I ran into a friend in the supermarket yesterday. Actually he ran into me. Al was reading a small slip of paper when he accidentally bumped into me with his cart in the canned goods aisle. “Sorry,” he said. “I was trying to decipher my wife’s handwriting on her grocery list and I can’t make out this one item.  I think ‘bark chips’ means ‘pork chops’ and ‘little beads’ are most likely ‘lentil beans’, but maybe ‘mero toons’ is not actually a garble.”

“Sounds like cookies,” I said.  “Let’s ask that clerk who’s shelving cans.”

“Mero toons?  Never heard of  them, but I’m a canned goods guy. Hey Stanley, where do we keep the mero toons?” he shouted to an associate.

“I think that might be in Aisle 8 next to the taco meals,” Stanley replied.

We found no mero toons in Aisle 8 and an assistant manager there wasn’t much help.
“Could be a new snack item, ” he said. “But I don’t think it was in our last ad. Nobody tells me anything.”

The courtesy desk manager tried a computer search using five or six spelling variations. “It’s not even in our warehouse,” he said.  “Who wrote this list?”

“My wife,” Al replied.

“Let’s try a female reading then,” he said and handed the list to his assistant. “See the mero  toons item, Ethel?  Is that a misspelling of something else?”

” Mero toons ?  That’s not mero toons.  That’s ‘mushrooms’  as plain as the nose on your face,”  Ethel said and handed the list back for three befuddled guys to gape at.

“So, Al, ” I said later, “it was apparently written in a female gender code, but why didn’t you call your wife in the first place?”

“I knew she wasn’t home and I didn’t want to interrupt her at her new senior study class.”

“What is she studying?”














Thoughts while raking 30 bagfuls of leaves.  I’ve had this same idea every autumn for many years. Why isn’t there a company that will come and  blow our leaves away? No, I don’t mean the landscapers who arrive with a squadron of blower-wielders who take an ear-splitting hour to clear one yard.  There should be an outfit equipped with enough air power to do the job quietly in a few seconds.

They could have one of those eight-foot diameter fans that motion picture companies use for special effects like when they’re filming a typhoon scene.  The “Night Winds Inc.” crew would arrive with their truck-mounted fan around 3 a.m., turn it on full blast and instantly clear a lawn, almost noiselessly, propelling leaves in various directions around the neighborhood.

Nitpickers would claim the operation is illegal and maybe they’d be right. There are other drawbacks as well.  If I hired Night Winds Inc., my leafless lawn the next morning would arouse quite a lot of suspicion among my neighbors whose yards have been buried.  Then too, if the fan guy doesn’t aim with extreme care, my window shudders, stoop plants and mailbox might be scattered up and down the street as further evidence, and the neighbor whose cat became airborne and ended up meowing loudly on his garage roof would certainly demand an investigation.

No, the idea needs a lot of work, but thinking about it helps to distract me while raking and here I am finally closing bag number 30.  What a relief to be done. It must have taken five hours of raking, scooping and pushing down leaves to make room for more in each bag. Let me check my watch on the time span. That’s funny. My watch is gone.


My wife tried to console me later. “Don’t feel bad, Dear.  Your favorite wristwatch isn’t really gone.  It’s in one of those 30 leaf bags over there.”



Our dog Mollie is a shih-tzu which means “lion dog” in Chinese.  That describes Mollie to a tee if you allow for homonyms.  She’s usually lyin’ around the house, snoring.  That’s okay with us. She’s our old pup and we don’t appreciate uncomplimentary remarks about her.

My friend Al was visiting the other day and saw Mollie curled up under the kitchen table. “She’s quite inert, isn’t she?” he said.  I replied it was time for her afternoon nap, not mentioning she’s usually comatose for three hours.

“My dog Roscoe is a lot more active and he’s very intelligent,” Al boasted.

“Mollie is smart as a whip,” I countered.

“Smart as a whip? She looks like a dust mop you left under the table.”

“I’ll bet you five bucks if I give her three commands she’ll understand and obey each one immediately.”  Just then Mollie began to snore loudly and Al said, “You’re on.”

It took a while to wake up Mollie, but I waved a treat under her nose and she became semi-lively. “Okay, here’s command number one:  Mollie, don’t bark!” (Mollie hadn’t barked since that time two months previously when I accidentally shut her in the hall closet.  She’s against barking. She considers it unladylike.) She obeyed my command.

“Wait a minute!” Al protested.

“That was a legitimate command and Mollie obeyed. Here’s command number two: Mollie don’t stand up and beg. (Mollie begs all the time, but she never caught on to standing on her hind legs which calls for too much athleticism.  She obeyed again.)

By then Al was getting a little profane so I quickly gave the third command: “Mollie, don’t roll over!” (I was taking a real chance here. Mollie sometimes falls asleep suddenly or she might have an urgent need for a belly rub, so I held a treat high above her nose and kept her upright.)

I won five dollars which I spent on Pup-Peroni treats and temporarily lost a pal, but I’m sure Al’s already planning to recoup down at the Senior Center. I heard he’s teaching Roscoe how  to respond inertly to negative commands.












The Hudson Must Go


Living in North Jersey these days is an expensive proposition, especially if you commute to a job in Manhattan and you’re faced with the huge cost of traveling that last mile over or under or on the Hudson every work day. Something has to be done about it, something drastic. We’ve got to get rid of the Hudson River. It’s in the way.

My family has a history of short term toll-free river crossings.  My Grandma Honorah once spoke of walking across the solidly frozen Hudson to shop on 42nd Street around 1900, but you can’t count on that today with global warming. Imagine calling your Wall Street boss and telling him you won’t be in for awhile because the river melted.

My Uncle Willie swam from Edgewater to Riverside Park and back in 1920. That’s too dangerous now with the heavy river traffic and you can’t show up at work in a wetsuit even on dress-down Fridays.

I once almost made the crossing in a small sailboat with a boyhood pal. We got within a stone’s throw of the Battery. I know it was a stone’s throw because there were two kids on the shore throwing stones at us and they were getting close so we had to get out of range.

So how do we get rid of the Hudson River? First of all we don’t have to eliminate all 315 miles of it from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic. I suggest a dam around Yonkers and a nearby canal to divert the river eastward into Long Island Sound.. Then broaden the lower Manhattan shoreline to narrow the river at one point. They’ve been doing that for over a century.  So-called landfills of New York garbage and rubble, including new subway diggings, have added thousands of acres to Manhattan at the expense of the Hudson’s width.

A gate at that point would be opened for the low tide outflow and closed to the high tide inflow.  Eventually, toll free roads and promenades would be installed on the dry river bed.  The ferry ports can become bus terminals and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels would still be used by commuters who would miss their daily carbon monoxide doses.

Someone else will have to work out the other details.  I’m pretty busy right now with my next plan to double-deck the Garden State Parkway from Newark to Asbury Park.


The tricentennial of the birth of John Montagu will occur next year on November 13. Make your plans and reservations now to attend one or more of the memorial celebrations that are sure to be held around the world, including the unveiling of plaques at appropriate sites like McDonald’s and Subway restaurants and possibly a royal lunch at Windsor Castle.

John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in Great Britain, lent his name, quite unintentionally, to today’s immensely popular hand-held meal.  The earl was a notorious gambler and one evening, in order to avoid interrupting a card game, he told his cook to prepare a quick, easy to handle meal that wouldn’t cause a misdeal or mess up the kitty. The cook obliged by handing him a cut of meat between two slices of bread.

Later when the cook asked for orders from the other players, they watched the happily munching Montagu and replied, “Just repeat the Sandwich order.”  So, for the first time, there were sandwiches and (poker) chips all around.

Of course the earl and his cook didn’t invent the sandwich. Our ancestors had been eating meat since the dawn of history and had created bread recipes at least 30,000 years ago.  The combination of meat and bread was inevitable and probably happened  thousands of years before that card game.  Peanut butter and jelly, paninis and wraps were later important advances.

The sandwich label was applied again when British explorer Captain James Cook discovered an archipelago in the Pacific and named it the Sandwich Islands in honor of Montagu who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty.  The islanders eventually murdered Captain Cook and soon began to refer to their homeland as “Hawaii”.

The surname “sandwich” has prevailed although there are now dozens of given first names including hoagie, submarine, gyro, Philly cheese steak, BLT,  French dip, Monte Cristo, reuben and Dagwood.

I remember oddball sandwich combos I observed in lunch rooms at school and work.  I used to kid my friend Dick about his Hershey Bar on rye and he, in turn, mocked my Bermuda onions and sardines on pumpernickel with a side order of Tums. Do you have a favorite weird sandwich?


It was that awful day we lost Dad….for over an hour.  It later became one of those entertaining family stories that everyone enjoys except for maybe the leading man. Dad always left the room when I began to tell this one.

He had  driven Mom and me out to watch the Holy Name Parade in Hackensack one Sunday afternoon. I was only five and was quite impressed, especially with the big Mickey Mouse balloon Dad bought me.

Parking spaces were scarce in Hackensack that day. We finally found one on a side street and had to walk back several blocks guided by the lively music of a marching band.  We didn’t get any such help returning to the car after the parade. In fact its exact location turned out to be a matter of opinion. “It’s down this street, Jim,” Mom said after we’d hiked for about 10 minutes.

“No, Nora, we have to walk a couple of blocks more,” Dad said.

“Well when you find out you’re mistaken you can come back here and meet us at the car.  We’ll be waiting,” Mom replied.

“When you get tired of your futile search around here,” Dad said, “just walk two blocks over and turn right. I’ll be waiting.”   I thought it best to stay out of the debate, so I just played with my smiling pal Mickey who was floating above me on a string.

Mom and I soon found the car, but it was locked, so we stood at the curb and we waited………and we waited. Eventually Mom began to lose patience and Mickey began to lose altitude.  Finally she flagged down a passing patrol car and reported a missing husband.  “Lady, it’s a parade day. He’s  probably having a beer with his buddies. Don’t worry, he’ll show up, ” the cop said and pulled away.

A half hour later I watched Mickey flutter to the gutter just as Mom was hailing another patrol car. This one held a surprise.  Dad was in the back seat, helping the police find his “lost family” and “stolen car”.  He was absolutely certain he’d parked two blocks further than where we’d found it, but he could never convince Mom of his theory that some smart aleck  car thief had hot-wired the DeSoto and relocated it as a joke.