First Gift (A throwback from 2013)

My first gift to my Mother-in-law was somewhat unplanned.

I met my future wife in college even though we had spent four previous Thanksgivings together without realizing it.  We went to rival High Schools for four years prior to meeting.  She was in the band front and I played the saxophone in the marching band.  Our schools played every year on Thanksgiving.  I was a pacifist from Lakewood and she twirled a rifle for Toms River South.  Had we met earlier, it is unlikely we would have hit it off.

Eventually, on a weekend that we both came home, I went to her house to have dinner with her Mother.  I had arrived before Marie got home from work and my future bride, Theresa handed me the remote so I might watch some TV while she worked in the kitchen.  I flipped for a few minutes before coming across a cartoon show.  I have been a fan of cartoons my whole life, particularly the work of the masters such as Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Wile E. Coyote.  A cartoon came on that I had never seen before.  Later research told me that the cartoon was called “Bad Luck Blackie”, which has since been banned due to an offensive title.  The “Blackie” refers to a black cat and the “bad luck” is a central theme to this animated classic.

The thing that was particularly noteworthy about this cartoon was that it contained a level of violence so severe that Pharaoh, himself would have considered it to be gratuitous.  It begins with a large dog, a typical cartoon bulldog type, who is abusing a cute and tiny white kitten.  Actually, abuse might be too mild of an adjective as the level of malice shown by the dog would easily warrant a TVMA rating by today’s standards for sadism.  At one point, the dog appears to show mercy by giving the cat a bowl of milk as an act of contrition.  Alas, by the third lick, the poor kitten finds a rather large mousetrap smashed onto its tiny tongue.

Eventually Blackie makes his entrance and hands the kitten a whistle.  He explains that when the whistle is blown, he will appear and cross the path of the dog bringing him an appropriate dose of bad luck.  The resultant bad luck always comes in the form of an object falling from the sky and slamming into the head of the offending canine.  The story continues this way and though there are a few reversals of fortune to introduce some themes of Karma and justice, the real entertainment is the escalation of objects falling onto heads.

Starting with a flowerpot, a cash register and a steamer trunk, the sequence quickly escalates to an upright piano, a horse and several dozen bricks.  This is followed by a fire hydrant, a safe and the hackneyed, but obligatory anvil.  This little morality play ends with the dog swallowing the whistle.  This causes a spasm of hiccups resulting in his own personal hell of running through the countryside trying to avoid a continuing barrage including a bathtub, a steamroller, an airplane, a school bus and a battleship.

What makes this cartoon noteworthy is that from the first act of violence, I began to laugh…out loud.  Not only that, but the volume and duration of my laughter escalated with each act of violence on the screen.  Theresa came out to see what was going on, and about halfway through the cartoon, her mother arrived, eager to meet me.  When Theresa tried to introduce her mother, I was only able to hold up my hand as I literally was doubled over with glee.  After it was over, I made a feeble attempt to explain, but these were not cartoon people.  My future Mother-in-law was clearly confused, but was also polite as always.  By the end of the evening, I was able to convince her that I was at worst, eccentric and that her daughter was not dating someone with a mental handicap.

Anyway, back to the gift, that came later.  Marie was a hard working woman who had a domineering father, and an abusive and alcoholic husband and a minimal education.  She often held three jobs to provide her three children with all that she could and even a little more.  She sacrificed more than anyone I know and these sacrifices left her too often somber and just plain worn out.  We have very few photos of her even smiling.  Still, at any family gathering, where the subject of first meetings came up, she had a story.  This story never failed to get Marie to smile and even more, to laugh out loud.  I never meant it as a gift, but nevertheless, it was the first and other than grandchildren, the best I could ever give.

© Copyright 2013 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Corona7:05 AM

Something is different this morning. Yes, my wife is, as usual, sitting up in bed checking her phone. But on this fine March morning, she has deviated from her usual annoying habit of telling me the temperature outside and the temperature where each of our children are living. It’s one of those endearing…actually annoying things people do. My friend Tyrone lives in New Jersey and frequently asks my how much gas costs here in the Triangle of North Carolina as though he might drive eleven hours to save fifteen cents per gallon. What was different today was that my dear wife was giving me a series of news updates on the coronavirus.

This probably is something that previous generations dealt with from time to time. I’m sure my grandparents listened to the morning radio news for updates on the Depression and World War II. My parents were probably glued to their TV screens during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember watching the Today Show every morning during which Frank Blair would update us on the Vietnam War. Even my kids check their online newsfeed every day to keep abreast of the issues that are important to them…like who was revealed on the last episode of The Masked Singer.

8:55 AM

We were headed to a local Bagel place to pick up egg sandwiches to take to a senior living community in nearby Apex. No, we were not going there to feed anyone, rather, we were going to have our taxes done for free by the AARP group. We were going early to get in front of the line as seniors are both early and slow. We figured it was better to sit in the lobby and have breakfast so we’d get out before next year’s tax season.

We passed the hospital along the way and my wife gave a little wave as we passed by. I asked her what that was all about and she said her friend and co-worker was having surgery that day. I asked why she wasn’t at the hospital, and she said, “Are you nuts? That’s the worst place you can be. The hospital is crawling with germs.” She then continued to regale me with a dizzying array of statistics about coronavirus including its spread, impact, incubation and parallels with the flu.

Part of this indoctrination includes the importance of touching your face. There is a rather hilarious video compilation of disease experts, newspersons and politicians speaking at news conferences explaining this and then almost immediately and overtly touching their own faces. It’s kind of like introducing a Gun Control bill while on safari hunting black rhinos.

For some reason, as she is explaining this to me, I mention that she must have touched her face when applying the makeup she is wearing. I also may have mentioned that it seemed that she may have over-applied it this morning. My tactlessness aside, I assured her that I only mentioned it because it rarely happens and it reminded me of the waitress we had in Charlotte last weekend who was surprisingly overly made up for someone so young. This seemed to successfully change the subject, but when I looked up from my phone, she was rubbing her face as though Barack and Michelle Obama popped in unexpectedly during her minstrel show. Mental note…too much makeup overrides health protocols.

9:20 AM

As we walk from the car toward the lobby of the “The Home”, we see an elderly woman coming out wearing a mask. This is the type of mask that has been determined to be completely useless against coronavirus, but still is being hoarded by profiteers and the paranoid. “Wouldn’t this place be almost as bad as a hospital?”, I wonder.

9:30 AM

While we wait, my wife is listing the companies in Seattle that are closing for the next month and allowing people to work at home. She also is reading about how the airline industry is getting murdered since people are reluctant to fly. This is relevant as our daughter in Charlotte is scheduled to fly to Seattle in two weeks to visit her brother, who lives there in the Ballard section. This is starting to concern us.

Westchester County: Man with virus goes to temple. Now dozens are in quarantine.

New Hampshire: Man leaves quarantine to go to event at Dartmouth College.

Seattle: CenturyLink Field vendor test positive for virus.

Now, I am quite confident that my daughter is unlikely to set foot in a temple, and Ivy League campus or an XFL game, but eventually this disease is surely going to make it into brew pubs.

11:45 AM

Our taxes are done and we’re getting a few bucks back. As much as I’d like to needle my wife with a “Thank God for Trump”, I’m already in the doghouse over the makeup comment. I check my Facebook feed and notice a post from a former student who is now a professor in Seattle. He mentioned to someone that he prefers to get his coronavirus information from legitimate scientific sources rather than the media. As a result, the person somehow compared my friend’s approach to acting like Donald Trump. As this clearly made no sense, I was about to post to my friend, the suggestion that he not lower himself into a debate with a lunatic and ignore the bait leading to a pointless argument. Instead, I just posted on his feed, “He’s obviously been infected!!! Burn him!!!”. At least my friend will get a laugh before dying.

Regarding science vs. the fear-mongering media, we had dinner a few nights ago with my son-in-law, who has a PhD in epidemiology, which is basically the study of diseases on populations. There was good news and bad news and quite frankly, I’m not sure which was worse. While Taiwan and Vietnam seem to have put forth an efficient and effective response to the disease, Americans might be in deep doo-doo due to our shitty healthcare system, particularly for the poor, and our equally shitty employee sick-time policies, again, mostly for the poor.

We learned the flu is indeed worse than coronavirus in many ways and that our pitiful impact on fighting the flu does not bode well for this new puppy. Death from coronavirus is pretty much only a threat to those patients under 5 and over 70 years old. The original name of Coronavirus, AKA COVID-19, novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is SARS2. Now you tell me, what was the good news?

2:25 PM

Trump declares that the coronavirus will not be as bad as reported by scientists. His findings are based on “a hunch”.

2:27 PM

Trump cancels his visit to the Center for Disease Control citing “safety concerns”. Another hunch?

4:50 PM

Princess cruise ship carrying thousands is still meandering outside San Francisco Bay as a helicopter drops testing kits. The ship spent two weeks in Mexico and Hawaii (not Asia) and has several ailing crewmembers and passengers. A passenger on the previous cruise on this ship passed away from the virus last week. My wife contacts Royal Caribbean to find out the refund policy for our upcoming cruise in September.

7:15 PM

We try to relax in front of the TV, but it’s not the same. My attempt to hold her hand is met with a spray of hand sanitizer. I gently remind my sweetheart that all of the store shelves have been stripped of this no precious elixir, and we may want to save it to spray the mail, or neighbors. She tries to stifle a cough, a remnant from her cold of last week, but she knows I heard it, and slid to the extreme edge of the sofa.

10:35 PM

We try to put all of this behind us as we snuggle into bed. We know that we will both be reading the overnight reports in the morning. At least we are in this together. We lightly give each other a good night peck before turning away and vigorously rubbing our mouths with a Lysol wipe.

The Itis (A throwback from December of 2013)

My son is a senior in college, so we speak infrequently. I raised him well enough that he stays out of trouble and manages his finances well. As a result, he never calls me. When I do decide to call him, it’s usually between 4:30 and 5:30 PM trying to find a time between his work and classes, and my Early Bird dinner and NCIS. During the rare conversations when he actually picks up the phone, he often mentions having “The Itis”.  It’s at this point that I realize that he only picked up the call because he was in too deep of a stupor to screen it.

“The Itis” is defined in The Urban Dictionary as the drowsy feeling you get after a big meal. Unlike Thanksgiving, where bingeing is combined with tryptophan, a sleep inducing chemical found in turkey, the itis is all about excess. Of course, my son and his generation misuse the term as they do for most of the English language, applying the itis to all forms of bingeing behavior including binge studying, binge drinking, binge tv watching and God only knows what else. What primarily struck me as odd, however, was his use of the definite article “The” in front of the ailment.

I thought about the fact that some diseases or medical conditions seem to be naturally preceded by an article or pronoun while many are not. I recalled my friend Jimmy recently mentioning to me that he had “The Gout”. Instead of commiserating, or asking if it would affect our golf outings, I immediately said, “Dude, Ben Franklin had the gout. I’m pretty sure that you just have gout.” Since golf was out due to Jimmy’s writhing in pain, I decided to look more deeply into this phenomenon.

I have the flu.

I have a cold.

I have cancer.

I suppose if people were to still use influenza rather than flu, they would drop the article. I’m also not sure why it was shortened from four syllables to one. While it is mildly expedient, we do not call leukemia “the Luke” or “the Keem” or impetigo “the Tige”. Also you take a flu shot to prevent the flu. Since it is a specific vaccine to prevent many types of flu, shouldn’t it be “you take the flu shot to prevent a flu?”

There are other difficulties with the definite (the) and indefinite (a) articles. We tend to say that “My kid has the measles”, or “My kid has the mumps” even though it’s unlikely that they have only one, yet one might specify “I’ve got a bum ticker” as though they are relieved to have another as a backup. Hemorrhoids are always plural and are unmodified, while “the red” ass is singular and always uses the definite article. Diarrhea is unmodified, but we say “the trots”, or “the runs”.

Sometimes the specificity of the ailment affects its usage. I am not referring to borderline ailments like “the hiccups” or colloquial euphemisms like “the heebie-jeebies”.  You’d say “I have syphilis”, or “I have gonorrhea”, but if you were being general, you’d say “I have the clap”. I’m pretty sure that either “I have crabs” or “I have the crabs” is acceptable.

I have also found that certain pronouns tend to become attached to particular maladies.  I’m not talking about new-age pronoun usage like “we’re pregnant”. I mean true medical emergencies such as “Doctor, I have this rash”, or “I have this discharge”.

When discussing this with my friend Tyrone, he pointed out that age was not the only factor affecting the way people referred to health-related terms. He said that all of his relatives in or from the South always modify diabetes as “sugar diabetes”. While I do not feel this has the homespun quaintness of “sweet tea”, it seems to include a warning or treatment option in its redundancy. Calling lung cancer “the smoke cancer” certainly would not be less of a deterrent.

I can imagine a conversation between a young doctor from Connecticut doing his residency in a rural Arkansas hospital and an older patient.

“So tell me a little bit about your medical history Mr. Pickett. Do you mind if I call you Cletus?”

“That’d be fine Dr. Steen-burg. I got the sugar diabetes and a touch of the gout, least when it rains a lot.”

“What about your parents?”

“Well, my Daddy died from a bacon stroke.”

“And your Mother?”

“She rolled the tractor clean into the irrigation pond. We never found out was it her heart, the fall, or the drownin’ that killed her. She did have the Crisco coronary artery disease, I reckon.”

“I see. Well, I’m going to need you to stand up and cough for me.”

“Son, I don’t know much about doctorin’, but if you’re thinkin’ ‘bout puttin’ them there fingers on these here testicles, you’re gonna hafta order up a few more doctors.”

I found a few more to add to my list.

The plague

The DTs

The gunshot wound

A fever

A migraine

A coma

This itch

These spots

That virus

I’ll leave it up to you to continue my research. Quite frankly, I’ve got the itis. I hope I can make it to NCIS Los Angeles.

© Copyright 2013 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Window into the Past

I recently went to a consignment shop in Durham with my wife. I saw that they had a large stack of Durham Sun newspapers from the early 1960’s. They were ten cents apiece. I looked through them and picked out about sixty cents worth, figuring that it might be interesting to see what was going on in The Triangle when I was five or six years old and living in New Jersey. I must admit that I found the exercise to be quite illuminating and have decided to share some of my findings. I tried to break the stories up in some sensible groupings.


The earliest of the papers I read were from November 23rd and 24th, 1963, which were the two days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’ve seen dozens


of banner headlines reporting the death and Mourning of JFK, but these provided more insight into the case against Lee Harvey Oswald. 3Ironically, the article in the Sunday paper outlining the case against Oswald was read by many people after Oswald had already been shot and killed by Jack Ruby at 11:21AM Dallas time.2


There was a story about J.D. Tippitt, the police officer shot and killed by Oswald fleeing the Book Depository. Check out the salary and benefits bestowed on a 39-year old cop in a major city with a wife and three kids. Sheesh!






This last one surprised me. Kennedy actually did not pick the route, but did approve it. Sensationalized journalism has obviously been around for a while.






Lyndon Baines Johnson became President quite unexpectedly, but quickly faced the same crap that they do today. 7Here is crap from Fidel Castro, crap about Viet Nam, 9and crap from future opponent for the Presidency, Barry 8Goldwater, who suggested that Johnson would lead us to atomic warfare. Who’d have thought that a Republican would resort to hyperbolic threats to scare voters into choosing him?





Ooh, look! Studebaker is closing its U.S. manufacturing operations. Thank goodness that the auto industry is so strong in 2020.

91Takeaways from today’s Alley Oop… 1.) Mrs. Oop has is pretty sexy in that above-the-knee, strapless loincloth. 2.) She appears to be telling Oop that she is with child. 3.) Oop does not seem happy. 4.) Roe v. Wade is still 20,000 years in the future. In tomorrow’s episode…The Oops go to see the Witch Doctor!!!911

Progress, YES! Political correctness, NOT YET!



Good things to come…912

I see two National Championships in your future.



I have a feeling that this sport will become big someday.







Ray Floyd…22 tour victories, 4 majors, 1 TPC championship, 14 Senior victories, 4 Senior majors.





We were wrong…


Loudmouth Cassius Clay claims to want to fight Liston. Nonsense, he’d be killed. He ain’t all that.



An on-sides kick with 14 seconds left in the first half leading 35-0…and “Perhaps” you made a mistake? You abso-fucking-lutely made a mistake!









You’re wrong, Frank McGuire. Notice that UCLA is undefeated. I’ll bet they win this one and nine more out of the next eleven!








General sports interest918

Hank Aaron leads the league in Slugging Average. I found this odd as for the first half of my life, offensive baseball stats were all about the big three, Home Runs, RBIs and Batting Average. Only recently have Batting Average and RBIs been discredited as being poor measures of offensive performance. Slugging average along with On Base Percentage are much more valued today. The list of leaders includes future Hall-of-Famers Aaron, McCovey, Mays, Matthews, Cepeda and Frank Robinson. Robinson had led the league the previous three years for the Reds who somehow decided to trade him three seasons hence to the Orioles for good-but-not-great pitcher, Milt Pappas. Frank Robinson won a Triple Crown in his first season with the Orioles.

Dick “Night Train” Lane, missing a game? That’s rare. He was one of the toughest players 919to ever grace a football field and was on the NFL’s 75th year All-Time Team. Wait, he’s missing the game due to the death of his wife? She must have been pretty young. Wait, he was married to Dinah Washington…the jazz singer, the best-selling black artist of the 50’s, the Queen of the Blues? How had I never heard of this? I know I was only five, but I have been immersed in both football and jazz for my entire life. He was her seventh (and obviously final) husband. She died in her sleep from an accidental drug overdose of barbiturates. It made me think of other pairings of great athletes and performers. Were they the best? David Beckham and that Spice Girl? Nah, Dinah was much bigger. Brady and Bundchen? A model? Pass. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union? C’mon, she hosts a reality show. Russell Wilson and Ciara? I’ll still take Dinah. J-Lo and A-Rod? Maybe, but they ain’t married yet.


Ooh, a space telescope! Wait, the Hubble telescope won’t be launched for 27 more years. Oh, this telescope fell to earth after the balloons lifting it into space broke free. Yes, a 30-foot-high telescope costing 2.5 million dollars (in 1963 money), was lifted into space using tandem six-story high balloons to lift it high enough to get a better look at Jupiter. What could go wrong?



This sounds high-tech.




This inexpensive advancement in the crotch-related sciences would lead to generations of yeast infections and the subsequent development of Monistat and Vagisil.923



This has nothing to do with technology other than the cool graphic used in the ad. That is a Mercury capsule, the same Friendship 7 one used by John Glenn a year earlier in as the first man to orbit the earth. It has nothing to do with diamonds, but the price is right.




Cape Canaveral is keeping busy with two launches in one day. Sadly, it will be renamed Cape Kennedy in a matter of924 days. In a side note, Aldous Huxley passed away. Besides being a great author, he was also a pacifist and humanist. If only he were alive today to see the amazing progress we have made in these two areas of…oh, wait…never mind…



90 days…for what, you ask? Protesting segregati925on. Yes, two PhD Professors, molders of young minds, jailed for three months for a peaceful protest. Today, rapists who just attend college serve less time. I wonder what murderers got back then…



Nothing! This guy was acquitted of murdering his wife…not just his first wife, either. He already got away killing the first one! Oh, wait…apparently, they were only women. Thankfully, women have achieved full equality in 2020, right?











This is bad…really bad. All of this was during my lifetime. I grew up in a Puerto Rican enclave in a black neighborhood of a very mixed town in New Jersey. This just wasn’t a thing in my life. This want ad was a regular thing in the God-damned newspaper!




This headline seems to have a modicum of progressiveness, but why, Mr. Newspaper Man, are the quotes around the word ‘dissatisfied’? Is this some subtle message that negroes are malingerers or that they have no business being dissatisfied and should be happy to have low-paying jobs? In other words, WTF?

930931Remember the Duke vs. UCLA in the NCAA final thing from earlier? They got there by beating Michigan in the Semi-final game. This was on the front page. The praise of the Wolverines two star players, Cazzie Russell and Bill Buntin was effusive. “These two great Negro stars were unable to turn the tide against well-prepared and smartly coached Duke.” Thankfully, today, basketball stars are no longer called Negros, but well-prepared and smartly coached are sadly, still code words for “White”.


Does anyone eat cottage cheese anymore? Not only does this sound disgusting, the grayscale newsprint photo makes it look even less appealing.

Here are some food prices of the day…




Unsafe at any speed, unsafe at any price.



Free turkey with a car!


Twenty cent sundae…Booyah!!!


$7.50 for snow tires!

954                     Feed 7 for $3.30!952955




Two nights 953for $8.95!


Shoes for 2 bucks!





I just reviewed this play a few months ago. 937It is based on the “Scopes Monkey Trial” about a teacher who was prosecuted for teaching evolution in the classroom. The trial took place in 1925, the play written in 1955, became a movie in 1960, was relevant enough to be performed here in 1964, and sadly, is still relevant today.



I have no explanation for these.





The churches, schools and the local bank were all behind this. We beat polio. What, the Hell is wrong with the anti-vaxers?







Santa is coming…by chopper?

942Surprisingly, none of the vintage versions of these games would be worth much more than fifteen bucks today. This dude, 943however, could go for over a grand today. Nice profit from a $13.88 investment.





9561964 Polara

Worth more today…




I actually have this one.




Here are some other gift ideas…



Memorable Sports Moments


I’d like to try something a bit different. This is an Audience Participation Post. Once in a while, while speaking with friends, the subject of sports participation comes up. I sometimes ask about people’s most memorable sports-related story. It might be participatory, or as a fan. It might be a great triumph or the agony of defeat. Here are some examples…

My first round of golf in Florida was with my house painter at The Carolina Club in Margate. On the par 3 9th hole, I hit a high iron that landed and stuck 4 inches from the pin. I was going to get my first birdie. It

was a steamy August afternoon and before we could even get into our cart to head for the green, the skies opened up for a 20-minute deluge. When I eventually got to the green, my ball sat in an inch-and-a-half puddle of water with the top barely exposed. I tried to putt it, but all I did was soak my golf shoes.

One of my daughters was placed in the leadoff position for the championship game of her rec softball league. She went five for five with three singles and two doubles. I was a proud papa. Some years later when I brought it up to her, she said that she only remembered one thing from that day. She said that she was so nervous that she just decided to swing at the first pitch to get it over with and that she was lucky that the pitcher happened to throw it over the plate.

My other daughter was asked to bunt in a rec league softball game. She fouled the ball into her mouth and the force of the ball caused her braces to become embedded into her lip requiring a trip to the orthodontist.

I have a friend who was a very good high school pitcher. Even with his success, his best memory is snapping off a perfect curveball to an extremely powerful hitter with two strikes on him. He said the ball was less

than two inches off the plate when the batted reached down and golfed the ball some 450 feet, well beyond the outfield fence. He said it was memorable because everybody on the field including his teammates and coach simultaneously went “Ooooooh” and then burst out laughing.

I have a son-in-law who blew out his knee participating in college sports. Unfortunately, it happened while he was circling the court carrying a gigantic flag during a women’s basketball game. He also once received a purple-nurple from Shaq (see below)!


I would like my readers to read my “moment” on the Facebook thread associated with this blogpost. I would further ask you to provide your sports highlight in the thread. It should be fun. If you want to preserve your anonymity of don’t have Facebook access, email me, and I’ll share your story with no name. It would also help if you shared the post with your peeps to expand the fun (and of course, my blog).

Looking back, I was surprised to find that I had a surprising number of sports-related entries previously published herein. Feel free to check them out. Some are elegies, some are nostalgic, some are humorous and some are alleged art.



© Robert O’Connell and, 2011-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full

and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



But I Digress…

20190529_192827It’s been nearly a year since I posted to this blog. I have had a difficult time feeling comedic during that time, and it does not look like things are likely to improve any time soon. I’ve still been writing theater reviews and plays (which I will post soon), but it’s time to get back to the blog, novels, and short stories that have been building up in my brain. For my small number of fans, I thank you for your patience…and for the rest of you, my profound apologies.

It is a Tuesday morning here in the Triangle, and I am on my way from my home in Cary, NC, just outside of Raleigh, and headed for Durham, approximately 25 miles to the northwest. For those who are unaware of the local geography, the Triangle is the area bounded by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, homes to NC State, Duke and UNC, respectively. The traffic here is nothing compared to my previous areas of residence in North Jersey and South Florida, but it can be bad at rush hour. It was also raining quite heavily.

You may wonder why an unemployed person would choose to travel in the rain or at rush hour, let alone both. In a nutshell, I’m trying to be a good uncle. My niece moved to Durham from New Mexico over the Summer to start a doctoral program at Duke University. She also is working full-time as a midwife after serving her country in Afghanistan as a translator in the Army. She is the daughter of my brother, and I hadn’t seen her for some 25 years. I figured I needed to make up for lost time.

Speaking of the art of being a midwife, I was mildly surprised to learn that the noun form for this practice is called midwifery. This makes sense, but the pronunciation may not. While midwife has a long “i”, as in “wife”, midwifery (mid-wahy-fuh-ree) is typically pronounced with a short “i” as in “whiff” (mid-wif-uh-ree). This just sounds funny to me as well as confusing and a bit pointless.

For those of you familiar with baseball jargon, you may be aware that the term “whiff” refers to a strikeout, specifically a swinging strikeout. Midwifery sounds as though it might refer to the midpoint of a whiff. This would be the point in time where the bat passes through the strike zone simultaneously with the pitch traveling unimpeded in the opposite direction. I suppose that since a strikeout requires three strikes, midwifery could also refer to the second strike, making it mid-whiff.

I actually did find one source that includes mid-wif-uh-ree as acceptable and also mid-wif-ree and mid-wahy-ree, both dropping the third syllable…but I digress…

My niece has a cat named TT and when she decided to take a well-deserved vacation to Hawaii after her semester ended, she asked me to drop in a few times to take care of TT. I am not an animal lover and have a particular disdain for cats. If you need any additional proof of my forthrightness, it is extremely unlikely that I will ever need the services of a midwife, nor need anything translated to or from Pashto, Farsi or Urdu.

When I arrived, I had a difficult time opening the apartment door with the electronic key fob. While I have never had a big problem using traditional keys, I am aware that technology continues to roll forward, crushing all senior citizens in its path.

Speaking of soul-crushing progress…have you been to the supermarket lately? A dozen or more registers sit idle while one is open. Five people with overfilled carts are waiting in line. There’s even a line at the self-checkout where one employee who clearly is incapable of handling a real register, is standing around while six people stare blankly at their screen trying to find rutabaga on the produce menu. Where are all the employees? They are in the aisles, picking orders for the millennials who are too busy to do their own shopping and are willing to pay an upcharge so they have more time to drink their $7 mochaccino-fucking-latte…but I digress…

While I am aware that every television detective or MacGyver wannabe, no matter how amateur, can pick any lock in less time than the average Geico ad, I’ve never met anyone who could actually do so. I haven’t even ever heard of anyone ever owning or using a set of lock picks. I have to vouch for the added security of this particular lock setup. I actually had the key fob, and it took me fifteen minutes to get in. The entire time, I can hear TT freaking out, expecting her mommy (my niece) instead of a curmudgeonly old cat-hater.

I fill TT’s food dish and top off her water. This oddball cat will only drink out of actual drinking glass. I then go to clean the litterbox. Something is not right. The amount of waste in this litterbox is well beyond what TT could have possibly produced in the two days since I had last cleaned it. I swear that it was more excrement that I could produce on day 3 of a cruise. I check for evidence that TT must have left some bones or entrails from a mouse or rat or badger. I found nothing. Could she have found the container of cat food? Unlikely, since it took me three minutes to open it. Is there a cat door that might allow eight or ten other cats to pop over for book club or a movie night?

Alas, some questions will never be answered. I sat and pet TT for an hour or so, and then headed for home. It only took me ten minutes to lock the door. I’ll have to be satisfied that I can be a good uncle. I’ve been away from the blog for a while, and I know this is a rambling post, but I hope to get more focused and start cranking out some regular stuff in the coming weeks and months.



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You Don’t Have to Kiss Me Back

Hail Goofus!


I recently went to a new doctor. As usual, I arrived early (Gallant). I made several jokes to the Receptionist about the current state of medical care in America (Goofus).

I sat down in the waiting room and saw an issue of Highlights Magazine on the table in front of me. If you have ever been to a doctor or dentist in the past 72 years, you’ve probably seen a copy. If not, it is a magazine geared toward children with the subtitle, “Fun with a purpose”. Of course, I spent my formative years scanning the magazine for the porpoise.


I don’t know of anyone who personally subscribed, but it seems to be in every medical office in the country. I picked it up to see how much it had changed since my own childhood, some fifty years back. Old people do this so they can complain about it to other old people later. I was shocked to find that it hadn’t changed much at all.

The Timbertoes were still there. This was a monthly story extolling family values about a nuclear family of people that for no apparent reason are made of wood. In this episode, Mom and Dad were teaching their son and daughter how to bake cookies. I felt that teaching wooden children to stay away from the stove would be a more appropriate lesson.

Hidden Pictures was also still a staple of the magazine. It consists of a line drawing picture containing a dozen or so smaller pictures hidden in the design. Typical items to find are linear items like a spoon, fork, or knife, or an umbrella or pencil. Fish and pizza slices are also popular. I always seemed to be missing one item when called in to see the doctor. “Your boy seems tense”, he would tell my mother.

My favorite feature of Highlights was also still there. It was “Goofus and Gallant”. According to Wikipedia…Goofus and Gallant is an American children’s comic strip appearing monthly in Highlights for Children. The comic contrasts the actions of the titular characters, presenting Gallant’s actions as right and good and Goofus’s as bad and wrong.


Goofus and Gallant were depicted as two Caucasian boys whose age was depicted anywhere between five and twelve, but typically seemed to me to be about nine. I assume that the point of the comic was to depict children handling the same situation in bot a positive and negative light to show the contrast and to hopefully make it obvious that kids should choose the positive lifestyle.

Graphically, Gallant always dressed a bit better, was neater, smiled a lot, and kept his hair neat. Conversely, Goofus was a brooding, unkempt, and slovenly brat. The problem was, that as a boy, I tended to identify with Goofus. I think that part of the problem was that I have a brother who is a year older than I, and he seemed at the time to be the same type of shameless suck-up as Gallant.

I recently mentioned this to my daughter, who has a PhD in Sociology. She was surprised that I had always assumed the Goofus and Gallant were brothers. She never saw it that way. When I mentioned that the artwork depicted their parents as appearing the same, she figured it was a way to level the playing field and that it was more like alternate universes. That seemed to suggest that the real educational value would be for adults to try a find out what caused Goofus’ screwed up behavior. Keep in mind that the comic strip pre-dates Ritalin.

Even in my sibling version, I never found Goofus to be all that bad. He didn’t commit arson or anything. And Gallant, while being polite, came across as kind of a tool. I always felt that staying down the middle was sufficient for me. I recall a particular episode where Goofus throws rocks at birds, white Gallant feeds the birds.


As an adult, I would never throw rocks at birds, but as a nine-year-old? Don’t all kids do that? I once hit a neighborhood chicken in the head with a rock (cockfighting…don’t ask) and knocked it out cold.  I was quite relieved when it came to and staggered away. I was considered one of the good kids. I witnessed one of the local nut-jobs drop a cinder block on a box turtle, smashing its shell.

Maybe Gallant was in clueless denial about his father’s alcoholism and tried to be extra good to gain his approval or to avoid beatings. And maybe Goofus’ anger stemmed from the fact that he witnessed his mother’s torrid affair with the pool boy and was venting anger of his own. In any case, it made me wonder where they would be today…(cue dream sequence music)…

It’s an unusually cold January and Gallant is happy to be seated in front of a hot bowl of soup. Always the optimist, he has come to find joy and comfort in small pleasures. Life has not been kind. Gallant excelled in High School and was able to use his contacts gained through volunteer work to get the best references. While he was accepted to three Ivy League schools, he decided to serve his country opting instead for West Point.

Goofus is looking over his speech for one last time. He’d just as soon get this over with as it is an unusually cold January. Goofus barely graduated high school and was trying to decide which community college would allow him the best opportunity to maximize profits from his small weed business. His draft number came up, but before he went to the Induction Center, he bribed a customer who also happened to be a podiatrist to document a severe case of heel spurs. It was enough to keep him out of the service.

Gallant graduated with honors and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He was sent to Viet Nam and was put in command of a platoon of very young men not unlike Goofus. During his two-and-a-half years in country, he heroically survived several fire fights and not so heroically, a half dozen fragging attempts by his men. He returned to a crowd of angry hippies who spit at him and called him “baby burner”.

Goofus used his brother’s transcripts to gain entry into Dartmouth and got a free ride by declaring himself as Hispanic. His drug empire flourished with the privileged clientele and he breezed through in two-and-a-half years never writing a paper or taking a single exam. Apparently, his choice of classes with young, left-wing professors worked out well for him. While his brother was in a foxhole in the jungle in Cambodia, Goofus got power-of-attorney for his parents and inherited their entire estate upon their death. The estate included several run-down apartment buildings.

After his discharge, Gallant uses his GI Bill benefits to get his bachelor’s degree at a low-end State College. He gets his teaching certificate so he can give back to the community. He marries a fellow teacher and has two kids. Money is tight with constant cuts to education. He and his wife go several years with no raises. They buy a small house.

Goofus uses strongarm tactics to force elderly tenants out of rent controlled apartments and converts the building into high-priced yuppie condos. He is asked to be on the board of a local bank, coincidentally, the same bank that just bought Gallant’s high-interest mortgage.

Gallant is fired when a disgruntled student falsely accuses him of inappropriate touching.

Goofus forecloses on Gallant’s house.

Gallant’s wife divorces him and uses the false student charm to deny him parental visitation. Gallant is now living in his car.

Goofus has Gallant’s car repossessed.

Gallant reflects on the past as he enjoys his meal at the homeless shelter. As bad has things have gone for him, he has no regrets regarding his attempts to be a good person. He looks up at the old television shared by everyone at the shelter. He watches Goofus walk toward the podium

Goofus glares condescendingly at his predecessor and his wife. He shakes hands with the Chief Justice and takes the Oath of Office to become the President of the United States.


Guess Who’s Coming to (Sunday) Dinner

Kaepernick tattoo

Toilet Tales

Dont piss

I have been avoiding this topic due to the edgy subject matter. If you are a regular reader of my work, you are aware of the extremity of my boundaries. Even so, this is a very private subject for most people. It seems strange as pretty much everyone experiences the toilet several times per day. As a matter of fact, the only people I can think of who have an extreme sense of freedom regarding the toilet are the nearly ten percent of the U. S. population who have been incarcerated for a week or more.

What really amazes me is that the privacy issue with regard to the evacuation of waste extends well beyond the stall door. I know many people that automatically break eye contact and turn their head away when their dog stops to take a dump. When using the restroom with Carlos, a former co-worker, he would always use the stall to pee, instead of a neighboring urinal. I assumed that he had some level of Peeing in stallpublic performance anxiety. I tested my theory by calling out, “You okay in there Carlos? Can’t you go with anyone watching?” It turned out that indeed he could not. It probably doesn’t help when I constantly bring it up.

We even use dozens of euphemisms to soften the blow, so to speak. We use the crude; piss, dump, crap, shit, the descriptive; leak, squirt, log, deuce, brick, the colloquial; pish, pee pee, kaka, dookie, poop, doody, the clinical; urine, stool, defecation, fecal matter, and the prim, tinkle, number one, bowel movement, number two. Feel free to send me the terms that your family used. I grew up in a pish and doody home. I asked my wife about her childhood, but after 35 years of marriage, she still won’t tell me.

This also seems odd because of the health aspects of waste evacuation. Check WebMD and you will see that urinary and colon dysfunction is a symptom of nearly every internal ailment. When I was a kid, if I complained about any physical discomfort, including a hangnail, my grandmother’s first question would always be, without fail, “When did you last move your bowels?” It was the miracle cure since I knew that the next question would be, “Has anyone seen the rectal thermometer?” The kids with perfect attendance aren’t the healthiest. They just have the most anally fixated parents.

I’ve broken down the rest of this treatise in sections so that you readers can skip any parts that you find potentially offensive or distressing. Actually, you may want to print it and leave it next to the toilet. This way, if you really hate it, you can wipe your ass with it and at least figuratively give me the lowest of reviews.


Most bathrooms look pretty much the same, but I’ve seen a few that stood out. Once Steel Urinalat a public park to watch my son play baseball, I went to relieve myself and found the coolest urinals. They were similar in shape as the porcelain models, but these were completely made out of riveted sheet metal with sharp corners and angles. I immediately thought that they would be what I’d expect to find on a Klingon warship.

I have visited a small number of ladies rooms albeit always by accident. Usually it’s in a theme restaurant with some cutesy Signname replacing Men and Women. I recall a seafood place that had Buoys and Gulls. I was halfway through the crowded Gulls room before I got the bit.

My friend Tyrone is a professional driver and often works in Manhattan. Unfortunately, he also has frequent gastric issues. As a result, he has a near encyclopedic knowledge of all of the usable bathrooms in the Best Bathroomcity. He can let you know which are closest to temporary parking, which ones have attendants (Tyrone is a generous men’s room attendant tipper), and even the décor. His favorite is a hotel with floor-to-ceiling privacy doors.

Urinal decals can be a nice enhancement. I’ve seen some sponsored by a local exterminator (aptly named Nozzle Nolen). The urinals have decals in the center of a target with an invasive pest in the middle with Yankees Urinalsuggestions to improve your aim. Another favorite was a trip to a bathroom in a sports stadium. Each urinal had a decal depicting one of their rival teams. Classy.

The worst design in any bathroom is one where a mirror is placed directly opposite the toilet. If anyone questions why bathroom activities are meant to be private, this view of yourself is certain to make all answers clear.

Fellow Users

I’m not sure why, but the public bathrooms in New Jersey and New York tended to be total biohazards compared to other places I’ve lived and visited. I’d hate to think that there are proportionally more savages in the Northeast, but I have seen some nasty, well…shit. People piss on the seat, the floor, the roll of toilet paper, even the top of the urinal. On my worst day, I couldn’t even imagine doing such a thing.

Tyrone’s pet peeve is people not washing their hands. He’s chased people down the hall to call them out and to shame them. I love the handwashing instructions. At my previous school, there were several steps listed including repetition and decisions. I actually brought it to class to teach flowcharting and hygiene together.

Once I was in a stall and in the stall next to me, a guy was having a loud conversation on his phone. It was bizarre and annoying. I cried out in fake pain as though I was passing a kidney stone. When the dope failed to get the message, I got louder and began cursing the Gods for causing my deep constipation. Eventually, he got the message and shut up.

My pet peeve is waiting in a fast food joint to use a single restroom and when the previous user steps out…well, picture this: A rather large fellow exits the room. He is generally north of 350 pounds, and is obviously at lunch after a sweaty morning of farming, roofing, sumo wrestling, or whatever. He usually will have a long beard and several tattoos as well as some sort of biker regalia squirting out between his jeans and his overhanging gut. Anything less than four burritos would be a light nosh for this gentleman. I make no judgement other than the fact that he leaves the bathroom walking as though he just delivered a small calf. You know…I think I can wait.


Is there a place that always gets your bowels moving? I have no idea why, but for me it is the Public Library. It is a rare visit where I am not running to the can within minutes of looking in the stacks. Weird, right?

I went into a bathroom to pee once and there were two urinals. One has a hole cracked in the porcelain, so I decided to use the undamaged one. Shortly afterward, while I was doing my business, I guy wearing a suit bellies up to the other one. After I finish, I pull on the flusher and a torrent of pee water blasts out of the other guy’s urinal and soaks his suit and pants. I’m pretty sure I darted out without washing my hands and a quick, “Sorry, Dude.”

One visit to a stall in a Publix supermarket involved an odd sight. The sink was inside of the stall and when I threw out my paper towel, I noticed that there were a couple of dozen scratch-off lottery tickets on top of the trash. All of the scratch-off material was there as well so it was obvious that someone bought them, and immediately went into the stall to test their luck. I hope they at least had a smooth poop.

Bathroom Fun

Now that everything is electronically controlled, the public bathroom is a constant source of amusement and embarrassment. The toilets, urinals, sinks, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers all have the potential to be automated. How many times have you held your hand out waiting for something to happen before realizing that you actually had to operate the one device manually? I’ve also had toilets or paper towels come to life by just moving too close to the sensor.

My favorite bathroom activity is when someone stands next to me at a urinal just as I get there. I will turn to the gentleman and quickly say, “On your mark, get set, go!” You might think this would result in an ass-whupping, but two things are guaranteed. The person will not be able to pee, and they will never respond or acknowledge the challenge. I zip up, lift up my arms, say “WIN”, and head to the sink. Never fails.