For One Family, Pledge Never to Forget is Hard to Remember

BOSTON.  The Wyznorksi family has always been close-knit, but since the death of second-born son Todd last year, they’ve taken their commitment to each other to an even higher level.

“When Todd drew the number one in the lottery for the clinical trial for OsSchlat,” an experimental drug cocktail to treat the minor pain of Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease, “we were overjoyed,” says his mother Debbie, fighting back tears.  “When he succumbed–sucame?–to an allergic reaction, we sort of wished somebody else’s boy had gone first.”

Out of grief came a commitment to do something, even if it would have only an attenuated, indirect and miniscule effect on the ailment, which primarily strikes young boys and prevents them from playing vigorous games for periods as long as twenty-four hours.  “I kinda regretted I gave Todd so many noogies,” says his older brother Mike.  “With only twelve years on earth and the disease and what-not, it’s too bad I tormented him so much.”

And so today finds the Wyznorskis on the Boston Common where they have organized the first-ever “Never Forget Todd!” 6-kilometer walk-run.  “It’ll be cold,” says Todd’s father Jim, “but we’ll have a lot of hot chocolate for everybody.”

“I didn’t buy any hot chocolate,” says Debbie, looking at Jim with surprise.  “Did you?”

“What’s the kid’s name again?”


“I thought you were going to pick some up on the way in this morning,” Jim says with a look of embarrassment.  “Maybe we can buy some at a convenience store.”

“It’s too late now,” Debbie says.  “The people are already starting to arrive.”

An elderly couple, Bob and Maria Malinkrodt, approaches the starter’s table with an anguished look on their face.  “When we heard about what you two went through, and what you were doing, we knew we had to pitch in,” Maria says.  “How much is it?”

“It usually $65 or whatever you can give, but for senior citizens we only ask $50,” Jim says pleasantly.

“It’s a very worthy cause,” says Bob, who had the disease when he was a boy, as he pulls out his checkbook.  “Do you have a pen?”

Jim looks at Debbie with a shrug of his shoulders, who in turn looks at their son Mike.  “Do you have a pen?” she asks him.

“I don’t need pens,” Mike says as he looks at his phone.  “I text everybody I know.”

The siren smell of cheese pizza.


“Well, uh, I can give you some cash,” Bob says as he fishes in his wallet and pulls out a twenty-dollar bill.

“Thanks, that’s great, really sorry about that,” Debbie says.  “So two seniors, Mike, give them their free t-shirts.”

Mike looks at his mother with confusion.  “T-shirts?  Nobody told me anything about t-shirts.”

“Yes I did,” his mother says, slightly perturbed.  “I said you had to go by the screen printer last night and load them up in your car.”

“Screen printer?”

“Yes–in Watertown.”

“Oh, right, right.   Huh.  I . . . uh . . . there’s that pizza place in the square, I stopped there and some friends of mine came by, and it sort of slipped my mind.”

“I don’t see my name on this list.”


The Wyznorskis look sheepishly at the Malinkrodts and, after an awkward moment, Jim apologizes.  “Say, I’m really sorry, I guess we don’t have any of those souvenir t-shirts that charity run-walkers treasure so much,” he says.

“Maybe we’ll do something for people afterwards,” Debbie adds pleasantly.

“Oh, that’s fine,” Maria Malinkrodt says.  “My closet’s stuffed anyway!”

“Excuse me folks,” a policeman says as he gently interrupts the group.

“Yes?” Mike Wyznorski asks.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to move your car.  We got a charity thing comin’ through today.”

“Oh, we know,” Debbie Wyznorski says.  “That’s us.”

“You’re the . . .” the officer begins before checking a clipboard, “March to Save the Komodo Dragon?”

The Wyznorskis exchange looks that turn from puzzlement to chagrin.  “Did you get the parade permit?” Mike asks Debbie.

“I thought you were going to,” she responds.

“What group are you with?” the policeman interjects, hoping to end the byplay and get a cup of coffee before the event he’s been assigned to begin.

“We’re the ‘Never Forget Todd Run-Walk.'”

The policeman scratches his head and one eyebrow rises involuntary as he looks the three Wyznorskis over with a skeptical gaze he reserves for foreigners and suburbanites venturing into the city on weekends.  “Look, everybody’s got a story why they need a parking space,” he says.  “What did Todd die of–hereditary amnesia?”

The Pocket Pool Shark

He stares off in the distance, checks his watch,
slips his hand in his pocket and scratches his crotch.
Who is this guy? Won’t leave you in the dark:
I speak, of course, of The Pocket Pool Shark.

He pretends that he’s digging to find a coin
when in fact he’s fiddling around in his groin.
If a proper lady saw him, she’d probably expire
at the thought of his hand in the place of desire.

He’s as cunning as a shark in a dim pool hall,
scouring the table, checking each ball;
(Sorry, that’s an image both literal and metaphor,
and probably not what you read poetry for.)

Still, it’s a wonder how some men you find
act as though the rest of the world is blind
or maybe they take everyone for a fool,
as if we like watching them play pocket pool.


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.”

When Body Mod and Loyalty Cards Intersect, It’s a Hole New Thing

BOSTON.  Amy Hockstepp is a twenty-something freelance graphic designer who always seems to be on the go.  “One morning I’ll have an assignment in the Seaport District,” she says of a former desert of parking lots now turned into a luxe neighborhood of high-rises, “in the afternoon I’ll be way over in Cambridge,” the gown part of the Boston area town-and-gown dichotomy.

But one thing is the same every day; a first cup of strong coffee at The Blue Goose coffee shop down the street from her apartment on Beacon Hill, situated at the foot of a “T” station that can connect her to the Red and Green Lines and take her to her first “gig.”  “Gotta have the caffeine fuel,” she says with a smile as she sips at a steaming  cabaletta, an espresso drink that is half espresso and half 19th century Italian opera.

Like many high end coffee shops, The Blue Goose rewards loyal customers with a free cup of coffee after they have purchased a certain number of drinks, but Amy’s hectic schedule means she often forgets her “loyalty card,” which she says “totally bums her out.”  “It might surprise you, but freelance artists don’t make that much money,” she says with a scowl as she digs in her purse but comes up empty on this Friday morning.  “I don’t want to miss out on a freebie, so we came up with a compromise,” says with a smile and a nod at barista Todd Blakeslee.

“Ready?” Blakeslee asks her, and Amy flinches just a bit, then says “I guess.”  With that Blakeslee takes a standard office hole puncher and gouges a chunk of flesh out of the woman’s lower lip, then applies alcohol and a band-aid to staunch the bleeding.  “There,” he says, as he admires his work.  “Just three more cups to go and you’re entitled to a venti drink of your choice!”

The intersection of body modification and overpriced espresso drinks are two worrisome trends, according to sociologist Martin Papin of the University of New England.  “Young people are blowing their money on overpriced coffee and not saving up to buy expensive homes from people like me who want to retire in a few years,” he notes as he looks at a graph showing low savings rates among men and women who have been out of college less than a decade.  “Even when they have parental help with the down payment, nobody’s going to want to sit next to them at PTA meetings with all those metal doo-dads hanging out of their heads.”

“I like donuts, okay?  You got a problem with that?”

But Amy takes the new, tasteful hole in her head in stride, like others in her demographic who say they want to put common sense on hold for now and enjoy the mortification of the flesh while they can.  “It’s more than just a cosmetic thing,” she says.  “I don’t want to turn forty and look back on my life with regret and say ‘I coulda put another hole in my body, but I bought life insurance or something stupid like that.'”

My Year in Blogging: More Than Just Sonny Tufts

As I look back on 2019 and prepare the Gerbil Interactive Media Group (Gerbil News Network, Gerbil Sports Network, Gerbil Entertainment!) for an initial public offering, it is appropriate that I give potential investors a candid and unsparing view of our business prospects.

How’re we doing, as the late Ed Koch (1924-2013) might ask?

Koch:  “What did I do to deserve this post?”


Un-freaking believable!

By the numbers:  Readers in seventy-three different countries–and I’m not counting Freedonia!  4,065 followers–a 20% increase in one year!  Compare that to The Boston Globe, which wet its pants a few years back when its circulation increased 8.9% in one year.  I’ll continue after I finish my yawn.

The top post of 2019?  “My Cats–World Class Porn Dogs.”  It brought a tear to the eyes of the sick and shut-in around the globe, and a smile to the lips of the lisping babe.

Using as a yardstick the 2,700-seat Sydney, Australia Opera House, a Standard Blogging Statistical Metric, I could have filled that sucker four times with readers who come to this site every day looking for breaking news on the growing threat of Komodo dragons, the number of white kittens promoters are required to provide Mariah Carey at each personal appearance, and the slow-but-steady rehabilitation of the reputation of Sonny Tufts.

Sonny, with that beaming smile of his!


I’m quietly proud to say that my homeland ranked #1 in the world as a source of my followers.  Go ahead, allow patriotic pride to swell your chest for just a second as you chant with me: “U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!”  It ain’t jingoistic if it’s true!  To the runner-up, the United Kingdom–with which we’ve had a “special relationship” for so many years–let me just say, better luck next year.  And as for #3 Canada–stick to ice hockey, or maybe curling.

You ask about productivity?  How about that 67-day streak from September 28th to December 3rd when I didn’t miss a single day of blogging!  To put things into perspective, the Major League record for a consecutive hitting streak is still Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s 56 games.  So where’s my Marilyn Monroe?

“Joe–are all bloggers losers?”


But a business is more than just cold statistics.  I like to think I may–just possibly–have saved a reader or two from a life of degradation and a white neo-soul music career.

“La-la-la . . . . connect the dots!”


I say this because the most common search used to find Gerbil News Network in 2019 was “health benefits of smoking crack in PJ’s.”  That’s right–while the lamestream media was looking the other way, I was connecting the dots, Pee-wee Herman style, to warn America’s young girls not to follow the path trod by Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston.  You can almost see them in your mind’s eye if you try hard enough, like the classic trailer park slumber party scene in The Legend of Boggy Creek:

VENETA SUE:  I think Joe Don Riggs is cute!

NAE ANN:  Me too!

TULA MARIE:  Are you gonna try out for cheerleader?

VENETA SUE:  I don’t know.

NAE ANN:  Hey–do you guys want to smoke some crack?

TULA MARIE:  Don’t you think we ought to check the internet first?

NAE ANN:  Well, okay.  (tap tap tap tap tap)  Oh . . . my . . . God!

VENETA SUE:  Don’t swear, Nae Ann!

NAE ANN:  It says here on “Gerbil News Network” that the health benefits of smoking crack in PJ’s have been “questioned.”

TULA MARIE:  That’s good enough for me–Gerbil News Network is one of the most trusted blogs in the world!

“No crack for us!”


But any good prospectus must provide a full and fair summary of the potential risks involved so that widows and orphans can’t sue once they’ve sunk their money into a bottomless rathole of self-dealing and financial fraud.  There are some troublesome aspects of Gerbil Interactive Media Group’s results to date, but remember: past performance is not an indication of future results!

If you look at the world-wide map of our readers’ locations, you’ll see that we once again failed to crack the Chinese market, a critical shortcoming for any blog that hopes to survive in the coming 21st century media shakeout.

“Mrs. Chapman–she good tipper!  You–not so much.”


On this score, I can only plead “nolo contendere,” which is Latin for “No checks accepted.”  While I have faithfully patronized Happy Panda restaurant I decline, unlike my former New Yorker wife who is a chronic over-tipper, to leave a gratuity at a take-out restaurant when I pick-up my own order!  And so I suffer by comparison, and I’m certain that the Chinese, who are said to be able to steal the floor plan of an automotive plant using nothing more than a Radio Shack Execuheli II Micro Wireless Indoor Helicopter, have taken note.

I mean, there’s no other plausible explanation.