Welcome to What I've Learned So Far...

Guitar MikeWelcome to the online home of Erma Bombeck award-winning humorist Mike Ball. Mike's column is a syndicated weekly feature that pops up in newspspers all over the United States. If your local paper doesn't carry What I've Learned So Far... call or email the editors, give them a link to this site, and tell them to get with it! We also have readers from around the world who subscribe online. Join them - it's free! 

And if you want to meet Mike, check out the Schedule Of Appearances for a book signing, concert by Dr. Mike and the Sea Monkeys, or writer's workshop near you.

USA TodayIn another life, Mike is the founder of Lost Voices, a nonprofit group founded to bring creative writing and roots music programs to incarcerated and at-risk kids. He was recently named USA Today Kindness Community Hero for this work.

Banjo Picker Blues

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My name is Mike, and I'm a banjo picker.

In my last column I suggested that I intend to exact a particularly fiendish sort of retribution on my son by teaching my beautiful new granddaughter how to play the banjo, just like her "PopPop" does. This is not an idle threat. To a lot of people (most people), turning their child into a banjo player would be considered just slightly worse than helping her start a skunk ranch in the back yard to raise money toward buying her very own Jolly Junior Seal Team Explosives Kit.

What I'm saying here is that banjos are very possibly not the most beloved of all the world's musical instruments.
For one thing, they are not seen as being particularly sophisticated. Ever since 1972, when the movie Deliverance forever linked bluegrass music with the squealing of pig-like creatures, the distant sound of a banjo echoing down the river has made canoeists everywhere paddle faster.

Caelyn

Caelyn & Friend

My new granddaughter was born last night. 

Now, a lot of things can happen to you that are really great; finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in a couple of years; your $1 lotto ticket hitting for $100; the Detroit Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup (OK, so not this year); pulling off the road with a groan when the police cruiser lights go on, only to watch him speed right past you to haul down that jerk in the black Escalade who cut you off a couple of miles back; Snickers bars.

But a few events come along in a lifetime that stand so far above all that other stuff that they make the coolest fireworks display that ever rumbled your chest and made your heart pound seem like a complete waste of time. Having a grandchild is one of those events.

My son emailed me a picture of himself sitting on the bed, looking down at his new little daughter, who was lying on his lap all swaddled in pink and looking right back up at the biggest, most important man she will ever know. I smiled when I saw it and typed a reply to him:

"OK Pat, NOW you understand!"

Whatever Happened To Crappy Kid Cars?

Here's a column from the new book, Angels, Chimps & Tater Mitts. It's a blast from the past about a blast from the past.

ImageDriving by the high school parking lot last week, I was struck by the fact that every vehicle sitting out there that could be clearly and easily distinguished from a pile of scrap metal. Most of them were newer than the car I drive. A few were newer than the oil in the car I drive.

What’s up with that?

My first car was a 1961 Buick LeSabre. I paid $50 for it, more than two month’s take-home from my job washing dishes in a family restaurant. The car was big – the front and back bumpers were nearly always in different zip codes. It had a huge V8 engine, but since it weighed slightly more than a truckload of bulldozers, it wasn’t very fast. Of course, every day I drove my Buick it got a little bit lighter, as bits of trim and apparently unneeded engine parts fell off.

Dock Tales - Once Again into the Briny Deep

The Dock

Springtime around here involves a number of rituals. There is the Baring Of Pasty White Skin I documented a while back. There is the Chipping Of Horrible Stuff From The Barbecue. There is the First Harley Past The Bedroom Window At 3:00 AM. And there is the always exciting recitation ofWhere Do You Suppose I Left The Damned Lawn Mower, a favorite in our family for generations.

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