April 29, 2014


         It finally happened.
I decided to attend my high school reunion.  This year will be…nope, not going to tell you how many years it would be.  It’s upsetting enough to realize how far from those days I find myself without dragging all of you into my sudden, newfound depression.
The first thing one does when getting ready for a “do” like this is to diet, since we all have, by this time, put on a few unwanted pounds.
Perhaps more than a few.
Perhaps a bargeload.
I had 30 pounds to lose and three weeks in which to lose them.
Ten pounds a week. 
I could do that.
So the first thing I had to do was get online and find the fastest diet in the world.
After hours of searching, anxiety was mounting.  It was down to juice fasting, the Twigs and Gravel Diet, a ball gag with a locking mechanism, or Super Heavy Duty Steel Reinforced Spanx. 
I tried juice fasting.  I like juice.
I could do that.
After three days of it, oh no, I couldn’t.
Stij caught me trying to juice a doughnut.
“I want you to stop this insanity right now!” he cried. “Look at you.  You’re a shadow of your former self.”
“That’s the idea, dear.”
“Not like this!  This is nuts!  You’ve swallowed so much vegetable juice that all you do is fart!  I have to sleep in the guest room because I can’t penetrate the miasma in our bedroom.  You can see the air in there!”
End of the juice fasting.
Up next:  Twigs and Gravel.
This is the no carb, no fat diet. It consists of fish and tree bark, but after the juice fasting, I’d take anything I could chew. 
 I dashed to the store and bought every kind of fish I could find. After I returned home and loaded up the fridge, Stij sauntered in.
“What smells?”
“It’s the fish I bought.”
“Fish is supposed to smell like a fresh cucumber, it isn’t supposed to stink up the place.”
“I wondered why it was all on sale.”
“Oh, God.”  He opened the fridge and made the grave mistake of inhaling. “How many pounds of fish are in here?”
“About 40, I think.”
“And you were planning on cooking all of this?” 
“Out it goes!  I don’t even want to know what you spent on it.  And please, Carson, keep in mind that we live in Arizona, not coastal Connecticut.  Freshwater fish must be shipped in, and I see that was the majority of what you bought. Fish here is never fresh unless you go to Lake Pleasant and catch it yourself.”  And with that, the garbage bin was wheeled around and loaded with the expired (in more ways than one) fish.
The next day, there were signs up all over the neighborhood with pictures of missing cats on them. 
After taking out the garbage that evening, Stij returned looking pale.
“What’s wrong?”
“I just found 12 of the missing cats curled up inside our rubbish bin.  They each weigh about 25 pounds and can no longer move.  I hope you’re happy.”
“Do they all have collars?”
“Yep. But I took them off--they were suffocating.  Those cats have necks like linebackers now.  Their feet are distant memories.  I've never seen anything like it!”
“OK, then let’s match them up to the posters and return them to their owners.”
We got out the hand truck, piled on the cats, and wheeled them back to their homes.  The owners were less than thrilled with their condition—especially the lady who owned the prize-winning Himalayan, which took one look at her, groaned, and threw up on her shoes.  What didn’t hit her footwear ate right through the concrete.
We departed with a quickness.
“Wow, did you see how fat those cats got on fish? That is obviously not the way to go with dieting,” I said.
Stij, to his everlasting credit, didn’t punch me, but his left eye started to twitch.  “If you just ate twice your weight in spoiled fish, you’d be fat, too.  And sick.  Stop with the dieting already!”
“I can’t.  I look like I should be docked next to the Carnival Cruise Line.”
“I don’t understand what you’re getting so worked up about.  Everybody else probably looks just as bad as you do.”
“Oh, what a lovely thing to say, you charm school dropout.” 
“I didn’t mean it like that.  You look fine to me and you always will.  I love you.  And, according to you, most of the people you went to high school with didn’t even like you.” 
“I was a pain in the ass in high school.”
“So why are you going, then?” 
“To have some decent fish?”
“Well, there’s that, I suppose.”
We finally arrived at a compromise.  I stayed home and with the money that would have been used for my plane ticket, we overnighted in 20 pounds of fresh fish from Pike’s Place Market in Seattle.  Stij cooked them.
Oh, and I did lose the weight.  The ball gag worked like a charm!



April 21, 2014


         Has anyone else discovered, the hard way, how tough it is to teach little kids anything these days?
I’m not talking about Math or Science here.
I’m talking about the enjoyable stuff…homey stuff…like baking cookies.
My granddaughter came over the other day.  She is seven going on forty-two, and arrived with the essentials—her cell phone and her laptop.
“Hi, Susie.  Come on in.  We’re going to bake some cookies today.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Why?  Well, because it’s fun and you get to eat the cookies.”  It would never have occurred to me to ask such a question as a child.
“It’s easier to just buy them.”
“So you’re not interested in making cookies?”
“No, not really.”
“All right.  How about if you help me in the garden, then?  I have a little surprise for you out there.”
“Of course, ‘outside.’  Where else would you have a garden?”
“In school we have a hydroponic  garden…inside.”
“Well, call me old-fashioned, but mine is outside.  Come and see,” I said.
Susie rolled her eyes.  “Oh, all right.”
We stepped into the back yard, and I showed Susie the little raised garden bed I’d made for her.  “See?  You can plant whatever you want to in here.”
I was favored with a blank look.
It was as if she’d stepped right out of ‘Village of the Damned.’
“You can grow flowers or vegetables.  You could even plant a couple of grape vines if you wanted to.”
“I don’t think so, Grandma.”
“Whyever not?”
She sighed and looked up at me with an facial expression usually reserved for dealing with severe mental impairment.  “You want flowers, you go to a flower shop and buy them.  You want vegetables, you go to the market and buy them…same with grapes.”
“I think you may be missing the point, sweety.”
“And that is?”
“Well, it’s nice to be able to do things for yourself…to know how to do these things.”
“But I don’t need to.  Maybe Mommy and Daddy might be interested as a way of cutting the grocery budget, but since they pay for everything, this is nothing I need to know about.”
“But you won’t always be a child.”
“By the time I’m grown up, food will be in powder and pill form anyway.  I’m not worried,” she said, giving my thriving vegetable garden a disgusted look.  “Is this really the way you spend your dwindling time on this planet?”
“Yes, it is.  I garden, I bake things, I cook things, I can fruits and vegetables, I sew, and I knit.
“But Grandma, you could just buy all those things you make and use your time more wisely,” this fount of second-grade wisdom declared.
“And how would you suggest I use my time, then?”
         She smiled, pulled out her laptop and fired it up.  “Ever heard of FaceBook?”

April 14, 2014


DISCLAIMER:  These holidays are poked fun at from the strictly NON-RELIGIOUS standpoint.

 With the fast approach of Easter, and mulling over what to write for the blog update this week, I thought about some of the ridiculously inappropriate symbols we have for such holidays and how they relate, or not, to the ways in which we celebrate them.
Let’s start with Easter.  A rabbit and a basket of dyed eggs.  Makes no sense.  If we're discussing purely secular symbols of rising from the dead, then wouldn’t a zombie be a better?  And shouldn’t children be hunting for resuscitators in cemeteries rather than eggs on manicured lawns?  The traditional Easter dinner is ham or leg of lamb, but in keeping with the theme of “return” wouldn’t a big plate of beans be a better choice?  You’ll certainly hear from them again after you eat them.  And though the Easter lily is the traditional flower, Johnny Jump-Ups would certainly be more appropriate.
Moving right along—Mother’s Day.  This is quite the holiday.  If you’re smart, you’re considerate of your mother all year round, but if not, the calendar forces you to pay tribute to her on this day…and God help you if you don’t.  You will buy her flowers.  You will buy her jewelry. You will take her out to dinner.  But no matter what you do, whether you’re 24 or 64, during dessert she is sure to say, “I still wish you’d married that nice girl you went to high school with.”   And when you reply that you broke up with her because her highest goal in life was to get a job at Mustang Ranch in Nevada, her inevitable comment will be, “At least I’d have some grandchildren.”  The Mother’s Day symbol should be an embroidered sampler that reads, “I told you so” and a child waving a white flag.
Next, Memorial Day—a day of remembrance American war dead.  The symbology here is already the most appropriate of the lot.  People get together with the family for a barbecue.  Dead things are eaten, then remembered later when they go to war in our intestines.  And when the family gets together, what do you have?  Battles.  Oh, yeah, we’re good with Memorial Day.
Father’s Day—a consolation prize so that Dad won’t feel left out.  The symbols for this day should be an amusing coffee mug and a neck tie.
July 4th—celebrates our adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our break with Great Britain.  Rather than fireworks, I think the symbol for Independence Day should be your lazy brother-in-law getting up off his fat butt and finding a job…preferably in England.
Labor DayThis is a celebration of the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of America.  If your brother-in-law hasn’t found a job yet, this is the perfect reason not to invite him over for the barbecue.  The symbol here should be the boss taking back the Labor Day holiday pay by cutting hours the following week.
Halloween—an evening of dressing in a costume and going door to door, carrying empty bags or pillowcases, begging for candy.  If the homeowner doesn’t give the reveler a treat, then a “trick” is played, usually some sort of mild vandalism.  I believe that this is how the Mafia got started.  A carved pumpkin is the symbol, though originally, it was a turnip that was carved.  It was changed to a pumpkin because nobody could bear the stench of a burning turnip.  A better symbol would be an insulin-filled syringe with the Hershey’s logo on the plunger.
Thanksgiving—a day when we get together with the family and give thanks for what we have, followed by a colossal pig-out.  Of course, with the family there, nobody’s happy about anything for too long unless some forward-thinking family member has the presence of mind to stuff the turkey with Prozac…lots of Prozac.  The symbol for this holiday is the turkey and the cornucopia.  It should be a bloated man on a couch, with his pants unzipped, half asleep, watching a football game.  
Christmas—We have many symbols for this holiday: Santa Claus, the Christmas Tree, the nativity scene, jingle bells, a star, twinkly lights, gifts, stockings, snow and snowmen, sleighs, reindeer, angels, and on and on.  This plethora of reminders of the season is hardly necessary, especially since Wal-Mart and establishments of that ilk have all the Christmas decorations on display the day after Halloween and holiday music blaring throughout the stores.  By the time Christmas arrives, we are actually sick to death of “peace on earth, good will to men,” and will vomit upon hearing the first seven notes of any Christmas carol you’d care to name.  A better symbol for Christmas would be an empty wallet and a full cash register.  Or a father holding up a necktie.
New Year’s Eve—Though the actual holiday is New Year’s Day, the celebration occurs the night before.  Streamers, confetti, and noise-makers are the symbols here, along with glasses of champagne.  They are nice thoughts, but more a accurate depiction would be someone throwing up in the back seat of a taxi, an empty Jim Beam bottle, and an ice bag.  Oh, and cars wrapped around telephone poles—let’s not forget those.
Valentine’s Day—another “participate or die” day.  Symbols here are a dozen red roses, chocolates in a heart-shaped box, expensive jewelry, dining out, and hearts in general.  Better symbols would be a guy with a gun to his head or a dozen roses bearing a price tag of $250.00 with the previous price of $30 crossed out.
St. Patrick’s Day—See New Year’s Eve, but in green.




April 7, 2014


This week's column is dedicated to John Pinette.

Since I am once again barred from the kitchen after the sauerkraut reenactment of the London Blitzkrieg of 1940, I needed something to do with my time.  Stij suggested that I take up a craft of some sort.
And I said, “Why not?”
After a ten-minute bout of exhaustive research, I decided on knitting.  It seemed to be nothing more than knot-tying with needles.  No problem.
I drove to the local yarn store and walked in with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  The color!  The textures!  Oh, this was going to be great!
“May I help you?”
I turned to face the quintessential grandmother-type who I just knew had been knitting amazing sweaters the day after leaving the womb.
“I hope so.  I want to learn to knit.”
She regarded me with a gimlet eye.  “You look familiar to me.  Do I know you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I know I’ve seen you before. Where do you live?”
“We just moved into a new house, but I used to live at 666 Aleister Crowley Avenue.”
Her kindly face hardened into something resembling Mount Rushmore—and not in a good way.  “Ah, yes, the kitchen bomber.  I live across the street from your former crater.”
“Oh.  Have they filled it in yet?”  I didn’t know what else to say.
“They were going to, but a huge colony of diamondback rattlesnakes moved in after you moved out in the middle of the night, and nobody’s been able to get within twenty feet of it.  Did you know that rattlesnakes patrol their living area?  They also come into houses through dog doors.  I’ve lost three cats, one Shih-tzu, and fourteen hamsters so far.”
I hesitated to think what other wildlife she had in her house.  Anyone owning more than one or two hamsters is someone to be regarded with suspicion and dread.  I took a step back.
“Perhaps they were just culling the herd,” I said.
Shouldn’t have said that.
The air grew frosty.  I was expecting granny to start speaking in tongues at any moment.  Her eyeballs turned black.  Her teeth elongated…then fell out at my feet.
“Damned dentures,” she muttered, picking them up and stuffing them back in.  “I shall ignore your previous comment, and find someone with less animosity to wait on you.  Oh, Mavis?”
Mavis tottered over.  She was actually older than granny, who was pretty much past her expiration date already.  I sighed.
“Yes, dear, how may I help you today?”
“I’ve decided to take up knitting.”
Her face went blank.  “Is that so?” she asked in a dead monotone.
“Yes.  I’d like to buy some yarn, needles, and a couple of knitting books for beginners.”
“Well, before you take up the art of knitting, we must be sure that it will fit in with your lifestyle, mustn’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t be selling you our lovely yarns and imported knitting needles if I have the slightest inkling that once you get started, you may put it aside and neglect it.  Knitting is for the committed, my dear.”
And you should be, I thought.
Evidently, the knitters have banded together and are making a concerted effort to keep out any but the best at the craft in a sort of creative snobbery similar to the reactions of art critics when someone, viewing a Jackson Pollack painting, once said, “Who can’t do that?”
“Look, is your stock for sale or isn’t it?”
“That depends, dear.”  She pointed to a sign which read:
         We reserve the right to make anyone who is not an expert knitter feel like shit until they leave without buying anything.
I refused to bite.
“I don’t care what you say to me.  I’m purchasing needles and yarn, and if you won’t help me, I’ll just find what I need myself.”
She snorted, then patted my hand.  “Good luck with that, dear.”
So I began my sojourn alone.  The store seemed to go on for miles.  Finally, I found the knitting books, with titles such as:  Knitting a Cozy for Your House—12 Patterns from the Louvre; Irish Knit Ball Gowns; Renaissance Costumes to Knit Today; and Literature Knitting.  I picked this last one up and thumbed through it.
It seems that it is actually possible to knit the entire text of Hamlet onto the back of a floor-length Drover coat, pattern included.
There were also some weird ones:  Knit Your Own Maserati with Steel Wool; Crocheted Chandeliers; Lifelike, Full-size Farm Animal Patterns to Knit or Crochet; and the best one—Repair Your Sewer Lines—12 Circular Knitting Patterns.
There were no books for beginners.  But that wouldn’t be a problem—I’d just order some from Amazon.
I drifted down aisle after aisle, amazed at all the different types of yarn on offer.  Not only were they beautiful, but they were made of other things besides synthetics or sheep wool.  Alpaca, llama, rabbit, goat, and silkworms were also represented.
Then it got strange...well, stranger.
I came upon an entire aisle of what they labeled, “Esoteric Yarns.”
These were yarns created from the fur/hair of gerbils, guinea pigs, horses, cows, monkeys, cats, dogs (with a special Chihuahua section), bears, and armadillos (no idea how they got that, and don’t want to know).  The only thing these yarns have in common is that they stink to high heaven when they get wet.
I glanced up the aisle to see the covey of superannuated sales crones laughing their asses off.
I grabbed three skeins of the nearest yarn a pair of medium sized knitting needles, charged up the aisle, and threw money at them as I streaked by and out the door.
I turned out that I had purchased ultra-fine three-toed tree sloth yarn.  It’s been sitting around all week, and for some reason, I’m really not motivated to do much with it.