Family and/or Autobiography, On Blogging

Repost: Fluffernonsense

In the first few months of this blog’s existence, I was pretty much talking to myself. I didn’t mind this, exactly, for I was still experimenting. But I was, I admit, a wee bit lonely.

This post from April 2012, in its tiny way, got things off the ground for me. After it went live, readers started visiting my blog. More importantly, they stuck around to see what I would say next. 

Wanna know my secret to building a modest online following? Two words: “Monkey Poo.” 

You’re welcome.

***

Some monkeys try to type Hamlet, others make this.
Yummers.

The other day I was hunched over the breakfast table so miserable, tired, and achy that I felt like I was recovering from a hangover. As I had not imbibed anything stronger than orange juice the night before, this all seemed horribly unfair. I could do little more than stare at my waffle, inhale my coffee, and hope that my head would stop throbbing. It was barely 7 a.m. and I had already chalked the day up as a loss.

Ellen and Alex were at the table, too. She was eating a Fluffernutter on a toasted English muffin. He was picking at dry cereal while suspiciously eying the Fluff jar. Alex loves marshmallows, but there’s something about Fluff that he doesn’t quite trust. He won’t go near the stuff.

After a long, silent pause, with each of us absorbed in his and her own private thoughts (My thought being, “I hate everything!”), Alex broke the silence with a question that oozed disgust: “Where does that come from?” he asked, pointing to the Fluff.

The words flew out of my mouth so quickly they surprised my brain.

“Fluff Monkeys,” I said.

“What?” Alex sputtered, eyes wide.

Then he said: “Noooooo. It does not. It does not.”

Then, a millisecond later: “Does it really? Really, daddy? Daddy. Daddy. Does it really?”

“It really does,” I said. “Fluff Monkeys live deep in the jungles of Borneo and explorers go there to look for them.” I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with this, so I sipped my coffee to buy time. It turned out I didn’t really need to do this; before I finished slurping, the rest of the tale came into focus. “When the explorers see a Fluff Monkey, they poke it with a stick to annoy it. Well, as you know, annoyed monkeys throw their poop. And that’s good, because Fluff Monkeys poop Fluff.”

To a six-year-old, there is no better punchline to any joke than “poop.” Alex was in giggle mode.

“So they poop the Fluff and throw it at the explorers. The explorers catch the poop and collect it in wheelbarrows,” I said. “Then the explorers wheel the poop away, put it in jars, and sell it to your mother.”

Ellen feigned the dry heaves. Alex leapt from his chair so he could literally fall on the floor laughing.

We had a few more laughs with the Fluff Monkey idea before we all wheezed a tired sigh and got back to eating. By then I was amazed to discover that my headache was gone.

Behold the healing power of nonsense!

What’s the most sublime bit of nonsense you had ever told another person?

On Writing

What the Burros Taught Me

My plushy muse.

A long time ago, years before my son was born, my wife, Ellen, bought herself a stuffed Eeyore doll at the Disney Store. Her plan was to snuggle it while she slept. It turned out to be the perfect size and shape for someone who sleeps in the fetal position.

So, for the first time since I was seven, a stuffed animal was now resting on my bed. And, well, I guess I regressed.

I soon gave Eeyore a voice and a personality that bore little resemblance to the morose Milne/Disney creation. In the beginning, the persona I created was solely designed to make my wife laugh. As time went on, however, Eeyore – my Eeyore – became more textured and complex.

Eeyore never left the bed ­– so he became a self-appointed Bed Guardian, keeping watch while we were out. Upon our return home from the store or wherever, he would report to Ellen how, during our absence, he had single-handedly thwarted legions of “pirates, ruffians, scalawags, hoodlums, no-goodnicks, and counterfeiters.”

The counterfeiters part raised my wife’s eyebrows, so that became a running joke. (It was later revealed that, to Eeyore, counterfeiters were people who would break into our house and have fits on our kitchen countertops, “which,” Eeyore emphasized, “is quite unsanitary.”)

And, well, it went on from there. Ellen and I learned a new tidbit about Eeyore just about every day. Eeyore’s favorite song is “Funkytown.”  He is fond of ponies, guinea pigs, and Clint Eastwood movies (especially A Fistfull of Dollars, as that is the one where Eastwood kills four guys for scaring his mule.) Eeyore’s weapon of choice against pirates is a sock full of nickels (or as he describes it, “seventy-five cents worth of mayhem.”) He likes to help Ellen with Sudoku but always suggests the number 11. He often uses bad language, loves to dance, is not fond the pullout sofa, and has a seething dislike for the stuffed squirrel on the other side of the room.

As I write this, I fear this all makes me sound insane. I’m harmless, really.

I also have a point. Adopting this stuffed animal’s personality has stimulated my creativity on more occasions than I can count. Talking through Eeyore keeps me from censoring myself; it allows the ideas I might dismiss an opportunity to be heard out loud.

The most obvious Eeyore-inspired story is a manuscript I’m working on titled The Bed Guardian. Eeyore has also frequently inspired me in smaller ways, a turn of phrase here, a glimmer of a plotline there…

Eeyore has even pitched my wife a few children’s book stories. Mind you, I have him pitch ideas that are deliberately and aggressively terrible (my primary goal with Eeyore is still to amuse my wife, after all). But very few bad ideas – even deliberately bad ideas – are all bad. Once in a while I’ll be speaking as Eeyore and my Mike brain will kick in and think, “Hey! That donkey might have something there! Where’s my notebook?”

Getting that kind of inspiration is well worth looking a little crazy.

And that’s good because, now that I think about it, that stuffed squirrel has been kind of quiet lately. I wonder if he might have anything to add.

On Writing

Fluffernonsense

The other day I was hunched over the breakfast table so miserable, tired, and achy that I felt like I was recovering from a hangover. As I had not imbibed anything stronger than orange juice the night before, this all seemed horribly unfair. I could do little more than stare at my waffle, inhale my coffee, and hope that my head would stop throbbing. It was barely after 7 AM and I had already chalked the day up as a loss.

Ellen and Alex were at the table, too. She was eating a Fluffernutter on a toasted English muffin. He was picking at dry cereal while suspiciously eyeing the Fluff jar. Alex loves marshmallows, but there’s something about Fluff that he doesn’t quite trust. He won’t go near the stuff.

After a long, silent pause, with each of us absorbed in his and her own private thoughts (my thought being, “I hate everything!”), Alex broke the silence with a question that oozed disgust: “Where does that come from?” he asked, pointing to the Fluff.

I replied so quickly my statement surprised me.

“Fluff Monkeys,” I said.

“What?” Alex sputtered, eyes wide.

Then he said: “Noooooo. It does not. It does not.”

Then, a millisecond later: “Does it really? Really, daddy? Daddy. Daddy. Does it really?”

“It really does,” I went on, warming to the idea. “Fluff Monkeys live deep in the jungles of Borneo and explorers go there to look for them.” I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with this, so I sipped my coffee to buy some time. It turned out I didn’t really need to do this; before I finished slurping, the rest of my tale came into focus. “When the explorers see a Fluff Monkey, they poke it with a stick to annoy it.

“Well, as you know, annoyed monkeys throw their poop. And that’s good, because Fluff Monkeys poop Fluff.”

To a six-year-old, there is no better punchline to any joke than “poop.” Alex was in giggle mode.

“So they poop the Fluff and throw it at the explorers. The explorers catch the poop and collect it in wheelbarrows,” I said. “Then the explorers wheel the poop away, put it in jars, and sell it to your mother.”

Ellen feigned the dry heaves as Alex leapt from his chair. He literally fell on the floor laughing.

We had a few more laughs with the Fluff Monkey idea before we all wheezed a tired sigh and got back to eating. By then I was amazed to discover that my headache was gone.

Behold the healing power of nonsense!

So let me open up the floor: What’s the most sublime bit of nonsense you ever told a child?