The Phil was born naked... and he was ashamed.

He welcomed the cold rush of air that day. The autumn wind breathed the sweet odor of apple cider into his soft lungs. Yes, he thought in his proprietary tongue, the stories were true.

Until age one, The Phil was content with playing solitaire. And he would never cheat.

But it was a restless time for America. OPEC had cut short the country’s supply of precious petrol fluids. Newton, Mass., once a thriving cattle town, soon became overrun with lollygags and dentists. And without an effective tax-collection system to police them, Mother Newton spiraled into financial and aesthetic ruin.

What was a Phil to do? Every job interview would close with the same line: “Sorry, kid. You’re a fine boy but we can’t take you. Bone-up on your Vogue Patterns, get yourself a smaller head, and then maybe we’ll talk business.”

And so, with no options left, The Phil packed his toothbrush, blankie and “Zoom!” t-shirt and left Newton. He was two years old.

Life was hard in the big city. The Phil only had enough money to rent a small bedroom in a scabies-infested boarding house. The entire hall shared a single potty.

He finally found a job shelling cashews for a widow named Belle. She was the swarthy daughter of an asparagus farmer. They had met at the supermarket one afternoon when she noticed him with tears wetting his cheeks as he strained to reach the last box of Cap’n Crunch.

She offered him a job shelling cashews for a penny per nut. Truthfully, the farm didn’t need another cashew sheller. The Plankton brothers provided more than enough skill. But Belle couldn’t imagine not helping this poor child find some hope.

This Phil fully recognized the chance he was given. Instead of squandering his pennies on Archie comics and Swedish fish, he kept as much money tucked away as he could until the day came when he finally purchased his first TV.

The Phil had read about TV in Life Magazine and knew that there was much to learn from watching it. So he watched voraciously. He made it a point to learn at least one thing, however trivial, from each program.

Kojak and Baretta taught him how to do the right thing, even if it meant breaking the rules. Maude and The Jeffersons honed his sarcasm. And Chico and the Man taught him that it’s possible to make friends with old, white people even when you’re a young, colored boy.

And so, at the age of two-and-a-half, with his new education in hand, The Phil graciously thanked Belle and set off on his new life with confidence and grace.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, The Phil is long retired from his days of stardom and excitement. He has found contentment in spending his afternoons on a bench in Brooklyn, noshing on jerk chicken and strawberry NesQuik.

But he has many stories to share. That’s for sure. And you, my friend, are more than welcome to stay and listen...

Like it? Dislike it? Just want to say “hi”?
May 19, 2008

Hi, kids.

Sorry for the inconsistency with the posts. I am trying to stick to a M-W-F schedule. However, getting to sleep at a reasonable hour is a high priority these days.

When Skinny Panda first started nine years ago (PUNG!), I had no problem getting through the workday on 3 hours of sleep. But now that I'm old and crusty, I need at least seven or else my gizzards fall out.

So why did I decide to "go color" these past few weeks even though it adds hours to the process? Ho ho ho... stop asking silly questions, you silly munchkin...

Phil signature