CEOs Find Time Management is Key to Enjoying Horndog Life

CLEVELAND.  Kyle Thatcher is, at 47 years old, the youngest CEO in the history of Prothonotary Bank & Trust Co., a sleepy institution he shook into profitability with innovations that rocked the staid banking community here.  “I decided to take a shot at staying open after 3 p.m., and on Saturdays,” he says through the chiseled jaw that has earned him the confidence of regional stock analysts.  “Call me crazy, but I think it helps our bottom line if people can get in the building,” he says with a faraway look in his eye that seems appropriate for a business visionary.

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“No more complimentary leatherette checkbook covers!”

 

But Thatcher had no sooner risen to the top than he found something missing from his life.  “I just wasn’t enjoying foreclosing on crappy mom and pop businesses the way I did when I was starting out,” he muses.  “The thrill was gone–I didn’t love what I was doing anymore.”

So Thatcher signed up for a ten-week crash course in time management with Bonnie Ladsdale, whose company “Time Fighters!” helps top executives find time in their lives to re-charge their batteries and regain the energy they need to increase shareholders’ return on equity which, as the companies who pay for her services agree, is the principal reason for other men’s existence here on earth.

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“Let your secretary separate your paper clips into big and small sizes–you don’t have time!”

 

“Bonnie is a jewel, that’s for sure,” says Herb Wertheimer of Demeter Investment Partners, a hedge fund that places huge bets on the businesses who retain Ladsdale.  “She took a mid-cap pet food company that couldn’t make a profit with both hands and turned it into a world-beater we sold for seven times EBITDA, whatever that is.”

Today Ladsdale is giving Thatcher an initial consultation to determine what course of action–weight training, aerobics, stretching–is most likely to help him regain the cocksure attitude that made him the top-ranked graduate of the Kagler School of Management at nearby Waldmore University.  “What is it you really, really want to do that you don’t have enough time for now?” she asks him with a glare so intense it could scour a frying pan made sticky with American chop suey crust.

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American chop suey: Yum!

 

Thatcher looks at her cautiously, unused to such an intense interrogation from anyone other than his board of directors and institutional investors.  “You want the God’s truth?” he asks somewhat doubtfully.

“You’re wasting my time and yours if you give me anything less,” Ladsdale replies with a poker face.

“Well,” Thatcher begins slowly, after glancing around to make sure there’s no one within earshot in the spacious exercise room, “I would really, really like to have an affair with a sexy woman.”

“Um-hmm,” Ladsdale says as she takes notes.  “But somehow or other, there’s never time–right?”

“You got it,” the CEO replies, and it’s as if a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders.  “Even with the chauffer-driven limo that takes me to and from work . . .”

“That’s paid for by the company–right?” Ladsdale asks.

“Sure–like my country club memberships.  Anyway, what with the job and the charity dinners and the business lunches . . .”

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“So a priest, a rabbi and a lady snake charmer are playing miniature golf . . .”

 

“And the wife?”

“That’s part of the package.”

“And the 2.3 kids . . .”

“Actually we corrected the rounding error, so we’re capped at two–it all eats into your time.  I never get a chance to just . . . cut loose and do the Mongolian Cartwheel with a babelicious babe.”

“The Mongolian Cartwheel–is that the one with the bighorn sheep and the box of Milk Duds?”

“No, you’re thinking of the Burkina Faso Half-Twist.  The Mongolian Cartwheel is performed with a yak and a movie-size package of Twizzler’s Red Licorice.”

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Try the 180-piece “Executive Retreat” container. 

 

“Got it,” Ladsdale says as makes some marginal notes on an intake form.  “Okay,” she says, “why don’t you take your clothes off and I’ll check your vital organs.”

Another Mind Control Case Against the Kings of Cable

It’s a snowy day in Boston–what are the chances of that?–so a good opportunity to catch up on the paperwork that piles up on the desk of your average entertainment lawyer, and sometimes on the desk of below-average members of the guild like myself.

I attach binder clips to several mega-contracts, scan Variety for box office numbers of several “indie” films I’ve been “attached” to–hmm, maybe the inclement weather interrupted an electronic transmission of receipts from the Framingham 14 Megaplex–when my phone rings.


The stars come out–in Framingham, Mass.!

I say my name in a crisp, professional tone and a smoky woman’s voice responds.

“Do you all do . . . um . . . like entertainment law?” she asks.

“We do,” I reply in my best marketing voice.  “How can we help you realize your dreams?”

She sounds . . . troubled–distrait.  “Do you handle cases against, like MTV and VH1?”

I think back to all the washed-up rock stars making excuses for their drug-addled train wrecks of careers I’ve watched on VH1.  “We are well equipped to handle that sort of case,” I say confidently.


“You–you took drugs?  Get out of town!”

“Good–because MTV and VH1 are stealing thoughts from my brain through television waves and using them in their shows!”

I leaned back in my chair and stared out at the grey New England sky.  Such a sad story–and one I’d heard so many times before!

“So–do you handle that kind of case?” the woman asks, recalling me from my reverie.

“We are,” I begin, then pause for effect, “the pre-eminent cable TV mind-control firm in the Northeast,” I say with more than a little pride.  “Nobody else even comes close!”

“Great!” she exclaims.  “So you’ll take me on as a client?”

“Well, there’s the little matter of our up-front, non-refundable retainer,” I say.  “The complimentary first cup of coffee, the fancy carpeting in our reception area that hides the spills of such coffee–these things don’t come cheap,” I say.

“How much is the retainer?”


“I can transfer the retainer to your account by mind control.”

“We will require a minimum of $2,000 for a brain wave misappropriation case” I begin, but the line goes dead.  Our phone system is getting old, and dropped calls are starting to become a real problem.

Such is the life of a jack-leg entertainment lawyer, struggling to get by in a highly-competitive field to which hordes of untrained and unqualified practitioners have been drawn by television legal dramas such as L.A. Law and Ally McBeal. For those of us who’ve been laboring in these vineyards for a long time, the influx of johnny-and-janey-come-latelies is cause for more than a little bitterness.


“You knuckle-sucking twerp!”

How many of them, I ask myself, have ever had the sort of intimate industry insider conversation I had with a major Hollywood ”player” who called me to discuss a screenplay he was late with–all dialogue guaranteed verbatim:

SECRETARY:  There’s a call for you.

ME:  Who is it?

SECRETARY:  The screenwriter on that baseball movie.

ME:  Hello?

HIM:  Fuck you.

I hope someday when I give my Oscar acceptance speech that I can properly thank him for the guidance and assistance he gave a tyro like me back when I was starting out.


Durante:  A real entertainer.

There are, of course, more tangible rewards to dealing with the talented, creative types who run the entertainment industry, and those who want to join them.  Just as Hollywood producers learned early on that the promise of fame and fortune enabled them to “audition” budding starlets on their casting couches, just mention that you do some entertainment law at an otherwise boring business reception and the next day you can expect a FedEx package containing a headshot of the marginally-attractive man or woman you met who is currently toiling away in obscurity at the First Second Short National Bank.

As Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.”

Your Philosophical Love Advisor

Love is one of the great mysteries of human existence, so who better to answer your romance-related questions than the Philosophical Love Advisor!

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Arthur Schopenhauer:  “So you think crème rinse would help?”

 

Dear Philosophical Love Advisor:

I have been dating this guy “Duane” who lives in Smithton for two years now.  We met at Pork Rinds Anonymous, a 12-step program for people addicted to fatty snack foods.

We are both divorced so we have that in common too.  My problem is this: While I have had “Duane” to my house several times to meet my kids Jolene and Donny Ray from my first marriage, whenever it’s Duane’s turn he says he wants a catfish basket or something else you can’t make at home unless you have a deep fryer so we go out.  As a result, his kids don’t know I exist.

Donna Ray (see where my boy got his name!) Haskins, Chillicothe, MO


“Well, guess I better git dressed for the Pork Rinds Anonymous meetin’.”

 

Dear Donna Ray:

The nature of existence is one that has bedeviled philosophers since the dawn of the discipline, and the question might properly be put right “back at ya”–how do you know you exist?  Not so easy when the burden of proof shifts, is it?

One “do-it-yourself” trick that philosophers use to establish existence–sort of like a home pregnancy test–was developed by Rene Descartes, who said “I think–therefore I am.”  If you can feel yourself thinking like him, and can express it in language, you may exist too!


“I think, therefore I am.  You, I’m not so sure of.”

 

Dear Philosophical Love Advisor:

I had successfully fended off a series of men hoping to save my maidenhead for my marriage night, when I succumbed to the advances of a boy–I will call him “Johan”– who is in my Intro to Philosophy 101 class (3 credits).  We were up in his dorm room looking at his three-volume set of Kant when he blurted out “I’d love to marry you!”

Of course this is every girl’s dream: to be wed to a thoughtful man who will bounce from one low-paying adjunct faculty position to another while writing crabbed, recondite monographs on increasingly narrower questions!  I pulled off my blouse and said “Take me, I’m yours!” and we had coitus right then and there, love between the Second and Third Critiques!

Then the next Thursday I saw Johan with this bimbo “Myra” who works the cash register in the sweatshirt section of the bookstore, having Cokes and playing footsie in the student union.  I asked him what the big idea was–we had spent a lot of time talking about big ideas, you said you’d love to marry me.

Johan gives me this look like I’ve got two heads and said “That was a mere expression of a wish or a personal judgment, not a performative utterance that rose to the level of an offer or promise to marry”–and went right back to footsie-playing!

I haven’t read any existentialists yet and so am not yet fully aware of how absurd and indifferent the universe is, but that really frosted my you-know-what.  Is there a premise of a syllogism I’m missing here?

Annamarie Leyten, Class of ’16, University of Massachusetts-Seekonk


“I’m Sophomore Class Philosophy Queen–and don’t you forget it!”

 

Dear Annamarie–

Johan is right, at least according to J.L. Austin, a leading proponent of the “ordinary language” school of thought who was voted “Geekiest Looking Philosopher of the 20th Century” by a bi-partisan panel of specialists drawn from all philosophic disciplines.  It was Austin who came up with the concept of a performative utterance, one that not only conveys information but also produces an actual consequence in the real world.  Had Johan said “Will you marry me?” and you had said “I will” before you ripped off your blouse, you wouldn’t have to write letters to me, you could sue for breach of promise.

 


“Austin’s here–NOW the party’s started!”

 

Dear Philosophical Advisor Person:

I am a photocopy specialist in the Philosophy Department at Gadarene College in Normal, Illinois.  I have become “smitten” by one particular young Ph. D. candidate whom I will call “Tyler,” which is his real name.  He is unlike other philosophy majors, not stuck up or snotty at all.

I thought I would “kindle” our romance by inviting him over to watch the Stanley Cup finals, and things were going well until Game 2 when I said “Do you think we should pull our goalie?” near the end of regulation.  He turned on me and gave me a look and said “To paraphrase Wittgenstein, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Mr. or Ms. Philosophical Advisor–I think that is the meanest thing anybody has EVER said to me in my whole entire life!  I was only making polite conversation because I’m trying to make this relationship work, dammit!

I’d like to give this “Wittgenstein” a piece of my mind.  Do you know where he teaches?

Ellen Widmer, Mason City, IL


“Stick that in your categorical imperative!”

Dear Ellen–

Ludwig Wittgenstein did indeed write those words, at the end of his only #1 hit, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.  Unfortunately for your desperate dream of vengeance, he died in 1951.  He said a lot of other controversial things, like if you give money to the poor you’ll only corrupt them, so give it to the rich–what a nut!

As for giving someone a piece of your mind, I’d hold on to what you have.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Let’s Get Philosophical.”

For “Freedonian Bob Dylan,” Oxygen is Blowing in the Wind

MUSZRKLIA, Freedonia.  As he looks back on a career that spans a half-century, Norkd Vneliak laughs and shakes his head at the transformation he’s undergone.  “I was a nice Byellorussian boy who wanted to grow up to join the Freedonian space program.  My dad owned an appliance store,” he says wistfully.  “I was no good at leveling washers, dryers and refrigerators and there was no money for college, so I decided to become a folksinger.”

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“How many roads must a man walk down, before he reaches 17th Street?”

 

And so he did, hitchhiking to this city, the artistic capital of Freedonia, where he scuffled for several years playing in blznikas, small coffee houses that offered him a venue in which he could hone his craft–without pay other than a free meal–in imitation of his hero, American folk singer Bob Dylan.

“When I hear him first time, top of my mind blows off!” Vneliak says.  “I resolve to be like him–his father own appliance store, my father own appliance store.  Maybe I could bed cool chick like Joan Baez.”

But Vneliak’s mimicry, while sincere, failed in one important respect; because of his halting knowledge of English, he didn’t realize that many of Dylan’s most stirring images were metaphors, metonyms or other figures of speech.  “In translation Vneliak’s lyrics come across as flat,” says rock critic Miles Snibor of Earworm magazine.  “That’s because the dude took too many science courses.  He just doesn’t get it.”

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“Free-do-nia, Free-do-nia, they call the place–Freedonia.”

 

And so Vneliak’s homage to one of Dylan’s best-known songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” is an unfortunate triumph of the literal over the figurative as the hard sciences he picked up at the Gymnasium dos Blurzkag taint the fertile images of his American inspiration.  “What is the composition of the earth’s atmosphere,” he sings soulfully to a crowd of greying bohemians who’ve followed his career through his eponymous first album to his 2014 6-CD retrospective, “The answer my friend, is nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide, the answer is these four gases.”

A similar disjunction is to be found in Vneliak’s knock-off versions of Dylan’s protest songs, such as “It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”  “It’s a soft, it’s a soft, it’s a soft, it’s a soft–it’s a soft rain’s gonna fall, without calcium, magnesium and certain other ions.”

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“This one’s going out to my good buddy . . . uh . . . Norkadee Veneeliak.  Or something.”

 

A visit to the United States in search of the King of American folk music he loves so much ended in frustration after Vneliak visited Worcester, Mass. based on a six-year old copy of Rolling Stone which said the Hibbing, Minnesota native would be playing there on May 16th.  Unfortunately, the issue was six years old, the most recent copy of the music magazine that Vneliak found in his dentist’s waiting room.  “This is unfair!” Vneliak shouted when security guards blocked his entrance to the Zipper Hospital Centrum in the Industrial Abrasives Capital of the World.  “I come all the way from Freedonia, could I at least get t-shirt?”

One Hurt in Collision at the Intersection of Art and Commerce

WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass.  Beth Upshaw is both a painter herself and an intrepid soul who helps others make a living in the traditionally hand-to-mouth world of the visual arts by operating an art gallery in this upscale suburb.  “I know I could make more money at a nine-to-five job,” she says as she adjusts the frame of a work by her friend Cecilia Carver, “but I wouldn’t get that little glow you feel when you make the world a more beautiful place.”

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That can-do attitude is what led Upshaw to take money out of her retirement plan–at a tax penalty–to open bEth uPshaw sTudios, as her stylized logo expresses it.  “It throws people off their guard for a second–they stop, look and hopefully come in.”

But Upshaw is off her game a bit as she opens up this Sunday morning; a fight with her boyfriend Kurt Mergen last night has put a damper on her spirits, and she has to work harder than usual to greet customers pleasantly, much less cheerfully.  “Kurt didn’t like his wine at Boit de Nuit,” she explains of their dinner date gone wrong, “and things spiralled downhill from there.”  Upshaw took a sniff and told him not to be a whiner because the restaurant was busy and a woman she knew was waiting on them.  Mergen got defensive, saying he knew more about wine than she did, and Upshaw reminded him that she’d been a sommelier in a previous life in 19th century France.

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“The catalog says this is the air conditioner vent.”

 

That was the last straw for Mergen, who rolled his eyes and then struck at her most vulnerable spot; her own art, which she describes as “post-neo-Abstract Expressionist.”  “I have a hard time imagining you in that context,” he snapped as he tore a piece of baguette in half.  “You, who produces the kind of art that wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a bank lobby.”

Color rushed into Upshaw’s face, and her eyes narrowed to grim little slits as she hissed “You son-of-a-bitch!”  Diners seated nearby who didn’t hear her realized there was a problem when she stood up, put on her coat and scarf and stormed out of the restaurant, stopping only to take a mint at the cash register.

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“I’m fine now,” she says as she excuses herself to wait on an elderly couple who’ve come in to browse, “but that bastard has had his last free plastic cup of chardonnay and cheese-on-crackers at my gallery openings.”

The man and woman have moved into a +55 year-old condominium complex up the street from Upshaw’s gallery, and they congratulate Upshaw on the life and color that she brings to their new neighborhood.  “People who think the suburbs are boring should come see your little place!” the woman gushes.  “I had no idea we were moving into a Little Bohemia here.”

Upshaw demurs appreciatively and leaves the two to themselves, offering to help them if anything “catches their fancy.”  After a turn around the gallery the man comes back to her desk and asks about a piece that holds pride of place on the largest wall in the all-white space; a striking red, yellow and blue work that Mergen once compared to a Wonder Bread bag on acid during a previous argument between the two young lovers.

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“Excuse me–none of these pens work.”

 

“Number 43?” Upshaw inquires hopefully.

“Yes.”

“Well, that one’s by me!” she says with a note of modest self-approval in her voice.

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Wonder Bread bag (not on acid)

 

“Oh, so you’re an artist, too!” the woman exclaims, and Upshaw blushes just a bit.  “Well, I’d better be after what my parents spent on my MFA!”

The older couple laughs, and the man explains that they just wrote their last tuition check the previous spring.  “How much is this one?” he asks as his eye roams over the canvas.

Upshaw gulps just a bit; she can tell the two aren’t hagglers, so her fear is they will walk out if she tells them that she was hoping to get $5,000 for it.  The bitter memory of the night before has given her a stiffer spine, however.  “I am an artist, dammit!” she says to herself as she recalls Mergen’s brutal put-down.  “And I deserve to be paid what I’m worth!”

She surprises herself by blurting out “Five thousand” before her resolution can become sicklied over with the pale cast of modesty, and is shocked when the man says “That sounds reasonable–I’ll take it!”

The transaction is concluded happily at the gallery’s point of sale terminal, and Upshaw says she hopes the couple will enjoy the painting in their new home.

“This isn’t for the condo,” the man says.  “I’m the president of the new bank that’s going in up the street–I’m going to put it in the lobby.”

A Mob Fairy Tale: The Little (Bleeping) Red Hen

SHEEPSHEAD BAY, New York.  This working class neighborhood in Brooklyn has given birth to more than its share of professional comedians, including Larry David, Andrew Dice Clay and Elayne Boosler, but it is also known for a different kind of wise guy; members of La Cosa Nostra such as Thomas “Tommy Karate” Pitera of the Bonanno crime family.  “This is a nice respectable area, okay?” says Gaetano “Joey Pockets” DiSalvo, an enforcer who collects loan sharking debts in and around Coney Island.  “You wanna spit on the sidewalk, go to some dump like Manhattan.”

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And indeed, there is sharp contrast between the hardened faces of men who leave their homes here with grim faces every morning and the smiling padres who tell their children bedtime stories every night at the same addresses.  “Every kid should have a childhood, you know what I’m saying?” says Tony “The Icepick” Gravano as his dandles his daughter Theresa on his knee.  “You miss out on childhood, I don’t know how you’re gonna become a teenager.”

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“And if some mook ever messes with you, you tell me and I’ll stuff him in a dumpster and send him to a landfill.”

Tonight “Joey Pockets” takes over from his wife Maria, who has been promised a “girls’ night out”; a “mani-pedi” party with her friends at “A Touch of Class II” nail salon on Voorhies Avenue.  “I don’t know if Roman numeral II means they’re better or they just came later,” Maria says as she hustles out to her Cadillac Escalade.  “I didn’t pay too much attention in World History.”

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“We already owe China a shit-load of money.  I think I’ll tip her 10%.”

 

Mr. Pockets allows this reporter to sit in on the touching scene between him and his daughter Gina as soon as bathtime is over.  “Most reporters are perverts,” he says with an upraised eyebrow of skepticism.  “Still, it’s nice to get your name in the paper in case you get wiped out one night in Little Italy eating linguini and clam sauce.”

“Tell me the one about the Little Red Hen,” Gina says as she hops into bed, her hair still shiny from her Cry No Tears shampoo.

“You really like that one, don’t you?” her father says softly as he tucks her in.

“Yes, daddy,” Gina says as she wiggles herself into a comfortable position on her side, looking up at her father with adoring eyes.

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“Okay,” DiSalvo begins, as he has on many nights previously.  “Once upon a time there was a Little Red Hen, who knew she had to work very hard for the good things in life.”  The hardened criminal, who has thus far spent time only in state and not federal jails, gives his daughter a serious look to make sure she is absorbing the moral lessons he is trying to impart.  “The Little Red Hen wanted some corn in the summer, so what did she do?”

“She planted some in the spring,” little Gina says, echoing her father’s emphasis on long-range planning and deferred gratification.

“Thass right,” her father says.  “And who did she ask for help?”

“She asked Foxy Loxy, but he said he was too busy.”

“Good girl.  So she planted it all herself.  Now, once you plant corn, you gotta water it right?  The Little Red Hen couldn’t water it all herself, so what did she do?”

“She asked Turkey Lurkey if he’d help.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said he didn’t want to get his feathers wet and told her no.”

“You got it.  So she had to do it all herself.  After she was done, the weeds came up–a lot of weeds!”

Gina smiles at this familiar passage.  “I know what happened next!” she squeals.

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“Dear Lord, I want you to wipe out a coupla lazy bleepin’ farm animals, okay?”

 

“What?”

“The Little Red Hen asked Puppy Wuppy to help her weed the corn, but he was too busy playing with a ball.”

“So what’d she do?”

“She got a hoe and did all the weeding herself!”  It is clear that little Gina identifies with the hard-working heroine of the story, and her father smiles down approvingly at her.

“Ab-so-freaking-lutely,” her father says with pride.  “Now the corn grew and it came time to pick it, so what did the Little Red Hen do then?”

At this point Gina’s memory falters, or perhaps she is simply tired after a long day of second grade, First Holy Communion classes,  and bocce lessons.  “I forget what comes next, daddy,” she says with a yawn.

“The Little Red Hen asks Kitsy Witsy to help her pick it, but she gets turned down again because the damn cat is chasing a mouse–so she picks it all herself.”

“It’s so unfair!” Gina says, responding to the dramatic tension that makes the story her favorite.  “Then what?”

“Well,” her father begins, “it’s time to cook the corn, which is hot work in the kitchen, right?”

“Right.  You have to grease the pans, and mix the corn up and everything.”

“So the Little Red Hen is really, really tired by now, so she asks Crowsie-Woesie if he’ll help her out.  But you know what he says?”

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“If Gino don’t stop lookin’ at me I’m gonna break his face.”

 

“He’s a boy so he doesn’t have to help with the cooking?”

“You got that right.  So she takes care of it all by herself and the corn bread comes out just perfect.  The smell of it wafts out the window, and who should smell it but Foxy Loxy, Turkey Lurkey, Puppy Wuppy, Kitsy Witsy, and Crowsie-Woesie, and they all come runnin’ and when they see how delicious it looks, they all say ‘Can we have some a dat, Little Red Hen?  And what does she say to them?”

Little Gina’s face brightens visibly as she takes on the role of the poor, overworked hen.  “She says ‘You didn’t plant the corn, and you didn’t water the corn, and you didn’t weed the corn, and you didn’t pick the corn, and you didn’t cook the corn, so . . .'”

Her father waits with anticipation, and the little girl draws out the suspense with an extended silence.  “So what does she say to ‘em?” her father finally asks her.

“You don’t get no fuckin’ corn!” she says with an outburst of laughter that causes her father to give her a great big hug.

“That’s my little girl,” he says with a wink at this reporter.  “She ain’t never gonna take no guff from nobody!”

 

Apache Dance With a Fellow Commuter

It is 7:20 p.m., time for the last train from South Station to the western suburbs of Boston. My point of embarcation, a once-proud civic landmark, is despite its grandiose re-christening as the South Station Transportation Center, a scene of degraded desolation. Over there, a homeless man mumbles to himself. Here, a familiar street person approaches me to compliment me on my suit–a boxy chalk-striped number. “You lookin’ sharp, guv’nor–nothing like charcoal grey,” he says. I wonder where he acquired his unerring sense of style as I give him my usual lagniappe, a single dollar bill.

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The train is not here, but I know it has not departed or even arrived yet as I recognize familiar faces from my back-and-forth commute; the money manager whom I once recognized on vacation in Florida, his wife hectoring him because she’s “not really an outdoors person”; the woman who wheezes like a pigeon on the morning train; the bore who talks of nothing but golf, his face transported as if this mundane pastime is a cult of divine madness. “I taped the Masters and I’m going to watch it again this weekend,” he says to an acquaintance who appears to tolerate him, perhaps from a desire to do business. “I’m not sure I caught the rhythm of the final round.” I’ll tell you what the rhythm was, pal; 4/4, at a largo tempo.

And then I see her. A tall–taller than me–dark-haired woman, with an aloof expression. I’ve noticed her before, and I know that she has no ring on the third finger of her left hand; she has a daughter, however, who sometimes greets her at the suburban station where I catch my train. A divorcee, no doubt, but not a gay one; she is world-weary, bitter. Life has not been kind to her, but still–she is beautiful with a tragic I-coulda-had-a-V8 air of regret, missed chances, lost opportunities about her.

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Quebrada Bakery, Wellesley, Mass.:  To have coffee here is to live dangerously.

 

I know that she is a bad woman. I have seen her leave her car all day at Quebrada, the shop where I get my coffee every morning, even though the parking is limited to one hour, for customers only! She works out at my health club, and I have seen her take calls in areas that are not designated for cell phone use. On a number of occasions she has spread her purse, her briefcase and shopping bags out on a train seat designed for three passengers without a trace of shame. She is–I know it–the woman who could complete me.

Because it is late, we cannot avoid each other’s eyes the way we usually do as members of a floating mass of sullen commuters, each intent upon the pedestrian tasks that lay ahead in the morning, or withdrawn, the miserable day behind them at night. I gaze into her eyes. She sees, but does not acknowledge me. I move closer.

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The essence of the Apache dance is to balance the savagery of early twentieth-century Parisian street urchins with the aplomb of a prima ballerina. We–if she accepts my unspoken invitation–will join in a danse dangereux that can result in injury, even death–as we throw each other into the little red chairs and tables that surround Au Bon Pain, the “fast casual” bakery and cafe chain whose illegal alien baristas dream of some day working at Starbucks, where they will be surrounded by “world” music that drove them batty on AM radio in their native countries.

She lowers her eyelids–I take this as a silent command to commence. I take her right hand in my left, clasp her around the waist, and begin.

We dance in a circle at first, stylized expressions of contempt and indifference on our faces. We who live by our wits, knowledge workers sending pdf documents by attachment! What do ordinary mortals understand of our lives, and yet these tasks–they are so advanced, so fraught with danger if we get an email address wrong!

The apache dance traditionally takes the form of a highly-stylized argument between a pimp and his prostitute, but–taking our cue from wacked-out poet and Mussolini admirer Ezra Pound–we transform the genre into something entirely new.

I spin my partner into a glass bakery shelf stuffed with croissants, brioches and cloches, the last-named items apparently stocked in error as a result of a typo in a purchase order. “Do you want me to wear a croissant,” my unknown companion says, spitting the words at me with barely-repressed fury, “or would you like to eat my cloche?

“Yes I think I’d like that,” I say, a malicious sneer forming on my lips.

“Would you like a napkin to wipe the sneer off your face?” the trainee at the counter asks innocently. She cannot imagine the wild torrents of passion that consume us, she who naively suggests that I might like the “Manager’s Special” every morning when all I want is a large mocha, no whipped.

Non, mon petite armoire,” I say, lapsing into the high school French that I perfected to the level of a B+. “It is better that you laissez nous tranquille, s’il vous plait.

“We don’t have the s’il vous plait anymore,” she says. “They substituted a chicken Caesar wrap and cup of soup for it.”

She speaks but we do not hear. I am whirling my unknown paramour towards the McDonald’s, which has recently returned coffee-flavored milk shakes to its menu.

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Shlurp!

 

I can tell that I have exhausted my lover. She leans back on the counter, her pupils rolling back into her eyelids, her hair matted from perspiration. She is no longer une guerriere–a warrior. She has succumbed at last to the superior force of my masculinity.

“Can I help who’s next?” the woman at the counter with the thick glasses says.

“I’m next,” my lover says, looking backwards up into the brightly-colored menu over head. “I’ll have two crispy chicken Snack Wraps and a medium Diet Coke.”

“You want honey mustard, ranch or chipotle barbecue sauce on that?”

“Chip-O-tul,” she says, incorrectly. “I want something . . . hot.”

“It’s chee-POHT-lay,” I say, as gently as I can, reaching for my wallet, and then to the woman behind the counter, “Make it snappy–we’ve got a train to catch.”

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

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