2019 – A Year in Review

December 24, 2019 11:58 p.m. 

Dear friends, family members, strangers, strange family members, Baby Yoda, and Baby Shark doo doo doodoo doo doodoo doo doo doo doo,

Soooooooo that happened… 

What adventures and experiences filled my calendar in 2019, you ask? I take your question, but would much rather you ask the president of Finland a question. Nonetheless, Alexa, please recap the year for us as, like viewers of the most recent Peloton ad, I’m far too traumatized to recount it myself. In a year that took slightly longer to complete than a viewing of The Irishman, it will be remembered as one when the winner lost the Kentucky Derby, New York City lost power, Puerto Rico lost two governors in a week, everyone won the Spelling Bee, Popeye ran out of fried chicken, ASAP Rocky will uncharacteristically no longer be as prompt as his name suggests, Skywalker rose, Winter fell, and ET returned. In the end, however, I did manage to take the Iron Throne. 

I made a concerted effort this year to reconnect with my masculine side… for which I was sentenced to four weeks of court-ordered counseling. For starters, I added to my diet more brofu (processed soy in between two quarter-pound hamberders) wrapped in a leaf of Bromaine lettuce (the kind without the E. Coli) and a side of brogurt (milk fermented by bad decisions). And I began a regular practice of broga (standing pose next to the bench press with twice my body weight loaded on the plate, known as headupmyasana). And I am not ashamed to admit I had a couple of brotox sessions (where they Sharpied my eyebrows to resemble Jason Momoa’s). Next summer, I’m ramping up to climb Mt. Kilimanjarbro (which is actually the bunny slope at the Blue Hills Mountains.)

Financially speaking, I immersed myself into the world of investments with the Dow Jones reaching new levels. To help guide me, I snagged a copy of Antonio Brown’s book How to Turn $30 Million into $10 Million in No Time off the Bargain Shelf (which already saved me money), and began to play the market. Of course, not all my investments were winners as I mainly focused on high-risk, no-reward companies such as Theranos. I also bet a bundle on Thanos to win. So unfortunately, this left me only with enough money to buy a nice thermos. But I’m predicting the new Alliance of American Football league will be very profitable and so I’ve put a bid in on one of the teams. Always the charitable chap, I did manage to make a donation to a charity which gives spacesuits to female astronauts. 

While awaiting my purchase offer on Greenland to be accepted, I made my annual diurnal 

equinox travel plans. This year, my plan was to storm Area 51, but they were unceremoniously halted when someone blew the whistle on us and I had to hastily make other arrangements. I considered visiting all three Mexican countries instead, but ultimately decided for a more low-key sojourn. To that end, I took my horse to the Old Town Road then I rode until I couldn’t no more. When my horse had grown tired, we found ourselves in a small town where a neighborhood boy promised us entertainment. For just $20, he said that he had a baby goat that he painted a non-toxic chemiluminescence that lip-synced to Ariana Grande songs. Sounded good to me, but after I paid him, he denied ever telling me that. In fact, he claimed there was never any Kid Glow Show. 

After its final issue, people have been asking me if, as a comedian, I was ever a big fan of MAD Magazine and its hilarious features such as “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” Well, the answer to that is… Not at all. I only read MAD for their culinary tips… The stacks of MAD Magazine books I have in my bedroom are only there to hide behind in the event of a zombie apocalypse… MAD? I’ve never heard of it or Don Martin or Al Jaffe or Spy v. Spy or anything they’ve ever done. Seriously, what a stupid question that is. It will be missed.

All in all, this moment of calm reflection has allowed me to review not just the last 365, but an entire decade. Thinking back to those halcyon pre-Malone days when we paid far too much for our cable package to these post-Malone days when we have been able to scrap our expensive cables plans in order to pay far more for a variety of subscription services. I’m sure I’ve aged, but using the Face App to see how I will look at the end of these upcoming 20s, I think I’m gonna be a-okay Boomer. 

Now, as I sink back on my orthopedic lounge chair, bathed in CBD oil, the residue from my vape pen now but a flavored memory, I realize it is most certainly a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And with that, I say…

May peace and joy trigger you to a meltdown of health and prosperity throughout 2020. 

Yours Truly,

Andy Wasif 

My Year in Review for 2018

December 24, 2018 6:14 p.m. 

Ready Player One? Let’s get to this year’s recap!: 

Dear Evan Hansen, friends, family, unindicted co-conspirators, David Dennison, Individual-1, Bart O’Kavanagh, Scott Free, the Marvelous Ms. Maisel, and old acquaintances Murphy, Will, Grace, Miss Poppins, and most of the Connor family, 

First of all, let me give a very gracious thank you to those of you who sent friend requests to my inbox this holiday season. I will respond to you as soon as I’ve managed to quarantine the viruses and restore all functionality to my computer.

Dilly Dilly! What a crazy year it has been, the craziest we’ve ever seen from a standpoint of craziness. This particular revolution around the sun flew by faster than a Davidson/Grande union. While everyone was hearing Laurel or Yanny, I spent a fortnite flossing and tidying, hyping and orange justicing. Tide Pod Challenge? Defeated it!. . . Bowling Ball Test? Scored 100%!. . . Ballistic inbound missile? Marked myself safe!. . . Playing the market? Yeah, okay, that’s one I wish I had back. But overall, I was winning like a Bichon Frise at Westminster where every other pet was flying United. In short, 2018 was legit bougie on the daily.

This was an especially exceptional year for my self-improvement, which began with an overhaul of my typical diet which wasn’t easy. No longer could I subsist on sweets from Dunkin’ Donuts, I now had to find my nourishment elsewhere such as at establishments like Dunkin’. I also adopted a flexible vegan diet where I ate all the meat I wanted, but my definition of “vegan” was not as rigid. But the magic elixir was ultimately found in eating nothing but Romaine lettuce and raw cookie dough for two weeks. You wouldn’t know to look at me, but my tapeworm has gained ten pounds. 

I also decided to make strides in my fitness and so signed up for my first Toyotathon. I trained for it by going to a President’s Day mattress sale, battling it out for an afternoon at Build a Bear, and for my final warm up, spent two hours with Kanye. I was ready! Sadly, it did not go well as I ended up pulling my clutch early on then spent the rest of the -thon favoring my gear box. Never the Discouraged Dickey, though next year, I plan on signing up for a Macy’s Labor Day Spectacular.

Of which I may be most proud this year is finally becoming “woke” and realizing that Benecio and Guillermo Del Toro are two separate people. . . and neither is a bullfighter. Who knew?

But DO NOT CONGRATULATE! I also had my share of tribunals and tabulations, such as the time I mispronounced trials and tribulations a moment ago. However, I plead the fifth, invoke attorney/client privilege, refer you to my NDA (unsigned, of course), and revoke your security clearance as you’re on a need to know basis, but the kerfuffle stemmed from my job making robocalls for an infinity stones company which, to my surprise turned out to be a money laundering scheme. When the ****hole country hit the fan, I denied it, but Lordy, there are tapes!

What I can tell you is that it was the night of the blood moon when what happened was [redacted] videos of Bigfoot [redacted] which quickly became [redacted] leading to the end of Moviepass that, in turn, caused [redacted] a $130,000 payout that required me to [redacted] all but ruining my chance of hosting the Oscars. It was unquestionably a fiasco, though [redacted] an “Alf” reboot. 

I know you’re screaming, “We call BS!” But truth isn’t truth! It you want the full story, you’ll have to talk to my lawyer’s lawyer.

Through it all, I managed to sneak some traveling into my schedule, spending two weeks in Paradise, mostly raking the forest, but the real adventure began on my trip home when a problem with passenger nudity (not mine) caused a delay on the runway. The airline said they could put me on another flight right away, but with a layover in Devil’s Triangle which, understandably, I turned down. The alternative was a caravan which slowly made its way back toward home and included a detour through Marwen where everyone was an absolute doll.

At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to remember my dear friend Geoffrey, one of youthful spirit, gentle hospitality, and the best for less so you could really flip your lid. I’ll always remember him from our time together at Toys Were Us. 

Now, as I put the winter classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside, but You Can’t Stay Here Because People Will Get the Wrong Idea” on the hi-fi and snuggle up in my living room in front of a smocking fire wearing my Yeezys and Lululemon pants, drinking a Ketogenic prime rib smoothie through the last of the plastic straws, I’m reminded of the fact that, well, I don’t have a fireplace. It was my understanding that my neighbor would pay for it, but apparently I boofed. Womp womp! Please forgive me as I cut this letter short to look for an extinguisher.

May your health and success in the new year be genetically cloned to produce superfortune impervious to sickness and failure!

Scooby doo pa-pa! 

Yours truly,

Andy Wasif   

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2017 – My Year in Review

December 24, 2017 8:53 p.m.

Dearest friends, family, good people on both sides, Irma, Harvey, Jose, Maria, Reality Winner, Young Sheldon, Jayden K Smith, Lord Buckethead, and all you dotards out there. And to those Russian bots scanning this transmission, С Рождеством!

Before I begin, I must send my thoughts and prayers to those who have lost loved ones in the Bowling Green Massacre, the Sweden Attacks, the Panem Hunger Games, the “La La Land” Best Picture mishap, and the Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl collapse. We grieve bigly.

And now on with the only fake news that is really fake. Please take a knee!. . . NO! . . .Wait! Stand! . . . Aw, heck, do as you want, it’s a free country. . . at least for now. . . But leave your pants ON, for God’s sake! 

Where did the year go? (Asking for a friend.) 280 characters flew by like it was only 140. It certainly was a year of stranger things, messed up AF, straight savage, garbage fasho! But I’m done throwing shade on it, so I’ll just take the L. (And that was all before I earned my certificate in Millennial Speech: 101 at an online community college. Sorry, not sorry.) Let us think back upon a year of leaks, leakers, leeks (delicious in soups), wildfires, “You’re fired!”, and the Fyre Festival. But so. . . much. . . winning that it’s made me wanna do the Salt Bae Dance.

Overall, my time out west was eventful as I’m sure you know it was a year of scandal in Hollywood. The town got Fifty Shades Darker when The Star was told to Get Out. Yup, he was unceremoniously booted from the Glass Castle. After all, he was the Boss, Baby! Though it certainly was Beauty and the Beast. It’s a Wonder it took this long to expose The Big Sick sleaze ball. What a Disaster Artist he was! From there, It was one big Justice League on all these culprits. Such is Life. 

Unfortunately, I too did not escape unscathed due to the actions I took during my younger days. Back then, I attended a lot of music concerts and was frequently stuck sitting on the lawn with the rest of the less affluent masses. So I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for a fan club or two to have access to better seats. In hindsight, I realize I probably should not have become a “humper,” but I will never regret my love of Englebert Humperdink though I have since let my fan club membership lapse. Even with my most sincere apology, however, I still got fired from my new job after only ten days, two days before my official start date.

On the bright side, that left me with ample time to pursue several entrepreneurial ventures, including: a line of clothes for pet birds, the condiment combination ketchrelstard, and various Uber knockoffs such as Gluber (in classroom adhesive delivery for kids); Suber (instant lawsuits); Muber (dairy products when you need them); and Hans Gruberuber (Alan Rickman comes to your house in 24 hours or less to recite lines from “Die Hard”). I even found time to upload an audiobook version of my nonfiction work “Why People Don’t Listen” on Audible, but . . . at present, it has yet to register its first sale on the platform. 

I also made a concerted effort this year to improve my health by focusing on weight loss, my “skinny repeal” so to speak. I thrived on a steady diet of nothing burgers (medium rare) and covfefe smoothies while drenching everything else in gorgonzola and feta (which kept me from eating it because I hate that stuff). After two weeks, I’m proud to report that I lost almost 20 I.Q. points. I’m now completely vegan, eating only those animals that abstain from meat.  

When it comes to travel, sadly, the year was not an abundant as I had hoped. I planned to visit Puerto Rico, which a lot of people don’t know is an island with a lot of water around it and that makes it very difficult to get to, a very big island… but I have booked another trip for the coming days. I leave to Nambia in mid-January, which I’m excited about. I’ve even begun learning Nambian!

And so as “winter is coming,” and the stockings are stuffed with fidget spinners, dog whistles, and unusable World Cup tickets, I sit by the brilliant glow of my Tiki torches, engaged in a little light reading (an unabridged copy of the Steele Dossier), a refreshing Mueller High Life in hand, and the knowledge that my bank account is bursting with bitcoins keeping me as safe and secure as a passenger on United Airlines. I bid you all a most wonderful evening. 

May the fruits of hope and prosperity be cross bred to bring you a 2018 filled with hoperity!

Bye Felicia!

Hugs, 

Andy Wasif

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2016 – My Year In Review

This annual end of the year note is gonna be YUGE! Believe me! It’s gonna tell you tremendous things, things that are really great. Those who say it won’t are wrong. They’re liars and disgusting people. Sad. . . Now I know there are a lot of these notes out there that are spreading real anecdotes, but you can trust that my anecdotes are really and truly 100% real fake.

It goes out to all those dearest friends, family members, bad hombres, nasty women, Berners, Twitter trolls, killer clowns, elves on shelves, Pokemon Goers, and David S. Pumpkins who populated my timeline during the past 12 months. (And to those comrades hacking this transmission, a very heartfelt ?????????? ?????????? to you.)

So take a knee and we’ll get right to it!

I know a lot of you were not thrilled with 2016, but I’m a glass half-filled guy even if this year’s glass was filled with an Arnold Palmer-like concoction of water from Flint, Michigan and Guaranama Bay in Rio de Janeiro. In a year when we endured the loss of Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, logic, Mohammed Ali, civil discourse, Gene Wilder, intelligent foresight, the Billy Goat curse, hope, Ryan Lochte’s integrity, real news, and Harambe, hey . . .  at least we found Richard Simmons!!!

So far, the holiday season is off to a great start as I wound up with a gift basket of deplorables at the Office Christmas Party (in theaters now) elephant swap.

From there, the year started off bigly. I’m putting you all on blast that I was like a fleekalaur on fleek mode going fleek trappin’ during Fleek Week, and overall representing the Urban Dictionary I received last holiday season.

Though I hit a funk as spring uncoiled and I felt a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time, a longing I hadn’t longed for in a felt time. I sat in solitude and took stock of my life. At that point, I came to the conclusion that I had to sell off my life stock before my portfolio went bankrupt. I was frustrated and wanted escape, to travel back to a time when life was simpler. I looked for a way to time travel, but couldn’t find a time machine, so I opted for a time staycation instead and remained right in March of 2016.

It was then I decided to do something really challenging, to venture out of my comfort zone. Should I be climbing mountains, running marathons, Standing Rock? Just the consideration seemed impossible so I ultimately opted for a staycation in my comfort zone instead. With my Phelps face on, I bottle flipped a mannequin while someone dumped an ice bucket on me as I performed 22 push ups with a mouth full of cinnamon, all to create an awareness for viral videos. We mustn’t let them die out.

With my soul replenished, I resolved to expand my horizons. Why, I learned so many life hacks this year, I started hacking life like a pro — I learned how to boycott a Broadway musical I couldn’t afford anyway, leak Wikis to the world, sell drug medicine to those who need it for prices they can’t afford while simultaneously giving myself a pay raise, all while reaching my Fitbit goal of “70% AWESOME”. (I didn’t want to overexert myself by doing too much too soon.)

Then this summer, I took up competitive eating. It was more on a whim, as I saw a bowl of oreos and Swedish fish and just started chowing down. They are addictive. Well, one thing led to another and against all odds, I won one contest, then another. Eaters with more of a pedigree of swallowing crap than I were swiftly eliminated. My rise was unpresidented. I reached the semis and then the Finals. I had to get serious.

I replaced my entire prep team and gave it my best shot. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I ate MORE Swedish fish oreos than my opponent. . . good enough for second place. (They have an arcane scoring system in these contests.) And here I am, back to private life. 

Though I recovered emotionally, my loss drove a wedge between me and my girlfriend Alexa. She left me, choosing to do it by writing a note on my 3rd Century replica manuscript book. The worst thing is that she took my collection of classic guitar players’ memorabilia, though I’ll also miss her cooking as she had a real flair for chile con carne and fajitas. Yep, I experienced a true Alexit-codexit-Jeff Beckzit-TexMexit. (Mom used to warn me it happens to all of us at one time or another.)

But now as 2016 mercifully becomes a dim ember in the rear view mirror, let us raise our glasses and scream, “YAHOO!” er, I mean, “VERIZON!” to toast to new adventures.

May you all grab 2017 by the click bait!

Yours Truly,

Andy Wasif

2015 – My Year in Review

To all my dearest friends from Jon to Trevor, Stephen to Larry, Dave to Stephen, and Bruce to Caitlyn…oh, and, of course, Mr. Nutz (Deez, you know I can’t forget youz),

Hello! How are you? It’s so typical of me to talk about myself, I’m sorry. . . But Adele lyrics aside, according to my FitBit, I’m “Kill’nit!” even in the face of this tumultuous, turbulent, truculent transitioning of the times which glided by like a hoverboard along the crumbling infrastructure of society. That said, whereas the rest of the world saw a black dress, I saw a gold one!

It was a year of self-realizing who I was. . . and then self-identifying with someone else. This allowed me to park in handicapped spaces, accept a Tony Award, and step on the GOP debate stage to spout random stuff off the top of my head. But in the end, I showed up everyday and worked hard, sometimes 22, 23 hours a day. Such is the price to pay when you’re a part-time employee for Amazon. Hey, I do my job, even if I don’t believe in it. I mean, who am I, Kim Davis? BOOM!

[Mic Drop]

I spent much of the early part. . .

[Mic Retrieval]

My bad! I realize you can’t hear me without the mic. As I was saying. . . I spent much of the early part of the year preparing my place for a special visitor as my friend B-Dub told me he was “tight with Pope Frankie” and could get me a personal meeting. So after dumping the Chipotle in the toilet, erasing the hashtags from all my Starbucks cups, and hiding the Subway sandwiches in a box way back in the closet, His Holiness never showed! Turns out Brian didn’t know him at all; he didn’t even follow him on Periscope! (Way to get my hopes up, Williams!)

As a consolation, I did get to sit down for tea with another representative from the religious community. You know what they say, the only thing that rectifies our problems is a good chai with a nun.

Lest not ye think it was a year devoid of hardship, an incident thrust me into controversy. Well, the kerfuffle began when I purchased a piñata for my nephew’s birthday, stored it at his house, and upon hoisting it over the ol’ oak branch for him and his friends to whack open, we found far less candy inside than piñata regulations stipulate.

Don’t you know, this earned me a suspension from my nephew’s next four birthdays, which I thought was exorbitant considering it was the same penalty given his cousin for licking all the pretzels and putting them back in the bowl. After some investigation, it became clear his brother was the culprit as it is common for one sibling to steal candy from the other — The Natural Law of Relation — in what will forever be known heretofore throughout my family as Relategate.

But that ordeal was nothing compared to the water my proverbial ship (H.M.S. Measles Outbreak) took on when I penned that seemingly harmless magazine piece suggesting the work of three guitars in a band wasn’t necessary. I commented that a lead and rhythm guitarist were plenty. Oh, the heat I took! It was completely unfounded, I believe. I mean, you all know me! I certainly am no bassist. In fact, I can’t be a bassist. I have a friend who plays the bass. But alas, I was ordered to attend sensitivity training, mandatory listening to Sly & the Family Stone, and a meeting with the likes of Sting and Flea.

File Under: It Wasn’t All Bad. I did manage to do quite a fair bit of traveling, mostly to fan festival destinations as they have become very popular recently. To all you cosplayers, no, I couldn’t make Comic-Con, but in the span of a summer fortnight, I attended everything from Connick-Con, a celebration of jazz musician/actors from New Orleans, to the wonderful weekend of events centered around the character of “Frenchy” from the original “Grease” movie that was Didi Conn-Con, to the Rockettes own fan convention, Cancan-Con, to a week of eating all sorts of delicious pork products at Bacon-Con (which is not to be confused with the Kevin Bacon festival named after his role in “Hollow Man,” Sebastian Caine-con), to getting my sweet tooth on at Bonbon-Con. I even found time this year to participate in a useful four-hour workshop on decision-making — Pro/Con.

And finally, professionally, I achieved some good fortune. You may have heard that Daniel Craig’s days as James Bond are coming to a close and for his successor, the production company sought an actor outside the suave, dapper archetype we’ve grown used to. Well, after several rounds of auditioning and tense callbacks. . . I was chosen to be the next James Bond!  . . . and then I was told I wasn’t. At first, I was upset with Steve Harvey Casting but realize it was an honest mistake which they attempted to make up for by promising me a shot at another role, that of “008,” a spy with a license to sell jewelry at a mall kiosk, for the upcoming “Moonraker” big screen remake to air on television as a live musical. Fingers crossed!

May the force awaken inside you leaving you refreshed and inspired for a great 2016!

Yours Truly,

Andy Wasif

P.S. If anyone on my list is still having difficulty keeping their e-mail server from getting wiped clean, I’m happy to send a hard copy of this to you.

You CAN Win for Losing

Back in the eighth grade, I won my junior high school’s spelling bee and got to represent my town at the regional spelling bee, sponsored by the Patriot Ledger newspaper.  To me, I may not have been the best representative because I had actually lost the spelling bee first, before winning it.

Sitting closest to the door (for ease of escape in the event of one of those spelling bee riots you hear about all the time), to the teacher’s left, I was given the word first.  “Doctrine,” she said.  This was ironic because I had recently spent four months that year obsessing on this very same word.

Six months prior, I was Bar Mitzvahed, a day when a Jewish boy becomes a man in every way except for body hair, hormones, bank account, sexual exploits, first and so on.  (I’m not sure exactly how the manhood myth actually started, but it probably had to do with the fact that everyone only lived til they turned twenty.)

On that day, I had to recite one particular passage from the prayer book.  It read (and haunts me to this day) — “Behold, a good doctrine has been given you, my Torah.”  I spent waaaaaaay too long discussing the proper intonation needed for the excerpt. Was I addressing the Torah as in “Hey, Torah, how’s it goin’? Oh, before I forget. . . I’m giving you a good doctrine”?  Or is it the Torah, in fact, that is the doctrine of which I am referring?

The guy with whom I was Bar Mitzvahed and I went over this again and again and could not come up with a consensus.  The rabbi contributed his two cents by explaining he didn’t understand the question and couldn’t give me an accurate answer. (Thanks for the wisdom, your Holiness.)

I found it hard to believe no one had posed the question to him before. You’re saying I’m the only one literate enough to notice the ambiguity of that sentence?  Or perhaps I was the only one crazy enough to care. It’s like the 2% of nutbags who choose cumquat as a vegetable beginning with “c” instead of carrot.

Yes, I saw the word “doctrine” in my sleep. That word was right there in front of me for months!  And yet. . .

When the moderator read the word to me, I was all at once dancing gleefully inside at my good fortune, and weeping because I couldn’t remember exactly how it was spelled.  It was either one way (the correct way) or the other. My heart beat faster. Time was ticking. So I took my shot and spelled it as “doctor” and then “-ine,” i.e. the wrong way.

“No,” she said succinctly, and I exhaled. My heart returned to its normal pace and I sat back to watch the other participants as a spectator. (Have you ever watched a spelling bee as a spectator? It’s as boring as watching. . . no, wait, I’m mistaken. Nothing is as boring as watching a spelling bee as a spectator. Add the humiliation of defeat to that and you’ve got my situation.)

Now, I knew there were only two ways this word could be spelled and there were five more people in line to attempt to spell it.  To. . . this. . . day, I have absolutely zero idea how every single one of those people failed to spell the word correctly.  No fewer than two of them spelled it the exact same way I did, like it was some sort of trick the teacher was pulling on them and they said, “We’re not falling for it.  We know Andy spelled it right, but not with the conviction I’m going to spell it.”  And three of them spelled completely different words, I think.

“Sheesh, wasn’t anyone listening to me?” I thought.

The teacher (no doubt, silently dying inside) shrugged and looked back to me, “Well, I guess you’re back in.”

Seriously?  “Well, okay.  It’s d-o-c-t-r-i-n-e,” I rattled off quickly.  And from there, I was a house afire nailing word after word and watching as my competitors crumbled at the feet of my reborn brilliance.  I even walked out of the room throwing random words back at the teacher, thus earning me the world’s first spelling bee taunting penalty.

It was then that I realized that the most tragic issue in America during the mid-80s was not drugs, the Cold War, nor New Coke, but it was the failure of the school system to properly teach the spelling of the word “doctrine.”  Remember, this was before spellcheck when we actually had to know how to spell words.

Anyway, this was years before New England Patriots hero Tom Brady became famous by leading a game-winning drive against the Raiders in the playoffs after fumbling the ball away.  Due to a technicality, he got a second chance.  There’s nothing wrong with that, come to think of it.  Legends are made on second chances!

Of course, there are second chances that never develop into anything memorable as well. And so for the next few weeks, I studied the booklet of potential words and arrived at the Regionals with my mother and best friend William there to support me.

This bee was far less eventful – Round One: “anklet.” I thought, are you serious? “A-n-k-l-e-t,” I said, and returned to my chair to pray all the other entrants had a massive collective panic attack and withdrew. (I always thought a spelling bee contestant should treat a correctly spelled word like a touchdown and act accordingly, with a dance, a little shimmy, or spiking the inhaler of the kid next to you.)

Round Two comes around: “veinless.” Now, before you scoff and say how easy it is, when I heard the word, I immediately considered that the word “vein” is a homophone. Was it referring to the veins in the human body? A weather vane? I could eliminate that it was vain, as in conceited. But I still had to narrow down the two options.

Can you use it in a sentence? I asked.

Something without veins is veinless.”

Can you give me the definition?

The definition of veinless is ‘without veins,’ or ‘lacking veins’.” (Gee, thanks.)

Can you give me the origin of the word?

The word comes from the Latin.”  (Of course it did. Why wouldn’t it?)

Can you spell the first couple of letters for me?

“No.”

How about a different sentence?

“No.”

Can you — ?

Just spell the damn word, kid!”

I took my shot. I mean, we didn’t have a weather vane on our roof at home and my mother never once referred to our house as vaneless.

V-e-i-n-l-e-s-s.

“Correct.”

Again, dancing inside my head, spiking inhaler.

Then a couple of people got eliminated (ha! idiots!) and it came around to me again. Round Three!

Now, I don’t know if I’ve blocked it out, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember what my third word was. I do remember asking all the previous questions in the hopes they would admire my thoroughness and just give me a pass to the next round, but when they didn’t, I did not even approach its correct spelling.

A big relief as order had been restored to the universe. And with that, spell check came along and further destroyed my ability to spell.

 

So it just goes to show that you can win for losing. But in the end, it was my ultimate failure which paved the way for Tom Brady to be remembered as the greatest second chance artist in history.

Customs Ordered

My recent trip to Toronto (or “Tronno” as the locals say) reminded me of the time I was almost deported. . . from America. . . despite my American citizenship and residency.

Okay, a little backstory here — when I was younger, I decided to come out of my mother’s womb while she was living in Canada, a decision I never felt would cause a problem. Then, we moved to my mother’s hometown of Boston, I grew taller, my voice changed, and I went off to college where I wanted to spend a semester traveling abroad during my senior year. I was off to Spain!

As it was my first time out of the country as an adult, I sought the advice of my father who had spent about six months out of the year traversing the friendly skies during my youth (with better-than-even odds it wasn’t because of me).

On the surface, listening to him seemed reasonable, but here was a man who always puts forth some odd theories — he believes the healthiest food for you is fried food because it kills off the bacteria; he feels sugar cane is the best for your teeth; and whenever he needs to diet, he eats nothing but a head of lettuce for one day.  So. . . this is whom I was listening to.

Anyway, he had this silly idea that it would be safer to travel abroad on a Canadian passport than on an American one.  This was to Europe, more specifically Spain and France, mind you.  He was afraid that if a terrorist would target my airplane, they would scream, “We are taking over this plane and going to crash it into a mountain killing all of you in the name of Allah!!!! . . . Now, if all the Canadians can please show us your passports, we would be happy to equip with parachutes so you can float to safety before we destroy the infidel Americans.” Seemed reasonable.

So far, so good. Four months of gorging myself on paella and tortilla and not one inquisition on my nationality. . . until I returned.

After four months in Spain, a layover at Heathrow Airport in London, and about 20 hours of total traveling, I stood in Boston’s Logan Airport, its international terminal, and watched my entire plane clear customs, a passenger roster that included our state’s governor, as I was asked to remain.

I saw my parents come to the glass window, wondering why their son was not with the rest of the plane. They waved to me and I waved back.  But that was the extent of our contact as Customs Guy #1 was busy grilling me.

“Where were you born?”

“Canada.”

“Where do you live now?”

“Sharon. Twenty-five miles from here.”

“Where are your parents from?”

(Uh oh, I gulped. I saw where this was going.) “Well, my mom’s from Boston. . .”

“And your dad?”

Yeah, about that. . . He was uh, kinda born in. . . “uh, Egypt.”

(This was post-2500 B.C. so any mention of the Middle East raised red flags.)

Customs Guy #1 bore down on me. “Okay, lemme get this straight. You were born in Canada, raised in America, and your father’s from Egypt?”

(Gee, since you put it that way, I don’t see how that makes any sense either.) I was too tired for sarcasm and didn’t think that would help my cause so I just replied, “Yes.”

Was this case so unique? I couldn’t believe I was the only Canadian-born Bostonian he’d ever seen?  He’s a customs officer, for crissakes. But he just scratched his head and said, “Stay right there. I’m going to get my supervisor.”

A few minutes went by and Customs Guy #1 returns with a taller gentleman, Customs Guy #2. (I think they ranked them according to height.)

He didn’t really add much to the conversation but did proceed with, “Why did you travel outside the country on a Canadian passport?” (Oooo, now I could see why this guy was promoted.)

“I don’t have an American passport,” I said.

I had stumped the panel. (Don Pardo, tell him what he’s won!) Customs Guy #2 told me to wait as well.  Then he walked away.

More passage of time. I turned to my parents and shrugged.  (I didn’t do any of that overly dramatic stuff like putting my hand on the glass for them to touch the other side.

And now he returned with Customs Guy #3. I checked to see how many customs officers remained at their stations to screen other travelers. It was beginning to look like I was a codex and they needed all available men in solving the riddle inside me.

“So you’re from Canada, but live in America?” 

“Yes, sir.” (We were gonna rehearse from Act One again, apparently.)

“We’ve never run across anything like this before.”

I did say “Canada,” right?  Not Mars!  You’ve never come across a, dare I say, foreign-born citizen living in America before? “Give us your free, your poor, your huddled Canuck masses. . .” That doesn’t ring a bell? In all your time in customs officer training and then your subsequent internship and residency program — I have no idea what it takes to become a customs officer — this has never come up?  Boston is literally a one hour flight from Canada.  You have more of a chance seeing one of us than someone from that far off land of Philadelphia.”  Oh, in my head, I was having some fun with this.

He finally offered up a resolution. . . as they had run out of customs supervisors to bring over. “We’re going to have to order you back to Canada.

Really? I shrugged. What’s another two hours of flying? I thought. I could visit my cousins, and live with them.

Or . . .

There’s an “or?” Where does the “or” come from and why not mention it first assuming it’s better than the first option. (I was betting against, “Or we could throw you on a spit and serve you to the natives.”) Otherwise, why bring it up?

“Or you could pay $100.”

Seems kind of arbitrary to pull a penalty out on a situation they’d never heard of before. . .  Meh. Whatever. Works for me. “See that man over there, the Middle Eastern Gene Wilder?” I said, pointing at my father.  “Go see him.  He’ll pay.  He’s the reason I’m standing here in the first place.”

So at the end of that entire adventure, I learned that US Customs is like all other American businesses — an office filled with lots of redundancies all making it up as they go along in the effort to earn an extra buck or two. I’m sure those three officers each got $33 out of it (with the tallest guy getting $34) toward a nice dinner at Legal Seafood, a local tradition, once they got off their shifts.

It was a win-win.  Except for my father who was out $100.  But he paid for a good lesson. . . a lesson you think he might have learned while accruing hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles each year. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that a head of lettuce is much less expensive than a nice dinner at Legal Seafood.