Deep Space Telescope Reveals Stanley Cup Finals Underway

DELAWARE, Ohio.  Scientists at Ohio Wesleyan University, home of “The Big Ear” radio telescope, reported today that they have detected signals from a distant galaxy indicating that the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup finals are underway, with teams from the states of Florida and Colorado competing.


The Big Ear radio telescope

“We were channel-surfing and stopped at the Fishing Channel while we went out for a six-pack of Old Milwaukee,” said astrophysicist Emile Nugent.  “When we got back from the liquor store the Bass Master 100 Challenge was over and there were a bunch of people skating around, without sequins.”

The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy of the National Hockey League, a professional sports league that was determined to be irrelevant following a 310-day labor dispute in 2004-05.  Since it resumed play, the league has struggled to attract fans and viewers, often falling behind curling, snake hunt tournaments and “strong woman” competitions in ratings.


“I could break Sidney Crosby in two and beat Zdeno Chara with the bloody stumps!”

The astronomers reported that teams involved in this year’s playoffs include the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning, a claim that was met with skepticism by advertising agencies.  “Tampa is in Florida where the only ice is in the drinks,” said Miles McConnachie of Brands+Impact LLC.  “And Colorado is not part of Canada.”

The signals bearing the Stanley Cup broadcast are believed to originate in the THX 1138 spiral galaxy, where broadcast time is cheaper than on American cable channels.


Transmission difficulty:  Do not adjust your television set.

“We make most of our money on infomercials and religious programming,” said station manager Glorp “Buddy” X21173.  “It’s nice to have something besides the Ab Blaster and Holy Rollers to watch on the monitors.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Space is the Place.”

Notarizing the World’s Largest Malted Milk Ball

In 1977, the creator of the world’s largest malted milk ball had it notarized.

The Boston Globe

I have to admit, many years after the fact, my mom was wrong.

“Get your notary license, it’s a good sideline,” she said.  “You’ll never be out of work.  There’s too many dishonest people in the world, you can’t trust anybody anymore.  That’s why notaries will never go out of style.”

Ha–fat chance.  Last time I proposed to my long-time, on and off girlfriend Cynthia DeMasio, she said no way.  “Not until you get a real job,” she said.  “Being a notary public you just have delusions of grandeur.”

But what delusions they are!  Maybe I can’t officiate at wedding ceremonies, like snooty justices of the peace, but taking acknowledgments on real estate documents?  Authenticating signatures on affidavits?  Notaries are still your best bet, and at $2 a signature, you can’t beat our everyday low prices!

mmb
“Look out!  They’re gaining on us!”

 

What my mom had no way of foreseeing was the revolution in technology that now permits people to sign documents electronically!  No need for the face-to-face, “sit-down” closing.  Your mark–whether it’s a simple “X” or a roccoco “John Hancock” is good even though signed miles away.

At the same time, there has been a precipitious decline in notarial ethics; notaries who take acknowledgments over the phone with a wink that no one at the other end of the line can see.  Notaries who “witness” signatures they’ve never seen, but have merely heard about, depending on the so-called “hearsay” exception.  Talk about bending the rules to the breaking point!

mansleep
“Can’t stay . . . awake.  Blog post . . . boring.”

I decide I might as well take a nap since the notary profession seems to be in such a deep depression, when my cellphone buzzes.  I look at the screen, see a number I don’t recognize, but decide to answer it any way.  In the immortal words of Roy Cohn, closeted gay Republican lawyer and assistant to Senator Joseph McCarthy, “Pick up the phone–it might be business.”

cohn
Roy Cohn

 

“Hullo,” I answer drearily.  How would you answer if your last notarial assignment was a retail installment sales contract–three months ago?

“Hello, I’m looking for a notary public–are you available?”

Thank God my phone is a cordless model, otherwise I might have choked myself lunging with excitement.  “Twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week!” I say breathlessly.  “What kind of job is it?”

“A record-breaking piece of candy.”

I review in my mind all the phone gags of my youth: Is your refrigerator running?  Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?  Nope–nothing registers.

Raleigh
“Well, why don’t you let him out?”

 

“I . . . uh . . . might have to charge a premium for such an unusual request.”

“That’s okay–this is my only shot at getting in the Guiness Book of World Records.”

“Where are you?”

“Over at the Whoppers plant, in Canton.”

“I know it well.”  Only too well, as I have been known to ingest an entire Whoppers theatre-size box of the the flavorful treats before the previews are over at the Framingham 14 Megaplex, thereby bringing on a near-fatal case of the hiccups.  “I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

I grab Dulcie, my pet lamb, and put her in the front seat of my 2006 Pontiac Torrent.  “You can shake it once on the drive, but save the second one for when we pull in the driveway.”

“Bah,” she says.  “I was hoping to catch Antique Roadshow this afternoon.”  She’s so wooly-headed–she watches PBS all the time.

I head out to Route 128, America’s Technology Highway, then south to Canton, hoping to make it before this plum assignment gets scarfed up by somebody else in the high-powered stamp-eat-stamp world of notarization.  Because my notarial income has been flat for the past two decades, I don’t have access to GPS and must find my way by sight to the job, with Dulcie riding “shotgun” as she navigates.

Sheep
“Would you hurry the fuck up?”

 

“Turn off here,” she says sharply as we reach Route 138.

“Are you sure?”

“You’re asking me?” she asks, rhetorically and incredulous.  “You couldn’t find your way out of a Barnes & Noble bag if there were instructions on the sales slip.”

“Okay, maybe I am a little introverted,” I say.

“Now a left,” Dulcie says, and I see what has to be the world’s largest malted milk ball, sitting in the driveway of a modest split-level.  Not my tastes, but . . .

“The guy’s waiting,” Dulcie snaps.  “You can’t sit there woolgathering with an interior monologue!”

I get out, grab my notary bag, and approach a man who is throwing sandbags around the base of the giant confection in the apparent hope of stabilizing it.

“Glad you could make it,” he says.  “All the other notaries were busy.”

“It’s student loan application season,” I say, removing my stamp and seal.

“What’s with the sheep?” he asks.

“I need two witnesses, at least one of whom must be disinterested.”

“And believe me,” Dulcie says, “nobody could be less interested in your bloated malted milk ball than me.”

“You’re thinking of ‘uninterested,'” I say, parsing a fine point of notarial jurisprudence for her.  “‘Disinterested’ means you have no prospect of financial gain from your service, ‘uninterested’ means . . .”

“Would you cut the palaver?” the man says.  “There could be malted milk ball makers in parts unknown who are gaining on me.”

“Fine,” I say, and ask him to raise his right hand.  “Do you solemnly swear that this giant malted milk ball is solely the product of your efforts?”

“I do.”

“That it was made entirely of fresh, natural ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, malted milk, whey . . .”

“Like Little Miss Muffet, who sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey?” Dulcie interjects.

“On the nosey,” I reply, and return to the grave and solemn act of authentication.  “Along with 2% or less of really weird-sounding stuff like tapioca dextrin, resinous glaze, sorbitan tristearate and soy lecithin.”

“Soy isn’t so bad.”  It’s Dulcie again.

“Nothing in there I wouldn’t eat myself,” the man says.

“And is this your free act and deed?” I ask.

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” the man asks.

“That nobody’s making you do this,” Dulcie says.  “It’s part of the routine.”

“Of course not,” the man replies.  “Is it official now?”

“You didn’t say ‘yes’ yet,” I remind him.

“Freaking Mother-May-I . . . YES!” he nearly screams.  “I’m gonna be in the Guiness Book!”  The guy’s ecstatic, and as I look around at the pathetic life he’s living–aluminum siding on the house, cracking driveway, kid’s “Big Wheels” car in the yard–I can understand why.

“How much do I owe you?” he asks.

“Let’s see,” I say, taking out my price chart. “There’s usually 18 pieces in a 1.75 ounce package.  That’s, uh, 162 pieces in a pound, that thing’s got to weigh 500 pounds . . .”

“Easy,” says Dulcie.

“So, it would be $2 for a regular malted milk ball, 2 times 500 times 162 equals–$162,000.

“What?  That’s highway robbery!”

“Hey–you want your place in history or not?”

The guy stops and thinks a moment.  “I got a better idea,” he says.

“What?” I ask.  You learn to be skeptical as a person whose job it is to take sworn statements that can literally mean the difference between recording a condominium smoke detector certificate–or not.

“I’ll give you $3 and a free box of malted milk balls.”

“Deal!”

Investors Score With CEO Mother-in-Law Death Bets

GREENWICH, Conn.  This town is home to some of America’s most successful hedge fund managers, whose palatial mansions recall the robber barons of the Gilded Age.  “It’s not enough to just have a helipad anymore,” says local real estate broker Marci Adams.  “You really need your own landing strip if you’re going to be able to show your face in public.”


Helipad:  So last year.

 

But the men who make big bets with borrowed money that can bring them nine-figure annual incomes are focusing on slower means of transportation these days; wheelchairs and walkers used by the mothers-in-law of CEO’s at the companies they stalk.

“The most important metric we look at before we make an investment is–when is the old bat finally going to kick off?” says David Halperin, whose Metamorphosis Fund has produced gains of 21% for investors over the past three years.


“Once the EKG of the M-I-L declines to zero, profits soar.”

 

The new–some would say morbid–strategy comes on the heels of a study that indicates a company’s stock is likely to fall after the death of a CEO’s wife or child, but rise after the death of a mother-in-law.  “It’s uncanny, when you think about it,” says Fordham University business professor Daniel Ferrone.  “They’re all human beings, and yet for some reason the death of one type of family member uniformly brings a tremendous upsurge in a guy’s sense of well-being.”

Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge - New Orleans Music Map
Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge

 

The strained relationships between men and their mothers-in-law has been a staple of popular culture throughout the ages, ranging from Hubert Humphrey’s quip that “behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law,” to Ernie K-Doe’s 1961 R&B hit “Mother-in-Law,” whose lyrics include the put-down “She thinks her advice is a contribution, if she would leave that would be the solution.”


“She’s fallen and she can’t get up–buy Infotronics!”

 

But it took a former rocket-science arbitrageur to figure out how to turn that folklore into trading profits, as Halperin hired young MBA’s fresh out of business school to make daily calls to assisted living centers to monitor the health of CEO mothers-in-law.  “You wouldn’t buy a car without kicking the tires,” he says.  “I’m not going to plunk down $100 million for a minority stake in a company until I know what kind of wheels the mother-in-law’s got on her.”


“That nice young man with the iPad keeps asking about my health.”

 

Some say the practice of tracking the elderly women represents an invasion of privacy, but lightly-regulated hedge funds operate free from many of the disclosure rules that public investment vehicles face.  “Anybody could follow these women into the grocery store if they just took the time,” says Halperin.  “If I notice that the mother-in-law has stopped buying green bananas, I know she’s hit the homestretch.”

On Dylan’s Birthday, Appliance Dealers Ask “What If?”

HIBBING, Minnesota.  As tributes marking Bob Dylan’s 81st birthday appeared in the national news yesterday, word spread around this town of 17,000 in northeastern Minnesota that its most famous local musician was being celebrated for his longevity and not, for once, his creativity.  What did he think of the milestone, this reporter asks Al Sklarski, a shift supervisor at a local iron mine.  “You mean Gary Puckett?  I used to love that song of his, what was it–‘Lady Willpower’?”

[COVER_MAIN1]

When informed that the subject of the profiles was Bob Dylan, the world-renowned singer-songwriter, Sklarski drew a blank.  “Never heard of him,” he said as he took off in his pick-up truck.

The confusion stems from the fact that when Dylan left Hibbing at the age of 18 he was known as Bobby Zimmerman, son of a local appliance store owner.  Dylan changed his name after moving to New York City, and skyrocketed to fame when the folk themes and styles he revived found a new audience among college protestors in the 1960’s.


Dylan, ne Zimmerman

But others in this town recall Zimmerman/Dylan with a mixture of pride and regret.  “He could have been one of the great ones,” says Mike O’Dwyer, owner of O’Dwyer Appliances.  “He could’ve become manager of his dad’s appliance store and done real well for himself.  Instead, he took the easy way out and became a Nobel Prize winner.”

Dylan got his start singing at “Sidewalk Days” promotions for his father’s store, which handled several major “white goods” brands including Maytag and Frigidaire.  An early attempt to capture the discontent of the fifties was his “Dryin’ in the Wind,” about the superior quality of a stackable, front-loading Amana washer/dryer:

How may loads can one dryer dry
Before its motor conks out?
Where do you get the best appliance deals–
At Zimmerman’s, there’s no doubt.

Competition was intense among aspiring folk singers in the late 50s and early 60s, but Dylan outpaced others with his gift for wrapping political commentary in powerful lyrical images.  “A lot of people thought Phil Ochs would emerge as the voice of that generation,” says Arnie Welstead, former editor of Folksong! magazine.  “Where Phil went wrong was he was tough on warranty claims if your ‘big ticket’ item broke.”

Image result for phil ochs
Phil Ochs:  “If only I’d had Dylan’s background in gas and electric ranges.”

In addition to Dylan and Puckett, Hibbing was home to Kevin McHale, forward for the Boston Celtics and later coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the professional basketball team, not the carnivorous predators.  The local Chamber of Commerce here has invited the three famous sons to a “Celebration of Hibbing” tentatively scheduled for October of this year when Puckett will turn 80.  When asked if he would attend, Dylan, a reclusive artist known for his obscure lyrics, replied in a cryptic email “What time is the Early Bird Special at Applebee’s?”

The Battle of the Bulging British Bridesmaids

          A survey by “You & Your Wedding” magazine has determined that one in five British brides now requires her bridesmaids to sign contracts regulating their behavior and appearance.

                                                                            The Boston Herald

It was with more than a little apprehension that I stood in the elevator bank at Ten Dominion Street, London EC2M, with my client, Deborah Paulsen. We were there to meet with Quentin Quiller-Couch, Q.C., representing bride-to-be Mona Humphreys, who had asked Deborah to serve as her maid-of-honor–subject to negotiation, execution and delivery of a mutually agreeable Indenture of Trust defining her obligations and benefits.

“Quentin Quiller-Couch is a queer old bird,” I said to Deborah as we stood in queue to board the car to the highest suite of offices.

“Why do you say that?”

“Querulous fellow.”

“Quit talking in q-words and explain, please.”

“He’s a melodramatic sort, a very overwrought negotiator. Every concession he makes-if any-is like the loss of a colony to Queen Victoria.”

“So you think this will be difficult?”

“As tough as five pound rump steak,” I replied as we stepped in and rode in silence.

As we reached the top floor the elevator doors slid open and, after announcing ourselves, we were ushered into a sprawling office that included the couch on which Quiller-Couch napped after lunch each day.

“Hello, David,” the dean of the London wedding bar boomed out to me in his best hale-fellow-well-met voice–trying to disarm me by faux bonhomie, I thought.

“Hello, Quentin,” I said coolly. “This is Deborah Paulsen.”

“Hello, Deborah,” he said as he shook my client’s hand. “David, this is Mona Humphreys.” I shook Mona’s hand and said “Nice to meet you.”

“Yes,” she replied, with an imperious tone, as if she expected that the pleasure would be all mine.

They say that only one-tenth of an iceberg is visible above the water line, and that the more dangerous part that you crash into causing women and children to drown in freezing water lies beneath the surface. I scanned the frigid-looking Miss Humpheys from her eyeballs to her well-turned ankles, and came to the conclusion that I’d better keep my eyes on her lower depths if I didn’t want to take a Marks & Spencer buckle pump in the shin.

After the tea and pleasantries had been dispensed with, Quiller-Couch launched his usual preemptive, presumptuous air strike. “Now then, I don’t see why we can’t quickly come to terms using my standard form of Bridesmaid’s Indenture, which codifies standards of behavior adhered to by all civilized women,” he said as he handed ’round copies of a forty-page document that weighed slightly less than a Queens’ College dissertation on the application of quantum mechanics to the works of T.S. Eliot.

“Just a second, old boy,” I said to the old boy. “Many of your latter-day encrustations on the traditional duties of the maid of honor are just so many unwanted barnacles on the hull of the matrimonial ship that has transmitted British couples well since the time of Lord Nelson.”

Quiller-Couch responded as I expected he would, drawing himself up with a look of outraged umbrage, or umbraged outrage. Might as well get the histrionics out of the way.

“David, I’m a bit taken aback by this attitude!” he said as he fiddled with a binder clip, a bit of business worthy of a West End ham. “Surely we can find common ground among the old and the new, the . . .”

“Borrowed and the blue? Please-let’s skip the sentimentality and get down to brass tacks.”

“All right,” he said, and we began to flip through the pages together. “Affirmative Covenants of the Bridesmaid, §2.1. ‘Bridesmaid’-that’s you my dear,” he said to Deborah, “‘shall comport herself at all times in a manner consistent with her obligation to make the Bride’-that’s her,” he said, nodding at Mona, before I interrupted.

“Quentin, I think we can skip the Dick-and-Jane stuff.”

“Just making sure the parties know who’s who-’to make the Bride the center of attention, nay the universe, on the most important day of her life.’”

That was Quiller-Couch for you; the sort of gratuitous, extra-legal filigree that clients loved but which was, strictly speaking, obiter dicta, legal window-dressing.

“That’s right,” I said with a mordant tone. “You only get married for the first time once.”

“Well, I must say,” Mona said with an offended tone. A little negotiating ju-jitsu I’ve learned over the years. Make people angry for no good reason, and they get so cross-eyed they can’t see the big issues right in front of them.

“Sorry, my dear,” I said, putting ointment on the burn. “It’s just that there are so many things that can go wrong with a wedding! If you want to get your marriage off on the right foot, you need a first-rate maid of honor like Deborah.”

“Have you decided on the satin or the taffeta?” Deborah asked Mona pleasantly, changing the subject.  I hate it when clients get in the way of a well thought-out blast of acrimony.

“I’m thinking I’m going to switch to the orange organza,” the bride replied, staring off into the distance. “Or maybe tulle . . .”

“Can we return to the agreement,” I growled through gritted teeth. “I’m looking down the list of Negative Covenants in Article III,” I said, allowing my seething inner self to show. “Bridesmaid shall not: (a) become intoxicated, (b) gain more than five (5) pounds between the date hereof and the Wedding Day, as defined in Article I, (c) become pregnant . . .”

“Why is that in there?” Deborah asked.

“Because I saw you and Roddy Farquar humping each other like stray dogs in the cloak room at the Albemarle Club last week.”

“What I do with Roddy is my own business!”

“Not if it makes you look like a beached whale when you stand next to me at the altar.”

“Actually, beached whales usually assume a prone position,” I said, trying to appear to be playing the role-however disingenuously-of peacemaker.

“That’s industry standard, according to the Working Group on Bridesmaids Indentures of Gray’s Inn of Court,” Quiller-Couch interjected.


Beached whale, customary prone position

“Allow me to continue,” I said in a tone of patient exasperation, like a kindergarten teacher forced to explain why the practice of throwing spitballs is frowned upon. “Section 3.1(d)-’Bridesmaid shall not, between the date hereof and the Wedding Day, change her hairstyle from that depicted in Schedule 3.1(d) hereto.” I was silent, for effect. I wanted that one to one sink in.

I could see Deborah begin to fume, like a dormant volcano stirring to life. “I agreed to be your bridesmaid, not your scullery maid!” she said with fury. “I’ll change my hair whenever I like!”

“But Deborah,” Mona began, pretending to be reasonable. “I can’t have a bunch of discordant hair-do’s in my wedding pictures-it wouldn’t be fair to me!”

“I think we need to caucus, Quentin,” I said.

“You and me?”

“No you dunderheaded nimmy-not.  My client and me.”

I signaled to Deborah to follow me outside.

“Can you believe her?” she asked once we were down the hall a ways.

“Par for the course, really–don’t let it upset you.”

“If she thinks she’s going to run my life for the next three months she can get another maid-of-honor, if she can find one,” she snarled.

“Keep that healthy glow of outrage,” I said as I took a notepad out of my breast pocket. “It will be very helpful when we go back in. Now-what were you thinking of in the way of a bridesmaid gift?”

“I don’t know-I thought that was up to her.”

“Everything’s in play at this point.”

“Well, I suppose the least I’d expect would be a personalized cosmetics bag . . .”

“White with pink trim, I assume?”

“Yes. With an engravable satin finish compact.”

“Of course. Do you spell that with two ‘e’s’ or three?”

“‘Course’? One, silly.”

“No, ‘engravable’.”

“Just two, but I don’t think there’s a standard orthographical rule.”

“Doesn’t look right. Okay, what else?”

“Well, I don’t want to seem greedy . . .”

There often comes a time in the solicitor-client relationship when one must go beyond the role of mere legal advocate and become a business advisor. This was one of those times. “Think, Deborah. What is it you always dreamed you’d take away from a wedding in exchange for your services as bridesmaid.”

She furrowed her narrow little forehead. “Well, I don’t suppose it would be out of line to expect a monogrammed tote bag and bathrobe,” she mused to herself.

” . . . and terry cloth spa slippers?”

“You don’t think that’s gilding the lily?”

“By no means.”

“All right, throw in the slippers.”

“What else?”

“I couldn’t possibly ask for more!”

“Dream no small dreams woman!”

She looked off into the distance, as if to take in the furthest horizon of her desires. “Well, I’ve always wanted . . .” She hesitated.

“What?”

She hesitated. “An embroidered jewelry roll.”

“Is that some sort of pastry?”

“You are obtuse. It’s a soft storage device for one’s necklaces and other jewelry, frequently used while traveling. Usually features a washable nylon fabric inside and out with zipper compartments and a removable ring holder. Available in black with pink, blue, lavender or white trim. I’m thinking black with pink would be nice.”

Perhaps I’d pushed her a bit too far. I didn’t want the deal to fall apart.

“You really think . . .” I began.

“One’s-meaning my–three initials are embroidered on the outside flap in first-middle-last order.”

“What other order is there?”

“In some patterns the middle letter is bigger. In that case, the last initial goes in between the first and the middle ones.”

My head was spinning from this perversion of alphabetical order, but I returned to the matter at hand. “If you’re sure that’s what you want . . .”

“I’m not finished,” she said. “There should be something inside.”

“Like what?” I asked, a bit queasy.

“I’ll leave that up to her. Sterling silver’s sort of the minimum, as far as I’m concerned. If she has any sense of decency, she’ll go for the gold.”

I blanched, like an almond thrown into boiling water.

“You’re not going wobbly on me, are you?” she asked.

“Just need to understand your hot buttons.”

“I don’t think that’s a proper sort of question for a solicitor to ask his client!”

“It’s deal jargon–means what you’re most interested in.”

“Oh. Well, you asked, I answered. Are you going to lead the charge or not?”

I drew myself up to my full 5’10½” height. “Let’s go.”

We went back in with steely gazes and clenched jaws. Quiller-Couch seemed to sense that we were determined to prevail, and stood up to greet us.

“Well, then–any progress?”

“I think so, Quentin,” I said with a smile you could have swiped from the jaws of a crocodile. “We are prepared to agree to Miss Humphreys’ terms,” I paused for dramatic effect, “provided appropriate consideration is forthcoming.”

“What does he mean by that?” the bride-to-be asked.

“‘Consideration’ is a legal term. You must give something of value in order to bind her to the contract.”

“Why couldn’t he just say that?”

“Then he couldn’t charge her his hourly rate,” my adversary said with a conspiratorial smile. A little professional humor–very little.

“Well of course she gets the centerpiece from her table,” Humphreys replied in a huffy tone.

I laughed a mirthless little laugh.

“I hardly think a cheesy floral arrangement is going to cut it, Miss Humphreys.” Didn’t want to get nasty, but she forced me to.

“Er, what were you thinking of?” Quentin asked, a bit fearfully.

“You may want to call in a secretary who can take shorthand,” I said ominously.

“Speak slowly, I’ll try to keep up.”

I ticked off the whole laundry list-cosmetics bag, compact, tote bag, bathrobe, slippers. And then, the coup de grace, the ne plus ultra, the roman a clef.

“A monogrammed jewelry roll with,” here I almost lost my nerve. I swallowed hard, and continued: “something nice inside.”

You would have thought we had asked for the moon, or her first-born child.

“Well, I never!” Quiller-Couch exploded.

“And I thought you were my friend!” the bride spat out.

“I was, before you insulted me.  A floral centerpiece, in a pig’s arse!”

“I think we may need to call in an arbitrator,” Quiller-Couch said. I wasn’t biting.

“No, let’s settle this here and now,” I said.

“But how? We’re so far apart!” Deborah exclaimed.

“A little horse-trading, right Quentin?”

“Well, I suppose we could give a little,” he said as he looked at Miss Humphreys. I saw her nostrils flare. She was fuming, but she realized she had no other choice. She was running out of time, and it isn’t easy to come up with a new lifelong friend when your wedding’s a calendar quarter away.

“All right,” I said. “We can do without the terry cloth slippers, right Deborah?”

“Since a certain someone is apparently not providing us with a day of beauty at a fashionable spa,” she said a trifle bitterly, “I won’t really need them.”

“Good,” Quentin said. “Well, since the wedding’s three months away, I’ll grant you that an anti-pregnancy clause may be asking for more than we need.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” I said pleasantly. “Deborah–the compact. Is that negotiable?”

“Well, sure, although what’s the point of a cosmetics bag without one?”

“Many of your nicer bags now come with a built-in mirror, under the top flap,” Quentin said. I had to admit–he did know his business.

We continued in this vein for awhile, haggling back and forth over little stuff, and leaving the big issue for last.

“Now about that jewelry roll,” Quentin began, all unctuous balm. “We’re prepared to concede to you as to the thing itself, but as for the nice surprise inside, I’m afraid that’s totally out of the question.”

I looked at Deborah, seeking her guidance. I gave her our secret signal–I flapped both hands under my chin as if they were wings and my head was about to fly off.  Sort of like Ollie the Dragon on Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

“What’s the matter with him?” Humphreys asked.

“That’s probably some clandestine form of attorney-client communication,” Quentin said. “Professional courtesy requires that I fiddle with my legal pad until they’re done, but you should feel free to stare at him as if he’s asserting the insanity defense.”

She could stare all she wanted, but she wasn’t about to decipher our pre-arranged code in the few short seconds it would take to send and receive our messages.  Bat the right eyelash for “yes” and the left for “no”.  I hadn’t anticipated that we would be looking at each other, however. Was it the right side of her head, or the side of her head to my right? I was working without a net, and I leapt out for the trapeze.

“We agree–on one condition,” I said firmly.

“What’s that?” my brother solicitor asked.

“Your client shall use her best efforts to throw the bridal bouquet so that it is caught by my client.”

They were aghast, as I thought they’d be. They could either give us the nice piece of jewelry, or violate the oldest and most honorable principle of the Anglo-Saxon wedding canon: “Thou shalt not rig the tossing of the bouquet. The garter, maybe, but not the bouquet.”

“I’ve half a mind to report you to Gray’s Inn,” Quentin said angrily. “You could be disbarred!”

“Wait,” Mona Humphreys said. “I-I don’t want to continue like this,” she continued in a conciliatory tone. “I’ll make sure she gets the bouquet.”

You could have heard a paper clip drop, the room was so still.

“You’re sure?” my esteemed colleague asked his suddenly agreeable client.

“Yes,” Humphreys replied, a sneer beginning to form at the corner of her mouth. “If I don’t, she’ll never get married.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Fool, Brittania.”

Walk for Congenital Smart-Alecks Finds Many Feet in Mouths

NATICK, Mass.  The start time for one of the Boston area’s many charitable walks is fast approaching, but while other fund-raisers are stretching and filling water bottles, one couple remains in their car, the distaff side with her head in her hands.

“Why did you have to say that to my mother–of all people!” Lynn Herrikus is saying to her husband Jason.

“She left herself wide open,” he replies, explaining, but not justifying his crack “So you like the feel of a wild beast between your legs?” to his 83-year-old mother-in-law after she said she’d like to try horseback riding.


“Nice cankles!”

 

Herrikus has CSAS, an acronym that stands for Congenital Smart-Aleck Syndrome, an affliction that walk sponsors say affects two million Americans.  “I was diagnosed at a very early age, long before the American Psychiatric Association listed it,” he says ruefully, but not entirely so.  “I figure as long as I suffer from my ailment, everyone else should too.”

CSAS victims are overwhelmingly male, and their symptoms grow worse as they hit middle-age and realize they will not achieve youthful ambitions.  “As they grow older their smart-aleckiness can take a darker turn,” says Dr. Oliver Maslan, a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts State Home for the Criminally Sarcastic, the largest public facility of its kind in New England.  “I don’t know why they’re so bitter.  Look where I ended up in life, instead of some cushy private practice in the suburbs.”

A “smart-aleck” is an obnoxiously conceited and self-assertive person with pretensions to cleverness, according to the current edition of the Physician’s Desk Reference.  Symptoms include a tendency to crack wise in inappropriate circumstances, although those outside the profession say no setting can ever justify a cutting remark since if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.


“We didn’t say anything smart-alecky the whole way!”

 

Proceeds of the walk will fund the cost of research at the Lauren B. Holcomb Institute for the Study of Cynical Expression, but Jason Herrikus says he has his doubts as to the prospects for a cure.  “Research–hah!” he exclaims as he strides a few steps behind his still-steaming wife.  “By ‘research’ they mean ‘new BMWs for all the lard-ass doctors on the staff.'”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “I Hear America Whining.”

Rollin’ With the Newly Frugal Rappers

The hip-hop world is a less bling-bling place these days, as conspicuous consumption among rappers is down during the current recession.

                                                            msn.com.

CHICAGO.  I was rollin’ with my homeys down Stony Island Avenue when Fat Joe axed me to git offen his side of the seat.

“I can’t dawg,” I said.  “We ridin’ three in the front, three in the back to save on gas.”  He reached in his pocket and I thought for a minute he was gonna grab his Glock, but it turned out it was just his hand-held Super Soaker pistol.

“That all you got?” I axed.

“A clip of 8 Magsafe 9 millimeter bullets runs $19.95 at MyGlock.com,” he said, a bit embarrassed at his penurious state.  “Even though I wants to produce more soft tissue damage to incompasistate my target, I can’t afford to right now.”

iCon up in the driver’s seat drained the “spit hit” from a quart bottle of Colt .45 that we’d been passing around and started to thow it out tha window.

“Hey dawg–don’t do that!” BackWurdz, a free-styler from da Kenwood projex wuz sayin’ from da back seat.

“Why tha hell not?” iCon said.  “You some kinda ‘vironmentalist’?”

“Naw,” Wurdz said.  “Thass a five cent deposit you throwin’ away!”

iCon turned and looked at the three of us in the back.  We had fallen a long way since the days when we used to pour Courvoisier over our Cap’n Crunch in da mornin.

“Actually, it’s ten cents in Michigan,” Fat Joe said in an off-hand way, but it was like the crackle of gunfire at a rap summit in da old days.

“R u serious?” Wurdz axed.

“Dass right,” Joe replied.  “Any other state it’s a Jefferson, but in da Motor City–we talkin’ Franklin D Roos-a-velt!”

“Woo-ee,” Shade E. xclaimed from da shotgun seat up front.

Wurdz’ face twisted into an expression of the unfocused rage that is his most endearing quality, then he busted out with a couple a couplets over a beat he banged out on the back of the seat.

If Michigan’s gonna give me a dime
I’m packin’ up alla my Sprite Lemon-Limes.
Crummy Illinois with its nickel deposit–
I might as well throw my cans in the closet!

Everybody started to search da floor for mo bottles.  I came up with a Mountain Dew can, and iCon made like ta grab it.

“Unh-uh, man,” I said.  “Life is cheap on the streets, ya know what I’m sayin’?  I’ll blow you away you take a dime from me.”

“Wut u blow me away wit? You ain’t got no gun.”

I stuck my finger in my mouth and den, when he was lookin’ out da window, I gave him a Wet Willie, the most lethal weapon on the street.  I wuz keepin’ it real.

“Cut it out, fool!” he yelled at me, but it was too late.  I had my index finger halfway up his eustachian tube.  I coulda punctured his ear drum, but I decided I’d go easy on him.  We needed backup in case we ran into El Rukn Discount Nation, which had been terrorizing dollar stores on the South Side.


Eustacian tube:  Don’t go there.

“I’m gettin’ hungry,” OxxyMoron said.  “How much we got?”

We all reached in our pockets and pulled out what little change we had.  It came to $3.29.  “We got enough for three Whoppers and a cuppa senior coffee,” Shade E said.

“You old school, but you ain’t old enough to pull dat off,” iCon said.

“We could get a fish filet with tartar sauce and cheese and a small Frosty,” I suggested.

Fat Joe gave me a look of pitiless contempt.  “You ignorant fool!” he snarled.

“What’d I say?”

“Da Frosty is a trademarked product of Wendy’s!”

“You both ignorant,” iCon sneered.  “Da dope way to stretch your fast food dollar is to get the giant size fountain drink.”

“Why dat?” Fat Joe asked, genuinely curious.

iCon gave us the sly smile that he always used ta put on back in the day when he’s blowin away da competition at freestyle battles.  “Cuz you can go back for refills.  Free refills.”

His brazen contempt for law and order took us all aback for a moment.

“You mean,” I said, “that after you finish yo drink, you go back and fill da cup up again–even tho it say ‘No Free Refills’ right dere on da soda machine?”

“If you man enough, ponk!”

I lunged forward and grabbed him around da neck, but Fat Joe pulled me back.

“Dat’s just what da man wants us to do,” he said, playing da peacemaker.  “We gots to fight da power if we want to get our fill of Barq’s Root Beer, a Burger King favorite.”

I didn’t know Fat Joe had a socially conscious bone in his body, and it took me a minute to realize he wuz right.  “All right man,” I said to iCon.  “I got yo back.”

We pulled into the BK on South Stony Island.  “Go through the drive-thru,” OxxyMoron said with excitement.

“Shut up fool,” iCon snapped.  “You can’t go back fo fountain drinks if you outside.”

“Oh–right.”

We walked in, tryin to look cool as we could.  iCon placed da order, extra pickles on da Whopper, and da kid behind da counter gave him da jumbo plastic drink cup we wuz gonna use to pull off da job.

We sat down and ate, washing da stuff down with big gulps of root beer.  When da cup was empty, it was time to make our move.

I placed myself strategically between da counter and iCon and asked da kid if Burger King had any special promotions goin down dat I should know about.

“Well, we’ve teamed up with Pink Panther 2 to offer 30 great prizes, including a diamond and pink sapphire necklace with a pendant that features a half-carat, white diamond center surrounded by small pink sapphires worth $3,500.”

“Oh, man,” I said, looking up at the promotional poster with Steve Martin on it.  “Are there any restrictions?” I asked nervously.

“You must be a US resident aged 18 or over,” he said.

“Dat ain’t no problem,” I said .  “I wuz born and raised on da mean streetz of da’hood, right here in Chi-town.  Hey iCon,” I yelled.  “You gotta enter dis contest!”

iCon turned around, an angry look on his face as he tried to cover up da crime.  Oh no–I’d forgotten he was ripping off a second drink!

“Hey,” da kid said, “No free refills!”

iCon turned to run to the exit, but it was too late.  He went down in a hail of BK tomato ketchup packs.

“Dawg,” I said as I bent over him, tears in my eyes.  “I’m sorry . . . ”

He gasped for breath.  “Tell my momma,” he said, the light fading from his eyes.  “Tell momma I tried to order from da BK Healthy Menu–but they supersized me.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Our Friends, the Rappers.”

Managing Your Cats

Business experts say sound personnel management is the key to surviving tough times. These are the same business experts whose current advice on “best practices” is “Your business sucks–you should ask for a government handout.”


“. . . so we’re going to stop making widgets, and become a Wall Street investment bank.”

 

Managing your personal budget is no different. Every member of your household should be evaluated periodically in order to avoid costly litigation down the road, even though you don’t live down the road, you live at your current mailing address.

If there are cats in your house, you will find that fundamental principles of wildlife management are inappropriate tools to achieve your home economic goals. For example: Leave birds alone and they build a nest; leave beavers alone and they build a dam; leave cats alone and they don’t build a multi-level carpeted condo, they scratch the chintz couch, barf on the rug and take a nap.


“It’s not like I’m stealing legal pads from the supply room or something.”

 

In other words, managing cats is much like “herding cats,” a favorite simile of business advice books, although in this case it’s a tautology. To make the job of managing your cats easier, here is a transcript of my mid-year performance review of Okie and Rocco, two mid-level cats at my house, for the fiscal quarter ending June 30th.

(Clicking sound as tape recorder is turned on.)

ME: Does this thing work? Test–one, two, three . . .

TAPE RECORDER: Test–one, two, three . . .

OKIE: Sounds like Madonna with a head cold.

ME: Okay, I wanted to tape our little session so that we’d have a record of your performance reviews.

ROCCO: If you’re going to fire me, I want my lawyer here.

ME: No, not at all. Basically, the message I want to send is that you’re both doing a good job, despite . . .

OKIE: Despite what?

ME: Well, I’ve noticed a drop off in your performance.

OKIE: Meaning?

ME: Here are your numbers for the first five months of the year. No chipmunks, no mice, no squirrels . . .

OKIE: I’m 70 years old in cat years. Sales is for young guys–I should be a manager.

ROCCO: How about me?


Squirrel Melt–yum!

 

ME: Off the charts. Chipmunks–14. Birds–3. One squirrel, and a big one.

ROCCO: All right! I can just taste that sales incentive!

ME: Well, actually, these are tough times we’re going through right now . . .

ROCCO: Oh, puh-lease. You’re a lawyer–you make money off of financial misery!

ME: It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

OKIE: I just want to say in my defense, that if I don’t catch chipmunks, you don’t have to clean up the mess outside.

ME: True, but let’s not confuse effort with results.

OKIE: (. . .) What the hell is that supposed to mean?

ME: I don’t know–it’s a business cliche. Anyway, let’s move on to some of the ancillary aspects of your overall performance. We use a number of metrics to evaluate personnel here, and I wanted to talk to both of you about . . .

ROCCO: Here it comes . . .

ME: Climbing on furniture.

ROCCO: Look, I got up on the bar stool last night because that stunod wanted to fight and I was trying to take a nap.

ME: You guys have got to work on your intra-office conflict resolution skills.

OKIE: Fine, if you tell that pervert not to sniff my butt every time he walks by.

ME: Roc–I’ve warned you about our Dignity in the Workplace policy.

ROCCO: I know, but I can’t turn to tab 3 in the Employee Handbook.

ME: I’ll make a copy of the page for you.

ROCCO: (aside) You can put it in the bottom of my kitty box.

ME: That’s another thing. I want you to treat all members of the family with respect. Have you sent thank-you notes to Aunt Chris?

OKIE: What for? There was no catnip in the gift box she sent this year.

ME: You know how Mom feels about drugs in the house.

ROCCO: Speaking of the gift box–there was something else in there you neglected to mention.

ME: What, those cat treats?

ROCCO: Yeah. If I’m doing so well, how about we add those to the menu in the company cafeteria, instead of that crap you buy at the organic food store.

ME: It’s not organic, it’s just low-cal, so your bellies don’t start dragging the ground like a dachsund’s.

TOGETHER: (chanting) Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party . . .

ME: All right, I’ll talk to Mom about it.

OKIE: Which means “no.”

ME: Hey!

ROCCO: Why don’t you man up for a change. We’re direct-reports to you on the org-chart, but you never do squat for us.

OKIE: Yeah–you’re nothing but a lap dog.

ME: All right, cool it. Anyway, we’re almost halfway through the year, so stay on course and I’ll let you tear up some wrapping paper at Christmas.

OKIE: And?

ME: And what?

OKIE: Can we bat ornaments off the tree?

ME: Absolutely not!

ROCCO: Can we at least climb up and try to get the star?

ME: This meeting is over!

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Duke Coach Rushed to Hospital for Vowel Implant Surgery

NEW YORK.  Following his team’s loss to underdog Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament championship game last night Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski was rushed to a hospital for emergency vowel implant surgery to clear a passage obstructed with silent letters.


Krzyzewski:  “I can’t breathe when I wrinkle my nose like this!”

“He opened his eyes and seemed to recognize me,” said associate head coach Steve Wojcechowski, who donated an “i” that will form part of the head coach’s name if it is not rejected by his immune system.  “He told me to tell the kids they should treasure every vowel they have in their names, because each one is precious.”


“shuh-SHEV-ski!”

The Duke press guide provides “shuh-SHEV-ski” as the phonetic pronunciation of the head coach’s name, but Division I colleges are notoriously partisan in matters of pronunciation.  “UConn got tired of questions about Emeka Okafor’s name,” said College Hoops USA’s Mike Dundee.  “They finally  issued a press release that it was pronounced ‘Bob JOHN-son’ and handed out souvenir drink cups.”


Emeka Okafor:  Anagram for “O eek a fork ma!”

Linguistic experts said the Duke coach’s prospects for recovery were good.  “‘shuh-SHEV-ski’ is onomatopoeia for the sound of a sneeze in Esperanto,” noted Armand de Saxon, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  “The coach’s name should be pronounced ‘kurzyz-OO-ski’, which is an Albanian demand for an additional male goat in a bride’s dowry.”


Fabric softener not included

Krzyzewski will retire at the end of this season as one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history, having won five NCAA titles, 15 ACC championships, a Kenmore stackable washer-dryer combination and a year’s supply of Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks in his 46 years of coaching.

The procedure that was performed on Krzyzewski is also known as “Doug Mientkiewicz Surgery” after the former Boston Red Sox first baseman whose career was brought to a premature end due to a herniated disk between the fifth and sixth letters of his last name.  “We wanted to call it Tommy John Surgery because it was easier to pronounce,” said Dr. Wilhelm Orthorn of Wesley Methodist Hospital in St. Louis, “but that name was taken.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “This Just In–From Gerbil Sports Network.”

Plia Zlodrsk, “Freedonian Pepperpot,” Dead at 72

GLZORDSK, Freedonia. Plia Zlodrsk, the entertainer dubbed the “Freedonian Pepperpot,” died in her sleep last night after a brief illness according to a spokesman at St. Zligneth the Merciful Hospital. She was 72.


Zlodrsk in “Freedonian Space Mission 3000″

Zlodrsk first achieved notoriety as a member of the “Kicking Krew” on “Dance Dance This Afternoon,” a pioneering teen show modeled after American Bandstand on Nyet TV, the state-run television network. She caught the eye of director Melos Vlendrsk, who cast her in a series of romantic comedies set in Freedonian vacation spots such as “Road to Mlziensk” and “Zlandorsk Holiday!”


A younger, more swinginger Zlodrsk, as a regular on “Dance Dance This Afternoon!”

She evolved into a multi-talented singer and accomplished bongo player, at one point surprising bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie by jumping on stage at a Voice of America Goodwill Tour concert to play an extended solo to “Night in Tunisia.” It was Gillespie who hung the “Freedonian Pepperpot” monicker on Zlodrsk after she misinterpreted his comment “Nice bongos” as a come-on and slapped him.

In later years she gravitated towards heavier roles comparable to Gloria Swanson’s portrayal of faded star Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Blvd.” As Glienski Zlovotny in “Collective Dairy Farm Dreams,” she uttered the line for which she is best known, “I am big, it is milking machines that got small!”


“Plia, you’re ool-ya-kool!–Diz”

She is survived by her second, fourth, and fifth husbands and her Pomeranian, Chou-chou. Funeral ceremonies will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Institute for the Study of Freedonian Cinema and Tractor Parts.

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collections “Fauxbituaries” and “Hail Freedonia!”