“I always thought I wanted to steal David Sedaris’s life, but then I realized I had a pretty funny life of my own.” — Randall Kenneth Jones
Through a series of no-holds-barred essays, Randall Kenneth Jones introduces us to the characters who have shaped his character including his “nemesis,” ABC News’s Elizabeth Vargas as well as his former boss at Satan, Inc.
Jones’s greatest gift is his honest and humorous portrayal of the “workplace” through his understanding of the diverse definitions of “work” as relating to jobs, parenting, relationships, community affiliations, friendships and sometimes, the work involved in simply getting out of bed each morning.
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Fright of the Lepus: The Attack Bunny Story
My bunny issues began when I was seven years old. In the middle of the night, the Easter Bunny stood outside my bedroom door and observed me for what seemed like hours.
I should have taken this as a sign:
When I grow up I am going to be a lobbyist for the Fur Information Council of America and begin a very personal bunny eradication process.
Besides, if the Easter Bunny was so benign, then what’s the deal with the eggs? Bunnies do not lay eggs—chickens do. Bunnies and chickens don’t have a history of just hanging out together.
So what does the Easter Bunny have to do each year to procure the necessary egg inventory? Whatever it is, it sounds pretty shady to me. I theorize he is in cahoots with members of the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association which essentially makes Jim Perdue a Mob Boss.
I was also served my pet chicken at a family dinner once—but that’s another story.
Growing up, especially in small-town America, many of us couldn't really fathom the concept of “fame.” We all thought we wanted fame, but we didn't really know what it meant. And we certainly didn't have many opportunities to cross paths with a member of the rich and famous. Of course, the irony is that I would eventually be a part of a college vocal group featuring Sheryl Crow and ABC News’s Elizabeth Vargas would ultimately appear on my brush-with-future-fame dance card as well. Kate Capshaw (aka Mrs. Stephen Spielberg) was a teacher at my high school, and country music’s Sara Evans is forever stuck calling me “cousin” because of her mother’s decision to marry into my extended family. But there was a time when they were all nobodys like me. Let’s hear it for obscurity! In 1979, a petite powerhouse vocalist from Lindenhurst, New York, burst onto the national rock music scene. Her debut album, In the Heat of the Night, soared on the Billboard Chart largely based on the strength of her breakthrough hit, Heartbreaker. Patricia Andrzejewski Benatar had arrived and I, for one, was mesmerized. When it was announced that the incomparable Ms. Benatar was scheduled to kick off her Get Nervous Tour in my hometown of Columbia, Missouri, in November of 1982, I immediately knew God had decided to Treat Me Right that year. I grew up never realizing I had, what would prove to be, an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Most of the adults I knew worked for someone else. Frankly, I never thought I was smart enough to run a business, but it was Pat Benatar who I have henceforth credited with stimulating my very first serious entrepreneurial display—of taking a fresh, new idea and helping realize its potential no matter what obstacles I faced. Because if Pat Benatar was coming to my home town, [...]
Mary Lou Boggs-Jones, my paternal grandmother, was the kindest, most loving woman I have ever known. My fondest memories, as a child, were spent on my grandparents’ small farm in their intimate 950-square foot home just north of Columbia, Missouri. With my beagle-mix, Snoopy, and my very special barnyard pal, Henny Penny, the chicken, we spent many a wonderful weekend at that Farm on Route E. Roaming the woods, scaling fences or even playing catch: a ball gingerly tossed to Snoopy; a stray grasshopper lobbed to Henny Penny. The three of us were inseparable. A little fat boy; A little fat dog; A little fat chicken; And a Grandmother secretly plotting big trouble for Moose and Squirrel. As Mary Lou’s death on January 23, 1990 coincided with my ex-wife’s unexpected positive pregnancy result, I must extend my heartfelt appreciation to Grandma Jones, who, no doubt, used her new-found influence with Him to bring my daughter, Mary Elizabeth Jones, into my life on September 19, 1990, a little less than nine months later. As for Snoopy, though my obsession with Charles M. Schultz and his Peanuts characters led to your uninspired name, you were the epitome of boy’s best friend. Just understand that, if not “Snoopy,” your name might have been “Barnabas Collins” or “Dark Shadow,” so please count your doggie blessings. And Henny Penny, yet another uninspired name courtesy of my grandmother this time; your untimely death in 1970 “at the paws of a wild coyote” was sad, very sad indeed. However, the mysterious circumstances of your death eventually came to light when, at age 43, some 35 years later, I learned from my older sister, Paula Perfect, that there was no ravenous coyote, only a family meal that lacked an entrée. First, to my partner [...]
As a youngster, I used to put myself to sleep by lying face down and relentlessly thumping my head up and down directly into my pillow until I exhausted myself enough to deactivate my brain and fall asleep. I recently shared the head-thumping history with my partner Derek who, without missing a beat, replied, “Well that explains a lot now doesn't it?” It was also during this time that I discovered a very private and special relationship with God. I can only assume His original head-banging purpose was to knock some sense into me which eventually allowed my proclivity for nocturnal head banging to be replaced by a spiritual awakening. I should be relieved because, if not, I’d almost certainly have a one-way ticket to Hell—and a flat forehead. While in college in 1983 at the University of Missouri, with God still at my side, I worked the overnight weekend shift as a DJ at 98 KFMZ, “the Midwest’s Best Rock.” I felt like a celebrity—I was a real Disc Jockey with the requisite (yet fabricated) low-pitched voice to prove it. Though a really hip DJ name would have been preferable, I settled on boring “Randy Jones”—it was either that or “Spaz Nightowl” and the station’s Program Manager didn’t go for that. I guess he didn’t think that many people would be listening anyway. I would soon find out the truth behind that notion. My on-air shifts were from 11:00 PM each Friday night to 7:00 AM on Saturday morning and from midnight to 8:00 AM on Sunday morning. My mom, who typically listened only to Talk Radio, would leave on my broadcast and her police scanner all night long during my shifts. Whether she was [...]
In the summer of 1972, Mid-Missouri went Hollywood. A movie musical version of Mark Twain’s classic, Tom Sawyer, was set to be filmed in Arrow Rock, Missouri—just a hop, skip and a jump from my hometown of Columbia. I begged, pleaded and subsequently hyperventilated until my parents agreed to take me to the open call for movie extras. After all, at the age of ten, my potential child star days were quickly running out. Conquer movie stardom first. Then, I was almost certain to be cast as yet another new Chris on The Partridge Family… My persistence, hysteria and irregular breathing eventually paid off as my mom and dad hauled me and 13-year-old sister, Paula Perfect, to the open call for Tom Sawyer at the Ramada Inn. Already sounds glamorous, don’t it? After an excruciating long wait in an equally long line, made even more intolerable by intense Missouri heat and suffocating humidity, Paula Perfect surrendered and agreed to accept a new ukulele as opposed to fame and glory. However, as Paula always knew how to proffer a deal that couldn’t be refused, I have long suspected that acquiring a new ukulele was part of her master plan all along. For my dad, a mere ukulele purchase must have seemed a small price to pay for access to the comfort of air conditioning. Not surprisingly, I fiercely dug my heels in and insisted I stay because this movie was my big chance to be discovered. For her part, my loyal Mom stayed at my side. I am also quite sure the mere suggestion we abandon the audition process would have resulted in a public spectacle—a dramatic performance of grand proportions—in the line outside of the Ramada. A presentation that, in hindsight, may have earned me the [...]
I recently found a foolproof way to get out of Jury Duty: be myself. Our story begins with my receipt of a personal invitation to attend the coveted jury selection process at the exquisite Collier County Courthouse in Naples, Florida. How could I refuse such a lovely offer? Ironically, this was my first dip into the jury pool and, though I have heard multiple stories as to the best way to be voted off of Jury Island, I honestly didn’t mind finally having the opportunity to go. Call me a traditionalist, but I actually believed it was my civic duty. Of course, I was also well aware that the case would likely be fairly lightweight. It’s not like the average retired-senior resident of Southwest Florida was going to be in court for knocking off a 7-Eleven or anything like that. I have to say, the Collier County Court has got it going on! The bubbly Clerk who greeted us at the door seemed to regard us more as her “special guests” as opposed to what one might expect from repeated viewings of “Boston Legal” or even “Night Court”. In short, more Rachael Ray than Judge Judy. Just to clarify, Judge Judy is a part-time Naples, Florida resident and I completely adore her. She must have me over to dinner—Rachael Ray can cook. With copious amounts of coffee at our fingertips, each of us waited patiently for our number to come up while Bubbles the Clerk provided us periodic yet thorough updates as to the day’s judicial progress. Actual judges would also occasionally enter the holding area and thank us personally for our time and service. Well, that was unexpected but you’re welcome nonetheless. For my part, I love meticulous communication and professional courtesy so I was quickly trying to figure out how to [...]
We Joneses are borderline stalkers yet have managed to avoid the long arm of the law--so far. Take Sara Evans—a simple “related-by-marriage” designation has resulted in years of possibly unwanted backstage “family reunions” involving all three of us Jones kids. My two sisters also managed to exploit my one-year college association with Sheryl Crow resulting in a personal backstage photo shoot with both Sheryl and her unsuspecting sister Karen. Gaining face time with assorted NASCAR greats has become a Jones family art form. (Poor Carl Edwards.) Much to my surprise, my relatively new Southwest Florida home has presented me with even more opportunities to rub elbows with visiting celebrities. As I like to fancy myself a budding literary star, imagine my elation at coming face-to-face with my “colleagues” and fellow publishing giants Augusten Burroughs, Nicholas Sparks and Janet Evanovich. To be clear, I was a legitimate guest at Sparks' and Burroughs' events and was not forced to hide in the bushes outside their hotels. Evanovich graciously took me to lunch--on the beach no less. However, she did choose a very public place with lots of witnesses. Wise woman, that Janet Evanovich. As I have read each and every one of Burrough’s published works--including Running with Scissors--I literally genuflected before a bemused Burroughs to express my admiration. Though this is probably not the first time Burroughs has brought a man to his knees, my very public (yet non-sexual) approach seemed to come as a bit of a surprise. And Sparks, who’s The Notebook remains one of my favorite books and films, found himself in an impromptu Men’s Room conversation with me, his ebullient fan. No, I did not see "it" and you people need to stop [...]
Sometimes in management one has to make an unpopular decision and stick to it regardless of the consequences. In my case, my management career began rather inauspiciously when I was eleven years old. From the mid-fifties to the early sixties, my dad waited patiently through the birth of two girls to finally get his very own son. However, it was ultimately his middle child, my sister "Paula Perfect," who became the son that I was not destined to be. Paula Gail Jones was my hero in every way. In addition to being our family’s only athlete, she played the trumpet and twirled the baton. So naturally, (as is often the case with impressionable younger sibs) when Paula took up twirling, I had to take up twirling too but that’s another story. Among Paula’s most enviable skills was her ability to transform her middle-child status into an absolute art form. So much so, in fact, that Paula could have taught The Brady Bunch’s Jan a thing or two. She was the type who would sneak the younger 4-H campers down to the boys’ cabins, lead them in the front door for a “raid,” yet slip out the back door and leave the younger campers behind to get busted and take the blame. Did I happen to mention she was their camp counselor? Subsequently, Paula has been smart enough to play her cards pretty close to her (somewhat limited) chest and developed an admirable and inexplicable talent of invisibility that has continued to serve her well throughout her adult life. Paula turned anonymity into power--hence the moniker, "Paula Perfect." It’s not that she was a perfect child—she just never got caught. To this day, no matter what the situation, Paula Gail Jones always flies under the radar. Paula’s true [...]
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters wait endlessly for the arrival of some guy named Godot who never shows. I have never seen this play as I’m fearful I may have to wait for the plot to start too. However, I can relate to the mania associated with the concept of an extended (perhaps futile) wait. In my case, I’ve spent over two years since I moved to Naples, Florida waiting for an encounter with part-time Naples resident, Judge Judy Sheindlin. I’ll admit it—I am obsessed with my Naples, Florida neighbor, Judge Judy: the brains, the wit, the sharp tongue, the lace collar, and yes, the humanity. In this case, the “two characters” involved in my (to date) fruitless wait for Judge Judy are me and my friend, Kim Hagan, who shares my obsession with her royal judgeship. Though Kim and I have been told Judge Judy frequents HomeGoods on Tamiami Trail, there’s actually a limit to the number of hours they will allow one to wait for an unlikely Judge Judy appearance. As much as I love me some HomeGoods, they are pretty much forced to ask you to leave eventually. Besides, how many decorative vases and throw rugs do Judge Judy (or I) really need anyway? My friend Ellen suggested Kim and I try spending more time searching for Judy at iHOP, but I think Ellen only said that because she knows I’m happiest when surrounded by multiple platters of breakfast food making my “Judicious” wait time a touch more bearable. I’m also not sure if it’s possible for me to actually rack up more hours at iHOP than I already do. It was also [...]
Marcus Welby, MD, starring Robert Young, premiered on television on September 23, 1969 and quickly gained my rapt attention. So, at 7 years old, I immediately knew I just had to be a doctor like Dr. Welby on TV or Dr. Garrett, my chain-smoking ear, nose and throat doctor in Columbia, Missouri. Though much less was known about the dangers of smoking in “those days,” and despite his ENT specialty, curmudgeonly Dr. Garrett would light up between each patient until, by roughly 9:45 each morning, an actual cloud would hover throughout his 50s-era office. But it was his birdlike assistant, Mrs. Hudson, who fascinated me. (Long sentence alert!) Clad in a conventional white nursing uniform and platform shoes; sporting a traditional nurses hat covering vibrant henna-red hair tucked oh-so-carefully under a hairnet; Mrs. Hudson fussed non-stop about the office ushering patients safely through the smoky haze. (Whew!) In retrospect, I suppose Mrs. Hudson, who appeared to me to be 87 year’s old at the time, was my first real exposure to an ardent multi-tasker—the woman never stopped moving. And between my Virgo astrological sign, and early Type-A tendencies, it’s no wonder she was so interesting for me to scrutinize. Plus, one never quite knew when Mrs. Hudson would emerge from the smoky haze, grab an unsuspecting patient by the arm and whisk them away to Exam Room 1. It was kind of like a medical Phantom of the Opera but without the music or disfigurement. But mostly, I was captivated by TV’s Marcus Welby and staff. Every week I watched in wonder; forcing myself to memorize many of the medical terms I heard on the show. Another side benefit was, at any time, I could provide my family and friends a comprehensive recap of each [...]
In the 60s and 70s, things were great in Kenjonesland as long as nothing ever got too serious. My dad was all about a laugh, a smile, the Kansas City Royals and, most importantly, knowing when to take cover in his bedroom in front of the TV. My mom, the parental barracuda of our household, pretty much gave my father his Ward Clever, 50s-era-father lifestyle which he gladly accepted despite the fact that she has reminded him of this “gift” every day for the past 55 years. But the day 10-year-old me brought home a condom purchased from the bathroom of the neighborhood Sinclair Gas Station, there was no place private enough for Ken Jones to hide. He almost had to move out of the house. My friend Jeff and I had returned home earlier from a day of neighborhood bike riding and public-restroom shopping, ready to fill our newly purchased condoms with water (as alternatives to traditional water-balloon weaponry) only to discover that they resembled boobs when filled and paired together. Snicker. Snicker. Snicker. As we made our way through the house with our quite innovative water-logged flying breasts, we passed my mother in the kitchen on our way to the garage. With the knowledge that we basically had nothing to hide, her inquiry of “What do you have in your hands?” simply resulted in two bulbous waterrubbers being held up to her face. My mother dropped a meat loaf on her foot. After about three minutes of exasperated yet unintelligible mumbling/limping, my dismayed mother resolutely announced that my dad was going to field this awkward issue alone and unprotected, so to speak. Of course, I was never embarrassed when it came to interrogating my parents on any issue. I would probe and [...]