SUFFERING ON A SMALL SCALE

After years of disappointing results trying many deblubbering programs, I decided to use the most modern tool available, the talking scale. The popular model I bought can be programmed to provide a working relationship between both parties by having the weighee install his personal preferences.

First, I chose an authoritative American male voice for the instrument and was amazed to hear one that closely resembled that of Master Sergeant McGlumphy, my top kick in the Air Force. I needed firm guidance and, believe me, you couldn’t get firmer than Sgt McGlumphy.

Okay, I wasn’t looking for sympathy, I was looking for results. I certainly didn’t want a sultry voiced female guide telling me, “It’s okay Pudgy, don’t cry. You can do better next time.” whenever I added a few pounds.

Failures and excuses were unaccceptable with McGlumphy. I was given due notice at my first weigh-in. “I’ve downloaded your age and physical measurments, Newman,” he barked. “Two hundred and twenty pounds are unacceptable unless you are able to somehow gain six inches in height.”

Reacting instinctively, I dropped and gave him 20. Well, I attempted 20 pushups, but managed only four and a half. As I lay panting on the bathroom floor, he shouted, “Report back in one week!”

I should have switched over to Miss Sultry right then, but I thought I needed a firmer hand. What I got was more like a fist. The following week McGlumphy announced, “Two hundred eighteen pounds” and I waited for an encouraging compliment, but instead I heard. “Newman, stand at attention. I can tell you’re leaning on the sink! That’s better. Two hundred twenty three pounds. Not good. Drop and give me 20 and this time I mean 20!”

And so it went. The tattle tale scale sensors could detect all my acrobatic attempts to get lower numbers and reported everything to McGlumphy who started to get sarcastic. “One at a time, please” he’d shout when I stepped on the scale.

Two can play at this game I thought and switched the pounds setting to kilograms, decreasing my numbers by more than half, but he saw through this right away. So then I changed the language from English to Croatian. I’m completely unfluent in Croation, but McGlumphy’s angry tone came through. I went to Google for translations, but most of his histrionics were denied me as “too profane”. I did learn that “predebela” means “too fat” in Croatia. But then one day I heard him growl “Haagen-Daz mint chocolate chip”. How did McGlumphy know about that? Has my new smart freezer been talking to my new smart scale?

THE TALE OF A BAD SALE

While perusing history websites recently, I became convinced that certain New York Metro Area residents, past and present, may have a legal claim to almost 15,000 acres of extremely valuable real estate.

There have always been doubts about the authenticity of the 1626 purchase of Manhattan by Peter Minuit from the Lenni Lenape Indians for “$24 worth of trinkets” the traditionally quoted sale price. Minuit was the Director General of New Netherlands which included the present “Big Apple” and parts of Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.

There are no legal documents to record the “purchase”, no deed or title papers, only a mention of it in a 1626 letter by a merchant to his Dutch West Indies employers. He reported a sale price of “60 guilders worth of trade goods” which would come to about $1,200 in 2021.

It’s quite likely neither party was completely aware of all the actual transaction details. The Lenapes did not believe tracts of land and bodies of water were saleable commodities and may have accepted the trinkets as a good will gesture of the Dutch for their agreeing to share the island. Language differences would also cloud the details. Lenape remarks would be limited mostly to “okay” and “thank you” which translate to “yuh” and “wanishi”. They called the property “manahatta” or “hilly island”.

The main fault of the “sale” is that the sellers didn’t own or even live in Manhattan. They were the Canarsees, a Lenape tribe that lived in present day Brooklyn. It’s as if your house-sitting brother-in-law sold your place while you were out of town. The Kapsee Lenape people lived at the lower tip of Manhattan, Peter Minuit’s neighborhood, and were not mentioned as participants.

So what kind of settlement would be appropriate for the present day Lenapes to rectify the the unfairness of this multi-flawed sale? Complete invalidation would involve tremendous complications and is out of the question. But reasonable reparations are possible.

Most of the Lenape tribe (AKA Delawares) now live in Oklahoma where they were exiled by our government with other tribes in the 19th century. Some descendants still live in the Garden State. These peaceable Indians, called “The Grandfathers” by neighboring warlike tribes, were the rightful owners of Manhattan by reason of centuries of occcupancy and were deprived of their land by conniving cousins who insinuated themselves at the closing, as questionable as that closing was.

It’s not too late, even four centuries later, to make some amends. In the interest of fair play, the Lenapes should be awarded title to at least some patch of land on the island. Central Park would be appropriate for these outdoor people and a casino license would enrich the tribe enough to buy tons of trinkets.

I believe it’s necessary that I explain I do not have one drop of Lenape blood in my veins and would not benefit from the reparations. My DNA report shows I’m almost 100 percent Irish with just a dash of Neanderthal.


CASUALLY COOL and a PAIN IN THE NECK GIFT

Back in my working days we didn’t have morale-boosting dress down Fridays. They would have been welcome, not only for the right to wear casual clothes, but to be able to strip down to survival wear in our unairconditioned work places.

I worked in one office where our manager, a kindly enough old man, but physically coldblooded, tried to convince us our one open window was a real benefit in July and August. When Mr. Coldblood left for lunch, we guys took off our jackets and posted a sentry at the door.

Finally, after a couple of clerks collapsed from heat exhaustion, we got a big office fan. It must have been war surplus, probably used to test fighter plane propeller designs. It had two buttons, “Off” and “Cyclone”. We loved it but we had to use horseshoes as paper weights.

And so we survived, but so did one ancient mensware torture item that continues to make formal affairs uncomfortable experiences for many of us. When militant women decided to burn their bras, we guys should have joined them and thrown our neckties into the blaze.

We can blame a 17th century Croation regiment for this sartorial nuisance. They paraded into Paris one day and part of their uniforms, colorful knotted neckerchiefs, caught the eye of Louis IV and other fashion conscious Frenchmen. Cravats were soon the rage in France. As the years passed this throat-threatening ornament went through many variations as stocks, scarves, bandanas, bolos and ascots. The ancestor of the modern necktie was born during the 18th century Industrial Revolution when a safer, easy to tie item was needed for machinery workers.

Easy to tie? That’s debatable. I have a grammar school class photo of me showing what looks like a dark tangled rope around my neck with a knot the size of a golf ball situated near my left shoulder. I struggled for years to master a half Windsor knot.

Cambridge University researchers found there are 85 possible knots for the standard necktie. First of all, who pays for these ridiculous research projects? No wonder college tuition is so high. Secondly, I passed the 85 different knots mark before I got out of high school.

The necktie has many enemies. One critic called it “Pointless and uncomfortable and despised by all but the most inveterate masochists.” The necktie was denounced in Iran as a symbol of Western oppression and British hospitals have banned them for staff members, calling them infection sources. Ikea forbids neckties in its work places.

One reason the necktie lives on is that it’s an easy gift. Women think every man can use at least one more necktie and Christmas shopping can be that much worry-free for the female shopper, not having to fret about spinning reel models and graphite-shafted putter designs. So we smile and say, “Oh, good! A fancy necktie!” But down deep we hope one of the other unwrapped presents contains a turtleneck sweater to hide the monstrosity.

IN SANTA’S BOOTS

“Who, me?” I protested. “Santa Claus? No way! Not a chance!”

“You forgot ‘Humbug,'” my wife replied.

“Don’t try to make me out as Scrooge, Barbara. I’d need a little notice for something like this. Just home from work with a report to finish before Christmas and you want me to drive downtown and play Santa Claus for goodness sake!”

“Yes, for goodness sake, Dear. old Mr. Duffy came down with the flu and if Santa isn’t at the tree lighting, it will break a wonderful tradition. Please reconsider.”

“I’ll have to think it over,” I said, and opening the closet door to hang up my coat, I spotted a bright red garment. “You took me for granted,” I shouted.

“I took your Christmas spirit for granted, you big softee. You should be flattered.”

Ten minutes later I was being hustled out the front door strutting in Mr. Duffy’s Santa boots and trying to adjust my new beard. “How do I look? The suit looks quite well doesn’t it?”

“It certainly does. Poor Mr. Duffy must have been uncomfortable all those years. He had to use a pillow.”

I drove to the town hall arriving in time for the tree lighting. I ad libbed a few ho, ho, hos, had my picture taken with the mayor and the choir and was intercepted on my way back to my car by one of the greediest little boys who ever recited his Christmas list to Santa. It took five minutes and sounded like the complete inventory of F.A.O. Schwarz. I told him if he was a good boy, said his prayers, studied hard in school and voted straight Republican, he would eventually get everything he wanted. He bought that.

I was the last to leave. I got in my car and turned the key. Nothing! Dead battery! My wallet and cell phone were in my other suit, the one without the white fur trim.

Muttering Christmas carols I trudged over to Main Street just in time to see the last store lights blink out and the first snowflakes sideslip past the street lamps. Pulling my fur-trimmed red cap down over my ears, I headed for home. It was very cold, but I didn’t notice because I was steaming.

A young man approached unsteadily on the snowy sidewalk and I thought I might avoid a two-mile walk. “Excuse me, buddy, can you……”

“Santa!, he shouted. “You remembered my name! Look, Santa, I meant to go straight home from work, but the boys insisted on stopping for a few holiday drinks at Murphy’s.”

“Buddy, I need your help. Can you give me a lift?”

“I’d love to, Santa, but I don’t know where I parked my car or even if I own one, ha ha! Anyway , I shouldn’t be driving tonight. But Santa, where are your reindeer?”

“They’ve been recalled, Buddy. Something about faulty antlers. Go home to your family now and have a merry Christmas.”

“Wait’ll the kids hear about this, Santa……Faulty antlers?”

Buddy was only a voice in the swirling snow as I walked on, beginning to marvel at the credibility and authority that went with my loud red coat and knickers.

Further on I overtook an old grandma huddled in a man’s overcoat. She was pulling a sled carrying a little girl and a bundle of laundry. “Susie, look who’s here,” she cried. Susie was about 4 years old with blue saucers for eyes. I leaned over the sled and smiled at her. “Susie, you’ve been a good girl and I’m going to bring you something special on Christmas. (I caught Grandma’s signal). It’s a pretty baby doll for you to take care of.” Susie laughed and reached up to touch my beard.

I pulled the sled toward a laundromat shining through the snowfall down the stree. “It’s a beautiful doll,” Grandma whispered. Just like the one you brought me when I was her age. Remember?

I told her I did and helped her in with the laundry not realizing what the effect would be as Santa entered with a bag slung over his shoulder. A young couple stopped loading a machine and watched me expectantly. A teenaged girl jumped back a step with a hand to her mouth and an old man stared at me with a puzzled look. I recognized him as a nodding acquaintance from the neighborhood, recently widowed and reportedly taking it hard.

“Merry Christmas everyone,” I called. “I have to be going now. It’s my busiest time of the year.” They laughed and wished me the same. I spoke softly to the old man. “Take comfort in the real meaning and promise of the season, Michael,” I said.

“I’ll try, Santa and thanks for stopping by.”

The snow was deepening, but I had only a short way to go and I made it almost without incident. Barbara handed me a steaming mug of her excellent chicken soup as I walked in the door and I sank into the sofa, exhausted.

“Aren’t you going to change your clothes, Santa?”

“Not now. I just want to sip this soup and gaze at the tree for a while.”

“What about that report?”

“The elves will take care of it. Come and sit beside me.”

We sat in the glow of the tree for a few minutes and then Barbara said, “Santa. do you know there’s a big tear in the seat of your pants?”

“Yes, I ran into a bit of trouble. I began jogging to keep warm and I was attacked by a shepherd.”

“A shepherd? Santa was attacked just before Christmas by a shepherd?”

“Yes, a German Shepherd.”





INCURABLY RETRO

Rip van Winkle, Washington Irving’s 18th century carefree Catskills character, had to deal with the results of his 20-year snooze. Rip had a whole lot of catching up to do after two decades of being out of the loop. I’ve had a similar experience. I wasn’t asleep for 20 years, I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

I was almost as befuddled as Rip who’d dozed off as a British subject and woke up as an American citizen. In my case I conked out mentally sometime before the 21st century and “woke up” late last Tuesday. Well, you know how annoying those TV ads can be and how easy it is to mute them. I wasn’t keeping up with all the advances in gadgetry. There was a lot of such talk among my cyber-oriented kids and grandkids, but I didn’t pay much attention or ask questions.

It’s the same with modern fashions. I’m still wearing 25-year old outfits that are a little tighter now but good enough for me and other like-minded geezers. We’ve been accused unfairly of having questionable taste, but we’ll have our revenge. We’re quite sure bell bottoms, nehru jackets and spats will make a comeback soon.

The technology advances have been the most difficult to grasp. I remember fearing we were in the grip of an ear infection epidemic because so many people were walking around holding one side of their heads. They seemed to be in such pain that they were talking to themselves.

Eventually, I decided I had to get to the bottom of this and, while shopping in a mall one day, I spotted one of the head-grasping afflicted, a younger man wearing a T-shirt with a peculiar slogan: “I’m so cool, I’m hot!”. I approached him cautiously. “Excuse me,” I said, “Is that a transistor radio you’re holding?”

“Are you kidding, mister?” He replied. “This is an iPhone.”

“Well, if it’s an eye phone, why do you press it against your ear?”

“You’re putting me on, right? An iPhone is a touchscreen smart phone capable of video calls. It might have a telephoto camera and can browse the Web. Some models have even more features. This one is equipped with gesture recognition and I hear they’re working on body sweat recognition.”

I didn’t understand much of that, but to be polite, I wanted to say something complimentary. “Wow, that sounds a lot better than my Walkman, but can it play audio tapes?”

He had a frightened look and I think he was punching in 9-1-1 on that thingamajig to report an escaped lunatic so I left in a hurry and decided to call my wife to tell her I might be in trouble. But wait a minute! What happened to all the phone booths?

SCARY NEWS FROM MARS

No need to panic yet, but there have been signs in recent years of an impending chocolate shortage. As far back as 2015, the Mars Candy Company, an $18 billion bonbon giant, reported they might eventually run out of chocolate’s essential ingredient, cocoa, if a disquieting trend continues. Ironically, the problem has been a growing worldwide appetite for chocolate and the demand could posssibly outpace supply.

The most current data shows the Swiss as the leading chocolate-eating population with each citizen downing over 19 pounds a year. Germans, Austrians and Irishmen each consume over 17 pounds per annum. In America, the annual per person chocolate consumption is much lower, at under 10 pounds, in spite of the fact that chocolate is essentialy a vegetable product, with added milk, and not on the taboo list of moderate vegans.

There has been, for years, a general feeling of unease in the industry about a possible unmanageable increase in chocolate’s populatiry. In India, for instance, the annual chocolate consumption per person has been about a pound and a half. In China it’s just over two pounds. But suppose most of the inhabitants of these hugely populated countries became chocolate chewers and semi-addicts like many of us?

The pandemic has temporarily added other problems for Mars and their competitors with airports and hotels having reduced product demand and the West African cocoa farmers being hampered by Covid-19 safety rules.

It would be premature to liken this to the recently invented “toilet paper crisis”. Chocolate hoarding would not be a good idea. If you’re like me, you’ll devour your six-month stash in a few weeks. After all, we chocohaulics are only flesh and blood and unfortunately, blubber.

If the worst happens we should unite and oppose as we did, the so-called oil shortages and high prices of OPEC. We will have to learn how to get by on fewer Milkyways per mile and to join candybar pools. We might also campaign for more product availability by encouraging the construction of a chocolate syrup pipeline from Hershey, Pennsylvania. I would gladly sign an easement allowing the line to cross my backyard and possibly, my basement.

SEEING CAN BE DECEIVING

I took an online test today and found I’m not colorblind. So how come my daughters laugh when I show up in my favorite green tweed jacket and the neato orange tie someone gave me last Christmas? That color combo works for pumpkins doesn’t it?

I’ve recently learned when it comes to color perception, we humans, even without colorblindness, are handicapped compared to many other earthlings. Some tropical fish and birds live in a much more technicolor world than we do and there are reptiles with color receptors that far outnumber ours. So it must be a real downer to be colorblind as well and perceiving even less of the world’s brilliant rainbows, flowers, fireworks and pizzas.

However we’re better off than our keen-smelling dogs who can only distinguish blue, green and yellow and will probably never be eligible for driver’s licenses, but I don’t think they care. My dogs have always preferred the rear car seat and an open window where, with their ears flapping in the wind, they can bark colorful insults and challenges to outraged pitbulls and tomcats along the way from the safety of their chauffered dogmobile.

And it must be the waving of the toreador’s cape that angers the bull because he doesn’t see red any better than Fido. Wikipedia reports the ability of us primates to see red was once a vital talent to identify edibles in the forest. It also helps us now to see when we have to apply bandages and when not to wear orange ties.

Colorblindness is quite common among humans. It affects one in 12 men and suprisingly, only one in 200 women. That might explain the laughter of our high school girlfriends when we showed up for dates dressed, as we thought, to the nines, but actuallly, to the giggles.

The typical colorblind human has a reduced sensitivity to red or green or blue. In very rare cases, something like one in 20,000, the poor victim lives in a black and white world with no color at all. If you’re ever at a patriotic rally and the fellow next to you sings, “Three cheers for the gray, white and dark gray,” you’ll know you’ve encountered one of these rare unfortunate individuals.

A NIGHT AT THE ZOO

I sneaked in once, soon after dark

to the famous zoo in Central Park

to watch the animals romp and play

when all their keepers were away.

I must admit, I was surprised

to see they were so organized.

The wily chimpanzees

had filched a set of keys,

and working fast, in stages

they’d opened all the cages.

The big cats leaped.

The serpants creeped

and soon the playful monkeys

rode the miniature donkeys.

Polar bears in icy pools

were breaking some of Nature’s rules,

asking penguins and eager seals

to join them in their seafood meals.

The key was found to the Snacks Arcade.

Soon Jumbo inhaled the lemonade.

Some weiners went to a grizzly bear,

but Leo took the lion’s share.

I had no knowledge in advance

that every beast just loves to dance.

There is no mammal, now I know

can boogie like a big rhino.

As dawn approached I heard a gong

and a huge gorilla, name of Kong

climbed an ancient hickory tree,

Oh my God, right next to me!

“Friends,” he roared and called for quiet

and managed to subdue the riot.

“We’ve had a night of harmless fun,

but look east now. Here comes the sun.

Now go to your dens in this pretty park

and make it as peaceful as Noah’s Ark.”

All turned to leave as the sky grew bright

and I heard a chimp shout, “See y’all tonight.”

UNDER WOOD

Scientists have been heard to say

machines will rule the world some day.

But do not fear those big computers,

we’re already the subjects of other neuters.

Our daily lives are largely guided

by what cabinets and bureaus have decided.

A ruling from the bench, it seems

can change our future, puncture dreams.

A motion to the chair from the floor

has been known to lead to civil war.

And many a strong heart turns to flannel

when confronted by an angry panel.

Who has such bold conceit

that he holds no awe for the County Seat

or does not bend his will in accord

with the edicts of his township board?

Electronics and plastics are all very good,

but our world is already ruled by wood.

And who are the controllers of wood, the takers?

Why the joiners of course and the platform makers.