Greetings, Los Angeles. As you may know, we are at the beginning
of another Gregorian year. In New York, where I live, the ball has dropped.
The rivers of champagne have run dry. Over 3,000 pounds of confetti, broken
promises and shredded Justinian calendars have been removed from the canyon
of Times Square. Now it is time for sober, hung-over reflection — and of course
for failed palindromes. Because amongst the momentous turmoil of 2005, the de-
and re-Poping, an amphibious assault on our shores by hurricanes, I am humbled
to report that my small book was published: The Areas of My Expertise,
a compendium of fascinating trivia and historical oddities like any other, with
the distinction that in my book, all of the amazing true facts are made up by
me. I make no claim that this small book is important, or even amusing; but
I do hope at least that it is distracting in a year when distraction was needed.
May these small, good-natured lies help you forget the facts for a moment. And
to the “Failed Palindromes” below I may add two more:

1. 2005

When Writing, Please Avoid These Failed Palindromes

  • Slow speed: deep owls
  • Drat that tard
  • Two owls hoot who owls hoot too (owt)
  • Sour candy and Dan C. roused
  • Desire still lisps: Arise! D.
  • A man, a plan, a kind of man-made river, planned.
  • Hobos! So!
  • Eh, s’occurs to me to succor she
  • Tow a what? Thaw!

    Idiosyncrasies of the Great Detectives

  • Miss Millicent McTeague This elderly spinster is not as senile as she
    seems! Also, she eats cats.

  • Juno Dix This refined, morbidly obese attorney solves crimes without
    ever leaving his own bathtub.

  • Inspector Franz Duvet-Perez This fastidious foreigner refuses to say
    exactly what country he is from, thus keeping everyone guessing.

  • Buddy Jimmy Smith This freckle-faced fourth-grader is actually the
    reincarnation of an Egyptian slave whose ancient memories of embalming techniques
    mystically guides him as he cracks “The Case of Janey’s Kitten, Who Has Been
    Missing for Days.”

  • Brother Metrigon This 10th-century monk actually believes he is a
    ninth-century monk.

  • Sergeant Demonicus Rex This uniformed police officer is also a high magus
    in the Church of Satan.

  • Dr. Kathleen Pietro This brilliant medical examiner occasionally wears
    the victims’ skin in order to “see the crime through their eyes.” This habit
    becomes something of a liability when she begins wearing the victims’ skin to
    nightclubs and restaurants.

  • Lord Miles Overstreet This debonair, mentally ill aristocrat does
    not realize that he is his own nemesis, the mad Dr. Craig Kittles.

    Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands

  • Jefferson (who designed his own hook)
  • Van Buren (known as “Old Kinderhook”)
  • Garfield (when President Garfield was shot, Alexander Graham Bell attempted
    to locate the bullet with a crude metal detector of his own invention; instead,
    he discovered “a curved, metallic sharpness in the vicinity of the wrist’s end.”
    Historians agree: hook)

  • T. Roosevelt (first draft: “speak softly and pierce their eyes with a
    golden hook”)

  • F. Roosevelt (note: his hook was actually a wheelchair)
  • Nixon (many believe that the sight of his horrific hook lost him the
    first televised debate with Kennedy, who was hookless)

  • Bush I and II (however, Bush II replaced his hook with a chain saw in
    an effort to seem less privileged)

  • Edward “Thach” Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard (although technically, President
    Blackbeard was only president of the pirates)

    Colonial Jobs Involving Eels

    Eels, as any schoolchild knows, were the true main course at the Pilgrims’ first
    Thanksgiving, largely because the eels themselves had eaten all the turkeys.
    While it’s difficult to imagine now, our nation’s rivers were once glossy and
    black with majestic herds of eels. And the eels played a critical role in the
    economy and culture of colonial New England.

  • Paling Man A legitimate eel merchant.
  • Eel Picker A person who sorted through the village trash to find reusable

  • Eel and Bone Man An itinerant merchant of eel carcasses and especially
    eel teeth. (See Scrimschonger, below.)

  • Eel Crier A young man who was posted to watch at the edge of a town or
    settlement for eels. Often an unintelligent person.

  • Eelwright Maker of false eels as decoys or for decorations.
  • Ratter Someone who caught rats to throw at eels to distract them. It
    was well-known that an eel would stare at a rat for hours, allowing a human
    a quick escape.

  • Eel Checker Once the eels were first spotted on land, an eel checker
    was often employed to check a home for hidden eels and to check under wagons
    for the same. This was not a skilled job and should not be confused with an
    eelsmeller, who was an artisan trained in the art of detecting eels that had
    disguised themselves as Dutchmen.

  • Eel Almanacker Many printed almanacs predicted the eel seasons, those
    periods when the eels would be plentiful, and when they would disappear for
    months on end to spawn. An eel almanac would also include a calendar of when
    eels would be wistful, secretive or accusing.

  • Scrimshander or Scrimschonger An artisan who carves scenes of daily
    colonial life in delicate, small etchings upon eel teeth. Many family portraits
    and early images of colonial life were immortalized on eel teeth.

  • Toothsmith A dedicated eel-tooth polisher and seller. The best eel teeth
    were those found lodged in trees, which eels would often attack at night.

  • Eel Meterer One who wrote poems about eels. When the eels proved amphibious
    and began walking on land, they became objects of deep and fearful fascination.
    And so many folktales were spawned of Dan Crate, the Brackish Man, who tied
    eels together to build a rope ladder to the clouds, and at the same time of
    Sleek Cynthia, the noble eel who stared down the sea.

  • Eel Tonguer One who learned the language of the eels.
  • Eel-Orphan A human child raised by eels after his parents had died
    or willingly given him up to become an eel tonguer. The eel tonguer’s parents
    were usually held in high regard for their sacrifice, though one printed memoir
    by an eel-orphan, The Eel-Boy’s Confession and Spelling Handbook, suggested
    that the author was much happier with the eels.

  • Rod-Man Also known as an eelpoker. Self-explanatory.

    John Hodgman will be reading at the REDCAT Theater at 8 p.m. on
    Sat., Feb. 11, and at Book Soup at 7 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 13.

  • LA Weekly