Today is the birthday of my high school friend Steve, who is among the foremost of the class of smarter-than-me, funnier-than-me friends that I tended to cultivate. One of the many memorable ways in which he made me laugh was a throwaway gag that has stuck with me all these years: he doodled the word ZONNOZOON on a piece of paper, read it aloud to me in a dramatic announcer voice, and then rotated the paper ninety degrees so that it now read NOZZONOOZ, which he read in the same hearty voice. Another ninety degrees turned it into ZOONOZZON, and then NOOZONNOZ.

I was helpless with laughter. Strangely, most of the people to whom I demonstrated ZONNOZOON in the days and months and years that followed failed to be quite as amused as I’d been that first time (and remain to this day). I guess there’s still something about Steve that’s funnier-than-me.

Happy birthday, Steve! Here’s a present I made for you.

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