July 28, 2014


         My husband, Stij, had a birthday coming up really soon, and I was wracking my brain trying to think of something he’d really like to have. 
When this happens, I sit down and make a list. I always find that lists can be surprisingly useful in situations like these.
Under LIKES, I wrote:

Under DISLIKES, I wrote:

There seemed to be an emerging pattern here.
See what I mean about lists?
I settled on the following:  A gift certificate for tools at Coastal Tool, an oil change for his truck, and an affidavit stating that I will not prepare food for an entire year.  That ought to do it.
However, the ‘entire year’ didn’t begin until his birthday, and I had a cake to bake!
Stij likes Devil’s food cake with Cool Whip icing, so I assembled the usual ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, etc.
I had Cool Whip in the fridge, so that was covered.
Stij would be out on a job all that day, so I would be free to take my time.
I spent the morning carefully measuring, pureeing, and mixing, and by noon, the cake was in the oven.  When the timer rang an hour later, I dashed to the stove, and, donning oven mitts, withdrew the most perfect cake you ever saw.  It would have brought a tear to your eye—it did to mine.  Never had anything I ever cooked turned out so well.  I was proud…very proud.
After it cooled, I put it in a lidded cake pan and stashed it in the pantry. I’d frost it later.
A couple of days passed and it was Stij’s birthday at last.
Though I was thrilled with how well my cake had turned out, I wasn’t so heady with success that I was willing to chance birthday dinner, so I took him out for Chinese, which we both enjoyed.
Upon arriving home, I sent him to the living room, and fetched the cake.  The candles were already in it, so I lit them and brought it to Stij, singing and causing the Hill sisters to spin in their graves like lathes.
Once I put it down and he blew out the candles, I cut it and gave him a slice.  He looked really pleased until I told him I made it.
“You made this?  Really?”
“Wow.  It looks delicious. Good job, hon,” he said, taking a big mouthful...
...which he immediately spit out.
“What in the world did you put in this cake?”
“Flour, sugar, okra, milk, eggs, Tabasco sauce, confectioner’s sugar, butter, kale, and cocoa powder.”
“You don’t EVER put okra, Tabasco sauce, and kale in a Devil’s Food cake!”
“Why not?”
“Because it tastes like hell.”



July 21, 2014


Feng Shui has got to be the most bizarre conceit to emerge from the 90s “New Age” craze.
For the uninitiated, Webster defines “feng shui” as “as system of geomancy employed in China to bring practice into harmony with natural forces.  Evidently, in China it is used primarily to locate houses and gravesites.
Okay, I can see that.  It certainly would be out of harmony with nature to locate deceased Uncle Alvin in a flood zone or a house over a swamp.  However, feng shui has, over the years, migrated into interior decorating.  There are even specialists you can hire to come into your home and relocate the bric-a-brac to create a more harmonious arrangement.
These are not really specialists, however they may try to make you believe it.
These are the decorators who flunked out of decorating school and took correspondence courses from the Mom’s Mabley School of Interior Design.  In short, they have no clue whatsoever, but they can do whatever they want, using “a harmonious imbalance” as an excuse for planting geraniums in your bathtub.
Now, understand, I am not an interior decorator.  I never claimed to be, so when we bought our house, I tried to get a professional decorator to help me forthwith.  As luck would have it, not one decorator would be available for a “consultation” (read that: “a conversation followed by a bill payable in gold bullion”) until mid-2027.
I was beside myself until Harriet, my new neighbor and a Los Angeles transplant, stopped over for coffee one morning and, upon hearing of my predicament, came to the rescue.
“I have a marvelous decorator, sweetie,” she chirped.  “He’s just a gem, and he’s available.”
I jumped at it. Why I didn’t think to ask, "If he’s such a gem, why is he available?" I'll never know.
I suppose I was desperate.  And desperate people do desperate things.
We set up an appointment for 3:00 the next afternoon.
Promptly at three, a mid-fifties model lavender Cadillac with 12-foot tailfins and copper chrome docked in our driveway.
“Expecting hookers?” I asked my husband.
I quickly saw the error of my question when “Marco” flounced from the car.
I stepped outside to greet him.
 “Isn’t that just an edible color?” he burbled, indicating the Lusitania with a turquoise-encrusted finger.  “I feel just like royalty behind that wheel!”
I could see that.  You couldn’t look at him and not have “queen” immediately leap to mind.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
His attire stacked up to the image, too.  He wore a black leather shirt with mink at the collar and cuffs, layer upon layer of gold chains that would make Mr. T. weep, lavender silk pants, and Italian shoes that were so pointed, he needed a weapons permit to wear them.  It was the first time I’d ever seen stiletto toes.
He bounded into the living room, gasped, and clutched his heart.
“OH.  MY.  GOD!” he punctuated.
I was sure he was having a heart attack.
“What the matter?  Do you want to sit down?”
“Sit DOWN?!  Darling, I’ve LOVE to sit down – but WHERE?”
“Here’s a chair, right here,” I said.
“I’d rather die,” he assured me, fanning himself with his hand.  “No offense.”
”Oh, none taken.  What’s there to be offended by?” I asked, trying to remember which of the carving knives I had sharpened recently.
 “This room, for one thing,” he muttered.  “It’s an outright ASSAULT, dear.”
I sighed.  It was going to be a long consultation.
“BUT,” he declared, “let’s try to our best to remain positive.”
Sure.  I was already positive I didn’t like him.  Positive was no problem.
“NOW, it’s time to make the doughnuts!” he said, shedding his leather shirt. 
Underneath he wore a Freddy Mercury t-shirt and seeing that he had good taste in music made me revise my negative opinion a bit. 
“Would you be a perfect LAMB and go get Alfredo for me?”
“Who is Alfredo?”
“He’s my assistant, of course, and he’s in the car.  Just let him out, and try not to annoy him, Okay, hon?”
I slunk out to the Pimpmobile and opened the door.  Out stepped Utah.  I’d never seen anyone so gigantic in my life!
“Er, Marco wants you.”
“K,” he grunted, as only a Troglodyte can.
Alfredo had to get on his knees to make it through the front door, and bending at a ninety-degree angle from the hips was the only way he could avoid bashing his head through the living room ceiling.
I suddenly had visions of barehanded demolition, a concern that I voiced to La Marco.
“Oh, no, silly!  `Fredo moves furniture!”
“‘Fredo is furniture,” I mumbled.
“Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll get going here.  I just hate, hate, HATE to be watched while I’m working.  It SO disrupts my harmonic flow!”
I left.
Doors closed.
Chaos reigned.
Three hours later, Marco emerged, patting his hair back into place; followed by Alfredo, who was a walking wall of stinking sweat.  How the harmonic flow dealt with that is anybody’s guess.
Alfredo went back to the car, leaving only minimal devastation in his wake.
Marco flung a leather-clad arm about my shoulders and, in a heads-together confidential fashion, said, “Oooooooh, darling!  I’ve transformed lost causes before, but THIS is truly my masterpiece!  Your living room is now a showplace . . . a MONUMENT to feng shui!  There is no way anyone with a pulse can occupy that space and not feel the energy, the purity of natural harmony at its finest!  You’ll just never want to leave, I promise you!”
I was trembling in anticipation as I stood in front of the closed door.
 “Okay, Dorothy--get ready to step out of the black and white and into a new and dazzling world!” he cried, dramatically flinging open the door.
Oh, it was a new world, all right.
It looked like the kind of world a colony of drunken beavers would claim as their own.
He had moved every stick of furniture into the far left corner of the room.  That meant that there were plenty of places to sit, but no way to get to them, stacked as they were.
“Doesn’t that corner placement look cozy and intimate?” he blathered.
The profound state of shock in which I found myself prevented a coherent reply.
There was no way I’d want to be that intimate with a guest.  Hell, I wouldn’t want to be that intimate with my husband!  However, my inability to speak prevented a full and detailed expression of these sentiments.
Next, he dragged me over to my beautiful picture window that he’d covered up with the large framed mirror he’d taken down from above the fireplace.  “That mirror is PERFECT right there.  It’s just the right angle and distance from the door, plus it will reflect the intimate corner grouping.
Swell.  We could all watch ourselves struggling to converse while desperately trying to avoid inadvertent sexual positions.
This was getting more perverted by the second.
“AND,” he exclaimed, steering me to the far right corner, “you were DESPERATELY in need of a wind chime in PRECISELY this corner.  Lucky for YOU I happened to have one in my bag!”
Thank God for that!  It’s nice to know that some people are still prepared for those pesky wind chime emergencies.
To complete the destruction, he led me to my pride and joy, our huge natural fieldstone fireplace, which was now painted neon green . . . mostly.  He’d painted two of the stones purple.
After he revived me, the only question I could manage to croak out was, “What’s with the two purple stones?”
“DARling!  It’s a motif!”
“A motif!  The last I knew, a motif was a repeating pattern!  This does not constitute a motif.  This constitutes a mind that is severely disordered and possibly dangerous.  This constitutes behavior that is undoubtedly actionable!”
That’s me . . . arguing semantics with someone who has yet to experience the agonies of actual thought.  If I had been on the Titanic, I’d have probably been below deck, bailing with a coffee can.
“WELL!” he huffed.  “I cannot BELIEVE that your NEIGHBOR, Harriet, who has the BEST taste of anyone I’ve ever KNOWN, recommended ME to the likes of YOU!”  He threw his invoice at me, then, in tears, he fled to his car.
Believe it or not, I subsequently discovered that Harriet does, indeed, have great taste.  The secret is in regular basting and not letting her cook too long.

July 14, 2014


I hate waiting in lines, don’t you?

I have waited in so many lines that I’ve used the time studying the types of folks who wait.  Here they are: 

The Last Minute Lagger
This is the person who waits until everything is rung up and bagged before beginning the payment process.  If they are paying in cash, they will laboriously count it out, placing one bill at a time, carefully, before the cashier.  If they are paying with a card, they will have to thumb through a stack of 23 of them to find the perfect card, and as they touch each card, they spend a moment trying to remember how much they’ve charged on each. 

The Heavy Sigher/Eye Roller
This person is usually found immediately behind the Last Minute Lagger. 

The Exact Changer
This idiot has some sort of psychological disorder that compels him/her to always pay with the correct change.  This involves searching in every single pocket of both pants and handbag, and then running out to the car because “I know I have a pile of change in my ashtray.” 

The Kind Donor
This is the person immediately behind The Exact Changer, who will give him or her the pennies they require to get them the hell out of there.  You always know when there is a Kind Donor around by the round of applause from the rest of the folks in line.

The Oops, I Forgot
This is the moron whose purchase had been rung up before remembering that he or she forgot the milk, and so holds everyone else up while running back to get it.  Unfortunately, on the way, The Oops, I Forgot meets an old friend, and spends ten minutes catching up before remembering the milk. The Oops, I Forgot will not even apologize for the dripping ice cream and frozen food in the rest of the line.  If he or she even notices it, the common comment is, “Gee there’s a lot of water on the floor back there.  You should clean that up—somebody could slip.” 

The Check Writer
Nobody in this day and age pays by check anymore—except this jerk.  Once the check has been filled out, the cashier discovers that it has been made payable to Costco…and this is a Sam’s Club.  The check is also from out of state, is a brand new account with no printed address or phone number on the checks, and therefore is not an acceptable form of payment.  The Check Writer beats a hasty retreat, leaving a full cart at the check stand. 

The Oh, Come On, Give Me A Break Here
This is the guy or girl who practically buys out the booze section, and upon arrival at the register, can’t find his/her ID and will become verbally abusive to the cashier, because, somehow, it seems to be all her fault that The Oh, Come On, Give Me A Break Here isn’t going to be able to restock his/her bar.  After spewing venom that a cobra would respect at the cashier, he/she leaves, vowing never to return, but will be back again next week, trying the same thing. The cashier is convinced that there is not enough Preparation H in the world to make the The Oh, Come On, Give Me A Break Here disappear. 

The Comedian
This is the asshole who thinks the cashier is deaf or without feelings altogether.  In a long line, he will make loud comments like this:
“Well, she must be getting paid by the hour.”
“I would have brought food if I’d known it was going to take this long.”
“This is what you get when you hire unskilled labor.”
“I was young when I got here.”
“There are people setting up tents at the end of this line.” 

The Silence is Golden Guy
This is the guy who tells The Comedian to shut the fuck up.
The Offense Taker
This is the older person who refuses to accept the fact.  The offer of a Senior Citizen discount is met with a snarl of indignation, and God forbid the poor cashier, who is told to ask everyone if they need help out to their cars with their groceries, asks this lunatic.  It will result in a demand to see the manager, followed by a harangue about age profiling that will take the paint off the walls.  Want to get on The Offense Taker’s good side?  Card him/her for alcohol purchases…even if they’re 112 years old. 
The Haggler
This is the person who wants to bargain with the cashier, who has nothing whatsoever to do with setting store prices. The Haggler will claim that the store flyer quoted a different price than is ringing up, and it will take fifteen minutes to get her to understand that she was looking at last week's flyer, not this week's. The Haggler will examine the tomatoes that the cashier has rung up and say, "Y'know, these don't look so fresh.  If I take them, will you knock off twenty-five cents per pound?"  The cashier summons the manager, manager says, "No," and The Haggler leaves, after throwing the bag of tomatoes at the cashier. 

So after reading this column, and on a more serious note, folks, please, whenever you’re in checkout lines, be kind to the cashiers.  They have a tough job, they make very little money, and they take a lot of abuse.  Believe me, they’re trying their hardest, and they’re doing their best to get you on your way just as fast as they can. A warm smile and a “thank you” can really make their day.HHere


July 7, 2014


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?”