking at me like I’m a nut. The worst was getting caught having a debate with myself at a traffic light by a cute, burley, old lady mime wearing a hard hat. She wasn’t in the lane next to me. She was crossing the street pretending to use an invisible walker.
That’s just a way I practice improv. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve become obsessed with getting to do great character roles.
I’ve played a British murderer, an old British crook, a British play director, …. are you starting to sense a pattern? …. a singing Hebrew with family issues, an eccentric tango-ing Hispanic with a wife who has a death fetish, a New York gambler, and …. oh yeah …. a redneck version of Jesus. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention that at the time of this recording, I’m about to open curtain as a 90 year old man.
Part of the reason I love these roles is their tendency to require the use of a foreign accent, or at least a different one than my native southern that comes out the way I imagine cornbread would sound if it could talk, and accents are something I’ve been working on since I was a child. Now my son has discovered a talent for it. In fact, most of my conversations with myself have one or both of us speaking with a different accent and it’s rarely the same one between the two of me.
You still think I’m crazy, don’t you?
Doesn’t matter to us. We enjoy our discussions between ourselves and we know plenty of us we can call on at any given moment to tag into the ring with me and me. It gets hard sometimes to even remember who I really am when one of me gets going with several others of me, but I’m never lonely when I’m around to talk to and play out scenes in our head of mine.
So I understand if you have trouble figuring out the complicated maze I understand me to be as us. Understand?
It doesn’t matter. Just believe me when I say that all of me are not the only ones who frequently engage in this practice.
But that’s not all. We have to have our props when we play out these works of performance art and that can be a pain to handle while the me of us is trying to drive. (I know I’m driving the grammar police batty and that makes me …. or us …. a tad giddy.)
Have you ever tried to smoke a prop cigarette with one hand and swing a foam battle ax all wacky like with the other while driving with one knee? I can only do it with one knee because the third Me is using the other one to kneel on for a crying scene. I’m proud to say that I’ve proven over and over again that I can do just that type of thing while merging into six lanes of downtown Atlanta traffic where rush hour is a nightmare. Have you seen how many idiots text while they drive?
I can say that I’ve never once been stupid enough to try and put on stage makeup while I’m commuting, so don’t worry. Of course that would be hard to do with a sewing needle in my other hand. I have to prioritize and stitching a costume is more important than makeup. It’s the easier thing to do while keeping my eyes on the road, so long as I thread the needle at a red light and keep the sewing to a simple half-back stitch when I’m rolling.
It’s not that in depth every single time I practice my art, though. I don’t always need to wear chain mail and jousting armor for the plays in my head. Not always.
Then there’s the death scene. You should know that it’s a difficult thing to pull off with others around you. There’s no way to be inconspicuous because people think you’re dead or at least unconscious for a few moments until your mind audience erupts into thunderous applause and the scene changes. It’s the throes of death that seem to bother people. If you’re doing Romeo & Juliet you might be okay with Romeo’s demise. He poisons himself - spoiler alert. Your coffee cup would probably be a fine substitute for the poison bottle. But Juliet stabs herself with a dagger and I find it difficult to accomplish the illusion with a stale french fry or a renegade straw from under my seat.
However we choose to chisel away the rough edges of our craft, we actors will be ready when that curtain opens. I can count on any of me to face the charge and bully forth in our thespianic responsibilities. So if you're somewhere near me, we fully expect to see you out there in the gallery giving us a bravo to me.
For now, the conversation at the other table has turned to national politics and it’s starting to get rowdy. There may be fisticuffs, which is my cue to exit stage right.
One of the benchmarks of getting people to assert that you are, indeed, Not playing with a full deck, is to publicly engage in a little foretelling. Whether you have a real ball of crystal or you supplement your devining tool with old coffee grounds and the chicken bones from your last embrace of Bo Time, it doesn't matter. You don't even have to use a tool to sound like an idiot. That's why I instruct you to believe blindly as I give you my ...
Product Predictions of The Future
I’m in the mood to look forward to what lies ahead, especially in the world of technology, and it excites me to the core to think of all the things we Americans will be able to spend way too much time with instead of our families. Hey, I’m not preaching just to you; I’m one of the worst offenders. It’s only recently that our little clan has adopted a no cell phones at the table rule and it's not going so great. It was hard at first watching everyone playing air phone because they didn’t remember how to join in a discussion.
But cell phones could just be a thing of the past. The possibilities for new stuff are endless.
So I’ve created a list of things we might see that will make you say, “Ooooooo, SCIENCE!” Keep in mind that I am something of a prophet as I make these up.
The future will bring:
The Cannibaby. As the father of a Barbie-lovin five-year-old, I’m excitied about this one. This toy will be all the rage as ol’ St. Nick is making his list and checking it twice. Why? I’m glad you asked. Are the dolls in your child’s toy basket overrunning the house? Well no more! The Cannibaby is a brand new doll that is an angel in the arms of your beloved bundle of joy and a demon at night for all the other dolls in the house. Once it knows your child is asleep by way of a sensor, the Cannibaby springs into action and fills its little belly with every morsel from anything that looks remotely like a doll. But don’t worry if there’s a real baby in the house. The Cannibaby is designed to shut down when near a life source. And before you go and shout, “Foul! That was introduced in the 1980’s and his name was Chucky!” remember that Chucky went after real people. And also, Cannibaby would eat Chucky.
The “That’s My President” App. We’re inundated with politics these days and nobody seems to be able to agree on anything. Everyone has their opinion, but it’s irrelevant now that we’ll have the "That’s My President” app for all of our devices. Just plug in the face of anyone you want to be president, touch the “GO” button on your screen, and voila! Whoever is elected will have the face of whomever you voted for any time they’re in front of a camera. They all intend to say the right things during the campaigns and then be an idiot once they’re elected anyway. So who cares whose head is on the body behind the podium. There is one exception, of course. Me. In the next election, I'll be running for POTUS on the “Lotty Dotty I Hate The Parties Party” ticket.
Rap Shoes. You’re literally a walking beat box when you’re wearing your Rap Shoes. With the slogan, “Kick it with your kicks!” you can expect to pay a pretty penny for these sneakers, but it will be well worth it because you can finally have a steady beat everywhere you go. These shoes have powerful speakers mounted in the sides so that your soundtrack is projected to the whole world as you walk. The beat matches your speed, so if you want to groove to a slow funk and impress the ladies, you can walk slow, Jive Master. Aww yeauuhh! If you want to jam with a hot, fast freestyle, pick up your speed. It’s all up to you. This product is not recommended for anyone who can’t walk in rhythm or is too square to rap. The concert is yours to command with Rap Shoes. Only $562 a pair.
Shaving Elves. You may not know this, but all elves don’t make the cut for Santa’s workshop. They have to find work somewhere. After an ill-thought out prank and Santa not appreciating his reindeer being bald on Christmas Eve, an enterprising young elf named Eugene will be introducing a brand new service to the world. He and his partner Bob, who does the books mainly because he’s not that good with a razor, will front a team of elves who didn’t work out for the big guy in red and need employment. Using the skills they learned during their training at the North Pole, they’ll break into your home at night and give you a shave while you sleep. You go to bed looking like something that might be photographed blurrily in the woods and wake in the morning clean-shaven with skin as soft as the Cannibaby’s bottom. Careful when ordering the service, though. The staff is still small and sometimes Bob does the shaving, unless you specifically ask not to be shaved by him. Do not get shaved by Bob.
Fat Sucking Leeches. I’m personally looking forward to this one. They'll train leeches to no longer crave blood, but to only eat fat. You’ll purchase a "Box-O-Leeches" and let the fun begin. Empty them out in the bath as you take a nice soak, close your eyes, and the leeches begin to work. Ladies go ahead, look at yourself in the mirror before you get in. You might want to take a picture to remember yourself by because when you look in that same mirror after the leeches are done with you, the phone may start to ring and it’ll be Victoria’s Secret wanting you for a photo shoot. Don’t worry, they’ll Photoshop those suction marks right out before they slap up enormous posters of you in your underwear all over the windows in malls across America. And guys, that six-pack you’re dying for is no longer chilling in the fridge. Feel free to eat all the crap you want because thanks to Fat Sucking Leeches, you’ll always have abs of steel no matter how much you pack away. Oh, never mind. I forgot you’ll need to actually work out the muscles to make your stomach flat. And on that note ...
Workout Elves. They don’t like to shave people. They think it’s gross. But they'll come to your bedside at night and physically work your muscle groups so that you don’t have to. It can get pricey if you buy the Gluts Package, so choose your program carefully. If you start to wake up, an elf named Sven will slam your skull against the headboard of your bed until you’re unconscious. You’ll never know they were there except for the sore muscles when you wake, the candy cane flavored protein shake they’ve prepared, and the knot on the back of your noggin.
And finally ...
Books. No longer will you need to worry about the stories you like to read being unavailable if you loose your charge! Forget worrying about losing your entire library when you drop your phone in the toilet! This new product will revolutionize the way you take in information. At about the same face size as your Kindle or iPad and in an endless variety of exciting thicknesses, Books allow you to focus on one thing at a time. You’ll delight at the variety of actionable options afforded you.
Things like: Turning pages, folding corners, using REAL bookmarks, and highlighting important parts for future reference! And not only does holding a book make you look smarter when others are around, they can be DECORATIONS! You can create shelves and shelves and shelves and shelves and shelves and shelves of BOOKS! And if you drop one in the bathtub, no problem. The worst thing that will happen is you have to let it dry out and now your book is 80 times thicker than it originally was!
I hope you'll consider purchasing one or all of these future products once they're available and if you like the results, let me know.
To say I'm a little eccentric is being kind, but I know I'm not the only one who has a case of the funky-brain, so I feel like I'm in good company. And if at any time you feel as though people around you are a little scared to be in your vicinity, just know ... they are and there's nothing you can do about it. Embrace the insanity and have a conversation with yourself. Maybe the you of all of you can calm one of you down.
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