How many of you know what a pingback is and how to create one? Let’s see a show of hands.
Wow! Looks like quite a few of you are in on the pingback secret … except for me.
Now, I am not a stupid woman and I’ve learned a lot about computers since I started my site in 2017. I’ve also wiggled my way out of some tough jams and solved problems the Happiness Engineers at WordPress were unable to do. Hell, I even found the solution to an issue that an Apple technician couldn’t help me with. I also taught myself to record and upload some of my stories for a prominent UK radio station – something I’m very proud of. I can figure out most things on my computer or learn something by seeing it done once or twice but this ornery pingback mosquito keeps evading me.
Some of my fellow septuagenarian friends on WordPress who still split logs and milk cows know how to create a pingback. I cannot. What’s the secret? And while we’re on the subject, what purpose does a pingback serve? Why is everyone pingbacking all over the damn place?
So, to recap, the questions on the table are 1) what is a pingback; 2) how is a pingback created; 3) what purpose does a pingback serve?
Just for fun, let’s see how the dictionary defines pingback: “an automatic notification sent when a link has been created to a person’s blog post from an external website, allowing a reciprocal link to that website to be created”.
Hmm. Ok, what does Google say about pingbacks on WordPress? “A pingback is a notification WordPress sends to other blog owners when linking to their content. It will appear in a comment and only bloggers who activate the pingback feature will receive the notification”.
Confused yet? Me too. Try this on for size:
When I told one of my friends I thought I didn’t do a pingback correctly, he asked me if I remembered to “lock it in”. No, of course I didn’t! I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to “lock in”. Another friend explained creating a pingback like this: “To do a pingback: Copy the URL (the https:// address of my post) and paste it onto your post.” Yet another friend posted a similar message: “To execute a pingback, just copy the URL in the address bar on this post and paste it somewhere in the body of your post.”
Now, those explanations sound pretty clear and easy and in my head I know exactly what they’re saying; however, when it comes to actually copying the URL, I can’t find it and when I think I’ve got the right URL, it turns out to be the wrong one! So far I don’t think I have successfully completed one single pingback. Pretty dismal, isn’t it?
I need someone to explain to me in easy-to-understand language how to do a pingback and show me where to find the elusive URL address I’m supposed to copy and paste. Speak to me in one syllable words if necessary. Observe the KISS Principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I promise you; I will not be offended.
Here we have a pic of a rather disgruntled baby. Our challenge is to take 6 minutes and write a story inspired by this pic. Sounds like child’s play? Let’s see!
Ok, she said she was coming right back to read me a story. That was at least 10 minutes ago. I can hear her voice so she must be on the phone again cos I don’t hear anybody else. I’ve been laying here with Teddydeer waiting for that story and it better be the one about the snail crossing the road. If she tries to cheap it off with Goodnight Moon, I’m really gonna have a fit. I mean, it’s not fair. I can’t TELL her what story I want and when I cry she thinks something’s wrong and the whole story reading thing gets delayed. I don’t ask for much: milk, a clean diaper, cuddles and tickles, my blankie and Teddydeer. Is that unreasonable? I don’t think so. Ooh, I think I hear her coming up the stairs; and speaking of clean diapers, now I have a poopy diaper which she’s gonna want to change before we read. And boy is it stinky. Must be the kale nuggets she tried passing off as sweet potatoes for lunch. Well, serves her right for taking so long. Parents!
This week’s challenge asks us to share a period in our lives when we seized the opportunity to try to get away with something.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That phrase by the famous author Sir Walter Scott is so very true, especially in this scenario.
It all began when my boyfriend Bill (now husband) and I along with his brother Jim and girlfriend Lynne (now wife) came up with the idea of going away for a little weekend of hanky panky. Why we felt the need to get away is a mystery; I suppose being away from home made it exciting and naughty. We were doing just fine in the hanky panky department at home but we were rebellious teenagers who acted first and thought later.
We told our parents we were going skiing in Kingston, New York – about a 2-hour drive from where we lived in The Bronx. The first blazing red flag for my parents should have been the fact that I did not ski. If they had any doubts at that time about the validity of our story, they said nothing; I probably told them I was going to take ski lessons since Bill, Jim and Lynne all knew how to ski.
The brilliant plan we came up with was to tell our parents that Lynne and I would share one room while Bill and Jim stayed in another. In hindsight I can’t help but wonder why my parents would believe such a flimsy story. What’s even more incredible is they let me go! Maybe they just relaxed a bit after already raising one daughter who was a saint compared to me.
When the day of our get-away finally arrived, we drove up to Kingston and checked into our hotel. After a bit of alone time in our rooms to unwind from the drive, we all went out to dinner. I remember ordering a sloe gin fizz cocktail and a ridiculously rich steak dish smothered in a creamy mushroom gravy.
*At this point it’s only fair that I inform you, dear readers, that rich and creamy gravy goes through me like a freight train. TMI, I know, but it’s necessary info for this story. I can feel my stomach churning as I write this.*
After dinner we returned to the hotel and all hung out together in Jim and Lynne’s room for a while before heading off to our own room. A couple of hours later I woke Bill up complaining of intense stomach pains. I was in a bad way and he decided to take me right to the hospital. Not wanting to disturb Jim and Lynne, Bill and I went alone. If only we had stayed in our room and let nature take its course. These things have a way of resolving themselves but at the time it seemed more serious than it was and our impulsive nature took over.
After arriving at the hospital and explaining the situation, I was politely but sternly refused treatment because I was underage and there was no adult present to sign any necessary forms. Sick as I was, I was cognizant enough to realize this could be problematic. In other words, we were up the creek without a paddle. There was even talk of notifying my parents. This meant trouble.
DUM DA DUM DUM!! The tangled web was becoming a knotted mess.
Well, this is something hospital personnel see all the time – kids out for some fun without their parent’s consent – and they cut me a little slack. Determining I had nothing more serious than a bad stomachache, they still refused to treat me but they gave me access to a private bathroom. Bill managed to get his hands on some Pepto Bismol at the drugstore across the street and after a while I started feeling better. We returned to the hotel a little while after Jim and Lynne had woken up; they were very surprised to find out I had gotten sick.
Even though I was feeling better, I wasn’t up to our weekend get-away and we all reluctantly agreed to return home. There was no need to come up with an excuse; we would simply tell our parents the truth – that I wasn’t feeling well and we came home early; however, we left out the little bit about the hospital.
Our parents were surprised to see us but agreed we did the right thing by coming home. Everything was going smoothly until later that night as we sat in Bill and Jim’s kitchen talking about our abbreviated weekend trip. Lynne inadvertently said “Yeah, Jim and I were surprised to find out Nancy had gotten sick; she looked fine when we left Bill’s room last night.”
Liar, liar! Pants on fire! The knotted web now had us in a stranglehold.
Of course, Lynne immediately realized her gaffe but it was too late. She sat in horrified silence, a nauseous feeling coming over her. Bill and Jim’s mother realized we had not been in separate rooms and the disappointed look on her face was too much for Lynne to bear; she quickly got up and went into another room. Bill managed to come up with an explanation to cover what Lynne said but we’re sure his mother only pretended to believe it.
I don’t know for sure if my parents ever found out about that night in Kingston; I have to believe they didn’t because I never would have heard the end of it if they knew. But was it just a coincidence that I was forbidden to attend Woodstock a few months later? That was never, under any circumstances, ever going to happen. There was no getting around that one.
I learned a lesson that weekend how quickly things can go wrong and how easily someone’s trust can be lost, even if temporarily.
It took me a hell of a lot longer to realize there are certain foods I couldn’t eat and drinks I couldn’t drink. After too many years of ‘discomfort in the lower tract’, I finally wised up and changed my crazy eating habits but I never lost my rebellious and daring spirit. I just learned to temper it.
One day my mother and I were home alone; I think I was about 9 years old. I was doing my homework and mom was cooking dinner when we heard someone knocking on our door. It was our neighbor Dotty Pessin who lived a few houses away with her husband and two teen-age sons. Dotty hardly ever stopped by so we were curious about her visit.
She and my mom made small talk for a little while then Dotty said in that whiney voice of hers, “So Nancy, I brought this record album over; I don’t know much about little girls so I hope you like it. It’s a record of kid’s songs. Why don’t you play it on your record player?”
Now this came as quite a surprise to me; it wasn’t my birthday or anything so I couldn’t understand why Dotty was giving me a gift. Even my mother was perplexed and said something like “That’s very thoughtful of you, Dotty” but Dotty just stood there smiling and watching me which was very surreal. Between you and me, I think she was a little simple-minded.
I removed the album from its jacket and placed it on my record player. I carefully lifted the arm and gently lowered the needle onto the record, then the three of us stood around listening to kid’s songs. I liked the record; I was 9 and they were kid songs. What’s not to like? After about four songs Dotty asked me what I thought of the record. I told her I thought it was very nice; I liked it a lot and thanked her for the gift.
I expected Dotty to say “I’m so glad you like it”, “You’re welcome”, “Enjoy it” or “You’re just the sweetest thing ever” – something along those lines. That’s not exactly how it went down. What she said was “Oh, it’s not for you! I bought the record for my friend’s 10-year-old daughter and I just wanted to see if you liked it. I figured if you liked it then she’d probably like it.”
Well, I may have been only 9 years old but I knew jive talkin’ when I heard it and I felt this whole scenario was pretty fucked up. My mother thought what Dotty did was rude, mean-spirited and misleading; I was just a little kid and mom gave Dotty a piece of her mind. My mother could really get medieval on someone’s ass when necessary. Dotty was bewildered and couldn’t understand why we were so upset. In a huff, she took the album and left. I think I may have cried; how would you have felt?
From that moment on Dotty Pessin became known as “Dotty Pessin, that Indian Giver” (which I realize today is totally un-PC and not acceptable).
But, come on; I ask you: who does that? After all these many years I remember that day like it was yesterday. Dotty-freaking-Pessin!
What does this picture inspire you to write? Another challenge from my friends at “What Do You See?”.
“Hey, Charlie! Phil! Get a load of these jackasses!” neighed Daryl as he stared over the fence onto the country road. “Do they really think they’re capable of winning a race? On two legs?? This takes the cake!”
“Daryl, I’m pretty sure they’re not actual jackasses” whinnied Charlie. “They just look like jackasses!”
Phil kicked up his back legs and snickered loudly. Tossing back his glossy black hair, he gave out a hearty laugh. “That was hysterical, Charlie! ’They just look like jackasses!’ Absolutely priceless!”
“Well, they’re sure acting like jackasses! What the heck are they doing?” asked Daryl.
“They’re jogging – people run around all bandy-legged with arms flailing getting all sweaty going nowhere in particular and looking pretty dumb while doing it.” Charlie explained.
Phil trotted over. “Yeah. I read about these idiots in Horse Beautiful. It’s some kind of craze, far as I can tell .. some sort of asinine exercise routine.”
“Yeah” agreed Charlie. “What a total waste of time! And there’s even more of them running around the city.”
“OMG!” laughed Daryl loudly. “Check out these two in their matching his-and-hers outfits. Look at the shape they’re in!They gotta weigh 600 pounds combined. Can you imagine them riding us? Oh, my aching back! My screaming knees!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Look at what we got here, boys. Now that’s some fine-looking little filly!” exclaimed Phil as he moseyed nearer to the fence. “Oh yeah. I’d like to see her in a wet t-shirt contest!’
“She sure is something else, alright” Charlie agreed. “Check out those tiny shorts she’s wearing. She can ride me bareback any time she wants!”
“Man, now that’s one stacked number! I could watch her jog and bounce around all day!” Daryl smacked his lips.
“Hey! What are you three flea bags doing all this way from the barn? Farmer Brown’s gonna have a cow if he hears you jumped the fence again!” It was Barkley, the yellow lab who lived on the ranch. “Best get yourselves back home before someone notices you’re gone. C’mon! Giddy-up!”
“Race ya!” snorted Phil and the trio took off leaving Barkley in their dust.”
“Bunch of jackasses!” Barkley yowled indignantly. “Well, good riddance to them and woof to you, sexy lady. You jog by here often? Have I got a bone for you!”
Just like the bighorn sheep of North America who shed their wool in the summer, I’m about to do a bit of shedding of my own. I’ll be lightening the load, taking out the garbage, so to speak.
Does anyone else think there’s a whole lot of crapola on TV these days? Seriously – what do people watch all damn day long? I have to be sick as a dog in bed to even think of putting the TV on during the day.
I know some people love to watch their game shows and others are hooked on the news. That’s fine. They can have it! I can’t take more than 30 seconds of that Mike Lindell guy screaming about his freaking awesome pillows or the endless stream of bobble heads on 24/7 news yelling at each other nonstop. They’re literally sitting two feet away from each other; why all the yelling?
And that’s just daytime TV; prime time is even worse, especially if you have to put up with commercials. Why is it everyone on TV ads has “moderate to severe plaque psoriasis” or “suffers from the embarrassment of IBS”?
By now you’ve probably figured out I don’t watch much TV; I’d rather write stories, listen to music or work on my plants than sit in front of the TV while my brain cells shrivel up and die.
Now I’m not talking about ball games or movies; they are the exception to the rule. I enjoy kicking back to a good move and will watch just about any baseball game that happens to be on but in my opinion everything else is garbagio.
I know nothing about Game of Thrones, The Good Doctor or La Brea. And what the hell is the point of Naked and Afraid? Why do the people have to be naked AND afraid? Can’t they just be afraid? I know I am!
I’ve never seen one minute of any reality show such as The Karadashians (gag me with a spoon!) or The Bachelorette (kill me now!). I watched about ten minutes of Jeopardy! with the new host whose name I can’t pronounce … you know, the one who loves to tell anyone who will listen that she has a doctorate in neuroscience. Who gives a rat’s ass? I’d rather watch Naked and Afraid.
Let me give you a rundown of the shows I watch:
Days of Our Lives (which Bill and I record and watch in the evening)
General Hospital (which Bill and I record and watch in the evening)
America’s Got Talent (I like talent shows despite the over-the-top Terry Crews)
Grantchester (a fantastic BBC show)
All Creatures Great and Small (another fantastic BBC show)
Outlander (yet another fantastic show from the UK with lots of men in kilts as a bonus)
NB – Quality shows like 4-6 usually take two years or more between seasons; why it takes that long to film 10 episodes is beyond me but we patiently wait for their return because they are bloody amazing shows. They’re also commercial free; gotta hand it to the Brits!
That’s all folks! Pretty short list, I know.
So, what did I mean about taking out the garbage? After way too many years of watching the mind-numbing Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, I have cut the “soap on a rope”. Why? Because they are stupid, insipid, a huge waste of time and an insult to my intelligence. My 13-year-old granddaughter could write better storylines. And you know what else? I won’t even miss them.
One thing’s for sure: in the world of soaps very little changes. If I decide to tune in to either of those soaps five or six years from now, Lulu will still be in a coma and somebody in Salem will be possessed … again. Oy! Now that’s just stupid!
We all grow up. We age. It’s inevitable, a fact of life.
Over the past few months I’ve watched all my grandchildren blossom into bigger versions of their mini-selves. They are a beautiful batch, every single one of them.
But this kid, my second oldest grandchild. Lucan, age 11 going on 21. Ah, how I remember those early days with his Norman Rockwell all-American look. A little fuzzy towhead with bright blue eyes and a cute-as-can-be babyface.
Now his eyes are beguiling with crazy long eyelashes. His face is chiseled, full lips. And that pin-straight blonde hair with his own unique style. This kid’s a real looker, a charmer.
I just have one question: when did my grandson turn into Jonathan Rhys Meyers? 😎
Story challenge by my friends at NopeNotPam – Letter of the day: S
SALVATION!! Can you say it along with me, brothers and sisters?
SALVATION AND SATISFACTION!!
Since venturing out on our long-anticipated vacation, I have discovered so much more than the sultry sun, the salty sea, the scrumptious seafood and the sinfully sleek and sensual satin sheets.
I have found salvation from stress, suffering, stiffness, strain, stenosis, sciatica and sleeplessness. And contrary to what our dear Sir Mick sings while strutting sexily on stage in all his sartorial splendor, “I CAN GET SOME SATISFACTION!”
“How?” you inquire suspiciously? Well, at the risk of sounding like a super-store salesperson, it’s all due to the soothing stress-relieving qualities of the Sidney Slider Power Recliner.
Seriously. I shit you not.
Since we arrived at our secluded, solitary and secret get-away location, I made a startling discovery: I am living a pain-free life for the first time in several years! Yes, I’m de-stressed simply being on sabbatical but I know without a scintilla of doubt my pains have subsided significantly because of this sensational sprawling supersonic seat at our seaside suite. Keep your sardonic comments to yourself; as a self-proclaimed scholar of recliners and a reclining specialist, I know what I’m talking about and speak nothing but the truth, so help me Stickley Furniture World.
How can something so simple as this recliner make me feel like a new woman, a renewed and improved supple design of the feminine species? I have no idea! Someone seriously smarter than me designed a lounger with superb supine capabilities. All I know is something shocking happened, something so spectacular that I am singing its praises while simultaneously shedding tears of shear joy. I am in seventh heaven – so much so that I have placed an order for my very own Sidney Slider Power Recliner (since I cannot bring this one back with me). Sadly, it’s not in stock at the moment BUT in less than two very short weeks it will be on its way to my home. Stupendous!
This is no small thing and I mean that literally. Sidney (we’re already on a first name basis)is a big boy, significantly larger than what I’m accustomed to. I shall have to find a way to make him fit but make no mistake – this scintillatingly smooth suede stunner will fit! The only question I struggled with was which color I should select – the sensual sable or the shimmering sand?
I’ll have to wait just a scant few days after my return but it will all be worth it. If you could only see the sheepish smile of satisfaction on my face.
In response to an invitation by NopeNotPam’s fun ‘Letter of the Week’ challenge, here’s a little something I wrote for the letter N.
Nora was a new resident in the quaint town of Nanuet. It had always been a dream of hers to own her own business and she never gave up. It wasn’t as easy as she thought and some of those dreams turned into nightmares. Then she met a guy named Nick, a well-to-do neonatologist while at a New Year’s Eve party and they bonded over the chicken nuggets and salad nicoise. Nick was one of the nice ones, a real gentleman, and Nora wasn’t nervous around him at all.
Nick and Nora exchanged numbers and he called her the next night. Nick tried to act nonchalant but nothing could settle his nerves. He really liked Nora and hoped he sounded normal over the phone and not like a numbskull. He’d found a little Northern Italian restaurant in the near-by town of New City and he became a regular customer, dining there nearly every night. Nick hoped Nora would accept his invitation to dinner at Nonna Nina’s Ristorante.
Not only did Nora accept Nick’s invitation, Nonna Nina’s became her favorite restaurant, too – bar none. Notorious for having a sweet tooth, two of Nora’s guilty pleasures were the sinfully creamy Nocciolo Napoleons and the Nutty Nutella Crepes. One night, while sharing a plate of traditional Neapolitan noodles, Nora absentmindedly said “Wouldn’t it be nice to get married at Nonna Nina’s?”
Nick’s eyes grew as big as nickel-plated saucers and Nora’s nose turned neon red – something that always happened when she was embarrassed. Nearly falling off his chair, Nick quickly returned to normal and said “Nora, my love, are you really saying what I think you’re saying. Do you want to get married?”
Nora nodded slowly. In no time, Nick was down on one knee and took Nora’s hand in his. “My darling, do me the honor of becoming Mrs. Nick Noletti. Marry me!” Overcome with joy, Nora replied “Oh yes, Nick” and started crying tears of happiness. She reached for a napkin and blew her nose noisily. She and Nick embraced while Nonna Nina, her husband Nonno Nino and all the neighboring diner’s applauded and raised a glass to the happy couple.
Nick and Nora celebrated their nuptials on the ninth of November in the Nirvana Chapel in Nanuet. Nick was dressed to the nines in his new tuxedo and Nora, not one for poofy, froo-froo dresses, wore an enchanting negligee style evening gown and carried a bouquet of narcissus, nasturtiums and nolanas. Her long nutmeg-colored hair was loosely tied at the nape of her neck with a tulle ribbon and she wore a simple string of pearls around her neck. The newlyweds honeymooned for nine days in Norway where Nora had numerous nieces and nephews. They shared all their hopes and dreams; that was when Nora told Nick about her great ambition to open her own business: a high-end nail salon.
Since Nick had deep pockets and he adored Nora, he was determined to make all her dreams come true. The couple purchased a little shop in New City which they renovated into a luxurious nail salon offering everything from soup to nuts. Nora was a Nervous Nelly on opening day but Nick assured her she’d be a success and the shop, which she named Nora’s Nail Nook, would thrive. As an incentive to draw new customers, Nora offered everyone who came into the shop a first-time free manicure.
At first business was nonstop; by the second week, Nora noticed a marked slowdown. Over a cup of Nespresso one day she asked Nick’s head nurse Nancy what she thought was causing the decline in business. Nancy immediately responded “Nora, haven’t you heard of Naughty Nails by Nat?” referring to another nail salon down the street. Nurse Nancy continued: “All the girls at Naughty Nails are nubile nymphs working in the nude! Every neanderthal in the neighborhood hoping for a little nookie with his pedi goes to Naughty Nails.”
Nora was nonplussed. “How can the Nail Nook possibly go up against a nude nail salon?” she wailed. Nora relayed the story about Naughty Nails to Nick who said “Don’t worry, my precious nightingale. I have a novel idea.”
The next day there was a bright neon sign in the window of the Nail Nook. It read:
“WELCOME TO THE NAIL NOOK WHERE WE WON’T NICKEL AND DIME YOU. NINE MANI/PEDIS, GET ONE FREE! ALL MEN ACCOMPANYING THEIR LADIES WILL RECEIVE FREE PEDICURES. FOR EVERY NEW CLIENT YOU REFER, YOU WILL BE REWARDED WITH A FREE SPA PEDICURE! COME ON IN AND TAKE A LOOK. WE KNOW YOU’LL BE HAPPY AT THE NEW NAIL NOOK!”
The next morning Nora and Nick were thrilled to see a line of people waiting to get into the shop. Of course, Nat from Naughty Nails was not happy; he huffed and puffed and screamed like a nutcase but there was nothing he could do about it. Everything offered by the Nail Nook was totally above board. Nat neighed loudly like a wild horse and galloped away. Nick yelled after him “Tough noogies, numb-nuts!”
Nick and Nora had the last laugh and lived happily ever after in their little love nest in Nanuet. The end.
NB: This is a humorous work of fiction with no intention of disparaging any professions, persons, nationalities or ethnicities.
If you are seeking a woman with beautiful, exotic looks and a lovely disposition, a single Thai lady is the way to go. Thai women love to laugh and tend to be quite happy. They are demure and sweet in public, perhaps a bit shy, but when alone with their partner they are open and sexually accommodating.
Reading that online advert made Frank Morelli’s eyes widen. One of these Thai girls could be just what he was looking for. Intrigued, Frank decided to read a bit more. He scrolled down to see a bevy of available women – 922 to be exact. Beneath each pic was a name, age, contact address and the city in which the woman resided. There were also three options: 1) 💬 Say Hello; 2) 📧 Send a Message; 3) ❤️ Add to Hotlist.
There were some like Primmie who looked like she was just 17 and you know what I mean – a captivating schoolgirl-type with huge brown eyes, pouty lips and dewy skin. Primmie gave the impression of being a sweet, shy young thing with her glossy hair in pigtails wearing a short school uniform when in reality she could have invented sex. She was capable of teaching most men a thing or ten, taking them to erotic levels they’d never experienced before.
Then there were others like Opia who looked like she’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson – and won. She had an angry scowl and a leathery face that could stop a clock. She wouldn’t even be able to arouse a blindfolded Wilt Chamberlain – and he is reputed to have had sex with 20,000 women!
More than a few of the girls could easily be adult movie actresses while others looked like the ubiquitous hunchbacked dishwashers in greasy Chinese takeout joints that smelled like burning rancid oil. And by some miracle they were all available and willing to be dutiful wives and make anyone’s wildest dreams come true. At what cost? That part of the equation had not entered Frank’s mind. Even if it had, Frank was the type who acted first and thought later, if at all – a habit that got him into trouble more times than he was willing to admit.
The truth was most of these girls were looking for a ticket to The States, for some poor unsuspecting sap exactly like Frank to get them to fall madly in love and secure a green card and a one way ride out of Bangkok.
Frank made himself comfortable in his battered and patched pseudo-leather Barcalounger, his iPad nestled comfortably on his lap. A 25oz can of Bud Lite to his left and a bag of Utz pork rinds to his right set the stage for what could be the luckiest night of his vapid life. Frank loosened the drawstring of his sweatpants and wriggled his feet out of his Air Jordan knockoffs; this online mating game could take a while.
For lack of a better word, Frank was a “loser” – a thirty-something, short, stocky, balding, bespectacled, single, white, Italian Walmart shelf stocker living in his parent’s basement in Queens, New York. In other words – he was George Costanza.
This wasn’t exactly the ideal living arrangement as far as Frank or his parents were concerned but it didn’t cost him a dime and his mother did everything for him. Besides being as lazy as a slug, he just didn’t have that many friends and most of the ones he did have were married with children. He went on a couple of dates but he wasn’t what you’d call “a catch” and couldn’t hold a woman’s attention for very long. Frank wasn’t attracted to any of the women at work and the feeling was mutual.
There were a few things he enjoyed doing but most of them were solo activities like playing video games, listening to heavy metal music and watching porn. His father called him a no good, lazy bum and dreamed of the day he would move out of the house and stop being a drain on his wallet. His mother called him Frankie Boy and waited on him hand and foot, all the while lamenting the fact that she was not and probably never would be a grandma. She tried matching him up with a couple of her friend’s daughters but Frank left them cold.
Mrs. Morelli cooked all Frank’s meals and washed his laundry, including his fossilized jerkoff rags. She finally got fed up with her fancy hand towels being violated and bought Frank a case of cheap industrial-quality tissues from Amazon which he discovered in his closet one day. Neither he nor his mother ever said a word about the tissues but they kept being used and a new case would discreetly appear every month.
So there sat Frank, comfortably reclining in his “man cave”, taking his time perusing the ladies on the Thai bride website, adding his favorites to his hotlist when suddenly a photo of a girl named ‘Niki ‘ appeared. Frank nearly choked on his pork rinds when he saw her and he believed with all his heart she was the one for him. His iPad began to levitate as he felt himself getting hard. Grabbing a handful of Amazon tissues, he took care of business in about 20 seconds. She was a hot number, that Niki, and Frank was only looking at a still photograph!
Frank made himself presentable and clicked the FaceTime icon, his finger hovering over option #1: 💬 Say Hello. It was now or never so, mustering all the courage he possessed, he pushed the button which could determine the outcome of the rest of his life – a life with the enchanting Niki.
A few strange electronic sounds were followed by a shrill ring, then a child-like yet sultry voice was heard coming from behind what appeared to be a satin curtain:
“Ooh, swasdi. Hellooo, this Niki. You want Niki?”
Frank was flustered, intrigued and aroused all at the same time. “Oh, yes. Hi. Yes, I want nookie … I mean Niki. Hi, I’m Frank; is this Niki?’
Giggles from behind the curtain on the iPad gave Frank an erection. “Tee hee hee! Ooh, Frang want Niki nookie? Tee hee hee! Yes?”
“Yes” replied Frank. “No. Yes and no. Is this Niki?”
More giggles. “Yes, Frang. This Niki. You want Niki.”
“It’s Frank and, yes, I definitely want Niki.”
“What you want, Frang? You want tawk Niki, see Niki? You want marry Niki? Niki be good wifey.”
While Frank imagined Niki as his life partner from the moment he saw her photo, this was all moving very fast. On one hand he was thrilled to be speaking to a woman, especially a beautiful willing woman, and he hoped to have a relationship someday but on the other hand, was he ready to fly off and get married to a total stranger?
“Frang? Hellooo? You want Niki?”
Frank said the first thing that popped into his head: “How much will it cost me?”
Giggles. “Tawk free, see free on FaceyTime. Airplane tickie to marry.”
“I want to see Niki” replied Frank with an uncharacteristic smidgen of common sense.
“Okay, Frang. Here Niki” and the satin curtain was pulled back. There she was; Frank recognized her immediately from her photo. She was even more bewitching in person – long silky black hair, porcelain skin with tiny, doll-like features, a small mouth painted red and a diminutive body which Frank found delightfully appealing. Niki looked like Frank could snap her in two, like a delicate glass swizzle stick. She wore a lacy camisole which was surprisingly modest and revealed nothing. Niki was the opposite of all the blonde, busty, Botoxed porn stars he was used to where everything was supersized.
Frank was mesmerized.
“Ooh, hellooo. You Frang?”
“Yes. Hi. I’m Frang” was Frank’s dimwitted response.
Giggles. “Ooh, Frang hansom Merican man from USA. You big strong. Niki like you. You like Niki?”
“Yes, I like Niki very much.”
“Niki make good wifey. You come Bangkok. Marry Niki.”
Frank’s head was spinning. “Wow! Yeah, that sounds great Niki! But first can we just talk like this for a few days and get to know each other?”
“Ooh, Frang. Niki no do nookie on FaceyTime. Betta you come Bangkok. You like Niki, marry Niki.”
It was now or never time for Frank and he was squirming in his pants. He had to ask himself what was holding him back. There wasn’t a thing going on in his life; he had nothing to lose by jumping in. This could be his one shot at happiness.
As usual, before Frank knew what he was doing, he blurted out “You know what, Niki? You’re right, dammit! I’m gonna fly over there and make you my bride!”
“Ooh, yay!” Giggles and little hand claps. “Frang let Niki know when you come Bangkok.”
“I definitely will, sweetie. Talk to you soon, Niki. Bye bye” and Frank wiggled his pudgy fingers at Niki like a ten-year-old boy.
Frank jumped up excitedly. He was a man on a mission. He went into the laundry room to retrieve his luggage and there stood his mother. Her face was as red as her hair and her expression said it all.
Mrs. Morelli clutched Frank’s suitcase and screamed at him: “You ingrate! You are a complete moron! Look at you, all hot to trot! Why can’t you go out and find yourself a nice Italian girl like your cousin Gerald instead of traipsing half-way around the world to some Godforsaken placecalled ‘Bangkok’? What kind of sick, perverted name is ‘Bangkok’ anyway?Oh my God, I think I’m going to be sick!”
Befuddled and feeling like a little boy, Frank snatched the suitcase from his mother’s arms, yelling back at her “You don’t know anything about it. I’m a grown man! Just mind your own business!”
Frank’s father heard the arguing and was now in the basement. “What the hell is going on down here?” he demanded. “You idiot! Look how upset your mother is!”
Mrs. Morelli wailed “He’s running off to someplace called ‘Bangkok’ where he thinks he’s gonna find a wife!“
Mr. Morelli slammed his hand on the washing machine. “You ungrateful bum! Can’t you see what you’re doing to your mother? What kind of a sicko are you? I had a war buddy from my time in Korea who took off for Bangkoklooking for a little filly. Nobody ever saw him again!”
“If you leave here for that sex den, you better not step one foot back in this house!” Mrs. Morelli shrieked. “I work my fingers to the bone for you and your father. If you think I’m going to start waiting on you and some mail order sex kitten living in my basement, you got another thing coming!”
“You’re a disgrace to this family, Frank! A disgrace!” bellowed Frank’s father.
Frank sputtered ineffectually, pulled at what little hair he had and scurried back into his room. He could hear his parents shouting upstairs. Not live here? Where would he and Niki stay? Frank hadn’t thought about that. Well, he’d figure something out. Besides, once his parents saw Niki they’d welcome her with open arms.
“I’ll think about that later. It’ll all work out” Frank muttered to himself. “Right now I’ve got a bag to pack.”
My father was the type of man who liked to have fun, even if the joke was on him. I’m guessing the picture shown above ⬆️ was taken at least 60 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. While my mother, sister and I were occupied with other things, Dad quietly went around the house collecting stuff – in this case a scarf, a yarmulke from a friend’s wedding and our family Bible. He then sat there not saying a word until one of us noticed and we all cracked up. I’m pretty sure at that point he started chanting which made the whole scenario even funnier. I showed this pic to my husband last night and even he cracked up. Yes, dad, your legend lives on!
Dad’s jokes weren’t always funny and he didn’t have much of a filter. I remember a family friend was complaining that she needed to lose weight. Dad told her she looked fine just the way she was which would have been totally acceptable if he’d left it at that but he had to add that she was “pleasingly plump“. Our friend was not happy with that description and huffed off, angry and embarrassed. Meanwhile dad couldn’t understand what he said that was so bad. He’d often do things without thinking them through like the times he’d invite people over for dinner and fail to tell my mother until a couple hours before their guests arrived, usually resulting in mom reacting sorta like this:
She never really hit him over the head with a frying pan but she wanted to – lots of times. But that wouldn’t have stopped dad from telling the same old joke about the canary who ran out of gas or thinking he was entertaining countless waitresses by ordering an Al Pacino instead of a cappuccino which always resulted in an eye roll or a blank stare.
Speaking of blank stares, some of my relatives were hard nuts to crack and dad’s cornball jokes were definitely not appreciated. This was a particularly tough crowd; they look like they’re at a funeral instead of a bridal shower. ⬇️ And why is the woman on the left clutching her purse so tightly? She’s in my parent’s house; who’s gonna steal it? Probably fight or flight reaction due to Dad’s jokes.
What’s with all the purse clutching? Must be a generational thing. Man, I would have loved to have been around when this next photo was taken. ⬇️ Talk about surreal! The parents look like very nice, normal people but totally confused and amused at the same time; I think those guys had that effect on all of us. (I was going to say they looked “Dazed and Confused” but that was done by a much better band – no offense.)
My dad was a good guy who meant well and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was all talk and no bite, like the time he convinced an art auctioneer that he was “connected“. The poor guy was wetting his pants and falling over himself to make sure ‘Don Vito‘ was satisfied and there would be no retaliation. Mom just rolled her eyes and called dad “stunad“.
Dad had a lousy head for figures so, naturally, he volunteered to be the church treasurer. He then proceeded to botch the books so terribly, the Elders of the church came to our house looking very serious and officious in their black suits and asked dad how he managed to screw up the numbers so badly. Even dad couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong; he was totally flustered and way over his head. Everyone felt sorry for him but business is business and dad was officially removed him from his position.
Dad was an immigrant from Sicily who taught himself to speak, read and write English entirely on his own. And he barely had an accent. His biggest achievement in his eyes was being able to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink! Everyone loved my dad and it gave him so much pleasure to entertain his friends and spend time with his family.
Times were tough, often heartbreaking. In 1943 mom and dad lost their first born and only son, the brother I never knew, when he was only 2-years-old. Baby Frank passed away on New Year’s Eve; my parent’s never celebrated or went out on New Year’s Eve ever again after that. Then my dad got drafted and was sent overseas. I can only imagine what Father’s Day must have been like that year. Talk about rough times!
Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I regret being embarrassed in front of my friends when dad told a corny joke or sang a silly song. I wish I didn’t think of him as a clown or a buffoon; no one else saw him that way (except my sister) and he made a lot of people happy. I was young and stupid; I didn’t realize at the time everything he did was with good intentions.
My grown sons remember my dad, or ‘Papa’ as they called him, but I have four grandchildren who never knew him. I hope when my granddaughters start dating, my sons will wait up for them to come home from their dates, just as my dad did right up till the night before my wedding.
When you’re young you think you have all the time in the world, then you start to realize the older you get the faster time goes by. There are plenty of things I wish I could go back and do over; I can’t. I just have to believe that my dad knew I loved him even when I didn’t show it. I hope he’s proud of the person I have become. I’m proud of my dad and I miss him. I know he’s listening so “Happy Father’s Day, dad! I love you!”
Dedicated to my father, Vito Schembre, July 14, 1915 – August 1, 1998
As the parents of four young children, Kay and Michael Morgan wanted nothing but the best for their kids – 7-year-old twins Jack and Luke, 3-year-old Ella and baby Ivy. After meeting in college in Philadelphia and living there for the past twelve years, the couple had recently moved back to their hometown. It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
Kay and Michael wanted to send the boys to a good summer camp and everyone recommended Camp Dino-Mite. Not only did the camp offer a broad variety of indoor and outdoor activities ranging from chess to archery and just about everything in between – it was an easy ten-minute walk from their house.
The Morgans were looking forward to orientation day when the boys would meet their counselors and the other kids in their groups. The day turned out to be great fun with games for the campers and a barbecue lunch for everyone. Before heading home, Kay and Michael stopped at the main office to buy camp t-shirts for the boys and pay their registration fee.
They were just about to pay when Michael heard an unwelcome voice call out “Is that you, Morgan? Well, the Boy Wonder has returned! Ain’t that just Dino-Mite?!” Michael cringed; it was his old childhood nemesis Rex Tirano. Michael suddenly realized why the name of the camp was so familiar; “Dino-Mite” used to be Rex’s favorite expression. Apparently, it still was. Slowly Michael turned around to face his one-time foe.
Let’s just say the aging process for Rex did not go well. He had become a caricature of himself – a living, breathing buffoonish cartoon character – and Michael bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Rex was pasty, prematurely balding and terribly overweight; he looked ridiculous stuffed into a camp t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. Rex was the complete opposite of the stereotypical tanned goomba high school bully with slicked back hair that Michael remembered; the only things unchanged were his pushy attitude, big mouth and cold, forbidding eyes.
“Rex” Michael replied coolly. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, I heard ya was back in town, living in a nice big house with your Wall Street job and your perfect little family. Must be nice being you, Mikey Boy – Mr. Quarterback, valedictorian, prom king big shot. Ain’t ya gonna introduce me to your wifey? Hiya, sweetie. What’s your name?”
Michael had always been intimidated by Rex – everyone was – but he wasn’t about to apologize for being successful and he certainly wasn’t going to allow his wife to be insulted or let his kids see him cave.
“Where are my manners? Rex, this is my wife, Kay. Honey, this is Rex Tirano. We went to school together.”
“Kay and Michael – just like from The Godfather. Ain’t that precious? Well, you got yourself a Dino-Mite little lady there, Mikey. A real looker.”
Trying desperately to avoid an unpleasant scene, Kay greeted Rex cordially. “Are those your children, Rex?” Kay asked.
Rex nodded enthusiastically; his kids were almost as big as him and just as neanderthal. They were porcine, slovenly nose pickers practically bursting out of their camp uniforms. Rex beamed proudly as he introduced his kids. “Yeah, this here’s Bruno, then Gino and my little angel Claudia. My wife’s around here somewhere, meetin’ and greetin’.”
“Aren’t you a little old to be wearing a camp uniform?” Jack asked innocently.
“And big?” Luke added, always unable to resist stating the obvious.
Michael wished his sons hadn’t said anything but they was just kids; he had to admit he was curious himself. Well, the cat was out of the bag now and there was nothing Michael could do about it.
Rex glared at Michael. “Whoa, Captain America, don’t tell me there’s something you don’t know!? Dino-Mite!! Allow me to explain: I own this camp! That’s right, Mr. Touchdown, hot shot class president – this is all mine” Rex boasted loudly, stretching out his arms causing his t-shirt to rip under his sweaty pits.
By now Rex’s crowing had attracted a lot of his attention and people rushed over to see what was going on.
Luke whispered to Jack that Rex looked David Banner about to transform into the Incredible Hulk. That was too funny for Jack and both boys started laughing at the sounds of ripping cloth and the sight of huge sweat rings under Rex’s arms.
“Why you little smart asses! Looks like your daddy forgot to teach you some manners so I guess we’re gonna have to. Bruno, Gino, let’s show these two skinny little bean poles what happens when they don’t give proper respect to Rex “Dino-Mite” Tirano.”
Kay started to take a step forward but Michael blocked her; no way was he going to let anything happen to her. Besides, he’d been waiting for this chance for a long time.
“Listen, Rex. We didn’t come here looking for trouble. We just wanted a good camp for our boys where they could be with respectable people with decent attitudes. Apparently we made the wrong choice. You’re right – I didn’t know you owned this place. If I did, we wouldn’t have wasted our time coming here. You may have gotten larger, Rex, but you certainly haven’t grown up!” And with that, Michael turned his back on Rex and began to lead his family out of the camp.
Before Michael could take two steps, Rex grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and took a swing at him. Michael ducked and Rex’s big flabby fist landed squarely on Kay’s face. Everyone gasped loudly and people immediately ran to help Kay. Michael stood protectively in front of his children. A group of men held Rex back while someone yelled for the police; within minutes camp security and the police showed up.
Rex was cuffed and hauled off to the police station; he was charged with assault and battery as well as endangering the welfare of children. Michael was asked if he wanted a restraining order against Rex. “Oh, hell yeah!” said Michael. “I don’t want this beast anywhere near my family“.
The crowd of people started murmuring among themselves. No one really wanted their kids going to Camp Dino-Mite; they were just intimidated by Rex and he bullied every other camp owner into shutting down. He was the only game in town. Now people were no longer afraid to show Rex how they really felt; they tore up their registration checks and pulled their kids out of Camp Dino-Mite.
Michael didn’t give a damn about Rex – it was time he got his due – but he felt awful about what happened to Kay. An ambulance had taken her to the hospital; she had a broken nose and a nasty black eye which she wore with pride. She told Michael it was worth it to bring down a prehistoric galoot like Rex. The kids were in awe of Kay; in fact, everyone was in awe of both Michael and Kay for doing something no one else had the nerve to do – stand up to Rex Tirano.
It turns out the restraining order wasn’t necessary but it was worth it just to see the expression of Rex’s face. After losing the camp and the power he held over people, Rex had nothing left and Kay convinced Michael not to press charges. Rex moved his family to New Jersey, his tail between his legs.
That was the end of the “Tirano Menace” and it didn’t even take a meteor shower to bring him down. No, it was a woman, a manasaur – the so-called “feral, dirty and sweet little girl” who knew how to bare her teeth, show her claws, bang a gong and get it on – since time immemorial! 🦕
The message on the Willoughby’s answering machine came as quite a shock. Roger Willoughby was suddenly facing a life and death scenario. He wasn’t ready.
Roger remembered how it all started a couple of weeks ago when he felt a twinge in his shoulder. Thinking perhaps he slept in a wrong position, he decided to take a soothing hot shower to ease his sore muscles. Afterwards he applied an anti-inflammatory cream and went about his business. The discomfort disappeared and he forgot about it.
A few days later Roger joined his buddies for a round of golf. It was a glorious morning and the foursome decided to play 18 holes instead of 9. Mid-game Roger started feeling sore but continued playing. Later that afternoon he was paying the price. His shoulder was killing him and he could barely move it. The pain was more intense than ever. His wife Muriel said it looked swollen and scheduled an appointment with her doctor. Lord knows, she couldn’t remember the last time Roger had seen a doctor.
After a thorough examination, the doctor arranged for Roger to have an MRI and also set up a consult for him with an orthopedic specialist. In the meantime, Roger was prescribed something for the pain and waited for the results of the scan. The orthopedist told Roger he would call as soon as the results were in.
Coming out of his trance, Roger shook the cobwebs from his head and listened to the message again:
“Mr. & Mrs. Willoughby, this is Dr. Arbor calling. I have the scan results. I was hoping to be able to give you better news but after consulting with my colleagues, we’ve concluded the best course of action would be to treat the affected limb aggressively. I’m sorry to say there’s an extensive amount of an insidious degenerative disease which spreads rapidly if not treated in a timely manner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t caught in time and there’s nothing we can do. Even with treatment the situation is too far gone and I’m afraid we have no other options. I was quite taken aback to see the amount of deep tissue decay. Once that sets in it spreads voraciously and is extremely difficult to treat; in fact, 9 out of 10 cases are inoperable. I know these are drastic measures but we must remove the limb as soon as possible and check to see if the disease has spread further. I’m terribly sorry; I know this isn’t the information you were expecting. I’ll have my assistant call you to make the necessary arrangements.”
Roger was so incredibly shaken by the message, he suddenly felt drained of all energy and his shoulder hurt more than ever. Cradling his arm against his chest, he stumbled into the bedroom to rest and drifted off to sleep. Perhaps it was the pain meds he was taking but he fell into a very deep sleep. An hour or so went by when he was roused by his wife’s voice; she was speaking softly on the phone in the kitchen. Roger felt very groggy and got up for a glass of water. As he drew near the kitchen he could hear what Muriel was saying and he stopped dead in his tracks.
“Yes, Dr.Arbor, I understand there’s nothing you can do. As harsh as it sounds, I believe you are right; we should bypass the limb removal and go straight for termination of life. I was hoping to save the old guy but it’s clear his time is up. Sadly, everything comes to an end. I agree with you there’s no point in dragging it out any longer. As you said, the spread is inevitable. While end of life measures are drastic, removing both limbs is quite radical and seems so cruel when all that would do is prolong the unavoidable. I know Roger will be shocked but I’ll talk to him, make him understand it must be done. Besides, having the old guy gone will free up some space around here, maybe even bring in a handsome new fellow! Yes, let’s do it as soon as possible. I’ll leave everything in your capable hands.”
Roger couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After 40 years of marriage Muriel was ready to toss him into his grave without a second thought. How could she be so cold- hearted, agreeing to end his life without so much as a second thought?
“So, this is what it’s come to, Muriel! How dare you!” Roger bellowed. Muriel was so startled by Roger’s outburst she dropped the platter of chicken and dumplings she’d just prepared for dinner. “When were you going to tell me you and the good doctor were going to do me in? Not even giving me the opportunity to discuss my options. Just chop me up into little pieces and toss me into the compost, why don’t you? I’ve never felt so betrayed and hurt in my whole life. How could you be so heartless? After all these years, I thought I knew you!” Roger collapsed onto the kitchen chair, his head in his hands.
Muriel couldn’t control herself and burst out laughing. Roger stared at her as if a knife had been plunged into his heart. His head was about to explode. Seeing the look on his face, Muriel composed herself; stepping over the spilled food, she pulled up a chair and sat next to Roger.
“Are you finished ranting and raving, you old fool? I’ll have you know that conversation you overheard was between me and Dr. Arbor, the tree surgeon – not your doctor. The old oak in the backyard is infested with some horrible mange and he has to chop it down. We were talking about the tree, Roger, not you. Chopping off limbs and termination of life! Honestly, do you think I have such little regard for you?! You mean everything to me, Roger.“
Husband and wife stared at each other. Muriel sat with her arms crossed while Roger stammered and stuttered looking for the right words.
“So I’m not dying of some rare degenerative disease? What about this pain in my arm?”
”Well, if you gave me half a chance to explain before you started screaming at me you’d know I already spoke to the doctor I dragged you to last week. You’re in pain and you haven’t had an examination in ages so now you’re assuming the worst. Well, it’s a simple case of bursitis in your shoulder, Roger, and all you need is a cortisone shot.”
“Thank God! I was frantic thinking you were going to put me down, Muriel. My entire life flashed before my eyes. Why, I swear my arm feels better already. Maybe I don’t even need a shot after all.”
“Roger Willoughby, don’t you dare try to weasel your way out of this one! We’re going to the doctor tomorrow and that’s final. Now what do you have to say for yourself?”
“What do I have to say? I feel great and I’m starving, Muriel! What’s for dinner?”
Muriel gave Roger a withering look. “What’s for dinner?! Is that what I just heard you say? Well, since our chicken dinner is ruined, you’re eating the next best thing, Roger – crow! You’re eating crow for dinner tonight!Now help me clean up this mess.”
It’s been a while since I did a guest post but today I had to share this very funny read by my friend, Vinny Prest. It had me laughing out loud the morning of my stress test which certainly says a lot! Thanks, Vinny, for taking the edge off my otherwise stressful situation and giving me a good laugh! Hope you all enjoy this as much as I did!
We have a few shopping centres dotted about here in Hull. These kind of places are all very similar aren’t they, same shops, same bright lights. But we have one here slap bang in the middle of a huge council estate in the north of the city that’s been around for years. It’s called North Point, and it’s not for the faint hearted.
As soon as you enter the huge car park you get a sense of unease. Menacing birds circle the car as you open the door. A couple will land on the roof straight away, gazing at you with black beady eyes as if to say ‘Go on! Try moving me!’ This place is that rough they have knuckle dusters on their bony claws. And you can guarantee when you get back the car will be covered. One time I saw a flock of blackbirds nicking a bag of shopping off an unwary customer there….getting away with two frozen pizzas and a garlic bread…..If you get past them then it’s the front doors, which are usually surrounded by a dozen or so people smoking because you can’t smoke inside the building. You hold your breath then try and get through the smokey blue haze, moving as fast as you can, emerging to the other side like a contestant on Stars In Your Eyes. “Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…..stinking of fag ash!”
The place is essential a long covered strip with wonderful emporium’s full of delights. Cheap and cheerful. Well, cheap anyway. It’s not exactly Oxford Street in London but can you get a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich for two quid there? I don’t think so. I’d like to say the locals are down to earth but to be frank they are more subterranean. Like the warlocks from The Time Machine but less friendly.
It’s got a few discount frozen food shops there. A sign of the times. One of them is Jack Fulton’s. I’m not saying they sell out of date stuff but I picked up some eggs, opened them up to check for cracks and six chicks tweeted back at me. Jack’s had a great deal on for the locals around Valentine’s. Frozen kebab meat and chips. An Arctic roll and a bottle of white lighting cider plus a plastic red rose all for five quid. The queue went right around the centre…. twice. Must have been a lot of loving going on that night! One thing is definite, midwives will be rushed off their feet come November.
And then you have the mobility scooters. Its like a race track at weekends and if it’s warm you could almost be at the Monaco grand prix. The start line is next to the doors, a few of them dot their cigs out and bang! They’re off! The powered up pensioners zoom past you zigzagging between the public, racing for the post office, occasionally hitting the bolted down plastic seats or skidding on a patch of melted ice cream. The security men look on, chatting together, arms folded, bored stiff as a kid runs out the vape shop with a few boxes under his arm, straight past the cut out lifesize smiling policeman warning shoplifters will be arrested.
Its a bit like Machu Picchu or The Taj Mahal. You have to see it before you die. From knicker elastic to a Knickerbocker glory you can get it there. If you’re ever up this way give it a go … just bring a gas mask to get through those smokey door.
Just like all people, I have my talents and weaknesses. There are some things I can do very well with pride and great ease. At the same time, there are tasks in life for which I have no talent whatsoever and have zero chance of accomplishing even with someone holding a gun to my head.
It’s been a known fact since elementary school that I’m absolutely terrible at mathematics; I just didn’t have a head for numbers. Having to tackle word problems would make me sick to my stomach and anything beyond basic math would cause me to break out in a cold sweat. It was quite distressing and I’m sure I failed every math test I ever took. There’s no grey area in mathematics, no wiggle room, and I found it to be stifling and utterly confusing. Clearly my left brain was dominated by my right. Eventually the time came for me to study algebra and geometry. The situation was so traumatizing for everyone that the school principal and teachers took pity on me (and themselves). They had a discussion with my parents where it was decided I would be dismissed from further math classes and allowed to concentrate of different subjects. I was granted a pardon from the warden and permitted to double-up on courses such as English, foreign language, music, history or religion.
Two other things I’m really bad at are playing sports and drawing. Can you imagine the humiliation of never being chosen to play on any sports team? I was always the last person standing on the sidelines, staring down at my shoes waiting for my name to be called. Likewise, in art class I couldn’t sketch a decent stick figure or draw a crooked line let alone a straight one and most of my work was unidentifiable, leaving people scratching their heads in bewilderment.
My stronger points lean toward the creative and dramatic, including the ability to learn foreign languages, music, singing, playing the piano and organ, acting, cooking and gardening. If there’s a trivia game, I’m the girl you want on your side. I was always good at fashion and makeup which opened the door for some modeling. I’m also a damn good driver, unafraid of bad weather, 18-wheelers or New York City taxi drivers. And let’s not forget my great love – writing – a true passion realized later in life. I’m good with words and turning a phrase, my imagination is unstoppable and I’ve got fantasizing down to an art form!
While I’ve only been writing in earnest for five years, music has always been a huge part of my life, hence my nickname “Top Alto”.
In school I auditioned for and landed the lead role in every musical. I can sight read any piece of music I’m asked to sing. In fact, when practicing my alto lines at home, I would often play the soprano, tenor and/or bass line on the piano while singing the alto line. It’s not that easy to do but an excellent way to learn your part.
Now, please don’t misunderstand; this is not bragging – it’s simply stating the facts. And if you want a list of other things I can’t do very well I’ll be happy to provide one. Believe me – it’s a long list! But that’s not the purpose of this story. Today I want to tell you about a time I failed at something I normally do very well. I didn’t just fail; I tanked. Royally.
You see, our choir was practicing for a special Mass, one we had been anticipating for weeks. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York, along with a retinue of religious bigwigs and officials, was going to visit our parish and I was chosen to be Leader of Song for the Responsorial Psalm. The melodies of some Responsorial Psalms are complex while others are rather easy. This particular psalm was bordering on ridiculously easy, a tune I could sing in my sleep. It consisted of ten words all chanted on the same note. Let me repeat that: ten words, one note, ridiculously easy. This was not Celine Dion belting out “My Heart Will Go On” while precariously balanced on a replica of The Titanic in Las Vegas.
I practiced a lot; the Mass was a big deal. The Cardinal, previously mentioned bigwigs and a church packed with the faithful as well as TV crews from Catholic Faith Network and Fox News were in attendance. Did I say it was a big deal? Now, I’ve sung at countless Masses in front of packed churches for years; this was a no-brainer!
The choir looked resplendent in robes of red and gold and I was hell bent for leather. Fifteen minutes into the Mass and it’s time for the Responsorial Psalm. Ten words, one note, Top Alto.
The organist played the intro, nodded at me to begin and I opened my mouth to sing. Now, let me just say if I choked and nothing came out of my mouth it would have been preferable to what did come out of my mouth. I, a mature, confident, talented woman, had suddenly been transformed into Alfalfa from The Little Rascals!
This was supposed to be a piece of cake and I was so damn sure of myself. I was ready; I didn’t clear my throat or wet my whistle before singing. Nope, I just plunged into the deep end of the pool.
Ten words, ten frog-like notes, Alfalfa.
Everyone averted their eyes and I couldn’t blame them. To say I was stunned and humiliated is an understatement; I just sort of slunk down into my chair and hid behind my music binder. Why is there never a rock to crawl under when you need one? I couldn’t help wondering if Cardinal Egan was asking himself “WTF was that?”
It’s all water under the bridge since that debacle and it’s something I can laugh about now but at the time I just wanted to croak. Come to think of it, I did!
So yesterday was my birthday. Another trip around the sun. I’m not telling my age but here’s a hint: I was a teenager, albeit a young one, when I saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965.
So what knowledge have I amassed over the years? Plenty, but there’s still room for growth!
I give great advice but rarely listen to my own. That’s a work in constant progress.
I’ve been told I can be intimidating; I like to think of it as having a big personality and being outgoing. Show me a stage and I’ll sing you a song or two or ten.
I have a big heart and wear it on my sleeve. My mouth is just as big as my heart. I say what’s on my mind, tell the truth but try not to hurt anyone’s feelings in the process. I’m not always successful and there has been collateral damage. No excuses.
I have no use for liars, manipulators or abusers of any kind.
I’m not offended if a man opens the door for me, offers me a seat or tells me I look pretty. Men are not the enemy. Perhaps having two sons has made me somewhat biased on that subject but there you have it. Some of my female friends won’t like what I just said. I’ll survive.
I work very well under pressure but can be as lazy as fuck when I want to be.
I curse but never in front of my grandchildren; they will hear enough of that in school, tv and online; they don’t need to hear it from me.
I have an addictive personality and need to rein it in sometimes.
I love writing and think I’m pretty good at it. And I love music but draw the line at Rush.
When I love it’s with my whole being and I have very few regrets – except that one debacle of a date with Martin Kovach. Maybe I’ll write a story about that. Don’t worry; it’s a comedy.
I’m smart and funny (and humble) but I make mistakes frequently and with great flourish. I’m confident, even when making mistakes, and love an audience. Not everyone likes me; no worries – the feeling is mutual. I’m not going to turn myself into a pretzel to get someone to like me; this is it, folks.
I’m usually happy but mostly content. Believe me, you’ll know when I’m unhappy or mad.
If you’re looking for someone to be on your trivia team, I’m your gal. But don’t ever ask me a math question. Seriously. I have the dubious distinction of being the only student in my school (that I’m aware of) to be excused from algebra and allowed to double up on English. The anguish on the part of myself and my teachers just wasn’t worth it.
One drink will make me comfortably numb; two drinks and I’m pretty much drunk. When I was dating, I’d order sloe gin fizzes because they were tasty but they made me drunk and sick to my stomach. I threw up at the end of almost every date with Bill but he married me anyway.
I love my family unconditionally. You think you’ll never love anyone more than your spouse … then you have children and that theory goes right out the window. Then you have grandchildren. Fugetaboutit! These are my baby’s babies – a mind-blowing concept – and I adore them.
I’m proud of my Sicilian heritage. I love the United States but I’m heartbroken and frustrated over what’s happening here.
There’s nothing wrong with saying “no”. My heart and mind are young; my joints not so much so if I say “no” it’s not because I don’t want to; it’s because I’m tired and achy. I’ve got the scars to prove it.
There’s also nothing wrong with saying “I love you” – not to strangers; that’s just weird. But if there’s someone in your life who means the world to you, tell them you love them. Some people get scared when you say “I love you”; it makes them nervous and that’s a shame. Maybe if we all said it more often the world wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.
I have a lot of friends but just a handful of really good, close friends. That’s ok; life isn’t a popularity contest.
When all else fails, listen to The Beatles. Peace and love really are all you need and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.
The year was 1980. My husband Frank and I were excited to be back in Italy to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and Frank’s 30th birthday. Frank was a big sports fan so the timing couldn’t have been better; we would be in Rome for the Italian Golf Open at the prestigious Acquasanta Golf Club.
Founded in 1903 by British Embassy workers, Acquasanta is the oldest golf course in Italy and one of the most memorable places to play anywhere in the world. The club is located along the Appian Way, just a few kilometers from the heart of Rome. The views of the ruins of ancient Roman aqueducts on the front nine are nothing short of spectacular. We planned to spend a beautiful day walking the roughs and watching the tournament; in the evening we would celebrate Frank’s birthday in the elegant dining room.
Fate brought us together in 1974 when we both signed up for a backpacking tour of Europe. We had seats next to each other on the flight from New York and we hit it off great. We were both Italian; Frank spoke the language fluently while I barely knew enough to put a sentence together. The in-flight movie was The Godfather and Frank delighted in translating much of the dialogue for me.
Neither of us knew anyone else on the tour so we spent all our time together, sharing the stories of our lives. We enjoyed each other’s company and found we had much in common. By the time the tour was over, we were in love. We tied the knot in New York in 1975 and now we were back in the place where it all began.
Our first day at Acquasanta was fantastic; the sky was clear, the sun shining and the temperature mild. The place was busy but not overly crowded and everyone looked quite pleased to be there. Smiling, friendly people greeted us with “Ciao! Come stai oggi?”.
We decided to stop at one of the concession stands for a bite to eat; a few bistro tables and chairs were set up for spectators to sit quietly without distracting the players or disturbing the other visitors. Everywhere we looked the scenery was breathtaking with Mediterranean pines, cypresses and eucalyptus trees dotting the undulating terrain.
As I glanced around enjoying the view I couldn’t help noticing a group of men running in the opposite direction of the greens. More and more people joined the group; curious, Frank and I followed. As we got closer we saw a gorgeous young woman wearing a bikini; the sash she wore revealed she was Miss Italy 1980. There was a sign where she stood and a long line of eager men of all ages.
Frank suddenly started roaring with laughter. I asked him what was so funny; he pointed to the sign, doubled over with laughter as tears ran down his face. Practically hyperventilating, he managed to gasp out the words “It seems they got the translations wrong. What it really says is ‘For good luck, Miss Italy will kiss your balls’. It should say ‘kiss your golf balls’!”
I guess they made those men an offer they couldn’t refuse!
“Board the chopper immediately, Eliza! This is our last chance to make it out of here and get to our safe house on the island. Get in now, woman!” Sidney Longstreet screamed at his wife over the roaring of the helicopter blades.
Eliza glared at her husband; she’d had enough of his misguided and imperious representation of women as weak, mindless, shallow creatures in need of a man to rescue them from every situation, no matter how monumental or trivial.
“Year after year I’ve put up with your supercilious attitude. You’re a pompous idiot, Sidney, and I refuse to take orders from you ever again. You can take all your medals and degrees and honors and shove them up your ass!”
Sidney’s veins bulged out of his neck and his face turned purple. The bitch always had a facile tongue but this time she crossed the line, embarrassing him in front of his pilot, crew and most of all, his lovely secretary, Claire Bliss. His mind strayed briefly as he thought of Miss Bliss and how perfectly her name suited her. Did Eliza have any clue of their office dalliances? Well, the fuck if she did! Their very existence was now in jeopardy and he was getting out with or without his wife.
“How dare you talk to me that way! You were nothing but a guttersnipe from Liverpool when I first noticed you. I was the only one who saw a pittance of hope for you – even with your unintelligible Scouse accent hawking flowers on the docks.”
“Sidney, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss how you transformed me into a proper lady. As you keep pointing out, attack is imminent. I’m not leaving here so just take your darling Bliss with you and get the hell out of here. And by the way, I’m keeping the diamonds and furs. When this siege is over, I won’t need you or your money. Now go! I can just make out the sounds of their approach.”
Sidney barely glanced at Eliza as he slid closed the chopper door, giving the pilot the signal to take off. “She’s sealed her own fate. If they find her she’ll be done for. May God help her. Come Claire, sit beside me. You’re safe with me.” Despite everything, Sidney had to admit to himself that Eliza had more fortitude than he did.
Once the chopper was far enough away, Eliza could hear the invaders approaching. She ran into the house and bolted the door, quickly closing all the curtains and turning off the lights. She then entered a hidden wall panel and descended the three flights of stairs to the wine cellar, making sure all the doors were locked behind her.
The underground room was stocked better than delivery day at Tesco! Eliza could live comfortably there for months, perhaps even a year. In addition to all the food and drinks she could possibly need, there was a small stove, refrigerator, bathroom, a comfortable bed, television, internet, heaters and fans. Every amenity was at her disposal. All she had to do was stay calm and quiet.
As if that wasn’t enough, Sidney arranged for the construction of a tunnel which was a means of escape should any intruders make it through the three flights of metal doors into the wine cellar. Eliza patted the pocket of her jeans for the tenth time to make sure she had her cell phone.
She became aware of the faint sound of vehicles approaching and doors slamming. Eliza could hear muffled voices but couldn’t make out a single word. Suddenly there was pounding on the front door and she heard the bellow that made her blood run cold:
“ELIZA! Lizzie, wer are ya? It’s yer dad and mam, Aunty Mimsy and yer cousins Beth, Maureen, Colin and Lil Mick come for the month. Are ya ‘ome? Did ya ferget we was comin’? Sid, ya bastard. Wer are ya?”
Eliza’s father turned to his wife and said “There be norra ‘ere and no sign o’ their cars.”
His wife shrugged indifferently. “Gorra cob on, Tom? Fancy a bit of brekkie in town then? I reckon we can come back later, see if they be ‘ere.’ If not we’ll just bugger off.Who needs ’em?”
“Yeah, sound one, Helen.” Tom spat on the ground. “LIZZIE! Wer are ya, yer fuckin’ Majesty?! We’ll be back!”
Eliza lit a cigarette, flipped on the radio and reclined on the bed. She had no illusions her low-life, demanding, unwelcome family gave a damn about her. She was nothing but their meal ticket. She also knew they’d get good and pissed at the local pub, eventually give up and head home to Liverpool.
Sidney would be in for quite a shock when he discovers the divorce papers waiting for him at the safe house. Eliza’s attorneys did their homework well and had plenty of dirt on Sidney; he’d never contest the divorce and she’d be living a very comfortable life – or perhaps she should say “Blissful”.
“Come in here please, Connor!” I called out to my son.
Connor came bounding into the kitchen. “What’s up, Mom?”
“Have you seen the bag of frozen French fries and the burgers we just bought?”
“Not since we left the store. Aren’t they in that bag on the floor by the fridge with all the other frozen stuff?”
“No” I replied. “I just looked through the bag. Funny, I could have sworn they were right on top. You know, this happened the other day; Dad couldn’t find the box of donuts or the hot dogs.”
“Did you check the receipts, Mom?”
“Yes. Everything was listed, even the missing food. Dad said he was going to call Costco but I’m not sure he did. They obviously forgot to pack those items.”
“Yeah, that store was super busy; I can see how they might have overlooked something. Well, good luck, Mom. If I can help let me know.”
“Actually Connor, there is something you can do for me when you have a minute. There’s a box of old photos you can bring down from the third-floor storage room.”
“Sure, Mom, but I was heading over to Joey’s to play video games for a while. OK if I bring the box down when I get home?”
I gave him a “thumbs up”.
I texted my husband to see if he had called Costco; he replied with an eye-roll emoji and wrote that he totally forgot about calling. “OK, no worries. I’ll handle it” I texted back. Now to call the store about my dilemma.
After speaking to a couple of people and being put on hold several times, I was assured nothing was left behind at the store. The manager said I could bring in my receipts and they’d issue a refund. That was fine with me but it still didn’t explain what happened to our lost items.
When Connor came home, he went straight into the den to watch TV. “Excuse me, bud. Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked at me with a blank face. “My photos?”
Smacking his forehead and groaning, Connor headed upstairs. “And don’t forget to walk the dog!” I called after him.
Not even a minute went by before I heard Connor yelling for me.
“Mom! Come up here – quick!”
I raced up the stairs.
“What’s wrong? Are you OK?” I asked nervously.
“I’m fine, Mom. I heard noises in here; check this out.”
We entered a guest bathroom which we never used.
“Look what I found” he said. Balanced on the edge of the bathtub was our missing bag of French fries – half-eaten.
“What’s going on here?”
“Take a look.” Connor drew back the shower curtain. Peering over the edge of the tub was our golden retriever, Rebel, moaning. Surrounding him were the empty packages of all our missing food. He look at us with those big sad doggy eyes.
“Oh, Rebel! What have you done?” I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. “You little thief! Poor baby. Sounds like you gave yourself a nasty bellyache. C’mon boy, let’s get you to the vet. It’s gonna be OK.”
He really wasn’t a king; he was the mayor. Well, in truth, he wasn’t even the mayor. His name was Joe Montalbano and he was a royal pain in the ass.
Joe and his wife Pauline were one of the first couples to purchase a house on my street when they were built in 1960. They had a large piece of corner property – plenty of space for their precocious son Joe, Jr. to run around.
Joe was one of those guys who knew everyone and their business and they in turn knew him. A retired firefighter, there wasn’t a store owner, restaurateur or town official who didn’t know Joe. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club, the local beach club, the town pool, the Italian/American Society and the bocce team. He was a scout leader, coached Little League and marched in every parade. He also attended monthly town meetings and made his opinions known loud and clear. Joe had a lot of opinions.
Joe was the self-appointed inspector of our street. He would drive around in his maroon Bonneville doing 5 miles per hour checking every house for scofflaws. Now if Joe was doing this as some sort of community watch program to protect our little street, well that would have been fine. But that was not what motivated Joe. He was a busybody looking to make trouble wherever he could. Joe wasn’t happy unless he made his neighbors miserable.
If someone was doing a little home improvement, perhaps putting in a patio or cutting down a tree, that person better have a permit taped to the window and all the necessary papers in order. Joe would go out of his way to schmooze it up with the homeowners, make seemingly friendly small-talk and if everything wasn’t kosher, he’d sniff it out and report it to the town supervisor. Nice, right?
So, let’s say the poor schmo didn’t have a permit. He’d have to tear down any new construction he did on his own, apply for a permit and pay a hefty fine. Then if any new construction was approved, he’d have to hire someone to do the job and end up paying out the nose for work he could have done himself! But wait. If the construction wasn’t approved, then everything would come to a screeching halt anyway. And God forbid the building examiner found some unauthorized work that had been done years before; it would all have to come down. Good bye to that ‘illegal‘ den the family has been enjoying the last ten years. Thanks, Joe!
Once – and only once – I parked my car in front of my house facing the wrong direction. I wasn’t going to stay long; just enough time to use the bathroom and gather my dry cleaning. I couldn’t have been inside more than ten minutes when I noticed a police car out front. I ran outside but he cop was just pulling away and he had left me an unpleasant surprise – a ticket for “car facing wrong way while parked”. Who even knew that was a law? Apparently it is and I broke it to the tune of $150! Thanks, Joe!
Let’s talk about garbage for a minute. Collection days on my street are Monday and Thursday; we’re supposed to put our trash out in the morning on those days. God help the person who put their garbage out the night before! Good old snitch Joe would call the sanitation department. You can bet your sweet ass that person would get a serious reprimand and have to drag their trash back into the house. And if it happened again, a lovely fine would be doled out instead of a warning. Thanks again, inspector!
Everyone likes a little party occasionally, am I right? The Fourth of July, Super Bowl, graduation; these are times to celebrate. Invite some friends over, fire up the grill, have a few drinks, play a little music, talk, laugh, maybe even do some karaoke – that’s what people do at parties. Now, there’s a cut-off time for noise in the neighborhood; everything needs to end by 11:00 PM. So let’s say you’re on the front porch saying farewell to the last of your guests and it’s 11:08. Guess who pulls up in front of your house – Officer Krupke with his little ticket book and a big shit-eating grin, that’s who. “Is there a problem, officer?” you ask innocently. “Disturbing the peace by breaking the town noise ordinance” the cop replies as he taps his watch and hands you a summons. “You have a good night now.” You don’t have to ask who ratted you out; he must have all official phone numbers on speed dial.
That’s what Joe did; he went out of his way to make his neighbor’s lives miserable, all in the name of due diligence. Nice guy, that Joe.
So, years later when Joe finally kicked the bucket, everyone except the people who lived on our street went into mourning. The funeral was worthy of Vito Corleone! The fire department, the police department, the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club and the bocce team pulled out all the stops and paid for the biggest funeral with the longest limos, the most flowers and best catering the town could provide.
But our little street was cheerful as usual – not that we were necessarily happy that Joe was dead – oh, no no no! It was more a sense of relief knowing “Inspector Montalbano” wasn’t breathing down our necks … or anywhere else, for that matter.
Well, that sense of sweet relief lasted about a week. That’s when we saw the familiar maroon Bonneville crawling down the street at 5 miles per hour. And who was behind the wheel? Why, it was Joe, Jr.
On February 11, 1960, Jack Paar famously walked off his show for a month at NBC. Paar abruptly quit The Tonight Show four minutes into programming after discovering that a joke of his that included the letters “W.C.”, meaning “water closet” (a polite term for a flush toilet) had been censored. As he left his desk he said, “I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way than this to make a living.”
Paar returned to the show on March 7, 1960, strolled onstage, struck a pose and looked right into the camera. “As I was saying”, he said “before I was interrupted.” Of course, the audience erupted in applause.
He continued, “When I walked off I said there must be a better way to make a living. Well, I’ve looked and there isn’t. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I’m totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business but I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past. Any who are maligned will find this show a place to come and tell their story. There will be a rock in every snowball and I plan to continue exactly what I started out to do. I hope you will find it interesting.”
Jack Paar hosted The Tonight Show from 1957-1962. He took over the show from Steve Allen and then passed the comedic torch to newcomer Johnny Carson. At the time, Paar was called “The King of Late Night TV”. When Johnny Carson became host, he humbly settled for being called “The Prince of Late Night TV”. Paar retired in 1965. When asked why he didn’t do more television, he replied “I’ve said everything I want to say and meteveryone I want to meet. Why hang around?” His trademark catchphrase was “I kid you not!”
As a teenager I remember coming across a book on one of the shelves in our living room called “I Kid You Not“; the author was Jack Paar. The infamous W.C. joke was in that book. Even as a teenager I roared with uncontrollable laughter as I read it, tears streaming down my face. I hope you will find the joke as funny as I did. Have some tissues ready for those tears of laughter!
THE HARMLESS W.C. JOKE THAT CAUSED ALL THAT TROUBLE
An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room for a more extended stay and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms and when everything was settled the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move.
When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a W.C. around the place. She immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there was a W.C. near the room.
The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tried to discover the meaning of the letters W.C. and the only solution they could come up with was the Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote the following note to the English lady:
Dear Madam: I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding about 230 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday. As there are a great number of people who are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early although, as a rule, there is plenty of standing room. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and makea day of it, while others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time.I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is musical accompaniment. Itmay interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband.I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was incredible to see theexpressions on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people since theybelieve it is a long-felt need. My wife is rather delicate and has trouble attending regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone.For the children there is a special time and place so they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain, Sincerely, The Schoolmaster
“Mohammedan-owned Chinese/Tai/Himalayan/Middle Eastern/Indian restaurant – well, you certainly don’t see too many of those in Lancaster, Pennsylvania but there it is right in the heart of the downtown dining district. This meeting of culinary minds is definitely intriguing and what an original and humorous name – ‘Tasty Balls’. That caught my eye and gave me a good laugh as I read about the new exotic fusion restaurant in the newspaper.
I wondered if my wife Judith intentionally left the paper on the kitchen table conveniently opened to the dining section for me to see. Judith has many fine attributes; subtlety is not one of them.
We met soon after I graduated college. I took a year off to backpack my way through Asia and the Middle East. Money was tight so I had to be frugal while traveling; that’s how I learned to find really good food at cheap prices.
While trekking through China, I stopped at a noodle and dumpling place. I was drawn to the sound of feminine laughter coming from the next table. There were two pretty blondes who looked to be around my age; I asked if I could join them and they agreed. Judith and Eunice were cousins from England on holiday. I hit it off quite well with Judith and we agreed to meet the next night for dinner. After that night we knew we wanted to be together and the rest, as they say, is history.
As I continued reading the article, I learned this new restaurant was operated by the same people who managed a nearby tea house called ‘The Barefoot Magpie’ – another place I’d never heard of. How can this be? I’ve lived in Lancaster all my life and thought I knew every place there was to eat. Obviously I haven’t been getting out enough lately.
What’s this? ‘Tasty Balls’ serves only one item: dumplings. What made it so special was the staggering number of varieties of dumplings on the menu. Now I knew without a doubt that Judith left this article here for me to stumble upon; she knows I am the world’s biggest sucker for dumplings!
Well now, let’s see what else the article says: “Extravagantly yet handsomely decorated … moderately priced … perfectly prepared dumplings … culinary delight.” My stomach rumbled and my mouth watered as I read a description of just a tiny sampling of dumplings offered at ‘Tasty Balls’:
Jiaozi – A Chinese dumpling consisting of delicately sautéed ground meat and chopped vegetables wrapped into a thinly rolled dough-ball which is then fried to a golden brown or gently steamed.
Xiaolongbao – A Taiwanese delicacy, this steamed dumpling has meat and broth inside. The small, succulent orb is meant to be eaten whole; one bite and the fortunate diner’s mouth is filled with liquid ambrosia.
Momos – A staple from Tibet and Nepal, these delectable pouches are filled with yak, beef or chicken and have become an obsession with the patrons at ‘Tasty Balls’.
Shish Barak – Middle Eastern ravioli-like envelopes filled with seasoned lamb, onion and pine nuts, these piquant squares are boiled, baked or fried and served in a warm yogurt sauce with melted mint butter and a garnish of chopped cashew nuts.
Muthia – This Indian delight consists of chickpea flour, turmeric, chili powder, curry powder and salt bonded together with oil. Once shaped, these fritters can either be fried or steamed, depending on personal preference.
Luqaimat – Originally from Saudi Arabia, this luscious dessert translates into “small bites”. Found in many Middle Eastern countries, this is a treat of fried dough sweetened with date syrup and garnished with sesame seeds. With a scoop of pistachio ice cream, this is a delightful end to an unforgettable meal.
I suddenly realized the newspaper was wet; either I was salivating over the scrumptious description of dumplings or I was crying tears of joy that this heaven-sent restaurant was now located in little old Lancaster. Oh, what joy, what rapture!
Judith came into the kitchen, took one look at my face and asked “What in the world has come over you?”
Holding up the soggy newspaper I exclaimed “This – as if you didn’t know, you little minx! Tempting me with an article about delectable dumplings. Well, it worked. It’s ‘Tasty Balls’ tonight!”
“Oh, I don’t think so, luv” Judith laughed. “That’s Cousin Eunice’s. She must have left it behind when she returned to the UK after her visit. That paper is from Lancaster, England!
Weighed myself on the bathroom scale today. I gained fifteen pounds. No goddamn way! Eatin’ Dunkin Donuts – now what you gonna do? With an ass that big no man will look at you.
Planned a two-week vacation in the land of Eritrea. Lookin’ like a tub of lard they just might mistake ya For an elephant, a rhino, or a hippo or a pig. Why’d I ever let myself get so fucking big!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.
Suppose I could put myself on a damn diet. I really don’t wanna cos I know I won’t like it. Why don’t I just get a pass to my local gym? Hop right on the treadmill and get myself slim.
Lots of them gym rats look mighty hunky; Maybe one or two will like a girl who’s chunky. But working out will have me sweating like crazy. Fact of the matter is I’m just too goddamn lazy!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.
Got me a pair of some violet spandex pants But I didn’t look like JLO when she does a sexy dance. I looked like a balloon in the Christmas Day parade Or a big fat ass clown in the penny arcade.
At the gym was some guy called Aristophanes, All greased up and looking pretty as you please. This guy was hotter than melting candle wax. I wanna take him home, give his ass a few smacks.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.
I started warmin’ up and I know I caught his eye Cos he walked right up to me saying “My, oh my! You are one fine mama in those pants so tight. Let’s blow this joint and have some fun tonight!”
I said “Oh yeah, baby. You lookin’ mighty hot. Come back to my place and show me what you got.” But when we got home he couldn’t get my pants off He was a-huffin’ and a-puffin’ like Sir Peter Ustinov.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap. Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.
My ass got so big it filled up my recliner And here I was thinkin’ I looked even finer Than Kim Kardashian and her big ass sister too But I was plenty wrong! Oh, what’s a girl to do?
Now wait just a minute – there still may be some hope. That guy called Aristophanes thought I looked so dope. I’ll go back to the gym in spandex all a-glitter And this time they will have a nice long zipper!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Let’s cut out all this drama! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m a phat ass mama! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Let’s cut out all this drama! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Just call me when you wanna!
We’ve all heard the expression “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”. Well, if you were ever around the vicinity of Hawkins Street on City Island in The Bronx, particularly 50-something years ago, you’d agree that statement is true.
You see, back then John and Gertrude and their four kids lived on Hawkins Street in a cute little white saltbox house with blue trim – emphasis on little as are most houses on City Island, many of which were originally built of wood from dismantled ships. The main entrance to the house was a glass enclosed front porch maybe about five feet deep and 20 feet wide. Inside the porch was a door that led to the living room; for some reason no one ever used the front door. Everyone entered through a side door near the back of the house down the driveway – probably because it was easy to just get out of the car and walk a few feet to the side door.
That side door opened onto a long narrow unheated porch where Gertrude would store fruits and vegetables and other sundry food items. The porch ran almost the entire length of the house and opened directly into the kitchen. From there, heading toward the front of the house, you’d find the dining room, a small step up into the living room and the previously mentioned front porch. A staircase leading to the second floor was situated between the living room and dining room. Upstairs were two bedrooms and single bathroom for six people. One bedroom was John and Gertrude’s; the other was shared by their four kids. The three boys had the main area and their sister’s “room” was a small section off the boy’s room that was originally a closet. The only entry into the girl’s bedroom was through her brother’s room – certainly not much privacy. The house had no attic, basement or any other storage area.
To say the house was “cozy” is an understatement but they managed. It was a happy house and it served them well.
John worked for the New Haven Railroad at the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the largest wholesale produce market in the United States. One of the perks of John’s job was he got to bring home leftover fruit, vegetables and other items that got left behind or “fell off the trains” – a real bonus for a family of six living on one income. Whatever John brought home, Gertrude didn’t have to buy at the grocery store and could spend a bit more on meat and other staples. Gertrude knew how to stretch a dollar and once in a while the family would enjoy a nice steak. There was a cute little dog named Fluff who lived across the street. He’d come running whenever John lit the grill and waited patiently till the end of the meal for the steak bones. If there was one thing John really enjoyed it was getting a good fire going in the old grill.
Gertrude had a clothesline that ran from the back of the house across the yard to the opposite side where it was attached to a section of the wooden mast from the America’s Cup contender “Vanitie”. Hauled up at Jacob’s Shipyard on City Island, “Vanitie” had been dismantled and stripped of everything, even her bowsprit. Nothing remained but the hull and mast of the once beautiful sloop; how that section of the mast ended up in the backyard at 93 Hawkins Street was a mystery to the family but it sure was a conversation piece. Surrounding the mast were a number of cherry and fig trees and an assortment of bushes. Off to the side was an old shack which was barely standing.
One day John decided it would be an easy and enjoyable task for a fire-lover such as himself to get rid of the shack by burning it piece by piece on the grill instead of dismantling the whole thing and lugging all the pieces of wood and shingles to the junkyard. After all, he burned all the detritus in the garage – why not the shed?
The smell was terribly acrid and the amount of smoke was enough for neighbors to call the fire department several times until they finally realized it was just John burning pieces of the shack. Some men spent their spare time constructing additions to their houses; John incinerated dilapidated outbuildings of his house. Fire is mesmerizing and he was getting the job done, albeit in an unconventional manner.
Over the course of several months that old shack gradually disappeared. On the last day of the sacrifice by fire, John got a bit carried away and loaded up the grill with the last remaining pieces. Well, I think you can guess what happened next.
The flames grew higher and one spark leapt up and kissed Gertrude’s clothesline, setting it and all the drying laundry ablaze. The fire continued down to the end of the line, igniting the trees and a few surrounding bushes; somehow the old resolute mast miraculously escaped damage. Hearing Fluff barking his head off, Gertrude looked out the window to see John desperately trying to salvage what he could of the backyard. Billowing clouds of dark smoke filled the sky above Hawkins Street and beyond.
Gertrude ran to the phone to call the fire department; so did a dozen other people. Thank goodness they didn’t simply think “Oh, that’s just John at the grill again”. The fire trucks arrived in time to salvage what was left of the yard. The same, however, could not be said for John’s sorely wounded pride.
Fifty-plus years later and we’re still talking and laughing about my father-in-law John’s adventures at the grill.
While I may have exaggerated the facts a bit, there no denying that this story was truly written in loving memory of my father-in-law and mother-in-law John and Gertrude Richy, both taken from us much too soon. My affection for them could never be exaggerated. ❤️
The annual Burning Man Festival is traditionally held from the end of August through Labor Day which is why I chose this date to publish my story.
Maximus Gluteus caught a glimpse of his reflection on a sheet of polished tin which his wife Labia used as a mirror. He had really let himself go! He was a disgrace, not just to himself but the entire world of gladiators.
Originally known as Maximus Biceptis, he was no longer the god-like hero of the stadium. Where was that former champion of the amphitheater? Gone were the defined, well-built curves visible through his tunic, the muscles straining against the fabric at the forearms, biceps and chest. His sculpted calves, broad back and wide neck were flaccid, as were other parts of his anatomy which Labia was quick to point out.
Maximus was not only popular with the general public; he was greatly admired by the Roman emperor Sartorius. He won many battles against highly skilled adversaries. Sartorius was particularly impressed by his heroics and rewarded him with more palaces and riches than he could have asked for. Sartorius went so far as to give Maximus his prized solid gold chariot and team of Berber horses.
If anyone knew how to have a good time it was the worshipers of Bacchus, the god of wine. Maximus and Labia threw lavish Bacchanalia where debaucheries of every kind were practiced freely and enjoyed by all. Members of the cult would spend uninhibited all-nighters dancing, watching circus performers, feasting on fattening foods and decadent desserts, engaging in wild sex and, of course, drinking themselves into a stupor. Surfeited with too much wine, they could be awoken only by the cacophony of the servants crashing cymbals.
Labia, a once-famous gladiatrix, was considered an exotic rarity by her audience. Attempting to maintain her impressively athletic yet feminine physique, she exercised frequently in the gymnasium and swam in the warm baths. Maximus, however, had become lazy and spiritless. He encamped himself in the large atria overlooking the Mediterranean, reclining for hours on end in the lavish gardens which had been planted with olive and fig trees, grape orchards, almonds, walnuts and chestnuts, oranges and tomatoes, etc.
Maximus reveled in the good life, lying on his chaise lounge listening to poetry while the palace harpist played softly. Naked dancing nymphs performed for him, slaves fanned him with exquisite peacock feathers and beautiful servant girls fed him cheese, pheasant, figs dipped in honey, meaty chestnuts and wine. A life of gluttony and pleasure suited Maximus; he was a well sated man.
Maximus became so fat, Labia refused to have sex with him. Even his concubines were repulsed by him but knew they had to do the deed or risk being executed. It got so bad, the poor girls resorted to pulling straws to see who would share their master’s bed. The ladies, however, had little to fear; most nights Maximus was so drunk he was in no condition to get it on.
It didn’t take long before Labia began spending more and more time away from the palace. She would go for long walks along the seashore with her beloved greyhounds, Laconia and Molossia. It was during one of those walks that Labia first laid eyes on the newest and most popular gladiator who recently transferred to Rome – Maximus Erectus.
He was quite a sight to behold, especially when exercising naked on the beach. To say that he was well-built was an understatement. Erectus was perfection from head to toe. Tall, blond and powerfully built, sinewy muscles rippled down his arms and legs and across his Herculean back and chest. He was broad-shouldered with a flat, rock-hard abdomen. His body was bronzed from the sun and glistened with sweat. He was one ripped Roman.
Labia stared transfixed at the spectacle before her; even the dogs sat in quiet attention. Finishing up his routine, Erectus ran toward the sea, jumped into the waves and swam for a while. When he came out, he spotted Labia standing on the beach watching him. Without any hesitation or embarrassment, he walked directly to her. Smiling broadly, he reached down and patted Laconia and Molossia, laughing as they responded by happily wagging their tails. Labia’s tail had already begun to wag.
The two struck up a conversation. All the while they were speaking Labia’s eyes kept drifting down toward Erectus’ magnificent member which seemed to take on a life of its own. When Labia mentioned she, too, enjoyed exercising and swimming, Erectus commented that she looked like she was in terrific shape and invited her to join him on the beach whenever she desired a partner.
Now, there’s no denying Labia had a few years on Erectus, but she was still firm and supple. She decided to join him on the beach the following week; it wasn’t long before the duo became partners in every way.
Labia packed her bags and left Maximus Gluteus for her new lover. Tossing everything into the golden chariot, she clicked her tongue and the team of Berbers trotted off. Labia laughed gaily as she shouted, “So long, you big fat ass!”
But Maximus Gluteus was too drunk to hear her.
Footnote: Emperor Sartorius had a dream that he would be overthrown. He consulted the wisest philosophers and dream interpreters who all agreed this would indeed be his fate. Fearing torture and a slow death at the hands of his enemies, Sartorius made it known that should such an uprising occur, Maximus Gluteus was to be summoned to execute him; he trusted Maximus would end his life as quickly and painlessly as possible. Sartorius was eventually overthrown and Maximus was called. However, since Labia had absconded with the golden chariot, Maximus had no choice but to travel to Sartorius’ palace on foot. Alas, his massive weight slowed him down so much, Maximus did not arrive in time to save Sartorius from an excrutiating death. Due to that unfortunate event, the expression “Lardum Asina” came about. Today we know it as “Lard Ass”.
I don’t really think of myself as a thief; I’m more of what you’d call an “exchanger“. Has a nicer ring to it, doesn’t it?
See, here’s the deal: I take other people’s lunches from the refrigerators at work and replace them with mine. That’s not really stealing; it’s more like sharing without the other person knowing – kind of like a one-sided Secret Santa.
I’m a terrible cook. The staples in my house usually consist of protein bars, crackers, peanut butter, and microwave popcorn. Even if I could cook, I don’t make enough money in my nowhere job to stock up on the kinds of foods I like to eat.
My job is to deliver the mail to the different departments for the company where I work. There are 15 floors in the building and each floor has two kitchens where the employees can eat their lunch, so I have 30 refrigerators to look through every day. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s pretty easy to get away with if you do it right.
So far I’ve been lucky; I haven’t been nabbed taking anyone’s lunch. And, as I said, I always leave something in its place. Of course, it’s usually a protein bar or peanut butter on crackers but it’s something.
You wouldn’t believe some of the food people bring in for lunch – leftover veal parmigiana with pasta and salad, a nice piece of steak with vegetables, a giant roast beef sandwich – I’m talking real food! One day somebody brought in an entire rotisserie chicken with biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy – the whole nine yards!
I’m not allowed to leave the mail cart unattended; I could lose my job over that. I put my meager lunch on the bottom rack of the mail cart and when no one’s around I go into one of the kitchens and make a quick switcheroo. I always have my water bottle with me so it just looks like I’m in the kitchen refilling my bottle. Unless someone is watching me, there’s no way to know it’s me swapping out the lunches.
The trick is not to look out of place which isn’t hard because no one ever pays attention to an insignificant nobody like me. I’m practically invisible. I’d be shocked if anyone at work knew my name. I’m just “the mail guy”.
I casually wheel the mail cart into the kitchen, snatch something from the fridge and fill my water bottle. I hightail it out of there, leave that floor and head to a different kitchen where I heat up my pilfered lunch. After that I walk to a park by the water. Lots of people eat at the park and nobody knows me. If it’s raining, then I just eat lunch in my old Dodge in the company parking garage. People are constantly coming and going in that garage so I’m just another face in the crowd
My second job at Bob’s Barbecue Pit is where I eat dinner. The pay isn’t great but Bob’s an okay guy; he knows we’re all struggling and he lets us eat for free.
On Friday everything went off without a hitch. I grabbed a lunch, skedaddled outta there and headed for the park. Lunch was great – turkey, Swiss and avocado on a roll, a bag of chips and the biggest brownie I’d ever seen. Just as I was about to toss my garbage, I noticed the name “Chris Phillips” on the bag. Thank you, Chris, for a delicious lunch!
I finished the afternoon rounds, then headed over The Pit but I wasn’t even half-way there when my stomach started churning and I began getting bad cramps. I knew I had to get to a bathroom fast so I decided to go home. I made it just in time! I had the worst diarrhea ever! I spent Friday night and Saturday in the bathroom and all of Sunday recuperating. That’s when I realized it had to be the brownie! I bet Chris took a chance that his lunch would be swiped and he loaded the brownie mix with Ex Lax.
That rat bastard! This called for retaliation!
All week long I thought about how I could get back at Chris, but was it really worth it?
Maybe it was time for me to move on, try to find a better job, earn more money.
Or maybe I could find the perfect payback for that weasel Chris. After all – I do like my sweets and revenge is the sweetest of all!
Thanks to a similar story by my friend John Holton (see below), I’m submitting this post to Fandango’s One Word Challenge. The prompt word is “chop”. I’m also feeling mixed emotions for I see our recently departed friend Hobbo commented on my story when I originally wrote it last year. RIP Hobbo.
When I became pregnant with my first baby in 1977, my husband Bill and I were over the moon! We were thrilled and dove headfirst into the whole pregnancy phenomenon – buying furniture and clothes and setting up a nursery. At the time I was 26 years old, weighed 105 pounds and stood 5’4” tall.
Throughout my pregnancy I craved barbecued hamburgers, fresh tomatoes and hot fudge ice cream sundaes every day. After nine months, I gained a whopping 72 pounds and at some point had to remove my wedding ring because my fingers were getting swollen.
Who cared if pregnancy gave me cankles and made my fingers swell? It also made my boobs huge and turned me into a nymphomaniac – a little perk my husband didn’t mind one bit! Besides, as soon as the baby was born I’d lose the weight. I thought I’d immediately jump back into my tiny Jordache jeans and halter tops. How naive I was! It came as quite a shock to discover I could only fit into maternity clothes after giving birth. I suddenly didn’t feel quite so sexy anymore!
A couple of weeks after the baby was born, we were invited to a Christmas Eve party. It had been a while since we’d been out so I was looking forward to slipping into my fanciest maternity outfit and sliding my ring back on. I wanted to look pretty and festive and it seemed like a good idea at the time but no sooner was my substantial solid gold wedding ring back on when my finger began to swell. Before my eyes it tripled in size and went from various shades of pink to red to finally a pulsating, throbbing blueish purple. And it started to hurt like a son of a bitch, too.
I immediately ran cold water over my hand but the ring wouldn’t budge. Bill filled a bowl with water and ice and I soaked my hand until I lost all feeling. No luck. We tried scrubbing with lots of soap and water – nothing. We dragged out every sort of lubricant we could think of from WD-40 to KY Jelly to olive oil. We even tried the “string thing” (don’t ask; that’s another story). Bill lovingly suggested I try to relax and take deep breaths while he pulled on the ring. I screamed at him to “fuck off” because “This wasn’t Lamaze Class and I felt like I was giving birth again.” Nothing worked. I was now in agony and convinced my finger would eventually shrivel up, die and fall off. Or even worse, we’d have to chop it off. Neither option was appealing.
There was only one thing left to do. I told Bill to take the baby to the party while I went to the hospital. Hopefully they’d give me a shot to reduce the swelling. When the nurse noticed my maternity clothes, she told me I was in the wrong section of the hospital and directed me to Labor and Delivery. I informed her that I was no longer pregnant and showed her my ever-expanding finger; she immediately dragged me into the ER.
Doogie Howser, M.D. and his assistants took one look at my digit, gasped and scratched their heads, perplexed. When you’re on the receiving end of that horrified reaction coming from professionals trained to remove knives lodged in skulls and vibrators stuck in various body orifices, it’s not a good feeling. Excusing themselves, the doctors stepped out of the room, consulted for ten seconds and returned with the verdict: “We have no choice but to cut it off.”
“MY FINGER??” I gasped.
“No, silly. The ring” they laughed. “We’re going to get Jerry and Ares. If he can’t cut it off, no one can” replied onedoctor twittering like a giddy school girl. It took every ounce of self-control to keep from shouting “Shut up, you fucking idiot!”
“And who, may I ask, are Jerry and Ares?” I asked through my pain.
“Jerry is our top custodian and Ares is the strongest 8” mini bolt cutter in his toolbox.”
That statement was not exactly reassuring.
Within minutes Jerry appeared; a sparkling red tool which I was pretty sure was Ares dangled prominently from his belt. I was also pretty sure Jerry had just smoked a joint but, hey, he was the best and given my predicament, beggars can’t be choosers. Jerry examined my finger, made all sorts of grumbling noises and proceeded to sterilize Ares before he scrubbed up.
At last the moment of truth arrived. Jerry told me to turn my hand, palm facing up and “spread ‘em”. I assumed he meant my fingers and did as instructed. Jerry made the Sign of the Cross, kissed Ares and with the precision of a neurosurgeon gently slid Ares between my finger and my ring.
One loud “snip” was all it took and the back of my ring was cut clear through. Jerry broke out his mini pliers and separated the ring enough to remove it from my finger. We all let out a collective sigh of relief. Tragedy averted.
In case you’re wondering, I never got the ring repaired. It sits in my jewelry box as a reminder that even though something may seem like a good idea at the time, that isn’t always the case.