April 30, 2016


Man, medicine sure has changed since I was younger.
I know, I know—I sound like an old fart.
That’s only because I am.
I needed a physical, and since my old doctor quit the profession and moved to Bora Bora, I went to a new doctor.  New to me, that is; although they all look ten years old these days.
At any rate, I was ushered into the examining room after only a ten minute wait.  “This is pretty good,” I thought.
The doctor came in directly.
“Don’t you want me to take my clothes off and put on one of those hospital gowns?” I asked.
She looked at me as if I had just suggested something filthy.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Well, how can you do a complete physical if you can’t see my body?”
“That won’t be necessary,” she repeated.
“But suppose I have a mole on my back that’s turned black with cancer?  If I leave my clothes on, you’ll never see it.”
Do you have a mole on your back that has turned black?”
“If it’s on my back, how am I supposed to know?  Isn’t that your job?”
She laid a George Dubbya smirk on me and replied, “Let’s begin, shall we?”
She put on three pairs of surgical gloves, a pair of mittens and over that, a pair of chain mail gauntlets, then picked up her stethoscope.  She placed it against my back and asked me to inhale and exhale repeatedly.
I also find it interesting that they keep whatever information they glean from such procedures completely to themselves unless you pry it out of them.
“So?” I ask, as she puts the stethoscope in her pocket.
“‘So’ what?”
“So how do my lungs sound?”
“You’re breathing.”
“Oh, good.”
Next, she stands as far away from me as she can and looks into my ears.
I refrain from further inquiry this time, keeping my growing irritation to myself.
The blood pressure cuff next.
“Hmmmm,” she hmmmms.
“Your blood pressure is a little high.”
Qu’elle surprise.”
She walks across the room and sits at her computer, typing away.
She has not checked my glands, looked at my throat, examined my breasts or weighed me.
I’m beginning to question if I’m even there.  What she’s done so far is avoided touching me at all.  I feel diseased.
The visit was doing nothing for my self-esteem, let me tell you.
Once she gets her nose out of the computer, she prints off and hands me a sheaf of paper…a big sheaf of paper.
“What’s this?”
“For what?  What’s wrong with me?”
“I have no idea.”
Suddenly, I have an awful thought.  “Are you the receptionist?”
“Maintenance personnel?”
“No.  I’m the doctor.”
“Prove it.”
“Because, so far, you have barely looked at me, are treating me like I have Ebola, and haven’t asked about my medical history.  Is this the way you deal with all your new patients?  Is there something about living, breathing humanity that you think requires genocide to cleanse the planet?  What the hell is going on here?”
She sighs and shakes her head.  “Please take these referrals and make appointments with the specialists on them, then get back to me when you have the results.”
“Don’t they send you the results?”
“That won’t be necessary—you’ll have them.”
I paged through the half-ream of paper she gave me.  “Let’s see…cardiologist, even though, had you asked me, I could have told you that there is no history of heart problems in my family.  Endocrinologist…uh, I think I’ve probably stopped growing and am of a normal height.  Pulmonologist…I ran the Boston Marathon this year and came in second.  Dermatologist…my acne days are rather far behind me.  Rheumatologist…not a bit of arthritis, either.” 
The list just went on and on.
“So what you’re saying is that you want all these other doctors to do your job for you, while you get paid to play World of Warcraft or whatever you were doing on that damned computer.  Christ, you didn’t even draw my blood!”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Oh, right, because I have to go to a specialist for that, too, right?”
“Where, exactly, did you get your diploma?  McDonald’s?”
“Guadalajara University.”
I gathered up my paperwork and left.
When I went to the front desk to check out, the perky little blonde asked, “Would you like to make your next appointment?”
“That won’t be necessary,” I replied.

March 19, 2016


I have often been accused of having more courage than brains; and reliving these experiences on paper, I find I must bow to an observant public.
My editor (a/k/a “Attila”), having assigned me the impossible task of covering Deep River, that thriving metropolis all of one square mile large, was done with me.  I left his office with no names, no addresses, and no leads.  The only thing I knew for sure was the location of this diminutive burg and the telephone number of the Town Hall.
I decided that the first thing I ought to do was to call the Town Clerk and get the schedule of town meetings for the month.  At least it would be something to cover.  Here’s what happened:
“Hello.  Town Clerk, please.”
“This is the Town Clerk,” the same voice replied.
“Oh, well this is the Provincial Picayune Gazette reporter for Deep River.”
After her hysterical fit of laughter subsided, she asked, “What can I do for you?”
“I’d like the schedule of the town meetings for this month,” I replied.
Following another seemingly endless guffaw, she asked, “Honey, are you kidding?”
I assured her I was not.
“Lady,” she chuckled, “we haven’t had a town meeting here since the garbage truck broke down back in 1910!”
Seeing that I was getting nowhere with this human cabbage, I asked to be connected with the First Selectman.
“Speaking,” she said.
I rattled off a list of every official position I could think of, asked to speak to each one of them.  She answered to them all, right down to dogcatcher and second-in-command of the local flea circus.
Disheartened, I hung up the phone.  But then, like a thunderclap, an idea boiled up in my brain.  Why not call a resident and do an expose on living inside a small town dictatorship?  Or, better still, the pros and cons of living in a ghost town?  Trembling in anticipation, I located a telephone directory and began flipping pages.  I went through that phone book at least seven times, but Deep River was nowhere to be found.  Somewhat irritated that Ma Bell had seen fit to deny the very existence of the town I was reporting on, I called the telephone company to inquire as to what they had done with Deep River; because, if it’s not listed in the directory, then it surely must no longer exist.  For that matter, things were getting so surreal, that I began to believe that it might never have existed at all.  The telephone company has an ‘in” on these matters, and their word is not to be doubted.  As a matter of fact, if the directory is published and your name is omitted, it might be a wise idea to check your pulse.
When the receiver at the telephone company was lifted, I prostrated myself in a position of submission and asked, “May I speak to the Holy One?”
“Do you have Vatican approval?”
“No,” I answered,” but it is a matter of the utmost urgency.  I’m sure the Benevolent One will understand, if you will please make an exception.”
“The Christian Patriarch understands all.  I shall put you through,” she said softly.  And I was connected with HIM . . . the One in charge of Customer Service.
“Oh, Great Lover of Truth and Light,” I addressed Him, “Will you suffer to answer a question from a humble, unworthy servant?”
“Yes, my child,” He replied.
“Oh, Master of Wisdom and Keeper of Charity, where is Deep River?”
“Page 23,” He said.  “May the Lord bless you and keep you and endow you monthly with wealth and an abundance of long-distance telephone calls.”  Then he hung up with a gentle click.
Awestruck by the religious experience I’d just been through, I quietly replaced the receiver in its cradle.  No church service had ever been like this.  It was like a direct line to the Almighty, who, if He were located on earth would, out of necessity, be the CEO of the telephone company in order to maintain the equivalent measure of power He enjoyed in heaven.
After considering whether or not the current CEO could walk across the Connecticut River unaided by a bridge, I remembered my original purpose and picked up the directory once again.  What had he said?  Page 23?  I turned to the twenties.  No Deep River . . . and what was worse, no page 23 – until I looked closer.  Page 23 was stuck between pages 22 and 24.  I disengaged it and looked upon the Deep River listings . . .a full half page of them.  The first half was comprised of a listing of Town Offices; all, of course, with the same telephone number after each one.
A tear trickled from the corner of my eye as I counted up the population of Deep River . . . on one hand . . . with fingers to spare.
I did find a listing for the Boy Scouts of America, oddly enough.  With that in mind, I phoned and arranged for an interview about scouting in Deep River.  I got a Pulitzer Prize-worthy scoop about the town’s negligence in providing the Boy Scouts with a place to meet and hold functions. The fellow I spoke with had been the scout leader for the last 35 years, but didn’t have a whole lot to do, since no one had joined his scout troop . . . ever. 
It was my considered opinion that if a meeting place had been erected, he would have moved in there; lock, stock and torn tee shirt.  Anything to escape the rabbit hutch he was presently inhabiting, along with six dogs and twelve cats, which, if the fragrance filling the house was any indication, he never let outside.  And the noise!  The dogs tore at the cats and the cats scratched at the dogs until it was no longer possible to determine which was which, unless you judged by height and amount of blood.
As soon as I was able, I beat a hasty retreat from the premises.  After I dried my tears and blew my nose on my interview, I drove to the town garage, punched quarter-sized holes in every tire on the garbage truck, and poured five pounds of sugar into the gas tank.
There was a town meeting that Friday at 8:00.

February 28, 2016


  I’m an insomniac.  Well, to be more precise, I’m a depressed insomniac.
Let me explain.
I’ve had problems sleeping all my life, but it had grown much worse lately, so my doctor prescribed sleeping pills and told me to call him in a week to let him know how I was feeling.
After a week, I called to tell him that the pills weren’t working.
He was busy.
I left my number.
He never called back.
This game of telephone tag, in which I was the sole participant, went on for 10 days.
Depression set in.  I didn’t need this kind of rejection, on top of being exhausted.
When he finally did call, I told him that I was disappointed in the sleeping pills, and now I was not only wide awake at night, but wide awake and depressed.
He prescribed a stronger sleeping pill and put me on Prozac.
I drove to my neighborhood pharmacy to pick up the $11 worth of sleeping pills and the Prozac.  Before handing them to me, the pharmacist said, “You’re not going to be happy about this.”
“So what?” I replied.  “I’m not happy about anything. I’m depressed.”
He shrugged and handed me the prescriptions.  The Prozac had a price tag of $162.00!  For 30 pills!  If I was depressed when I walked in, I was sure to be suicidal when I walked out.  What are these drug companies thinking?  They create a pill to effectively treat depression, and then make it unaffordable.  I had no idea that the Marquis de Sade was alive and well and running Dista Pharmaceuticals these days.
Now I’m more depressed than ever, and I can’t sleep for worrying about how I’m going to pay for this stuff each month.
I concluded that if I ever wanted another wink of sleep, I needed to get away from all my stress for a while.
Having no money, I decided to stow away on an ocean liner.
It was a Carnival Cruise.
Three days into the voyage, somebody lit a match and the ship exploded.
We were all picked up eventually, but as a result of the shark feeding frenzy, I am now known as, “Stumpy.”
Perhaps a good book would take my mind off my plight.  Once released from intensive care—on the promise that I would donate blood until my debt was paid, which I reckon will be some twenty-five years after my death; I made my way to the library—where, after an hour of browsing, The Collected Works of William Shatner fell from a top shelf and hit me on the head.
I tottered back home to wash the stink out of my hair, having neglected to take a book with me.
Once clean and dry, I flipped on the television.
A “Star Trek” marathon.
Screaming and irrational, I threw a boxed set of “Battlestar Galactica” through the screen, tripped, dislocated my shoulder, and broke my nose.  The sparks from the ruined TV jumped to the blood and delivered a shock that turned my finger and toe nails black and stood my hair on end.  Once I got up and unplugged the thing, all my hair fell out.
I’m a shadow of my former self.  Now I’m not only sleepless and depressed, but also mortally boat and ocean phobic, short, terrified of William Shatner, and bald, with a nose like Sylvester Stallone.
There was only one thing left to do.  Get rid of whoever was responsible for all this.  I had little left to lose . . . literally . . . and a jail term could only improve the wreckage of my life.  I planned my revenge carefully.
On the first moonless night, I made my way to my enemy and planted the necessary charges.  Moving back a safe distance, I picked up the detonator and pushed the plunger.
“Die, Dista Pharmaceuticals!  Die! Moowhahahahahahaha!”
I was, of course, apprehended. Can’t run too well, these days.
This afternoon, there is a parade in my honor, after which I will be released and driven to a brand new, donated, furnished home in the suburbs, provided with a car and chauffeur, and given a check for five million dollars.  Carson 1, Dista Pharmaceuticals 0.  Game over.
I expect to get a good night’s sleep tonight.

February 1, 2016


      I’ve decided that there is no good time to get groceries.
      No matter when you go; weekends, weekdays, early in the morning, mid-afternoon, or evening, it really doesn’t seem to make much difference.  And I’ve tried them all, so I know whereof I speak.
     My latest foray was early in the evening on Sunday.  My husband, Stij, is an avid (read that “foaming at the mouth”) Panthers fan, and a week or so ago, there was an “important” game on, so he wanted to “just do a quick shop.”
       It is to laugh.
      Walking into our local megamarket, we observed the cheery banner of greeting above the door, which read, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  We pried a shopping cart out of the row that had been spot welded together, and set off.
     Now understand, Stij is the easiest-going person you’ll ever meet, this side of Mahatma Gandhi, but he won’t trust me to drive his truck since I told him I used to participate in Demolition Derbies.  The fact that it took a great deal of skill on my part to come out of one of those things with only a couple of dented fenders left him unimpressed.  All he had to hear was “Demolition Derby,” and the driver’s seat suddenly became an unattainable goal.
     All this by way of saying that we do the grocery shopping together, since I am sans automobile, at the moment.
     But, as I said, he’s an easy guy to be around, so I don’t mind . . .
     . . . except during football season.
     We’d barely stepped over the threshold of the store, and the first thing he did was check his watch.  He did this twelve more times before we even got to the produce aisle, where I like to start my shopping.
     “What do you want to eat this week?” I asked.
     “Food,” came his helpful reply.
     “For veggies, how about some green beans, carrots, and cauliflower?”
     “Fine, fine, fine.  Just get it and let’s get going,” he muttered, checking his watch again.
     By the time we got half way through the store, the whole endeavor became less like shopping and more like fleeing from aisle to aisle.  I was grabbing and tossing blindly, while he shouted at one innocent bystander after another to “move your bovine carcass out of the way!” 
     OK, so we made it to the bread aisle, which is the last one.  Watch-checking had escalated to every other second.  I was wheezing, soaked in sweat, and dangerously dehydrated.  I grabbed what I I hoped wasn’t some frou-frou artisan bread made with twigs, seeds, and gravel and we rounded the bend on two wheels at 90 mph, only to be stopped dead at . . . ta da . . . the checkout lines. 
     The lines were seventeen deep.  At the end, people were getting married, babies were being born, and old people, who were young when they got into line, were dying.  There was even a house being built at the end of the queue at register three.
     “#$#@#%@#$#@#$!” Stij commented.  “Come on.  We’re not waiting in these lines!”
     “Are you proposing we embark on a life of crime?”
     “No!  Just leave it!”
     “Patience is a virtue.”
     “Yeah, and silence is golden.”  This was accompanied by a look that can open coconuts at twenty paces and close mouths instantly.  “Come on.”
     Sighing, I abandoned our loaded card and followed him out to the truck.
     Did I say, “followed?”  It was more like “sprinted.”  By the time I caught up, he was already driving out of the parking lot and was irked to have to slow down to forty or so, so I could jump in.
Fortunately, we don’t live too far away from the grocery store; and a good thing, too.  The G-force on that short ride rivaled anything NASA could come up with, and pinned my cheeks back to my ears!
     Into the house we dashed – he for the television, I for the phone, where the plastic surgeon is on speed dial.
     After a brief confab with Dr. Karloff, I hung up with an appointment and yet another admonition to stay out of the truck on football nights.
     I expected to hear the TV blaring when I walked out of the bedroom, but there wasn’t a sound.  Fearing for the bric-a-brac, lest his sports lifeline had inexplicably given up the ghost, I ventured cautiously into the living room.
     He was sitting there.
     In the dark.
     This was not good.
     It was 8:02.  “Wasn’t the game supposed to start at 8:00?” I asked.
     “Yes.  8:00.  Tomorrow night.”
     I shook my head.  Nothing is worse for a North Carolina football fan than Pantherus interruptus.
     “Do you mean to tell me that I look like I just spent two hours in the front row of an Aerosmith concert for nothing?”
     “Yeah, but look at the bright side.  We can go back to the grocery store now, and . . .”
     “Excuse me?”
     “Never mind.  Forget I said anything.”
     He spent the entire evening sulking and staring into space, but it gave me a great idea for Valentine’s Day.
     I’m going to skip the lingerie.
     This year, I’m really going hard-core.
     I’m going to buy myself an official Panthers football jersey!

January 23, 2016


 For those of you who have always wondered about the answers to the odd questions people sometimes ask, wonder no more.  Here are the answers:

Do fish drink water?

        No, fish drink Johnnie Walker Black

Why do cats purr?

        To give you a sporting chance to get your hand out of the way before they clip it off at the wrist and bury it in their litter box.

What is Zulu time?

        It’s like Hammertime, but in ¾

What is the lowest point on Earth?


How many people died in the Civil War?


What does the information on our money represent?

        How screwed we are

Is pinto a breed of horse or just a color?
        It is an exploding car

What caused the Great Depression of 1929?

        The lower hemlines of 1928

Has a U.S. vice president ever been assassinated?

        No.  Nobody gives enough of a crap to bother.

Why did Custer choose Garry Owen as his regimental song?

        Because “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” seemed somehow inappropriate

What was the last song the musician on the Titanic played?

        Splish Splash, I was Takin’ a Bath

What is the religious makeup of the United States


What is the star closest to our sun?

        Leonardo DiCaprio

How did the sport of hockey get started?

        Two kids beating the crap out of each other on a frozen pond

What is the book that the Statue of Liberty is holding?

        Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

What caused the fire that destroyed San Francisco?

        Swatch friction

What part of the world gets the most rain?

        Any part that has an outdoor wedding scheduled

Will hot water freeze faster than cold water?

        Don’t be a moron

December 29, 2015


          This year, in the Buckingham household, we have begun what I hope will become a tradition.
No, it isn’t considered a “tradition” to avoid burning down the house—that is more of a rule inscribed on the third tablet that Moses dropped and broke by mistake.  Take from that what you will.
At any rate, last year, on January first, Stij and I each put an empty Mason jar on our respective desks.  It was our job, when something terrific happened all during the year, to write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in the jar.  On New Year’s Eve, we will open up the jars and read the contents aloud as a way of expressing our gratitude for the good things life has brought us during the previous year.
We decided to open them a day or two early on this, the inaugural year.  Here’s how it went:
“Okay, who goes first?”
“I will,” Stij said, fishing out a piece of paper. He read, “Had the fire extinguishers recharged.”
“And that’s a terrific thing from last year?”
“Remember the pot roast?”
“Oh…right. Okay, my turn.” I unfolded my paper.  “Made pot roast.”
“Well, I guess that’s a wash.  ‘Bought a new ride-on mower.’”
“You sure pick some odd things to put in your jar. ‘Drove ride-on mower through neighbor’s prize-winning Petunia bed.’” 
“Talk about me!  How is that a great thing?”
“It got you that new ride-on mower you wanted, didn’t it?”
Stij shook his head as if trying to clear water from his ears. “Remodeled living room.”
I opened my slip of paper. “Saved the bric-a-brac by setting fire to a giant homemade loaf of bread that attacked the living room.”
“Remodeled the kitchen.”
“Remind me of why you had to do that."
“Exploding lasagne.”
“Oh…right.  But the salad was good, as I remember.”
“You have the memory of a dead elephant.  The ‘salad,’ as you so laughingly call it had a homemade dressing on it that ate through an anodized aluminum bowl AND the counter top—and it takes a lot to eat through granite in three-and-a-half seconds.  Have you ever considered a career in munitions?”
“Tee hee.  Here’s mine, ‘Created a lasagne that looked exactly like the photograph in the cookbook—before exploding.’”
“Five seconds of pride followed by three seconds of mayhem and two-and-a-half months of work.”
“Okay, smart guy, let’s hear another one of yours, then.”
“Okay. ‘Installed steel counter top on kitchen island.’”
“Didn’t that come under the kitchen remodel?”
“No that was later on when your chocolate chip cookies melted the previous one.”
“Oh…right.  Here’s one of mine: ‘Feeding the birds.’”
“Here’s mine: ‘Shoveling up and disposing of 300 bird carcasses after you ‘kindly’ fed them the bird seed balls you made and hung from the trees.’”
“Oh, come on.”       
“’Come on,’ nothing!  To this day, Ziplock has no idea that they actually make body bags.  I still don’t know how you could screw up birdseed balls..
“Well, the recipe called for suet, which I didn’t have and had no idea where to get, so I got creative and used Gorilla Glue instead.”
“Got creative?  Got homicidal, you mean.  If I hadn’t gotten rid of those bodies pronto, PETA would have burned you in effigy.  It’s as close as I ever want to get to feeling like a mob clean-up man.”
This was not turning out to be the uplifting exercise I had originally envisioned.
“Okay, okay!  I see that you have one left—let’s hear it.”
He unfolded the last slip.  “‘I love being married to my wife because there is never a dull moment.’”
“Funny, my last slip says the same thing about you,” I said.
Just goes to show you that the couple that cooks and rebuilds together stays together.