May 27, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

We’ve been living through heavy times. Hard times. Times that try men’s and women’s souls. For today, I’d like to lighten up a bit. What follows is complete and utter nonsense. If you’re looking for a serious piece on recovery, on hope, on mental health, please look elsewhere on the Hope website ( There are more than 40 (50?) (60?) other letters to read there.

You’ve been warned.

The secret to having good ideas is having a lot of ideas and discarding the bad ones. Titles have always been difficult for me. Whether for songs (“Out-of-Town Tuna Fish”), albums (The Sound of One Mind Snapping: Songs from the Zen Baptist Tradition), poems (“Drowning in the Fountain of Eternal Life”), stories (“Let Me Begin Again”) or novels (What Trouble Looks Like, On Account of Because, A Cult of One), I’ve always agonized over titles. Believe it or not, the above are what was left after I’d thrown out the bad ones, of which there were many.

On the eve of my 60th birthday, I had a chance, thanks to Andy Ryan, Duke Mulberry and “Sicker than Most,” I had a chance to live out a childhood dream. Because Jessica Lange was older, married and living in Minnesota, it wasn’t THAT childhood dream. Still, I had a chance to do five or seven minutes of stand-up. My entire schtick was reading off this list of rejected book titles. Slowly and very deadpan.

  1. Winnie the Pooh Goes to War
  2. Exfoliating with Steel-Wool Panties
  3. Things to Eat When You’re Out of Food
  4. The Catcher in the Lye: Baseball Players Who Were Poisoned
  5. Theoretical Knitting
  6. Your Rights in an Elevator
  7. Why Does Mommy Smell Like Cat Food?
  8. The Wonders of Warts
  9. When Bad Things Happen to Bad People
  10. 125 Things to Do Each Morning Before You Get out of Bed
  11. How’d He Do That? A Magician’s Guide to the Gospels
  12. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Off-Brand Scotch
  13. The Little Golden Book of Necromancy
  14. Fortune Cookies: Satan’s Baked Good
  15. Hanukah, Chanukah, Hanukkah—The Brady Bunch Goes Orthodox
  16. Read Your Way to Eyestrain!
  17. How to Keep a Secret—A Care and Feeding Guide
  18. My Little Pony—Pets for Midgets, Dwarfs and Other Little People
  19. Hearing Perfume and Tasting Corduroy: How to ‘Hack’ Your Senses
  20. Alibis for Everything
  21. Toenail Clippings: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!
  22. A History of History
  23. Dream Your Way to Sleep
  24. If You’re So Rich, Why Ain’t You Smart?
  25. Negotiating Your Way into Heaven: Loopholes Edition
  26. A Hole in One and a Garrote on the Other: Murdering Siamese Twins
  27. Crimes You Didn’t know You Could Commit
  28. I Wish You Wouldn’t Do That and Other Things to Say When a Gun is Pointed at You
  29. Learning to Walk without Moving Your Lips
  30. Seven Secrets of Successful Beggars
  31. The Constitution, a Guide for the Handcuffed
  32. Space Travel on a Budget
  33. A Dog in a Tree Has Nowhere to Pee But Down and Other Business Advice
  34. A Farewell to Arms: Living with Amputation
  35. The Pampered Hostage
  36. Don’t Take a Breath Until You Read this Book!
  37. The Old Man and the C+: Telling Your Dad You’re Not Very Smart
  38. Should Recovering Alcoholics Remove Their Red Wine Birthmarks?
  39. Future Lives Therapy
  40. Breeding Dogs vs. Bleeding Dogs: The Case for Enunciation
  41. How You Take Your Coffee Predicts How You Will Take Your Life
  42. The Dummy’s Guide to Developmental Disabilities
  43. A Smuggler’s Guide to Body Orifices
  44. Changing Your Eye Color with Bleach: A Doctor Speaks Out
  45. Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Can Still Leave You Paralyzed
  46. Asparagus and Urine: A Scratch-N-Sniff Book
  47. Change Your Fingerprints and Change Your Plea
  48. Cleaning with Fire
  49. Dental Problems You Can Cure with Pliers
  50. 31 Ways to Attract People
  51. 32 Ways to Make People Leave You Alone
  52. Ankles: How Many Do You Really Need?
  53. A Kid’s Guide to Adultery
  54. An Adult’s Guide to Kidnapping
  55. Diarrhea Diorama: Art Projects Using ALL Your Senses
  56. This Hurts Me More Than It’s Hurting You: Suing Your Victim
  57. The Little Golden Book of Arson
  58. The Bobbsey Twins and the Lindbergh Baby
  59. A Book of Common Slayers: Obscure Murderers
  60. Toaster Recipes for a Crowd
  61. Recipes for Things That Are Not Food
  62. Why Just 26?—The Lost Letters of the Alphabet
  63. How to Grow Taller Using Just the Items in Your Wife’s Digestive System
  64. Lose Weight through Not Eating
  65. Why Does Daddy Cry?
  66. What Happened to My Old New Daddy?: Parenthood in an Age of Serial Monogamy
  67. Virgin Martini Recipe: How to Make Ice
  68. Queen Victoria Never Ate Pasta: The Case Against Globalization
  69. It Was Just a Tap: An Emergency Guide to Hiding Bruises
  70. Claim Your Last Meal Now!
  71. The Idiot’s Guide to Primary Colors
  72. No Atheists in Foxholes: Killing the Nonbeliever Combatant
  73. Things to Do When You’re Trapped in a Hole
  74. YIKES: 27 Things to Be Afraid of
  75. A History of Flashlights
  76. The Snickers without a Toothbrush Diet: Lose Weight Through Losing Your Teeth!
  77. I Want Your Used Q-Tips!
  78. Some Things to Hide in Your Socks
  79. Time Travel Tips for Ghosts
  80. Rabbit’s Feet are Only the Beginning: Talismans Made from Pets!
  81. Songs That Can’t Be Hummed
  82. Drink Your Way to Sobriety!
  83. Things You Can Accomplish without Leaving Your Chair
  84. Things to Make You Feel Old
  85. Untraceable Wedding Day Pranks
  86. Our Bodies, Our Shelves: Home Decorating with Surgical Waste
  87. Home Tongue Repair
  88. Acid Flashbacks as a Legal Defense: Walls Melt and So Do Jailhouse Bars
  89. “In My Day” and Other Phrases to Repel Teenagers
  90. It’s Not Murder if He Survives: Home ICU Construction

Most people can come up with good book titles, even if they can’t write good books. It takes a true artiste to create a bad book title, or so I tell myself when I can’t come up with a good one.

You matter. I matter. We matter.


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