My Private Workout with Obama

[The following is a 100% partially true story.]

People routinely accuse me of telling over-the-top fabricated stories in this column. They make these outrageously unfair accusations just because I may bend the truth a tiny bit occasionally – and by occasionally, I mean not more than 80% of the time. (The other 20% I’m telling the truth, although, admittedly, that’s usually by accident.)

But this time, I swear I’m writing with utter veracity. Recently I had a private workout with Barack Obama – the 44th president of the United States. I was in San Diego for an industry conference. Obama was the keynote speaker. I wasn’t able to attend his address because it started at 8:00 am, and that was just way too early to rise and shine – even for my favorite President.

I was staying at a nearby Hilton. The day following his speech, I was working out in the hotel’s fitness center, doing my usual exercise routine of pretending to pedal on a stationary bike, while watching an episode of Parks and Recreation on my iPad.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but the 44th prez with two bodyguards near.

There he was, not ten feet from me, pumping barbells and doing pushups. There were only eight of us in this rather large room, plus Obama and his two-man secret service detail, who were stoically standing at attention in the far corner of the room.

My brain was spinning way faster than I was pedaling at the sudden realization that the former president (my hero) and I were, in essence, working out together! There was no metal detector, no security pat-down or any effort to detain me from entering the gym. Thank God they didn’t check to see I’m a humor writer who makes fun of politicians, or else I’d probably be sitting in a Guantanamo cell right now.

Outwardly, I continued to remain calm. But inwardly I was freaking out. I could not take my eyes off him – even though the Parks and Recreation episode was a particularly good one.

In my head, my brain was buzzing with things I wanted to say if Obama came near me:

Mr. President, I miss you so much!!! [after which I would commence sobbing] … Or Continue reading “My Private Workout with Obama” »

  • Well, the only reason I believe the first part of your story is because Matt told me about it last…
    Helene C
  • Published On May. 23, 2018 by TEJ
  • Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers

    Welcome, Tense Traveler.

    Thank you for choosing High Anxiety Tours (HAT) to arrange your trip. We’ll take care of everything. Take a deep breath and relax. We understand that as a first-time international traveler, you may be a tad nervous about venturing into the unknown. At HAT, our mission is to ensure you have a 100% stress-free experience.

    So, this is your first visit to Colombia. As travel experts, trust us when we say there is (almost) nothing to worry about. Word has it that the Colombian drug lords have no documented plans to kidnap or torture American tourists in the foreseeable future. Of course, their plans are subject to change without notice.

    Before you leave for the airport, remember to go through a departure checklist so you can R-E-L-A-X while away. Did you …

    • Bring your passport?
    • Pack sunscreen?
    • Turn off the stove?
    • Get a sitter for your cats?
    • Refill your Xanax?
    • Are you 100% sure you turned off the stove?

    You are now ready for a calm, peaceful holiday in tranquil Colombia– that is, if you make your flight. It is imperative to be at the airport a minimum of four hours before departure, in case of unforeseen glitches such as highway construction or a wildcat strike by baggage handlers. In rare instances, flights do take off a day or so early, to adjust for the time differences. The odds TSA Security will mistake your traveler’s trepidation for drug-smuggling jitters are 3-1, at best. So, don’t sweat. No, seriously, do NOT sweat! If they see you sweat, they’ll get suspicious and probably conduct a full body cavity search.

    Continue reading “Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers” »

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  • Published On May. 16, 2018 by TEJ
  • My Action Plan for Today: Just Don’t Do It!

    Most days, I try to live up to that inspirational Nike slogan: Just Do It! I answer my email. I do the chores – sometimes with only a few irreparable mistakes. I even exercise. Today, however, was not one of those inspired days. Today was a Just DON’T Do It kind of day.

    I started with the best of intentions. Last night I wrote my goals for today – because I read somewhere that people who write down their goals are far more likely to accomplish them, succeed in life, bear attractive children and win the Nobel Prize than people who don’t. I had visions of forsaking watching The View and powering through my To Do list, even making dinner for my wife. Then I woke up.

    Below is my original action plan for today, followed by the results I achieved. Well, maybe “achieved” is overstating it a bit. Let’s just say that my Nobel Prize is looking increasingly out of reach.

    PLAN: 6:00: Out of bed. Shower, shave, brush teeth, etc.

    REALITY: Turns out the snooze button taps out at 10 smacks. Skipped shower, shaving, etc. Rationalized that good hygiene is overrated – plus, saved on my water bill.

    PLAN: 6:30: Make a healthy breakfast of fruit and low-fat yogurt. Maybe a kale shake.

    REALITY: Maybe NOT a kale shake. Way behind schedule. (I blame Westclox, inventor of the snooze clock, circa 1959). Healthy breakfast preempted by a need to Google “Inventor of snooze alarm.” Scarfed down a frosted apple-cinnamon pop tart and a slice of cold pineapple-topped pizza. On the positive side, met my daily fruit requirement.

    PLAN: 7:00: 45 minutes on the elliptical. Lift weights. Continue reading “My Action Plan for Today: Just Don’t Do It!” »

    • Excellent! Laughed so hard at "just DON'T do it" that my "to do" list flew into the recycling bin.
      Valarie K
  • Published On May. 10, 2018 by TEJ
  • The League of (Un)Extraordinary Gentlemen

    I belong to a men’s doubles racquetball league of 13 seniors. Okay, when I say “league” that sounds a bit more serious than it really is. It’s actually more like a “club.” No, that’s not quite it either. “Herd.” Yeah, it’s more like a herd – as in cattle, because some of us play the game about as well as a spry Holstein. We meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8am sharp – unless it’s Christmas. Then we play at 11.

    Not to toot my own horn, but out of this Baker’s Dozen of racquetballers, I routinely rank among the top 15. As I see it, the only thing separating my game from my teammates’ is my lack of speed, power, accuracy, court awareness, and peripheral vision. Oh, and ability. Yeah, I’m sort of lacking in that department, too. And yet, despite how consistently inconsistent I am, they still let me play. My theory is that I make them all look like pros by comparison.

    At 63, I am one of the youngest players. The ages range from 54 to 80. Jerry is eighty years young. He’s right-handed, but due to a shoulder injury, he now plays lefty. And he still cleans my clock on the court. Now, I’ve only been doing racquetball for forty years – whereas Jerry started playing during the Garfield administration. And as a relative rookie, I’m still learning the subtleties of this sport. For example, just last week I was informed that it’s legal to play the ball off the back wall. Thanks for finally telling me, guys. That’s a game changer.

    Not long ago we accepted a woman into our men’s club. Kate is extremely talented – better than most of the guys – so, I always graciously invite her to be my partner. That’s because I am a gentleman and want her to feel comfortable and accepted in our group. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that with Kate as my partner, I might actually stand a chance of being on the winning side for a change.

    Continue reading “The League of (Un)Extraordinary Gentlemen” »

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  • Published On May. 02, 2018 by TEJ
  • The Time I Tortured Myself for No Good Reason

    Over the years, many people have questioned my intelligence, most notably several past bosses. You need look no further for damning evidence to back up this charge than Exhibit A: I once ran a marathon. And not as a court-ordered punishment for littering. No, I did it voluntarily.

    If you’ve never run a marathon and you happen to be someone I strongly dislike, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a great way to waste four to fourteen perfectly good hours punishing your body and shattering your emotional well-being. During this endurance contest, as your will to live slowly disintegrates, you may catch yourself asking soul-searching questions like “Would anybody really notice if I cut off a few miles by taking the subway?”

    A marathon is an absurdly long distance to travel without a car – 26 miles and 385 yards, to be exact. To put this into proper perspective, that’s twice the length of the island of Manhattan. It’s wider than the English Channel. And it’s 26 miles longer than I ever plan to travel on foot any time between now and when I die.

    I did some research and found that the word “Marathon” comes from the Greek mara meaning “sea” and thonus meaning “lacking in thought”, or, roughly translated “a sea of idiots. This makes complete sense when you realize that every year, tens of thousands of otherwise sane people pay good money for the opportunity to inflict pain and suffering on their bodies over 26 miles of concrete.

    I ran my first (and last) marathon on Sunday, November 4, 1990. It was the granddaddy of them all: the New York Marathon, which winds through all five boroughs of the Big Apple. I was one of an elite few selected to participate. They shut the door after 25,000 registrants.

    Continue reading “The Time I Tortured Myself for No Good Reason” »

    • "sea of idiots" made me LOL. I love your writing. Your timing, self-deprecation, vocabulary and tight wit…
      Deborah Stehr
  • Published On Apr. 25, 2018 by TEJ

     [The following is a true story.]

    The year was 1977. I was 22, just out of college, and working minimum wage for a top-forty radio station in Charlottesville, Virginia – WCHV.

    I completed a grueling course to earn my Third Class Radio Operator’s license, qualifying me to be on the airwaves – and make photocopies for the other disc jockeys. Perhaps because I broke the copy machine and spilled coffee on the radio control panel, the station manager wouldn’t let me near the microphone – except to read the T & T (time and temperature) on Christmas day when everyone else was at home for the holiday.

    My big break came the following Spring. It was 11:30 on a Tuesday night. I was in bed, unable to sleep because I lay there hacking and sniffling. I was sicker than a dog. Then the phone rang. It was the station manager: “Tim, Chris Furlong is under the weather and can’t do his midnight shift. I’ve called literally everybody, and nobody is available. So, what do you say? Want to be on the air?”

    Tonight?” I wheezed. However sick Chris Furlong might have been, I was feeling ten times worse. So naturally I answered: “Abso [cough] lutely, boss! [cough]. THANK [cough] YOU!”

    “Sure you’re feeling all right, buddy?”, he asked? “Never felt – ahhhhh-choooo – better. I’ll be right over,” I sneezed.

    I arrived at the station at 11:50 for the 12:00 to 6 am shift. At the stroke of midnight, the previous shift’s jock raced out of the studio, like Cinderella fleeing from the Ball. At that moment, it suddenly dawned on me: I was totally alone in the building. The fate of WCHV was upon my shoulders ALONE.

    Continue reading “NIGHT OF THE DEAD (AIR)” »

    • Tim. This was hilarious. I can imagine how you felt when the studio went dark. Kerp them coming. Jim
      James RichesonJ
  • Published On Apr. 12, 2018 by TEJ
  • My Visit with Mom

    Recently, I flew across the country from Seattle to my hometown of Albany, New York, to spend a few days with my elderly mother. While my father died relatively young (at age 64 – a year older than I am now), my mom is like the Energizer Bunny. At 97, she keeps going and going and going.

    Well, maybe not exactly. She now needs hearing aids in both ears, her short-term memory has declined significantly, and she is legally blind, able only to make out shapes and colors but with no detail. And she needs a wheelchair to make it any further than two feet. But otherwise, she is doing amazingly well.

    While my mother knew I was coming to town, she kept forgetting exactly which day I’d be arriving. So, when I knocked on her room door at the nursing home facility, I entered the room only identifying my presence by saying “Special Delivery for Betty.”  She got momentarily confused, not knowing who was calling on her.

    I proclaimed I had a special order of Peanut M&M’s (her favorite candy), but she was still unsure about who was bringing her this surprise. She guessed a few names before I gave her a hint: “It’s your fourth son, Tim!” Suddenly, she lit up like a Christmas tree and hugged me like my visit was the return of the prodigal son.

    Her fragile frame, once 5’3”, now barely reaches 5’. But her smile is still radiant. I would be visiting her for the next six days, and all I wanted to do was be there with her and to hopefully add a little sunshine for a few precious days.

    Continue reading “My Visit with Mom” »

    • Wow, Tim. It is so nice to have a special person like your Mom (and my Mom too, Hi) in…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Apr. 03, 2018 by TEJ
  • A Husband’s Burden – Clothes Shopping with Your Wife

    Marriage is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world, second only, some would argue, to not being married. All marriages have their ups and downs. If you ask me, the key to a long, happy marriage is to be patient, keep the lines of communication open, and at all costs, not to get sucked into shopping with your wife.

    Nowhere are the fundamental differences between men and women more pronounced than by how we shop. There are two ways of going about this: the way women do it and the correct way. When men enter a retail store, the purchasing experience usually goes something like this:

    Man: Do you have these sneakers in size 10?

    Store clerk: Yes, we do.

    Man: Great. Here’s my credit card.

    The entire transaction lasts roughly the length of an Old Spice commercial.

    For women, on the other hand, shopping involves a complex journey through countless retail stores on a quest for the elusive Hope Diamond of outfits. If you’re obliging enough to tag along, buckle up, buddy. You’re in for a long, exhausting ride. And if your wife insists on bringing your seven-year-old twins along for some new outfits, well, not to sound overly dramatic, but there’s a 10% chance you may not make it out alive.

    Let’s back up. If your wife asks if you’d like to accompany her to the mall “to check out some sales,” there is, of course, only one correct answer: Over my dead body. I’d rather have a root canal. Now, to be clear, I don’t actually suggest you utter the aforementioned phrase verbatim. You might want to say it in code, such as, Oh, I would hate to get in the way of your fun afternoon. How ‘bout you call your friend Charlotte and have a girls’ day out. If that fails, follow up with, Here’s my credit card. This day is on me. I love you, Sweetie.

    Continue reading “A Husband’s Burden – Clothes Shopping with Your Wife” »

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  • Published On Mar. 21, 2018 by TEJ
  • BREAKING NEWS! President Trump Says Something Shocking AND Offensive

    [Author’s note: Every day seems to bring a new stunning Trump scandal or controversy, so much so that the mainstream media simply can’t keep up. So, as a public service, VFTB has issued this generic news story the media can use at any time, when they don’t have time to cover the latest outrageous thing that comes out of the president’s mouth. – TEJ]

    Dateline: Washington, D.C., Any Date 2018

    BREAKING NEWS. President Trump stunned the nation this afternoon when he said something shocking and deeply disturbing. According to an anonymous insider, he did not tell anyone in advance that he was going to say it.

    He apparently decided to go off script [choose one of the following:] at a meeting with Fortune 500 business executives / before a rally of his supporters / talking with fellow golfers at one of his resorts. He spoke extemporaneously – something that has created problems throughout his presidency.

    Members of the mainstream media were aghast by the president’s highly controversial pronouncements. Some political pundits called his remarks “unhinged” and “a new low even for this presidency.”

    Asked about the president’s disquieting utterances, House Speaker Ryan declined to give an opinion, saying, “I didn’t see his speech, so, I really can’t comment – unless Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham approved of what he had to say. Then, yes, I stand by my President.”

    No one really knows why the president decided to say something so deeply divisive and seemingly ill-conceived. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially denied that the president said anything inappropriate. Later, upon being shown the video, she questioned the sound quality. “I really can’t make out what he said due to the loud background music. Is that AC-DC’s Thunderstruck playing? I love that song.”

    The president later doubled down, tweeting that he meant what he said and that anyone who disagreed with his observation is part of the fake news’ witch hunt against him. When shown the president’s tweet, Huckabee Sanders backpedaled, replying, “I’m quite certain he was joking. The president is known for his hilarious sense of humor.”

    The President subsequently dispatched a memo declaring “I’m not joking.” Huckabee Sanders, asked if she still thought he was just clowning around, shrugged and said, “I feel a migraine coming on. I think I better lie down.”

    Continue reading “BREAKING NEWS! President Trump Says Something Shocking AND Offensive” »

    • Hey Tim - would you please stop referring to him as "President" Trump. He's not a President. He's not even…
      Tim's Golf Buddy
  • Published On Mar. 14, 2018 by TEJ
  • “You Kids Have It So Easy!” (Parental Lecture, Year 2038 Edition)

    Growing up, I routinely was on the receiving end of my dad’s lectures about how cushy my life was compared to his when he was a youth. “You have no idea how easy you have it, son. When I was your age, I had no television or radio … or heat … or friends. I did 16 hours of chores each week to earn the privilege of sharing a single bed with my younger brothers. And if I got less than straight A’s, for my punishment, I had to paint the barn – with a tooth brush.” At least, that’s how I remember it.

    To be fair, my father, who grew up during the depression, had it much harder than I ever did. And my daughters, well, they lived in the lap of luxury, surrounded by computers and smart phones as they kept up with the Kardashians.

    It got me wondering. How might my daughters harangue their own slightly spoiled offspring some 20 years from now?  How would they contrive that their young lives in the early 2000s were oppressive? Perhaps that talk might go something like this….

    Europa. I know you’re only twelve years old, but I am sick and tired of your incessant whining. You have no idea how easy your life is compared to what I had to endure growing up. When I was your age, I didn’t even have a hoverboard, let alone a levitating hover car.

    My parents wouldn’t give me a smart phone till I turned 13. They were so strict. And to text anybody, I had to type on a keypad. That’s right. I literally had to enter a separate keystroke for every character. Telepathic texting was mere science fiction then. But these deprivations just made me stronger. I learned how to wait a full minute for a response to my Facebook posts. Don’t tell me you don’t know what Facebook was. You did a report on it in 5th grade history class.

    Continue reading ““You Kids Have It So Easy!” (Parental Lecture, Year 2038 Edition)” »

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  • Published On Mar. 07, 2018 by TEJ