It was a lovely morning. I was standing on my front porch enjoying the dewy sunshine and massaging my gums. Randy Thoughts, my paper boy, who may just be the smartest person I know, came pedaling up the sidewalk—ever reliable, delivering the morning news. I waved to him. The newspaper, tightly batoned, came windmilling across the lawn and—because my hands were occupied—struck me sharply in the liver. Randy came up the walk and joined me on the porch.
“Hey, Mr. Topping, good mornin’! How’s your gout?”
“Randy! If you were going to come up onto the porch anyway, why did you have to whip that paper up here from the sidewalk? I think I’m deeply bruised.”
“Oh, gee, sorry, Mr. Topping. You waved at me, and I thought you were calling for the throw.”
“It couldn’t have been helped, I suppose,” I said. “My reflexes haven’t been very good since that time you decided to store your giant electromagnet underneath my bed without telling me.”
“Yeah. I thought wrapping it in a quilt would make it less harmful. But that’s science for ya’. Like Pasteur said, you learn from grave, life-threatening mistakes. I’m paraphrasing, of course.”
“Of course,” I said.
“Mr. Topping, I’ve been reading Pamper Me with Toucans by Prissy Soufflé, and I have to tell you that I just don’t get ‘chick lit.’”
“Why, they’re just little pieces of gum, Randy. Pretty straightforward, I would think, for a lad of your cerebral enormity.”
“No, not Chiclets,” said Randy. “Chick Lit. The literature of the chick.”
“Yes, of course we’re talking about the literature of the chick. What were you talking about?”
“Darned if I know,” said Randy.
“Well, Randy, here’s the thing. This is a genre of literature that, like all genres, isn’t meant to be understood, per se. It’s just meant to be consumed.”
“Per se. You savvy?”
“Oh, I savvy,” said Randy. “I savvy long time.”
“Of course,” I sagely continued, “like everything else, moderation is the key. Much like Chiclets. For example, an immoderate number of Chiclets is going to result in an unwieldy bolus.”
“What’s a bolus?” asked Randy.
“I don’t know, Randy, but I do know this: moderation is the key. Moderation in all things, always. You’ll never have to worry about a bolus, unwieldy or otherwise, if you follow that advice.”
“But if you do all things in moderation all the time, isn’t that an excess of moderation? Which is then bad, right?”
“Ah, Randy. Now, see, you’ve gone and got yourself caught in a tautological loop!”
“Wow, is that going to cut off my circulation?”
“It shouldn’t,” I advised. “Not as long as you keep palpating your buttocks. Just keep palpating your buttocks. Metaphorically, of course.”
“Boy, I didn’t expect this to happen when I woke up this morning.”
“Go figure,” I said.
“I don’t really feel anything. Metaphorically, of course,” said Randy. “Are you sure that was a tautological loop? ‘Cause it sounds like a paradox to me.”
“Randy, as you might remember, I used to belong to the Philosophy on Gather group.”
“Yeah, but they kicked you out.”
“Only because of my feverish idiocy,” I pointed out. “Not because there was anything wrong with my philosophical bona fides.”
“Let’s break this down,” said Randy.
“Let’s not,” I said. “My liver hurts.”
“If you have to do everything in moderation, then you have to do moderation in moderation.”
“Stop!” I said.
“Which means that, to moderate moderation, you have to do an excess of something.”
“Please shut up!” I cried.
“Or, I suppose, doing an insufficient amount of something would also qualify as immoderate. Like… no miniature marshmallows for a year, or something like that. Although that would be just plain Draconian,” said Randy. “In any case, moderating moderation requires either an excess or a dearth, contradicting the notion of moderation. Hence, a paradox.”
“Tautological loop!” I cried. “Oh, my liver! Seamus!”
When in doubt, I have found it quite convenient to call on a leprechaun. Seamus came skipping out to the porch. Since it was early for him, he was still in his nightshirt, which, on Seamus, looked unfortunately like a baptismal gown.
“Dudes!” said Seamus. “What up! Are we having a rap session?!”
“Seamus, tell Randy about your new favorite show. He’s really into So You Think You Can Riverdance,” I said to Randy.
“Friggin’ hilarious!” said Seamus. “You should see those freaks struggling to keep their arms from moving!”
“Seamus, we’re having a philosophical debate and we need your opinion,” said Randy.
“No we’re not and no we don’t,” I said. But Randy forged ahead anyway and began explaining the situation that he plainly did not understand.
“No offense to our leprechaun,” I said, “But I hardly think Seamus is qualified—”
“Sounds more like a paradox to me,” said Seamus, thoughtfully scratching one of his russety muttonchops.
“That’s what I said,” said Randy.
“Oh, this is too much!” I said. “Friends, please, please keep in mind… I was in a philosophy group. On Gather. Okay? So I think my philosophical pronouncements have a great deal of validity.”
“What’s Gather?” said Seamus.
“It’s something on the Internet,” said Randy.
“The Internet?!” Seamus laughed. “But that doesn’t really exist.”
“That’s what I said,” said Randy.
“The Internet. There’s no there there,” said Seamus.
“Hey, that’s pretty good,” said Randy.
“I just made that up,” said Seamus.
“No, you didn’t!” I cried. “Gertrude Stein said that!”
“Gertrude Stein?” said Seamus. “What’s Gertrude Stein?”
“Probably something else on the Internet,” said Randy.
At this point, much cackling and fist-bumping ensued. I excused myself. It was time to go inside and palpate my buttocks. Metaphorically, of course.
Yesterday, top officials from Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell testified before a congressional committee. They all said, unequivocally, that the BP oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in American history, and growing—was an aberration, and that their companies couldn’t possibly make the same mistake.
You know, even in my most tequila-and-Tylenol-besotted moments of blob writing, I couldn’t come up with material like that. It’s humbling.