Love and Laughter for Foolish Things
by Susie Slanina
March 31, 2022
Before companies got so elaborate and complex with their April Fool’s pranks on the internet, this one totally fooled me and it’s still my favorite: I was taking the Metrolink train from Covina to Cal State, Los Angeles, reading the L.A. Times. There was a small article stating that Taco Bell was going to buy the Liberty Bell. From now on, The Liberty Bell would be known as The Taco Liberty Bell. HUH? That’s weird, I thought. I mean, I knew the country was strapped, but that’s pretty darn weird. I mentioned it to a fellow passenger and we were both shaking our heads. During the work day, now and then I would think of that strange article. But the next day (April 2nd), Taco Bell admitted their joke.
I love to laugh and there’s quite a few funny vignettes I remember from real life. Some are featured in the Metro books. My family used to call these “mini hahas.” They happen all the time to people, but are mostly forgotten. This blog was a fun exercise, thinking back on some I experienced. Maybe the following hodgepodge of anecdotes don’t qualify as actual April Fool’s jokes–they’re more of an appreciation of life’s funny little moments.
A lot of these memories involve my mom and dad. I wistfully remember the dedication to my parents in Metro Comes Home. I wish they could have met Metro.
To my mother:
Thank you for reading to me.
You taught me that reading is fun.
To my father:
Thank you for writing little stories,
rhymes, riddles, and songs.
You taught me that writing is fun.
My friend, Ellen, had read all the Metro books to her kids when they were still in term paper form. Her kids would come over and decorate the “books” with stickers and drawings. She became my business partner and close confidant as we explored how the publishing world worked. (I wish I had known Maggie Lynch back then!) We met every week to discuss how to go about it. She came up with a name for the company: METRO INK. I thought it was a brilliant play on words. Instead of the more formal Metro Incorporated (Metro Inc.) It would be: METRO–for the dog, and INK–for the illustrations. She designed business cards, T-shirts, and hats with the logo. It was going well, and we were getting lots of calls—for tattoos and toner ink!
Metro really did howl and could match her voice to the tea kettle whistle. That’s how she became a singing dog for the books. No, she never went to Hollywood and didn’t sing at the opera or in a restaurant with the singing waiter.
Metro really did lick hot sauce off the taco wrappers when I went to get a glass of water. But no, she didn’t make a frowny face and growl at the hot sauce battle.
At the Hollywood Bowl, a friend and I were listening to classical music. The orchestra started playing Pomp and Circumstance, and just then, a lady got up to use the restroom. As she walked down the aisle, my friend whispered: “I think she’s going to get her diploma.” I lost it and had to bite his sweater to keep laughter from overtaking me. The next morning, my ribs were still sore from trying to keep the giggles inside.
At Dodger Stadium: From the first inning, my friend kept complaining about how the seats were uncomfortable. I thought they were fine, and told him to relax, but he kept moaning and groaning throughout the game. Finally, he said, “You know, I’ve had it! These seats are terrible, and I bet the whole stadium thinks so, too!” I looked at him askance, as he stood up, raised his arms, and twisted. A few seconds later, I was bewildered and amazed when the whole stadium stood up in unison and did the same thing, for what is known as The Seventh Inning Stretch.
At a thrift store, I thought I scored on a gorgeous aquamarine ring. I looked at the band closely, and could see an etching on the inside: “I bet it’s 14 karat gold!” I took it home, and under the magnifying glass I could read the etching: A V O N. Ahh, Avon. Darn.
At the university where I worked, I discovered one could retire at age 50, with a small pension. I was longing to spend more time with Metro and my other pups, so from age 44 to 50, I determinedly worked on budgeting, scraping, and saving. It was so fun to do budgets, I started doing them with friends. One time, I worked all day on a budget for a friend, and then she told me she was pregnant. Ahh, well–there goes THAT budget!
I was at a Vegas buffet and liked to get a lot of horseradish. I took a big bite out of what I thought were mashed potatoes. OUCH!
Mom and I were playing scrabble. The first word she played was DOZE. I added an N and played a vertical word. She looked at me skeptically, and demanded, “What in the world is DOZEN? Is it like DOZEN’ on the couch?” I laughed and laughed so hard I couldn’t speak. I finally replied: “Mom! Did you forget about the eggs? A dozen eggs?” And then, seeing the dawn of understanding in her pretty blue eyes, was, well, priceless.
I had a small procedure at the dentist and he told me I should take Aleve for a few days. I seriously thought he said A LEAVE. (I was so happy, I had already envisioned cuddling with the pups for seventy-two straight hours!)
We were planning a camping trip and I had a list of things to pack. One of the items was “Chopstick.” I couldn’t figure it out. Why would I take one chopstick to the beach? I realized what the word was when it was too late. Chapstick.
Mom let me have my own shopping cart at the market. I spied a sign that said “Watermelon 5 cents.” I had a nickel. I got the biggest watermelon there was, and was disappointed and confused when the cashier said no.
My dad would take us kids for ice cream. There was a sign painted in the road that said, STOP AHEAD. He’d yell, “Stop! A Head!” My brothers and I would scream.
As I mentioned in one of the previous Windtree blogs, I am very into the health benefits of Grounding/Earthing. I was grounding outside recently while my partner, Alan, was grilling on the porch. Daydreaming about an upcoming beach trip with a girlfriend, I mentioned I was going to get buried at the beach. He held the tongs and looked at me strangely. He thought I had said married, not buried!
Dad took us kids to a small cafe half way up the San Gabriel Mountains. He gave me a quarter to play five songs on the jukebox. I played my favorite (The Three Bells) five times. People rolled their eyes as they kept hearing the same song over and over, but then, the customers started singing along with the song: “All the chapel bells were ringing…”
Dad said he would take us to get hot chocolates, but when the waitress came, he ordered two cocoas. I started to cry. When asked why, I said, “but you said we were getting hot chocolate.”
I was surprised when Mom told me the correct way to pronounce ISLAND.
Dad’s favorite riddle: Is there milk in the Milky Way?
(Yes, because we live on Planet Earth which has milk and is located in the Milky Way Galaxy.)
My big, goofy dog Rainy loved to play. When I lived in a mountain cabin in Big Bear. I’d go into the forest with a backpack to gather kindling. Every time I put a stick in the bag, he came up behind me and grabbed it. I wondered why my backpack stayed so light!
The best Christmas present I ever received was from my mother. Inside gradually smaller and smaller boxes, I finally opened a tiny jewelry box. There, nestled atop the cotton, was my library card. She had gone to the library and paid my overdue fines: $17.60.
I was going to school in Ireland, and we had a big term paper that was due in six weeks. On the night before it was due, I thought it would be a fine time to get started. I made a big pot of coffee and retrieved the book on Plato from my suitcase. (I had heard this book would be used in the class, so I had packed it and brought it along from home.) I opened the book, and a note came fluttering down. I smiled ruefully as I read the note. It said: “Mom, I’m almost done with the term paper–wake me at 4 a.m.” So, years ago and six thousand miles away, I had procrastinated on yet ANOTHER term paper.
Dad worked at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland. He was there on opening day in 1955. We were fortunate to visit frequently. At the time, there was a “Modern House” display. We walked inside and Mom was astounded there was actually a machine that washed the dishes!
Dad would bring candy home from Disneyland. The little white bag was enticing. “Candy, Candy!” We popped it into our mouths. Horehound. Yucky. But it’s still a thing–I just looked it up. I don’t know why it’s called candy.
After a long day at Disneyland I was asked which was my favorite ride. It was riding on Dad’s shoulders through the park.
I’ve never cared about clothes or fashion. But I wanted a job. One day, I saw an ad in the local paper for a busgirl. I had read in SEVENTEEN Magazine that one should wear one’s best clothes for a job interview. I looked in the closet and the best clothes were my prom dress ensemble. I went to the busgirl interview, teetering in high heels and a formal. (I didn’t get the job, either.)
Dad told me I didn’t have to go to bed until I yawned. Cool deal, I thought. Dad would then yawn in the most luxurious, exaggerated fashion. Pretty soon I was in bed.
I loved the pretty pattern that pinking shears made, so one day I cut my bangs with them.
Mom was updating her phone book. She called my aunt to ask for her phone number.
Dad gave me a verbal spelling test:
Dad: Spell DOG, CAT, MAT.
Me: D-O-G, C-A-T, M-A-T
Dad: Spell Phone
Dad: Nope. It’s P-H…
(I think back on that moment as the exact time I realized life was more complicated than I thought.)
During a snowstorm, Gizzy was lost. We kept yelling: GIZZY! GIZZY! TREATY-TREAT! and shook the box of dog treats. He always came running when he heard the box. But not this time. We searched and finally found Gizzy, his face full of mashed potatoes and gravy. He was enjoying someone’s holiday dinner that had fallen from an overturned trash can. We shook the box at him, but he was pretty happy with his other meal!
Dad’s Christmas decoration: A long paper with the alphabet hung over the mantel. The cousins wondered how the alphabet could be a Christmas decoration. Dad told them to read it. The cousins looked, read the letters, and then they’d stop. “Wait. There’s no L,” they said. Dad smiled. NOEL.
I believed in the Easter Bunny for a long time. We’d leave the dyed eggs in the basket on the dining room table, lock the door, and leave for church. I carefully watched my parents, but they never left the pew. We’d get home from church, and the eggs were hidden in the backyard. For an inordinate number of years I was mystified. (I didn’t know the neighbor kid had a key.)
Mom thought I was a good Scrabble player and entered me into a tournament. I was eliminated pretty quickly, but had the opportunity to watch the real champions. One guy had what I considered a pretty bad rack. He calmly rearranged the letters and made them into a seven letter word: EDITING!
The day after I got Metro, I showed her off to the neighbor. I told him the adoption fee was $60.00. She was so tiny, and he said (with a twinkle in his eye) “Well, you didn’t get much for your money.” I’ve thought about that playful comment a lot through the years. No matter the cost, she will always be the best bargain of a lifetime!
The beautiful illustrations are by artist Paul Bunch.
Susie Slanina lives in Vancouver, Washington. After graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, she went to school in Ireland to study the Montessori approach to educating children. She worked 24 years at CSLA and retired at age 50 to spend more time with her dogs in a cabin in Big Bear. She had been retired for eight years when a poem she wrote about a spider became the catalyst for the Metro book series. She used to enjoy traveling, but discovered that hanging out with her dogs is better than seeing the wonders of the world.