December 23, 2011

Currier & Ives, May You Rot in Hell! (PART TWO)

(You may want to read Part One of this post first, entitled, “Cursing Up the Christmas Tree” that I wrote for my good friend Nishi Serrano, as a guest blogger.   Part Two will be much funnier if you read Part One first.  Here’s the link:     

See you in a few minutes.  I’ll leave the porch light on.

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

Last year, I decided to do a “themed” holiday.  It was to be “An Old Fashioned Christmas” in the Buckingham Household, right out of Currier & Ives.

As a survivor of that same Christmas, I’m here to tell you that it was more like something out of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Picture Norman Rockwell beating up a small child, and you’ve got the idea.

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

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

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

Nobody did.

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

“Well, come on!  Sing!” I cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

October 19, 2011


Dear Friends,

I'm delighted to tell you all that my debut novella, HOME, is now available on!
If any of you are inclined to help out a poor, starving writer and purchase a copy, and would like it signed, contact me at and let me know.  I'll give you my address and you can send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and I will send you back a really nifty bookplate that I have signed, or written whatever you want on, and you can stick it onto the inside cover.  I designed the bookplates, and they are pretty cool.

I'm so excited, I just may piddle myself!

Hugs all around,

October 11, 2011


I’m here to tell you that, as far as domestic abilities go, I’m on the scale somewhere between tap water and road kill.
The reason for this is that I was forced to take Home Economics in high school.  The cooking class was filled, so I got stuck in the sewing class, with all the other kids who had been sewing since birth and were only taking the class, in my opinion, to show off.
Our first assignment was to go out and buy both patterns and material for our projects.  I decided that I would show those smug little bitches, and I bought an elaborate pattern for a dress that was styled after, I think, an Elizabethan coronation gown.  It was just gorgeous, and I had decided that it would be just perfect to wear to the Prom.  With that in mind, I spent most of my college money on a bolt of rich, sea green silk, not to mention all the brocade and beadwork that would be attached later.
I showed up for class the next day all excited about my project.  The other girls stared with open jealousy at my pile of silk, until the teacher, Miss Guano, walked in and we got started.
“Well, Carson,” she said with undisguised admiration, “that’s certainly an ambitious project.  I’m sure it will be absolutely lovely when you’ve finished it.”
“Thanks.  I’m planning on wearing it to the Prom.”
“How wonderful!”
Now, understand, I had never even sat at a sewing machine before in my life, much less actually used one.  Miss Guano had me practice with a couple of remnants until I felt confident about my ability to sew a straight line.  I’m nothing if not a fast learner, and in ten minutes, I felt ready.  But first, I had to pin the flimsy paper pattern to my silk, then cut out the pieces of my dress.
No problem.  I finished just as the bell rang.  The next day, I’d start to sew it together.
I could hardly sleep that night for all the visions I had of myself, dressed like Cinderella at the ball, dancing with my current handsome prince.  Well, okay, he had a few zits…well, more than a few…but he was a nice person and he got all my jokes, so the pizza face was easier to forgive.
Anyhow, the next day, I took my appointed seat behind a sewing machine in the Home Ec. Room and began sewing.  I sewed like a fiend every day for a month.
At last, it was done, and it looked even better than I expected it would.
Then I tried it on.
It was a nightmare come true.
To start with, the right sleeve was longer than the left sleeve.  However, I found that if I dropped my left arm two inches and raised my right shoulder about three inches, the sleeves were perfect.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t all that was wrong with it.
The left side of the dress was longer than the right side.  It looked as if the left side had been sewn to fit Geena Davis and the right side tailored for Dr. Ruth.  But I found that if I leaned right about six inches, both sides balanced.
Then there was the problem with the front and the back.  Front too long, back too short.  Leaning backward five inches solved that problem.
That just left the neckline.  It was low cut on one side and straight cut on the other.  Not to worry.  If I just pulled down a little on the straight part and held it there with my elbow, it was just fine.
Ah, I was a positive vision…with my right shoulder raised five inches higher than my left, listing to port six inches, while bent backward five inches and clutching the bottom of my neckline with my elbow.
I was ready for that Prom, by God!
We swept in on the night of the dance, and were greeted by a receiving line of faculty chaperones.  While walking onto the dance floor, I overheard two of the teachers say:
        “Isn’t it too bad about that poor girl’s deformity?”
        “Yes,” said the other, “but doesn’t her dress fit beautifully?”

October 3, 2011


This week, I’m going to discuss the movies that depress me and the reasons behind such depression.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE:  This movie depressed me because I know that no matter what I do, I will never be as cute and perky as Meg Ryan.
MOBY DICK:  This turned out to be about whales rather than the  weird sexual disorder that I was looking forward to.  Very depressing.
MARS ATTACKS:  This depressed me because, by the time the picture was over, everybody was dead.
MYSTERY MEN:  This depressed me because by the time the picture was over, everybody wasn’t dead.
DOGMA:  The only remotely interesting characters were mute.  Ten minutes into the movie, I found myself wishing I were deaf.
The TWILIGHT movies:  This was the cinematic reunion of the graduates from the Hulk Hogan School of Acting.
Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET:  In a move that defies rational explanation, Jack Lemmon was cast as Marcellus—because, when I think Shakespeare, oh yeah, I think Jack Lemmon.  If only Branagh had cast Walter Matthau as Ophelia, we could have had “The Odds Bodkins Couple.”
A BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK:  It depresses me to think that Lee Marvin, Walter Brennan, and Ernest Borgnine were ugly when they were young, too…and that that was the best they were ever going to look.
ALL THE BATMAN FILMS:  I’m depressed that they haven’t yet asked me to play Batman.  They’ve had nearly everyone else in that role.
THAT STUPID MOVIE ABOUT ALIENS THAT STARRED CHARLIE SHEEN:  It depressed me to think that Hollywood, even for a moment, could think that Charlie Sheen would be believable as an astrophysicist, when I have my doubts that he can even spell the word.  However, I must admit that he is the very embodiment of the first syllable…
GOODFELLAS:  I find it difficult to be entertained by gunplay and bloodshed that occurs outside my immediate family.
THE BLOB:  Put glasses on it, and you have my ex-husband.  If that isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is.
BARTON FINK:  I find it really depressing that John Turturro, with his huge acting range of exactly one facial expression that I like to call “tentative dementia” received an Oscar nomination, and John Goodman, who did an astounding acting job in this film, got squat.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and GROSSE POINT BLANK:  It profoundly depresses me that I’m too old for John Cusack and too young for Sean Connery.  It also depresses me that my age doesn’t make a damned bit of difference, because it’s not as if either one of them will be dropping by for coffee tomorrow…or ever.
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH:  It’s depressing, and also deeply disturbing that Hollywood was unable to set its sites any higher than a portal into an actor.  Is this really the best we can aspire to?  What about “Being Ben Franklin” or “Being Mark Twain”?  Those two are more interesting dead than Malkovich is alive, anyway.
THELMA & LOUISE:  I find nothing more depressing than when stupidity is portrayed as “cool.”
GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE:   It is a source of ultimate depression that I’ll never get to meet Jack Benny.
IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE BELGIUM:  True this is a much older film, but it depresses me because, in my house, if it’s Tuesday, it must be laundry.

September 12, 2011


I can’t imagine anything worse than having to deliver a eulogy, but recently, it happened to me.  Now, I hate funerals, and will do nearly anything to get out of going to one.  Unfortunately, this family was under the mistaken impression that I was a close friend of the deceased, and what do you say when a teary-eyed daughter drops in and practically begs you to say a few words?  I am not strong enough of heart or honest enough in spirit to refuse such a request based on the fact that I detested the bastard with every fiber of my being.  So, wimp that I am, I reluctantly agreed.
After she left, I set about, pen in hand and a clean ream of white bond at my elbow, to write something that accentuated the meager good points about this fellow.  I wracked my brain.  Hours passed.  Ashtrays grew full.  Wastebaskets overflowed with hundreds of false starts.
The funeral was the next afternoon and, at 2:00 AM, I still had nothing.  Finally, I just gave up, decided to wing it, and went to bed.
The day of the funeral was, well, funereal.  They sky was dark enough to make even an atheist believe in the Apocalypse.  Inside the funeral parlor, the organ music rose and fell like a queasy stomach as I made my way to the lectern, still having no idea what to say.
I gazed out at a sea of puddly eyes, cleared my throat, and began.                                                                        
“We are here today to bid farewell to Fred – a man who was a darned good driver.  He never drank when he was behind the wheel, and the fact that he only had one arm had nothing to do with it.
“I think the most impressive thing about Fred was how great he looked in sunglasses and those stylish tropical print Bermuda shorts he used to wear.  You have to be a special person to wear shorts like that with knee socks, wing tips, and an “I’m with Stupid” sweatshirt.  Not everyone can pull off that look, but on Fred, it was perfection.
“You could always depend on Fred for a good word – and every now and then, a complete sentence.  He went out of his way to help little children, and, to this day, I think the charges filed by their parents were trumped up.
“And that suspicious disappearance of pets in his neighborhood had absolutely nothing to do with his taxidermy hobby – I’m positive of that.  Anyone who says otherwise is a liar!  The white slavery ring was pure nonsense, too.  Fred never discriminated on the basis of color.  If you could do the job, you were OK with Fred.
“Fred was constantly getting blamed for things he had nothing to do with, and I am outraged that he had to deal with that all his life.  The fact that Fred bought a new Rolls Royce the day after the bank was robbed was pure coincidence.  If one is thrifty, one can certainly save enough for a car like that on a janitor’s salary.  And I heard that he won that trip to Switzerland.  The public is too quick to judge these things, and law enforcement too quick to make arrests.
 “And let’s not forget all the community service that Fred has performed.  True, it was part of the sentencing, but community service is community service, and should be recognized and applauded.
“But now, Fred has laid his burden down.  His troubles are over, as are those of the entire town.  Fred’s death has not been in vain.  People can now remove the bars from their windows.  Merchants can holster their handguns.  Children can play outside again.  And all because we are here today.  The entire community owes Fred a great debt of gratitude.
“Thank you.”

September 5, 2011


Hi everyone!  A small interruption to announce that yours truly has just been published in MUNATY COOKING--an online pub originating from Dubai.  My, my. The world isn't so big anymore, is it?  At any rate, if you're looking for a double dose of Buckingham this week, the article contains a column--humorous-- about my mother being a lousy cook, and is much like my blog column, OH, THE HORROR...  So drop and and have a laugh, if you have a spare moment or two.  Oh, and there's a great recipe at the end of the article you may want to try! 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog below this announcement.

September 4, 2011


There is little that will reduce a room full of ordinary, civilized adults to terrified, shrieking infants faster than a bat fluttering through their personal space.
But let me backtrack a bit.
I had the misfortune of attending a dinner party recently.  The words “misfortune” and “dinner party” are actually synonymous, so please forgive the redundancy.  At any rate, hors d’ouevres found me engrossed in an absolutely fascinating discussion about the myriad of ways requiring the use of motorcycle helmets is adversely affecting our rights under the Constitution.  This fellow seemed to have a great deal of respect for, not only the Constitution as he viewed it, but for the sound of his own voice, as well.  I soon realized that all I’d have to do to keep up my end of the conversation was to nod occasionally and avoid turning to stone.
Just when I had decided that this person truly didn’t need to avail himself of a motorcycle helmet, since he had nothing worth protecting anyway, a diminutive uninvited quest made his presence known.
Things immediately became more interesting.
For some odd reason, women confronted by a bad flying about will immediately cover their heads while emitting wails that can lead to avalanches in higher elevations.  What they fail to realize is that bats couldn’t care less about closely inspecting their dye jobs.  Bats have no fashion sense.  It’s all the same to them if your hair is L’Oreal Blonde, Clairol Brunette, or Joe’s Midnight Maroon.  They also do not get tangled in one’s coif.  As a matter of fact, unless you have a swarm of flying insects hanging about the earrings, bats are unlikely to be interested in your company. . . especially at a dinner party.
They do have some standards.
So, the poor bat was fluttering around, just trying to find the fastest way out of there.  Since I had been pursuing as similar, and unsuccessful, course of action ever since I had arrived an hour ago, I didn’t hold out too much hope for the little fellow’s chances.
Ah, but he had one thing on his side that I didn’t have.
Intimidation and fear.
Well, two things, then.
Once the males in the group tumbled to the fact that the ladies weren’t screaming because someone was wearing white shoes after Labor Day, they swept into action.
“What should we do?” they cried, in unison.
An overly muscled athletic sort with an audible tan snatched up a nearby tennis racket (and isn’t there always one nearby?) and advanced on the creature with the requisite blood in the eye.
I, being an animal lover in the extreme, did my part by sticking out my foot at the right time. . .or the wrong time, depending upon your perspective.  He went down like a sack of. . .well, he went down.
Game and Set.
“All right!  HOLD IT DOWN!” I shouted above the din.
An eerie silence, except for the soft fluttering of erratic flight, reigned.
“When I was in the Orient, I learned a trick to call bats,” I explained.  “If you will all adjourn to the next room and close the doors behind you, I’ll get the bat out of the house with no bloodshed or damaged crockery.”
Even Pauly Shore couldn’t have cleared that room faster.
After the doors were latched and secure, I held up my hand and the bat lit on my wrist.
“What the devil took you so long, Bart?  I was bored to tears!”  I exclaimed, scratching him behind the ears.  “Come on.  Let’s get out of here.  There’s a grasshopper at home with your name on it.”
Nobody could blame me for this.  I was only following the instructions on the invitation.  If they didn’t want me to “B.Y.O.B.,” they shouldn’t have told me to!
I tucked Bart into his cage in the back seat of my car and left.
Dinner Party: 0  Bat: 1
Game, Set, and Match.

August 28, 2011


Are you getting scared by all the real-life film-as-it-happens cop shows on TV?
I am.
Last night, I watched two back-to-back episodes of COPS.  I think these people are running out of locations that will have them.  They never seem to shoot in large cities, where the real crime is.  This particular episode was shot in Skunk Pit, Arkansas.  During this first half hour show, I witnessed a 40 mph car chase ending with an exciting speeding ticket, after which the cop got back in the car and expounded for the camera about how the whole world is in such a hurry, and his granny, bless her soul, always said that folks ought to just slow down and smell the flowers.
Next, he arrested a prostitute who happened to be smelling flowers at the time.
There followed a jaywalker and a six-year-old boy who had stolen a piece of candy (followed by a lecture to the camera about what a shame it is for one so young to be turning to a life of crime; followed by the officer’s “great” imitation of Don Corleone).
End of the first show.
I left the room to take an Alka-Seltzer (I think it was the Don Corleone impression that did it).  When I came back, the second show was in full swing, focusing on a 911 domestic violence call.  This show was shot in Bupkis, Arizona.
“Have to be really careful going in on a domestic violence call.  People inside could be armed.  Emotions are running pretty high,” the officer said, looking grimly into the camera and narrowly missing a pedestrian.
Arriving at the scene, he immediately called for back-up.  While he waited, he pulled an accordion out of the back seat and entertained the viewing audience with renditions of “Lady of Spain,” “The Beer Barrel Polka,” and Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony.”  Just before I slipped into a coma, the back-up arrived.  In record time, too…only took twenty minutes.
And what back-up!  Twelve police cruisers form the three surrounding towns (Bupkis only had the one cruiser, apparently).  All the officers hopped out and crouched behind their vehicles, guns drawn.  It was really starting to look like “Alice’s Restaurant” revisited, with our Officer Obie, once again, in charge.  Photos were taken of the outside of the house.  Tire track casts were made.  Bloodhounds were turned loose.
And this was before Officer Obie even rang the bell.
As it turned out, the phone inside had been mistakenly knocked off the hook, and the family had been watching a television special about spousal abuse when the cat stepped on the 911 speed dial button.
But things were not to end there, as much as I prayed they would.  God was obviously not finished torturing me yet. Another call came in.  This time, it was a report of disturbance of the peace.  Off Officer Obie sped.
“The report said that there’s screaming and yelling going on at 322 Webb Lane.  He passed the time on the way to the scene by performing an assortment of coin tricks, while simultaneously coming within inches of two trees, a bridge abutment, and a house.
At last, he arrived at 322 Webb.
The Presbyterian Church.
Apparently, he was supposed to arrest everyone for participating in choir practice.  The complaint, it was later discovered, was lodged by the choir director of the Methodist Church next door.
It makes me proud that police are serving and protecting by tracking down these sorts of miscreants and desperadoes.  Tell the truth…don’t you feel safer?

August 14, 2011



LOS ANGELES – Five waiters at the Rodeo Grille restaurant were sentenced to prison terms of three years each for harassment of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and Sylvester Stallone while the actors were having lunch last week.  The waiters surrounded the booth, trapping the three muscular megastars, and then, according to the actors, attempted to set Sylvester Stallone on fire.
“I felt so…so…violated…so used,” Schwarzenegger said, close to tears.  A pale, visibly shaken Jackie Chan echoed his sentiments, adding, “I felt so helpless, so victimized, you know?”
As a result of this, and many traumas like it experienced by celebrities all over L.A., Sylvester Stallone is donating the proceeds from his next film to fund the construction of the Safe Haven for the Culturally Confused.  This institute will offer therapy sessions and support groups to celebrities who just can’t take the fans, the adoration, and the notoriety any longer.
Stallone will be starring with Dolly Parton, Richard Simmons, and Rush Limbaugh in the long-awaited production of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET.  Chris Farley will be playing the ghost of Hamlet’s father; and Jerry van Dyke, in his dramatic debut as Laertes, promises to be one of the highlights of the picture.
When questioned further about the waiter incident, Stallone said, “Fame is a curse.  It’s absolutely disgusting that I can’t go out for a quiet lunch without being accosted.  We are sending a message with these jail sentences and I feel totally vindicated!”
Yes, it’s quiet in the Rodeo Grille tonight.  The entire waitstaff is in jail, having learned their lesson for trying to bring a birthday cake to Sylvester Stallone’s table.

July 24, 2011


Have you ever noticed how impossible it is to have an adult conversation with people who have small children?
Oh, it starts out all right, but then:
“Tommy!  Stop it!”
“So, as I was saying, I think the issue of soft money could be resolved by…”
“Excuse me.  Jennifer, take your finger out of your nose!  NOW, young lady!  I’m sorry, you were saying?”
“I was talking about abortion…”
“Tommy, now you just put that back right this minute!   I’m sorry.  What was that?”
“I mentioned how much in favor I am of trying children as adults…”
“Jennifer!  Don’t you DARE put that gum in Tommy’s hair!  I’m sorry.  Please continue.”
“On the subject of birth control…”
“Right!  Tommy!  Come here and blow your nose!  That’s disgusting!”
“As I was saying, about drowning children at birth…”
“Jennfier, if you don’t behave, young lady, we’re going home!  I really mean it this time!”
“But if people do choose to reproduce, I think the kids should be sent to concentra…”
“Tommy, don’t pull Jennifer’s hair!  That’s not nice!”
“Alternatively, you could keep the kids and euthanize the parents…”
“OK, kids, that’s it.  We’re going home.  You’re both driving me crazy!  Bye, Carson.  It was so nice talking with you.  I don’t get much of a chance for a good talk with another adult these days. Let’s get together again soon, OK?”
Sure.  When Satan skates to work.

July 17, 2011


Did you have pets when you were little?  We did.

My parents purchased a pair of hamsters for my brother and me, because they wanted us to witness the "miracle of birth."

Well, they'd be sorry...

My little brother, Markie, ever interested in anything he was too young to understand, stepped up to Mom one day.

"Mommy, we have a male and a female hamster, right?"

"That's right."

"And they're going to have babies, right?"

"Uh huh."

"And they do something called 'mating' to make those babies, right?"


"Then I have a question."

"What is it?"

"When you and Daddy made me, did Daddy chase you around the room and bite you on the leg?"

So much for the hamsters.

After that, we had a series of animals that met, shall we say, an early demise.  We had tropical fish that Markie ran in, all excited, one day to report on.

"Hey, Mom!  Our fish are really smart!  They learned a trick all by themselves!"


"Yeah!  They can swim upside down!"

They were buried at sea, so to speak.

From there, he had parakeets that could lie on their backs for hours and hours, turtles that could concentrate so well that they never moved, a frog that croaked (with and without noise), a guinea pig that had a massive coronary when my brother arranged a surprise party for it, and a rabbit that just couldn't take it anymore, and chewed through an electrical cord.  We found the suicide note under a carrot.

Next, he had a kitten that hung in for quite a while.  It alarmed the neighbors that something at our house actually lived, and there was talk that it was possessed by evil spirits.  The kitten subsequently disappeared, and I contend, to this day, that it was kidnapped and taken to the local church for exorcism.

Then there was the hognose snake, which mysteriously "got lost."  My father found it when he put his hand in the box of nails in the garage and was met with attitude in the strike position.  Markie's bottom was met with my father's palm in the flat position.

But you know what really scares me?

Markie is in veterinary college.

June 16, 2011

Hello, Friends!
GREAT NEWS!  I am very excited to announce that my novella, HOME has a new home!  I have just signed a publishing contract with Triskaideka Books. Stay tuned for details about when and where it will be released.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.  Please scroll down to read this week's random silliness regarding doctor visits.

June 5, 2011


I recently had the misfortune of being dragged to a recital given by the dancing school to which my seven-year-old neighbor, Melissa, belonged.
If you've never been to one of these extravaganzas, I strongly urge you to make every effort to retain your aesthetic virginity.
In short, it was a horror show, surpassing even the imaginations of Roger Corman, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter…put together.  Though there was no blood on the walls, by the time this travesty concluded, I really wanted to put some there--mostly the gore and entrails belonging to the people who had talked me into this fabulous outing in the first place--Melissa's parents.
The first number was performed by the preschoolers.  They danced (if you could call it that) to Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers," though their interpretation of it was more like "Waltz of the Pot-Bellied Pigs."
OK.  I got through it with my lunch remaining just above my belt.
This was not to last, however.
The first graders were next and cavorted across the stage to Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bald Mountain," a piece of music I liked very much until that moment.  I still have flashbacks to a stage covered with urchins flailing about in a mad attempt to appear graceful, in spite of each child's having six legs and no sense of rhythm whatsoever.
The second graders--finally!  It was Melissa's group.  They came out dressed as zombies and treated us to an interpretation of "Thriller" that made Michael Jackson look positively normal.  It was unforgettable…no matter how hard I tried.
Good!  Number over.  I got up to leave and quickly discovered that God hadn't quite finished torturing me yet.  I was expected to stay for the entire thing!  Another whole hour!
So there I sat, gamely smiling through dances so hopelessly out of sync that I was suffering from mal de mer halfway into the program.  During this exercise in futility, we witnessed three children falling off the stage, six running into the wings in tears, and one who just stood front and center and waved to her mother.
And those were the talented ones.
At last, it ended…or so I thought.
No such luck.  Now it was time for the awards presentation!  This went on for another hour.  I spent most of that time desperately searching for something sharp to throw myself upon to put a swift end to the torment.
I tuned out most of the ceremony because every single child received a Medal of Excellence.  To this day, I maintain that the audience was more deserving of such awards than the children.  Stamina like ours is hard to come by and deserves to be recognized.
I had decided that I would not lie to Melissa if she asked me if I enjoyed the recital.  I was hoping she'd be way too excited about winning her first dancing medal to even notice me, cowering like the craven poltroon that I am, in the back seat of her parents' car.  But if she did ask, she would get the pure, unvarnished truth.
I was just praying she wouldn't ask.
When she jumped into the vehicle, she gazed upon me with eyes joyfully aglow, gave me a big hug, and asked, "Wasn't it great?"
"I loved it, sweetie," I replied, hugging her back.  "I just can't wait for next year's recital!"
What can I say?  I've always been a sucker for eyes joyfully aglow.

May 22, 2011


Think you can just water your plants, put them in the proper light, sprinkle plant food over them occasionally and they'll pretty much take care of themselves?
Think again.
I have a greenhouse full of plants…carnivorous ones…every type there is…and they're all huge!
As I'm sure you can guess, they have rather different nutritional requirements than your run-of-the-mill begonia, since they need meat.  Oh, they'll eat hamburger…grudgingly; but what they really prefer is live bugs, their favorite being flies.  I have so many plants that buying flies (yes, there are places where you can actually purchase these pests) has become cost prohibitive, and catching them on my own just doesn't cut it.  If I nabbed 50 flies in a day, I was lucky.  However, that would only be enough to feed one of my largest plants or three of the smaller ones.  
So I raise my own…flies, I mean.
If there is anything more perverse and absurd than actually raising houseflies, on purpose, I defy anyone to find it.
Fly husbandry isn't easy, either, let me tell you.  I have four 5' x 5' x 5' mesh cages for my colonies.  There are thousands of residents, and the inside of my house sounds like Amelia Earhart just turned up in my living room.  And not only do I have to deal with the unsettling feeling that my house could be hijacked to Cuba at any moment, but there's the odor, too.
"Oh, but flies don't smell bad," you say.
Not the flies.  Their food.  A fly's optimum diet is rotten meat, which it not only eats but lays eggs in, as well.  I started with over 75,000 of the little beasties, so you have some idea of what I'm up against.
"Try air freshener," you say?
You think I haven't?
Air freshener, once sprayed, takes a single sniff of the current "bowels of Hell" aroma pervading the house and heads, screaming, for the nearest open window.  Baking soda bursts into tears.  Lysol puts on a gas mask.  Nothing helps.
And I take quite a bit of abuse for it, too.
My neighbor calls me "Legion."
I keep finding reversed pentagrams drawn on my doorstep.
Any mail addressed to "The Third Horseman of the Apocalypse" is delivered to me.
All because I love my plants!
Well, at this point, they're so large that perhaps "respect" would be a better word.
Or maybe, "fear."
I don't know what they'd do to me if I cut off their fly supply. But I suspect that becoming the plant version of a granola bar might be involved.
I do much more for them than just feed them, though.  I must mist them all, four times a day, because they like it humid.  I must monitor the heater constantly to be sure it is at the exact temperature they prefer.  I must pipe in "gangsta" rap music for them to listen to during the day.  They're hostile plants with bad attitudes, and they seem to feel that this sort of music indicates that someone, somewhere, truly understands them.  I know, because I tried them on country/western and all I heard was vomiting noises…for hours.  They hate opera (especially Wagnerian, for some reason), expressing their displeasure by snapping at me if I get within range.  And I don't even want to discuss what happens when they hear Barry Manilow.  Just mentioning his name sets them off!
Lately, the larger plants have taken to locking the greenhouse door and cranking up ZZ Top at three o'clock every morning.  My neighbors don't even complain anymore.  The first time they did, I told them that there was nothing I could do about it…that my carnivorous plants were behind it all and had locked me out of the greenhouse.
Even the police don't come around anymore.
I've also noticed recently that I haven't been receiving the invitations to neighborhood parties that I used to.  The babysitting that I was formerly in such demand for seems to have inexplicably dried up, too.  I guess that means that people are spending more time at home with their families, and that’s a good thing.
Well, I'd like to continue this, but I have to get back to the greenhouse, now.
It's time for their bedtime story.

May 8, 2011


Have you ever gone to the doctor just because you didn't feel quite right, but weren't sure exactly what was wrong with you?

Prepare yourself.  A problem that would have been cured in your grandmother's day by a strong dose of tonic will now cost you in the neighborhood of three months' salary, the antique clock in your dining room, and all the fillings in your teeth.

There is no such thing as a GP anymore.   The General Practitioner has been reduced to bones in the La Brea tar pits, along with the rest of the dinosaurs.

"I'm feeling weak and tired," I told a Doctor of Internal Medicine.

He put his hand on my wallet and told me to cough (Henny Youngman wasn't kidding!), after which he recommended that I see a heart specialist.

"That's it?" I cried.  "No blood work?  No EKG?  No stress test?  Just 'go to a heat specialist'?"

"Yes," he replied, while counting out my life savings.

So I went to a "heart man,' as he's known in the biz.

He presented me with a bill before he even examined me, then said, "You have six months to live."

I looked at the bill.  I'd never seen so many zeroes in one place before in my life.  "I can't pay this!"

"OK, then I'll give you another six months." (Did Henny Youngman go to medical school?)
"Oh, and I'm sending you to a respiratory specialist," he said.

When I showed up there, the respiratory specialist sent his secretary out to give me my bill in the parking lot!  On it was scrawled the name of a neurologist and the time of my appointment.

The neurologist's office called me and gave me my bill total over the phone.  I was then told to report to the ICU.

At the hospital, still not knowing what was wrong with me, I was placed inside an oxygen tent and put on suicide watch.  When the doctor finally came in, he looked just like Henny Youngman.

I took one look at him and said, "Take my life...please."