Freedonian Hopes Soar as Trump Calls Taiwan

NOVGRZLI, Freedonia.  Miskta Forka is a 52-year-old single woman who frequently sits by her phone on Friday nights in the hope that Likwo Kwirksz, her on-again-off-again boyfriend, will call.  “He is very faithful,” she says with a look of amused resignation.  “He always rings me up right after his money runs out.”

Forka:  “I sit by the phone, my hair up in curlers, waiting for his call.”


But tonight Forka is waiting for a different kind of call.  “I have been assigned the 9:30 to ten p.m. shift,” she says, referring to a nationwide effort in Freedonia to monitor the nation’s 2,374 land lines on the off chance that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will call one of them.  “He did it for Taiwan, which has been an international donut hole since 1979,” according to Deputy Minister of State Vlez Iokwlini, referring to the year the U.S. ended diplomatic relations with the island nation off the coast of China.  “We are better than them, because we are an island surrounded by land.”

“AND you get two sides with the Dancing Shrimp platter!”

The nation’s hopes soared Friday when Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, a major departure from prior U.S. policy sure to anger China.  “We had a great conversation,” Trump told reporters “They throw in a side of white rice on all orders over $10, and they deliver, which has been a problem with Beijing.”

Freedonia was formed after World War I from parts of Albania and Armenia, an abandoned skate park and two above-ground swimming pools.  The last American president to call the non-aligned nation was Jimmy Carter, who in 1978 dialed an 800 number with a question on a hand-held hair dryer, a cosmetic appliance that came to prominence during his term in office.  Carter withdrew the nation’s ambassador when he was told he would have to bring the product to Freedonia for repair.

Beautiful downtown Novgrzli.


A phone call from a foreign king is foretold in Freedonian folklore, according to Envlo Morakil, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Glozks.  “It is in our creation myth,” he says as he opens a copy of “The Song of Likaoick, Reluctant Tyrant,” an epic poem that recounts the beginnings of the Freedonian people.  “There will come a message from a great orange one from beyond the waters,” Morakil intones in a deeply resonant voice.  “If it is a collect call, do not accept the charges.”

Output Soars as Unfriending Tsunami Follows Election, Thanksgiving

NEEDHAM, Mass.  Rod Scalzo is a production manager at Sneezitek, a manufacturer of motion-sensitive tissue dispensers in this leafy suburb that borders Route 128, sometimes referred to as “America’s Technology Highway.”  “We’re low-tech high-tech,” he says with a look of chagrin. “By the time cutting-edge developments reach us, the blade is pretty dull.”

Image result for thanksgiving
“We thank thee father for breaking Uncle Ed’s leg so he couldn’t come this year.”


But Scalzo noted a surge in productivity in the second week of November, followed by another boost in the last week of the month, and he spent the better part of yesterday trying to figure out the cause.  “I’d like to be able to replicate that if I could,” he says, “as long as it doesn’t require any time, money or effort on my part.”

Image result for clean room
“Yep, that’s a juicy one.”

The sense that American businesses got a double boost last month was confirmed by preliminary numbers from the Department of Commerce, which says that “unfriending” on social media by those disgusted with others’ political views caused them to actually pay attention to long-neglected jobs for the first time in many months.  “I unfriended a bunch of people November 9th,” says Amanda Carter-Loggins, who has had a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker on her car since 2006.  “If they weren’t miserable at the results of the election, as far as I’m concerned they’re illiterate knuckle-dragging sub-humans–who nonetheless should vote Democratic in the 2018 mid-terms.”

Phil Primack, a punch press operator in Plaistow, New Hampshire, says he’s turning out an extra 65 flywheels, hasps and flanges a day following Thanksgiving dinner at his in-laws in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.  “My brother-in-law wore his Trump hat to the table, so I stopped following my dingbat sister Mona and their three ugly kids,” he says with an air of relief.  “Like I give a crap about whether Courtney’s U-12 soccer team goes to Disney World.”

For Some Struggling Poets, Trump’s Inauguration is the Chance of a Lifetime

BETTENDORF, Iowa.  Lindsay Curtin, Jr. works the night shift at the Quad Cities Power plant in this town of 33,000, a solitary job that gives him time to pursue his dream of becoming a published poet.  “William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying when he worked the graveyard shift at a power plant so I figured it was a position that would serve as a springboard to literary fame,” he says as he inspects a dial on a control panel.  “I must be doing something wrong since they gave that guy Dylan the Nobel Prize instead of me.”

Faulkner’s power plant:  “They ought to tear that dump down!”


Curtin’s struggles as a versifier are reflected in the rejection slips he’s accumulated over the years, which he’s stacked next to his desk in a pile that reaches nearly to his waist.  “I’m bloodied, but unbowed,” he says, borrowing a line from William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus,” one of the most popular poems of all time but also one that is scorned by critics as middlebrow.  “And with the inauguration of Donald Trump coming up, I think my time has finally arrived.”

“Roses are red, violets are blue.  My nose is cold, and my butt is too.”


Curtin is incoming president of the Poetasters of America, a trade organization for poets whose work is rejected by literary journals for failure to meet rigorous modern standards of vulgarity, depression and obscurity.  “We’ve adopted the scorn of the poetry-industrial complex as a badge of pride,” says outgoing president Norris Byrum, echoing the words used by former Vice President Dan Quayle to express his contempt for the liberal slant of the White House press corps.  “Poetry used to be everywhere–Grit Magazine, Burma Shave signs on the road.  Now the nation’s poetry output is controlled by pansy-ass college professors who think they’re smarter than ordinary people, and nobody reads it.”

“Here I sit, all broken-hearted.
The first of possibly two Trump administrations
has now just started.”


With Trump’s election, there is opportunity to return bad poetry to the throne upon which it once sat in the hearts and minds of the American people, in much the same way that Robert Frost’s recitation of his poem “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration touched off a surge of consumer spending.  The resulting economic boom confirmed Kennedy’s claim that “A rising tide lifts all boats, especially those owned by people like me that I bought with money my daddy made as a bootlegger.”

Curtin and Byrum are friendly competitors to provide a poem for Trump’s inauguration, and when asked to provide samples of their work, they oblige this reporter, the former going first with his “Ode to a Trumpian Ascendancy.”

On January 17th Donald Trump will be sworn in as President,
the White House will be the place where he’s a resident.
It’s slightly nicer than Reagan and George W. Bush’s ranches
Did you know the federal government has three branches?

When this reporter asks what the poem means, Curtin shows signs of irritation.  “What do you think it means, you stupid dooty-head?  It means just what it says, unlike the crap you read in high-falutin’ poetry rags that keep turning me down,” he snaps, before yielding to Byrum, who clears his throat and begins.

I’m now inspired by the divine afflatus
to write a poem about the liberal snobs
who looked down their noses at us.
People just didn’t like that woman in the suit of pants
I relish her supporters’ tears and revel in their sobs.
I also get a big kick reading their on-line rants.

“What do you think?” he asks as a solitary tear rolls down Curtin’s cheek, a reflection of the depths that have been stirred in his heart by his friend’s lines.  This reporter suggests that some distance is needed between the poet and his feelings, legitimate though they may seem to him, if his lines are to achieve the “emotion recollected in tranquility” that Wordsworth said was the origin of poetry.

Wordsworth:  “Oh . . . my freaking . . . God.”


“What a bunch of baloney,” Curtin snaps.  “What the hell does this Wordsworth guy know about poetry?”

Dead Boyfriend Club Helps Distaff Poets Get Serious

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  elena gotchko is the editor-in-chief of plangent voices (“upper-case free since 2003!”), a literary quarterly whose mission is to bring difficult, even impenetrable verse to its readers, but she’s tearing her hair out today for reasons other than the torments of artistic creation.  “let the whining begin,” she says as she hits the “Send” button to deliver rejection notices to hundreds of female writers whose poems have been turned down for January’s issue.

One of the lucky ones.


Within seconds, the anguished replies start to fly in, like birds scurrying for cover from a storm.  “You don’t know how much this hurts, elena,” writes Elizabet Virgule, whose “Seagulls at the Town Dump,” a six haiku cycle about the tragedy of summer vacationers who don’t recycle, was dinged with a form rejection.  “I was a charter subscriber, AND I bought the coffee mug, sweatshirt and mouse pad from the plangent voices website gift shop!”

You two are going to have to fight it out, womano a womano.


But Gotchko doesn’t back down.  “elizabet, your poems still lack the tragic sense of life that i find in the verse of contemporaries of yours such as marta huinguis, whose ‘ode to ian’ dives deeper into the brackish hell of the human condition than your little ditties.”

But with an eye on the bottom line, which currently shows a deficit, gotchko throws a life preserver Virgule’s way.  “if you act now, you can join the dead boyfriend club for the incredibly low price of only $109.95, not including shipping and sales tax.”

“If you can’t afford the dead boyfriend club, I’m willing to get sick for a three-day weekend for $49.95.”


The Dead Boyfriend Club is gotchko’s innovation to bring necessary misery into the lives of poetesses whose work shimmers on the surface but has no depth.  “Until you’ve suffered some grievous loss, you’re just tossing a word salad,” says Professor Ewing Carter, Jr. of Emory University.  “Some of these women go from editor of their high school literary magazine to English major to MFA without suffering anything worse than a campus parking ticket.”

For a one-time setup charge, the Dead Boyfriend Club provides members with a fictional deceased boyfriend they can mourn through poetry, including a facsimile birth certificate, childhood pictures, and bad juvenile doggerel that the poet tried to suppress, but which the surviving spouse/girlfriend either honors or criticizes for the false impression of her that it gave to a miniscule reading public.

“Double suicide?  Okay, you go first.”


A monthly maintenance fee adds details that can either further infuriate the writer–an affair with a fictional creative writing instructor–or hasten a downward spiral of mourning.  “When I found out that my ‘Mark’ was going to give me a festschrift for my thirtieth birthday before his life was cut short by an errant Frisbee, I finally found the voice I needed to channel everyday bitchiness into the universality of great art,” says Huinguis, who plunked down $450 for a lifetime membership.

“Wystan–look out!”


After a bit of back-and-forth with gotchko, Virgule signs up for a trial membership, which she can cancel within 30 days if she doesn’t like the dead boyfriend gotchko hooks her up with.  She downloads the software and, after reading through the bio of “Wystan Huber,” a promising young poet whose fictional life came to a premature end when his skinny necktie was caught in the automatic feed of a photocopier, is on the verge of tears.  The on-line options presented to her are “Pleasant memories” and “Painful memories,”and she clicks on the latter to discover that “Wystan” made a practice of selling her classical CDs at a used record shop to support his addiction to “healthy” snack foods.  Her cheeks flush with color, and for the first time in months the words that flow from her pen are alive with emotion and not just manufactured outrage over environmental issues.  I rage, she writes,

rage against
the words on the page that
limn a life led with lies.

She pauses for a moment to collect herself.

My Vivaldi–gone!
and so is my Britten,
all so you could feed
your hunger,
and neglect MY needs.
Such chutzpah–how brazen!
That you would sell my music
for a bag of yogurt-covered raisins!

Available in print and Kindle format on as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

Conchita Aramaio, Female Jackie Robinson of Jai Alai, Dead at 89

HOLLYWOOD, Florida.  Conchita Aramaio, often referred to as the “female Jackie Robinson of jai alai,” died yesterday after a brief illness.  She was 89.

Aramaio, left, scoring with her signature “pinwheel” shot


A native of Navarre, Spain, Aramaio broke jai alai’s sex barrier in 1941 after sneaking on to a cancha with her hair cut short and wearing a binder to conceal her breasts.  She scored points with several well-placed chula shots off the back wall, and was accepted by teammates who had previously barred her because of her gender.

Like many famous athletes, Aramaio acquired nicknames from both fans and fellow players during her years with the Hialeah Hurricane.  She was lovingly referred to as “La Diosa Ramera” or “The Bitch Goddess” by her fellow players, and as “La Blanco Linda” or “Linda White” by American bettors who felt funny trying to pronounce her name in Spanish.



Aramaio first become proficient at jai alai, widely-acknowledged to be the fastest game on earth, by carrying her groceries in her father’s xistera, the basket in which the pelota is caught and returned to the front wall of the jai alai court.  She would often recall the pelota’s roomy capacity fondly when, in later years, arthritis forced her to switch to Kate Spade handbags.

Kate Spade handbag.  Holds wallet, lipstick, one Tic Tac.


Her finest hour came in game seven of the 1954 All-World Championships against the Ft. Myers Conch, in which she recovered from a blow to the head from an opponent’s errant shot to rally her team to victory in a sudden-death tiebreaker.  Her skills declined dramatically after that incident, as she often mistook her husband Joao for a floor lamp.

Memorial service.


Before Aramaio’s rise, women’s participation in jai alai was limited to sitting at the fronton and placing bets based on inside knowledge as to which team would “throw” a game.  “It was lucrative, yes,” Aramaio said, “but I wanted to be part of the action.”

She is survived by a son, Francisco, a daughter-in-law Concepcion, and Luz, her Pomeranian.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Zazpiak Basque-American Social Club and Jota Dance School.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Fauxbituaries.”

Forced to Shop: One POWs Tragic Story

Tourists were reportedly forced to shop in Hong Kong.  Yahoo! News

It had been six months since my buddy Spike and I were captured and imprisoned in Harbour City, a massive maximum-security prisoner-of-war camp on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, right across the street from Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Every morning we’d be released from our tiny cells, where we were exposed to the Home Shopping Network 24 hours a day to whet our acquisitive instincts, and force-marched around the mall’s 800 shops to consume against our wills.  Believe me, if the UN knew about this they’d go out to lunch, drink three martinis, talk about it for a while and threaten some serious sanctions when they got back to the office.  Before taking a nap.

“No–anything but the bunny!”

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold out,” Spike said to me.  “Home Shopping Network hostess Lynn Murphy telling me to use ‘Tootie‘ all night long, then every day, the long march from Burberry, to Calvin Klein, to the Apple store, stopping only for lunch at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill, then down the escalator to Bobbi Brown for a cleansing but highly abrasive treatment with Clinique Men’s Scruffing Lotion.  I, I can’t take it much longer!”

Home Shopping Network hostess Lynn Murphy, without “Tootie”

I put down my shopping bags and tried to comfort him.  There was no escaping the sadistic cruelty of our Chinese shopping masters.  They had our Treasury bills, we had their cash–what were we supposed to do?

Bobbi Brown:  “You’re cute when you’re scruffing!”

He was fading.  I had to do something before his spirit was finally broken and he went over to the other side, brainwashed into a shopaholic.  “You want to go to Orvis and look at overpriced outdoor wear that we’ll look really cool in when we pay a real man to gut our fish for us?” I asked.

Spencer Gifts

“Vomit,” he said weakly.  “Need to get someplace . . . fast.”

“Okay, buddy, hang on,” I said.  I consulted the “You Are Here” map, desperately searching for some shelter, someplace where they might sell the one thing he needed, the only thing that could bring him back to his senses after a day of being sprayed by perfume spritzer girls.  “Here it is,” I shouted as I got my bearings.  “It’s Shop C-98, Upper Concourse.  Let’s go!”

I hoisted Spike up on my back and made it to the escalator.  “You okay?” I asked him.

“I . . . dunno.  Can we stop for . . . an Orange Julius?”

I looked at my Swiss Army Knife watch.  The guards would expect to see us at the next checkpoint in five minutes.  There wasn’t much time.

“Okay, but don’t order anything fancy.”

“No Premium Smoothie?”

“Just get the traditional Orange Julius, okay?”

Gotta . . . Getta . . . Julius,” he conceded weakly.

I looked around nervously as we waited as the fruity, frothy, fabulous fruit drink was made, slapped the money down on the counter, then flung Spike back on my back and headed down the concourse.

We stuggled past Pottery Barn and Game On!  Past Lids, the nation’s leading purveyor of licensed sports headwear.  Past Barnes & Noble and General Nutrition.  We were getting closer.

“How you holdin’ out?” I said over my shoulder.

“Okay–but still–need throw-up.”

I knew what he meant.  After a day of high-end forced consumption of gew-gaws and meretricious frippery, there was only thing that could restore a man’s sense of self; a sense of proportion between “needs” and “wants” that is so thoroughly disrupted when he goes shopping against his will.

“There it is!” I shouted.


“Right there, next to the fake ficus tree that anchors a circular seating area for weary shoppers–Spencer Gifts!”

We rushed inside and, after scanning the Three Stooges artifacts, strobe lights, Star Wars tchotkes and professional wrestling action figures–we saw it.

“Fake vomit,” Spike said, with a sense of relief.  “Something completely worthless that doesn’t even pretend to have any practical use, aesthetic appeal or emulative value.  I feel . . . cleansed.”

The Socialist Dictator Haircare Department

          A movie producer who gelled his hair upwards sat through a lunch with Fidel Castro during which the Cuban leader spoke without interruption for three hours.  When Castro finally stopped talking, he looked at the guest from Hollywood and asked “How do you get your hair to stand up that way?”

Review of “The Best Table in Hollywood,” The Wall Street Journal.

Image result for fidel castro speech
“You should rinse with cold water, you know.”


I had come to Russia–me, Walter Duranty of The New York Times–to take the measure of the man born Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, but known to all simply as Stalin; the smallpox-scarred, taciturn, phlegmatic former peasant who could, with just a withering sidewise glance, condemn a million human beings to death.  I recall one of his favorite wisecracks–“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic“–what a nut!  I had to meet this guy.

Of course The Times, then as later, was known for its tendentiousness; its ability to slant the facts in the setup, the “lede” as honest journalists put it, and then report the facts to meet its theory.  So many stories were just too good to check out!

As I entered his grand office–no skimping for this son of the proletariat–I felt the full force of his will, the indomitable urge to conquer that gave rise to his cult of personality.  I have to admit, I trembled a bit, knowing that I was in the presence of a guy who would be responsible for more deaths than Hitler, but would still get a free pass because–well, because he claimed to be for the people!


Image result for stalin
“Dear Diary:  Slow day today, only killed a couple hundred thousand.”


I cleared my throat to let the great man know I was there, and he looked up from the daily reports: 120,000 enemies of the people, 250,000 Trotskyites, a quarter million Poles–slow day at the office.

“Yes?” he asked with a pregnant pause.

“General Secretary Stalin, my name is Walter Duranty.”

“From The New York Times?”


“Sit down,” he said with an almost gracious air.  “I can never figure out that damned crossword.”

“It’s the best in the world,” I said with no small amount of institutional pride.

Stalin’s face darkened, and I began to fear for my life.  Had I said something too proud, too egotistical?

“Your hair,” he said with squinted eyes after a few moments.  “Do you use creme rinse, or is it always that smooth and silky?”


Image result for kim jong il
“Check out the 2-for-1 sale at Lenscrafters!”


As I entered Pyongyang, I couldn’t help but admire the magnificent progress that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had made despite the efforts of imperialist powers such as the United States of America to bring it to its knees.  Sixty percent of the people had access to modern sanitation facilities–take that Arkansas!  The average life expectancy was 69.8, only two decades less than Americans!  I sensed that this proud people had turned the corner under the benign despotic rule of Kim Jong-un, Glorious Sun and Room Air Conditioner of Mankind!

But I wanted to see for myself, I wasn’t just going to take the word of a former NBA All-Star such as Dennis Rodman.  No, I wouldn’t be swayed by the Hall of Famer’s average rebounds per game.  If you’re a real journalist, you’ve got to kick the tires on a story, check out the plush leather interior and push hard to get the saleman to throw in floor mats.

Image result for kim jong il rodman
“Right now they’re running the flex offense, so I’d dress in a skirt-and-sweater set.”


I stood at the shoulder of the Second Supreme Leader and tried to ease my way into his line of sight as he watched the entire Korean People’s Army eat civilians to ease their hunger pangs.  It was painful to watch–there was so little meat on the bones of those who hadn’t volunteered for military service.

Kim, or Jong-un, I can never remember which is the first name, turned when he heard me sigh with compassion.  He smiled at me, then looked upwards.

“Sweet,” he said after taking in my “Mainstream Hipster” do.  “I wish I could get my hair to do that!”

Image result for mainstream hipster


As night fell, the German countryside began to glow with the light of a thousand candles.  Another fun National Socialist German Workers’ Party pep rally!  I had won one of the coveted seats on stage with Der Fuhrer his own bad self for turning in double my weekly quota of Jews, homosexuals, Poles and Masons.  Not to brag or anything, but I truly felt I deserved the honor.  Have you ever tried to round up twenty-five Masons?  It’s not easy, what with those little scooters they ride.

Image result for nazi night rally
“Excuse me–you’re in my seat.”

I cut short my internal musings when the Reich Chancellor–the man to whom all of us pasty-faced Aryans owed the revival of our race–started to bound up the steps like a talk-show host after a warm-up man.  The guy was a natural entertainer, fiddling with every detail down to the precise start times of our rallies, to make sure we were enveloped in a dream-like state of darkness as he reached down into the deepest, darkest recesses of his psyche from the podium.

Image result for hitler
“Really?  You like it this way?  Thanks!”


He was about to pass me when he stopped, as if struck by something he’d caught the barest glimpse of.  That’s the kind of all-seeing, all-knowing power that coursed through his frame!  He turned and looked at me, cocked his head back a bit for better perspective, and then spoke the words that I’ll be recounting to my grandchildren once the Thousand Year Reich prevails:

Image result for iron hair

“Your hair,” he said, almost dreamily.  “Do you iron it yourself, or do you have your roommate do it for you?”