There is one inalienable human right, so safe from the probing, intruding fingers of the authorities that it was unnecessary to even mention it in the Constitution.

We call this sacred privilege the privacy of the human mind, including its absolute freedom to travel through space and time without permission or documentation. Its common name is “Daydreaming”.

God gave us this free pass to make life more bearable. Walter Mitty made it famous when James Thurber gave us a peek into Walter’s overactive brain. The world is full of psychic adventurers, mental nomads sometimes anxious to go anyplace other than “here and now”. What kind of cerebral excursion did you take today?

Perhaps it was while you were in the supermarket checkout line. A magazine cover on the rack may have brought you back to the best vacation you ever had or maybe it was one of your “impossible” daydreams. Never mind, you don’t have to tell.

Boredom is a first-class ticket for an intellectual voyage. Take a look around you at your fellow passengers on the commuter train or bus. Note the glazed eyes and blank expressions. They are no longer on board. Where have they all gone?

The world does need people who find fulfillment working at the grindstone. But there’s an escape hatch available when a corporate grindstoner summons a daydreamer into his office. “I know it’s late, but we’ve got a problem with the Bumble contract,” says V. P. Grindstone as you grasp the hatch’s release handle .

(I’m going to miss another sunset. I was planning to fish down at the lake. I think I’ve finally found where the large mouths are feeding.)

“We can’t live with their consequential damage clause,” growls V.P. Grindstone.

“I’ve had them waive that, sir. It was in my report.” (First I’ll row over to Purzycki’s Landing where that big willow hangs over the water.)

“And we absolutely have to avoid any extended warranties called for in their order.”

“They backed off and agreed to our standard terms, sir.” (Doesn’t he read my reports? Now where was I? Oh yes, under the big willow. Just before dark I’ll use the new flies or maybe I’ll use two rods and work the bottom also. But what bait should I use down there?)

“Well, we’ve managed to clear that up then,” says V.P. Grindstone, patting himself on the back. “It was a real can of worms.” (Worms? Of course, worms! Al Blake caught a four-pounder last week with a night crawler. I got something valuable out of this meeting anyway.)


Advice is not subject to the ordinary rules of arithmetic. If a man gives you a piece of his advice, it does not decrease his supply. Everyone seems to draw from an unlimited advice stockpile except for the professional advice-givers who have formalized the process with adjoining price lists.

Amateurs are more than willing, even anxious, to give us their valuable advice, free of charge. We often get our money’s worth.

Heaven knows the world would be in even sadder shape if we didn’t care enough about each other to go through the trouble of offering our so-called valuable opinions. The most generous among us send their suggestions in letters to the editors, hoping to enlighten thousands of “wrong-headed” readers.

Some advisors, however, are reluctant to admit to giving us a bum steer. “Yes, I remember I told you to bet heavily on the Giants, but I was sure you knew enough not when they played the Packers, Eagles or the Bears. “

There is also the authoritive type of opinion-giver: “So, this is your garden?”

“Yes, it’s taken a great deal of planning and work, but I’m happy with the results.”

“Do you want my advice?”

“No, I really don’t, but if you have some spare fertilizer I could ceratinly use that. I already have an oversupply of advice. “

“You should switch the marigolds and the zinnias. The color scheme would be greatly improved.”

‘You’re suggesting I transplant 120 full-grown plants? That would be back-breaking and I’d probably lose a lot of them.”

“It would be more than worth the effort and the risk. That’s my advice.”

“That’s not advice. That’s more like the fertizer I told you I need. You know, the kind we get from bulls and horses. “

Bad advice is not always recognizable. There is the case of workmen installing a two-ton statue of George Washington. The monument was dangling from the crane when a large sedan pulled up and a well-dressed gentleman stepped out. “A great work of art, a wonderful tribute!” he said, looking up at the statue.

“He should face City Hall across the street, right?” the foreman asked

“No, no,” the man replied with some irritation. He should face the the west and the nation’s future expansion.”

“I’m glad I asked ,”the foreman said and motioned the statue down to the pedastel where it was rotated and permanently bolted into place, facing the sunset. “It’s a good thing you showed up. I didn’t know they’d changed their minds,” he said.

“Who?” asked the gentleman.

“The Parks Department. Aren’t you from the Parks Department?”

“No, I’m an interior decorator. I have to meet a client in town and stopped to ask for directions.”

“But, why did you tell me…..?”

” Well, you asked.”

Much advice has been given by “wise men” down through the centuries on how to avoid the damage inflicted by advice-givers…… “Never give advice in a crowd,” the Arab proverb warns…… The Spanish version is more specific: “Never advise anyone to go to war or to marry.”……An old German saying cautions us to “never give advice unless asked.”

But wait a minute. Who asked the old German for that advice?


My ad read simply: “Garage Sale. Saturday 9-5. Nice assortment of jelly glasses, old magazines, etc.” Actually, I was fibbing about the etc., but I thought I’d find some odds and ends to sell and it gave the ad a certain air of mystery and intrigue.

I was up late Friday night boxing jelly glasses and leafing through the 200 magazines I’d bought at garage sales and never got around to reading.

Pounding on my front door woke me from a sound sleep Saturday morning. A rather large lady was standing on my stoop. “Are you, or are you not having a garage sale, Mister?” she demanded.

“Yes, ma’am, but it starts at nine and it’s only…..My goodness, it’s only 5:30, not even dawn!”

“Your ad didn’t say ‘No early birds” she growled. “Where are the jelly glasses?” I showed her the six full cartons. (My kids and I are great Smuckers fans) She studied them for almost a minute and then barked, “Fifteen!”

“Fifteen what?” I asked, still groggy and having trouble concentrating.

“Okay,” she shouted (as neighbors’ lights began coming on.) “Twenty! And that’s my last offer, Sonny. Tell you what, though, I’ll make it twenty-five if you throw in that big pile of magazines. Deal?”

“It is if you’ll put me down,” I said. Her cigar smoke was beginning to make me nauseous.

I thought I’d done rather well selling out so early and went back to bed feeling smug. My wife will be proud of me when she returns from her mother’s where she and the kids had slept over.

At 5:45 a.m. there was another battering of the front door. “Where are the jelly glasses and magazines?” a middle aged couple demanded.

“I’m sorry, I’m sold out.”

“What about the et ceteras?” the man asked, removing his crash helmet.

“We collect et ceteras,” his little wife said.

“Well,”I began to explain, “I really don’t….”

The wife looked into the foyer. “That’s a cute little side table,” she said.

“We’ll give you fifty bucks for it,” the man said. It was a statement, not an offer. I shoved the bills into my pajama pocket and went back to bed, hoping my wife would understand later about our old wobbly table.

As the morning progressed I realized that people who go through the travel and trouble of responding to an ad, don’t like to hear they’ve wasted their time.

I agreed to an irresistable offer for our ancient sofa. My lawn chairs and potted plants went next, then my garden hose and sprinkler. By setting an artificially exhorbitant price and refusing to budge, I saved our cat.

I locked the kids’ room first and later bolted the front and back doors and hid in the basement. But someone dug up a small forsythia in the front garden and left thirty dollars and a note in the mailbox.

“It isn’t as bad as it looks,” I told my wife when she returned, looking stunned as she stared into the almost empty living room. “Have a sip of my Chablis, Dear. You’ll feel better. Sorry about the chipped cup. They bought most of our stemware and china and paid top dollar for everything. We can replace it all with new stuff and have a lot left over.”

“Please, not the jelly glasses,” she pleaded. “Promise me you won’t go out next Saturday and start buying jelly glasses and magazines . It’s so good to have the spare room available again.”

” I promise, Sweetheart,” I said, happy to see she was perking up and smiling.

“Okay then, that’s settled,” she said. “Now let’s get you to bed. It looks like you’ve had a long, hard day.”

“Oh, Sweetheart, about the bed……”


It was twilight of a pleasant Sunday evening. I was just beginning to recover from the after effects of an even more pleasant Saturday evening, trying to decide between TV and a good book. Or I might just relax and watch the plants grow in my wife’s terrarium. Suddenly I was jolted to attention!

“Say, Dad, do we have any cement?” I didn’t catch on at first, assuming it was just a growing boy’s natural curiosity.

“There’s a ten-pound bag in the basement, Steven. I’m going to build a patio someday….or other.”

“That’s a relief, Dad. I was afraid I was going to flunk Earth Science.”

I caught that one, a wicked line drive, and flinched. “Am I correct in assuming you have some kind of impending school project, Son?”

“Yup, and it’s due tomorrow. Miss Grumble said if we don’t……”

“Steven, you mentioned cement. Can you assure me we don’t have to build something like that Fiji village out of toothpicks tonight? There was a pleading tone in my voice.

“Of course not, Dad. That was last month’s geography project. This is for Earth Science. It’s completely different.”

I gripped the arms of my Van Winkle Lounger and whispered, “What is it?”

“Hoover Dam, Dad. I have to build a model of Hoover Dam. Miss Grumble said if I don’t…..”

“Hoover Dam by tomorrow morning ? How long have you known about this and why didn’t you start sooner?”

“Gee, Dad, you don’t have to shout like that. I’ve been busy with other things, like the poetry class and cross-country practice, but I’ve also been working on this project.”

That’s different, I thought. I’m good at finishing touches. It’s my specialty. “What have you done so far?” I asked.

“I’ve got the water for Lake Mead in this bottle, Dad. “

After an hour’s research I had a vague idea of what Hoover Dam looked like. While Steven stood by holding Lake Mead, I began mixing quick-dry cement , wondering how to fake turbines. What’s a turbine, anyway?

It was a challenging fun project at first, but assistant Steven went to bed at ten and it got lonely. By 2 a.m. I was groggy and suffering with cement burns. (I should have worn gloves.) A few hours later I awoke, looking down at what could easily be mistaken for Hoover Dam by someone who had never been there or had never seen or even heard of it.

Full payment came when Steven pronounced in the morning, “It’s Super!”
“But gee, Dad,” he said, “You didn’t have to make a sign like that and I think you misspelled it.”

“Leave it as it is,Son. Humor your old Dad and leave the sign.”

“Dedicated to Miss Grumble: Hoover Damn.”


Background music is essential in the movies. “Rocky” would have been a so-so pug without his rousing theme and a musicless “Jaws” would have lost much of its bite.

The strong influence of music is not a new idea. Playwrite William Congreves wrote in 1697, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks or bend the knotted oak.”

There are examples in real life. Serenades still arouse the emotions of young maidens, dirges underline our grief and military bands still inspire troops with the necessary enthusiasm to run in the right direction when the battle begins.

Background music is often piped into dentist and IRS waiting rooms and wherever else a calming influence is needed, a sort of audio Novocaine. But a more personal effort for attitude adjustment is also available..

Using your Smart Phone player to create an appropriate audio atmosphere could increase your chance for success by inspiring others to change their attitudes or tempos. Say you’ve been summoned into your boss’s office. He appears angry and you sense an impending crisis. “You sent for me, Mr. Hardnose?” you ask and reach into your pocket to turn on your player, selecting “Brahms Lullaby”.”

“It’s this Badpenny contract,” Mr. Hardnose growls. “You were a week late in submitting it and I have never seen such a….such a….” Mr. Hardnose begins to struggle against the waves of soothing notes drifting out of your pocket and filling the room. His growls soften to murmurs with the same sleepy tempo of the lullaby. “Please try to improve this thing, my boy,” he whispers, slumping back into his chair. “It does have a few good paragraphs.”

Brahms’ Lullably is reliable, but it only provides about two minutes of sedation and shouldn’t be used to calm a major tirade. Pachelbel’s Canon gives you about six minutes and, for longer tranqulization, try De Bussy’s 10-minute “Afternoon of a Faun”. I heard it once stopped a charging bull.

There are situations calling for a faster beat. You might be in a long supermarket checkout line with a cashier and bagger who appear to be starring in a slow motion movie. A rousing Sousa march will speed things up and get you out in 6/8 time.

I’ll soon be paying by the hour for a plumber’s efforts. If, as usual, he leaves half his tools in the truck, when he leaves for them I’ll hit him with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. He’ll march briskly to the truck and possibly salute me when he returns.

Music is definitely a mood and pace changer, but it must be used carefully. A friend of mine was pulled over for speeding on Route 80 recently. He had an elaborate, well rehearsed plea about being on a mission of mercy. As an added touch he’d turned on his car’s player for a heart-rending performance of Clair de Lune. The teary-eyed trooper began to stuff his ticket book back into his pocket when Joe accidentally turned on the radio and heard a news report about an unruly crowd shouting to defund the police.

In addition to a speeding ticket, Joe was cited for reckless parking and dirty tail lights.


The supermarket checkout line was invented in 1938, just in time to provide endurance training for the large, rugged fighting-mad population needed for the trying times of World War II.

That’s not a complete exaggeration. How many times in the last month have you endured long waits in a checkout line,watching your Haagen-Dazs drip into your bagels, as a conscientious clerk read someone’s pack of discount coupons, front and back, and then called a manager for consultation? How many eternities have you spent while a housewares clerk strolls over to advise the price of an untagged soup ladle?

The express checkout is a great idea. However, it seems to be the first assignment for green recruits. I once tried vainly to help a rookie identify the exact genetic name of my potatoes so he could punch the right twenty buttons to come up with the price. Finally, a housewife at the end of the line shouted, “For goodness sakes, you two dummies, those are russets!”

In the new bring-your-own-bags era, pro baggers are not always on hand. To help speed things up, I sometimes attempt to fill the void, but my performance tends to resemble an”I Love Lucy” episode with groceries zooming in on the belt while I desperately try to keep up. I usually arrive home with scrambled eggs and the milk already poured into the Wheaties.


Many veteran campers will explain at great length that the main reason they spend their vacations like Neanderthals in pop-up canvas caves is because they need the change.

But are all changes good? Wouldn’t a stretch on a Georgia chain gang or a week in solitary at Sing Sing be a change? Shouldn’t a vacation make us feel good while we’re on it rather than just making us feel relieved when it’s over?

My first camping experience came when my parents decided I needed a change. (or maybe they did.) I was backpacked onto , kicking and pleading, the bus to Camp Now-ee-Gotcha in the Poconos

By my third day, the camp counselors were using me as an exhibit for the insect bites and severe sunburn lectures. The activities program was very detailed and very strict and the food was swill. (That’s not a misspelling.) And the scary campfire yarns about maneating and boyeating beasts in the nearby forests made night time sleeping impossible. I dozed off during a swimming lesson while attempting the backstroke and was again a star in the artificial respiration video.

All this led to a very rewarding experience, not in the camp, but during my eventual escape and my conversations with interesting drivers as I hitchhiked home.

One old truckdriver remembered he’d endured a miserable week as a boy at Camp Now-ee-Gotcha and years later, as a G.I., soon after the D-Day invasion, was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner of war for five months.

I asked him which camp experience was the more painful and, after a thoughtful few minutes, he admitted he couldn’t decide between Now-ee-Gotcha and Stalag 22.


Hercule Poirot turned to the group of suspects seated in the Orient Express dining car. “It is now quite clear to this detective that the murderer of Colonel Throckbottom is none other than….(COUGH, COUGH, COUGH, A-A-ACHOO!) who has cleverly been disguised as (RATTLE, RATTLE, CRUNCH!)”

At this climactic moment in the movie, Poirot raised his hand to point to the perpetrator and the entire row in front of me stood up to remove their coats or to leave for parts unknown. When I cry at movies, it is often caused more by the audience than the film.

We movie goers have to deal too often with the coughers, sneezers, snackers, talkers, wrigglers and shoe-losers sitting near us. I sometimes don’t get to see an entire movie until years later when it’s on TV. Until TCM ran “The Grapes of Wrath”, I’ d thought it was a story about a strike at a winery.

Snacking at the movie theater is a nice tradition, but it can be overdone. The couple in front of me recently consumed two bags of popcorn, four candy bars and a sack of donuts. I felt like I was playing PacMan. It was very distracting.

The noisy eaters are the worst. Without realizing it, they add sound effects to a movie. A nearby wolfish potato chip chomper spoiled “Gone With the Wind” for me. When Rhett Butler angrily swept Scarlett off her feet and carried her up those stairs, I thought I’d heard cracking and assumed he’d broken the poor girl’s back.

Laughter in a theater can be quite infectious and enjoyable, but sometimes it can be disturbing. The jolliest loud laughter I ever heard was from a gaunt, hatchet-faced old man sitting next to me. It was during “Psycho’s” chilling murder scene in the shower. I settled for sponge baths for weeks after that.

“Oh, I saw this picture. You’ll love it,” the ‘spoiler’ tells his companion. When you hear this, change your seat immediately to avoid his or her running commentary. “Now watch this! Watch what he does now! Watch!” Does he think we’re going to stop looking at the screen after paying so much for a ticket?

I encountered one of the more imaginitive movie house nuisances once in a Morristown theater. I was trembling through a “Friday the 13th” sequal in 3-D when I suddenly felt an icy cold hand on the top of my head.

As I fought off a fainting spell, I thought, ‘This 3-D is much too realistic.!” But then I heard a woman shouting beside me in the aisle. “This is our row, Sylvia. I remember we were six bald heads from the back.”


Our very ancient ancestors were born in the sea and we are drawn back by the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. Like lemmings we make our way to the ocean each summer, undeterred by obstacles, adversities or toll booths.

Inching southward on the Garden State Packedway, with family and engine overheating, we begin to trade the cares and fears of our landlocked lives for the cares and fears of oceanside living.

After three hours of inching and a hundred Are-we-almost-theres?, we arrive at Jellyfish Beach where we have reserved a place at Bertha’s Bungalow rentals and sales. (“She sells cheap shells by the seashore”)

Your cozy cottage, according to Bertha, is within easy walking distance of the beach, but Bertha has run in three Boston Marathons and is a retired Marine drill sergeant.

Bertha also claimed your cottage sleeps eight, but you forgot to ask if that was simultaneously. Now she demonstrates how the kitchen table converts to a double bed and the living room couch opens up almost completely. Two can sleep there if one sits up.

There is a nice view of the cottage from the detached guest bathroom, The promised third bathroom is even more detached. Bertha has an arrangement with a local Texaco Station. Well, what do you want for $2,000 a week, the Beverly Hilton?

Jellyfish Beach beckons. There is a genuine feeling of homecoming as you approach the entrance. The ocean, after all, is our Mother. She belongs to all of us. The beach is another matter. It belongs to the taxpayers of Jellyfish Townsip and they charge five bucks a head per day.

You spread your beach blanket and collapse beneath your umbrella until a strong gust sends it pinwheeling towards the boardwalk. Never mind, you will soon be romping in the waves and body surfing. A lifeguard looks at you oddly when you ask ” what time does the ocean calm down?”

Finally, you join your frolicking family and bravely dive into a hugh white-capped roller which does a 180 and pulls you out towards what could be shark country. Was that a fin poking out of the foam?

You’ve seen “Jaws” a dozen times and you know exactly what to do, but the famly votes you down. They will not drive a mile or two inland and find a motel. They’re having too much fun.

As the sun sinks and the shadows lengthen across the sand, your happy group returns to Bertha’s for quick showers (If the Texaco Station is still open) and seaside games, like peeling off each other’s skin. Or you might return to the boardwalk in the evening and spend a week’s wages trying to win a stuffed monkey.

Tomorrow you can go out on a crowded chartered fishing boat and possibly win the pool for the seasickest person on board. Or you could sit on the beach again and watch for oil slicks and red tides. There are so many possibilities!


We were dining by candlelight in a posh restaurant when my wife Barbara leaned across the table and said , “Sweetheart, would you please have them do something about the air conditioning?”

“Exactly what I was thinking, my dear,” I said and waved to the waiter. “Pierre, I’m sweltering. Would you please turn up the AC?”

“Turn up ?” Barbara gasped. “Turn up the air conditioner? They should turn it off! I’m freezing!”

As Pierre walked away, perplexed, I glanced around the room. Most of the male diners had doffed their jackets and loosened their neckties. The women were huddled in bulky sweaters and shawls. Some appeared to have blue lips.

I’ll bet air conditioning is right up there as one of the causes of broken marriages and divorce. Think about it. A hundred years ago when the institute of marriage was almost rock solid, how many air conditioners were there?

Air conditioning places much of the indoor climate decisions into our hands and makes the temperature, at least, a matter of personal choice. But when there’s more than one person involved, that’s a problem.

We once resigned ourselves to weather conditions as being God’s will and changed our plans when necessary. But since our indoor climate is now the result of human decisions, it has become a case of second and third guessing, bickering and occasional fisticuffs.

AC setting opinions vary, depending on the subject’s sex, metabolism, activity level and attire. At a business office, for instance, the female receptionist who burns very few calories per minute and is dressed in peekaboo chiffon, prefers the “semi-tropical” setting. The boys down in the shipping department, however, push the “Arctic Wastes” button.

As management vacillates, yielding to one faction and then another, and as the AC and cooling fans settings are changed, the building temperatures and the wind chill factors fluctuate daily. Absenteeism soars as chilblains and heat exhaustion cases increase.

The internal climate control debate intensifies the conflict between the sexes and might also be contributing to the highway accident rate. A happily married New Jersey couple is cruising southward on the Garden State Parkway, anticipating a carefree day at the Shore. As they approach Perth Amboy, he reaches for the instrument panel.

“What are you doing, Harry? You’re not turning on the air conditioner are you?

“Sweetheart, it’s definitely getting close in here with the sun beating down on the roof. It must be close to 90 out there now and the vent isn’t helping much. I’ll just put it on low.”

“Oh dear! I can feel the icy blast already! Right down to my bones!”

“I haven’t turned it on yet, Alice.”

Just a few miles further, Harry has cooled down where he’s hardly sweating. Alice is wrapped in a beach blanket and sneezing occasionally. Harry relents and pushes the off button. Ten minutes later he is sweating bullets and feeling a little dizzy. “Alice, I have to open a window,” he gasps.

“Must you Harry? I just got comfortable and you know how I hate being storm-tossed. At this speed we’ll have a 60 mile per hour wind gusting in here. That’s almost a hurricane, Harry. Well, if you must, open it just an inch or two.”

The State Trooper pulled Harry over near the Asbury Park exit. “What’s wrong , officer? I wasn’t speeding, was I ?”

“No sir. But I’ll have to cite you for careless driving. You couldn’t have been operating your vehicle efficiently with your nose wedged in the window opening with one eye looking up at the ceiling.”

A sympathetic male judge might let Harry off with a warning and a month’s community service at a nursing home beauty parlor.