It can be a little confusing to show up at the Diner and hear people discussing what appears to be absolute nonsense. You wonder if you're missing something. Well, yes: you are. And yes, it is absolute nonsense, but it's our nonsense, and we like it. Here's a list of some terms, phrases, tales, characters, etc. accumulated over the course of many late-night chats. Banana Scale. An indication of how mad one's spouse is. Comes from an incident in which I misinterpreted a black banana on the kitchen counter as a sign of my shoddy housekeeping, when in fact my wife had just taken it out of her lunch bag. Speculation continues that in South American countries, the Black Banana on the Counter has great symbolic meaning, thus the Banana Scale. One Banana means mild displeasure; ten means you're just plain dead.
Bufus Parsley. The late, great and underappreciated rival of Elvis Presley. We play his music on his birthday and the anniversary of his passing, when he died while leaning against a urinal in the Diner. Our rallying cry to all who say Elvis was superior: At Least Bufus Died Standing Up.
Busboys. Think "security officers" in the original Star Trek.
They even wear red aprons.
Canada. Our beloved neighbor to the North, where the Diner's conversations are heard as far away as Saskatchewan. Things were not so beloved during the Canadian Occupation, though - in early July, it was discovered that Canada had ownership of the land on which the Diner stood, and the US had been leasing it for 99 years. On the day the lease expired, Canada assumed control with a heavy-handed force of 4000 soldiers, bureaucrats and regulators, and a column of armored Zambonis. The skirmish was not pretty - Jeremy took a lungful of Maple Gas that incapacitated him for a week -but it ended quickly when we discovered that the Diner encroached a mere six inches onto Canadian space. The Diner was effortlessly relocated (see Zagnesium) and the Amity Treaty was signed.
Confounders. Simply put, a loose-knit group of people whose job consists of keeping me from getting to the Diner each night. They used to tamper with my old car, the Ford Catatonia; sometimes they place an operative ahead of me in traffic to slow me down. Occasionally they breathe germs in my face to lay me low. They are legion, and you are in their sights as well. Someone in the grocery line has to go back for an item, and you're in a hurry? You've met a Confounder.
Contrude. What the confounders do to you. Not a real word, but we're trying to make it popular. Typical usage: the slow-moving driver was contruding with my ability to get to work on time.
Cray Computer. The Diner has a top-of-the-line Cray to run the mechanical aspects of the building. Also used for chemical analysis, weather prediction, Duke Nukem deathmatches, etc. As shown here, Jeremy takes good care of the machine, and rarely lets me play Duke anymore. No fair.
Defeebrulator. What Jeremy swears he did not call the defibrillator.
Defiant, the. My new car. Like its Federation namesake, it is low-slung, gray and overpowered.
Dogs. There are five well-behaved dogs out back - strays and runaways from cruel masters. Three have names: Smokey (see also Scrambleman), Jingles, and P'tahk. All five acquitted themselves with distinction during the Canadian incursion, dropping Mentos mines under the tanks.
Drunk. A portly fellow whose face is never seen, because he is usually face down in a piece of pie when I come to the Diner. Usually shows up Friday nights, wearing a good suit and a hat, and utterly incapacitated. Mumbles French come-on lines in his sleep if prodded.
Euonym The Dolphin. He lives in the lagoon behind the Diner. Useful for fetching items in Lake Delelac. Likes Spam. But who doesn't?
Geek Meter. When conversation turns to computers or Star Trek or other such topics, we have a meter attached to the Diner Cray that monitors the density of geekiness in the Diner. The meter is frequently red-lined before the topic is dropped.
Ginfish. A regrettable experiment that attempted to find are placement for Beer-battered fish.
Great Experiment. Simply put, I believe there is nothing I don't know that the audience doesn't also know. Each night I toss out a question, and watch the lines light up. The audience is a mirror sight for my own assemblage of useless facts, and each night we try to fit these bits of esoterica into some greater context. (Success on that count is rare, but it's fun to try.)
Some past questions:
What's the full name of the 1960s Marvel cartoon monster Fin Fang? What late Romantic composer known for having nine symphonies titled his first symphones #0 and #00? (And how many times did he have sex?) Who did the music for Warner Brothers cartoons? Who animated the Quisp and Quake ads? What starlet had a TV role that featured her legs, and nothing more? What is the motto on the Shakespearean family crest? What musical produced the song "One Night in Bangkok?" (And who wrote it?) What did the founder of McDonald's sell before he started the chain? What did Martin Luther throw at the devil in the corner of his room? What was the name of the 1898 novel that seemed to prefigure the Titanic disaster? And so on. The audience has never failed to answer correctly.
Groovy Santa. A horrid filthy hippie anti-Santa who's taken residence in the Diner as of Dec. 5. He was summoned when we played a Christmas song that sounded like an outtake from the Dating Game theme. He was run off the property after New Year's, but his old lady, Nosy Lady, remains.
The Happy Chef Statue. Jeremy bought a large heroic chef statue from a Happy Chef restaurant, and reprogrammed the little voice box. It is no longer very happy. But it is still smiling.
Highway 23. the road past the Diner - once a main thoroughfare, now a cracked and weedy side road. Before the interstate came through, Old Highway 23 was a bustling road, and the Diner stood at an intersection of a thriving commercial district. So we learned when we went back to 1923. (See also, Tesla Coils.)
Hitler, Adolf. The worst guest the Diner has ever had. We had him on in '23 and made him run around the house with scissors and tried to taunt him into taking the Hindenburg on its maiden voyage. This had unforeseen consequences that took a few weeks to clean up. It's over now. Don't ask.
The Hole in the Floor. For a few weeks in the summer of 1998 there was a hole in the floor that went down to a cave a few miles below the surface of the earth. What we first thought was a passage to Hades turned out to be a sort of purgatory for radio hosts between jobs. There are other things down there I don't want to know about; I do know that it took the contractors forever to fix the hole, and to this day the linoleum around the hole is a little spongy. It could open up at any moment.
Inordinately Bruised Vagrant. This poor fellow tried to break into my car, the Defiant; the defensive systems of the car responded with such force that all of his muscles, bones, soft tissues, hairs, etc., were bruised beyond repair. He now resides out back, away from sounds, breezes, or other things that can cause pain. Occasionally you'll hear him shreik. We've learned to ignore it.
Insuperior A word meaning "not superior." Spontaneously coined by Jeremy, adapted ever after.
My dog. One of my jobs on earth is to justify the ways of dog to man, so I talk about my beloved beast now and then.
Kiara Cult. There is exactly one surviving member of the Kiara Cult; they - or rather he - worship a University of Minnesota student whose voice ran in a series of U of M promos on the station. We made fun of the promos, and made a running joke of them - not of her, just the promos. In late November, to our astonishment, Kiara Herself called the Diner, having been informed by a friend what we were doing. She will soon be a TV reporter in Rochester, MN, where we expect the cult will grow.
Lake LeLac. A placid body of water behind the Diner, with a deadly reef made out of discarded Spam canisters.
Loose Meat Sandwiches. The recipe was handed down by a caller, passed along to the chef; I know that it was a speciality of the Maid-Rite franchise several decades ago, and involves meat in a loose state. Onions and presumably salt play a large role. It's a house speciality - callers who request a Loose Meat To Go make the chef smile.
Lund's Produce Update. A cryptic weekly message from a local supermarket chain, alerting us to the difficult, strife-filled world of vegetable management.
Mark Russell. Bow-tied political songwriter. The Anti-Lehrer. His severely unfunny commentary appears in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and is usually read at the Diner to help us recalibrate our sense of humor.
Melchezidekians. Eastern European peoples whose mid-16th century exploration of the area predated Canadian occupation. A likely suspect in the eventual ethnic cleansing of the Canadians in late July, 1997. They all vanished mysteriously when the bit failed to catch on.
Mentos. A mind-altering candy and popular explosive. According to the commercials, one need only hold up a roll of Mentos and grin, and all adults will smile indulgently on your youthful insubordination. Experiments at the Diner proved that Mentos are made of Blood Sugar and Semtex explosive, and can be used as mines when injected with another vile Gen-X chemical, Surge.
Someone keeps dropping Mentos off at the Diner. The last batch had a fuse attached.
Microwave. Perhaps the only microwave with a setting for cooking Haggis; that setting can also be used for combat purposes if the door is left open.
Mrs. Mirriam Webster. Authoress of the Diner Dictionary. Completely different from the Mirriam-Webster used by others, this one has every word ever used, including Contrude and Insuperior.
Mrs. Winthrop. The aged woman who comes in the middle of the night and bakes the Diner's pies. Never seen, she leaves little notes in her spidery handwriting to wish us well or take us to task.
Monkeys. There are about 37 monkeys in the basement. Howler monkeys. Their origin is uncertain, as is their purpose. But you can say that about most of the stuff in the basement.
Nosy Lady. A loud, ill-attired woman who spends all night in a corner booth slamming back coffee with too much sugar, inquiring about other people's sex life. (Her daughter, the Unbearable Screaming Spelling Bee Champ, named the dolphin.)
Octothorp. What other people call "the pound sign."
Pneumatic Tube. The device that connects the Diner with KSTP, the radio station that kindly distributes the Diner's conversations. This is how we get mail, gifts, and other items dropped off at the radio station.
The Salesman's Head. I don't quite remember how this one began; there was a salesman who got stuck behind one of the coolers, and by the time when found him he was just a skeleton. He comes in handy at Halloween. Jeremy likes to dress up the skull in a seasonal fashion.
Scrambleman. One night we were off the air, due to a severed power cable; one of the dogs kept it from hitting the water. (Hence his new name, Smokey.) Jeremy held the arcing cables together and patched them, gettting us back on the air, but in the process he gained - as often happens in electrical accidents - a superpower. He can scramble an egg just by holding it and thinking about scrambling it. We keep looking for a useful application of this skill.
Simulacra, Island of. A distant land that makes all things faux - decaf, Naugahyde, canned laughter, gummipuppen, etc.
Ticker-Stopper Menu. The portion of the bill of fare that's wrapped in bacon, dipped in butter and deep-fried. Diet Cokes are free, as is use of the defeebrulator.
Tesla. Jeremy's daughter. He gave birth to her in July, after he was impregnated by the Pancreatans after his abduction. It's a long, long story. She grows at the rate of about one human year per week, and scampered off in October; Jeremy seems remarkably unconcerned, and slightly relieved. , Named after the first thing he saw after giving birth, Tesla has a tail, three eyes, two sets of teeth and blue skin which may explain his reactions.
Tesla Coils. The means by which we used to go back in time, before we realized it was a really, really bad idea. We did it a lot more often in the old days.) I've insisted that Jeremy dismantle them, and he says he has, but oddly enough they seemed ready to go the last time I needed them, and I suspect they would hum up in a second if I asked for them again.
Timid Masochists. A band of gentlemen devoted to mild self-torture, they meet weekly at the Diner to give themselves papercuts and handle sliced lemons.
Toothpicks, Red Hot. A token of esteem handed out to all. Supplied by Missionary Mark in Norfolk, Nebraska.
Toothpicks, Lemon. Highly prized toothpicks given to those who answer Great Experiment questions.
Zagnesium. A little-known element found in Zagnut candy bars. Chew a Zagnut, and eventually the brickle will condense to a small inedible pellet; that's Zagnesium. Experiments conducted by Lon of Eagan prove that it resonates in different dimensions, and can be used for space travel, levitation, etc. Was used to move the Diner six inches after the Canadian incursion.