New Program Teams Bluetooth Yakkers With the Demented

BOSTON.  Ted Wyzinski is a familiar sight to those who work in the South Station area here, his grizzled visage a reminder that in the race of life there are both winners and losers.  “I went off the rails in the 70s,” he says as he accepts some spare change from a passerby.  “I heard Morris Albert sing ‘Feelings’ and I guess I let my emotions take control of my life.”

“You talkin’ to me?”


Ken Venezia, by contrast, is a young man with a seemingly unlimited upside.  “He’s one of the ‘go-to’ guys in town if your start-up in the psycho-babble pharmaceutical space needs funding,” says Dean Cleska, whom many consider the dean of New England angel investing.

“I know I look like a dork, but I feel really cool!”


But Wyzinski and Venezia have at least one thing in common; they walk the streets of this town talking to unseen listeners.  Wyzinski has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, while Venezia’s ailment is generally considered to be even more crippling; “Ken is a greed-obsessed yuppie,” says Cleska, shaking his head with avuncular amusement as he looks at Venezia’s “Bluetooth” headset embedded in his ear.  “The only known cure is to move into a McMansion and become a greed-obsessed suburbanite.”

But until that day comes, the two are paired in a unique program that brings disassociating street people together with yapping financiers to ease the stigma attached to homeless people who talk to themselves.  “It’s been a godsend,” says Wyzinski in a rare lucid interval.  “Before, I’d talk to myself and people would stare at me.  Now, I talk to myself and nobody notices except for the ones who scowl at Kenny’s twit-worthy Vineyard Vines ties.”

“Don’t you have anything with a few more whales on it?”

Self-absorbed talkers are a major source of urban anxiety, according to Dr. Philip Reiff of the Doris K. Seidermann Institute here.  “When you talk out loud to yourself in a big city people assume you’re crazy,” he notes as he trails a few yards behind a venture capital-wino pair he put together this morning.  “That’s not necessarily true, but it’s a good indication you should run like hell to the other side of the street.”

But Wyzinski and Venezia have established a rapport that puts fellow pedestrians at ease as they stroll rapidly down Federal Street, speaking with animation and gesturing with their hands.  “I enjoy my talks with Kenny, even if we don’t really communicate,” says Wyzinski.  And for Venezia?  “Listen, I’ve got to go,” he tells an unwelcome caller on the other end of the line.  “There’s some nut trying to talk to me.”

The Maple Leaf Club

Grandpa Ollie took me downtown,
me in short pants, him I seem to
recall in a short-sleeved white shirt
and long grey slacks in the summertime.
I hoped to get a toy out of it.

We walked all the way to Main Street,
then took a right. He wanted to see
something, and we stopped in front
of a building and peered in.

It looked like it had been a restaurant
to me, now it was about to collapse.
The place hadn’t been painted in years,
the wood was all grey and brown.

“I guess that’s where he played,”
Grandpa said. I asked him who,
and he said “That fella they make
so much about, Scott Joplin.
Place is pretty run down now.”

I didn’t know then what I learned later;
that Joplin was writing opera at the same
time he was playing nights for drunken
cowboys in from the Chisholm Trail,
a whorehouse piano player.

One was a failure, the score to the other
was confiscated when he couldn’t pay
a hotel bill. He ended up in a mental
home, demented from syphilis.

We walked back towards home, and
Grandpa said I could get something.
I remember I picked out an Army rocket kit.
I botched it like every model I tried to make.

The Maple Leaf Club is gone now.
Last time I saw Grandpa alive he was
watching a baseball game on TV,
complaining about all the attention
nigra ballplayers were getting these days.

Life in the Vanilla Almond Clusters Cult

Do you wake up early just because you miss your favorite Peace Cereal product?  Do you ever wish lunch or dinner was really a big bowl of Peace Cereal?  Do you have a pet named after your favorite Peace Cereal?

We think this is normal behavior and understand completely.

Text on box of Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes by Peace Cereal.

Look upon my works and tremble!


It’s hard now to remember what my life was like before I joined the Vanilla Almond Cluster.  I like to think of them as my family now–I’ve renounced the one I was randomly assigned by some malicious deity in the World Before Ours.  Some people call us a cult but I think they’re just jealous.

St. Paul was knocked off of and onto his ass on the road to Damascus, and my epiphany was almost as dramatic.  I’d avoided the Scientologists on Beacon Street, had juke-stepped my way past the Hari Krishnas on Commonwealth Avenue, and was just about to step into the Burger King on Boylston Street when I came face to face with the face of enlightenment.

St. Paul:  “Stop squirting me!”


It was attached to the head of a girl whose name in her prior life was “Dorcas,” and whatever else she was, she wasn’t a dork.  She had the most beatific smile, dancing eyes, and skin as pure as the driven snow.  Also two humongous knockers beneath her peasant dress, but I don’t think they had any influence on my decision to give all my money and worldly possessions to the guy she said was the Cereal Master.  Now, her name was “Vanilla Almond Cluster,” just like everybody else at her commune.

“You’re not going in there, are you?” she asked, her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth drooping down like dowsing rods plumbing the depths of ineffable sadness.

“Um, actually I was,” I said, but she was too beautiful to brush past.  “I’m only going to get the BK Veggie Burger and a Diet Dr. Pepper, if that helps.”

“Did you ever wish that your lunch was a big bowl of Peace Cereal?”  No, I hadn’t, I said.  Did that make me a bad person?

“Oh, no no no,” she hastened to assure me.  “It’s just that . . .”

“That what?”

“What what?”

“The what you were about to say before your voice trailed off.”

“Oh, that what.  Well, it’s like this.  Happiness, like the foods we eat, are a choice.  Do you have fond memories of eating cereal in your pj’s as a kid . . .”

“Watching Heckle ‘n Jeckle cartoons?  You betcha!”

“Wouldn’t you like to recover that lost innocence, and return to the Garden of Eden of breakfast foods and other stuff?”

That was always the pitch with these street cultists; somehow we’ve been corrupted by something, the Media, the Pope, the CIA, Big Cereal.  We had to break down the doors of perception, return to a state of nature, blodda-blodda.  I’d resisted every such appeal since my undergraduate days, when I persuaded a comely lass with a history of out-of-body experiences to leave her body in my dorm bed while she floated around for awhile in the ether.

The morning after was too painfull to recall, too excruciatingly polite to endure again.  Over breakfast at a diner she asked if I’d had a good time astral traveling with her.  I told her I hoped not, we weren’t allowed to leave campus without a weekend pass.

She took it the wrong way, which was the right way, and I never saw her again.  Still, my close brush with the occult had taught me a valuable lesson; that way lies madness or worse–vegetarianism.

But this sweet, innocent woman-child in front of me melted my hard-earned reserve.  I decided to hear her out.

“Seriously–try Gojii Berry Clusters & Flakes too!”


Was I happy with my life, she asked?  Well no, I admitted–but I preferred it that way.  Who wants to be happy all the time–it’s exhausting!  Like being at a wedding reception for a cute young couple, your mouth gets tired smiling.  This was back Before the Fall; that is, before 2004, when the Red Sox went and spoiled the gloomy omnipresence that pervaded Boston due to their 86-year World Series drought.  Many people in town were only happy when they were miserable back then.

Did I have a pet?  Yes, I said.  A cat named “Hodge,” after Samuel Johnson’s feline companion.  The one he reassured when people’s cats began to disappear in London at the same time that cat’s meat pies became popular.  “They’ll not have Hodge,” Johnson would say as he stroked his furry little buddy.

“Have you ever considered changing its name to that of your favorite breakfast cereal?” she asked.

“Well, no.”

“That could mean you don’t like your cereal enough!” she said, beaming.

“Or that I like my cat too much,” I replied.  “Who wants to walk out onto their front stoop at night and call ‘Here Count Chocula–here boy!’  Certainly not me.”

“Well, you might be happier if you achieved the unity, the oneness that comes to those who join the Vanilla Almond Cluster.”

“The Snack-Pack only comes with 10 mini-boxes of cereal, so we need a miracle.”


“So Peace Cereal . . . will bring me inner peace?” I asked hesitantly.  I had been gnawing at the inside of my left cheek a lot lately.

“For sure!”  There was that smile again.  A million watts of happiness, probably lit by solar or wind power.

And so I agreed and I have to say, I don’t miss my former “life”–if that’s what you want to call it.  No, I eat, sleep and poop Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes.  My two cats–Big Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes and Little Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes–enjoy their Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes Kibbles ‘n Bits.  My wife–yes, I married that wonderful young lady I met on Boylston Street that day–and I spend quiet evenings at home, contemplating Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes, before turning in for the night to sleep on our Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes-filled futon.  Along with my 45 other wives and her 45 other husbands.  I changed my name to “Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes” so that it would match my wife’s, and the other 92 members of what we like to call our little “cluster”–that’s kind of an “inside” joke, but I think even an unenlightened “outsider” like you will get it.

Nope, things are pretty sweet here–naturally sweetened of course.  It’s a very simple and ordered life, none of the hassle and confusion of the outside world.

Until somebody calls on the land line and asks to speak to Vanilla Almond Clusters & Flakes.



Barbie Hits the Double Nickel

2014 is Barbie’s 55th anniversary.


I looked out the window of my Dream House and allowed myself a teensy-tiny moment of reflection.  How far I’d come in fifty-five years!  It seemed like only yesterday I was born, fully-developed, in a secret test lab deep within the bowels of the Mattel Toy Company.

The dreaded “double-nickel,” and not a single stretch mark, even though I seem to have a daughter, Skipper, by Ken, my “on again-off again” boyfriend as my Press Site notes.  On again-off again, my bony ass.  He’s a shiftless, lazy, no-count loser.  But I don’t like to dwell on the negative.

Some people criticize me for having a perfect, unattainable body that creates unrealistic expectations in young girls, causing them to turn up their noses at mom’s American Chop Suey and Stuffing Puppies.  Well, which would you rather have–a durable, dishwasher-safe hard-plastic torso like mine, or a body that could be “attained” by every Buzz Lightyear and GI Joe on the shelf?  To ask the question, as they say, is to answer it.  Besides, American Chop Suey sucks.

I just wish I could spend more time with Skipper, but I seem to have shipped her off to boarding school, like some cruel parent in a W. Somerset Maugham novel.  Maybe she’ll be home for Thanksgiving–check my website for updates!

Maugham:  “May I have a turn with Barbie–please?”


You know, long before everyone got so “hip” to being “post-racial” and including black sidekicks in gangs of guys eating at Chili’s in TV commercials, I had an African-American friend–“Christie.”  The Federal Trade Commission investigated after someone sent in an anonymous tip that no self-respecting black woman would ever allow herself to be called “Christie.”  Because of Mattel quality control, we passed with flying persons of color!

But I’m not just racially tolerant, I’m omni-tolerant!  I had a friend in a wheelchair long before you did–Becky.  I had another friend with a crippling beauty handicap–glasses!  Don’t believe me?  Again, it’s right there on the World Wide Web, writ large so those who surf may read.

Maybe I’ll have a big family reunion for my 55th.  My brother Todd and my sisters Skipper, Tutti, Stacie, Kelly and Krissy.  My “gal pals” Teresa, Kira, Kayla, Becky and Christie.  My BFF Midge and her husband Alan.  I wonder what ever happened to Alan?  I don’t remember hearing about a divorce or a death or anything.  If anything ever happens between me and Ken, it’s on the front page of the National Enquirer before you can say “Holly Hobby.”

With Ken and me it’s always a “headline-generating breakup”–no thanks to the Mattel public relations department.  What I wouldn’t give for Midge’s quiet life with Alan!  I don’t want to end up alone in some Barbie Dream Nursing Home, with flabby bingo-arms, doddering around reliving my outfits of the past; Stewardess Barbie, Nurse Barbie, Executive Barbie, Rapper Barbie, Streetwalker Barbie.

No, all I want is . . . hey, that’s Midge down there now–with Ken!  Why that freaking skank!  Hey you!  Yeah you, you red-headed bitch!  Get your hands off my arm-candy!  He may drive around all day in my dream car, and shack-up in my dream house, and never go out and get a job so he could have cool outfits like me–but he’s all I’ve got!

Justice Ginsburg to Leave Supreme Court for Air Guitar

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Bowing to pressure from the Obama administration, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced today that she will step down from the Supreme Court next year in order to pursue her interest in air guitar.

Ginsburg:  “I didn’t bring my air guitar with me, but if someone else has one, I’d be happy to show you a few chords.”


“Ruth is a huge air guitar nut, but her playing has suffered because of all the time we have to spend listening to stupid lawyers argue nit-picky issues,” says fellow Justice Stephen Breyer.  “She’s been stuck at the Joe Perry level for years, but has the capacity to perform an Alvin Lee solo with enough practice.”


Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, left, with Justice Breyer, right, in wig.


The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and is composed of nine members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  Air guitar is a form of pantomime in which a federal judge pretends to play rock or heavy-metal guitar solos accompanied by exaggerated strumming gestures and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.


“Roe . . versus Wa-a-a-ade!”


Ginsburg was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and right-wing critics say the senior female justice long ago entered her dotage.  “It would be one thing if she liked Ted Nugent,” a lead guitarist who opposes gun control, said Malcolm Cowpers of the American Freedom Forum.  “Instead, she spends her time during oral argument noodling around with Jerry Garcia solos under the bench.”

“Born . . . to be wi-i-i-i-i-ld!”


Ginsburg will be 82 next March, and had threatened to stay on the bench until she was 90, like former Justice John Paul Stevens, but liberals pressed her to resign in order to give President Obama the chance to appoint her successor.  “I’ve been trying to master Clapton’s solo in ‘White Room’ for four decades,” Ginsburg told Air Guitar Player magazine in an exclusive interview.  “It’s tricky–you have to keep your hands going and pump the air Wah-Wah pedal with your foot at the same time.”

Buddy Guy Wah-Wah pedal


Ginsburg’s resignation is likely to touch off a battle over the composition of the Court, with special interest groups pushing certain nominees in an effort to make the Court “look like America.”  “You’ve got a black seat and three women’s seats,” notes University of North Dakota Law School professor Jeffrey Lukier.  “But there’s no psychedelic seat and no shred guitar justice either.”


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

NCAA Promo Recognizes Kids With Non-Lethal Diseases

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.”

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