A traveling salesman, visiting a small town for the first time, walks into the local bar. The first thing he notices is a strange sound, like muffled sobbing, coming from the back room. Only a few sit inside, all looking miserable, including the bartender. There’s also a bucket overflowing with cash on the bar.

The salesman orders a beer and asks the bartender what’s going on. “A few months ago, I bought my daughter a horse, but it won’t stop crying. I can’t give it to her like that! So I keep it here and people pay five bucks to make it stop. If they succeed, they get the whole bucket.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a shot!” The salesman puts five bucks in the bucket, walks into the back room. A moment later, the crying stops, only to be replaced with a stranger sound, as if the horse was laughing. The salesman walks out, downs the rest of his beer without a word and, smiling, takes the bucket and walks out.

A year later and passing through town again, the salesman drops by the bar. The laughing continues, everyone is just as miserable, and now there are two buckets full of cash on the bar. The bartender notices him and yells, angrily, “You! That damned horse hasn’t stopped laughing since last year! People have paid twenty dollars per chance to make it stop and no success!”

“Alright.” The salesman puts a twenty into a bucket, walks into the back room, and quickly an eerie silence follows. The salesman walks out with a smile, grabs the buckets, but the bartender stops him, demands an explanation. “It was easy,” he replied. “Last year, I told him my cock was bigger than his. This year, I showed him.”


In the film Gattica – underappreciated at release, it’s since become a cult classic- one of the subplots involves a lifelong rivalry between brothers. In their youth, they raced each other to find out which one could swim the farthest out to sea before turning back to shore. The brother who lost held a grudge and trained, apparently for years, for a rematch. But when the day finally came, he lost again, and nearly died in the effort.

His brother told him, “Do you know why I win? Because I don’t save energy for the trip back.”

This is me, except socially. I can’t count the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth thanks to an inappropriate joke or misreading someone or spreading gossip (for which, thankfully, I’ve lost the taste). I just put myself out there, in a figurative sense, with little thought for consequence.

I was reminded of this yesterday when long-term reader and frequent free source of Photoshop support David T. Weaver sent me a screenshot to brag that Shane Gillis liked some comment he’d made on social media. Without hesitation, I replied, “That’s great! Whomever is in charge of his social media (or robot) liked your comment!” It was only after I sent it that I wondered why I do that, why I always do that.

When you give blood in Sweden, a few days later you’ll receive an SMS saying that your blood was just used to help someone. I’m thrilled to tell people that t’s based on statistics, that there’s no way your individual donation is being tracked that carefully. When people in their forties get asked for their ID at the liquor store, I tell them it’s the cashier being nice or just checking randomly, they don’t actually look under twenty.

Back in my first week of college, there was a free event for the Freshman class, with a magician. He performed several illusions, all of which I deemed basic, as, thanks to Penn and Teller, I had a phase around 1990 when I was big into magic. (I’m not making any apologies for phases. Hell, from October to November 1993 I was a Goth kid. Yes, there are pictures and no, you can’t see them.) On the walk back to the dorm, a girl overheard me explaining one of the tricks to my roommate and interrupted, “Oh yeah? Then explain how he did the other thing!” I explained that one, then another, until she’d made me explain all of them. “Gee, thanks, asshole.” She asked!

I don’t know how, at the same time, I want people to have magic (in general, not cheap parlor tricks) in their lives, but also jump at the chance to dispel illusions (again, in general). I want you to enjoy sausage but also tell you how it’s made (especially if it’s Scrapple). I want you to like me, but I jump to playful insults. For fuck’s sake, I told someone recently that his weight loss, which he was happy about, gave him old man skin.

Maybe it’s just the traditional self-destructiveness of comics, maybe or likely it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s affected by my biggest pet peeve- letting people get away with shit. My Lord do I hate that. I believe it’s healthier for me, and also a struggle, and I’ll get into that more next week before taking a summer break. For whatever reason, I have that trigger in me. When you marvel at how the Stockholm subway is carved from natural rock, I can’t let the Stockholm Transit Authority get away with that! I have to tell you that it’s just wire frame covered in plaster, how could it possibly keep from caving in otherwise, and if you look to your left you’ll see a door in the “rock” you fucking moron! Oh, and also enjoy magic in life, because I want that for you, too. Sigh.