Walk for Self-Pity Falls Short of Its Goals

BOSTON.  Lyman Sturgis is standing at the finish line of the Walk for the Cure for Self-Pity, looking down at a clipboard, and from his expression you can tell that something isn’t right.  “It’s funny,” he says as the last straggler completes the 5-mile course.  “We had 532 people sign up, but only 286 finished.”

“I know I’m not going to make it.”

A short walk down Commonwealth Avenue is all it takes to get to the bottom of the mystery, however, as one encounters walkers of all stripes who gave up not far from the finish line, convinced that the obstacles ahead of them were insurmountable.

“These shoes suck,” says Kris Mufano, an actuarial accountant who was encouraged to participate by his wife Leanne.

“They’re just as good as everybody else’s,” she says as she drains the last of the water from the commemorative bottle she received for participating.

“Not everybody else’s,” her husband says bitterly as he sees an elderly man in soft leather sneakers that appear from a distance to be the ultimate in pedestrian comfort.

Built for comfort.


Self-pity is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Whiney Disorders as a state of mind in which an individual perceives generally applicable conditions as affecting him or her to a greater degree than others.  People who suffer from the ailment consequently believe they are deserving of sympathy and are a gigantic pain in the keister.

For Normand Oliver III, a fifth-generation Bostonian who has never traveled south of New York City, the affliction manifests itself in the form of a excessive sensitivity to heat.  “Global warming is killing me!” he says as he takes a seat on a bench next to a statue of the ur-WASP historian Samuel Eliot Morison on the Commonwealth Mall.

Morison:  “Get off your duff and get moving!”


“It’s the same temperature for everybody,” says his father, who traveled the South to oversee the family’s investments in cotton mills before he retired.  “Down in Atlanta they’d consider this cold weather,” he adds, referring to the pleasantly-cool seventy-degree temperature.

“I don’t care, I say it’s hot and I’m not walking another step,” says his son as he folds his arms across his chest like a stubborn toddler twenty years younger.

Back at the finish line Sturgis says the failure of so many walkers to complete the course may cause his organization, the New England Self-Pity Foundation, to miss its fund-raising goal.  “You sign up pledges, and if you don’t follow-through with your commitment they may back out,” he says ruefully.  “That can happen to any charity, but still I ask myself–why me?”

Don’t Come Home From Book Group With Lovin’ On Your Mind


(with apologies to Loretta Lynn)

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Well you thought I’d be waitin’ up when you came home last night
You’d been out with all the girls and you ended up half tight.
But books and chardonnay don’t mix, leave a bottle or me behind
And don’t come home from book group with lovin’ on your mind.

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No don’t come from book group with lovin’ on your mind.
Keep talkin’ about your novel and suckin’ down your wine.
When you gals read that chick lit it don’t improve your minds,
So don’t come home from book group with lovin’ on your mind.

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You’re never home, you’re always gone, readin’ bodice rippers.
Many’s the night I’ve laid awake, yearnin’ for your nippers.
But you come in too drunk for love, it happens every time
No don’t come home from book group—with lovin’ on your mind.

Jack Never Wants to Dance

Jack claimed to know karate, but I doubted it.  I’d heard he got in a fight with Roger, a black belt who had to register his hands as lethal weapons at the police station, and Roger nearly killed him.  Jack would give you the evil eye and make some chops through the air, but I never believed he was any good at it.

Still, he could be intimidating.  He was the best-looking guy in town, that was for sure.  Better looking than a lot of movie stars, but Jack wasn’t an actor.  That wasn’t the kind of thing he’d go in for.  He was only an actor in real life, putting people on all the time.  He went out to California one summer but was probably too stoned to try to get on as an extra at a studio.  He coulda done it if he’d tried, but Jack never worked hard at anything except chasing women.

The woman he ended up with much to everybody’s surprise was Cynthia, a real nice girl.  Jack would do that some times, get tired of the girls from his side of the tracks and try to score with a daughter of the country club set.  If the parents were too naïve to know about Jack they were usually set straight as soon as one of their friends who was in the know clued them in.

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I think Cynthia’s parents knew something about Jack from the start, since she had an older sister, but maybe not.  Jack could make himself very presentable—he always looked good in a tie, and his hair was always combed—and he could probably shoot the breeze with the old man of the family.  Anybody who took the trouble to read the police blotter regularly would know that he was in and out of trouble for one thing or another all the time.  Maybe Cynthia’s dad was too busy with golf and his insurance business.

Anyway, if you wanted to be where the action was, you hung around Jack.  He was always the life of the party, but then he was 21 or 22 and still in town, unlike other guys his age who’d gone off to school or had regular jobs so they had to get some sleep at night.  Jack would buy the booze, we’d go out to the quarry or a country road with a low-water bridge and that would be the entertainment for the night.

Eventually he moved out of his mom’s house because she wanted the place for herself and her various boyfriends, and he rented a place on the southeast side of town.  It was one of the tract houses going up out there that the owner would rent until he could sell.  It had two bedrooms for Jack and Chuck, who was gone a lot.  There was a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.  The living room had a couch—I don’t know where they got it.  The living room always smelled like beer but when you were drinking you didn’t notice it because you were tasting it at the same time.

One night we were at the drive-in and Jack started making a spectacle of himself, playing “auto-skeet” with Roger, who he was friendly with again.  They’d sit in Jack’s black Barracuda or Roger’s yellow GTO and, as cars came in the driveway, they’d pop the clutch and lunge out at them.  They never hit anybody, but they made a lot of people mad.  Nobody ever complained to the owner, though, because Roger had that black belt.

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Everybody was sitting in their cars including Cynthia, who was in the Barracuda drinking a soda and eating French fries while Jack worked the lot, going from car to car, yukking it up.  Cynthia was sitting on the passenger side of her car, right next to me, and she said hi.  We knew each other from the country club but just barely; she was a year behind me and I’d never paid any attention to her.  Her big sister was taller and had been homecoming queen, but Cynthia was short and cute like her mom.  I didn’t see why Jack would be attracted to her except that she was forbidden fruit.

“How’re you doing?” she asked with a big smile on her face.  I could tell that Jack had bought her something to put in that soda—Jack Daniels green label or rum—because her eyes didn’t focus too well and her speech was kinda slurred.

“Pretty good, how’re you?”

“I’m fine—every night’s an adventure with Jack,” she said, then sucked on her straw.  I couldn’t tell whether she was being facetious or not; compared to what she’d be doing sitting at home with her parents I’m sure it was exciting, even if tonight she was just by herself watching cars go by and getting drunk.

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“Who’s that with you?” she said, leaning forward to see around me.

“It’s me,” said Bill.  He was about as low-key as you could get; he’d usually just come along for the laughs, not drink anything, then have me drop him off at home before we headed out of town for the party.  “I’ve got to go pay a call on old lady hand and her five daughters,” he’d say.  “Much more pleasant than leaning against a car on a country road drinking beer.”

Jack headed back to his car, laughing, and got in.  “We’re going over to my place,” he said looking over at me.  I don’t know why I was in his good graces, sometimes he’d be real condescending to me, but it was all right with me since he had the booze.

“Mind if we come over?” I asked, trying not to be presumptuous.  Jack would get really mad at you if you just assumed you were invited to come along all the time.

“Mind if we come over?” Jack repeated in a sarcastic tone.  “It ain’t a ladies’ luncheon at the country club.”

“Okay, we’ll head on over,” I said.

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I waited for Jack to pull out—you never knew if he was going to pop his clutch and make his car lunge at you.

“You can take me home,” Bill said as he emptied his cup in one gulp.  “I don’t want to dilute the excitement for everybody else.”

“Suit yourself,” I said.

I dropped Bill off on 18th street, then headed east on 24th.  By the time I got to Jack’s there were two cars in the driveway, Jack’s and Chuck’s, and Roger’s in the street.  I thought maybe there’d be more people, but it was a Sunday night.

I went inside where there was music playing on a stereo on the floor and Chuck sitting on the couch.  They’d rigged up some kind of light with a revolving color wheel that shined red, blue, green and yellow in turns against the wall over the couch.

“Hey,” Chuck said.  I knew his younger brother better than him.  “What are you doin’ out on a school night?” he asked.

“It’s spring—I’m just coasting ‘til graduation.”

He snorted and smiled and shook his head.  “That high school must be going to pot if the Student Council-types are partyin’ on Sundays.”

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“Yeah, well, we learned from you guys,” I said, trying to butter him up a bit.

“Everybody’s in the kitchen.  I think Jack got some beer.”

I went in and nodded to Jack and Roger, who were involved in some kind of intense discussion.  It was about the atom bomb.  Jack said we should take the Russians out first, Roger said they had the ability to destroy America if we attacked them so it would be suicide if we did.

“It’d be like Russian roulette,” Roger said, “except there’d be a bullet in every chamber.”

“Then what the hell do we have NORAD for?” Jack said.  He liked to argue with Roger, get him riled up, then walk away right at the point where Roger looked like he was about to hit him.  Then he’d switch to lover from fighter, make the rounds of a party and flirt with the ladies, which Roger wasn’t as good at.  He was good looking, he just didn’t have Jack’s charm.

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I took a beer out of the refrigerator and went back into the living room.  It wasn’t going to be much of a party from the looks of it—just Chuck on the couch smoking a joint.  He didn’t offer me any and I didn’t ask.  Later he’d want to play chess, and would try to goad me into a game.  I had to go to school the next day, and playing chess with somebody who’s high takes forever.

Cynthia came inside smoking a cigarette.  She’d been out talking to some of her friends in a car at the curb, but they took off.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“Lisa and Theresa,” she said.

“Oh.”  Lisa and I were always breaking up, and last time I thought would be the one that finally stuck.

“Kind of a sore subject?” she said, looking at me with a grin.

“Nope, we’re friends,” I said shaking my head and trying to keep any feeling out of my face, one way or the other.

The record changed, and Cynthia started to swing back and forth, dancing with her eyes closed.

“You wanna dance?” she said with a big smile.

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I glanced over at Chuck, who wasn’t paying attention, then took a look towards the kitchen.

“Jack never wants to dance,” she said, still swinging.  “He thinks he’s too cool.”

“Oh yeah?” I said.  I could feel that I was sweating.

“Yeah—I suppose if you can get girls without dancing, you look down on guys who do.”

She was moving her arms now, and she put them on my shoulders.  “C’mon,” she said.

I couldn’t just move away, so I sorta moved back and forth with her.  She closed her eyes like it was the goddamn junior prom or something.  I could hear Jack and Roger arguing louder in the kitchen.

“Put your beer down and dance,” she said.  It was pretty much empty and I felt stupid with one hand out in the air, so I put the can down on an end table with a lamp on it.

“Hey!” Chuck yelled, and I jumped.

“What?” Cynthia said.

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“That’s an antique—use a goddamn coaster, would you?”

I looked at the table—it didn’t look like an antique unless you considered K-Mart ancient history.

“Sorry,” I said, and put the can on the floor.

“My mom gave that to me,” Chuck said, and went back to reading a magazine.

Cynthia rearranged herself with her arms on me from where she’d jumped when Chuck yelled, and we started swaying again.  Jack and Roger came around the corner, still talking heatedly, and walked right past without looking at us.  I guess Jack didn’t care that we were dancing together.

“The longer we wait, the messier it’s gonna be,” Jack was saying.  “We got the bombs, we might as well use them.”

“If we fire ‘em off, this little piece of shit town’s gonna be one of the first places they attack because of the missiles we got in the silos.”

It was about at the point where Jack would shrug his shoulders as if to say there was no point in arguing with a lunk like Roger, which always made Roger mad.  Jack looked at me for support.

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“Whatta you say, Mr. Honor Roll?” he said.

“I don’t know.  I think maybe we should use spies to bring ‘em down from within.”

Jack looked at me like I was crazy.  “Spies?  Shit, the Russians have more spies in Washington than we have in the whole world.”  I couldn’t argue with him when he got that way.  He had no problem making stuff up, and if whatever he said was true he never said where he read it.

I shrugged my shoulders, hoping this would put me on his good side again, like I was siding with him over Roger. 

“Do you have any food in the house, Jack?” Cynthia said.  She acted like she was tired and hungry, and leaned her head on my shoulder.

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I didn’t know how Jack would take that, so I stepped back thinking maybe we’d go to the kitchen.

“Don’t stop dancin’ ‘cause of me,” Jack said, as if he was the host with the most or something.  “You all looked like you were having a real good time.”

Roger had sat down next to Chuck on the couch.  “Yeah—I like to watch people dance while I sit on my ass,” he said.

“I’m tired and hungry, Jack.  If there’s nothing to eat here let’s go back to the drive-in, or else take me home.”

Jack looked at me with an expression of defeat.  “I can’t win, I tell ya.  I take a girl out for a nice night on the town, and she wants to go home to mommy.”

“There’s nothing to do here.  Let’s go back to the drive-in,” Cynthia said.

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“I think we all want to watch you two dance,” Nick said.  He had that look on his face he’d get when he put you in check.  Sometimes he knew it was checkmate, but he’d make you sit there trying to find out for awhile before you conceded.

“I’m kinda hungry too.  I think I’m going to go home,” I said as I took a step back and knocked over my can. 

“Shit,” Nick said.  I figured he was the one who kept the place as clean as it was, which wasn’t very.

“It’s all right, it was empty,” I said.  “Thanks for the beer, Jack.  I’ll be seeing you guys.”

“Pussy,” Jack said.  “What kind of pussy leaves a party at ten o’clock?”

“What can I say—I’m not a free man like you guys.”  I smiled my best smile and started towards the kitchen to throw my beer can away.

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“Are you going to take me to get something to eat?” Cynthia said when I was in the kitchen.

“I want to smoke some weed,” Jack said.  When I came around the corner he was sitting on the couch, one arm thrown over the back, Nick passing him the joint.

“Great,” Cynthia said.  “In ten minutes you’ll be so stoned it would take a tow truck to get you off that couch.”

“A man’s home is his castle,” Jack said as he inhaled.

I went straight to the door and turned to say good-bye.  “See you guys around,” I said.

“If you’re not going to take me to the drive-in I’m going with him,” Cynthia said to Jack.  “Is that all right with you?” she asked me.

“Sure,” I said, screwing up my mouth to show it didn’t matter to me.

Cynthia looked down at Jack, who looked straight ahead and said nothing.  I stood there for a minute, waiting.  “Going off with a high school boy, huh?” Jack said.

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“I’m just going home because I’m hungry,” Cynthia said.

She looked down at Jack.  It was his turn for a hit, and he inhaled and held it, exhaled, then handed the joint back to Chuck.  He looked up at her in silence as if there was a question in his mind he was sending to her by telepathy.

“What?” she said after a moment.

He continued to stare at her, she stared back, her arms crossed in front.  I stood there with the door half open, where I’d been frozen for a while.  I didn’t want to leave Cynthia there, but I sure as hell didn’t want to interfere.

Cynthia looked up at the ceiling and began to tap her foot impatiently.  Jack figured he’d won I guess, because he turned and took the joint that was Chuck was holding out.

“Go on, I don’t care,” Jack said.  “Get the hell out of here, both of you.”

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Cynthia looked down at him and cocked her head.  “There’s no need to be that way, Jack.”

Nick continued to flip through his magazine when he wasn’t smoking, while Roger was taking it all in, comfortable in his chair, as if he was watching a TV show.

I started out and Cynthia turned and stepped outside as I held the door.

We walked down the sidewalk to where my car was parked and got in.

“You okay?” I asked before I started the car.

“Yes,” she said.  I figured she’d be crying but she wasn’t.

I started the engine and put the car in gear, then eased it around Roger’s car parked in front of us.  As we pulled into the street Jack stepped out on the porch and yelled “Fucking CUNT!”—loud enough so that a man came to his screen door down the block, and watched us drive away.


As Anti-Clutter Movement Spreads, Some Bemoan De-Tchotchkification of America

WELLESLEY, Mass.  Marci Everberg is down-sizing now that her two children are on their own, and she’s finding the process of “de-possessioning”–as she jokingly refers to throwing or giving things away–to be unexpectedly liberating.  “There was a period in my life when buying something from McKenzie-Childs was the solution to a bad day,” she says as she looks at a table covered with knick-knacks.  “I must have had a lot of bad days,” she adds as wraps tissue paper around one particularly gaudy item that she plans to give to a homeless shelter that crushes preppy gew-gaws into fine dust to be used as stuffing for sleeping bags.

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MacKenzie-Childs furnishings: Home decorating on acid.

But others aren’t so sanguine about the future of a nation without tchotchkes, a Yiddish term that originally meant any small bauble or miscellaneous item but has come to refer more specifically to tacky or cloying articles used to enhance a home decorating scheme.

“Tchotchkes are the canaries in the coal mine of interior decoration,” says Tina Miniscola, a licensed interior decorator who bristles at the notion that the purchases she advised her client Everberg to make over the years–and on which she received a commission–were ill-advised.  “They’re also like the buffalo–once they’re gone forever, we as a nation will realize just what we have lost.”
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Must-have items.

Tchotchkes are under assault from the so-called “anti-clutter” movement, which views the endearing little objets d’tacky as soul-sucking products of an out-of-control consumer culture.  “I hate to accuse people of running amok,” says Kevin Studen of The De-Tchotchkifiers, an in-home clutter removal company, “but a mok can be a very dangerous thing in the hands of someone who isn’t a trained mok-runner.”

Environmentalists say the nation’s landfills aren’t equipped to handle a wholesale de-tchotchkification of America’s suburban homes as “baby boomers” who have become “empty nesters” move to smaller residences to enjoy their “golden years” in neighborhoods with fewer quotation marks.  “If present rates of consumption continue there will be over 40 million Hummel figurines in solid waste disposal facilities by 2020,” says Newton Mineau, Jr., executive director of the Green Conservancy.  “I can’t say they don’t belong there.”


The Salad Days of Blogging

I remember what it was like, back when I first started blogging. It must have been–I don’t know–2005, 2006? It seems so long ago, my beginnings are lost in the fog of memory, just like that 20-foot Soling I ran aground in Boston Harbor, underneath the flight path to Logan Airport.

Now it has become like that day–jets screeching overhead, LNG tankers moving ominously towards me, my girlfriend screaming “Why did you have to take a leak now?” after I hit the head for a moment and we ran aground on the rocks.

Back then there was no backstabbing. Everybody was perfectly fine stabbing each other in the front, like matadors and bulls.

But I must return to those halcyon days, those salad days, back at the beginning. I’d sit around with Ernest Hemingway and Seabiscuit and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, making up stupid posts about Komodo dragons and beehive hair-dos. “This is fine stuff,” Hem would say as he drained his 14th absinthe and began to hallucinate. “And your manhood, that you will use to take an ill-timed leak in Boston Harbor and crash your sailboat someday? It is . . . adequate.”

Hemingway: “Some guns are phallic symbols, but this gun is merely a gun.”

“Thanks, Hem,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”

“Don’t mention it,” Hem said. “Just don’t call me ‘Hem,’ you prick.”

He was like that; a spare, taut style that influenced a generation of bloggers, back in the salad days of blogging, when you couldn’t throw a hardback copy of “The Sun Also Rises” without hitting somebody’s beret. Or vice versa, although if you threw a beret you’d better have at least a croissant inside, otherwise it wouldn’t go very far. What did we know–we were so young and carefree!

Mailer: “Discuss:  Why Norman Mailer is the Greatest American Novelist.”

Then it was back to New York: me, Norman Mailer, William Styron, James Jones, all circling each other warily, wondering who was going to write the Great American Post about World War II. I went first with Nothing to Lose But Our Passwords, a post-nuclear post that brought home to a generation of disaffected youth how their blogs hung by a thread after the Bomb.

The Bomb of imported Lowenbrau beer, before they watered it down and started making it in the states. “Here’s to good friends,” we’d sing, imitating the happy yuppies in the commercials. “Tonight is kinda special–the beer we pour must be something more. So to-niiiiiight, Let it Be Lowenbrau!” God we had fun–we were in love, we were drunk with ourselves and our imaginations ran wild! I’d post something about Bigfoot, Mailer–so competitive–would respond with something about the Loch Ness Monster, Styron would put up a little gem about aliens. What a time it was! But you had to be there–back in the salad days of blogging!

Woolf: “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t name-check me, okay?”

Anyway, Mailer followed with The Naked and the Blogged, Jones cranked out From Here to the Internet, and Styron–when he finally sobered up–produced the one good thing that will outlast everything everybody else wrote back then–Lie Down in Darkness, Get Up With Crud in Your Eyes. God how I envied him! It is not enough that we succeed, I thought to myself; it is also important that our friends fail. But that’s how things were back in the salad days of blogging; we all looked out for each other, we had each other’s backs, until we plunged a knife into them when we got tired of stabbing each other in the front.

Bloomsbury Group: Lytton Strachey at right, stifling fart.

I had to get out of New York, so I traveled to the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London, where I crashed briefly on Virginia Woolf’s pull-out couch–the same one Lytton Strachey farted on! I couldn’t believe my luck–everyday, surrounded by genius. I’d make a big Caesar Salad and go up to Virginia’s room and try and look over her shoulder at what she was posting. “If you don’t mind,” she’d always say, “I’d like A Room of My Own.

I understood. So I’d take one, single anchovy and lay it across her keyboard, and let her get back to her writing. I knew that’s what I should do, but we all knew it back then. Back in the salad days of blogging.

Your Workplace Romance Advisor

The perils of romance in the workplace are so widely known they are summed up by figures of speech familiar to us all: Don’t dip your pen in the company ink, don’t get your meat where you get your bread, don’t put your hand on Lurleen Wingo’s big . . . wait, that’s not a metaphor.

Your Workplace Romance Advisor is here to help you navigate through the shoals and eddies of office romance, and make a safe landing on the dock of career success!

Dear Workplace Romance Advisor:

A few months back I discovered that my husband “Bill” (real name: “William”) was involved in an intense intra-office flirting relationship with a woman named “Marci” (her real name, and she dots the “i” with a little smiley-face).  This included numerous emails, cell phone calls and text messages.  I confronted “Bill” about it and he says you’re making too big a deal out of this, she’s a direct-report to me, we are just trying to increase shareholder value, yadda yadda yadda.  I said okay, but your “efforts” had better be reflected in your bonus check because I wanna re-do the kitchen.

Well, come December, “Bill” got a check for $300 and a calendar, whoop-de-do, so now I want to complain about Marci to the company president.  What do you think?

Eunice Wolff, Sepulveda, CA

Dear Eunice:

I think you are “barking up the wrong pant leg.”  The problem should be resolved by sending a memo to the Human Resources Department; make two copies for yourself, one for your alphabetical file and one for your “chron” (chronological) file.  Most presidents of big companies are too busy hitting on secretaries to handle complaints such as yours in an expeditious manner.

Dear Workplace Romance Advisor:

My wife works at RayCo Rod and Reel, over on South 65.  She used to date Lloyd Dollinger in high school–he was tri-captain of the football team senior year–and now she has to work with him.  She says there is nothing going on between them, but Jim Ray Esdaile, a friend of mine, said he saw them talking in the light bulb aisle of the True Value Hardware Store while I was away last weekend at an all-night bass fishing tournament.

Workplace Romance Advisor person, I got a hold of the Employee Manual for RayCo and it says they have a strict policy against fraternization, with an anonymous “hot line” to report violations.  Do you think I should “drop a dime” on Mr. Football Hero, or wait until I catch them in the act?

Vernon Muller, Chillicothe, MO


Dear Vernon:

I think your problem is semantic, not romantic.  “Fraternization” refers to relations between males, just as “sororitization” refers to friendships between females.  Unless and until your wife has a sex change operation and becomes involved with Lloyd, you have no grounds for complaint.

Nipple-gripping:  A great team-building exercise!

Dear Workplace Romance Advisor:

My husband Earl has a boss who is really into “teambuilding,” and is always coming up with “extreme” activities such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing and karaoke to “foster group cohesion”.  Or so Earl says–I think he makes some of this stuff up just so he can spend time with Judith Ann Horning, who is the reigning Miss Divorced Rockingham County until next August, when a new one is chosen on the first day of the county fair.

I keep asking Earl how come I am not invited to any of these activities, and he says they are “employees only.”  Fine, I says, then I’m going out next time you have one, but when I pulled into the parking lot at the Highway 63 Bowl-a-Way the night of the company scavenger hunt, who did I see making out in the back seat of Earl’s car but Judith Ann Horning!  With Earl, I should add, just so you are clear about it.

Workplace Romance Advisor, I do not think it is fair that spouses are excluded from so many of this company’s special events.  Is there any kind of law that protects innocent victims such as myself?

Amy Conroy, Plaistow, New Hampshire

Dear Amy:

I wish I could say that relief is on the way, but big business interests have kept the Spouses of Employees Right-to-Know Act bottled up in our do-nothing Congress for the past six years, thanks to high-powered Washington lobbyists who are thwarting the will of people such as yourself.  Until it passes you might try planting a concealed “global positioning” device in Earl’s car.  That way, he may be out of your sight, but if you need to find him and Judith Ann, you’ll know just where to look.

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

Sharing Memories Across the Generations

The grandparents are in town for the summer, and because of a recent segment on 20th century American history at their school, my kids were more engaged in nightly dinner conversation than usual.

“Bratz dolls were a total waste of money, punkin’.”

“What was it like when you were growing up, grandpa?” one of them asked.

“Well, I’m old enough to remember Saturday afternoons when the Mennonites would come into town in a horse and buggy,” gramps said.  “We didn’t have a television when we were growing up, and when we finally got one in the ’50′s, the pictures were in black and white.”

Mennonite convertibles, with top down.

“Sort of like the noir films from the ’40′s they show on Turner Classic Movies?” my eleven year-old, a budding film critic, said with wonder.

Joan Crawford

“That’s right,” his grandmother replied.  “Joan Crawford wasn’t just a gay icon–straight men liked her too.”

“Golly,” my youngest said.  “You’ve seen so much in your lives!”

“Oh, pshaw,” grandpa said dismissively.  “We were just livin’ our lives.  You kids are the ones who’ve seen change.”

Red Power Ranger, with young apprentice.

“Really?” the older of the two asked, incredulous.  “You think so?”

“Sure,” his grandfather said.  “Think of all the change you’ve witnessed in your lives.  You used to watch the Power Rangers every Saturday morning, didn’t you?”

Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger

“Yes,” the kids replied together.

“Well, where the hell are they today?” their grandfather said.  “Nobody gives a flying . . . “

Grandma cut him off before he could lapse into the easy profanity he acquired in the Army.  “And think about Poke’mon Cards,” she reminded the kids.

“Yeah, where did we put those?” my eldest asked, looking up at me.

“I don’t know,” I said, trying to hide my guilt.  “Maybe gypsies broke into the house and stole them.”

“Hand over the Poke’mon cards and nobody gets hurt.”

“Doesn’t matter,” grandma said.  “You kids used to fight over them like they meant something.  Weren’t worth the match it would take to set ‘em on fire.”

I could see my youngest wince just a bit.  He was always a big Pikachu fan.


“No, you kids are the future,” their grandfather said, leaning back in his rocking chair and staring off into the distance.  “N’Sync, on the other hand, is like totally over.  Nobody gives a rat’s patootie about them anymore.”

I could see my eldest grow a little misty-eyed.  The group was one of his favorites, and he would imitate their lame dance moves in front of his bedroom mirror for hours on end, inflaming his little knees and hastening the onset of Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.


We eventually found a cure for his ailment at a shrine in Hollywood, Florida, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the faithful on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich, hold the tomato.  For a while, however, we considered whether we should ban all boy-band music from the house.

Could be the Virgin Mary, or maybe Mary Pickford.

It was time for bed, and I started to scoot the kids up to their rooms.  “G’night, grampa and gramma,” they said at the foot of the stairs.  ”Good night, you two,” their grandparents replied.

“I really enjoyed talking to you about transitory phenomena of the recent past,” my eldest said with a tone of sincerity that tugged at your heart.  “Do you think we’ll ever run out of ephemeral frippery?”

“No, scooter,” their grandfather said wistfully.  “Keeping up with the trivial crap the great engine of the American economy cranks out every day is like drinking from a fire hose.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Kids: They’re Cute When They’re Young.”

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