So over the last few months, I’ve been fighting off a recurring problem which I think impacts a large number of people. Some of you may have experienced this issue both at work and at home. At work, it is less frequent, but often makes people stop, look around, and wonder. At home at least you are in the privacy of your own home. I am of course talking about dieresis.

Dieresis is a problem that affects, on average, 873 million people per day…mostly Europeans. For those of us who are not European, and may be slightly concerned, I offer a translation. Dieresis is an umlaut. An umlaut you say? But I dreamed about one of those just last night! Those two precious little dots that appear above some but not all of the vowels in our language, causing a tightening of the mouth…a puckering if you will…to achieve perfect pronunciation.

Some of you possibly have lives and don’t dream about umlauts. Instead you may have day dreams of degree signs, affirmations of acutes, tirades about tildes, or dialogues about diphthongs. Some of you, a very small special some of you, may even be having an affair with a cedilla. But no matter which of these marvelous characters you ponder, they all serve the amazing purpose of turning words and sounds into the language that we speak every day. (Ponder that one for a moment.)

Most of us are pretty familiar with “special characters”. I’m not referring to Tinky Winky, or Binky Banky, or Plinky Plonky, or whatever the h*ll those creatures are called. I’m referring to those marvelous symbols that were not originally included in the 26 letter English alphabet. Perhaps you are familiar with the ampersand &, the at @, the pound # (or £ if you’re Region-2), the splat *, and the bang !. Those special characters do nothing to change the way a word sounds, but often represent words of their own (mostly because we are too lazy as a species to write “and” or “at” so someone developed the & and @). But having a language means that it must be adaptable. New words must be created on a regular basis to keep the discussions flowing. But how are we to create new words with only the 26 letters available to us?

There comes the true value and impact of the diacritical marks. Not only are the diacritical marks “special characters”, but they are “diacritical special characters”, DSC for short. DSC have allowed us to extend and expand the language to include words that may never have appeared. DSC allow us to change the pronunciation of a word, without changing the composite letters. DSC allow us to truly sound more pompous and pretentious than we ever could have been, unless we had been born in Europe. (*snaps to my European friends who sign away most of their rights once they become my friends*)

Many years ago while on a trip to Oregon I had a lovely dinner and social event with a group of work folks. I had traveled north to attend a leadership development class, and on the journey felt as though I should go amongst my people and drink. After a lovely dinner, the remaining group made our way to the local Chevy’s for margaritas. Chevy’s, being an authentic Spanish restaurant, offered us the opportunity to interact with people who speak somewhat differently than we do, and who natively make use of DSC in every-day language. I am of course talking about our friends in the south, our Spanish-Mexican-Or-Other-Spanish-Speaking-Country-Americans.

One such native speaker was our waitress/attendant/server/provider/food service professional. Her name, Consuèlla Maria Conchita Aloña Rodriguez Turner. I knew that this was a person I could ask a question that I had been waiting all my life to ask.

What on earth is a cedilla?

For those of you just joining us: Ç. It’s basically the letter C with a little curvy tail. Almost as though a comma and a C just got a little too close one night after several top shelf margaritas on the rocks no salt. Honey, if I had a comma shoved in me, I’d pronounce things differently too. (sorry, I just channeled Queen Latìfa for a moment)

Much to my chagrin, CMCART had never heard of the cedilla. I don’t know whether it is because I pronounced it “seh-DEE-uh” or whether she was from an area that simply did not have this DSC as part of their dialect, but none the less, my question remained unanswered. [note: I later discovered that the cedilla is NOT part of the Spanish dialect at all, therefore, I was totally off-base in asking CMCART]

So what to do with all of these special characters? Well, once you’ve had a few TSMotRnS (top shelf margaritas on the rocks no salt – honestly, if you would keep up with me I wouldn’t have to explain these things), the natural inclination is to start using DSC to make fun of people. And that we did. Thankfully, there were so few people sitting near us, we thought it easier to just make fun of ourselves by giving everyone their own special accented name.

I won’t go into the full detail of our naming scheme, but suffice it to say we made sure that everyone had at least one special character. To illustrate our most precious name, I will introduce Monte.

Now in the original form this would be pronounced: Mahn-tee, with the accent on the first syllable. Obviously, this name needed some special characters, and with so many at our disposal here’s what we came up with… Möñté. Three special characters (o-umlaut, n-yay, and the l’accent acute), all in the same name…transforming Mahn-tee into Moon-Yehn-Tay. As you can clearly see, inclusion of special characters transformed this normally boring and bland name into something posh, debonair, and ear-catching. Imagine the looks you would get yelling across the cafe…”Moon-Yehn-Tay…over here!!” (So much better than Mahn-tee…don’t you agree? *snaps to Monte for his willingness to be temporarily portrayed as a boring/bland-named individual, because he’s not boring or bland at all*)

Alas, not everyone can have such a special name like Möñté. Most of you will go through life with mundane-as-molasses-Martin’s, bland-as-butter-Bonnie’s or routine-as-rain-Rhonda’s. But just think of the possibilities for your career, or your life, if you could be Mare-TEEN-yah, BOON-yeee, or Ro-HOON-day. Great Las Vegas Showgirl names…

Memories of Easter

easter bunnyWhat is Easter? Where did it come from? Is it solely a Christian holiday to celebrate the death and resurrection of a deity? Or is it a Pagan rite of fertility? Or perhaps it was created by a bunch of people who were really fond of rabbit fur.

When I ponder my childhood, I remember trying to stay up as late as I could on Easter Eve, so I could catch a glimpse of the resurrected Easter Bunny coming down the chimney to deliver fabulous and colourful eggs that would remind me of the cave and the stone that was rolled away.

I usually lasted until about 8pm, at which point my eyelids could no longer stay open.

But just like the savior, I arose the next day (well, technically 2 days earlier than he may have), and I jumped out of bed to see what Jesus had left for me. Who knew that Jesus could not only turn water into wine, but also into a basket of multi-coloured eggs?

I think that’s why I’m gay. No, not because a god performed a miracle with the chicken and the Easter egg, but because the rainbow flag was bestowed upon me at such an early age. The eggs were red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach, ruby and olive and violet and fawn, cream and silver and purple and gold, russet and white and pink and orange and BLUE! (From memory, people. That’s the real reason I’m gay.)

Okay, so the basket didn’t have that many eggs, but it was quite full. But these were not just ordinary eggs. These eggs were plastic! I wasn’t sure what chemical process to apply to an egg to make it plastic, so I decided that this was just an Easter Miracle performed by a Great and Powerful Bunny.

eggsNot only were these eggs plastic, but they each had a perfectly carved seam around the middle. Easier to crack them with my dear. I tore them apart because I knew there was no yolk to spill. What I didn’t realize is that instead of yolk, Jesus had put money and candy inside these eggs! The money was obviously meant for me to put into the offering plate at church, but the candy was all mine! Candy can’t build a cathedral.

Inside the non-monetary eggs were jelly beans of every colour imaginable, jujube’s, candy corn (not just for Halloween anymore), marshmallow ducks with sugar on top, and raindrops on roses and noses on kittens. It was simply fabulous. Thanks Easter Bunny! Bwak! Bwak!

I was surrounded by candies of every sort, and I thought back to those post-Halloween candy review meetings with my parents in the kitchen. So many things I had to throw away for fear of poison and razor blades. You might ask what kind of neighbourhood I grew up in that would have such a fear, but in middle-class North Carolina you can never be too careful.

The Easter candy, unlike the Halloween candy, was sacred. The resurrected bunny would never think of putting something harmful inside his eggs, so these candies were one-hundred percent free and clear for the taking. And so of course I had to eat all of it before we left for church, which by the counting of the clock in my bedroom was in exactly two hours.

By the time we got to god’s newly decorated house – which for the occasion had been decked out with bright purple bunting and more shades of pink than I have ever seen in my life – I had a tummy ache. Let us give thanks to the Lord for these gifts which give us gas.

While my stomach churned and vocalized its own Easter music, the rest of the congregation sang songs about a tomb and a rock, and then something about rising from the dead. As a cold sweat broke out over my forehead I could not understand what those things had to do with candy so I didn’t sing along.

Church finally concluded with a never-ending sermon about the after-life. I was sure that I was about to experience the after-life because my stomach was in such turmoil, but there was no time. We had to make it to Easter Brunch before the lunch rush.

I don’t know why my parents insisted on calling it Easter Brunch, because by the time we got there it was well after noon. It was firmly into the lunch hour, but the point was not to be argued by me – the last thing I wanted to talk about was food.

To further confuse the issue, Easter Brunch consisted of the exact same food as we’d had for Thanksgiving Brunch and Dinner. It seemed to me that the two holidays must be related on some level. I could understand giving thanks for friends and family on the same day every year, but I didn’t know why anyone would give thanks for dying on the same day every year only to be stuck into a cold rocky tomb. But who am I to judge another person’s lifestyle?

So Easter Brunch Lunch ended, and my tummy was in even more distress, because how could I be expected to sit at the table and not eat the bounty placed before me? Now the jelly beans were combined with turkey and baked beans, and the juxtaposition of the two beans in my stomach created a very unpleasant ride home.

I am still not quite sure how I managed the ten minute drive, at which point I rushed to my room, shut the door, and lay on my bed moaning in pain. Let us give thanks to the Resurrection Rabbit for the blessings bestowed upon us this day.

For several hours I listened to the sounds of my stomach attempting to manage the onslaught of beans I was forcing it to process, but soon I began to feel somewhat better and the cold sweats dried up on my forehead. I decided to take account of the Easter basket to see if perhaps I had overlooked any additional gifts from the Rabbit.

eggs2Those who have experienced the Easter Basket know how easily things can get lost in the green plastic grass strips, and this basket did not disappoint. I dumped the money out of the non-candy eggs, and put the coins into my piggy bank. I continued to dig through the plastic greenery and behold and ye verily the Mother Lode appeared.
Apparently the savior appreciated me going to church to celebrate his death, because what to my wondering eyes should appear but The Cadbury Creme Egg. The epitome of egg. The creme-de-la-creme of egg. The Alpha and the Omega of egg. The great I AM egg.

I held the CCE gently in my hand, being careful not to warm it too much so that the chocolate would melt inside the wrapper. Slowly, I peeled back the foil which held it so tight, to reveal the true meaning of Easter: liquid sugar encased in chocolate.

Forget about all this death and dying and after-life nonsense. This was the only reason for living. My salvation and my rock. A gift from above that was to be savored, worshiped, and praised. And so like a good boy who was brought up right, I praised it like I should.

With one gigantic bite I split the egg apart, showering my taste buds with the rich and creamy goodness that could only come from such a precious gift. I let the egg-styled fondant melt across my tongue, washing away any leftover tastes from the Easter Brunch.

Gently I swallowed. I wanted to remember what it felt like – this very special egg – and in that moment I resolved to never forget the true meaning of Easter.

And then I promptly ran to the bathroom and showered the god who sits on the white porcelain throne with all that I had been bestowed on this most precious of holidays.

* Easter, like Christmas, is a blend of paganism and Christianity. The word Easter is derived from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon Goddess who symbolized rebirth of the day at dawn and the rebirth of life in the spring. The arrival of spring was celebrated well before any religious meaning became associated with Easter.
** Like most of the things I write, I include references to pop culture, products, or names which are copyrights and trademarks of their respective companies.

This story is available as a FREE downloadable ebook on the following platforms:

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy these other books by the same author.

Memories of Easter

Copyright © 2013 Heath L. Buckmaster
ISBN: 978-1-300-88828-4
All rights reserved.

Valentine’s Day – A History

Amazing PlaidFluorescent Lighting. Buying Heath a book called “The Superior Person’s Book of Words”. Carpool lanes that require more than 1 person in the car. Plaid. What do all these things have to do with Valentine’s Day? They are all incredibly BAD ideas. (except for the plaid)

What drives us to buy chocolates, flowers, and cards today? What causes us to make reservations for the hottest restaurant four months in advance? Why do we max out our credit cards each and every year on a day that we don’t even get off from work? What are the origins of this false “holiday”…where did it come from…why do people accept and tolerate it…why does Hallmark stock break volume trading records on this day?

Let’s discuss.

Editorial note: Whether or not you subscribe to this historical interpretation of Valentine’s Day (or whether you actually celebrate it as a “holiday”), this is, in my opinion, the correct version of the truth. Referenced at the end of this editorial, you will find alternate interpretations. Believe them if you will.

Rudolph ValentinoLong, long, long ago…1895 to be exact, Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla was born (the smart readers will already know where I’m going with this, and yes, that really is his full and complete name).

Nothing especially special happened for the first 14 years of his life, so we’ll skip ahead to age 15: he decided to spice things up a bit and join the Navy.

Unfortunately, he did not pass the rigorous physical exam (running, jumping, climbing trees, hat, flag, bang, stuff like that – snaps to eddie izzard), or the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Rodolfo was so distraught by the military rejecting him, he took it upon himself to personally maintain a military-like-level of physical fitness.

Daily, he could be seen at 24-hour fitness, sweating to the oldies on the Precor elliptical bike. Of course, the oldies of the 1900’s were droll love songs, like Oh Lover Where Art Thou in thine Olde Kingdome, which really weren’t written to be danced to or ellipticalled to, but somehow it all worked out.

We’ll call this fitness fad Life Event #1 (with more to come).

For three years he worked out and worked out and worked out, eventually developing an 8 pack (due to a genetic aberration that gave him extra musculature that we can all be jealous of).

At age 18, he arrived in the United States, with a heavy Italian accent (unfortunately it was so heavy that he couldn’t bring it as a carry on and it had to be checked, and was subsequently damaged enroute even though he’d paid the overweight fee and insured it for an additional $50), which we’ll call Life Event #2.

After about a year or so travelling around America, Rodolfo developed a liking for driving cars very, very fast, not dissimilar to residents of LA or Sacramento (but completely dissimilar to the drivers of Oregon’s highway 26 which for some reason has a speed limit of 55), and we’ll call this Life Event #3.

And finally, as Rodolfo reached the drinking age of 21, he got drunk, broke into Hollywood, got arrested, and was given a job as an actor (hey, a creeping kid, for my new film, The Creeping Kid – word to eddie izzard), Life Event #4.

What have these four Life Events lead up to? The creation of the Ultimate and Total Ladies Man (UTLM) (or one could argue, a man’s man). And so the story continues…

SheikEvery year, the weather gets cold in America. Typically that time is around January/February, which means that people are bundling up in warmer clothing, burning wood in the fireplace, drinking hot cider or mulled wine, lighting candles, and snuggling under or on top of the bear skin rug in front of the aforementioned fireplace.

In some locations, such as Hell, Michigan (which incidentally froze over in an extremely cold winter of 1995-96, and made the news), the weather is colder than cold, which means that people are snuggling much closer than they normally would. Often, this snuggling leads to interludes of passion, which in many cases leads to hospital overcrowding in the September/October time-frame.

Being the physically fit, foreign, daredevil actor that he was, Rodolfo was no exception to the rules of cold weather and love, and thus he was never without a date for a cold Friday or Saturday night. Women flocked from all over the world to spend time with this fine specimen of manhood.

In fact, due to the volume of women continually invading his home trying to get some quality time with him, Rodolfo had a 9-foot-high stucco wall and floodlights erected at the mansion, and also purchased three Great Danes, two Italian mastiffs, and one Spanish greyhound to patrol the courtyard and terrace. (all true)

However, he did actually enjoy some of this “woman flocking”, which, due to his…um…”popularity”, extended well beyond just Friday and Saturday nights.

Cute BearDuring the winter months, Rodolfo had to hire a full time assistant just to keep the living room cleaned up from the night before. He had a different bear skin rug for each day, which were kept cleaned and hanging in a special room in the house, which he called the Bear Skin Rug Room (as you’ll come to understand as you keep reading, that he wasn’t the most creative guy in the world).

A full time dry cleaner, who specialized in authentic bear skin rug care was on-staff to monitor and manage the quality of the rugs. Rodolfo certainly couldn’t have one of his ladies over on a matted burber.

WineIn addition to the dedicated cleaning staff, Rodolfo also had one of the best stocked wine cellars in the country. Racks and racks of premium Italian wines were shipped from overseas, as well as boxes and boxes of Italian chocolates. In the back yard of his mansion, another full time employee tended to the elaborate rose garden, which included nearly 8 varieties of red, white, pink, lavender, mauve, carnelian, canary and aubergine roses.

Rodolfo (Rudy) Valentino was pretty much set to entertain any number of ladies, each day of the winter months. With a nearly endless supply of wine, chocolate, and roses, he could afford to meet with a new lady every weekday, and possibly two on each weekend day (depending upon cleaning staff availability). But he was faced with a dilemma…

From a day-to-day perspective, he had no problem keeping up with the rigorous duties required. He was physically fit, knew how to thrill a woman by taking her on a fast ride on his motorcycle or in the Fiat, and had all the supplies to make for a wonderful evening. But Rudy was never the kind of man to have a one-night-stand without some type of follow-up. He wanted these women to feel special, and to feel as though they had really meant something to him (which they had). He needed a way to show his appreciation and gratitude to these lovely ladies who had spent the evenings with him.

Thank You CardFortunately for Rudy, his close friend Hal came up with a way for Rudy to really mark the occasion. Why not send a little paper note of thanks to the numerous ladies, and attach a small personal message in each one? Rudy was very keen to this idea, as he did not want any of the ladies to think that they were not as special as the others, and in fact, he did not want them to KNOW that there had been any others besides them. In this way, he could maintain very positive relationships with all of them, and quite possibly have repeat performances with those whom he found most enjoyable.

So Rudy and Hal set out to write the letters.

Unfortunately, Rudy had spent so much of his energy on the evenings of passion, he lacked the creativity to develop personalized messages for so many different ladies. Again, his pal Hal came to the rescue. Hal, being a man of the “creative” persuasion (and before you go there, I can put that in quotes because _I_ am so go ahead and hang up with HR), had no trouble coming up with cute little rhymes or poems which spoke of love, passion, friendship, and pleasure.

Rose PetalsHe spent several weeks sitting out on the veranda of the mansion, writing poem after poem, but making each one unique and special. Hal even had another idea. Why not include a petal from one of the roses in the garden, inside each note? A petal from the same colour rose that Rudy had used on the night of passion. Now he had a card with a personalized poem and a personalized token of affection, which would truly make a mark on the occasion.

Rudy was thrilled! His friend had really come through to provide a solution to the problem. Rudy was a very humble man, however, and refused to take the credit for this creativity. He insisted that on the back side of every card, a small letter H would be watermarked into the paper, in deference to his great friend who had helped him thank all of these women.

When Hal noticed the small letter, he asked Rudy what it meant. Rudy informed him that this was the Mark of Hal, otherwise known as the Halmark. Needless to say, Hal was most pleased.

And so Rudy rushed down to the postal office, and mailed off each of the notes to each of the women he had come to adore. The notes arrived, poems were read, rose petals were smelled, and the women knew that they had made a difference in the life of this handsome, dashing man.

As Rudy aged, the number of women he sent these cards to increased and decreased (we all have good years and bad years), but he continued to send the notes, and continued to stamp the small H on the back, even after his friend Hal had passed on.

Valentine CardWe continue this tradition today, celebrating the unique style and nature of a man named Hal, who might never have become a published poet were it not for his dear friend Rudy Valentino. And this, is the true story, of Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all 🙂

Editorial Comments:
Interview on The Awful Truth, Michael Moore’s TV show
Michael Moore: You seem like a very sensitive man – you got married on Valentine’s Day. Don’t you think you’re in the wrong job, being Secretary of Defence?
Secretary William Cohen: Not at all. The preservation of the nation’s security is the most important thing. We couldn’t write poetry if we didn’t have a secure country.

To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say and to finish without knowing what you have written.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau

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