December 20, 2013


        Christmastime, for me, has always been a time of reflection—remembering those who are no longer with us and wishing we could forget those who still are.  I happened to be shuffling through some photos the other day and was reminded of the Christmas I am about to relate to you.  So grab some hot mulled cider and a plain doughnut, and join me on yet another sleigh ride through Yuletide Hell…

         Last year, I decided to do a “themed” holiday.  It was to be “An Old Fashioned Christmas” in the Buckingham Household, right out of Currier & Ives.
         As a survivor of that same Christmas, I’m here to tell you that it was more like something out of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Picture Norman Rockwell beating up a small child, and you’ve got the idea.

To start with, I managed to wheedle the entire neighborhood into participating in a carol sing throughout the town.  I secured participants by promising them that I wouldn’t give them any of my Christmas cookies that year.

At any rate, at the appointed hour on December 23, we all assembled.  That crew of singers made the cast of M*A*S*H look positively normal.  I had the route all planned, and so led the way on the half-mile stroll to the first house to be the beneficiary of our jolly vocalizations.

I should mention here that though I have received death threats from most of the great chefs in the country, I actually can sing.  Our first number was “O Little Town of Bethlehem” into which I launched, con brio, expecting everyone else to jump in.

Nobody did.

I got as far as “Oh little town of …” and stopped.

“Well, come on!  Sing!” I cried.

“I can’t sing worth a damn, Carson,” old Corduroy Jenkins said.

This sentiment was echoed by most of the crowd, except for the ones at the back who, by this time, were so gassed on the bottle of bourbon that Alvin had brought along to keep warm that they were ready to sing anything, as long as it was “Little Brown Jug.”

Being the thorough planner that I am, I had forgotten to mention that at least a passing interest in singing would be necessary for our little adventure.

So, after five notes, that bit of Christmas magic was abandoned and everybody went home.  However, even a setback like this left me with the shining visions of Rogers & Hammerstein dancing in my head undimmed.  I trudged home to help decorate the tree.  The “perfect” tree.

After I cleaned up the wood chips, put away the chain saw, and disposed of the now useless tree stand, my children were headed for the basement to get the ornaments and lights when…

“No, no!  No lights.  No ornaments.  This year we’re having real candles on the tree.  We’ll decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries. This is going to be an old fashioned Christmas!” I cried.

My husband, Stij, growled something about an Old Fashioned sounding pretty good to him right about then—but he humored me.

I had purchased a thousand tiny white candles with their accompanying tree fixtures.  The tree, being two and a half feet tall, only accommodated about 75 candles; which was fortunate since, by the time we lit them all, the first ones were still burning…for a minute or two.

We went through the whole thousand in the first 90 minutes, which ended with a hasty call to the fire department.

Luckily, all that happened was that the tree burned to a crisp, the wall was scorched, Stij’s eyebrows were singed off, and I finally got that sunken living room I always wanted.

After the firemen left, following a stern warning to my husband about keeping the matches locked up, my son asked, “Where’s Tango?”

Tango is the cat—a Burmese stray who adopted us five years ago.

“The last time I saw him he was sleeping under the Christmas tree, and …OH NO!”

Resembling and outtake from a Keystone Kops short, we scoured the house in complete panic.  We finally found him hiding under the stairs…or what we thought was him.  I was hard to tell under a two-pound layer of built up candle wax.  He looked more like a miniature, extremely pissed off Jabba the Hutt.

The typical wax removal regimen involves pouring boiling water over the coated object—obviously not an option in this case, unless one finds the prospect of holiday evisceration appealing.

Stij took one look at poor little Tango, then turned to me and said, “Well, dear, we can stick a wick in him and drape him over what’s left of the tree in what’s left of our house, if you want.”

Before I could reply, I got THE LOOK, and kept my mouth shut.  It was the first smart thing I’d done all season.

Upon assessing the damage, I was really surprised he didn’t just skip THE LOOK and go straight for THE REMINGTON.

Instead, he left the room and came back with a pair of hair clippers.

Our family Christmas photo from last year, rather than framed and on the mantle, resides in a dusty album filled with photos of the relatives no one likes.  This is completely understandable.  This piece of Christmas nostalgia depicts two frightened children; a glowering father with no eyebrows; a charred, undecorated Christmas stick; a mother gagged with a book of Christmas carols and bound to a smoldering chair with strings of popcorn, cranberries, and boughs of holly, and a now vicious bald cat sitting on her lap with his teeth sunk to the gums into her right arm.

Fa la la la la, la la la la.


December 5, 2013


         I must confess that I’m in complete awe of toy stores.  I mean, have you been inside of one of those places recently? 

Well, yes, of course you have.  T’is the season, after all.
In the first place, they aren’t just “stores” or “shops” or even “shoppes” anymore.  Gone is dear Giapetto, the maker of toys by hand.  Gone is also the appreciation of toys made by hand.  What we have now are behemoth toy warehouses, taking up enough arable land to feed the entire country of China…twice, and pushing enough plastic to give every female in Los Angeles the boob size of her choice.
Inside, you will feel as insignificant as Stuart Little in the Grand Canyon.  There are hundreds of aisles, with shelves running from floor to ceiling…and the ceilings are 40 feet high. 
These stores have their own weather systems.
I happened to stop into one of these places a few days ago . . . EVERY TOY IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, I think it was called.  At any rate, I had finished all my Christmas shopping, with the exception of Amanda, my niece, and she had mentioned a Barbie doll, so ETITKU seemed like the place to go.
I stopped the first employee I could find with the fewest body piercings and nihilist tattoos, and asked to be directed to the Barbie dolls.
“Aisles three, four, and five,” he muttered disgustedly.  Apparently I had roused him from his coma and he didn’t appreciate it.
“Three aisles for Barbie dolls?” I mused.  I took that to mean that they had their entire stock on the shelves, so I wasn’t worried about finding exactly what I wanted.  I set out, ebulliently, with a spring in my step, for aisles three, four, and five.
After walking for one hour, stopping once to use the restroom (conveniently located every half-mile), and once to buy water, I arrived at my destination and began browsing.
I want to tell you that I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of Barbie dolls.  It was inconceivable to me that there could be thousands of variations on a single theme (well, no, I take that back—Bach did just fine with it).
The first thing I did was to pull out my cell phone and call my husband to tell him not to expect me for dinner…this week.  Then I continued my quest.
Initially, there were the types of Barbies you’d expect to find:  Beach Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, Tennis Barbie, Golf Barbie, Rock Concert Barbie…well, you get the idea.
Then there were the “Career” Barbies.  These included Doctor Barbie, Dentist Barbie, Psychoanalyst Barbie, Lawyer Barbie (I didn’t like that one at all!), Detective Barbie, Wall Street Barbie, and Super-Bitch Corporate Executive Vice President Barbie.  That last one came with a “corporate spy” briefcase (which included a tiny videocam), a cigar that shoots poison-tipped darts, an empty gin bottle, and a full ashtray.
Next there were the “Politically Correct” Barbies.  There were African-American Barbies, Asian-American Barbies, Native American Barbies, Semitic-American Barbies, and an Australian-American Barbie with a dwarf husband called “Shrimp on the Barbie.”
Head reeling, I stumbled next upon the “Outmoded Values” Barbies.  These were all covered with the dust of the ages, and a small sign read that if I found any dinosaur bones while browsing here, I could keep them.  Amongst these Barbies, I found:  Homemaker Barbie, PTA Barbie, Stay-at-Home Mother Barbie, Carpool Barbie, Seamstress Barbie, Dinner Party Barbie, and Reading to the Kids Barbie.  There was only one of each, obviously untouched for many years.
After that, it really got strange.
I moved into aisle five.  It was completely stocked with “New Millennium” Barbies, reflecting the current ideology that young children should be exposed to absolutely everything.  There was Dominatrix Barbie (only one left—more on the way!), Drunk Biker Chick Barbie (complete with tattoos, a Harley, and a boyfriend called Slash who was just released from prison), Death During Childbirth Barbie (I don’t even want to think about what that one comes with), Arsonist Barbie (with a whole box of lovely matches that really light!  Wow!), Serial Killer Barbie (with knives, rope, and a bottle of real poison.  An accessory, sold separately, is a policeman looking confused), Vampire Barbie (with a pink Bloodmobile), Bar-Hopping Barbie (with Rohypnol antidote), Hooker Barbie (with condoms, penicillin, and Pimp Ken), Drug Dealer Barbie (with marijuana seeds and potting soil), and finally, Transsexual Barbie (anatomically incorrect, with a copy of The Rene Richards Story). 
There was even a Klaus Barbie…
That did it.
I raced back to aisle four, grabbed the Homemaker Barbie and her complete wardrobe of Donna Reed originals, pearl necklace, rubber gloves and Easy-Off, and bursting though the cloud of dust, threw a handful of money at the cashier and ran out the door!
Amanda had better like this Barbie doll.
There is no way in hell I’m ever going back there to return it.


November 29, 2013


           It’s here.
If you’re smart, you’ll lock all your doors and windows, draw your shades and spend the day watching the scariest horror movies you can find—and compared to Black Friday, they will ALL be comedies, believe me.
I made the mistake of venturing forth this morning.
First stop, Rockler.  For the uninitiated, this is a store filled with woodworking tools.  There were a few things Stij had on his list that I knew I could get there, since he had folded the pages at the corners and subtlely circled each item he wanted in day-glo orange marker.  I’d found the catalog under my pillow.
Once I located a parking spot one town away, I trekked to the door.  There was, I kid you not, a maroon velvet rope of the type one sees at movie theaters and exclusive clubs, strung across the entrance.  There was also a rather burly fellow standing next to it with his massive arms crossed.  To see what he looks like, just go to the AMERICA’S MOST WANTED website—he’s the third one from the left.
“Hello, my good sir,” I said.
He turned a gimlet eye toward me. One was all he had.  The other was covered by a black patch with the catchy slogan, ‘Die, You Bastard!’ embroidered across it. “Whaddya want?”
“Merely to enter this esteemed establishment,” I replied.  I go all ‘finishing school’ like that when I’m in total fear for my life.  I figure if they can’t understand me, they won’t kill me…at least not right away.  Plus, while they’re busy mulling over what I’ve said, I have time to get away.
I could hear the gears in his head, the lubricant of actual thought absent, moving like a tricycle left out in the rain for a month or two. After a long moment, he looked down at me again.
“I’d like to go into this store.”
“What’s your number?”
“I’m flattered, but I’m married.”
“No, lady.  You gotta have a number to get in.”
“And where do I get this number?”
He pointed inside the store to one of those deli gadgets that spits out pieces of paper with numbers on it.
“How can I get a number if you won’t let me in the store?”
He had to think about that one for a while, too.  The smell of burning wood drew the fire department.
Finally, in a remarkable stroke of logical reasoning that would have Aristotle shrieking in his grave for weeks to come, he said, “You gotta have a number.”
“Fine.”  I yanked my cell phone and the catalog from my handbag and keyed in the store number.
I sighed.  “Hello.  Is this Duffy’s Mortuary?   Where the elite meet to spend huge wads of cash?”
“Uh, no.  This is Rockler.”
“Oh, what a relief.  I’d like to do a little shopping there, if it hasn’t been outlawed.”
“Sure, come on down.”
“I am down.  Look out your front window.”  He turned and I waved.
“Oh, hi.” He waved back.
The relationship did not seem be to progressing.
“May I come in?”
“Sure.  You got your number?”
“How am I supposed to have a number if you won’t let me in the door to get one?”
“Oh, you were supposed to stop by and do that last week.  Dincha see the flyer?”
“So what you’re telling me is, because I actually have a life and do not spend my dwindling moments on this planet poring through the bale of ads I receive each week, that I can’t shop at your store today?”
“That’s right, ma’am.”
“How about if I call the police?  This can’t be legal!”
“If they don’t have a number, they’re not getting in, either.”
“This is outrageous!  I will never shop at your store again.”
“And we’ll do our best to explain the drop in the stock prices to our shareholders, ma’am.”
If I ever wanted to slam down a receiver, it was then, but cell phones rob us of that olde-tyme pleasure.  The only option I had was to crush it underfoot, but then I’d have to buy a new one, and God only knew what I’d have to go through to get into the phone store.
From Rockler, I drove to straight to Barnes & Noble and had no problem whatsoever getting in.  I was welcomed at the door and given a sandwich and a latte.  It was peaceful, since I was the only shopper in the place. While I browsed, unhurried, the sounds of crickets and peepers accompanied me.  Others can go to WalMart and fight over Elmo or televisions the size of Montana.  Others can go to Rockler and have an aneurysm in front of the store.  I was among friends now. When my pile of books was totted up and paid for, the cashier rushed to the door to open it for me and said, “God bless you and keep you for coming in today.”
Stij is getting a pile of books for Christmas.  Though they won’t help him in the shop, they will save him big on bail money.

November 22, 2013


Well, it’s just about that time again.  That yearly get-together with the fam.
Yeah.  Thanksgiving.
Hoo boy.
Here’s how, with a few variations each year, it usually goes:
Once at the house and divested of mukluks and a down-filled coat that made me look like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, I hand my mother the pumpkin pie she’d asked me to make.  This one is made of freshly-processed pumpkin, not that tinned crap. This results in a lighter color and the flavor is remarkable.
So my mother feels compelled to remark.
“Looks sort of anemic, doesn’t it?”
“Top it with a unit of O Negative, then.  Where is everybody?”  The driveway was a sea of cars.
“You’re the first.”
“Opening a used car lot?”
“Overflow from the neighbors’ big do.”
“So . . . what?  The family’s going to park on the street, like I did?”  The house is on a hill with a 50-foot driveway.
“Looks that way.  We just wanted to help out. You might try loving your fellow man a little more, Carson.  Your snarky attitude is unbecoming.”
All this from a woman whose dirty look can open clams at twenty paces.
But okay, I’ll go along.  She’s getting older.  She’s forgotten that where she spits, grass never grows.
“What can I do to help?” I’m hoping quite a lot.  My mother is not the best of cooks.
“Nothing really.  It’s all done. We can go sit and talk until everyone else gets here.”
“Well, before we do that, how about if I go and scatter some salt and sand on the driveway—it’s pretty slick out there.”
“In a minute.  I have something I want to discuss with you.”
Oh, God.
When we are seated, Mom drops the big one.  “I think your father is having an affair.”
Holding in explosive laughter, which, having nowhere to go, travels downward, instantly inflating my ankles, I said, “Mom, Dad is 83 years old.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“He’s legally blind.”
“He only has one leg.”
“And a colostomy bag.”
“What’s your point?”
“I can’t believe you just asked me that.”
So, after Mom dries her eyes, I posed the big question.
“How do you know, anyway?”
“He’s started wearing thong underwear.”
Most people, mainly women, wear thongs to avoid underwear lines in their pants.  I’d really like to know who my father thinks is looking at his ass.  “That’s it?  Thong underwear?”
“And he’s using that Axe cologne.”
“Ah, I take it he’s losing his sense of smell, as well, then?”
“This is not the time for jokes, Carson.  Oh, and he’s letting his hair grow longer.”
My father has had a crew cut for as long as I’ve known him.  “Perhaps he’s finally decided to leave the 1950s behind?”
“I don’t think so.
“Okay, so who with?  Any idea?”
“Oh, I know exactly who with.”
Evidently, according to my mother, Pop has become enamored of the local Postmistress . . . who is 92, uses a walker, and is nearly deaf.  Getting the mail is never a peaceful pursuit if there is anyone requiring front desk service.  At Christmastime it's bedlam in there.
“So what are you going to do about it?  Have you talked to him?”
“Why not?  Talking to me isn’t going to get it resolved.”
“I don’t want to discuss it.”
“You don’t have to.  I’m going to go talk to him.”
“No.  It has nothing to do with you.  Leave it alone.  Let’s just have a pleasant Thanksgiving, all right?”
Yes, kindly readers, this is Thanksgiving in my house.
The aged relatives begin arriving, with only minor sprains and bruising from slipping on the ice in the driveway on the way up from the street.
Once everyone is comfortable, Mom hustles us into the dining room to eat “before everything dries out.”
Food is passed, plates are loaded, wine glasses filled and it begins.
My Uncle Dan starts things off.  “So, how’s life with the Buckinghams?”
My mother bursts into tears and dashes from the room.
“About the same, I see,” he mutters.
By the time my mother composes herself enough to return, Aunt Shirley is already on her fifth glass of wine and her seventh filthy joke.  This doesn’t play well to Aunt Mary, who is a nun.  My brother has decided to use his considerable talents as a career waiter in a diner to instruct the group on French serving and is launching food all over the room.  Dad is still looking for his fork.  My cousin Lois hasn’t taken her face out of her pocket mirror since she arrived, and has answered at least six calls on her Bluetooth, since she knew we’d all want to hear her side of each conversation.  Aunt Anne has removed her wig and is beating my cousin Donald with it—I have no idea why.
The only reason that there is no gunplay this year is that, when Mom wasn’t looking, I sneaked Prozac into the stuffing . . . a lot of Prozac.  By the time the football game started, the family members who weren’t unconscious were actually getting along, and even I was a little less snarky.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

November 14, 2013


Due to circumstances beyond my control, in the form of my car's deciding that suicide is, indeed, painless, I have been "bussing it" lately to and from my office.
       I must say that it's been an interesting experience--especially before dawn. I'm a night person, so to me, six o'clock had always come around once a day, and it wasn't in the morning.
       What a cruel awakening I had in store.
       At any rate, with my eyes propped open with a pair of extremely feminine 2 x 4s, I totter to the bus terminal to begin a new day. If there is a puddle along the way, I will fall into it. If there is a crack in the sidewalk, I will trip on it. And if you say, "Good morning" to me, I will gun you down. The sheer absurdity of such a remark before the sun has even made an appearance merits a .357 in the vitals, as far as I am concerned. It's rising at ungodly hours such as these that makes me realize that I wasn't born with nearly enough middle fingers.
       Immediately upon arriving at the bus stop, I gaze upon my surroundings, wondering how I got there. In the time it takes to cut through my mental fogginess enough to remember, the bus arrives.
       I usually trip on the first step and gracefully fall flat on my face. Luckily, my bus driver, Walter, is used to this by now, and throws a mattress on the floor just before my stop. Evidently, people had been slipping in the blood, and the bus company was not interested in any more lawsuits than the bus drivers themselves could generate.
       The worst part of bus travel, for me, is sitting down; and it is here that I must make a confession.
       I am a weirdo magnet.
I don’t know why. I wish I did. But if there is anyone strange or disturbed, they will unerringly end up sitting next to me. And if they aren't actually sitting with me, they will cause me some kind of embarrassment before the ride is over.
       Take yesterday, for instance. There was a little old man at the back of the bus who decided, out of everyone aboard, that I was the spawn of Satan, and was rather loud in proclaiming this conclusion. I disliked being singled out in this manner, since all one had to do was scan the motley collection of passengers to know that I couldn't possibly have been the only spawn of Satan on that bus! How he could have missed the two guys in black with the swastikas carved into their foreheads sacrificing a white rooster three rows back is beyond me.
       But for some reason, I'm the one who gets noticed.
       Want a 20-minute ride to feel like a 20-year prison sentence? Try occupying the seat between a lady with Tourette's Syndrome, whose invective rivals anything even the most creative sailor could come up with, and a nearly deaf guy who, after each outburst, screeches, "WHAT?" at the top of his lungs.
       Or how about when it's "check day"? There are so many physical wrecks aboard that the bus feels it has no choice but to break down as an act of solidarity.
       Sometimes, Walter isn't driving my bus. Sometimes the bus driver is "Mr. Methane" who, I am convinced, lives solely on baked beans and broccoli. If you can survive a 20-minute trip in a closed bus with this guy, you get a Purple Heart from the bus company, as well as a complementary gas mask…blue for the men, pink for the ladies. I was on his bus one day when all the windows melted. Of course, that didn't happen until after every passenger's hair fell out. By the time we reached our destination, we all looked like we were on a day pass from the cancer ward.
       But of all the befuddled and bewildered passengers, the guy who thinks he's Mark Twain is my favorite. He boards the bus in the signature white linen suit, even in the dead of winter, and sports a white wig, bushy eyebrows, and a glued-on mustache. However, I suspect he's never opened a book by that esteemed author, who is undoubtedly spinning in his grave like a lathe at the idea that someone who conspires to look like him would ride in a public conveyance quoting loudly from a Mighty Mouse comic book.
       One thing that commuting by bus has going for it, though, is that no matter how bad my day turns out to be, it seems pretty tame compared to the bus ride in.


November 8, 2013



Is anybody else out there getting really tired of local television news?  I don’t care what channel it’s on, or from which state it is broadcast; it really needs some help.
Gone are the days of ladies and gentlemen who are actually dressed like ladies and gentlemen.  Gone are the days of the newspeople sitting behind a desk, delivering the news of the day with quiet dignity.
Now we have either wannabe comedians or wannabe Kardashians—and I’m not sure which is worse.
“Just look at what that bimbo’s wearing!” my husband, Stij,  is often heard to cry.  Stij has never been interested in women’s fashion.  Most of the time, not even in men’s.  He is interested in Levis and tee shirts with pockets.  He is a master woodworker—he has no need to be interested in haute couture.
But now, at seven a.m., he is outraged.
The “bimbo” in question is one of the two news anchors on our local channel 10.  Oh, and that’s another thing—news anchors travel in pairs now.  One bimbo (already mentioned) and one hopeless male buffoon who thinks he’s S.J. Perelman, but who sounds much more like a post-lobotomy Pauly Shore.
But back to the bimbo.
I squinted through slitted eyes (it was seven in the morning, after all) and saw what he meant. 
I knew about ladies of the evening, but now we seem to have ladies of the morning.  Why on earth this anorexic female with Double-D boobs thought that a skin-tight black leather miniskirt, a red blouse so frilly that it looked as if her chest had exploded, and leopard pumps with six-inch stiletto heels was appropriate for delivering anything but a list of prices for her various services, was completely beyond me.
All I’ll say about the buffoon is that he ought to be wearing a red nose that lights up.  A gag would be nice, too.
And now—at least where I live—the latest thing is to deliver the news standing—and not behind a desk, but out in the middle of the newsroom.  Evidently, they think that people will find the news more exciting if it’s broadcast from a newsroom “in action.”  However, what we normally end up viewing is some bored to death intern picking his nose at a computer screen.
Then they move along to the hard news!  I kid you not, I am not making this up, but they actually hold the front page of a newspaper up to the camera, pointing to the stories and discussing them.  And they will do this with a number of different papers from across the country.  Then, just as you’re throwing a noose over the nearest rafter, they move the camera to one of their computer monitors with headlines on it—I suppose for those who are more “technically inclined.”
After my husband stopped vibrating about the lack of decorum, he happened to notice something at the bottom left of the television screen.
“#*^%^&&**&%#@!$@#!!!!!  Do you BELIEVE this shit?” he roared.
There was a little notice that proclaimed that this was the news from eleven o’clock the previous night!
So this year, dear friends, we’re taking our vacation in Kansas City, Missouri so my husband can cry over Walter Cronkite’s grave.
And that’s the way it is, Friday, November 8, 2013. 


November 1, 2013


Vultureville, ARK – Bubba Joville, a colorful local resident, has come up with an unorthodox way of making a little extra cash in these trying economic times.

He is selling his spit.

When questioned about the success of his new venture, Joville replied, “I thought I might be able to make a little sellin’ to folks who are too old to spit, but the thing really took off.  Never expected nothin’ like this!”

Joville said he ever realized the many uses for saliva until he started his company, called, simply, “Hwwark.”  And what do people need all this extra spit for?
“The young’uns buy it fer makin’ spitballs, or just t’straight out spit it at each other.  Mothers buy it to have a supply to wash their young’un’s faces with.  Middle age folks buy it fer sealin’ envelopes, fer usin’ on their fingers to get those goddamn cheap plastic bags open at the grocery store to bag up that leakin’ chicken, fer shinin’ their shoes, or fer sendin’ in the direction of the politician of their choice.  Been gettin’ huge orders fer that last.

Joville is also doing his best to improve the lives of others by hiring on twenty-two employees.  “I just cain’t keep up with the orders m’self.  I’m only good for about a quart a day, but the younger help I got can go a gallon or more.”  He achieves maximum production with his version of aromatherapy.

“I jes’ keep a grill going out back and pump the cookin’ smells inside.  Nothin’ like the smell of slow roasted squirrel to get those ol’ boys to spitting for all they’re worth.”

Wal-Mart has expressed an interest in Joville’s product for use on their employees.  At this time, negotiations appear promising, and would provide the cash infusion Joville requires to move to his business out of his parents’ garage and into a larger facility in downtown Vultureville, next to the Post Office.

Joville’s long range plan is to go public within the next year, and unlike the rest of the stock market, his stock really will be worth spit.

October 25, 2013


At one extremely low point in my life, I had decided to commit suicide. 
I had it all figured out and all my paraphernalia in place when I remembered I had to leave a note of some kind behind, so innocent parties had an explanation and would not feel guilty.   
I set to.
“To Whom it May Concern,” I wrote. 

No, that’s too cold, too impersonal.
“To Those Who Care.”  
Nope.  Too self-pitying.
“To Occupant.” 

I worked for three hours on the salutation alone.  Finally, I had it right:  “To Everyone I Love, Thanks for the Use of the Hall.”
Great.  That was done.  Now for the note.
I spent hours and hours, revising and rewriting.  Hours became days.  Days stretched out into weeks.  Dirty dishes piled up.
By the time I had the whole thing written, six months had passed, my note was 120 pages long, and after reading over the final draft, I decided that it would make a great screenplay.
I FEDEXed it to Paramount and they sent me back a check for $100,000, which gave me a reason to live. 
It’s impossible for a conscientious writer to commit suicide.

October 18, 2013


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 a bean

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

October 11, 2013


These days, with the economy in the state it’s in (Rhode Island, I think), I am doing my level best to find multiple uses for everyday items in the home in order to save money and make my husband, Stij, realize what a clever wife he has and how lucky he is.
And you know, I think I’m doing pretty well at it.
For instance—homemade jam.  I grow grapes in the back yard and this past season I was able to put up a quart and a half of grape jam.  I’m sure it’s delicious, but I managed to overcook it to the point where the seven packets of pectin I added just said, “Oh, fuck it,” and vulcanized the entire batch.
However, being the inventive person that I am, after scraping it out of the pot with a crowbar, I discovered a myriad (don’t you love that word?) of other uses.  For example, after a mere hour of blowtorching, I found that I could reshape the jam into intriguing sculptural forms; that is, until Stij came in, demanding to know “…what that horrific smell is and why are there 127,000 fire ants on the counter?” just prior to his donning oven mitts and chucking the whole thing into a trash can--which he then threw over the wall into our neighbor’s yard.
“He’ll never know where it came from,” Stij said confidently.
 "Oh, I wouldn't take bets on that," I muttered.
 All right, so the multi-use jam didn’t work out too well.  But how about brownies?  Brownies can be used for a lot of different things, too.
Recently, I made a quadruple batch of them, but forgot to add the eggs.  After employing the crowbar previously used in the jam, and cutting the hardened sheets into pieces on Stij’s band saw, there were enough of them to glue to the concrete slab by the front door in a really attractive herringbone pattern.  While debating whether or not to paint them, Stij walked by and told me that if I put any more of my failed baked goods outside, the fire ants have threatened to eat the tires on his truck—just to get rid of the taste.
So much for that.
Well, how about taffy, then?  See?  I don’t even need to write anything; you’re already laughing.  Why bother?
So since I screwed up the stuff anybody can make, I reasoned, “I guess they’re just too simple—maybe I should try something more challenging.”
Oh, don’t ask ME where I get this logic—just roll with it.
I tried baklava, which ended up tasting like a balaclava.  However, if carefully sanded and polished to a high gloss, it makes a really interesting sound when it hits the garbage can—ask my husband.
Another thing I made that had multiple purposes, which was the original premise of this column—remember?—was pancake syrup.  I figured, no problem, I’ll go outside, tap a tree, and do it the old fashioned way.  So out I went with my peg and bucket and my drill.  I drilled an appropriately sized hole, affixed the bucket hanger and adjourned indoors to watch “Jeopardy.” 
When I went back out, the bucket was full of milky white sap.  I hauled it in and dumped it into a pot on the stove to begin boiling it down.
It didn’t boil down.
It boiled over the pot, ran down the side of the oven, and onto the linoleum floor, where it proceeded to eat right through to the foundation.  The fumes alone were removing the paint, sheetrock, and framing.
It is to Stij’s credit that when he walked in on Armageddon he didn’t just kill me and toss me over the wall to keep the garbage can company.

        When we finally got everything back under control, we assessed the wreckage.  We had exactly half a house left.  Why it stopped at half, I’ll never know.  Maybe the doorknobs gave it indigestion.  All I know is that Stij managed to stuff it all into his refuse trailer and drove it off to the landfill, after first saying a Novena that they would take it when he got there. 
He was underwhelmed upon his return three hours later.
“What happened?  Did they take it?”
“Eventually,” he said.  “When they asked me what it was, I said, ‘pancake syrup,’ then they got all pissed off because they thought I was being a smartass.”
“So what happened?”
“I explained your culinary exploits.  Two of them have wives who cook just like you do.  We cracked a couple of beers and traded stories, and here I am.  What I want to ask you is this—which tree did you tap?”
“That huge Rubber Tree out back.”
“That is NOT the kind of tree you tap for syrup.  You tap a MAPLE tree.”
 “Oh, I know that.  I just thought I’d add some maple flavoring to it after it was boiled down.  Sap is sap, right?  Your face is really red—are you having blood pressure problems again?”
“High blood pressure is the least of my worries lately.” 
“Well, then, what do you want for dinner?”
“A paid-up life insurance policy.  Since we only have half a kitchen left, we’ll be eating out—for the next five months, probably.”
Now see that?  Multiple uses.  Beyond its usual use, my pancake syrup can also be used to get your house remodeled, give your husband the opportunity to make new friends, and get you taken out to dinner.  It also makes a great fire ant killer.
I’ll be releasing a cook book later this year, dear reader, so watch this page!