June 28, 2012


Don’t you just love riding elevators?
I was on my way to see my publisher, who is located in a high-rise office building that people get nosebleeds just looking up at from the street.  But that’s Manhattan for you – city of excess and bloody sidewalks.
At any rate, I toodled inside, hired a pack mule, purchased supplies and made my way across a solid pink marble lobby the size of Ohio.  Upon arriving at the banks of elevators, I told my Sherpa guide, Niblick, to keep the meter running on the mule, and stepped aboard the nearest vertical conveyance.
The car was already crammed full of passengers, one of whom was carrying in his lunch and, if the odor of same was any indication, he was planning on a feast of three-week old fish that had been marinated in finely aged sewage.
“Floor 267, please,” I said to the elevator boy.
“267?  Oh, you’ll need oxygen for that floor,” he said, handing me a mask.  I dutifully slipped it on.
Off we shot to the first stop – floor 100.  This trip took 1.5 seconds.  During the course of the ride, my head had burst through my hat, which was now hanging around my neck like a Beefeater ruff.  I was also three inches in the red on my previous height and would require cosmetic surgery and a screw jack to remove my breasts from my knees.
After all that, only one person got off.  He’d been short when he’d gotten on, but now he looked like a member of the Lollipop Guild.
“How do I get to Suite 1014?” he asked the elevator boy.
“Just follow the Yellow Brick Road,” he chortled, closing the door in his face.
Next stop, floor 200.  The elevator boy executed a quick countdown, then launched us skyward yet again.
This time, my feet went right through the bottoms of my shoes, my necklace broke, and my earrings were pulled down so low that my earlobes would have been right at home among the Ubangis.
One woman was sick to her stomach in the corner of the car, and a rather large gentleman was experiencing technical difficulties involving methane gas.  Add that to the guy packing the landfill lunch and you have an aroma that would even make Jeffrey Dahmer think twice.  As the minutes passed, I became more and more convinced that Hell had just added a tenth ring, and that elevator was it.
Everyone, but the galloping gourmet and I, got off at floor 200, whether they needed to or not.  But I am made of stronger stuff . . . plus, the idea of walking up 67 flights didn’t much appeal to me. 
The doors slammed shut again, and I prepared for takeoff.
The elevator hurtled upward, but came to a bone-rattling stop between floors 266 and 267.
So there I was, trapped in an elevator with a race driver wannabe, a nerdy guy holding a leaky lunch bag filled with toxic waste, surrounded by the miasma of the revenge of the fat guy’s chili dinner and the pile of vomit in the corner.
This was not the way I envisioned making my transition from this world to the next, somehow.
“Don’t worry, we have a special phone to call for help,” Mario Andretti assured us.  He picked up the receiver and confidently pushed the red button.
Nothing happened.
He pushed it again.
Still nothing.
He panicked and began speaking in tongues.
I slapped him, probably harder than I needed to (though I must admit, it felt awfully good), to snap him out of it.  I’m amazed I could see well enough to actually hit his face, because by that time, the stench was melting my eyeballs.
“OK, how do we get out of here?” I demanded.
He meekly indicated the trap door in the roof of the car.
“Fine.  Give me a boost.”
“Lady, you can’t . .  .”
“You want to go?”
“A boost!  Right!  Sure, no problem!”
You may wonder at the alacrity of my voluntarism.  Had you been there, you wouldn’t have.  I was more than willing to take the chance of falling to a quick death over dying slowly and horribly in the elevator.
A boost, and I was on the roof.  “Now what?” I asked, gulping in the fresh air.
“Climb up to the floor above us and open the door.  Then get help.”
One thing I’ve learned about directions such as these is that anything that sounds this simple usually isn’t.
To get to the door above, I had to shinny up the greasy cable and lean out to step across the ledge.  It took patience, dexterity, and the firm resolve that I was not, under any circumstances, going back into that elevator.
Once on the ledge, I managed to pry the door open and fall in a heap on the white carpeting of my publisher’s office.  Being covered with grease did not enhance my prestige with the firm, I can promise you.
I stood, with the help of a couple of receptionists holding me at arm’s length.  My clothing was torn and hanging in stalactite-like shreds from my body.  I was so filthy, I could have done a guest shot on “The Wide, Wide World of Dumpster Diving.”  The only pieces left of my shoes were the toes.  My hair looked as if it had been styled by Ray Charles, my hands were ripped and bleeding, and every single fingernail was not just broken, but gone!
“There are more people stuck in the elevator.  They need help and I need an ambulance and a bath in Drano,” I croaked.  Then I passed out.
I awoke in the hospital.  My publisher had sent a huge bouquet of flowers.  Smiling, I opened the card as fast as ten heavily bandaged fingers would permit, and read:

Roses are Red.
Violets are Blue.
You messed up our carpet,
So we’re suing you!

I’m out of the hospital now, and I work out on a Stairmaster for an hour every day.
You’ll never catch me on another elevator!

June 1, 2012


Entertaining is always a challenge when you have a strict budget; but have no fear.  You can still have memorable, fun-filled parties and spend next to nothing.
Here's how, step-by-step.

Step One:  Deciding whom to invite.
Anorexics are always good.  A whole group of them won’t even go through a single head of romaine lettuce.

Skip the bulimics.  Not only do they eat too much, but the mess they make is unspeakable.

Put some thought into your guest list.  If you are obligated to invite certain people you would rather not, then be sure to invite guests that you know will annoy them into leaving the gathering early.

Step Two:  Choosing a party theme
          There are many types of themes that will blend well with a budget.  For instance, why not throw a “Landfill Party”?  You won’t even have to clean up the house!  For additional ambience, have your son move the car he’s restoring out onto the front lawn and take off the tires.  Oh, and now would be a perfect time to display that old toilet that your husband salvaged from the last remodel job he did.  As a matter of fact, it would be the perfect thing to serve chili in!

 A “hunting party” is also a good way to entertain, and gets the men involved, too.  As the name implies, the men go out and bring back the meat portion of the meal.  But before deciding on this type of theme, carefully consider where you live.  For example, if you call New England home, you can expect to be serving deer, pheasant, duck, or partridge, or grouse.   Down south, perhaps possum, squirrel, or alligator.  However, if you live in Manhattan, you are likely to have a pot of rat, feral cat, pigeon, and stray dog to deal with, and your party will not progress much beyond the return of the happy hunters.

Step Three:  Creating and sending the invitations
Just for the sake of consistency, let’s assume that you’ve decided to throw a “Landfill Party,” since this is, by far, the easiest one for the frugal beginner to throw.  Invitations are a snap, and reflect your theme masterfully.  Simply find a fast food  place that serves on paper plates, and rummage through their trash until you have enough of them.  Don’t worry about it if they are stained--you want them to have been used.  And don’t forget utensils.  You should have no trouble at all finding  enough discarded plastic forks, knives, and spoons to cover your guest list.
Once you get them home, you may have to dry the paper plates off before you can write on them, so get some clothespins and pin them to your clothesline for about an hour.  If you don’t have a clothesline, find someone in the neighborhood who does, wait until they leave for work, and use theirs—they’ll never know.  And don’t forget to wash the plastic utensils!

Once the paper plates are dry, fish an old piece of charcoal out of your outdoor grill and handwrite the invitation.  Don’t worry if it smudges a little.  It’s all part of the effect, and the recipients will adore the personalized touch.
Don’t, Don’t, DON’T spend money on stamps.  Forget the mail service for your invitations.  For the price of a box of Gummi Bears, your kids will be happy to get on their bikes and hand-deliver them.  And if that doesn’t work, threaten to confiscate their computer games purchased in better times—that oughta do it.

Step Four:  Party Food
Instead of shopping for food for this do, after the local restaurants in your area close, make the rounds.  Take several plastic bags with you to separate meat, vegetables, salad, appetizers, and dessert, and start your dumpster diving.  You won’t believe what is thrown away—often with only one or two bites taken out of it.  You should only need about an hour to scavenge your entire menu.  Then, take it all home, trim it up, discard anything rotten, and you’re good to go.  And if you tell everyone that you’ve gone on the wagon, but your guests are welcome to B.Y.O.B, you’re covered there, too.

Step Five:  Party Favors
Though it’s customary to provide party favors to your guests, it doesn’t have to break the bank.  How about this:   When you first decide on the date of your party, start saving the cardboard from inside toilet paper rolls.  Next, go to a Dollar Store, where you can buy a whole bag of plastic skeletons for a buck, then place one skeleton in each roll, and fill it up with soil, then wrap each in salvaged aluminum foil, and voila!  You have a miniature dump site for your skeletal “murder victim.”  What could be more in keeping with your theme?

TOTAL PARTY COST:  $1.00 plus tax.