Top Vet: Couch-Humping Poodles Threaten Nation’s Furniture

WASHINGTON, D.C.  The U.S. Veterinarian General, the nation’s highest-ranking physician for animals, expressed concern today that sexually-frustrated poodles are putting the nation’s couches and reclining chairs at risk with aggressive humping that he said “destroys the very fabric of our nation, or at least the fabric on the legs of furniture.”

Edward Kessler, U.S. Veterinarian General:  “Frankly, they’re frustrated.”


“We are seeing a dramatic uptick in couch-humping by poodles in upper-middle class homes where the female of the household will not allow males to mate,” said Edward Kessler, a career public health official who testified before the Subcommittee on Domestic Animals and Household Furniture, which is under the aegis of the Senate Committee on Subjects That None of the Big-Deal Committees Want.

“I’m tired of doing tricks–I need a woman.”


French poodles were enormously popular during the 50′s and 60′s, inspiring the “poodle-skirt” craze.  Today the dogs satisfy unfulfilled feminine desires to dress up dolls or small children who have grown, and the resulting “feminization” of male poodles has been found to produce canine frustration as the dogs are kept indoors or chastened by cries of “bad dog” when they seek sexual satisfaction.

Poodle-skirt:  Cool!


Couch-humping is considered acceptable behavior in Europe, where both men and women expose more skin to view than is customary in the U.S.  “It is reely only in the puritancial US that un chien may not freely display his affection pour un divan,” notes Jacques Trintignant, French Minister of Anti-Americanism.  “In France, to love is to live.”

The U.S. Surgeon General, the public official responsible for human health, rarely ventures into questions of sexuality, although Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who held office during the first Clinton administration, created an uproar when she said that masturbation should be taught to young people in school in order to reduce venereal disease.  “I am shocked that she would say that,” said James Corrigan, head of the Family First Foundation at the time.  “Kids should learn that kind of thing at home, the way they traditionally have.”

“No, Francois–that is what the Barcalounger is for!”


Couch-humping by poodles is uncommon among the lower classes, who view the dogs as effete, and also rare among wealthy families, who favor less neurotic breeds such as labrador and golden retrievers.  “There’s an old joke among dog breeders and wedding planners,” says kennel owner Marcia Lansdowne.  “How do you spot the bride at a WASP wedding?  She’s the one kissing the golden retriever.”

End of Summer Markdowns Trigger Preppy Doofus Stampede

NANTUCKET, Mass.  A blue-ribbon panel appointed to investigate a late August stampede on this tony vacation island has concluded that drastic end-of-summer markdowns on madras shorts, whale-motif ties and other “preppy” clothing triggered a crush of cheap WASP shoppers that left several people injured, one seriously.

Don’t go shopping without a tasteful shopping bag!


“It was a sales clerk’s worst nightmare,” said Endicott Wollaston, a retired Selectmen who chaired the committee.  “Hordes of trust fund beneficiaries rushing towards the sale table, with nothing to stop them but a maxxed-out credit card.”


“Funny, I bought a similar outfit.”


WASPs, or white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, are an American ethnographic group that prefers expensive-looking clothing, but refuses to pay full price.  “I’d say they throw nickels around like they’re manhole covers,” says Willard Normandin, a long-time employee at Brooks Brothers in Boston, “but that applies more properly to pennies.”

Preppin’ out for steppin’ out!


The market disruption was the result of a chilly summer, the coldest on record in the U.S., which kept vacationers off the island, according to retail industry experts.  “You had a build-up of unsold inventory, and a bunch of cheapskate buyers waiting until the last minute to save the most money,” noted Women’s Wear Daily New England regional editor Cynthia Smithson.  “We’re just fortunate that there were no endangered species standing in front of the madras Bermuda shorts.”

Sartre’s “No Exit,” Fantasy Football Edition

At first, I had no idea I was in hell.  I was lying in the same street I walk every day at noontime on my way to lunch.

“What happened?” I asked the man who helped me up.

“You stepped off the curb without looking over your shoulder.”

It’s a tricky intersection, especially for Boston, the Jaywalking Capital of America.  Pedestrians flow to the left to get where they’re going, but traffic enters from the right.  I’ve often told myself that it was the place where I was going to die, and I was finally right.  I guess when you’re dead “finally” is the only option.

“Who are you?” I asked the man.



The fallen angel who ranks below Satan in Paradise Lost. “So–I’m not evil enough for the Big Enchilada himself to grace me with his presence?”

“Not even close.  You’re going to hell for some pretty minor stuff.”

“Like what?”

“That weekend where you had . . . uh . . . ‘dates’ with three women.”

“I was in my thirties.”

“And that AIDS joke you seem so fond of.”

“The one where the health worker sees a bunch of junkies sharing a needle, and says ‘Stop that, you’ll get AIDS.’”

“. . . and one of them answers, ‘It’s okay, we’re wearing condoms.’  Yes–that one.”

A bit harsh, if you ask me, but on the other hand, I wasn’t sure I really cared.   Some people want to go to heaven, but I’d rather be with my friends.

“Okay–so take me away.”

“Actually, you’re slotted for a place right near here . . . “–-he looked down at his clipboard–-”Tony’s Deli.”

“You’re kidding!” I said.  “That’s where I was going.”

“Funny how that works out.”

“What’s so hellish about going to my favorite diner?”

“Nothing much.  You’ll sit there, day after day, nothing will ever change.”

“What day is today?” I asked, my head still not clear.


“Yes!” I exclaimed.  I’d be feasting on the special–-cranberry-walnut chicken salad sandwiches–-until the end of time.  “Lead the way.”

chicken salad
Cranberry-walnut chicken salad–yum!


Tony’s is something of a hole in the wall since most people get their sandwiches to go and take them back to their desks.  There’s just a skinny counter, which was last wiped down during the second Clinton administration, and three tiny tables crammed into a corner.

I felt magnanimous, so I offered to buy my devilish friend lunch.  “Anything you want,” I said expansively.  He got the special on my recommendation, and we sat down at one of the tables.

“So hell is just like Sartre said it would be in No Exit, huh?” I asked him.

“Yep–one of the few things he was right about.  You’re confined to one space, but it’s not like there’s a lake of fire or anything.  Just your normal, everyday environment.”

Sartre:  “I’ll have tuna in a pita pocket, lettuce and tomato.”


“Huh,” I said.  In retrospect, I was glad I’d set my high school Current Events teacher’s woodpile on fire at the urging of my buddy Ronnie McClary, who ended up going to reform school.  I wouldn’t have missed out on that for all the cherubim in heaven.

We talked about this and that, and three young men sat down next to us.  They were joined in turn by two more at the other table.

“Who you pickin’ at quarterback,” a beefy fellow with his necktie loosened at the collar yelled at one of his friends.

“Philip Rivers,” the other said.


A third made a gagging sound, then said “Choke, choke, choke!”

“Fantasy football,” I muttered to Beelzebub in explanation.  “This is the time of the year when people pick their teams.”

“Um-hmm,” my satanic lunch mate replied, not wanting to talk with his mouth full.  Apparently there are table manners even in hell.

“Ndamukong Suh’s a beast, man,” said a fellow whose armpits were stained with sweat.  “Everybody thinks ’cause he’s on the Lions and gets penalized a lot he’s no good, but he’s still a Pro Bowl-quality lineman.”

Lively discussion ensued among the group about shut-down cornerbacks, run-stopping linebackers and third-down backs.  If I weren’t already dead, I’d rather have been dead in a ditch than to have to listen to this self-important drivel.

“If there’s anything in the world that I hate,” I whispered to Beelzebub as he dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin, “it’s listening to people yammer on about their stupid fantasy football teams.”

“I’m with you,” he said.  “Isn’t the game itself–-with its speed and athleticism . . .”

“Don’t forget violence . . .”

“. . . I was just about to say that–-isn’t that enough?  Is your life so pathetic that you need vicarious gratification running some stupid fictional football franchise.  Go out and get laid every now and then, fer Christ sake.”

Unlike me, Beelzebub had been less than circumspect about keeping his views to himself.  Whenever one of the thick-necked louts would look at him, however, he would glare back with a mind-melting stare, sort of like Darth Vader on the bridge of the Death Star, and the guy would shrink back into his cotton-poly blend shirt.

“Well, you’re all set,” Beelzebub said as he stood up.  He picked up his plate and soda can and deposited them in the trash.

“Yeah, thanks for everything,” I said as I stood up to shake his hand.  “I guess this place will be clearing out pretty soon after the lunch crowd leaves.”

“Leaves?” Beelzebub asks.  “No, I don’t think anybody’s leaving.”

I looked at him, then at the fantasy football general managers sitting at the table.  They looked back at me with malevolent smiles, then started in again.

“Manning’s over the hill,” one young fellow in a garish purple shirt-and-tie combo said.  “You need help on special teams.”

“Excuse me,” Beelzebub said as he scooted behind their chairs on his way out.  And then to me–-”Have a nice eternity.”

From a Student of the 70s to a Student of the Teens

This week many Americans will drop sons and daughters off for their freshman year of college.  The partings will be emotional; tearful mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fighting back outward signs of impatience as they whine inwardly “When are they ever going to LEAVE?”

In the final few moments as moms and dads hug their children for the last time until parents’ weekend a month from now, they will frequently be too choked up to communicate the wisdom they accumulated as college students many years ago.  It is for this reason that I take to the internet waves at this time of year to pass on lessons I learned at great cost, but which I offer to readers without charge.  And they’re worth every penny of it.

Such as, if you take the same course twice taught by a different professor each time, you will probably get a better grade the second time.  Seriously.  It helps your GPA.

“You got into Northwestern?  But this is Boston!”


But there is more to life than the spiritual and intellectual aspects of our existence.  There are also the mundane physical remnants of my college days, which I have lovingly preserved since that day in 1969 when I matriculated all over my college campus because the bathrooms weren’t ready yet.  Here are a few of the artifacts that I have available to bequeath to impressionable college freshman.


This thing is like wicked fast.

Smith-Corona Manual Typewriter:  A lot of kids aren’t ready for an electric model yet.  I know too many young men and women who have taken a high-powered electric typewriter out for a spin on a Saturday night after a long week of classes only to crash into a carrel at the library, killing paperback copies of The Importance of Being Earnest and Plato’s Republic.  Which are available in Books-on-Tape format, by the way.


Frye boots.  Everybody will be wearing these when you get to school.  Seriously.  I mean, everybody who was anybody wore them in the fall of 1969.  I didn’t, but that’s neither here nor there, as your Intro to Philosophy professor will soon say when you hold up your hand and say “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”

You’re not listening, are you?


8-Track, multi-LP stereo system.  This is a somewhat delicate subject.  Your parents understand that dormitories are now “co-ed,” and when your roommate is out of town for the Interscholastic Parcheesi Sectional Tournament you will have the place all to yourself for several days.  When that happens, you can stack up to four LP’s on the spindle of this baby, and let nature take its course.  When the last one drops and you’ve heard Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels sing “Devil With the Blue Dress On” forty-two times in succession, it’s time to go to class.

Poco, Steve Miller Band, MC5.

My albums.  I can’t tell you how cool my album collection is.  Was.  Back when.  As a matter of fact, I have albums by groups you’ve never even heard of.  Like “Poco,” which was a spin-off from, uh, The Buffalo Springfield.  I think.  What do you mean, are they available in MP3 format?  Do you mean the MC5–like “Kick Out the Jams”?


Husserl/Heidegger/Nietzsche: Gesundheit.

I’m giving you my well-thumbed copies of Thus Spake Zarathustra (Nietzsche), Being and Time (Heidegger), and Experience and Judgment (Husserl) with this admonition: If it sounds like a sneeze, don’t take the course.

One Retired Lawyer Gives Back By Boring Wayward Boys

BOSTON.  It’s Saturday, but an unused jury room in the Old Courthouse here is filled with young men, behaving as adolescent males have when forced to endure instruction since time immemorial; cutting up, cracking wise, and slinging spit balls at each other as they await the arrival of an elderly man who shuffles in without any noticeable reduction in the hijinx.

The old man turns towards the young and, in a voice that has called to attention countless juries over four decades, produces silence.  “Welcome to the Romance of Negotiable Instruments,” says Bayard DeWitt, a long-time trial lawyer who is using his golden years to give back to his beloved Boston by reforming young miscreants caught shoplifting, passing bad checks or engaging in other crimes against commercial mores.

“You there–recite the Rule in Dumphor’s Case.”


“I owe a great debt to this city,” DeWitt had said to this reporter in the hall before entering the den of disobedience.  “I came here virtually penniless, and when I die I will leave an estate that my wives and their boyfriends will fight over for many years.”

It is that sense of gratitude that compelled DeWitt a few years ago to propose his innovative program in juvenile reform; a Saturday session in the law of negotiable instruments–checks and promissory notes–that would inculcate in the minds of wayward boys a respect for Anglo-American jurisprudence.  “I could never make heads or tails of the law of bills and notes,” he says, ruefully recalling the one C grade on his otherwise distinguished law school transcript.  “I thought if I inflicted the same pain and confusion on the younger generation, it might dull their–shall we say–‘acquisitive’ instincts and turn them to a life of Oriental quietism under the influence of drugs.”

“Please sir–I want some less, sir.”


“All right, you young hooligans,” DeWitt booms out, and an uneasy quiet settles upon the room.  “I’ll have none of your grab-tail and shenanigans.  Now Peterkin–what did we learn last time?”

A boy rises from his seat, as he’s been directed to do by DeWitt, and says “We learned what the letters I.O.U. stand for.”  The other “students” laugh, and DeWitt joins them in a lightly-amused chuckle.

“That’s right, in a sense we did,” DeWitt says.  “But what did we learn about checks?”

A boy sitting up front, hoping to reduce his sentence from five to four Saturday sessions, shoots his hand up in the air.  “Dabney?” DeWitt says as he recognizes the boy.

“That you can spell it with either a ‘k’ or a ‘que’ at the end,” the boys says hopefully.

“Well, yes, I suppose.  But we learned something much more important.  Anyone remember?”



DeWitt waits a pregnant moment or so, then supplies the answer himself.  “We learned,” he says, pausing for effect, “that a check is actually a draft, but it’s drawn on a bank!”  He smiles at the innocent but powerful truth of this proposition.  “A very important concept, but one that 99.8% of Americans are completely unaware of!”

Several boys stifle yawns, knowing that DeWitt treats a mouth open in fatigue as an invitation to call upon the perpetrator.  “Now that’s something you know, that I’ll bet your moms and dads and sisters don’t.”

The air conditioning in the public building isn’t on because it’s the weekend, and the heat makes the tedium of the subject matter even less endurable than it would be in comfortable conditions.  “Is it getting stuffy in here, or is it just me?” DeWitt asks, and a boy in the back row mutters “You’re always stuffy” sotto voce, setting off laughter from those within earshot of him.

“All right, I’ll open a window,” DeWitt says, and a cool ocean breeze flows into the second floor classroom.

Ellen Peters, Negotiable Instruments Heart-Throb


“That’s enough fundamentals for today,” DeWitt says with a gleam in his eye.  “Let’s turn to something more . . . captivating.”

The boys roll their eyes, knowing what’s coming next; a reading from A Negotiable Instruments Primer by former Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Ellen Peters, a favorite text of DeWitt’s.

“So simple, so elegant,” DeWitt says as he passes out a selection from the short work that he first encountered as a second-year law student 43 years ago, and which he keeps by his bedside if he can’t fall asleep after waking for his nightly micturation.  “It is from Peters that we learned what enduring metaphor for commercial paper.  Who can tell me?”

The class is silent, and a look of disapproval steals over DeWitt’s face.  “I thought we had mastered that one,” he says as he clucks his tongue, turns around and writes “A negotiable instrument is a courier without luggage” on a blackboard.  “This,” he says as he finishes, “refers to the stripped-down nature of these helpful handmaidens of commercial . . .”

He is interrupted by a scream, and then a groan.  The class runs to the window where they look down on the brick courtyard below and see Declan Thomas, their classmate, holding his ankle and writhing in pain.

“See what you did!” the boy named Peterkin says angrily to DeWitt, an act of insubordination that the former lawyer is too shocked to object to at first.

“What?  Why is that my fault?” he asks finally.

“You sent him over the edge with your boring talk!”

At the Pink Ladies Taxi Stand

            Pink taxis with female drivers that serve only women customers are catching on in cities from Moscow to Dubai. 

                                                  Associated Press

I was sitting in the pink taxi line at Logan Airport, hopin’ for one decent fare before the end of my shift.  All I’d had all night so far was two nuns–how come they always travel in pairs?–and a professor of women’s studies who tipped me a used copy of The Second Sex by Simone de Boovoir, which I needed like a fish needs a bicycle, to quote an old feminist gag.

I took a puff on my Lady Cubana cigar and looked down the line.  I was third, and for fares there was an old lady with a knitting bag, a woman in Birkenstock sandals eating sunflower seeds from a paper bag she’d brought on the flight, and–bingo!–a professional woman in a Talbots suit–accessorized with a little string of pearls–a laptop case and a four-wheeled suitcase.  I’d say an MBA on a business trip–paydirt!

I jumped out of the cab when my turn came and helped her with her suitcase.

“Where to?” I asked.

“I’m staying at The Taj,” she said in a frosty tone.  You couldn’ta melted butter in her mouth, I thought to myself.  Maybe Promise Ultra Fat Free Margarine, but that’s about it.

We settled in for the drive, and I started in with my patter.  If you want to get a good tip, you got to connect with your passenger, you know?

“Did you watch that WNBA game tonight there?” I asked, looking at her in my rear-view.

“I’m afraid not,” she said.  She was tapping away at her BlackBerry.

“I really think the Chicago Sky have a chance, you know?” I asked.  It was a rhetorical question–she didn’t have to answer.  It was just a conversation starter.  “It’d be their first playoff win–ever.”

“I don’t follow basketball,” she said, and not too graciously I might add.  I decided to mess with her a bit.

“They say that the Detroit Shock is named after Toxic Shock Syndrome.  You believe that?”

She finally looked up at me.  “I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” she said.

“That’s a joke, lady.”

“I see,” she said.  Maybe her cat just died, who knows.

“You know what really frosts my panty hose?” I said, trying to change the subject.  “We hardly got any women politicians here in Boston, you know what I’m sayin’?”

“I thought this was supposed to be a progressive city,” she said.  I’d finally broken through the brittle carapace dat da modern woman has to put on to survive in the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world of business.

“We got two out of thirteen seats on the City Council,” I said.  “We’re half the population, we oughtta have half the seats, right?”

She looked out the window.  I thought I saw a smirk on her face, as if she was thinkin’, she made it on her own, every other woman ought to, too.  Cheese Louise–I used two homonyms in one thought there.  Must be the fish I been eatin’.

“How ’bout da Boston Militia, huh?” I said, trying to yank her out of her self-absorbed reverie.  Let me tell you, you get a gal who’s lost in a self-absorbed reverie, first thing she don’t think about is your tip.

“Who are the Boston Militia?” she asked.

“Only the 2014 Women’s Football Alliance Champions!” I said, showing a little civic pride.

“Fascinating,” she said, but I could tell she wasn’t.  She started rifling through some papers in her briefcase.  You can’t win with some of these dames.

I was just about at the end of my rope, when an inspiration occurred to me.  “Who you think’s gonna go next on Grey’s Anatomy?” I said, and I watched the mirror for her reaction.

She looked up, and I knew I had her.

“What do you know?” she asked breathlessly, or as breathless as you can get and still talk.

“I dunno, I hear Izzie’s gonna disappear for five non-consecutive episodes.  And Mer– she’s outta there pretty soon too.”

“No way!”

“Way.  I read it in Michael Ausiello’s spoiler column.”

“Where can I get that?”

“,” I said, allowing myself a moment of smug self-satisfaction.  You come to Boston, you’re gonna getta knowledgeable cabbie, y’know?

We pulled up in front of The Taj.  It’s a hotel as big as the Ritz, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say.  ‘Cause that’s what it used to be–The Ritz.

“Well here we are,” I said.  I popped the trunk, hopped out, and handed off her bag to the doorman.

“Thanks for the information,” she said, finally cracking a smile.  “How much do I owe you?”

“Let’s see.  The fare’s $19.75,” I began.

“All right,” she said, and started to fish some bills out of her wallet.

“Hold on–there’s a $2.25 airport charge, and the toll for the tunnel is $5.25, so that comes to–let’s see–$27.25.”

She looked down into her wallet again.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “all I have is a twenty and a ten.”

A lousy $2.25 tip.  I felt like flippin’ it right back at her–but I can’t afford to.

“Why you chintzy, cheap yuppie bi . . .”

“Wait,” she said as she dug down into the little pocket coin pouch on the outside of her purse.  “Here–I found another quarter!” she said as she turned and headed into the hotel.  “Buh-bye!”

I was ready to explode, and I did.  “Yeah, that’s right–save your money, so next time you can afford a frost job dat don’t make you look like a skank waitress in a biker bar!”

Available in print and Kindle format on as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”

Salad Lovers Fret as Crouton Shortage Looms

GREEN RIDGE, Mo.  Sam Jones has been a grain buyer in this small town for nearly four decades, but he wears an expression of concern as he watches farmers arrive at the local grain elevator to sell their crops.  “If I had the money right now, which I don’t,” he says with a knowing look, “I’d be buying up all the croutons I could find.”

Croutons–sauteed or rebaked bread that is seasoned, cut into cubes and added to salads to provide texture and flavor–are a reliable cash crop in the Midwest, where school children have historically been excused from class during spring planting and fall harvest times.  “It’s a way of life,” says Marilee Dunham, whose husband Darrell puts their five sons and two daughters to work in early June “de-tasselling” crouton plants to enhance fertilization.  “It teaches the kids about the rhythms of nature and the seasons, and the role of the Caesar salad in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.”

Harvest time

But some fear the salad days of croutons are ending, with demand for biodiesel fuels eating up available acreage.  “It’s sad,” says Wayne Durrell, Mayor of Green Ridge, whose seven year-old daughter Kylie was selected as Little Miss Crouton during the town’s annual Crouton Festival last summer.  “To see a way of life wither away and die all because a bunch of goo-goo liberals want to feel good about what they put in the gas tanks of their hybrids.”

World’s Largest Crouton, Missouri State Fair, Sedalia, Mo.

As with all changes in economic trends, this one produces both winners and losers.  While biodiesel producers benefit from government-sponsored tax breaks, small towns such as Green Ridge find their traditions threatened by agribusiness giants that buy up land at distressed prices and convert them to open-air factories, where a former independent farmer often finds himself tilling a field he once owned for a distant–-and faceless–-corporate crouton enterprise.

Bumper crop from 2012

“I’ll do what I have to in order to feed my family,” says Wendell Baker, Jr., whose family has raised croutons for three generations but who is now a contract employee for a commodities producer headquartered in Chicago.  “But the pride we used to feel when we walked by the salad bar at Wendy’s is gone.”

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