But I digress: It's a strange world

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By John Pawlak

And getting stranger every day. Sometimes I find myself shaking my head in such disbelief that I risk injuring myself.

For example, I recently read about one of the latest drug crazes in the “club circuit.” Men who go to these clubs like to tear their shirts off and show their rippling muscles to the women. Oh, you don’t have rippling muscles? No problem! Simply rub phenylephrine HCL over your entire torso and your skin will tighten up, enhancing what muscles you do have.

Don’t know where to get phenylephrine HCL? Get it where all the other guys are getting it - at the drug store. It comes in a tube marked “Preparation H.”

Not into Prep-H rubdowns? How about playing chess? Matching one’s intellect against another’s is always a thrill. But hey, let’s make it more exciting. Let’s punch out the other guy between moves. Yeah, that sounds like fun.

Welcome to the questionable sport of chessboxing, a hybrid event in which opponents alternate between playing chess and boxing. A match consists of 11 rounds: six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. I really wish I was making this up, but sadly there are some very aggressive chess players out there.

The world of strange is not limited to dance clubs and over-caffeinated chess players. The scent industry announced “an amazing advancement” in odor technology. Japanese researchers can now produce vanillin from cow dung.

Vanillin is the main component of vanilla flavor. The extracted vanillin will be used in shampoos and aromatic candles. Next time you wash your hair, ask yourself ... does this make any scents?

Just when I thought I had reached the stratosphere of strange, NASA announced, rather proudly I might add, that their Russian-made $19 million toilet was successfully installed onboard the Space Shuttle.

Um, uh ... $19 million? Another news article quickly followed, stating that the toilet was broken. No mention was made as to how much it would cost to send a plumber up there to fix it.

Sometimes, people just seem to go out of their way to be strange. If they gave out awards for the truly bizarre, among the winners would be the Wenger company, manufacturer of the well known Swiss Army Knife.

Wenger now offers a model, the Giant Knife, which provides an astounding assortment of 87 tools and 141 functions. This “pocket knife” is nearly 9 inches wide, weighs 3 pounds and sports “the standard conveniences” such as a magnifying glass, Philips screwdriver, golf reamer, cigar cutter, laser pointer, fish scaler and a spotlight. Oh yes, and a toothpick.

Perhaps what is even stranger is that someone out there has a pocket that can handle this knife.

The art of strange is in no way limited to the U.S. and Europe. Tired of fast food? Travel to China and enjoy pest food! Some regions of China suffer from a plague of rats (reported upwards of 2 billion) due to flooded lakes. The government of Hunan found a strange, if not inventive, solution to the problem: Scoop them up and sell them in fancy restaurants! It’s considered a delicacy and hungry customers are scurrying to eat them for the gnawing price of $9 a pound.

And then there are assorted stories that border between strange and just plain silly. An Iowa woman was arrested for stealing rolls of toilet paper from a courthouse (uh, she was hiding the rolls in her shirt). Her name ... Suzanne Butts.

In Houston, firefighters came to the rescue when a woman called to report that her 2-year-old baby was stuck in a sewer. When they arrived at the scene, the baby was in fact stuck in a sewer. Well, “Baby” was stuck. Baby is the name of the woman’s cat.

Speaking of names, if you are having a baby (a human one) and you’re having trouble naming him or her, you can now hire professional baby naming consultants. For the bargain price of around $500, a registered numerologist will wade into the nominative waters to determine what you should name your baby. I wonder how much they charge for “Gullible”?

Yes, the world is strange indeed. Well, I have some friends coming over. I think I’ll go light up some cow dung candles to set the mood.

John Pawlak is a teacher with Santa Fe Public Schools.