Friday, February 23, 2018

Night of the Living Pretentious Guy

Once a year in Kansas City--always during the coldest week in January, it seems--the annual tradition of "Restaurant Week" occurs. A great deal of hoity-toity restaurants conspire to offer fancy-schmancy dinners for $30 and lunches for $15. It's a great way to try joints we've only read about, always mean to try, and then forget about them. And if you like bisque, you're in luck. (But you've gotta really like bisque; lots and lots and lots of bisque).

At one of these upper-scale joints (so upper-scale, I had to actually iron khakis!), we found ourselves enjoying some excellent food. However, the place was dark and murky, full of interior bubble windows, adorned with odd, swooping walls, and splashed with dour and shimmering aquas and teals: the ambiance of an aquarium. Worse, the tables were so close to one another, I became extremely familiar with the waiter's butt.

And then THEY sat down next to us. 

At first, they seemed harmless enough: an older couple and a younger couple (I envied the guy because HE got to wear jeans). That's where my envy stopped. Desperate to impress the older couple (I kinda assumed they were the younger gal's parents), the young guy wouldn't--couldn't--shut up. When he wasn't bragging about himself, he let the world know about his seemingly endless array of impressive best friends who'd done everything from curing cancer to revolutionizing the world of cuisine.

"My best friend's the head chef at The Drunken Antler," he bragged. "I guarantee it'll change the way you see beef."

An actual quote! (The only way I ever see beef is on a plate; definitely NOT the cute barnyard animals. But now that this has been imprinted on my brain, I just might have to go vegetarian.)

"When you go," Mr. Hotcha continued, "I need to be the one to take you. I want to study the look of satisfaction on your face."

Noooooooo! Trapped, nowhere to go, uncomfortable in my khakis, I was held captive to the relentless pontificating.

"My other best friend is a world-class mixologist in Portland. He's created some top-of-the-line tastes and drinks, the best anywhere."

Make it stop! Please!

But the younger guy didn't. I don't think he could. Like a Hyde persona, the driving force of pretentiousness swept him away. He monopolized our waiter (although to be fair, I got a lotta butt-face time with him), and soon Mr. Too-Cool-For-School somehow roped the bartender into his growing cult. 

This time the older guy (run, potential father-in-law, run fast and hard!) reiterated all of Mr. Young Pretentious Guy's brags to the bartender.

The bartender, squirmy and ill-at-ease, jut out a stand-up comic's hand, and said, "You know, I just mix drinks, and sometimes, you know, I add stuff to 'em. You know." With a perpetual grimace on his face and a finger working loose his collar, the bartender couldn't wait to escape back to the safety of his bar. We felt his pain.

Having run out of best friends to yak about, Mr. Pompous decided the time had come for him to wax on about himself. And wax on he did. "The other day, I gave a presentation (snootily pronounced "PREE-san-tation"), and made sure to run long, carrying over into our lunch break. I've found that's the most efficient way to present my case and keep the nay-sayers' questions at bay. Quite an effective tool."

Only tool I saw was sporting trendy and perfectly manicured 5:00 shadow.

We gobbled and got out before the pretentiousness rubbed off on us.

Beware the pretentious, ladies and gents. They're out there. Waiting. Lurking. Pontificating.

There's not an ounce of pretentiousness in Nightmare of Nannies. Just good ol' fashioned mystery and stoopid comedy.
One click away keeps the pretension at bay!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Missing: Hipster Refrigerator Fix-It Guy

Oh, Daniel, I hardly knew ye...
Have you seen me?
Last Tuesday, Daniel the hipster fix-it guy, ambled into my home and heart. Backpack slung over his shoulder, he carried with him a sense of confidence rarely found in the appliance trade. I admired his carefully nurtured facial fuzz. I envied his clunky, yet trendy dark-framed glasses (the kind that people used to make fun of you for wearing), while he rambled on about frig gizmos and sensor what's-its and electrical doo-dads. All very technical, all very boring.

But Daniel was far from boring! Bromance was in the air! (Or maybe that was the musty smell coming from the refrigerator.)

After Daniel'd finished his examination, he casually leaned over our kitchen counter and explained how messed up our refrigerator was.

"But...but, Daniel," I said, "the refrigerator shouldn't be freezing food, right? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but freezing food is the freezer's job."

With a sigh, Daniel explained more technical bla, bla, bla and other excruciating nonsense. I nodded as if I understood him, because I didn't want to appear dumb in Danny's eyes. (By this time, I'd advanced to calling him "Danny," such is the power of male bonding over appliances). 

Bottom line was our refrigerator had been hit by a faulty sensor. Or something close to that.

"Huh," I said. "Does that explain why the light goes off when we open the doors, then turns on again when we shut them? Like in Bizarro World?"

Through narrowed eyes, he glowered at me. Extremely unamused. Somewhere our burgeoning bromance had taken a wrong turn. Finally, he pitched up bony hipster shoulders and broke the agonizing silence. "Can't really tell you what's causing the light thing, man."

His answer didn't exactly instill confidence. But his coolness certainly did.

"I guess we need to put that sensor in," I said.

Danny typed in some numbers on his phone, handed it to me, and said, "$180 bucks. I don't have the part on me so I'll need to order it. But you gotta pay first, dude."

"Okay." I paid. "Um, can I get a receipt?"

"Sorry, dude, everything's electronic now. See you next Tuesday."

"Ah... But--"

Too late. Danny rushed out of the house and out of my life.

For good as it later turned out.

Tuesday rolled around again. No sign of Danny. I called the fix-it, what's-it company.

"Where's Danny?" I asked.

"I wish I knew," said the woman. Hardly an encouraging sign.


"Daniel's gone missing. We haven't seen or heard from him in several days."

Stunned, I opened the refrigerator and stared wistfully at all of the frozen food. " he missing or, you know, missing-missing? Like vanished?"

"Missing-missing. Sorry for the inconvenience."

Immediately the smell of skullduggery stunk up the place. A mystery of epic, Encyclopedia Brown proportions! Clearly, Danny was either dead or had absconded to Mexico with our 180 bucks.

If you'd like to read about an entire bread and breakfast's worth of skullduggery, check into the Dandy Drop Inn! An acclaimed horror thriller to warm up your cold, winter nights: Click here for Dread and Breakfast!


Guess who comes knocking at the door the next day? Yep, Daniel (He's back to being regular "Daniel" now as he never calls, never texts, never shows up...). He mutters some lame excuses about how his phone stopped working, then he got sick. Hmph. He called it a "communication malfunction (kinda like a "wardrobe malfunction," I assume, only with words instead of bared flesh)." I didn't buy it. Too little, too late. I officially declared the bromance OVER!

(I realize this was hardly an exciting endto my tale of suspense and bromance, but sometimes truth is, um, more boring than fiction. Don't judge Dread and Breakfast by the pedestrian conclusion here!)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Jury Doody!

My wife got the mail that fateful day, said "uh-oh," as she tossed the inexplicably foreboding government letter toward me. Surprise! I'd been chosen for jury duty! (Cue the wah-wah-wah-wahhhh mocking trombone).

Noooo! (Rendering it an even larger injustice, for years my wife has actually longed to pull jury duty. It's a cruel world).

Well, I'd managed to dodge the jury duty bullet twice before in my life time. (Years ago, I'd written the Government that my dad was in a wheelchair {true!} and that I was needed to take care of him {kinda true, but not really!}. It'd worked twice.) Feeling invulnerable, I figured I could dodge the bullet a third time. I wrote that my mother was ailing (true and constantly!) and that I was "on-call" at all times to take care of her (sorta' true if you kinda smudge the boundaries of what's "true" and whatever). This time, the cold-hearted judge didn't take pity on me.

So, on a recent cold, snow-storm threatening Monday morning, I hauled myself through gridlocked highway traffic to Olathe (and why in the world they'd put the Big Courts clear out there was beyond me). Like lemmings driven to their death, tons of people grumpily shuffled toward the courthouse. As it was Monday morning, I'd never seen quite a collection of bleary-eyed, clearly hung-over, grumpier people together at once.

At the security check, I de-shoed, unbelted, emptied my valuables into a bucket, got beeped at, then was sent through the puzzling labyrinth of the courthouse. Worse than a rat in a maze, I had to go down a flight of stairs to a room, up another flight, down the hall, down another flight, then up another flight. Finally, I entered the courtroom.

A woman who made Fran Drescher sound absolutely dulcet directed us toward where we were expected to sit. She looked at my paperwork and laughed. Actually laughed! "You're juror number one," she managed between sadistic guffaws. 

This didn't bode well. So much for a fast exit. All week long, I'd been working on a strategy to be dismissed during the "voir dire" process (oral and visual examination of the potential jurors). I figured I might try a surly and mean "hang 'em all and hang 'em high" attitude. But all now seemed lost as I settled into chair number ONE.

And there I sat for an hour. By my estimation, over a hundred potential jurors crammed into the courtroom. A lot to choose from, I thought as I looked at my non-existent wristwatch. An older man sat down in front of me, flying his flannel and sporting a mess of Grizzly Adams beard and hair. My peer. Breathing like a pneumatic nail gun, his face redder than a fire hydrant, he turned around and angrily huffed at me like some kind of out-of-control Lifetime movie husband, the only guy grumpier than me in the courtroom. At that point I figured it was gonna be a long trial.

Not Fran Drescher did her best to entertain us, answer questions, and warn of the oncoming snow storm. While she couldn't get into the specifics, she did say this was a criminal trial--a big one!--and could take up to several weeks. My Spidey Senses started tingling. Even though I didn't want to be there, the trial might provide some excellent writing research and ideas.

Some woman asked Fran Drescher's twin how they picked potential jurors. "Driving and voting records and bad luck," she said. The woman's question was two-fold, however. "But this is the fourth time I've been here this year," the woman implored. "What's up with that?"

Pseudo Fran Drescher responded, "That sucks." (A truly governmental response if I've ever heard one.)

Suddenly a yuppie--flashy in Friday casual wear--took the podium. He said he was our judge (No robe, no liver spots, no tremors while rattling a gavel. Feh. Not my kinda judge.) and apologized for keeping us waiting. Apparently they'd reached a plea agreement and we were free to go.


Just as I'd resigned myself to a long drawn-out affair, almost excited about the sordid adventure awaiting me, then POOF, we were ushered out of the courtroom (and up stairs, then down stairs, then up again, and...).

Oddly disappointed, I trawled home. But at least I wouldn't be called again for another year. Then again...that "rule" didn't hold true for the poor four-time lottery loser in the courtroom.

To paraphrase Almost Fran Drescher, "That sucked!"

A jury of peers has declared Bad Day in a Banana Hammock a very funny mystery with a finding of a 4.2 rating. 22 jurors surely can't ALL be wrong.
Hear ye, hear ye, click here to read the book in session!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sir Wesley Stuart's Cultural Kiddie Corner

Oh, hello there. I'm Sir Wesley Stuart, author extraordinaire of fine and exquisite children's literature. Perhaps you remember my mystery chapter book classic, Oh, Dear, What's Happened to Miss Billyew's Glove? How could you possibly forget my riveting masterpiece of childhood trauma, Hurry, Toddie, Which Way to the Loo? Alas, these classics are long out of print (which is a travesty, I tell you. A travesty!).

Today, however, I'm guest-posting on Stuart R. West's blog  (a rather nice chap, I believe, if a little rough around the edges; he IS, after all, from *sniff* Kansas) to bring you extraordinary news. Announcing my first children's book in decades, Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl! Huzzah.
(Yes, yes, I know you're all as ecstatic as I am over this momentous occasion, but kindly maintain a decorum of dignity. We're not savages, after all.)

Now, I know you're all asking where I've been in the intervening years between books. Therein lies a long story (not a particularly good one) involving my persecution by the local constable and his boobie-headed bobbies regarding a public display involving ice cream, a broom and a box of toads. Total balderdash (or as you yanks are fond of saying, "fake news"). Needless to say, genius is never appreciated during one's lifetime.

Harumph. Now where was I?... Ah, yes!

Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl is a cheeky tale, full of irreverent humor certain to put the red in your little ones' cheeks.  It puts me in mind of my past children's comedy masterwork, Someone's Knicked Me Knickers!

Fish Bowl is the timeless tale of Peggy, a young girl who feels fit to babysit her younger siblings. Mother entrusts the exacting job to Peggy and--oh no, oh my!--she encounters giant floating goldfish, chatty birds, and demanding bees along the way! (Why, I'm absolutely bowled over--bowled over, I say!--with laughter merely recalling my brilliant tale!)

My extraordinary co-creator is a young artist who goes by the one-named (similar to Cher) moniker of Sirac. Sirac is an excellent illustrator and *sniff* funny-book artist who has brought my characters to vivid life. And believe me, ladies and gentlemen, I wouldn't entrust such larger-than-life characters to any mere funny-book artist. If you harbor any doubts, you won't after surveying the glorious art of Sirac. Behold!
For more examples of Sirac's stellar artwork, visit his Facebook page at:

But enough about Sirac. Let's get back to a topic first and foremost on everyone's minds: me.

Our outstanding pièce de résistance, Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl, is recommended for children ages 3 to 8 (although, honestly, I tend to believe any cultured adult would enjoy the extraordinary world Sirac and I have created as well). It can be ordered at Amazon: Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl (Although honestly those Amazonians befuddle me at times; the book is listed as temporarily out of stock, but it's merely more persecution. All orders will be fulfilled soon enough, brutes they can be.).

If you'd rather not wait, you can receive more immediate satisfaction through my publisher's--Guardian Angel Books--website: Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl.

Order now and thank me later. While on the matter of acknowledgements, I suppose I should thank Stuart R. West for hosting me. (But, honestly, it's somewhat dank and dingy here at "Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley." Would it hurt the barbarian to crack a window on occasion? I swan.) So tea-cup lifted, pinky finger extended. "Cheers."