Put the Magic Back in Your Marriage

Sex is the glue that holds a marriage together, because it requires husband and wife to touch each other and it’s sticky. Unfortunately, over time, many spouses drift apart because they run out of this glue, with disastrous consequences.

Diane von Furstenberg: He got bored with this?


When Prince Egon of Furstenberg, husband of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, was asked what sex was like after several years of marriage, he replied “After a while it’s like the right hand touching the left.” His long-stem red roses bill was longer than, well, a long-stemmed red rose, but the couple divorced soon anyway.

Here are some tips to rekindle the flame of marital love without setting off the smoke alarm!

1. Switch sides of the bed: So simple, and yet it works! Men have larger nasopharyngeal passages, whatever they are, and tend to spray more munga when they snore. Women, on the other hand, read treacly romantic novels with titles like “Love’s Tender Passion Unbound.” When husband and wife switch sides, the woman recoils from the horror of sprayed snot on the nightstand, while the man shrinks from the syrupy selection of pseudo-literature that confronts him. They roll to the center of the bed and–voila–instant intimacy!

Hmm–moleage a trois?

2. Check each other’s backs for moles: Your dermatologist has told you to do this, but every night it’s the same thing: Watch TV, put the cat down in the basement, go to bed, fall asleep. So it’s time to try something different: Both of you strip naked and check out the moles on each other’s backs, taking copious notes for future reference. Don’t be surprised if you end up playing “OB/GYN”!

Not that kind of mole.


3. Admit that you think of somebody else when you’re, uh, doing it: Everybody plays this little mental game. You say “I love you so much, Shonda,” as you hump away like a dachsund on a chintz couch leg, when you’re actually thinking of Vonda. Time for the flop, the turn and the river, as they say on the Poker Channel. Put all your cards on the table and let each other know who you’re really thinking about! Afterwards, there’s the outrage, the argument, and then–the make-up sex! It’s like a two-for-one sale!

“I just want to finish this email . . .”


4. Costumes are fun! “Our sexuality is part of our identity, and frankly, most of us are boring,” says Dr. Emil Dickson, noted author on married life. He suggests using costumes to spice up a marriage gone stale. “If your husband likes to hunt, dress up like a bear,” he suggests. “If your wife flirts with her hairdresser, put on a smock and a lisp.”

“All right, I’ll put on the forest ranger outfit!”


5. Pay for it! The feminist revolution has unfortunately broken down the traditional walls between men and women that made sex so interesting. Nowadays, a woman is just as likely to pay for a drink or dinner on a date, which is great for a guy’s wallet but confusing for his manhood.

“Did you remember to run the dishwasher?”


So when it’s time for the two of you to go upstairs and turn on the lava lamp, let the man revert to his traditional role of breadwinner and pay for sex! You may find the added “kick” of a financial incentive is just the thing to make you lose your “amateur” standing!

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collections “The Difference Between Men and Women” and “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Estate Planning for Cats

The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill allowing residents to write pets into their wills and leave trust funds behind for their care.

               The Boston Globe

Image result for lawyer will signing
“There–Kitzi is all provided for!”

Every year about this time I take stock of my family’s financial situation–how much life insurance we have, the allocation of my retirement plan between bonds, stocks and 60’s era collectible plastic model cars, what would happen to everybody else in our household if I should die before them.

I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out the pie charts on my monthly statement when Okie, the older of our two cats, jumped up on my desk.

“Whatcha doin’?” he asked, mustering as much wide-eyed innocence as a creature who likes to rip the guts out of chipmunks can possibly manage.

“Just my annual financial self-check-up,” I said, reaching into the drawer for an extra box of hyphens.

“I don’t mean to sound . . . crass . . . but have you taken care of me?” he asked.

I gave him a withering look. “You’ll be fifteen years old this year,” I said. “That’s 105 in human years.”

“So? You’re the one who rides his bike on state highways.”

Rocco: “You made mom the trustee? Good grief!”

“I wear a helmet,” I said, turning back to something called the PIMCO Variable Rate Long-Term Investment Grade Bond and Baseball Card Fund.  “I don’t think you’re going to outlive me.”

He’s not the brightest cat in the world; he’s gone a long way on looks alone, with females rolling over and swooning at the black stripes in his short grey fur. I could literally feel him trying to figure out an innocent-sounding way to restart the discussion.

“Not for me,” he said, even though I seemed to recall that he’d used the word “me.”  “For the children.”

“You mean Rocco? He’s going to be 9 this year, so he’s 63.  Sorry, I think the humans around here come first because of their longer life expectancy.”

He turned away, a bit miffed.  “Did you see The Globe today?”

“I can’t go out and get a job at my age!”

“That was their advertising slogan back in the 80’s,” I said.  “Which part?”

“An article that tells how you can set up a trust fund for me and Rocco.  Just in case something tragic–God forbid–happened to you.”

All of a sudden it clicked. There’d been a segment on “Biography” last night about the Menendez brothers, the Beverly Hills teens who killed their parents to get at their assets.

“Forget about it, pal,” I said, and I tried to put some starch into my voice.  “I don’t have enough money to make it worthwhile to bump me off.”

“What are you talking about?”

Rocco came in the room and, as always, sized up the situation in the bat of an eyelash.

“Is he trying to talk you into a trust fund?” he said before sprawling on his back legs to lick his crotch. “I told him you wouldn’t fall for it.”

Image result for radiator

Okie emitted a hiss like the radiators in my first apartment.  “You are so cynical,” he said.

“Am not,” Rocco said, “unless you mean that I’m dog-like.”

“I think he means you mistrusts his motives,” I explained, switching to the figurative from the literal.

“I’m not greedy,” Okie said. “I’m not like Leona Helmsley’s dog, Tycoon.”

“The one who was bequeathed $12 million, later reduced to $2 million?” I asked, although I knew the answer.

Image result for tycoon helmsley
Tycoon, with Helmsley: “He’s the only one who really loved me for the bitch that I am.”

“Yeah–pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered,” he said, using an old country expression popular among big city lawyers.

I reached over and scratched Okie on the head.  “Don’t worry, if mom or I died you could stay here until the other kicked the bucket.”

“What if you died together?” he asked. He’d apparently thought this thing through thoroughly.

“Well, I’m sure one of the neighbors would take you.”

Image result for jack russell terrier
Jack Russell terrier: Yip, yip, yip.

“Ix-nay on the olstead-Hays,” Rocco said, not even bothering to look up from his nether regions.  “I can’t stand their stupid Jack Russell terrier.”

I looked at the two of them, and realized they had a point.  “Tell you what–you guys can make out living wills, saying who you’d want to live with if we died. How’s that sound?”

“Is that enforceable?” Okie asked–he wasn’t completely on board yet.

“With two witnesses and a notary,” I said.

“And we can choose anybody we want?” Rocco asked.

“Sure–who did you have in mind?”

“Aunt Chris–she sends us Friskies Cat Treats!”

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

Ask Mr. Taxidermist

Looking for a fun hobby that is also “profitable”?  If you love nature and toxic chemical fumes, taxidermy–the art and science of stuffing (dead) animals–may be just the thing!  Here are queries Mr. Taxidermist pulled at random from his mailbag this week.

In happier times.


Dear Mr. Taxidermist–

This won’t seem like a question that’s “up your alley” “right off the bat,” but here goes.  I have not had much success in love, as my last serious relationship ended when Don Denkinger blew that call at first base during game six of the 1985 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.  I apparently did not get upset enough for my boyfriend, Luke Swingarth, who was totally beside himself, and wanted me to share in his grief.  This I could not do, as I don’t like sports except for water skiing and bowling.

Anyway, I recently met a nice man at work, and I could tell there was “something special” between us right away.  He is a real gentleman, holding the refrigerator door open for me in the employee lounge at Applied Widgetronix.  To get my lunch, I mean, not to go into the refrigerator.

Some have never recovered.


I have heard that the Chinese symbol for “opportunity” is the same one as for “problem,” and that is sort of my dilemma.  “Ron” is available because he’s a widower so that’s my opportunity, but his problem is that he still isn’t over his late wife Earleen.  He had her stuffed and mounted in a pose that is sort of like the resting mountain lion trophies you sometimes see in sporting good store windows, but instead she is reclining on the divan out on his screened-in porch.

Mr. Taxidermist, I have asked several of my girlfriends for their opinion, and they all agree “Ron’s” commemorative display is strange bordering on creepy.  How can I gently persuade him it is time to drop off “Earleen” in the “take-it-or-leave-it” section of our town dump so she can find a new home and I can move in.

Delores Finster, Between, Missouri

Sort of like this.


Dear Ms. Finster–

I don’t know what you hoped to accomplish writing a letter to a licensed taxidermist calling his profession “strange” and “creepy.”  Taxidermy is a wholesome indoor sport with some outdoor overtones that is undergoing a long-overdue revival, as young women muscle in on it the way they have with business, the professions, and sexual promiscuity.  Maybe if you got your nose out of the air and came “down-to-earth” with the rest of us ordinary Jacks and Jills you might find taxidermy a relaxing if smelly hobby you could share with Ron.

Well, you tried.


Dear Mr. Taxidermist–

My wife and I recently hosted our bridge club, which is pretty high-toned affair as there are an insurance agent, a Chevy-GMC dealer and a mortician who are members along with us.  Jim Vlesbick, who is a member of the “Million Dollar Sales” club for Modern Moosehead Property & Casualty, came into our den and started in criticizing my collection of mounted trophy animals, saying “I see your house is decorated in Early Cruelty to Animals.”

Mr. Taxidermist, I was under the impression that taxidermy was painless to animals, as they are dead when state-of-the-art preservation techniques are applied to them.  Is there an informational brochure you could send me that I could refer to so as to rebut anti-taxidermy sentiment?

Ray Onacheck, Ypsilanti, Michigan

“Oh, so you’re one of those Bigfoot ‘truthers’–huh?”


Dear Ray–

Thanks for asking!  The American Taxidermy Association has a wide variety of “propaganda” you can give to your skeptical friends, including “The Truth About Taxidermists,” “Preserving Your Furry Friends,” and for kids “Stuffed!” by Ricky the Dead Raccoon.

Legal says I have to add this disclaimer:  With the exception of lemmings, which are suicidal, most animals are unwilling participants in the hobby of taxidermy.

Dear Mr. Taxidermist:

I have a bone to pick with you.  I bought your Home Taxidermy Starter Kit and tried it out on a dead squirrel I found Saturday on Highway 70, just south of Aullville.  “Rocky” turned out okay for my first try, just a little lumpy around the middle, but I had hallucinations for the better part of the weekend, and cried out that I could see the face of God during my Sunday school class at our Lutheran Church, where ecstatic expression of religious fervor is strictly prohibited.

I was reported by Clara Smithy, mother of one of my students, and as they say butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.  Now I am on three months’ probation and my name is mud throughout the entire Missouri Synod.  I think you should have a warning about possible “psychedelic” experiences on the package, and am reporting you to the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Noreen Welo, Higginsville MO


Dear Noreen–

Sorry, but the good old First Amendment gets us out of this one.  I didn’t tell you to go to church to exercise “freedom of religion” after using my proprietary mixture of secret ingredients to dry out “Rocky’s” skin.  These include alum, which you have probably used if you’ve ever soaked cucumbers to make pickles.

Still, in an effort to keep the plaintiffs’ lawyers off my back, I will offer you a merchandise credit on your purchase of “Home Taxidermy Pro,” a $14.95 value, which is recommended if you are to move on to larger animals such as weasels.

Just remember not to eat the leftover innards unless you marinade them in formaldehyde and cook on low for three days in your Crock-Pot.

Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai: Free Book Giveaway on Goodreads

How cheap am I?  I have been known to take home a soda can when I eat lunch at a deli.  I paid for it, so I should get the nickel deposit–right?

So when I offer to give something away for free, it’s kind of like Halley’s Comet: It doesn’t happen every day, so you don’t want to miss it.

I say this because a free book giveaway for “Kimiko Chou: Girl Samurai,” my forthcoming young adult/old adult with poor reading skills novel, is now live on goodreads.com.


Your Science-Fashion Advisor

What are the two immutable sources of the reality that surrounds us every day?  The laws of science and the laws of fashion.  But what do you when these two worlds collide?  You call Your Science-Fashion Advisor, that’s what!

Dear Science-Fashion Advisor:

I have met a man whom I would very much like to get to know better.  He is coming over in about an hour and I have the worst case of static cling!  My dress is stuck to my crotch in a way that is both revealing and suggestive.  What is static cling and how can I fight it off?  Email is better as I do not have time to wait for your column to appear in next week’s paper.

Norma Jean Oswalt, Otterville, MO


Dear Norma Jean:

The atoms that make up the objects around us have equal numbers of positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons in orbit around them.  When you pull your skirt on over your panty hose, electrons leave one object faster than the other, giving one a positive charge and the other a negative.  Opposites attract–perhaps like you and your “beau”–and static electricity makes your skirt want to cling to your hose.  You may find this to be true of your date after a few Busch Natural Lite beers.

For a first date, there are two solutions.  One, soak your head in water and tell your date it is the “Flashdance” look, you just loved that movie–because water conducts electricity.  Or you can pick the extra electrons out of your panty hose with a tweezer and a magnifying glass, and tell your date you spent the afternoon sliding down a bannister.


Dear Science-Fashion Lady:

When the Comet Kohoutek came through the earth’s atmosphere in 1973 it sprinkled some kind of stardust on my new crinoline petticoat, which I just happened to have up above my waist in the back seat of Duane Edsall’s Chevy Impala.  At least that is where Duane told me the stain came from.

Comet Kohoutek:  Probably not to blame.


I have never been able to get this substance out, and now I want to hand down this petticoat to my daughter Jean Marie, for her junior prom.  Can I make the comet pay for the damage, or at least part of my dry cleaning bill?

Leona Morsht, Downhill, Kentucky


Dear Leona:

You may have to wait awhile–the Comet Kohoutek isn’t expected to bypass the earth again for another 75,000 years!  Try putting a paste of wet baking soda on the stain, dry the petticoat under fluorescent light, put it in a brown paper grocery bag and set it on fire on your driveway.  As you pick through the ashes you will notice that the stain is gone.


Dear Science-Fashion Advisor:

My roommate elena (she’s a poet, and “eschews” capital letters) and I are planning a party and I went and got a new outfit, black tube top, maroon pedal pushers.  When I came home all excited and showed it to her, she said “oh–i just got the same outfit.”  She is irritating that way, always speaking in lower case.

Cute widdle bwack hole


elena says that if two women with identical outfits lead a man under a chandelier in a game of “Which Girl is Which?” his head will explode and he will be sucked into a black hole.  Science-Fashion lady, I don’t believe her for a minute.  She says she bought her outfit first so she should keep hers, but when I asked to see the sales slip she said she lost it.  As far as I know the only science course she ever took was “Rocks and Stars,” which is for English majors.  Please help me out here–I went on the NASA web site and there is nothing but a bunch of publicity photos.

Yvette Millenieux, Allston-Brighton, Mass.


Dear Yvette–

Unfortunately, elena is right.  The taboo against two women wearing the same outfit to a party is based on Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty Principle,” which holds that it is impossible to measure an object’s precise dimensions when it is wearing a bodacious tube top.

Heisenberg:  “Honestly, it looks great on both of you.”


Suffice it to say that if a man closes his eyes and opens them to see two women’s nippers standing at attention through the same clingy material, something is bound to explode.

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

In an End Fit for Shakespeare, Tragedy Strikes Librarian Confab

BOSTON.  As the plenary session of the American Association of Librarians annual convention wound down here yesterday afternoon, the long faces some attendees wore were not the result of dog-eared pages or overdue books.

Convention and Exhibition Center


“What happened is so sad,” said Priscilla Hindmarsh, head librarian for the Milwaukee Public School System.  “I would file it under ‘Tragedies, Senseless’,” she says, pulling a tissue from her purse to wipe away a tear.

Hindmarsh is referring to an altercation between adherents of the two principal library cataloging systems in use today, the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Classification, that broke out at a cocktail hour and dinner dance Saturday night.

“We were having a great time, cracking jokes about how the Library of Congress nerds group ‘recreation’ with ‘geography’ and ‘anthropology’, when one of the ‘Congress’ boys started eyeing one of our chicks,” says Lowell Hirshorn of the Boonslick Regional Library in central Missouri.  The literary lothario, Duane Holcomb, a reference librarian at the General Services Administration in Washington, made a move on Madeline Bousa, an early reading specialist for the Spokane Public Schools, and sparks flew.

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would be found under ‘S-Agriculture’ in the Library of Congress Classification.”


“We knew it would end in tragedy,” says Hirshorn, and he and some of his Dewey Decimal colleagues tried to intervene, but Bousa was smitten and took to the dance floor for a evening of excitement with Holcomb.  The night ended with a spirited rendition of The Village People’s “YMCA” that saw the two lovers holding hands to form the most difficult letter, “M”.  “That was the last straw,” says Ed Smythe, a story hour leader at the Snooky Lanson Branch of the Atlanta, Georgia, Public Library System.

The Village People


As the two lovers were leaving the convention center, jealous colleagues of Bousa gathered in the shadows near the taxi stand, then attacked Holcomb with 4″ x 6″ file cards, inflicting paper cuts that caused him to bleed to death.  They then dragged his corpse to Copley Square where they stuffed it in a book return slot at the Boston Public Library’s main branch.  “It was really barbaric,” says Ed Herlihy, head of collection enforcement for the library.  “If you drop a book in the slot on Saturday night you can rack up big fines because it won’t be checked in ’til Monday morning.”

Police say they have a few leads, but are reaching out to potential witnesses to try and crack the case.  “We have a composite sketch of the perps,” says Boston Police Sergeant James Hampy.  “They’re a group of middle-aged white males with round shoulders and a tendency to shush people who talk too loud in public.”

A Guy’s Guide to Figure Skating

You know, eventually, the day will come.

It’s the dead of winter.  You live in a four-sport town, but your football team didn’t make the playoffs, your NBA franchise is playing for the lottery and your local hockey team seems to trot out the heroes of the Stanley Cup squad from four decades ago a little too often.

Your wife or girlfriend turns to you and utters the six words that, strung together in the proper order, bring nausea to the stomach of any red-blooded American male.

“Is there any skating on tonight?”

Your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth, as if with peanut butter, because without a rooting interest to guide you, you can’t rattle off a televised sports event of greater significance than a non-title bout in the junior flyweight division of the WBA.  Or is it the WBO?  WBC?

You’re trapped.  And, since it’s Saturday night, you decide to be nice to her–for ulterior reasons.

You hand her the remote, and head for the fridge.

Wait–come back.  You can learn to stomach figure skating.  Really.  Just follow these easy “Learn-to-Love Skating!” guidelines:

She’s Not That Into Them.  You dread the thought of watching guys salchowing around in sequins and stretch pants.  Don’t assume she wants to watch men, or even pairs, however.  For reasons that are unclear down deep, but readily apparent on the surface, women like to watch women.  You don’t watch the WNBA, do you?


Look at That Outfit!  In case you only pay attention to women’s figure skating when sombody takes a tire iron to an Olympic hopeful’s shinbone, the women’s outfits leave nothing to the imagination, as the foundation undergarment industry used to say.

“The yellow caution flag is out.”

Pretend It’s NASCAR.  Just as some fans go to stock car races for the crashes, and some hockey fans only get excited when there’s a fight, it’s fun to watch skating for the falls.  If the networks were smart, they’d zoom in on the point where the panties hit the ice and circle it with a John Madden-model video pen to show the circumference and depth of concave impression.

ANNOUNCER #1: Looks like Maria must be wearing husky sizes now, Carol!

ANNOUNCER #2: I think she’s been gobbling down too many linzer tortes, Dick.

Katerina Witt:  “Yes I was a Communist informant–so whatski?”


Pick a Villian.  Pro wrestling promoters learned long ago that it takes a villain to raise the ratings.  Katerina Witt was for years the Barry Bonds of women’s figure skating–unloved, even at the top of her game.  If you’re the type who hates winners, rag on the current #1–here’s a link to The Best Female Figure Skaters in the World Right Now.

Irina Slutskaya: My cup of borscht.


Pick a Favorite.  The flip side of picking a villain is to select a sentimental favorite–the wide-eyed, white-skated equivalent of the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox before they wised up and won a World Series.   You can then gush over her every toe loop.  My favorite was always Irina Slutskaya; she, like me, had overcome the handicap of having a name with negative connotations.  And a need to buy our clothes in the chubby children’s department.

“Michelle was robbed!”

Get Mad At the Judges.  Everyone knows that skating is as crooked as boxing.  When your favorite skater finishes her routine, take a deep breath as she picks up her teddy bears and long-stemmed red roses and heads to the “kiss and cry” area.  Get ready to explode when the scores are announced.  “Only 9.8 for artistic expression!” you scream.  “She was robbed!”

Storm out of the room, check score of Australian-rules football game on the den TV.  Pull a nose hair or two until your eyes water, grab a Kleenex and return sniffling to the couch.

The woman waiting for you there will give you a big hug.

Speaking Truth to Librarian Power

The mid-1980s were a time when, due to several unsettling changes in my life, I did not have much confidence in myself, personally or professionally.  My long-time girlfriend had moved out of our apartment and taken up with a guy who ran a bike shop, leaving me with a big rent check to write each month for our expensive Beacon Hill apartment.  I had just changed jobs, leaving a small, unpleasant firm for a much bigger one whose unpleasantness was more widely-dispersed and thus, in a way, more treacherous.  In a place with ten professionals you knew where the enemy was at all times; at my new job, danger lurked unseen, like those punji-stake traps the Viet Cong used to set for American soldiers in the jungle.

“Are you sure that’s a ‘U.S.’ cite?  Sounds more like a ‘Sup. Ct. Rptr.’ to me.”


And so I sailed into what appeared to be a congenial port in a storm.  I found in the firm librarian a smiling buoy in a sea of unknown hazards, if I may be allowed to extend my nautical conceit.  I liked books, she was surrounded by books!  I needed help with my research, she could provide it!  I favored the Dewey Decimal System while she was a firm devotee of Library of Congress Classification, but sometimes a little difference like that can be the spark that starts the fire that consumes two . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Is it just me . . . or is it hot in here?”


Over time, we became more than mere office acquaintances.  She’d invite–perhaps “direct” is the more accurate term–me to take a seat in her office to discuss knotty questions of citation, then subtly steer the conversation towards topics more social in nature.  Did I have plans for the weekend?  Was I dating anybody?  Did I know that my fly was open?  That sort of thing.

“Would you help me re-shelve ‘Chapman on Brain Injuries’?”


And so it developed that, into one of these little “chats,” she dropped a casual invitation.  “Would you like to go see The Sick Puppies with some of us this weekend?”

“Who are The Sick Puppies?” I asked, all wide-eyed innocence and wing-tip-shod boy with cheeks of tan.

“You don’t know who The Sick Puppies are?” she asked, with unaffected incredulity.  “They just signed a record contract, they’re about to hit the big time,” she said.  “This is your last chance to hear them before they become famous, playing before sold-out houses in gigantic mega-venues!”

With a bally-hoo like that, it was hard to say no, I had weekend plans to alphabetize my collection of Johnny “Guitar” Watson albums.

“Who else is going?” I asked, dipping my toe in the potentially dangerous waters of intra-office dating.

“Charlie and Sharon are coming, and Anne and Michael,” she said, naming two long-time couples of about our age.

“So it’s not a date, it’s more like the National Honor Society all going to see Simon & Garfunkel together?”

“Right,” she said, drawing on her cigarette and blowing out a little ring of desire.  You could smoke indoors back then, and those who did so were able to envelop themselves in an air of mystery, like a noir movie set–with file cabinets.

“We have a three-volume treatise titled ‘Couch on Insurance.’  Want to give it a try?”

“Okay, sure,” I said.  I didn’t want to become known as a joyless stick-in-the-mud of a wet blanket party pooper around the office.  It would seriously inhibit productivity if every time I passed a little group of colleagues they had to repeat that scornful mouthful of epithets.


And so I arrived at my librarian’s apartment punctually at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, ready for some fun with the gang, but I noticed as I entered her apartment that the gang was not all there.

“Where are Charlie and Sharon?”

“Something came up with Charlie’s family in Maine.  Somebody died or got married or something.”

“Oh.  Too bad.  How about Michael and Anne?”

“You know those two,” which I did–sorta.  Always squabbling at summer outings over badminton, or volleyball, or croquet.  Then, they’d withdraw from the group to work out their differences, and would end up leaving early to go have mad, passionate make-up sex.

“So–they had an argument?”

“Yeah.  By now they’re probably listening to Marvin Gaye and making the beast with two backs.”  You know how librarians are, always with the literary euphemisms for sex.

“Oh, okay,” I said, and so off we went to hear The Sick Puppies.  They were your typical Cambridge band of the era.  They couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be rock stars or novelists, and so instead of producing music people might actually want to dance to, they sang lyrics that my former neurotic girlfriend would underline on the cover if she ever bought one of their albums.  Which she wouldn’t.  She had better taste than that–why else would she dump me?

“Did you like them?” my librarian asked as we walked out.

“Like them?” I replied.  “If you ever ask me to see them again, I’ll be washing my hair.”

She put on a little pouty face and said “I’m sorry.  Would you like to come back to my place for a drink?”

“Sure,” I said, sorry that I’d been critical of her fav rad group, as Tiger Beat would say.

We had a drink or two at her tiny home down a cul-de-sac in a quiet little neighborhood, then I stood up and said I should probably be going.

“It’s a long walk back to Harvard Square,” she said.

“Yeah, but I want to get up early tomorrow.”

“It’s kind of late.  There are some rough characters who hang out in the T station.”

“I can handle myself,” I said.  “When I scream, it’s really loud.”

“We could do something else,” she said, as if she found the prospect of a dull Sunday ahead of her depressing.

“Like what?” I asked.

She was quiet for a moment.  “Like have sex.”

I was, to say the least, taken aback.  “But . . . we work together.”

“I’d like to break the Rule Against Perpetuities . . . with you.”


“That doesn’t stop anybody else,” she said, and began to tick off the names of co-workers who were sleeping with each other across several pay grades–administrative, exempt and non-exempt, summer associates, associates, equity, non-equity and contract partners, temps, etc.

I stopped her–I didn’t want to hear any more.  “You mean . . . there’s no rule against it?”

“That’s how Anne and Michael met,” she said, “and Ariel and Clark, and Bob and Marie–she was his secretary first, and Susan and Jeff, and . . .”

And so I succumbed (succame?) to her wiles.  What else could I do?  She held my entire future as a researcher in her hands.  Wanna know about the Rule in Dumpor’s Case?  The Noerr-Pennington Doctrine?  The holding in Hadley v. Baxendale?  The road to that knowledge ran right through her office, and there was no way around it.

It ended badly, as these things tend to do.  When she was done with me I still needed to use the library, and she knew it.  “I’ll be with you when I get through with these people,” she’d say, pointing to interns, senile partners, the maintenance guys changing the fluorescent light bulbs.  “You should check the card catalog before you come to me,” she’d say with haughty disdain.  I was cruelly cast aside, like an outdated paperback copy of the Internal Revenue Code.

Eventually, one of us had to go, and it was me.  I was forced to take a job for twice as much money at a place where–I kid you not–there was no librarian.  If you needed something, you looked it up yourself, and fetched it from the shelves.  I had had it with the nightmare of librarian harassment she’d put me through.  I wasn’t going to go down that road again–Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress.

As for her?  Well, I see her in the train station every now and then.  She got married and late in life had a daughter to whom she’s a devoted mother.  When she posted a picture of the young woman’s graduation from college on Facebook, I asked whether she’d be going on to get a Master of Library Science, like her mother.

“No,” she replied tersely.  “We’re trying to make an honest woman out of her.”

Aria For a Former Girlfriend Who Believed Her Neighbors Were Spying on Us

Their lights are off–but we know they’re there.
They’re quiet as a family of mice.
They’re saying a rosary, kneeling in prayer,
’cause they think what we’re doing ain’t nice.

It’s true we’re living a life of sin,
but this is a totally free nation.
So grandmamma and all her kin
Can lay off our reputations.


Why can’t they all just . . . get a life,
or take up stamp collecting.
Why must they spy on us every night,
particularly when we’re necking–

You can take all the San Severinos . . .
toss them into the deep blue sea.
Both the old folks and little bambinos–
it’s perfectly all right with me.

I Beat a Gypsy Curse, And So Can You

If my conduct in the case in question exceeded the normal bounds of professionalism, the circumstances provided an excuse.

A client of mine had lent a significant–to him–sum of money to a little Greek woman, working capital for the shop where she sold used phonograph records.  The loan was made during the dark ages when first cassettes, then CDs, had replaced the platters that teens had spun on their turntables at swinging parties, and the present, when vinyl is suddenly “cool” again, thanks to the added expense and inconvenience.  In other words, hard times for records.

Such a sweet, little old deadbeat.


The day for payment in full came and went–nothing.  Calls were made to the gnarled old crone, which went unreturned.  Dunning letters were written, sent first by regular mail, then by CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED.  Still nothing.

“Any word?” my client asked me.

“No,” I said, a bit chagrined since I’d gotten him into the deal in the first place.

“Maybe you’d better drop by and make sure she hasn’t flown the coop,” he said, with the flat, menacing tone of a man who’s been screwed before, and fully intends to screw back–hard–if somebody tries to screw him again.

So I went to the woman’s store, several times.  She was a one-woman operation, and when she was out would leave a sign on the door that said “Back in 15 minutes.”  I can’t tell you how many hours I spent waiting for those fifteen minutes to pass, over and over again.  I would give up after forty-five minutes, chalk the experience up to my gullibility, and resolve to come back again, another day.

Old gypsy woman, or Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards?  YOU make the call!


Then one day I got lucky.  I arrived to see the door wide open, and the owner talking to a customer.  As the cash started its journey from buyer to seller, I intervened in my best officious intermeddler manner.

“Hold it right there,” I said, getting all huffy and puffy about it.  “You owe my client $20,000, not including interest, penalties, postage, costs of collection, attorneys’ fees, and telefacsimile charges–fork it over!”

There was an awkward pause, with the guy who was buying the Ray Coniff Singers’ 1956 Christmas album or whatever, looking first at me, then at her.

“Give him the money,” the old woman said with resignation, and the man did so–the princely sum of $5, which made such a small dent in the imposing edifice of the outstanding balance that, in retrospect, it wasn’t worth the effort, the heartburn, the embarrassment all around.

The man walked out of the store, happy to extricate himself from an unpleasant encounter.  Good thing; once he was out the door, things became even more acrimonious.

“You . . . you,” the woman sputtered at me, to which I responded as only a cold-hearted collection professional can.  For a cinematic depiction of the species, I highly recommend Harry Dean Stanton’s performance in “Repo Man.”

“I’m only doing my job,” I said.  “Either you starting paying, or we back a truck up here next week and take all your crappy inventory.”

“You’re not taking anything of mine,” she said, fuming ineffectually, like a damp firecracker.  “I PUT GYPSY CURSE ON YOU!”

My air of equanimity vanished with those words.  This was a novel experience for me; I’ve been called a lot of names, threatened with judicial sanctions, thwarted by bankruptcy filings–but a gypsy curse?  Wait ’til I tell the boys at Brandy Pete’s, favorite Boston lunch spot for hard-bitten cynical commercial types, I thought to myself.  The place has a sign that reads “The customer is always wrong.”  It’s so badass it filed for bankruptcy itself, so you could watch your cash payments go straight from the waitress to a Chapter 11 trustee as you grabbed a toothpick on your way out.

“Ha,” I laughed, but it sounded empty, hollow, even to my own ears, as it surely did to my client’s debtor.  (Pro tip to general circulation media: The debtor is the one who owes the money, not the creditor.)  As much as I might pretend not to worry, I was dealing with a power with which I had no familiarity, one wielded by a tribe–the Roma–who can trace their roots back 1,500 years.  If they remember to bring tracing paper with them as they travel around the globe, constantly fleeing the forces of social order.  All I knew of the gypsies I learned from Django Reinhardt records; I figured that probably wasn’t enough.

Django Reinhardt


So for awhile I went about my business with an air of paranoia, constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering when the curse would be fulfilled and I’d be struck by an out-of-control gypsy wagon.  After awhile, I began to drop my guard–my life seemed to be more or less the same as before; dull, uneventful, no thefts of babies from my house or other assorted misdemeanors that the Roma have been accused of for centuries.

So I began to wonder–how, exactly, did I beat the gypsy curse?  What had I done that shielded me from death where others had been stricken with mysterious wasting diseases?  Maybe there was a best-selling self-help book in it for me.

As I looked back over my particular–some would say peculiar–tastes, habits and conduct that distinguish me from your run-of-the-mill late middle-aged schlub, I’ve come up with a few key indicators that separate me from the common herd, and apparently protect me from the baleful effects of the “evil eye” by which gypsies have destroyed their enemies for a millennium and a half.  I offer them to you–gratis–even though I acquired them at great cost; their use has made me an object of scorn over the three score and six years of my life:

Old Spice Classic Roll-On Deodorant:  The men with whom I share health club dressing rooms never pull the traditional red plastic tube from their gym bags when it’s time to apply anti-perspirant protection.  I, on the other hand, learned at my father’s knee that Old Spice was the real deal, capable of neutralizing body odor that other deodorants couldn’t touch.  Ban?  Right Guard?  Please–don’t make me laugh.  They didn’t even exist when I was first singing along to my brand’s commercial jingle, whose stirring words I can remember to this day: “Old Spice–said the Captain to the bo’sun.  Ask for the package with the ship that sails the ocean!”

Yogurt-covered raisins:  A culinary breakthrough in the decade when I came of age as a professional, this quasi-natural treat has been my snack of choice since they first appeared in stores in the 1980’s.  Don’t be led astray by spoilsports like “Amelia,” a self-proclaimed “nutritionist, chef and mom” blogger who says they’re as bad as candy.  If “Amelia” was any good as a nutritionist, wouldn’t she have enough clients to be able to afford a last name?  ‘Nuf said, as Red Sox fans used to say.

“Shh–people are looking at us!”


Ventriloquism:  I have been trying and failing to master “throwing my voice” since grade school, with mixed results.  Still, the point is–I try, where others have given up on their dreams.  Does ventriloquism make me different from the ordinary “knowledge worker” you may encounter?  Well, answer me this:  how many people do you see talking to their hands on the train every day?  Not many I’ll bet.

So there you have it; an exhaustive, if not entirely scientific, survey of options if you’re ever cursed by a gypsy, and begin to suffer adverse side effects, like those that the drug pitchmen rattle off at the end of commercials, going about 80 words per minute.

Me?  I’ve lived a life of comfort, ease, and deep, refreshing, untroubled sleep since that fateful day.

Except for that time I fell off an 8 foot loading dock at our town dump.  Or when I slipped on the hobnailed platform strip at South Station and blew out my knee.  I should also probably mention the time I stepped into a hole where a brick had been removed from the sidewalk and I stumbled onto Atlantic Avenue in Boston in the face of high-speed oncoming traffic.  And the fact that we lost two cats, one to coyotes, one to . . .