Today I talked to my folks as they head off on a tour of the Pacific Northwest. My father brought up his tried-and-true joke about Mt. St. Helens. When I was little, Mt. St. Helens erupted when we were on a road trip, and my father kept insisting that if we drove just a little further we'd be able to go and see the action. (Well, you have to admit, it's an effective way to stop your kid from asking, "Are we there yet?") One day when I was absolutely sure we were going to drive right up to the boiling maw of Mt. St. Helens, he pointed out the motel we were going to check into that night and said, "But of course, we'll check in after we see the volcano, because if the volcano gets us, then we won't have paid for the motel."
I told my dad that I hadn't forgotten his joke, that in fact this is my opening volley when there's a dinner party competition about dysfunctional families. It's deliciously deceptive, because people think they're dealing with a rank amateur. Then I bring out the big guns, like the fact that I was raised partly by my dad's version of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.*
*His name was Dog Rickles--this despite the fact that the dog puppet had a bow on its ear and was clearly supposed to be a girl.