It’s been a while since I updated this blog, and just sitting down and writing for myself is something I’ve truly missed. I recently spent a very inspiring weekend with a group of writers at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, and it was like a hit of oxygen for me. It was also like a near-electrocution for me, but that’s a whole other story.
There are good reasons for my absence, chief among them work and divorce.
I don’t want to talk about the divorce, so instead I’ll talk about my job. I really love my job. For the last year or so, I’ve been writing “Wordplay”, the official crossword blog of The New York Times, and if that sounds boring to you because you do not do crossword puzzles, think of it as a humor column about my dog, which makes a sincere attempt to mention the New York Times crossword puzzle as often as possible. I know I do.
This year, in accordance with the “Tag! You’re It!” clause of my contract, I also became the producer of Puzzles & Games, which essentially took me from being a fairly non-technical person who wrote a lot of un-New York Times-like jokes about testicles just to see if my copy editors were really paying attention, to someone who had to learn my way around the coding and gooey innards of the digital side of the paper. Eventually, I was able to wean myself off the Xanax, and learning to publish the crossword puzzle right-side up and in English just did wonders for my self esteem.
But I don’t think I would be overstating things if I said that taking on a new job so far outside your comfort zone and turning your entire life inside out to ensure your own survival can honest-to-god just suck the funny right out of you. Some humorists work best when they’re in pain, but not me. So I took some time off from the blog to clear my head. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it.
Take the federal frozen cow problem, for example. There is simply no way I could have found that funny a year ago (well I might have, but I wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to tell you about it.) And yet here I am today reporting on it, because how would you even know how much your government is trying to stay within its budget unless I dug this stuff up? I’m telling you, a short spell in therapy can be worth its weight in gold.
Everyone sees the government as this huge, mean, uncaring, behemoth that is only concerned about itself and couldn’t care less about the average person, and I am here to tell you that you’re wrong: that is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The rest of the government is not as bad. In fact, they are currently spending their time trying to figure out a way to get rid of some frozen cows in a way that won’t cost the taxpayer a cent or damaging the land. How’s that for caring?
What happened was this: a small herd of cows broke away from a ranch in Colorado, and, looking for booze and a “good time” as cows are wont to do, they wandered into an abandoned cabin high atop a mountain.
Unfortunately, these cows forgot to appoint a designated driver, and they stood around in the cabin partying until they all froze to death. No one even missed them until some soldiers happened to pass by the cabin while snowshoeing.
The Forest Service became involved at that point and, with the foresight that the federal government is known for, started to panic. Spring is on its way to Colorado, and with Spring comes the thaw. With the thaw comes rotten cow smell and decomposing cow parts, as well as probable contamination of the adjacent hot spring.
Here’s the part where I feel like I need to apologize to Dave Barry. Exploding cows are definitely his territory, and I acknowledge that. But this is too funny to pass up, so I’m going to tell it anyway.
This is also as good a time as any to tell you that the cabin was located on federal land.
That posed a problem for the Forest Service. Being that these were now federal cows, the government had ideas for how the cows could and could not be disposed of. One idea was to remove the cows by blowing them up with dynamite, but the fallout (sorry) from that was thought to not only be disgusting, particularly for the people who lived at the bottom of the mountain, but damaging to federal property. An air-lift via helicopter was briefly entertained, but was deemed too expensive, and someone suggested using horses to pull the cows out of a lot of snow after an 11,000 foot climb, to which the horses responded “Oh, hell no. The cows got themselves into it, the cows can damn well get themselves out!”
So as of this writing, your government is still hard at work, trying to come up with an inexpensive, ecologically sound way to remove the frozen, federal cows before they start to thaw.
Because they care.
Thanks for coming back. I’ll try to keep the shop open more often.