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Liar, Liar

Larry Finke Many times people will say to me, "How much of that stuff you write about is real?" To which I say, "Are you calling me a liar? Let's step outside and settle this right now..."

Actually, I made that up. Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows that writers are not generally known for their pugilistic skills, except for Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, who fought each other for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Now anyone who knows anything about Hemingway, Capote, and boxing knows I made that up. They didn't fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. What they fought for was the tag team championship of the American Wrestling Association against Vern Gagne and Larry "The Axe" Henning. They were disqualified when Hemingway bonked Henning over the noggin with the Oxford English Dictionary, which runs something like 15 volumes and weighs upwards of 900 pounds.

Common sense will often tell you whether a certain line in my column is real or not. For example, if I write that I played cribbage last Saturday night with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, you know that is not true. Roosevelt is dead, and more importantly, I've never played cribbage even once in my life.

However, if I say that last Saturday night I had dinner with Fritz Mondale, Harmon Killebrew, and Mary Tyler Moore, common sense will tell you that is true. None of them are dead, and they have all been known to eat in the past.

Now that I have established my honesty, let's examine some things I have written in this column. You decide whether they were true or not.

In a column about tomatoes, I wrote:

"The day my first tomato was ready to be picked, I hired three trumpeters to play a festive fanfare as I gently picked and placed the first Big Boy of the season on a velvet cushion..."

Why anyone would question the truthfulness of that account is beyond me. Doesn't everyone hire 7 trumpeters when the first ripe tomato of the season is picked?

I also wrote that I turned down the Grand Prize in the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes. I'll bet you thought I made that up, didn't you? If I had accepted that five million dollars, do you think I would still be teaching music, writing a humor column, and living in Wisconsin? Of course not. I would be teaching music, writing a humor column, and living in Minnesota where the rest of the filthy rich folks live.

One of my first columns told how I tried to sell a used car to a telemarketer who called me to sell children's books.

You've all been called by these people (usually at supper-time) who read their ten-minute, high-octane sales pitch, then expect you to say, "Yes, yes! Please send me whatever it is you are selling at once! I didn't understand a word you said, but you sound so sincere, I'm sure I'll love your product!"

If you had a used car to sell them, wouldn't you try, just to get them off your back? Or would you interrupt their sales pitch and say something like, "I'm sorry, I can't listen to you right now. I'm having a cyst removed," and then hang up?

That's just plain rude. what you should say is "I'm sorry, I can't listen to you right now. I'm having a carbuncle removed." Then hang up.

To be truthful, the ratio in my columns between fact and fiction and vice versa is about 70 percent to 30 percent. Some days it's as high as 80/20 or as low as 60/40, depending on the Prime Interest Rate, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators, and whether or not I've recently eaten a banana.

But which is which, you're asking? What should you believe and what should you disgorge from your mentality like a bad cheese?

You're smart. I'll trust you to figure it out, because most of the time I'm not even sure myself.

Larry Finke's column appears weekly on The Humor Archive.

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