The more familiar, capable and relaxed a postal clerk is with her daily counter activities, the more intricate a transaction she can handle-the fewer mistakes she'll be liable to make.
A baseball batter relaxed, prepared-and confident with his abilities and knowledge of a pitcher-can point to where he'll hit the ball without upsetting his concentration and hit the ball.
A hunter, in shape, who has spent countless years scouting the woods and many hours sighting in a rifle, can breathe easy while drawing bead and gently squeezing the trigger.
An actor needs to know the lines cold, inside out, to be free enough to elevate a performance beyond simply saying lines and hitting marks. The better prepared, the more time put in-not just on the part at hand, but on the craft in general-the more relaxed the actor can be; the more natural ability and talent will surface to bring special levels of beauty and integrity to the performance.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart said, that at times during races, he is so relaxed that his mind often wanders from anything but the fact that he's traveling 200 mph into a 30-degree banked turn with 42 other drivers. That's relaxed!
On stage the other night, spoutin' a riff I've run hundreds and hundreds of times, my mind wandered. It was not about baking a carnival squash with butter, nutmeg, maple syrup and cinnamon. It was not about diving into a pool full of vanilla cupcakes iced with chocolate. It was not about world peace, or Cuban cigars, or how good it feels shoe horning your thin socked foot into a leather loafer. It was not about lower taxes for everyone, even rich people (I like rich people even though it seems it's not cool today to admire them)... No, when my mind wandered on stage it wandered to a wonder, which was-is there any difference between otters and beavers?
So smack in the middle of a riff I stopped and asked the audience: 1. Is there any difference between otters and beavers, and 2. If so, what are the differences?
A gal sitting stage left two rows back raised her hand. I called on her and she commenced to blather about otters and beavers, revealing only slight differences. Yet one bit of information stuck out. She said "beavers are venomous."
"Really," I toned "they're Republicans?"
She also said otters live on land, beavers don't. When I queried about why otters would have a beaver-like tail if they lived on land she said only "Well, they do swim, but they don't live in the water." So there.
Satisfied with the gal's information-albeit a bit sad to learn beavers are venomous, because I've always thought I'd try to pet one if I got close enough-I continued the show.
A few days later I received the following e-mail message:
We caught your show last Friday night in Brandon and loved it (as usual). Thanks for the many yuks.
You asked the audience for the difference between beavers and otters. I don't know if you were serious or goofing, but I didn't respond because, frankly, I didn't want to become part of the show! But in case you really wanted to know:
•Beavers are rodents (yes, rodents, Order Rodentia), and thus related to squirrels, mice, porcupines, and other such critters. They have big incisors that they use to cut down trees, which they use to build their dams and lodges, and which they also eat. And beavers are NOT venomous, regardless of what the cute 20 year old in the front row said. I think she's spent too much time on the Internet and not enough in reality.
•Otters are carnivores (Order Carnivora), and more specifically Family Mustelidae, which means they are closely related to weasels, skunks, minks, fisher cats (not actually cats, by the way), martens, and the like. In contrast to tree-eating beavers, they eat fish, crayfish, mussels, small mammals, and the like.
So, despite both living mostly in the water, beavers and otters are VERY different critters ecologically as well as how they are classified by my fellow egghead zoologists.
If you really wanted to know, there you have it. And if you didn't ... well, you shouldn't have asked!
Keep 'em laughing-we need more of that in this crazy world!
(name changed to protect)
Otters and beavers are way more different than I'd have guessed. And after clicking on Wikipedia on the Internet to study up more about otters and beavers, I'd like add a postscript to Otto Beavestein's letter: a male otter is called a dog otter while the female otter is called a bitch otter.
It's a man's world, man.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO