L. Ron Hubbard once described the mass of roads leading into and out of our Nation’s Capital as a maze designed to keep the citizens from the seat of power.He may have had a point. Back when I lived in Richmond, Virginia, I had a traumatic experience with our beloved capital. I can finally look back on it years later with some wit and witticism. (I only cried twice while writing about it!) It was on a Monday and I was taking a friend to Dulles Airport outside of DC. I followed the signs and got my friends to the airport without the slightest trouble. Then I made a major mistake. I tried to go back to Richmond.

The expressway to Dulles is a fabulous road. It zips along without any of those pesky exits to distract you from your main focus – survival. To be fair, there are a few exits. Unfortunately, the one that I wanted (I can even remember which one it was now) had signs that said that Interstate was coming up; however, the road never appeared. I looked for it several times and never found it. I realized that I might have been in trouble when signs to new Interstates (ones that had not even existed as far as I was concerned) began to appear.

Knowing that I needed to go east to find my way to I-95 I took this new Interstate with the vague hope of finding my way home. I-80-something sounded promising. The problem was it was telling me east was west and west was east. Those sign people really have a great sense of humor, don’t they? I got on the east-bound I-80somthing, knowing full well I was going west. It was at this point when things began to get confusing.

I was lost. Not having been lost for at least 30 hours, I decided to just enjoy it. There were decent odds I would find my way out of the DC area someday. While driving along, I saw a sign that said Iwo Jima – next exit. Not really sure if the sign referred to the monument or the island, I took a chance that it was the monument. That chance paid off. I saw it. It was BIG. I mean really big! Cruising around it and wondering how to get closer, I made another mistake. There is a road right next to the monument that apparently has no way in or out. They put cars in there to make you think you can get in. I suspect they use helicopters to airlift them in there. I, still naive about the ways of Washington, decided to try and get closer. Logic dictated that going around it long enough, I would find a way in. (Yeah, I know. Logic and DC don’t mix. I was young and stupid.) I turned right. That was when I saw the sign that told me I was crossing the Potomac River.

Crossing the river may not seem like that big a deal to you. It isn’t, unless you started you trip at Dulles. You see, Dulles airport is not in Washington, DC. In reality it right outside of St. Louis. You have to drive forever to actually get from DC to Dulles. It’s a joke they play on tourists and foreign dignitaries. By now I figured that I was an accidental tourist.  Crossing the Potomac took me into the District of Columbia. I was really in Washington! “OOOOPS” was the first thing that came to mind as I watched Virginia fade away in my rear view mirror.

This was the point when all traces of sanity faded away and I began to enjoy the experience. The past two weeks had been rough and this was the crowning blow to the fragile hold I had on reality. (Some things never change.) A sign appeared that said “Independence Ave.” That sounded like a nice street to try. I got off the road I was on (which to me will forever remain the RoadWithNoName) and went on Independence Ave. I saw the Washington Monument in the distance and decided to use that as a landmark. It would have worked too if I hadn’t been forced to go the opposite direction by the escaped mental patients that drive on the streets of DC. With a tear I waved goodbye to the Washington Monument and looked forward to my next adventure in this new direction.

I found the Kennedy Center! I know. You didn’t think it was lost. If you think that, then you have obviously never tried to drive in Washington, DC. Trust me, it was lost. That is a cool looking building. Did you know that part of it just hangs over the road waiting for someone important drive by so it can fall on it? Apparently, it did not consider me worth smashing to a Doug-shaped paste. Oh well. I guess I’m not that important to the Kennedy Center. Some thanks I get. That’s the last time I’ll find it when it’s lost.

There is a sinister law in DC that says left turns are illegal. I was not aware of that federal mandate until I tried to turn around. Every intersection for 87.3 miles said no left turn. You may ask me why I didn’t turn right? It was implied by the other drivers on the road that slowing down long enough to turn would get you killed by the eighteen people who were tailgating you. Eventually I found a place to turn right and go around 5 blocks to get back to what had once been Independence Ave. It was like seeing a long lost friend. A friend who really didn’t like you and tries to make your life as difficult as possible. Still, in DC, that’s a good friend. Don’t even ask about the bad ones.

I retraced my steps and found my way back to the Kennedy Center. (They still haven’t invited me to their honors after all the trouble I went to by unintentionally helping them become un-lost. But I’m not bitter. REALLY, I’M NOT BITTER ABOUT THOSE UNGRATEFUL . . .Sorry. I digress.)  It was then that I realized that I had a second chance to find more things for the city of Washington. I could find the mall! That is the place where all of the really big monuments supposedly stand as bright, shining examples of things we spend our tax money on! I thought I owed it to the American people to find these mythological places and tell the world about them. Sure enough, out of the mist, I saw the Washington Monument standing tall and proud. Like a beacon to a weary traveler (that would be me) saying come here and I will help you find your way. What a liar that monument is! There weren’t any Interstates near that thing.

As I traveled I saw several monuments and some things that may have been monuments or just buildings that looked odd. It is really hard to tell a monument from a motel in DC. All buildings have an air of arrogance that commands your attention. There was one building that looked really important. I thought that it must have been a government building where decisions are made concerning the future of the free world. When I saw the on the sign side of the building, I decided that if the decisions made there affect the free world then we are in trouble. The only decisions made there are between Big Macs and McNuggets. So much for the mystique of DC.

As I blissfully wandered and wondered around the country’s capital, I noticed a sign. It said I-395 that way. From the farthest recesses of my memory came small voice saying Interstates are good. Usually I don’t listen to the voices in my head, but as I said earlier, my sanity was questionable. I thought of home and family. Life back in Richmond seemed like such a distant memory. Could this I-395 have hope to save me from aimless wanderings? Could my quest for home be truly coming to a close? Would I be back in time to see my sons graduate from high school? Without much faith in the sign makers or DC, I decided to follow their cruel joke to the finish.

Then I saw it. The sign said “I-395 to Richmond.” Could it be true? Was there a chance? I cut across four lanes of traffic (a modest accomplishment compared to the other drivers in DC) and followed the signs to Richmond. It was true. I crossed the Potomac. I found I-95.  It almost brought a tear to my eye as I thought of going home. Eventually I made it back to the west end of Richmond.

I thought back upon my day and realized that it had taken me two hours to get to Dulles. It took me four hours to make back home. I was lost and alone in a strange city. (Trust me. They don’t get any stranger than DC.) I had survived. I was going home. As I clicked my heals together and said there is no place like home, I had swerve to avoid a car that wanted to occupy the same space as my car. Oh well. At least I was back in Richmond.

For all the Pastors Who Work So Hard

The pastors who work really hard won’t need this bit of help I would like to offer. Now, I know some pastors who hardly work and this may be of interest. I have been asked by a couple of pastor friends if I would be willing to ghost write their newsletter articles. I explained to them that it would be deceptive and way too much fun for me to write something for which they would get the credit, glory, and blame. Plus, let’s be honest, my sense of humor would get them fired in a heartbeat.

That being said, I feel bad for pastors around Easter when they have so many services, studies and sermons that they don’t even have time to sleep. (Sunrise services? I’ll think about you when I wake up after 8 or 9.) I sat down to write a generic newsletter article that any pastor could use to raise up their congregations. I read through it and thought, “That is way too boring.” I took a few sips of Southern Comfort and tried again. The second version was a little more realistic, but not quite right. I finished off my glass of Southern Comfort, refilled it and tried again. The third version I felt really hit the spot based on what a friend of mine told me the other day. After… I kinda lost count… let’s say a few more glasses of Southern Comfort, I was feeling really comfortable and tried one last time. THAT one was excellent!
The next morning, after taking a few aspirin, I looked at my work and decided I should just let the pastor decide which one to use. I made it into a multiple choice newsletter format for pastors. Please select a, b, c, or d as fits your individual congregation and personality.
a)  fellow believers,                             
b)  beloved co-workers,
c)  thorns in my flesh,
d)  pagan scum,
it is with:
a)  joy and faith
b)  hope for the future
c)  fear and trepidation
d)  an evil and perverse pleasure
that I share with you:
a)  the successes in our ministry.
b)  our hopes for the future.
c)  the dire situation we currently face.
d)  my therapy bills.
Last month our attendance numbers were:
a)  soaring to heavenly heights.
b)  maintaining a steady level.
c)  in a slow and sad decline.
d)  nonexistent.
Our gifts to God in offering plate show:
a)  our giving is rivaling that of Solomon.
b)  hope for meeting our goals.
c)  that bankruptcy laws are there for a reason.
d)  that you have a found a way to take money back.
The church council has:
a)  been praising God for his blessings
b)  been encouraged and is looking for ways to grow
c)  disbanded
d)  changed its name to the Mod Squad
and has asked me to:
a)  have a service of thanksgiving for all our blessings.
b)  encourage you to remain faithful.
c)  resign.
d)  dress up like Larry the Cucumber and sing the haircut song while braiding my leg hair.
Taking all this into account, the theme for our sermons will be:
a)  “The Faithful are Blessed in Many Ways.”
b)  “Our Hope is in Christ.”
c)  “Why You’re All Going to Hell.”
d)  “The Eschatological Christology in I’m a Little Teapot.”
with a Bible study series on:
a)  “The Joy in Philippians.”
b)  “The Salvation in Romans.”
c)  “The Judgment on this Congregation in Revelation”
d)  “The Parallels between the Temptation of Christ by Satan and the hunting of Bugs  Bunny by Elmer Fudd.”
In conclusion, I pray:
a)  God’s continued blessing on each of you.
b)  you hold fast to your faith in Jesus.
c)  you will please leave this church and go torture a Buddhist church.
d)  that I will someday be allowed out of this padded cell.
Any similarity between the fictitious congregations mentioned here and the place where you worship is unintentional, but not the least bit surprising.

Wouldn’t It Be Weird If…

When he was younger and just starting to think abstractly, my youngest son would frequently start sentences with the phrase: “Wouldn’t it be weird if…” (He was seven when that began! Yeah, I know. He calls himself Dad 2.0 – all the great qualities of the original, but with significant upgrades.) It got to the point I would interrupt his musing and just say, “YES!” before he explained it. He would laugh. I would laugh. Then, he would go on and explain what he thought would be weird as if I had never spoken. It’s too bad he doesn’t like English class. He still may become a writer if I can con, coerce, cajole, or convince him to try.

Thinking back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, I wondered what would be something I think would be weird today. Some the things I think are weird may not even phase you. Let’s see how my weirdness compares to yours.

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if your cell phone’s autocorrect actually corrected the right words instead of making your texts seem like they were sent by a demented chimpanzee on acid? Not that I’ve ever given a chimpanzee on acid. That would be wrong. It was a spider monkey at the zoo and you would not believe what he did to that banana.

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if I could actually spell the word weird correctly the first time? I am certain that my computer keeps changing the spelling from weird to weird, and back again. Let’s see, it is I before E except after C unless it is a leap year, in which case it P before Y except after I…

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if politicians were paid based on performance testing of their constituents like they are expecting of teachers and students? I’m not opposed to performance evaluations, but I promise I will skew that test so our politicians get pay cuts. Who’s with me on this?

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies earned a salary inversely based on the number of federal investigations and class action lawsuits filed against the company? Let’s see, Bob. We had the Feds in here eight times last year, fourteen separate class action suits, and you had nine employees accuse you of sexual harassment. Adding that up, carry the two, and… let’s see… You owe us $8,385.

  • Wouldn’t it be weird if we switched the meaning of the words asteroid and hemorrhoid? I am I the only one who thinks we have the words reversed? I know I have mentioned this before but I’m going to keep on mentioning it until this gets fixed!

Well, that’s all the wierdness wiredness weirdneesstrange stuff I have for today. So am I as weird as you?

Creative Crazy in Dougland

“I woke up this morning thinking the world was totally insane and that nothing made sense. Then I realized it was just me that was crazy and made no sense. I’m fine with that.” That was my post on Facebook this morning. The first one to like that status was my mom. Not too sure that is a good thing. Nevertheless, it generated a lot of comments. Most of them were agreeing that I’m a little off my gourd. One of my favorites was “Crazy is not bad… especially when it’s creative crazy!” That may be one of the best ways to describe me.

When I sit down and look at the world, my first thought is: “That is really messed up!” Well, it is something like that, but I try to keep this blog PG. But if you look hard at the insanity of the world, you have two choices: 1) Run screaming into the hills and barricade yourself in a secluded cabin while stockpiling guns, ammo, canned goods, Ted Nugent CDs, and lots of instant pudding. 2) Laugh and live in your own world. I choose the second option. I call it Dougland. But then again, I do like pudding…
I am going to point out a few things in this world that will make you choose one of the two options. Let me know which one you choose. By the way, Dougland is accepting visa applications.

  • Rep. James P. Moran complained that members of Congress are not paid enough to live in Washington, DC. It turns out that they haven’t given themselves a pay raise in five years and are expected to survive on a measly little $174,000 a year. That’s practically minimum wage! I think we should pay them based on performance.
  • In China, a jar of French Mountain air sold for $860. It seems that the air quality in Beijing is so bad that people really have to catch their breath in strange ways. My son and I have a plan to get a couple hundred Mason jars and go up into the Smokies. We will come down with enough air to pay for his college with Smoky Mountain Air! Yes, we do see the irony.
  • A woman in a nursing home – in a nursing home!!! – is suing the home for subjecting her to the “unwanted” spectacle a male stripper. This lawsuit comes AFTER her son came to visit and saw the picture of her putting a dollar in his G-string. I always thought it was the son who lied to his mom about seeing strippers. You learn something new every day. Mom, take your heart meds and enjoy. I don’t mind.
  •  A 26-foot tall statue of Marilyn Monroe will go on display at the Grounds for Sculpture on May 4th. This 17-ton stainless steel and aluminum shows the most famous shot of the blond bombshell from The Seven Year Itch with her dress billowing. Now, I think

    she was a beautiful woman, too; but do you think she would be flattered that she weighs 17-tons? I also wonder, what are the measurements of a 26-foot tall Marilyn?

These are just things that make me think that my level of insanity is kind of tame compared to reality. I like it here in Dougland. It makes more sense to me. Who’s joining me?

The Great Llama Race

The llamas rounded the corner, making a last mad dash for the finish line. The race was going to be a photo finish. By “photo finish” I mean that I wanted a picture of the guy in last place who was – I am not making this one up – pushing his llama along the back stretch. I’m a writer, not a photographer, so I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture or video. I was able to stand there with my mouth hanging open thinking, “If this doesn’t make it into one of my blogs, then I need to give up trying to write things that make people laugh.” Now if the llama had chosen that moment to be flatulent, then I would have been on the ground, curled up in a fetal position, laughing until they came with the padded ambulance to take me away.

This event does have a serious side. It is to raise awareness of the plight of llamas who are being mistreated or ignored. There is even a llama rescue society. All of this would sound quite normal, sane and necessary in Bolivia. (Their national animal is… drum roll please… the llama! You didn’t see that one coming, did you?) I can just imagine the maltreatment of these gentle (a relative term I assure you) beasts at the hands of a harsh taskmaster, forcing them to carry load upon load of supplies up steep mountain trails for the sole purpose of making the loads of fat, rich tourists lighter. Did I mention the race was in Knoxville, Tennessee? Yeah, I had the same reaction. “Knoxville? Really?!”
It turns out there are many more llamas than you would expect in East Tennessee. Since my expectations for the area were limited to a couple in the zoo, that was not much of a stretch. It turns out there are several llama ranches and a rescue group that helps find abodes for llamas who find themselves destitute and homeless. I have looked and have not noticed any hanging around the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries under I-40, yet. I figure it’s just a matter of time before they are down there, too, swapping smokes and stories of how they used to be somebody.
Now before you get mad at me, let me assure you, I like llamas. I would not have gone down to World’s Fair Park and gotten a sunburn on my scalp yesterday if I didn’t. Well, I might have just because I thought like you probably do: “A llama race in Knoxville? What the…?” But, no. That is not the ONLY reason. Ever since I saw The Emperor’s New Groove, I thought llamas were cool. And it turns out they do have teeth as bad as a 70’s era British Television actor. Those critters have a funky under-bite. Another interesting fact: the wool on the few I got to touch was silky soft. No wonder the socks I saw at one of the stands felt like clouds for your feet.
I also want to defend llamas. They have a reputation for spitting. I looked carefully and

never saw any of the dozens and dozens of llamas at the race dipping any kind of tobacco. There were no spittoons anywhere to be seen. Some of the teeth of these beasts of burden looked like they had been chewing some tobacco recently, but they had the sense to not do it around so many children. Kudos to them for that. On the flip side (literally as it turns out), since I was worried about the spitting, I became somewhat lax when it came to precautions when faced … errr… butted(?)… with the other end. Do you remember how funny I thought it would be if a llama passed gas during the race? It turns out it is not as funny as you would think when a llama farts at you. My son was able to revive me with industrial strength smelling salts and oxygen. Did I mention I decided against buying a llama?

Group Writing

I am doing something really fun for me. In case you can’t tell, I love to write. It is fun. It is amazing. It is solitary. Now, I happen to like people. A few of my best friends are people. Some of them are not. I have had many meaningful conversations with the rainstick that casually reclines against the wall across the room. He always wants me to write about rain, but I like him because he never criticizes my work. Most of my friends tend to be imaginary, but I think of them as people, too. There is only so much your imaginary friends can add to a story before it gets monotonous. Seriously, the voice in my head that I used for the serial killer in Shrink always says the same things about killing people with screwdrivers. That voice is almost as bad as the three or four who gave me ideas for demons in Angelcide. (I’m am joking here…or am I?)

When you can get together with someone else and write a story, bouncing ideas off one another, it is truly great for the creative process. Since I work alone most of the time, I thought of something different. What if I get my Facebook friends to help me write a new story? If they pick the topic, then I would have a story to stretch my writing muscles. Who would have thought they would go for a gothic story? Well, they hang out with me so I guess that’s not much of stretch.

Now for the challenge. I wanted to include as many of their thoughts as possible. In this Techno Gothic Tale (yes, that is what I called it), I have been able to work in most of their comments and few of their typos that were really funny. Today, I even managed to add in a mention of a very unusual character one person suggested called the Granola Kid. (He’s a hippy cowboy who likes his chili with tofu. Don’t judge him until you have tried it.)

I really have no clue how this story will end. To be honest, I don’t know what’s happening next. This is scary, challenging, confusing and enlightening. My goal is to create a story that people want to read by letting others guide the story. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and will probably post it on my Sneak Peeksblog. Still trying to wrap my brain around a hippy cowboy.

Feel free to check out the story in the notes section of my Facebook writer page and toss in a few ideas of your own: https://www.facebook.com/DougRomigWriter

April Fools!

Your shoe is untied. April Fools! You missed a button. April Fools and I flicked your nose when you looked. Your house is on fire! April Fools! No, it really is on fire! Oops. Those of you who have read my blog understand my unusual (to put it kindly) sense of humor. I bet you are all on pins and needles waiting to hear about the pranks someone as creative and twisted as I have come up with for this day. First, why are you sitting on pins and needles? That sounds really silly and painful. Second, you are going to love my prank. It is spectacular in its simplicity.

I have friends who plot and plan, scam and scheme, dig and delve deeply to come up with the right things to say or do to irritate and/or amaze their friends and enemies. They try to concoct the ultimate joke or jest to fool the masses and achieve fame and infamy for this glorious day of tomfoolery. For me that’s a normal day between 9:00am and 9:15am. No big deal.
So do you want to know what I am doing for April Fool’s Day? It is big! I’m talking really, spectacularly monstrous. This April first I am doing something that no one would expect from me. The tension has been building among my friends and family as they all walk around with looks similar to Chief Brody when the shark music would play in Jaws. Da dum, da dum, da dum. This April Fools’ Day I am… being serious. I know. Scary, right?
I called a friend this morning and said for April Fools’ Day I am taking a break from the jokes and pranks. “Today, I am going to be serious.” There was silence on the other end of the line. “Did you hear me? I’m going to be serious today.” The silence was spooky. I was worried that news had caused him to panic, thinking he had crossed over into a parallel universe where everything was reversed in the natural order. Maybe I had caused him to have a heart attack at that shocking news! That would totally suck because no one would believe it on April Fools’ Day. “Are you there?”
“Hold on. I had to check my caller I.D. to make sure I was talking to Doug Romig and not some other Doug. Then I had to look behind me to make sure there wasn’t a snake or something sneaking up on me.” My friends are so weird.
“I mean it. I’m going to be serious on April Fools’ Day. It is time everyone else to act like me and I’ll be normal today.” I felt that I had made a good case and explained my point-of-view clearly and eloquently.
“Uh huh. Right. Nice try, Doug. I’m not letting my guard down. Do you think I was born yesterday?” He was starting to sound a little insane. I considered calling a doctor but remembered what day it was.
“No. I was born yesterday.” It was my birthday. “I mean it. No pranks or jokes at your expense from me today. I’m being good.” After I said it, I realized how crazy that sounded.
Do you remember the Vincent Price laugh at the end of Michael Jackson’s Thriller? That was the sound that came from my friend. “Not falling for it. You won’t catch me that easily!” The laughter continued as he clicked off.
I guess that is my best prank of all. No prank. Be serious. Let my friends go slowly insane waiting for the inevitable that will never come. And the cool part, they know me and will be expecting it for weeks to come.
Am I evil? Muhahahahahahaha!