Juan Jose Guiraldes, Boston Jaywalking Cop

BOSTON. This city, often referred to as the “Athens of America,” sometimes by non-residents, is famous for many things; the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, the first use of ether to remove a tooth, the first three-point basket in NBA history by Chris Ford.


First use of ether; only worth two points.

 

But above all else, Boston is known as “The City of Jaywalkers,” just as Kansas City, Missouri is known as “The City of Fountains” and Worcester, Mass., is lovingly referred to as “The Industrial Abrasives Capital of the World.”


Boston jaywalkers: Cross at the green, not in between!

 

As its density increases with the return of empty-nester baby boomers from the suburbs, Boston’s jaywalking problem has reached crisis proportions; it is for this reason that I am serving as goodwill ambassador to Juan Jose Guiraldes, a forty-something gaucho from Argentina whom the City of Boston has recruited to become head of Pedestrian Traffic Enforcement.


Juan Jose, in his younger days.

 

I have arranged to meet Juan Jose at the Au Bon Pain in South Station, where I disembark from my train every morning. I realize I have foolishly forgotten to tell him that he must park his horse outside at the racks provided for the convenience of bicycle thieves as I hear the clip-clop of hooves on the marble floor.


“Excuse me, your horse is standing on my foot.”

 

“Juan Jose,” I say, holding up a sign bearing his name like a limousine driver at Logan Airport. “Welcome to Boston!”

“Buenos dias,” Juan Jose replies, barely breaking a smile. Consistent with the extensive research I have performed on Wikipedia, he has a more melancholy air than the typical American cowboy.

“Would you like a scone or something?” I ask hoping to break through his reserve.

He says nothing, but I can tell that he holds the sweet baked goods before him in contempt. “No thanks,” he says–his English is more than passable. He withdraws his facon–a large knife–from his saddlebags, along with a piece of cooked meat. He puts the meat in his mouth and tears at it with the knife, barely missing his nose. “I’m trying to cut back on carbs.”


“I am off to Boston–the greatest challenge of my life!”

 

I offer to at least buy him a cup of coffee, and he purses his lips, thinking. “Do you have yerba mate?” he asks the befuddled counter woman.

“I don’t think so,” she says, scanning the buttons on her cash register. “Is that like a cappucino?”

“No, senorita,” Juan Jose says. “It is an herbal tea-like drink, rich with caffeine and nutrients.”

The overworked and underpaid shift manager approaches. “We can make you a chai latte,” he offers helpfully.

“That’s probably as close as you’re going to get,” I say, withdrawing my wallet.

Before I have time to react his facon is on my wrist and his face has darkened. “Apparently your reading comprehension has not improved since fourth grade,” he says with an air of menace. “Had you reviewed the Wikipedia entry carefully, you would know that gauchos are proud men, and resort to violence quickly over petty matters.”

I slowly put my wallet back in my pocket, keeping my other hand out in the open so that I do not provoke Juan Jose further.

“You want a large, medium or small?” the counter woman asks.

“A large,” Juan Jose replies, then looks at me, puzzled. “Yesterday at a place called The Starbucks, I was offered four sizes of drinks in a semblance of my native tongue,” he says. “Tall, Grande, Venti and Trenta.” I notice that his eyes are misting over.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“Yes–it is just that I miss my daughters–Venti and Trenta–back home on the pampas in Argentina.”


The pampas

 

We take our drinks and head for what was once known as Dewey Square, but which some urban planning goober decided should be called “Financial Center” back in the 80′s. There, we are met with a sight that causes Juan Jose’s professional pride as a herder of animals to stir.


One Financial Center

 

“It is indeed a challenge that you have here,” he says, as he watches pedestrians cross against traffic lights and posted warnings, dodging speeding cars and trucks making early morning deliveries. “These people–they are more stupid than cattle.”

“Actually no,” I say, trying not to be defensive. “We have one of the highest concentrations of advanced degree holders in Amer–”

“These . . . ‘degrees,’” he says scornfully, cutting me off. “What good are they when you foolishly risk certain death in the face of on-rushing traffic?” He snaps the reins and his horse turns towards the Surface Artery. “Why do you add the word ‘Surface,’” he says as he trots off. “All roads–they have a surface, no?” he says, his voice heavy with irony.

Juan Jose takes up a position in the crosswalk where a young woman, iPod earbuds showing through her brown hair, nearly barrels into his horse’s hindquarters as she walks head down, not looking for cars. He leans down and gracefully picks her up, plunking her down behind his saddle horn.


Saved!

 

“What are you doing?” she asks, more in surprise than anger.

“You would have become Prius-meat in a matter of seconds,” Juan Jose says. “The full hybrid electric mid-size car developed and manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation operates silently while in electric mode.”

“Gosh, I . . . I don’t know how to thank you,” the woman says. “How can I ever repay you?”

“Please, senorita,” he replies. “It is the Code of the Gaucho. I do not accept gratuities from the cows I herd–I could do no less for you.”


Toyota Prius: Silent but deadly.

 

Unclear whether she should feel grateful or insulted, the woman slides off the horse, her brief case and purse askew. “Thanks–I guess.” She walks off, glancing suspiciously at us over her shoulder as she goes.

Juan Jose doffs his hat with a chivalrous flourish. “No hay problema!” I am surprised at how quickly he has picked up the expression preferred by Boston’s many slacker dude customer service representatives for “You’re welcome.”

Juan Jose turns back to his task and spies a rumpled-looking lawyer-type, huffing as he scurries to the curb about to cross to Federal Street after the light has changed but before the cars idling at the intersection can race forward.


Gaucho using boleadoras: Substitute lawyer for ostrich.

 

Sensing an imminent catastrophe, Juan Jose takes his boleadoras or bolas–wooden balls attached with braided leather cords–and swings them over his head. He lets fly, catching the man’s legs just as he has felled so many ostriches on the plains of Argentina with his primitive throwing weapon.

“Are you all right?” Juan Jose asks as we catch up to the man, the papers from his briefcase scattering in the wind off the Atlantic.


Heading back home

 

“Of course I’m not all right, you nut!” the man screams. Juan Jose’s face clouds over, and for the first time I sense that he has doubts whether he is up to the task of taming the wild bulls of Boston’s concrete pampas. Juan Jose stares off into the distance–visibly disgusted with the man’s ingratitude; I imagine he is thinking of the freedom of his life on the plains.

“The job–it comes with four weeks paid vacation, health and dental,” I say, trying to reassure him.

He is silent for a moment. “I no think I will do it,” he says.

“Why not?”

“Because,” he begins haltingly, trying hard to be gracious, “$4.06 is a lot to pay for a freaking chai latte.”

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

Big Book of Presbyterian Humor Due in Stores Today

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. Molly Yardnal is a stocking clerk at the Barnes & Noble book store in this suburb of Boston who’s finding it hard to do her job now that students have returned to local colleges and the aisles are jammed.  “I guess people are buying books because big-ticket items are too extravagant in this economy,” she says as customers squeeze by her. “Either that or they’re way cheap.”

Today, Molly is working the humor aisle as she rips open cardboard shipping boxes filled with copies of “The Big Book of Presbyterian Humor,” the latest in a series of similar titles by Minoz Press. “Next to the Big Book of Jewish Humor and the Big Book of Catholic Humor, it looks kind of small,” she notes dubiously.


“If I told you you had a nice body, would you hold it against—never mind.”

 

“It should sell well as a Christmas stocking stuffer,” says editor Morris Korkin of his latest release, which runs to 24 pages including a table of contents, an index and a blank last page that can be used for taking notes during sermons. “Actually, you could fit two copies in your typical stocking.”


“I’ll be here all week. Be sure and tip your elders and deacons!”

 

American Presbyterians have been known as a humorless bunch since colonial times, when Founding Father Thomas Jefferson first noted a dour streak in the Scottish immigrants. “The Puritans put a man in the stocks this morning,” Jefferson notes in his diary at one point. “The Presbyterians came by later and criticized his outfit for being too casual.”


“He hath not got those breeches at Brooks Brothers!”

 

The book is being hailed by the denomination’s ministers as a helpful tool in defusing familial tensions. “Say two Presbyterian daughters get in an argument over whose David Yerman bracelet was more expensive,” says Rev. Scott Lee of the First Presbyterian Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts. “Nothing gets people in a good mood again like a joke that begins ‘A priest, a rabbi and a lady snake charmer walk up to the Gates of Hell.’”


David Yerman bracelet: “Haven’t you got something a little more expensive?”

 

The age-old question—Is there such a thing as a dirty Presbyterian joke?—is answered with an emphatic “Yes” by the collection, with a knee-slapper involving a first-class airline passenger who “poops his pants” after a particularly bumpy flight, notes Korkin.


“You shouldn’t say ‘fart’–use a polite euphemism such as ‘toot.’”

 

“That’s the only one we found,” he says. “For years we’ve heard rumors there’s another, about a grandmother who farts when her family visits her in a nursing home, but like Bigfoot it turned out to be a hoax.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Our WASPy Heritage.”

SUV Skills Give Soccer Moms Monster Truck Edge

STAFFORD SPRINGS, Connecticut. Tori Carrington is a mother of three with a black labrador retriever named “Boots” and a pick-up and drop-off schedule that reads like a cab dispatcher’s log. “I’ve got so much stuff to haul around town, there’s no way I could handle it with a car,” she says as she slams the rear door of her Chevy Suburban on six bags of groceries and her daughter Amanda’s finger.

The same is true for Mindy Michaels, who lives next door. “We bought the Expedition because we needed the space for all our kids’ junk,” she says as she wrangles her son Jason’s mountain bike and her daughter Ellie’s vaulting poles and javelins into the super-sized Ford SUV.

Tori and Mindy are both ranked in the top ten of the Monster Jam Points Series as the season winds down with an event at Stafford Motor Speedway in this leafy Connecticut suburb, the American Express Super Modified Monster Mayhem Weekend. As monster truck racing has previously been an all-male preserve, the two stand our for reasons more obvious than their Ann Taylor sweaters and pearl necklaces.

“We see soccer moms as the next big wave in professional Monster Truck racing,” says Amex’s James Saltonstall, III. “Sort of like Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam on the PGA Tour. It’s a very affluent target audience with tremendous upside potential because right now they’re all watching Martha Stewart and Meredith Viera on The View.”

That sentiment isn’t necessarily shared by Monster Truck veterans such as Duane “Bug Juice” Johnson of Warrensburg, Missouri. “I don’t have anything against women drivers in general, but those two are kind of aggressive on a Chicago-style track,” he says. “Also, their back porches are a little skimpy for my tastes.”

But Tori and Mindy say they won’t let hidebound prejudice stand in their way as they line up for the qualifying heat of the Super-Modified division in which they compete. “I work out four days a week with a personal trainer so I can fit into size 6 capri pants,” she says with uncharacteristic firmness. “I’m not going to take fashion tips from some Midwestern hilljack who doesn’t have an MBA.”

As the women maneuver their SUV’s into position they can look down the starting line at snarling 800 horsepower behemoths with names like “Grave Digger,” “The Avenger” and “Wild Thang” painted on their sides. Tori thought about adopting une nomme du monster chariot, but decided against it. “My parents always taught me not to call undue attention to myself,” and indeed her Suburban is a muted forest green in contrast to the bright reds, oranges and yellows of some of her male competitors.


Mom and Dad.

The announcer counts down from “Drivers Ready,” to “Get Set,” and then screams “Go!” over the public address system, sending the vehicles scrambling around the short track with dirt-mound jumps. Tori and Mindi are inveterate cell phone uses—”It’s attached to my ear!” Mindi admits—and Tori calls her friend as soon as they take their places in the pack.

“Hi there,” says Tori. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No,” Mindi replies. “I’m going over a jump in a minute so I may lose coverage.”

Mindi scales the dirt mound and her Expedition goes flying, landing on the bed of Bug Juice Johnson’s “Eradicator”.

“Nice air, Mindi!” Tori says with admiration.

“Thanks. I’ve been working on my technique in the Lord & Taylor parking lot.”

“How can you? That place is always packed. I was in that mall the other day to pick up my David Yurman bracelet.”

“The one with the sapphires?” Mindi asks.

“Right. Oops—hold on.” Tori swerves to avoid J.T. “Rascal” Dupree from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Watch where you’re going!” Dupree yells at her.

“Sorry,” Tori yells back over the roar. “I didn’t want to spill my drink!” She takes a sip of a Starbucks vanilla latte, extra foam, and resumes her conversation. “Anyway, I went in there to have the mounts tightened. I almost lost one of the stones at a cocktail party last week.”

“At the Ohrbachs?”

“Right.”

“You never would have found it in those blue oriental rugs of theirs.”

“I know!”

“Hey, lady—shut up and drive!” It is Darrell Joseph, the current points leader, who cuts Tori off.

“What a jerk,” she tells her friend.

“I know. He thinks he’s so macho. How much would you guess he makes?”

“The top drivers on the circuit earn around $80,000, before endorsements.”

“Not very much, is it? You couldn’t buy a potting shed in Greenwich with that.”

“You couldn’t make a down payment on a potting shed with it!” Tori says with a laugh.

The cars are on the last lap and the drivers jockey for position as they try to advance to the championship round. “Well, I should probably hang up now,” Mindi says as she cuts off Rascal Dupree.

“Okay—talk to you later,” Tori says as she snaps her razor phone shut and puts it in the “clutter caddy” between the front bucket seats. In third place, she is well-positioned to qualify, but Mindi is stuck at the back of a pack behind the leaders. “I should try and help her out,” Tori says to herself, bringing a spirit of feminine cooperation to a sport that has long been ruled by masculine notions of cut-throat competition.

Tori positions her Suburban down low, waits until she makes the turn for the home stretch, and then slams on her brakes, causing the bunched-up cars behind her to rear-end each other, leaving Mindi free to pass them on the rail.

Tori’s cell phone rings, and she opens it up as she crosses the finish line.

“That was so sweet of you!” Mindi exclaims.

“Happy to help!” Tori replies. “I wanted to make sure my girlfriend got into the finals!”

Darrell Joseph doesn’t share the women’s enthusiasm as he comes running across the track, shaking his fist. “You crazy bitch! You coulda killed me!” he screams.

“Oh, blow it out your boxer shorts,” Tori says dismissively. “How much is a life like yours worth anyway?”

The blunt nature of the question causes Joseph to stop and think. “Well, let’s see. I got three years’ worth of payments due on my double-wide trailer home. I got a 2010 Camaro that’s leaking oil. Most of my paycheck goes to my first two wives in alimony. I guess you’re right. If I died today, I’d probably come out ahead.”

“See? It helps to do a mental inventory when you get upset like that.”

“Where’d you learn how to do that?” Joseph asks gratefully.

“Yoga class!”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collections “Blurbs From the Burbs” and “From NASCAR to NPR.”

Releasing Your Inner Bigfoot

Dorothy Parker once observed that Katherine Hepburn’s emotional range ran the gamut from “A” to “B”.


         “A”                 “B”

 

The average man’s mid-life crisis doesn’t even get that far.

There is the Automotive (sports cars), the Athletic (late-in-life marathons) and the Amorous (making passes at young lasses).


“Just passing through.”

 

To this triple-A club, allow me to add a “B”–Bigfoot, the apelike creature who walks upright like a man.

Since grainy footage of the creature first became available in the ’60′s, I have dreamed of owning a Bigfoot costume.  Now that I’m in the autumn of my years and I’ve begun to reflect on what I want to accomplish before I die, it is time to put on the sasquatch suit and go into the woods west of Boston, like Thoreau, deliberately.


Farrah Fawcett, not Thoreau

 

In the ’70′s, Bigfoot was romantically linked with Farrah Fawcett, spotted in an Arkansas 7-11 with Elvis, and tabbed the front-runner to be Secretary of the Interior had Gerald Ford defeated Jimmy Carter.

He has since avoided the spotlight, resurfacing only for serious scientific study such as a 2002 National Geographic article.  As with J.D. Salinger, Bigfoot’s mystique has been enhanced by his private nature, and his Garbo-like attitude has opened the field to imitators, like me.


J.D. Salinger:  “Bigfoot?  Yeah, I’ve seen him around.”

 

Those who have longed to dress as Bigfoot in the past but were deterred, like transvestites, from shopping publicly have found a haven in the internet.  There are numerous high-quality Bigfoot costumes available on-line for sale or lease.  Ask your accountant which is right for you.

 

If you’re the handyman type, try the do-it-yourself models available on hunting websites.  These strikingly realistic outfits can be fashioned from a few items you probably already own–camouflage, foam padding, jute and Shoe Goo.

Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area as prolonged exposure to glue fumes can cause behavior that would be considered erratic even for a creature that eats housecats.

Like the Evangelist you may ask, “What doth it profit a man to gain a Bigfoot costume, and lose his wife’s faith in his sanity?”  I’ll tell you what it doth profit as soon as I can untie my tongue from these frigging fricatives.

Roger Patterson, the man who faked home movies of Bigfoot, made a bundle selling prints to supermarket-checkout line tabloids.  Our property borders conservation land, a perfect setting for the sort of Blair Witch Project cinéma vérité-style that is de rigeur for any Bigfoot flick.

After spending an afternoon staggering around your backyard in a sasquatch costume in front of a video camera, you’ll have college tuition for the kids pretty well covered.  Then the little woman will think it’s a good idea.

Having a Bigfoot costume can also extend the life of your pets.  If coyotes are moving into your neighborhood, there is nothing like the sight of a yeti to send them packing.  No cruel leg traps for your neighbors with the PETA membership to complain about.

And then there’s the matter of convenience.  No one likes to wait in line, but everyone wants that wake-up cup of coffee first thing in the morning morning, causing caffeine gridlock across the country all weekend long.


“Uh, sure–you can cut in front of me.”

 

If you want to clear out a Starbucks in a hurry, try showing up some Saturday morning dressed as an 8-foot tall mammal!  You’ll find plenty of empty seats, and maybe even a newspaper someone in a hurry left behind.  Probably needed to feed his meter.

Fashion tip: Remove costume before meeting wife at Talbots.


“I love this cable knit cardigan . . . oh my god!  It’s Bigfoot!”

 

Kids love furry animals, and you can make a lot of money at birthday parties with your new outfit.  The going rate for a three-hour gig is $200 and can go higher if you’re willing to do a little face painting–assuming the kids will come out from behind the sofa.

That first check will seem like found money.  Take your wife out for a meal at a nice restaurant–a well-timed growl from “Bigfoot” will get you the best table in the place.

Psychologists describe the mid-life transition as “middlescence”–the second coming of adolescence, without the complexion problems.

What could be more adolescent than staggering out of the house at night, hair down to your shoulders, dressed to scare people, smelling of Shoe Goo?

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Yes I Can’t!”

Consuela Translates the Languages of Love

Dear Ones–

In olden times–much oldener than Consuela–lovers used secret languages to communicate in order to escape detection.  Thus in the XIX century, or maybe it was the XVIII, I don’t remember which, languid ladies used fans to send messages to their beaus.  Holding the fan on the right cheek meant “Yes,” holding it on the left meant “No,” to open and close it meant “You are cruel,” while pointing a closed fan at the mouth meant “You have some kind of goober between your teeth.”

Image result for spanish fan
Translation:  “You also have tuna breath.”

 

But fans are passé nowadays, leaving lovers adrift when they want to express themselves in a sub rosa manner, and believe me, Rosa is not happy about it.  How do you decipher the wordless missives that come your way from would-be lovers across a crowded room?  Ask Consuela to translate the silent languages of love!

Image result for colored paper clips

Dear Consuela–

I work in the accounts payable department of a large manufacturer of flanges and hasps.  I have noticed that our comptroller “Earl” who has a night M.B.A.–which he earned going to school for many years after work he is so diligent!–always sends me invoices fastened with a “candy striped” paper clip.  Enora Bothwell, the girl who sits at the next desk, receives her packet of payables with a plain metal clip, although she believes she is the “apple” of Earl’s eye.

I would be interested in learning the meaning of peppermint vs. metallic clips in today’s romantic marketplace.

Please respond to my home email, we are not supposed to converse electronically at work.

Mary Alice Grimmett, Ludlow, Mass.

Dearest Mary Alice–

Time to order material for bridesmaids’ dresses!  A striped paper clip sent by a man to a woman means he wants to “jump her bones,” and is willing to submit to a life of quiet desperation in an office cubicle to pay for it.  Show “Earl” you mean business by returning his file copies with a baby blue and white clip that says you’re his gal!

My dearest Consuela–

I am a sales trainee at Loudermilk Dairy Products, where we are forced to spend our Friday afternoons in boring meetings instead of leaving early during the summer like people with good jobs.  Recently I have noticed Floyd Moeglin from the finance department making a weird sign at me when Mike Radick, VP of Sales, turns his back to write on the white board.  He–Floyd, not Mike–will wave his hand up and down under his chin at me, then get this goofy grin on his face.

I looked on the internet for “weird hand signs” AND “mental illness” but didn’t find anything.

Claudia Rees, Hoxie, Arkansas

Image result for little rascals high sign

Dear Claudia–

You are one lucky gal!  “Floyd” is making the Little Rascals “high sign,” universally recognized as either an invitation to friendship or an expression of contempt comparable to a silent Bronx cheer.  I would proceed with cautious optimism in the hope that the former is the case and not the latter.  Since “Floyd” is a trifle infantile in his courtship techniques, perhaps invite him to a church ice cream social.

 

 

Consuela–

I have been going out with this guy “Duane” who has a rotating collection of rear view mirror ornaments–the tassel from his high school graduation “mortarboard,” one of those Little Trees “Royal Pine” air fresheners, a Kansas City Royals nylon web pet collar, etc.  Last Sunday night when I got in his car he had a woman’s lace garter hung up there, big as life.  I said “Where’d you get that?” and he said “Wouldn’t you like to know?”  We went back and forth like that for awhile, me asking a question, he “answering” with another question.  Finally I gave up and scooched over to my side of the car where I stayed for the whole drive-in movie, which was Return of Mothra, something he wanted to see but I didn’t.  At the end of the night he said “I didn’t know you were such a ‘chrome-polisher,’ the term in common use around here for a girl who won’t make out and clutches a car’s door handle the whole night.

Consuela, I have invested two months in this guy and want to make it clear I am not into an “open” relationship where he is allowed to festoon his car with female undergarments while I sit home checking for split ends.  Is he trying to “send a message” to me that he’s too much man for any one woman?

Sincerely,

 

Naomi Whitestone, Camdenton MO


Still waters run deep.

 

Dear Naomi–

Since time immemorial the male of the species has struggled to express his feelings.  “Ug” the first caveman said to his date, and she no doubt asked herself “What did he mean by that?”

A man’s rear view mirror is an extension of his personality–assuming he has a personality–so you should not question the tacky decorating choices he makes with regard to this standard feature of most American-made cars.  I think the little cat-and-mouse/tit-for-tat game he was playing by answering your questions with another question is a good sign, however.  If he was dating somebody else he’d either lie to you or say “What garter belt?”

That said, the Standard Semiotics Directory of Non-Verbal Romantic Cues reports that a garter belt hanging on a rear-view mirror means the owner of the vehicle does not prefer panty hose, which are cumbersome to remove in tight places, if you get my drift.

Dear Consuela–

When a woman wears an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt on a date with you I always assumed she was saying she was not receptive to overtures from other men.  I ask because this guy came up to my girlfriend Chloe when we stopped for fried clams at Jimbo’s Lobster Shack last night and apparently said “Why don’t you dump that egghead for me?” after I’d gone to the men’s room, fried food has that effect on me.

When I came back Chloe was batting her eyelashes at the guy trying to explain she was wearing the shirt ironically.  He apparently didn’t understand irony–all of his shirts were permanent press.

I got kind of mad at Chloe for leading the guy on, but she said she was doing that ironically.  I forgot to mention, she was an English major and so is into verbal wordplay and figurative speech.  I was a business major, then got my masters in business administration, and now am in business.  This summer I’m getting an executive M.B.A.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a woman who’s always pulling people’s legs, figuratively if not literally.  Is there some sort of mood ring or something I can use to tell when she’s being ironic?

Frazier Hollingsworth
Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts


High IQ babe.

 

Dear Frazier–

It sounds like you will have your hands full with this “off-the-wall” young woman.  Unfortunately, there are no hand-held devices to detect, much less ward off, the cheap cynicism with which many “liberal arts” majors are infected during their undergraduate days.  I would recommend that you dump Chloe like a hot rock and find a young woman more suited to your personality at a singles group for the literal-minded.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Among the Stoned Lab Rats

An experiment at the University of British Columbia found that tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in marijuana, turned even hard-working rats into slackers.

                    The Wall Street Journal

mouse

It was Sunday night and me and Mikey and Ike were sitting in Bill’s Lounge–voted “Boston’s Worst Bar” for the sixth consecutive year!–when Mikey made the mistake of asking Bill for another bag of Andy Capp Pub Fries.

“You guys don’t got no more credit here,” Bill said as he wiped down the bar with a rag that came with the fixtures when he bought the place a decade ago.

“We don’t?” Ike asked, and he might as well have done it rhetorically.  When Bill says you can no longer run a tab, there’s no Supreme Court of Bud Lite Pitchers to appeal to.

“Nope.  I got a business to run here, even if it don’t look it.”

I felt like whackin’ the two of ’em upside the head.  “How many times have I got to tell you mooks!”

“What?” Mikey asked, all offended dignity.

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that one now,” Ike said.

“You should,” I replied.  “I only said it like five minutes before the author chose to make us the subject of this here post.”

I could see their little heads spinning.  America’s best and brightest aren’t going in to the lab rat business these days.

I turned my little head to the right, towards the windows that looked out onto Park Square, and the lines of Auden’s September 1, 1939 came into my head from outta nowhere.

Faces along the bar,

I began, reciting from memory,

Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home.

“Did you just make that up?” Bill asked as he dunked a beer mug and an Old Fashioned glass in the sink of dirty water that looked like the Charles River before they cleaned it up.

“If I did, will you give us another bag of . . .”

auden
Auden:  “On the whole, I’d rather be in an anthology.”

 

“Ix-nay on the ee-fray ack-snay,” he said, showing off his skills in Pig Latin.

“Okay, no need to get shirty about it,” I replied.  “Well boys,” I said to my two comprades, hitching up my little gut, “looks like it’s time for us to go out and earn our keep.  Maybe amble over to MIT and see what they’re . . .”

I looked at the two of them, and I noticed a certain lack of joie de vivre, get-up-and-go, moxie.

“Are you guys with me or not?” I asked them, a bit louder this time.  They were staring off into the middle distance whilst the soothing sounds of California soft rock oozed out of the black speakers up in the corners where the ceiling met the walls.

“Am I talking to myself here?” I finally had to shout at them to get their attention.

“Oh, sorry,” Mikey said.  “What was you sayin’?”

“I was saying like I was talking to myself that we have to go out and find a new experiment to be in.”

Again with the blank stares.  “Why?” Ike said after a pause that was so long it went beyond “thoughtful” into the realm of . . . stoned.

“Because we gotta EAT!”  Heads turned–it’s considered impolite to disturb someone’s dismal depression at Bill’s.

“Why is that?” Mikey asked.

“You know,” I said out of the side of my mouth, “I could take that one of two ways.”

I waited for them to ask me to explain, but again they just sat there, their eyes glowing red like little laser pointers.  “Either it’s a very deep existential question, the primordial ‘Why?’ with which we meet the absurdity of the universe and its complete and utter indifference to all our aspirations . . .”

“Umm?” Bill ummed audibly.  Like a lot of Boston bartenders, his degree from the Harvard School of Bartending is not the only sheepskin on his wall, so he sometimes joins in the highbrow palaver–I’m tempted to say “bullshit”–his patrons put out.

barry

“Or, it’s the stupidest question anybody ever asked since ‘Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp.”

“I’m gonna go with the latter,” Bill said as he made his way down the bar to “freshen up” the chardonnay of a bottle blonde who looked like she needed a little freshening up herself.

Even with that insult slapping them in the face the two just sat there, like driveway gnomes.  And then it dawned on me:  my old buddies, who used to run through mazes all day, working up a healthy appetite while maintaining vital muscle tone, had turned into idle, apathetic stoners–without even going to college!

“Okay–I get it,” I said.  “You think that just because you’re high on pot the world revolves around you, like the guys I used to waste my time with in dank basements glowing with black lights and iridescent posters.”

“What kind of posters?” Mikey asked, at least at last showing some signs of life.

“Iridescent,” Ike said.  “They were a spin-off band from Genesis.”

hendrix

I let him stand uncorrected.  I had some serious intervenin’ to do.  “Look, you lunkheads,” I said, growing alliterative, “If we don’t work, we got no money.  If we got no money, we can’t buy the things we need to survive.  If we don’t buy the things we need to survive, we won’t survive–got it?”

I looked at them, hoping to see some will to live.  But no–nothing there.  Again I was reminded of a poem, and began to recite from rueful memory The Lotos Eaters by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and why he’s got that comma in there I’ll never figure out.  Surely you know its doleful recitation of the perils of indolence:

How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes, ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream!

I don’t know if it was the verse that stirred them, but something did, because Mikey sat up and said “You may be right.”

I couldn’t believe my ears; after all, they were constantly ringing.

“Did I hear you correctly?” I asked, incredulous.

tennyson
Tennyson, after a particularly long night of pot and Jethro Tull

 

“Yeah, me too,” Ike said.

“What’s got into you two all of a sudden?” I asked.

They looked at each other as if I was the one who was daft.

“We got the munchies, dinglebrain.”

A Day on the Campaign Trail With the Fruit-in-Bra Candidate

               A Cambridge man who has appeared on local cable access TV wearing a white brassiere filled with fruit is running for office.

                                                  The Boston Globe

Just forty-eight days until election day.  It sounds like a long time, but when you’re out on the hustings–whatever they are–every day goes by in a blur. As the advance man for the only candidate in the race with the guts, the intestinal fortitude, and the produce to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who don’t wear fruit-filled bras, I’ve never felt so inspired in my life.

“Look at these polls,” said Angela Marconi, the candidate’s chief of staff as she burst into the “war room.” We’re using “micro-targeting” to identify other Massachusetts residents who may have stuffed fruit or vegetables into their undergarments. Our job is to find them, mind them, and drive them to the polls. With a little luck and a few endorsements, we think we’ve got a shot at winning the whole rutabaga.


Rutabaga

 

“Whadda ya got,” I say to her.

“These swing districts out in the western part of the state,” she says as spreads a brightly-colored map out on the conference room table, “They’re right in our sweet spot.”

“How so?”

“You’ve got precincts with high concentrations of elderly voters who keep lemons under their armpits.”

“Why?”

“They double as deodorant and as an alternative to salt on salads. Keeps their blood pressure down.”

“I see.” Angela was an angel. She was the glue that held the campaign together, the straw that stirred the drink. If I had any more metaphors to mix, I’d throw them all in the blender with her.

“How about the pink districts?” I ask, pointing to areas around the state’s many college campuses.

“You can’t throw a canteloupe without hitting a vegan in them!” she squealed. I think we were both getting giddy at the prospect that we could literally change the face of American politics. No more of the same tired, old left-right divisions. We were on the verge of introducing a new paradigm; Fruititarians and Vegetabilists were our base, and we’d use them to triangulate the ever-diminishing number of Massachusetts residents who ate red meat. Peel off a couple of fish and chicken types, and we’d both have high five-figure staff jobs come January!

“You know,” I said to her, my voice dropping a few decibels and my eyes narrowing to hard-boiled little slits, “this whole thing is just crazy enough that it might actually work!”

She gave me a sweet little smile, filled with a pregnant sense of the possibilities that lay ahead. Me and her, living the political life we loved, loving the life we lived, maybe even . . .


“I need somebody to do a palm card drop in Ward 5.”

 

My reverie was interrupted by none other than the candidate himself, who strode into the room chomping on a cigar as he adjusted two Golden Delicious apples in the D-cups of his bra.

“If you two can stop flapping your gums about demographics and wedge issues for a minute I’ve got some old school politics to talk to you about.”

We both sat up straight and gave him our undivided attention.

“Politics is about people,” he began, “not computers and the internet and stuff like that. It’s about getting me out to every freakin’ nursing home and factory gate in the state between now and election day, you understand?”

“Actually,” I said, taking a big chance that he’d hear me out. He came up the hard way and doesn’t like to listen to what he calls “political scientology.”

“What?” he asked, a skeptical tone in his voice.

“We were thinking . . .”

“Who’s this we?”

“Me and Angela–that maybe it would be a good idea if we limited your public appearances and focused on radio talk shows, phone-banks and . . .”

“Why in the hell would I do that?” he asked, incredulous. “I’m a people person–I gotta get out and meet the voters.” He hesitated for a moment while he looked the two of us over like we were goldfish he was thinking of flushing down the toilet because he was tired of cleaning our aquarium. “Are you saying I should–hide who I really am?” He sounded hurt–vulnerable.


“How come you won’t go on TV in your bra?”

 

“No, no,” Angela interjects, anxious to let him know we’re with him 110%–maybe even 115%. “It’s just that we’re looking at groups with a lot of likely voters, and as you know, the elderly are . . . “

“Don’t go there,” he says. “Sure, it’s easy to think how tolerant we all are today, and to assume that the hidebound prejudices of the past were uniformly shared by all. But I know better. My mom and dad used to reach out to men and women that society marginalized because they accessorized with fruits. Carmen Miranda–Banana Man on Captain Kangaroo.” He was getting emotional.

“Look,” I said. “We’re not saying you should conceal anything from the voters, it’s just that–well–a lot of people still have trouble accepting a man who keeps . . . bananas in his bra.”

He fixed me with a stare that would have frozen a boiled vegetable. “You know something,” he said, drawing in his breath to fuel the outburst I knew was coming. “They’re . . . just . . . plain . . . wrong. The proper way to store bananas isn’t out in some Martha Stewart designer bowl.”

“It isn’t?” Angela asked, incredulous.

“No. No way. You store them in a closed paper bag–the dark, understand?” he snapped.


The Haymarket, Boston

 

“I guess,” I said. I edged a little closer to Angela–it was our first big screw-up of the campaign.

“When the bananas get ripe–when they’re yellow with a few brown speckles–you put them in the refrigerator. Again, in the dark. Got it?”

Angela was on the verge of tears. She’d worked for some tough candidates, but I don’t think she’d ever received a tongue-lashing like we were getting now.  I had to come to her defense.

“Look,” I said firmly, “we’re doing the best we can here. The mainstream candidates belong to Harry and David, they get gift baskets delivered to their door. We have to go down to the Haymarket and scrounge around for bruised oranges in the dark.”

“You make do with what you got,” The Candidate said, his voice as forceful as I’d ever heard it.

I was beating my head against the wall and I knew it, but I had to admire the guy for sticking to his guns. “Look, would it kill you the next time we go to a senior center to just wear a pair of grey slacks and a blazer?”


“The other candidate brought us fresh fruit.”

 

“But why?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “If I get elected, I don’t want anybody saying I misled him.”

How do you explain water to a fish, I thought.  He’s so committed to the fruit-and-underwear dynamic, he just doesn’t get it.

“Look,” I said as calmly as I could given the heat of the argument. “There’s a lot of people who think that it’s . . . undignified . . . to walk around in a bra with fruit in it.”

He looked as if I’d hit him with a ball peen hammer, but I gave him credit; he recovered right away.

“So that’s what people think,” he said, shaking his head. “Well let me ask you something–what the hell’s dignity got to do with politics?”

 

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