Cream of the Crop

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cream of the crop: (n) the fatty part of milk, which rises to the surface

Audacity can be richly comical if you don’t take yourself too seriously and believe that any one of your proclamations or dreams is sacred.

I’ve always been a music man with a poet’s heart, and the body of a lumberjack. (An overweight lumberjack.)

I’ve wanted to play songs, and I reached an age when the music part of my show was just not bringing in enough dough.

What I had available to me was a wife and two sons. So I decided to form them into a music group. We were not exactly the Partridge Family, the Jacksons nor the Osmonds. We were more like the…

Well, like the Smiths.

There was talent there—but the nine-year-old had just started playing drums, the fourteen-year-old was faithfully practicing on a bass guitar that was mostly broken, and my wife… My wife sang like a wife.

I was an old war horse who had done music for so long that I convinced myself, and quite a few other people, that I was proficient enough at doing it that I should not quit. So I decided to tour with my family.

I am not going to try to rationalize my decision nor disparage it. It was what was available, it was what we could do, we would be together, and no animals would be harmed in the process.

I taught them five songs. That’s right—five. It took a while. The sound was not great, but it would have evoked a smile of approval from the grouchiest member of an audience.

We needed to make a tape we could offer for purchase after our little shows. This way, people would have the music and we could have a few dollars for bologna.

We rented a studio and went in with our five songs—plus one, which I added the day of the recording session. Over the next five hours, we recorded them, mixed them down and ran off a master copy for duplication. Considering that I was working with a nine-year-old, a fourteen-year-old, my wife and my own nervous energy, the production quality hovered just north of bad.

The engineer turned to me and said, “What would you like to name the tape? Because I have to write something down on the label.”

I paused. I thought about the fact that these were the only six songs we knew, and there were no prospects in the near future of adding to the roster.

I thought about naming the tape, “The Best So Far.”

I mused the title, “Our Greatest Hits.”

I lamented that the title, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” was already taken.

Finally it came to me.

Since it’s what we had, and we did our best, and it seemed we were at the top of our game at this station in our musical journey, I told the recording engineer to name it, “Cream of the Crop.”

He winced—but obeyed.

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Corrigible

Corrigible: (adj) capable of being corrected or reformed:

During a Q & A one night, when the audience had stopped having much interest in seeking any additional inquiries, the host who was conducting the interview with me, asked, off the top of her head, “If you could isolate one thing a person could do to make their life better, funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
what would it be?”

Before I got a chance to answer, comments suddenly arose from the audience, who moments earlier had looked ready to head for their cars.

Someone jokingly piped up and said, “Money!”

This prompted another to offer the word “beauty.”

It became almost like a list of the three wishes you might select if you rubbed the lamp and a genie appeared.

But when somebody intoned the word, “power,” the whole audience groaned in approval.

I turned to the person who made the suggestion and asked, “What kind of power? And how would you get it?”

He was a little surprised that I singled him out, because he was just trying to participate, or maybe just be funny. But it did draw attention back my way, and everyone seemed a little interested at what my response would be.

I replied, “If I could start over again and have one virtue that was sustainable throughout my life, it would be the ability to be corrected without copping an attitude, becoming defensive or making excuses. I would choose to be a corrigible human instead of considered an incorrigible brat.”

My answer was not quite as popular as “power.”

Yet I still contend today that anyone who can stand to be wrong, hear it and set in motion a plan to change it, immediately has beauty, will soon have power, and the money will follow.


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Clamber

Clamber: (v) to climb, move, or get in or out of something in an awkward and laborious way, typically using both hands and feet

It’s difficult to know whether we are judged by what we’re able to achieve, or how well we overcame the obstacles that attempt to forbid
achievement.

Yes, you could discuss that one for hours.

It reminds me of the time I took my children to an amusement park. I was still a very young man, but very fat. This created an immediate perplexity. Because I was young, I envisioned things I could do, often not taking into consideration the extra baggage I was bringing along.

Another example:

We went out on a boat trip. They had a little, thin gangplank to get on the boat, which I was grateful to have negotiated. So I assumed that when we returned there would be some sort of similar passageway from the front of the boat onto the dock again.

There wasn’t.

They eased the boat toward the landing, leaving a gap of about three feet between the boat and the safety of the dock. Well, other folks gave it a little bit of a running start, leaped into the air and came down safely onto the pier.

I kept inching my way behind people, letting them go first. I guess I was hoping that I would have a few minutes at the end, to figure out what to do, but failed to realize that all the people stayed on the dock and were going to watch my grand leap.

I tried to make that running start, to clamber with my entire obese body, legs and arms in the air, and land safely.

Just when I got to the end of the boat, my brain said, “Are you crazy?”

An immediate order was given at Mind Central: STOP!!

I nearly tumbled into the water but was able to step back. Then I tried to reach one leg across, and was able to get my foot onto the surface, but I was spread too far to get any pressure on the leg to push me over.

By this time I had secured an audience.

People began to make suggestions. My children were trying to hide and my wife was already being comforted by strangers.

At this point, I decided it was impossible. The ordeal went for ten minutes. The combination of fear, practicality and my limitations was turning me into a sea-lovin’ man.

Finally the captain took a rope and hooked it around some sort of turret and pulled the whole boat a bit closer–with just his sheer brute force. This received applause from those standing by. Even more humiliation.

I still was not able to find a “clambering” approach to leaving the boat. So three guys reached down, grabbed me under my arms and on the count of three, hoisted me up on the dock.

I attempted to land with some authority, stomping my feet a couple of times so the people around me would be aware that I had muscular ability, then quickly grabbed my family and disappeared into the crowd, heading for the refreshment stand.

After all, I was hungry from all the exertion.

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Chuckle

Chuckle: (n) a quiet or suppressed laugh

He drove me crazy (even though that would not require many miles of journey.)

He was a theater critic who came out to watch my show, and even though I settled my inner being by insisting that I would not glance his
way, my left eyeball seemed to deny the commitment and wander over to view his reaction.

I was hilarious–at least as hilarious as I ever get.

I was on–which is merely the opposite of off.

The audience was with me–though you’re never quite sure how much of it is sympathy.

He just sat there. He didn’t smirk. It was like someone had bet him that he could remain emotionless during the entire affair.

I had never met him before, but I hated him. Not with a ferocious anger, sprouting a rage of violence–just a normal, temporary, human hatred, which could be assuaged merely by the introduction of a simple compliment.

After the show he came backstage to see me. I was surprised. I thought the next thing I would receive from this fellow would be his review, in which he used as many synonyms for “mediocre” as possible.

But turns out he thought I was hilarious.

I had to ask him, “Did you ever laugh?”

He frowned at me as if concerned about how much I might have hurt myself falling off the turnip truck.

“You don’t have to laugh out loud to chuckle inside,” he explained. “I am an internal chuckler, who simultaneously admires the material that amuses me.”

I stared at him, but decided not to pursue the conversation, since at this point, the outcome was in my favor.

But as I considered his insight, I realized that I often watched things on television or at the movies, and would tell people how funny they were–yet I wasn’t really sure my face exuded anything other than a death growl.

All I can say is, you can feel free to chuckle, even if it’s done inside your closet of appreciation.

But thank God–oh, thank God–for those who spill and spew their laughter.

 

 

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Charisma

Charisma: (n) compelling attractiveness or charm

I just finished a performance.

I don’t think the audience liked me.

The money was bad; the response was tepid and nobody was particularly interested in purchasing my books.

So I asked myself, what did I do wrong?

Always our first inclination. Where is my fault in the matter? It is an agonizing process, but without it, vanity can make us intolerable.

You know what the truth of the matter is? The people who sat and listened may have been with their moms and dads years and years ago and heard one of the parents comment or joke about a heavy-set man walking by, portraying that he was less than acceptable.

Maybe that person just never forgot that little drama. Maybe he or she found themselves trapped in a response that was not his or her own, but so ingrained that it popped out without permission.

Charisma is such a wicked maze of misunderstanding.

For after all, one man’s “beautiful” is another man’s “plain.” And one woman’s “gentle” is another woman’s “boring.”

So what’s the best we can do?

Find our gift, work on our gift, share our gift in good cheer.

For lo and behold, anybody who would benefit from knowing us will certainly find us.

 

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Celebrity

Celebrity: (n) a famous person.

I remember the first time it happened.

I was sharing at a book conference about my latest release, and the announcer, in an attempt to beef up my credentials, told the splatter of
humans attending that I was “a celebrity.”

His exact wording was, “We are so pleased to have our next guest, who has achieved celebrity status.”

The oddness of his phrasing was further punctuated by a pitiful smattering of applause.

The introduction bothered me.

Since we live in a social structure which insists on honoring a social structure, ranging from famous people all the way down to “nobodies,” it seems difficult to breathe in a sense of self-esteem unless we are constantly touting our self-worth.

After all, we don’t want fifteen minutes of fame because we desire to be famous. Rather, we want to make sure we don’t end up being the guy or gal who never got it.

So at the end of my little lecture that morning, I opened the floor to questions, and a young boy about nine years of age raised his hand. I have learned over the years that allowing such a lad to offer a question can open the door to, “Does anybody really like your book?” or “How’d you get so fat?”

But I took the risk, acknowledged the kid, let him take the microphone and offer his inquiry. He was a pretty nice little guy. The only thing he wanted to know was, “Are you really famous? Because if you are, I want your autograph.”

There was a giggle in the room. I don’t know if they were giggling because he was so cute, or wondering why in the hell somebody would want my autograph.

So I asked my young friend, “Have you ever heard of me before?”

He frowned and shook his head.

I laughed and said, “Well, then I guess I’m not famous. I guess, like everybody else, I’m just a celebrity in my own mind.”

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Cab

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Cab: (n)  short for taxicab.

Even though we contend that honesty is the best policy, sometimes the dividends are questionable.

Often I will admit my weakness or even ignorance in an attempt to create empathy with an audience–only to have someone come up to me afterwards, shaking their head and saying, “You really feel that way?”

So with that in mind, with some trepidation, I offer the confession that I have only been in a taxicab four times.

I don’t live in New York City.

I have never been without some sort of vehicle for my own personal use.

So the idea of climbing into the back of a car and telling a driver where to take me, as a meter continues to remind me of how much I’m going to have to pay for the opportunity, is a little unnerving.

I also have this flaw of wanting to converse with everyone I meet. During my taxi drives, this became problematic. All four of my drivers were apparently advocates of maintaining their language of birth instead of pursuing the local dialect. So they did talk to me, and I tried to catch a word here or there, but I am sure I nodded my head at the wrong places and remained silent during awkward intervals.

I also remember that I was always surprised at how much it cost. Matter of fact, when I watch a TV show based in New York City and see them taking all those cabs, I always wonder how they can afford it–unless they don’t have an apartment and sleep in a box somewhere near a subway grate.

So it is difficult for me to talk about cabs.

Does it help that I like the game show where the driver asks the passengers questions– Cash Cab?

Pretty lame, huh?

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