February 24, 2015


This week’s Rant is all about family—you know—those people who put the “funk” into “dysfunctional’?
I don’t know what your family is like, but I was lucky to get through childhood without being eaten.  At Thanksgiving, my mother always had to stuff the turkey with Valium just to keep the bloodshed and gunplay to a bare minimum.
But now that I am an adult, I can look back on all that, if not with a chuckle, at least an ironic smile.  I survived.  I succeeded.  I got my first novel published—and not self-published, either.  Somebody else thought my work good enough to pick it up and pay me royalties.
It is about this book that I write today.  Well, not the whole book, but more specifically, the dedication.
But let me give you a bit of background info, first.
In my family, I have one aunt who is a particular favorite of mine.  We are very much alike.  As a matter of fact, if my cousin wasn’t two years older than I, I would have been convinced that I had been switched at the hospital and handed off to my mother by mistake.  That’s how much alike my aunt and I are.   I should also mention that she is 92 years old.
Sooooooo, I decided to give her the highest honor and the best gift I could bestow, in my amazingly deluded opinion.  I would dedicate my first novel to her.  I labored over the dedication, striving to get the words right.  Here is what I came up with:  “To Mary Rasmussen—a treasure beyond measure.  Love you always, Mare.”
Pretty nice, right?  I thought so.  Of course, there are times when I think SpongeBob Squarepants is real, too, so I may not be the best judge.
Turns out, I wasn’t.
My aunt, apparently, was insulted.  My birthday and Christmas came and went with nary a word.  I haven’t heard from her since sending her the book and telling her to read the dedication.  And to answer your next question, no she hasn’t died since.  I called her house in Connecticut to see if she’d answer the phone, and she did.
I tried hard to figure out what she could have taken offense to.  Did she not cotton to the fact that I dedicated a dark fantasy novel to her instead of some sparkly, diabetes-inducing beach book?  Does she now regard me as the Spawn of Satan?  Is she afraid of me now because she had no idea that my thought processes worked this way?
I keep receiving crosses in the mail.  Right around the holidays, a wolfsbane wreath was delivered to me.  I hung it on my door, and it had the added benefit of not only discouraging wolves, but Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well.  I suspect they recognized that whatever unholy entity that lived within was not making a secret of it anymore, and high-tailed it to find someone who was actually worth saving.
A gallon of Holy Water was next.  I drank it and now I glow in the dark—handy if you want to read during a blackout.
But the revolver loaded with silver bullets and an anonymous note suggesting that I “do the right thing” was really beyond the pale.  But I melted down the solid silver ammo and fashioned a nifty napkin holder, so it wasn’t a total loss.
It’s a good thing she’s in Connecticut and I am in Arizona or she’d probably show up on my street with a crowd of torch- and a pitchfork-wielding nonagenarians!  Can’t you just picture it, though?  The walkers and the wheelchairs scraping down the street, the colostomy bags flapping in the breeze, amid a sea of blue hair and baldness?  A priest, jaundiced from cirrhosis, clutching his side and hobbling down the boulevard at the front of the crowd, swinging an incense burner, and passing out from the fumes?  The members of the crowd with Alzheimer’s, who have walked in the opposite direction and are now having their 40th cup of coffee at Starbucks, because they can’t remember drinking the previous 39?
It’s all well and good for you to laugh, but I’m having freakin’ nightmares over this!  It’s like the attack of the LIVING zombies!  I wake up screaming in the night!  The mere sight of Metamucil results in a panic attack.  I break out into a cold sweat at the thought of Geritol.  And I can’t even begin to describe what Hugh Downs’ hospice commercials do to me.  I can’t listen to the song, “Old Man River” anymore, or shop at stores on Senior Days or when social security checks are delivered monthly.  My life is spinning out of my control… all over a dedication.
So my advice to you, dear readers, is to dedicate your books to your favorite charity.  Even if they are insulted, you’ll never know it, because they still want your money.

February 16, 2015


I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it, up to the ears and over, with my HOA.
These, for the most part, are comprised of people who have little power, respect and control in their own lives; so when they are elected or appointed as officers in a Home Owners’ Association, they will, within seconds, morph into the Luftwaffe.
I received this missive from the HOA where I live:                          

This is just a friendly reminder that overnight on-street parking is strictly prohibited.  On the night of February 14, 2015, there was a beige hearse with the license plate: URDED parked in front of your house from 1:00 AM until 5:00 AM.
If this practice does not cease, there will be fines imposed. This is not the first time this has happened at your address, and we have been forced to send you a friendly reminder.  The next reminder will be substantially less friendly, if you take our meaning.
Your HOA

I, of course, felt moved to respond:

Dear HOA,
I was feeling very depressed and out of sorts until I received your latest missive; but when I did, lo, the clouds parted and the cherubim sang a single, crystal clear note wrapped in such beauty that tears sprang to my eyes.
I realize that street parking is illegal, but I do not know who the offending vehicle belonged to, as we own a Chevy pickup truck.  If we, indeed, owned a beige hearse, trust me, the license plate would not be misspelled.  Also, I don’t know what you get up to between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, but people who are not hooligans or miscreants are usually tucked up in bed during that time, undoubtedly dreaming of a world without ‘Friendly Reminders’ or without Homeowners Associations entirely.
I also should inform you, since you’ve followed one bad assumption with another, that we are renters at this house.  The slumlord owner lives, I think, in Brazil, with the last name of Mengele, whom, hereinafter, I shall refer to as ‘J.M.’  Our last name is not Mengele.  But you might know all this if you simply consulted your files.  And don’t tell me you don’t have files.  People such as yourselves always have files.
And while you’re at it, you may want to contact J.M.’s property managers, who are, if I recall correctly, a firm called, ‘Adolph’s Bunkers,” with the amusing tag line:  ‘It’s All in the Family.’  The reason I urge you to contact them is to circumvent any further ‘Friendly Reminders’ regarding the fact that this dump hasn’t been painted since Christ left Chicago.  Oh, and the landscape company J.M. hired to deal with the shrubs and trees obviously is under the impression that chopping them all down and cutting the stumps off at ground level is the logical objective in the discharge of their duties.  As a result of the extermination and removal of any plant life whatsoever, the land surrounding the house did not fare well in the last storm we had.  Since there was nothing left to hold the ground in place, it is gone.  I think, though, if you grab a couple of shovels and a dump truck, you can reclaim it on 65th, 66th, and 67th Avenues.
You may also wish to inform ‘Adolph’s Bunkers’ that, since the trees are all gone, the windows on the west-facing portion of the house have melted.  I do not expect to get a reminder about this.
And while we’re on the subject, let me address your previous ‘Friendly Reminders’ regarding the paint job on our truck.  When you took the trouble to threaten us, in the nicest possible way, about getting it painted, we acquiesced.  The Arizona sun will, indeed, take paint off vehicles; but I felt that your comment that “the peeling paint is hanging so far off the truck that it looks like a bridal train” was uncalled for.  But once we had it repainted, we received yet another ‘Friendly Reminder.’  I would seem that homeowners/renters at your mercy can’t do anything to please you people. And while it is true that we had it repainted Pepto-Bismol pink with a mural of the current HOA officeholders undergoing various forms of torture, I would still say that your initial mission was accomplished.  We did repaint the vehicle.
And I don’t see you doing anything at all about the populace owning barking dogs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a dog lover myself, but when I am surrounded by pet owners who put their animals outside all day long, one will start up, then the entire neighborhood gets going from seven in the morning until dusk, when the owners finally get home and their dogs eat them.  And let me tell you, I am tired of being eyed like a tenderloin by these new free-running packs of man-eating canines.
So unless you quit it with the ‘Friendly Reminders’ and deal with what really needs to be dealt with, I intend to spend my entire savings account on choice cuts of meat that I will pile up in front of each of your doors.
Try to leave the house to mail your ‘Friendly Reminders’ then!
 Love and Kisses,
The Renters at House # 25078

February 10, 2015


         There is no worse psychological trauma a female can endure than swimsuit shopping prior to going on a spring cruise.  After winter, we've all put on a few pounds and nothing reminds us more of that than trying on a bathing suit.  And the styles we have to choose from!  Take it from me, you'll get more coverage if you just wear the money.

I made the mistake of slipping (after greasing my entire body with bear fat) into some of this season's newest designs, all of which are made specifically for twenty-year-olds with perfect bodies.
The first suit I managed to get into (after 20 minutes of trying...and it was MY size) immediately cut off the circulation to all my vital organs.  The dressing room attendant found me on the floor, blue and gasping.  The paramedics had to have a surgeon on the phone to talk them through getting me out of the thing!  But did I take the hint and go home?
Oh, no.  Not me.
I tried on another one.
It was called "Palm Tree," I think because if you take one look at yourself in it, you'll want to hang yourself from the nearest one.
Next was the "Chaplin" model.  If you don't feel like a little tramp in this number, then you have no shame whatsoever.
Then there were the suits with push-up bras.  I tried on one of these and it made me look like I was suffering from some sort of weird glandular condition.  I flashed back to that commercial, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" because if I ever fell over in that thing, the floor would be my home.
Conversely, there are suits that have built-in "bottom shapers."  I'd be afraid to swim in one of those for fear I'd be molested by any number of large seagoing mammals.  And the manatee look wasn't quite the image I was going for, anyway.
I finally gave up on the two-piece suits and switched to one piece.
These were no better.
The first one I tried had so many straps that went in such a multitude of directions that it would have made a better macrame plant holder than a piece of apparel.  Who designs these things?  A dominatrix with a grudge?
At last, I'd had enough.
When the clerk came to check on my progress, I reached out, grabbed her by the throat, and yanked her into my dressing room.
"Arrrrgh," she remarked pleasantly.
"OK, listen up and listen good," I growled in my best Edward G. Robinson. "I'm going to hold you hostage here until I get a bathing suit that fits me, see?  I want a suit that hugs my body, not bitch slaps it senseless, see?  I want contours, not contortion, you mug!  I WANT TO LOOK LIKE I BELONG AT A RESORT, NOT AT A CONDEMNED BUILDING!"
"Arrrrrrgh!" she replied.  I released my choke hold.
"Well, we do have suits in plus siz.....ARRRRRRGH!"
"Wrong answer!" I shrieked, renewing my grip.  "I am a size EIGHT, not eighteen!"
In the meantime, the department manager had arrived to extricate his clerk from my clutches and the dressing room--in that order.
"Ma'am?  Why don't you put down the clerk and we'll give you what you want?"  So now I had plus sizes and a manager cum hostage negotiator.  Apparently, while I wasn't looking, I had become both John Dillinger AND the Hindenburg!
Oh, yeah.  This was gonna be a good day.
After the clerk recovered enough to demand, and get, an immediate transfer to another department and the manager located a comfortable suit in my size (from a dusty box labeled, "Retro Suits--1960) I moved on to the shoe department to find a pair of nice looking sandals.
Now understand that I have rather unusual feet, so shoe shopping is not much better than bathing suit shopping.  My shoe size is 8 AAAA.  My feet are so narrow that I can pick locks and butter toast with them and they are always the headache of the day to the salesperson unlucky enough to draw my custom.
But this salesperson was the unluckiest--it was the clerk from the swimsuit department.  She took one look at me advancing on her and, grabbing the two handiest shoes, formed a protective cross and held it before her.  I think she may have thrown some holy water in my general direction, too, before legging it out of there.
Oh, well, I can always go barefoot.
My shopping list, far from satisfied, included hats, lounge wear, formal wear, lingerie, and casual wear, so I made my way to the appropriate departments.
From the way the salespeople reacted, I surmised that the swimsuit clerk had paid each a warning visit prior to my arrival.  They were all decidedly edgy and either pretended not to notice me or had urgent business elsewhere.  I sighed, tore my list to confetti, then moved on to a department I hadn't planned to visit.
And now, here I am, enjoying the sun and the Mediterranean-blue water, a drink within easy reach.
How did I get here?
The refund I got on my cruise ticket paid for the above ground pool I ordered from the Outdoor department on my fateful shopping trip.  I also bought a little ocean liner toy boat to float at the opposite end.  With a little imagination (and if you squint), it looks like a cruise ship anchored off shore.
If I've learned anything it's that, though a strong constitution is required to deal with sea travel, it is nothing compared to the constitution needed for the pre-cruise shopping trip!


February 3, 2015


    I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for those “not available in any store” TV offers that are broadcast, oh, about every five minutes.
For instance, I was watching an intellectually stimulating show the other night…Family Feud, I think it was . . . when, just as each family was about to engage in the gunplay I had been hoping for, Steve “No Man’s Land” Harvey took a commercial break.
It was the beginning of the end.
What followed was an enticing ad for a bed that would change position with the touch of a button.  Imagine that!  Just a touch of a button!  God, how I love gadgets.
I had to have it.
 Credit card in hand, I had the bed ordered before Steve’s thousand-watt smile reappeared.  After the program ended, feeling intellectually richer and thousands poorer, I retired to my ordinary bed, happy and serene in the knowledge that soon I’d be the proud owner of a bed I could really relax in.
Several days later, it was delivered and set up.  Even though it was only four o’clock in the afternoon, I donned my nightshirt and climbed in.
Well, sank in would be more like it.  This contraption had all the comfort of lying on sheet-covered mashed potatoes.
I concluded that perhaps if I adjusted the position, it would somehow make the bed a bit firmer.  Of course, I’m also given to conclude that if the milk in the refrigerator is sour, that putting it back and trying it again later will change the situation.
I pressed the button to raise the back and the front into more of a chair-like position, and when it reached the appropriate configuration, I again pressed the button to stop it.
But it kept right on folding.  This was a bed on a mission.  I began to get the feeling that this piece of furniture had, at one time or another, seen the movie “Jaws.”
When it finally stopped, I was pinned inside what amounted to a mattress sandwich, unable to move.  My chest was fused to my knees, so I couldn’t even draw enough of a breath to call for help.
This was not the way I wanted to die.
Fortunately, my mother chose that moment to drop by, and even more fortunately, had a key to my humble abode.  Hence, when she saw my car in the driveway, but I didn’t answer the door, she let herself in and finally discovered me in my pretzel-like state.
After she stopped laughing and snapped the entire roll of film in the disposable camera she rushed out to buy, she got around to addressing my predicament.
“Comfy?” she asked, giggling.  Payback for those cooking lessons, I was sure.
 “Mmmmfmfmmmffff!” I replied, with as much dignity as I could muster with a mouthful of mattress.
After the police and paramedics showed up and wore out three “Jaws of Life,” they finally extricated me.  Amazingly, I survived and could move my left big toe with no trouble whatsoever.  The rest of me was immediately placed in a full body cast.
One year and a dozen surgeries later, I was sitting in my chair watching TV again, when . . .
“Do you have trouble getting out of chairs?  Try the new ‘Chair Boost.’   It gently allows you to stand from a sitting position with no strain whatsoever.”
I was enthralled.  It was exactly what I needed, since, after the bed incident, I did have trouble getting up out of my chair.  I grabbed my VISA and headed for the telephone.
When the chair was delivered and placed in my living room, I settled into what was undoubtedly the most comfortable chair I had ever sat in.  Naturally, as soon as I settled into it, there was a knock at the door.
The perfect time to test the “Chair-Boost” feature!  I pressed the button.
Nothing happened.
I swore at the controller.
I pressed the “up” button again, and this time, the chair gently rose and catapulted me across the room, through my bay window, and over a cyclone fence like a BB in a slingshot.  I came to rest in a crumpled heap in my neighbor’s backyard, after ricocheting off the west wall of his bungalow.
This time, even my big toe checked out.
You think smoking is hazardous to your heath?  Try television!