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Changing Up

To my faithful readers (all five of you):

I’m planning some upcoming changes to brannongolden.com soon—well, soon for me…as soon as I can get around to them, anyway. I just wanted to let you know in advance because things are probably going to break and look ugly/ier for a little bit until I can get it all sorted out. Here’s why:

I’ve been using the tagline, “I write…so you don’t have to,” for about four and a half years now. My original premise when I first purchased the brannongolden.com domain was to “pimp my wares,” which is a nice way of saying, “letting people know what services I may equitably provide them.” No, wait…switch those around. People often refer to starting their website as “hanging out a shingle,” but I don’t think that means the same thing now that it did in, you know, medieval times. Now it has a different connotation (to me, at least.) And nobody wants to see that hanging out on the web.

Anyways, several months ago, back when we were visiting Greece (the country, not the musical), I decided that I wanted to start blogging in a manner that entertained me. And if anybody else enjoyed it as well, that would just be gravy. (And who among us doesn’t like gravy? Am I right or am I right?) It’s like that old saying, “Misery loves company,” so I figured at least a handful of people would tag along. (Turns out I was aiming too high.)

I’m a huge fan of the genius of @badbanana, he of the Twitter fame (407,232 followers?!? Seriously?!?). He once tweeted, “Misery loves company picnics.” So true.

So here’s what I’m gonna do (or, as Kanye might say it, “Hee’s what I’ma do”):

I’m going to simplify somewhat. My plan is to move to only words, since that’s what my mom says I’m best at. (And she’s my mom, so why would she lie to me…right?) The home page at brannongolden.com will have two halves, something like “Serious” and “Less So,” or perhaps “Business” and “Fun.” The “Less So” (which on my site now I refer to as “Sillier Things” in the menu options above) will lead you here, to my dumb blog. The other half will be building out what’s now “Serious Work.”

While I had hoped to spend more time entertaining people and giving them the opportunity to laugh (hopefully sometimes even out loud), and just have kind of a respite from all of the seriousness of our lives, I also have to kind of be a grown-up (or something) and be more serious about the writing I do for a living. I much prefer being a doofus online, but of course that’s not paying any of my bills. (Despite my incessant begging, you guys have just been no help in that department.)

At some point, I’ll also be changing over my Facebook structure. My plan is to create two new pages. One will be the same obnoxious smarmy feed you’ve come to expect from me there, and the other will be a “serious” one about the kinds of business services I can offer (like exorcisms and exotic dancing at bachelor parties, bat mitzvahs and kids’ birthdays). The downside to that is that, if you’re my Friend on Facebook, and you want to keep seeing the “fun” stuff, you’ll have to “Like” the page I set up for that. I’ll then reserve my “normal” Facebook profile for family and personal things that actually are related to my friends, and not just me, and not just me embarrassingly screaming for attention. (I haven’t decided yet how I’ll accomplish the same thing on Twitter.)

So, any questions? Certainly I welcome your feedback. (Not that I’ll actually take any of it into consideration, of course—but I prefer to leave you with at least the impression that you are valued in our relationship). Does anybody really even care? Do you think Sarah Palin seriously has a shot at the White House at some point in the future? (Whether yes or no, please defend your position.)

He Said She Said First

Long before anyone had heard of Michael Scott or Dunder-Mifflin, someone else was already saying “That’s what she said.” I looked long and hard online to see what others claim was the origin of this phrase. What I found were pages that I won’t share because they don’t meet my PG/PG-13 criteria. Many were funny, just really not appropriate. Most importantly, none of the explanations I found were accurate. I know the real story. Because I was there. (I swear this is true. I even have witnesses.)

His name was Johnny Davis, and it was more than twenty years ago. I’m convinced that he was the first, and that it simply took years and years for its brilliance to travel person-to-person through our culture until finally it reached the “right” people to wind up in a television comedy show.

My friend Kurt and I were working summers for some friends from church, installing commercial windows as a way to pay for college. We primarily did new windows for schools and hospitals. It was hard work and exhausting, but it put me in probably the best shape of my life, I got to work outside, and I met the real most interesting man in the world in the summer of 1989: the one and only Johnny Davis.

Johnny was an African-American gentleman who was a “glazer,” a tradesman specializing in working with glass. Although he had shoulder-length Jheri curled hair and a gold tooth displayed prominently on one of his incisors, he fit no other stereotype that I’ve ever heard of. He was absolutely an original. A deceptively wise man, Johnny worked slowly and carefully, favoring never having to re-do any task. He was probably in the 5’10” to 6-foot range, and he always wore a really nice baseball cap. (Most guys working construction did.)

Johnny was the quintessential ladies’ man. Although he was married and a grandfather (I’d have placed him in his late 40’s or very early 50’s), he would occasionally talk vaguely about one “girlfriend” or another. And at least twice that I can remember, a young woman in her mid-20’s came to visit him on the job site. Also I should clarify: It was not the same young woman each time.

Johnny wore very nice silk boxers. I know this because for one particular job, at Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City, we all had to wear matching t-shirts with our company logo on them. (Some months earlier, a woman posing as a nurse at the hospital had walked out with a newborn. Although if memory serves, the child was found unharmed and reunited with her parents just a short time later, it was traumatic and scary for the entire city at the time, and it caused Deaconess to lock down the security at their facility.) Anyway, on our first morning there, our boss handed us our t-shirts in the parking lot. Johnny took off the nice buttoned shirt he was already wearing over a white t-shirt, pulled his new company t-shirt on over that…and then proceeded to unfasten his belt, unzip and drop his trousers, right there in the parking lot, so that he could appropriately tuck his shirt in. I averted my eyes, but it was too late. I would never be able to un-see those metallic hunter green silk boxers.

Johnny had a number of unusual phrases that he would spout at random, and one of his favorites was, “Somebody’s gonna shoot ‘em a black man today here in Oklahoma.” His manner of speech had a certain rhythm, an almost musical cadence. His musings often seemed like random unrelated thoughts that he was simply stringing together and then presenting as fact. If you offered him something that he didn’t want, he’d say, “No. I don’ like it. I don’ like what it does to me.”

I honestly never could tell when Johnny was just teasing us and when he truly was being serious. He once tried to convince me that Dr. Pepper’s primary ingredient was prune juice. (Dr. Pepper was my preferred drink at the time.) There was a type of caulking filler that we  used to have to tuck into larger voids around windows before sealing them up, a kind of insulating foam that came on a roll, and he once insisted to me and Kurt that one of its main ingredients was horse urine.

He also used to randomly sing little snippets of songs we had never heard, usually about women, love or partying, or combinations of all three: “Met a woman named Sadie / She was a big, fine lady / And that girl had herself a big fat ba-by / This lady named Sadie.” One of the oddest things Johnny used to say was the name Gladys, usually long and drawn out, with an inexplicable emphasis on the first two syllables, and adding an unnecessary syllable at the end: “GUH-LAD-diss-ah!” We asked him if Gladys was one of his lady-friends, and he’d just laugh knowingly and not answer. When we did some task that went particularly well, he’d gleefully shout, “Au-to-mat-ic!” sometimes even adding an “Automatic today in Oklahoma!”

But of course what would become Johnny’s most famous phrase was, “That’s what she said,” used in exactly the same way Michael says it on The Office. If you’ve never heard any of Johnny Davis’s other sayings, well, I expect it’s just a matter of time. And when you do, now you’ll know the truth about where they came from.

Did you ever hear “That’s what she said” earlier than twenty years ago? Liar. No, seriously, if you did, tell us about it. Lord knows I strive for historical accuracy at this site, so we NEED to know the truth. What are other catch phrases that The Office and other programs have stolen from your past?

Make-Believe Girlfriends

Several years ago, an attractive young woman began working in our office. When I say attractive, I’m speaking in general terms. It’s not like we sponsored an annual beauty pageant or anything. But this story involves only this particular young woman. She was special, unique, for no other reason than because she inspired an idea—a movement, if you will—that has endured for the other men who still work there, long after I moved on. And I suspect the concept she inspired shall be passed down as a socially awkward and testosterone-fueled tradition for years to come.

This young woman was 100% American, although obviously descended of Asian heritage. I couldn’t tell you her name. Not because I’m a class act who wants to protect her identity, but because I don’t know it now, and in fact I never did. What I can tell you is that she had dark hair that fell just past her shoulders and was clearly professionally cared for in expensive fashion. She wore designer clothes that smelled faintly of money (which suited her). She was tall and thin, striding with that quiet confidence betraying a woman who always knows where she’s going and what she’s doing. She would place each foot methodically, toes down first, turned out slightly, in a manner hinting she had likely endured thousands of dance classes as a little girl. The softness of her presence brought a faint light into the the otherwise bleak grayness of our nondescript, industrial hallways and vast cubicle maze.

One day, I was walking down the hallway with several of my coworkers (all men). I don’t remember the precise nature of our errand, but because there was a large group of us together, I rather suspect we were headed out for a traditional fast food lunch: sub sandwiches, cheap tacos, or perhaps even Greek. She passed us going in the opposite direction. After she was well out of earshot, and we all remembered to start breathing again, one of my friends said simply, “Wow.”

Without thinking, I said, “Yeah… You know she’s my girlfriend, right?”

About eight sets of eyebrows raised, and shiny teeth displayed all around me. “Reeeeaaallly?”

I’ve always thought fast on my feet, and thus was borne the inspiration. “Well, I mean, she’s not now. She was, but we broke up.” I then proceeded to regale my friends with the concept and principles surrounding the make-believe girlfriend. Make-believe girlfriends are the best kind—and in fact the only kind—morally available to a principled man who also happens to be married…

I explained to them how we had of course met at work (not really). She was immediately taken not by my looks, but by my dazzling intellect, rapier wit, innate confidence and deep sense of life purpose (whatever). We had long conversations about books we enjoyed (except that I don’t enjoy books) and about the meaning of the universe (also not really). She liked the same video games I did (what?), the same music (not so much), all the same foods (nuh-uh), and she didn’t care that I was a sloppy dresser. (That last one is very likely true because I suspect she didn’t actually know that I existed, let alone what I wore.) Our make-belationship sadly lasted only a few months, as I soon grew very tired of her affinities for shoes and candles and also designer cheeses. Although she adored me (pffft), she would never stop talking about herself (the pompous windbag). So I unceremoniously threw her over. It was easy because (a) it was all her fault, and (b) she didn’t know, so there was no messy emotional entanglement, no big scene with her crying and swearing at me, etc. In our pretend break-up, I had to pretend-remind her that nobody even knew that we pretend-liked each other. (This is another part that is actually true—unless of course she did actually like me. But that would be her problem, not mine. Also, since she didn’t even know me, that would mean she was some kind of weirdo or something.)

I suppose it surprises no one that some guys occasionally imagine themselves in inappropriate fantasies with attractive women. Let me be perfectly clear: This is absolutely not like that and is definitively not what I’m talking about here. Our faux-riendship was pure in nature, entirely comedic, and in fact the make-believe girlfriend idea had never occurred to me about this girl or any other before that very moment in the hallway. So just let go of that notion if you have it.

The beauty of make-believe girlfriends is that in fact the same rules can apply to anyone you choose. I’ve since had dinner with Bono (he’s funnier in real life, fatter than I expected, and his jacket smells like chamomile). Michael Jordan and I once shared a delightful car ride between Oklahoma City and Tulsa during which we discussed primarily economic policy (he’s actually even taller than you’d imagine, his jaw makes this annoying little click occasionally when he’s speaking, and he curses not so much like a sailor as like a pirate). As soon as I can, I’m planning to visit with Michelle Obama because I want both to raise her awareness of human trafficking and also to get her mother’s recipe for seven-layer dip.

Do you have any make-believe friends—girlfriend, boyfriend or otherwise? (Remember, the rules state that you can’t count them if they know.) What would you ask if you had just one question? Dr. Joyce Brothers once said talking to yourself is a sign of very high intelligence. Do you think she just said that because she did it and didn’t want people to think she was, you know, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?