Words in a Row

Spelling and grammer and all that stuff--supposibly its like, real important!

A Churnin’ Urn o’ Burnin’ FUNK!

Back in ’82, I went over to my friend Rob’s house one sum­mer day, and for some rea­son he had a black laun­dry mark­er and a bunch of let­ter sten­cils, and he want­ed to put some slo­gans on some shirts.

For some reason—quite pos­si­bly the same rea­son Rob had a black laun­dry mark­er and a bunch of let­ter stencils—we were wear­ing iden­ti­cal gray tank tops, and this all reeked of por­ten­tous foreshadowings.

Alco­hol may have been involved.

We had one T‑shirt each, so first drafts and revi­sions were out of the ques­tion. Despite alcohol’s pos­si­ble involve­ment, we had to do some adult­ing and set­tle on our shirts’ messages.

So we sat down and watched an Incred­i­ble Hulk rerun titled “Meta­mor­pho­sis,” in which Bruce Ban­ner lands a sound engi­neer posi­tion for a punk rock­er played by MacKen­zie Phillips, because if you need a con­cert sound engi­neer, every­one knows you look for an expert in gam­ma rays and cel­lu­lar biology.

Some­one slips Ban­ner acid, so of course he gets scared, and we get to enjoy the Hulk stag­ger­ing around trip­pin’ balls while MacKen­zie Phillips sings her ear­split­ting hit song “Neck­tie Night­mare” in front of a gigan­tic pair of high-volt­age elec­trodes shoot­ing per­fect­ly safe 50-foot light­ning bolts across the stage, and the also-stoned fans think it’s part of the show, so MacKen­zie Phillips ditch­es her punk bonafides to turn into Amy Grant.1

Mean­while, we got to laugh­ing so hard Rob fell off the couch and I almost wet myself.

After the Hulk was fin­ished with “Neck­tie Night­mare,” and after more con­tem­pla­tion and dis­cus­sion, along with more of the pos­si­bly involved alco­hol, we set­tled upon mes­sages to sten­cil on our shirts, mak­ing them T‑shirts that would have helped Bill and Ted’s music to bring har­mon­ic bal­ance to the uni­verse much ear­li­er if Bill and Ted had been wear­ing shirts with the most total­ly excel­lent and boda­cious sten­cils we created:

Rob’s shirt said PRO.

My shirt said DENTAL FLOSS TYCOON.2

With our new world-chang­ing T‑shirts fin­ished, and after some more pos­si­bly involved alco­hol, we decid­ed we need­ed to get out there and let the world see them. The T‑shirts, that is. Not the impres­sive pile of emp­ty beer bottles.

So we hopped into my car, aka the leg­endary Charles the Deep Breather, and engaged in one of our favorite pas­times: Dri­ving around and drink­ing beer while enjoy­ing music gen­er­at­ed by the vig­or­ous pelvic thrusts of the renowned Pio­neer Super­Tuner and lusti­ly pumped out through the inim­itable Jensen 6x9 Tri­ax­i­als.3

As we cruised up Tope­ka Boule­vard, we saw that the Kansas State Fair was under­way, so we parked and wan­dered around with a cou­ple of warm, over­priced state fair beers rather than the nice cold beers wait­ing for us in Charles the Deep Breather’s back seat.

As we passed all the rigged games, a carny guy look­ing for some­one to blow $80 to get a nasty-smelling import­ed ted­dy bear that was prob­a­bly stuffed with asbestos accost­ed us.

Seri­ous­ly? I mean yes, this is played for laughs on a TV show where every­one was in on the joke. But while teenagers can be abysmal­ly stu­pid (watch any hor­ror movie), no one would think an unshaven mid­dle-aged carny with B.O. that could kill Godzil­la was a nice fel­low teen who want­ed to dis­cuss T‑shirts. Yeesh.

“Hey there, fel­las!” he said.

Rob lit a cig­a­rette and crimped an eye at him. “Yo.”

“Those are nice T‑shirts!” the carny guy said, look­ing as con­vinc­ing as that “Hel­lo fel­low kids!” meme with Steve Busce­mi, no doubt think­ing the fel­low kids said, “Why, there’s that groovy cat with the skate­board (or nasty-smelling ted­dy bear)!” rather than “Here comes Chester the Moles­ter again–run!”

DENTAL FLOSS TYCOON?” he said, point­ing at me. “What does that mean?”

“It means I might be mov­ing to Mon­tana soon,” I replied.

“Oh, cool!” he said, the way you would say “Oh, cool!” to a guy car­ry­ing a chain­saw and wear­ing a space hel­met who told you he was the lovechild of Carl Sagan and an alien from Prox­i­ma Cen­tau­ri V, hop­ing to dis­tract him long enough to make a run for it. “Does th—“

“Just to raise me up a crop of den­tal floss,” I interrupted.

“That’s inter—“

“With a pair of heavy-duty zir­con-encrust­ed tweez­ers!” I inter­rupt­ed again.

He gave up and turned to Rob. Appar­ent­ly he wasn’t a Frank Zap­pa fan.

“What does PRO mean?” he said, sound­ing desperate.

Rob squint­ed at him again, tak­ing anoth­er drag of his cigarette.

“Pros­ti­tute,” he drawled.

The carny guy turned on his heel and stomped away. I don’t know what got his dud­geon up; you’d think some­one who trav­els with a car­ni­val wouldn’t get offend­ed at the word prostitute.

It wasn’t always like that, though. If you’re brac­ing your­self for a sto­ry about how I had to walk 10 miles to school bare­foot, relax. What I mean is that you could buy T‑shirts when I was a kid that these days would make woke peo­ple pass out.

Take this charm­ing, whim­si­cal 1970s T‑shirt ad, for instance. Before Rohyp­nol, Jethro Tull T‑shirts were, alas, the only way a lot of guys could get laid.

The strug­gle is real.

Here’s the text:

Reprise leer­ing­ly invites you to win a T‑shirt that will

DRIVE THE GIRLS WILD WITH DESIRE!

You say you’re not mak­ing it with the local lovelies? That when you make Paul McCart­ney eyes at allur­ing lit­tle hon­eys in vio­let hip-hug­gers they respond by frown­ing and sug­gest­ing, “Jerk off, los­er”? That even the offer of a seat next to you at a Led Zep­pelin con­cert is insuf­fi­cient induce­ment for a far-out nubie to spend part of the evening with you?

Then, fel­la, whatch­oo need is a SUPER-OUTTA-SIGHT-JETHRO-TULL-T-SHIRT of the sort worn by the fullest-hand­ed rakes everywhere.

These eye-catch­ing sar­to­r­i­al groovies, which are guar­an­teed to reduce even the haugh­ti­est of lovelies to a mound of hot pul­sat­ing flesh, are a divine shade of yel­low designed to to flat­ter even the swarthi­est of com­plex­ion, are the three-but­tons-at-the-neck style recent­ly made all the rage by your sharp­er Eng­lish groups, appeal­ing­ly reveal the wearer’s fash­ion­ably skin­ny arms (being short-sleeved) and fea­ture an entic­ing like­ness of sexy Tull leader Ian Ander­son some­where in the vicin­i­ty of the right boob. Avail­able in the splen­did sizes of medi­um and large, they may be worn with equal suc­cess by mem­bers of any sex.

We, in our cus­tom­ar­i­ly fis­cal­ly unsound way, are giv­ing 1,000 of these won­der away. Free!

All you have to do to win one of your very one is: 1) fill our coupons below; and 2) give it back to us com­plete down to the exact play­ing time of the first side of Jethro Tull’s lat­est hys­ter­i­cal­ly acclaimed album (sure­ly you don’t expect us to give you some­thing with­out first try­ing to trick you into buy­ing some­thing first), which infor­ma­tion may be gleaned from the album’s label, which you have to remove the cel­lo­phane to get to.

So why don’t you in a real hur­ry send us the required so that we can rush you a Tull T‑shirt that’s cer­tain to trans­form you overnight into a churn­ing urn of burn­ing funk.

I like Jethro Tull and I do have fash­ion­ably skin­ny arms, but I’m not sure I’d like Ian Ander­son sit­ting on my right boob. Also, do I want to be a churn­ing urn of burn­ing funk? I hon­est­ly don’t know. A churn­ing urn of burn­ing funk might be a slick-talk­ing studly chick magnet.

A churn­ing urn of burn­ing funk could also be an over­flow­ing Por­ta Pot­ty doused with gaso­line and set on fire.

In ’77, when I was in Catholic high school—and I must empha­size that this was a Catholic high school—the math teacher, Sis­ter Rose Celine, called a guy named Bri­an up to do a prob­lem on the chalkboard.

Awww–how adorable!

Now Bri­an had been wear­ing a hoody all day because he was wear­ing a T‑shirt that said “Your Prob­lem Is Obvi­ous” on the back, along with a draw­ing of some­one with his head stuck up his ass. He’d been col­lect­ing snick­ers and gig­gles all day from oth­er students.

But now it was the last class for the day and it was pret­ty warm out, so he shrugged off the hoody and left it draped over his chair.

And when Sis­ter Rose Celine called him up to do a prob­lem, Bri­an for­got about the hoody.

Just as he was about to pass by Sis­ter Rose Celine, he real­ized why the rest of us were sti­fling gig­gles and whis­per­ing “Pssst!” at him, and with­out miss­ing a beat he piv­ot­ed 90 degrees to the right, fac­ing Sis­ter Rose Celine, and sidled up to the board. He filled out the math prob­lem with his left hand, fac­ing Sis­ter Rose Celine all the while.

“Very good, Bri­an,” Sis­ter Rose Celine said. “You may sit down.” Bri­an began slid­ing side­ways back the way he came as the muf­fled snick­ers neared a crescen­do. Sis­ter Rose Celine glanced up at us, then at Bri­an. Being a math teacher, she put 2 and 2 togeth­er and stood up.

And because nuns are ter­ri­fy­ing, Sis­ter Rose Celine didn’t yell or throw things or grab a ruler or any­thing like that. All she did was to qui­et­ly say, “Stop.”

Bri­an froze in place; every­one else stopped gig­gling. We stopped breath­ing, in fact.

“Why are you walk­ing side­ways, Bri­an?” Sis­ter Rose Celine said.

Bri­an said, “…eep?4

“Turn around,” she said.

Bri­an turned and showed her the back of his shirt. She stud­ied it for a moment and said, “Class, you will please work on the rest of the prob­lems in your books until the bell rings and class is over.”

She walked to the class­room door, opened it, and wait­ed. Gulp. This meant Sis­ter Rose Celine and Bri­an were about to vis­it the prin­ci­pal, Father Ax, a vis­it. Dead man walking.

No, that’s not a joke. His last name real­ly was Ax. Father Ax was the prin­ci­pal and the school’s box­ing and wrestling coach.

Clar­i­fi­ca­tion: Father Ax was prin­ci­pal of Hay­den East, which was in down­town Tope­ka, across the street from the state capi­tol. Hay­den East was for 9th and 10th graders.

11th and 12th graders, on the oth­er hand, went to Hay­den West, which was across the street from Gage Park. And the Hay­den West prin­ci­pal was (I’m still not mak­ing any of this up) Father Santa.

I didn’t attend Hay­den after 9th grade, so while I have no direct 411 to share about Father San­ta, I sus­pect he was even scari­er than Father Ax. But let’s get back to Father Ax:

Father Ax was about 5 1/2 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and weighed about 220 pounds, all of it sol­id muscle.

Father Ax was not the kind of guy to have an avun­cu­lar chat with a way­ward stu­dent and invite the way­ward stu­dent to come see him if he ever want­ed to talk.

If Father Ax answered the phone instead of Liam Nee­son in Tak­en, Father Ax would not threat­en to kill the kid­nap­pers. The kid­nap­pers would drop dead the instant Father Ax picked up the phone.

The rea­son you hear all those jokes about Chuck Nor­ris being so tough and also about how Bruce Lee Chuck Nor­ris in a movie is only because they were both way too smart to even joke about fight­ing with Father Ax.

Father Ax had a large pad­dle in his office made of 3/4‑inch oak. It was labeled “Board of Education.”

Father Ax was a Viet­nam vet, but he was not rumored to have been a Navy SEAL or in Spe­cial Forces or a sniper. Father Ax was rumored to have tak­en the Board of Edu­ca­tion to Viet­nam and sin­gle­hand­ed­ly end­ed the war in less than a week.

Father Ax had no inter­est in, patience for, or mer­cy upon wiseass churnin’ urn o’ burnin’ funk T‑shirts, and even less for the stu­dent wear­ing it.

The next morn­ing, every­one was whis­per­ing about poor Bri­an. No one knew what tran­spired in Father Ax’s office; Bri­an wasn’t talk­ing about it and every­one else was afraid to ask, although we did notice Bri­an winc­ing when­ev­er he sat down, so we assumed Bri­an had had a talk with the Board of Education.

Let’s get back to T‑shirts: Mom and Dad had 4 chil­dren, but I was the only one they sent to Catholic school; First Sis­ter, Thing One and Thing Two stayed in pub­lic schools, while I left pub­lic school after 8th grade, attend­ed Hay­den for 2 years, and returned to pub­lic school for 11th grade, 12th grade and graduation.

  1. No, real­ly. Look it up.
  2. Obvi­ous­ly you’re not a Frank Zap­pa fan.
  3. If you find your­selves out­raged at the sheer irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty of not only drink­ing, then dri­ving, but also drink­ing while dri­ving, please feel free to fire off a com­ment down below flam­ing me for the poor exam­ple I’m set­ting. No, real­ly. Flame away. I’ll ignore it, but it might make you feel better.
  4. This sound­ed sort of like “eep!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.