“Double Imposter Syndrome” Has Multiple Shrinks Worried

FLUSHING, New York.  It’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, “prime time” for identity thief Mikhail Kraznov, a Freedonian national in the U.S. on a temporary visa.  “So many credit cards will be lost by drunks tonight,” he says.  “It is like taking candy from baby, no?”

But this reporter finds the young man’s disaffected expression to be at odds with his apparent good fortune as he picks up a Discover Card left behind at The Neutered Elf, a neighborhood bar here.  “I don’t know what it is,” he says.  “I have a good job taking money from innocent people, and yet I don’t feel as if I deserve it.”

Kraznov and others like him are victims of what psychologists and psychiatrists have started to refer to as “double imposter syndrome,” a state of mind experienced by those who live falsely and yet feel that they are not authentic.  “Double imposter victims are haunted by a gnawing suspicion that even though they are openly duplicitous in some fashion, they aren’t very good at it, or aren’t entitled to the fruits of their success,” says Dr. Emil Kronapka, a resident at the Piersall Center, a multi-disciplinary psychiatric facility in Framingham, Mass.  “We try to get them to understand that everybody else is faking it too, so it’s no big deal.”


“Please don’t ask me to impersonate myself.”

One sufferer who’s unconvinced is Shecky Feldman, a B-list impressionist who is currently booked at Caligula’s Palace in Las Vegas during the post-New Year’s lull.  “I’ve been an impressionist since I was a kid,” he says, shaking his head disconsolately in his dressing room after opening for The Flying Crostini Brothers, a troupe of acrobats.  “For some reason–I can’t quite put my finger on it–I don’t feel as if I’m realizing my true personality.”

At least one case of triple imposter syndrome has been reported, involving Slappy McGrath, a ventriloquist’s dummy dressed as a mime who is currently working on the first draft of “Dummies for Dummies,” to be published later this year.  “I’m perfectly fine,” he says as he jerks his head backwards at his owner, Con Chapman.  “It’s this guy who’s the sicko.”

New Drug Helps Bored Couples Have Make-Up Sex on Demand

CONCORD, New Hamsphire.  Ted and Gina Holcomb have been married for twenty-two years, and while the two have a good relationship now, they admit their early years were sometimes difficult.  “Gina’s more sentimental than me,” her husband says.  “She cries at McDonalds commercials, while I like to watch sports where guys get career-ending concussions.”

couple
“I liked how you interrupted me, then contradicted me!”

 

The side benefit of their early sparring was “make-up” sex, a well-known phenomenon where erotic pleasure is heightened by the passions that are unleashed, then quelled, when a couple reconciles after an argument.  “Ted is stubborn and so am I,” Gina says as she snuggles up next to her husband on a sectional sofa.  “It made for some awful fights, but really mattress-rattling orgasms for me.”

With their fractious early years behind them, the Holcombs realized recently that they were in a rut that troubled them both, and so they turned to Ted’s urologist, Dr. Michael Meska, for help.  “Ted’s sex drive had declined, while at the same time they’d both learned to overlook the kind of petty issues that cause marital strife,” he says.  “They needed to get back into the wild mood swings of their youth if they were going to avoid early deaths of boredom.”

couple1
“Life is more fun when we argue!”

 

And so Meska wrote Ted a prescription for Vitriolis, an erectile-dysfunction drug with a side effect that is usually the subject of a warning, but which can also be viewed as a benefit.  “Vitriolis is designed to put a man in an irritable mood,” Meska says, “then give him an erection.  It’s just what the doctor–in this case a urologist–ordered.”

Extensive clinical trials of the drug were required in order to win FDA approval, and double-blind testing produced encouraging results.  “A control group was given a placebo,” says chief chemist Anthony Solis of Xize Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer.  “When the woman told the man to take out the garbage, he said ‘In a minute,’ watched television until the next commercial, then did what he was told.  There were zero pregnancies.”

couple2
“The time-release kicks in when his mother-in-law drives off.”

 

The test subjects who were given Vitriolis, by comparison, told their wives to “put a sock in it, touching off explosions of sarcasm, recriminations over past forgotten gift-giving occasions and comparisons to former boyfriends,” Solis says.  “It was like somebody flipped a cigarette butt at a fireworks display.”

The Holcombs have graciously allowed this reporter into their living room on a Saturday night when they make time for each other on what many couples consider “date night.”  “It’s our chance to relax and catch up, then watch a little ‘Heartbeat,’ my favorite show about the woman heart surgeon,” Gina says with a smile.

“No we’re not,” Ted says as he grabs the remote.  “There’s an ESPN Classic replay of the 1986 Celtics-Rockets game 6 tonight.”

Laugh Today–Or Else

As a boy, I was fascinated by tales of the necessity of certain mental and physical functions.  If a person didn’t dream at night, I had read, he or she would go mad the next day.  If we didn’t perspire, our bodies would overheat, cooking our innards like beef stew in a Crock Pot.  If we didn’t go to the bathroom, we’d–uh, maybe I’d better stop there.


Crock Pot Slow Cooker

 

Through the wonders of modern science, we know a great deal about the human body, somewhat less about the human mind, which is paradoxical, since the brain is part of the human body.  How can we know less about something that’s part of something bigger that we know more about?  It’s like a Mobius Strip, which has two sides, but when you go to count them, there’s only one.  It’s a riddle wrapped inside a slice of bacon along with a scallop.  Enigmatic–damned enigmatic.

 
Mobius Strip, scallop wrapped in bacon:  Coincidence?  I think not.

 

The inspiration for this reverie was the question my doctor always asks at the end of my annual physical exam, which I get without fail once every three or four years.  “And how are you?” she inquires after she’s poked, probed, measured, tongue-depressed and looked in my ear with that little flashlight.  If you don’t know by now, I think to myself, who the hell does?

What she means is, how’s the ghost inside the machine?–to borrow Gilbert Ryle’s sarcastic description of Descartes’ mind-body dualism.


Ryle and Descartes:  After that one unfortunate crack, they never spoke again.  Of course, they’d never spoken before, either.

“I’m fine,” I say.  “Keeping busy.  Work, writing . . .”

“So what are you writing these days?”

“Oh, you know, stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I’m working on that boxing book I told you about at my last visit.”

” . . . and the one before that,” she said after she’d checked my file.

“Don’t rub it in,” I said, and rather sharply I might add.  “And then stupid little bits on the internet.”

“Really?” she asks, one eyebrow arching upwards.  “So, I could do a search and find something you wrote?”

“Yeah–uh, little pieces from 300 to 600 words in length.”

“How much do you get paid for that?”

“Every now and then, between $10.56 and $10.63.”

“Why the odd numbers?”

“I don’t know–it’s a PayPal thing.  I got $50–once–for writing a piece about Jonathan Winters.”


Jonathan Winters

 

“The comedian who was sent to a mental hospital after he climbed up into the arms of a statute?”

“That’s him.  He was a real pioneer–he went crazy and didn’t even use drugs.”

“Um-hmm,” the doctor says.  “And the rest of it?”

“Well, you know, they’re just silly, stupid little things,” I gulped.  “For which I don’t get paid–anything.”


Johnson: “If somebody would hurry up and invent the internet, I wouldn’t have to pay for the morning paper.”

 

She looked at me with a wild surmise, as Keats said in On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer.  I’d walked into the old Samuel Johnson trap; no man but a fool ever wrote anything but for money, which makes me . . .

“That is stupid,” she said, “but if it keeps you happy . . .”  Her voice trailed off.  I should have gotten huffy and walked out, but I’m in an HMO and I can’t get out.  And my Huffy is in the shop.


Huffy bicycle

 

“It’s something I enjoy doing,” I said.  “I’ve got this stuff inside my head, and I’m afraid if I don’t let it out . . .”

“Stuff like what?”

“Well, like–Snooky Lanson.”


Snooky Lanson

 

“Wasn’t he on ‘Your Hit Parade?’ in the ’50′s?”

My doctor is getting up there in years.  “Yes, but I never saw him.  He was a running joke in Mad Magazine during the ’60′s.”

“Hmm.”  I could see she was thinking about turning me into some kind of high-profile clinical paper, like Freud and the Wolfman.

“How do you feel about the Wolfman?” she asked tentatively.  I knew it!

“Well, of the three plastic model monster kits from my youth–Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolfman–I chose the Wolfman,” I had to admit.

“How did it come out?”

“Poorly, just like all the other models I tried to build.”

“Um hmm.  What other kind of cra–things do you think about?”

“Well, Sonny Tufts.”


“Not Sonny Tufts!”

 

“You mean the matinee idol from the ’40′s whose name used to pop up in Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons?”

“Exactly!  Did you know that he was a punch line for Johnny Carson too?”

“I did not know that,” she said in a passable imitation of the former Tonight Show host.

“And that in a Dick Van Dyke Show episode, Rob Petree sees a flying saucer that makes the noise ‘Uhny Uftz’, which Rob misunderstands to be ‘Sonny Tufts.’”

“Interesting,” she said, although I could tell she was only interested in furthering her career.  I could just imagine her at the podium at the next General Convocation of the American Medical Association:  “I’m not a psychiatrist, but I play one in my practice.”

“He was a running gag on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, too,” I added.

“How did the whole Sonny Tufts bit get started?” she asked after a moment of reflection.

“It may be an urban legend,” I began, “but the story is that he was selected to appear on a radio show after another, more-famous entertainer cancelled.”

“Um-hmm.”

“When the host looked at the cue card to announce the guests for the next show and saw that the more-famous person had cancelled, he read the words ‘Sonny Tufts?’ with ‘surprise and outrage’, according to Wikipedia.”

“Can’t go wrong with that source.”

“I know,” I said, calming down a bit after this ex tempore recitation of more facts about Sonny Tufts than a mentally-healthy grown man should know.  “Anyway, I’m afraid if I don’t let this stuff out–somewhere, somehow–my brain might explode or something.”

“I don’t know about that,” the doctor said as she scribbled something out on a piece of paper.  “But you may want to cut back on the egg salad.  Your cholesterol’s a little high.”

Falling Out of Trees Over Jane Goodall

          Jane Goodall observed that male chimpanzees fall out of trees twice as often as female chimpanzees, and that all the falls over ten meters involved males.

                    Sex and War, Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden


Be still, my beating heart.

We wuz hanging from lower limbs, me and Frodo, when a couple of comely she-chimps came strolling by underneath us.

“Get a load of those two,” Frodo said.  He had, by some means, adopted the patois of a New Jersey teenage male, circa 1959.


“Males–who needs ’em?”

“Not bad, not bad at all,” Frodo said with a leer.  “You want to give ’em a go?”

“Sure, why not?” I said.  “Maybe you’ll get lucky.”

I’m not the one who needs luck,” he said.  The guy’s an alpha-male wannabe.


Logo somebody made for me–I’m not to blame.

The game was afoot.  How, you may ask, do I know the works of William Shakespeare?  You have heard the story about the infinite number of monkeys with the infinite number of typewriters, eventually banging out the complete works of the Bard of Avon–haven’t you?  Well, that just happens to be my line.

“Okay,” Frodo said, “you’re on,” and we started to impress the females the only way we knew how: by climbing up to higher limbs on the tree.


“Hey–lookit me!  I climbed all the way up here for you!”

We ascended, using the prehensile ability that separated us from dopey species like dogs, hand-over-hand until we were high up in the verdant forest, if I may be allowed to wax poetic for a moment.  When we were far above the bodacious babes who had inspired our feats, we called out to them down below.

“Yoo-hoo!” I said to Melissa and Flo, two ovulating primates so hot they needed separate footnotes in grant applications.

They looked up at us with what I’d call monumental indifference, except I didn’t know of any monuments to indifference.

“Hey,” Frodo yelled.  “Aren’t you going to mate with us after we risked life and limb to climb to this precarious height, in the manner of Tom Sawyer trying to impress Becky Thatcher?”  The gals below were unimpressed by our second literary allusion in a single post.  Must have been like the librarians in Concord, Mass., who banned “Huckleberry Finn” when it first came out.


Tom Sawyer to Becky Thatcher:  “If I make a complete fool of myself, will you be my girlfriend?”

They looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and walked on.  Probably on their way to the Mall of the Gombe Stream National Park.

I looked at Frodo, and he looked back at me.  Wimmens, we communicated wordlessly, as if by telepathy.  You can’t live with ’em, and you can’t pass your genes on to future generations without ’em.

We wuz pretty dejected, having been turned down by a couple of chicks who would probably spend the afternoon picking lice out of each other’s fur, when along comes the most bodaciously bodacious primatologist-anthropologist we’d either of us ever seen.

“Oh . . . my . . . God,” I said, and I meant it.  “Isn’t she the most beautiful creature descended from a single common ancestor species of ours 6 or 7 million years ago you’ve ever seen?”

“You got that right, pal,” Frodo said.  “There’s just one problem.”


“When are you gonna dump that chimp and let somebody else have a shot at you?”

“What’s that?”

“We’re up as high as we can go.  What else can we do to impress her?”

I let a sly smile creep across my lips.  Frodo big tool-head, but if he wants to prevail in the survival-of-the-fittest battle in which we’re engaged, he’s going to have to work on his cognitive skills.

“See you later, pal,” I said, as I dropped ten meters to the forest floor.  Not as easy as it looks.

You ever tried to convert yards to meters when you’re falling out of a tree?

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Wild Animals of Nature!”

Swiss Women Use Assisted Suicide to Combat Male Snoring

WINTERTHUR, Switzerland.  Selina Bless used to arrive at her job as a pastry chef every morning at 6:30 a.m., tired and haggard-looking.  “Once I am up, I am up,” she says with resignation, “and my husband Lukas, he snored so loud, I couldn’t sleep through the night!”

But that was before she spoke to her friend Nina Blauch, who told her of a treatment that sounded worse than the ailment it was designed to cure, but which has been a godsend to the 39-year-old, who has two children in gymnasium, the equivalent of American high school.  “Now I sleep soundly and wake up refreshed,” she says with a sigh of relief.  “The kids say I am not so crabby anymore.”

The Bless family had tried everything to reduce Lukas’s snoring, from nose strips, to a mouth guard, to a chin strap, but none was as effective as Selbstmord Assistiert, or assisted suicide.  “The mouth guard was always falling out, and the nose strips were useless,” Selina says as she rolls her eyes thinking about the years of sleep she lost.  “The chin strap was so goofy looking I couldn’t fall asleep for laughing.”

Switzerland was the first nation to adopt an assisted suicide law, and experts say it has helped the mountainous central European country keep its health costs under control.  “We were spending too much on heroic measures to extend life for the elderly maybe six months at most,” says Dr. Elias Zercher, a professor of public health at Thurgau State University.  “You don’t buy a new suit for your 86-year-old grandfather, do you?”


“Give it a try.  If you don’t like being dead I’ll ask for a refund.”

 

Religious groups have criticized assisted suicide laws as a slippery slope to euthanasia, but Selina Bless says the after-Christmas mark-downs at Winterthur’s “Little House of Death” were too good to pass up.  When this reporter asks whether she obtained her husband’s informed consent she nods her head enthusiastically.  “He always loved a bargain,” she says, “I know he would have approved.”

For Freedonian-Americans, Lack of Own Holiday is Gauling

KNOB NOSTER, Missouri.  For Zliewg Norblek, the dead of winter is always more painful than it is for most people, a fact he tries without success to conceal.  “First Columbus Day, then Martin Luther King Day, and I have St. Patrick’s Day coming up,” he says over a lump in his throat.  These are all holidays, this reporter asks–what’s so bad about that?


Vertical mobile home park, where Freedonian-Americans live in crowded conditions.

“There is nothing–no day–for Freedonian-Americans,” he says, biting his hand to fight back the tears.  “My children will grow up thinking less of themselves, they already think less of me.”

Norblek’s complaint is a valid one, as the U.S. Congress has consistently refused to grant holidays to immigrants from fictional countries.  “They’re lazy, they don’t write to elected officials or offer bribes the way other ethnic groups do,” says Emil Nostrand, a professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Chillicothe.  “Yes fictional immigrants vote in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, but so do dead people and pets.”


Stores in “Little Freedonia” stock foods from the “old country.”

Freedonia was formed after World War I from abandoned Sears Tool Sheds, windblown mobile homes scattered by a tornado, and a Six Flags Over Minsk amusement park that became insolvent.   The metal of the rides was melted down to make the nation’s currency, leaving  its first citizens with nothing to spend their money on.  “For years the people walked around making change with each other,” says Nostrand.  “Then they discovered that stamp collectors around the world hunger for cancelled postage from obscure third-world countries, and they’ve had a balance of payments surplus ever since.”


Train wrecks provide wholesome diversion for local residents

Part of the problem, say Washington lobbyists who have attempted to aid Freedonian-Americans on a sliding scale pro bono basis for $700 an hour, is that Freedonia hasn’t produced any heroes such as Christopher Columbus, Dr. King, or St. Patrick who could serve as symbolic representatives of their countrymen and women.  Norblek insists this is a pretext, however, citing the valiant resistance offered by Kowlak Mailwke at the Battle of Blzieka in 1692.  “Freedonian forces were retreating across the Valkeokwo River, with the Ruritanians in hot pursuit over the Bridge of Sorrowful Sighs and Eye-Rolling,” he says angrily.  “Mailwke had the presence of mind to stand his ground and impose a 73 vladek toll to cross, and the Ruritanians turned tail and ran.”

For now, however, Freedonian-Americans suffer in silence, or at best express their anger and frustration under their breath.  “It is about the dignity of all God’s children on this earth,” says Miroslik Venuvva as she emerges from St. Glzilsk’s Church in this small midwestern town, which boasts the largest concentration of Freedonian-Americans outside of Cazenovia, New York.  What about France, known in ancient times as “Gaul,”  this reporter asks; it has never had a day to honor the contributions its natives have made to American life.  “Pah,” Venuvva says as she spits on the ground.  “The French are a bunch of cheese-eating demi-weasels.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Hail, Freedonia!”

For One Young Director, Film Noir’s as Dark as Crankcase Oil

SOMERVILLE, Mass. When Evan Winslow earned his bachelor’s degree in film from New York University last spring he had visions of being the next John Huston, or at least Peter Bogdanovich. “You spend four years in college exposed to nothing but works of genius,” he recalls a bit ruefully. “I must have missed the class about earning a living.”


Bogdanovich: “You have to start at the bottom, like I did, manning the popcorn machine.”

After receiving either form rejections or no response at all to some seven hundred resumes he sent out, he had exactly zero job offers in the film industry and his share of the rent coming due for the three-bedroom apartment he shared with his girlfriend Mindy Heinz, a budding actress, and two graduate students. “I’m not proud,” he recalls, “but I think filming weddings and bar mitzvahs would be a poor use of my cinematic training.”


“Un Chien Andalou is good–also Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Determined to put his artistic skills to use, he started his own video production company, borrowing money from his parents and maxing out several credit cards he’d received upon graduation. He found work almost immediately, but the subject matter was something of a comedown from the lofty themes of love and despair he found so compelling in the films of La Nouvelle Vague, the “new wave” French directors of the 1950’s and 60’s.


“At Mike’s Collision Repair, your car comes out smooth with no unsightly dents like Moose the auto body guy has in his head.”

“Basically, Somerville is the re-built engine capital of New England,” he notes with visible disdain. “Owners of auto body repair shops like to feature wives or girlfriends in their commercials, gracefully waving their arms like auto show girls.”


Dream scene: “I am floating in either used 10W40 oil, or the bad coffee in the customer waiting area.”

Evan tries to persuade his clients to “push the envelope” aesthetically, and to use Mindy in the commercials he makes for them, but he finds them resistant to change. “My girlfriend Debbie is better-looking and less depressing,” objects Tony DeMarino, owner of a towing business. “She also has bigger tits, but I suppose I’m not allowed to say that on the internet.”


Mindy, at a casting call.

So Evan and Mindy do what they can to enhance the film noir aspects of their 30-second spots, panning up from a running oil spill under a service bay to a graphic depiction of the grimy underbody of a Ford Taurus station wagon up on a rack, or enlivening a head shot of a used car dealer with a fleeting image of a wan and naked Mindy running along the back wall of a garage, beneath a rack of hanging fan belts.


Fan belts: Rarely used in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, despite his proletarian sympathies.

“I got that idea from Los Olvidados,” the Luis Bunuel classic, says Winslow. “I wanted to use the eye-slitting scene from Un Chien Andalou, but I decided to save that in case I move up to opticians.”

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

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
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?”

Okie
“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.”

Karaoke Cure Brings Tough Call for Stroke Victims’ Loved Ones

STONEHAM, Mass.  Until January of last year, Tom Filipado was a regular at Karaoke Night every Sunday at the Cock ‘n Bull, a local pub here.  “His specialty was a medley of hits by Morris Albert,” according to his friend Mike Adamlik.  “Since Albert was a one-hit wonder, he’d sing ‘Feelings’ three times.”

Image result for morris albert

But all that changed one night when Filipado felt a tingling along his left arm, then a numbness.  “My whole world crumbled in an instant,” he says, referring to the stroke that left him unable to walk or–more importantly in his case–sing a note.

But thanks to research breakthroughs by doctors at the Massachusetts Neurological Institute in Boston, who developed an experimental drug cocktail that has yet to receive FDA approval, Filipado is again able to walk and sing, with dramatic results that friends and family witnessed last week as he took the stage for the first time in over a year.

“He launched right into Prince’s ‘Kiss’ and he really nailed it,” says his sister Eileen, who admits she attended the comeback performance only with trepidation, whatever that is.  “It was the tricky ‘Ain’t-no-particular-sign-I’m-more-compatible-with’ part I was worried about,” she says.  “I was afraid he’d get tongue-tied, but he did fine.”

Image result for karaoke
“I really missed you guys when I was in the hospital.  Did you miss me?  Is this mic on?”

“Karaoke” is a Japanese compound term made up of the words “kara” and “okesutora” which can be loosely translated as “bad singing.”  It is a form of interactive entertainment in which people get drunk and sing publicly in a manner they would otherwise limit to the privacy of their showers.

But with Filipado’s recovery comes a difficult medical decision for his family and friends.  “The drugs aren’t expensive, because the doctors at Mass Neurological basically made them in a Crock-Pot,” says his sister.  “It was more a quality of life decision.  Did we all want to suffer from the side effects?”

Image result for crock pot
“Add a dash of ibuprofen, one bay leaf, and simmer until you receive venture capital funding.”

And so Filipado’s parents obtained a court order allowing them to take him off the experimental drugs in a case that recalled the Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo controversies.  “It was for the best, even if Tom didn’t realize it at the time,” says his mother Dianne Filipado.  Thanks to physical therapy her son can walk and lead a substantially normal life.

The one exception to his otherwise standard array of cognitive and motor skills became apparent as he took the stage at the Cock ‘n Bull last night and typed in the number for the Joe Cocker hit “You Are So Beautiful.”  Electronic strings swelled from the speakers and Filipado attempted to give voice in Cocker’s strangle-toned style but out came–nothing.

“I . . . can’t sing,” he said with a look of puzzlement on his face–and the audience broke out in a standing ovation.

Available on amazon.com as part of the collection “I Hear America Whining.”

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.

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