Ask Mr. Buffet

Ticked off because your favorite smorgasbord ran out of potato salad?  Wondering what the gunk is on the sneeze shield at your local salad bar?  Mr. Buffet’s got your back because he’s in line right behind you!


Hey there, Mr. Buffet–

Got a quick question for you.  I am a regular at the Hopalong Cassidy $20 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet every Thursday night on South 65.  Last week they had those St. Louis-style spare ribs that I love, so I was piling my plate high.  When I went back for my ninth–or maybe it was tenth–time through the line Ray Lee Dixon–he is the owner–jumps in front of me and says you’ve had enough go home.

Naturally, I responded by pointing to the sign that said “All you can eat,” but Ray Lee didn’t budge an inch.  “That’s right,” he said, and none too cheerfully, either.  “You been through plenty already, and that’s all you can eat for twenty bucks.  Now leave or I’m calling the Highway Patrol.”  We were out on the Interstate, so they had jurisdiction.

Mr. Buffet I don’t want to split hairs but I don’t think that’s the right way to interpret the phrase “All you can eat.”  Is there some sort of expert like they used to have on quiz shows who can hand down a binding decision on this point?

Darrell Sher, Tula, Mississippi


Dear Darrell–

Happily, you are both right.  “All you can eat” in one sense means “all that a particular person can eat,” but viewed from the perspective of the hard-working restaurateurs of America, there has to be a limit.  The National Association of Buffet-Style Common Victuallers defines “all you can eat” as “all that can be eaten by a patron without contributing to the already high failure rate of buffet-style restaurants in America.”  Why don’t you try to “make amends” with Mr. Dixon by visiting his restaurant on a non-buffet night and order your meal a la carte, which is French for “Don’t be such a cheap bastard.”

“I was nowhere near eating all I could eat.”


Dear Mr. Buffet–

I am getting married in June and am trying to lose some weight so I can fit into my bridal gown.  My “game plan” is to eat lunch every day at the ‘Gelded Unicorn’ natural food buffet restaurant near where I work because the food is terrible and good for you, too.

Yesterday I scooped some brown stuff into my Styrofoam carton, it looked like hummus but I couldn’t be sure.  Well, I took one bite and nearly threw up so I walked it back to the buffet and slid it onto the steam table again and replaced it with carrot-and-raisin salad.

Then this crunchy granola type girl came over, she was wearing a peasant dress and had granny glasses and I swear to God had actual chin hair even though she couldn’t have been more than 25.  She was all hot and bothered and said you can’t put food back, now we have to re-weigh you and check you out again.

I told her I was deathly allergic to whatever the stuff was and she said “Okay–what was it?”  I said how the hell was I supposed to know, it looked like garbanzo beans which make me break out in hives.  I was lying a little so I reached up and scratched my neck to make it red.

Mr. Buffet, I have now been placed on a “Do Not Serve” list and can be “banned for life” in the sole and absolute discretion of the management, according to a written warning I was given.

I was just wondering–isn’t this whole thing going to be thrown out of court because they didn’t read me the warning you always hear on the TV cop shows?

Colleen Floyd, Chillicothe, Ohio


Dear Colleen:

I am afraid that the “Miranda” warning only applies to criminal activities, and replacing food in an aluminum steam table tray is only a civil offense thanks to “de-criminalization,” which has released hundreds of potentially dangerous recidivists back onto our streets to wreak havoc.  All I can say is, thank your lucky stars you didn’t try to take back a stuffed grape leaf after you’d bit into it!


Dear Mr. Buffet–

I am a regular at the lunch buffet over to the Happy Panda Luck Joy restaurant, don’t know if you’ve ever been there, it’s over by the old railroad shops.  Anyway, I ate a bunch of the shrimp lo mein there the other day and right away I wasn’t feeling so good.  I went to the men’s room and threw the whole thing up, then had to go straight home and missed out on four hours work which would have put me into time-and-a-half overtime.  That’s a lot of money.

Two days later when I was feeling a little better I went back to Happy Panda Luck Joy and asked for my $8.99 back, but the owner said no, it wasn’t his fault.  Why not? I asked and he said “I no serve you, you serve self, that whole point of buffet.”  That’s how he talks, I’m not making it up or being racist or anything.

Mr. Buffet, I don’t want to start an international incident what with how aggressive China is getting and how our military is depleted after eight years of self-imposed disarmament under Obama, but I would like some of my money back.  I have a room air conditioner on layaway and it will be summer soon.

Thanks a lot,

R.G. “Bud” Withers, Knob Noster MO


Dear “Bud”–

Why don’t you call our official Ambassador the United Nations, it is a woman now but I’ve seen her on TV, she looks pretty tough.  You may want to start putting away some of your salary to get that air conditioner out of layaway, however, because any resolution to reimburse a U.S. citizen for buffet-related losses has to pass the Security Council, and China has a veto.

The Taliban Painted My Living Room

When I heard the news that the Pakistani army had captured Muslim Khan, a top commander of the Taliban, I was overcome by a simultaneous sense of shock and relief.  “That’s him,” I screamed at the TV set overhead in the bar where I was having a drink.

Muslim Khan:  “It took longer than I expected because your depraved Western children were always underfoot!”


“The guy who’s the spokesman for Tehreek-E-Taliban?” Smitty, the bartender asked as he dried an Old Fashioned glass.

“That’s the one,” I replied.

“You know,” Smitty continued, “he’s also the leader of the TTP Swat’s negotiating team in talks with the provincial government of the Awami National Party.”  Boston bartenders are like that–knowledgeable, thorough, almost cocky in the amount of information they have at the tips of their tongues.

“Not only that,” I said, my eyes glued to the set, ”he painted my living room.”

Reggie Lewis


A hush fell over the room, a stillness I hadn’t heard in a Boston watering hole since Reggie Lewis collapsed during a 1993 Celtics playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets.

“You mean,” the guy to my right began slowly, “the same Taliban who blew up the Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan?”

Explosion of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan


“The same,” I said, taking a sip of my Sam Adams Lightship beer.

“Did they blow up anything of yours?” an attractive blonde asked, suddenly interested in me now that I was linked with the international war on terrorism.

“No, for the most part my wife doesn’t decorate with un-Islamic graven images,” I said, making it clear–in my own subtle way–that I was spoken for.  “We certainly didn’t have any little Buddha statues around.”

Ix-nay on the uddha-Bay


“Tell me more,” she persisted.

“I’m not sure how much I can tell you since much of what we learned during the paint job is still classified,” I began.  “Still, my tongue has been loosened by the effects of alcohol, so I might as well continue.”

I grabbed some loose mixed nuts to sustain myself–a big risk with swine flu going around at the time, but I like to live dangerously.  “It was the late 1990′s–the Taliban had decided to focus on interior decoration as the way to bring down the Great American Satan.”

“Khan became a housepainter in the western suburbs of Boston, where we lived,” I continued.

“Why was that?” the bartender asked.

“Because I worked in Boston,” I answered.

“No, not why did you live there, why did he become a painter?” the bartender continued.

“I think because he didn’t like to clean gutters,” I said.  “Painting the interiors of Colonial-style suburban homes may be boring, but at least you don’t risk falling off ladders.”

“And yet our image of the Taliban is that they’re fierce warriors,” a flamboyantly dressed investment banker to my left said.

“That’s what they want you to think,” I explained patiently.  “Historically, they and their ancestors have been capable of intense short-term bursts of fighting, but they’re not well-suited for protracted battles.”

The bartender tossed me a complimentary bag of Beer Nuts, the snack food with the unique “sweet ‘n salty” taste.  “Thanks, Smitty,” I said.  “Anyway, maybe we were naive dupes–I don’t know.  Khan came in with the low bid, and he promised to finish the job in one week.  Everybody else said it would take two.”

“It’s hard to find good painters,” the blonde said.  “I know what you must have been going through.”

“Our kids were young–the house was always in an uproar anyway,” I explained.  “We didn’t want to make it any worse.”

“So–did you talk to the guy?” the investment banker asked.  I had to savor the moment; it isn’t often I can impress a guy who makes five times what I do.

“For the most part I leave communications with tradesmen, contractors and international terrorist organizations to my wife,” I explained.

“Yoo-hoo, Mr. Taliban!  You missed a spot.”


“You’re gone all day, right?” the bartender asked.  “When you get home you just want to play with the kids.”

“Exactly,” I said.  “So all my exchanges with him were very perfunctory.  How are the wives, how are the kids, how ’bout those Red Sox.  Still, as a precaution, I always record my conversations with guys who are on the Treasury Department’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.”

“Just to be sure,” the blonde said, nodding her head.

Mid-’90′s Red Sox torture


“Yes, even though it’s illegal in Massachusetts to tape someone without their consent, I wanted to do my part in the War on Terror.”

“Do you–have the tape with you?” the investment banker asked, curious.

I glared at the guy.  “You think I’d ever let it out of my sight?” I asked, incredulous.

“Well, no, I . . . uh, just, uh,” he stammered.  “Do you think we could listen to some of it?”

I eyed the four of them–Smitty, the blonde, the banker and the one whom everyone knew only as “the guy to my right.”  I sized them all up.  “Do you promise that none of you will use what you are about to hear against the United States of America, so help you God?”

“Promise,” the blond said.

“Swear on a stack of bibles,” Smitty said.

“Cross my heart and hope to die, boil in oil and stew in lye,” the guy to my right said.

I looked at the investment banker.  “Can I use it to make money by shorting stocks or making investments in defense-related industries?” he asked tentatively.

I thought about it for a moment.  I remembered what Calvin Coolidge, the only Republican President from Massachusetts, had once said; “The business of America is business.”

Calvin Coolidge


“All right,” I said.  “But I get 10% of any short-swing profits or long-term capital gains.”

“Deal,” he said.  I took my pocket tape recorder out of my suitcoat and hit the “Play” button:

ME:  How’s it going?

KHAN:  I put a coat of primer on today, just waiting for it to dry.  Also waiting for the obscene and immoral culture of the West to die.

ME:  (Laughing)  The kids must have been watching Barney the Purple Dinosaur while you worked today, huh?

KHAN:  There is a white western woman in the house all day who does not cover herself.

ME:  You mean my wife?  Yeah, I talked to her about that.  She can’t find a nice burqua at Talbot’s.

Also available in cranberry, oyster and charcoal.


KHAN:  She is the source of all my troubles!  Constantly changing colors!

ME:  What do you call that shade you’re mixing now–pink?

KHAN:  It’s actually “Dusty Rose.”

ME:  Just do what she tells you, pal.  I’ve learned that it’s better just to go along to get along with her.

KHAN:  This is why we must establish a world-wide caliphate under Shariah!  You wimpy western husbands!

“Pick up the toys in the driveway–NOW!”


ME:  You know what her nickname is?

KHAN:  What?

ME:  “The Ayatollah.”

KHAN:  Really?

ME:  Seriously.

KHAN:  (silent for a moment)  Wow.  So if she wants me to re-do the trim I should . . .

ME:  Just do it.

KHAN:  In the name of Allah?

ME:  No.  In the name of world peace.

Parents Fire College Coach After Losing Season

WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass.  In this wealthy suburb of Boston, parents will go to great lengths to ensure that their children get into a good college, even paying top dollar to “college coaches” who counsel the kids on their essays, SAT preparation, community service choices and overall application strategy.

“You’ve got to completely fill in the little oval with your #2 lead pencil!”


“It means so much,” says Marci Hallinan, whose daughter Courtney’s first choice was Mount Holyoke College.  “Get into the right school and someday you’ll be able to buy a $1.3 million starter home,” says the perky blonde who supplements her husband Rick’s income by working as a real estate broker.  “If you don’t, you may end up pushing a grocery cart through the streets picking up deposit cans.”

“If only I’d gone to Tufts!”


If Marci’s smile seems a little forced today, it’s because Courtney was not accepted from the “early decision” applicants to the prestigious women’s college, and wasn’t granted “deferred” status to be considered as part of the regular applicant pool, either.  “Flat-out rejected,” says Marci bitterly, and this reporter hears the sound of sobbing floating down from an upstairs bedroom.

“Just go away and leave me to my broken dreams, okay?”


The scene was repeated across town as clients of college coach Ron Dilworth received the bad news from Stanford, Harvard, Emory, Washington University in St. Louis and Northwestern, among others.  “He got the big goose-egg,” says angry father Todd Dremke, whose son Miles applied early decision to the University of Chicago.  “O for 8.”

“. . . bare ruined choirs where late the dweeb nerds sang.”


At a cost of six to eight thousand dollars a child, a college coach can do quite well, but “the only thing that counts is your record,” says Norton Zeligman, who “ran the table” this year, getting his clients into Yale, Oberlin, Vanderbilt and Georgetown.  “I feel sorry for Ron, but that’s the nature of the business.”

“Your essay should show you’re not just a grade grubber, you’re a well-rounded grade grubber.”

So Dilworth got the bad news this morning.  He’s been sacked, asked to clean out his flash cards, and told that his services won’t be needed next season.  “I don’t think I was given the chance I needed to turn this place around,” he said at a sparsely-attended press conference at the high school guidance office.  “I wish these kids the best of luck.  Given their scores in AP Biology, they’re going to need it.”

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family, and less with yours.”


Dilworth has no job offers at present, but hopes to catch on as a junior college coach in a less-affluent community.  “Some of those schools will take a kid if he fogs a mirror held under his nose and the parents’ check doesn’t bounce,” he noted in his farewell speech.  “Those are my kind of standards.”

Ah Cahn’t Talk Wiff Mah Mouf Full

The dental hygienist rides the train
Into town and then out again.
Her job, in part, is to inflict pain
On those who dental flossing feign.

(Her scrubs this day are the color teal
Perhaps the better to make folks feel
That everything’s ducky, there’s no need to squeal,
Their teeth will be fine by the very next meal.)

The hygienist’s a lass who must inspire cheer
When she sticks her left breast into your ear
And says, as her shiny tools cause you to fear,
“Any changes in your health since you were last here?”


(She also has a set that are indigo
Not sure that’s good for the mood, you know
It’s close to blood red, and so although
It’s fine for some girls, on her a no-no.)

She starts to scratch with her sickle scaler,
It’s sharp, the implement never fails her.
Then she shifts to her tartar scraper,
Causing you to shift and succumb to the vapors.

(Some days she wears a Wedgewood blue,
A somewhat reserved and distant hue,
It doesn’t inspire, no good to pitch woo.
That’s okay by me, I don’t know about you.)

She pokes around, and asks if you’re brushin’—
She must have learned torture from Tsarist Russians.
She inquires about your dental history,
Why she needs to know remains a mystery.

You swallow hard, the saliva ejector,
Sucks all the spit that it can detect there,
She looks—mysterious—behind her mask,
You have just one thing that you want to ask.

At length, at last, you’re finally through,
She smiles, and then the spotlight’s on you!
“If you don’t mind, I have one suggestion–
When my mouth is full I can’t answer questions.”

Ode to Barbecue

I do not know what I would do
if it were not for barbecue.
Compare your highbrow mode de caisson
to that which I grew up upon:


You take one of an unfortunate species
and place it on a sizzling grill,
create a product hot and greasy
and then you eat of it your fill.

When you have tired of rich French sauces,
escargots, pate fois gras,
cast aside cuisine of bosses,
reject le haut and eat la bas.


Chickens, pigs and also cows
all make for tasty grilling fare.
For pork, use either boar or sow;
both fill the bill—don’t eat it rare!

You can eat it with your hands
a clear advantage, seems to me.
You find you never need to plan
which fork to use, of two or three.


Barbecue is smoked the day long
over grey charcoal briquettes;
attracts a loud and raucous throng
who’re sometimes short on etiquette.

Quixote Bronson, Savior of Neglected Suburban Women

It is Saturday night in the suburbs west of Boston–no better place to view man’s inhumanity to woman. As my partner Pancho Sanza and I drift wearily from one upscale restaurant to another, we see on the looks of the husbands indifference bordering on cruelty as an endless parade of wives drones on about window treatments, children’s grades, spats with girlfriends; the very warp and woof of their existence, but matters inspiring only apathy in their spouses.

“So then Marie says–hey, don’t look at the fish when I’m talking to you!”


I–I who have been so unlucky in love with my beloved Dulcinea del Tobasco! I resolved many years ago that if I could not find my soul mate here on earth, I would do whatever I could to make the lives of women locked in loveless marriages more liveable. (So many ‘L’s’ give my tongue a workout–it is in great shape but alas, Dulcinea will not have me under her covers!) Perhaps, you say, I am mixing in affairs that are none of my business. Very well, you are entitled to my opinion, but I am merely trying to make the world a better place for the legions of ladies who agonize over their outfits, spend hours with their hair in foil getting it frosted, arranging for babysitters, only to watch their “lovers”–I use the term with the inverted commas of scorn!–pecking away at “personal digital assistants” under the table.

I have asked my neighbor, Pancho Sanza, to be my squire or “sidekick” as you Americans say in your vulgar, corrupted English. Someone must hold our table while I importune the insensitive clods who look over the shoulders of their chattering wives to see the scores of silly Boston “Red Sox.” I would spit on your televised “sports,” but I–unlike you–have some manners!

We arrive at Tiramisu, a charming but pricey boite de nuit where hedge fund managers and venture capitalists talk loudly of their most lucrative conquests. We hear nothing of the “duds” in their portfolios! I see a table of two, the man gnawing on a breadstick like a dog on a rawhide. From time to time he makes eye contact with his wife and grunts “Unh-huh,” but as soon as she begins to talk again his eye reverts to the bar, where a zaftig wine waitress with thick upper arms and a tattoo on the small of her back–the, how you say, “tramp stamp”–can be seen unscrewing corks from bottles. I decide now is the time to unscrew him!

“Pancho,” I say. “Hold the table.”

“Si Senor Quixote,” he says, tearing the crust off a piece of “homemade” asiago bread. Whose home, I wonder, was it made in?

“If the waitress comes, tell her I will have the pecan-encrusted haddock with asparagus,” I say as I stand up.

“You no want to hear the specials?”

Me and Pancho Sanza


“No,” I say firmly. “I am a man who knows what he wants, even if I so rarely get it.”

With that I draw myself up to my full 5′ 10″, and begin to channel the spirt of Charles Bronson, the quintessential tough guy.

Bronson, Ireland, McCallum


It was Bronson who, having gotten an eyeful of Jill Ireland, walked up to her husband David McCallum and said, quite bluntly, “I’m going to marry your wife.” This is the improvement that I have added to the method of the chivalrous Knight of La Mancha; an undercurrent of menace, a suggestion that if the man with the wandering eye doesn’t straighten up and fly right, I will simply take his woman away.

I adjust my cape and make a bee-line across the restaurant, startling some of the waitstaff that I bump into. “No one ever saw a bee fly in a straight line,” I say by way of excusing myself.

I present myself at the table so as to block the man’s view of the buxom girl he’s been ogling over his wife’s shoulder. “Excuse me, Senorita,” I say, bowing low.

“I’ll have the Cobb salad and the beef tournedos,” she says, apparently mistaking me for un garcon.

She wants the beef, not the fish.


“No, madame, I am not hear to feed your stomach–I am here to feed your soul.”

“But I don’t like fish,” she says, visibly perplexed.

“Perhaps I should explain,” I say. “Your husband has been fantasizing about Sondra, the waitress over at the wine bar, for the past twenty minutes.”

“The one who’s stacked like a lanai on a Hawaiian apartment building?”

“Yes–by her butt crack tatt, ye shall know her.”

The woman–who is known to her friends as “Tori”–snaps her head around to look at her husband.

“Evan–is that true?”

“Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously-applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.”


The man is crestfallen, and I’m not talking about the toothpaste. “How would this guy know?” he asks, playing the ingenue, but Tori can tell from his defensive tone that I’ve caught him red-minded.

Senor, I would gladly love and care for your beautiful wife if you no longer wish to do so,” I say, bowing low and working more than a hint of sarcasm into my voice.

Gracias,” Tori says with a smile, warming to the Old World charm that I draw from my overflowing reservoir of chivalry.

The man tries to stare me down with the steely resolve that he likes to use when making a capital call on a balky institutional investor.

“It is up to you,” I say to him. “You can treat her right–or I will take her away from you!”

He blinks, and I know it is over, our little mano a mano tete a tete in Franish italics.

“I–I’m sorry, sweetie,” he says to her, and he almost sounds sincere.

“You have been such of the big help, Senor . . .” Tori says in a misbegotten but deeply appreciated attempt to imitate my fractured Esperanto-like melange of Romance languages.

“You may remember me–and I hope you always will–as Hidalgo Quixote Bronson–Savior of Neglected Suburban Housewives.”

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

Under the Knife of a Temp Surgeon

Surgeon Shortage Pushes Hospitals to Hire Temps–The Wall Street Journal


Sent:  Monday, April 19, 2016 9:15 AM

Subject: Where r u 2day?

Hey there gurlfriend!  I’m at my placement for today, but a teensy bit disappointed.  The temp agency asked me if I’d mind doing some filing at Brigham’s and I said sure, I love their ice cream!  Then I get over here and find out it’s a hospital!  I hate that antiskeptic smell!😦


Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Brigham’s Ice Cream:  Note the similarities.

Oh well, I O I O so off to work I go.  Let me know if you’re in the neighborhood–we’ll have lunch!


Sent: Monday, April 19, 2016 11:43 AM

Subject:  Gross!

Well, I finished all my filing and started to flip through US Weekly when this mean nurse saw me and said if you don’t have anything to do, come down to the operating room we have to take out somebody’s appendix.

Well, sure, glad to help I said, but I wasn’t a Girl Scout or nothing, I don’t even know how to tie a tourniquist.  They put me to work, it was pretty easy.  They cover up the patient and all you have to do is cut down through this little hole they make for you.  The appendix looks like a little sausage so it’s easy to find.  I’m going down to the cafeteria now but I’m not going to have a hot dog!


Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2016 10:32 AM

Subject:  Nose job

Hey pretty lady!

I’m over at Beth Israel today.  Typed some dictation this morning, then they called me in to help on a “rhino plasty.”  What’s that I said but everybody was so busy washing their hands and putting on their green pajamas they didn’t pay attention to me.  Anyway, I figured if it’s a rhino plasty I’m supposed to make somebody look like a rhino, right?  I did my best–I was just glad it wasn’t an elephant-plasty!

Afterwards they told me “rhinoplasty” is a nose job, so, um, I’m not sure the patient’s gonna like it.  But what do I care?  I’ll be at a new job tomorrow!



Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2016 1:30 PM

Subject:  Heartbreaker

You will not believe what just happened to me!  I got this real cute patient to operate on–I noticed he didn’t have a wedding ring on–and he kinda smiled at me as he was passing out.  Then they handed me the clipboard and I got to operate on his heart!  So I could see if he liked me or if he just felt goofy from the gas.

When I cut in to him I couldn’t find anything that looked like a heart, so I moved some of the stuff around, you know, thinking maybe it’s back behind his lungs or something.  I had to disconnect some of the tubes–I hope I hooked them up right when I was done!

They had free pens at the reception area to celebrate a new outpatient clinic they’re opening.  I got two–one for you and one for . . . holy crap–I think I left one in his aorta!


Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2016 11:15 AM

Subject: Uh oh

I’m over at Brigham’s again, still no ice cream.  Come to find out that Beth Israel and Brigham & Women’s and Sancta Maria have “merged” into Beth Brigham Sancta Israel Maria Women’s Hospital, so the family of the nose job patient has been prowling the halls looking for me.  But it’s not my fault–I did the best I could!  At least with Word or Excel there’s a little “Help” icon or drop-down menu or something you can go to if you have a problem, but in an operating room, nooo! You’re flying solo.

Have to do a liver operation today, and I’m meeting my “heart” patient for a drink after work.  Hope the liver doesn’t come with onions!


C U L8ter

Sent: Friday, April 23, 2016 4:25 AM

Subject: Outta here

Today I’m at MegaHealthCenter, which used to be Beth Brigham Sancta Israel Maria Women’s Hospital.  They shortened the name because people were wasting too much time typing it.

What a week–I’m exhausted!  As soon as I get my check, I’m going to run to the bank and cash it.  Everybody here says I need to buy some “malpractice” insurance, but I called my friend who’s a broker and he said you don’t need it unless you’re a doctor, which obviously I’m not–duh!

U want 2 meet 4 drinks?