Friday, September 30, 2011

Maybelle C. (Barcelo) Drown, 105

She was My Grandma. She was amazing.

She lived an entire century, plus. 105 years.

The world was a completely different
place when Maybelle Barcelo was born.

When Grandma was born, there were only 45 states. Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma were just territories. Not until she was 54 years old did it become the 50 states that we now know.

When she was born, Roosevelt was President. Franklin? No, Theodore. There had never been any such thing as a "World War".

When Grandma was born, television wasn't even an idea, let alone a reality. Radio as an entertainment was unheard of. The telephone was a relatively new device and only 8% of US homes had one.

There were no such things as commercial airplanes in the air overhead. The Wright Brothers had flown at Kitty Hawk only two years previously. So, you drove everywhere, right? Yeah, if you had a horse. There were approximately 8,000 cars in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads.

CDs, cassette tapes, records? Forget it. You wanted to hear music, you pretty much had to go find a band playing somewhere. There were some cylinder recordings, and a few of the newer flat records, but the Gramophone (or Victrola) wouldn't be introduced until 1906, so most folks didn't have the ability to play them. It was some 30 years before the invention of the electric guitar.

Coca-Cola still contained Cocaine. Heroin, Morphine and Marijuana were available at any of your larger drugstores, over the counter. On the other hand, many thousands of people died from the flu each year, as well as tuberculosis. Penicillin was just bread mold.

Women didn't have the right to vote until Grandma was 17.

When My Grandma was born, the average life expectancy in the United States was forty-seven. She sure beat hell out of that statistic.


Some folks might wonder just what My Grandma thought of all the changes that happened since she was born. I guarantee you she didn't spend much time thinking about it. That was one of the secrets to her longevity, I think. Grandma was one of those folks who let little or nothing bother her. She was, without a doubt, the least aggravated person I have ever known.

I once mentioned this to my mother. I said, "You know, Mom, I don't ever remember Grandma being mad. Is it just me? Have you ever seen her really angry?" My Mom said that she really could not remember a time when My Grandma was steaming mad. In all the time I knew her, which was 54 years, I only saw her smile or, at worst, have a look of indifference. I never saw her cry, although I'm sure she did. And I've probably said more swears during the course of my writing this piece than she uttered in her entire life. I never heard her curse, even once. My Mom doesn't curse, per se, but she uses substitute words, such as "fudge" or "shoot". My Grandma didn't even use those.

Understand this, though - she certainly had reason to use some pretty strong words. Some folks who had her life might have invented completely new swear words.

She lost her left eye just before her first birthday. A clock fell from a mantle and the corner of it punctured her eyeball. She had a plastic eye ever since then. That didn't stop her from being one of the most marvelous artists I knew. She had no depth perception, yet she painted and crocheted and did mosaic work - beautifully. There was absolutely no indication in any of her work that she had vision in only one eye.

She used to do things with acrylics and with polished stones. She had this sort of motorized canister than tumbled stones until they became really smooth and beautiful, and she used to use these stones to create marvelous works of art, combining painting with the stones (and with other bits and pieces) to create seascapes. And with the acrylics, she'd make these lovely lamps, full of color and really eye-catching. And then there was her sewing and knitting. She made pillows and comforters and other usefully pretty objects. These things were, of course, on top of her painting and needlework and crocheting and singing and cooking and houseplants and volunteer work and...

She had a number of operations, any one of which might have made other folks bitter for years afterward. Not my Grandma. She had a mastectomy a few years back. She had false teeth. Her gall bladder long ago went the way of the dodo. She had a couple of procedures involving her intestines. Add a hysterectomy, sometime in the 1940's. And the plastic eye, of course. On top of that, she was profoundly deaf. But none of it stopped her. Or stopped her from smiling.


She loved to sing.

There was this bar in Quincy called Mr. C's that she and my mother went to, along with my stepfather, Bill. There were quite a few folks of their age, or perhaps a bit younger, who came out once a week to gather around the piano and sing some standards. My Grandma was a regular. At other times during the week, they would take this show on the road to various nursing homes and retirement facilities, along with good friends and great musicians Rose Ryder and Bill Bemus. Yes, in her nineties, Grandma was traveling around entertaining nursing home patients.

Except for her age, this was not an unusual activity for her. She had been volunteering at such residences for more than thirty years - since her mid-sixties, when My Grandpa died. She was, as a matter of fact, the Volunteer Of The Year for the state of Massachusetts in 1978. Of course, she didn't get an award like that for just singing and dancing. She taught arts and crafts to the patients, as well as helping with transportation and other things. She did this, for many years, all day, every day. The award she received did not make her rest on her laurels. In 1995, she was nominated as "Elderpreneur Of The Year" for her various volunteer activities. She was 90 at the time.

Volunteering and doing community work was hardly something new for her. Many years before, she had been instrumental in starting the first Girl Scout troop in her hometown of Weymouth. She worked in entertaining many servicemen, in hospitals and service clubs, following World War One. This was with her older brother, Louis, who did magic and ventriloquism, and her younger sister, Gerry, who also sang and danced. In addition, she and my grandfather also entertained service folk at their home throughout the years. There are quite a few veterans who would gladly tell you how much Grandma, and her family's hospitality, meant to them during a tough time in their lives.


One of the more interesting stories about Grandma was how she finagled dancing lessons for herself when she was a young woman. She couldn't afford to just take them and pay for them, so what did she do? She started her own dancing school. She signed up students, and then she signed up for dancing lessons from a renowned Russian ballet teacher of the time named Russikoff. She would take a lesson from Russikoff. Then, before her next lesson, she would give lessons to her students. Then she would take another lesson, afterwards giving that lesson to her students, and so on. How brave and inventive was that?


[Grandma with future blogger, circa 1957]

My own memories of Grandma are pretty pedestrian stuff, I suppose. I remember nice meals when I visited. For some reason, I remember almost always having lamb at their house. I remember her driving to meet Grandpa at the train station after his workday (he was the senior claims attorney for the MBTA), me in the back seat, and then going to her place.

Sometimes when I visited, she'd take me to a bakery near her house and buy a half-dozen cupcakes. I remember the marvelous aromas of baked bread and the desserts at that bakery, and the way Grandma would let me pick out my own cupcake (I always took one with chocolate frosting.) I remember the interesting mix of smells that Beechnut peppermint gum and Winston cigarettes would make. She chewed one and smoked the other - you can probably guess which.

She always saved the Sunday funnies for me, from her local newspaper that we didn't get in Dorchester. It was a special treat when I went there to visit and got to read those full-color pages on a weekday.


She was one of the most moral people I know. She didn't thump a bible in your face or anything like that. As a matter of fact, I don't know the last time she was in a church other than for a wedding or a funeral, although I suspect she said her prayers at night. She just lived right. She knew what was fair and what was unfair. She never, and I mean never, showed even the slightest prejudice because of skin color or religion or political leanings. When it came to people, she was absolutely blind to anything other than their humanity. Just as I never heard her swear, I also never heard her use any sort of pejorative in her description of someone.


I suppose it goes without saying that I loved My Grandma. Beyond that, though, in so many ways, My Grandma was my hero. She did more, with what she was given, than anyone else I know. I treasure the time I spent with her. I couldn't have asked for a Grandmother, made to my specifications, more perfect than the one that I had.

Maybelle C. (Barcelo) Drown
December 1st, 1905 - September 29th, 2011


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Favor For Dorothy?

A few of my long-term readers may recall some stories I did concerning Dorothy, a self-professed "crazy cat lady". Aside from being any cat's best friend, she is also my cousin (second cousin, twice removed, as I recall, though neither one of us is quite sure what we were removed from and why.)

(She made that joke the first time I met her, when I was a kid. I always loved it.)

If you never saw the stories, or would like to see them again, here are some links (as opposed to lynx, which would be another type of cat altogether.)


Dorothy & The Cats - An Update

Another Visit With Dorothy

No sense putting off the bad news.

Dorothy is on her last legs.

I can say that here, without fear of her reading it and flipping out, for two reasons. First, she uses a computer about as often as I use an abacus, which is to say never. Second, she knows her situation.

She's had various forms of cancer, of various things, for quite a while now, years. I mentioned that in the first story about her, written some three years ago, and it hasn't cleared up since then. So, now she is even thinner than she was then, and she is in an actual hospital bed. She has expressed the thought that she will not leave that bed. As I understand it, it was said without acrimony, without a flood of tears. It was a statement of fact, from a lady of intelligence.

(Yes, I said "As I understand it". I haven't been able to visit her. I've been hideously ill with a flu of some sort. Still am, at least to the extent that my visiting a hospital would result in me being responsible for offing scads of patients by the mere act of my coughing on them. So, all I know about Dorothy at the moment is via hearsay from My Uncle Jimmy, who has been to visit.)

Anyway, getting to the point here - and about time - Uncle Jimmy says Dorothy's face lit up when he and John, his partner, showed up. They were the first visitors she had had in the week or so she had been there.

(I'll get there as soon as this flu clears totally, but that may not be for several more days given the way I feel.)

She has now been there two weeks or more, and all she's likely gotten in that time is a card I sent her. Not much, by any means, and especially for such a nice woman.

So, I'm here to ask you to please send something to Dorothy. Anything. A little card, a note, just some things to let her know that she's still alive.

You don't have to act like you know her (unless you feel you do, from the stories) and you don't have to say that you're sure she'll be up and running around soon (because she knows that bullshit.) Just the act of getting the mail (or whatever) will be something nice to help her through. A Bible verse wouldn't be out of place, as she has been a daily communicant in the Catholic church. Cats are near to her heart, of course.

Anyway, if you feel like it, it would be a nice thing.

Here's the place to send stuff:

Dorothy Luffe, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

If you do, Thanks! Time is of the essence, as you might imagine.

I owe you one.


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Re-Blog

Ugh. MY WIFE has been sick for the past 10 days or maybe two weeks. We were both thinking it was some sort of hideously virulent bronchitis - she's been known to have bouts of it - but now I'm feeling like crap, too. I think maybe we both have some sort of yucky combination cold/flu thing. If I'm in for the same length of time she's had it, and the same sort of coughing, etc., there won't be any vacation for either of us this year. We'll be using all of our remaining time as sick days.

That sucks, but it could be worse. I've got three relatives with varying stages of cancer. That tends to put things into perspective. In deference to their privacy, no names will be given. If you're willing to say a prayer for general well-being within my family, however, it would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, I feel about as much like writing as I feel like eating a big greasy pork chop.

(Bad idea to think of similes right now. My stomach is flopping over on its side from that one.)

So, since I may be out of action for a while, here's something to fill your time.

I have been chosen by A Blogful Of Boredom to do something called a Re-Blog Bloggity Blog-Blog Bloggeriffical Blogulousness Challenge (or something like that.) Anyway, the idea is to give you links to seven of my old blog postings. Well, heck, I'm likely to do that on any regular old day, so why not now?

The challenge, such as it is, consists in coming up with seven blog postings that fit into the following categories:

1 - My most beautiful post
2 - My most popular post
3 - My most controversial post
4 - My most helpful post
5 - A post whose success surprised me
6 - A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
7 - The post of which I am most proud

After I've provided links and explanatory material concerning all seven (and, presumably, after you've visited each one and said, "Most kind and gracious God! How did I ever miss these gems when they first made an appearance? I could have swum a literary ocean filled with inestimable beauty, truth, and awesome wonder, yet I unknowingly wallowed in a mud puddle until now!") I then get to choose five among you to be human sacrifices in the volcano of my quest to increase readership and, when you have overwhelming pangs of guilt and decide you'll do it, even though you don't have enough time to take a good poop these days, you get to pass it on to five more unwitting dopes, like some virulent form of chlamydia, until everyone on the internet has received $35,000,000 from Bill Gates.

Here are my seven:

My most beautiful post

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. I find many kinds of pornography quite beautiful. Others find those same books and films about as fun as a rectal examination performed with a grappling hook (which, in case you're wondering, does not fall within the sort of porno I would like.) Anyway, here is something I wrote and which I think fits the category. Your mileage may vary. If so, you're a jerk.

The Gift

My most popular post

There are two ways one can choose this: by number of hits on a specific page or by number of complimentary comments. I think I'll take the complimentary comments. The one with the most hits over the lifetime of this blog has nothing to do with the actual subject matter, I'm afraid. It is the title that draws folks in. They mostly leave disappointed, as I'm sure you will.

Wile E. Coyote Catches Roadrunner, Eats Him

So, we'll go with this paen to masturbation, instead.

What I Learned In High School

My most controversial post

The above could have qualified, but I have an easier choice.

Very few of my posts have received either flames or arguments, no matter how much they may have deserved them. This one, wherein I discussed my past life as a small-time drug dealer, and my absolute non-guilt about same, touched a couple of raw nerves. I am so very thankful for my readers, though. Even when possibly complaining about something I've written, they are respectful and kind, mostly. Whatever mild flames I received on this one were given via private e-mail, and even then there was civil discourse all around.

Often Dazed, Rarely Confused

My most helpful post

Helpful? Me? I'm truly not sure if I've been helpful, at least in the way I suppose this is meant. I mean, I may have inadvertently given someone some sort of information that he or she found useful at some point, but I haven't been one to put up posts specifically to... Oh, hey, wait a minute! This one comes to mind...

Everything Gets Better

Yeah, I'd like to think that qualifies.

A post whose success surprised me

I expect every damn post to become something that people tell their friends about and about which their friends thank them in return. Asking me to point out ONE post I was surprised about being a success is sort of like asking Colonel Sanders to name his favorite chicken wing. Nevertheless, I'll choose this one because it was the first to garner me a mention outside of bloggerville (it was mentioned in The Boston Globe upon its original publication, but I'm linking to the most previous version I've published here since it contains a small update I think has some importance.)

Return To Caddy Road

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

And, referring you back to my preface to the choice immediately above this one, the answer here would have to be, "Every Damn One Of Them!"

Let's go with this...

A Big Fat Bunch Of Lies

No good reason for picking this, except I think it's funny, and, to tell you the truth, when I honestly go back through my past postings and look at the number of comments, everything seems about right. I've got no complaints.

The post of which I am most proud

I guess I'll have to go with this one:

A Day (5 Of Them, Actually - All Saturdays) In The Life

The story of my life, condensed.


And now, I get to name five of you poor souls to do what I've just done (that is, waste everybody's time.) I choose...



Barbara (Long Hollow)

The View From This End (Moannie)


Running In The Yard Next Door (Craig)

You delightful writers may take up the challenge or not, as you see fit. If you don't see fit to do it, I'll be over to your place with an axe (after I get out of my sickbed.)

Soon (relatively speaking), With More Better Stuff

Friday, September 16, 2011

Uncle Jimmy And The Puzzle

[Originally published in 2006]

Magicians always fascinated my father. If you sat him down in front of a really good magician, he’d watch him for hours and hours without becoming the least bit bored. His favorite type of performer was the sleight-of-hand artist. Anyone who could manipulate cards or coins, close up, was a hero to my father. And the thing that really made him tick was trying to figure out how a trick was done. Inevitably, this led to him learning a few tricks himself.

He learned how to perform false shuffles and cuts. He knew how to palm a card. He practiced his patter and learned how to use misdirection. In the end, he learned how to perform three or four very good card tricks. He often used these during sales calls to loosen up a client, so it was a practical undertaking. Of course, in a relaxed social gathering, he’d do these tricks at a drop of a hat. He was quite proud of them, and they were good.

He also had a healthy respect for people who could accomplish something unique with their hands in a non-magical manner. He loved to watch, at their work, any person who was unusually adept at what he or she did. A good example would be his love of professional chefs. The simple tricks that a good chef accomplishes with grace – the flipping of foods in a skillet or the rapid slicing of a vegetable (without concurrently slicing off a finger or two) – were also things that he worked hard to emulate. He became quite an adept amateur chef.

I mention all of this as background for a short, but extremely funny, bit of business that went down between my father and his brother, my Uncle Jimmy.

My father originally told me this story shortly after it happened, some 35 years ago. I had completely forgotten about it until Uncle Jimmy jogged my memory during a recent phone conversation. I’m glad he did.

[Uncle Jimmy, around the time of this story]

My father and I were living together in the Boston area, a few years following his divorce from my mother. I’m about 21 at the time, sort of bumming through life with undefined dreams of becoming a rock star or something else that didn’t require heavy lifting. My dad worked for an airline. He held the position of District Sales Manager for the New England region. Actually, he was the only employee of this particular foreign carrier living in the New England region, so he pretty much set his own hours. Since I had no hours to speak of, we ended up spending a fair amount of time together doing useless, but fun, things.

Somewhere in our journeys, we had picked up a set of five puzzles. These puzzles were constructed as follows: a clear plastic cube, perhaps three inches square, and inside of each cube is an orange piece of plastic and four small ball bearings. The orange plastic had a different form and function in each puzzle. In one, for instance, it was attached to the bottom of the cube and shaped as a series of four small bumps, with a ball bearing-sized indentation on the top of each bump. In that puzzle, the idea was to get the four ball bearings simultaneously resting on top of the four bumps.

We’d play with these puzzles at random times; watching TV, perhaps, and trying to solve the puzzles during commercial breaks. Four out of the five puzzles were relatively easy. They took a bit of concentration, but we could do them in a couple of minutes. The fifth puzzle, however, was a bitch.

The fifth puzzle had the piece of orange plastic set on an axle that ran from corner to corner in the middle of the cube. The orange plastic was flat and had four holes in it, slightly smaller than the ball bearings, near its four corners. The idea, as you might imagine, was to get all of the balls into the holes. What made it so hard was that if you put the orange piece of plastic out of balance on its axle, the plastic would spin and the balls would all fall out.

Now, I may or may not have described the puzzle adequately for you to picture it; I hope that I have. However, the important thing to know is this: whoever designed that puzzle was a sadist. We each took turns at it and not only weren’t we able to complete it successfully, we were rarely able to get more than one ball in place before the thing went out of whack and we had to start over.

We worked at that puzzle for months. Any time we weren’t doing something else, that puzzle would be in one of our hands. As I said earlier, my dad could manipulate cards and coins and do some sleight of hand, so he wasn’t all thumbs. I was a musician, so I had some fairly nimble fingers myself. Neither one of us was going to give up on this damned thing; we were both too stubborn for that.

To make a long story short, through some minor miracle my dad finally got the ball bearings to rest in the four holes without the axle spinning. He had solved the puzzle from Hell. He then very carefully and deliberately placed it on a bookshelf by our front door. There it stood, in perfect balance, as testament to his mastery. We never touched it after that and he was damned proud of having been able to do it.


A few weeks later, my Uncle Jimmy came over to the house for a visit. My dad answered the door and let him in. He had to go do something in another room, though, so he told Jimmy to wait and he’d be right back.

Being a curious sort, Jimmy glanced around the room and then his eyes came to rest on the bookshelf. He saw the puzzle. He picked it up. The ball bearings fell out of the holes.

When my father came back into the room, my Uncle Jimmy held out the puzzle and asked, “Tom, what’s this?”

According to my Uncle Jimmy, the look on my father’s face was somewhere between murderous and suicidal. Had he been a younger man, he might have cried.

“Oh, no! Do you know how long it took me to do that puzzle? I worked on it for weeks and weeks and weeks, and then you come in here and just ruin it! Do you know how hard that thing is? Aw, crap...”

My Uncle Jimmy looked at the puzzle in his hand. He sort of shook it slightly and the four balls fell right back into the holes as though they couldn’t possibly have done any different. He put the puzzle back up on the shelf and said, “What’s so hard about that?”

If my father hadn’t wanted to cry before, he sure did then.


When my Uncle Jimmy reminded me of that story, he added a fact that he never told my father.

"Jim, you should have seen the look on his face. When I ruined the puzzle, it was like his best friend had died and I felt really bad about doing it. I didn’t know what it was and how hard he had worked on it. But, when I put it back together, it was almost worth the first look just to see the second one he got. His eyes bugged out, and his jaw hung open, and... well, Jim, it was just an amazing stroke of luck! I didn’t even try to really do the puzzle. The balls just fell into place. It was one of those great cosmic accidents that happen only to piss off someone else."

My father never took the puzzle off the shelf again for as long as he lived, God bless him.

(In the meantime, use these coupons for toys and puzzles and start your own traditions.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Utterly Unrelated Non Sequiturs

(Non sequiturs are unrelated by definition, so perhaps the title to this piece also qualifies.)

(You have to know by now that any piece of mine beginning with a parenthetical is likely to be trouble. I don't suppose you'll find this one to be any less than what you might expect.)

I've finished the clean-up project. The sidebar has been denuded and...

(Before we go any further, or farther, or mother, and I promise that's the last time I'll ever use that joke, an aside to Nick: I go to your site and get a warning that you might be trying to infect me with hideous viruses. I have no idea concerning the truth of that warning, and perhaps I have an overly sensitive computer, but that's why your link has now become part of the past. Sorry! You might want to look into that...)

... and I have also cleaned out much of the rubbish from my past postings. I got rid of 45 or 50 of the things, and everything that remains is something of which I am not embarrassed. That may speak volumes concerning my discretion, but it's the stone cold truth. Meanwhile, however, even those things I've permanently deleted had a thing or two in them I wanted to save. This, O Unwitting Victim, is where I'm saving them. What follows are lines and paragraphs lifted from the past postings I'm shitcanning.

(Yes, I am so ego-driven that I can't bear to part with a few random sentences that lived within my worst pieces. Shoot me now and save yourself future pain.)

This will not make any sense, linearly speaking, but I suppose you've already gathered that.

Enjoy (or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)


Great money-making idea! Manufacture 51-Star American Flags. Be ready to corner the market once Puerto Rico comes around. Or Iraq.


So, now my mouth is a bit dry, since I'm holding a big wad of cotton in one area of it, but other than that, all is well. This does makes one wonder what God had in mind when intelligently designing teeth, though. Does pain in teeth really serve a useful purpose, other than to force either prayer or curses from your mouth? Obviously, one knows to get something fixed when there is pain, but people have been experiencing tooth pain for longer than there have been the tools and techniques to cure that pain. In days of yore, pain meant you pulled the tooth, period. Wouldn't it have made better design sense to just forgo the pain and let them rot out?

Teeth don't make a great argument for evolutionary theory, either. If evolution were fact, wouldn't our teeth have evolved to the point where they would be expected to last, without repair, until we were dead? OK, most of the damage done to teeth is probably self inflicted, what with sugar and crummy oral hygiene habits, but evolution should take those things into account. Where's the evolution complaint desk?


Or manufacture 49-Star American Flags. Get South Dakota to secede.


I've known Fred since our days working together in South Boston, at Blake & Rebhan (an office supply company.) We bonded rather thoroughly at the first office Christmas party we both attended, when we found out that we were both Deep Purple freaks. After a few drinks we were singing "Highway Star" at the top of our lungs, a cappella, to the "delight" of the rest of the partygoers. Since then, we've played ball together on two different teams and gone to many a metal concert, sometimes even when there wasn't any concert.

Let me explain. On two different occasions, we showed up at concerts and there wasn't anyone playing. Once it was Ozzy Osbourne. Unbeknownst to us, Ozzy had cancelled due to illness, but there we were driving into whatever they were calling The Tweeter Center in those days (perhaps "The Tweeter Center") and wondering why there were so few cars in the parking lot. Another time, we headed to Providence to see AC/DC, and when we got there we found a parking space just about a half-block from the auditorium. Again, we wondered why we were so lucky. Turns out we had shown up a week earlier than the date on the tickets. I was totally annihilated, too. Fred pretty much had to pour me back into the car and, so it wouldn't be a total loss, we trucked on back to Dorchester and enjoyed some Chinese food, including an infamous Char Sue Din, which looked pretty much the same later on that night, at home, when it appeared again. I can barely type it without getting sick. Ah, good times!


Combination Cream Cheese/Spackle, in case you get hungry on the job or feel like patching some drywall during brunch.


Since I have nothing better to write about, I'm going to tell you what CDs I'm currently listening to in my car. Oh, boy!

(Hey, if you've got nothing better to do with your time than read me, you've got no right to complain.)


One-time-use disposable cats!


If Prokofiev had been born in 1956 in Detroit, instead of 1891 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and he had dropped some acid, he would have been the white Jimi Hendrix.

(That's the type of statement nobody can easily dispute. It contains no facts, other than the dates, and supposes something that was utterly impossible during the person's real life. I don't really believe it, but what the hell. I felt like saying something totally ridiculous and that works as well as anything else.)


Book: 101 Ways To Decorate Your Apartment With Nosehair.


(Being a bass player, I love extended bass solos. However, some people consider them the musical equivalent of waiting for your number to be called at the registry of motor vehicles. Being a bass player, I hope those people's eyes rot out.)


Deep-fat-fried liver-on-a-stick. Confectioner's sugar drizzle optional.


What can I say about AC/DC that hasn't already been said about slamming a baseball bat into your kidneys repeatedly?


A 56-slice toaster would save time by making a week's worth of toast for a family of 4 all at once!


Have you have ever tried to Google yourself? I've done it quite often. This is because I'm an egotistical moron. You already knew that, though, so let's move on.


I think I know how to make my fortune. Personal Blimps!


He is rude, crude, obnoxious, filthy, an egomaniac, and one extremely funny and talented sonovabitch. In his particular niche of the writing world, he is incomparable. To paraphrase a quote once written about Twain, he is the Lincoln of his literature. Of course, he writes about wrestling - not a whole heck of a lot of budding Hemingways or Steinbecks in that crowd - so it's sort of like being the world's tallest midget.


De Gustibus Non Est Disputatum, as my grandfather used to say before he learned English.


About as much fun as a do-it-yourself colostomy kit.


The thing is, these questionnaires give you choices, such as African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc., and the choice for white folk like me is Caucasian. Now which one of us white folk made such a stink about being called white that we now have no other identity on these things than Caucasian? I don't remember anyone being particularly upset at being called white. As a matter of fact, I recall it being rather stylish at one point.


I had someday planned on fleshing this whole thing out into a book that people could pass around at parties after they got sufficiently boozed up to the point where they think such things are fun, but I'm using it here because I'm fresh out of ideas today and it will fill lots of space.


I have a feeling this will be about as successful a career path as that home study course I took to become a mohel, but only time will tell.


(Well, I could drive into work expressly to post something, but then everybody here would know that I'm a lunatic, whereas right now they only suspect it. Likewise, I could go to the public library and use one of their computers, but I like to use those to access pornography and make drug deals, and I don't want to leave any sort of a trail that the feds could use to track me down later.)


Finally, if you really feel the need to waste a shitload of time, you could always go here, but you should be a mature audience, it says. Of course, if you were a mature audience, then why the heck would you be wasting your time reading me?


As you may know, I do professional voice-work. Here's something MY WIFE told me while we were dating, and which still tickles me. She said that every time I phoned her, early in our relationship, she thought she had just won something. For the briefest of moments, before she recognized who it was on the phone, she always thought it was some disc jockey. She thought he was calling to tell her that her name had been drawn as the winner in a radio contest of some sort.

Whatever success I've had as a voice talent, or whatever rejections my voice may have received from possible clients, I know that it accomplished this one tremendously fun thing. And that's enough for a lifetime.


Well, shove a toy surprise up my ass and call me Crackerjack!


My knowledge concerning electrical things is limited to shaking a broken light bulb and listening to the filament rattle about.

(Why do we do that? We take a non-working bulb from a socket, shake it, and when we hear the filament bouncing inside it, we nod our heads. What would we do if we didn't hear the filament? Screw the bulb back in and expect it to work because it didn't meet our rigid standards of brokenness?)


Baseball fans who say that baseball games take too long are not baseball fans. It's like a guy saying that he's in love with someone but he wishes he didn't have to spend so much damn time with her.


I'm thinking that's as good a place to stop as any.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Return To Caddy Road

[First published in 2005 - small update following]

This past Sunday, for the first time in almost 12 years, I walked down Caddy Road. It was the street I grew up on. It was the street I called home for the first 37 years of my life.

Caddy Road is a side street off of a side street off of a side street. It is located in the Mattapan/Dorchester section of Boston, a couple of blocks away from where Baker's Chocolate had its headquarters on the Neponset River prior to their moving in the early 1960's. When I was a kid, the entire neighborhood smelled of chocolate. It was wonderful.

There are 12 houses on the street, all duplexes built in 1953 or so. Each duplex apartment consists of two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, a living room and kitchen on the ground floor, and a basement area. My Mom and Dad bought our house, number 14 (and the other side, number 16, which they rented out) in 1955, the same year they were married. It cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $14,000. I would guess the going price now might be $250,000 - perhaps a bit more, perhaps a bit less.

When my Mom and Dad were divorced, in the mid-70's, my Dad kept the house and I lived with him. I was an only child and my Mom felt (and my Dad agreed) that this was best for me; to not be uprooted and to live with my male parent as role model. I am eternally grateful to them both for considering my welfare so thoroughly and not making me choose between them or anything else similarly hideous. They both made it quite easy for me, despite whatever they were going through emotionally themselves.

My Dad entered a prolonged period of depression during and following the divorce - he was on anti-depressant medications for a long while - and, not caring, he let the mortgage payments slip. As a result, the house was sold at auction. However, we continued living there, as renters, as did our former tenants, the Murphys.

Over the course of the next 20 years or so, the neighborhood changed gradually. Where once it had been a quiet upper-middle-class neighborhood, almost exclusively white, Irish, and Catholic, it became a mostly black lower-middle-class neighborhood, and not nearly as peaceful. Crime in the area increased and properties were not kept up as well as they had been. This is not to blame just the blacks, by the way. The economics of the neighborhood changed and, whereas previously the houses had been occupied by owners, most of the houses were now rented on both sides of the duplexes. There was less pride in the properties, more a feeling of transience, and this was among both the black and white renters.

In 1988, my father suffered a heart attack. The doctors who examined him determined that it was actually one of 4 or 5 he had had over the course of his lifetime, but it was the first one for which he received treatment. He underwent open heart surgery a couple of months after that and was out of work for a long time. Meanwhile, his employer fired him. In 1990, he won a judgment against them and received a (somewhat small, all things considered) monetary settlement. He then began looking for a place to buy for his retirement years (which would, regrettably, turn out to be too few.)

He found a house in northern New Hampshire that was affordable, so he bought it and moved there. He invited me to live there, also, but I was dating MY (future) WIFE at the time, as well as attending broadcasting school. I wanted to remain in the Boston vicinity, so I stayed at 14 Caddy. MY WIFE moved in with me shortly afterwards. We were married in 1992 and it was our first home together.

We last lived there in 1994, the year of my father's death. That was a very hectic time period for us. Over the course of 12 months, my father died, both of her parents died (a few months apart), and we were forced to move during Christmas week, due to the impending sale of the house. We hurriedly found another place, in Watertown, packed up and moved. There are lots of good (and bad) stories concerning that move, but they don't really belong here. Another time.

View Larger Map

Until we were forced to move, I had never seriously considered having to live anywhere else. The house at Caddy Road was almost a physical part of my being. Every sound the heating system made as it kicked in, every creaking stair, the feel of every doorknob, the time it took for the hot water to actually run hot after turning it on - these things, and many others, were all ingrained in my subconscious. That house was my womb with a view, so to speak.

During the 12 years since we moved, I had driven through the old neighborhood 3 or 4 times but never actually walked it. Until I did so, I had no idea how strongly it would affect me. As it turned out, very much so.

The reason for the walk was simple enough. MY WIFE has a volunteer position on the MBTA (Boston public transit system) Rider Oversight Committee. She had heard that the small trolley line which serves the old neighborhood was going to be shut down, supposedly for repairs, to be re-opened at a later date, but we both feel that once it's shut down it will probably become a permanent closure. Anyway, she knows how much I like that little trolley line - also a major part of my youth in that neighborhood - so we decided to go for what might end up being a last ride on it. Since we would be riding the trolley, why not get off at the Central Avenue stop and stroll around the old neighborhood?

The first thing we both noticed, as we crossed the river and approached Caddy Road via Sturbridge Street, and then Monson Street, was that the neighborhood in general seemed a bit nicer than it had been at the time of our move. It was generally cleaner, and some of the houses had beautiful gardens in the front yards. It was very quiet, too, which was not the case when we left. It was Sunday, but that had never really made a difference in the last couple of years we had lived there. It did on this day, though.

We noticed a police car in one of the driveways on Sturbridge. It wasn't making a call; it was parked there and we assumed it was now the home of a police officer. This was a bit of irony, as the last tenant we knew there - since passed away, and a nice guy despite what you'll read next - had done time for multiple bank robberies.

As we approached Caddy Road, I found myself feeling rather odd. It wasn't melancholia, but rather a feeling of spatial displacement. I felt like my body didn't fit me anymore, and that the street itself was much smaller than it should have been. I felt as though I should be smaller, too - about 10 years old, agile and very thin, with a full head of hair and all of my own teeth. Instead, I was 48, carrying 15 extra pounds around my middle, with a bald head and half a mouth of implants.

As we walked, MY WIFE said this and that about the houses - "Oh, look at the nice way they've redone that porch", "That one looks better now with siding" - but, while I heard her, my mind was spinning. I actually felt slightly faint at one point. Somewhere in my heart of hearts I think I had still considered this "my" home, but as much as I may have wanted to feel as if this were a homecoming of sorts, I instead felt as though I had become part of a "Through The Looking Glass" type of story, my body grown too large without my knowledge or consent. It was akin to one of those dreams where you're in public and all of a sudden you discover that you're naked. I felt totally out of place. I half expected people to come out of the houses to stare at me and point and laugh.

The street as a whole looked very nice. It was as close to the way it had looked, when I was growing up, as it had been for at least 30 years. Whoever owned the houses now was taking care of them; keeping the yards trim, doing painting and fixing cracks in walkways. There was new masonry work, cheerful windows with pretty drapes, and the street itself was clean. I had expected the street to be even more rundown than it had been when we moved, and this would have made me feel better about having left. Instead, the street was almost taunting me. "You thought you were leaving me for dead. But, I'm back and I'm beautiful again. And you? If either one of us isn't what he used to be, it's you. You're the one headed for the dirt nap, not me."

I sorely wanted to go into "my" house. I wanted to see physical reassurances that it was not "my" house any longer. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, that "my" bedroom did not contain "my" bed; that "my" kitchen table was long gone; that "my" television set and stereo were no longer playing. But, that would have entailed me looking like a raving looney to whoever lived there now. I contented myself with seeing a sign posted on "my" front porch. "Beware of Pit Bull", it said. "My" house had a very friendly cat in it, not a vicious attack dog.

MY WIFE said such a sign indicated that the neighborhood wasn't as safe and peaceful as it might have seemed. That made sense, so I latched on to that thought and held it close. Yes, it was NOT the neighborhood I loved growing up in. It was dangerous and full of snarling, barking animals.

Eh, whatever. I still felt sort of empty. I do realize the futility of holding onto a past that can't possibly have been as nice as the one that lives on in my imagination. Still...

We walked around a bit more on a couple of other streets and then caught the little trolley back to Ashmont station. As we waited for the subway train, the little trolley left Ashmont headed back to Mattapan. As it rounded the turn and the steel wheels squealed against the rails, it was (at least to my ear) singing a farewell song to me. This also was a sound ingrained in my subconscious and I was very glad to really hear it one last time.

Finally, we took the subway to Alewife, picked up our car, and drove home. We could have taken public transit all the way, back and forth, as they have a trackless trolley in Watertown that goes to the subway, but I really didn't want to do that. They call it a trackless trolley, but it's just an electric bus.

My trolley is a trolley.


Six Years Later

The trolley did come back, with a bonus of lovely new paint, and is still running.

It's a beautiful example of World War II era PCC-type public transportation, and well worth a ride if you ever find yourself in the area. The MBTA takes a lot of heat, much of it well-deserved, but this is one thing they got marvelously right.

I had opportunity to drive down Caddy Road just a couple of weeks ago. I was playing in a fast-pitch softball tournament nearby, so I decided to revisit the old neighborhood while I had a couple of hours between games. My friend, Big Jay Atton, accompanied me, and I no doubt bored him to tears showing him things that weren't there anymore. The "Beware Of Pit Bull" sign is still on the front porch at 14 Caddy. I suppose that should make me happy, since it means "my" house is still not "my" house, but somehow it doesn't quite bring a smile to my face. On the bright side, though, it probably means that the house has steady ownership and tenancy, and I love the house, so I'm glad somebody else may love it, and Caddy Road, as much as I did.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away (Or Not - It's All Good)

[This re-post is actually a combination of two posts from 2008. I wrote about something, in a nostalgic sort of way, then I actually went and did something about it a week or so later. Since it is now pouring rain in the Boston area, and wiping out some folk's planned recreational activities, I figured I'd give them an idea about something else to do.]

I’m sitting in the house on Saturday afternoon. I hear thunder. Looking out the window, I see that it’s started to rain – hard. I immediately become pissed off. I’m supposed to play softball tomorrow morning; a doubleheader that will decide whether we get into the playoffs or not. If it continues raining, the games will not be played.

As I continue to look out the window at the rain, I remember that there was a time in my life when rain was not always seen as a reason to frown. When I was a little kid of six or seven, I would see it begin to rain and, instead of thinking about the things I could no longer do – play baseball or whatever – I’d run to my bedroom, strip down, and put on a bathing suit. So would lots of other kids in the neighborhood. And then we’d dash out onto the street, cheering and waving our arms and running after each other in bare feet, splashing in the puddles and enjoying hell out of it all.

If I did that now, of course, someone would call the police. They’d think I was a crazy man running around in his underwear, having a fit of some sort. They’d ask the authorities to come before I could hurt myself.

But, why? Why can’t we keep that joy of life as we grow older? Why are we taught to repress happiness? And why do we see other people enjoying themselves and sometimes have the first thought that they’ve flipped out?

I know part of it can be concern for a fellow human’s safety – whether the "crazy" guy himself or those who might come into contact with him - and that’s reasonable, I suppose. But I think most of it is envy. Subconsciously, we think, "What gives him the right to enjoy himself so much? I’m not enjoying myself. Fuck him! I’m calling the cops!"

I’m sorely tempted to throw on my swim trunks and see what would happen if I went out and started rolling around on my lawn like a big old dog. I’m not going to, of course. I’m too sane. It sucks.

Another joy of being a kid was coming in from the rain. Yeah, sure, it still feels good to get out of it as an adult, but it’s not the same feeling. Now it’s just relief. When you were a kid, it was moving from one joy to another (if you had taken the opportunity to don that bathing suit in the first place.) If you got soaked as a kid, you came in and stripped down, then you toweled off. Well, maybe you do the same now, but the experience is totally different. A kid mostly isn’t as worried about how others might judge his appearance. If a man strips down and dries off, he might spend a goodly portion of the process giving different parts of his body a critical appraisal. I’m assuming it’s the same for the female of the species. For the most part, a boy (or a girl) just gets dry.

And when you were a kid, you felt the textures of things more. The towel itself was a sensory experience. You weren’t just accomplishing a necessary task. You felt the dryness, the friction, the warmth. Maybe you enjoyed the smell of the clean laundry, too. And as you dressed - whether in pajamas or actual clothing - your entire being felt cleansed. You could take a 60-minute shower as an adult and not even come close to that feeling.

So many things we dull ourselves to as the years pass.

Some of our pleasure is lost because of competency. Perhaps you can recall what it was like to read a book when you were in the second or third grade. You’re an excellent reader now. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to make it through some of my painful constructions. And, believe me, I thank you for making the effort to become so good at the task. But, when you weren’t quite as good, didn’t you get lost in a story more readily? Didn’t there usually come a time when you became wholly unaware of your physical surroundings? I rarely lose myself in reading now. Now it has to be something truly amazing to transport me. Back then, it could be a page with only eight or nine words on it, and then my mind would do the rest.

If you’re a musician, you may feel similarly concerning music. Before I knew how to play any instruments, music was much more mysterious and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong. Playing has its own magnificent bits of pleasure. Just listening, though, and having no idea how the magic was created, was oftentimes better.

Running. The only time I run now is when I have to, whether it’s to reach first base or something more mundane - to catch a train, for example. When I was a kid, I’d run just because I could. I wasn’t trying to get in shape. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t trying to impress someone or reach a goal. I did it only because it felt good to go faster.

Eating. A slice of watermelon on a summer day was an all-involving sensual experience. I tasted the sweetness, I felt the coolness, I inhaled the subtle perfumes released when it was sliced, I marveled at the juicy redness of it, I even enjoyed the light crunching noise as my teeth drove through the fruit’s flesh. Even spitting out the seeds was something to have fun with, seeing how far you could propel them as you did so. Now, I buy seedless watermelon, eat it with a spoon so as not to get my hands sticky, and if juice runs down my chin, I immediately grab a napkin and wipe.

In the time I’ve taken to type out this horrendously melancholy whining, the rain has stopped. I now feel as though I’ve missed an opportunity. I’m alive, of course. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this crap. But I’ve missed an opportunity to live. Being alive and living are two different things altogether.

The next time it rains, I probably won’t get into a bathing suit and go running out the front door, alarming my neighbors and making extra work for the local cops. But I think I will at least go for a walk around the block, allowing myself to get soaked to the skin. Maybe I’ll even run a little bit, if the mood strikes me. And then I’ll come home, strip down, and towel off, all the while ignoring any physical imperfections and just reveling in the feel of the toweling. After I get dressed again – in flannel pajamas, I think – I’ll lie on the floor and read an old comic book. When I finish it, I’ll have a slice of ice-cold watermelon. I’ll let the juices go where they want. And if I feel the need to wash up afterwards, I’ll go for ANOTHER walk in the rain.

That’s what I say now, anyway. That’s because it’s stopped raining.

[Then, a week or so later...]

So, there I was on Friday night, sitting on my bed, smoking and reading. I forget what I was reading, but I want it to be known that what I was smoking was perfectly legal. When you read what follows, you might wonder.

It was raining. There had been severe thunderstorm warnings for a few counties in Massachusetts, but ours wasn’t among them. Still, it was coming down at a decent rate.

MY WIFE came into the bedroom. She said, "Why don’t you put on your bathing suit and go run around outside? I’d do it, if I could find my bathing suit."

I rather doubted that last statement, but I had doubted her when she said she’d run naked in the snow in New Hampshire, too - and she did that - so I said nothing. This wasn’t about her, anyway. She was teasing me, I think. Or maybe she was really trying to get me to do something that I had recently said would be fun. She had read my piece about being a kid and playing outside in the rain.

With a smile, she asked, "Do you think you can even find your bathing suit?" She then turned and went back into the living room.

Little did she know that my bathing suit was in plain sight. It was right there on top of my bureau. I had looked for it shortly after receiving such a good response to the "playing in the rain" piece, and I had found it in a drawer with some old softball uniforms. So, I stripped down, put on my baggies, came out of the bedroom, and said:

"See you in a little while!"

I smiled and waved goodbye. She half-smiled, half had a look of "Oh, God! He’s actually going to do it!"

I turned and went through the kitchen, then out the back door which leads to the common area shared by ourselves and the upstairs tenants. One of the things that made this lark less likely to be embarrassing was the fact that they were both away on vacation. And it was night, also, so I knew the likelihood of my being seen by anyone was remote.

I opened the back door and stepped out into the yard. I was truly hoping to get sopping wet, like some big old shaggy dog, but it wasn’t raining as hard as it had been when I was sitting in my room. I sort of stood there on the porch, getting slightly damp, wondering what to do next.

What I did next was to go down into the actual yard and walk around on the grass. It was too dark to see the ground, so I spent much of my time thinking about how hideous it would be if my bare feet came down on a squishy slug. I walked over to the flagstone patio. There was a puddle there. I stepped into it and kicked the water a bit. I started laughing. I hadn’t felt what it was like to kick at a puddle with my bare feet in more than 40 years. It felt nice.

I looked around at the houses on all sides of our yard. There didn’t appear to be anyone in the windows looking down at the extremely white old geezer in his light blue swim trunks.

Despite having splashed the puddle, I still wasn’t very wet overall. So, I decided to find a way to get wetter. There are a number of big trees overhanging our yard. I walked over underneath one, reached up, and grabbed as much of the biggest branch as I was able. I then shook it, hard. For my efforts, I was rewarded with a pretty good shower.

(Thinking back on it, what with it being dark and all, I’m probably lucky I didn’t end up having a nest full of something fall on me. I mean, who knows what might have been there? I could have ended up with a squirrel on top of my head. He might have thought he hit the jackpot, falling out of bed only to land smack on top of the biggest nut in the world. Can skunks climb trees? Who knows what’s up there?)

Anyway, NOW I was wet! I shook another branch and got wetter still, with my luck continuing concerning not getting wildlife on my head. I looked up through the branches at the dark sky.

** CRACK! **

A bolt of lightning lit up the night. I ducked instinctively - like that would do any good. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not fast enough to see lightning and duck out of the way of it. I then realized where I was. I was underneath a big tree, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and I was firmly grasping a big branch of that tree.


Not wishing to replicate Ben Franklin’s experiments with me playing the part of the kite, I let go of the tree limb. I was immediately rewarded with another soaking, except this time I wasn’t expecting it, so it shocked me. Better that shock than the other kind! I skittered back towards the porch as thunder rumbled.

Now I was wondering just where the safest place was to be. The obvious answer was "Inside, you idiot!", but, not being one for the obvious, I stood on the porch, leaning on the IRON RAILING.

Double D’Oh!

I let go of the railing, wondering if just standing on a porch with an iron railing was really any safer. Now, I was not only wet, I was paranoid. I decided to let discretion be the better part of valor. I went inside.

Of course, there was no need to tell MY WIFE about the lightning. So, I said:

"I came in because I saw a flash of lightning and it scared the shit out of me."

She just shook her head from side-to-side. Then she looked me over, and said, "You’re not very wet."

This was true. Despite shaking the tree branches, I really hadn’t gotten as sopping as I had hoped. My bathing suit was almost completely dry.

She asked, "Why isn’t your bathing suit wet?"

I replied, "I don’t know. Maybe too much of me hangs over it."

I had placed a towel near the kitchen door, to dry myself with upon re-entry. Part of what I wrote about previously had included a paean to the lovely feel of toweling off after a drenching. However, I was only just slightly moist from the chest down, so I gave my head a good rub with the towel, but not much else needed it.

After the cursory drying, we both went into the living room to watch some of the Olympics on TV. There was a lot of swimming going on, so I felt right in the spirit of things, sitting there in my bathing suit.

After a while, MY WIFE (sensibly dressed in a nightgown, and enjoying a large glass of wine) looked bemused. She said, "I think I’m going to go to bed. Will you be going out in the rain again?"


"Well, if you do, tell me. That way, if lightning strikes you, I’ll know enough to sweep up the pile of ashes in the yard."

"Thanks. I wouldn’t want to leave behind a mess."

She trundled off to bed. I continued to watch people butterflying and stroking breasts.

A few minutes later, I could hear the rain. That is, it became loud enough to hear over the telecast. This meant it was coming down in buckets. I decided that, since I still had the swim trunks on, I’d go outside again. This time, I’d just stand in the yard, not grabbing onto trees, railings, or anything else that might tempt God to smite me on the spot.

I went out the back door, and down into the yard. I stood in the wet grass – still no slugs, I’m happy to say – and the rain sloshed down all over me. It felt damn good. I pictured myself as being in a Three Stooges comedy, taking a shower in the rain, so I pretended to lather up, rubbing my wet head vigorously. I kind of wished there were another stooge with me, to enjoy this more fully, but MY WIFE was probably sleeping already and there still weren’t any neighbors in the windows. Oh, well. It was still fun. The lightning flashed again, but I had already decided that if God wanted to off me, there was precious little I could do about it, so why worry? I kicked at the big puddle on the flagstones as the thunder made its noise.

I felt like a kid again. It was terrific.

The rain was letting up once more, so I made my way back to the door. I went inside wet as a flounder and happy as a clam. I grabbed the towel and rubbed vigorously, enjoying the texture. A woman from Zimbabwe was celebrating having won a race in the Olympic pool. She was very happy. That made two of us.

Next time it rains, I’m going to help MY WIFE look for her bathing suit. If she wishes, she can take her glass of wine with her, but why should I leave the woman I love high and dry?

Soon, with more better stuff.

[puddle photo courtesy Xetera.]

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Date Etiquette

There are many people, who:

A - Are single, and have never dated before.

B - Have recently divorced or separated, following a long-term relationship, and need advice on gracefully re-entering the dating scene.

C - Who simply like to enjoy a good laugh at the expense of A and B.

For those who fall into one of the above categories (or who just plain fall down, now and again, for no apparent reason) I present the following lesson in first date etiquette.

Of course, you're probably asking yourself a very good question, which is this:

What makes you so qualified to hand out such advice, Sullivan?

Well, if you had asked me the question, instead of yourself, I might have given you a very good answer. Instead, I'll tell you that talking to yourself is something you should avoid if you want to make a good first impression on a date.

(Please remember that the following advice does not necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone sane, and any unauthorized reproduction, without the expressed written consent of the person with whom you wish to reproduce, is against the law in every state, even Arkansas.)

Let's start with some pointers!

(More pointers, and an occasional schnauzer or two, may be found in another piece of mine, "First Dog Etiquette"...)


*DO always be sure to make arrangements for the date before picking up the person you are dating. If you fail to make these arrangements first, it's called "kidnapping".

*DO remember to bring your date chocolates and flowers. This way, if your date backs out at the last minute, you can eat the chocolates and smell the flowers so the evening shouldn't be a total waste.

*DO always be mindful of your personal grooming. Shower, shave, wear something nice, and don't pick your nose. Nothing is quite so disastrous on a first date as being a dirty unshaven bum who picks his nose.

*DO remember that the person you're dating is also on their first date with you! Be especially considerate of their feelings. If, for instance, your date calls you an ignorant flea-bitten scumbag, assume that it's just nerves on his or her part, and remain a gentleman (or a lady, depending upon what you were when the date began).

*DON'T take undue notice of your date's unusual habits or mannerisms. Remember that this is just your first date. Not only might you have some type of behavior that is just as distressing to your date, but what seems to be especially boorish now may well turn out to be something you will find cute as the relationship deepens. Of course, if your date is a dirty unshaven bum who picks his nose, this is unlikely.

*DON'T tell off-color stories and jokes, or make any remarks concerning sexual matters, until you're fairly certain that the person you're with is at least as perverted and depraved as you are.

*If you're a man, DON'T automatically pick up the tab. This is considered, by some women in this modern age, to be an act of chauvinism, highly insulting. Instead, give the woman a chance to be the one who pays. In this manner, not only will you show her that you consider her your equal, you might save a few bucks. On top of that, you'll find out just how desperate she is to be liked, and you can use that knowledge later in the evening to bolster your confidence during your clumsy attempts at coercing sex from her.

*DON'T be a dirty unshaven bum who picks his nose! This cannot be stressed enough!

Alright. Now that you've learned a few basics, let's see how you fare on a short quiz.

All of these questions were chosen to measure a subject's attitudes and responses in regard to human relations in general, and not just in a dating situation. However, unless you plan on dating outside of your species, the correct answers are still applicable.

Choose the response which most closely matches your own feelings. If you find no answer that matches your own feelings, use someone else's feelings. Ready? Let's go!

1) Your date shows up at your door with his or her mother. What is your reaction?

a) Act as though nothing is out of the ordinary, and invite them both in.
b) Tell them you've suddenly come down with a terrible headache, and the date is off.
c) Pitch mom down the stairs and make love to your date right in the hallway.
d) Pitch your date down the stairs and make love to the mother.

2) Your date tells you that instead of going to see a movie and having a nice quiet dinner in a fancy restaurant, he instead has purchased two tickets to the roller derby and has a coupon good for two Whoppers for the price of one. Do you...

a) Go to the roller derby, and even treat for the burgers?
b) Explain that it isn't fair to change plans at the last minute, then refuse to go?
c) Pitch your date down the stairs and make love to the mother?
d) Pitch a shit fit?

3) Your date shows up wearing day-glo orange sneakers, a tie that lights up and says "World's Greatest Lover", and carrying a 5 pound box of chocolates. You...

a) Ignore the impropriety and eat the chocolates?
b) Ignore the chocolates and eat the impropriety?
c) Pitch your date down the stairs and make love to the mother?
d) Go put on YOUR day-glo orange sneakers and "World's Greatest Lover" tie, while mentally making wedding arrangements?

Score yourself in the following manner: Take a carving knife and, starting at the base of the throat, make an incision 25 inches long.

NEXT: Why Ice Cream Doesn't Have Bones, But You Do.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Future Plans For This Space

This entry will be relatively short and hopelessly humorless. I'm going to outline my plans for the immediate future of this blog. Please bear with me.

As promised (threatened?) I've begun trimming down my sidebar. Links to blogs that have not published during the previous 45 days, and links to blogs that don't have a return link to this blog, have been deleted. I've also lopped off a couple of other less-significant doodads; links to some of my other pages here. The deletion of awards will start happening soon, leading off with those that only link back to dead blogs and those that don't link to anything at all. Those that link to good friends will stay a few days longer, but they will also eventually bite the dust.

I want to be perfectly clear about something. If you feel that you should be linked here, but you aren't, I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate your friendship. It's possible I may have been mistaken when I dropped your link. For instance, perhaps you've published something in the past couple of days and you deserve reinstatement. Or maybe you actually do have a link to me on your own sidebar. Maybe I was a goon and missed it. Or maybe I've just been totally unaware that you had a link to me in the first place. In any case, I want to be sure that no one feels unfairly slighted. Tell me about it if you feel I've been unfair. I'd appreciate it, and I'll make things right if so merited.

(Wow. This is about as ridiculously self-important a post as I've ever written. Sorry!)

Once things are cleaned up on the front page, I'll be going through the backlog and deleting a few hideous things. While I'm re-reading stuff, and deciding what will stay and what will go, this space will see the republication of some of my favorite pieces. I'll be putting them out here in more-or-less chronological order until such time as I finish the deletions. Then I'll be back with some fresh stuff.

(I hope you'll forgive me for the re-runs. If you're somewhat new here, they may be totally new to you! In any case, they will be things I'm proud to have written, and I hope they prove enjoyable, whether your first viewing or not.)

I will, of course, be visiting my favorite reads during all of this, and leaving the same inane comments I've always left.

That's about it! Re-runs begin Tuesday. After a while, it will be, as always...

Soon, with more better stuff.