June 27, 2013


         As you undoubtedly know by now, I’m a pet fanatic, and the pets I prefer are less than usual ones.
Over the past seven years, I have collected a number of large spiders and venomous snakes.  My favorites are the vipers.  Deadly, but beautiful.  I also have several cobras and mambas.
I think part of the reason I’m such an animal nut is that I have very few friends, for some reason.  I’m a nice person, and reasonably funny and entertaining.  Supportive.  Generous.  I just don’t get it.
Anyhow, my family, most of whom I haven’t seen for the last decade, decided to pay me a visit.  They were passing through on their way to Europe, so they were going to stop overnight at my house in order to save the price of a hotel, then catch their plane the next afternoon.  I planned a cookout.
The morning before they arrived, I double-checked all the padlocks on the snake cages, and then locked the door to my reptile room.  A couple of my aunts were petrified of snakes, so I opted to forgo the coronary occlusions, and keep the folks in the dark about my hobby.
The aged relatives arrived at noon on the dot.  Unfortunately, my 12-year-old cousin, Larry, arrived with them.  Ever see Felix the Cat?  If anyone was the living embodiment of Poindexter, it was Larry . . . or “Lawrence,” as his mother called him.
I hated “Lawrence.”  He was terror in Tommy Hilfiger.  Lucifer in Levis.  Armageddon in Amalfis.   In short, not a fun guy.
“Hi, Larry,” I said, brightly.
“Yeah, whatever,” was his witty reply.
I had already started the charcoal so it would be ready to cook on when the family arrived.  We all adjourned to the patio, and the festivities began.  Between cooking and catching up, I was far too busy to keep track of “Lawrence.”
Big mistake.
The next thing I knew, a very pale 12-year-old was tugging at my sleeve.  He had, for unknown reasons, reverted back to the age of two, and was babbling incoherently.  I took him into the kitchen and tried to find out what had upset him so.  After ten minutes of talking soothingly (plus the shot of whiskey I forced him to drink to calm him down), I got the story.
The little juvenile delinquent-in-training had picked the lock to the snake room.
Not only that, but he had figured out the combination padlock on a cage and had let my Gabon Viper loose. 
He had no idea where it was.
Gabon Vipers are the most beautiful snakes in the world.  Mine was an incredible specimen.  Five feet long, stocky, gorgeous.
Also deadly poisonous.
As the hamburgers burned, I mounted a search, dragging “Lawrence” by the ear to help me and mentally counting the number of vials of antivenin I had in the refrigerator.
Snakes naturally gravitate to dark, warm places, so those are the first places to look.  But when the snake you’re looking for is poisonous, and possibly rather stroppy, you don’t just go lifting up the bedspread and sticking your face or hands under the bed.  Not even with a flashlight.
The whole thing was quite an annoyance, I must say.
What we ended up doing was working as a team.  “Lawrence” lifted up the bedspreads with a long pole and I shone a flashlight beneath, armed with a snake hook and a pair of tongs.
After looking under a couple of beds, “Lawrence” had to go to the bathroom . . . probably to clean out his underwear.  I waited, expecting his return forthwith, but after five minutes, instead of his footsteps down the hall, I heard screams from down the stairs.
“Lawrence,” helpful little bastard that he is, had told all of the semi-fossilized aunts and uncles on the patio about our little scavenger hunt!
The screaming ended with a slamming door.  Silence reigned.
I expect they found they could catch an earlier flight, so left to take advantage of it.
When the echoes died away, my Gabon Viper poked his pointed head around the doorjamb, as if he were looking for me.  I picked him up with the snake hook and put him back in his cage.  I think he may have smiled at me.  He drifted off to sleep, dreaming, I suppose, of growing large enough to substantially decrease the surplus population of the pre-teen males of the world.
If there’s anything more frightening than a deadly snake, it’s a 12-year-old boy.





June 14, 2013


Glendale Community College just sent me their yearly schedule for Adult Education night courses, despite my best efforts to stop them. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it’s a course offering that no one on the outside of a lunatic asylum would be remotely interested in exploring. However, the fees are reasonable, so Adult Education remains a popular way of allowing folks my age and older to go out and make fools or hospital patients of themselves by dabbling in such things as knife throwing, juggling, and unicycle racing . . . affordably.

I’d like to share with you this year's course offering . . . maybe you’ll want to sign up. Maybe you'll want to sign up your neighbor with the drum set and take out a large insurance policy on him . . .

Knitting Your Way to Regularity
Human Skin Collages
Watercolors—Your Key to Desert Survival
Building Your Own Home from Recycled Ivory Snow Containers and      Construction Paper
Ignoring Your Spouse with Paper Mache 

Rappelling for City Dwellers
Push-up Bras and Your Health
Aerobics and the Bible
Volcano Rollerblading
Wheelchair Karate
Weight Training with Used Cars
Your Hernia and You

NEW AGE (yes, it’s still with us!)/PARANORMAL
Edible Trees
Organic Dancing
Shamanic Drumming to Annoy Your Neighbors
Healing with Mulch
Exploring Haunted Cesspools
Beadwork and the Zen of Bleeding
Recycling Finger Cymbals and Fringe
Your Inner Child:  An Excuse for Everything 

New York City Parades
An Evening with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Marriage to Tom Cruise
A Chris Farley Movie Marathon
Shopping at Toys R Us the Day After Thanksgiving 

Russian Literature and Depression
Running in Place in Sixteen Easy Steps
Advanced Running in Place
Assault Weapons – Your Shortcut to Mental Health
Handy Household Uses for Phlegm 

Dog House Construction with Back Issues of The National Enquirer
Teaching Your Parrot to Shut the Fuck Up
Housebreaking Your Rattlesnake
Cute Tarantula Tricks
Feral Cat Herding in Las Vegas (field trip included)
SCRABBLE for Ferrets 

Nuclear Microwaving
Creating a Clam Bake in Your Hot Tub
Canning and Preserving Tropical Fish
Pork Sushi
Chicken Tartare
Flamethrowers and Quick Searing





June 7, 2013


      Before I begin, I should tell you that I’m from New England originally—home of decorum, keeping yourself to yourself, and not posting details about every bowel movement on Facebook.

     I also grew up in the funeral biz.  My dad owned a funeral home and was a funeral director as well as an embalmer—so I understood it pretty well, plus I’ve attended a few funerals in my time.
     Arizona, I discovered, is an entirely different world when it comes to what I had previously regarded as a solemn, and yes, respectful occasion.
     I attended the funeral of the wife of a co-worker friend down here.  It was, and I’m not making this up, 121 degrees that day, but I dutifully dressed appropriately for the occasion, and Stij put on a tie.
     By the time we arrived at the funeral home, we both looked as if we came by way of the Bering Strait—without a boat.  The AC in the truck hadn’t done diddly.  But, at any rate, we were there, intent upon doing the right thing.
     The bereaved husband (and he was bereaved—I happen to know that he loved his wife very much) was greeting mourners at the door.  He was dressed in a tee shirt and blue jeans, with a “Kiss me, I’m Italian” huge silver belt buckle attached to a macramé belt.
     Well, his tee shirt was black . . . but still. . . I’d never seen anything like it.
     Okay, we were greeted and ushered inside, and things moved along fairly normally—until the floor show.
     I shit you not.  A floor show.  This was the first time I ever had to pay a cover charge to attend a funeral.
     First, there was a clergyman whose unidentifiable accent was so profound that he could have been delivering a eulogy, could have been reading the first chapter of Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers.  Or perhaps he was regaling us with Led Zeppelin lyrics. Who could tell?
     After that, we were treated to a slide show of the deceased’s life, from conception up until yesterday—with musical accompaniment.  You guessed it—“Yesterday.”
     Finally, just as I was looking for a convenient rafter to throw a rope over, there bounced onto the stage, in front of the coffin, five pre-teens, one of whom was the deceased’s grandchild.  They burst into a medley of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and Elmo and Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  Though the selection was bizarre, at least the last one had “grandma” in the title. However, it was the middle of July and grandma had been mowed down, not by a ruminant, but a heart attack.   We also had to live through their choreography, which would have driven Nigel Lithgoe to open an artery.
     After the utter, paralyzing horror wore off (we were not the only New Englanders in attendance, apparently), there was subdued, confused applause. 
     The bereaved husband/grandfather was not satisfied with this.
     “Come on!  That was great!  These girls worked really hard on this! Get on your feet and give them some real applause!” he shouted into the microphone.
     We did as he demanded, feeling really weird about a standing O at a funeral home.
     Next up—the stand-up comic nephew.  He was so skilled, he made Pauly Shore look like Rodney Dangerfield.  I didn’t think that was even possible.  It was a funereal miracle, and I was there. Hallelujah.
     There was even an idiot walking around with a movie camera, talking to attendees.  Now I hate this kind of bullcrap at weddings, but having a lens shoved in my face at a funeral was another animal completely.
     “What do you remember best about Marie?” this moron asked me.
     “I never met the woman,” I replied.
     “Really?  Then why are you here?”
     “I’m here to perform a public service,” I said.
     Camera still rolling.  “Really?” he asked foolishly.  “What?”
     I removed a small ball peen hammer from my purse and smashed his camera beyond recognition.  I may have even jumped on it a few times. “That,” I said.
     And do you know, I got a spontaneous standing ovation, was hoisted upon shoulders, and borne from the room, followed by the rest of the attendees, all the way to the nearest bar.
     Yessir, it was one hell of a funeral.





June 1, 2013


        I had to deal with an insurance claims adjuster recently.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all began one fine June day when I moved into my little cottage on a lake in Connecticut.  Existence was idyllic.  I awoke and stepped out the back door for a quiet swim or took the canoe out for a paddle through the gently rising mists on the water.
This bucolic bliss was interrupted on a November morning when I jumped into the shower and . . . nothing.  Not a drop!
After a hasty call to the local plumber, I was informed that just before winter each year, the town fathers lower the lake, which, in turn, drastically lowers the water table, through some quantum mechanics principle that I will never understand.  All I knew was, I didn’t have any running water.  And I wasn’t the only one around without it.  No one had any.  Of course, the realtor had had a convenient memory lapse when it came to this vital bit of information.
The bottom line was, if I wanted water during the winter, I had to have a well dug.  I hired the well diggers, who brought in a drill while I was at work, and spent the next two days drilling, mashing my wisteria to a shadow of its former self, and maiming my marigolds.
At last, on the third day, I arrived home from work to find my horticulturally-sensitive drillers gone and a well cap about half the height of a fire hydrant in their place.
I flew to the house and turned on the first faucet I came to.  Water!  I danced!  I shouted for joy!  I called my mother!
After I calmed down, I decided I’d better put something fairly obvious over the top of the well cap, so that people wouldn’t trip over it.  I thought that my old, leaky aluminum rowboat would work, and, as it turned out, was the perfect depth to completely cover the cap and remain flush with the ground.
That night we had a violent storm.  The rain fell in walls, not in drops, and the wind was howling all night long.
The next drizzly morning, I bounced out of bed, euphoric at the prospect of a hot shower.  Everything went as expected.  Upon leaving for work, I even whistled a bar or two from “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”
Three notes into it, the cheery tune died on my lips.
The entire hood of my Fiat Spider convertible was smashed beyond recognition, and the rowboat was on the front lawn.
Evidently, the wind had lifted the boat off the cap and bounced it off the hood of my car, before planting it squarely in my dahlias.
So, I submitted a claim to my insurance company.  Two days later, I received a notice from them indicating that my claim had been denied.  I picked up the phone.
 “Good morning.  I have a claim I need to discuss.”
“What is the policy number?”
“What the rest of the number?”
“Just “one.”  I go back a long way with your company.”
“I should say so!  One moment, and I’ll put you through to Mr. Watson.”
“Mr. Watson.  May I help you?”
“Yes.  This is Carson Buckingham.  I want to know why you’ve denied my insurance claim.”
“I’m sorry, m’am.  The person who originally handled your claim is no longer with us.”
“He died?  Good.”
“No, no.  He’s employed elsewhere.”
“Let’s hope it’s making license plates.”
“Yes, well, perhaps you could acquaint me with your problem.”
“The claim was for my Fiat.  The hood is smashed and I have to get it fixed.  My policy is all paid up, so I don’t understand why my claim was denied.”
“And exactly how did the accident occur?”
“It was hit by a flying rowboat.”
And, do you know, that bastard hung up on me!