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Innocence Abroad

The Paycheck Gnome has visited the ACD!
And he left you all a little something! Come by & unwrap your presents!
Sorry they don't have bows on them.
(ed. Note: Yes, people really complained about the lack of bows!)

Nobody Gnomes the troubles I've seen, nobody Gnomes my sorrow...
Because people are still forgetting to pick up their paycheck stubs! So be
sure to come & get your paycheck or stub; we're running out of tissues for the poor guy up here!

Gnome, Gnome on the range...
be sure to get your paycheck today,
or it will hang 'round up here,
forever we fear,
so hurry on up here, ok?

The dome on the Gnome can be spotted in Rome!
Yes, the Paycheck Gnome is taking a well-deserved vacation in Italy this
week, but he hasn't forgotten us! He sent this message using his best

Ebay ureshay otay ickpay upyay ouryay aycheckpay enwhay ouyay arebay onyay ouryay extnay akebray!

Check in next week as the Gnome continues his whirlwind tour of Europe!

Next stop: France!

Eet ez time for yur payzeck!
Oui oui! Ze Payzeck gnome ez en Paree! Zo var I av zeen zome tall pointy
tower, ze locals say it's an eyeful but ze Arch ez zo much more empressive! I also went to ze Louve, but all I could zink about vaz our Savannah furnitour colleczon. My cousin, zat Roaming Gnome vith ze travel zervice has zet me up tomorrow on a date vith zum dame named Notre. I am off to Great Britain next veek, but vor now, don't vorget to peek up your payzeck!

(With apologies for the OUTRAGEOUS FRENCH ACZENT!)

Have you got your cheque, ol' chap?
Cheerios & other breakfast cereals! I'm in Jolly Olde England where I've
seen a big clock named after our Resource Development manager, rode on one of the double decker buses (I had to keep yelling at the driver 'cause he kept driving on the wrong side of the road!), and everywhere I go people keep talking about the airspeed of swallows (1). Tomorrow's itinerary includes a pig rodeo I guess, at least we're going somewhere named bucking-ham. I'll be glad to find some American eats though; all the pubs offer strange foreign foods like Bubble & Squeak and Toad-in-the-Hole. I'm looking forward to some pigs-in-a-blanket or ladyfingers!

I'm really worried about my stop. I'm going to Scotland and from what I've heard, a lot of people who go there are kilt!


[(1) European, obviously. African swallows aren't migratory]

Thae Paycheck Gnome gaes tae thae lan' ay thae mildly concussed rabbits(1)
Goo' dah tae yeh, lads a' lassies! Aye bae en Scotland thi' week, where
e'eryone talks like thae dwarf from thae ring movie. Me guide Red Rory ae thae Glen(2) touk meh tae see moontins which were called thae 'ighlands en plains which were called thae Lowlands. Thae's almoost as creative ae set ae names as callin' thae monument doontoon thae Arch. We went tae hit some balls ae a place cooled St. Andrew's but aye goet kicked oot a'cause I kept askin' where thae battin' cages were. En thae morn' we're gooin' fishin' fer some wee beastie in a pla' cooled Ness.

By thae by, doon' forget tae pick up yeh paychecks fra' thae ACD. Ef
e'eryone ha' picked up thaer checks by ne' Friday, I woon' bring Liam ba'
thae kilt he wa' askin' fer.

Next stop, Sweden!

(1) Golf was invented by bored Scottish shepherds using their crooks to
knock rocks into distant rabbit holes. Which, until the rabbits learned to
not hang around the entrances, must have been rough on the rabbits. -

(2) If ye wan' tae learn more aboot Red Rory ae thae Glen, ye ken ask Liam.
Buut ye bett'r make sure ye got a' least 15 minute's free, an' I warn ye
he'll enjoy thae tellin' more than ye'll enjoy enjoy thae hearin'. An'
whate'er ye do, don' ask 'im aboot the pig wit' thae wooden leg. - Thae PG
(Or you can read the 'Sten' series by Alan Cole & Chris Bunch. As a bonus,
you'll also learn about the Spotted Snakes! Aye, Spotted Snakes! - Wm)

Hrwongy boingy dingdy dooung, bork bork bork!!
A big halloo from Sveden! I asked a friend of mine to do the paycheck
reminder in the subject line. You may remember him, he had his own
show in the 80's vhere he specialized in frog legs and ham steaks. I've
only been here a few days but this country must import more blond hair dye than the rest of the vorld combined! I can't recommend their sandviches, the cooks are alvays trying to cheat me by not including the top slice of bread! The meatballs are really good though. I vent on a mermaid-vatching cruise in the harbor yesterday, but the big news is I vas bitten by a moose! Really! I vas trying to read the initials vhich vere carved on him and I guess I got a bit too close. Not all of my interactions vith animals have been bad though; I bought a parrot! Yup, it's a Norvegian Blue, and it has beautiful plumage. It's a quiet bird, but I vas assured by the clerk in the pet shop that it's just because he's pining for the fjords. If you pick up your paychecks this veek I'll let you pet him.

Next veek: Germany!

Getting your paycheck vill pump you up!
Vilcommen to Jarmany! Ja, I'm having a vonderful time touring through da country. I vent ta Berlin, vhere everyvun kept talking about zis vall, but everyvhere I vent zhere vere all sortz uv valls, zo I don't know vhat zey vere zo excited about. Lotz uv people are saying zheir bratz are ze vurst but I think zhey're pretty good. Ze biggest problem I have iz everyvhere I go people are trying to gnomenap me to put me in zheir gardens. Iv everyvun picks up zheir paychecks zhis veek, I von't let Villiam vere da Lederhosen or practice his yodels vhile at vork.

Next veek, I'm going ta Spain!

No forgeto a pickupa su paychecko, poor fav-or.
Oil of Olay! I'm in Spain and guess what!? Everyone here speaks
Mexican!(1) I went to a bullfight the other day, but one of the bulls
evidently didn't show up, 'cause instead of two bulls fighting each other we had to watch some guy in capris and knee highs get chased around instead. I think I found our errant bull though. He & a group of his friends were chasing a bunch of guys through the streets of Barcelona! I wonder why bulls dislike Spanish people so much? Tomorrow we're going to see some birds do ballet or something. Yep you guessed it: Flamingo Dancing!

Next Week: Greece!

(1) This is, unfortunately, based on a real incident that happened to me
while living in Florida.

Ouza need to peta up your paycheck!
Gyro-whiz! I'm in Greece, home of the toga party! I have to admit it's
nothing like I expected: there are no guys in leather jackets with puffy
hair or ladies in skirts and bobby socks. And nobody is singing!
Everywhere you go there are signs for fraternities and sororities, but they all seem to have longer names than in the States. The biggest thing I
noticed is everything is so OLD! This country could really use one of those home decorating show upgrades. They have some pretty cool buildings here, but maintenance sure hasn't been a priority. I mean, they built a copy of the Parthenon of Nashville, Tennessee here but then they let it fall apart! It's lying in pieces all over the ground. And you should see the state of their stadium! It only has about half the wall standing! It's very sad.

The Greeks are a good hand at statues, but they'll never get the recognition they deserve until the sculptors remember to put on heads and arms and such. They need to pay their models more too. None of those folks seem able to afford any clothes!
I wanted to go see some sports while I was here, but from what I understand they only do one sporting shindig every four years & I just missed it. They do have an unhealthy fascination with Popeye's girlfriend though. Everywhere you go people are talking about her. She's GOT to be the most popular star in the country! Tomorrow I'm going to go to the island of Thera. My cousin, that gnome with the travel show, said the volcano there is acting up and he's been MOST insistent that I try to catch the eruption. He said it's acted up before, and if I make it back he'll loan me his book on some place called Atlantis. Wait a tick, what did he mean by "if"?

Next week I'm off to Holland! 

Wooden Shoe like to pick up your paycheck?
Howdy from Holland! This must be THE biggest producer of air in Europe! I mean, they have all these windmills around, and judging from the breeze, they sure crank out that oxygen! That might explain why I get lightheaded every time I walk past one of the smoky bars around town. Did you know EVERYBODY here speaks a foreign language? And no, I don't mean from what we speak. But in England they speak English, in Italy they speak Italian and in France they speak French. But here in Holland everyone speaks Dutch! I'm sorry if I'm rambling, I'm a little off my groove. Ever since I got to this country I've had this sinking feeling. Tomorrow we're going to Belgium, which I guess is the boondocks of the country. (At least everybody mentions the netherlands, isn't that what it means?) Well, we're supposed to go. Our tour guide kept waffling about it at breakfast.

Next week:  Ireland!

Irish you would pick up your paychecks!
Top o' th' mornin' t' ya! I don' know why they call this place Ireland,
everyone is really nice an' they hardly ever get angry! Where e'er I go
people keep grabbin' me an' demendin' t' know where me' pot o' gold be! I
keep tellin' 'em they've mistaken me fer someone else, but they think I'm
tryin' t' pull a fast one on 'em, like I'm a lepreconman! My cousin gnome,
th' one who roams, met me at some place called Blarney an' tried t' get me to dangle out o' a big hole in a castle to kiss some stone. I said No Way,
if'n I wanted t' smooch rocks I could do tha' 'n solid ground. From there
we vist'd a' the city of Cork, where I got all stopped up; we then went t'
some town called Limerick, where I heard the most risqué poetry! Hmm, how did i' go?: There wa' a young lady from York...well, maybe I shouldn't share that in a' email. The most expensive place we went wa' the city o' Dublin; I felt like I had t' get two o' everything! We then wen' up north t' some place called Northern Ireland, where they be having some Troubles over religion; they seem like a bunch o' sects maniacs t' me! We went t' th' pub last nigh' fer a quiet drink, but I bent me spoon trying to pry me beer out o' th' glass. At least I don' have any complaints about th' food; it's all magically delicious!

Next week we round out th' British Isles by vistin' Wales!

When Wales you come get your paycheck?
Cyfarchion oddi wrth Cymru! Ya know, for being part of England, these folks sure don't speak very good English! They seem to have cornered the harp and lute market though. This seems pretty appropriate, since their language sounds like singing. Well, it sounds like William's singing, which isn't too bad as long as you bring earplugs. That's not the only surprise. I mean, I've looked all over, and there simply are NO whales to be found! Talk about false advertising! And I thought I'd at least get some good deals on grape juice, but there's none of that either! Matter of fact, the biggest thing this region has going for it is the name of this town:
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Yes, it really is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch; no, I don't know how to say it. What it means is: "St. Mary's Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave." Try putting either of those on your driver's license! That's not a name, that's a set of directions! Wouldn't it have been easier to give the town a short name and tell people to MapQuest it? Maybe that musician, Prince, knows how to say it. I guess he hangs out here a lot; a least they keep saying he's from here. If I see him I'm going to try to get him to autograph my Purple Rain album! I'm going to get another pet while I'm here too; there's this guy, name of Baskerville, who has a dog for sale, cheap.

Don't loan these folks any money, I'm betting they'd Welsh on their debts!

Next stop: The Balkans!

Will you stop Balkan & come get your paycheck?
Hoovdy! I'm een ze Balkan'z vhere evidently it'z a law zat all counntriez
namez end in an "A"! I vent to Bulgaria, but didn't zee zat many bullz. I
vent to Romania but, you guezzed it, zere veren't any Romanz! It toook me a long time to get out of Slovakia, I coulldn't buy anyzing in ze Czech Republic becauze no vun vould take my credit card, and I almozt ztarved to death in Hungary! I ztopped by Boznia and Herzegovina, vhich iz actually vun country; and zen I zpent ze night in Zerbia and Montenegro, vhich iz zree! I have to admit, thiz iz a dark and glooomy place. A big topic of dizcuzzion iz vhere the volvez are, ze people vear enough Gothic clothez to keep Hot Topic profitable for yearz, and zey have the zcariezt gutter pipez I've ever zeen! And ze batz here, zey are HUGE! Ze people are not much better: Zome guy named Igor azked to borrow my brain, ze guy in ze room next to mine kept me up all night yelling becauze of ze lightning ztorm, and zen zome OZER guy got everybody upzet becauze it loooked like he vaz zleepvalking! I vent to complain to ze local zheriff ze next day, and vhile I vazn't able to get anybody arrezzted, I did dizcover ze zheriff iz an excellent dart throver. I got to participate in zome local cuztomz vhile I vaz here. I'm ztill not zure vhy ze guy in ze local caztle vanted ze villagerz to bring him all thoze torchez and pitchforkz, though. I'm not zure about ze food here yet; but I've been invited over for dinner tomorrov night by zome guy named Vlad. I'm not holding out much hope zough; from vhat I've heard, hiz dinner partiez uzually zuck.

Next ztop:  Ruzzia!

Ze Payczech Gnome, noseferatu 

This will Pravda picking up your paycheck is USSR friendly!
Greetings Comrades! Da, da Paycheck es en ze Zoviet Union, nyet, ze Union of Zoviet Zocialist ..., vell, vhatever you call it, here I em . You know, zis country uzed to be named after a Beatles tune? Ziz iz a very fruztrating country! First zhey are Russian you to hurry, zen zhey end up Stalin zho nothing ever gets done! I'm ztaying vith zum old acting comrades of my couzin; zhey're names are Boris and Natasha. Boris muzt uv been bitten by a moose vunce too, at leazt he alvays reactz badly vhen zhey are mentioned, da. And don't even get Natasha going on about zhe zquirrelz! You know zhey named a park after a song by zhat band zhe Scorpions? Juzt anozher example uv zheir love uv Vestern muzic! We vent to zee zhis palace yesterday, and all I can zhink iz zhe architect muzt have vreally vanted onions vith his lunch! Zhe veather here iz very cold, zhat might explain vhy mozt everyvun haz vhat lookz like a dead cat zitting on zheir head. I guess zhat's vhere they got zhe term zhe Cold Var!

Tomorrow zhey said ve are going to ze Gulag, da. I knew Vrussia vas a big country, but I didn't vrealize just how big. Zhey said ve vouldn't make it back for 10 years!

Nezxt ztop: China!

One Deep Flied Paycheck with a Side Order of Commisions for take out!
Ah-so! I'm in China, a country named after eating utensils! I had a dickens of a time getting into the place. They built a huge wall to try to keep me out! I visited this place called Tiaenamenamenamen Square, which is actually more of a rectangle, and saw this really big picture of somebody whose name sounded like an angry cat. I think that this person is actually Snow White! Really! There was this really long line of people going into a building, which I assumed was the Loo, but when we finally got inside instead of the "lads and ladies" rooms I was expecting, there she was, in her glass topped casket, just like the Grimm Brothers story! I have to say though, the years have not been kind to S.W. She's starting to lose her hair, and it will probably help if Prince Charming has forgotten his glasses the day he shows up; otherwise he might decide some fire-breathing dragon is a better option, princess-wise.

Of course, I went & saw other places as well. I stopped in Hong Kong, but was disappointed by the lack of giant monkeys. Passed through Canton, where I found out you really can't; traveled up the Yangtze river, which I thought was Yahtzee, and ended up very embarrassed; went to Shanghai, where (inexplicably) nobody tried to kidnap me for a dangerous cruise to exotic locales (very disappointing). I traveled the Silk Road for a while, but it was really made out of rocks (more false advertising!); went to a placed called Xian where a bunch of soldiers had gotten really stoned; and I stopped off in Tibet to see the Dalai Lama (his wool was atrocious and his ears nowhere near banana shaped. I tried not to get to close; they spit you know.)

The food here was middling, but its not like I was able to eat much anyway. I asked for silverware and all I could get were some twigs. I was told they were chop-sticks, but when I broke them in half it didn’t seem to help much.

Somebody didn’t like my description of Snow White, I guess. I’m writing this from a jail cell, waiting to be deported. My hosts are really nice though; they gave me some reading material. I like the red cover, but the book is kinda small.

Next stop: Japan!

Nippon over and get your paycheck!
Cone-itchy-way! Hello from the land of the giant meatball! Yes, I'm in Japan, and I have to say, this country is chock-full of people! I haven't seen these kind of crowds since the last time Generic Inc. did a free bar-b-que.

All the landscaping around here is beautiful. I'm not really surprised, since I heard the natives do Bushido. That's the art of trimming topiaries, right? They even have these little Bonsai trees which are used to crash into other people. I'm having some trouble understanding the lingo 'round here. I went on a tour & the guide was talking about some show gun. I asked to see it, because I was bored of the displays of swords, and the guy threatened me! I didn't really understand what he was saying, but I think it was along the lines of he was going to throw a "cat-on-ya". I've never been threatened with house pets before!

The Japanese also love American baseball. After the whole "I'm going to assault you with domesticated felines" thing, the guide said something about Harry Carey. I agreed he was one of the greatest baseball announcers ever, and then I sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in honor of our Cardinals. Boy did the rest of the group give me strange looks! They must have been Houston supporters.

The Nipponese are also big Beatles fans, you know. Matter of fact, they've named their bathrobe after Yoko Ono's younger sister Kim.

Did you know these folks named a mountain after a camera film company?

I didn't get to meet the geisha, but I did read her diary.

I'm also trying to meet this Mr. Urai guy. I think his first name is Sam. I want to meet him so I can study one of the unarmed fighting techniques they have here. In Japanese it is called But-t'da-hed. Evidently people here brawl a lot when shopping. I have it on good authority that's why Japanese fighting styles are called Marshall's arts.

Ya'know what they tried to serve me today?! Raw fish! Well, I called the cook to account on that one! I yelled at him in front of the entire restaurant, so he won't try that again. In order to make amends, he's in back right now, cooking up something called the Blowfish Special. And in order to make sure I can't complain, he said he'd skip a couple of steps to get it to me faster.

Next week, we're off to the Koreas!

Inchon up to the ACD & pickup your paycheck!
Man, South Korea just ROKs my world! (1)

Kim from our Return/Exchange team must be a national hero over here! Everyone seems to be named after her!

I've been playing tourist in South Korea's capital. I went to the Secret Gardens today, they're really beautiful. I have to say though, Koreans aren't very good at keeping secrets. I mean, this thing was right in the middle of the capital city! Maybe they think it's secret because it's hidden behind all the palaces they have around here. Even the Brits didn't have this many buildings dedicated to their royalty. It really gives you an insight to the Korean Seoul.

The Internet is really big here, especially Internet cafes. Some people take it to extremes though. I mean, can you imagine going somewhere and sitting in front of a computer for hours on end...oh, never mind.

I also visited the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two countries. Boy is that misnamed! There are guys with guns all over the place! I also found this military hospital set up in tents. If I were a wounded soldier, I sure wouldn't want to end up here! I mean, who's going to trust some place called a MASH unit to make them better?

You'll never believe what happened to me today! I was gnomenapped! Yep, some agents from North Korea grabbed me and snuck me over the border. They wanted me to train their spies in ways to infiltrate America. Fortunately I had my collection of Kevin Smith DVD's, and I was able to convince them the movies were documentaries on American life. I slipped out while everyone was engrossed in Mallrats. I took advantage of the opportunity to do some spying of my own! The people in North Korea are very dedicated vegetarians. While I was here I saw them eating grass, tree bark, mud (is mud a vegetable?), almost anything they can get their hands on! What really worries me is North Korea has invented invisible cars! Seriously! In the capital there are these huge, multilane streets with real live traffic cops standing on pillars at all of the intersections. They were directing traffic so the invisible cars wouldn't get into traffic accidents, and they must do a good job since I didn't see any. To make matters even scarier, the cars are all totally silent! It made crossing the streets really nerve racking, I can tell you! I finally had to close my eyes and just run across trusting my luck. I figured, if I'm going to get squished by some invisible communist car, I didn't want to see it coming...well, you know what I mean. Fortunately I got lucky and survived.

The president of North Korea must not feel well. At least, everyone says that Jong's Ill.

North Korea has it's own version of that NPR radio station William is always listening too. It must be the most popular program in the country. I mean everybody's house has a radio and they ALL have it on, all day, everyday. It's so popular the radios don't even have a volume button or an off switch.

The food over here is pretty decent. The kimchi is kind of like sauerkraut, but spicier. The meat and sauce are pretty good too. I'm really surprised the owner's dog isn't here begging for some...(2)

Next week, Taiwan!

(1) ROK is the contraction for Republic of Korea, the official name of South Korea.
(2) Before I start getting all sorts of unhappy emails, do some research into how Dogtown got it's name.

There'll be Big Trouble in Little China if you don't pick up your paychecks!
Just a short message this week. I didn't get to spend a lot of time in Taiwan, I was busy trying to escape from North Korea. I finally made it; the Great Escape involved a number of big rubber bands, some angry chickens and a whoopie cushion. Other than that, I don't think I should comment.

You know, there’s a company here that makes dinner plates out of wheat, so you can eat them too. This adds a whole new level to the Clean Plate Club!

Some of the toilets here have two flushes, a “big” & a “little”. I think they had to do this because of the size of the goldfish over here.

There's a whole new take on catnapping over here. A big thing is people will steal your pet in Taiwan & smuggle it to China to sell on the pet black market. If you want to buy hamsters do you have to go to a squeakeasy?

Next week: Southeast Asia!

You'll really Laos out if you don't get your paycheck!
Wow! What a week! I’ve been running around South East Asia trying to visit all of these countries. But it was an exciting time, full of discoveries:

I discovered where shaving cream comes from! But it looks like Burma is considering rebranding. They changed their name to Myanmar. Or maybe I have it completely backwards. Maybe somebody else bought the naming rights to the country! It’s too bad. Those little billboards along the road were kind of cute.

When I went to Malaysia, I had trouble getting interested in anything; I just felt like lying around and moping. They have a bad attitude about their region here, you can tell by the name. Mal Asia: Bad Asia, from the Latin.

Some guy named Phillip made his pine trees so famous they named the country after him! And then they named their capital after those really big envelopes!

Did you know they don’t show “The King and I” in Thailand? But if you go to Patpong road you can see just about everything else!

When I stopped off in Vietnam, I had a couple of bits of excitement. Saw that boxer from Philly running around with a big gun & a sweatband. When that guy goes deer hunting, he doesn’t kid around! Woke up the other morning & there was this petroleum smell in the air...not sure what it was, but I kind of liked it.

In Cambodia I stayed at this really run down hotel called Ankor Wat. For a gnome who makes a living by getting people travel deals, I don’t know how my cousin stays in business. The sculptors who made the place must have taken lessons from those ancient Greeks; most of the statues were missing their heads!

Saw lots of poultry wearing hot water bottles on their heads & with thermometers in their beaks. Seems there was a bit of the flu going around. When I suggested they try chicken noodle soup to cure their ills, they just gave me a fowl look.

Next week: Singapore!

It would be a "Fine" thing for you to get your paycheck!
Hello from Singapore. Shh, don't read so loud, they might hear you. I've spent my entire time here hiding in my hotel room, afraid to leave. You see, I bought this t-shirt at the airport tourist shop regarding the laws here, and this country is SERIOUS! I mean, I could go through four grand in 10 minutes just walking down the street!

These are just the laws & punishments I could put in a company email:

Possession of gum $1000.

Dancing in public: $5000

Skateboarding: $500

Smoking in a public place (which is basically everywhere): $1000

Selling things without a license: $500

Eating on the bus: $500

Talking on a cell phone while driving: $10,000

Vandalism: A martial arts expert whacks you repeatedly with a six feet long piece of bamboo soaked in saltwater.

Possession of illegal drugs: Hanging.

I don't know what the penalties are for these crimes, and I don't want to imagine:

Bungee jumping is illegal.

As it is considered pornographic, you may not walk around your home nude.

Failure to flush a public toilet after use may result in very hefty fines. (How do they enforce this one? On second thought, I don't want to know!)

It is illegal to enter the country with cigarettes.

It is illegal to come within 50 meters of a pedestrian crossing marker on any street.

If you are convicted of littering three times, you will have to clean the streets on Sundays with a bib on saying, "I am a litterer."

It is illegal to pee in an elevator. (I don't even want to know WHY they felt they had to create this law! But when I leave, I'm using the stairs!)

Next stop: Indonesia!

I'd be For Lorne if you don't come get your paycheck.*
Apah Kabar! Saya di Indonesia, dan saya suka banyak! Yes, I’m in Indonesia, which is a country of islands about the size of the U.S. with the landmass of Texas and it’s neighbors! The people here are so incredibly friendly! They never stop smiling! It’s a little unnerving at first, seeing all these teeth being bared, I thought maybe I’d fallen in with those cannibals you’re always hearing about from that Gilligan’s Island documentary. Imagine how freaked out I was to discover that I had! Really! In Irian Jaya are tribes who would treat exploring European ships like a pizza delivery truck (Get the oars! It the Domingos!) Following the philosophy of “Waste Not, Want Not”, these tribes would then take the skulls of their victims & use them to decorate their houses (my daughter’s Goth friend has the same motif. Hmm...if she invites me over for dinner, I’m not goin’!) Those kind of eating habits can Rockefeller’s world, let me tell you!

And if that wasn’t freaky enough, the country is full of bogeymen! Yep, it turns out our word bogeyman comes from one of the tribes that lives on these islands, the Bugis. They gained their fame by being pirates and reavers of an uncommonly viscous nature (I’m sure the tales of sewing peoples’ skins into their clothes are just campfire stories.)

Ok, so as if cannibals and pirates weren’t enough, here there be dragons! The island of Komodo is crawling (literally) with giant lizards that can outrun, out climb & out swim a human. Their mouths are so dirty that a single bite will poison your blood and is fatal! Heck they can kill you by swatting you with their tail!

In addition, several dozen people a year are killed by having coconuts fall on their heads.

All right, so the people, flora and fauna are universally murderous. Now add to this the fact that giant tsunami tidal waves sweep miles inland, earthquakes knock entire villages into the sea, and there’s this volcano that keeps blowing up, and I have one question:


Forget it. I’m flying home this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Assuming I can make it to the airport alive!

Next week: Turkey Day!

We'll be Thankful if you pick up your paycheck!
Well, I’m certainly glad to be home in the States for the week! It was a bit of an adventure getting here; I was denied entry back into the U.S.! That’s right! There was a bit of confusion involving a penguin, my snozzer and the Asian bird flu. For national security reasons I can’t go into details. Fortunately I always keep one of Generic Inc's prepaid return labels in my suitcase; I slapped that on a big box & mailed myself home! Well, mostly. I made it as far as New York City but then was grounded because of “excess weight, more postage required.” I mean really! I got lucky though. The warehouse where I was stuck seemed to be storing some really big balloons. I got one shaped like a giant turkey inflated & managed to float my way back to St. Louis before the second helping was served. On the down side, now I’m stuck with a giant turkey balloon. Hmm, the box said it belonged to some guy named Macy....

I’m still suffering from a sweet potato haze, but there are several things that stand out from this holiday:

A dog carrying a twenty pound turkey can’t run very fast, but not many people see the point in chasing him after he has the bird. At that point we didn’t really want it back.

Gesturing dramatically with your fork at a table crowded with family can generate bad feelings.

My grandmother is immune to tryptophan. After eating her body weight in turkey she just gains more energy, immediately launching into a whirlwind of activity: she gets her kitchen clean, her Christmas shopping done, knits us all sweaters and learns Ancient Greek while we’re all snoozing on the couch.

Chocolate fondue is very difficult to get out of curtains.

Teenagers are actually black holes in reality into which unlimited amounts of food are capable of disappearing.

If you put one end of the table on phone books, you can have deviled egg races on the slope.

Food fights are fun, but should probably be held outside. Stuffing sticks to the ceiling, and cranberry sauce stains walls.

Next week: Australia & New Zealand!

You'll have no worries if you pick up your paycheck!
G’day from Down Under, Mates! Ii’m knoockiin’ aaboouut Auustraaliiaa aand Neew Zeelaand, wheere iit soouunds liike theey speeaak Briitiish buut wiith reeaally loong vooweels.

Had a short stop over in New Zealand, where some tall guy with a very fine hat & wearing a dingy grey dress tried to get me to do him some favor involving this ring. Then some giant talking tree went into this long story about how he lost his wife. He was almost as long winded as William! Everything seemed to work out ok in the end, although some ophthalmologist is going to make a killing on a monocle. I did find out New Zealand is very proud of having 40,000 nuclear free sheep, which is good, because the thought of sheep controlling nuclear weapons is kind of scary.

I spent more time in Australia. It’s a beaut country, the size of the U.S. with the population of NYC! Where else can you find a country that has more wild pigs than people, and over 300,000 wild camels! I landed in Sydney where the Opera House looks like if you come a gutser, you’ll put an eye out. I went doing a walkabout through the Never Never to the Top End with the Bruces, this loony Seppo family spending the Chrissie season touring the Lucky Country by bog standard motor home. We were back of Bourke when we stopped to take some pictures of kangaroos cleverly disguised as sheep. The family kept yabbering on about how they went to Penguin Isle (which in reality, isn’t shaped like a penguin) and the only bird they saw was sitting inside this government supplied penguin hutch staring out looking mad as a cut snake. Even the wildlife is on the dole here! The oldest ankle biter spent the entire arvo whinging about how he couldn’t go book shopping and how some walrus had chased him down & sniffed his feet. While I was using the dunny they accidentally drove off without me. I was chased by wild bunyips till I fell into a billabong. Fortunately I was saved by a bushie, named Bruce, who actually turned out to be a bushranger, but it was okay because he took me to the Uni where I got into a heated discussion with the Philosophy department, whose names were Bruce. We had some XXXX & threw some shrimp on the barbie. The next morning I was feeling a bit under the wog so I decided to chuck a sickie, threw on my cozzie and went for a swim along the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not much of a barrier; the ocean was getting through just fine. Saw a lot of marine life, including a fair dinkum rare brown eyed mullet. I then snuck a ride in a roo by impersonating her joey, which was a bit shonky but the only tucker I had left was damper and I was afraid I was going to go troppo unless I got back to civilization! Was finally able to hitch a ride to Brisvegas on a road train with a sheila truckie whose name was Bruce. I couldn't find an Outback Steakhouse anywhere so I had to settle for a hamburger, french fries and a large orange drink from a cooee Maccas.

Hooroo till next week, when we're in India!

If you are Sikhing some money, come to the ACD & we will Hindu your paycheck!
I’m here in India, which has got to have more people per square inch than anywhere else I’ve seen! Everybody here speaks English! You’d think they were British or something! The capital is New Dehli, which makes me wonder, since the city is several millenia old, how old is Old Delhi? There’s also a city called Bombay, which sounds a lot more martial than it is.

You know, no matter where you go, you never escape human nature. Take the country of Bhutan, just north of India. You know our Constitution offers us the “pursuit of happiness”? Well, in Bhutan, they had to go & put in their Constitution the GUARANTEE of happiness. Some people just can’t let themselves be second best. How does that guarantee work, anyhow? Do you go to some government agency and say “I’m not happy, but a new Lamborghini would sure cheer me up!” Hmm, maybe I should think about moving. Of course, I’d need a couple of telephone books so I could see over the steering column...

In Nepal there are these viscous warriors called Gurkhas, who like making war so much they join the British Army because Nepal doesn’t fight other countries enough. Their battle cry is “Ayo Gurkhali!” which translates to “Here come the Gurkhas!” They really don’t think much of their opponents’ perceptivity. I mean, if some five foot tall guy wielding a knife that looks like the world’s most deadly boomerang on a stick was running at me, I don’t think he’d have to announce his presence; I’d figure out he was there all on my own!

You know all those arms that were missing from the statues in Greece & Thailand? I found them! They were imported into India and now everywhere I go I see statues that look like they were carved by people who really wanted to be making pictures of spiders instead. Wow, the international arms market really is out of control!

There’s some guy blowing on a trumpet over there who just won’t shut up! Hey, I can’t hear myself think over that Din, Gunga!

They take a very refreshing approach to politics in this country. There was this woman who was known as the “Queen of the Bandits” because she was a kind of female Robin Hood in the north of the country. They arrested her, and you know what happened? She got elected to Parliament! The “I am not a crook” statement would kill a political campaign pretty quick here, I guess. I wouldn’t want to be a politician here though; the retirement plans aren’t the best. It seems every time they get tired of an elected official, they just assassinate them and get a new one.

Everyone who rules this country seems to be named Gandhi. Maybe it’s the official title or something. That would make sense. The George Washington of India was some really skinny dude who looked like he was always wearing swim trunks. You’d think they’d have treated him better. Get that man a suit off the rack & give him a big steak, with extra salt!

They have a strange sense of fashion in this country. Orange seems to be popular, but everyone who wears it looks like they’re attending a college toga party. They all seem to be saving a fortune on shampoo too. I asked if they had a sister sorority but the only answer I got was some nasty looks.

My cousin, that traveling gnome, booked me a weekend retreat at this bucolic place in the countryside. Man, what a ruin! You’d think they’d keep it up better, it looked like it was thousands of years old. The other guests consisted of this American couple who bickered all the time. He was a professor with poor taste in hats, she was in the entertainment industry, and they had brought their obnoxious child (I think he must have been adopted). The food was ok, at least better than Wm’s cooking, but without going into details, I can say food served chilled should be eaten chilled, not taken to one’s room and saved for later. There was a huge racket that night, and when I went looking for the concierge to complain, I discovered that there seemed to be a staff meeting with an unfavorable review going on. I did get to ride this really thrilling roller coaster though, so that made up for the poor night’s sleep.

On the way back to civilization I got lost in the jungle and was trying to ask this guy who looked like a thug for directions when I met this young man with the most amazing animal menagerie. He led me to the road where I fell in with these two disreputable looking characters who had kingly bearings before some guy named Kim finally got me to the airport.

On the way out I tried to buy some llama dollies, I’d heard they were famous in the region. Couldn’t find any though.

Next week, the ‘Stans!

Ill be sick iv you don’d bick ub your baycheck
I’b dorry vowks, bup I’b a liddle undrer de weader doday. By dose is all sduffed ub, andb by head veels wike a big balloon. On de blus sihde, Nyquil mikes Wm a lot beasier do deal wib. Bhen you dum geb your baycheck, you bight wand do wear bun ov dose hazmat suids, or ad leasd hab Wm day downbind.

We’ll condinue our whirlwind dour ob de world dexd week.

The Paycheck Gnome has Visited the ACD!
And I brought you all goodies! Come find out if you've been naughty or nice on your break or after your shift! (And yes, this time they have bows on them.)

Well, I’m back Stateside for the Holidays, and let me tell you, this was a challenge! My original flight got snowed in in Norway, of all places (I let my roaming cousin book my flight; who knew it was a 145 hour flight from India to St. Louis?) So there I am, trapped above the Arctic Circle, with icicles forming on my nose, and suddenly this short guy with a funny hat walks by arguing with a reindeer who has the worst nose cold I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what the dispute was about, but the guy’s argument had some teeth to it.
While I was wondering around I got to see some of the local snow art. There was this one sculpture, about six feet tall, that I couldn’t quite make out. But let me tell you, their snowmen were ABOMINABLE!
So I’m starting to panic, because the folks at the airport were handing out residency cards to my fellow passengers when this guy pulls up in this real charp chort. It was lowered to the ground, had twice-pipes, was candy-apple red and had a button top. Ooh, clean! He jumps out muttering “Bathroom, bathroom, where’d they put the bathroom?” I guess he was a local low budget airline, maybe transporting livestock. I hung around until he came back and then asked if he could get me out of there because I was trying to go home. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a PDA and looked something up a couple of times, and then mutters “Well, no worse than some I suppose,” and let me ride up front with him. His in-flight meal wasn’t the greatest, he only had milk and cookies available, but at that point I wasn’t going to complain.
I must have dozed off, because I don’t remember much more about the flight. I think we made a few stops, and I have vague memories of the guy talking about all these kids he knew, when suddenly he says “And a dolly for Amber” and then there’s all this masonry going by and the next thing I know I’m standing in some stranger’s living room with a bow on my head. The place was pretty crowded; it looked like there was a marching band, some dance troupe, birds of every description and then some tree. Looked like a five ring circus!
I beat feet out of there, and was able to get directions and a very fine hat from a snowman who smelled of pipe smoke. Because of a small misunderstanding stemming from the turkey balloon incident at Thanksgiving, I could only travel at night. I was worried, because I knew my flashlight batteries were pretty low, but it was really incredible, they lasted just over a week! There was a few close calls even so. Once, I had to hide in this doghouse for a couple of days; I got to watch this bald kid with a big head decorate a really pathetic fir tree. Another time I thought I was nicked, but then the police got called off because some grump burglarized the entire town. It was a real Who dunnit.
I tried to spend the night in a Holiday Inn last night, but they were full up. I had to sleep in the parking deck.
But now I’m finally safe in St. Louis. Wm has invited me and the missus to stay at his house for the holidays. Wait a minute, Wm is going to his parents!

Next week: A New Year!

If You Don’t Get Your Paycheck Today, You Won’t Be Able to Get it Till NEXT YEAR!

Happy New Year! (Hic!) We’re decorating Wm’s house for the party tomorrow. (I’m sure he won’t mind when he gets home.) How did December 31st get chosen to be the end of the year anyhow? (Hic!) If we’ve got to wait till the middle of the night to throw a party, wouldn’t it have made more sense to have New Years at the end of June when the nights are shorter? I know all those people (Hic!) standing around in New York freezing would appreciate it! (As you may have been able to tell, I decided not to wait for tomorrow to start celelelebrating. Technically, on the other side of the International Date Line it’s already December 31st!)(Hic!)

Everybody sings Auld Lang Sine on New Years Eve. What do those words actually mean? What if we’re agreeing to change our phone service or something?

Why do so many celebrations involve the wearing of funny hats?

Only on New Years is dropping a Waterford Crystal considered a good thing.

With a little practice, you can use those curled noisemakers you blow into to fling spitballs at people. With even more practice, you can look innocent enough that people won’t know it was you. (WHEEET!!)

Those pointy hats should be worn on top of the head ONLY! If you want to look like a unicorn or Madonna, that’s what Halloween is for.

Shooting at other people with champagne corks is dangerous, and should NEVER be done. (Even if it would be REALLY funny.)

If the ball in Time’s Square gets stuck on the way down, do they have to postpone New Years till it gets fixed?

There’s some old guy and a baby here playing tag or something. Considering the weather, I think they both should be wearing something more than diapers.

Do you think they cloned Dick Clark in the 50’s and every few years they pull a new model from storage? It would explain why he never seems to age!

I think I need to go lie down for a little while. I feel a little woozy. Who knew that ginger ale packed such a punch?!

Next Week: We really make it to the ‘Stans! (Ohh, maybe; I don’t feel so good!)

I couldn’t ‘Stan it if you don’t come pick up your paycheck!
(First off, I would like to thank everyone who sent me their home remedies for my ...delicate... stomach from last week. But I do have to say to everyone who suggested I try the “hair of the dog” trick: I shaved Wm’s German Shepard but no matter how much fur I ate I only felt worse! And the dog didn’t look too happy either.)

Wow! We all thought our Customer Service Manager Jessica was a huge baseball fan, but this entire region has named their countries in honor of Cardinal’s great Stan “The Man” Musial.

I started off in Pakistan, where I spent most of my time dodging ghosts and this giant yellow dot. I did learn the national anthem though: whonka whonka whonka. I spent the night in Kashmir, which has the softest rocks of anywhere I’ve ever been.

Turkmenistan was definitely a male dominated society; Uzbekistan, Izbekistan, Wezbekistan and Theyzbekistan seemed to be pretty inclusive, Kyrgyzstan only has vowels sometimes, and Tajikistan wasn’t really funny but is kind of fun to say. Kazakhstan sounds like you’re trying to blame your friends for something you shouldn’t have done.

I also stopped in Kafiristan, where I helped the king with this bridge building and masonry project. I also introduced him to a young lady I’d met. My first impression was while he was certainly interested, she didn’t think much of him. I must have been wrong though, because before I left I heard they were going to get married.

My final stop was in Afghanistan, where they invented the blanket. The U.S. military seems to have thought I was part of a USO tour. I did my bit to support our troops and belted out such hits as “My Way” and “Wind Beneath My Wings”. It must have been a big morale booster, because they sure looked happy to see me go.

I didn’t get to meet any of them, but I heard a lot about the Taleban, who seem to have gotten their name because they didn’t want to let anyone do anything. I did bump into this guy named Osama; he was talking all tough until he found out I was an American, then he ran off screaming to hide in a cave.

Next week, the Middle East!

Oman I wish you would pick up your paycheck!
I wanted to go to Turkey so I could put my feet up, but I heard the country got the bird flu. How did they not see that coming?
Instead I went to ancient Persia, where they invented the carpet. I got in right around dusk, and after the long airplane flight I felt like I needed to unwind. So I asked this guy who was hollering from the top of a tower if he knew of a rocking nightclub with a hot dance floor (I’m quite the Don Juan). He got really irate (I guess he doesn’t like disco) so Iran away. He said something about telling his mullah on me.
In Iraq my tour bus got hijacked! This guy named Ali and about three-dozen other guys surrounded the bus and took us prisoner. I thought we were all doomed, but this really brave young woman called Sheri told them the most interesting stories and so they let us go. Some army guys said they would help me to get out of the country, but in order to get past security I had to stand on the dashboard of the Humvee, shake my hips and pretend to play the ukulele.
I bought a Genie’s lamp in the bazaar, but I took it back because the only version they had came in blue. I asked if they had any older models, like maybe from the 70’s, but they said they were sold out.
I headed south from Iraq but got stopped at the border and was told “Kuwait here.” So I did, but nobody paid me any attention and after a couple of hours, I just left. Nobody seemed to mind.
I went into Saudi Arabia to attend the Hajj in Mecca, but I couldn’t see through the crowds so I climbed on this pillar. People must have been mad they didn’t think of it first, because they started to throw rocks at me.
There’s this one country that so into basketball they named their country after Michael! I guess they didn’t see Spacejam.
I told a lot of jokes in Damascus, but nobody laughed. They were all so Syria’s.
They actually have some good reggae here. Yemen, we be jammin’!
Went for a sail in the Red Sea, which is actually blue, with this guy whose parents evidently never wanted him to forget the importance of virtue. He get bragging about how this was his seventh time on a boat; I told him as long as we weren’t on a three hour tour I didn’t care.
I did some shopping in Dubai, only got a Qatar of my change and didn’t notice till it was too late. Oh, if I only had a Bahrain!
You’d think there’d be something funny about Lebanon, wouldn’t you?
Isn’t Gaza where they make those bandages?
I never found out if Ray was ill or not.
Next week: We start our tour of Africa!

You know you want your paychecks. Darfur, you should go to the OCD and pick ‘em up!

I decided to take a cruise ship from the Mediterranean to Africa. We went through this canal owned by someone named Sue. I stopped off in Khartoum; but it wasn’t a very animated place. While I was there though, I discovered there’s this country that feels the OC Desk is being unfair about letting reps go on Sunday night, & they’ve decided to Sudan. I also played tourist for a while on this trip; I went to the Rift Valley, but didn’t see what was so great about it. I did notice they really needed to talk to the cleaning staff. Some of the trash around here looks like it was a million years old! There is this old lady named Lucy around here who seems to be really famous, maybe for her diet program. I also went and saw the Sphinx, I don’t think it looks a bit like Leon, but the most exciting bit was I bought a pyramid! Yeah! There’s this one that doesn’t have the smooth sides, instead it looks like a series of steps, kind of like it was built from legos. This guy said it was a trial run and imported from Central America, but now the government was looking to get rid of it and would I be interested? Well, I know Wm is usually interested in old stuff like this, and it is cooler than one of those “My mummy went to Giza & all I got was this stupid Ankhlet” gifts. So I bought the thing (shipping, of course, was extra) but then when I went to try to claim it the guards said I’d been scammed. I can’t believe it, Egypt me!

Somalia is probably the honestly named country in Africa. So Bad, from the Latin.

They really like Talk Like A Pirate Day around here. This one country was always talking about Djibouti!

Next week: We cross Darkest Africa!

Uganda pick up your paycheck or what?

Greetings from Darkest Africa! I actually got a rise out my roaming cousin when I told him I was going to walk through central Africa. He said I Congo there, it was too dangerous. It wasn’t that bad though. I hooked up with this really dysfunctional tourist group. They were looking for some lost city and diamonds. I found most of them to be rather insular and self-important, but I did have the most interesting conversations with one member of the party. Of course, that one was the ape. Believe it or not we actually found the place, but then we were run off by some monkeys practicing gorilla warfare against us. We were rescued by some guy named Allen; evidently he was on his way to London to meet some extraordinary friends.

I then met this guy named Stanley. He said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” I said “Nope” and kept moving. The guy looked something like a huckster. My opinion was confirmed when he offered to sell me the nation of Congo. He said he’d had a previous buyer, but the guy was waffling.

Some nut in a Speedo is swinging through the trees hollering up a storm. Kept me awake all night!

Stopped by Libreville, and got stuck in a conversation that never seemed to end. Those folks will just Gabon and on and on...

I was run out of the Central African Republic. The head of state security told me that if I didn’t leave, “I’m going to Bangui on the head.”

You know, Equatorial Guinea isn’t really on the Equator? Maybe they moved to avoid the heat.

Went to Chad to just hang out; it felt like I was in Florida.

That Hollywood starlet who was in “There’s Something About Mary” has a big fan base here. They named their country after her: Cameroon Diaz!

The Republic of the Congo may not be as Democratic as its neighbor, but its capital seems to have cornered the local women’s’ unmentionables market.

One of the tour guides invited me over to his neighbor’s for dinner. I went but didn’t eat. I have to admit I interpreted his statement in a completely different way.

Next week: More excursions in Africa! (Whew this is a big continent!)

Kenya come get your paycheck already?
Well, we’re continuing our tour of Africa. I spent a large part of the week camped out on the deck of a tramp steamer crossing a lake named after two of our supervisors, the Victorias! I think it’s called a tramp steamer because the captain looks like one. He has this older lady on board, she keeps telling me not to mess with all those boxes of luggage she’s brought on board or we’ll have a bang up good time. I think she’s just trying to torpedo my fun.

The couple mentioned getting married & honeymooning on a German cruise ship or something; I dropped hints about being the best gnome but they weren’t picked up on. Instead I got off at this coffee farm run by some noblewoman whose husband is gone on lots of business trips. This pilot always seemed to be hanging around; he’s probably mooching free coffee. I was told he was British but he didn’t have the accent (maybe he was Welsh?) I’m not sure what really was going on there, but whatever it was seemed to take FOREVER. The woman kept mentioning she wanted to get out of Africa. Maybe if she gave that pilot a free pound of coffee he could fly her out?

I wanted to go to Nairobi but it sounds like it’s populated by a bunch of naked Scotsmen. Tanzania didn’t have tanning booths for any part of the body, in Burundi I think they freeze their knickers, and there’s this mountain named after what they do to condemned criminals with a pickling jar.

Malawi= going to the loo is bad, from the Latin

Next week we round the Horn of Africa and have chicken and dumplin’s (or something like that).

Angola be upset if you don’t come get your paycheck!

I never did figure out what that part of hide was for. Or where the other part was.

A lion escaped from a zoo the other day. No one seemed too worried.

Had a great Reunion with some friends to the east of Madagascar, the people in Moroni are smarter than you might think, found some islands that were glorious, and discovered India & Europe were both named after some tiny islands!

I visited the tomb of a famous king who revolutionized warfare and created an empire out of what had before been warring tribes. He really set out to Shaka things up! His big innovation was a military formation called the buffalo. Do they have buffalo in Africa? And with all the really exciting and dangerous animals available, why choose a peaceful herd animal? I mean, it’s not like they’re even carnivorous!

Stopped by Madagascar, where I ran into a bunch of escaped zoo animals who seemed happy to be home. I think they were kind of confused, since I don’t think any of them were actually native to the island. I had to get out of there though, for my moral fiber. I heard that that island was a haven for one of the seven deadly sins.

You know that famous spy from World War I, Matahari? Well they named a desert after her less famous sister, Kala.

Ran into a tribe of natives who kept clicking their tongues in disapproval. I don’t think they have a lot of room to be critical; I mean they call themselves Bushman but live in a desert!

Speaking of desert, Namibia has one that runs only along its entire coastline. That’s not a desert, that’s the world’s biggest beach!

Evidently humor is uncommon in the capital of Zimbabwe.

Zambia may have named their capital after somebody named Lu’s luggage.

With a name like Mozambique, you’d think I’d be able to come up with SOME sort of joke, wouldn’t you? Nope, not a thing. It’s very embarrassing.

At least South Africa lives up to it’s name.

Next week, more of Africa! (You know, I feel like I got gypped in school. All we learned about Africa was “It used to be attached to South America.” Like that information tells us anything about this huge & incredibly varied continent! I hope we’re doing a better job of learning about it today.)

Are you Ghana get your paycheck Togo?

Well I’ve had one busy week! I’ve been rushing around North Africa so I could be back in the States in time for Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras. I stopped by Morocco but the comic, he wasn’t there; then I went looking for Western Sahara but wasn’t sure where to find it. In Casablanca I lost a fair amount of money but I began a beautiful friendship with some folks I met after being rounded up with the usual suspects. I searched all over for Tunisia but could find only one. I got lost in the Sahara desert & things were looking pretty desperate, but then a nomadic tribe that got its name from an SUV line rescued me. The Tropic of Cancer had me kinda worried, but since I don’t smoke & was using a 45 SPF sunscreen I should be ok. I don’t know who Al was or why he’s famous, but someone thought he was important enough to name a city AND country after. I had a quick stopover in Libya & met Moammar Khaddafi; I asked him where Larry & Curly were, but he’s not as funny in real life as he was on T.V. Mali wasn’t all that bad, although Timbuktu has changed his name to Tom. Mauritania just leaves you wanting something. I drove through Niger & it’s sister country Nigeria, but wasn’t able to make it to their cousin Chad. Freetown was pretty expensive but not as much as Cote D’Ivoire where I bought Wm an off-white jacket (it was on sale). Liberia just gave me a feeling of freedom. I Senegal in Banjul but she told me to Bissau. Well I’ve Benin that situation before!

Next week: Mardi Gras!

You snow, it'd be very ice of you to come get your paycheck!

We’e’ell thi’i’is is ano’o’other fine mess, and n’n’no mistake! I le’e’et my roaming cousin book my flight home to M’M’Mardi Gras, and he was able to find a flight with only one layover. Actually I sh’sh’should call it a layunder, s’s’since it’s in Antarctica! And of c’c’course the layover was only supposed to be for one n’n’night, b’b’but what wasn’t m’m’mentioned was that the n’n’nights last for m’m’months here!

I met some seals and asked if they were in the Navy, but they didn’t answer. They were probably on a secret mission.

I was wandering around and I found this tent in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure where the owner got to but he left his luggage behind. By Scott it was cold!

I saw a polar bear. He offered me a soda and a smile.

Ran into this penguin with a HUGE snozzer. He kept bugging me to take a letter to some kid named Milo in the U.S. asking him to mail back a comfort package of CDs (Barry Manilow, Joan Jett & some 80’s heavy metal band named Billy and the Boingers), canned squid & warm socks.

I took a day trip out to one of the islands (named after elephants, for some reason. Do they get a lot of elephants in Antarctica?) and found this older gentleman who was waiting for his friend Ernest. I offered to let him come back with me, but he refused. Not sure why, really, he was definitely ready to go. He had his luggage packed and everything.

Skiing is so popular here even the helicopters do it!

Did you ever wonder if penguins get frostbite on their feet? And if not, why?

I went out to see the South Pole, and it turns out there are two of them! One is the real pole and the other is for the tourists. I liked the tourist trap better, it had flags and a shiny pole and a sign and everything! Very photogenic. The real pole is actually kind of a disappointment. It looks like someone just stuck a big nail in the ground.

Somebody’s pack of sled dogs chased me across the ice and only gave up the pursuit when I threw them my sushi lunch. The people around here really need to enact some leash laws!

You know part of Antarctica is claimed by Norway? Like what, they don’t already have enough desolate snowy wasteland at home?

I finally got a flight home with some New York National Guard pilots. I knew NY could be bad, but I didn’t think it was so rough that people would volunteer to go to Antarctica to get away!

Next week: King Cakes and Beads and Mardi Gras!

Will You Come & Get Your Paychecks, Party Please?

Well, this is embarrassing...I know a lot of you were disappointed that I wasn’t able to send my regular report last’re probably wondering why...gee, this is humiliating...I mean, I’m a role model for the children...All right, all right, I was touring as an Irish punk rocker!

How, you may ask, did a respectable gnome like myself end up in such a potentially unsavory occupation? Well...

I went to Mardi Gras in N’Awlins, as planned, but it wasn’t really that spectacular. From the watermarks on the walls it looked like the residents gave the city a bath to prepare for the party, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of levee-ty around this year. There certainly was a flood of emotion, though.

Even though the antics of the revelers might make you think otherwise, that famous N’Awlins street is actually named after French Royalty.

I decided to head home to good ol’ St. Louie, because I heard WE were the place to attend Mardi Gras this year. I had a dickens of a time trying to get out of N’Awlins though. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers, as always. Some guy named Stanley learned I wanted to get out of town, and even though his mannerisms made me blanche, he did put me on a streetcar to the bus station, just as I desired.

I got to St. Louis just in time to see a HUGE number of people walking their dogs. Thank goodness for curb laws! I then went down to the Farmer’s Market (I wanted to get some fresh papayas) but WOW was I surprised! It looked like there had been a bumper crop of beads this year! And people had come out in force to buy them! Evidently it was thirsty work, almost everyone had a glass in his or her hand. Every once in a while lots of people would start whooping and hollering and beads would start flying through the air. I’m not sure why, all I could see was the backs of people’s knees. It looked like the young ladies were the smart ones. They kept hold of their beads. Some of the young women were covered in them! I don’t know who Mardi is, but she can sure throw one heck of a party!

So, the punk rock thing. Since I was in town anyway, Wm & Mary invited me to this concert featuring Irish music. I’ve always been a big fan of Riverdance, so I said I’d go. Well, these guys (the Mogging Flolly’s or something) played some good music but nothing you could dance too. I got involved in a game of pool with some guy in a suit and somehow ended up as an indentured servant acting as a roadie for the band dressed as a leprecon! It turns out he was part of the band! (I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia, but only slightly less known is: Never Play Pool With A Guy In A Suit At A Punk Concert!) I managed to escape though. I passed around a bottle of ginger ale and started a sing-along. Eventually they all fell asleep from the carbonated lullaby.

Next week: We visit South America!

Magellan you, Strait up, you need to come get your paycheck!

Andy Capp is so well known here, they named a mountain range after him!

You know that big book website? It’s making so much money they’ve bought a river and rainforest down here! This must be where they make all the paper they need to make all those books!

Let me tell you, writing these reminders sure is a lot more dangerous than I would have thought when I started! I got gnomenapped again! This time is was by this group called FARC, which at first I didn’t think was too bad, because I thought they were just this offshoot of a website Wm likes to read. Turns out though they’re some revolutionary group fighting against old space shuttles or something. I managed to escape, but then while I was crossing this field of poppies, poppies, poppies, I fell asleep and had the weirdest dream! It really gave me the blues. I woke up in the back of a truck headed to a city named after some Hindu goddess and was able to continue my expedition. But man, that country has the most expensive sugar ever!

I then stopped in Buenos Aires, where I stubbed my toe REALLY BAD. It hurt LOTS. Nobody gave me any sympathy at all, nope, not one tear. There was this one lady, a Mrs. Peron, who offered to sing me a song to cheer me up, but I declined, ‘cause from the state of her luggage it looked like she was in a hurry to get somewhere.

I stopped in Paramaribo, where it seems no one has a first name; then I visited the capital of French Guiana, which actually is part of France. The pepper there REALLY packs a kick, and be sure not to get it in your eyes! The people of Guyana like the Forman grill so much they named their capital city after it! Santiago was a bit cold, and the food gave me gas. While I was in Uruguay, I was able to buy all the Monty Python movies, but only on video. Venezuela seems to have cornered the market on those shaky musical instruments, you know, the Caracas!

In Peru, I discovered where lima beans come from. There was supposedly some Shining Path around here, but I never saw it. The people in the capital of Ecuador just never stick with anything. What a bunch of Quitors. I don’t know what there was about it, but when I visited the capital of Paraguay I felt like I’d gotten to a higher plane of existence. My favorite was the city of La Paz. They have this HUGE statue there, and the cool thing is, if you push its head back, a giant candy comes out!

Did you know there’s a lake of carbon on this continent? It was the low point of my visit.

I did some island hopping while I was down here too. The Falkland Islands aren’t as bad as you might suspect from the name, and at the South Georgian Islands you can always get a cold sandwich. I didn’t see any colored eggs or bunnies on Easter Island, but they did have these giant heads all over the place. I tried to buy one so Wm could put it in his front yard for decoration, but when I suggested it everyone got a long face.

I also visited these ancient ruins, Manchu Pichu, and even though they sound like a Japanese cartoon character they actually belonged to an ancient culture called the Incas. What’s really ironic is the Incas actually did most of their writing in stone!

The llamas around here look NOTHING like the ones in Asia. Their ears are better but they have too many legs! Maybe it’s because they’re a long haired breed. The ones in Asia were usually bald and uniformly saffron.

Next week: Central America!

If You Need A Bit Of The Green Today, You Can Find It In Your Paycheck!

Top o’ the mornin’ t’ ya! I know, I was supposed to be in Central America this week but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come home and help celebrate my Irishness (touring with an Irish punk band, even involuntarily, counts, right?) Well, it turns out I was a week late for most of the big celebrations (since when did St. Patty’s Day become a movable feast?) but the luck of the Irish came through, and there were still plenty of celebrations to attend! While I was doing my “research” though, I did have some thoughts:

Has anyone ever found any corn in corned beef?

Being a four leaf clover isn’t very lucky for the clover, is it? I mean, we immediately pluck the leaf and kill it!

Again, a holiday that is marked by its funny hats!

If St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, but Ireland is an island, where did they go? And what kind of crazy country lets snakes drive?

So far I’ve seen green beer, green bagels, and there’s some guy named Sam offering green eggs, but I don’t think he’s connected to the holiday.

People keep coming up to pinch me because I’m not wearing green today. I have to keep explaining it’s my retirement plan. No really! Think about it: leprechauns are famous for having a pot of gold, but their also really good at keeping the aforementioned gold because it’s so hard to catch them, right? So, instead of chasing the leprechauns I decided to instead make them come after me! That’s right! So all I have to do is NOT wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and when one of ‘em tries to pinch me, I can catch it and force it to me its gold! All I need to do is have it work once!

Next week: We really go to Central America!

Will You Belize Come Get Your Paycheck? It’s Jamaican Me Crazy, mon!

Well I finally made it to Central America, and as a special bonus, I got to go through part of the Caribbean as well! I had a bit of excitement on the plane getting as I was leaving. I was kind of dozing and I heard the attendant say Granada, which I thought was Spanish for grenade, so I thought he was a terrorist and jumped him and wrestled him to the ground. Of course that’s when the Air Marshals jumped ME, so I’m sending this report from the brig of a Coast Guard ship. On the plus side, I have this cool Orange Jumpsuit!

There seem to be a lot of Chevy Nova’s for sale around here. But they don’t seem very popular. I wonder why? But Honda has a whole country basically named after it!

In Nicaragua there’s an entire region dedicated to the Costa de Lost Mosquitoes. It must be an environmental study about what would happen in a mosquito free environment. I’m not sure how smart the scientists could be though. I mean, they might not be able to find the mosquitoes, but the mosquitoes could sure find me easily enough! And did you know Tiger Woods has competition from Darrin in Accounting? Part of the ocean is named the Golfo del Darien, and that means Darrin the Golfer, right? Of course, Panama also named one of it’s cities after the colon, I really don’t know what to make of that.

One of the countries is a big fan club for one of Generic Inc's buyer’s drink selections. Nick R.’s Aqua!

I tried to stop by that big baseball training camp, you know, Cuba? Unfortunately I couldn’t get in. It wasn’t a total loss though; some guy BADLY in need of a beard trim gave me a cigar. (I don’t know about this though, the guy looked like a bit of a practical joker. I’ll bet it’s rigged to explode. I think I’ll wait and give it to Wm when I get back.)

Speaking of guys with bad beards, I met this fellow named Jack; he and his friends Will and Elizabeth were tooling around on some rickety old boat with some people who would totally OWN that Biggest Loser show. I have to say it looked like the WORST vacation cruise ever. But Jack showed me how to surf on a pair of giant sea turtles and gave me his very fine hat. Oh, and I found this cool necklace lying on the deck! It’s a little gaudy, but hey, can’t complain about free, right? Now if I can just get that darn monkey to quit following me around with an apple!

They do without a lot here in Central America. In the capital of Costa Rica they have to do without Jose (what is a rica, & and why are they charging for it anyway?), El Salvador actually doesn’t have Salvador at all, and Puerto Rico is Juan free.

Did you know that they named the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean after Milwaukee? Ouch! What kind of commentary do you think those cartographers were trying to make?

I don’t know who designed the Cayman Islands, but I like the way they think. Basically it’s just one really long beach in a crescent shape to frame a gorgeous bay. Why couldn’t we have set St. Louis up that way?

There’s lots of old ruins around here from an ancient culture that was really greedy. They were called the Mine’s! They’re writing style is pretty complex and looks cool, but I’m not sure how practical it is. I mean, just trying to carve out a grocery list would take a small mountain and about a week!

Good News, I get to go to Cuba after all! Now why does the name Guantanamo Bay sound familiar?

Next Week: Mexico

Bad News Errors!

Well, I hate being the bearer of bad news, but I was asked to let everyone know there was a minor error in the paychecks this week. It seems that when the paychecks were being printed, there was an error in the accounting computer that caused the decimal point to be placed one step to the left. This caused everyone’s check to be short 10%. While it varies from person to person, the average difference is $42. We’re trying to get the problem corrected and will TRY to get the difference made up on next week’s check. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Next Week: We try again for Mexico!

The PG
(After scrolling down half a page)

Sonoma Wants Usted To Pick Up Su Paycheck. He’s Getting Pretty Short About It.

Hello from Mexico! I have to admit this place is NOTHING like I expected. It really has that small town feel, but there’s so much to do! Did you know this place has its own Graceland? It’s not like you’d expect, because it’s dedicated to some of the more interesting periods of the country’s history like World War II, the civil war, cowboys and the European colonization and Native Americans! I was told it also includes some dinner theater named after a fish, but I heard the performers there can’t carry a tuna!

There’s lots to do here, from visiting a park named after that lasagna-eating movie star and funny pages cat, to visiting a nature area named after our very own Didi Morrow; the fishing here is pretty good too.

There were other surprises as well. I visited this military academy where not only do they prepare people to go into the armed forces, but they also host a beauty pageant that can lead to the national championships! What really worries me is the school is male only! Hey, did that contestant have an Adam’s Apple?

But the biggest surprise of visiting Mexico was they have a big warehouse here full of our stuff! Hey, what am I doing in Mexico, Missouri?!

Next week, we try to make it south of the border!

Tiajuana You To Come-a Get-a Your Paycheck!

Yes, your Aunt Joan is very concerned.

Well, after a somewhat embarrassing map reading error last week (I KNEW I should have turned left at Albuquerque!) I finally made it to the Mexico that isn’t American! I have to admit I really like the big hats they have here. Not only are they stylish, but if I flip it over I can use it as a boat! I visited Cancun, but had trouble finding anyone who could sing. This city must be a great center of learning though, because it was FULL of American college students. It looked like they were all biology and botany majors, and they were very dedicated to their studies. I have to say, it looks like their study groups were much more interesting than when I was in college, but since I have my degree in Underwater Basket Weaving, I’m not sure they can be compared.

Did you know Pontiac had a really big car plant down here? Evidently it’s where they built that Aztec car/van/suv thingy. It’s a pretty cool factory; it’s multiple levels with each one being a little bit smaller than the one before. Looks kind of like steps really. Turnover was pretty vicious though. I heard they used to sacrifice people on the roof! It must have been their poor performers. That’s one way to convince people not to let their stats slip! (Let’s just hope the boss doesn’t read her emails this week!)

I had an overnight stay in some small town that was being victimized by bandits. I offered to run the desperados off, but the village elder told me they’d already hired some American mercenaries from Hollywood to take care of the problem. I got a glimpse of them as I was leaving; they looked like a bad mariachi trio. Maybe their singing is so awful the bandits will flee for aesthetic reasons.

Some guy on a mule with his hat on sideways keeps following me around. I don’t know why. Every time I tell him to leave me alone, he just says “Si, senor.” It’s driving me nuts! I mean, I don’t see any senior citizens, and I’m not sure why the guy is so fascinated with them!

I’ve taken up guitar lessons, inspired by all the really cool music they play down here. Not everybody is a big fan though, I think. I mean, I stopped in this one bar and unlatched the case so I could practice a few chords, and the bartender jumped out the window and everyone else ran out the door! Now I know I’m not very good yet, but that’s uncalled for!

Come to think of it, the accommodations I’ve run into have been pretty questionable. Can you guess I let my cousin with the travel service book my hotels again? He set me up the other night is this hotel that looked pretty cool, it was shaped like the Pontiac factory, but then this group of bikers got into an all night brawl with some American tourists. They kept me up all night! I sat up and watched Mexican soap operas while munching on garlic and onion potato chips. I hated having to check out the next morning, I wanted to stay so I could see if Maria would figure out the man wooing her wasn’t Carlos but Carlos’ even twin brother Guillermo!
I was out for a walk when I came across this mouse taking a siesta in the shade. I was tired too so I sat down and we started talking. We got around to family and I showed him a picture of my sister when he ran off shouting "Arriba! Arriba! Andale! Andale! YEEHAH NO WAY!" The little guy could get up a good turn of speed, I just wish I spoke more Spanish so I could tell what he was saying.

I’m starving! I keep trying to find a Taco Bell but so far all I’ve seen is some tiny dog who looked at me and muttered “That one would fit in the box just fine.”

Next week: Canananada

(The week before I wrote this email, the furniture side of the company was bought by a big box store (that shall remain nameless). The clothing side (Generic) spun off independently. Names have been changed to minimize my chances of getting into trouble.)

Depot OC Wishes You’d Orange to Get Your Paycheck Before You Go Home!

Well, what an exciting week it’s been! I apologize for not sending an email last week, but I was heavily involved in the negotiations with Generic's president Bill and the Big Box Veep Ted. It seems which company I would end up with had become a sticking point that almost caused both sides to walk away from the deal! Bill wanted me to become a Big Box employee, maybe their Executive Vice President of Garden Statuary; Ted felt my skills and talents would better fit with Generic's philosophy of “A Time and Place for Myself.” As Ted said: “After dealing with him, I’m looking to escape to some time and place where I can be by myself too.” The discussion got pretty heated, and then I suggested that we all take a break and everyone reread my dispatches so we could try to get a good “feel” on which company would benefit most by having me. When the negotiations resumed it was unanimously agreed that BOTH companies would pay to have me continue traveling far from St. Louis. An addendum was added though that I had to give a month’s notice before I visited the Generic home office; that must be so the execs would have time to prepare my VIP treatment. I hear the Big Box company is looking into building a moat and castle wall around their headquarters. I’m not sure what that’s all about.

I’m actually really happy with how things worked out. The Executive VP position sounded pretty cushy, but this way I get to spread my influence to both businesses. I think the split will be good for both companies. Generic starting out so small will allow for lots of growth and advancement opportunity for those employees, and the Big Box merger offers the furniture folks the ability to expand in ways never available before. I am a little disappointed I don’t get one of those orange aprons. I think it would be really handy to have while traveling. Almost like another piece of carry on luggage!

Well I gotta go. Everybody must have really missed my travelogues, they’re sure in a hurry to get me back on the road again. They’re so nice, they gave me a really thick book to read on the plane. Hey, wait a minute, that’s my travel itinerary! Why is the print so small?!

Next week: Canada!

The Paycheck Gnome
Executive Vice President
Old Ugly Chairs Division

(After the last email, I was informed that the powers that be were not amused, and the Paycheck Gnome needed to take a hiatus.  Which he did, until...)

The Gnome Goes Home, or Maple if You Pick Up Your Paycheck, I’ll Leaf You Alone!
(Ed. note: Generic Inc has finally proceeded to move into it's own building, and I decided to commemorate the occasion with the final [?]) installment of the P.C. Gnome travelogue).

Greetings and Salutations! I know a lot of people wondered what happened when I stopped sending in reports; well, I'm now able to reveal that I've been conducting a guerilla viral marketing campaign for Big Box and Generic Inc in Canada for the last year! But I'm back, and proud to announce that there isn't an ape in our Northern Neighbor who doesn't have the sniffles!

They call Canada the Great White North, but actually this country is very racially diverse! They say their money is Loonie, but it's actually kind of fowl, and they also said it was Toonie, but I could never figure out where to plug in the headphones. The people here are awfully polite, and seem to be big fans of "The Fonz" from 'Happy Days'. But because of their accents, they've really shortened his signature catchphrase.

I almost got arrested while I was here! This bloke in a red jacket said something about giving Snidely whiplash, but he was called away to deal with some lady who was obstructing passage. On the railroad. Evidently she had traffic there all tied up.

I'm a little sad that I never made it to Nome, Alaska, while I was in the vicinity. I think I could have fit in there.

Polar bears don't really like Coke. Who knew?

I don't know why they call them ice flows. It more sort of bobs.

I went to the North Pole, scouting for new store locations. I recommended against putting a store there though, since business would have nowhere to go but South.
I had to get some emergency dental work done while I was here. When I mentioned I was traveling, I was invited to dinner by the dentist. He had his whole family over. The grandkids were adorable but the youngest daughter was a little flaky. The mom said something a little weird when I was leaving. What does that mean, see you in the funny pages?

I had to leave Canada because of this American tourist who started stalking me. Her name was Nordania Dracanada Rumblegutt (go ahead, say it with me now…). She mentioned how I was just the right size for her like seat to be a love seat, so I decided, as a married gnome, it was time to go!

Well, on to the future. I'm going to be working from home from now on; Mrs. Gnome just told me we were expecting! Yes, it's very exciting. I decided to spend some time trying to get my travel writings published! Wouldn't it be a good children's book? I'm thinking of calling it "There, and There, and There Twice, and Back Again. A Gnome's Short Story."
So to all of my friends and family here, it's been a fun run, we've been to lots of interesting places and visited lots of fascinating people, and some of what we learned was even true! Good luck wherever your travels take you, and remember: PICK UP YOUR PAYCHECKS!!!!

The P.G.

Next Week: Umm…..