When the news becomes too grim and depressing, as it is now, and public voices are quivering with gloom and doom, I look for a haven of harmless nuttiness.
I do this by asking someone who isn't easily embarrassed to go to a supermarket and get me the latest copy of the tabloid Weekly World News, one of my favorite newspapers.
You won't find anything in it about riots, poverty, famine, disease, civil war, or politicians waggling fingers at each other and saying: "Nyah, nyah, your party did it, your party did it."
Instead, you get stories gathered from all over the world that you won't read in any of today's somber, sober, responsible mainstream publications.
At first glance, the stories appear to have been made up by some drunken night-shift reporter. But most appear to be true, except for the regular sightings of a living Elvis. (In this issue, the King is almost totally bald but otherwise appears to be in good health. Oh, in case you wondered, that is a wax figure in the casket. That Elvis, what a prankster.)
What makes the other stories so much fun to read are the headlines. You won't see any yawners like "Arms Reduction Talks Scheduled to Resume" or "New Economic Data Report Promised."
Their headlines are grabbers. In the current issue, there's one that says:
"Dandruff Sets Man's Hair on Fire!"
Is there anyone who wouldn't pause to read that story?
As it turns out, it wasn't really the dandruff that turned Timothy Tilbrook's hair into "a roaring inferno," as the story put it, but fumes from a dandruff lotion he had been rubbing into his scalp. Mr. Tilbrook, a male nurse in Glusburn, England, said the lotion seemed to have worked. His dandruff is gone, as is all of his hair.
A few pages over, another headline says: "Couch Potato Couple -- They got their first TV set in 1953 and haven't set foot out the door in 39 years."
It's about a man and woman in Savannah, Ga., who inherited a sizable fortune.
Years ago, he had a back problem and was stuck at home for a while. So the two of them bought a TV set and watched it most of the day.
By the time his back improved, they decided that there was no reason to change their lifestyle, except to buy bigger and better TV sets. They have others do their shopping, and they haven't left the house since.
I'm not sure that they've missed much.
And there was a headline about another unusual couple:
"Wife shot hubby in the head
"And he didn't know it for 4 days!"
Yes, it happened in Phoenix. It seems that the man was napping in a recliner chair when his wife shot him and went out. He awoke with a throbbing headache, and it wasn't until he went to a doctor four days later that he realized he'd been plugged.
But it was his own fault, really. His wife had left a note. As the story said: "He hadn't seen his wife's note, which read: 'Bill, you've been shot. Call 911.' "
And here is one you didn't notice in your regular paper:
"Big Flap Over Bird's Polish Squawking!"
That was in New Zealand, where an old man bought a talking cockatiel for a companion.
However, he found that he couldn't understand a word the bird said. An investigation revealed that the bird had been talking Polish. Why? Because it had been stolen from a Polish couple and sold to a pet shop. All's well that ends well, though. The thief was caught, the Polish bird was returned to the Polish couple, and the old man was given a bird that jabbered nicely in English.
Isn't that amazing?
And speaking of birds, there is another headline that says: "Famed Swami will show you how to FLY LIKE A BIRD in 10 easy steps."
The 10 steps are too lengthy for me to repeat here, but by the time you get to step 9, the swami, who looks like an ancient old bird himself, says: "Gradually increase distance and speed and challenge yourself with more and more difficult destinations. Try for tops of houses, treetops, mountain slopes. Do not allow setbacks to discourage you."
By setbacks, I guess he means being sucked into an airplane engine.
And there was this poignant story out of Scotland:
"Heartbreaking Shocker in the North Sea.
"Fisherman nets his dead brother . . . 5 months after he was lost overboard!"
For any fisherman, that would be a shocking catch. And it's as the headline said: The brother had been washed overboard, and months later his brother netted him.
But as the brother said: "There is one thing we're thankful for. Now we can give him a proper Christian burial."
And on the next page we have not one, but two, animal stories.
"Love hungry hippo puts the bite on lady elephant." (That was in the Frankfurt, Germany, zoo, where a passionate hippo gave a hickey to a lady elephant. Hippos are such rascals.)
And: "One-legged man steals 3-legged dog." (This happened in Ames, Iowa, which hasn't had that much excitement since the 4-H Fair.)
There's much more. But now I must return to Bush and Clinton and Brown and Perot.
I wonder -- did someone make them up?