“The weather bureau is too often a non-prophet organization”……”Inflation happens when too many merchants stop making a living and start making a killing.”……”Our group discussion about getting along with others was a partial success. There were no serious injuries.”…..”I finally figured out Einstein’s theory of relativity and it’s about time,”…..Our camping trip was a disaster. The suffering was in tents.”

Those are blog ideas that my muse sends me from time to time but she just tantalizes me with these nuggets and refuses to help me expand them. My pockets are filled with scraps of paper on which I’ve scribbled these raw ideas. Last week I handed what I thought was a deposit slip to a young bank teller. It could have been a very serious mistake.

“What does this mean?” she asked nervously. “Your note: ‘Happiness isn’t everything. You can’t buy money.’? She was reaching for the alarm button, but I quickly convinced her that laughter, not larceny, was intended.

I like to think Thalia, the Greek goddess of comedy, is my prompter. I’m sure it’s one member of the Mount Olympus inspirational team. I can detect a Greek accent with every message. But sometimes I fear I might be dealing with Melpomene who’s in charge of tragedy. Like when I was driving “slightly” over the speed limit on Route 80 when I suddenly got this muse-o-gram: “To succeed, try getting something on the ball. Failing that, try getting something on your boss.” While I was considering this ripe idea I almost rear-ended a State Trooper’s cruiser.

I’ve been unable to expand any of these quips into full-fledged blogs. Feel free to use them in your blog or at your next cocktail party. WAIT A MINUTE! There are a couple of incomings ! “Remember when ‘high fidelity’ only referred to successful marriages?”……”Maybe money does grow on trees. Don’t all banks have branches?”


To : Director of Interplanetary Social Research

Subject: Planet Earth. Wedding Ceremonies

As previously reported, Planet Earth’s inhabitants are divided into two sexes with some notable exceptions, roughly analagous to the situation on Pluto. One of the most striking differences between Plutonian and Earthly social mores is the Earth’s wedding reception where, predominately, two beings of opposite sex consent to be lifetime partners.

The Earthly ceremony is widely different from the Plutonian rite of Zrchix where the couple privately touch flippers three times to signify their vows. Earthlings insist on doing things in a big way.

Mind-probing devices used by our survey team at a typical Earth wedding have produced contradictory findings. Males in attendance give strong indications of being there under duress. Their brain activity is sluggish, but there are widely ranging subjects recorded, many unrelated to the event.

Female readings indicate complete joy at being present at the ceremony. Yet, while the restive males have calm facial expressions, the enthusiastic females exude great quantities of saline solution from their eye ducts. This reaction, previously reported as a sign of sadness, is being reinvestigated.

The female partner-to-be enters last, escorted by an older male. The female’s brain emanations defy analysis, being a combination of mild sadness, nervousness and triumph. The brain waves of her attendant, apparently a male parent, indicate sad feelings of loss. “I am losing my beloved daughter!” and “I am losing my shirt!” are his repeated thoughts. Our theory is he is unhappy because she is leaving the family home. So far, no plausible explanation is available for his sadness about losing an upper garment.

The male partner-to-be receives the female from her escort and the couple stands before an official of minister. Readings of this male’s mental state are quite variable. His thoughts race wildly between both ends of the spectrum. He is either deleriously happy or semi-comatose at any given moment.

The ceremony is quietly dignified except for one element which is possibly a vestige of Earth’s uncivilized era. While all attendees maintain attitudes of quiet reverence, one Earthling, usually a male, runs swiftly around the room igniting a bright light in the faces of the bridal party. We originally assumed this was an unbalanced relative of one of the principals, but since one of his kind has been present at every wedding we’ve surveyed, he is perhaps a symbol of chaos in this pageant of unity.

There is a similar character on stage at the following wedding feast. He is referred to only as “the D.J.” Our closest guess is the initials stand for “Demented Jester”. He fills the banquet hall with dangerously high-decibel noise, causing the younger diners to dance wildly for hours. The older guests tend to sit as far away from the deafening cacaphony as possible. Some have been known to dine on the wedding feast in the parking lot.


Anyone who wants to quit smoking forever has obviously never been successful before. And this might be their umpteenth try. He or she needs help but those frightening medical statistics are going to make a smoker nervous and when a smoker gets nervous the urge to light up becomes even stronger.

What’s needed are sympathy, words of encouragement and the advice of successful quitters. Otherwise, how many Lifesavers can a person eat?

Cold turkey is a terrible shock to your system which had no idea you were planning this drastic change. Your brain will cooperate with logic and good intentions, but your other parts never heard of those things and they’re not used to big surprises. However, they are talented team healers and will soon get with the program and help you make steady progress. This will be a relief to them after struggling against the consequences of two packs a day in a losing battle.

If you suddenly abandon something addictive like smoking, eating chocolate, watching M*A*S*H or voting Republican there will probably be a strong nervous reaction. In the first 60 days of my voluntary separation from nicotine there were only five waking minutes when I didn’t bemoan my loss. That was the time I caught my thumb in the bumper jack.

But, stick to it. It does get better and easier to handle. You might at first prefer smoking to nonsmoking, but there will come a day when you will cross the finish line. You will still miss inhaling noxious vapors, but by then you will definitely be against an act of violence to get a drag. Congratulations!


Why is restaurant dining so popular? Think about it. We give up home cooking and the privacy of our cozy dining rooms, we drive several miles through heavy traffic and have our one and only car parked by a teenager.

Then we pay for the privilege of eating unfamiliar food cooked by a stranger in a distant kitchen. If the restaurant isn’t crowded to the point of discomfort, we begin to suspect the quality of the meals.

But here I am at Chez Manieu. I should be grateful my reservation guaranteed prompt seating. There was a crowd of people waiting at the bar. One gentleman seemed to have forgotten what he was waiting for. “After tee martoonies,” he said, “I don’t recognize my name when they announce it over the P.A. system.”

Immediate seating is one thing. Immediate service is another. As it happened, Andre arrived just minutes after I sat down, handed me a four-page menu and asked for my choices. I pleaded for more time and he reluctantly agreed to return later. That was a half hour ago.

In the meantime I’ve enjoyed the visits of the cute little tyke from the next table. He’s here now, chewing on a steak bone and drooling on my best slacks. His little airplane has crash landed in my butter dish.

“No, madam, he isn’t bothering me. I’m enjoying him. He reminds me of when I was an undisciplined little boy myself.” (That usually works.)

But where is that waiter? When he finally takes my order and eventually returns with the food, he will too often ask ,”Is everything all right?” And, with my mouth full of bouillabaisse, I will reply, “Grnxlbmff” and he will say “Bien” in that smug way of waiters and I will have deposited an oily shrimp on my new tie.

At last! Here comes Andre now to take my order, but who is that with him? Oh dear!, it looks like the teenaged parking attendent and I think that’s my mangled license plate he’s carrying!


Bread has been on mankind’s table since around 10,000 B.C. . It’s the first thing we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer and is recognized world wide as “The Staff of Life”.

Ghandi once remarked, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” And Julia Child has asked, “How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”

So what has happened to all those wonderful neighborhood bakeries where I once could buy a still warm loaf of unsliced seeded rye that smelled so tempting I sometimes arrived home with both ends of it chewed off? I have yet to find a supermarket “Bakery Department” that can match that excellence .

“If you miss homemade bread so much, why don’t you make some?” my wife once asked. I accepted the challenge and my very first loaf turned out quite well, not as food, but as a doorstop or maybe a catapult missile.

It weighed as much as a standard loaf, but was half the size. I realized I had to be more patient and wait out the recipe’s rising time or find a way to reduce it. I remembered my Grandma placing the dough pan on her kitchen radiator. I thought I could do even better by creating a little “rising tent” with a bath towel draped around a table lamp.

This actually did reduce the time considerably but it required more frequent checking than anticipated, especially with two 200-watt bulbs. The dough swiftly rose to record-breaking fluffyness and swallowed the lamp.

I put the whole conglomeration into the oven anyway. Of course it wouldn’t be edible, but it would be a great conversation piece. Recently I noticed some of my male dinner guests took notes when I told this story. I hope they don’t use heirloom lamps.


It seems I’ll never become talented, famous or rich, but someday, somehow, I’m going to become suave. It will be an uphill battle. I’ll have to give up unsuave things like loud cussing and indoor spitting, but it will be worth the effort to have people point at me as I stroll down the avenue, and exclaim, “Did you ever see anyone suaver than him?”

Suavedom is really just an attitude that enables one to fit in and yet, stand out. We unsuave guys don’t stand out. We stick out. Once on a trip to Italy I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. As I stepped out of the 747 at the Rome airport I could sense the entire nation bracing for a difficult two weeks. I was about to leave a trail of raised eyebrows and muttered exclamations up and down the Italian boot.

Most people are realistic enough and kind enough to tolerate the millions who will never be suave. But we brave suave trainees, the daring ones who attempt the transition must suffer the slings and arrows of outraged head waiters, hotel clerks and fussy head housekeepers.

I had no idea my Italian was so terribly inaccurate. The people in my tour group said it had a certain ring of authenticity with my arm waving and all. I have since been able to explain some of the painful results of my incompetence as a linguist.

There was the incident in our hotel dining room where I was trying to ingratiate myself with the maitre d’ to get special treatment for my party. To my friends it must have sounded like I was having a friendly chat with Saverio, but after rechecking my “Italian for Tourists” book later, I realized I’d actually been saying , “Good newspaper, Saverio. Please see that my friends get good serpents.” And smiling Saverio was replying, “Sir, you are standing on my foot.” Late the next day a waiter scolded us for bringing sandwiches into the dining room. We had to. We were still unserved and we were starving.

Next, I tried booking my party’s train trip to Venice. The station was a beehive of activity during the commuter rush. I managed to combine my lack of suavity with my poor command of the Italian language and currency plus my abysmal ignorance of their railway system. Things moved less than swiftly.

In just an hour I spent what was probably a small fortune and had six unintelligible tickets. A well-dressed (certainly suave) Italian gentleman offered his assistance. “These tickets,” he said, “are for the special luxury express train to Venice.”

“Bene!” I said. “Just what I wanted!”

“Not so bene,”he replied. “It left ten minutes ago.”

In the next half hour the ticket sellers and I exchanged about five pounds of paper. At one dangerous point we were booked first class on the boat to Sardinia. But, at last, suavely happy and with tickets in hand I hustled my group off to the right platform while I found a porter for the luggage.

The porter and I arrived just in time. Not in time for me to board since the train was pulling out, but I was able to wave to my friends who looked bewildered, leaving without their luggage. “Enjoy Venice,” I called, “Arrivederci!”

The porter tugged at my sleeve. “Scusa signore. No Venezia. Your amicos’ treno goes to Vienna.”

“Oh well,” I called, waving suavely, “Auf wiedershen!”

The Heat’s On

Thisby Tower, headquarters of the trillion dollar corporate giant, Thisby Thingamabobs Ltd, is a world unto itself. Within its cloud-piercing steel and glass walls modern technology provides a constant climate resembling a pleasant May morning. Well, almost constant.

At 10:32 a.m. last Thursday, August 17th there was a “temporary” disruption when a very special gasket failed in the enormous air conditioning system. This activated a battery of relays and interlocks which turned off the system completely, silencing its soothing purr and causing Thadeus T. Trisby to pause in his speech to the board of directors to ask, “What was that?”

“I think the air conditioner shut down, T.T. ” Gilmore Grovel, his assistant ventured. “I’ll look into it.”

“Do that!” Thadeus barked. “And tell them to turn it back on. I think it’s hot outside.”

As a matter of fact it was 95 degrees on the other side of the tower’s Thermopanes, but Thadeus could only speculate. He’d provided his personal world with an artificially temperate atmosphere. His home, limo, office , the executive dining and board rooms were all blessed with refreshing balmyness. He had also contributed generously to air condition his church in case he might some day attend a service.

By the time Grovel returned, the board room climate had changed from May morning to July afternoon. Jackets and ties had been removed. Thadeus mopped his dripping brow and asked, “Well?”

“The AC’s off,” said Grovel, smiling at the correctness of his original call.

“We know that, Grovel!” Thadeus roared. “Did you relay my order to turn it back on immediately?” His lapel carnation was beginning to wilt.

“They have to replace a very special gasket first, Sir. It’s been ordered and it’s on its’ way.”

“When will it arrive?”

Grovel flinched and edged toward the door. “The plane from Seattle is expected at JFk in five hours.”

“FIVE HOURS!” Thadeus wailed. In the meantime 10,000 employees are going to get very uncomfortable. Pass the word to open some windows.”

Grovel looked at the board members who avoided his stare, busying themselves with mopping their brows and making fans out of the annual report. “None of the windows in this building open, T.T.” he reported. Thadeus was stunned and rose to pace the room not noticing his leather-lined chir had clung to the seat of his trousers.

“A five hundred million dollar building with windows that don’t open!” he shouted, slamming his fist on the table. A half dozen reports stuck to his dripping hand. The board room climate had just left “Houston” and was approaching “Bangladesh”.

“Your secretary gave me a few messages, T.T. : Department heads have been reporting problems. The dispensary staff has been treating heat exhaustion victims…..Someone on the 26th floor opened a window (“But you said..”) with a fire axe….Work on the new Thingamabobs design stopped because of fog in the lab….An elevator operator was fired for working in his underwear…..”

“Anymore?” Thadeus sighed, watching another director slump over the table.

“Nothing credible, Sir. An anonymous caller reported rainfall on the 50th floor. I think we can blame the other reports on hysterics.”

Thadeus was losing his grip on reality. Was that a clap of thunder he just heard in the hallway?

Crowd Control

After more than 80 years experience as a photographer, amateur and pro, I’m still a bit under developed. I started when I was eight years old after winning a Kodak Brownie camera as a soapbox derby prize. My Dad said he’d pay for the first roll of film and developing, but after that, he said, I should be making enough money with the camera to cover expenses. I don’t blame Dad for his little fib. It was during the Depression when fifty cents would buy five loaves of Wonder Bread.

My plan was to take shots of exciting neighborhood events, sell them to the Hudson Dispatch newspaper and become famous. But the closest thing to exciting was when Mrs. Bockman, a rather stout young lady, got wedged in her chicken coop doorway. She raised an enormous howl and her chickens went beserk. Her frantic struggle left her house dress a bit askew and when I arrived with my Brownie, she begged me not to take a picture. So I didn’t.

But I’ll bet Mrs. Bockman and some editor would have been bidding against each other for my photo. My caption would have been, “Trapped attractive housewife threatened by fierce roosters saved by young photog”.

In later life, as a freelance reporter, editors soon learned to send professionals to shoot the pictures for my reports. However, sometimes I was handed a reflex camera, given confusing shutter speed instructions and told to do my best.

“Explain this picture!” one editor growled after I’d turned in my copy of a factory fire along with the film. “It looks like the firefighters are climbing over each othe and the highest one has two heads! This is definitely a double exposure.”

“That’s okay, Chief,” I said. “I’ll only charge you for a single.”

I eventually learned enough to turn in films with almost the correct settings, but they often failed to match the drama of the event. Crowd control became my problem.

“Your story’s okay, ” one editor said. “You’ve captured the urgency at the scene of the wreck and the sense of relief with no injuries, but these pictures you’ve turned in…. Every shot shows a group of happy people!”

“Come to think of it,” he said, “all your recent shots have included people smiling and waving like what you turned in last week with the crime penalty panel story.”

“Chief, I wanted to catch them in solemen deliberation. They’d been discussing death penalty sentences for days, but when I raised the camera the old guys started grinning and waving.”

” And what about this County Fair shot of the cooking contest winners? One of the women has a really sour face while the others are beaming.?”

“Chief, that’s Mrs. Bockman, a very old neighborhood friend of mine. She was unhappy because her “Chicken Coop de Tat” entry received only an honorable mention.”


As I look back now at my grammar school class photos I can see the first signs of my inherent awkwardness. From kindergarten on I’m the only bandaged or bruised kid in the pictures. My foot is in a cast in our third grade picture and it appears I have accidently swung it into Agnes Hoffsteader. She is obviously crying while the rest of us are smiling broadly.

I had a crush on Agnes back then and tried to spend a lot of time with her. However, she transferred to a private school early on. I heard a rumor it was at the advice of her pediatrician and the Prudential Insurance Company.

“Will I ever grow out of this clumsy stage?” I asked my father one day. He looked at me strangely and replied, “Before I answer that question, Son…”

“Yes, Dad?

“You’re standing on my arthritic foot and it really hurts!”

Dad tried to be encouraging, saying my fears were exaggerated and I was probably not more awkard than the average young boy. I began to feel better but then he made me promise never to get a job at the Picatinny Arsenal when I grew up. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other employees or to the nearby Morris County residents.”

But Dad had made an important point. I began to plan my future assuming I would probably always be ungainly or at least not gainly enough to handle a precarious career that might have the threat of consequential damages.

My paper route was not a good choice. I doubt anyone has calculated the ballistic potential of a tightly rolled newspaper, but it must be considerable. I found out a large weekend edition can easily break a window at 25 feet. When striking the south end of a stooped north-facing garnener it can send him flying into the tulips.

Then there was the unfortunate incident when my bicycle struck a fallen branch which detoured me into Mrs. Duffy’s lawn party. (You might have read the sensationalized newspaper account.)

All of my subsequent jobs were chosen with safety in mind, but I always managed to defeat the statistics. I lost my soda jerk job when a sudden hot fudge spill caused me to leap back into a stack of sundae glassware. I suffered a similar fate at the Five and Dime with the runaway floor waxer.

I almost got a job on the Palisades Amusement Park’s roller coaster until the manager recognized me. He said he was sorry, but there were lives at stake. “Try the Games Arcade or one of the games of chance stands near the carousel. But stay away from the shooting gallery!” he shouted.

What really decided me on being a work at home writer was the night a mini tornado whipped down our street damaging a couple of front porches and I was called in for questioning.


If you feel, on occasion, you cannot in all honesty say something helpful and encouraging, then by all means say nothing or tell a merciful fib. Unless you work for the Department of Bridge and Tunnel Safety or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there is no need for you to point out every little flaw you detect in what you’ve been invited to look at. The owner or creator of the object in question is already aware of its tiniest flaws.

For instance if a woman of advanced age is so hungry for compliments she has to ask, “Do I look okay?” you should realize she’s really asking, “Besides some obvious imperfections, how do I look?” For heaven’s sake, be kind!

The world does not need more “Inspector Generals”. You know the type, the fellow you invited to your barbecue who spends the afternoon commenting on your crab grass and maligning your marigolds. He doesn’t think highly of your barbecue sauce either. If it wasn’t for your wife’s intervention you might have added something to his salad dressing that would have kept him very active for a couple of hours.

Some I.G.’s feel they must call attention to every defect they see or the world will miss an opportunity to get closer to perfect. “Well, you wanted an honest answer, didn’t you?” they ask after giving a devastating opinion. The fact is, most of us don’t want a completely honest answer.

I once spent a sweaty weekend building a toolshed and, in a weak moment, asked an I.G. what he thought of it. Instead of beginning with a complimentary remark or being noncommital, he had to point out, “There’s no doorway in your toolshed. How are you supposed to get in?”

Of course I was aware of the absent doorway. It was one of those bugs I had to work on. I wasn’t looking for his negative comment. I just needed a little encouragement after 16 hours of sawing, hammering, nailing and swearing. Instead I got his unfair criticism.

Unfair, because it wasn’t my fault. I’d missed “Doorways Week” in manual training when I had the Chicken Pox. On the other hand I got a B+ in both “Windows” and “Gutters”.

I.G.’s think they’re the only ones capable of noticing the obvious and will ask hurtful questions like, “Say, do you know you’re getting quite bald?” and “Have you noticed how badly the paint is peeling off your house?”

But enough is enough. I’ll end here. There’s something ironic about a blog that criticizes the critics. By the way, what do you think of this blog?