Were Your Pockets Full of Stones?

I suppose I know now why you chose the river,
reading that Virginia Woolf put stones
in her pockets to sink herself down.

She was for you a perplexing guide of sorts,
she with her fierce pride in womanhood
who drowned herself rather than spoil

her husband’s life.  At the end she heard
voices that kept her from working, from even
writing her suicide note properly.

You wandered off alone and I wonder,
as you reached the water’s edge,
were your pockets full of stones?

As Helicopter Kids Grow Up Bring Your Parents to Work Day Spreads

NEW YORK. Safra Cohen is a lowly first-year associate at a corporate law firm with offices in mid-town Manhattan who has spent her first three months on the job as the junior member of a team working on a billion-dollar merger. Her office is furnished with a standard-issue desk and file cabinets, but she has managed to soften it by a floral print and a potted plant that could have been purchased by thousands of other young lawyers like her across town. There is one fixture that is totally unique to her surroundings, however; her mother.


“You’re going to work dressed like that?”

“I’ve been involved in Safra’s education since I wrote her first application to the Solomon Schecter Day School,” says Sheila Cohen. “I’m not going to leave her hanging out there now that she’s getting started in her career.”

“Helicopter parents,” so-called because of the way they hover over their children as they face life’s challenges, have moved on to the next stage of their off-springs’ lives–the world of business and the professions–creating new workplace tensions and challenges for business etiquette.


“He looks old enough to be my father because he’s . . . uh . . . married to my mother.”

“A helicopter parent is one who simply can’t let go of his or her precious little baby,” says Ellen Dowling of Hinsdale College in Illinois, a no-nonsense liberal arts school that prohibits parents from accompanying children to class or providing them with answers to tests. “They’re baby-boomers who never got over their sense of entitlement, and they’re passing the same spoiled mind-set down to their children,” she notes. “Either that or they actually own a helicopter, which is even worse.”


“Seriously sweetie, having me on the honeymoon will make things go a lot smoother.”

So major companies who compete for top graduates to fill entry-level positions have begun to offer “Bring Your Mother (or Father) to Work Day,” a once or twice a week accommodation for children who, while they may have received top-notch academic training, have not yet developed a sense of mature judgment to guide them through tough negotiations or intra-office politics.

“The first day I got here I looked around and checked out the other kids’ offices,” says Martha Lynch whose son Toby is an assistant loan officer at Credit Banque, an international trade bank in lower Manhattan. “Every other new hire got colored paper clips and Toby was stuck with those yucky metal ones that get all rusty when they sit for too long in your files. I marched straight down to the Senior Vice President’s office and gave him a piece of my mind, not that I’ve got that much to spare.”


“Hey–he’s got a bigger stapler than my kid!”

The parents themselves say they are merely protecting their expensive investment in an education–prep school and undergraduate and graduate study–whose price tag is in many cases more than they paid for their first home. While the term “helicopter parents” has been around since the early 1990′s, it has recently achieved more serious consideration as economists have become concerned over the effect the phenomenon may have on America’s long-term competitiveness. “Say you’re in Tokyo negotiating a big joint venture with Mazda and you hit a bottleneck over labor costs,” says Ryan Coburn of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “Do you want somebody representing you whose mother’s heating up Lipton Cup-a-Soup for her little darling? I don’t think so.”

Speaking of food, it’s lunch time at Alexander, Fanning & Co., an investment bank with offices on Wall Street, and senior partner Whitney Stillman is walking the halls looking for a “warm body” to accompany him to a client lunch. He sticks his head in the office of Alexandria Keats, a 2022 graduate of Wellesley College, and asks if she can join him. “Spencer had to cancel on me and I’ve got the folks in from Glenmore Industries–are you free?” She starts to say “yes” but her father, a retired lawyer, intervenes. “If you’ve got two seats–fine,” he says. “Otherwise, my little girl is staying put.”

Me and Tennessee Williams at the Ten-Minute Play Festival

          
It’s been a long dry spell–six years–since I last had a play performed in the sort of church basement venues that community theatre is consigned to, but I’m hopeful–now that the President of the United States has declared the pandemic “over“–that things will start to pick up in the low-rent drama world that an amateur playwright such as myself inhabits.


Waltham, Mass., back in the day.

 

I’m sitting in The Busted Watch, a friendly neighborhood bar in Waltham that recalls the days when this little burg was known as “Watch City” because of all the timepieces it cranked out year after year.  “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution” is another monicker it is known by, although I wouldn’t refer to it that way unless you’re like a really good friend of it; not just Christmas card friendly, in other words, but hey-let-me-buy-you-a-drink friendly.

I’m waiting to see if I’ve made the cut for the upcoming ten-minute play festival to be put on by The Watch City Players.  Maybe I won’t make the big Saturday night performance, but I’m hoping to at least make the Friday night lights of the junior varsity.  I don’t know what it will take for me to get “off the schneid,” as my dad used to say, by which he (and others) meant to break a losing streak.  I’ve never actually been booed, but I was hissed in Lowell, Massachusetts when one of the characters in my last play referred to his former girlfriend’s German/Yiddish heritage, whose language gave birth to the now archaic phrase.  Everybody’s so touchy these days.

I’m waiting for the panel of judges to hand down their decision when who should sit down next to me but Tennessee Williams, whose plays continue to be performed nearly four decades after his death.  He’s achieved what all playwrights hope for as long as they live–posthumous fame!  Yes it always comes too late, but then so does my wife when we’re going out to dinner.


               Tennessee Williams

 

“Mind if I join you?” he asks, and it is all I can do to keep myself from gushing all over him like an autograph hound and saying “Oh my God–you’re one of my biggest fans!”

Williams and I couldn’t be more different.  He’s a successful playwright, I–well, if you want to meet someone who’s had a little success writing plays, I’ve had as little as anybody.  He’s gay, I’m straight.  He’s short, I’m . . . average in height.  He’s an alcoholic, I’m a moderate social drinker who never imbibes more than a pre-dinner sherry, a six pack of beer, a gin and tonic, a bottle of red wine, an after-dinner port and maybe a single malt scotch in a single sitting.

“So what’s eating you?” he asks, cutting right to the bone.  I’m not surprised; he seems to have a penetrating insight into the emotional injuries that cause people to run off the rails, to mix my metaphors.

“I’m a failure–isn’t that enough?”

“You’re not a failure–yet,” he says with calm assurance.  “Not until you die before you give up.”


          “Oh, please–get a grip.”

 

“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a play performed,” I say.

“Like that didn’t happen to me, at the beginning, middle and end of my career?”

“Very Aristotelian of you, but I don’t think you ever went seventeen years without having a play performed in New York,” I say.


                Bruce Jay Friedman

 

“Ouch,” he concedes, then nods to the bartender and orders a martini.  “That is bad.  And the last one was?”

“‘Welcome to Endive,’ in 2005.  At least I was on the same bill as Bruce Jay Friedman.”

“Don’t know him.”

“Wrote ‘The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life.'”

“Never read it.”

“They made it into a movie with Steve Martin in 1984.”

“Who’s Steve Martin?”

“I guess I should probably keep my references to the years before you died, huh?”

“That would be helpful, yes.”  He took a sip of his martini and looked me up and down.  “My guess is you’ve still got a shot.”

“You do?”

“Yessss,” he drawls out.  “I happen to know that you and I have a lot in common.”  Death will do that for you–all of a sudden you’re omniscient, you can see through people like those “Visible Man” and Visible Woman” kits they used to sell in hobby stores.

“Like what?”

He closes his eyes as if to communicate with the inchoate and the extramundane.  “I seem to see a connection to the University of Missouri.”

“My two sisters went there, and I went to a lot of their football games.”

“How about that 1960 Orange Bowl!” he says, recalling the win over Navy that capped a perfect, if slightly marred, 11-0 season.   “I went there but dropped out when I failed ROTC.”

“How, exactly, does one fail ROTC?” I ask.  “Isn’t it just marching back and forth and handling dummy rifles?”

“Yes but I wasn’t cut out for that.  While I was there I pledged Alpha Tau Omega.”

“You’re kidding!” I say.  “I went to a drunken rush party there!”

“And you decided on the basis of that Bacchanalian beer fest to attend college elsewhere–correct?”

“Yes, yes I did.”

“Well, I went on to Washington University in St. Louis.”

“One of my sons went there!”

“So I gather.  And during the summer I worked at International Shoe Company in St. Louis.”

“My mom and dad met there!”

“That’s so sweet,” he says drily as he nods to the bartender for another drink.  “I couldn’t stand it.”

“I can’t say either of them had an artistic temperament,” I say.

“I wrote poems on the sides of the damned shoeboxes.”

“Now, now,” I say, as the son of a former shoe company owner.

“It was mind-numbing stuff.  I lived for a while in Provincetown.”

“So did I,” I say, then add sheepishly, “but only for a weekend.”

“I had a play–Battle of Angels–performed in Boston.”

I’ve had a play performed in Boston!”

“And did you make any money on it?”

“Well, no.  It was community theatre.”

“That’s okay.  You know the old saying?”

“What?”

“You can’t make a living in the theatre, but you can make a killing.”

“Ha,” I replied, and I meant it.  At this point I’m running a deficit if you add up all the play contest entry fees I’ve spent and put them in the balance across from my *cough* receipts.

“What else?” he asks.

“Well, I’ve been to Chicago, New York, Miami and Key West–and you have too, right?”

“True but trivial.  Anything else?”

“I was raised Catholic.”

“I was converted, but it didn’t take.”

“Yeah, those Ten Commandments are awfully tempting.”


“Are those do’s . . . or don’ts?”

 

“I was a failure as a screenwriter,” he says.

“This is getting downright . . . eerie–so am I.”

“Okay,” he says, as he signals to the bartender to bring him his check.  “I think you’ve got enough to go on.  Now get back to your desk, get your ass in your chair, and get to work, okay?”

“Thanks,” I say, and I mean it.

“One last piece of advice?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers.”

 

 

Columnist Uses Polygamy to Keep Anecdotes Flowing

WINNIPESAUKEE, New Hampshire.  It’s 6:30 p.m., and Anson Myers has a looming deadline for the thrice-weekly column he writes for the Winnipesaukee Sentinel He hasn’t written a word yet, but he doesn’t appear nervous.


“How about a new bike story?  You haven’t done one of those for months.”

“Ten years ago I would have been tearing my hair out right about now,” he says after sticking out his tongue at his editor, who is lurking beside Myers’ desk.  “That was before I got my family life under control.”


Plenty of raw material.

When Myers first became a columnist he made his name writing treacly stories about his kids that are typical fare at newspapers across the country.  “I realized that those vignettes about a lost baseball glove or a new puppy were pure gold, but I couldn’t keep mining the same vein forever,” Myers notes.  “Once your kid turns 15, he’s good for a few years of coming-of-age columns, then he’s pretty much worthless.”

So Myers decided to try polygamy, and took four additional wives in eight years.  He now has a total of twenty children, and is never at a loss for material.

“You want touching?  I got touching coming out the wazoo.  You want bittersweet–I got bittersweet like Heinz has pickles,” he says with a laugh before banging out an 800-word column on a daughter’s dance recital in less than fifteen minutes.


Dance recital fun!

There is little jealousy among Myers’ four later spouses, but his first wife Tonya and their only son Tim seem resentful that they’ve been displaced just so that he can have a steady stream of anecdotes.  “Dad says I’ve got no one to blame but myself,” says Tim, now 27.  “One time he wrote a column about a goldfish of mine who died, and I made him promise he’d never do it again.  So he went out and had 19 more children.”

For his part, Myers understands the pain his decision has caused his first family, but says he’s only doing what’s necessary in order to put food on the table.  “Timmy was seven at the time,” Myers notes.  “I coulda told him that contracts with minors are unenforceable.”

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

On Having a Non-Affair With a Flamboyant Minor Dada Poetess

Poet William Carlos Williams had “a non-affair with the flamboyant minor-Dadaist poet Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.”

The New York Times Book Review

Elsa, you must not take it amiss
if I do not succumb to your fervent kiss;
I have a wife I’ve cheated on before
So it’s not because I’m true to the missus.


Williams

 

It’s just that—well, I don’t know how to put this—
With a Dadaist poet a non-affair is the height of erotic bliss.
The way you Dadas turn everything ceiling to floor
If we are to love, a mile is as good as a miss is.


The Baroness, gettin’ jiggy with it.

 

Another impediment, although you I’m lovin’—
I’ve counted your syllables—and you have a dozen!
If we were to marry, my friends I would bore
Introducing “my wife, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.”

So let’s keep it chaste, between you and me,
For minor Dada-ettes forever free should be.
Oh, I forgot, one absurd thing more—
My hat rack adores your other bee’s knee.

Doo-Wop Castrati Tell Painful Truth About Falsettos

DETROIT.  For Marvin Deshields, former lead singer of the 50′s doo-wop group The Fabulous Croutons, every excursion out into public is an occasion for anxiety.  “Somebody like you,” he says to this reporter, “you don’t think twice about ordering a cup of coffee or picking up your dry cleaning.  For me,” he says, his voice faltering, “it’s a cross to bear.”


The Fabulous Croutons

 

Deshields was a soprano in the mold of Frankie Lymon, whose hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” with the Teenagers paved the way for later high-pitched male singers such as Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson.  But Deshield’s ability to hit the high notes came with a much lower price; he was a castrato, neutered by his agent Sol Kantrowitz in order to compete in a crowded marketplace for androgynous vocalists.


Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers

 

“It wasn’t the physical agony, although that was bad enough,” says Deshields, who spent a weekend in a tub of crushed ice until the pain caused by his operation subsided.  “It was knowing I no longer had any family jewels to hand down.”


The Hermanphrodites

 

As it turns out, Deshields was not alone.  Ellis Herman, lead singer of The Hermanphrodites, says he underwent the surgical procedure because he had heard that his brothers planned to replace him when his voice changed.  “They were on the verge of stardom,” he recalls.  “I had to ask myself–do I want to have a lotta money in my pockets, or just a coupla nuts?”


Castrati:  Note lack of pockets.

 

Castration of male singers in order to preserve the vocal range of prepubescence dates from the mid-sixteenth century, when women were banned from singing in church.  The Duke of Ferrarra was an early enthusiast and wrote the song “Duke of Earl,” a #1 hit for Gene Chandler in 1962.  The practice subsequently fell out of favor, but was revived in the 1950′s with the advent of regular municipal trash collection for discarded body parts.


The Obscurantists

 

As other doo-wop castrati have come forward to tell their tales in recent years, record labels have established a trust fund to assist former singers who sacrified their most precious assets in pursuit of musical perfection, but some say it is too little, too late.  “Other guys, you seem them alla time, playin’ pocket pool, adjustin’ themselves,” says Anthony Poindexter of The Obscurantists.  “Me?  I reach down there and I got nothin’.”

New England Ends Suicide Watch as Patriots Even Record

SAGAMORE, Mass.  Richard “Richie” Guertin is a forlorn-looking figure as he sits in a police cruiser sipping a cup of coffee while Adele Smithers, a volunteer from a local suicide prevention charity, assures him he’s made the right decision.  “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” she says cheerfully.  “A meaningless job, annoying neighbors, a crappy 2019 Kia Ray–what’s not to like?”


“Don’t do it!”

The source of Guertin’s despair that caused him to contemplate a leap to his death from the Sagamore Bridge, the #1 site for suicides in New England?  “You can’t really blame me, can you?” he says to Sergeant Dan Hampy of the Massachusetts State Police.  “I woulda had nothin’ left to live for if the Patriots opened the season 0-2,” he says of his abandoned effort to kill himself.


Kia Ray EV: Something to live for.

 

Hampy surveys the scene and decides to let Guertin off with a warning.  “People like you cost the state a lot of money in overtime for people like me,” he says tersely.  “If it keeps up, I may be able to buy a place on Lake Winnipesaukee and retire early.”

Law enforcement officers have been on high alert since the New England Patriots, winners of six or seven Super Bowls, no one knows for sure, lost their opening game to the Miami Dolphins, a group of highly intelligent aquatic mammals.  Because of the Patriots’ past success, fans have grown complacent and feel entitled to regular season victories and at least one (1) home playoff game per year.

Disaster was averted when the Patriots squeezed out a 17-14 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team whose own glorious past has faded due to competition from low-cost, high-tech steelmakers in other countries.

The New England professional football team provides vicarious meaning to the lives of men in the region who otherwise suffer from the quiet desperation spoken of by Henry David Thoreau, a local 19th century sage who died shortly before the merger of the AFL into the NFL.

worcester1
Thoreau: “Take the points on the road.”

The Patriots went two decades between losing seasons before falling to 7-9 in 2020.  That disaster set off an extended period of soul searching that ended only when television re-runs of “Soul Train,” a dance show that aired from 1971 through 2006, had been replayed in their entirety on the region’s cable TV stations.

worcester4

Grief counselors say it is unrealistic to expect spoiled Patriots fans to recover immediately from the team’s fall to mediocrity following the departure of quarterback Tom Brady, and that the healing process will take time.  “In a situation such as this a change of scenery is critical,” says Dr. Linda Sentri of MGH-Brigham-Pilgrim-Vanguard-Partners, the region’s sole remaining health care provider following a series of mergers.  “If Mac Jones gets a supermodel wife like Brady, male fans can find closure by ogling her.”

Ask the Love Shark

Bitten by hopeless infatuation?  Hungry for red-blooded romance?  Ask Love Shark for help–summer’s over, things are kind of slow.

cheerleader

Dear Love Shark:

I am head cheerleader at Grain Valley Consolidated Regional High School (Go Polecats!)  On Saturdays when there isn’t a game to cheer for, or if there’s no money in the budget for an extra bus for a “road” game, I like to “hang” with the other five girls on the squad.  We have fun together because we are popular.

My problem is this: There is this girl “Wenda” who did not make cheerleader and so is just part of the “Pep Club.”  They get uniforms that they wear to the games but they sit in the stands and repeat the cheers we tell them to.  So they are sort of a subordinate form of life, less evolved or something I don’t know, I’m already behind in biology.

Anyway, “Wenda”–which is her real name, but I thought I better use quotes in case she’s reading this–tags along after us yelling “Hey, where are you guys going, can I come too?”  It is really annoying and doesn’t help our image as the coolest girls in school.  Also, it’s kind of, you know, ghoulish.  I think she wants one of us to break an ankle so she can rush on the court or the field or whatever saying “Don’t worry–I know all the cheers!”  That would be a disaster as she is kind of fugly.

Any assistance you can provide would be great.

Amanda Fuller, Osawatomie, Kansas

shark
“Go away, you losers!”

 

Dear Amanda–

You come to right place, Love Shark know how you feel!  Love Shark constantly surrounded by pilot fish looking to eat scraps off me, host species.   While no one should be rude to a member of another species due to goo-goo high school “inclusiveness” codes, you can establish a “symbiotic” relationship with Wenda like I do with pilot fish.  Say “Here Wenda, take the burnt French fries I don’t want and in exchange I’ll let you write a book report for me!”


His inflatable inamorata.

 

Hey Mr. Love Shark–

I read your column religiously but don’t think you’ve answered this question before.  I took my inflatable love doll “Suzie” to the beach the day after Labor Day–she is my “sweet substitute” until I can find “Miss Right.”

We went into the water to cool off, and to my surprise a shark attacked Suzie, puncturing her leg.  She lost air rapidly, and was pronounced “Dead on Arrival” when we reached St. Bridget of the Surf Hospital in Hyannis.

I don’t like to hold a grudge against an entire species, but I feel I am entitled to damages of some sort, either a refund for the summer cottage I rented–at the off-season rate, I might add–or a mail-in rebate or something.

Sending this to you because I tried the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and they just said “Tough yupkas–nature rules!”

E.G. “Ted” Swarth, Buzzards Bay, Mass.

Dear Ted:

I’m sorry, but you should have read the disclaimer which is posted at all Cape Cod beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day: “Not responsible for lost limbs, flotation devices or girlfriends, natural or artificial.  No dogs, no fires, no alcohol.”

My suggestion would be that you check your homeowner’s insurance policy and see if it covers damage or destruction of personal property.  Be sure to include gory pictures of “Suzie” when you file your claim.

shark1

Dear Love Shark:

Over Christmas I proposed to my girlfriend Noreen, whose dad owns a truck body company as well as an A&W Root Beer franchise.  I mention these businesses to let you know I am not just “head over heels” in love, I am also very practical and want to make sure her parents can provide for her in the style to which she’s become accustomed.

Anyway, Noreen turned me down and not too nicely I might add.  “Oh Claude, it is just so klee-shay to propose at Christmas, that’s not very original,” she said as she handed me back the ring I had purchased at Furnwald’s, the only jewelry store left in town.

Mr. Love Shark, I have two questions for you if I may: One, what is a klee-shay, and two, do you recommend I carry a torch for Noreen or look elsewhere?

Sincerely,

Bud Blankenship, St. Clair Township, Pennsylvania

shark2
“Do you have a cubic zirconium in a solitaire setting?”

 

Dear Bud:

You know Love Shark’s rule–you must keep moving or you will die.  For me, I breathe through my gills.  For you–judging by your letter–you probably breathe through your mouth, so forget about Noreen and find another daughter of a captain of industry who can offer you the kind of position that will likely elude you forever if you try to make it on your own.

As for your other question, a cliche is a small external parasite that lives off the blood of other animals, so this was actually a nice compliment!

shark3
“He bought me a drink, then he bit me.”

 

Dear Love Shark:

I was born without the “gift of gab” and get all “tongue-tied” when I see a girl I’d like to get to know.  This leads to embarrassment and rejection as I blurt out some stupid pick-up line instead of just being myself, which is what my mom encourages me to do.  The problem is that the “self” my mom is referring to is the one who keeps getting turned down, not the little boy she sees when she flips through old family photo albums.

Do you have any helpful “tips” you could give me about how to be more comfortable in social situations and not come on so strong?

Will wait to hear from you before going out again.

Charles O. Buchter, Braintree, Mass.

shark4

Dear Charles,

I used to have the same problem.  See cute surfer girl–blonde, friendly smile–the kind you just want to eat up.  So I would bite into her, then we would lie there in the water with nothing to say to each other, it was very awkward.

This is why I now prefer kayaking and paddle-boarding–they are very relaxed sports, not all rush-rush like surfing.  You cruise up from behind to your prey . . . I mean prospect . . . slowly position yourself underneath.  Then casually smile, say hello and let nature take its course.

If it happens, it happens.  If not, remember, there’s too many humans in the sea to get all mopey about one who screams and rejects you.

Be sure to remember to floss afterwards–you never want to offend the next “potential special someone” you approach with a gross limb stuck between your front teeth.

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

Firing Miss Weil

When not teaching philosophy to her lycée students, Simone Weil taught laborers as she worked among them and sought to learn from them.  She worked on a trawler while she taught the fisherman mathematics.  She worked on a farm, quizzing the family so relentlessly about their lives that she was dismissed.  Though myopic and maladroit she worked in a mine, handling the pneumatic drill so poorly that a miner took it away from her when it began to pull her along the coal face.

Two Philosophers Found Purpose in the World of Work,” Robert Zaretsky and George Alliger, The Wall Street Journal

I tell ya, it ain’t easy being in Human Relations in the philosophico-industrial sector.  You got these intellectual guys and gals who, in the words of former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, couldn’t park a bicycle straight, and yet they want to man . . . or woman . . . the glue gun on the Klassic Mobile Home assembly line like their less, uh, enlightened fellow humans.


Lester Maddox, riding a bicycle backwards

Take that guy, what was his name–Lou Wittgenstein.  Yeah, sure, he could crank out a nice crate and could fix the toilet in the men’s washroom, but then he’d want to knock off and write a series of terse propositions that would puzzle everybody else in the plant.  I tell ya, that’s no way to meet America’s growing demand for ultra lightweight travel trailers like we produce.

Anyway, I’m just about at my wit’s end with Miss Weil.  If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.  I tell her it don’t make sense to “think long and hard about work” when you got a trailer chassis bearing down on you–you got to work first, think later, and if that results in le malheur, well, tough noogies.  We got orders to fill, product to ship if we’re gonna make money so we can pay the deep-thinkers that recreational vehicle manufacturing seems to attract.

No, it’s time to cut our losses with Simone, which is why I’ve called her in for an “exit interview,” which a nice way of saying I’m going to fire her.

Per the office manual, Tab 3(d), I’m supposed to have a witness when I terminate someone, so I have asked Norm Blag, Assistant Vice President-Sales, to join me.  I thought about Doreen Middleton in accounts payable, but my fear is that a female witness would get all upset and trigger a crying jag in Miss Weil, who for all her tough talk and swagger is pretty frail-looking.  I ain’t supposed to say it, but chicks are like that.


“So . . . you’re saying I’m not good enough for the glue gun?”

Miss Weil enters I greet her as cheerfully as we can, given her somewhat . . . imposing demeanor.  “Hey Simone, how’s it going?” I ask.

“If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.”

“You got that right.  Do you know Norm Blag?”

“How d’ya do?” Norm asks.  “Nice day, ain’t it?”

“Everything beautiful has a mark of eternity.”

“I don’t know about that, we’re supposed to get rain this weekend–I hate when that happens!” Norm replies with a goofy grin.  He certainly has the “Gift of Gab”–that’s why he’s our top salesman, but for some reason Simone doesn’t warm up to him.

“Have a seat,” I say.  “I been goin’ over your file and I wanted to talk to you about a few things.  There have been some, ah, complaints about the quality of your work.”

“We have to endure the discordance between imagination and fact,” she says, and not at all cheerfully I might add.

“Sure, sure, nobody’s perfect, but Gene Ray, the foreman on your shift, says you been getting glue on the outside of the metal sidewalls.  You’re supposed to make sure that customers get a nice, clean-looking exterior, and also that they don’t realize that our products are about as sturdy as a grade-school science project volcano.”

“Exactly,” Norm says with his characteristic enthusiasm.  “Put your best foot forward!”

“We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles, but for the grace to transform them.”

“Well, you’re entitled to your opinion outside the plant, but once you punch in you’re on company time and we make the rules.”

“Every being cries out silently to be read differently.”

Norm sneaks a look at me, then at his watch.  I can tell he wants to get back out on the road, doing what he does best: Making money by lying to people.

I clear my throat and get ready to deliver the bad news.  “I’m sorry Simone, but you’ve been warned before, and nothing has changed.  You . . . can’t seem to keep your mind on the job.”

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

“That may be true, but I really think you’d be happier doing something else.  Something that don’t require a lot of manual skills, like teaching philosophy.  We’re going to have to let you go.”

I expected tears to well up in her eyes, but she’s dry as a desert.

“You can pick up your last paycheck on your way out,” I say.  “You’re eligible for unemployment.  Clean everything out of your locker, and drop your safety glasses off at the supply room.”

She stands up, straight as the balsa wood we use to make the sturdy frames of our K-200 Traveler and our top-of-the-line “Emperor” model, with built-in shower and banquette seats around the breakfast nook.

“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing,” she says with a steely-eyed gaze that is pitiless, and yet stoic.

“Hey, don’t take it so hard,” I say.  “At least you won’t get dizzy from the noise and the glue fumes anymore.”

“Yeah,” Norm chimes in.  “I don’t know how anybody can think straight in this crazy place!”

All Simone Weil quotes guaranteed genuine.

“Girls of the Dewey Decimal System” Draws New Support to Libraries

BEAVER, Oklahoma.  The “panhandle” region of Oklahoma has been occupied by humans for millennia, but it has been losing population in recent years, a fact that puts a strain on public services.  “When people call to say they got a house on fire, I have to tell them to wait until the next budget cycle,” says Cimarron County Fire Chief Mel Orthwein, shaking his head sadly.  “Also that they should show up to vote in case it’s a close call.”


“I can check you out.”

But when officials called for a 10% across-the-board cut to regional services, the overwhelmingly female employees of the twelve largest libraries in the area’s three counties adopted a fund-raising technique that has been successful in other, more populous areas of the country; a calendar that mocks the pin-up versions often seen in gas stations and other predominantly male workplaces by depicting women of a certain age and physique in alluring poses and varying states of undress.

“We wanted to do something, not just hang our heads and say is ‘Woe is me,’ or rather ‘Woe is–are?–us’,” says Emily Nostrand, who runs the library in Balko.  “We decided it should be both educational as well as embarrassing.”


“Shh–we don’t want anyone to hear us.”

And so “The Girls of the Dewey Decimal System” was born, after a relatively uneventful gestation period.  “For some reason, there was no shortage of volunteers to display their, uh, wares in an effort to get people to read more,” says Nostrand.

The chosen theme was drawn from the Dewey Decimal System, a library classification method devised in 1876 by Melville Louis Kossuth “Melvil” Dewey, an educator who also established the standard dimensions for catalog cards.  “Dewey assigned a number to just about every possible topic with a prurient interest,” says Gosling Rutherford, who is writing a biography of the man credited with opening library “stacks,” once accessible only to librarians, to the common man.  “You’ve got 306.7 for Sexual Relations, 616.8583 for Sexual Practices Viewed as Mental Disorders,” Rutherford notes.  “He really covered the waterfront.”


“Could you help me carry these back to the stacks?”

 

The initiative has been a moderate success and has put reading on the radar screens of many males whose interests had previously been limited to football, fishing, spring football, rodeos and more football.  “It really opened my eyes to a whole different world,” says Del Furnell, a 33-year-old bachelor who lives in Texhoma.  “I’m gonna drop by the library today and check out Jane Austen’s latest.”