52 ODES TO JOY: FUN FREEDOMS

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(Photo from Wagrown.com)

Remember when America was all about freedom-loving fun and people fought for “The Right to Party?” Even in 1773 (evening of December 16), our royal-bashing, founding parents were dressing up like their Native American neighbors on a warpath; whoopin’, hollerin’ and tossin’ boxes of inflation-pricey, not-made-in-the-USA tea into the Boston harbor.

Every Independence Day celebration, I write seriously about the rights and responsibilities of being an American patriot. But this year, yet another of mucho unrest and unfun for our country, I want to add to the pursuit of happiness with suggestions for enjoying 15 FUN FREEDOMS:

  1. THE FREEDOM TO GIVE SOMEONE THE BIRD—is a very American form of free speech and is nationally understood sign language which communicates “UP YOURS!” Giving the American bird does not mean a literal gift of an eagle but is a gesture expressed by pointing the middle finger upward while keeping the other fingers down. In the U.S., we are free to “flip someone a bird” if we are offended by them cutting us off in highway traffic, or when some jerk/jerk-ette sashays into a parking space we’ve already indicated we plan to occupy.

“Double birds” are a bit rara avis but occasionally employed by someone who is super-miffed. In retrospect, I could imagine the actor, Will Smith, might wish he’d flung “double birds” at comedian Chris Rock at this year’s Oscar awards instead of strutting on stage and resorting to a physical attack.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the British “offer someone a bird” not by lifting a finger but lifting their plummy voices to shout at, “loff” at or boo someone (such as a theatre or sports entertainer) in order to show disapproval.

FUN FREEDOMS LAFF: “I bought a rotisserie for my July 4 cookout to celebrate American freedoms, but may return it because it keeps flipping the bird.”

  • THE FREEDOM TO LAUGH AT LAUGHABLY AWFUL CUSTOMER SERVICE—See if you get a chuckle from the irony that while I’m writing this “Gerontologist of Joy” chapter for my upcoming book, AT&T flipped me “THE WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE” I’ve experienced in 70 years. As a writer, I had relied on their cellphone and internet systems to communicate with each of the 67 counties in Alabama and all U.S. states for 30 years. AT&T thrice blamed their “network enhancements” for blocking my email. This month, I spent two workdays in face-to-face meetings with AT&T workers who were never able to unblock my email and I ultimately changed providers. (Btw, the AT&T assistant-manager told me they do not recommend AT&T customers use AT&T email but choose better companies like Google’s “Gmail.”) It was a frustrating trial but also such a calamitous cluster-clunk comedy of errors and customer disregard—it was hilarious.

For instance, AT&T spends many millions promoting how secure they are from “identity theft” but in this big beautiful showroom, they had no private room for customers to discuss passwords and other sensitive info. The manager offered me the use of their employee toilet to talk with AT&T customer service reps. Yes, an idea that stinks, but they gave me no other option. I was sharing sensitive data in the “echo chamber” of the AT&T employee toilet for maybe 20 minutes which may have forced some of the AT&T sales hustlers to use the commoners’ privy.

During those hours-long visits I witnessed several AT&T customers leave because the wait times were ridiculous while employees prioritized sales over correcting customer problems. One couple said they had driven to the store from 30 miles away using $5 a gallon gasoline because they had been “on hold” with AT&T for five hours. They left unserved, as did others. (No surprise, a 2021 survey of 4,000 Americans by “Reader’s Digest Magazine,” voted Verizon the most-trusted brand for wireless provider, not American Telephone and Telegraph.)

Over the hours in-store, I got to know in person: John, Desi, Cyril, Jonathan, the manager and later, their district manager, Jon Lauer (Birmingham, AL), via speakerphone in the showroom. After hours of this hassle, I learned Jon Lauer’s boss is named, DIAMOND FRIERSON.

Feeling like everyone locally was unconcerned and ineffectual, I asked repeatedly if we might get DIAMOND FRIERSON involved to correct this problem which I believe is negatively impacting thousands of AT&T customers. The mere mention of him/her—DIAMOND FRIERSON!!!—was like throwing a snake into the room or the goofy hilarity of “Young Frankenstein” when Frau Blucher’s name is merely whispered and it scares the horses.

End of story, AT&T gave me zero/zip/nothing/nada to fix my problem and allow me to do my work, but they did give me so much “laughably awful customer service” that I’m writing a stand-up comedy routine about it which I hope to tour. Here’s two sample jokes:

“Why didn’t Adam buy Eve an iPhone at the AT&T store? Because AT&T has terrible, horrible, laughable customer service and they overprice their Apples.”

“Alabama Governor Ivey could end the drug crisis in the state if she simply required all drugs to be purchased through AT&T customer service.”

  • THE FREEDOM TO SPEAK PIG LATIN—America is becoming increasing multi-lingual, which is creating a rich, fun, diverse mix of words and sounds to delight our ears. For instance, since 1980, there is a 599% increase in Vietnamese speakers in the U.S., and a 233% increase in Spanish speakers. However, while I’ve enjoyed studying both French and Spanish, no language has given me, and I think most Americans, more fun than Pig Latin. It’s some lingual joy for all. PLSL (Pig Latin as a Second Language)? Ello-Hay erica-Amay.

Remember how the international auxiliary language, Esperanto, was created to help connect the world? Well, what about Pig Latin as a fun, universal tongue?

Pig Latin is what linguists consider more a “language game” or “ludling.” (Hmm, ESL – English as a Second Ludling). The two, simple rules of Pig Latin are: 1) If a word begins with a vowel, just add “yay” to the end. For example, “out” is “outyay.” 2) If a word begins with a consonant, take all the consonants before the vowel and put them at the end of the word. So, “which” becomes “ich whay.”

Pig Latin burst into pop culture in 1919 through a Columbia Records album song, “I-Yay Ove-Lay Oo-Yay Eerie-day” performed by Lionel Fields. The blues icon, Lead Belly, had a Pig Latin hit and The Three Stooges (who likely had upid-say day jobs at AT&T) made Pig Latin a fun freedom of speech with “ix-nay” and “am-scray.”

FUN FREEDOMS Pig Latin for American Independence Day:

Food = oodfay

Fun = unfay

Eat = eatway

Swimming = immingsway

Ice cream = iceway eamcray

  • THE FREEDOM TO GO COMMANDO—which is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “to dress without underpants/knickers but be otherwise normally attired.”

“I’m afraid I can’t lower my trousers your honor, as I have gone commando today.”

Relatedly, our Declaration of Independence doesn’t specifically mention the right to pull one’s panties out of one’s crack, but it seems some hero/heroine is doing just that in the famous painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by German-American immigrant, Emanuel Leutze. It’s a free and freeing action.

The term, GOING COMMANDO, possibly comes from Scottish soldiers who were at times reluctant to give a tilt of the kilt if they had gone “regimental.” (Note: Soldiering in skirts ended with the advent of chemical warfare which can ravage tender parts.) Gents sometimes refer to “going commando” as “free-balling” and ladies may use the phrase for the freedom of being braless.

  • THE FREEDOM TO NAME YOUR KID SOMETHING ENTERTAINING—Roll over Beethoven Newton, Honey Boo Boo Thompson, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, Apple Blythe (Paltrow) Martin, Bear Winslett (his British mom is actress, Kate, and he is not yet as furry as Paddington), Moon Unit Zappa and Blue Ivy Carter; there’s some new kids in town with even funner monikers.

Psychiatrists may be suggesting these whimsical names for future job security. That theory aside, we get kiddos for entertainment, so why not start some of that by naming a fun fetus?

RHOSHANDIATELLYNESHIAUNNEESHENK KOYAANISQUATSIUTH WILLIAMS—this is a child in Texas who is going to come home from kindergarten a bit peeved when she’s struggling to spell her name.

SUMMER RAIN—the current heat wave across American is making this name seem particularly pleasant.

CHOW TOW—though banned as a birth certificate name in Malaysia because it translates in English to “smelly head,” America still defends the right to choose.

RAZOR SHINES—is the “for real” name of an American basketball entertainer.

HEAVENLY HIRAANI TIGER LILY—the lovely flower from celebrity, Paula Yates.

NORTH WEST—is it ever not about Kim and Kanye? I may father another child, just to have fun with North South. North By Northwest South?

MOXIE CRIMEFIGHTER—the legal birth name Las Vegas magician Penn Jillette gave his bunny in a top hat.

  • THE FREEDOM TO NOT HAVE BABY-MAKING SEX—Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court reminded us the popular “missionary position” for enjoying sexual intimacy remains the primary cause of most babies in America. The nation’s highest court wants us to consider other FUN FREEDOMS for intimacy. Let these tease your imagination:

ADULT NAPTIME, BEDROOM RODEO, DANCING IN THE SHEETS, DISAPPOINTING THE SPOUSE, DOING THE WILD THANG, FORBIDDEN POLKA, EXTREME FLIRTING, AMOROUS U.S. CONGRESS, SAFE NOONER, AFTERNOON DELIGHT, WRAP SONG, WRAPPED ATTENTION, GRINDING YOUR CORN (my Native American kinfolks call this MASHING THE MAIZE), BOUNCY-BOUNCY, BOW-CHICK-A-WOW-WOW, HANKY PANKY, HOT YOGA, KNOWING SOMEONE IN THE BIBLICAL SENSE, KNOCKING BOOTS, MAKING WHOOPEE, COMPLETING THE JIGSAW PUZZLE, JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS and the ever popular FEELS LIKE MAKING LOVE.

A PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE FOR JULY 4th: “Don’t drink and boink. Accidents cause people.”

  • THE FREEDOM TO ORDER FREEDOM FRIES with FRIES

“I was ecstatic they re-named ‘French Fries’ as ‘Freedom Fries.’ Grown men and women in positions of power in the U.S. government showing themselves as idiots.”—Johnny Depp

  • THE FREEDOM FOR MEN AND WOMEN TO GROW A MUSTACHE—Tickle your fancy or someone else’s fancy. (Dear Reader: I mustache you a question but I’ll “shave” it for later.)
  • THE FREEDOM TO SWING YOUR FIST (until it meets someone’s nose), SWING DANCE, SWANG ON THE PORCH
  • THE FREEDOM TO CHEW BUBBLEGUM and WALK SILLY AT THE SAME TIME—America is a “free country,” you have the right to act sensibly but you don’t have to.

FUN, FREE YouTube Suggestions: “How to Blow Bubble Gum with Hubba Bubba/tutorial” and “The Ministry of Silly Walks—Monty Python’s Flying Circus”

  1. THE FREEDOM TO BE SHALLOW AS A PIE TIN—I’m proud to be the LeBron of this.
  2. THE FREEDOM TO PREEN AND STRUT YOUR STUFF—Be Kardashian-inspired and fun. You could get your stuff inflated.
  3. THE FREEDOM TO DRESS TACKY AS ALL GIT OUT—Yes, hon, that stars-and-stripes bikini does make your butt look big. That said, Sir Mixalot and I like big, American butts, and saluting George Washington, we cannot lie.
  4. THE FREEDOM TO ROCK CLIMB and COOK S’MORES NEKKID (restricted to certain, American parts)
  5. THE FREEDOM TO ACT SOLEMN as a Puritan, SMUG as a Vanderbilt, SUPREME as a judge, UPPITY as last month’s crypto-currency rich, FOLKSY as Dolly Parton, TRASHY as an “internet troll”…

S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) FUN FREEDOMS—Being an American patriot almost insists on regular, joyous, SMILE-MAKING pursuits of happiness. Double your fun freedom by UNITING with someone you love. Help build a community of fun freedoms by NEIGHBORING for pleasure. Share a picnic basket and a blanket to watch the Independence Day fireworks. Enjoy the particular passion of your own personal, fun freedom and you’ll find it to be STAR-SPANGLED SPELLBINDING.

ODES ON FUN FREEDOMS FROM OTHERS:

“You offer a sincere compliment on a mustache and suddenly she’s not your friend.”—Marty Feldman

“It occurs to us that so-called ‘Freedom Fries’ kill more Americans than terrorists do.”—Terry Mosher

“New Rule: Don’t name your kid after a ballpark. Cubs fans, Paul and Teri Fields, have named their newborn son, Wrigley. Wrigley Fields. A child is supposed to be an independent individual, not a means of touting your own personal hobbies. At least, that’s what I’ve always taught my kids, Panama Red and Jacuzzi.”—Bill Maher

“The first comedians I became fascinated with were the Marx Brothers. Later in life, I thought maybe they were so rebellious and just flipping the bird to society and all the rules we’re supposed to follow. They were saying that none of that is fair.”—Judd Apatow

Here’s some advice for AT&T from corporate marketing strategist and author, Tom Peters: “It never ceases to amaze me that companies spend millions to attract new customers (people they don’t know) and spend next to nothing to keep the ones they’ve got!”

“Whenever I’m sad, I just imagine if babies were born with mustaches.”—Liam Payne

FUN FREEDOMS LAFF

–Freedom of and from Religion has been enjoyed/endured in America since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and Plymouth Rock landed on some of them. All the religions across the nation have their own wink-wink, insider laffs as this sample joke heard on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion” illuminates:

A Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi had been friends for many years. One evening over a cup of coffee, the priest turned to the rabbi and said, “My friend, we’ve known each other for a long time, and there’s something I’ve always wondered. Have you ever tasted ham?”

“Well,” said the rabbi, looking a little sheepish, “I must admit, when I was a very young man and curious, I tasted some ham. Now, tell me, my old friend,” the rabbi said, “there’s something I’ve always wondered. Have you ever been with a woman?”

“My friend,” answered the priest, “I must confess, when I was a young man, before I entered the priesthood, yes, I was with a woman.”

The rabbi smiled at the priest and said, “It’s better than ham, isn’t it?”

JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:

July 2—Larry David

July 3—George M. Cohan

July 4—Neil Simon

July 5—P.T. Barnum

July 6—Kevin Hart

July 7—Tasha Cobbs

July 8—Anjelica Huston

                                           AMERICAN ASPARAGUS ICE CREAM—MICHIGAN

                                                               (Source: wagrown.com)

Each week, JOY & GERONTOLOGY shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ pound fresh asparagus with leaves, washed, sliced 1/4 inch thick

6 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

2 ¼ cup sugar

24 egg yolks

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine 2 cups of milk and all sugar and heat to dissolve sugar. Add balance of milk and sliced asparagus. Puree with hand blender, add heavy cream and vanilla and bring to 180 degrees. Check for bright green color and pronounced asparagus flavor. Pass mixture through a strainer, return to heat and make anglaise-pass through fine-meshed strainer. Cool. Churn to freeze.

1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)

596. “Free Bird,” our unofficial anthem by Lynyrd Skynrd was written in four minutes.

597. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” wailed by Janis Joplin.

598. Free public education and the right to remain ignorant.

599. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!”

600. “Free to Be You and Me.”

601. Freedom Fighters.

602. Free to disagree.

603. Free as a breeze.

604. “Freedom” performed by George Michael.

605. “Free Falling” by Tom Petty.

606. “Free Jazz” by Ornette Coleman.

607. Free Masons like my father.

608. Free-wheeling on my banana-seat bike all over creation.

609. “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John.

610. “The Four Freedoms” paintings by Norman Rockwell.

611. My friend, Father Francis Walter and the Freedom Quilting Bee.

612. Free Willy.

613. God as voiced by Morgan Freeman.

614. Working with the Alabama Department of Archives to identify the names of 160 former slaves from the Cullman (AL) area who registered to vote in the U.S. in 1867 as free men.

615. “Freedom” the novel by Jonathan Franzen.

616. The freeing of Nelson Mandela.

617. “Freedom Writers,” the movie.

618. Free fireworks shows on July 4th to celebrate freedoms.

HAPPY AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY and FUN FREEDOMS!

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Ben South