Friday, June 26, 2015


I went to a matinee movie last week with a couple of my friends, and we had nearly the entire theater to ourselves. 

As I sat there in the comfortable lounge-type chair with a headrest, rocking feature, and a cup holder in the arm, I couldn’t help thinking about how different the theater was from the ones I used to go to back when I was a kid.

For one thing, in those days the seats didn’t move, other than the bottom part that lifted up if you had to stand up to allow someone to squeeze by. But most of the time we tried to avoid touching underneath the seat when lifting it because it usually had about 150 wads of old chewing gum stuck to it. The stickiness on the undersides of the seats, however, was tame in comparison to the floors. More times than I could count, my sneakers stuck to the floor, to the point where I feared I would have to shout for help for someone to pry them free.

Also, there was no stadium-type seating back then, so if someone with a big Charlie-Brown-sized head sat in front of you, you pretty much couldn’t see a thing. And my luck, it seemed as if no matter where I sat, even if there were plenty of empty seats all around me, someone who was 6’6” or had a beehive hairstyle always would decide to sit directly in front of me.

The movies back then were on film reels run by projectors, and too often, especially during a critical part of a movie, the film would snap and break, causing the screen to go blank. Right before it did, however, the image on the screen would look like squares of film melting – so we pretty much knew what was coming.  Then we’d have to sit and wait for the projectionist to repair the problem and get everything running again. Most of the time, the waiting involved being bombarded with candy and popcorn by the kids in the front row of the balcony who’d get bored and decide to play a game of “let’s see how many people’s heads below we can conk with Raisinets.”  I can remember riding home on the bus after a movie and having people giving me strange looks, probably because I still had melted candy stuck in my hair.

But there were a lot of things about the old movie theaters I did like.  First of all, they were a place where kids could spend an entire Saturday afternoon. By the time we watched the newsreel, the cartoon, the previews of coming attractions and then not one, but two movies, we were there for five hours. And the price of admission was less than a dollar. Parents loved it because it was like having a cheap babysitter on hand every weekend.

And then there were the ushers, who always provided an unintentional source of entertainment. They wore uniforms, carried flashlights and made frequent checks of the audience to make certain no one was misbehaving. If you had your feet up on the seat in front of you, for example, the ushers would tell you to put them back on the floor.

I remember one time when an usher lectured me for being too loud when I laughed. That, of course, made me laugh even louder.

But in the theater where I went last week, I never saw an employee come in during the movie. I could have had my entire body draped over the seat in front of me and no one would have cared…except, that is, for the guy who was sitting in that seat.

And I’m aware that food prices over the years have risen. No longer do theaters sell family-sized boxes of candy or large soft-drinks for only 25 cents. But I honestly can say I was shocked when I recently asked for a bottle of water at a theater and the employee said, “That will be $4.”

I’d just purchased a 32-pack of Poland Spring bottled water on sale at the supermarket for $3.98.  That same 32-pack at the theater’s prices would have cost me $128. So even if I had been so thirsty my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth, I wouldn’t have paid $4 for only one bottle. I told the employee (after he’d already entered the sale into the register) I’d changed my mind.

Back when I was a kid, we could bring snacks from home to eat at the movies. Not any more. Try to bring a bag of chips into a theater and they treat you like someone who’s smuggling cocaine. I remember going to a movie theater in a mall a few years ago and there was a woman in front of me in line who was carrying a bag along with her handbag.

“What’s in the bag?” an employee asked her.

“Oh, I just did a little shopping here in the mall before coming over here,” she said.

The employee didn’t look convinced. He continued to suspiciously eye her bag.

“I’m going to have to ask you to show me what’s in the bag,” he finally said, sounding very much like a TV detective.

“No!” she said, clutching the bag to her chest.

“Hmmm,” the employee said, his eyes narrowing, “I see grease stains on the bottom of the bag! You’re trying to bring popcorn into the theater, aren’t you!”

You would think he’d just discovered she was holding a bag of poisonous snakes she intended to let loose in the theater.

He finally gave her the option to either hand over the bag and stay, or keep it and leave. Reluctantly, she allowed him to confiscate it. After he walked off with the bag, the woman turned around and muttered to me, “He’s probably going out back now to eat my popcorn!”

The balconies in movie theaters years ago often were more entertaining than the movies being shown…mainly because all of the movies in those days were G-rated. The back rows in the balconies, however, better known as the “make-out rows,” were unofficially reserved for lovers and usually were a lot steamier than what was being shown on the screen. It was a known fact that if you went on a movie date and the guy suggested you sit in the back section of the balcony, he had no intention whatsoever of watching the movie. The ushers, however, were pretty diligent about breaking up the more passionate couples by shining flashlights in their faces and snapping, “Break it up!”

Movies that would have been classified as X-rated back in the 1960s, now are rated only PG. In the movie I recently saw, for example, one of the male stars, who portrayed a hot-tempered spy, used the “F” word about a dozen times in only one sentence.

But still, I have to admit some things really have changed for the better about movie theaters over the years. I do prefer the comfortable seats, the extra legroom, the undisturbed view, and screens so big, you feel as if you’re actually a part of the movie instead of only a spectator.

But if you’re ever in a theater and you happen to see a female audience member being carried out on a stretcher, it probably will be me, suffering from dehydration…because I never will pay $4 for a bottle of water.

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Friday, June 19, 2015


I’ve never been a big fan of basements. For one thing, they give me the creeps because they usually are dark, damp, cold and they breed colonies of spiders. And worst of all, 90 percent of the scariest horror movies I’ve ever seen contain murders that take place in basements or in secret torture chambers…also in basements.

My basement is no exception when it comes to being creepy. Every time I go down there I expect to be attacked by everything from a giant mutant spider to an escaped serial killer.

And then there’s my dog, Willow.  I once saw a horror movie called something like, “Devil Dog From Hell,” where a rottweiler was waiting at the top of the basement stairs, and when its owner climbed up them, the dog, snarling and its eyes glowing yellow, rammed its head into her pelvis and sent her tumbling backwards to a skull-crushing death on the concrete below.

Well, no kidding, every time I go down into the basement, Willow stands on the top step and waits for me. I keep thinking that one of these days, she’s going to do her impersonation of a bull and head-butt me when I climb back up. I swear, if her eyes ever start to glow yellow, I’m crawling out and escaping through a basement window…providing it doesn’t have a big spider web on it.

Anyway, because my basement usually is damp even during periods of drought, I have learned the hard way that setting cardboard boxes filled with stuff directly on the floor isn’t such a wise idea. Too many times I’ve lifted one of the boxes only to have the bottom drop out along with everything else in the box. So I began collecting an assortment of wooden pallets and old tables so I could stack the boxes on those.

A couple weeks ago, on the night before trash pick-up day, I was out walking with Willow when we passed by a house that had a coffee table sitting next to the trash container on the side of the road.  The table looked pretty solid, so I immediately thought of how many boxes I could stack on it in the basement. But there was no sign on it saying it was free, so I wasn’t certain if the owner was throwing it away, or was about to set some potted plants on it for a spring display.

Two days later, the table still was out there, with nothing sitting on it other than a layer of yellow pollen. That’s when I decided it was free for the taking. So early the next afternoon, I drove over there in my hatchback. I pulled up in front of the house, opened the back of my car and then bent to pick up the table.

I couldn’t budge it. The table felt as if it weighed 200 pounds. Determined, I continued to struggle with it, trying to lift one end and drag it over to the car. The only thing I succeeded in doing was nearly herniating some essential body part.

I soon found out why the table weighed as much as a small car. It had a separate hinged top on it that could be lifted to about two feet above the bottom part of the table. So it was like getting two tables in one.  Immediately I thought of how much extra stuff I could stack on the two separate layers.

I stood on the side of the road and looked around, hoping to see someone who resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger jogging toward me so I could ask him for help. All I saw was a black-and-white cat.

Frustrated, I drove home without the table.

For several days after that, every time I walked by that house and saw the table still sitting out there in the wind, rain and humidity, I secretly wished I had trained to be a professional weightlifter.  I already considered the table to be mine, so I didn’t enjoy seeing it taking a beating from the elements.

Finally, when Willow and I were out for a late afternoon stroll one Friday, I saw a woman out in the yard at the coffee-table house.

I walked up the driveway and called out to her.

“Hi! Are you giving away that coffee table?”

The woman turned to look at me. “Yes. In fact, I was going to take it to the dump in the morning.”

“No!” I thought. “Not my coffee table!”

“Well, I’d like to take it,” I said. “I want to put it down in my basement, which has a damp floor, so I can stack boxes on it. But the problem is, I can’t lift it.”

“Yeah, it weighs a ton,” she said. “I had to bring it out here in a wheelbarrow.”

“If I go get my car, can you help me load it into the back?

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll be out here working in the yard for a while.”

I rushed to take Willow home, then jumped into my car and drove back over to the house.

The woman and I then proceeded to make so many grunting noises trying to lift that table into my car, people nearby must have thought a wild boar was running loose through the neighborhood.

Finally, the table was safely in my car. I smiled with satisfaction.

“So,” the woman said, “how do you plan to get it down into your basement?”

She really knew how to spoil my moment of triumph.

“Oh, I’ll get someone to help,” I assured her, even though just about everyone I know is suffering from everything from bad backs and knees to arthritis and heart problems. Trying to lift that albatross of a table probably would send them to their early graves.

So as I write this, the table still is sitting in the back of my car.

I’m thinking if I just can find some way to drag it as far as the door to the basement, I can get the Devil Dog From Hell to head-butt it down the stairs for me.

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Friday, June 12, 2015


I hate to say it, but I’ve begun to notice that I, along with several of my friends, aren’t hearing quite as clearly as we once did.  Phone calls are particularly bad, because I find myself either having to repeat things more than once or shout when I’m talking. And in return, I notice I’m saying “huh?” so often, I probably sound as if I have something stuck in my throat.

The other night, an old family friend called. The conversation went something like this:

“So, how was your week?” he asked.

“Not so good,” I said. “I turned on my central air-conditioner and nothing happened. It was completely dead. I think the mice got in there and chewed up the wires again.”

“Oh, you have central air-conditioning? That must be nice on hot days.”

“When it’s working, it’s nice. But not right now. I’m so frustrated, I’m tempted to shoot it!”

“The shoe fit? What style did you buy?”

The conversation got only worse after that.

I remember when my husband started to lose his hearing. At first, I couldn’t figure out whether he had “selective” hearing and was just ignoring me, or if he actually had a problem.

Most of the time, no matter what I said, he’d just answer, “Yeah.” He probably figured I’d be happy if he agreed with me, so “yeah” was a safe answer.

I’d say, “Do you want steak for dinner?”


“You want fries with it?”


“Or would you prefer mashed potatoes?”


“Is it OK if I run off with Ricardo, the 20-something Brazilian landscaper and part-time exotic dancer I met last week?”


But I began to suspect he really was losing his hearing when he started misinterpreting what I was saying.  I remember one afternoon when I asked him if he wanted his ham sandwich on pita bread.

“Peter’s dead?” he gasped. “When? How?”

He was referring to my cousin who, I’m pleased to say, still is very much alive.

Another time, we were in the car and a song came on the radio where the singer was singing, “My eyes adored ya.”

My husband sang along with it, “My eye’s in Georgia.”

But I’m finding that as I get older, I’m beginning to have trouble, too. It was evident last week when my friend, who’s Scottish, called to chat. It was bad enough I had to strain to hear her, but her thick Scottish accent and the fact she rrrrrrr-rolls all of her rrrrrrrr’s when she speaks, made my struggle even worse.

I hate to say it, but I ended up using my husband’s “yeah” technique throughout most of the conversation. Judging from my friend’s tone of voice after some of my responses, however, I’m pretty sure I said, “yeah,” when I should have been saying, “no,” or “Oh, that’s terrible!”  I also think I may unintentionally have offended her.

I mean, she either said, “I’m dieting because I have more spare tires than the Michelin Man,” or she said, “I’m so tired, I need a trip to Michigan, man!”

Either way, I answered, “Yeah!”

I have the feeling she won’t be calling me again any time soon. 

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Friday, June 5, 2015


My old laptop computer, which I bought years ago, has been causing me so much stress lately, I’m glad my neighbors aren’t within hearing distance because their poor ears would be subjected to an ongoing stream of colorful and creative language.

I don’t know why, but when I got up the other morning, grabbed my glass of orange juice and turned on my computer to check my email, which is my regular daily routine, the machine suddenly acted as if it had been possessed by some demonic spirit.

When I tried to get into my AT&T mailbox, I received a message: “At&T is not responding.”

It really didn’t have to tell me that. I mean, the completely blank screen was a pretty good clue.

So I decided to check my auctions on Ebay.

“Ebay is not responding.”

By then, I was becoming just slightly irritated. Determined, I tried yet another website, Facebook.

“Facebook is not responding.”

So basically, if I had gone outside and picked up a big rock and brought it back inside, I would have had the same response from it as from my computer.

An hour later, I finally was able to read my email. By then, I had come very close to turning my laptop into a speed bump in my driveway.

So I decided maybe the time had come to buy another laptop. But I didn’t want a brand new one – I wanted a factory refurbished one. For one thing, after recently spending over $2,000 on veterinary bills, the most I could afford to spend on a computer was about $100. 

When I mentioned it to one of my friends, she said, “For that price, you’ll be lucky if you can get a pocket calculator, a pad of paper and a pencil.”

Undaunted, I began to search Ebay (while my computer still was being gracious enough to allow me to), for a refurbished laptop.

I specifically was looking for a model exactly like my current one. That’s because all of my programs, along with my printer and scanner, are compatible with it. So if I bought a newer model laptop, I’d have to upgrade everything, and I didn’t want or need any extra work…or stress.

I spent over an hour reading endless descriptions of the used laptops listed on Ebay.  One had a hole in the screen. Another was missing the power cord. Another had a battery that no longer could hold a charge. And yet another was protected with a password no one seemed to know.

I continued my search, skipping over the laptops that were being sold for “parts only,” or “as is.”  Past experience had taught me that “as is” meant the laptop probably had been used for third base in a Little League baseball game.

Suddenly a brand new listing popped up and made my eyes widen. It was the exact make and model laptop I was searching for. It was described as completely factory refurbished and in “like new” condition. It came with all of the accessories and a warranty. And best of all, it was only $110, with free shipping.

Fearing that someone else might snap it up, I broke all speed records buying it. Ebay told me it would arrive in three days. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. All of my previous computer-related stress vanished as I breathed a sigh of relief.

About an hour after I purchased the laptop, my phone rang. It was a man who said he was from California and owned a pawn shop there.

“I just sold you a laptop computer on Ebay,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “And I can’t wait to get it!”

“Well…um…there’s a problem,” he said. “When it was first brought into the shop, I ran the serial number on it and it came up clean. But just now, when I went to package it to ship it to you, I decided to run the number again, just to be safe. This time…um…it came up as stolen.”

For some reason, a vision of myself behind bars, doing time for receiving stolen property, struck me funny. I burst out laughing.

There was complete silence on the other end of the phone as I continued to laugh. I was pretty sure the guy must have been thinking he’d called someone who was in desperate need of a long vacation….in a nice padded cell.

“Are you OK?” he finally asked.

“Yeah…I’m sorry,” I said between chuckles. “It’s just that stuff like this always seems to happen to me. It’s to the point where it just strikes me funny.”

“Well, I’ll issue you a refund right away,” he said. “And I really do apologize for this.”

So I’m still stuck with my old computer.  And as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if when I try to post it, I'll see, " is not responding.”

If that does happen, I swear I really will take my computer out to the driveway and turn it into a speed bump.
On second thought, that's too kind for it.  Make it Route the fast lane.

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