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How a Writer Fails 9th Grade English

Failing 9th grade G&T English was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. Well, right up until the dozens of more-embarrassing things I’ve done since then. Nineteen years later I’m finally comfortable telling this tale. I’m finally over it.

For those who aren’t familiar with Maryland Public Schools class hierarchy, G&T is an acronym for “Gifted & Talented”, only for the smartest, socially awkward kids. Below that, “Honors”, for wealthy kids who play lacrosse. Next was “Standard” for your regular dipshits. And below that various levels for what we kids called “retarded”.

Ninth grade G&T English was taught by Mrs. Ikeler, an unhappy, angry woman notorious for busting female students smoking in the lavatories. She narc’d on girls en masse to appease the school principal, because she too, was a smoker.

Between classes and lunch, she and another English teacher would escape the school premises in her Honda to inhale a few cigs at Bunker Hill. We know this because Bunker Hill was where students played hooky and often got busted by Mrs. Ikeler. Or vice versa.

Few alumni have fond memories of Mrs. Ikeler. Rumors circulated that an older kid entered her classroom during a school play and shit in her drawer. I was impressed! Impressed that someone can shit like that on command. I need 20 minutes of privacy in my own bathroom. Regardless, Mrs. Ikeler deserved it. Though our all-white school’s black janitor, who cleaned it up, definitely didn’t deserve it.

Before I continue, I must admit I’m worried Ms. Ikeler will read this. I’m not worried she’ll be offended by comments, I’m worried about my grammar. “THIS IS WHY I FLUNKED YOU!! AUTHOR MY ASS!”

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Invite Phil to Your Party!!

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How I got a Handicapped Woman to Touch my Penis


I had a cyst on my penis.

Well, it depends on who you ask. I consider that part of my body to be my penis. If I was asked to measure my penis, like by the folks at Guinness, I’d jam a ruler into my crotch and the cyst would be between the black one-inch line and the painful red line created by the ruler. But if the Guinness folks measured it themselves, they may conclude the cyst is NOT on my penis, but instead on its base, thus confirming my record as the “Most Delusional Man in the World”.

By the way, if you need a tape measure to measure your penis, your penis is weird. Stop pretending like you have a bedroom advantage. But if you do use a ruler, watch for splinters. And for those who think girth is more important than length: I don’t think Ron Jeremy is known for his 11-inch girth.

Before this blog post turns into a series of less-than-clever dick jokes, you should know that this cyst isn’t a STD. I have a long history of skin problems. Eczema, allergic reactions to earrings, a cyst surgically removed from my face, acne, dry skin, and I once had to have my foreskin removed. So a “penis-cyst” (medical term) is no problem – call the dermatologist.

Finnish doctor offices are sterile and lifeless. The colorless white walls scream out, “Healthcare is free in Finland, quit complaining!!” And only the gentle hands of an Estonian could get a floor that shiny. Grab a number, sit down, take your pick of two Finnish magazines. For women – a magazine with a plump, dyed-red-hair feminist on the cover. For men – a magazine on boats. One of a plethora of boating magazines available in the country, in Finnish, in a land with six days of summer each summer.

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When a Taxi Driver says you’re Jewish, then gets pulled over

So I’m heading to Hollywood, California for a work thing. Ordered a car service to the airport because my company is paying for it. The best part about a car service is the robot-like driver who doesn’t speak a word. But this driver kicks off our 20-minute ride to the airport with, “Schwarzmann! I was expecting someone darker.”


“Schwarzmann, it’s a Jewish name from Germany. German surnames are often adjectives. Adjectives! Your ancestry had dark skin. The Jews came from North Africa after the fall of the second Roman temple…”

This anti-Semitic history lesson continued on down Route 101 to San Francisco’s airport. Now I’m not Jewish, and neither are my ancestors, but I’m on my way to Hollywood! I appreciate how he thinks I’m a Hollywood native.

And I’m not exactly sure his remarks were “anti-Semitic”. I don’t know what “Semitic” means, but I do know I’m staunchly NOT against it. Plus I’m an American, I never paid attention in Social Studies class, so maybe this history-teacher-turned-cab-driver was going to learn me something. After all, he is wearing a tie.

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Vampire Tim Lincecum

Be on the lookout for VAMPIRE TIM LINCECUM!! He was bitten and turned from a human starting pitcher, into a relief pitcher. He drinks tiger blood.

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I would return my Eagle Scout medal too

My office recently played a game of “Two Truths, One Lie” during a team-building day. My truths were that 1) I tap danced for three years and 2) I’m an Eagle Scout. My lie was that I’m a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Everyone guessed I wasn’t an Eagle Scout. Tap dancing they believed, but Phil as an Eagle Scout? No way.

I guess I’m not the typical Eagle Scout. I’m a city dweller in San Francisco. I’m not religious. I’m a registered Democrat. I prefer hotels to camping. I’m the world’s worst tier of knots – turns out my brain has difficulty comprehending three dimensional objects – and my brain has difficulty giving a shit about knots.

Our motto is that scouts are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent – and homophobic. They apparently added that last one after I earned my Eagle Scout rank in 1997.

The Boy Scouts of America are actively denying boys Eagle Scout honors due to their sexual orientation. California scout Ryan Andresen was denied his award because he came out months earlier. Why didn’t he declare his sexuality when joining Scouts at age 6?? Couldn’t he have just fingerbanged a few high school girls before his eighteenth birthday??

Hundreds of Eagle Scouts are returning their awards and sharing their thoughts on a dedicated Tumblr blog. I would return my medal too, if I could find it. My mother probably tucked it away in a closet. Earning that award was one of my proudest moments, according to my parents. But I can’t be proud to be part of an organization who promotes such intolerance. It’s one of the same reasons I left the Catholic church years ago. Maybe my award is best suited trapped in the closet.

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How my book’s cover was designed

My book has a couple 1-star ratings on Amazon. Both reviewers admittedly didn’t read it, but judged the book by its cover…

I have not read this book, but I just have a question for the author regarding the cover of the book. I would like to ask, why did you use brown hands for the guy who is holding the Finnish girl on the cover page? Is that just out of mere coincedence or was there a reason for it??


I think it is strange too that the cover has brown nands, as if to say that all brown men really want to ge their hands on a white woman from the far North. Brown people can be happy with their own too.

Whoa!! What’s wrong with that guy? He capitalized “North”!?

Here’s the final cover…


Designing the front cover of “How to Marry a Finnish Girl” was exciting and I wanted to be involved in the process. As a marketer I know the importance of retail packaging. And as a PR guy I know the importance of building buzz. A book’s cover is its first impression. So naturally I wanted something striking and intriguing.

My editor hooked me up with the super talented, and super patient, graphic designer Laura Noponen and basically gave us free rein. My editor never suggested a photographer for the cover. I guess my face would deter customers.

Here was my original pitch to Laura…

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Buy my fucking book! (please)


Phil’s debut humor book, “How to Marry a Finnish Girl” is out now on Gummerus Publishers.

About Better! Funner!


Better! Funner! is a blog written and curated by Phil Schwarzmann. You’ll find funny original pieces, some not-so-funny pieces, plus stuff that made Phil laugh from around them internets. Enjoy!