Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom! Episode 20 – The Sting

Welcome to episode 20 of Messin’ with Mark! 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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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 – The Sting.

st,small,215x235-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1u2

As you will see, dear reader, that title has a double-meaning. It was a sting operation by God and I also got my butt stung off by bees. Allow me to explain . . .

I got a wild hair one weekend and decided to go rock climbing. I didn’t want to drive far so I went to Griffith Park, which is a few miles from my house. I wouldn’t admit it then, but in retrospect I must admit I was a classic weekend warrior. Minimal rock climbing experience, no proper gear, not really in top shape for such activity, and no research ahead of time on the area where I’d be hiking. If I had known the mountain was called BEE ROCK (!), I probably would have chosen another one. 

Here it is. Looks inviting enough, doesn’t it?

bee-rock

See that crevice at the bottom right? That’s where I started. I got to the top and was almost doing the splits with a seventy foot drop beneath me when it finally dawned on me that I had written a check my body couldn’t cash. It was also at that moment that I realized I was smack-dab in the middle of another episode of Messin’ with Mark, God’s sitcom!

As if I weren’t in enough trouble, bees started to sting me. Dozens of them. And I couldn’t run or hide. All I could do was stay there clinging to vertical rock faces on either side, hoping the bees would get bored.

They didn’t. They invited friends.

fatherly_kvw_bees_feature

I realized I needed to get down or move over. There was only one crag within distance – jumping distance. I knew if I stayed there, the collective bee venom would paralyze me and I would fall to my untimely demise. 

I can just imagine the control booth up in heaven at about this time, with Jesus looking at his Dad sideways, wondering if he was going to let up. Seeing He had no intention of cutting me any slack whatsoever, He had to say something.

JESUS: Okay, Dad, you’ve gone too far this time. He’s gonna die.

GOD: So what? I’m God. I’ll just make another one.

JESUS: But this is a comedy. He’s the original actor. Sequels and look-alike’s never capture the original magic. Didn’t we learn anything from Transporter 3 and 4?

GOD: Maybe you’re right. I’ll put a crag next to him, but far enough away so he has to make a death-defying jump from a splits position to reach it. Should be exciting!

JESUS: Okay, but please just make sure he makes it. Seeing him go splat would definitely be bad for ratings. I mean, humiliating him mercilessly over and over is great entertainment, but killing him outright is just mean. Nobody will tell you you’re a terrible director because you’re God and all, but they’ll be thinking it.

GOD: As if that helps. I know what they’re thinking, too.

JESUS: Dad, don’t get all Old Testament on me.

GOD: Okay, okay! I got the message.

So I jumped, caught it, and managed to crawl far enough up the mountain that the bees finally realized I wasn’t trying to steal their honey or whatever the hell it is bees get all uppity about. 

Bees seem so cute from a distance, flying from flower to flower. The springtime innocence of it warms the very soul. Not so much when there’s 93,000 of them all intent on stinging every square millimeter of your personage. And they look a lot bigger when they’re actually on you, too.

stung1-970x545

 

I spent the next few days looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which I’m sure also fetched big laughs up in heaven.

H1-121029956.jpg&cci_ts=20121024165232&ExactW=320

As I lay there on the couch, slapping on the calamine lotion, I looked through the window to the big, blue sky and repeated those words I have said so many times before, usually in various states of emotional and/or physical trauma . . .

“Well-played, God. Well-played.”

god-laughing

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom! Episode 19 – The Wallabee Walloping.

 

Welcome to episode 19 of Messin’ with Mark! 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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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 – The Wallabee Walloping!

walla-walla

I was twelve years old when I experienced a harrowing event that would come to be known in family circles as “The Wallabee Walloping.” In retrospect, however, I realize it was just another episode of Messin’ with Mark, God’s sitcom. 

One of my favorite places to go at the time was a store in our local mall called Spencer’s Gifts.

spencer-banner

I loved Spencer’s for several reasons. First and most importantly, it carried whoopee cushions, handshake buzzers, itching powder and other artillery I employed in the ongoing war between myself and my older brother, Paul.

I also fell for their “x-ray specs” once – that promised the ability to see through girls’ clothing.

X-ray Specs a

Even at that age, however, I couldn’t figure out how a hole cut in cardboard painted with a spiral design could accomplish such a feat. I tried it with my sixth grade heart-throb, Janis Stephenson, but her clothes did not become the least bit transparent, or even opaque. Imagine! Duping sweet, innocent children out of a whole dollar like that.  

Spencer’s also had a wide variety of “adult” paraphernalia, harmless stuff like breast-shaped coffee mugs, which provided my introduction to sexual education, for better or worse. (Probably worse.) Over the years, sadly, Spencer’s has become increasingly pornographic, but back then it was still relatively tame. 

But my favorite thing about Spencer’s was the back room where they kept the lava lamps, spinning disco lights, and fiber optic lamps with filaments that changed colors in waves every few seconds.

I would stare at them in a trancelike state, imagining I was an astral traveler and the tips of the fiber optic filaments were tiny stars outside the window of my spaceship. The eyes (and the mind of a twelve-year old) are easily entertained. Those lamps are tacky now but back then they were state of the art, and every self-respecting bachelor had at least one in his swingin’ bachelor pad.

There were always plenty of black light posters to flip through, too. The stalking black panther with deadly, green eyes peering menacingly through jungle ferns.

c492cf89c765121786e643c2a51031bb--black-light-posters-art-posters

The biker on a long, low chopper rumbling through the desert at night, his girlfriend leaning back languidly against the sissy bar, her long hair flowing behind her, the vast cosmos pitching and twirling overhead. The peace signs set against mind-bending optical illusions, and on and on.

I can’t explain how or why that explosion of illuminated color made me so happy. It just did. I spent about an hour there once a week gazing at the posters and lights, listening to the perpetually blasting music.

And that’s when I heard it . . . THE BEST SONG EVER. It was called Dream Weaver by Gary Wright.

The cosmic synthesizer intro and space-traveling lyrics made the electric wonderment of Spencer’s back room even more magical. I couldn’t wait to buy the 45. (For readers under thirty, that’s not a gun – it’s a small vinyl record album with one song on each side. Primitive, I know.)

gary-wright-dream-weaver-warner-bros-back-to-back-hits

I left Spencer’s and rushed to the nearest Licorice Pizza (a long-dead record store), bought it for a buck and rushed home to play it and learn all the words.

Nobody was home when I arrived. I sprinted into my room and played Dream Weaver about fifty times, singing my heart out until I had mastered the vocals down to the slightest nuance. In retrospect, the lyrics were probably the main reason the song resonated with me so much. The stress I was living with because of Paul’s daily harassment had me fantasizing about escaping from the real world.

I’ve just closed my eyes again
and climbed aboard the dream weaver train.
Driver, take away my worries of today
and leave tomorrow behind.

I was completely lost in the music when I heard someone yell “Hey!” I looked over and saw something flying toward me, flapping like a bird. Before I could duck, it hit me in the mouth. Pain seared into my lips and I tasted blood. I opened my eyes and saw my brother standing in the doorway, laughing smugly. He had thrown a hardbound math textbook at me and yelled simultaneously so I would look over just as it collided with my face. His timing was perfect.

Blinded by rage, I jumped up and ran toward him in full attack mode. Unfortunately, since I had no fighting skills and weighed only seventy pounds, this mode consisted of closing my eyes and flailing my arms wildly. it was a very bad idea. Before I continue, allow me to explain why.

Paul wore shoes throughout his teenage years called Wallabee’s. They were popular at the time but were only one small step above a moccasin in quality. It was impossible to run, kick a ball, or do anything that required a sudden movement without one or both of them flying off. The leather laces were merely decoration.

He was fifteen, high most of the time like everyone else in the 1970’s, with more than his share of pimples, and long hair held in place by a blue bandanna. As that description implies, he was not an athlete by any stretch. However, as I ran across the room to exact revenge, I made the sudden and unfortunate discovery that he was a sort of Wallabee marksman. Perhaps he practiced firing them at tin cans in the backyard. I don’t know. But let me tell you, his accuracy was deadly, for my attack (the aforementioned running with flailing arms strategy) was foiled mid-thrust as he very casually kicked off one of his Wallabee’s, scoring a direct hit to my prepubescent left testicle. I crumpled to the ground, contorted in agony and emitted a noise that surprised even me; a noise I was not even aware I had the ability to make; something akin to a walrus’s mating call. The room spun counter-clockwise as Paul’s raucous, unguarded laughter blended with the mystical strains of Dream Weaver, providing a surreal, Fellini-esque quality to my already desperate and pain-addled emotional state.

Fly me high through the starry skies,
maybe to an astral plane.
Cross the highways of fantasy.
Help me to forget today’s pain.

We’ve all heard stories of people accessing supernatural strength to save themselves or loved ones from sure annihilation. Such was the force that flooded through my diminutive frame that day. Bleeding profusely from both lips, my only recently descended left testicle throbbing like a lighthouse beacon, I rose up valiantly again and rushed headlong toward my brother with murder in my heart. He backed up a few steps and fired the other Wallabee. His limp and awkward style belied his deadliness.

This will sound like an exaggeration but, as God is my witness, that second Wallabee scored a direct hit to the other testicle. Down I went again. That was it. I was finished. Curtains. Kaput. My brother brushed his palms together as if to say, “My work here is done” and picked up his Wallabee’s, one of which was lying within sniffing distance of my nose. He said “Let that be a lesson to ya!” and walked away, supremely satisfied and chuckling contentedly as I lay there in the fetal position, drooling and bleeding into the shag carpet, waiting in vain for the pain to subside as Gary Wright finished his song.

Ooh dream weaver,
I believe you can get me through the night.
Ooh dream weaver,
I believe we can reach the morning light.

But my mind was no longer on such lofty subjects as music. I was already plotting my revenge as I lay studying the intricacies of the carpet weave. However, being so much smaller than him, my attempts at getting some payback had to be non-physical and very, very devious. If he thought I was going to forget this latest assault on my person, he was sorely mistaken. As this story attests, I still haven’t. One never forgets his first shot to the fella’s, let alone two in rapid succession, with a pair of busted lips on the side.

Which brings me back to the most important reason I liked Spencer’s Gift’s so much – weaponry. The itching powder I had purchased for just such an occasion came in very handy that night. Suffice to say Paul slept very uncomfortably as I giggled through swollen lips. It was so funny, I even forgot about the ice pack.

 

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 18 – The Rocket Pop

47058ffa467ddb74cd54f90189becbbf

Welcome to episode 18 of Messin’ with Mark! 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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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 – The Rocket Pop.

It was a typical, blistering hot day in Los Angeles. I was employed as an insurance claims adjuster. And yes, it sucked. I was early for my appointment, sitting in my car on a street with no shade. It was such a bad neighborhood, even the trees had moved away. To make things even more enjoyable, the air-conditioning in my car had gone out. The sweat was lashing off me like someone had installed tiny faucets in every one of my pores. Then I saw him coming – the ice cream man.

011b3e6cd431ec2a11cc09a2f3e48e9e--ice-scream-shave-ice

No celestial vision had ever been more dramatic. I crawled out of my car and flagged him down. 

I’ve always been a sucker for ice cream trucks. Who doesn’t have wonderful memories about them?

Ice-Cream-Man

I love the ice cream truck so much, I seriously considered becoming an ice cream man so I could be the purveyor of that perfect combination, joy and sugar. Writing is a lonely profession, but handing treats to tots isn’t lonely at all. The ice cream man is the hero of every street in America.

good-humor

I hadn’t bought anything from an ice cream truck for years so I was excited and nostalgic when I lined up with a bunch of kids and started to order my childhood usual – a Rocket Pop. 

bustedtees.e74aa06d-4eaa-4448-a6aa-6d352d6d

Some call it a Bomb Pop but I prefer Rocket Pop. Rockets are shot up into space for exploration. Bombs are dropped on people. The choice is obvious.

The only problem with the Rocket Pop is I enjoy the red (cherry) part and have to suffer through the white and blue parts when it’s gone. That’s when I saw it – the Bomb Pop JUNIOR! All cherry. No white and blue at all, just red cherry-flavored goodness. Yay!

Bomb-Pop-Jr.-Cherry

So I bought one, returned to the sauna (my car) and ate the living heck out of that Bomb Pop, Jr. I was like a bulldog gnawing on a bone. I finished it and was basking in the warm afterglow when I happened to glance at myself in the rear-view mirror. In a moment of pure horror, I was reminded that no part of the Rocket Pop, Bomb Pop, or any other pop is natural. No, it is saturated with RED DYE NUMBER 5. And so were my lips. 

This was turning into a real trip down Memory Lane! Another item came to mind from my childhood that was both novelty and candy – wax lips. 

fakewaxlips_display_image

Yep, that’s what they looked like, and my appointment was just arriving, pulling into her driveway. She saw me and waved as she pulled in so it was too late to duck behind the dashboard. I grabbed a warm bottle of water, got out of the car, and splashed my face repeatedly but nothing worked. Nothing could make a dent in the red dye #5. In fact, the frantic rubbing only made the redness worse. I might as well have put on a fright wig and completed the clown outfit. 

040527_bozo_ccol.grid-4x2

There was nothing left to do but face the music. I walked to the lady and extended my hand, hoping she had poor vision. She didn’t, and she wasn’t one for subtlety.

“What happened to your lips?” she asked, looking slightly frightened.

“I ate a Bomb Pop Junior,” I replied.

“Why did you call me Junior?” she asked.

“No, the thing I ate is called a Bomb Pop Junior,” I explained.

“Oh, well, whatever you ate, it sure painted you up,” she said, laughing unguardedly. 

I then had to conduct an inspection and take a recorded statement looking like Bozo the Clown, a statement that was interrupted repeatedly by her laughter. She would apologize every time, then do it again. By this point, I just didn’t care anymore. 

I said goodbye, got back into the sauna, and drove back to the office, being stared at by people who must have thought I was a drag queen with terrible make-up skills. 

Of course, this episode ended the way they all do – with me looking up at the sky, hearing faint laughter from somewhere above the clouds, and saying, “Well played, God. Well played.”

god-laughing

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

Welcome to episode 17 of God’s Sitcom, Messin’ with Mark!

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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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.

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.

02v-COYOTE FALLING-1 gif

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.

Unknown

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

WE2

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.

hqdefault-1

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.

images

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

images-3

The skull is hard enough to break through solid rock.

jump2

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. 

hqdefault-2

You can fall from any height and survive. 

wile-e-coyote4601

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 . . .

chuck-jones-rules-to-writing-the-wile-e-coyote-and-the-road-runner-cartoons-11-photos-10

. . . 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

computer-God

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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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. 

images

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.

scientists-explain-what-actually-happens-when-a-fly-goes-up-your-nose

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!

tumblr_mov5vdGi7x1rvqo0ho1_1280

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

computer-God

Welcome to episode 12 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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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 –

(Warning: Not for the squeamish, or anyone who’s fond of frogs.)

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. 

frog_fly

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 –

6a0115717bd356970b0120a7df2921970b

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.

0006775_slow-toads-crossing-sign

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 – 

Unknown

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. 

hristian-ivanov-shyne-battle-frog

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

computer-God

Welcome to episode 8 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 seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

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 – The Lost Key. God really pulled out all the stops this time.

magpie

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.

images

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

323e675721334472a8bbdc247e7f6e7a

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 – 

grandcanyon1

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.  

Unknown-1

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

needle-in-haystack

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.