Friday, December 18, 2009


Call it an ego thing, but I have flagged the Google search engine to send me an email with a link every time my name, Gerald Andersen, appears somewhere on the internet.

This would not work if your name was John Smith as you would be inundated with emails. Oddly, there seem to be very few other Gerald Andersens kicking around out there. An actor goes by that name, and often I get references to him. Mostly what I get is mentions of me. A lot of it is older stuff from my working days at the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association and Neckwear Association of America. Why I would be suddenly notified of an article that appeared in 2006, I really can’t say, but they come in at a fairly regular rate.

Today I got one that kind of spooked me, and impressed me in a way. It was a letter to the editor that I wrote to the New York Times in 1989. The letter was published and is apparently enshrined on their web site, since the link I got from Google took me there. I wonder how it got there. I believe in 1989 the internet was still a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. So someone at the Times must have taken the time and trouble to scan it. Do you suppose they actually scan every line of type that has ever appeared all the way back to God knows when? Why it popped up now on Google alert is also a mystery.

I prefer to believe they only preserve the best of the best. The letter was actually pretty good and was written in response to a Times article or op ed, I don’t recall which, bashing neckties. My members took “anti-tie” rhetoric seriously and expected me to respond. I would have done so anyway since I have always loved neckties. I still do.

My members loved it. For years some them displayed it framed on their office walls.
I am glad, according to an article in the Times last week, that ties are making a comeback with the younger generation. That is a good thing.

Here is my 1989 letter to the editor that is permanently enshrined in the Time archive at least until the lights go out or they run out of band width:

To the Editor:

Why does something as seemingly mundane as a necktie get loaded with so much symbolic baggage? Through the years, ties have been seen as symbols of genteel birth, social rank, coming of age, blind following of tradition and, of course, male sexuality. In the 1960's, the tie was the symbol of the Establishment (negative). In the 80's, it represents power and financial success (positive).

Efforts have even been made to link trends in the economy to neckwear fashion. Do ties really get wider when the stock market is booming?

Greg Spring now equates neckties with the big lie (''A Diploma, a Tie and a Lie,'' Op-Ed, Sept. 19). He equates them with all of the currying and toadying to which one must stoop to make one's way in the world. We, of course, see the tie as the symbol of truth, justice and the American way.

No one inflicts all of this philosophy on shoes, shirts, hats or belts. Why neckties? Because there is an air of mystery and romance to neckties. They do not cover one's nakedness or add warmth on a blustery day. They definitely are not practical, nor are they particularly modern.

They are a link to the misty past when a knight strapped on his colors before setting forth to meet the world.

They are banners that proclaim just about any range of mood, emotion, or socioeconomic message that the wearer wishes to admit, or the viewer wishes to interpret. They are a celebration of color, beauty and tradition in an otherwise drab and rootless world.

Symbolism is attached to ties, because their function is largely symbolic. However, like beauty, symbolism is in the eye of the beholder: One man's big lie is another man's great tie. GERALD ANDERSEN Executive Director Neckwear Association of America New York, Sept. 19, 1989

Makes me want to go out and buy a Christmas necktie.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Honey, I Shrunk....

I am 5’9” tall, marked down from 5’11”

It’s no wonder I am always stepping on my trouser cuffs.

The 5’11” thing is a bit of an exaggeration. I was actually 5’10 ½” but always stretched it a half inch because it made me more comfortable about claiming I was “about” six feet tall.

I always wanted to make it to six feet and would hang from a bar in my bedroom doorway like a bat for hours at a time hoping to stretch out. Now, I am closer to 5’6”, the height of many an eighth grade girl, than I am to six feet.

I found this out at my physical several weeks ago. My doctor didn’t seem too concerned and attributed the shrinkage to “gravity.” This might have been going on for some time, since I don’t recall being measured at other physicals. I do recall being amazed that my son, Kristopher, seemed to continue growing well into his thirties. Obviously, I was going in the opposite direction.

It would be a lie to say that this hasn’t come as a blow to my ego. I don’t know why, since the only downside seems to be that it makes me more overweight than I already am since it knocks me into a lower category on the weight chart, as my doctor gleefully pointed out.

It’s also depressing to think that soon all those annoying short guys with short guy complexes are going to be taller than me. You know who I am talking about. I hope I don’t get a complex. I have enough problems.

I expressed my dismay to Kathie, and she was puzzled by it. Perhaps, she thinks I want to date tall women. It is just disconcerting to think that you are sinking into the ground like the wicked witch in the “Wizard of Oz”. Soon, my Yankee cap on the ground will be the only evidence of my existence.

A friend, in an effort to cheer me up, pointed out that I still have a long way to go before they ban me from the rides at Disney World.

I pointed out that a loss of 2 inches is a 3 per cent decline in my personal altitude. "Look at the bright side," he said,"your penis will look bigger." I hate optimists.

I recalled with anxiety the “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” the 1950’s thriller about a man who suffers radiation exposure and proceeds to shrink into oblivion. At one point he has to battle his own cat just to survive. Thank God our cat died.

I decided to fight back by joining the Y and hitting the gym. I seem to recall reading somewhere that resistance training is good for men of a certain age. I don’t recall if it had to do with shrinkage, or keeping joints flexible, or raising a flagging libido. What the hell, it’s all good.

Even if it doesn’t help with my elevation challenge, it may keep me from devolving into a beach ball as I shrink in one department and expand in another.

I decided to do the nautilus circuit. This is what I call it. I have no idea as to its real name. There are eighteen weight machines, each of which exercises a different muscle group. When you have completed the circuit, you have had a total workout. On the first day, Daryl, the trainer, set the machines up for me. I noted that he adjusted all of the height settings to the lower categories. I am just one or two settings away from having to wear elevator sneakers to use the equipment.

It’s enough to give one a sinking feeling.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Autumn Song

The last leaves have fallen from their perches on high,
And litter the ground right up to ones thigh.
In their legions and armies they boldly stack
Small children and dogs have to turn back.
As he thinks of his wife it gives him the lumps
She can't go to work with leaves on her pumps!

He rattles the heavens with a mighty cry.
“If you weren’t already dead, now you would die!”
He straps on his vacuum, the dreaded El Toro.
(Which he had to buy since he couldn’t borrow.)
He falls upon them from hillock and gulch
And grinds the quivering foe to a powdery mulch.

Like the heroes of old he absorbs all his licks,
Leaf dust up the nose and bites from the ticks.
Still he lays about him like a ninja on narcotics.
He doesn’t care, he’s on antibiotics.
For weeks and weeks the grim battle roils
On and on the suburban Hercules toils.
At missing his football and baseball, he curses.
He is caught in an epic with too many verses.
As the Aeolian blast delivers the neighbors pile,
“I’ll bet they’ll miss their cat,” he says with a smile.

The bags of the fallen line the drive.
Oak, maple, cherry, none made it alive.
He shoulders El Toro and surveys the field.
He is glad he fought on and never did yield.
His chest swells with pride like mighty El Cid
Then his wife whispers: “Next year, hire a kid.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Watson, Come Here. I Need You

Our downstairs phone broke.

It hung on the kitchen wall for about five years delivering faithful, reliable service: You spoke into it and you could hear another person speaking back. Mission accomplished.

Then its number two broke. We could still call a lot of friends and family, but only those without a two in their phone number. We could, of course, just drop any two bearing individuals from our social network, but this seemed harsh.

As usual, since I am home, the task fell to me to find a replacement. Kathie’s only criterion was that it had to be a wall phone and hence not take up precious counter space. Buying a phone used to be easy. In fact, you often didn’t have to buy one. A subscription to Sports Illustrated netted you a football shaped phone; an example of which was in my son’s bedroom for years.

When you got your new phone, you plugged the jack into the wall and you were in business.

Not so today. I was greeted at Best Buy with an enormous array of phones. Oddly, most of the true wall units are still corded and you can still attach a 20 foot cord to them and multi-task around the kitchen, as Kathie did twenty years ago, gleefully garroting spouse and children while dicing the carrots.

I decided not to go this retro. The helpful young man who waited on me suggested a model that did what I wanted: mounted on the wall, was cordless, had an extra hand-set, and an answering machine. The best news was that it was under fifty bucks.

As soon as I got home, I started the installation. In no time, it was hanging on the wall ready to go. It looked a little odd since it is not a true wall phone but a desk top model fitted with a wall bracket. It appeared to be emerging from the wall like something out of a Dali painting as it sat there without any visible means of support.

It also didn’t work. A read-out on the hand set said “Connecting……..” Of course, if it had said “this phone doesn’t work and never will”, I would have known right away that it had to go. But no, all those animated little dots implied that important electronic stuff was happening and soon all of the necessary handshakes, protocols, etc. would be completed and communication with the outside world restored.

Three hours later, of course, the same message and busy little dots were still there.
I went to the manual and, sure enough, there was a description of what to do if you got a persistent “connecting” message. I performed the steps as outlined in the book by disconnecting and unplugging the phone, disconnecting the batteries and starting over.
No luck.

The instructions then threw in the towel and confessed that if this procedure failed, the phone is probably being interfered with by some other electronic devise like a wireless router, TV, or microwave.

Well, this would be the perfect phone if you were a survivalist living in the great north woods who decides it would be nice to check in with mom once in awhile, but in a modern household like ours where the air crackles with every brain damaging wave known to science this phone is not going to hack it.

Although, you could use it like a canary in a coal mine: "Mary, the phone just died we must leave at once before our heads explode."

So back to Best Buy I went where another bright young man discovered that the returned phone was not compatible with my digital phone service. He sold me one that worked with my service and soon all our two bearing relations were back on the A list.

No wonder Sports Illustrated stopped giving out football phones.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Trip to New England

Kathie and I just got back from a quick trip to New England to attend a folk art show and have a visit with the kids.

I have been pleading for this because it felt like I haven’t been out of the house since July.

We left on Saturday morning and got back on Sunday evening. It was one of those trips where everything dovetailed perfectly. We called Elisabeth from the road and set up a lunch with her and her fiancé, Alex, at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in the Natick Mall. They were coming from Boston and we were on the Mass. Pike. Not only did we get there at the same time, but they were parking in a spot two spaces over from ours when we arrived. The visit was great and the food was okay. The noteworthy thing about the Cheesecake factory is that they have an 18 page menu. How they turn any tables is a mystery since it took me a half hour to get to the end. I suspect most people are like me and order something from the last page, since by then they have forgotten the tasty morsels they spied on pages 5 and 12.

We got back on the road and headed north for Marlboro, Mass., the site of the craft fair. We checked into our hotel and headed for the show. There were lots of wood carvers there and I soon developed an inferiority complex. While most seemed to be more technically adept than me, they seemed to devote most of their creativity to carving images of Santa and Uncle Sam.

The highlight of the show was the presence of Will Moses, noted folk painter and grandson of the even more famous Grandma Moses. Kathie and I are fans of his work and actually own several lithographs. He was sitting alone at a table waiting to sign copies of his books and calendars. After a brief conversation with him, I understood why he was alone. He brings new meaning to the term taciturn New Englander. I asked what he remembered about his grandmother hoping to gain some insight into the life and work of this beloved American icon. “She was old,” he replied after a few moments consideration.

After the show we headed to Andover and spent a delightful evening trick or treating with our grandson, Owen, and Kris and Jen.

We had a comfortable night in our hotel room and in the morning decided to avail ourselves of the complementary breakfast. Here I had another in my long series of epic struggles with technology. As I perused the buffet I decided to have a piece of toast. The toaster was one of those commercial conveyor types where you put your bread in the top and it comes out the bottom all nice and toasty. I did this and got a piece of barely warm bread for my troubles. I tried again with the same result. Frustrated, I found the temperature control and turned it all the way up. My piece disappeared into the toaster and slowly made its way through the inner workings. After what only seemed a few seconds into its journey smoke started to belch from the machine. Of course I broke into a sweat as there was no way I could stop it or retrieve the toast.

After what seemed like hours, and just as management was arriving on the scene, the charred remains of my toast plopped onto the plate. “I like it well done,” I commented with all the cool I could muster to the panicked looking kitchen staff surrounding the smoking machine.

When I got back to our table, Kathie said: “Where is all the smoke coming from?”
“I just set fire to the buffet area,” I replied.
“Oh. I’m not surprised,” she said without looking up from her plate.
“You’re not going to eat that?”, she said as she gazed at the steaming slab of pure carbon on my plate.
“No. I just didn’t want to leave it for evidence.”

We checked out and headed down Route 28 on the way to Andover for another visit with Owen. Two fire trucks with sirens wailing passed in the opposite direction. I stepped on the gas.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Diet

I am on a diet.

I gained 20 pounds in the five or so years before I retired, and packed on 20 more since. So I have dug a 40 pound hole I have to climb out of.
My motivation is simple: I want to be able to fit back into the tux I wore to Kris’ wedding 7 years ago by the time of Elisabeth’s in July.

I’ve been down this road before. In the mid-1980s I hit my all time high of 267 pounds. I fought my way to 175, regained 30 pounds over the ensuing years, lost that, and tacked on the 40 I am currently toting around.

My problem with dieting is I am either all in or all out. I can’t see a 5 pound gain and say “Oh gosh, I’d better get on that.” I have to wait until I’ve added the weight of an average sixth grader before I swing into action. Once I am on a diet, I am the very soul of virtue and usually see pretty fast results.

I love to eat. I have an eating disorder which I refer to as the Boa Constrictor Syndrome:
If I can get my mouth around it, I will eat it; If I can swallow it, I can digest it.

I prefer good food but in a pinch, any food will do.

I never get indigestion or gas (this is subject to dispute in my household). I can polish off a box of Cheezits before bed time and sleep like a baby.

I never leave food on my plate. I blame my mother for this whose mantra was “you better finish that there are children starving in Korea.” I feel that if I don’t clean my plate the population of the entire Asian sub-continent is endangered.

No doggy bags for me. Recently, we were dining in Cajun restaurant and I ordered a spicy rice and seafood dish. It came piled so high on my plate that snow was forming on the peak. As the waiter was clearing, he was stunned to see not a single, solitary grain of rice on my plate. He remarked that in all the years the dish had been on the menu, he had never seen anyone finish it. He called another waiter over to confirm this observation. “You should be embarrassed,” Kathie said. I wasn’t. I had a warm glow in my tummy as I pictured all of those contented Korean children.

I am also a serial eater. I eat constantly. This has been the source of my downfall since I am at home. If there is food around, I will find it. I’ll go for the good stuff first, and when I have gone through that I will get creative. I have no problem scooping peanut butter from the jar and eating it by the spoonful, or gnawing on a chunk of parmesan cheese from the rock-hard block.

Pretzels are a real weak spot. I can demolish a bag of pretzels in one sitting. One night I consumed three quarters of a one pound bag, and in a fit of self-loathing tossed the rest in the garbage. The next day, I was pleased to see Kathie hadn’t taken the trash out so I dug through the coffee grounds and potato peels, fetched the bag, and polished off the contents. I guess my self-loathing spell had passed.

I’ve stopped doing this sort of thing, at least for the duration of my diet. Basically, I’ve cut my portions and stopped noshing. In three weeks, I have lost 8 pounds.

To paraphrase Mark Twain’s remark about quitting smoking, dieting is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bear

It must be Newfoundland retriever, I thought as I gazed at the large, black creature looking back at me from the middle of the trail about 50 yards away.

I raised my binoculars and all doubt was removed: it was a big black bear. It was looking at me, but not in an aggressive way. Its expression was more “uh oh what’s he up to” than “yum lunch.” He slowly wandered across the trail and into the woods. By the time I reached the spot, he was no longer in sight.

I was very excited. Bears are common enough in this part of New Jersey, but in all the years I have been walking the Colombia Trail I have never seen one. In fact, it is more common to see one raiding a dumpster than to come across one in the woods.

The reason is that bears are shy and have more sensitive noses than dogs; hence they will smell you coming a mile away and make themselves scarce. They also have very good reason to be frightened of humans.

I know this because I attended a lecture a few months ago called “Living with Bears.” At first I thought that this might be a talk aimed at helping women deal with the housekeeping habits of male family members. But no, it was about real bears.

Unlike grizzlies, black bears are not predators. Their diet consists mostly of vegetation, nuts and roots. They will, however, scavenge a carcass. The lecturer observed that if you are attacked by a grizzly, playing dead often works as a defense strategy. Not with black bears. They will just dig in.

Basically, they are not dangerous to humans. However, “habituated” bears can be a different story. These are not bears supporting a crack habit by preying on humans, but those that have lost their fear of us: the dumpster divers, in other words. Some people actually encourage this by leaving food out for them or not properly securing their trash. The lecturer told the story of a bald man in the area who used to coat his head with peanut butter and allow the bears in his yard to lick it off, proving that not all humans occupy the top rung of the evolutionary ladder.

The uh-oh look on “my” bear’s face, and the fact that he moved off, indicated he was not of that ilk, so I was not scared. However, if he had moved toward me aggressively it would have time for some serious pants pooping, because a human cannot outrun or out climb a bear.

Following my sighting, I called Kathie, texted the kids, and bounded down the trail with the hope I would run into someone to tell. Soon I encountered a lone woman walking along. “I’ve just seen a bear! I’ve just seen a bear,” I hollered while hopping up and down, like my 2 year old grandson does when he sees a tractor.

“Now, you’ve frightened me,” she said.

I don’t think she was talking about the bear.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't Let the Storm Door Hit You in the Ass

Well, you’re packed up and ready to go. So leave already. See if I care.

Usually, I’m hanging onto your ankles begging you to stay for one more cigar on the patio, one more warm evening on the river with the katydids and crickets. Sometimes I even lay a guilt trip on you, whining that I might not even be here when you get back.

Not this time. So go already. To put it politely, as summers go, you’ve been an underachiever.

Twenty five days of rain in June? What was that all about? You ruined everyone’s tomatoes. I hope you’re happy. Oh, by the way, you stepped on autumn’s toes by spreading your blight to the pumpkins as well. I read that Smashing Pumpkins is changing their name to Squishing Pumpkins.

I schlep two enormous air conditioners from the garage to the third floor to create a little island of coolness for when you are pumping up the old heat and humidity index. Did I get to use them even once? Not. Now I have to take them out and haul them back to the garage. I’m not getting any younger, you know.

I don’t think I ever broke a sweat during your term in office. I blame you for my water retention problem. I like nothing better than digging in the yard and working up a good, stinky sweat in the heat of the August day and then settling down with an icy cold beer. You even took the fun out of beer and that takes party pooping to a new level. Oh, and thanks. Did I get out of one single back-breaking project because it was too hot to work?
I don’t think so.

Speaking of pooping on parties, I went to exactly one barbecue and got eaten alive by the horde of mosquitoes you brought with you.

Who told you people like mosquitoes? When was the last time you saw a mosquito feeder in someone’s front yard? I even got a bite on my ass this year and embarrassed Kathie by scratching it all through church. How could you be so inconsiderate of that good woman?

Well, get moving and light out for Argentina or wherever the hell you go next. Crank up Nat King Cole’s “Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer” and think about how you can be a better season next year.

Now go. I have to stack firewood on the porch.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Cliche

It is what it is.

I am sick to death of hearing this. One hears it twenty times a day, and enough already. In the first place, as Sister Helen would point out with a crisp whack of her ruler, it is bad form to end a sentence with is. Although, she would have phrased it in such a way that it didn’t end in is.

In addition, this poorly structured sentence has virtually become the national catch phrase in these trouble times, and a poor reflection indeed of our can-do spirit.

My research has also revealed that it was authored by the Bush administration in an effort to justify its unfettered free-market policies: “We can’t rein in those crazy bankers because it is what it is.”

Once it entered the national lingo, it lulled us into a passive acceptance of their contemptible policies:

Dick Cheney: “We can only keep America safe by plucking out prisoners’ fingernails and wringing their nuts.”
American People: “Oh, well. It is what it is.”

Which raises another point: frequently it is not what it is, and it never was. A more appropriate national catch phrase for the Bush years would have been “You’re a lying bastard.”

Bush: “We have to invade Iraq because Saddam caused 9/11.”
American People: “You’re a lying bastard.”

Hear the difference?

I would like to propose a new catch phrase that reflects the new administration’s crisis mentality and interventionist policies: “Holy shit. We better do something about that.”

Now I know what you are thinking: the use of the S word in the national cliché will lose the religious right. Guess what? They are already lost. Let them go shit in their hats, as my Uncle Vinnie used to say. Come to think of it, this could also be the new national catch phrase as it totally reflects the level of bi-partisanship in the land.

However, I concede the point and now am prepared to offer a compromise: “Holy Barrack. We better do something about that.” This captures the near Gandhian status the president has achieved, particularly with the younger voters.

Or at least that’s how it was as of last January when Kathie cancelled my subscription to the New York Times. Now the only news I get is from my web browser. So while I know what Gavin MacCloud has been doing since the Love Boat sank, I am a little sketchy on political developments.

Kathie: “I am canceling your Times subscription because reading it only makes you depressed.”
Jerry: “Oh well. It is what it is.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dear Jerry

In another cheap and brazen ploy to boost this blog’s readership, I am starting an advice column. I will be answering questions on all topics including finance, garage maintenance, closet organization, and, of course S-E-X. Since I am more of a Dark Ages Man than a Renaissance one, readers should take it from whence it comes.

Dear Jerry,
I just broke my left arm. Now what?

Hire a left handed Mexican.

Dear Jerry,
I love George Clooney’s hair. How does he achieve that look?

George is actually bald. The look is achieved with plaster of paris and Martha Stewart’s Ebony Passion low luster house paint. By the way, for the rest of you pathetic souls who keep Googling these pages seeking info on Clooney’s hair style, he admits he copied it from Demi Moore. Does that make you feel gay, or what?

Dear Jerry,
I tried to trade my boy friend in for a Camaro under the Cash for Clunkers program.
Now he is mad at me. What can I do?

Tell him you would have missed his tail pipe.

Dear Jerry,
Our only daughter just eloped with a homeless septuagenarian. We are heartbroken.

Heartbroken, my ass. You just saved 50 big ones on the wedding.

Dear Jerry,
If the Chinese are so smart, how come they didn’t invent “Dancing with the Stars”?

They did. It was called “Clogging with the Eunuchs.” In Chinese, of course.

Dear Jerry,
Is love a two way street?

Yes. That's why there are so many head on collisions.

Should I buy cheap and sell dear?

Don’t call me dear. We hardly know each other. Badda-Boom.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Percy and Me

There has always been a tradition in my family that we are descended from Percy Bysshe Shelley on my mother’s side.

I have never taken much interest in pursuing this or asking what the connection might be. Unfortunately, anyone who might have had such information has passed.

As a child, I was embarrassed at the possibility of having anyone named Percy in my family tree, much less a poet. Of course, my only point of reference was Percy Dovetonsils, Ernie Kovacs characterization of a lisping poet with Coke-bottle thick glasses who read doggerel while sipping martinis.

My maternal grandfather was big poetry fan. I can remember sitting on his lap and playing with his pocket watch while he read from the works of the Irish poets. This, of course, proves nothing, but may be where the story arose.

His mother’s name was Mary Shelly (I’m not sure of the spelling), but who her antecedents were, I do not yet know. To my knowledge, both of his parents were Irish-Americans whose parents came over in the first potato famine. Shelley the poet was English and a peer to boot. So on the surface, at least, the connection seems unlikely.

After watching a program that made reference to Shelley and his wife, Mary, I decided to see what I could find out on the internet.

I signed up for a trial membership at and punched in what names I knew. So far, I have not been able to push past my great grandparents. This type of research is not my cup of tea. As my wife will attest, keeping names and relationships straight is a challenge for me in the here and now, never mind the long ago.

Here is another daunting thought: If you just trace your family back 10 generations, you will find you have 1024 ancestors, since the number doubles each generation. This sounds like too much work for me to establish my relationship to the author of Prometheus Unbound. Try slogging through that little ditty some time.

I just looked at a Percy Dovetonsils skit on YouTube and think there is a better chance of my being related to him. The quality of the writing has a familiar ring:

The Moon
By Percy Dovetonsils

The moon is full of craters
It has some mountains too,
But because there are no people,
No one goes to the Zoo.

Ah, Granddad!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Youthful Offender

I ratted out my 2 year old grandson to the fuzz.

Here is what happened:
Kathie and I, along with our son, Kris, his wife, Jen, and their son, Owen, were in Portsmouth, NH last weekend for a wedding. Kathie and I were assigned the task of babysitting Owen while his parents attended the rehearsal dinner.

Owen is a good natured, happy little guy who is also highly inquisitive. To describe him as “active” is like describing a tornado as a “bit of a blow.”

Gramsy and Pop were barely settled into the kids’ beautiful room at the Portsmouth Hilton and Owen had already turned the microwave oven on often enough to foul up TV reception in a 12 block area, turned the air conditioning off and the heat on, and placed a 911 call.

It was the last activity that caused the problem. I was letting him play with the phone because, worst case scenario, he would probably get someone at the front desk. “Maybe you shouldn’t let him do that,” Kathie said. This sentence, I should point out, was enough to exonerate her from all of the subsequent consequences, as in “I told your father not to let him do that.”

As soon as Owen put the phone down, it rang. It was the front desk asking if everything was okay, because someone had placed a call to 911. Without batting an eye, I sold the little guy down the river. It would have been easy enough for me to take the rap by saying I thought I was having a spell, but feel better now, thank you; or I was trying to order a pizza but misdialed because I am legally blind. But, nooooooo. “My two year old grandson did it”, I sniveled. “I was watching him like a hawk, but being old and infirm, could not wrestle the phone from his vice-like grip in time.”

I could hear the contempt in the clerk’s voice as he said: “I’m glad things are alright, but you will be getting a visit from the police as a matter of procedure.”

I started to hyperventilate. I am not one of those people who take comfort in the presence of police. Having grown up in the city, I regard an approaching officer as trouble on the way. Not that I am a career criminal, but most previous encounters have ended with a citation.

Sure enough, ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. It was the fuzz. A handsome young officer who’s stony expression could not hide his pissed-offedness at being sent up five stories to run down an errant 911 call.

I had made up my mind to be a man about it this time and do the right thing: blame my wife.

“Is everything okay here?” the officer inquired. Owen approached and was eyeing him as if trying to decide whether to make a grab for his gun or some other do-dad dangling from his belt.

“He did it, officer,” I said pointing at the pint-size perp.

“How old is he?,” the cop asked. Now, it had not occurred to me that he might actually bust Owen. Then I recalled that they haul away nursery school children for pointing at their classmates and making bang-bang sounds; and prosecute kindergarteners for kissing each other, so why not lock-up a two year old for making a bogus 911 call?

“He isn’t two yet, and he is not potty trained,” I replied. I pointed this out because I was sure this must be the base line for youthful incarceration, since the powers that be do not want to deal with the public outrage that running up huge diaper bills might entail. I could picture John McCain waving a Huggie from the floor of the Senate inveighing against government “waste.”

The officer looked disappointed, but tipped his hat, wished us a pleasant evening and left.

“We better not tell Kris and Jen about this,” Kathie said. I disagreed because I didn’t want them blind-sided when his nursery school application is rejected due to prior criminal activity.

They were actually amused. “He loves to play with the phone,” my daughter-in-law said. “We were afraid something like this would happen and glad it happened on your watch and not ours,” she continued. “ Here’s what we do to prevent this,” she said as she disconnected the phone.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There are too many damn squirrels.

It seems to me that their numbers have grown exponentially in recent years, to the point that we are being over-run by the damn things.

I take a long walk each day along a rural road and trail. It seems like I encounter a squirrel every 25 feet. I saw on Nat Geo recently that ants (a future rant subject) account for the greatest percentage of bio-mass on the planet (and those are just the ones in my kitchen). Apparently, squirrels have taken this as a challenge.

They certainly are taking over my place. A year ago I purchased for 300 bucks a largeRubber Maid storage locker to keep recycling and bird feed. The seed was in a sealed plastic garbage barrel within the locker. The gray demons chewed their way through the locker in two places and the garbage container to get to the seed.

I know it was squirrels because I saw their stupid bucky teeth marks in the plastic and I encountered one up-close-and-personal when I opened the locker one day. I lifted the lid and looked in; staring back at me, bird seed all over his furry little face, was one of the cursed rodents.
His expression was like that of the squirrel on the tire commercial that is about to be run over by a car. I swear every hair on his body stood up and he let out a scream before hurdling from the bottom of the locker to the ground in one leap.

They are amazing athletes, I will grant them that. They have confounded my every effort to keep them out of my bird feeders. They can thwart any “anti-squirrel” devise ever invented. I even had to take the shudders off the side of the house where we have our feeders because the squirrels would climb them and launch themselves from there to the feeders some six feet away.

They have turned my 100 year old horse chestnut tree into a condo. They go in one hole and emerge from another twenty feet away on the other side of the tree. I am sure they have it on Craig’s list as “conveniently located to well-stocked bird feeders.”

Get a dog or cat, you might suggest. I have had both and neither was willing to take on the job. Our cat, a voracious hunter, had very distinct ideas about how large an animal she was willing to take on to satisfy her blood lust. Squirrels, she deemed, were outside her size range. I tried to explain to her that, factoring out their fluffy tails, squirrels were not much larger than the chipmunks and baby rabbits she slaughtered in profusion much to the distress of my children. I pointed out that, unlike alligators, squirrels don’t use their tails to batter their foes into submission. Try talking sense to a cat sometime and see where that gets you.

My two Irish terriers, however, were only too happy to chase squirrels. Two problems: they couldn’t catch them, and they preferred to chase them on other people’s property.
My male, an affable but not bright fellow, never figured out where the critters went when they would suddenly disappear just as he closed in. The whole up-a-tree idea was beyond his conceptual reach.

They were also like Arab chieftains in that they felt an obligation to be hospitable to enemies within their own tent. The dogs would happily wage war all over town while our squirrels lay on pillows eating dates.

Some people actually encourage the beasts by feeding them corn in the winter. Some even get excited by sighting an unfamiliar species. I saw a group with binoculars getting all ga-ga because they had spotted red squirrels in Califon. These are the same people who got excited 30 years ago by the appearance of Canadian geese and now employ dogs to run them off their property.

There is hope though. Squirrels really suck at crossing the road; this is why the roadways are littered with their rotting carcasses. They dash out into the street, and just as they seem to have made it to the other side, will run back right under the wheels of the car. This, it was explained to me, is because squirrels have home trees, and will bolt to them in times of danger even if it takes them to their doom.

I am sure that is on my chestnut tree’s listing as well: “On a quiet cul-de-sac, its the perfect home tree for you and your children.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Last Saturday Kathie and I took a ride out to Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA.

We go every year and it is usually a good time. This year, not so much.

There are stages set up all over the downtown area and in an adjacent park.
Bethlehem basks in it German Moravian heritage, so these stages are called “platz” as in America Platz and Polka Platz.

The city also capitalizes on its name with a big Christmas festival, the highlight of which is a huge nativity scene set up in the cellar of a church. This, with some degree of faux naiveté I suspect, they call a “putz.” There are signs all over town pointing bemused tourists in the direction of the putz. If these are not among the most stolen signs in the US, I would be greatly surprised. Every Jewish guy on the east coast must have one displayed in his man cave.

Anyway at the fest, there are bands and groups representing every sort of music imaginable playing at the platz throughout the day and into the night. All the street concerts are free. Quality, however, is spotty. We have made some discoveries over the years including our first exposure to zydeco and a terrific 50’s rock band from central Europe called “Red Elvis.” One of my favorites is a guy who dresses up as the Phantom of the Opera and plays baroque tunes on a gigantic truck load of bells called a carillon.

This year our timing was off and only one of the bands we heard was good. This was a group that pounded out mambo tunes at deafening volume. They were excellent though and the crowd was fun. We didn’t mambo because I wasn't drinking and Kathie was wearing flip-flops.

Among the low lights was a Jamaican group that pounded the bejesus out of what seemed like a dozen drums. If I wanted to get psyched up to raid and plunder another village this would do the trick, but on a hot afternoon in eastern PA it was just painful. It was fun though to watch over weight white people trying to dance to it.

Another loser was “Witches in Bikinis.” When I saw them on the program, I had to check them out although I expected it was like “Bare Naked Ladies”, three grubby fat guys in shorts and tee shirts. When we got to the platz, it was so crowded we couldn’t get in. Even from a distance, however, I could tell that, as advertised, the group consisted of at least four or five nubile young women attired in bikinis and witches hats and masks. I would have elbowed my way to the front for a closer inspection, but a look on Kathie’s face that combined both scorn and pity prevented me from doing so. (Why don’t I ever have my binoculars when I need them?)

Their music, however, seemed to consist of discordant wailing and screaming. It reminded me of what my neighbor blares through his speaker system on Halloween to set the mood for trick or treaters.

We decided to eat dinner at the fest and wandered among the many food vendors set up in the park. Kathie went with a pulled pork sandwich which she reported was good. I, perhaps inspired by the Mambo Kings, opted for arroz con pollo.

The vendor ladled a big scoop of the stuff onto a paper plate and handed it me. “I see the arroz, but where the hell is the pollo?” I said staring at a pathetic shred of chicken that looked like a half eaten Mac Nugget clinging to the edge of my plate. “It’s mixed in,” the vendor replied. It wasn’t. I tried spearing a few pieces of Kathie’s pork that fell from her sandwich, but she growled and I backed off.

As we wandered about, I began to take a hard look at my fellow Musikfesters. If ever there was any doubt that Americans are the worst dressed, most over weight people on the planet this group settled the issue. Fat, tattooed slobs in every imaginable get up, all of whom made the “Witches in Bikinis” look like they were dressed for the prom.

And most of them weren’t young. Kathie pointed out a 70 something woman in a wheel chair with a gaudy tattoo emblazoned across her amply displayed cleavage. “That should put and end to the tattoo craze,” she remarked.

We spotted an obese young woman with an entire garden of flowers and birds etched on her calves. “That looks like about four acres of scenic wonder to me,” I said. “Maybe she has the grand canyon tattooed on her ass.” “You’re getting cranky,” Kathie said. “It’s time to go.”

We got in the car, popped some Frank Sinatra in the CD player, and headed for home.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Moose for You

Elisabeth called on her cell phone to say she was parked on the side of the road looking at a moose.

She didn’t actually say “na,na,na,na,na” but it was in the tone of her voice: I saw a moose and you didn’t.

We have been going to Maine every summer with few exceptions for over twenty years. We favor the mid-coastal area for it’s beauty, relaxed ambience and because we have friends there. We were visiting them when the call came in from Elisabeth, who was driving up from Boston to join us, that she had accomplished what has eluded me for twenty years: she had seen a moose.

It is not from want of trying that the over-sized ungulate has eluded me. Every year I drive around at dusk seeking out marshy areas that they favor. I go on early morning moose stake-outs. Many years ago, I found a marshy, sandy area behind a newish subdivision that was chock-a-block with moose tracks. As often as I could, I would stake myself out behind a dune or bush and await the beast whose huge kaddidle hoppers had made the tracks. It never came to pass. Once, I met a woman back there who was berry picking. I asked if she had ever seen a moose. “Often,” she replied, “Take my word; you don’t want to run into one up close. It’s scary.” Indeed, but probably no more scary than running into an over-weight old guy in a bucket hat and shorts lurking behind a blueberry bush.

I would like to see a moose, not engage with it. A friend of mine came close to having this type of encounter. While on a fishing trip at a lake Canada, he had waded a short distance off shore. Suddenly, he was engulfed in a stomach turning odor which he described as a potpourri of every bad smell imaginable: backed-up septic, rotting flesh, extreme halitosis. He turned to see a bull moose giving him the old stink eye from shore. Fortunately it wandered off.

While we were in Maine, Kris, my son, was attending a bachelor party at Moosehead Lake. As the name implies, this is in the heart of moose country. He emailed a host of moosian snaps showing the big lugs dining, bathing, and basking in the sun. “Dad,” he wrote, “if you want to see a moose you have to come here.” I am sure in the world in which he lives moose in northern Maine are as common as squirrels. However, I live in a mooseless parallel universe, so I am sure I would schlep all the way up there and find, well, squirrels.

Granted, coastal Maine is not where they are most common in the state. They are common enough, however. Some years ago one leaped through the plate glass window of a laundromat in Rockland in broad daylight causing several people to re-soil their freshly washed undies.

The moose has become a monkey on my back. Friends and family who have moosed don’t hesitate to share their good fortune with me. I wouldn’t call it out-and-out gloating, but it is borderline. We have a niece and her family who live in southern Maine. Their children, like everyone else in the family, are aware of my condition moosewise. They have sent me pictures of moose they have taken in their backyard, stuffed toy moose, refrigerator magnets, etc. They even sent me a book about a boy who despite obsessive searching has never seen a moose. Lo and behold, he gives it up. As soon as he stops looking, he sees one.

I tried it, but not looking produced the same result as looking and looking is a lot more fun.

I’ll keep searching because someday my moose will come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Re-Run

We are off to Maine for a week of lobster eating and probably freezing our butts off.
Since, I expect my hands to be dripping butter and clam goo all week, it would be messy for me to attempt to type a blog.

So, enjoy this entry from our trip last year. I hope I finally see a moose.


I fell when we were up in Maine last week.

Here’s what happened:

My wife, Kathie, and I always visit Pemaquid Beach when we are up there. It isn’t much of a beach by New Jersey standards. It’s rocky and weedy and the water is cold. Still, it is beautiful in a Maine way and the scene of many happy memories from the days when we went up there with the kids every year.

Then, they never enforced the two dollar per person admission charge and you could evade it altogether by entering the beach at one of its ends, rather than the main entrance. Now they are making a more concerted effort to collect it. Kathie dropped me at the end that required me to walk through a swamp to access the beach. She went to the parking lot and paid her two bucks.

After wading through the muck, I had to climb a huge mound of sand that had been placed where the swamp trail meets the beach in an apparent effort to block it. I climbed up and over this obstacle and was on the beach. Hey, two bucks is two bucks.

I found Kathie and she said she could not carry my chair and book from the parking lot. I took her ticket stub so I didn’t have to pay admission to get back on the beach and went to fetch my things.

As I was returning along the sandy path that wound in front of the concession stand and passed some picnic tables before leading to the beach, I was feeling all happy and content with my two buck savings. As usual, this was when disaster struck.

Suddenly, I lost my footing and lurched forward in a Spiral of Doom. My falls are rambling, sprawling affairs with lots of arm flapping and leg wagging ala Ray Bolger’s Straw Man.

I came to earth under a picnic table at which a late middle age woman was seated talking on her cell phone. She looked at my twisted corpse in shock and said to her phone mate: “I have to go. A man has just fallen at my feet.” Now, you know the chance to utter those words must have made her day, if not her entire vacation.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “You fell a long way.”
“Not so far,” I replied. “I’m only five foot ten.”
“No. You started to fall over there,” she said pointing at a spot 25 feet away. “ I thought for a second you were going to recover, but then you seemed to give up.” She sounded disappointed in me.

I realized I was having a conversation with someone from under a picnic table and decided now was a good time to get up and take stock.
“ I seem to be fine. Sorry for interrupting your conversation.”
I immediately launched an investigation into the causes of this calamity. I suspected divine retribution for my admission fee evasion, but soon found solid physical evidence for a more mundane explanation.

My efforts revealed the following: I tripped on a root that was hidden by the sand in the path; and I was wearing sandals.

The Witness said that she would report the root to management. In New Jersey this would have resulted in the whole area being sealed off with crime scene tape and the beach being evacuated until it could be determined if foul play was involved. This is Maine, however. Since the root was as thick as my arm, I suspected it has been happily tripping fee evaders and payers for generations.

The sandal thing is another story. I hate sandals. The only reason I was wearing them was that I was at the beach and I had a momentary brain freeze that made me think I could get away with it. Sandals, in my view, are a public health hazard. I believe New Jersey, a state that requires wearing a crash helmet for most human activities, is about to require helmets and kneepads when sandals are worn.

It should come as no surprise that people who REALLY don’t want to fall-high iron workers, tight rope walkers, mountain climbers-don’t wear sandals. I saw a History Channel special that revealed that the Fall of Rome was caused by the fact that all of the occupants were wearing sandals at the time.

Anyway, I thanked the Witness, gathered my scattered belongings and headed for the beach. Just to cover the retribution thing, next time I paid the admission.

Friday, July 17, 2009


As the Father of Pants Pocket Photography (PPP) I am pleased to announce that it is sweeping the country.

Based on overwhelming response to my last blog ("Pocket Shots") introducing the new art form it is evident that Americans from coast-to-coast are PPPing in their pants and loving it.

Funnun submitted a wonderful example she shot inside her habit. It is titled “Pocket Full of Miracles.” The good sister reports: “I haven’t had this much fun since the diocese banned corporal punishment.”

Another reader, Stopnstart, credits the photo sensation with easing his prostate condition.
“Since I started PPPing, my gonads have shrank,” he gleefully proclaims. Three cheers for your gonads, Stopnstart.

Fashionista worries that tight pants aficionados may be excluded from the fun. Fashionista, either get a smaller camera or loosen up!

Canman, a California proctologist, reports a technical breakthrough: “I have found my ColonCam works perfectly for Pants Pocket Photography. I can even double bill Blue Cross.” I think that may be cheating, Canman.

I am thinking of running a contest of reader submissions. I don’t want to spring for a prize though, so I am looking for a sponsor. That credit card company would be a good bet. They would just have to change their slogan to “What’s in your pocket?”

How about the AARP? They should jump on the bandwagon. We geezers take millions of inadvertent cell phone shots inside our pants. Now it can be perceived as a form of artistic expression, and not the onset of mental deterioration….. that can be their motto: “It’s not Alzheimer’s, it’s art.”

There’s a fly in the ointment though. I just got an email from the lawyer for Billy Mays estate saying that, prior to his demise, he was set to promo a Pants Pocket Cam for $19.99 (order right now and I’ll double the offer). Too bad, Billy. Guess I will just have to mop up my tears with my Shamoo and huckster on without you.

Singleagain sounds a cautionary note, however. His wife left him after she spotted his wedding ring, six beer bottle caps, a motel room key and a condom in his first Pants Pocket Photo. This isn’t cinema verite, singleagain. A little artistic editing is recommended.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pocket Shots

No, the photo above is not a lost work by Mark Rothko. It is the first work in a new art form, invented by me: pants pocket photography. I call this work, “Left Pocket, Blue Shorts.”

Like most great cultural discoveries it happened by accident. Several months ago as my son was cleaning all the old messages and photos from my cell phone, he remarked: “Dad, do you know you have a few gazillion photos of the inside of your pants?”

“No,” I replied, “why would I take pictures inside my trousers?”

“You probably did it by accident. With your cell phone turned on in your pocket you probably squeezed off a few shots every time you moved or turned. Didn’t you hear the clicking sound?

“Yes,” I responded, “but I thought it was my trick knee sounding off. It comes as a relief to learn it was my phone.”

“Do you want to save them?”, he asked.

I looked at the pictures all of which had a dark, murky, mysterious look about them with strange unidentifiable shapes floating like creatures at the bottom of a sea cave.

Somewhat embarrassed as I was presented with the evidence of yet another technology gaff on my part, I told him to go ahead and delete.

Now when I am walking I prevent this from happening by keeping a tight grip on the phone. Of course, the sight of a man with his hand thrust deep in his pocket grasping a hard cylindrical object, causes many of my fellow walkers to cut me a wide berth (“Is that a cell phone you’re clutching, or are you just happy to see me.”).

Upon consideration, however, I rued my haste in sending this material into oblivion. This could be the Next Big Thing. A photographer friend of mine does very nicely by taking photos of leaves in various undulating positions. He gets big bucks and has had shows at Madison Avenue galleries.

If pictures of his lawn sweepings are grist for the artistic mill, why not an in-depth study of the unexplored world of pockets? The galleries will eat it up.

The picture above is my first effort. You, dear reader, are in at the birth of a major movement.

I shot this picture by sticking the lens of my Nikon digital SLR camera into my pocket. The blasted thing won’t shoot if there is not enough light, so I had to insert a small flash light as well. Why didn’t I use shots right off my cell phone? Simple, I couldn’t figure out how to get them from my phone to the computer.

The tan objects you see in the photo are rubber bands. I keep them handy to fire at snot nose brats who walk on my lawn or at those annoying cat birds that seem to be everywhere. I shoved a supply in my shorts about a month ago and there they will reside until the clothes drier melts them into a solid lump. The black object is my cigar cutter which, frankly, I am surprised to see since I had given it up for lost.

See if you can guess the name of this work:

That’s right, “Pocket Full of Rye.” You catch on quick.

The expressive possibilities of this art form are limitless. Once I have fully explored the depths of my drawers, I will be asking celebrities to shove a camera in their own bottoms.

Stick around and see what develops.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Califon Carnival

The Califon Carnival has ended. This event held the first week in July and sponsored by the local volunteer fire company is the official start of summer in our community.

It is five nights of food, rides, games of chance, and fireworks. It is the highlight of the Califon social calendar, which doesn’t say much for the Califon social calendar.

It is small by most standards encompassing a football field size lot with perhaps a dozen rides, an equal number of games, and a few concession stands.

And like most things Califon, it is journey to a simpler past. It is exactly like the fireman’s carnivals I used to attend as boy during the summers at our lake cottage. It hasn’t changed in the 32 years that I have been attending. They switch a few rides around, add some new features, but the core remains the same.

The kids love it. Kathie and I still go. Now that our children are grown and gone, our grand nieces and nephews are the main reason for our attendance. Our nieces begin asking us around Christmas if there will be a carnival this year.

They came again last week and a fine time was had by all. Faces were painted, cotton candy consumed, and enormous sums of money spent in pursuit of winning each child a cheap trinket.

When we got back home, we sat out in the bank parking lot next to our house and watched the fireworks. Eventhough, you can’t see the ground displays from there, we have an unobstructed view of the aerial works. Years ago, our neighbors down the lane used to carry the wicker sofa from their porch up to the lot and sit and sip their beers while taking in the show.

Many “townies” go every night just to feast on clams, burgers, and the best funnel cake anywhere, while sitting at a picnic table under the bright carnival lights.

We did as well when our kids were in their early, pre-driving, teens. The carnival is a big deal with this set who dress-up in their latest duds to strut and flirt among their peers. We, like many parents, would go, take a seat on a strategically placed bench, catch up on the latest news and gossip, and keep an eye on things.

Though the carnival is still a big deal, it was a bigger deal years ago. In the days before reality TV kept people glued to their sofas, they would come from miles around to attend.

Cars would fill the town. They would park everywhere with total impunity: in driveways, on lawns, where ever they could squeeze regardless if they blocked someone else. My neighbor, a large man who wore overalls, would discourage would-be parkers by sitting on his front porch with the light on, a baseball bat clearly visible on his lap.

One night a car carrying four outlanders pulled right into my other neighbor’s side yard without so much as a by-your-leave, locked up, and marched off to the carnival. Unfortunately, they failed to note that the neighbors septic had backed up into her yard in precisely that location.

Upon their return, the revelers’ car became stuck in what they took to be mere mud. Three of them got out to push and noticed that the substance splashing on their clothes was of a more pungent, organic nature. Cries of anguish and disgust filled the air as they freed their car and proceeded on their long and odiferous journey home.

Well, this is starting to sound too much like the “Prairie Home Companion”, so enough already.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Portrait of the Artist of an Old Man

George Viener, Director of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery, left a message the other day with exciting news: two of my wood carvings, Father of His Country and Eve of Liberty, have sold and I will be a featured artist in the gallery during July and August.

The gallery, which is based in Reading, PA, specializes in outsider and folk art. Both are the work of self-taught artists. So,what is the difference? The proprietor of a Manhattan folk art gallery has this to say on his web site: “Outsiders live on the margins of American life. Folk artists live in the mainstream. Outsiders are often troubled people living their lives in isolation or, frequently, they find themselves institutionalized because of emotional or mental instabilities or incarcerated because of criminal conduct. Folk artists are everyday Americans, with families and friends, and homes, and mortgages, and pets, and soccer games, and tuition, and church, and bills, and debt, often with full-time jobs.”

Clearly, he takes a dim view of outsider artists, but manages to make folk artists sound like Republicans. Based on his character description, it could go either way for me. Maybe because I haven’t been institutionalized yet, most people, if they consider my work art at all, consider it folk art. I don’t think much about such things. As I say on my bio on the gallery web site:” I do what I do, and it is what it is.” (Note: the use of two clichés in one sentence, though a crime, is not enough to get me categorized as an outsider artist.)

George took an interest in my work after I had bombarded him with emails urging him to visit my blog site, Several months ago, at his invitation, I took some of my carvings out there. He liked them, but was not sure where they would fit in the gallery at that time. We agreed that he would keep them and try to sell them on the gallery web site.

His phone message was followed by several days of missed calls and intense fantasizing on my part. As befits a borderline outsider artist, I am bi-polar in my wool gathering.

In my manic mode, I convince myself that the American Folk Art Museum is the buyer of the pieces and that I can now quadruple my price. I am picturing my grandson taking his children there and saying: “The American art treasures encased over there were carved by your great grandfather. You come from a proud legacy, my dears.”

In my depressive mode, I am sure they will break in transit and the buyers will demand their money back. Or worse yet, one of their children will poke his eye out on George Washington’s sword and they will sue me for every dime I have.

Anyway, I am relieved to hear from George Viener. The buyers are collectors from Louisiana and really like my work. I will be a featured artist at the Outsider Folk Art Gallery for July and August.

I am very pleased. This is a highly regarded gallery in this niche of the art world, and I never in the world expected to sell anything. When I told my daughter the good news she said: “Well, you topped Van Gogh. He never sold anything in his lifetime.” At least I have cleared that hurdle. In case you are wondering, Vincent Van Gogh, although he meets most aspects of the aforementioned expert’s description of an outsider artist, ironically, would not be considered one since he received extensive art training.

But now I worry that perhaps these Louisiana buyers live on the Gulf coast and my art might be lost to history in a catastrophic flood like what happened to that potter in Mississippi or Alabama whose name I don’t remember who would never sell any of his work only to have all his pots broken in a gigundus hurricane. Well, as the philosopher once said: nothing breeds anxiety like success.

I will enjoy the moment, though, and not let it go to my head. Speaking of which, I wonder how I would look in a beret?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Navigator

I purchased a Garman.

This is a little GPS gizmo that gives you real time driving directions in a firm, but friendly, female voice. I think they chose a female voice because most men are married, or have significant others, and are used to taking orders from women (“Dear, if I follow your directions can we make whoopee tonight?). Women on the other hand are probably more comfortable with some sisterly advice than with the ravings of a bullying male. (“What the hell is wrong with you? You missed our damn turn!”).

I am liking the little thing so far, since I have absolutely no sense of direction. Whichever way I am heading feels like up, or north, to me. I have to turn the map with the direction I am supposed to be heading pointed up to determine if my next turn is a right or left. The whole sun thing doesn’t work for me either, because I can never remember if it rises in the east and sets in the west or the other way around. Aside: I wonder if people who have a sense of direction feel like they are going down, or falling, when they are heading south?

I waited to get one because they have been expensive and Kathie and I had a bad experience with one on a rental car in Florida. The directions said that tapping the home prompt would route us to the Budget Rental desk at the Tampa/St. Pete airport. Instead, it took us to an alligator infested swamp in what we assumed was the Everglades. This being Florida, an airport or Wal-Mart will appear there soon, but we couldn’t wait.

It has been useful in my job with the Census. I was recently sent to Trenton, a city with which I am totally unfamiliar, to do some address canvassing. My little Garman got me to my start point with no problem. After a tiring day of walking the streets, dodging free-range pit bulls, and a near fatal encounter with a kielbasa and kraut on rye, it was nice to not have to worry about finding my way home when I returned to my car. When the screen prompted “Where to?, I just tapped home and off I went smooth as pie.

I think the Garman folks are missing the boat though. They should come with a device that helps us navigate the highways and byways of human intercourse. Such a device would eliminate panicky name groping (“The male approaching from your left is Steve Donnelly, your neighbor. Be sure to inquire about his prostate.”); or skillfully reroute us when we have wandered astray on the Rue de Faux Pas (BEEP, BEEP, ROUTE CORRECTION: “Oh, it must be that stunning, loose fitting frock you are wearing that led me to inquire if you are pregnant. Where DID you get it?").
For someone like me who spends so much time on the Rue de Faux Pas that he is considering buying a pied-a-terre there, such a device would be very useful indeed.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Well, my job with the Census Bureau has come to an end….at least for now.

The next phase will start in August and we are told that we have a good chance of being called back because we have experience. I doubt this will happen. I think the Government way is to re-invent the wheel, dismantle this temporary bureaucracy, and replace it with another with all new employees.

We were told the job would last ten weeks and it barely made it to five.

So what next? Clearly there is no income to be derived from blogging. I read in the Times yesterday (“Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest”) bloggers are abandoning their little corners of the internet in record numbers. According to a survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million of the 133 million blogs the company tracks have been updated in the past 120 days. “That translates to 95 per cent of blogs being essentially abandoned,” the article reports, “left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream-or at least an ambition-unfulfilled.”

Of course, the major reason for this is failure to attract readers and, even if readers are attracted, the inability to translate that into income. Book deals are few and far between.

Oh well, there is always pooper scooping. Another article in the Times reports that this is a real growth industry with franchises sprouting up that do millions a year in business. The premise is that armed with a pooper scooper you hire yourself out for $12-$15 a week to pick up Fido’s deposits in people’s yards. Apparently, even in these hard times, people are unwilling to pick up their own pet’s crap.

There is even a trade association for these folks: The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. Companies in the field have clever names like DoodyCalls and Poop Patrol and slogans like “we are number one in the number two business.”

It is claimed that an independent poop professional with 20 or so clients can generate an income of $30,000 a year.

I may take a shot at this. First, I need a name. Doodie Howser, Canine Crapologist, has a classy ring to it. Or how about Dr. Doo-Little? Or The Feces Fanatic? Actually, I am kind of partial to Scat-Man-Doo. If you, dear reader, have any suggestions feel free to unburden yourself, so to speak.

Even though most of the franchises have cute little uniforms (not brown, I hope) for their workers, I would prefer to be incognito. However, I think it is absolutely necessary to have specialized footwear. I have designed shoes that have bald, Teflon coated soles. Take it from someone who has been there, there is nothing worse than trying to dig fresh dog poop out of sneaker treads with a toothpick.

AHA!!! I have just had a Eureka moment. With all of that abandoned bullshit fouling up the internet, there might be a market for a blog pooper scooper. For a low fee, I will wander hosting service sites tidying up the “public remnants” of abandoned dreams. And no special footwear is required!

Friday, May 22, 2009

While I was Working

Sorry, I had to leave the room for awhile to go to work.

Three weeks ago, I started my temporary job as census worker.

I am not allowed to discuss what I do because Title 13 of the Privacy Act says that if I blab I will get 250,000 years in jail or a $7 fine. Maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, you get it: loose lips sink ships.

Without getting specific, the job involves a great deal of stomping around with hand held computer and GPS device plotting where people live. It’s kind of fun in a way, but I have had my unsettling moments. I will have more to reveal when the statute of limitations expires.

It’s a pretty simple job actually, and the computer guides you along. Naturally, since this is the Federal Government, there is an 800 page training manual and 200 page handbook that we must carry with us at all times.

Speaking of scary, here is my favorite safety tip from the training manual: “As you walk towards your vehicle, scan beneath the vehicle for persons waiting to charge out at your ankles.” I think this constitutes an official recognition on the part of the Federal Government of the existence of elves. Now that this thought is planted in my head, each time I pull away from the curb I tense up awaiting the agonized death scream of a squished elf.

This is my first visit to my blog since I started working. As I am not allowed to talk about what I do, and since that is all I am doing, I don’t have much else to say.

I note, however, that there have been more visitors to my blog since I stopped writing. If this trend continues, I may stop altogether and really push this thing over the top. It’s almost like you guys decided that this isn’t a bad place to hang out now that Elvis left the building.

I still get dozens of visitors seeking info on George Clooney’s hair (see “George Clooney Stole My Haircut” and “George Clooney Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”). This is global phenomenon with people checking in from China, Madagascar, Korea and the Middle East. Curiously, there have been no inquiries from the land of my ancestors, Scandinavia.

I think this is because they are all natural blondes whose hair looks great all by itself, so they don’t give a crap what gloop Clooney puts on his pathetic mop.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I don’t know when I will be able to check in again. Not to worry, you seem to be doing fine without me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Note to Earth

I’m sorry I didn’t send you a card on Earth Day.

I was angry with you at the time. Elisabeth, who was visiting us last week, asked me to recycle my water bottle, since it was Earth Day, and I responded with “up earth’s ass.” These words were no sooner out of my mouth than they were on her Facebook page. So I am sure you heard about it.

All I was trying to do was plant a lousy hydrangea. A two foot hole for cripes sake. But you have to go and park a boulder the size of a Camaro right where the thing was going. A simple job requiring a cute little spade became an epic struggle with pick axe and shale bar. Since it is about the hundredth time you’ve pulled this little stunt, you’d think the gag would be getting stale. But nooooooooo. I swear I could hear you chuckling.

And since I am complaining, would it kill you to lighten up on the gravity thing? This might help us both. I recently read that obese people produce more methane gas than average weight folks. If you cranked the gravity down a scoach, I would go from a chunky 210 to a svelte 160 and you wouldn’t have that nasty smell that’s hurting your popularity with the other planets.

What’s that you say? You have laws and they cannot be broken? What are you, the Planet Nazi? Today’s management style calls for flexibility.

We blame ourselves for a lot of your problems, but, frankly, I don’t think you were doing that great a job running the show before we got here. You decide to freeze everyone’s ass for about million years just for the heck of it. You can’t blame that on us because we were wandering around the savannas of Africa at the time trying to figure out what to do with our tails now that you hid all the trees.

Just ask the dinosaurs. Oh, that’s right you can’t because they’re extinct along with 75 percent of the species on the planet at the end of the Jurassic because you couldn’t trouble yourself to get out of the way of a measly asteroid. They don’t teach the side step or hitting the brakes in planet school? A little defensive driving might do you some good.

And what is with this whole fang and claw, survival of the fittest, extinction thing? A tad insensitive for modern times, don’t you think? Here’s an idea: have Simon, Paula and the gang decide which species get to move on to the next round. This might not be that much more humane but it could be a hit and put a few bucks in your pocket. We all know your resources are not what they used to be.

And another thing: ease up on the volcanoes and tsunamis. They are scaring us and not helping property values at the shore. Who ever told you that bouncing continents off each other was a good idea anyway? It’s seems pretty childish to me. Maybe it’s time you grew up. You are 5 billion years old after all.

I hope this clears the air. And about that water bottle: I did recycle it. I hope this helps.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Novel

All of my sure fire, money making schemes-the blog, the website, the wood carving-are coming up dry. So it is time to switch to Plan D: I am writing a novel.

This is classic JerThink. What better time to launch my literary venture than the worst period in the history of publishing when many suggest books are on the verge of extinction?
Hey, ya gotta start sometime.

I don’t have a plot yet, but I do have the first sentence: “The bowling ball whizzed by narrowly missing his nose.” Nose as the named body part felt right from the get-go because I thought proboscis sounded hoity-toity.

I tried many objects, however, before I decided to go with bowling ball. I chose it because it gives me a great deal of flexibility. This could be a science-fiction work about a race of aliens who make a sport of exterminating humans by pegging us with bowling balls; or one of those very popular serial killer detective stories about an embittered pin spotter who turned homicidal after his job got automated in 1956; or one of those disaster epics about a tornado that takes out a sporting goods store.

I even have the title: “Himself.” Once again, since I am sans plot, I am looking for flexibility here. This could be about anything that features a male protagonist; or it could be one of those heart-wrenching memoirs about growing up poor in Ireland (note to reader: I did not grow up poor in Ireland, but faked memoirs are huge these days).

Kathie takes issue with the name. She says that any title that has the “him” word, or any derivative, is going to lose the female dominated book club market. The only exceptions might be “He Sucks” or “Him a Jerk.” Apparently, since the advent of internet pornography, men have abandoned reading altogether.

However, she notes that books containing the words wife or daughter in their title are sure fire hits. She suggests “Himself’s Wife”, the heart-breaking tale of a valiant woman’s efforts to keep her dysfunctional family together despite the worst efforts of her violent, abusive, alcoholic, sniveling, drooling, Irish husband. She says this will not only make Oprah cry, but will get the book club ladies scampering to Barnes & Noble. I like it.

I don’t even have to change my first sentence. The opening scene can take place in a bowling alley where the violent, abusive, etc., father goes ballistic at his sensitive but unathletic son who has just tossed a gutter ball. Hellllllooooo, Oprah!

I may even run teasers and snippets of the tale in these columns as it unfolds.
Don’t expect anything soon, however, because I feel a writer’s block coming on.

You know the symptoms: You sit at the computer determined to crank out 500 words and next thing you know you are prowling used car sites and googling the whereabouts of the kid who stole your lunch money in third grade.

In fact, I think I will check out what a 2003 Subaru is worth these days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Did Easter Go?

Easter used to be a big deal, but not so much anymore.

We went up to Boston (Natick, actually) to visit the kids and grandson. I even managed to get out of going to church on Easter morning, thus cutting my annual church attendance in half. There were two masses offered at the local church at 7:00 and 9:00 on Easter morning. Elisabeth and I told Kathie we would accompany her to the 9:00, but count us out for the 7:00. She opted for the early mass, thus giving us an extra two hours of sleep while damning our souls to perdition in the process.

She reported that most of the attendees were elderly people. We had brunch at a local café where most of our fellow diners, young family groups mostly, were wearing the usual assortment of faded jeans, rumbled t-shirts and greasy Red Sox caps; not a lacy dress or pill box hat in the crowd.

That’s the way it seems to be for us anyway: Easter is just another Sunday.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was growing up, Easter was right up there with Christmas on the holidays-to-look-forward-to list. Of course, you had to get through Lent first when you were expected to give up something you liked and keep a Lenten box that you filled with leftovers from your allowance and turned in to the nun on the last day of school before Easter vacation. If you filled it up, you received a glow in the dark statue of the Infant of Prague. It was pretty neat actually.

My sister and I each got a new set of clothes and my mom got a new hat. My Dad’s standing joke was that he got a new pair of shoelaces. I don’t recall if I got a new suit every year, but I vividly recall getting a handsome grey suit with pink pin stripes when I was ten or eleven. This was a very hot color combo in the fifties. We were going to my aunt’s for Easter dinner and while waiting outside for my parents I got to running around with some friends in the vacant lot next door. I fell and tore the knee out of my new suit.

I don’t recall if I was punished but remember that my mother cried, the worst form of punishment I could receive.

We believed in the Easter Bunny, although not with the fervor with which we embraced Santa Claus. A large rabbit who delivered candy and colored eggs was a stretch even for naïve children of the fifties. Still a basket of candy appeared every Easter Sunday morning and we sure as hell weren’t asking any questions.

We made a big deal about it when our kids were little: dying eggs for the bunny to hide, putting the baskets out after they went to bed, and getting dressed up for church. Kathie didn’t get a new hat and I didn’t get shoelaces since I always preferred laceless shoes.

I can’t imagine kids still believe in the Easter Bunny today, though they might say they do. I miss the big fella. Here, on the day after Easter, there is not a piece of chocolate or a hard boiled egg to be found; no sugar egg that you can hold up to your eye and view an Easter scene; no marshmallow chicks or jelly beans.

I guess to recapture the Easter spirit I will have to get in touch with my Inner Rabbit. He says his name is Harvey.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hold the Phone

We got a mini cam for the computer.

This was my son’s suggestion. They have a camera built into their Mac and he thought if we were similarly equipped we could have video chats with our grandson.

Seemed like a great idea, but I don’t have $1,800 right now to drop on yet another computer.

He thought I might be able to get a mini cam that would work on our Dell laptop at a reasonable cost. Sure enough, a visit to Best Buy hooked me up with a cam with a built-in microphone for under 100 bucks.

I clipped the camera to the laptop screen, loaded some softwear, turned the thing on and a wrinkled visage that was a composite of the worst of Yoda and Joba the Hut was staring back at me from the screen. Holy crap, do I really look that bad. This was a vision that would surely stunt the growth of any one year old.

The next step was to go on the Skype site and download the free software. Skype is the web site that enables you to have video conversations with anyone else who is also signed up. It is free.

This all went pretty smoothly and soon we were having very nice visits with our grandson and his family.

I am amazed by this technology and pretty pleased with myself for pulling it off. However, I am sure it has been around for awhile. Usually by the time I hear of something like this it has already peaked and is on the slippery slope to obsolescence. Given its ramifications for the phone sex industry, I’ll bet it has already been explored and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry with its own trade association. In the process I am sure it has already put out of work hundreds of ex-truck drivers who had been posing as dominatetrixes.

Still I don’t think it will replace the good old voice phone. The cordless phone was a bigger leap because it freed us to do other things while talking with friends and business associates. Who hasn’t chatted with dear old mom while seated on the crapper? This would be awkward on the video phone.

Also, one can no longer use the stress relieving hand gestures we have all grown used to. No more flipping the bird while talking soothingly to that angry client berating you on the phone, or tucking it under your chin and firing a double bird as he rants on. Who hasn’t held the phone away from their ear and executed the universal blah-blah-blah sign as Aunt Matilda wound on for another hour about the novena she had recently attended?

I read that the next generation of phones will produce a life-size 3-D image of the person with whom you are speaking right in your home or office. Excuse me, but I thought the point of talking to people on the phone was to keep them out of your home or office.

Now that annoying insurance salesman will appear sitting with his legs crossed in your favorite chair asking for a martini.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adios, Florida

We just got back from Florida.

It was a great trip. We had lots of quality time and laughs with the sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

I like Florida. Kathie has reservations. This is an ongoing debate with us: is this a place we should at least spend part of the year when we are both retired? I am in the “yes” camp, she is not so sure.

I like being outdoors and away from our Jersey winters. This one has been especially difficult and I have felt as though I have been sliding on ice for the last four months, when I haven’t been chopping it or falling on it. And since I am no longer commuting, the housebound thing has been getting to me.

Kathie doesn’t like all the out of control development. Granted, it is a little bizarre to see new shopping malls going up alongside recently abandoned ones.

This trip, however, we decided to get in touch with Florida’s wild side.

We took a drive to Myakka State Park, a wild life preserve that features air boat rides and canopy walks to observe the local flora and fauna.

As usual, we got lost getting there and drove through some scrubby areas that, while free of condos and strip malls, were heavy on ranches that all resembled the place where the Manson family used to hang out.

By the time we found the park it was well passed noon. Since we had to have the rental car back by 3:00, that pretty much ruled out the air boat trip since the next one was scheduled for 2:30. We took a drive around the park and stopped at the various observation areas. We saw lots of wild life including gators, feral pigs, and Osprey. We also saw a motorcycle gang which looked much more dangerous than any of the animals.

We went back to the concession area and got on a long line to buy lunch. In fact, we spent a fair portion of our remaining time on the line. When we got close enough to read the menu we saw that it featured such items as alligator stew and pulled pork sandwiches. I said to Kathie: "This is really neat; first we get to observe the animals in their natural habitat, and then we get to eat them for lunch." I guess they were out of Osprey burgers that day.

When we finished we took a walk on the Nature Loop. This is a schlep through the jungle where you have the chance to observe the infinite variety of souvenir tee shirts worn by other tourists. We did not see one animal, not even a squirrel.

The canopy walk wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either. You climb a whole bunch of stairs and then navigate a 30 foot walk suspended at tree top level. There is not much to see except, well, the tops of trees. It is fun, however, to jump up and down on the bridge and scare the crap out of your wife.

Although we didn’t see them, there are dangerous animals other than alligators in Florida. The coral snake is probably the one you would least like to have camping out in your pants, since it bite is deadly.

In all the years we have been coming here, I have gone out of my way to prevent Kathie from learning of their presence, since it is a remote risk that she would ever encounter one and since her knowing that even one was in the entire state would knock Florida permanently off the potential Andersen habitat list.

At Myakka, I pounced and led her away as soon as I noticed her starting to read about the snakes that reside in the park.

However, a few days later while touring a sugar baron’s restored mansion with my guard down, I saw her reading one of the exhibit signs and heard her cry out: MY GOD, there are coral snakes here!!!???”

Well, adios Florida.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Test, Part 2

Not been able to concentrate on the latest doings of the Bachelor? Oblivious to the current caterwauling on American Idol?

You must be on tenterhooks waiting to learn if our Dilated Dynamo recovered his eyesight in time to take the census taker’s exam.

Squirm no more, all is about to be revealed.

If you have not read The Test, Part 1, my last blog, I suggest you do so now. Upon completion you may decide you don’t give a rat’s ass and can spare yourself Part 2.

I arrived home from my eye exam with just 45 minutes to spare before I had to leave for Clinton, a ten mile drive, to take the census test. Still feeling like the girl with kaleidoscope eyes, I decided to snooze for a few minutes in an attempt to stabilize my vision. No luck.

Next I scoured the house in a search for sun glasses. No luck.
I stopped at Rite Aid on the way and picked up a pair of clip-ons.
Unfortunately, when I got to the car and attempted to put them on, I discovered there was a large tag affixed to the nose bridge with one of those confounded plastic gizmos that are impossible to break. Not having anything to cut it, I rode the next eight miles with the tag flapping in front of my eyes. It didn’t matter that much, since I was blind already. It’s scary to contemplate how many idiots like me may be driving around out there risking life, limb and the public safety to take a test for a low paying, part time job.

Somehow I made it to the Clinton Library, the site of the test, with 15 minutes to spare. I dashed in and asked the librarian to direct me to the test room. The fact that she took two steps back and reached for what I assumed was an alarm button, reminded me to remove my tag-encumbered sun glasses.

I entered the test room and found 12 other applicants already seated and filling out their preliminary forms. I took a seat at a table with three other men. All were retired and all had been employed by ATT or Lucent Technologies. A sense of doom crept over me: not only was I blind, but I was competing for a bureaucratic position with a bunch of bureaucrats. I tried to concentrate on my forms as they whined on about the sad state of their pensions and 401Ks.

The moderator, also an ATT&T vet, launched into his spiel about the exam. I don’t remember everything he said, but he stressed the fact that if we had a criminal record it was unlikely we would get a position even if we passed the test. One gentleman got up and left the room. I hoped I had locked my car.

He also emphasized the importance of not writing on the exam paper, and directed us to confine our notes and calculations to the answer sheet and scrap paper.

He passed out the exam and told us we had 30 minutes to complete the 28 questions which were divided into 6 categories. I don’t remember all of them but they included organization, math, reading and management skills.

Pencils ready, and off! Panic sets in right off the bat when I realize the questions are badly blurred. I discover the best way to bring them into focus is to remove my glasses and bring my nose as close to the paper as I can. This disconcerts the woman across from me who either thinks I am so brilliant that I have time to doze off, or that I am having a spell.

I struggle with the organization section of the test pretty much as I have struggled with the organization section of my life. The math is even worse. The 7s look like 1s and the 3s look like 8s. Half way through the math, the moderator announces there are fifteen minutes remaining. I glance to the right side of my answer sheet and see I have four more sections to complete after the current one. In addition, I notice that I have been calculating and doodling all over the test paper in clear violation of Federal regulations. Visions of spending my golden years at Levenworth pass through my head as I frantically erase.

Panic gives way to despair. I don’t want to be a Census taker anyway. Who wants to be crawling around a trailer park in the dead of night trying to figure out who is married to which cousin? Besides, what do you expect, I’m blind for cripe's sake.

I catch a break when I blow through the reading section in 2 minutes flat. The rest is a blur, mentally as well as physically. I answer the last question and put my pencil down just as time expires.

We wait while the moderator grades our exams. I am convinced I have failed and determine that I will not take it again. I just hope he doesn’t read our grades out in front of the whole group as the nuns used to do back in grade school or say something snotty about all the erasures on my test form.

He doesn’t. He calls me over and tells me that I have passed and answered 24 of the 28 questions correctly. How this can be possible, I don’t ask.

When I get outside I put my sunglasses back on, tag flapping proudly in the afternoon breeze, and head for home.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Test, Part 1

I may soon be working for Obama. That’s right, ridin’ with the federales.

How so, you ask? On Monday, I took the test to be a U.S. Census taker.

It was an interesting day. I had a long overdue visit with my eye doctor scheduled for 9:00 AM on February 23. Unfortunately, they were only giving the Census test once in our area for the foreseeable future, also on February 23 at 1:00PM. Since I no longer have a life, I don’t often have scheduling conflicts, but this was a beaut. I knew the eye doc would be dilating my pupils which causes me difficulty in seeing in general and driving in particular. I wondered if I would be able to read the test, even if I got there.

I wasn’t too concerned since there was a four hour period between the dilation and the exam, more than enough time for the effects to wear off.

Off course, it didn’t go that way. I got to the eye center at 8:45 to find the waiting room chock-a-block with very old ladies. Seems the doctor was running 40 minutes late already. Usually, when you are being dilated, a tech comes out and zaps you while you are in the waiting room, so that you are ready to go when you are called into the office. No one came to do me.

I sat there for 40 minutes. The old gals almost drove me crazy. One regaled everyone about how she was an hour early, but it didn’t matter, she had no place else to go. “I guess I need cataract surgery on my brain,” she quipped. When she checked in, the receptionist informed her that she was not an hour early, but a week late, since she was scheduled for the 16th, not the 23rd. “Today is not the 16th?,” she said. “I guess I need cataract surgery on my brain.” Another was regaling the poor soul next to her about her “deceased pussy,” presumably her cat. Yet another yelled across the room to her daughter on three occasions to inquire if she had change for a $20 bill.

At 9:45 I was rescued by a nurse who led me to the examining room and immediately dilated me. The doctor arrived ten minutes later, checked me out and decided I wasn’t dilating fast enough and added more drops.

When he began the exam, I asked if he thought I would be in shape to take a written exam at 1:00. “It looks iffy to me,” was his professional opinion.

When all was done at 10:30 my exit into the parking lot was like Timothy Leary waking from a bad trip. The world was awash in blinding light and throbbing colors and populated with unidentifiable moving objects I could only assume were autos and pedestrians. Somehow I drove the 15 miles to my house without incident. At least I think so, since I have seen no hit and run fatalities reported in the paper.

I got home at 11:15 and realized that I had just forty five minutes to regain my eyesight before having to drive the ten miles to Clinton to take the census exam.
(to be continued)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Me on Steroids

Move over, A-Rod, Jer-Rod’s on the juice.

That’s right, the roids. No, My Unidentified Dominican Cousin is not shooting it up my arse. I am not a naïve multi-million dollar athlete with a legion of trainers, lawyers, and agents who had no idea what he was putting into his body except “it wasn’t Tic-Tacs.” Mine came from my doctor complete with a 27 page list of possible side-effects.

I went to the doctor because I was experiencing a return of some of the symptoms of the Bell ’s palsy I had contracted sixteen years ago. The symptoms were mild, so he could not be sure if what he was seeing was damage from the first event or signs of a new flare-up.

To be cautious, he prescribed steroid tablets to ease any possible inflammation on the left side of my face, and an anti-viral medication, because that is the protocol with Bell’s these days.

I have never taken steroids before and, frankly, I am impressed. By the second full day on the juice my back, shoulders, and other late life hot spots had ceased to hurt. I was able to increase my daily walk from 2.5 miles to 4 with no additional fatigue. I hauled and stacked 10 forty pound sacks of wood pellets from the barn to the front porch in ten minutes; a task that usually takes a half hour with several stops to stretch out my back.

I felt stronger, younger, and more energetic.

And, you will be pleased to hear, my testicles did not shrivel up like prunes in the dehydrator. This cannot be said for Jose Canseco. I recently watched a real life special about him (this was before I was on the roids and could sit through a 2 hour show about a self-indulged jerk). He goes to his doctor who tells him that his body is no longer creating semen. The doctor is not sure if this is a result of years of steroid abuse, or a side-effect of his affair with Madonna. As cruelly Darwinian as this seems, it is good news to those of us who shuddered at the thought of generations of Jose Cansecos coming down the pipe, so to speak……one and done.

No doubt, the list of side-effects is daunting. It includes such things as thinning skin, puffy face, seizures, black stool, unusual hair growth, severe dizziness, trouble breathing, unusual skin growths, trouble sleeping, and the most mysterious, to me anyway, “coffee-ground” vomit. I have made sure to double filter my coffee for the time I am on the drug. Oddly, it does not include back-acne, which is what we are led to believe coaches and trainers look for to spot steroid abusers in the locker room. If back acne was a felony, I would have been incarcerated between the ages of 16 and 25.

It can also cause delusions (of grandure in A-Rod's and Canseco's cases). I only had one experience of this which occured when I sat down at the dinner table and checked to see if I had my seat belt fastened.

Unfortunately, I have to go off. It has sent my blood pressure skyrocketing. I would rather have inflammation in a facial nerve than run the risk of my head exploding. You have to wean yourself gradually though because, according to the directions,“some conditions may become worse when this drug is suddenly stopped.” Depression is also a possibility caused by suddenly waking up back in a crapped out, aching, 64 year old body.

It was fun while it lasted though and I can see why it appeals to the professional athletes. I wish I could have stayed on it until we went to Florida in March. I bet the roids would have added 20 yards to my golf drive.

It might have been worth thinning skin, unusual hair growth and raisin nuts to accomplish that feat.