Messin’ with Mark, God’s Sitcom – Episode 17 – Cartoon Physics

Looking back, it is clear to me that my starring role in God’s sitcom (or YouTube prank channel) for heaven’s amusement didn’t start when I was an adult.

As a kid growing up without an iPhone or laptop, Saturday morning and after-school cartoons were the best thing happening for the under 13 set. I grew up in one of those houses where the TV was a babysitter. It was always on. As a result, I was exposed to “cartoon physics” far too early, before I had learned to properly separate fantasy and reality. I just assumed since the people who created these fantastic worlds were obviously geniuses, they would also keep the content of said cartoons factual, and would never lie to sweet, bright-eyed children. So, I believed whole-heartedly that:

  1. If you run off a cliff and don’t know you did, you will hover in the air until you look down and realize the ground is no longer beneath you. Solution – don’t look down and you can float indefinitely.


If you paint a tunnel on the face of a cliff, the paint magically dissolves all that rock and you can drive through it like any other tunnel. But again, it’s important not to think about it too much, or you will not have the power to pass through, sort of like that train station portal in Harry Potter. Wile E. Coyote found this out the hard way over and over.


If you are shooting a bow and arrow and forget to let go of the arrow, you will fly forward instead of the arrow.


If you fall from a great height, you will take on the shape of an accordion and regain your original dimensions within seconds. You will also make an accordion sound, which is kind of a bonus.


Protruding cliffs that have been there for centuries are actually very brittle and can be snapped off just by hanging on them for a few seconds. Oh, and they can fall on top of you and squash you flatter than Florida, but you’ll be okay in a minute or so.


Dynamite can blow up right in your face and the charring about the head, face and neck will go away by itself almost immediately.


The skull is hard enough to break through solid rock.


You can get squashed as thin as paper and, again, you’ll be fine. You just need to wait until you pop back to your original shape. 


You can fall from any height and survive. 


When I was about eight, I decided to test Looney Tunes Physics. I climbed onto the roof of a friend’s garage, stood at the edge, and reminded myself that if I stepped off and just didn’t think about it, I would stay aloft, floating like a balloon. Boy, would my friends be impressed when they found out I could fly! I took a deep breath, stepped off, and . . .


. . . hit the ground like a bag of potatoes.

As I lay there on the grass waiting for the air to return to my lungs, I immediately went to work thinking about what I did wrong. I concluded that the thought of not thinking about it must have put the kibosh on it. It was one of those Samurai mushin / no-mind” things. Not thinking about it equals thinking about it. 

But I was not easily discouraged. Having seen a documentary on the Wright brothers, and how many times they had tried to fly before they were successful, I vowed to myself that I would try again. However, avoidance of pain being a greater motivator than the desire for schoolyard fame as the first flying (okay, hovering in mid-air) boy, I never did. Just another childhood dream that swirled and died in the puff of dust my body made when it hit the ground. I never watched Wile E. Coyote fall off those cliffs the same way again, and I stopped rooting for that annoying Road Runner. Compassion is always magnified by personal experience. 

I’m sure the re-run of me stepping off that roof and going splat is a big favorite in heaven’s theater. Slapstick plays well up there, too. I seem to recall my eight year-old self saying those words I would repeat many times in the subsequent years . . . “Well-played, God. Well-played.”


Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 16 – Bugs: God’s Miniature Messengers


Welcome to episode 16 of Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other for a moment, then said, in perfect unison, “Naaaaaaaahhh!” 

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode –

Sometimes God goes for simple pranks, like having me stub my big toe on a sprinkler, stepping on a jack or Lego in the middle of the night, etc., but sometimes he gets a little more creative and uses earthly creatures to set me up for another episode.

For instance, I can’t complete a full day of gardening without some insect flying up one of my nostrils with the blinding speed and total commitment of an alien spacecraft speeding into the mothership portal to evade enemy fire. It’s quite disconcerting, especially since I love cavorting with nature BEFORE the sitcom starts.

When the bug enters my apparently very interesting nostril, the freak-out begins, which includes running around the yard and tripping over everything it’s possible to trip over, snorting like a wounded water buffalo, covering one nostril with the index finger and blowing, and sticking the hose directly into said nostril to flush out whatever is up there. Then the realization sets in that I’m knee-deep in another one of God’s sitcoms and all the angels are laughing their heavenly tushes off up there. 


One day, after clearing the bug from my proboscis, I said my usual “well played, God” and thought, “Okay, that gets the bug up my nose out of the way. The episode must be over. Now I can enjoy the rest of the day worry-free.” No such luck. It was just one of a steady stream of bugs. Word had apparently gotten out that there was a hidden bug paradise up my beak – some kind of insect Shangri-La – and they were all determined to go there.


Of course, it doesn’t help that we’ve all seen those super-magnified photos of insects and know what hideous alien-like monstrosities they all are. 

To know that one of them is clamoring around in my Schnitzpiece is unbearable. I once discovered, while trying to dislodge one from my honker, that I’m quite a gymnast. I did a triple twisting double backflip with no previous training. Ripped my pants from bow to stern in the process, too. 

I wonder, do bugs think? Are they flying around, enjoying the sunlight when they see me, fixate on my nose and think, “Hey, I wonder what’s up there?” Are boogers a delicacy in the bug world? Are they looky-loo’s checking out a possible new apartment? Or, as I have suspected all along, is this just God getting bored and messing with us again? The bible says He “moves in mysterious ways.” Maybe that’s just a nice way of saying he has a really warped sense of humor. 

Of course, the ears are also a prime target for God’s little winged ambassadors. I got one in there so deep once, I thought I was standing next to a double-propped helicopter. 

One also has to wonder what goes through their minds as they enter. Maybe they think they’re conquering the mothership, some kind of bug heroism. Maybe they even yell something triumphant in their bug language. 

Then they get in there and find only nose hairs and boogers. Must be kind of a let-down for them.

I suspect the bug in the nose/ear/eye is a favorite rerun up there in heaven, and the angels are probably asking for new episodes so they can see what other gymnastics moves I don’t know I know. But they’re not gonna get me again because I wore this new outfit the last time I was gardening and not one bug got in!


I live in Southern California and it gets toasty in there on 100 degree days but it’s worth it. Ha ha! Take that, God! 

Wait a second – I just realized watching me clank around in that suit and sweat my patoot off was probably another episode of Messin’ with Mark. Doh!

That’s what I get for trying to outsmart God. He’s always one step ahead. 



Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 12 – Harassed in Hawaii, Part 1 – Frog Juice


Warning: Not for the squeamish. 

A familiar sight to anyone visiting the Hawaiian islands, one that doesn’t make it onto postcards, are the squashed frogs that litter the highways. This seems to be the perfect habitat for them. The only thing messing it up are tourists in rented and always red Jeep Wranglers obliviously splattering them as they gaze upon the beautiful scenery. Some are freshly squashed and some are dried-out, pickle-colored roof shingles. It’s quite sad considering frogs already got jipped in the looks department, and are forced to live out their lives in cold water, sustained only by a steady diet of bugs. 


I went to Hawaii (the island of Kauai, to be specific) for the first time with my parents when I was freshly eighteen. My brother didn’t want to go so I brought a friend. We pleaded with my father to let us rent our own Jeep but he wisely said no. They wanted to rest on our first night there but we were busting to see the island so we set out on foot. A light, warm rain was falling as we walked up the main road to see what we could find. We had seen a McDonald’s on the way to the hotel so that was our first destination to get fueled-up for whatever came next. 

We came to a long, street level bridge that passed over a stream carrying water from the shield mountains into the ocean. We had seen a few frogs along the way but for some reason, this bridge was teeming with them. They were actually overlapping, hopping over each other to get to wherever it is frogs go. There was no other way around because of fences on either side of the river, so we stood there studying the bridge for several minutes, trying to figure out where we were going to step to get through the sea of writhing, jumping green.

Here’s a visual to give you the idea –


We actually considered turning back, but with McDonald’s french fries and adventure calling, decided to press on. Slowly, we stepped around or shuffled through the frogs to avoid hurting them. Kind of like the game Frogger in reverse.

We were about halfway across the bridge when it happened. A caravan of Hawaiian construction workers in work trucks came speeding along, clearly not as concerned about the well-being of our amphibious friends as we were. Not concerned at all, actually. Mind you, there were no signs like this to warn speeding drivers.


I suppose they had no choice – whether they drove quickly or slowly, or asked nicely, the frogs wouldn’t have cleared the bridge. So they just blasted right through them. The first thing we heard was rapid-fire popping noises like distant cannon fire. We looked back and realized the noise was exploding frogs. A green and red wave shot from the outer edges of their tires. And the wave was coming our way.

A word of explanation . . . when frogs are run over by a two to four-thousand pound vehicle, they don’t just flatten out neatly because, as their plump bodies indicate, they are very juicy. Unfortunately for my friend and I, who had nowhere to run, they explode, sending frog juice and frog innards in every direction. We made this discovery the hard way as we started feeling eyeballs and internal organs hitting us on the left sides of our legs like gooey shrapnel. All we could do was squat down at the side of the bridge, turn our backs, cover our faces, and wait for the splattering onslaught to end. 

Some frogs are small and cute, like this –

awkward frog

These frogs were neither small nor cute. They were this kind – 


The kind with plenty of innards to rudely splash on tourists.

After the trucks passed, we stood up and looked at the swath of pressed frogs, some still blinking and twitching, in their wake. Then we looked at our backs. We had both been given frog jackets. It was in our hair in the back, too. Being surf bums, we both had long hair then, long hair now full of tongues and eyeballs.

There was no point in even taking turns picking the stuff off for each other like lower primates because there was just too much. We had frog suits. We were now indistinguishable from the frogs and they accepted us as one of their own, kind of like when people cover themselves in blood and dead meat so zombie’s won’t notice them. 


We continued our walk across the bridge, praying there would be no more caravans, and finally made it to the other side. The sun came out and began to bake the minced frog parts until it became a kind of turtle shell on our backs. We grimly walked into McDonald’s, Swamp Thing and Swamp Thing 2, trying to keep only the front halves of ourselves visible to the patrons so as not to put anyone off their food. Unfortunately for them, we had to show the entire room our backs to get to the bathroom because walking backward would have been too conspicuous. Most of them saw our frog layer and retched audibly as we passed. (“Cancel the relish, please!”) We went into the bathroom and threw away our shirts. Since it was Hawaii, nobody cared that we were half-naked in a restaurant. (The only break that day.)

As we sat down on the few remaining frog eyeballs stuck to our butts to eat our McDonald’s fries, I was somewhat indignant that no Hawaiian postcard I had ever seen featured a single frog. 


See? Nothing but hula girls, surfing and colorful flowers. I was also chagrined by the fact that being adorned by frog parts would hamper my ability to win the heart of said hula girl should I happen upon one.

I’ll tell you, nothing says “you’re not in Kansas anymore” quite like getting buried alive in frog innards. What puts this in the purview of God’s sitcom with me as the unwitting star (and my friend the co-star, and without even an audition) is the fact that there were no cars on the road except when we crossed that bridge, the point of no return where there was no escaping the frog explosions.

So, once again, well played, God. Well played. And as usual, not a single residual, unless you count the frog odor that wouldn’t wash off. Have you ever sniffed a dead frog? I don’t recommend it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Hawaiian Adventure wherein I am almost devoured alive by giant crabs for God’s and heaven’s amusement. 


Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 8 – The Lost Key



For those of you new to this show, let me briefly explain:

God was looking down through the clouds one day and laughing hysterically when Jesus happened to walk by. Curious, He came over and asked, “What are you looking at, Pops?”

“Oh, just pranking Mark again,” God replied.

“Him again!” Jesus said. “Come on, Dad! What do You have against that guy anyway?”

“I don’t know,” God replied. “There’s just something about him. I mean, look at his face.”

Jesus looked down and found himself laughing, too.

“Yeah, I can see what you mean. Look at his face all twisted and anguished.”

They laughed together for a while before realizing that they were, well, God and Jesus. They gradually stopped laughing and looked at each other. God said, “No, wait a minute. You’re right, son. I created that retched soul so I shouldn’t make fun of him. Pranking him is very un-godlike, so I’m going to stop.”

They looked at each other for a few seconds, then said, in unison, “Naaaaaaaa!” and laughed some more.

The pranks became so elaborate and hilarious (to Them, not me) that Jesus suggested making a regular show out of it. They called it “Messin’ with Mark” and every week, all the angels gather around that celestial widescreen (High Def, of course) to catch the latest episode.

Yes, my life is comic relief in heaven. It’s the only explanation.

Here’s another one they got me with. They really pulled out all the stops this time.


About ten years ago, my wife and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I don’t like to carry all my keys in my pocket during a hike so I took the car key off and left the rest in the car. We came back and I put the key somewhere in the car without reattaching it to the keyring. We made a fire, roasted some weenies and marshmallows, and went to sleep in the back of the SUV.

The next morning, we were cleaning up our campsite when I saw a magpie inside my car. It was the only time I had ever seen a bird of any kind inside the car. I walked over and it flew away. When we got in the car to go home, I couldn’t find the key. We searched and searched, even emptying out the car completely, but it was GONE. 

Then it dawned on me. The magpie must have taken it. After all, they are notorious for stealing shiny things and decorating their nests with them. Keys are shiny. Ergo, the magpie was the culprit! It made perfect sense to me.


So, cursing the magpie, I set out in search of its nest, imagining it looked something like this.


The next problem: As everyone knows, the Grand Canyon is a little on the large side. Nineteen hundred and two square miles large, so I didn’t like my chances of actually finding a particular nest belonging to a particular magpie in a particular tree in all that space, but what other choice did I have?

Here’s where I was looking – 


My wife was not encouraging. She said, “Are you crazy? You’ll never find it! The Grand Canyon is the biggest hole on earth!” I resisted the urge to give the obvious sarcastic response and marched purposefully onward until her derisive laughter faded in the distance.

I struggled to maintain hope as I searched dozens of trees and tracked every singing bird. The old “needle in a haystack” metaphor came to mind.  


But, oh, how glorious my victory would be when I snatched the missing key from the magpie’s nest!


After two hours of searching and the onset of hypothermia, I finally gave up and returned to the car to find my wife, the only sensible one in our group of two, relaxing in a lawn chair, sipping a cool drink and wondering why she married me. 

The next challenge was figuring out how to get a new key made. Jesus must have told God to have a little pity on me because another family came through the campsite. They said they were on their way to town. I asked them to send a locksmith out. They promised they would. Five hours later, he showed up. Because of how far away we were, he charged me approximately nineteen times the normal amount for making a new key. The expression on my face when he said the price surely fetched big laughs up in heaven.

The next day, back in civilization, we stopped at A&W Root Beer for lunch. I pulled out the recessed cup holder in my dashboard and the key was sitting right there. Imagine my chagrin. It was the ONLY place we didn’t look. And guess who put it there? My wife! We were actually both to blame because I had pushed the cup holder back in without noticing the key. I got out of the car, looked up at the uncaring sky, fell to my knees, raised my hands and screamed, “Whyyyyyyyy???” 

It was sort of like what tennis players do when they make a game-winning shot, except without the happiness.

France Tennis French Open

This was the climax of the show, the point where God, Jesus and their heavenly host of angels all laughed their holy tookus’s off. They laughed so hard, feathers shaken out of their wings rained down all over Arizona.

The only “residuals” I receive as the star of this show has been the residual embarrassment of my wife retelling this story at multiple parties and gatherings in the ten years since it happened. 

Nicely played, God. Nicely played.

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 7 – The Shot Heard ‘Round the Playground, or How My Fear of Pilgrims Began




The sitcom in heaven starring Yours Truly didn’t begin when I was an adult. No, those pranksters up there (God and Jesus) have been pulling this stuff on me since I was a kid. Here’s one of the earliest episodes. 


I was in third grade and starting to get pretty good on the monkey bars. My friends and I liked to play a game all kids play called “Chicken” wherein one kid starts on one side and one on the other, then swing hand-over-hand toward each other and try to pull each other down with their legs. 

There is an inherent danger in this game that is obvious to any grown man, but as a boy, I was oblivious to such danger. Oh, I had heard about getting kicked in the fellas but I didn’t understand (until this day) how or why it hurt more than getting kicked anywhere else. 

Opponents for this game weren’t usually chosen, they were just whoever happened to get on the bars at the same time. My random (or maybe not) opponent that day was a little girl who dressed like and had the severe, no-nonsense face of a sadistic orphanage headmistress. She was terrifying in her black dress with black shoes, complete with square, silver pilgrim buckle. Her hair was pulled back so tight, she could hardly blink.

I almost backed out but changed my mind because my friends were watching and I would never live it down. Before I knew it, we were swinging toward each other. I smiled and made some sort of joke but her stern expression just became sterner. It was clear she was intent on destroying me. 

As we got close enough to leg wrestle, I opened my legs to wrap them around her, as custom dictates. She, however, seized the opportunity to send a kick right up the middle an NFL field goal kicker would envy. I can still remember with extreme clarity her skinny legs and the heavy shoes dangling limply until the last moment when one of those bird twigs suddenly came toward me with an athleticism and accuracy nobody could have predicted. The pilgrim buckle connected squarely with my prepubescent berries, and all at once I understood what all the fuss was about. I understood why there was no “hitting below the belt” in the boxing matches I watched with my dad. I didn’t have long to understand, though, because less than one second after she buried her pilgrim shoe where God split me, I was face-down in the sand wondering what just happened.

The bell rang ending recess and all the kids started running to class. Lizzie Borden’s granddaughter laughed and joined them. After the initial gasp of horror, my friends felt too sorry for me to even say anything or offer assistance. It was one of those “it’s best to leave him alone” moments. And alone I was, for fifteen minutes after the other kids returned to class. I heard my teacher come outside and yell my name. I rolled over, spit out some sand, and started to yell, then thought twice. I was hidden by the short wooden wall of the sand in the play area. I could stay there forever, or at least until the first snow of winter covered me up. 

After another thirty minutes or so, I got up, hobbled to the drinking fountain, washed the remaining sand out of my mouth and nostrils, and snuck back into class. To this day, I have a morbid fear of pilgrims, or more correctly, pilgrim shoes. Fortunately, you don’t see pilgrims or quakers around much anymore. However, I still hyperventilate and break into a cold sweat at my daughter’s annual elementary school Thanksgiving show.


Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom – Episode 5, “The Mummy on the Plane.”


Okay, if this isn’t proof positive I’m the subject of a YouTube prank channel owned and operated by God Himself, I don’t know what is.


I was returning from Hawaii, seated at a nice window seat. I had arrived early so I was the first one on the plane. The plane filled to capacity for half an hour or so but the seat next to me remained empty. “What luck!” I thought. “I’m going to have two seats to myself!” But God had other plans. You see, I didn’t know it, but I was again smack dab in the middle of another one of His pranks.

With no seats left, I saw a man coming down the aisle who can only be described as “the mummy.” He wore Bermuda shorts and a tank top but his arms, legs, neck and face were covered with gauze. Old gauze. Gauze with yellow liquid seeping through it.

“God in heaven, no,” I thought. “Me in heaven, yes,” said God, laughing.

Jesus said, “Dad, you really should stop. This is going too far.” Jesus tries to stick up for me, but ultimately he must capitulate to that prankster Dad of his. God might actually stop pranking me if Jesus didn’t always end up laughing, too. He needs to commit. But I digress.

So the mummy sat down next to me. I tried to squeeze myself against the outer wall of the plane to avoid contact with him but it was a smaller plane so the seats were even narrower than usual. 

“Okay, what’s going on?” I asked. 

“With what,” the mummy asked.

“With YOU,” I replied. “Is it contagious?” There was no time for manners. We had a three hour flight ahead of us and the plane was about to take off.

“I don’t know, dude,” he said, meekly. “I caught something in Fiji and nobody’s sure what it is.”

“Right, that’s it,” I said. “Let me out.”

The mummy stood up. I got up, wished him luck, walked to the stewardess station, and told them I refused to sit next to a walking, talking mummy. After some argument about FAA regulations, they agreed to let me sit on one of their fold-out chairs that was apparently made for four-year olds. Suffice to say it was not a luxurious trip. Of course, my squirming discomfiture was only more fodder for the video. Angels need to laugh, too, maybe even more than mortals.

Hopefully, being God’s little cartoon character will get me an instant pass when I get up there. There should be some reward for all this abuse. Again, this is another story that can be filed under “Funny now – not so funny at the time.”