Equating the Presidential Candidates to the Bands of My Youth

Copyright Bil Lepp 2016

Remember Columbia House Record Club?  Choose twelve albums for one cent, then promise to buy one album a month and start ruining your credit early?  Looking at the presidential candidates reminds me of trying to pick the last six albums.  Here’s how I compare the candidates to the bands of my youth.

Clinton: The Smiths  A lot of people I knew loved The Smiths.  A lot of really smart people.  And I wanted to like The Smiths.  I tried to like The Smiths.  But Morrissey was just so morose.  I was wrong every time I thought he was making a joke and I never got it when he did.

Cruz: Marilyn Manson  Dude might be a genius, some people like him, but there is something fundamentally off-putting that keeps me from wanting to get involved.  Or, if that’s too much, Van Halen with Sammy Hagar.  Something just wrong about it.

Kasich: Lionel Richie  He’s just too nice.  I’m afraid he’ll pick Hall & Oats as his VP. Watching the debates I imagine in his head he’s signing

Is it me you’re looking for?
’cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely?
Or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart
For I haven’t got a clue
But let me start by saying I love you

Hello! (By Lionel Richie)

Rubio: Heart  When I hear the first riffs of most Heart songs I think, “Oh, I like this.”  But after thirty or forty seconds I realize, “Oh, no I don’t.”

Sanders: Warren Zevon Catchy. Very smart. But ‘everyone’ has decided that the guy who sings Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner can’t be president.  But it was so cool when Zevon played Prince’s Raspberry Beret on Letterman!

Trump: Warrant  A lot of noise, a lot of hair. Lyrics such as

She’s my cherry pie
Cool drink of water such a sweet surprise…


Well, swingin’ on the front porch, swingin’ on the lawn
Swingin’ where we want ’cause there ain’t nobody home
Swingin’ to the left and swingin’ to the right
I think about baseball, swing all night,

Yeah, yeah, yeah  (By Jani Lane)

It was a huge hit, but what the Hell?

All I know is, come next January, one of these people is going to start showing up in my mailbox and, month after, I’m probably going to be writing Return to Sender on the package.

Smart Enough to Operate a Jacket? Smart Enough to Carry a Gun.

From Charleston Gazette-Mail 3/13/2016
By Bil Lepp

I think the crowning achievement of the West Virginia Legislature this session is the courageous stand taken on the important issue of felonious jacket wearing. I’m a responsible jacket owner and a proud member of the National Jacket Association, or NJA.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said: “I recognize that there are issues as it relates to public opinion on this, but at the end of the day, it is a constitutional right and we really don’t see much difference between carrying in an open manner without a permit or putting a jacket on over your weapon and then being a felon.”

Maybe I’m missing something here, but the Senator is correct — It would be silly to require a permit to put on a jacket, or for jacket-wearing to be a felony. The Legislature’s paramount concern for people who want to wear jackets shows that our state government is, first and foremost, concerned about our health and well-being.

After all, it gets cold out there, and given the conditions of the state’s roads the average citizen might well find himself walking a long distance on Sunday morning to buy a mimosa. Responsible citizens can rejoice in the freedom to wear a jacket! Jackets save lives.

If it is true that 70-some percent of West Virginians oppose this law than it must be that they simply misunderstand it. I am thankful that the Legislature had the foresight to go against the wishes of more than two-thirds of the population, and the Governor, and the better judgment of the state’s law-enforcement officers.

Seriously, if we want to attract businesses to West Virginia, it is vital that folks be allowed to wear jackets with impunity. You can’t have Casual Friday every day of the week.

What I don’t understand is why Gov. Tomblin vetoed the bill in the first place. The governor wears jackets all the time.

I am assured by Sen. Carmichael’s remarks that “… at the end of the day, it is a constitutional right …” to put on my jacket. The Founding Fathers really thought of everything.

If the clothes make the man should his jacket make him a felon?

The Founding Fathers clearly intended the Second Amendment to mandate the constitutional right to wear a jacket over a gun. I mean, if you outlaw wearing a jacket over a gun, what’s next? It is worrisome that while this law allows you to carry a gun under your jacket, it forbids carrying brass knuckles or a knife with a blade over three and half inches. This is a slippery slope. Soon the government might decree that you can’t wear a sports jacket over a T-shirt. Or that your jacket can’t be plaid, or reversible, or have more than nine buttons.

There are people, like myself, who own guns, have been trained in gun-safety, and use them responsibly.

There are people who own guns but use them unsafely though not necessarily criminally.

Then there are criminals who own guns. It is reassuring that the Legislature’s Venn diagram of these three demographics overlap at Anyone Over Age 20 Smart Enough to Operate a Jacket is Smart Enough to Carry a Gun.

The only drawback might be the misinterpretation of Sen. Carmichael’s use of the word “weapon.” Whereas most jacket wearing members of society are upright, decent citizens, this law may be abused by flashers.

If it weren’t for the valiant work of the West Virginia Legislature and its dogged determination to keep jacket wearing permit-less I would be worried that the government might show up at my house and confiscate all my jackets.

The National Jacket Association operates a website that rates West Virginia legislators not only on their jacket panache and style, but on their jacket stance in these difficult political times. I urge to check out your legislator’s rating.

Bil Lepp is a gun owner and a satirist because this really is a great country.

As long as you are down here, please click on the link original version in the newspaper


Put a Dishwasher in the Living Room & a Dumpster on Everest

Copyright Bil Lepp

In our house the dishwasher and the kitchen sink are in the same room.  They are located right beside each other.  This is a colossal design flaw.

We don’t need two places to store dirty dishes in the kitchen.  Scholars argue that the sink and dishwasher are situated in close proximity so the dirty dishes can be rinsed and then placed in the dishwasher.  Evidently those scholars do not have children.  My children believe that trudging all the way from the table, burdened by as much as a single bowl and spoon, is enough toil for one day.  They think that the magnanimous act of putting the dirty dish in the sink is a great gift to humanity. To then put the dish into the dishwasher would be flaunting their selflessness in a shameful manner.

Please note that one has to pass the dishwasher to get to the sink.

Furthermore, there are hardly any dirty dishes in the kitchen.  The dirty dishes migrate to the living room.  This is a factor of climate change.  I don’t mean to suggest that migrating dishes are a factor of climate change; I mean eating food in the living room is a factor in climate change.  The kids leave dirty dishes in the living room rather than hiking them back to the kitchen.  The food rots and produces methane, which stinks, so we have to open the window.  Then it gets hot, so we have to run the AC.

I have read that Mt. Everest is becoming a huge garbage heap because climbers jettison useless gear on the mountain rather than hiking it down to the dumpsters by the bathrooms in the parking lot.   Our living room is very much like Mt. Everest.  It can be hard to breath up there and it is littered with chip bags, candy wrappers, and dirty dishes.

The dishwasher should be in the living room.

And it wouldn’t hurt to put a dumpster two-thirds of the way up Everest.

If the dishwasher were in the living room I would never have to say, “Is it too much trouble for you to carry your dirty dishes from the living room to the kitchen?”  Instead, I could say, “Don’t leave your dirty dishes on the coffee table, Sir Edmund Hillary! There is a dishwasher under the TV!”

Actually, my mama brought me up better than that.  If Sir Edmund where a guest in my house I would not ask him to carry his dishes to the dishwasher.  I would do that for him, but you get my point.  Come to think of it, unless it was tea or something, I don’t even think I would feed Sir Edmund in the living room.  I ain’t Emily Post but I’m pretty sure that you are supposed to feed Knights of the Realm in the dining room.  Unless it is someone like Sir Mick Jagger.  I’d feed Sir Mick in the living room, but Jagger doesn’t fit my Everest reference so there’s no sense putting him metaphorically in my living room.

There are some drawbacks to installing a dishwasher in the living room.  Eventually the dishwasher in the living room would get full- provided someone actually put the dirty dishes into it- and then someone would run it, and then it would be full of clean dishes desperately needed in the kitchen and no one would take them down to the kitchen and I would be faced with a whole new frustration.

Maybe I could just put the TV in the kitchen.  That would limit all my dirty-dishes oriented frustrations to one room.  I believe it is very Zen to limit your aggression to a single room.  Spreading your frustrations across several rooms ruffles curtains and stirs up dust.

My understanding is that when you get to the top of Everest, that’s it.  There’s nowhere else to go.  And so it is with this little essay.

Home-School Children are Disrespectful and Anti-Social

From Charleston Gazette-Mail 3/6/2016
By Bil Lepp

Home-school children are disrespectful and anti-social … at exactly the same ratio as public and private school children. But it’s perception that counts. A lot of people have encountered “that” home-school kid who is pampered or lazy or just plain weird. And that’s the home-school kid by which some people judge all home-schoolers.

Three recent commentaries concerning homeschooling piqued my interest: one on Feb 14 by Debra K. Sullivan, and editorials on Feb 20 and Jan. 28. My wife and I home-school our kids. As with all crazy, radical, uber-religious zealots, I like to think my wife and I are normal and raising well-adjusted children.

Ms. Sullivan asserts: “The balance within a school team, based on the school’s carefully nurtured, already developed environment, will be disrupted,” if an outside student participates. This environment is developed when kids “spend seven hours a day, 180 days a year, for years at a time interacting with their peers and the adult staff,” and “that if you were to place an outside child into that environment you would corrupt the system.” By that metric no school should ever allow new kids to enroll.

Groups benefit by exposure to fresh or alternate experiences. Should we reject exchange students because they are only part of the social fabric for one year?

It is true that some home-schoolers are disruptive and corrupting. King George III called George Washington a “sniveling imp of a home-schooler.” This isn’t completely accurate since Washington was only partially home-schooled. Abraham Lincoln, a home-schooler, tore the nation in half. And then there’s Rudolph. He wasn’t excluded from reindeer games just because of his nose. He was also home-schooled.

“Public school students mix with youths of many different ethnic and economic backgrounds, so they learn … society is widely diverse. We worry that home-schooled children may wear blinders and know only the views of their parents,” (Jan. 28).

First of all, blinders only impair peripheral vision. Since it is also possible to learn by seeing things straight on, or by using your ears, many modern home-school parents have adopted sensory deprivation helmets for our children.

Secondly, I went to public school in West Virginia. I don’t remember a lot of diversity. West Virginia is 93 percent white. There are places in West Virginia where ethnic diversity is evident but also many schools where diversity means some kids are tall and some short. If that is the criterion, our home school is diverse.

Speaking of diversity, the editors lump all home-schoolers into one homogeneous group, as if home-schoolers are all the same.

“I see kids on a four-wheeler all day long and they’re home-schoolers,” Delegate Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan, commented.

Not every home-school family is responsible, but given Logan County’s nearly 50 percent truancy rate, some of those four-wheeling kids may be public schoolers. The easiest way to tell is to check if the kids are wearing blinders or deprivation helmets. It is difficult to ride a four-wheeler in a deprivation helmet but it protects our children from getting hit with new ideas at 30 miles an hour.

Some of my kids’ best friends are public school kids, but it is true that apart from Scouting, Tae Kwon Do, swim team at the Y, city and church sports teams, church activities, city theatre productions, organized science, English and speech classes, ski club, extensive travel opportunities, and an active and somewhat diverse Kanawha-Putnam home-school group, my kids are almost entirely unsocialized and never hear any viewpoints but my own.

However, I do agree with the Feb. 20 editorial questioning the ethics of home-school parents. “What about [home-schoolers] fudging grades to qualify…?” to play sports, inquire the editors. Oh man, we are so busted! It is only right to assume that all home-schoolers are scheming to invent the never before employed tactic of lying about grades. The idea of academic cheating to benefit athletic aspirations is so novel that certainly no public or private school has ever been guilty of, or even considered, this avenue. I’m a bit chagrined that the editors so easily saw through our carefully plotted plan. Drats, foiled again.

I have no idea what it costs for a home-schooler to play on a public school team but I bet parents interested in their children participating would help defer costs.

Beyond that, I now employ the ol’ “I pay taxes” line. My tax bill is not lowered even though I home-school, as far as I know. I think I helped pay for the public school sports complexes. In fact, we have access to public school text books and my children have been welcomed into certain public school programs. I have happily voted for school levy increases. I believe that home schooling is a privilege and that since not every family has this opportunity or capability, I should do what I can to ensure that public schools in my community are of the highest quality.

Okay, it’s almost noon. Gotta go get the kids up.

Checkout Bil’s PEN Award winning children’s book The King of Little Things


Christian Community Needs the Gay Community to Keep Us Straight

From Charleston Gazette-Mail 2/21/2016
By Bil Lepp

Gays will be able to legally refuse to sell Christians mimosas on Sunday mornings, thanks to the West Virginia Legislature’s hard and useful work.

The “Brunch Bill” will allow alcohol sales as early as 10 o’clock on Sunday mornings. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act will allow business owners to refuse service to anyone they please, so long as the owner holds a sincere religious belief. Ergo, gay business owners who sincerely, religiously, believe that Christians shouldn’t be drinking during Sunday School hours can refuse said Christians a drink.

At last, even the godless gays will have a say in Christian morality. But how can godless gays have a sincerely held religious belief? Simple. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not a Christian act, or a heterosexual act. Your legislators may want you to believe that the RFRA will protect your Christian rights, but the bill reads: “‘Exercise of religion’ means the sincere practice or observance of religion, or any action that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

There is no mention of Christianity in this bill. And that last bit about “sincerely held belief, whether … compulsory or central to a larger system …” means anybody can think of any reason to refuse any service to anyone and say they believe it sincerely because it is part of their religion. What religion? It doesn’t matter. A Hindu doctor could refuse to treat your heart problems because you eat beef. Or a Muslim doctor because you eat pork. A pastor could refuse to marry a straight couple because they supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Or a gay bar owner could refuse to serve you a drink on Sunday morning. You can even make up your own religion and you are protected by this bill.

I know this to be true because Obama communicated all this to me through secret hand signals. You can trust me.

The reader may wonder why the Legislature even needs to enact a law allowing drinking on Sunday mornings. In the past Blue Laws “designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities …” were passed to regulate un-Christian like behavior. Like drinking on Sunday mornings. This needs to be clearly and loudly stated: The Legislature is simultaneously passing a law called the Religious Freedom RESTORATION Act and REPEALING a law designed to protect Christian virtue.

If the RFRA passes, Christians will be able to drink on Sunday AND refuse to let others drink on Sunday. Brilliant. It’s not like we need new roads or a budget.

Let this be an appeal to “the” gays: Obviously, Christians who support both these bills are conflicted. At long last, the Christian community needs the gay community to keep us straight. There are many sincerely religious LGBT folks out there, and many hetero-religious people who are more interested in inclusion than exclusion. But please, whatever your practice or observance of religion looks like, develop sincere religious beliefs that allow you to refuse to sell conflicted, hetero-Christians booze on Sunday mornings. You will be protected by the very bill that allows Christians to refuse to DJ your wedding.

“This puts us in line with all the surrounding states,” said Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha (of the Brunch Bill). Lawmakers say the bill will boost tourism and give West Virginia’s hospitality industry a shot in the arm.

It sure will. When people find out that gays can legally refuse to serve Christians booze on Sunday morning, Christians from around the country will flock to our state the way the aristocrats used to head to the Greenbrier for the healthful waters.


A Strong Foundation of False Information

From The Charleston Gazette
Sunday, January 11, 2015
When our kids were small we took them to Hersey, Pennsylvania. The whole town smelled of chocolate.

It was raining. As we drove past a construction site I noticed a huge, wet pile of dirt, maybe 20 feet tall. It looked like chocolate.

I told my kids, “See that? That’s a big pile of raw chocolate. That’s what they make the candy out of.”

“Can we eat it?” they asked.

“Sure,” I said, and pulled the car to the curb.

My wife intervened. She said, “Children, don’t believe everything your father says. Of course you can’t eat it. Raw chocolate is toxic. Besides, it tastes like dirt until they add sugar.”


“If you don’t believe me,” she sighed, “go ahead and try it.”

“But you said it is toxic,” my son argued.

“Up to you,” my wife shrugged.

The car idled in the rain. Exhaust swirled from the rear of the car and over the windshield.

“Maybe next time,” my son decided.

I pulled away, satisfied that we had filled our children’s heads with quality nonsense.

It is the right and privilege of a good parent to provide a strong foundation of false information to their children.

And when your kids get too old? You can fool the neighbor kids.

My wife has a friend with children much younger than ours. We’ll call those children Prudence and Rowen. Prudence and Rowen were at our house looking at a chart depicting the geological strata of the Earth. We homeschool so we have stuff like that on the walls. It is a cartoony chart and each layer — Pleistocene, Paleocene, Mississippian — is represented by a different color.

I told those kids that each of those layers denoted a different flavor. I explained that in Utah there is a huge strip mine and that that is where Jell-O comes from. Orange from Oligocene, lime from Jurassic, blueberry from Cambrian.

My wife intervened.

She said, “Don’t believe everything he says. Jell-O comes from rainbows. There are specially equipped airplanes that fly through rainbows and scoop up the flavor crystals.”

My son piped up: “Don’t believe anything they say. Jell-O is made from gelatin which is rendered from animal products such as pig skin and cow bones.”


Sometimes the truth is the best answer.

Besides, lying to children can backfire. Once we told the neighbor kid that his parents found him under a rock. My own parents have been telling me this for years. We got an angry call.

On that note, while you may think it is a good idea to teach your kids how to light matches and build fires, in case they end up in a survival situation, it is not a good idea to teach the neighbor kids how to light fires. Their parents, apparently, do not want their children to survive emergency situations.

When my wife was a child, her parents took her and her sister to the Smoky Mountains. They were from the flatland and had never been in mountains before.

As they ascended, my wife’s sister said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”

Her mother said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”

My wife was chewing gum. Never having been at altitude, she had no idea that your ears pop as the pressure changes, nor did she know that the act of chewing gum keeps your ears from popping.

She said, “My ears have not popped. What will happen if my ears don’t pop?”

“Your head will explode,” her father said.

That’s just good parenting.

Eventually your kids will be out on their own. Across the breadth and spectrums of this world there are people who want to fill the heads of others with bunk and flotsam.

Parents who spend time deliberately exercising and expanding their children’s drivel detectors are enabling those children to better assess and synthesize information in the future.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with lighting matches. But I sleep easy at night knowing that if the hammer falls, my kids’ heads won’t explode, they will be able to add sugar to dirt to make chocolate, mine rainbows for Jell-O and build a fire to stay warm.

I Met Dave Barry or I’m Funnier Than Beriberi

copyright Bil Lepp 2014

I met Dave Barry.  Well, I met a guy with a nametag that read Dave Barry.  So, I either met THE Dave Barry, A Dave Barry, or just some guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag.  I hope I met the writer Dave Barry.

I read a thing about how Kinky Friedman showed up at a Texas writer’s event and put on Larry McMurtry’s name tag, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet Kinky Friedman in Dave Barry’s name tag.

I’ve had brushes with fame before.  Madonna flipped me off.  Gene Simmons pushed me out of an elevator.  And Steven Tyler spit on me, but not all of my celebrity encounters have gone as well.

Here is my evidence that I met Dave Barry, the humorous writer. I was at a book festival, I was in Miami, the guy looked like Dave Barry, and he was funny.  Evidence against: he was just standing there, not writing.

My father-in-law once told me, “I think you are funnier than Dave Barry.”  Or maybe he said Lewis Grizzard.  Or maybe he said, “Funnier than beriberi.”  But I think it was Dave Barry.  It sure suits this piece better if he said Dave Barry.  Praise from relatives is, well, relative.  We need to consider the source.  Had my mother told me I was funnier than Dave Barry I might not be so impressed.  She used to tell me I was cute, and then upgraded to handsome.  Neither of those turned out to be true.  However, fathers-in-law tend to be less effusive with praise to their sons-in-law then mothers are to their own children.  And I have a great father-in-law.  I know this because he says stuff like, “You are funnier than Dave Barry.” Or did he say Larry David?  Whatever he said, it was a compliment.

The thing about compliments is that they aren’t always true.  I am not funnier than Dave Barry.  Barry is not just funny, he is consistently funny.  Year after year that guy is funny.  Anybody can be funny once, but Barry just keeps dishing it out.  He is a dedicated writer.  That guy has written more books than I own.

I was in the Green Room at this event.  I am, by the way, so low on the Author totem pole that I had been at the event for two days before I was even told there was a Green Room.  The crowds parted, and there was a guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag.

I said to my buddy, “That’s Dave Barry.”

My buddy said, “Who?”

I said, “That guy over there.”

My buddy said, “No, who is Dave Barry?”  I punched him.

People tell me occasionally, “You sound like Jeff Foxworthy.”  They don’t say, “You are as funny as Jeff Foxworthy.”  Not even my mother has said that.  Just that I sound like him.  Sometimes I drift off to sleep dreaming of a scene in which a person has just told Jeff Foxworthy that he sounds like me and Jeff says, “I sound like who?”

Green Room etiquette establishes a sort of “Gushing & Fawning Free Zone.”   I know this because people in Green Rooms never gush and fawn over me, so it must be a rule.  But I couldn’t help it.  I went over to the guy in the Dave Barry name tag and gushed and fawned.  I flattered and prattled in a concise and succinct manner.  I began with how I read him as a kid, then as a young adult, then explained how my children now love him as well.  This kind of nattering helps remind those we admire of exactly how old they are.  I wrapped up my babble in under thirty minutes.

But I wasn’t done!  I ran from the room, secured a copy of my own book, a children’s picture book of all things, and then presented it to the guy in the Dave Barry nametag.  I explained, “I have enjoyed reading your stuff, I hope you enjoy reading mine.”  And then I added.  “I’m sure this is just what you want.  A picture book to lug around all day.  You don’t have to keep it.  You are welcome to leave it on the coffee table as soon as I turn my back, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to put one of my books in the hands of one of my heroes.”  And the guy in the Dave Barry nametag laughed a real laugh.

Here is why I hope I met the real Dave Barry, funny writer guy.  He was incredibly gracious and exceptionally kind.  Not all our heroes turn out to be nice.  The guy in the Dave Barry nametag said, “No, no.  In fact, will you autograph it for me?”  And, as far I can tell, he did not leave it on the coffee table.

And if I met a guy who just happened to also be named Dave Barry?  Well, he was a heck of a guy too.