Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tales From The Kitchen Of Chef Dumbass

I just now finished stripping the Thanksgiving turkey. What a magnificent bird! Even after almost a week’s worth of dinners, I was still able to fill a plate with close to two pounds of choice meat. Yum!

Having done that, and having received the following comment from Ericka concerning yesterday's entry...

“I have, in the past, flipped the d*mn bird onto the floor trying to get it off the rack and onto a serving platter. Stupid bird."

... I am reminded of a few stories concerning food that, unlike this year’s blessed bird, did NOT bring a smile to my face. I suppose since we’re already talking turkey, I can relate a few of the less savory stories concerning those I’ve cooked and then go on from there.

Like Ericka, I once put my bird on the kitchen floor. And, as I told her in reply to her comment from yesterday, I’m not going to say when – just in case anyone who ate that bird is reading this. Hey, if it didn’t taste like linoleum, then why worry? Are you alive? I’m assuming you are, since you’re reading this, so whichever bird it was, even if it was one you ate, you were none the wiser until this very moment, so don’t grouse about it.

(Grouse. Heh-heh. That's a fowl joke. If I were to string a few of those together here, I bet you'd want to knock the stuffing out of me. I won’t, though – I’m too chicken. I’m game, you understand. I could give you a literary goosing. I mean, some puns I can be as proud as a peacock about. However, that type appears to be as scarce as hen’s teeth in this paragraph, so please forgive my digressing and owl me to go on as if nothing happened.)

(OWL ME TO GO ON? Oh, Jim, you’ve sunk to a new low.)

I am also reminded of the time I cooked a turkey without first removing a bag full of giblets from the neck cavity. I correctly did everything that was supposed to be done with the other end of the bird. Surprisingly, the turkey itself tasted just fine, but it was a shock to find them there.

Of course, I’ve had my share of burned meals; things left too long in frying pans or in pots on the stove. There isn’t a cook alive who hasn’t burned something at some time or another. One instance stands out in my memory because it was so stupid, even I have trouble believing I did it and I was there.

I was perhaps 17 years old and had just come home from a night of doing benign drugs with my buddies in Dorchester. That is, we had been smoking pot. I was having a severe attack of the munchies. What I wanted more than anything in the world was a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches. What I wanted less than anything in the world was to drag a frying pan out of the kitchen cabinet and work at preparing them.

(Yes, I know, it’s not like preparing grilled cheese sandwiches is all that strenuous an undertaking. Hey, I said this was a stupid story.)

What I did was take four slices of bread and a couple of slices of American cheese. I put a slice of cheese between two slices of bread. I did it again. I then pressed as hard as I could on these cold sandwiches, compressing them. Then, I did the stupid thing. I put them into the toaster and went into the living room to watch TV until they popped up.

Well, do I really have to tell you how it turned out? Yuck! Ruined the toaster, of course. The kitchen was full of smoke and smelled exactly like you might imagine – of burned cheese and burned bread and bad electricity. The smoke was so thick and so foul that it woke my father from a sound sleep, one floor up, and he came downstairs and gave me holy hell. And, boy, did I deserve it. What a maroon!

(That’s why they call it... Oh, shut up.)

Another time I let a pan full of macaroni cook dry in a beautiful piece of Revereware. Well, it was beautiful before that, anyway. Just totally forgot that I had it on the stove and took a nap on the couch. This time, the fumes woke me up instead of my Dad. From that night on, we had only three pieces of Revereware instead of four. It was utterly unsalvageable. The macaroni was black and stuck to the bottom of the pan as though nature had intended it that way from the beginning of time.

Now, having told you these tales of catastrophic cuisine, I want it to be known that I’m actually quite a good cook. Not a chef, mind you; I’m not that full of myself. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that the folks who eat my meals on a regular or semi-regular basis will gladly tell you that I serve good food, prepared well.

I learned how to cook from both my Mom and my Dad, but mostly from my Dad. The men on that side of the family were almost all good cooks and some of them, going back a generation or two, were even professional chefs. An ancestor of mine on the Sullivan side of the family was the chef who, while working at The Parker House in Boston, invented the Parker House Roll.

I have to relate all of this good stuff about my lineage and abilities so that the story I’m about to tell you won’t just leave you with a picture of me as a psychotic idiot who shouldn’t be let within thirty feet of a kitchen without someone standing by with a tranquilizer gun. Probably won’t make a difference, but I had to try anyway.

About twelve years ago, on some special occasion or other, I decided to make a grand dinner and also bake a cake. I think it may have been Canada Day. We’re not Canadian, but MY WIFE and I like excuses to eat. Anyway, the dinner would be a roast of beef; horseradish mashed potatoes; homemade gravy; julienne green beans; and pureed turnip (or rutabaga – yellow turnip, that is, which goes so well with a roast.) The cake would be a chocolate layer cake with vanilla cream frosting, served with freshly ground and brewed coffee when we retired to the living room. There, while soft romantic music played and candles provided the light, we’d say kind words about our neighbors to the north and maybe exchange a few smooches.

Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Well, as you ladies know (and probably a few of you men, too, but you’re too macho to admit it) beauty requires a lot of hard work. I won’t bore you with a lot of details, but the prep work – cleaning the house to make it lovely, sous chef stuff, arranging the table, setting the candles, etc. – took a while and left me with little time to spare between when I had to make the cake (NOW!) and then start preparing the main courses.

I’ll make this a bit more compact of a story by telling you that the layers of the cake had come out of the oven looking lovely. I prepared my confectioner’s sugar and vanilla butter frosting while the cake cooled enough to be removed from the pans. Everything was on schedule and looking great.

Finally, the cake had cooled enough and I removed the layers from their pans, placing one - the bottom layer, of course - on a plate. I ladled out some of the frosting onto this layer and spread it evenly. I then placed another layer over it, spread more frosting, then the final layer on top of that. I proceeded to frost the outside of the cake, artistically putting little peaks and swirls onto the top surface while smoothing the sides.

I was just about done with the cake when I noticed a tiny little bare patch on the side. I lifted the plate with my left hand and regarded this little bit of cake nudity. Easy enough to fix - just a small dollop of frosting needed. I counterbalanced the plate for a few seconds with my right hand while positioning it on the splayed fingers of my left hand – somewhat like how a waiter carries a tray of food with one hand, you know, and I held the cake that way at eye level. I then turned to get a small spatula full of frosting from the bowl on the counter.

The plate tilted. The cake fell onto the kitchen floor. SPLAT.

It fell top down. I still had the plate, but the plate had no cake.

What happened next was pure unthinking reaction. I was seeing red, fairly much blind with rage. I growled a polysyllabic swear word and then did the one ridiculous thing that could have made matters worse.


Honestly, I did. I reared back and did an Adam Vinatieri on it. And now there was freaking chocolate cake and gooey frosting everywhere; on the floor, on the walls, on the tablecloth, on the stove, on the kitchen door, on the counter and on my heretofore white canvas sneaker.

The double-jointed expletive that flew out of my mouth would have rivaled the best that a convention of Tourette’s sufferers could have come up with given a week to work on it.

Thankfully, I had enough presence of mind not to throw the plate that was still in my hand. I laid it down on the counter and surveyed the damage. And then, God help me, I started to laugh; just a little at first, but then it burst from me like a loon. What else was there to do? It was either that or cry. I slumped down onto the cake-covered floor and laughed until I was gasping. It was just too hideous a scene to do anything else.

Long story short, I cleaned everything up – it took a good hour at least and I can assure you I didn't keep laughing the whole time – made another less elaborate cake, cooked the dinner and then, because I couldn’t keep a straight face over dessert, told MY WIFE all about it. It has become legend between us as perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen, if not life overall, and that covers a lot of ground, believe me.

Tomorrow with more better stuff, on the occasion of my Grandma’s 101st birthday. I will not be baking her a cake, so she has a good chance to make it to 102.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

47 Minutes Of Random Thoughts

It is Tuesday afternoon and I just got home from work. I am going to write until MY WIFE gets home from work. I expect that will happen in about thirty minutes or so.

I have no plan other than to record the random thoughts that pop into my head. And when I say random, you best believe I mean random, R-A-N-D-U-M-B. God be with you.

On the way home, I was listening to a CD of Benny Goodman. The song that was playing as I pulled into the driveway was Sing, Sing, Sing. I’ve always thought that could be worked into a dynamite heavy metal jam. Other swing tunes that I’d like to see tackled by an excellent heavy metal band (Deep Purple comes readily to mind) are Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, Tommy Dorsey’s Opus One and Song of India (which is actually based on a theme by Rimsky-Korsakov) and Charlie Barnet’s Cherokee. I’ve thought about this sort of thing - an entire session of nothing but big band tunes done in metal style - for over thirty years now, ever since I was in my first band, but I’ve never done anything about it. I probably never will.

If I were a rich man (which would not make a good heavy metal tune) I would have electrolysis done on certain areas of my body. Should I say which ones or leave it up to your imagination? No, I suppose I should tell you. The things you could imagine would be way too gruesome. My ears. There is hair growing in my freaking ears. As a result, I stick a razor as far into my ears as possible once or twice a month in an attempt to stem the tide. Occasionally, in so doing, I cut my ear. Well, duh. That’s what happens when you’re dumb enough to stick a fucking razor in your ear. It’s still better than being aggravated (tickled, really) by the hairs if they get too long.

I mean, what the fuck. I started losing the hair where I wanted it to grow when I was about 20 and I started growing hair in all sorts of places I didn’t want it at all when I was about 40. Should I expect something hideously-hair-related to happen every twenty years? What, when I’m 60 will my chest hair migrate to my back? When I’m 80, will my eyelashes start growing out of my eyeballs? I want my money back. Life is a gyp.

Aw, that’s kind of cute, in a morbid way, but it’s not true. Life is good, generally. I just had a great Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas is coming up. The company holiday party is this coming Monday and that should be fun. We’re going to have an amusement center all to ourselves. Miniature golf, skeeball, air hockey, that sort of thing. I have a bet of sorts with our office manager. She said that she’s the Queen of Air Hockey. I told her that I’d kick her ass in miniature golf. If we end up tied after those two events, the tiebreaker will be the skeeball. There will, of course, have to be something good riding on this. Perhaps, oh, I don’t know, something to do with getting naked, climbing on top of a desk in the middle of the office, and singing a song about how the other person is the almighty all-time sports champion and rocks her entire world.

No, that wouldn’t be any good for her. I’ve got hair growing out of my ears, for goodness’ sakes, so why would she want to take a chance at seeing what might be happening under my clothes? And I can carry a tune, but only if you provide me with a bucket. I’m sure we’ll think of something good. I’ll let you know.

It is now officially after Thanksgiving, of course, so I’m not pissed off when I hear Christmas music. As a matter of fact, I’ve broken out the Christmas CDs at home and started listening to them. Here are my favorites, in no particular order.

Christmas Eve And Other Stories – The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Hard rock, metal and other interesting renditions of traditional carols, woven into a tapestry of original tunes. Powerful and moving.

Yules Of Yore – Various Artists (Nick At Nite Records)

Cheesy old renditions by folks such as Mike Douglas and Jim Nabors. Nostalgic.

All-Star Christmas – Various Artists

Like the above, but a bit less schmaltz. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and that bunch.

Twelve Songs Of Christmas – Jim Reeves

I don’t know. There’s just something about Jim Reeves voice that transports me back to a gentler time. One somewhat racist tune (Senor Santa Claus) but the rest is easy on the ears and makes me feel warm all over.

Merry Xmas From The Space Age Bachelor Pad – Esquivel

If you aren’t familiar with Esquivel, there’s no easy way to describe his music. “Weird” is the easiest adjective, but that doesn’t do it justice. Deceptively intricate orchestral arrangements full of odd backing vocals – “Zoom, zoom, boink, boink”.

Boogie Woogie Christmas – The Brian Setzer Orchestra

Great rocking Christmas album. Big Band flavors with rockabilly guitar. Great stuff.

There are other Christmas CDs I like a lot – The John Rutter Christmas Album, Christmas Cocktails, Christmas On The Bandstand - but we have some 30 of them, so I have to stop somewhere. Anyway, I just thought of something else having to do with CDs and Christmas.

The other day, MY WIFE asked me what I wanted for Christmas. She does this every year. She does it because she loves me and she wants to get me something that I’ll really like. However, I’m always uncomfortable answering a question like that. It seems too greedy somehow. So, every year I never really give her an answer. This year, though, I’ve decided that I will answer her and the following is my answer.

I want some CDs.

For some time now, I’ve wanted the following CDs. I haven’t bought them myself because I’ve got a buttload of CDs already and we’ve been trying to cut back on silly personal expenses, you know, stuff like lottery tickets. If somebody wants to buy me some CDs as a gift, though, here are the CDs I’d like to have.

(If anybody aside from MY WIFE sees this list and decides to buy me a CD, that person should probably coordinate that purchase with MY WIFE who might, maybe, keep a master list of those being purchased, perhaps like.)

(Of course, the above is basically me begging people to buy CDs for me as presents. See what happens when you ask me what I want and I actually answer that question? The greedy pig in me comes front and center. Too late now, Pandora, I’m out of the box.)

(No, MY WIFE’s name isn’t Pandora.)

Grand Funk – Grand Funk (The Red Album, so called because, well, it’s red. If it’s not red, you’ve got the wrong one. Put it back and get me Closer To Home, so called because, well, that’s its name.)

The Allman Brothers Band – Live At The Filmore East

The J. Geils Band – Full House

Focus – Moving Waves

Steppenwolf – Greatest Hits

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

Black Sabbath – Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath

The Beatles – There are two collections. The first is entitled something like 1962 – 1965 and the second is 1966 – 1968 or something similar. I’d like to have both of them, but I prefer the latter. The album covers both feature The Beatles posing on the balcony of an apartment building, as I remember.

And there you have it: My Christmas List.

MY WIFE just came home so that’s that, as promised. Bye!

(I just typed in the title of this piece while saving it to disk. Imagine that. 47 minutes for me to come up with this garbage. I sure as hell hope it took you less time to read it.)

P.S. Just in case it took you longer than 47 minutes, here’s another 5 minutes or so that might make it worth your while. I had a brainstorm this past Thanksgiving and I shall now share said brainstorm with you, you’re welcome.

Every year, it is a pain in the ass to get the turkey out of the pan. The damn thing usually weighs about twenty pounds and I somehow manage to get it out of the pan and onto a platter only by grabbing it with various kitchen implements like forks, spatulas and oven mitts and wrestling it precariously out, usually splattering pan drippings on the floor and burning my hands, as well as leaving pieces of the bird in the pan. This year, I invented a way to get it out painlessly and cleanly.

I used a pair of shoelaces.

What I did was drape a pair of shoelaces on the bottom of the pan before putting the bird in, leaving them dangling out of either side of the pan. They were about six inches apart. I then placed the bird on top of the shoelaces and tied the ends of the laces together. When the bird was cooked, I simply grabbed the tied shoelaces and lifted straight up. It worked perfectly.

Yes, shoelaces. Twenty-eight inch white shoelaces. I cleaned them before I put them into the pan, running them under hot water and scrubbing them in case there might have been some sort of finish on them. They were clean to begin with, anyway. They were new. I didn’t just take my dirty shoelaces from the sneakers I wear every day and put them into the oven with my Thanksgiving dinner. And nobody died.

(Now, there may well be a perfectly sane invention out there, of a similar nature, that I could have used and which you know about, but I had to think on my feet - so to speak. My method worked like a charm and I’m proud of myself, thanks.)

I’m going to go have my supper now – some lovely turkey, not even a tiny trace of shoelace in any of it - and then maybe shave my ears. If I don’t bleed to death or get botulism, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


As part of my continuing quest to provide you with entertainment, as well as prove what a total idiot I am, I have purchased five Massachusetts Lottery scratch tickets, or – as they are known in the local vernacular – scratchies. They are known in Libertarian circles as "a voluntary tax upon the mathematically illiterate", but since I have already willingly acknowledged myself as a moron, I refuse to also be hung with the "mathematically illiterate" tag. I'm just stupid.

Be that as it may - and it most certainly is - I will now scratch them, live and in color, and let the literary chips fall where they may.

It’s entirely possible that you live in a part of the world that doesn’t have scratchies. This exercise will be completely lost upon you unless you know how they work. So, here’s how they work.

A “scratchie” is a lottery ticket, purchased from a lottery sales agent, usually at a convenience store or liquor shop, and you literally scratch the ticket with a coin, uncovering some numbers. There are four numbers (at least, on the tickets I’ve purchased) labeled “Your Numbers”, and ten other spaces containing “Winning Numbers”. The idea is to match any of “Your Numbers” to the “Winning Numbers”. If any of them match, you win the prize shown under that particular “Winning Number”. The numbers run from 1 through 20. The prizes range from – on these tickets – five dollars up to one million dollars.

Since there are ten “Winning Numbers” on each ticket, and I bought five tickets, I have fifty chances to win. Fifty chances to suddenly have a life of complete and utter slothfulness, not unlike my life now, really, but with an excuse. I will record the results as I go along.

First, I am going to scratch off the “Your Numbers” portion of each ticket, then the “Winning Numbers”. Here goes.

(Since they will actually be MY numbers, and not YOUR numbers, I’ll refer to them as such from here on out. However, I hope that you’ll consider the vicarious thrill I’m giving you a worthwhile one, so they’re YOUR numbers, as well, except I get the prizes.)

My Numbers – 1, 9, 10, 19

Winning Numbers

3 – Loser
17 – Loser
15 – Loser
6 – Loser
13 – Loser
11 – Loser
8 – Loser
12 – Loser
16 – Loser
4 – Loser

Gee, THAT was fun. Let’s hope the next ticket has something better.

My Numbers – 4, 7, 11, 14

Winning Numbers

19 – Loser
18 – Loser
9 – Loser
3 – Loser
13 – Loser
2 – Loser
6 – Loser
8 – Loser
16 – Loser
12 – Loser

Well. That’s 40% of my dreams of riches down the drain. I hope this is fun for you, because so far it’s not doing much for me. I suppose I should take solace in the fact that proceeds from the lottery help to fund such wonderful things as public schools and programs for the arts, but fuck that noise. I want to win! On to ticket number three.

My Numbers – 8, 11, 15, 17

Winning Numbers

13 – Loser
3 – Loser
8 – Lo... Hey, wait a minute! That’s a WINNER! Woo-Hoo!

OK, I’ve just made a decision. In order to heighten what little there is in the way of suspense here, I’m not going to scratch off the amount of money I’ve won until after I’ve found out just how many winners I have. So, let’s continue, knowing that I now have an actual chance to really become a millionaire! Or, at least, get five bucks back.

5 – Loser
10 – Loser
2 – Loser
18 – Loser
9 – Loser
19 – Loser
7 – Loser

Three tickets down, two to go, one winner thus far.

Ticket number four:

My Numbers – 5, 7, 14, 15

Winning Numbers

19 – Loser

I think there’s been a 19 on every ticket, but not in the right places. Oh, well.

3 – Loser
6 – Loser
13 – Loser
11 – Loser
9 – Loser
1 – Loser
10 – Loser
8 – Loser
4 – Loser

Sheesh. Four tickets down, just one winner. Let’s get this done with.

That's not the right spirit at all, is it? Positive thinking is the key here. Yes, I'm sure I can change the pre-printed numbers into winners if I'm an optimist.

Last Ticket:

My Numbers – 7, 15, 17, 18

Winning Numbers

10 – Loser
4 – Loser
5 – Loser
13 – Loser
6 – Loser
1 – Loser
16 – Loser
2 – Loser
8 – Loser

Just one numnber left. Come on, come on, come on – UGH – 11 - LOSER.

Just one winning number. Of course, it could be for ONE MILLION DOLLARS. If it were, that would be fantastic, wouldn’t it? I’d give some of it to charity; perhaps The March Of Dimes, because it would be more impressive if you give someone a pile of dimes because it's 10 times as much as if it was dollars. And I’d buy everybody really nice Christmas presents this year, stuff like solid gold Q-Tips with replaceable angora swabs. I’d also show my appreciation to my co-workers by taking them out for pizza and then, when they were ready to call me a cheap prick for just buying them pizza when I had won ONE MILLION DOLLARS, I’d give each of them a check for a couple thousand and they’d feel all guilty and stuff. That would be rich. Hah! Rich! Yes, I’m going to be RICH! RICH! RICH! I’ll be able to spend the rest of my life watching The Three Stooges on a theater-sized projection screen while I have slaves on either side of me alternately feeding me peanut butter crackers and chocolate chip cookies. MY WIFE will be able to quit her job and listen to Perry Como records all day while swilling Chardonnay, which isn’t my idea of a great time, but her being happy is, so, yeah, that’ll be part of it. I’ll buy season tickets to the Celtics, so I can suffer in person instead of via TV. And I’ll hire a slew of professional hitmen to hunt down and kill anyone who airs Christmas ads before Thanksgiving. YES! YES! YES! THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT!!!


Five bucks? How seriously anti-climactic was THAT? Crap.

Tomorrow with more better stuff, if I don’t hang myself first.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What I Did On My Thanksgiving Vacation

Well, the obvious is that I cooked dinner and ate more than my fair share on Thanksgiving itself as well as since. Then I started writing about it here. The End.

But, Jim, what else did you do? Surely there must have been some other things that happened during the previous nine days that are worth the telling. There must be at least one incident that you can embellish with your usual élan (read: propensity for lying) that will make the reader spit coffee onto the screen.


The previous nine days were a glorious exercise in sloth, for the most part. Yes, I cleaned the house a bit and did lots of cooking for the annual feast, but when you spread that out over nine days? That leaves lots of time to watch football, Celtics basketball, Three Stooges, and taped episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

Yes, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I don’t suppose there’s anyone else on the face of the earth – at least, over the age of ten – who would watch a week’s worth of taped episodes of Mister Rogers, except for MY WIFE and she was at work. I enjoyed it immensely. I sat back in our new rocker/recliner and let the Neighborhood of Make Believe transport me to a vegetative state. Since I (now) rarely drink or do drugs, it is a fair substitute; a marvelously relaxing experience to let the mind just lay there like a lump with the most pressing problem being whether or not Daniel Striped Tiger will be disappointed when Bob Dog tells him that the can of soup Daniel planted didn’t really grow into a soup tree, but that Bob Dog had tied cans of soup to a tree so that Daniel wouldn’t be disappointed.

(Daniel WAS disappointed, but he understood that Bob Dog had only done it because he liked Daniel and didn’t want Daniel to be disappointed, even though that’s how it turned out. Daniel understood, though, and then they ate some soup. So did I.)

(For further elucidation concerning why MY WIFE and I really liked and admired Fred Rogers, you might like to read this. It contains some detail about how Mister Rogers answered a fan letter I wrote to him.)

(And, before I leave the subject of Fred Rogers, let me tell you about something MY WIFE and I did once while on vacation. We were in Toronto for a couple of days and we had spent a fair amount of that time riding the wonderful Toronto public transportation system, which consists of a couple of somewhat short subway lines and many streetcars. We picked out a postcard that showed one of the Toronto trolleys on the front and we sent it to Mister Rogers. We figured that since the first place he had appeared on camera was for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he might like a postcard from his old stomping grounds, especially one with a trolley on it and on which we wrote, on the other side, “Hello from the Neighborhood of Maple Leaf!” True story. We have no idea if this horrible pun from a couple of people he didn’t really know just totally mystified Fred Rogers or if he got a laugh. We prefer to imagine it was the latter.)

In other exciting news from last week, I watched 6 or 7 Three Stooges episodes in a row. MY WIFE, if she were not at work, would tell you that I’ve seen every episode of The Three Stooges at least 25 times. She would be wrong, of course. I’ve seen every episode at least 50 - 60 times.

Now, some folks are bored to tears upon the first viewing of a Three Stooges short, let alone after seeing the same one 50 or 60 times. I was fortunate enough to be born with that particular male gene which allows for repeated viewings of The Boys without ever finding them boring. It is, of course, a guy thing. The female equivalent is, perhaps, the ability to watch basically the same movie over and over again on Lifetime (or, as my nephew calls it, The Pathetic Channel) which pretty much is as follows: Good Woman marries Evil Guy; Good Woman suffers many wrongs at hands of Evil Guy, but stays with him because of her all-encompassing pure-of-heart commitment; Evil Guy finally does something so hideous that even Good Woman can no longer forgive him; Evil Guy gets his, the bastard.

(My apologies to you if you’re a female who enjoys watching The Stooges. I don’t mean to exclude you by implying that The Stooges are a male-only pleasure. As a matter of fact, if you’re a female who enjoys The Stooges as much as any man, I applaud you and I encourage you to breed. And if you’re a guy who enjoys those Lifetime movies, ditto, except for the part about breeding. There’s probably nothing much to worry about in that regard, though.)

(By the way, I’ve watched The Stooges shorts over and over because I have a specific goal in mind. If I should ever go either deaf or blind, those shorts will be one thing I’ll still be able to enjoy just as much as I ever did. I’ll be able to fill in the dialogue (or actions) in my head because I’ll have them completely memorized. That’s what I tell MY WIFE, anyway. I don’t think she totally believes it, but it sounds about as plausible as most of the things I tell her on a regular basis, so the possibility does exist.)

One of the episodes was GOOF ON THE ROOF, which is perhaps my favorite of all of them. The plot, such as it is, is that Moe, Larry & Shemp are the housemates of another fellow who is absent at the moment. This fellow has just been married. He sends them a telegram informing them of this happy event. He also tells them that, as a wedding present for his wife, he has ordered a TV and antenna delivered. The Boys figure that they can install the antenna and TV as a wedding present, thus saving money.

Of course, if you’re at all familiar with the Stooges, you can easily imagine the rest without my help. There is one scene, however, which is the essence of the entire oeuvre of the trio. Shemp has entirely dismantled the television in an attempt to recover a cheap ring that fell into the set. Moe, upon seeing this, whacks him upside the head a few times and sends him on his way to do something else. As Moe tries to put the set back together, piling things one on top of the other inside the cabinet, one string of vacuum tubes frustrates him and he ends up smacking himself in the face when trying to untangle them. He then says, to the string of tubes, “Just for that, you don’t go in there!” and he furiously tosses them aside.

Upon viewing this scene, you will probably find it either laugh-out-loud hilarious or you will see no humor in it whatsoever. If you find it hilarious, you’ll be able to watch it over and over again without ever becoming bored. If you don’t find it funny to begin with, repeated viewings will not heighten your appreciation. Nor will it help if I tell you that, while all of this was going on, Larry was trying to straighten out a bent knob by placing it against a wall and pounding it with a hammer, thus turning the wall into something approximating a Swiss cheese.

I did other things during my vacation, such as visiting the eye doctor to be tested for new glasses, but I’m sure you’d rather hear the following short story:

“Hey, Grapehead, what time is it?”

“Oh, it’s about…” (Curley rolls up his sleeve, revealing three wristwatches.)

“Hey, what’s the idea of the three watches?”

“That’s how I tell the time!”

“How DO you tell the time?”

“Well, this watch runs twenty minutes fast every two hours. This one runs ten minutes slow every four hours. The one in the middle is broke; it’s stuck at two o’clock.”

“Then how do you tell the time?”

“I take the twenty minutes fast on this one, subtract the ten minutes slow on that one, and then divide by the two in the middle.”

“Well, what time is it?”

(Removes hat to reveal a very large pocket watch, which he reads.) “Oh, about 3:30.”

(Moe grabs the very large pocket watch and smashes him over the head with it.)

(Larry intervenes) “Hey, leave him alone!”

(Moe pokes him in the eyes with two outstretched fingers. BOINK!)

Larry: “I can’t see! I can’t see!”

Moe: “Oh, no! What’s the matter, kid?”

Larry breaks into a grin: “I’ve got my eyes closed!”

(Moe slaps him.)

Now, really, what could I possibly tell you about a trip to the optometrist that would be funnier than that?

I suppose the one nagging question you may be left with, if indeed you’re still with me, is this: How can someone who loves the gentility and warmth of Mister Rogers be so enamored with the brutality of The Three Stooges?

Just a victim of soicumstance, I guess.

Well, I’ve done a fairly good job of filling up this space, so my work here is done. I suppose I should let you know that my Thanksgiving was, once again, wonderful. Also, that I thank you, sincerely, for all of your well-wishes and that I surely do appreciate you being here after waiting so patiently for me to return. You make each day special by just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world exactly like you, and everybody can like you just the way you are.

I’ll try to make the next thing you read here more worth your time. I probably won’t succeed, but you know the old saying: If at first you don’t succeed, keep on sucking ‘til you do suck seed (and then Moe grabs the grapefruit Curley had been eating and smooshes it into his face.)

Why, I oughta... Wait! Is that Mr. McFeely at the door? I’ve got to go.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Best Day Of The Year

fris‧son  /friˈsõʊ̃; Fr. friˈsɔ̃/ Pronunciation[free-sohn; Fr. free-sawn]
a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill.
[Origin: 1770–80; < F: shiver, shudder, OF friçons (pl.) < LL frictiōnem, acc. of frictiō shiver (taken as deriv. of frīgēre to be cold), L: massage, friction]
(Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006)

This will be my last entry for a while, so let me tell you about the holiday that I like best of all – Thanksgiving. I like just about any holiday, you understand. Any day you get off from work, or during which people get together to celebrate, or when you get (or give) gifts, well, in my book, that’s a good day. Some days are more special than others, though.

Christmas used to be my favorite. When I was a kid, I went straight from one frisson to another during the week leading up to Christmas. The celebration of Christ’s birth was magical and there was no end to the ways that the world delighted me. As I’ve grown older, however, the magic has slowly ebbed. I haven’t changed, though. It’s the world that has.

When I was a child, nearly every house in the neighborhood sported red, yellow, green, blue and orange pastel lights, either as decoration outside or with a candle or two in the windows. The streets were bathed in an embracing warmth, a welcoming glow. Nowadays, the lights of choice are cold, icicles and clear starbursts. I guess a lot of folks like them – Otherwise, why would they have them? - But all they do for me is make the street too much like daytime. Those bright white lights don’t do anything but remind me of how cold it is in winter. The colorful lights of my childhood made me feel warm, even in the meanest of snowstorms.

The music is omnipresent now. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music. I always have. I always looked forward to it beginning sporadically sometime after Thanksgiving, building bit by bit until there was an entire glorious day and night of it from Christmas Eve through to Christmas Night. It played on the radio all day, but only all day on Christmas and most of the day before. In the morning, while opening presents with my Mom and Dad, we played the two or three vinyl Christmas records we had at home. It was special.

Now the trouble is in trying to avoid it. Even now, November 17th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past week. Seriously, and I mean this, if you like that, God bless you. To me, though, Christmas music is like chocolate. A few pieces, rich and creamy, are delightful. Feed it to me non-stop for fifty days? All that is, is a sick stomach.

(My job, as good as it is, doesn’t help matters. I’m a voice-over guy and I do production work, too, but my actual job title is “Music Director”. Therefore, in the course of my duties, I sometimes have to use holiday music for background in pieces I complete for clients during September and October.)

The final nail in my Christmas coffin is driven in by the greedy merchants who just can’t have the common decency to wait for Thanksgiving to be over before they start spewing forth their hideous advertisements. Every year, they start earlier and earlier. I rail against it every year, too, and MY WIFE tells me to relax, that I can’t change it, that there really isn’t anything all that bad about it. I love MY WIFE, dearly, but on this she’s dead wrong. I’ll go to my grave cursing those bastards for draining the innocent joy out of a lovely day. I try to ignore it and I try to keep the spirit I believe in, but they just beat me down and beat me down and one of these days I won’t be able to get back up.

(I can’t even begin to imagine how hideous a time it must be for those who don’t share my faith. No wonder the atheists keep trying run it out of town. The real atheists – the money-grubbing who see it only as a time to reel in a profit – have turned it into something even I want to partially get rid of.)


Ah, I suppose that’s a bit over the top. The day still has charm. The real importance of the day, for someone like me, is spiritual, and the sons of bitches can’t rip that out of me unless I let them. The people I share the day with, and with whom I eat good food and exchange lovely and loving gifts, are dear to me. They still make it a wonderful day, but that frisson I spoke of earlier, that I used to have in multiples during the season, hasn’t been felt in quite a while.


The only holiday that still delivers that frisson is Thanksgiving.

(I’m trying to set the world record for frisson mentions in one blog. Am I there yet?)

I have never had a bad Thanksgiving. Not one. As a matter of fact, not only have I not had a bad one; I’ve had nothing but good ones for as long as I can remember.

For every other holiday, I can dredge up at least one bummer. There have been New Years Eves with toothaches and New Years Days with hangovers, Washington’s Birthdays with flu, Memorial Days with sunburns, July Fourths with car accidents, Labor Days with the dread of returning to school, Halloweens with stolen candy, and even Christmases with “Dear John” letters thrown into the mix, but never a bad Thanksgiving.

(I’m hoping I’m not the victim of selective memory. Somewhere in the past there may have been one horrible incident I’ve tucked into a corner of my mind under lock and key. If so, and you know about it, don’t tell me. I’d rather be ignorant and happy.)

You know one of the reasons why it’s so easy to have a good Thanksgiving? Nobody’s trying to sell you anything. It’s just good company, some football, great food and maybe a nap with your belt loosened. The biggest thing anyone can put up for sale is a bird. There are no bogus guilt trips laid on you by manufacturers trying to make you feel as though you haven’t done right by your loved ones. All you have to do, to do right by your loved ones on Thanksgiving, is show up.

Oh, the smells of Thanksgiving dinner cooking! There is no perfume in existence that matches the fragrance of turkey, stuffing, gravy, squash, turnip, sweet potatoes, hot rolls, pumpkin pie, and all of the other mouth-watering aromas that emanate from the kitchen on that day. It is the smell of pure love. The one doing the cooking isn’t doing it because he or she is guilt-ridden. It’s being done because the people who will eat the feast are near and dear; as simple and lovely as that.

MY WIFE and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our place for the past ten years or so. It is the most sublime pleasure of my year to plan that meal and then prepare it. I’m the luckiest man in my family. I get to enjoy those smells longer than anyone else. And I get the lion’s share of the leftovers, too.

I remember lovely, huge tables full of food at my grandparent’s apartment in Roslindale, the vegetables served in great green ceramic bowls and topped with pats of yummy, unhealthy real butter. I remember waking in my upstairs bedroom to the smell of a turkey roasting in my childhood home in Dorchester. After my parent’s divorce, I ate TWO huge dinners every Thanksgiving – the first cooked by my father and the second served at my Grandma’s in Weymouth, where I would eat with my mother. It wasn’t easy, but I loved them both too much to let them down, so I did my duty. I even ate a couple of pieces of pie both times, just so they’d have no doubt about how much I cared.

I try to remember what the name of the holiday calls for – the giving of thanks. I look upon my preparation and sharing of food as a sacred rite of sorts. There’s no skimping on this meal. If money’s tight, it’s a way of showing my faith in the idea that God will bring better times. Always, it’s a time to be thankful for the good people who are sharing the table with me.

There are lovely constants at Thanksgiving. For instance, every year the Detroit Lions play football. Well, at least they try to and they should get credit for that. One of these years they may get it right. And the same stories get told at the table. There is a particular one concerning turnip and a Danish friend of the family that never fails to get mentioned.

Seems that one year, when this Dane was a guest of my grandmother’s for the holiday, she started putting out the food and one of the vegetables was turnip. The fellow laughed and said, in his Danish accent, “Turnip! Ha-ha! Very funny!” and when he was asked why he was laughing, he said, “Ho-ho! Yes, the joke’s on me! That’s a very funny joke. OK, you can take it away, now.” Seems that they only serve turnip to pigs in Denmark. He thought it was a joke. When he found out that it was something we actually ate, and enjoyed, he became somewhat indignant, if not sick to his stomach. Every year, when I bring out the turnip, that story returns for it’s annual telling. And I love it. There is also usually a mention of Terducken as though it were just invented the previous week.

When the meal is over – well, at least the part of the meal that doesn’t involve pie – my stepfather and I turn our attention to the end of the Lion’s game. Meanwhile, the other folks have good conversation, coffee, tea, and, yes, pie. If the Lions win, Bill and I have a piece of pie to celebrate their good fortune. Since this rarely happens, we console ourselves with a piece of pie if they lose. It’s all good.

Soon, it gets to be late afternoon and folks start leaving. First, my Cousin Scott and his wife, Andrea, because they go visit some other relatives. Then my Uncle Rick and Grandma. Finally, Bill and my Mom hit the road, and then it’s just me and MY WIFE, all alone in the house. At that point, I do what any red-blooded American man would do. I take a couple of the leftover rolls, slice ‘em open, stuff them with turkey and dressing and a spoon or two of gravy, and eat them. And then watch the end of the Dallas game.

(This year, I get a special bonus. Boston College is playing Miami in the college game that night. I’m usually in such a tryptophan haze by the time the college game gets to halftime that I snooze off on the couch, but I’ll have a couple of extra cups of coffee this year and see if I can make it all the way through.)

Anyway, I love this holiday so much, I take the entire week off each year. That way, I can very leisurely clean the house and buy the food and decorate and do prep work for the feast, taking those chores completely off of the hands of MY WIFE, who deserves at least as much of a restful, enjoyable feast as I’m giving everyone else. I love every moment of that busy, yet still somehow slothful, week. And, since I only post from work, that’s why this is the last post until the following Monday.

I wish you a tremendously happy Thanksgiving. Eat much, show love. See you in nine or ten days, with more better stuff.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Odds & Ends

This is just a collection of random notes; nothing earth-shattering.


First, let me tell Stu that I haven’t made his Jambalaya recipe yet. I will, I will. I appreciate you going out of your way to send it to me, I’m pretty sure you know that. I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Likewise, Mom? I haven’t made the bread pudding, either. I will. When I do, I have no doubt that the top of my head will blow off from the tremendous overload of childhood memories flooding back.


MY WIFE and I saw Boston the other night at the Doug Flutie retirement party. Also on stage, earlier in the evening, was The James Montgomery Blues Band. Surprisingly, Symphony Hall is not a great venue for some kinds of music. I’ve seen The Boston Pops many times over the years; The Boston Symphony as well. That sort of music is what the hall was built to showcase and it does so marvelously. However, the acoustics are not the best for amplified music.

The bass guitar for both bands was a muddy mess. I saw fingers flying all over the fretboard, but all I heard was a very loud low rumbling. Subtlety was completely lost on the leads, whether harmonica, saxophone or guitar. Sustained notes were strong, but speedy licks sounded slurred no matter how much virtuosity the player may have shown. Vocals highs were weakened. The only truly clear sound came from the drums and even there the kick was buried – snare, toms and cymbals rang out OK.

Despite the poor mix, both bands were obviously trying hard and you couldn’t help but admire some of the showmanship. James Montgomery was particularly lively. His band got a few good grooves going that he helped along with various gyrations and emphatic hand signals. He lavishly praised his band members, which is noble, but when he had a somewhat amazing 14-year-old female saxophone player on stage as a guest (Grace Kelly) it became somewhat unintentionally comical. He mentioned her name after every single solo she blew and sometimes even as she led into one.

Boston are amazingly professional. Brad Delp and Tom Scholz are the only original members remaining. Scholz is a truly fine guitar player and no slouch on keyboards, either. I could have gone for a slight bit more volume from him. His rhythm parts sounded strangled at times, and on occasion they should have been front and center in those arrangements. Delp hasn’t lost too much off of his game. He hit and held some wonderfully long highs, at least from what I could hear in that bad mix. The remaining newer members all did a good job, although the bass player (a lovely young woman with dynamite stage presence and good, strong backing vocals) was, as I’ve said, indistinct – through no fault of her own.

Highlight of the evening was when Doug Flutie took a seat at the drum kit for “Smokin’”, the last song of the night. He rocked hard, knew the arrangement and worked well within it, and looked as though he was doing something he’d wanted to do for years.

Fun evening overall and I’m very glad MY WIFE bought the tickets for us to attend.


Now, I have a serious request to make.

There is a person I know, who shall remain nameless, who is having a trying time of it lately. His lifelong partner – their relationship goes back some 40+ years, I believe – was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I have great respect for both of these people. I come from a family that sometimes isn’t strong on the “until death do us part” thing. My parents were divorced. All of my aunts and uncles who were married ended up getting divorced at one time or another; some of them multiple times. In addition, I've known many friends who have had hideous relationships and a couple of MY WIFE's siblings haven't been too successful in this department. The relationship between these two men, however, is one of the strongest I know. I would put my own relationship with MY WIFE up there, too, of course, but they’ve got more than 25 years on us.

This sort of a lifelong bond should be trumpeted from the rooftops, but it probably never will be. That’s a shame. You’d be hard-pressed to find two more honest and decent individuals. The person I know the longer of the two can be gruff at times, but it’s something of a false front. Sure, he’ll tell you in no uncertain terms what he thinks about a situation or about other people, but when the chips are down he always comes through with a helping hand for those less fortunate. And he has been the savior of quite a few animals that nobody else wanted to love.

The fellow who has been diagnosed with the cancer is the same, but without as much gruffness - a genuine sweetheart of a man. He always keeps his sense of humor intact, even during rough times like this.

If I go on much longer, it will just be embarrassing to both of them, even with anonymity. Hell, it probably is already. So, here’s my request. Even though I don’t believe either of them puts much stock in such things, I’m going to ask you to include them in your prayers. They are in mine, nightly. Please ask for a successful surgery, a speedy and full recovery, and many more years for both of them.

Thank you.


I found my Strunk & White the other day and have been enjoying re-reading it. The fact that I have one must be the cause of great laughter among some of you. I mean, just take a look at that last sentence. You should have seen how poorly I wrote before I read The Elements of Style.

If you don't have one, but you do any sort of writing, you should probably get one. You're bound to glean something useful from it. For instance, I never used to know the difference between infer and imply. Now I do. That I'm making self-conscious jokes about being a piss poor writer implies that I'm a piss poor writer. On the other hand, you would infer that from reading the jokes.

The fact that I'm endorsing "the little book" probably has both of the authors spinning in their graves. The fact that I have now three times started a sentence with "The fact that..." makes it a certainty.


Well, there’s nowhere to go from a heartfelt appeal but downhill and that's where this went. I’ll be back tomorrow, but it will be the last time for a little while. I’ll be taking Thanksgiving week off from work and that means I’ll be off from here, too, as I don’t post from home. Rest assured that I will return, though, so don’t go giving your affections to someone else in the meantime. I am a jealous blog.

Tomorrow, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Furniture

It is Tuesday morning and I am waiting for our new living room furniture to be delivered.

(Wow! Thrills, chills and merriment ahead!)

We are getting a new couch and recliner. Our old couch was spiffy stuff when Clinton first took office, but two boards, three pillows and a somewhat thick comforter have propped up its cushions for the past year or so. It threatened to eat a couple of my older relatives last Thanksgiving. Luckily, their feet were still visible, so we were able to pull them out of its gaping maw before they were lost completely. As for the recliner, some of you weren’t even born when that was new. It looked swell in a living room with shag carpeting, but hardwood floors? Not so much.

(I had my choice of jokes there. I was playing around with something about the first person to ever sit in it wearing a Nehru jacket and, as a matter of fact, I think it was Nehru himself. Not bad. I also could have gone with “Why, when that chair was new, Neil Diamond was considered hip”, but that would have been a lie. Neil Diamond was NEVER hip. If I had really wanted to be esoteric, I could have said that when that chair was stylish, as far as anyone knew Rob Halford was straight and Tony Randall was gay. If you prefer one of those, feel free to pretend I used it.)

Do you remember the old recliner that the father from Frasier sat in, held together with duct tape? That’s pretty much what ours looked like, minus the duct tape. I do have to say, though, it was damned comfortable. This was due to the fact that a dent in the springs - not surprisingly, in the exact shape of my ass – was a permanent feature.

Anyway, MY WIFE and I decided that it was time for our living room to stop looking like the set design from a community theater production of Tobacco Road. We wanted to get new furniture prior to Thanksgiving so that we wouldn’t run the risk of having the following conversation with the local police:

“You say that you last saw your grandmother on Thanksgiving?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Where did you last see her?”

“On the couch eating a piece of squash pie.”

“And when did you notice she was missing?”

“Well, she isn’t rightly ‘missing’, per se. We can still hear her. It’s just that we can’t see her and we don’t have the necessary tools to bring her back out into the open. Would it be possible to send over a couple of your men with the Jaws of Life?”


Furniture shopping would be an entirely new experience for us. Although we’ve been married for over 14 years, we have never bought furniture. The old couch (and a matching Queen Anne chair, which still looks good and which we are keeping) was inherited when my father died. The recliner had been part of my own furniture in Dorchester at the time we were married. In addition, we brought various beds, tables, chairs, lamps, and other bric-a-brac, with us into the marriage. A few things we needed have been given us as gifts over the years. However, the most expensive piece of stuff we had ever bought ourselves was a finial for a floor lamp. Maybe the ironing board cover; it’s a toss-up.

The first thing any couple that has never furniture-shopped previously has to get straight is what exactly they are shopping for. Yes, it’s living room furniture, but is it a couch, a sofa, or a divan? Folks who have grown up taking an occasional snooze on the sofa will probably not have quite the same thing in mind, when shopping, as those who spent their childhood sitting politely, with legs crossed at the ankles, on a divan. Here’s a good test: generally speaking, if you ate supper, you had a sofa and you’re a Democrat. If you ate dinner, you probably had a couch and you’re a Republican. And if you had an evening repast, served by a butler and maid, I find it hard to believe that you could find anything I have to say of interest, so what the hell are you doing here? Go back to your friggin’ Newport mansion, divan-sitting royalty, and leave us peasants alone!

(That person just went, “Oh, how CRASS! Clayhammer! Bring me a snifter of cognac and some jellied monkey tongues. I’ll be on the day bed in the east wing.”)

(By the way, the dictionary definitions are of little help in this matter. “Couch” is defined as “a sofa or divan”. “Sofa” is defined as “an upholstered couch”. WTF? Without the upholstery, isn’t it just a pile of springs and wood? And a “divan” is “a large, low couch or sofa, usually favored by those who eat jellied monkey tongues”.)

Since one of us is a Libertarian and the other is a Socialist – no prizes for guessing which is which – and we don’t care if you call it dinner, supper, or grub, so long as we get fed, we decided that “couch” would do, but if it was labeled “sofa”, we wouldn’t get all bent out of shape.

We decided to take a few preliminary trips to local furniture stores, just to get the lay of the land. We’d look at a few things; say, “Oh, I don’t like that” or “Good God! That’s hideous!” and generally get an idea of what we both could live with. Then, after we knew what we were looking for, we’d go do some real shopping.

We pretty much came to the conclusion that MY WIFE would be arbiter of color and fashion, while I would have veto power concerning such things as materials. She has a keen eye for style and subtlety, while I was mostly concerned with how comfortable it would be to stretch out on while watching football. I wanted it long enough so that I could lay on it without my feet or head touching the arms, and I wanted a material that wouldn’t stick to me or make me itchy on a hot summer day if I decided to lay there in my underwear; no leather, nothing scratchy.

(I should note that it is now 10:12 in the morning. The delivery was supposed to happen somewhere between 7am and 11am. The phone rang at about 9:15, but I didn’t get to it before the answering machine picked up. By the time I was able to switch it off and say, “Hello?” nobody was on the other end. If it turns out they were calling me to make sure I was home to accept delivery, and they have now decided not to come here, I’m going to be mightily pissed.)

To make this ridiculously long story just a bit shorter, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that we finally ended up at Jordan’s Furniture in Avon. I don’t know how much of the country Jordan’s might cover, but it is an institution here in the Boston area. Barry & Elliot, the owners, did very clever commercials, on both radio and TV, for many years. If you ask someone in this area to name a furniture store, the majority of the people you ask will probably say, “Jordan’s” (and then give you a queer look, wondering why in hell you asked them to name a furniture store.)

The staff was wondrously inattentive. We expected to have salespeople all over us, asking us if we were being helped and whatnot, but we were left to wander around with nary a second glance. Some people would find this swell. Some people don’t want salespeople hovering about them. I didn’t have a great problem with being left alone, but MY WIFE, having spent a fair amount of her adult life in retail, figured we should be getting more attention than we were. She went up to a salesman and asked a few good questions. He answered the questions and directed us to the area of the store we needed to be in.

(And, just to set your mind at ease, it is now 10:25 and the deliverymen have come and gone. They were fast, efficient and polite. Having never had furniture delivered before, I didn’t think about whether or not you tip these guys. I hope not, because I didn’t. After I check out the stuff to make sure it’s all in good shape and whatnot, I should probably call the store and put in a compliment for them, at least. In all likelihood I won’t actually do that, either, but I’ll pretend that someone from Jordan’s is reading this and consider it just as good.)

(Also, I suppose I should mention that the receipt says we bought neither couch, sofa, nor divan, but rather a settee. The dictionary definition for “settee” is “a vessel with one deck and a very long sharp prow, carrying two or three masts with lateen sails, used on the Mediterranean.” I think the next thing we should buy is a new dictionary. )

Well, I suppose there’s little suspense left concerning our shopping adventure now that I’ve told you the stuff arrived safely. I could go back and re-write this whole thing, but I’ve got the rest of the day off and I want to go start a fresh butt impression in the new recliner, so I won’t. I will let you know that we had no arguments or anything else that would have lent humor to the continuance of the story here, so you’re not missing anything. However, I’ll be missing “Tom & Jerry” if I keep on writing, so see you later.

Clayhammer! Bring me a glass of chocolate milk and some saltines with peanut butter!

(Update: MY WIFE just got home, did a quick read-through of this and a quick look around at our new stuff, and has decided that our old coffee table and TV stand need to be replaced to match the new recliner and settee, and that we should mention that the one person at Jordan’s who really helped us was a seasoned sales professional named Charlotte and we should mention her. She is right on both counts, so there you go with a mention of Charlotte and if you want to come and steal our TV stand and coffee table, we’d appreciate it. Our insurance is paid up and we could use the help. However, if you so much as touch the new recliner, I will hunt you down and kill you, slowly and painfully. It is my new best friend.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Two Rants

Bitter old fart time.

First, let's talk about Christmas. Or, as those in the shopping mall industry call it, Veterans Day. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, November 11th is now the day when the majority of shopping centers trot out their version of Santa Claus to hear the kid's wish lists.

Obviously, from the first sentence of this piece, you know that I think this sucks. I don't think that Christmas should be allowed into the public sphere until the day after Thanksgiving. I hate it when a holiday is shoved down my throat before the holiday previous to that one has happened. As a matter of fact, I started a whole 'nother blog just to have a place for rants concerning this execrable practice.

(Plug: If you have a rant concerning a holiday - any holiday - either e-mail it to me at or just point me to where it lives. I'll gladly publish it at Bah! Humbug! The next collection is due out on this Friday, November 17th. If you don't have a rant, maybe you have a fond reminiscence. Equal time will be provided to the Pollyannas.)

Understand something, please. I don't find the early mention of Christmas painful because I hate Christmas. Quite the opposite; I absolutely adore Christmas, for reasons both secular and religious. My problem is with the greed surrounding the secular aspects and the cheapening - or even total elimination - of the religious aspects. And the more days the holiday poaches upon the days that should be allotted to the celebration of other holidays, due to avaricious merchants, the less important and special it becomes. So, my belief is that Santa Claus should NOT be making appearances at malls prior to about the 24th or 25th of November at the earliest.

(Now, now, children. Let me assure you that it's not really Santa showing up at these crummy malls. The real Santa wouldn't prostitute himself like that.)

While the "standard" mentioned above, of November 11th, is bad enough, the Simon Property Group set a new record this year for jumping the gun. They had the balls to drag their Santa out of the mothballs on November 3rd. November 3rd! They not only pre-empted Thanksgiving, they said, "fuck you" to Veterans Day, as well. Nice.

The Simon Property Group, for those of you - like me - who will never set foot in one of their properties while they continue such hideously gluttonous pecuniary practices, consists of (in Massachusetts) the Square One Mall in Saugus, the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, and the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro. Outside of Massachusetts, check your local listings and then act according to your conscience.


Now, let's talk politics.

During the recent gubernatorial election here in Massachusetts, there was a lot of talk concerning whether the two "minor" candidates, Christy Mihos and Grace Ross, should have been included in the televised debates with the two "major party" candidates, Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll tell you that I'm a past state chair of the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts. Therefore, my position is easily discernible. I think that if you're on the ballot, you should be treated equally with all other candidates on the ballot. Your mileage may vary. If so, you're an asshole.)

As I see it, here's the main problem with our electoral system: the news media. They decide whom you should be allowed to hear. They decide who "deserves" coverage. If they don't outright decide the elections, they certainly have the power to strongly influence the outcomes. Until the news media is held accountable for their decidedly unfair practices, we will never have truly clean elections in this country.

Here is how the deck is stacked against "minor" candidates, by both the media and the incumbent government. First, in many places, they have to jump much higher hurdles than the "major" (read: media and government approved) candidates. They have to collect more signatures, at a higher cost of both time and money, and sometimes from a smaller pool of possible signatories, than the Democrats and Republicans, just to get onto the ballot. They have to do this without the aid of the free publicity given the Democrats and Republicans by almost all media outlets.

Next, even while they are struggling to gather these signatures and gain some sort of notice, the major television, radio and print outlets are reporting daily on the major party hopefuls. Before anyone even hears the name of a "minor party" or independent candidate, it has been fixed in the public mind, by the news media, that there are only two viable choices. Of course, they are the only viable choices because the news media have dubbed them so.

Then, after the news media have anointed their viable choices, they then get together, not unlike a cabal, and stage debates for the public. These dog-and-pony shows are televised and broadcast and reported upon by the media themselves. Having already made the lesser-known candidate's task near impossible, they then try to exclude him or her from these debates, as well as general reporting of their campaigns, by noting a poor showing in polls which the media themselves concoct. When the candidate rightly complains about this favoritism, he or she is portrayed - just this side of the libel laws - as a crank.

After all of this rigging of the possible outcomes, the news media have the absolute gall to insult the public by scolding them for not coming out to vote in larger numbers. They make a great show of hand wringing and moaning and decrying the fact that a lower and lower percentage of the populace eligible to vote shows up for each succeeding election. Well, shove a red-hot poker up my ass and call me Smokey! What a fucking shock! They effectively disenfranchise these people, by limiting the dissemination of useful information concerning all of the candidates, and then they have the nerve to chide these same people for not voting. Of course, what they are pissed off about is that not enough people are being sucked into getting out and voting for their handpicked candidates.

Well, I'm all full of complaints, but do I have any solutions to offer? You bet.

1 - Abolish Primary Elections

The choosing of candidates for office is rightly the province of the political party wishing to be represented. Make the decisions at convention or in a smoky back room and let the chips fall where they may. Making the weeding out of unpopular candidates a public process, funded by taxpayer dollars, only encourages less competition from those outside of the entrenched system. The "major" parties reap a bonanza of free publicity for their candidates prior to any other candidates even being heard of by the general public. And those in the public who cast a vote in a primary election have already "invested" their vote in that candidate. Should he or she win the primary, the voter is far less likely to switch allegiances when, and if, they finally get to hear another candidate's views.

2 - Limit The Power Of Incumbent Candidates

I am NOT in favor of term limits. As a matter of fact, I think that term limits are one of the most ridiculous and idiotic policies ever foisted upon the voter. If a person is doing a good job, why boot him out of office because he has passed an arbitrary time limit? I don't give a damn if somebody is President For Life, so long as that person keeps winning clean and fair election to the office.

What I am in favor of is limiting the already sizeable power of the incumbent to publicize himself freely in an effort to be re-elected. His name and face are already known to anyone paying even slight attention. Therefore, limit the incumbent's advertising budget - ONLY the incumbent's - and his resources to free publicity via the fawning media.

An incumbent has a readily available track record on which to base a vote for or against his return to office. Additional coverage by the media of anything beyond the carrying out of the duties of his office should be, if not forbidden, discouraged via true equal time provisions. If a media outlet gives air or ink to any incumbent running for re-election, it would probably be a good idea to require giving the same to all opposing candidates.

(It pains me to admit that this runs somewhat counter to true Libertarian philosophy. Libertarianism generally calls for private business to be allowed to do whatever they wish and then let the public decide whether or not to patronize that business. However, since the government limits access to the airwaves through licensing and regulation, therefore in practice limiting freedom of the press to those with the freedom to BUY a press, I believe it makes sense to limit the power of the incumbent government to remain incumbent by using that limited press to their advantage in establishing rules that quash any opposition.)

What drove this home to me in the election just past was the exclusion of Mihos and Ross, the "lesser" candidates, from a series of puff pieces done by WCVB-TV in Boston, profiling the home life of the candidates for governor. Healey, the Republican, and Patrick, the Democrat, were shown with their families, engaging in their everyday activities. My, how fucking informative. And what this brought to mind, for me, was the fact that the media wants to butter their future bread by kowtowing to those they feel have a realistic chance at becoming the future governor. They couldn't give a shit less about fairness to the other candidates - and, as a result, to you and me - because those people (and you, and me) will not be of any use to them later.

3 - Make The Publishing Of Polling Results Illegal

By conducting polls, which may or may not be skewed so as to elicit a desired response, and then publishing those results, the media makes it desirable for voters to see themselves as aligned with a winner, thus making it equally desirable to not be seen as a loser supporting someone without a perceived chance to win the election.

(When I say, "skewed", I mean utterly biased. There are precious few polls conducted without an obvious leaning towards the approved "major" candidates. Many polls ask only if you will be voting for candidate A or candidate B, relegating candidates C, D and E to a nebulous "other" category, if they are mentioned at all.)

When a poll appears stating that Joe Democrat has the support of 55% of the voting public, while Mary Republican has gained 35%, how much do you think the supporters of Charlie Independent, getting 8%, or Jane Minorparty, at 2%, want to stand up and shout out their support of their candidates? Nobody outside of the permanently malcontented fringe wishes to be seen as a member of the permanently malcontented fringe. And almost everybody wishes to be seen as an intelligent and likeable person by his or her peers. Thus, published polling results send the candidates doing well even higher and the candidates doing not as well even lower.

There should be only one vote that counts in an election and that is the actual vote on Election Day.

By all means, polls serve a purpose for candidates. They tell the candidates if their message is getting through and whether or not they may need to try a different tack to appeal to the voters. However, the candidates, not the media, should conduct polls. It should not be the media's job to act as consultants to the candidates.

By abolishing the "horse race" aspect of our elections as reported by the media, we would encourage true debate and we would also discourage voters from staying home because they were given a message, by the media, that their vote will be meaningless.


There you go. I have no doubt that, despite my best intentions here, some of you may conclude that I'm against both Santa Claus and democracy. As usual, I am fearless in my opinions, so I invite you to come to my place and I dare you to try and shoot me! I remain, as always...

Yours Truly,

Abdullah J. Lipschitz
22 Penguin Way
Little America, Antarctica

(Image of Santa from conceptart.)

(And, since I'm being all honest and giving credit, voting machine photo from Town of Windsor, Connecticut.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Pizza Race

File this one under ways to amuse your house guests, especially if they're children.

One summer, quite a few moons ago, almost all of MY WIFE's immediate relatives were visiting our home. These included her siblings Luann, John and Victoria; Luann's husband at the time, and friend now, Charlie; our nieces, Caitlyn and Alyssa; and our nephews, Michael and Joseph. If you include us (and you should, since it was our house) there were ten of us.

In order to feed a mob of that size, we had limited options:

1) Take everybody out to eat. Except, have you ever tried to get a table for ten at a restaurant? It sucks a big wet set of hairy goat testicles. You usually have to wait twenty minutes while the staff sets up something and then it's another twenty minutes before everybody has settled in and decided what they'd like to eat. During that time, the waitress has come over already to see if you were ready to order and, when you said you weren't quite ready yet, she said, "I'll give you a few more minutes. Take your time!" and then she hasn't been on the floor since. Well, you finally do order and then when the food comes there's always one person whose order isn't right and then everybody else, being polite, sits and waits for that order to come back from the kitchen. Meanwhile, their food is getting colder than a welldigger's ass. And, heck, it just sucks is all, so we didn't even consider that as an option.

2) You cook the whole tribe a meal yourself. This is fine if it's Thanksgiving and you have a day or two to start preparing things at your leisure. However, if you haven't started cooking the turkey in the morning, feeding ten people in the afternoon isn't going to happen unless you have an outdoor grill, which we didn't, so we could give them all a great big pot of macaroni and cheese is about all, thanks, so let's move on to the third option, which is...

3) Pizza!

4) And for some goddamned reason WordPerfect wants to make the rest of this piece a list, too.

5) Fine.

6) Yes, I'm an ignorant sonovabitch. I should know how to turn this option off, but I don't, so you're going to have to live with it. You know what that means, right?

7) Tough titties.

8)BWIPIDA-boobida-bapida-bipida-BWIPIDA-boobida-bapida-bipida. Hee-hee.

9) So, here's what we did. We called up four different pizza places and ordered one pizza from each one. We gave each kid a pizza place as his or her entry in the race. And then we went out on the front porch to wait and see who would win the pizza race.

10) In order to make it a fair race, we gave handicaps. The place we called first received no handicap. For each succeeding pizza joint, we would subtract two minutes from their time since we called them later. In other words, the first pizza place had to deliver their pizza six minutes sooner than the last place we called in order to win. Charlie acted as official timekeeper.

11) We decided that we'd give the winner of the race a big tip, something like $5 on an $8 pizza delivery bill. The other drivers would get a buck or two, depending upon how far behind the winner they were.

12) The first pizza came. When the pizza guy came to the porch with the pizza, we asked where he was from since there were no markings on his car or on the box - other than a happy generic pizza chef - to tell us which establishment he came from.

13) Unfortunately, this fellow may have been an illegal immigrant. He got this sick look on his face and said, "Why you want to know where I from?"

14) We explained that we only wanted to know what pizza joint he was from, since we were having a pizza race. This didn't help a hell of a lot, since he didn't know what a pizza race was, but when I pulled out the money to pay him and gave him a $5 tip, that seemed to set him at ease.

15) I should explain something, I suppose. When we figured on giving the winning driver a big tip, we hadn't really thought it out all the way through. If the first driver came from, say, the second pizza joint we called, how would we know if he beat the other places if we figured in the handicaps? Luckily for me, the first pizza to arrive had been the last pizza ordered, so there was no way the others could possibly win.

16) Looking back, it would have been best if we had four cell phones and we placed the calls all at the same time. However, we wuz po' folk and didn't have no newfangled dangblasted diddleyboppin' razzmatazztical... we only had one plug-in phone. Still do.

17) So, that's the story of the pizza race. It was fun. Someday, I'd like to try a Chinese food race, but I'm afraid that would end up being much more expensive. Of course, you could get around that by ordering Chinese food from four different places and giving your neighbor's address instead of your own. You wouldn't get to eat, but it would be great entertainment.

18) Tomorrow, with more better (unnumbered) stuff.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Theory Of Relativity Explained In Less Than 1,500 Words

After reading some of the crap I put out here, you might have come to the conclusion that I'm totally without discipline and that I have set myself no goals in life. You would be extremely not very correct. I have goals. As a matter of fact, I am now going to tell you my ultimate goal in life.

I want to go directly from childhood into senior citizenship.

("Childhood" is here loosely defined as that period from the time of your birth up to and including when you begin to question the humor in Tom & Jerry cartoons. "Senior Citizenship" is when people stop asking you, while you're laughing at Tom & Jerry cartoons, if you're ever going to grow up. Therefore, "Middle Aged" is when people are still bugging the shit out of you and you don't find it hilariously funny when a mouse whacks a cat in the face with a frying pan and the cat's face assumes the shape of the frying pan. Or the cat and mouse are bowling, see, and the cat gets his fingers stuck in the holes in the bowling ball and he propels himself down the alley and he gets a strike and when the pinsetter comes down it picks him up and sets him as the headpin and he's shaped like a bowling pin! And then there was the time Tom was chasing after Jerry, wielding an andiron, and he smacks Jerry three times with it, but Jerry gets away and when Tom looks at the andiron there are three outlines of a mouse sticking out his tongue at him! Hah!)

So, anyway, towards this end I have endeavored with all of my heart and soul to skip being middle aged. I figure I'm entitled. I started going bald at around age twenty. If God decided to stick me with the ultimate in old age accoutrements - a baldy head - at such an early age, then I have to assume it was a sign that I should forget about aging gracefully and just go for it.

(Of course, it might have been a sign that I should grow up right then and there, but fuck that. No offense, God.)

Does all of the above have anything to do with what follows? No, not a thing. I just felt like throwing it in and tough titties if it's five or six non-sequitorish paragraphs. And I'll make up words anytime I feel like it, too, so there.

(Tough titties. That always cracks me up. Puts a picture in my head of huge rubber tits that, if you slapped them, would bounce off of each other with a sound like "BWIPADA-boobada-bapada-bipada-BWIPADA-boobada-bapada-bipada" - which I wouldn't recommend doing, by the way, unless you want to get a nickname like "Titslapper" - and with ginormous pencil-eraser-material nipples. And now, unfortunately, forever after it will put that picture into your head, also. And if you don't like it? Tough titties.)

So, what is the point of this thus-far-inane ramble? I haven't decided yet. That's how I write, you know. I just sit down at the keyboard and start hammering and where it will end up is up to God and sometimes not even He knows.

(So far, I've made two vaguely blasphemous references to The Deity. I look at it this way: God either has a sense of humor and He doesn't mind, in which case it's all good, or God has no sense of humor. And if God has no sense of humor, then I'm screwed right from the get-go, so I may as well enjoy myself while I'm able.)

Let's see - we've covered my theories on aging and theology. What other bullshit can I throw out here to fill space?

I know! Love! Everybody likes love! And everybody who isn't reading a comic book hates it when every sentence ends with an exclamation point! So I'll stop it right now!

MY WIFE. She knows how much I enjoy following the trials and travails of Boston College football. She was working on Saturday and I was watching the Boston College Eagles play Wake Forest.

(Wake Forest has the best nickname for a football team, ever. The Demon Deacons. Way cool. However, I digress.)

Anyway, she comes home during the fourth quarter and BC is losing 21 - 7. She goes into the kitchen and then comes out and hands me a coffee mug. Except it doesn't have coffee in it. It's a new BC coffee mug and she's filled it with cookies. She says that they are "rally cookies".

Now, here's an example of why it doesn't pay to be mature. I said, "Oh, wow, a BC mug! Thanks! I haven't had my dinner yet, though, so I'll wait to have the cookies."

MY WIFE said, "But they're rally cookies. If you don't eat them, how are the Eagles going to rally?"

"Oh, sure, OK. I'll have ONE."

"Give me one, too."

"OK", I said, biting into one cookie and then handing her the remaining half.

Now, never mind that I had a mugful of cookies and I was being a cheap bastard and only giving half a cookie to the woman who had bought me the damned mug and filled it with cookies in the first place. The point is... they were RALLY COOKIES.

See, here's how things like that work, but only if you're immature enough to buy into them. If you say that a cookie is a rally cookie, it isn't. However, if someone else, especially someone who really loves you, says that a cookie is a rally cookie, it is. It has been invested with true magic. And if you want to be so friggin' grown up that you don't eat the rally cookies, instead going for the entirely adult option of not ruining your dinner, then you get what you deserve.

I had an entire mugful of rally cookies and I ate half of one. BC scored a touchdown and made it a 21 - 14 game, but that's as close as they got. So it's all my fault that they lost. If I had done what any sane kid would do - eat the damned cookies, as quickly as I could shovel them into my mouth - BC would still be in line for a possible New Years Day bowl game. Instead, they'll probably be playing in the Burma Shave Bowl on Christmas Eve in Cleveland. And that's not even a real bowl game.

And you know what? Dinner was alright, but it wasn't cookies. From now on, whenever MY WIFE offers me cookies, I will eat them immediately and gratefully. That's true love.

And, finally, here's where I blow off the title of this piece.

I've said this before, somewhere on these pages, but I feel I should say it again for the benefit of those who have come late to the party. It is very important information and should be disseminated widely.

The Theory Of Relativity is a crock of shit.

Einstein was no dummy. More often than not, he knew what he was talking about. However, there is no such thing as time.

The concept of time is a useful tool invented by human beings. It serves a purpose. Without that concept, we would constantly be overcooking three-minute eggs. However, time does not exist in the same way as something solid and real does. It is utterly arbitrary and imaginary.

We need the concept of time and all that is needed to make it work is a constant of some sort to measure. As it stands, we measure the speed of one trip around the sun or one revolution of the planet we call home. It could just as easily have been based on another constant, perhaps something like how every season I predict that The Boston Celtics will make the playoffs but they stink instead.

(That's just an example, of course, because if we used that as our constant, then the world would end the next time the Celtics won a championship. Of course, that would mean we aren't in any immediate danger.)

The point, as if I had one, is that while we can make machines that measure what we call time, it doesn't really exist. Simply put, there is no past to travel back into, ever. Once a moment passes, it is gone for good. There is no future into which we can travel. It has not happened yet. There is only the present; the place and space where we are now.

And you're wasting it reading this dopey shit. Me? I'm probably watching Tom getting his ass blown up by Jerry and laughing like all hell through a mouthful of cookies. And if you don't like it? Tough titties.



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nah, I Don't Think So

There is apparently something called National Blog Posting Month. It is November. Many fine people are participating, including some of the lovely folks I link to over on the left. The idea is that, if you have a blog, you will post something every single day of the month.

I'm not participating. I will not post something every day this month. I don't expect that my non-participation will be very hard to accomplish. There has never been a single month since I started this blog when I've posted something on every day.

I don't have anything against the people who are doing this. Good for them if they can summon up the discipline to accomplish such a thing. Better for them if they can actually come up with something interesting and worthwhile every day. I know for a fact I wouldn't be able to do so. For instance, what you're reading. Could you imagine what sorts of crap I'd put out here if I actually had to face a daily deadline? Anyway, I'm not, so you don't have to worry.

I could write about The Celtics or B.C. Football every day, but what good would that do anyone? Sure, you'd all have a good laugh at my delusions of Celtic grandeur, but do you really want to laugh at me instead of with me? Well, maybe, but that doesn't mean I have to make it easy for you.

I might be back tomorrow or I might not. So there.

(Got the illustration here. Funny stuff. Go. Be entertained.)