October 25, 2013


At one extremely low point in my life, I had decided to commit suicide. 
I had it all figured out and all my paraphernalia in place when I remembered I had to leave a note of some kind behind, so innocent parties had an explanation and would not feel guilty.   
I set to.
“To Whom it May Concern,” I wrote. 

No, that’s too cold, too impersonal.
“To Those Who Care.”  
Nope.  Too self-pitying.
“To Occupant.” 

I worked for three hours on the salutation alone.  Finally, I had it right:  “To Everyone I Love, Thanks for the Use of the Hall.”
Great.  That was done.  Now for the note.
I spent hours and hours, revising and rewriting.  Hours became days.  Days stretched out into weeks.  Dirty dishes piled up.
By the time I had the whole thing written, six months had passed, my note was 120 pages long, and after reading over the final draft, I decided that it would make a great screenplay.
I FEDEXed it to Paramount and they sent me back a check for $100,000, which gave me a reason to live. 
It’s impossible for a conscientious writer to commit suicide.

October 18, 2013


For those of you who have always wondered about the answers to the odd questions people sometimes ask, wonder no more.  Here are the answers:

Do fish drink water?

        No, fish drink Johnnie Walker Black

Why do cats purr?

        To give you a sporting chance to get your hand out of the way        before they clip it off at the wrist and bury it in their litter box.

What is Zulu time?

        It’s like Hammertime, but in ¾

What is the lowest point on Earth?


How many people died in the Civil War?


What does the information on our money represent?

        How screwed we are

Is pinto a breed of horse or just a color?

        It is a bean

What caused the Great Depression of 1929?

        The lower hemlines of 1928

Has a U.S. vice president ever been assassinated?

        No.  Nobody gives enough of a crap to bother.

Why did Custer choose Garry Owen as his regimental song?

        Because “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” seemed somehow inappropriate

What was the last song the musician on the Titanic played?

        Splish Splash, I was Takin’ a Bath

What is the religious makeup of the United States


What is the star closest to our sun?

        Leonardo DiCaprio

How did the sport of hockey get started?

        Two kids beating the crap out of each other on a frozen pond

What is the book that the Statue of Liberty is holding?

        Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

What caused the fire that destroyed San Francisco?

        Swatch friction

What part of the world gets the most rain?

        Any part that has an outdoor wedding scheduled

Will hot water freeze faster than cold water?

        Don’t be a moron

October 11, 2013


These days, with the economy in the state it’s in (Rhode Island, I think), I am doing my level best to find multiple uses for everyday items in the home in order to save money and make my husband, Stij, realize what a clever wife he has and how lucky he is.
And you know, I think I’m doing pretty well at it.
For instance—homemade jam.  I grow grapes in the back yard and this past season I was able to put up a quart and a half of grape jam.  I’m sure it’s delicious, but I managed to overcook it to the point where the seven packets of pectin I added just said, “Oh, fuck it,” and vulcanized the entire batch.
However, being the inventive person that I am, after scraping it out of the pot with a crowbar, I discovered a myriad (don’t you love that word?) of other uses.  For example, after a mere hour of blowtorching, I found that I could reshape the jam into intriguing sculptural forms; that is, until Stij came in, demanding to know “…what that horrific smell is and why are there 127,000 fire ants on the counter?” just prior to his donning oven mitts and chucking the whole thing into a trash can--which he then threw over the wall into our neighbor’s yard.
“He’ll never know where it came from,” Stij said confidently.
 "Oh, I wouldn't take bets on that," I muttered.
 All right, so the multi-use jam didn’t work out too well.  But how about brownies?  Brownies can be used for a lot of different things, too.
Recently, I made a quadruple batch of them, but forgot to add the eggs.  After employing the crowbar previously used in the jam, and cutting the hardened sheets into pieces on Stij’s band saw, there were enough of them to glue to the concrete slab by the front door in a really attractive herringbone pattern.  While debating whether or not to paint them, Stij walked by and told me that if I put any more of my failed baked goods outside, the fire ants have threatened to eat the tires on his truck—just to get rid of the taste.
So much for that.
Well, how about taffy, then?  See?  I don’t even need to write anything; you’re already laughing.  Why bother?
So since I screwed up the stuff anybody can make, I reasoned, “I guess they’re just too simple—maybe I should try something more challenging.”
Oh, don’t ask ME where I get this logic—just roll with it.
I tried baklava, which ended up tasting like a balaclava.  However, if carefully sanded and polished to a high gloss, it makes a really interesting sound when it hits the garbage can—ask my husband.
Another thing I made that had multiple purposes, which was the original premise of this column—remember?—was pancake syrup.  I figured, no problem, I’ll go outside, tap a tree, and do it the old fashioned way.  So out I went with my peg and bucket and my drill.  I drilled an appropriately sized hole, affixed the bucket hanger and adjourned indoors to watch “Jeopardy.” 
When I went back out, the bucket was full of milky white sap.  I hauled it in and dumped it into a pot on the stove to begin boiling it down.
It didn’t boil down.
It boiled over the pot, ran down the side of the oven, and onto the linoleum floor, where it proceeded to eat right through to the foundation.  The fumes alone were removing the paint, sheetrock, and framing.
It is to Stij’s credit that when he walked in on Armageddon he didn’t just kill me and toss me over the wall to keep the garbage can company.

        When we finally got everything back under control, we assessed the wreckage.  We had exactly half a house left.  Why it stopped at half, I’ll never know.  Maybe the doorknobs gave it indigestion.  All I know is that Stij managed to stuff it all into his refuse trailer and drove it off to the landfill, after first saying a Novena that they would take it when he got there. 
He was underwhelmed upon his return three hours later.
“What happened?  Did they take it?”
“Eventually,” he said.  “When they asked me what it was, I said, ‘pancake syrup,’ then they got all pissed off because they thought I was being a smartass.”
“So what happened?”
“I explained your culinary exploits.  Two of them have wives who cook just like you do.  We cracked a couple of beers and traded stories, and here I am.  What I want to ask you is this—which tree did you tap?”
“That huge Rubber Tree out back.”
“That is NOT the kind of tree you tap for syrup.  You tap a MAPLE tree.”
 “Oh, I know that.  I just thought I’d add some maple flavoring to it after it was boiled down.  Sap is sap, right?  Your face is really red—are you having blood pressure problems again?”
“High blood pressure is the least of my worries lately.” 
“Well, then, what do you want for dinner?”
“A paid-up life insurance policy.  Since we only have half a kitchen left, we’ll be eating out—for the next five months, probably.”
Now see that?  Multiple uses.  Beyond its usual use, my pancake syrup can also be used to get your house remodeled, give your husband the opportunity to make new friends, and get you taken out to dinner.  It also makes a great fire ant killer.
I’ll be releasing a cook book later this year, dear reader, so watch this page!


October 4, 2013


        Most people do not leap from the womb with an innate interest in cooking.  As we become older and increasingly aware of the world, this interest can develop—usually with help from our mothers or other female relatives who spend the weekends creating a symphony of irresistible aromas in those tabernacles we call kitchens.  It is with growling stomachs and drooling mouths that we gather eagerly around the table when a meal is served and really, really mean it when we thank God for the bounty we are about to receive.  We will actually feel sorry for God that he can’t partake of the steaming deliciousness set before us.

        Unfortunately, that wasn’t my house I just described.

        My mother is a lousy cook. 

        And worst of all, she hasn’t ever realized it.

        She mistakes desperate efforts to keep from moaning in pain for what she refers to as “yummy noises” and dishes up another helping.  She feels that green complexions are becoming and that continued rushes to the bathroom are less to throw up than to “powder one’s nose.”  Even the men.

        My brother had no idea what a bad cook our mom was until he joined the Army and began sending recipes home.

        Last year, for Christmas, I gave her a year of cooking lessons.  I knew she’d be offended, but I also knew that she’d never be willing to hurt my feelings by not going.  Tough love, I know; but sometimes it is necessary to meet drastic situations with equally drastic measures.  I mean, our land line is set on speed dial to the Atlanta Poison Control Center…and we are on a first-name basis with all the operators there, for chrissake!

        So she began her cooking lessons.  I had to promise to stop by and sample her “homework” every weekend; so I was at the table that first Saturday morning, along with my brother and my father.

        Her first project was Eggs Benedict.

        I can promise you one thing—if Pope Benedict had sampled these, shortly thereafter everyone in Rome would have been standing around watching for white smoke.

        I should also mention that there are three dogs in the house; but after begging scraps from the table as puppies and being laid up at the vet’s for a month or more, they’d growl at a steak if my mother had cooked it.  Therefore, feeding the dogs under the table was a closed avenue to digestive escape.

        At any rate, we choked it down, then raced to the bathroom.  This time, ipecac was not going to be necessary.

        It’s only the first week, I thought.  Give her time.

        The following Saturday, we sampled her second assignment.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a soufflé that had to be cut with a chain saw.  After we complimented her to the sky, we hid the pieces under the table.  Later on, my dad took them into his workshop and trimmed them down so we could paint them and use them as croquet posts.

        Okay, I thought.  It’s just week two.  Things are bound to get better.

        Only they didn’t.

        Next Saturday, Mom favored us with Jambalaya, which she had cooked in a tempered steel pot.  When she served it, it dissolved the china, the table, the floor, the ceiling of the basement, and the sump pump.  However, if sufficiently diluted, it would remove paint…from anything.

        So much for week three.

        Saturday arrived again, far too soon for some of us.  We held our collective breath as she unveiled…tada…Baked Alaska.  I think there was actually soil from Alaska in it.  It was the only dessert you could eat and exfoliate with at the same time.

        Week four over…thank God.

        The next week, she produced dill pickles.  Well, that’s better, I thought.  How can you mess up a pickle?

        What was I thinking?

         One bite of those kerosene cucumbers and all smoking at the table immediately ceased.  It took an entire tube of toothpaste and a bottle of Listerine to get rid of the taste.

        But we gamely hung in.

        On the sixth Saturday, she treated us to Clams Casino—and the odds were against us, believe me.

        We hastily convened a family conference in the next room while Mom was doing the washing up.  After much discussion, we decided to give it just one more week.

        Saturday number seven saw pork chops, mashed potatoes, and broccoli that were almost good.  Things were looking up.

        The next week, we had a wine tasting before the French cuisine dinner we’d been promised.  We went through a case and a half, and were so drunk by the time she put the Boeuf en Croute on the table we were, as incredible as it sounds, eager to try it!  As a matter of fact, we ate every last bite of it, béarnaise sauce and all.

        The next morning we were not only hung over but also suffering from symptoms of every disease imaginable.  We were rushed to the hospital where we were transfused, pumped out, injected, examined, tested, IVed, x-rayed, CAT scanned and MRIed.  The three of us even had tattoos, with no idea where they came from.  The medical staff had never seen anything like it, and there was talk of indicting my mother for attempted murder.

        A judge solved the problem by placing a restraining order on Mom that kept her 100 feet from the stove at all times.

        When Christmas comes this year, I plan to give the whole family a gift.

        I’m hiring Wolfgang Puck.