Librarians Love Me

Librarians love me, you want to know why?
I don’t dog-ear pages, I don’t even try.
I don’t highlight passages for future reference,
I give each book its proper, due deference.


I don’t talk too loudly, or laugh in the stacks;
I don’t bring in coffee, or loud crunchy snacks.
If I see a toddler check out 50 Cent,
I whack the young scofflaw until he’s quite bent.


I know a couple of library puns
That I share quite freely with librariuns
As I lean on the circulation desk with aplomb—
The one about the book return’s never a bomb.


Books are my friends! I don’t write upon them.
I never steal books, and sure wouldn’t pawn them.
I much prefer books to dim backlit screens,
I’d rather turn pages than scroll through e-zines.


For all of these reasons I’m a biblio-femme’s dream,
But still there’s one thing that is not as it seems:
If library ladies have hearts that are mine—
Why in the world won’t they forgive my fines?

The Abraham Lincoln-Marilyn Monroe Letters

          One day Marilyn Monroe confessed a crush on Abraham Lincoln: “He was such a great guy.  When I see a man like that, I would love to just sit on his lap.”

Review of “Marilyn in Manhattan,” The Wall Street Journal

“I’m a one score and sixteen inch D cup, in case you’re wondering.”


Dear Abe:

I hope you don’t mind my getting familiar with you right off the bat, but I’ve been a big fan of yours since the third Lincoln-Douglas debate.  You blew “The Little Giant” away!  I don’t know where he comes up with crazy ideas like the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but they leave me cold.

I’m more of a Missouri Compromise girl myself, and I’d love to put myself in a compromising position with an up-and-coming political guy like you.  Do you think you’d like to come over to my place sometime?  I know you’re married and all that, but I could use a refresher course on the Dred Scott decision, and what happens next is entirely up to you.

Yours until South Carolina secedes,





Dear Miss Monroe:

Thank you for your correspondence of the 6th, instant.

I appreciate your kind words, but must decline the offer of a meeting as I am running for the Senate and will for the foreseeable future be on the hustings, when at present I don’t even know what a “husting” is.  I think it is something that you do with an ear of corn, but I’ve been too busy splitting rails to find out.

It is not easy, living out on the frontier instead of glamorous Hollywood and Manhattan like you.  Did you know that I was born in a log cabin that I built with my own hands?  It’s true, my political consultants put it in my campaign bio.

Anyway, if you’re ever in New Salem, Illinois–I know, why the hell would you want to come to such a God-forsaken burg–I hope you will drop by and see me.

With firmness in the right, as God gives me to see it,


Abraham Lincoln

“You fool me all the time!”


Dear Abe–

Thanks for your note.  You know, I might just take you up on that invite.  It was an invitation, wasn’t it?  Sometimes I don’t know with you, you with your high-flown phraseology!

But you’re a jokester too, and I love that about you!  I saw in Variety where someone asked you if you wanted to go to heaven, and you said no, you wanted to go to Congress.

Maybe we could meet halfway, like Cincinnati, or Las Vegas.  Anywhere, really, and I won’t ask for your autograph on my Library of America set of all your writings and speeches!  Yes, I’ve got both volumes, and I don’t care who knows it.

Your “theatrical” pal,




“Say what?”


Dear Miss Monroe–

I am in receipt of your latest correspondence–that means I got it, but it’s the 19th century, so I have to talk that way.

I appreciate your interest in my writings but, since women won’t have the right to vote for another three score years, I am doubtful that a meeting between us would be of much use to me.  My friend Joshua Speed says my ambition is like a “little engine,” but that just shows how much he knows.  I’m 6’4″ for God’s sake, my ambition is like a big engine.  You can still send me a campaign contribution, make your check payable to “The Committee to Elect Honest Abe” and I approve of that message.

I nonetheless appreciate your interest and am enclosing a pocket-size daguerreotype that you can put in your purse–in case you feel the need to dream about me.

Plucking the mystic chords of memory on my zither, I remain

Sincerely yours,



“I don’t care what those mean old Democrats say!”


Dearest Abe–

I wanted to pass along a little make-up tip I found in this month’s issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book–it’s my favorite magazine!

The newspapers always make fun of your looks, but you have such nice, high cheekbones!  The article, which I will send you if I can remember to put it in the envelope before I seal it, says to use a combination of corn starch, bee’s wax and the pituitary gland of an otter to make a blusher for your upper cheeks.  That way you won’t look so gloomy.

I wish we could get together.  You seem like such a great guy–I’d love to sit on your lap and talk about the first thing that comes up!

I will be in New York to shoot “The Seven Year Itch” soon.  How long have you been married to that battle-axe, I mean darling wife of yours?

Yours ’til Bulls Run!



                              You make the call.


Dear Miss Monroe–

It is with a heavy heart that I must break off our correspondence.  My wife found your latest letter and has instructed me that she will send it to a reporter sympathetic to the Democratic Party unless I direct you not to write to me again.

Such a move would ruin my political prospects, as I am sure you understand that the standard-bearer of the Republican Party must be, like Caesar’s wife, beyond reproach.







New Drug Cocktail Helps Break Grip of Hummel Addiction

MAYNARD, Mass.  In a darkened room, Rose Alba Mercurio sits in a comfortable chair and repeats the words she hears on a self-hypnosis tape especially prepared for her by a local support group.  “I don’t need another . . . I don’t need another,” she says in a trance-like monotone for twenty minutes, then opens her eyes.

“Gateway” figurine


“I think it’s working,” she says after she recovers her waking consciousness.  “I haven’t been on eBay for two weeks.”

“You can get this monkey off your back!”


Mercurio suffers from Hummel Addiction, a debilitating compulsion that in the past caused her to fill her small one-bedroom apartment with over 2,500 of the ceramic figurines, which eventually spilled over into a rented storage space on the edge of town.  “I was out of control,” she says tearfully, as she peeks out her venetian blinds for neighborhood “pushers” who prey on Hummel collectors.  “They know I’m weak, and they come by around the first of the month when I get my Social Security check.”

Face it–they outnumber you.


Rose Alba was able to get her habit under control for the first time with the help of a new drug cocktail that Hummel clinics say shows promise.  “You mix crack cocaine, methadone, bicarbonate of soda and Serutan,” the laxative whose name, read backwards, spells “natures,” according to Dr. Philip Heisel of the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk.  “It packs a powerful punch, but that’s what it takes to shake these people out of their legarthy, or lethargy, however you spell it.”

Hummel figurines have been characterized as “kitsch,” a German word that is used to refer to tasteless, sentimental art, but that has not served as a deterrent.  “The moralistic approach never works,” says Sergeant Perry Hampden of the Detroit, Michigan, Drug, Vice and Tchotchke Squad.  “When I catch somebody holding up a liquor store to feed his Hummel habit, he’ll just get defensive if I criticize his taste and switch to more potent stuff, like Ladro.”

Cute widdle wambykin!

For recovering addicts such as Rose Alba, the ability to face the world freed from her prior compulsion is a gift that is given to her anew each morning.  “I feel great,” she says, her face transformed by a smile.  “I think I’ll go to a tag sale today.”

In Battle of Mascots, San Dorito State Usually Wins

SAN DORITO, California.  Like many college presidents, Norman van Dorn of San Dorito State College wouldn’t mind the publicity that comes with a winning sports program.  “You look at what Doug Flutie did for Boston College,” he says, referring to an upsurge in applications that school enjoyed after a “Hail Mary” pass by the diminutive quarterback beat Miami on the final play of a nationally-televised game in 1984.  “I’d like to have some of that mojo working for us when a kid is choosing between us and Stanford.”

The “Hail Mary” pass:  Tuition just went up 11%.

For now, van Dorn’s recruiting weapons are limited to his men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams, but the former marketing specialist isn’t letting that limited arsenal hold him back.  “A lot of kids–granted, kids who aren’t too bright–will choose a school because of its mascot, and that’s what Chipper is all about,” he says.


“Chipper” is a mature male Komodo dragon, the largest lizard species in the world and a deadly carnivore that stalks its prey with a stealthy approach and a sudden, fatal charge.  “It’s a great teaching tool for our business majors,” van Dorn says.  “It’s kill or be killed once you graduate.”

“Your stupid lizard ate our puppy!”

Chipper is restrained during San Dorito State games by one of two heavily-muscled male cheerleaders who alternate due to the toll that holding back the ten foot long, three hundred fifty pound monster takes on them.  “Chipper’s a big dude,” says Tyler Lawrence, “and he can smell another team’s mascot when they stop for dinner at the Arby’s on the edge of town.”

Today the San Dorito Fighting Taco Chips take on the Hiram Morris College Terriers in a play-in game to be the Mountain Ocean Conference’s entry in the National Invitational Tournament.  The game will be broadcast on ESPN13, an occasion that van Dorn hopes will garner his school some headlines to sway last-minute college applicants.  As the contingent from Hiram Morris enters the building, Chipper’s eyes swing towards the other end of the gym as he first smells, then sees, “Rhett,” the school’s terrier mascot.  “Whoa, Chip, easy boy,” Lawrence says as he pulls the leash taut.  “Don’t jump the gun.”

Tastes like chicken.

The San Dorito players emerge from their dressing room to scattered cheers from the crowd that van Dorn says will reach one hundred by tip-off time.  “This isn’t Duke, but we’re getting there,” he says a bit optimistically.   The team goes through a series of flashy half-court drills, with each team member stopping to pat Chipper on the head for good luck.

Hiram Morris’s players wander onto the court, still a bit groggy from the cross-country travel that is par for the course due to this far-flung conference’s footprint.  Rhett, a five year-old black and white male dog, is clearly the most energetic of the group as he strains at his leash when he smells hot dogs cooking at the concession stand.

Chipper senses his chance and begins to slink forward.  His handler drops the leash, and the giant lizard reverts to the law of the jungle, skittering across the floor and grabbing the smallish dog in his jaws, consuming him in two gulps before the terrier can get a yelp out.

“What the hell?” screams Hiram Morris athletic director Dennis Windsor when he sees the Wild Kingdom-like scene unfold before horrified fans.

“Send me your bill,” van Dorn says as custodians rush out to clean up the mess.  “Whatever it is, it’ll be worth it if we make Sportscenter’s ‘When Mascots Attack!’”

A Ballet on Bubble Wrap?

A ballet on bubble wrap?
I know—it sounds like crap.
But when it  actually came to pass


It wasn’t half bad
And so I felt a bit crass
For presuming it would be pathetic,  sad.


There are other kinds of packing material
which I’ll now address in a manner serial.

It was better than a dance on packing  peanuts,
which I like to refer to as “albino  Cheetohs.”
Granted the dancers were anorexic  she-nuts,
But in their tutus they looked pretty  neat-o.


There’s also that stuff called  excelsior
which looks like dried whole wheat  pasta
or the shorn hair of a girl named  Elinor
or the dreadlocks of a notable Rasta.


The choreographer was a Dutchman who’s  afraid of flying,
a guy by the name of Kylián.
The chances I’ll check out his work  again—I’m not lying—
are approximately one in a  myllián.

Dinner With the Footnotes

My wife’s phone gave off a strange sound and, after she’d looked down at its screen, she said “Oh no,” and not in a cheerful way.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s Pam Footnote,” she said as she picked up her mobile device, the better to see the full text of the message that lay concealed beneath the placid green screen.  “They want to have us over for dinner.”

I groaned, inwardly and outwardly.  “I thought we were done with them,” I said, recalling my Reverse Triangular Strategem for Getting Two Annoying Couples Out of Your Life With One Fell Stroke; I had invited them to dinner with our most liberal friends, hoping that the latter twosome’s strident political approach to all issues great and small would cause them to permanently break off our friendship, and that the former’s indifference to anything other than conspicuous consumption–golf, decorating, travel, etc.–would constitute a bridge too far for the leftie couple.

“Your brilliant idea completely backfired,” my wife said, and with more than a little smug satisfaction.  “Both couples left congratulating themselves on how tolerant they were, and how they’d made friends of people who were totally at the opposite end of the spectrum from them.”

“It was worth a shot,” I said, as I stuck my nose back into my glass of Malbec, hoping the vapors would send me to a place far, far away, where scents would overrule sense and the irrational would ride astride the rational mind like a child on a supermarket mechanical horse.  “So, do we have to accept?”

“I can hardly say no,” my wife said.  “I saw her in the grocery store the other day and let slip . . .”

“The dogs of war?” I asked, reverting to Shakespeare, the last grip I had on Western Civ before I fell asleep.

“No, silly, that we were in town for the weekend and didn’t have any plans.”

“You know, if this were a World War II movie, I would have you prosecuted for treason, and maybe even shave your head.”

“Like Sinead O’Connor?”

“A little.  That’s how they punished the French women for sleeping with Nazis.”

“The Footnotes aren’t that bad,” she said as she tapped a reply to the distaff half of the couple.

“History has yet to hand down its judgment,” I said as I finished my wine and toddled–as if I were the City of Chicago–off to bed.

I should provide some backstory, as they say in Hollywood.  The Footnotes–Pam and Dave–go by a different surname, which shall remain undisclosed for fear of libel claims and social retribution.  We gave them their nomme de whatever after sitting through too many dinner and cocktail parties with them, and enduring their dreadful conversation.  They are a mutual perpetual emendation machine, hitting on two cylinders at all times to refine, improve, expand or correct each other’s bland and boring statements.  If Dave says they joined the Woronoco Country Club in 2002, Pam immediately jumps in to say no, it was 2003, that was the year her mother died, she remembers it well.  If Pam says their favorite restaurant Estella’s is at the corner of Clarendon and Newbury Streets in Boston, Dave swoops in like a red-tailed hawk on a field mouse to insist that Dartmouth is the cross-street, don’t you remember, that’s where that parking lot is located.

“Oh yes,” Pam will say, and they’re off, pulling each other further into the Labyrinth like Hansel and Gretel off to find the Minotaur.  A private conversation in a nearly-private language ensues while everyone else sips their drinks, too polite to change the subject, too embarrassed to try and direct them back to the main path of the evening’s discourse.  After awhile the Footnotes emerge back into the sunlight, like cheerful kittens kept in the basement overnight, and blurt out “So how’s work going?” to the first male who catches their eye, or “What’s new with Chloe/Caitlin/Chelsea?” to the first female.  By then the rest of the crowd is too deep in their cups to say anything other than “Fine.”

In short, they are a walking illustration of Noel Coward’s gibe about footnotes: “Having to read footnotes resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love,” and so we thusly christened them.  In fact, I have often wondered what love-making might be like at Chez Pam et Dave:

Pam:  (. . .) What are you doing?

Dave:  But . . . you like that.

Pam:  Since when?

Dave:  Don’t you remember?  That time in Bermuda, right before we were married?

Pam:  At the little inn that was once a provincial courthouse?

Dave:  Right.

Pam:  No, that was the time we went down with the Palmers, we didn’t have sex that vacation.

When the night for the Dreaded Encounter came, I steeled myself ahead of time with a rye on the rocks, like some character out of a John O’Hara short story.

“You’re drinking before we go?” my wife asked.

“It’s the only way I’m going to get through the evening.”

“Just let them talk, eventually they’ll wear themselves out.”

“Easy for you to say,” I said.  “You can always go fuss in the kitchen over the pre-fabricated Trader Joe’s hors d’oeuvres you bring.”

With the ground rules thus established, we found ourselves soon enough on the Footnotes’ doorstep and, after the obligatory exchange of air-kisses, made our way into their overheated living room, whose walls are covered with the sort of conventional prints a conventional New England couple inherits from their conventional parents when they suffer the end to which we are all headed by nature, not convention: sail boats, a Cape Cod sunset, one vaguely experimental painting purchased on a madcap weekend in New York and, off to the side, the poorly executed work of a relative whose sense of perspective could trigger an LSD flashback.

The kids

“How have you two been, it’s been ages!” my wife asked with an air of conviviality that, God love her, sounded sincere.

“Oh, puttering along,” Pam said, and I hoped Dave wasn’t going to make some stupid pun about golf, a subject that always sets off my narcolepsy.  “Have you two taken any vacation lately?”

On my scale of Universal Weights and Measures of Boredom, the surest sign that two couples have nothing left to say to each other is when one side asks the other this question, but that may just be me.  My wife pounced on it like a duck on a June bug, as they say where I come from.

“We went to Saratoga Springs last summer to see ballet,” she said, and we were off to the races.

“Oh, I love dance!” Pam said.  “I wish Dave would take me.”

“I took you once,” her worse half said.

“No you didn’t!” Pam countered, with mock outrage.

“Yes I did, that time with the Nugents.”


“At that big auditorium.”

“The Convention Center?”

“Not the new one, the old one, on Boylston Street.”

“That wasn’t ballet, that was some Chinese cultural thing.”

“You said ‘dance.’  There were dancers on stage.”

“You had to go because of work, it was free, so that doesn’t count.”

I stared down into my drink and, seeing that it was both half-full and half-empty, got up to refresh it in the kitchen.  I figured by the time I got back the Footnotes would have reached the intermission of the long-forgotten event, and we might have a chance to get things back on track.

Sure enough, when I returned the Footnotes had stopped for re-fueling, and had turned over the conversational driving to my wife.

“How are the kids?” she asked innocently, perhaps thinking that it would be hard for any couple to disagree as to the basic facts of their children’s existence.

“Oh, Jeremy’s fine but he quit his job at the consulting firm and is working on an ‘app’–whatever that is.”

Risky life decisions by offspring–while rich fodder for conversation among our other friends–struck me as a cue for infinite regression on the Footnotes’ part, so I quickly interjected with something less sensitive, and more quantifiable.

“Where’s he living now?” I asked.

“In South Boston,” the husband said.

“It’s not South Boston where he lives, it’s something else,” Pam corrected him.  “The South End . . .”

“That’s not the South End,” Dave said.  “The South End is way the hell over on the other side of the Turnpike.”

“Well, it’s the Seaport, or the Innovation District, or the Waterfront or something, but it’s definitely not South Boston.”

“South Boston is trendy now, they should stop trying to name it something else,” Dave said in a voice devoid of defensiveness.  That’s how the Footnotes are; never contentious, always dry, academic, just-the-facts-ma’am, the Joe Fridays of social chit-chat.

“Well, I think he calls it something else.  Fort Point Channel?”

I looked at my watch, and I didn’t try to hide it.  I felt as if we were trapped inside an encyclopedia, and were only halfway through the volume with Aa-As on the spine.

“What’s that I smell from the kitchen?” I interjected.  No one’s ever actually died of starvation at the Footnotes, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

“I’m making noisettes du porc au pruneaux,” Pam said.

“Sounds yummy!” my wife said.  “What’s that?”  I’m the Francophile in the family.


“It’s a six-day bicycle race in France,” I said.

“Oo, you’re bad!” Pam said to me, then to my wife, “It’s pork with prunes.”  To my shock and surprise, the next words out of Dave’s mouth didn’t include a correction.

“We tried it when we took a tour of the Loire Valley in 2005,” he said.

“It wasn’t 2005,” Pam replied, “that was the summer right before Jeremy graduated from college, so it would have been 2004.”

“It wasn’t 2004, I would remember.  That’s the year the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.”

I was tempted to jump in with some sports talk and break the mind-forg’d manacles that always seemed to lock up the Footnotes’ talk, but I hesitated and was lost.

“It had to be 2004, he graduated from high school in 2000, so . . .”

“You’re forgetting,” Dave said, gently reminding her.  “He got that F in biology on his junior year abroad, so he didn’t graduate until 2005.”

Pam was, for just a moment, speechless; there it was, out in the open, for all to see, like an upchucked chipmunk from their cat Mitzi on the rug in front of us.  The shame, the embarrassment that our children can cause us, we who like to present a placid exterior to our social equals, betters and inferiors.  I could detect in her face the hot flush of blood rushing to her cheeks.  It took her a moment, but–like the dinner party trouper she was–she shook off the blow and in a second had her wits about her again.

“It wasn’t biology,” she said finally.  “It was organic chemistry.”

Gritty City Creates Knowledge Zone, But Some Feel Left Out

WORCESTER, Mass.  This gritty central Massachusetts city is known to some as the Industrial Abrasives Capital of the World, and to others for its numerous railroad car diners.  What it is not known for, to the dismay of many, is its educational and cultural attractions.

Miss Worcester Diner

“We’re sort of a country cousin to Boston,” notes civic leader Emil Niland, and even though Worcester is the second largest city in New England, it is the Rodney Dangerfield of the region, getting less respect than Hartford, Connecticut and even Providence, Rhode Island.

Historic scenes of picturesque decay


But a new generation of boosters is out to change that by creating a multi-pod “Knowledge Zone” around the city in recognition of the many institutions of higher learning located here, including Clark University, Holy Cross College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Assumption College and UMass Medical School.  “People need to know we’re a world class intellectual center,” says Niland, before excusing himself to yell at his daughter.  “Karen, take that pigeon out of your mouth, you don’t know where it’s been!”

But some are feeling slighted by the designation, and even a bit miffed.   “If they’re in the Knowledge Zone, what are we–the Ignorance Zone?” asks Richie Stevens, a carpenter, as he downs a shot of ginger brandy and sips a Narragansett beer chaser.  “Those guys can kiss my ass and call it a love story for all I care.”

Worcester pigeons visit Boston to look resentfully at swans.


Town-gown tensions between students and academics on the one hand and blue-collar residents on the other, tend to remain submerged beneath the surface of everyday life until a minor incident at a neighborhood bar located near a campus flares up.  “You get a lot of New Yorkers here who couldn’t get into Tufts or Brandeis,” notes Brian Padraic “Smitty” Moynihan, proprietor of Moynihan’s Tavern in the tough Main South district.  “They’re insecure, and all hell will break loose when they make some condescending crack about an industrious yeoman carpenter like Richie here,” he says, and it is clear that he is kidding about his patron’s work ethic.

What makes matters worse is that Moynihan, Stevens and the other customers in the bar are fictional characters in a play–“Breakfast at Moynihan’s”–by this reporter, and thus are ineligible to vote out members of the City Council who approved the Knowledge Zone concept.  “It’s not fair and it’s not right,” says a long-time patron known to one and all only as “McNiff.”  “My grandparents came here from Ireland long before a lot of your Johnny-come-latelys,” he says with a trace of bitterness as others nod their heads in agreement.  “Just because they live in a prose world doesn’t mean they’re better than us.”