Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Irritable Old Man Gets A Christmas Card

The irritable old man is an alter ego who takes the helm once in awhile after I have had a few too many glasses of wine the night before or attended a funeral. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my, er, regular ego.

Who are these people, anyway?

The Christmas card from the Rourkes is addressed to us and appeared in our mailbox last week. The photo shows four human males and one female all smiling. At the center of the composition is a table bearing two dogs. Since their genitals are prominently displayed, it is apparent they are both males.

One dog ding-dong on a Christmas card is probably okay, but two is over doing it.

With the exception of the dogs, they are all wearing black polo shirts and tan trousers. They look more like the police academy graduating class than a festive family.

Unknown guy senior looks like he could be a cop. Maybe he is the Gestapo bastard who ticketed in me in High Bridge rubbing it in. Or maybe it is his idea of “community policing” to send a Christmas card to some poor slob he just nailed.

Surely they are Republicans and mistake us for their cronies because they wished us “prosperity” in the coming year clearly a reference to their plan to plunder our Social Security and Medicare.

Despite their smiles, the three teenage males look like bullies. I’ll bet they put their black shirts on and go to New York to hobnail stomp some poor Occupy Wall Street dude.

The one dog definitely is part pit bull and probably bitch humps on the other one who is one of those repulsive Pug things.

Almost invisible in the left hand corner sits a mousey female with a cheesy grin. Although judging from her demeanor she might be an abused servant, she is probably the mother of the thugs and wife of the sadistic policeman.

Kathie does not recognize these people and no one we know knows who they are.

“I wonder where they think they know us from?, Kathie asks.

“Either gun club or prayer group, I would guess,” I respond.

I have to admit, I am somewhat put off by the fact that this card came in well after Christmas.

“Should we send them a New Year’s card?,” she asks. This is her fix for dealing with people we have dropped from our Christmas card list because we didn’t get one from them last year only to receive one from them this year. Of course, they will drop us next year while we will re-instate them….and so it goes.

“Although they think they know us,” I reply, “They don’t think enough of us to get our card to us in a timely manner, so the hell with them.”

Who do these people think they are anyway?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Things We Did Last Summer

In case you hadn’t noticed, no new posting has appeared on these pages since last July. Of course you hadn’t noticed, but I will explain my absence anyway.

By the way, thanks to my good friend Googlebot who faithfully visited three times a day and accounted for thirty per cent of my readership during the Absence.

Also, a check of my site meter reveals that many of you continued to come here looking for information on how to get a haircut like George Clooney. Get over it: I posted “George Clooney Stole My Haircut” three years ago and I am sure he has changed his hairstyle sixteen times since then. I, of course, have not changed mine.

The long and short of it is I decided to take the summer off. Okay, it is almost November, but I am retired and lose track of time.

Here is what I did on my summer vacation:

. Played “Angry Birds.” I found this a productive way to fill the empty, wasted hours I used to spend senselessly blogging. After thirty-three days, I got to the end of the free version and opted not to spring for the 99 cents to upgrade to the full edition.

. Spent a week in my daughter’s bathroom. Elisabeth and her husband, Alex, are renovating their house in Boston. I was called in to install moldings and baseboards in the upstairs. I was supposed to finish the whole project in a week, but didn’t manage to get out of the bathroom. Each evening she would examine my progress and comment: “Is this all you managed to get done.” In my defense, I would state that I spent most of the time in a semi-conscious state due to constantly banging my head on the ceiling that slopes off precipitously on one side of the room.

. Tried to stay dry. We have had a lot of rain in this part of the country and two major floods in town. My house has stayed dry but I had two pair of Wal-Mart sneakers rot right off my feet. I replaced these with a pair of Crocs. These are the same rubber clogs that Mario Batalli wears and are sometimes called bistro shoes, although I think, as Mario probably does as well, this sounds a little girlie. I call them my puddle jumpers because they are perfect for that enjoyable recreational activity that swept the northeast this summer.

. Played “Zombie Highway.” This is what I took up after besting the Angry Birds. This involves running over and shooting lesser sorts while hurdling along the highway in your black SUV. While this may sound like it would only appeal to Dick Cheney, it filled in the time I used to spend thinking about writing a novel or going back to work.

. Got an IPod Touch. I must admit I got somewhat addicted to this amazing little gadget (see Played “Angry Birds” and Played “Zombie Highway.”) Don’t even get me started on the ApStore. You can have just about every piece of information ever assembled instantly at the touch of this magical device. This includes every sexual position in the Kama Sutra. No kidding! When your new girlfriend suggests that you and she make the Monk With Two Backs, you will know she is not recommending you team up on a Halloween costume.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A New Outlook

Looking at the deep tooth marks on the temple ends of my eyeglasses, Kathie said: “Well, you’ve chewed through these, maybe it’s time to start on another pair.”

This was her way of saying she thinks I need a new pair of glasses.

I agreed because, frankly, I was fed up with the half-eaten ones.

“I really don’t like these progressive lenses,” I said. “If not being able to see in any scenario is progress, I’ll be getting around with a red tipped cane and a dog before long.”

“Just get your regular distance glasses and take them off when you read,” she suggested, “but don’t lay them down in the grass and run them over with the mower like you did with your last pair.”

Elisabeth was home for a visit and was delegated to accompany me and prevent any fashion miscues from occurring.

Upon arriving at the eye glass store, our different approaches to shopping became apparent: she headed straight for the European and Designer collection while I perused the $69.95 and under collection. Everything she chose made me look like either Dame Edith or Buddy Holly; everything I selected made me look like a Wal-Mart employee or a really cheap retired guy. “Those will really go well with Velcro sneakers,” she snottily opined about one pair I tried on.

Finally, we settled on a nice tortoise shell pair that I thought gave me a certain scholarly air and that she agreed to because she thought it would get her out of the store before Starbuck’s closed.

Now, you may well ask: Why is someone still wearing glasses when everyone else is wearing contacts? Well, why does someone still have a flip cell phone with a screen photo of a dog that died six years ago when everyone else is simultaneously watching American Idol, posting naked pictures of themselves, and filing their income taxes on theirs? I am slow to change.

Also, glasses hide the tote bag size sacks that hang beneath my eyes. These bags are so large that it has been suggested that I get them monogrammed.

It is also part of my image. How will all of my senior friends who have forgotten my name identify me if they cannot refer to “You know, that guy with the glasses”?

I did spring for one option: I got the non-glare lenses. When I put the new glasses on my world went from a "Foggy Day in London Town" to "It’s a Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day."

Shit, I guess I wasn’t clinically depressed after all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Test Drive

I knew the test drive of the speedy, stylish Hyundai Sonata wasn’t going well when I saw my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, pounding her fists on her headrest and making noises like she was being throttled from the back seat like Luca Brasi.

“What’s the matter?,” I asked as I brought the car to a stop.

“This damn headrest is pushing my head forward and giving me a headache,” she complained. “I can’t ride around for the next ten years with a crooked neck and a headache.”

We keep our cars for a long time. “But we’ve only gone around the block,” I whined.

Kathie is usually a gamer, but this seemed to be really giving her a problem.

I was crushed. I REALLY liked this car and I sensed that this was a game changer.

As we rolled into the dealership, Frank, the affable, overweight salesman, was waiting in the driveway. “Whatya think?,” he asked clearly expecting good news.

“The passenger side headrest gives her a headache,” I responded. “I think it’s a deal breaker.”

“Huh?,” he asked, his rubbery face contorting in stunned confusion. “But they are all like that,” he explained. “It’s a new Federal safety regulation.”

I can occasionally understand why conservatives get fed-up with government over-regulation, and I for one can’t understand why Obama wants us all driving around with our heads between our legs.

Frank, however, was not about to let this sale go quietly into the afternoon. “Let’s try adjusting the seat back,” he suggested.

With Kathie on board he gradually lowered the back of the seat until she pronounced that her head was comfortable. Unfortunately, by the time this was accomplished, she was in a three-quarter supine position.

“There!,” Frank shouted, sure the problem was solved and now the haggling could begin.

“I can’t ride around on my back. I’ll get car sick and I can’t knit,” my wife complained.

“Try rolling on your side,” he suggested.

Turning to me, the creative salesman asked: “Do you have a vise.”

“I drink too much and smoke cigars. What of it?,” I replied.

“No a VISE. You can put the prongs of the headrest in the vise and gradually bend them back; or you can rest the prongs on the pavement and hit them with a hammer.”

I had to admire his persistence, but a withering glance was my only response.

“Do YOU have this problem in the passenger seat?,” he asked me.

I said that, since I am a shrunken old man whose head slumps forward naturally, it was not an issue for me.

“Great! Then let her drive!,” Frank shot back, convinced this was a Eureka moment.

Still, our expressions told him that there was no way around the forward-thrusting headrest and he quietly slumped back into the showroom.

We continued on to the Subaru dealer. The salesman seemed surprised that the first question we asked pertained to the orientation of his product’s headrests. He confirmed that those on the Subaru also slant forward.

“I have only seen this as a problem for people with pony-tails,” he said.

While it was obvious that Kathie does not have a pony-tail, he seemed to be examining the back of her head to see if there was some sort of bony projection that might be contributing to her discomfort.

We had now both lost our enthusiasm for car shopping and returned home.

Later that evening, our son called to ask how we liked the Sonata. “We loved it, but the headrest gave your mother a headache,” I gloomily responded.

“I’m not surprised,” he said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For Sale: My Stink Bug Civil War Diorama

Kathie and I are not hoarders, but we are very much both I’ll-deal-with-that-laterers. This explains the unconscionable amount of stuff that has accumulated in our basement in the 35 years we have lived here.

With a move looming in the foreseeable future, I have been assigned the task of cleaning the basement and finding any treasures we might sell on eBay. I don’t have high hopes for this project because typically we throw out anything of value and retain the worthless leftovers of our lives.

Still I did find a few things that I think might go over big at the web auction site:

. A large quantity of Asian Stink Bug carcasses. How these poor creatures died I am sure would be the makings of a fine nature special, but dead they are and I wracked my brain for a way to turn dead bugs into bucks. Of course, they would have value to the entomologically inclined, but I decided to cash in on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, by creating a diorama of a battle between the blue and gray painted insects. I only have enough for a skirmish now, but by the way they are reproducing in our house, I will soon have enough for the whole three days of Gettysburg. I was discouraged to find, however, that there are a dozen Stink Bug Civil War Dioramas already on EBay, plus the work of one poor soul who was infested enough to stage the Normandy Invasion.

. My son’s sixth grade science project which is a realistic plaster-of-Paris rendition of Mount Vesuvius, complete with puffing smoke. Strangely, it is also a realistic rendition of the left cup of a brassiere worn by Madonna during her “Material Girl” tour, complete with puffing smoke. I have always thought my son spent an inordinate amount of time stroking the smooth, wet plaster into just the shape he desired. This should be big with eruption fans of all stripes.

. A rare CD of a lecture given by then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin explaining T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” to the juniors at Fairbanks High School: “He’s the one who was a-coming, he was a-going, he was a-Michelangelo-ing.” This will be of interest to illiteracy collectors everywhere.

. A nearly complete gallon of Martha Stewart’s “Heat Rash Rose.” According to “Rare Paints Digest”, only one gallon of this color was ever sold. Hey, we only used it as an accent color in our bathroom and it went perfectly with her “Deathly Pallor Gray.”

. Two dozen two piece plastic martini glasses. For some reason known only to the Chinese, these had detachable stems which detached when you raised your glass to your lips depositing four bucks worth of gin on your tie. Understandably, these are a highly sought after gift items by dry cleaners and liquor distributors.

Still, it seems a shame to sell off these things when the market for collectibles is at a low…..maybe we should hang onto them for awhile.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tea Party Reject

Dear Mr. Andersen:

Thank you for your application, but we are unable to accept you as a member of the National Tea Party at this time.

We appreciate your sending your medical records, but the fact that you have both irritable male syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome is unfortunate, but does not qualify you for membership per se. The fact that most of our members also have these conditions is merely a coincidence. The same goes for your two blocked cranial arteries.

At this point, we would like to disabuse you of the notion that we in any way actually sponsor tea parties. Congratulations on your granddaughter’s birthday, but we cannot participate in her Alice in Wonderland theme event. Besides, the “guy with the top hat” and the “guy with the bunny suit” have prior commitments on that day.

We note with dismay that you confess to being a registered Democrat. While we take under advisement your idea for forming a Decaffeinated Division for Disgruntled Democrats, we seriously doubt it will build our membership in a meaningful way.

However, all we require is a simple letter of resignation from the party. You do not have to “stick your registration card up your ass in Macy’s window” as your brother-in-law suggests.

By the way, we cannot imagine where you ever found a photograph of Michele Bachmann clad only in her American flag panties, but we firmly reject your suggestion that we name her the Tea Party Muffin of the Month. We must admit that such an idea shows a certain lack of moral turpitude on your part, Mr. Andersen. Unfortunately, we are unable to return the photo at this time.

We were also not particularly impressed with your religious background as explained on your application. We hardly think you are qualified to call yourself a born again
Christian merely because you once dated a stripper named Rapture.

And while we admire your enthusiasm to prove you loyalty by dressing up as a tea bag and jumping in Rachel Madow’s swimming pool, we think it shows a poor grasp of our strategy and tactics.

Your remark about tea that “you hate the damn stuff” also caused us to question your understanding of our goals. It isn’t about tea, Mr. Andersen. Tea is a symbol…er...well it has something to do with the revolution. Go look it up.

For these reasons, we are unhappy to report that the party must go on without you.


Membership Committee
National Tea Party

Friday, May 13, 2011

Adventures of a Poll Worker

My wife, Kathie, frequently finds jobs in the newspaper or via the grapevine for me in the forlorn hope that I will begin to bring some income into the family.

She feels this way because I spend most of time whittling, blogging, or fighting crab grass, none of which produces a farthing.

My usual response to one of her suggested positions is to look up and say: “Great! That sounds right up my alley”……and get back to my pathetic activities.

This time she said that several women in her book club were poll workers and that the work was easy, infrequent, and the pay good.

This not only matched my three top employment priorities, but perked my interest as well. I have always been interested in the political process and served as an elected town councilman many years ago. I am also conscientious about voting and always do so, usually with unhappy results.

I went to the county web site and filed my application. “Message Sent” had no sooner appeared on the screen when I received a reply saying I was accepted and should appear for training two days hence. This should have raised my suspicions because my email applications usually wind up in the great round file in the sky never to be heard from again.

I appeared at the county office complex on the appointed day. As I entered, I walked into a swarm of the oldest human beings I have ever seen. I was sure that Meals on Wheels was just getting out or it was enrollment day for the county nursing home.

I asked a gentleman standing next to me if he could direct me to the poll worker training registration. He indicated that it was somewhere in the midst of the swarming wheel chairs and colliding walkers. I asked where the line started and he responded: “There is no damn line. Just look at them.” The old folks were surging around a table scanning sheets of registration documents. “How do you expect me to read this?”, one old gal piped up to no in particular.

“I usually wait for them to move on,” my companion said. I am not sure if he meant into the auditorium or the next plane of existence, either of which could happen at any moment.

I’m old but these folks were OLD, Mr. Riley, Sr. old. A number of years ago, friends of ours had a father and son living next door. Mr. Riley, Jr. was in his sixties and Mr. Riley, Sr. was considerably north of that. The friends’ daughter, who was 5 or 6 at the time, made a reference to one of them and her mother asked which one she meant. “Not old Mr. Riley, Mom, I was talking about almost dead Mr. Riley,” she replied.

I entered the hall and took a seat at the end of a row near a side exit. This is my usual spot at any assembly. I choose it so I can bail in a hurry in case a crazed person comes crashing through the center door with guns blazing. Hey, I didn’t live this long by being stupid.

I was nicely settled when a voice boomed behind me: “I want that seat!” Suddenly, I was transported back to high school and turned expecting to see Anthony Nadjatowski looming over me with fists clenched. Instead, it was a large scowling woman leaning on a walker with a large foam pillow under her arm. Like high school, I vacated in a hurry before I got my ear flicked.

Soon a young-by-comparison older woman came to the lectern and bellowed into the mike: “Can everybody here me?” A chorus of “no’s” echoed across the room. She repeated this several times turning the volume up each time until it was at ear splitting level. Still, the consensus was no. Finally, she gave up and went on anyway.

Here is something I didn’t know: if a blind person wants to vote and asks for assistance, he/she must be accompanied into the booth by both a Democrat and a Republican. He/she can also bring a guide dog. A Democrat, a Republican, a blind person and a dog enter a voting booth…..write your own joke.

At that moment, another large woman with a walker began to stagger down the aisle in search of a seat. We all eyed her carefully fearful that she would either demand our seat or fall on us. She shoved a chair to the end of a table. She also carried a foam cushion, but her’s was the size of a two person life raft. After she got all comfy, she began ripping the pages from her employee’s manual.

Another Board of Elections staffer took the floor and explained how to open and start the voting machine. This seemed beyond the physical abilities of most of my co-workers, but they didn’t seem too concerned as many had dozed off.

The staffer pointed at me and asked if I would come up and play the part of a voter in a simulation. I suppose she thought I was one of the few who could make it to the front of the room in the allotted one hour of training time. As I signed in as myself, the staffer chirped: “Oh, Mr. Andersen is a Democrat!” This the old dears heard and a collective growl rose up. Democrats are few and far between in our county and are hunted with dogs when flushed out.

The trainer said that we would work in teams and stressed the need for mutual assistance and preparation. She asked for questions, but there were none, although I was tempted to ask if each team would be supplied with a defibrillator and body bags.

As I left I thought that if these good folks, despite their physical limitations, are motivated to perform a community service at considerable inconvenience and discomfort to themselves, what is wrong with the rest of us slackers? That’s why they are the Greatest Generation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scrambled Thoughts on a Ramblin Ride

I’m heading for Reading.

The Outsider Folk Art Gallery there is including my carvings in an upcoming exhibit and I am driving out to deliver my work.

I love road trips and today is a perfect day for one: the sun is shining and the temp is in the sixties. I’ve loaded my old Volvo wagon which I had to do by climbing over the front seat because the tail gate is broken.

I’m taking Route 78 west to Allentown and 222 east to Reading. It’s a 90 mile trip each way. I’m rolling. Got the Eagles cranked up and away we go:

“I’m runnin down the road tryen to loosen my load, got seven women on my mind.”

Seven? I don’t think I know seven women, and if I did I forgot six of them. And if I did know them, I sure as hell wouldn’t have them all on my mind at the same time. I’d mix up a name and be down to six in no time.

Oh, hell. There’s a cop. I poop my pants every time I see the fuzz because my speedometer is broken. Normally, I track my speed with the GPS but I left it on the dining room table on my way out the door.

Whew, guess I’m okay. Glad to be off 78 and driving through rural Pennsylvania. Things are a lot greener here than they are back at home. I guess I’m in farm country because I just passed the Barn Dance Boutique. And there’s a store called Cash for Guns. Wait a minute. Let me think about that. I walk into your store with a gun and you give me cash? Isn’t that a stick-up? Heh, heh.

What’s this? Kutztown University. Looks like a big layout. I guess I heard of it, but it didn’t appear on my kid’s radar when they were college shopping. Their name must really hold them back. You know the kids who go there have to call it Klutztown University.

Ha, ha. There’s a sign for a town called Virginville. I’ll bet nobody lives there anymore. Heh, heh. Well, you know what they say out here in Pennsylvania Dutch country: if you’ve come to Virginville, you’re practically in Blue Balls.

These are real town names. I read that back in the 1920’s or 30’s the National Geographic Service cleaned up most of the racy place names in the US. There were a lot of them because most places were named by lonely, horny trappers. They got rid of Tickle Pussy Creek and most of the Big Tit Mountains. They missed the Grand Tetons because it was French.

Ah, here comes Hendrix singing “All Along the Watch Tower.” I usually bellow along to this one, but can’t because my windows are open on account of the air conditioner being busted. My mechanic says this car is tired. Funny, my doctor says the same thing about me. I guess that’s why the Swedish Nightmare and I have bonded.

Damn, it’s starting to pour rain and I left my umbrella on the table next to my GPS. Seven women my ass, I can’t even remember my stuff.

Oh, no. The road split and, according to the sign, I am heading toward Lancaster, the heart of Amish country, and not Reading. Damn, I’ll bet I get stuck behind a horse and wagon. Sure enough. MOVE IT, YOU SCRAPPEL EATING SCHMUCK!!


I am heading for Ohio and starting to get really rattled. I need my Third Man.

I watched a show last night on NatGeo about how many people who survive harrowing escapes attest to being aided my a mysterious stranger who suddenly appears and leads them to safety. It’s called the Third Man Phenomenon. The religious say it is proof of guardian angels, but scientists think it is some kind of neurological defense mechanism.
What they didn’t get into though is whether you should listen to this guy. They only interviewed those who survived. Perhaps the ninety percent who didn’t got lead over a cliff by this dude. Good point, huh?

And nobody was surprised by the fact that no one claimed to be saved by a Third Woman. Maybe none of them made it out because she kept stopping to ask directions.

Look. There’s sign for downtown Reading, the rain has stopped and the sun is out. Maybe my Third Man did weigh in. I’d buy him lunch, but I only have eight bucks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Farewell, My Ass

My ass went away and I haven’t a clue.
Turned around one day and-oops!-no wazoo.

My butt and I were firmly attached.
He followed me around and loved to be scratched.

At times when my mood took a downward route,
He brightened my day with a playful toot.

For heavens sake, I miss the old bum.
Where do you suppose I’ll put my thumb?

My ass got canned, and I’m feeling crummy.
How come that memo didn’t get to my tummy?

If told to put it up my ass,
I will sadly say I have to pass.

In his day he held my wallet on high
Now it droops down below my thigh.

Today, as I wander the shops and malls,
It swings right and left like an old elephant’s balls.

Not much to look at, so I’ve been told.
To me he was worth his weight in gold

Phooey on those who say he was lead
And the principle place to look for my head!

I went to the doctor and this he did say,
When men get old their butts go away.

He puffed himself up and said with a sigh,
“You’ll have to kiss your ass good-bye.”

As I left the office I was quite perplexed.
I said to my dear Willie, I hope you’re not next.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Trip to New York City....Almost

Though we only live 50 miles from New York City, sometimes it is a daunting struggle just to get there.

I know this after 35 years of commuting there every day. I know it sometimes takes a steely determination to keep on going in the direction of the office or home. I’ve been roasted, toasted, blacked out, smoked out, flooded out, crowded out and wrecked; and still I got to work everyday.

I have literally stepped over bodies to keep moving toward my job.

I had plans and counter-plans to deal with every possible contingency. I had car routes, alternate train routes, bus and ferry schedules. I knew every back street that led to every tunnel and bridge. I have ridden between cars exposed to the elements in a blizzard. I have perservered through derailments and accidents and kept moving. I have slogged through snow covered farm fields. I have hitch-hiked.

I was, I am proud to say, a fierce and savvy commuter. Once I turned to a badly shaken companion as train personnel led us past the mangled remains of a woman who ended her life by jumping in front of our train, and said: “We can’t help her. We have to keep moving and connect with that train over there before the coroner arrives and shuts everything down.” Yes, I had been ambushed by the coroner on other occasions. We made the train and I was proud that I had navigated a suicide with only a ten minute delay. Usually, a suicide is two hours at least.

Yesterday, I blinked.

It was a roasting hot day with the temperature hovering near ninety. I was planning to take 2:50 bus out of Clinton, NJ, to attend a six o’clock cocktail party in the city hosted by a group of friends and former associates in the association management field. I have not seen some of these people since I stopped working three years ago. I was really looking forward to it.

As I was sitting in the air-conditioned ticket office along with five other people, an attendant announced that the enroute bus only had four available seats remaining and we might want to get on line outside. Instantly, my old juices kicked in and I bolted for the door nearly bowling over a grey haired woman with a peace decal on her pocket book. I was the first one out. So far, so good.

Once outside, I discovered there were already four people ahead of me. Great, I thought, all I have to do is elbow past one person, unless they decide to move that old guy with the walker back there ahead of me.

The bus pulled in and savage jockeying began. I held my own in fifth place but was not able to improve my position. This was the first sign that I might have lost my edge.

I decided to play it out anyway. When the driver collected my ticket he said there was one seat left all the way in the back. Ha! I’m in! As I made my way rearward, I saw that what looked like a family of migrants had set up house-keeping all along the back seat. There was a man, a woman, a dozen or so snotty-nose brats, and one empty seat all the way in the corner.

Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the so-called empty seat was occupied by yet another snotty-nosed brat in a carrier.

Screwed. Now my choice was either to ride for an hour and a half on the NJ Turnpike standing with my crotch in the faces of the migrants and my ass against the bathroom door, or leave the bus.

I left. I got my ticket refunded and hopped into my car to execute Plan B: drive to Hoboken and take the Path to the city. I still had plenty of time.

The car was roasting after having sat in the sun for 45 minutes. Then I remembered the air conditioning didn’t work in the old Volvo. I decided to push on anyway. As I rolled down the highway with the windows wide open and the roar of trucks and traffic drowning out the radio, I felt a pool of perspiration building up along the top of my abdomen and sensed the onset of the dreaded Belly Sweat. If I showed up like this I would either look like I was a few drinks ahead of everyone, or I’ve slobbered on myself.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration and would adopt Plan C: hop off Route 78 at the next exit, head for Kathie’s office, stick her with the non-air conditioned car, and take her comfy Subaru into the city. She was a trooper about it, and I was back in business rolling down the highway.

Soon it became apparent that this air conditioning wasn’t working either and the Subaru was even hotter than the Volvo. Now the belly sweat was hooking up with the armpit sweat and all was headed south to create the even more dreaded Soggy Bottom. This was not going to work. By the time I got to the city I would look and smell like I had swum the Hudson.

I glanced at my watch and saw that I had plenty of time to get back to Clinton and execute Plan D: catch the next bus at 4:30. For some reason, this bus takes two hours to get into New York, but this would still get me to my party for the last hour.

I arrived at Clinton with a half hour to spare and headed for the air conditioned waiting room. It was locked. My choices now were to sit in the overheated car or stand in the sun for a half hour.

Suddenly, sitting on the front porch in my shorts with a beer sounded like the best option. Good old Plan E!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Into the Closet

Welcome to my closets.

That’s right I have two. Neither of them is of the walk-in variety which is just as well since you would probably break your neck on the shoes heaped up on the floor.

Here in Closet One are my dress clothes. I rarely go here anymore since I stopped working. Yes, I have a lot of neckties. I love the little dears but rarely have occasion to wear one. Take a look at this one. Looks like just an abstract design right? Wrong! If you look real close you will see that the pattern actually spells out “fuck you.” I would wear this from time to time when meeting with disagreeable sorts such as the IRS auditors. I think I’ll hang onto it in case I’m ever invited on the Glen Beck Show.

Since ties have gotten skinny again and mine are of the plumpish sort, I think I may download a bunch of them on Ebay. It would all be gravy because I got most of them for free. Back when I was executive director of the Men’s Furnishings Association my members kept me well stocked in shirts and ties. Getting a tie was easy, getting a raise was tough.

It may surprise you to know that I was once considered something of an authority on men’s fashion. I even have a web site,, offering wardrobe advice to the rare man seeking it. I am thinking of starting a blog on men’s wear that ties into the web site. Unfortunately, the only fashion advice I can think of at the moment is “don’t wipe your hands on your pants.” I just ruined a new pair of jeans by doing exactly that after changing the oil in the lawn mower.

Oh look, here’s my tweed sport jacket that I wear all the time. Well, maybe not so much all the time since it seems to still have hair on it from the cat that died five years ago.

I am getting nostalgic, so let’s move on to Closet Two. This is the sanctuary of my more sporty items. You will notice that it is organized in two tiers. On the top are my bottoms, on the bottom are my tops. Here on the right are all my short-sleeve shirts waiting to go into storage in the basement until the spring. Oh, it is spring. So I guess I can let that one slide.

Why so many pairs of pants? Well, we have fat pants, medium pants, and thin pants so that I always have something to wear regardless of my ever shifting profile. If, after my demise, some archaeologist counts the pants by type and studies the wear patterns, he will learn that I spent most of my adult life in fat pants. I am happy to report, however, that after an intense diet and fitness program inspired by my daughter’s approaching wedding, I can squeeze back into my medium pants. I think it will take a really frightening report from my doctors to get me to go for the thins.

Up there on the top shelf are two of my favorite sweaters: the Irish sweater my mother bought for me in 1964 and the Norwegian ski sweater I purchased in 1971. I still wear both regularly. When I tell some middle aged person I have clothing older than they are, I speak the truth.

Oh, you have to run along? But we haven’t gotten to my dressers yet. Well, maybe next time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sinatra Quiz

I am in the midst of reading “Frank: The Voice” by James Kaplan.

I have long been a fan of Sinatra’s music, but never cared much for him as a man.

Nothing in this book that traces his life from his childhood in Hoboken to his career resurgence in 1953 changes that. We learn that he was a momma’s boy, a bully, a wimp, a prodigious philanderer, ruthlessly ambitious, ego maniacal, mobbed up, obsessive compulsive and a prima donna.

Hey, nobody’s perfect. Still, to paraphrase the author, he gave us the best part of himself in his music.

Now for you Frankophiles and Frankophobes, it’s time for a little quiz to test your knowledge of things Sinatra.

As usual, there will be no cash prizes. So, put your dreams away for another day and pick up your pencils.

1. How did Frank Sinatra get the scars on the left side of his face and left ear?
a. In a knife fight on the streets of Hoboken.
b. A little over-enthusiastic discipline from his over-bearing mother, Dolly.
c. Forceps marks from his birth.
d. Ava Gardner

2. Frank Sinatra was…
a. macrophallic
b. monochromatic
c. hydrocephalic
d. hydrophobic

3. Why was Nancy Sinatra called “Big Nancy”?
a. She was a foot taller than her husband.
b. To distinguish her from her daughter who was called “Little Nancy”
c. Because she took up two seats on the band bus.
d. She was macrovaginal.

4. How often did Frank change his underwear?
a. Never
b. Once a week
c. Every day.
d. Four times a day.

5. In a famous photo from 1951, Frank is shown getting off a plane to attend a mob meeting in Cuba. He is carrying a suitcase that is so heavy he has to support it on his hip. What did the suit case contain?
a. Narcotics
b. A cash delivery to Lucky Luciano
c. It has never been determined.
d. A three day supply of underwear.

6. How did Frank come by his legendary breath control?
a. He was born that way.
b. From studying Tommy Dorsey’s trombone technique.
c. By holding his breath until he got what he wanted from his mommy.
d. By studying Ava Gardner’s trombone technique.

7. In the Dorsey days, he had a clash of egos with Buddy Rich. How did Frank resolve it?
a. He hired goons to beat him up.
b. He hid Buddy’s drum sticks.
c. He told on Buddy to Tommy Dorsey.
d. He suggested sensitivity training.

8. Why did he flunk his army physical during WWII?
a. A punctured ear drum and emotional instability.
b. The army couldn’t afford his underwear tab.
c. He was too short.
d. His macrophallus kept getting caught in his boots.

9. Who was his major competition for the role of Maggio in “From Here To Eternity”?
a. Wally Cox
b. Eli Wallach
c. Dana Andrews
d. Charlton Heston

10. When he accepted the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “From Here to Eternity”, whom did he thank?
a. Samuel Cahn
b. Dolly
c. Ava Gardner
d. No one

Answers: 1-c; 2-a; 3-b; 4-d; 5-c; 6-b; 7-a; 8-a; 9-b; 10-d

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I got lost the other day going to someplace I knew how to get to.

Getting lost is literally my worst nightmare. I have this recurrent dream that I am lost in the city (always the city) and have just trudged dozens of blocks only to realize I am going the wrong way and have to trudge all the way back to where I originally became lost. At this point panic and exhaustion are overwhelming me and I am already looking to the Conscious Observer to blow his whistle and weigh in with his usual ruling: “Enough with the trudging. You are not trudging another block. You are getting up to take a leak.”

I was on my way to drop-off my entry in an art show which was being held at Prallsville Mill in Stockton, NJ, about an hour drive from my house. I have been there on several occasions and passed it on many others.

I decided on a scenic route which would take me through miles of farms and small villages.

As I rolled along in my semi-trusty, twelve year old Volvo station wagon, I felt disoriented by the dramatic change in the landscape created by all the snow that has fallen this winter. Nothing looked the same. I began to feel disoriented and uncomfortable expecting Rod Serling at any moment to advise me I was about to enter the Twilight Zone.

Route 29, on which I was driving, runs right through Stockton, but I was uncertain which side of the town the mill was on. Traveling across the snow covered countryside, I was on autopilot having a lovely little daydream about how I would spend my Nigerian Sweepstakes winnings buying large houses in warm places.

Soon I came to Stockton.

Since Stockton is one of the smallest towns in New Jersey, I was through it in a nonce and out the other side without ever encountering the mill.

Now my disorientation became panic. Perhaps the mill isn’t in Stockton at all. Perhaps, it is some other part of the state altogether. Perhaps it doesn’t exist. Perhaps I dreamed it. Perhaps I’m dreaming now.

Now you may be wondering why someone in such a fragile navigational state would not have a GPS. Well, as I am sure you might guess, I seem to have lost it.

When I am befuddled, I usually compound my predicament by making a foolish decision. Stockton is on the Delaware River. On the other side of a short bridge lies the State of Pennsylvania. The address on the art submission clearly states Prallsville Mill, Stockton, NJ. The building is owned by the Hunterdon County (NJ) Cultural and Heritage Committee.

Inexplicably, I decided to seek it in Pennsylvania.

And so, I sped through the Pennsylvania countryside looking for a New Jersey destination. Just as I was about to yell to the Conscious Observer, “ISN’T IT TIME FOR ME TO TAKE A LEAK, FOR CHRIST SAKE,” I decided to call Kathie.

Here is how the conversation went:

Me: I’m lost.
Kathie: How could you be lost? Where are you?
Me: I am in Pennsylvania.
Kathie: Why are you in Pennsylvania? Prallsville Mill is in New Jersey.
Me: I thought a little bit of the other side of the Delaware may still have some New Jersey on it.
Kathie: It doesn’t.
Me: I thought I heard that some of it wound up there because the Penn family back in the 17th century got into a boundary dispute with the Jersey Proprietors and that’s how they settled it.
Kathie: You’ve GOT to stop drinking while you watch History Channel! I’ll put the address in Map Quest. It’s in Stockton.
Me: No, its not. I went through there.
Kathie: You must have driven right by it. You were probably daydreaming.
Me: Of all the damn nerve, I don’t daydream when I drive!

And so I re-crossed the bridge and went through Stockton again keeping an eagle eye out for the mill and, sure enough, there it was right where it was supposed to be. In my defense, let it be noted that it was very difficult to spot because the building was below road level and curbside snow piles hid it entirely.

I had submitted my work and, because I was so happy to have made it there, I volunteered to gallery sit and bring an appetizer to the artists’ reception.

Soon I was heading happily and confidently toward home and wishing I hadn't volunteered to make an appetizer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Visit to the Other Side

As the little old lady and I stood next to each other at the sinks washing our hands and avoiding eye contact in the mirror, I wondered when she would start to scream. Instead, there was just an awkward silence that seemed to last forever.

Of course, the absence of a urinal should have clued me in that this was the lady’s room. However, it was a Chinese restaurant and I thought I read somewhere that the Chinese hadn’t invented the urinal yet.

What really threw me off was that, as I was heading for the facility, the door was wide open and a middle age man with two male children was leaving. He even held the door for me, thus preventing me from seeing the handsome bronze plaque that announced “Women.” One of the children was screaming his head off complaining of an injured finger.

Why the male delegation was using the lady’s room when in fact there was a men’s room next door, we will never know. Why the dad didn’t give me a heads-up, so to speak, also remains a mystery. I can only think the old lady was part of their group and was forgotten about in the injured finger ruckus. Who coldly offers up granny to a stranger of the opposite sex?

After I noted the absence of a urinal, I proceeded to the first of the two stalls. I attempted to enter but the door did not yield. Assuming it was stuck, I pushed a little harder. Suddenly, the occupant cried out: “go away!” I assumed it was another of the children who was still finishing his business, when in fact it was the little old woman.

She must have been terrified to see my large sneaker clad feet looming under her stall door. And since they are overly conscientious about refilling your water glass at Chinese restaurants, her worst fears must have been confirmed when she heard me strafing the toilet with a loud and long leak from the stall next door.

Of course, her fear was nothing compared to my chagrin when she suddenly appeared beside me at the sinks. It instantly became obvious where I was. I am thinking arrest and public humiliation. I am thinking front page of the New York Post, but I am also thinking nonchalanting it out. I decide that if she asks why I am here, I will respond with the punch line from the old Myron Cohen joke about a cuckolded husband who discovers his wife’s naked lover in the closet: Everybody’s gotta be someplace.

But she slowly and quietly scrubs away seemingly unconcerned about her proximity to a potential sex fiend. I get a terrifying vision that she might not be a little old lady after all, but a homicidal transvestite dwarf like the one in the Daphne DuMaurier movie who wanders around Venice slaughtering innocent men with a butcher knife.

In the end, nothing was said and we both silently left the room.

When I got back to our table, I told Kathie what had happened. Without looking up from her menu she said: “I’m sure you left the seat up.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Toning It Down

In case you missed it, there is a national conversation going on about whether violent language leads to violent acts.

Take it from me, it does.

Here’s my personal experience..

I was typing away on my much hated Dell PC with the witticisms flowing like fine wine when up pops an ad smack in the middle of my work warning me of the dangers of “getting hacked.” “I’ll hack you, you cookie-crammed piece of crap,” I cried in a pique of interrupted genius and raised my Wolfgang Puck meat cleaver to put the wretched computer out of my misery. Only the pitiful bleating of its terrified mother board snapped me to my senses.

If even a master wordsmith like me can be pushed to the brink by violent language, just think of the effect on ordinary people?

When I considered all the violent language we casually use in our everyday conversation and the potentially tragic outcomes if any of it was acted on, I decided I would do the patriotic thing and tone it down. I suggest you do the same.

No longer will I take a stab at something, neither will I take a shot at it, or give it a crack.

I won’t have a blast, get bombed, wasted, or hammered.

I will not gun my motor, kill my engine, or stomp the pedal because, technically, the car still belongs to the bank.

If I am on target with something, I will try not to picture some hard projectile I have launched striking something soft and squishy. I will consider the store of the same name just a name and not an invitation to mayhem.

I won’t knock my socks off because I’ll hurt myself. I won’t whack off for the same reason.

I won’t shoot the breeze, fire off a letter, punch in or punch out, blow it, kick the habit, bite the bullet, shoot from the hip, go in with guns blazing, or aim to please.

Where have you gone, George Carlin, when we need you?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Turning Sixty Six

Today is my birthday, and time for some kicks.
Today is the day I turn sixty-six.
Please send best wishes, oodles and oodles,
But no greeting cards that speak of limp noodles.

To say sixty’s the new forty is all the rage.
Even with the discount, I’m late middle age.
It’s not a big landmark like sixty five.
But, nevertheless, I made it alive.

Seventy's the big one looming ahead,
But I hope to make sixty nine before I am dead.
I can’t help but find it an amusing condition;
It's the one time one's age is a sexual position.

Social Security had some good news.
I can earn all I want with nothing to lose.
To learn of this I'm quite overjoyed,
Despite the fact I am unemployed.

It’s time to reflect on friends who have passed.
I hope they won't mind if I go last.
Maybe it’s my movie, I say with delight,
And the good guy will be standing when they turn on the light.

Tho long in the tooth, I think with no smirk,
All my moving parts continue to work.
All runs smoothly, no bumps or no hicks.
Nothing wrong with me that prune juice can’t fix.

To celebrate life I head to the fridge.
Oh hell, where did I leave my damn bridge?