December 29, 2015


          This year, in the Buckingham household, we have begun what I hope will become a tradition.
No, it isn’t considered a “tradition” to avoid burning down the house—that is more of a rule inscribed on the third tablet that Moses dropped and broke by mistake.  Take from that what you will.
At any rate, last year, on January first, Stij and I each put an empty Mason jar on our respective desks.  It was our job, when something terrific happened all during the year, to write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in the jar.  On New Year’s Eve, we will open up the jars and read the contents aloud as a way of expressing our gratitude for the good things life has brought us during the previous year.
We decided to open them a day or two early on this, the inaugural year.  Here’s how it went:
“Okay, who goes first?”
“I will,” Stij said, fishing out a piece of paper. He read, “Had the fire extinguishers recharged.”
“And that’s a terrific thing from last year?”
“Remember the pot roast?”
“Oh…right. Okay, my turn.” I unfolded my paper.  “Made pot roast.”
“Well, I guess that’s a wash.  ‘Bought a new ride-on mower.’”
“You sure pick some odd things to put in your jar. ‘Drove ride-on mower through neighbor’s prize-winning Petunia bed.’” 
“Talk about me!  How is that a great thing?”
“It got you that new ride-on mower you wanted, didn’t it?”
Stij shook his head as if trying to clear water from his ears. “Remodeled living room.”
I opened my slip of paper. “Saved the bric-a-brac by setting fire to a giant homemade loaf of bread that attacked the living room.”
“Remodeled the kitchen.”
“Remind me of why you had to do that."
“Exploding lasagne.”
“Oh…right.  But the salad was good, as I remember.”
“You have the memory of a dead elephant.  The ‘salad,’ as you so laughingly call it had a homemade dressing on it that ate through an anodized aluminum bowl AND the counter top—and it takes a lot to eat through granite in three-and-a-half seconds.  Have you ever considered a career in munitions?”
“Tee hee.  Here’s mine, ‘Created a lasagne that looked exactly like the photograph in the cookbook—before exploding.’”
“Five seconds of pride followed by three seconds of mayhem and two-and-a-half months of work.”
“Okay, smart guy, let’s hear another one of yours, then.”
“Okay. ‘Installed steel counter top on kitchen island.’”
“Didn’t that come under the kitchen remodel?”
“No that was later on when your chocolate chip cookies melted the previous one.”
“Oh…right.  Here’s one of mine: ‘Feeding the birds.’”
“Here’s mine: ‘Shoveling up and disposing of 300 bird carcasses after you ‘kindly’ fed them the bird seed balls you made and hung from the trees.’”
“Oh, come on.”       
“’Come on,’ nothing!  To this day, Ziplock has no idea that they actually make body bags.  I still don’t know how you could screw up birdseed balls..
“Well, the recipe called for suet, which I didn’t have and had no idea where to get, so I got creative and used Gorilla Glue instead.”
“Got creative?  Got homicidal, you mean.  If I hadn’t gotten rid of those bodies pronto, PETA would have burned you in effigy.  It’s as close as I ever want to get to feeling like a mob clean-up man.”
This was not turning out to be the uplifting exercise I had originally envisioned.
“Okay, okay!  I see that you have one left—let’s hear it.”
He unfolded the last slip.  “‘I love being married to my wife because there is never a dull moment.’”
“Funny, my last slip says the same thing about you,” I said.
Just goes to show you that the couple that cooks and rebuilds together stays together.

December 19, 2015


   I must confess that I’m in complete awe of toy stores.  I mean, have you been inside of one of those places recently? 
Well, yes, of course you have.  T’is the season, after all.
In the first place, they aren’t just “stores” or “shops” or even “shoppes” anymore.  Gone is dear Giapetto, the maker of toys by hand.  Gone is also the appreciation of toys made by hand.  What we have now are behemoth toy warehouses, taking up enough arable land to feed the entire country of China…twice, and pushing enough plastic to give every female in Los Angeles the boob size of her choice.
Inside, you will feel as insignificant as Stuart Little in the Grand Canyon.  There are hundreds of aisles, with shelves running from floor to ceiling…and the ceilings are 40 feet high. 
These stores have their own weather systems.
I happened to stop into one of these places a few days ago … EVERY TOY IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, I think it was called.  At any rate, I had finished all my Christmas shopping, with the exception of Amanda, my niece, and she had mentioned a Barbie doll, so ETITKU seemed like the place to go.
I stopped the first employee I could find with the fewest body piercings and nihilist tattoos, and asked to be directed to the Barbie dolls.
“Aisles three, four, and five,” he muttered disgustedly.  Apparently I had roused him from his coma and he didn’t appreciate it.
“Three aisles for Barbie dolls?” I mused.  I took that to mean that they had their entire stock on the shelves, so I wasn’t worried about finding exactly what I wanted.  I set out, ebulliently, with a spring in my step, for aisles three, four, and five.
After walking for one hour, stopping once to use the restroom (conveniently located every half-mile), and once to buy water, I arrived at my destination and began browsing.
I want to tell you that I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of Barbie dolls.  It was inconceivable to me that there could be thousands of variations on a single theme (well, no, I take that back—Bach did just fine with it).
The first thing I did was to pull out my cell phone and call my husband to tell him not to expect me for dinner…this week.  Then I continued my quest.
Initially, there were the types of Barbies you’d expect to find:  Beach Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, Tennis Barbie, Golf Barbie, Rock Concert Barbie…well, you get the idea.
Then there were the “Career” Barbies.  These included Doctor Barbie, Dentist Barbie, Psychoanalyst Barbie, Lawyer Barbie (I didn’t like that one at all!), Detective Barbie, Wall Street Barbie, and Super-Bitch Corporate Executive Vice President Barbie.  That last one came with a “corporate spy” briefcase (which included a tiny videocam), a cigar that shoots poison-tipped darts, an empty gin bottle, and a full ashtray.
Next there were the “Politically Correct” Barbies.  There were African-American Barbies, Asian-American Barbies, Native American Barbies, Semitic-American Barbies, and an Australian-American Barbie with a dwarf husband called “Shrimp on the Barbie.”
Head reeling, I stumbled next upon the “Outmoded Values” Barbies.  These were all covered with the dust of the ages, and a small sign read that if I found any dinosaur bones while browsing here, I could keep them.  Amongst these Barbies, I found:  Homemaker Barbie, PTA Barbie, Stay-at-Home Mother Barbie, Carpool Barbie, Seamstress Barbie, Dinner Party Barbie, and Reading to the Kids Barbie.  There was only one of each, obviously untouched for many years.
After that, it really got strange.
I moved into aisle five.  It was completely stocked with “New Millennium” Barbies, reflecting the current ideology that young children should be exposed to absolutely everything.  There was Dominatrix Barbie (only one left—more on the way!), Drunk Biker Chick Barbie (complete with tattoos, a Harley, and a boyfriend called Slash who was just released from prison), Death During Childbirth Barbie (I don’t even want to think about what that one comes with), Arsonist Barbie (with a whole box of lovely matches that really light!  Wow!), Serial Killer Barbie (with knives, rope, and a bottle of real poison.  An accessory, sold separately, is a policeman looking confused), Vampire Barbie (with a pink Bloodmobile), Bar-Hopping Barbie (with Rohypnol antidote), Hooker Barbie (with condoms, penicillin, and Pimp Ken), Drug Dealer Barbie (with marijuana seeds and potting soil), and finally, Transsexual Barbie (anatomically incorrect, with a copy of The Rene Richards Story). 
There was even a Klaus Barbie…
That did it.
I raced back to aisle four, grabbed the Homemaker Barbie and her complete wardrobe of Donna Reed originals, pearl necklace, rubber gloves and Easy-Off, and bursting though the cloud of dust, threw a handful of money at the cashier and ran out the door!
Amanda had better like this Barbie doll.
There is no way in hell I’m ever going back there to return it.

December 8, 2015


I just love this time of year.  Pretty lights, great food, friends, family (well, scratch family—except for Stij.  I want to enjoy my Christmas, not suddenly be under indictment).

Anyhow, this year, I decided to surprise Stij with outdoor Christmas lights.

I waited until he’d left for work, then jumped into my car and headed for the store.  I may have even hummed Christmas carols on the trip.  I was happy and all was right with the world.

This did not last.

I pulled in at everyone’s favorite big-box store (I know, I know…bad start) and hustled inside.

I hadn’t been in one for a while.  Those Supercenters are huge!  I stopped at the customer service desk and picked up a map, some food and water, and a tent, and off I went.  I declined the wilderness guide they offered because he looked way too much like Mel Brooks.

I walked on for a mile or so, and didn’t see any decorations, so I consulted my map to try to find out where, in relation to the Christmas section, I currently found myself. I was right in front of the Pet Department, so I looked for it on the map to get my bearings.

There was no Pet Department on the map.

However, I thought I saw twinkling lights about a half-mile ahead, so I gamely continued my trek.  On my way, I passed shoppers who had already claimed a spot and set up their tents for the night, having dropped, exhausted, where they stood.  They were pale, malnourished-looking and obviously quite weak.

I stopped at one encampment in ladies lingerie.  “Excuse me.  Do you know where the Christmas Department is?  I need some outdoor lights.”

He laughed hollowly.  “That’s what we came here for…three days ago.  We’ve been living on diet Coke and Snickers bars ever since, looking for a way out of this place.”

“Just how big is this store, anyhow?” I asked.

“Look at the scale of miles on the map.”

I did, and discovered that one inch equaled ten miles.  The map, when unfolded completely, measured 24 x 12 inches.

“Would you like to stop here and rest a while?”

“I think I’ll just keep going, but thank you, anyway,” I said.

“I hope your malaria shots are up to date.  They had trouble with the electric in the pet department and the fish tank filters stopped working.  All the fish are decomposing and it’s swarming with mosquitoes in all that standing water.”

“I thought I smelled something odd when I walked by there.”

“It’s no joke—three people are already dead.”

“Jesus!  What did they do with the bodies?”

“I think they have a crematorium on the premises.”


I tried to call Stij to let him know where I was and that I may be late home to dinner, but I couldn’t get a signal.

I walked faster.

I walked past the Men’s Department, the Boys’ Department, the Infants’ Department, the Neonatal Department, and the Conception Department.

Then things really got strange.

Did you know that Supercenters also have adoption agencies?  Presumably to place the poor children who were with parents who keeled over and croaked in the store.  To this end, there is also a Funeral Department.  Evidently, you can be buried in the Garden Center at Rollback prices. I also passed a chicken farm, a toilet paper factory, a recycling station, a re-training facility for the criminally insane, and an operating theatre.

I was no closer to the twinkling lights, however.

I had to move faster.

Walking on a bit farther, I saw the answer.  Bicycles!  I grabbed one, hopped on before anyone could say anything and sped off down the main aisle.

About ten-thirty that evening, I finally made it!  I wept joyful tears on the sales clerk’s shoulder, bought a cartful of lights and decorations, and paid for them.

“Oh, Jesus, it’s going to take me ten more hours to get back to my car,” I muttered.

“Oh, no it won’t, ma’am.  You can exit right out this door and into the parking lot.”

“You mean I could have come in this door, too?”

“Sure.  It’s right on the map—see?”

I left shortly after that.

Ten minutes later, I arrived home.

“I was just about to call the cops!  Why didn’t you call me?  I’ve been worried sick!”

“I couldn’t get a signal.”

“Where were you, anyway?”

“I went to the Supercenter to surprise you with outdoor Christmas lights.”

“Oh.  Where are they?”

“I found it necessary, at the last minute, to strangle a sales clerk with most of them, and hang her up over a crematory door in a light display that was both colorful and grotesque simultaneously.”

“Do I want to know about this?”


“Well, did you bring home any lights at all after all that?”

“Yep.  They’re all plugged in outside—take a look.”

He came back ten seconds later.  “I would hardly call a wadded up ball of blinking colored lights lobbed into the middle of the driveway terribly festive.”

“Well, there’s a Santa Claus and a reindeer in there somewhere, too, I think.”

“They don’t help. Right now, I’m going to pour you a large bourbon, then I’m going back outside to dispose of those lights before they short circuit and burn down the truck.”

Joy to the world.

December 1, 2015


Did you ever go on a Black Friday camp-out?
I did.
Stij decided that our four-foot flat screen TV just wasn’t quite big enough.  He absolutely had to have one of the brand new eight-foot TVs, I suppose because he’s planning a trip to the moon in the near future, and wants to be able to see re-runs of The Honeymooners from the Sea of Tranquility without dragging the set along.
Okay.  It’s the only thing he’s asked for this year—well, no, that’s not quite true.  He also asked that I not cook Christmas dinner, but that kind of goes without saying.
One of the big box stores was having a Black Friday special on these contraptions at an 80% discount.  And, of course, there were only four available at that price.
I resolved to be first in line, so Wednesday morning, I packed up my tent, sleeping bag, lantern, sandwiches, and a couple of books, and headed over to the store.
Evidently, I wasn’t the only forward-thinking person in town.
As a matter of fact, it looked like the whole town was already there.
There were tents everywhere.  I had no hope of being the first one in the door.  I’d be lucky if I were the 200th person in the door.
But I couldn’t let Stij down!
I set up my tent on the horizon line, and brooded.  There wasn’t much point in doing this for the next two days if I couldn’t get what I came for. 
So what to do?
My writer’s brain kicked into overdrive.
What could get me to the front of the line?
I stared glumly at the store I was camped out in front of, and it came to me!  I dashed inside, purchased what I needed, then packed up my tent, dashed to my car and went home.
“That was quick,” Stij said.  “I thought you were having a Black Friday camping adventure.”
“Nope.  I’m going to drive over about an hour before they open the doors on Friday morning.”
He sighed.
“Oh, ye of little faith,” I said.  “You’ll see.  I’ve got a plan.”
“Does it involve cooking?”
“Well, thank God for that, anyway.”
I arose Friday at 4:00AM, spent about two hours in the bathroom, the quietly left the house.  At the store, I parked my car, and made my way forward.
People toward the front of the line were a little stroppy about my attempt to get past them, and they turned to tell me so.
The words died on their lips.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.  “But I’m terribly ill.”
Horror suffused their features.  “What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s a rare form of leprosy…contagious, I think, if I sneeze…ah…ah…ah…ahchhhhh......”
I cleared out those campers faster than Clint Eastwood singing opera.
The store I’d stopped into was a party shop, you see.  I'd bought some theatrical make-up and liquid latex, and the rest is history.
The problem was that, before I could wipe it off, store security called an ambulance, and I was hustled off to the Emergency Room before I could make my purchase.
So, poor Stij isn’t getting his eight-foot flat-screen this year; however, he will still be able to watch me on our old TV.
I got offered a part in Walking Dead—The Movie.

November 22, 2015


Well, it’s just about that time again.  That yearly get-together with the fam.
Yeah.  Thanksgiving.
Hoo boy.
Here’s how, with a few variations each year, it usually goes:
Once at the house and divested of mukluks and a down-filled coat that made me look like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, I hand my mother the pumpkin pie she’d asked me to make.  This one is made of freshly-processed pumpkin, not that tinned crap. This results in a lighter color and the flavor is remarkable.
So my mother feels compelled to remark.
“Looks sort of anemic, doesn’t it?”
“Top it with a unit of O Negative, then.  Where is everybody?”  The driveway was a sea of cars.
“You’re the first.”
“Opening a used car lot?”
“Overflow from the neighbors’ big do.”
“So . . . what?  The family’s going to park on the street, like I did?”  The house is on a hill with a 50-foot driveway.
“Looks that way.  We just wanted to help out. You might try loving your fellow man a little more, Carson.  Your snarky attitude is unbecoming.”
All this from a woman whose dirty look can open clams at twenty paces.
But okay, I’ll go along.  She’s getting older.  She’s forgotten that where she spits, grass never grows.
“What can I do to help?” I’m hoping quite a lot.  My mother is not the best of cooks.
“Nothing really.  It’s all done. We can go sit and talk until everyone else gets here.”
“Well, before we do that, how about if I go and scatter some salt and sand on the driveway—it’s pretty slick out there.”
“In a minute.  I have something I want to discuss with you.”
Oh, God.
When we are seated, Mom drops the big one.  “I think your father is having an affair.”
Holding in explosive laughter, which, having nowhere to go, travels downward, instantly inflating my ankles, I said, “Mom, Dad is 83 years old.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“He’s legally blind.”
“He only has one leg.”
“And a colostomy bag.”
“What’s your point?”
“I can’t believe you just asked me that.”
So, after Mom dries her eyes, I posed the big question.
“How do you know, anyway?”
“He’s started wearing thong underwear.”
Most people, mainly women, wear thongs to avoid underwear lines in their pants.  I’d really like to know who my father thinks is looking at his ass.  “That’s it?  Thong underwear?”
“And he’s using that Axe cologne.”
“Ah, I take it he’s losing his sense of smell, as well, then?”
“This is not the time for jokes, Carson.  Oh, and he’s letting his hair grow longer.”
My father has had a crew cut for as long as I’ve known him.  “Perhaps he’s finally decided to leave the 1950s behind?”
“I don’t think so.
“Okay, so who with?  Any idea?”
“Oh, I know exactly who with.”
Evidently, according to my mother, Pop has become enamored of the local Postmistress . . . who is 92, uses a walker, and is nearly deaf.  Getting the mail is never a peaceful pursuit if there is anyone requiring front desk service.  At Christmastime it's bedlam in there.
“So what are you going to do about it?  Have you talked to him?”
“Why not?  Talking to me isn’t going to get it resolved.”
“I don’t want to discuss it.”
“You don’t have to.  I’m going to go talk to him.”
“No.  It has nothing to do with you.  Leave it alone.  Let’s just have a pleasant Thanksgiving, all right?”
Yes, kindly readers, this is Thanksgiving in my house.
The aged relatives begin arriving, with only minor sprains and bruising from slipping on the ice in the driveway on the way up from the street.
Once everyone is comfortable, Mom hustles us into the dining room to eat “before everything dries out.”
Food is passed, plates are loaded, wine glasses filled and it begins.
My Uncle Dan starts things off.  “So, how’s life with the Buckinghams?”
My mother bursts into tears and dashes from the room.
“About the same, I see,” he mutters.
By the time my mother composes herself enough to return, Aunt Shirley is already on her fifth glass of wine and her seventh filthy joke.  This doesn’t play well to Aunt Mary, who is a nun.  My brother has decided to use his considerable talents as a career waiter in a diner to instruct the group on French serving and is launching food all over the room.  Dad is still looking for his fork.  My cousin Lois hasn’t taken her face out of her pocket mirror since she arrived, and has answered at least six calls on her Bluetooth, since she knew we’d all want to hear her side of each conversation.  Aunt Anne has removed her wig and is beating my cousin Donald with it—I have no idea why.
The only reason that there is no gunplay this year is that, when Mom wasn’t looking, I sneaked Prozac into the stuffing . . . a lot of Prozac.  By the time the football game started, the family members who weren’t unconscious were actually getting along, and even I was a little less snarky.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

November 9, 2015


After my last drive down the Arizona street that landed me in Colorado, Stij decided that the time had come to install a GPS in the car.
“And what does GPS stand for?  Go Park Somewhere?” I asked.
“In your case, most likely.”
“I think I’ll be cooking dinner tonight…”
“I take it back!  I’m sorry!”
“That’s better.  Now how do you work this thing?”
“You just turn it on and tell it your destination address.  After you do that, it will tell you, turn by turn how to get there.”
“Wow, that’s great.”
“I hope it helps.  I’ve got to get going if I’m going to make that meeting before 9:30, so I’ll see you later.”  He jumped into the truck and left.
I was all alone with this new gadget, so I thought I’d try it out.
Three hours later, Stij walked in the door.  “Do you hear shrieking outside?  I hear shrieking.”
“Oh, that's just the GPS.  It’s giving me turn by turn directions to Moscow.  About now, I think it may be drowning in the Pacific Ocean.”
Stij sighed.  “I’m going to go turn it off.”  He opened the door and stepped outside, just as a police cruiser pulled up.
The police exited the vehicle with guns drawn.   “Stop right there!  Who’s doing all that screaming?”
“It’s the car—my wife tricked it into the Pacific Ocean.”
They lowered their guns.  “Hey, your wife wouldn’t be Carson Buckingham, would she?”
“The same.”
While Stij turned the gurgling GPS off, one of the officers clicked on his shoulder radio.  “We’re at the location.  Everything’s under control.  It’s Carson again.”
“Holy Mother of God, what’s that crazy bitch done now?  She’s not cooking again, is she?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”  He clicked it off again.
The other officer was about to re-holster his weapon, but instead held it out to Stij.  “Sure you don’t want this?”
“Not today, thanks.”
They left shortly afterward.
When Stij came back inside, he said, “Your reputation is really starting to spin out of control around here.”
“Are you saying that it’s time to move again?”
“No.  And by the way, you’re supposed to use the GPS while you’re driving so it can tell you where to turn.  You don’t use it in the driveway.”
“But you didn’t say that.”
“That’s because I forget who I’m talking to, sometimes.”
“Okay, then I’ll take it out for a spin.  Do you need me to pick up anything for you?”
“Let’s try Home Depot again,” he said, and gave me a list.
When I was sitting in the car, he leaned in the window and showed me another interesting feature of the GPS.
“You can have either a man’s voice or a woman’s voice giving you directions.  You just press that button once for a man’s voice and twice for a woman’s.”
“Okay, I’m off.  See you later.”
After I backed out of the driveway, I pushed the button twice, and getting no response, I pushed it again a few times.  Finally, results.
Unfortunately, I now had both male and female voices giving me directions, and it went something like this:

Male:    “Take your next left.”
Female:   “Oh, don’t do that!”
Male:    “It’s a short cut.”
Female:    “I’ve been on your ‘shortcuts.’  Wanna see Albuquerque, sweetie—just follow his directions!”
Male:   “Okay, now you missed the left you were supposed to take.”
Female:   “She needs to turn around, then.”
Male:   “She doesn’t need to turn around.  I’ll plot a different route.”
Female:   “Have you ever noticed how men never, ever turn around?  Well, honey, if you go down about a mile and turn right, there’s this cute little dress shop…”
Male:   “We’re going to Home Depot, goddammit!”

Well, you get the idea.  This went on for quite some time.  I finally had to call Stij.
“Hi.  It’s me.”
“Are you planning on coming home tonight?”
“Eventually.  I got lost again.”
“What?  How is that possible?”
“Weeeeell, there was a problem with the GPS.”
“What happened?”
“It exploded.”
“Where are you?”