Greece Sends Letter to Creditors, Forgets to Enclose Check

ATHENS.  Hopes for settlement of the Greek monetary crisis continued their roller coaster ride today when the International Monetary Fund opened what they thought was an envelope containing an overdue payment and found no money inside.

Image result for angry greek mob
“The letter is already sealed–we can’t just open it again!”


“We are considering all of our options,” said IMF spokeswoman Natalie Grillet.  “They told us the check was in the mail, but we didn’t know that was one of the three big lies of all time, along with ‘One size fits all’ and ‘Sure, I’ll respect you in the morning.'”

The letter was supposed to include $1.73 billion for a late payment due the IMF, but the text written by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said “I was going to include that big check we owe you, but I see that I have sealed the envelope without putting it in.  Be sure and remind me about it next time you’re in Greece.”

Image result for angry greek mob
“Grab her–she’s got some change in her pocketbook.”


Greece has previously staved off default on its debts by post-dating or forgetting to sign checks or not putting a stamp on envelopes.  “At some point, you have to ask whether they are serious about reform or are just jerking us around,” Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.  “They said they were going to return some bottles and cans over the weekend, but then they used the deposits to buy more retsina.

Image result for angela merkel
Merkel:  “It’s in your other pair of pants–like I haven’t heard that one from Spain and Italy before!”


The IMF’s remedies are limited due to the sovereign nature of Greece and its debts.  “We could bar them from the Miss World and Miss Universe contests,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.  “We could also boycott Greek yogurt, but I really love the strawberry and banana kind.”

EU: Greece Will Run Out of Syllables by Friday

ATHENS. A reeling Greek nation averted disaster today as it reached a temporary accord with creditors, but linguistics experts say the effort may be too little and too late as the nation will run out of syllables this Friday unless silent letters from euro-zone partners become available.

Members of elite Polysyllabilist corps


“For too long, the Greeks have lived high on the spelling hog with last names such as Papadopolopoulosas,” said Dr. Armand de Bergerac of Paris University. “What’s wrong with just ‘Plato’ or ‘Socrates’?”

Greece is a member of the “eurozone,” an economic and monetary union that consists of Austria, Belgium, the Cleveland Indians, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, a second-round draft pick from the Denver Broncos and a country to be named later. It issues the “euro,” a currency that can be redeemed for prizes at Chuck E. Cheese, a pizza restaurant that features arcade games fought over by overbearing parents.

Hermes ties, manufactured by Greek god of commerce


“Why should I, who has lived so long to pass on my name to my son, give it up to some fat-assed banker with a Hermes tie and slick-backed hair?” said Alkman Mossialosopapoulias, a shopkeeper here. “I chop offa his baklava before I chop offa one-a syllable of my name.”

Baklava (not shown actual size)


Finance ministers of other eurozone nations said they would draw down on reserves of silent letters if necessary in order to avoid a world-wide orthographic contagion, but would prefer to see Greece get its house in order before doing so.

“We probably don’t need both s’s in patisserie,” said Michel Gangemi, assistant undersecretary of phonics and fiscal affairs at the Banque de France. “But Germany should go first, with overgrown monstrosities such as Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, which can mean either ‘beef labelling supervision duty assignment law’ or ‘feeling widow gets seeing daughter go out on first date with accountant’ depending on the context.”

Queer Poetry for the Straight Guy

Sunday night. Time to get out of the house with my friends Denny and Mad Dog and head over to Smitty’s Sports Bar. All three of us–not Smitty, I don’t care about him–are always feeling a little stifled as the weekend comes to a close, so we head over to Smitty’s to talk sports and poetry by gay guys.

“You guys all set, or you want another pitcher of Frank O’Hara?”


I know, you’d think the two don’t mix, but they do. Every time I wanna change the subject from kids, how we need a new septic, when are you gonna take my car in for service, blotta blotta blotta, to something sublime and ethereal like Hart Crane’s “The Bridge” I gotta get outta the house. And the only place where three red-blooded American guys like us can talk sports and queer verse without drawing suspicion is a sports bar, where men can be men without interference by women.

Ernie Broglio: Tragically, T.S. Eliot never saw him play before he was traded to the Cubs. Broglio, that is, not Eliot.


Tonight should be especially good because it’s the Cardinals vs. the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball. I grew up a Cardinals fan–me and T.S. Eliot I might add–and I’ve always pondered the “rivalry” between the two teams; isn’t this a sloppy use of language that W.H. Auden, f’rinstance, would never have tolerated? I mean, the Cardinals have won the World Series eleven times, while the Cubs haven’t won since 1908; 107 years and counting. George Will said that if a foreign power took over America and wanted to recruit prison camp guards, they would do well to start with Cardinals fans, but we’re not intentionally sadistic, we just get to celebrate more often.

I take a seat at the bar and order a Blue Moon summer special. I always think of it as lesbian beer because I first tasted it in a bar in downtown Boston that, as they say, swings both ways; by day it serves a business crowd, but by night it’s a realm of Sapphic pleasure, or something like that. I took my friend Butch–no pun intended–in there one time for lunch and, like the salesman he is, he started to chat up the waitress. “What’s this place like at night?” he asked, taking in the scene with approval. “You wouldn’t be welcome here,” the waitress with the mullet replied.

I see Denny and Mad Dog at the door and motion for them to come over–there’s three seats right under one of the wide-screen TVs that Smitty provides so each man can be alone with his thoughts at all times. “You guys want a pitcher?” the waitress says and Mad Dog is about to say “yes” when Denny stops him. “Don’t ever drink draft beer,” he says.

“Why not?” the Dog Man asks.

“I got it on good authority from my gay friend—”

“No way is Arthur Rimbaud better than Cavafy!”


“The one who told you if you drink beer out of a bottle you don’t capture the full bouquet you get with a glass?”

“That’s him–he says that bars never clean their pipes, and so draft beer is full of disgusting crap.”

So they both go for bottle beer and we sit down and start chewing the fat.

Our talk usually devolves to fundamental principles fairly quickly: Does good pitching beat good hitting? Should the National League adopt the designated hitter rule to extend the careers of slow sluggers? Should gay poets conceal and compress their sexual identity when they write, or should they celebrate it? There’s no answer to these eternal questions–they’ll be debating these topics in sports bars a hundred years from now–but still, they get the old conversational juices flowing.

We start with Oscar Wilde, even though his work didn’t become informed with the essential sense of tragedy that marks all great works of art until The Ballad of Reading Gaol. There’s just so much to talk about!

“I wonder what ever happened to his kids,” Mad Dog asks.

“Yeah–he was one of the few who switched teams,” Denny says by way of agreement.

Lou Brock, wearing his patented headgear, the “Brockabrella.”


“Are you kidding?” the wise guy next to me says. “Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock has got to be one of the most lopsided trades in the history of baseball. Brock went to the Hall of Fame, while Broglio . . .”

“Ex-cuse me,” Mad Dog says, and quite huffily I might add. “We’re trying to have a conversation about gay poets here–not baseball.”

That shuts the guy up. “Oh, sorry, I thought you was talking about the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry.”

I could say something about that rivalry issue noted above, but I let it pass. The guy looks back up at the game, and we get our train of thought back on track.

“I dunno about the tragic sense of life being so essential,” Denny says. “Look at the whimsy of a guy like Frank O’Hara.”

“Whimsy or serious, Wilde wasn’t that hot of a poet,” Mad Dog says. “I’d throw his entire oeuvre into a cocked hat for Lord Alfred Douglas’ Two Loves.”

“The love that dare not speak its name,” I say with appreciation before taking a sip from my longneck bottle.

Unfortunately, that invidious comparison draws Denny’s ire. “Douglas ruined Wilde, all for the reflected glory of hanging out with a guy who could write rings around him.”

“No less an authority than Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said Douglas wrote the finest sonnets of his time,” Mad Dog replies. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up–there’s nothing worse than a stupid sports bar fight between two guys who’ve had a little too much to drink.

“Oh yeah?” Denny says. “Douglas couldn’t change the nibs in Oscar Wilde’s pens, so go fart in your stupid Quiller-Couch.”

I’m saying to myself “He’s gone too far” but my mind, dulled by the fine hops and fruity finish of the Blue Moon, doesn’t work as fast as Mad Dog’s right, which sails over my head and lands on Denny’s nose.

“Parse this, sucker!”


“Fight, fight, fight,” the chant immediately goes up in the bar, and a circle is formed around the combatants with unlucky me in the middle. Thankfully Smitty keeps a tight ship, and he’s over the bar in a second to grab Denny while a bouncer takes care of Mad Dog.

“If I’ve told you knuckleheads once I’ve told you a thousand times,” Smitty says, beads of sweat on his forehead from the unexpected exertion, “if you got a literary beef you got to take it outside–unnerstand?”

The two amateur fighters and poetry critics look at each other sheepishly and sit down on bar stools again.

“Geez, what was that all about?” the wise guy next to me asks.

“Nuthin’–just your typical Wilde vs. Douglas fight.”

“Buster Douglas,” the wise guy says with a far-off look in his eye. “Now that’s gotta be one of the greatest sports upsets of all time.”

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

For One Academic, Winning Award Isn’t Everything

MARIETTA, Georgia.  Hiram Walker College here is known as something of an academic backwater, and so the announcement that Professor Ted Gomes had won a prestigious McNiece Fellowship was cause for celebration.  “It’s not a MacArthur Fellowship, but it’s a start,” says the college’s president, Orel Fundy, Jr.  “A MacArthur is worth $625,000 and certifies that you’re a genius, while a McNiece means you’re a pretty smart guy and you get $35,000.”

The winner is a specialist in comparative literary analysis, linking the verse of different nations, languages and eras through close textual analysis.  “My main area of focus is Elizabethan love poetry,” he tells this reporter as he looks anxiously at his watch outside the faculty dining club.    “‘Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe, will bleede,’ and all that jazz,” he says with a distracted air that is dispelled when two bottle-blonde women showing extensive cleavage approach and ask if he is the man who ordered the double-escort service for the night.

Image result for escort service
“I love poetry!”


“That would be me,” he says with a leer.  “I don’t think any of the dweebs in there would know what to do with a real woman!” he adds as Dean Morton Weiner, a bespectacled man in an ill-fitting maroon blazer, approaches with a look of concern on his face.

“There’s a reporter waiting inside,” Weiner says nervously.  “Are these two–women–friends of yours.”

“Hi–my name is Candi Barr,” one of the escorts says as she extends her hand.

“And I’m Tiffani Broach,” says the other.

“Is that your real name?” Weiner asks suspiciously.

“Of course not,” the first woman says.  “It’s ‘Candace’ with two a’s.”

Image result for escort service

The group enters the oak-paneled room with vaulting ceilings and chandeliers where members of the Hiram Walker community have gathered to honor one of their own.  Gomes looks at the buffet with distaste:  “Cheese and crackers?  Deviled eggs?  Pigs in a blanket?” he sneers at Weiner.  “I win a big prize and this is all you do to celebrate?  Where’s the booze?”

“Kinda cheap if you ask me,” says Broach as she uses a toothpick from an hors d’oeuvre to remove hot dog gristle from between her teeth.

The risks inherent in “no strings attached” grants become apparent after awhile as Gomes calls from his cellphone to order pizza and two cases of beer.  “I’ve never had $35,000 to play with in my whole life,” he says as one of his “escorts” feeds him a slice of green pepper and onion/thin crust.  “Did they expect me to spend it on new leather elbow patches for my tweed jacket?”

Image result for faculty reception
“Don’t look now, but they’re doing an ap-lay ance-day over there.”

As Gomes dives further into the newly-arrived drink his tongue is loosened and he waxes academic.  “There are numerous parallels between the Elizabethan Age and the Age of Disco, which ran from approximately 1973, when the first disco club opened in New York City, until 1979, when an anti-disco riot erupted in Chicago,” he says in a professorial tone that seems fitting for a professor.  He gets up on a table to demonstrate some of the dance moves he perfected as an undergraduate at NYU, and adds some impromptu disco-Elizabethan poetry as he gyrates:

She likes to party, she likes to disco
She likes to boogie down from here to San Francisco.
Ask not how long my love will last,
For in the asking we make love past.

This travesty is too much for the Chairman of the English Department, Merlin Mattoni, who rushes over and demands that Gomes knock off the cheap versifying and get down off the furniture.

“Fine,” the big prize winner says as he climbs down, but before he exits with his two rented lady friends a thought occurs to him.  “What’s the poem by Yeats?” he asks, recalling the last two lines of “The Scholars“: “Lord, what would they say/Should their Catullus walk that way?”

Consuela Translates the Silent 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 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 Diary 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.

Image result for pine scent car air freshenerRoyals Nylon Web Pet Collar #12520085
Two from his collection



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?



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 claims 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.


Ode to a Verrry Dry Philosopher

I cannot think of anything worse
than a course of instruction on Charles Sanders Peirce.
(Please don’t tell me you pronounce it “pierce”
or else I will have to box your ierce.)

Image result for charles sanders peirce

For a guy’s who’s the father of pragmatic thought
his prose seems unduly formal.
I think that even if I shouldn’t ought,
he’s really more stilted than normal.

Image result for sloe gin fizz

To get to the end of a sentence of his
one must crawl through dry barren places.
You yearn for a drink, like a sloe gin fizz,
That period will seem an oasis.

Image result for oasis

I buckled down, and got an A,
from the professor who was my teacher
but having that on my transcript is not to say
I enjoyed this philosophical creature.

That terribly dry, pragmatical guy
whose named sounds just like “purse”—
I’d avoid him like the plague if you were I
the philosophe Charles Sanders Peirce.

How to Floss Your Cat’s Teeth

The house is quiet, and so I lie down and try to take a nap. I’ve just dozed off when I feel the weight of fifteen pounds of cat flesh land on my chest. It’s Rocco, the younger of our two toms, looking for a head bonk and a back scratch.

“I was asleep–can’t you meow or something before you pounce on me?”

“What would you suggest–breath mints?”

“That would ruin the element of surprise,” he says, and I catch a whiff of serious tuna breath as he does so.

“Jesus–I hope you guys don’t wonder why you never get laid,” I say. “Your breath smells terrible!”

“It helps keep the coyotes away,” he says. “They think we’re skunks.”

Okie, the elder grey tabby, jumps up to claim his favorite spot, between my legs with his head down at my feet. “What are you guys talking about?” he asks.

“Why didn’t you tell me I had bad breath?”

“The need for a little dental hygiene around here,” I say.

“You do enough for the three of us,” he says.

“I’m serious–if you guys don’t floss, you’re going to get gingivitis.”

“What’s that?” Rocco asks.

“Gum disease. Stevie Winwood had it–bad. If he hadn’t recovered, we might have been deprived of the beauty of his ‘Back in the High Life’ album.”

That brings the seriousness of the disease home to them. “Geez,” Okie says. “I never knew.”

“There’s just one problem,” Rocco says. “We don’t have opposable thumbs. How the hell are we supposed to hold a piece of dental floss?”

“You don’t need to. Cats don’t actually floss, they . . . uh . . . let me see.”

Like many cat owners, we pick up feline health information when we go to the veterinarian, then promptly ignore it. They’re cats, fer Christ sake–they eat squirrel guts.

I rummage through the drawer where we keep their vaccination records and find the brochure I’m looking for–”Dental Hygiene for Cats: A Lifelong Program to Keep Your Kitty’s Teeth and Gums Healthy!” It’s considered a classic of the genre.

Here, kitty kitty!

“Here it is,” I say, showing them the suggestion I remembered. “To keep your cat’s teeth free from plaque, rub them with panty hose once a week.” I look at the two of them, expecting expressions of gratitude, but am met with blank stares.

“You’re kidding, right?” Okie asks.


“If you think I’m going to sit still through a once-a-week panty hose polish job, you’ve got another think coming.”

“It’s up to you. If your teeth fall out, how are you going to eat?”

They look at each other, and appear to realize that they have no choice in the matter.

“Where are you going to get panty hose?” Okie asks.

Montaigne: “Hey–I’m too highbrow for this post.”

I know what Montaigne said: “When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is amusing herself with me, rather than I with her?” But still, it’s cracks like these that make me feel secure in the superiority of the human intellect over that of a cat.

“You fishstick! Where do you think we’re going to get panty hose–on mom!”

“But she doesn’t wear panty hose around the house,” Okie asks.

“She’s got a job interview today. She’ll be dressed professionally when she comes home.”

“Don’t we have to get the panty hose off of her?” Rocco chimes in.

I check the brochure. “Nope–doesn’t say anything about undressing your wife, girlfriend, date or significant other. Just ‘rub with panty hose.’”

Jesse James

“Let’s hide in the dining room and ambush her when she goes past the door into the kitchen!” Rocco says.

“Yeah–it’ll be like Jesse James robbing the train in Otterville, Missouri!” I exclaim, recalling a favorite highway historical marker of my youth.

The cats stifle yawns–for some reason tales of my boyhood bring on symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome–but they rally and we stake out a position just inside the dining room where we are hidden from the view of anyone entering the kitchen.

We hear the lock turn in the door and, like a precision Swiss clock, our plan ticks forward to its fateful conclusion.

“Ready?” I say as she hits the hardwood floor in the family room.

Rocco hesitates for a moment, then shouts “Now!” and we pounce.

She’s no match for the three of us, and we have her on the floor in a second. I take her legs and stick one in each of the cats’ mouths before she can collect herself and speak.

“What in the hell are you doing?” she screams.

“Flossing the cats’ teeth–this should only take a second,” I say.

She sits up and looks at the three of us, incredulous. I’ve seen that expression on her face before, when she broke up a fight between my kids. Over a Pokemon card. When they were toddlers.

“You have got to be kidding!”

“No, seriously. This is what the brochure says to do.”

“What brochure?”

“The one we got at the vet’s. Here.”

I hand it to her and she scans it while I work feverishly to fight the slow but inexorable advance of cat plaque.

“You didn’t read the warning on the back,” she says with a look that expresses the enduring skepticism she feels whenever I set out to do something around the house that involves practical knowledge and useful skills.

“What’s it say?”


“What happenth if you donth?” Rocco says through a mouthful of nylon.


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

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