How to cope when the old drive is gone

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I recently had to say goodbye to a friend. His name was Augustus Van Dusen.

Augustus had been in ill health, in the final stages of a progressive disease that left him increasingly unable to perform most functions. In the end he was just a brain, tethered to various peripheral life-support apparatuses that kept him able to ...Read more

First rule of baseball: Deny, deny, deny

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- This has been a particularly invigorating baseball season for me because it has proved a gold mine for one of my favorite phenomena: P.U., which is Preposterous Understatement.

Baseball is played over a gruelingly long season, so it is particularly susceptible to fluctuations in Momentum, which is in turn affected by Morale. Like ...Read more

Big Sister is watching you

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. I have put that line at the top of the column preemptively because if I didn't, an editor would jam it in randomly between two thoughts, because those are apparently The Rules.

So, a few months ago, I bought an Amazon Echo, that little black device that permits you to have ...Read more

Are you ready to humble?

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I recently reported that my car had been towed, but the city parking enforcement guy couldn't find it in his records. He said it must have been stolen and told me to call the police.

"It can't have been stolen," I whined.

Why, he asked.

"Because it's a piece of crap," I said.

"Thieves steal crap," he said.

"And it's a ...Read more

Gene's true calling is calling

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Today, yet another installment of my Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the plight of beleaguered customer service representatives.

Kari-Out chopsticks

Me: You know how some Americans have trouble using your product? Well, I have an idea that might help your company sell here. Chopsticks are sold in pairs, two prongs next to each...Read more

Are you feline any better today?

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- This just in: A new sociological study concludes that cat owners are, on the average, less happy than dog owners.

I read this with some amusement. I don't question the truth of it, but I do question its newsworthiness. It would be like a survey concluding that people with hemorrhoids are less happy than people without hemorrhoids....Read more

A terrible, horrible, no good book deal

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Five years ago, in collaboration with cartoonist Eric Shansby, I wrote a children's book titled "Me & Dog." It sold reasonably well, which is perhaps surprising since its main message, only thinly prettified, is that there is likely no God, no heaven, and that life is a finite, terrifying plummet toward oblivion. The book is aimed ...Read more

Wee the People

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- The smallest place I've ever lived in was my college freshman dormitory room, which I shared with a guy named Murray. The first time Murray and I saw it, we paced it off in disbelief.

The negotiable area was 11 feet long by 1 ½ feet wide; that's because the room came with furniture that lined both long walls, allowing only a ...Read more

A Few Cutting Remarks In which Gene shows a lack of hospitality

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Whenever somebody at my company experiences a death in the family or some other life-altering crisis, his boss is expected to explain this in a compassionate memo sent out to all employees. When I once had a serious surgery, I pre-wrote my own memo, which my boss sent out at the appropriate time: "If you are receiving this message,...Read more

Speaking ill of the dead: A primer

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- As I write this, Donald Trump has once again sniped at John McCain, a man who -- in addition to being deceased and unable to defend himself -- is a genuine American hero. One can argue that it's best to just ignore such pettiness and cruelty, but one can also argue -- as reader Sarah O'Connell did -- that it's best to speculate on ...Read more

Catastrophe! Gene writes a column.

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I don't usually interview celebrities in this column but have made an exception today. We are talking to Rob Delaney, co-writer and co-star of the surprise-hit British sitcom "Catastrophe." I had an important question that has been nagging at me.

Me: I first became aware of you a few years ago when, as near as I can tell, your ...Read more

Root, root, root for the home team

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I am OK with watching a Woody Allen movie, start to finish, and not just the goofy ones where he dresses up like a giant sperm or walks an enormous chicken on a leash.

If Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" comes on the radio, I won't dive into the nearest swimming pool to make the sound stop. "Pulp Fiction" remains one of my favorite...Read more

Bad news: Gene's not ready for Prine time

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Have you ever wished you could be someone like me, an internationally revered hotshot journalist who can get his phone calls returned from anyone, no matter how famous they are? That way, if, say, you had any question about any song you'd ever heard -- if you were sure you understood its deepest meaning but you couldn't convince ...Read more

Gene and the Great Meatball Conspiracy

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I am on the phone with Nobel laureate Arthur B. McDonald, one of the most renowned physicists in the world. This call became necessary because of a basic failing in modern life: To resolve a question that has been bedeviling me for more than 50 years, I had first tried crowdsourcing it on social media, but that turned into a ...Read more

A word to the wise: Verily I say unto you

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Many decades ago a young Canadian named Leslie McFarlane got his first job in journalism, writing for the Cobalt (Ontario) Nugget. His crusty editor sent him out into the world with only one inviolable rule: Don't ever use the word "very."

Today, in combing through McFarlane's oeuvre as one of the most widely read writers ...Read more

Famous quotes: The right interpretation

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Last month we witnessed several occasions where people cynically twisted history to justify right-wing ideology. Just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for example, Vice President Pence claimed that the civil rights' leader's "promise of democracy" speech was, in effect, an endorsement of the Trump wall. Later, on Holocaust ...Read more

Rediscovering life's beer necessities

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I went into a local liquor store to buy some beer. It's one of those inner-city places -- clean and well-lit, but the staff works behind bulletproof glass and everyone seems a bit wary of everyone else.

As I was paying for the beer, I remembered that when I got home from my previous trip to that store and checked my receipt, I ...Read more


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