Audience Participation Friday: Celebrity Sightings

What makes a good celebrity sighting? One key ingredient, of course, is the celebrity. But almost as important is the setting. Bruce Springsteen at the next gas pump is a celebrity sighting. Bruce Springsteen at Philips Arena is a concert. Ideally, there’s cognitive dissonance in a celebrity sighting. Like the time my cousin Brett saw Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair–mortal enemies in the rassling ring–driving down the interstate in a convertible Cadillac, apparently having a big old time. The key dissonance, of course, is the simple sight of a person who supposedly exists in  some other plane just walking around doing regular stuff. The fabulous and the mundane mashed up against one another. That’s what celebrity sightings are all about.

For Audience Participation Friday, we’d like to hear about your celebrity sightings. Maybe you’ve kissed Willie Nelson. Maybe you’ve been in the same restaurant as Indiana Jones. Do tell. I’ll prime the pump…

  • This past Christmas Eve I stood behind Ricky Skaggs in the cash register line at Williams Sonoma. It made me feel good to know that no less a personage than Ricky Skaggs was as bad a procrastinator as I was.
  • Apparently Trinity from The Matrix brushed against me on a crowded sidewalk. I didn’t know it was her, but the person I was with insisted it was. I don’t know if this counts as a “sighting” since I didn’t see her.
  • I have elsewhere described the time Bela Fleck played the banjo on an airport shuttle bus I had the pleasure of riding.
  • I saw Ben Folds on a hiking trail. Even out in there amongst nature’s beauties, he had the same hipster scowl he wears in all his music videos. I appreciated that.
  • The very same day I saw Ben Folds, I also saw Nicole Kidman twice in two different places. It’s bad enough to be stalked, but to be stalked by the rich and famous is a little frightening.
  • Oh, I almost forgot. I ran into Angelina Jolie at the Air and Space Museum gift shop. At first I thought she was just a really pretty lady with an adopted Asian baby, but I noticed there was a palpable buzz trailing behind her as she went from aisle to aisle, and it dawned on me who she was.

Well, that ought to get you started. Tell us about your brushes with greatness.

Nashville Living: The Tour Bus



Some friends of ours bought a house on the cul-de-sac where Tim McGraw and Faith Hill used to live. Every day, a couple of times a day, a tour bus would lurch up the hill, idle in front of our friends’ house for a couple of minutes, then turn around and bump back down the hill. One reason a person buys a house in a cul-de-sac, of course, is to enjoy a little quiet and privacy. So one day our friend flagged down the tour bus as it came up the hill. “Don’t you realize that this isn’t Tim and Faith’s house anymore?” he asked the tour guide.
“Of course we realize it,” the tour guide said. “But their new house is too far out in the country. It’s easier just to come to this one.”

Which brings up any number of questions, one of which is this: if Tim and Faith’s old house is almost as tourworthy as Tim and Faith’s current house, why not just show the paying customers a house that’s similar to Tim and Faith’s house? Maybe one that doesn’t require pulling up a hill or turning the bus around in a cul-de-sac. I should mention that the house in question, while fabulous, wasn’t more fabulous than the house owned by the surgeon next door or the house owned by the record producer next door to that. There are a hundred cul-de-sacs just like it in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Celebrity is surely a peculiar thing. On the radio the other day I heard about a survey in which middle schoolers were asked what they would like to be when they grow up. They had five choices to choose from:

  • CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • Navy Seal
  • U.S. Senator
  • college president
  • “personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.”

43% of the middle schoolers interviewed chose “personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.” Mind you, they weren’t choosing to be the celebrity, only to carry the celebrity’s suitcase. The next-closest choice (college president) only garnered 24% of the vote. It’s a mystery, this desire to be close to celebrity. But in light of these survey results, perhaps it’s no shock that people are willing to pay good money to see Tim and Faith’s old house.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the middle school fame survey at Jake Halpern’s website. I’m warning you, though: it’s a little depressing.

Audience Participation Friday: Better Jokes

For Audience Participation Friday last week I solicited unfunny jokes, and you, the readership, rose to the occasion with some jokes that were thoroughly unamusing. Having suffered through that together, I thought it might be good to cleanse our palates, so to speak, with some jokes that are actually funny. So for this Audience Participation Friday the question is this: Heard any good jokes lately?
I’ll get things started with one of my favorites, which concerns a surly turtle on a picnic. Three turtles went on a picnic. Being turtles, it took them ten days to get from their house to the picnic site, which was out in the countryside. When they finally got to thei spot beside the river, they began to unpack the basket. They pulled out the sandwiches, the potato salad, the baked beans, the slaw, the apples, the root beer. That’s when they realized that they had left the bottle opener at home. Accusations flew; each turtle thought it was somebody else’s fault that they had left the bottle opener at home. At last, however, they decided that it didn’t much matter whose fault it was; they would draw straws to determine who would have to schlep back to the house for the bottle opener. The turtle who drew the short straw was furious. “It’s not my fault that we don’t have a bottle opener,” he said.Read More

Feechies of the Week: Catfish Noodlers

Chapter 15 of The Bark of the Bog Owl details a fishing trip in which Aidan and his feechie friends Doyno and Branko “grabble” catfish–which is to say, catch them with their hands. Not all readers realize that this is a real pastime among some of our more feechiefied friends and neighbors. It seems to be called “noodling” more often than “grabbling.” Here’s a movie of a couple of old boys who are gifted catfish noodlers. Perhaps the most feechiefied moment of the movie is when the cameraman zooms in on the bloodied forearm of the combatant and says “Show your mama.” Tres feechie.
Thanks to Joe Thacker for nominating our feechies of the week.

p.s. I just noticed that the header refers to our feechies of the week as rednecks. It’s not a word I use, and I would prefer that it not be on my blog. But these guys are so brilliant I would hate to deprive my readers of them. So scratch out ‘redneck’ and write in ‘feechie.’

Audience Participation Friday: We Are Not Amused

I’m working on the sequel to The Charlatan’s Boy, scheduled to release about this time next year. I’ve got a great idea for a scene involving a guy who wants to fight people who don’t laugh at his jokes. I’ve just got one small problem. I can’t seem to come up with a joke that isn’t funny. So, dear reader, here’s your assignment for Audience Participation Friday: tell us an unfunny joke. By ‘unfunny’ I don’t, of course, mean offensive or cruel. I just mean it misses the mark of funniness. I look forward to enjoying your creativity (or not enjoying it, if all goes well).

The Charlatan’s Boy in Publishers Weekly

The nice people at Publishers Weekly gave The Charlatan’s Boy a favorable review in their September 13 issue. You can get your own signed copy (of the book, not the review) here.
Here’s that notice from Publishers Weekly:

A couple of misfits get more than they bargain for in this comical fantasy. The peddler Floyd exploits his deformed charge, Grady, so that they can both get by in the land of Corenwald. Money is hard to come by, so they capitalize on the legend of ‘feechies’–with Grady pretending to be one of the mythical swamp dwellers–to ensure their financial stability (‘Wasn’t we a pair? Floyd made his living by telling lies, and I made mine by being ugly. It wasn’t a bad living, either,’ says Grady). That scheme is just one of many for Floyd and Grady, and as they travel from village to village dabbling in phrenology, miracle cures, and more, Grady learns much about human nature–and himself. Rogers (the Wilder-king trilogy) crafts an entertaining middle-grade novel filled with hijinks and madcap characters. Suffused with backwoods vernacular, Grady’s first-person narration should engage readers from the start and hold their attention as Grady navigates his life’s surprising twists and turns with humility and humor. One final twist gives Grady a much-deserved happy ending. Ages 10 — up. (Oct.)   Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Lately we’ve been on the subject of colorful characters at I’m reminded of a story I once heard about a colorful character somewhere in the great state of Missouri. It was told to me for the truth. The fellow who told me the story had been a lawyer near Kansas City. He was coming out of the courthouse one bright afternoon, he said, when he saw a family across the way: a four- or five-year-old daughter, a mother, and a father whose hair was styled in the feechie manner–short in the front but cascading in the back down below the scoop of his white tank top. Also, he had a parrot on his shoulder.
The father nudged the little girl and pointed up at the upper floor of the courthouse. “Baby,” he said, “wave hello to Granddaddy.” The little girl waved enthusiastically, and the onlooking lawyer looked up to see a wizened old hand reaching through the bars of the upstairs cell window to wave back. “A touching scene of filial devotion,” I think was how the lawyer described it.

The errand of mercy complete, the little girl looked up at her father and sweetly asked, “Diddy, can you take me to McDonald’s to get some french fries?”

“I sure can, Darling,” the father answered. Then he pointed at the parrot on his shoulder. “Just let me swing by and take Freebird home first.”

Before I heard that story, it had never occurred to me to want  a parrot. Now I want one just so I can name him Freebird.

Bonus parrot-related anecdote: A friend of mine has a parrot named Mr. Quito. (To my friend’s chagrin, Mr. Quito turned out to be a she-parrot–a fact that came to light when Mr. Quito was several years old.) When my friend moved to a new house, he locked Mr. Quito in the closet below the stairs so that s/he would be out of the movers’ way and wouldn’t be stressed out at the sight of the house being in such disarray (who knew parrots were so particular?). But Mr. Quito was a little stressed out in spite of all. He spent much of the day repeating, “Let me out of here! Rrrawk! Let me out of here!” It was discomfiting to the movers, who gave each other concerned looks every time they walked past the stairs. Finally, unable to stand the cruelty of it any longer, one of the movers leaned down and called through the keyhole, “It’s all right, Grandma–we’ll be out of here in a little while. I’m sure he’ll let you out then.”

Feechie of the Week: Michael Dohanic

He’s mild-mannered. He’s soft-spoken. He’s an officer of the law, for crying out loud. He looks for all the world like a textbook example of a civilizer. But Michael Dohanic has got a feechie twinkle. And he lives with seven alligators. “They’re fairly well contained,” he says. Which I’m sure is a comfort to his neighbors in the town of North East, Pennsylvania (which is in northwest Pennsylvania, near Lake Erie…I think that’s a nice touch).
In captivity, an alligator can grow to 12 or 13 feet. “Does that concern you?” asks his interlocutor. “Not yet,” says our Feechie of the Week. Good answer.

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