Barkley Takes Baby Steps on Road Back From Gambling

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. Charles Barkley’s revelation that he’s lost $10 million gambling over the years has led to an outpouring of support in his hometown, where locals point to the good he’s done for numerous charities.


Barkley

“He’s one of our biggest supporters,” says Children’s Hospital CEO Mack Doolin, M.D. “We’re going to stick with him until he gets this thing licked. He just needs to learn how to set limits,” says Doolin, who has counseled others with addictions.

And so Doolin is at Barkley’s side as he enters Leeds Elementary School to participate in “Fall Fun Carnival,” a fund-raiser for its PTO. “It’s a baby step,” says Barkley, “but I’ve got to start out small.”


“Shh–don’t tell him. The Fishin’ Hole’s rigged!”

 

Barkley draws a crowd of excited fans as he steps up to the Wheel O’ Fun, where fifty cents entitles a player to a spin for a toy or stuffed animal. “Fifty thousand on the red,” Barkley says before Doolin can intervene. “One ticket at a time, Charles,” he says, and the man known as “The Round Mound of Rebound” during his playing days with the Sixers, Suns and Rockets reluctantly agrees.

“Okay,” Barkley says sheepishly before laying down two quarters and winning a noisemaker that makes an annoying “clackety-clack” sound. “I’m gonna shake this sucker next time somebody asks me an embarrassing question on NFL Today,” Barkley says with a mischievous grin, referring to his comments on Adrian Peterson’s use of corporal punishment on his children that got him in hot water.

He moves on to the Action Figure Fishin’ Hole, where children drop a pole behind a bed sheet and the school’s fourth grade class officers attach a plastic superhero to the hook. “I want one of them Ninja Turtles,” Barkley says. Behind the sheet, Nancy Rouchka, class president, giggles as she picks Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger, from a cardboard box and puts it on the line. When Barkley sees his girlish prize he explodes at Rouchka, causing Assistant Principal Morris Byrum to come running across the cafeteria.

“What’s going on here?” Byrum asks in an excited tone as the class president sobs loudly. “What kinda clip joint you runnin’ here?” Barkley yells at the hapless administrator, before picking him up and tossing him onto the conveyor belt that takes dirty plates back to the dishwasher.

Barkley moves on to the Pez Dispenser Ring Toss, where he decides to try for the Popeye model. “I like that dude ’cause he’s like me–I am what I am.” Barkley plunks down ten dollars for twenty rings, but he soon needs to buy more as he collects Batman, Spiderman and Snoopy–but no Popeye.

A half hour later Barkley is down $50 when Doolin again intervenes. “C’mon, Charles–just walk away–okay?” he says as he takes a roll of quarters from the former Dream Team member and leads him out of the building.

Even though he always said he wasn’t a role model, the kids are sad to see him go. “I wanna be as good as him when I grow up,” says third-grader Tyrone Williams. “Not everybody makes it to the NBA,” his dad cautions him.

“Not at basketball,” Tyrone says. “Texas Hold ‘Em!”

Couples Find Anatomical Gifts Pay Off for Both Spouses

EVANSVILLE, Ill.  Beth Dennis, a slim, 44 year-old mother of two, is dressed in surgical scrubs this morning, but she’s not a doctor or a nurse.  “Neil was there for me when I delivered the kids,” she says of her husband, “and I want to be with him all the way today.”


“When you wake up, we’ll both look better, honey!”

 

Neil is about to undergo breast reduction surgery to correct what Beth joshingly calls his “man boobs,” a drooping condition that affects men’s useless mammary glands as they age.  “I was starting to look like Bib the Michelin Man,” Neil says with a laugh that seems a bit strained.  “I’m doing this as much for Beth as I am for myself,” he adds as he is wheeled into the operating room.

Bib the Michelin Man:  “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m having surgery too!”

 

While Neil’s parting words might seem defensive, in his case they are literally true since the excess tissue that is removed from his breasts will be added to Beth’s as the couple recycles unwanted body mass from him to her.  “Having kids and getting older takes a lot out of you,” she says, her eyes misting over with tears.  “I’m just so lucky to have a husband who’s willing to suffer so that I can have the big knockers he craves.”

 

According to entertainment lawyer Norman Schwein, Neil and Beth’s saga “is like something out of an O. Henry story.”  He is referring to “The Gift of the Magi,” in which a husband pawns his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, while the wife cuts her hair off to buy herself an early version of the Black and Decker DustBuster.

“We’re looking at a movie-of-the-week, maybe an ‘as-told-to’ book,” Schwein says as he speed dials an assistant vice president at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Anatomical gifts were illegal in much of America until the American Law Institute promulgated the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1978, and twenty-seven states quickly adopted the model statute in the hope of reducing holiday traffic jams.


Veriform appendix:  “I absolutely love it!”

 

“Anatomical gifts can be great stocking stuffers if you find yourself short on presents for someone you love,” says professional shopper Nan Kane O’Riley.  “Who wouldn’t love to find an appendix under the Christmas tree, as long as it’s packed in a styrofoam cooler with plenty of dry ice?”

For Beth Dennis, this Christmas will be one she’ll never forget.  “Neil’s gift will be one that I’ll wear proudly wherever I go,” she says, “unlike some of the stupid sweaters he’s given me in the past.”

High Court Hears Arguments in Right-to-Watch-World-Series Case

WASHINGTON.  The World Series begins tonight in Kansas City, but today lawyers stepped to the plate facing a different team of nine; the members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who heard arguments on a legal issue that tears the nation apart every October:  Does the Constitution protect the right of male fans to watch the fall classic even if they have no rooting interest in either team involved?


“I forget–what’s a DH?”

 

Lawyers for Ray Duncan of Danville, Illinois, say yes, while advocates for his wife Lurleen say the Bill of Rights does not recognize a man’s right to watch the World Series if he is not a fan of either the San Francisco Giants or the Kansas City Royals.


“U-S-A!  U-S-A!  What?  Both teams are from America?”

 

“Men watching sports and scantily-clad pom-pom shaking women on TV is what makes this country great,” said former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, now Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and line judge for professional women’s beach volleyball matches.


MacKinnon:  “You really should be watching Masterpiece Theatre.”

 

Feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon wrote an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times urging women to support a bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that would require men to hand the remote to their spouses as soon as their previously-designated “home team” was mathematically eliminated from contention.


Virginia Woolf:  “Can I at least watch ballet during the beer commercials?”

 

“The right of a woman to watch ballet on Bravo, while not explicity protected by the Bill of Rights, may be found within the subtext of most Virginia Woolf novels,” MacKinnon wrote.


Jack Nicholson

 

A constitutional right to watch the World Series was first suggested in the film version of the Ken Kesey novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nurse,” in which Jack Nicholson, playing the role of Randle Patrick McMurphy, rebels against a prohibition imposed by Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher, and watches an imaginary World Series before a blank TV screen.


Starr:  “To get the best reception, you have to twist both knobs at the same time.”

 

The right has not subsequently been recognized by federal courts, although it has been defended by law school professors with too much time on their hands and cited without authority by husbands across the country once their home team is eliminated.  “Our forefathers fought and died for the right to watch baseball,” asserted Duncan, who is a Cardinals fan.  “Yes my team was eliminated, but does that mean I have to watch a disease-of-the-week movie on Lifetime?”


Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  “I was hoping we could watch some ice skating for a change.”

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of three female justices on the high court, has spoken critically of a right to watch the World Series in speeches.  “Republican appointees on the Court who claim to be strict constructionists suddenly get all loosey-goosey when it’s about baseball,” she said in a commencement address at the Judge Wapner School of Law in Burbank, California, last spring.  “Whenever I want to watch ice skating the Chief Justice takes the remote away from me.”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Supremes Greatest Hits.”

Spam in the Terror Closet

Fall has come to New England and as I ventured into the storage closet yesterday to get out my boots–the ones I use to track wayward clients into the woods–a shiny metallic object caught my eye. I picked it out of the junk on the floor–a can of Spam?

“Honey,” I called out to my wife. “Why do we have Spam in the closet?”

“You mean unsolicited bulk messages sent electronically?”

“No–the canned, precooked meat product made by the Hormel Corporation.”

“Don’t you remember,” she said. “We set up a terror closet after 9/11.”

Of course–how could I forget! We take terrorism very seriously here in the suburbs of Boston. The 9/11 highjackers flew out of Logan Airport and spent the night in a motel not far from our home where we’d had dinner many times with our kids. And not too long ago they arrested a Pakistani teenager one town over who was plotting a Mumbai-style assault on a popular mall in bankruptcy proceedings that our kids patronize for over-priced branded sportswear.


The ultimate Chapter 11 shopping experience!

 

“Now I remember,” I said. “We were advised to stock a secure room that could be locked from the inside with staples in the event of an attempted takeover by Islamofacists. But why Spam?” I asked. “You hate the stuff.”

“I know, but if al Qaeda is going to establish a world-wide caliphate based on sharia law . . .”

“Which they’ve sworn to do . . .”

” . . . one of the first things to go will be Spam. It’s got pork in it!”

I hadn’t thought of that, but she was right. “What else did we . . .”

“You mean me . . .” Okay, so I’m not the most conscientious anti-terrorist in the world, but I’ve got a job to go to every day. After this brief stream-of-consciousness interlude, I returned to our conversation.

” . . . put in there?”

“Well, the boxed set of seasons one through six of Sex and the City.”

“Good call,” I said, even though I have never been able to sit through a single episode. “You know when the mullahs reach Route 128, the first thing to go will be an HBO series that glorifies female promiscuity in what Jesse Jackson . . .”

“Ahem–I think you mean the Reverend Jesse Jackson.”

“I stand corrected–fondly refers to as ‘Hymietown.’”

“That’s what I thought. ‘Rob and Big’ may survive, but I have to think that Sex and the City would be done for.”

“So we’ll be eating Spam and watching Sarah Jessica what’s-her-name. What else?”

“Well, I stocked up on vodka. Liquor will be banned under sharia, and I figured it packs more alcohol per square inch than white wine.”

“Right–we’ve got to conserve space. How about money? We may have to pay ransom for the kids if the destruction of the American Way of Life comes at a time when they’re at lacrosse or baseball practice.”

“Not to worry,” she said. “I stuffed $200 . . .”

“Do you really think that will be enough?”

“It should be plenty. I can’t spend more than a few hours with them, and I’m their mother. The Taliban will probably let them go for a bargain price.”

I felt comforted, reassured. She’d thought of everything. Still, we can’t let the terrorists rule our lives–if they do, they really have won.

“Is that envelope still in here?” I asked. “I’m a little short of cash, and I need some red wine.”

She came in and rummaged around for a bit, and finally produced the envelope from behind a box of Pappagallo pumps.

“Here’s $10, that’s all that’s left.”

“What happened to the rest of it?”

“I dipped into it a couple of times when the pizza guy showed up and I didn’t have any money.”

Monkeying Around With My Money

Scientists are studying monkeys for clues on human financial behavior.

The Boston Globe

It was time, I figured, to bite the banana.  My brokerage statement from Simian Financial Advisors had been lying on my desk for a week, staring at me in silent reproach.  At some point I’d have to actually look at it and see how much I’d lost, on paper at least.

I ripped open the envelope to see the bloody trail of how I got to where I am today.  Ouch–down 25% since the end of summer!  While not as bad as some of the chimps I play cards with at my club, it still hurt.

I picked up the phone and called Hairy, who’s been handling my money for years.

“Oooo-ooot GREET!” he screamed into the phone.  It wasn’t a good idea to call him before 4 p.m. when the market closed.

“Hairy–it’s me.  Or what’s left of me,” I said grimly.

“Chatta,” he boomed over the wire.  “Great to hear from you.”

Once a saleschimp, always a saleschimp.  Guys like Hairy just can’t turn it off.

“It’s not so great to be talking to you,” I said.  “I just opened up my account statement–I feel like I just read my own obituary.”

“C’mon, it’s not that bad,” he replied, trying to buck me up.  “We’ve got a hot little tech stock that’s ready to take off.”

“Tech, schmeck,” I said.  “I should have opened a Christmas Club account!”

“Now, don’t start in with that,” he said.  “You know, you’ve built up a little cash in your account.”

I was stunned.  “I have?”


” . . . but exchange-traded funds are hot!”

 

“Yeah–I don’t know if it’s dividends or what, but I’ve got a nice little play for you–assuming your wife hasn’t castrated you since we spoke last.”

That was always his sales pitch.  Whenever he’d call me with a short play against the box on cocoa futures, I’d tell him my wife wouldn’t let me.

“Excuse me,” he’d say, his voice dripping with testosterone.  “Has your wife made any money for you today?”

Well, no, I’d always have to admit.  “But I have to give her an end-of-year statement.”

“Why?” Hairy would ask.  “Is she your bank or something?  Did you go public and not tell me about it?”

“It’s called trust,” I’d say.  “And love.”

He’d hold the phone at arm’s length then, because he’d be laughing at me.  This is a guy who always hires a Jane Goodall-lookalike stripper for arm candy at his firm’s holiday party.


Jane Goodall and sock monkey:  Kowa-bunga baby!

 

I swallowed my pride.  “Okay–tell me about it,” I said, and he launched into his sales pitch.

“It’s a banana-backed securitized obligation.  Your yield can never be less than 13%.”

“Who’s the issuer?” I asked.  I’ve learned to ask the tough questions.

I heard him inhale, trying to work up an air of self-righteous umbrage.  “Why Simian Financial Advisors, of course,” he said, ending on a huffy note.

“Is that the full legal name?” I asked skeptically.

There was silence at his end of the line.  “Well, actually,” he said after a moment, “it’s Simian Financial Advisors IV, S.a.r.l., a Luxembourg special purpose limited liability company.”


“Who gave you this god-awful frost job?”

 

“. . . with no operating history, and no assets except banana-backed receivables–correct?”

Like a lot of people, I’d started to pay attention to what was on my account statement now that I knew that members of Congress fly all over the world on the bankers’ dimes while pretending to get tough with them whenever a television camera light went on, and their portfolios remain curiously–stable.

“So my yield could be a big fat goose egg if that special purpose vehicle goes belly-up–correct?”

All I could hear was the sound of paper shuffling.  “Say, listen, would you like some tickets to a Patriots game?” Hairy said after a while.

“No, and don’t send me one of your chintzy leatherette checkbook covers, either.”

He was silent for a moment.  “So that cash balance–what do you want to do with it?”

I thought for a moment.  “I’m going all in on commodities!” I yelled in a “Eureka” moment.  It was the one kind of investment Hairy didn’t handle.

“You don’t want to get into commodities,” he pleaded with naked self-interest.  “You don’t want a truckful of pork bellies to get dumped on your lawn someday, do you?”

“Who said anything about pork bellies?” I asked derisively.  “I’m talking Planet of the Apes Souvenir Drink Cups!”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Wild Animals of Nature!”

Eat, Pray, Love Author’s Cat to Pen Tell-All Book of Her Own

NEW YORK.  The runaway success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” has, according to The New York Times Book Review, spawned a mini-industry of spin-off titles including the forthcoming “Eat, Pray, Whine” by her former husband and “Eat, Pray, Floss” by her dental hygienist.  “A lot of people claim to know Elizabeth,” says Cheryl Dimarco of Metropolitan Dental Associates, P.C., “but have they ever seen what’s behind her third molars?”


Elizabeth Gilbert:  What’s behind those molars?

 

The newest entry in the field is being written not by human hands, but by paws, however.  Mitzy, Gilbert’s cat, has an axe to grind about the noted author’s year-long sabbatical to recover from the aftermath of her first marriage, during which the orange tabby was shunted through a succession of petsitters before ending up in a cage at a pet boarding service.


Mitzy:  “What about my needs?”

 

“If I hear the words ‘self-discovery’ one more time I’m going to hurl Iams Healthy Natural Weight Control Adult Cat Food all over somebody’s dining room rug,” said Mitzy through a publicist hired to promote the “tell-all” tome, tentatively titled “Eat, Sleep, Scratch Furniture.”


“Uh, Splash, when you go on the book tour you’ll get some questions about your name.”

 

Books by non-human animals have scored publishing successes in the political realm, notably First Cat Socks during the first and second Clinton administrations, First Dog Millie during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, and “My Senator and Me” by a Portugese water dog owned by the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy named “Splash,” apparently without irony.  All of those books have depicted a warm and close relationship between human and pet, leading some to question whether a bitter feline expose is likely to sell.

“Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass,” said Mitzy as she sharpened her claws on a Restoration Hardware couch leg.  “She’s got so much money, she can buy all the furniture she wants.”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

With Robert Frost, at Wal-Mart

          Derry, New Hampshire town officials are considering zoning changes that would permit strip malls, fast-food outlets and big-box stores to be built a short distance from Robert Frost’s farm.

                   The Boston Globe


Frost

It’s Sunday, the day I check in on my fellow rustic poet, old man Frost, who lives down the road less travelled. He’s a cranky old cuss, but you would be too if you’d fallen as far as he has. In 1960, he was America’s most revered poet and spoke at Kennedy’s inauguration. Today, he’s seen his star eclipsed by a Republican surety bond lawyer, Wallace Stevens, whose poetry Frost dismisses as “bric-a-brac.” You’ve got to love the old fart. Frost, that is, not Stevens, who’s an unloveable old fart.


Wallace Stevens, going out for ice cream.

I stop at Frost’s mailbox. A few flyers, an oil and lube job offer from the local tire and battery store, an expiration notice from plangent voices, the quarterly journal of avant-garde poetry edited by my former lover, elena gotchko.


“my love is like a red, red rose, that’s somehow stuck inside my nose.”

elena and I had parted ways when she showed up at our little apartment with a skunk-streak dyed into her hair a few years back to announce that she’d had the capital letters removed from her name–and was leaving me.

“you stultify me,” she had said, eschewing the upper case as she spoke with emotion not yet recollected in tranquility. “you’re holding me back–you with your insistence on meter and rhyme.” Fine, I said, and I’d never regretted it. How she ever roped Frost into subscribing was a mystery to me, although he was a sucker for those Publisher’s Clearing House come-ons.


“This Frost guy’s apparently gone for a walk in woods. Who’s next on the list?”

I knock on the door and Frost opens it up right away–he’s always eager for a little company and to get out of the house. It must be lonely out here, living all by himself with nothing but the sound of cars rushing by.

“I’m ready,” he says, the cheap polyester “gimme” hat already on his head. I don’t know what it is with old men and free baseball caps–they can’t resist them.

“Hey, Bob,” I say as I try to straighten his cockeyed hat a bit. “I got your mail.”

He looks at it without interest and, as usual, launches into perfectly-formed verse:

A hushed November morning mild,
with leaves as frail as Kleenex tissue;
tomorrow’s mail, if it be wild
would bring, perhaps, a swimsuit issue.

I allow myself a little laugh. There are two things about being an old man I’m looking forward to: one, you can wear just about anything you want; and two, you can be a complete lecher, and say just about anything you want to women, and no one seems to mind.

“No, that won’t come until February,” I say to him.

“Okay,” he says after he absorbs this information. He turns to close the door and his cat, an orange tabby named Demiurge, stakes out a wary watch on the threshold.

“I shan’t be gone long,” he says to the cat. “You come too.”

“Bob, we’ve gone over this before,” I say with repressed exasperation. “You can’t bring a cat into McDonald’s.”


Senior citizen coffee at McDonald’s

The thought of the golden arches causes him to lose interest in his cat. I can see by the far-away look in his eyes he’s thinking of the Senior Citizens coffee special and again, he can’t deny his muse.

I’m going to get my elderly java
by riding with you over dales and hills.
It tastes like ash and is hot as lava
but I can’t resist those free refills.

We head out towards State Highway 28 with the more distinguished poet in the car staring out the passenger side window at the bright fall colors; the orange of Home Depot, the red of Staples, the yellow Walmart smiley face on a billboard.

“Turn here,” Frost says sharply.

“Don’t you want to get something to eat first?”

“Depends.”

“Depends on what? Your only choice is fast food.”

“No–I need some Depends.”

Dawn breaks on Marblehead, as we say in New England.

“Okay,” I say, a little chagrined that I’ve forced him to disclose the one aspect of growing old I’m really not looking forward to.

We make our way through the parking lot and enter the store where we are met by one of the chain’s ever-present greeters, a white-haired old man in a blue vest festooned with inoffensive buttons. I try to avoid eye contact and accelerate past him when I hear Frost’s voice boom out–to the extent that he’s capable of producing such a sound, even metaphorically–”Well if it isn’t The Emperor of Ice Cream–Wallace Stevens!”

Stevens’ face registers the shock of recognition that Herman Melville spoke of, when a man of letters comes face to face with one of his rivals while working a minimum-wage job to make ends meet. Being the darling of the academy doesn’t do you much good if you have to mix wet cat food and pinto beans to make chili.

“Hello, Frost,” Stevens says in a frosty tone. “How’s the poet of–subjects.” He says this last word with a sneer.

“Fine,” says Frost. “Tell me, since you must know–down which aisle would I find–bric-a-brac?”

Stevens draws himself up to his full six feet, seven inches, looks down at Frost as if from Olympus, and begins to speak:

I placed a Hummel figurine,
Down to your left, in aisle three.
‘Twas much too tacky for myself
But not too gauche for one like thee.

I can tell that Frost is pissed, but he’s trying hard not to let it show.

“C’mon Bob–we haven’t got time for this nonsense,” I say as I take him by the elbow. “We’ve got miles to go, and . . . “

He cuts me off and glares at Stevens, not about to back off in this mano-a-mano poetry throwdown.

He squares his shoulders and even I can’t believe the fearful symmetry of what comes out of his mouth next:

Two aisles diverged ‘neath a yellow face,
that bore a sickly, foolish grin. And I–
I took the one marked “Incontinence,”
and that has made all the difference.

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

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