CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mom buys me a new calendar every year at Christmas. For a long time, she chose "Far Side," until Gary Larson called it quits and she switched to "Quote of the Day." This past Christmas, however, she chose for me a calendar featuring a year's worth of daily "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!"
I expect she chose Ripley's because, as a kid, I was regularly buying paperback and comic book versions of the long-lived, bizarre-fact franchise. Although it had been many years since I'd last read a Ripley's, as I skimmed through the pages of their familiar art style, I was so charmed and caught up in nostalgia that the calendar's excessive use of exclamation points only caused a smaller than usual bleed in my brain.
Karin Fuller of Charleston, West Virginia, is the only known person in history whose death can be attributed to a lethally fanatical aversion to enthusiastic punctuation!
Now that I've learned to avert my eyes just before hitting the end of a sentence, I've really been enjoying my new calendar. I think it's good for my self-esteem. How better to make a strange person feel normal than to give her 365 days of proof that there are vast numbers of others far stranger than her?
For example, on Jan. 8, I learned that "Jearl Walker of Cleveland State University can dip his hands into boiling lead and pull them out unharmed!"
Instead of being stunned and amazed that Mr. Walker's hands come out unscathed, what I really want to know is how he came to learn he was gifted with this particular skill. For all I know, I might also be able to dip my hands in boiling lead without harm, but I'm not insane enough to take the necessary steps to find out.
Even more puzzling to me was the January page about Bob Dotzauer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who "balanced a 24-foot ladder, which had a cat in a basket atop of it, on his chin - despite having one crippled leg!"
Again, how does a person come to know they're capable of balancing a ladder (with a cat in a basket) on their chin? And shouldn't the simple act of getting a cat to remain in a basket atop a 24-foot ladder be enough of an achievement to warrant a page in Ripley's? Did he really have to balance the cat, basket and ladder on his chin and have a bum leg?