Isn’t This Fun?

I once participated in an egg toss with my son Eliot, at a company picnic. Our egg, despite being dropped on the grass several times, miraculously survived the game intact. I kept the prized egg safe and brought it home to cook.

Breaking the shell revealed the yoke and white, pre-scrambled. Despite its un-marred appearance, the soft interior could not survive the many shocks to its delicate membranes.


“Isn’t this fun?”

That is the last thing I said to my sister on our first toboggan ride down ‘Suicide Hill’, before we wiped out.

When we hit the dip, I went airborne and landed spread-eagled on my face. I slid a few feet but didn’t move. Witnesses thought I was dead.

So much for pratfalls.

My sister also went airborne but landed on her tail bone. That must have hurt. I didn’t hear about her until after I regained consciousness.

Luckily, I didn’t break my neck. They rolled me onto the toboggan and pulled it to the chalet at Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

I woke up blind. I was in shock. Violent convulsions wracked my body until long after my stomach was empty.

Between convulsions, a paramedic asked me questions. He ran his finger nail up the sole of my foot to determine if I had sensations in my extremities. Which foot did I feel? Could I clench my right fist? My left? He passed a flashlight beam over my eyes.

I felt someone’s cool hand on my forehead.

I began to sense dim light. My sight slowly returned.

My parents couldn’t be located. Without their authority, and insurance information, we had nowhere to go. Neighbors were there for us. Cell phones didn’t exist.

My folks arrived and took us to the hospital. I had stabilized by then. It was cold and dark.

In the emergency room, a doctor glanced at me as he walked by. “Oh no. We can’t have this.” He came up to me, smiled, and popped my nose back straight. I never saw him again.

Keeping me alive had been the priority. That my broken nose drew attention meant the immediate crisis was past. Good to know I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life looking like a Picasso portrait.

I spent the night hospitalized, but with little rest. The nurses woke me every half hour to take my blood pressure ensuring I hadn’t hemorrhaged. They ignored my demands to let me sleep.  I never got to thank them.

My recovery was slow. A TV was set up in my room but I couldn’t stand the frenetic pace and shrill cheerfulness pouring from the screen.

A friend brought over some comedy albums to listen to, Bob Newhart and Vaughn Meader’s “First Family”. Though I knew the material, it now was a jumble of voices punctuated by raucous laughter.

Even ‘soothing’ music was too intense for me. Watching snow fall was about all I could handle, if the sound was turned down.

Movies and TV dramas portray a concussion as of little more consequence than a hang nail.

The hero falls off a cliff. He gets up, dusts himself off and declares with slightly crossed eyes, “I’m okay. Just a concussion…” He then returns to juggling, or playing drums, hardly missing a beat.

My experience was substantially different.

I had time to think, but an orderly thought process was an unfamiliar concept. My scrambled brain wasn’t even producing white noise.

After a week of my staring into space, my mother asked my siblings to play Hearts with me. The game had basic rules, required moderate manual dexterity, and provided simple memory exercise. It was the perfect game to focus my brain again.

I missed two full weeks of school and didn’t feel 100% after that.

Ideally, I think that trauma begets intelligence. With adversity, one develops strategies, abilities and perspective with which to deal with life.

We learn from our mistakes.

Or not.

I tried to learn from my older brothers’ mistakes. But very occasionally I came up with some doozy that they never would.

I have run off enough cliffs and into enough walls to know I lack Wiley Coyote’s resilience.

I now prefer steep learning curves to steep hills.

However, exercising judicious caution, one must not forfeit the liberty to take on risk. You cannot avoid risk. You must manage it.

When falling, whether to the left or right is ultimately a meaningless question. The goal is staying balanced on the wire.

Life threatening mistakes push the envelope too far, too fast. And there is always the risk of never applying those ‘invaluable life lessons’, because the clock stopped ticking.

It took a long time to recover from that concussion. Some people think I never did. Suffice to say, I was never quite the same.

Is anyone?

Storyography Captures Life’s Love and Laughter

Guest Post from the Tolucan Times, by John Cobb 11/18/15

What was it like, Grandpa? Please tell me again?

Every family has a culture, history, and values embedded in the stories we pass along.

Family trees and old pictures are fine. But how can we keep favorite stories alive, told by people we actually know? Who can breathe life into those images?

You know, those stories that make everyone laugh, or cry. You’ve heard them a million times. Who can tell them like Dad, or Nana can? They lived it, and lived to tell it their way, how it really happened.

No one can stop time. But hearing those stories again, slows it just a little.

“Oh, to hear her tell it again…”

Storyography Video Memoir Services, provides the opportunity to create a video memoir, and keep those stories alive permanently.

Whether it is Grandpa telling how he got his start, Mom recounting your childhood misadventures, or reliving memories of a beloved pet, Storyography records, edits and packages your video memoir for you and your loved ones to enjoy forever.

Everyone’s story deserves telling. What will you share?

Storyography is operated by Emmy-winning editor, John Adams. He provides a list of prompts to assist the client in choosing which memories to share.

Then the subject tells about the love and laughter of his/her life in the comfort of home. This relaxed conversation is captured on video.

After editing, Mr. Adams delivers a permanent copy, about ninety minutes of that recording session, for keeping and sharing.

You own the material. Your privacy is respected. The cost is affordable.

A 10% discount on all contracted services is available to Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, or members of the Joslyn Senior Center.

Storyography Video Memoir Services can be reached by phone at: (818)209-1738.

Or visit: for additional information.


The Show Must Go On

I’m a New Yorker. It’s in my blood.

I never lived there. My parents moved from Long Island to Minneapolis a month before my birth. Imagine my surprise, looking out the window of the nursery, expecting to see the Empire State Building or at least the Statue of Liberty, but seeing only snow.

Talk about bait and switch. Did I mention snow?

My heart always longed for New York City, land of Brigitte Bardot and Gina Lollobrigida.

Don’t get me wrong. Minnesota is a great place to live, if you like ice.

The wind rattled our eves while I sat and watched charming, beautiful, happy people amusing each other in that oasis of civilization, New York City.

Back then most television was broadcast from NYC. It seemed like such a happy place. Who wouldn’t prefer living amidst great entertainers like Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs?

In fourth grade, inspired by these two geniuses and Mad Magazine, I wrote a series of mock commercials to perform for my class. I wanted to make people laugh.

I enlisted a few class mates to assist me and secured time from our teacher Miss Hudson, to perform the skits during class time. Miss Hudson didn’t even demand rights of approval over my script.

The students in the class accepted the diversion but without enthusiasm. My fellow performers went through the motions but without a spark of understanding. My project was completely out of their experience, or interest.

This was not the “I have a barn! Let’s do a play!” fantasy come true. Everyone had a barn and everyone knew what barns were for, by golly!


Their indifference might have discouraged another. But I had a vision. I was unfazed.

The idea of a nine year old attempting to recreate ’60s style television sketch comedy, before “Laugh In,” would be implausible to most. That I did this, multiple times, in a small farm town in central Minnesota is preposterous.

Why did it seem so natural to me?

How did I know where the Catskills were? Why would mentioning the names Phil Silvers and Shecky Greene start me laughing?

While playing with my sister one day, my parents heard me exclaim “Oy vey!” They asked where I heard that expression. Indeed, where would a Catholic kid, from corn country, learn Yiddish?

Stop with all the questions, already!

Laurel and Hardy were on TV every Saturday morning. I knew all their work. Exposure to W. C. Fields, Chaplin and Buster Keaton came later. Harpo Marx never knew what a devoted fan he had.

I incorporated slapstick humor into my every day life. I would plan and execute prat falls, in public, for my own amusement. If anyone else laughed, all the better. Friends gave me funny hats. I carried props in my army surplus trench coat.

Soon, I realized that my efforts to entertain the world were largely unappreciated. People surround themselves with a wall of predictability and anything disrupting that is seen with suspicion. I couldn’t understand why such antics were hilarious in a movie, but not in real life.

But characters in my favorite comedies didn’t laugh either. It is the audience who laughs. In ‘real life’ there is no audience, except for friends.

Timing. I needed to work on my timing.

In the ‘90s, I attended an Emmy Awards Ceremony where Sid Caesar was a guest host. During a lull in the proceedings, I approached him and thanked him for all the laughs he’d given me in my life. We spoke for a moment and he graciously shook my hand.

In 2002, to cure my sleep apnea, I submitted to an outpatient procedure by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. He removed my tonsils, adenoids and my uvula on a Wednesday.

The following Sunday was Father’s Day and I planned to spend it with my two children. I expected to be my usual chipper self after four full day’s recovery. Nope.

That Sunday morning the doctor informed me that the pain would now get worse. Much worse. For days I felt like a toothpaste tube, squeezed dry and abandoned at the bottom of a cluttered drawer. Now my throat felt like a hot coal I could neither swallow nor spit out. Thanks Doc.

But I promised my kids. I wasn’t going to let a little pain squelch my Father’s Day plans. Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” was playing at the Silent Movie Theater. They hadn’t seen Chaplin before. This was perfect.

And really, how much worse could it get?

Having the foresight to ask a neighbor to drive, we picked up my kids and had lunch. I couldn’t eat. The pain pills were useless, so I took more. I knew curling up for a nap under the table was not an option. The kids were unaware of my descent into a zombiehood.

We got to the theater. Though I wanted to see the movie, sitting in the dark for two hours was the greater attraction.

The manager of the theater came out on stage to introduce the movie. Soon the lights would dim and I could sink into oblivion.

What? My son and daughter were nudging me. What? A Charlie Chaplin imitation contest? Me?

How could I refuse? It was Father’s Day after all.

I found my way to the stage. Others had performed already. The manager gave me a cane and a derby hat and whispered not to poke a hole in the screen. Screen? What screen?

While doing a little “Chaplinesque” dance, I mustered all my slapstick chops and ‘accidentally’ put the hat on the cane instead of my head. Conspiring with the cane, the hat eluded my grasp. I spun around and grabbed the hat. Then the cane started walking me and pulled me off the stage.

There was applause.

Was it the pain pills? Was I funny? Would Chaplin have approved?

I don’t know.

But I won the contest.