Monday, September 23, 2013



As I’ve mentioned frequently in my columns, when it comes to punctuality, the meaning of the word is foreign to me. In my defense, however, I usually have a very good reason for being late.

Take last week, for example. I’d been having a problem with my eyes burning, itching and twitching, which nearly drove me crazy, so I made an appointment for noon that Thursday to see an optometrist.

Well, to a “normal” person, noon would be considered the middle of the day, but to me, the die-hard night owl, noon is the equivalent of 4:00 in the morning. Still, I was determined to get out of bed and make it to the appointment on time (for a change).

Thursday, I got up, ate, showered, got dressed, put on my makeup, fed the dogs and was ready to leave in plenty of time for my appointment. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of myself. The last thing I always do before I leave to go somewhere is put on my jewelry – the same wristwatch and ring every day. The ring is very special to me. Not only is it one of a kind, it was a Valentine’s gift from my husband.

So as I was leaving, I headed to the drawer where I keep my jewelry. When I opened it, my heart immediately began to race. My ring wasn’t there!

 I frantically flung everything out of the drawer until there was nothing left inside but bare wood. I then raced to check the pockets of the clothing I’d been wearing the night before when I’d taken off the ring. Aside from a few lint balls, the pockets were empty. Had I, I wondered, set the ring down on the kitchen counter? I ran out to the kitchen and checked every inch of counter space. I found nothing but a dried-up splotch of ketchup I’d forgotten to wipe up.

Warily, I eyed the trash container. Did I really want to thrust my hands into a mushy pile of everything from potato peels to discarded oatmeal? The answer was yes!  Just as I started to roll up my sleeves, it dawned on me that I was supposed to be heading to the optometrist’s. I looked at the clock. I had only 15 minutes to get there. On a good day, the trip usually takes 25 minutes.

I bolted out the door, hopped into my car and headed to my appointment, all the while feeling sick about my missing ring. I arrived at my destination about eight minutes late.

The optometrist was a woman I hadn’t met before. She was young, dark-haired and exotic looking.

I apologized for being late and told her the reason why. “I feel terrible and can’t concentrate on anything because I keep trying to think where I might have lost that ring,” I added.

She was silent for a few seconds, then said, “You know, I’m going to tell you something that sounds really crazy, but I swear it works.  I can’t explain why, but it just does.”

She hesitated, as if debating whether or not to tell me, then finally said, “My grandmother once told me that if you lose something, to take a tissue and tie a knot in it, then hold it in your hand. The next place you look, you’ll find the item you’re looking for.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “How can a hunk of knotted-up tissue help you find something?”

She shrugged and smiled. “I have no idea, but it works!”

I’d heard of a lot of crazy things in my life – and had tried many of them, like rubbing half an onion on a wart and then tossing the onion over my right shoulder, supposedly to make the wart disappear. All I ended up with was a wart that smelled like onions. But I’d never heard anything about putting a knot in a tissue.

My eyes turned out to be fine, other than being very dry. The doctor recommended some drops and said they should help the burning, itching and twitching.

I could hardly wait to get home and continue the search for my ring. On the way, I stopped and bought some rubber gloves so I could thoroughly fish through the trash the minute I got home.

The trash yielded nothing but trash, much of which was less than pleasant to dig through. I was becoming more and more desperate by the minute – which was blatantly obvious when my dogs wanted to go outside to do their duties and I followed them out, then closely examined everything they did, just in case one of them might have swallowed my ring.

An hour later, after I’d done everything but rent a metal detector, I finally admitted defeat and plunked down on the sofa. Mourning the loss of my favorite ring, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. Sniffling, I reached for the box of tissues on the end-table next to the sofa.

I pulled out a tissue and stared at it for a few moments, remembering what the doctor had told me.

“Don’t be silly!” I scolded myself. “You’ve searched every inch of the house!  A tissue isn’t going to magically help you find your ring!”

But a little voice told me that at that point, I had nothing to lose, so why not tie a knot in the tissue and try it, just for the heck of it?  Shaking my head and sighing, I muttered to myself, “You’re much more intelligent than this!”

I tied a knot in the tissue and held it in my hand.

I still can’t believe what happened next – and I will swear on a stack of Bibles it’s the absolute truth – I immediately recalled that the night before, when I’d taken off my ring, the stones had looked kind of dull, so I’d put my ring into a jar of jewelry cleaner to soak.

I bolted out to the kitchen and opened the cabinet where I keep the jewelry cleaner on the top shelf. Sure enough, there was my ring, now sparkling clean, still lying in the bottom of the jar.

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing.  And then I called the optometrist’s office and told the receptionist to tell the doctor that the knot in the tissue had worked.

“The knot in the tissue?” she repeated, her tone bewildered. She probably thought it was some new kind of treatment for eye discomfort.

“Yes, tell her exactly that!”

I think now, just to be on the safe side (because I misplace either my keys, eyeglasses or credit card an average of twice a week), I’m going to join one of those wholesale clubs and buy a case of tissues.



Monday, September 16, 2013



I honestly can say that an event that happened to me over Labor Day weekend scared me more than I’ve ever been scared in my life. And believe me, I’ve lived through a lot of pretty scary things.

My road forms a circle of just under two miles. So when I take I walk, I start at my house and end at my house, which is nice because I don’t have to backtrack.

On this particular night, my dog Willow and I left the house for a walk at dusk. It was still fairly light out when we started, but by the time we reached the 1.4-mile mark, it seemed as if the sky had pulled down a shade. Suddenly, it was pitch dark.

As we walked past an area that was thickly wooded, something in the bushes growled at us. It was a loud, deep growl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up (until then, I didn’t even know I had a hairy neck).

Willow and I rapidly moved to the other side of the road and quickened our pace. I wanted to pass whatever was lurking in those bushes as fast as humanly possible.

Just when I thought we were in the clear, I heard the growling again. The beast was following us.

Every horror movie I’d ever seen came to mind. I envisioned everything from a drooling werewolf to a giant mutant spider in those woods, just waiting to pounce on us and turn us into a pile of shredded meat.  Not being able to see a thing in the dark was the worst part.

On second thought, maybe it was a good thing I couldn’t see anything.

As Willow and I continued to walk, the growling followed us. I could hear branches snapping and leaves rustling as our stalker kept right up with us. Suddenly I came up with the bright idea of trying to scare it away.

“Go away!” I shouted, stomping my foot.  My response was a louder, more vicious growl. Obviously the critter wasn’t a big fan of aggression.

With every step Willow and I took, I kept hoping our follower would back off, but it didn’t. What animal, I kept wondering, was gutsy enough to chase after a human and a 110-lb. Rottweiler?  And why?

When the growling got louder, Willow decided she’d had just about enough, and took off running toward home. Seeing I was holding her leash, I had no choice but to run with her. That’s when I heard our stalker start running, too, keeping right up with us, growling all the way.

I couldn’t take it any more. By then, my nerves were completely shot from the stress of wondering when something was going to leap out at me and attach itself to my jugular vein.

There was a house straight ahead. Without thinking twice about it, I ran right up the front steps and pounded on the door. A man and a woman answered, took one look at me and said, “Come in!  Are you OK?”  They later told me I looked as if I were about to faint. I didn’t doubt it. I was sweating worse than someone who’d just been trapped in a sauna for 12 hours, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kay and Sam Bruce for saving my life – because I probably would have dropped dead from a heart attack if they hadn’t answered their door. And Sam was kind enough to give Willow and me a ride home, which I really appreciated, because there was no way I would have been brave enough to walk the rest of the way; not with Godzilla’s brother lurking in the bushes somewhere.

The day after Labor Day, I contacted the NH Department of Fish and Game and described my adventure to the woman who answered. Within the next half-hour, three different wildlife/conservation officers called me. I was very impressed with their quick response.

All three, after asking me a number of questions, such as the sound and loudness of the growl, the pattern the beast moved in, the speed at which it followed us, etc., finally concurred they were 99-percent certain my stalker was a bobcat – and a fairly large one.

“The growling actually was a good thing,” one of them said. “When a bobcat is going to attack, it does it silently, so as not to warn its prey. Then it attacks to kill. This one obviously was warning you with its growl, trying to scare you away. You probably interrupted it while it was feeding.”

“Well, if it was trying to scare us away, it definitely succeeded,” I said.

“I suggest you carry a flashlight when you go walking from now on,” another said. “Shining the light into any wild animal’s eyes usually will scare it off.”

“Carry a big stick with you,” suggested another.

A big stick? I was thinking of something a little more protective – like a grenade launcher.

They also told me that the bobcat population has rapidly been increasing in the state, but they’re not certain why, because at one time, the cats were becoming fairly scarce.

“I guess I’ll be sure to go out walking in broad daylight from now on,” I said.

“Oh, bobcats come out in the daylight, too,” the officer said, matter-of-factly. “No time of day is safe.”

I think from now on, my trips around the neighborhood will be taken in my car.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013



I have no idea why, but I have such bad luck when I eat at restaurants, people have stopped asking me to “do lunch.”

I swear, it’s almost as if someone in the restaurant’s kitchen is looking out the window, sees me approaching and shouts to the chef, “Quick!  Sally’s coming!  Dig out all of the old, stale, leftover food that’s on the verge of breeding botulism toxin so we can serve it to her!”

I can’t even count the number of times someone has raved to me about a restaurant and when I finally tried the place, the regular cook was on vacation (or had died the day before), the place was all out of what I was craving, or it was under new management with an “updated” menu that included specials like snail-encrusted tofu.

I remember when my mother raved about a restaurant where she frequently dined with her friends. “The haddock there is to die for!” she always told me.

Well, on the day I at long last decided to go with her, the haddock definitely brought the words “die for” to mind. But not in a good way.

The minute I cut into my piece of fish, a strong smell of ammonia wafted from it. It was so strong, it made my eyes water. I figured either someone in the kitchen had been cleaning with ammonia and dropped it into the fish batter, or the fish was so old, the fisherman who’d caught it had been standing on the deck of the Mayflower at the time.

When I complained to the server, she clearly looked offended. She grabbed my knife, stabbed a piece of my fish with it and popped it into her mouth.

“Tastes fine to me!” she said with a huff. Then she walked off.

The woman obviously was suffering from a severe sinus blockage.

Another time, one of my husband’s co-workers, who knew I loved beef stew, recommended a restaurant where he said the stew tasted as homemade as Grandma’s. So my husband and I headed over there one Sunday afternoon.

I ordered the stew and held my breath, certain I would be told they’d run out just 30 seconds before I’d arrived. But to my relief, the stew still was available.

From my seat, I could see directly into the kitchen, so as I was waiting for my meal, I watched the cook rushing around and plating food.

“They sure are busy here,” I said to my husband.

“Well, when a place has good food, word gets around fast,” he said.

That’s when I saw the cook drop two hot-dogs on the floor, pick them up, wipe them off with his apron and put them onto a plate.

“What’s wrong?” my husband asked, noticing my expression, which probably looked as if I’d just witnessed someone being beheaded.

 “The cook just dropped two hot-dogs on the floor and still put them on the plate!” I whispered.

My husband shrugged. “Did he follow the five-second rule?”

“That’s an old wives’ tale!” I said. “Food still can gather germs even if it’s on the floor for only a second!”

He shook his head. “It’s a well-known fact that if you pick it up before five seconds, it’s still germ-free.”

“Good!” I snapped. “Then you can eat whatever he drops next in that wet spot on the kitchen floor!”

Not surprisingly, I lost my appetite.  At that point, I didn’t care if the stew was as good as my grandma’s – I had visions of the cook stirring it with his feet.

So the other day, when my cousin invited me to meet her for a lunch at a restaurant located approximately halfway between our houses, I was hesitant. Years ago, my husband and I had eaten at this particular restaurant on a regular basis. The food always was excellent, and the prices very reasonable.  The cook there (I’ll call him “George”) also took great pride in his food. He would come in at 4:00 in the morning to bake the bread, rolls and even the hamburger buns from scratch. And the sauces he made were seasoned perfectly and simmered for hours. 

Also, one day a week, George would make his special chicken pot pie. Its gravy was thick and rich with big chunks of white-meat chicken in it, all tucked into a crisp, flaky crust.  He would not serve this masterpiece, however, until after 4:00.  So I would arrive there at 3:59.

Unfortunately, this wonderful cook eventually ended up going to prison, and after that, the food at the restaurant just never was the same.  My husband and I, after rejecting too many raw (or burnt beyond recognition) burgers and chicken that was pink in the center, finally stopped going there.

So when I returned there with my cousin the other day, I was hoping that over time, the food had improved – or somebody had bailed George out of prison.

I ordered a hot roast-beef sandwich with mashed potatoes. The minute the plate was set in front of me, I knew I was in trouble. The meat was so dry, it was curled up on the edges, and the potatoes had visible lumps the size of jawbreakers. When I tasted the food, it was cold. The gravy also had a unique flavor of plastic, which probably meant it had been microwaved in a plastic container…or preserved in formaldehyde.

I ended up sipping tea and watching my cousin eat her pastrami on rye.

So although I hate to admit it, I’m becoming more and more paranoid about dining out because I’m truly convinced I’m cursed. I also have an aversion to having my stomach pumped.

I suppose, however, if I do want a good meal, I could always get myself arrested. I figure George probably is cooking for his fellow inmates in prison now.

But first I’ll have to find out which day is chicken-pot-pie day.