Saturday, August 27, 2016


The other day, I was talking to someone about my many collections, which I’m now slowly selling on eBay, and he said, “Where did you get all of the stuff you collected?”

His question made me think back to all of the collectors’ shows my late husband I used to attend in our younger days. One of our favorites was held a couple times a year at Yoken’s in Portsmouth. But the one we enjoyed the most  - the Queen Mother of collectors’ shows - was held at Bayside Expo Center in Boston.

You name the collectible, and the Bayside Expo’s shows had it – everything from Barbie dolls to Superman comic books and even a vial of Elvis Presley’s perspiration.

One particular Bayside Expo show in the late 1990s, however, still stands out in my mind. For one thing, my husband really didn’t want to go, which was unusual for him.

“I’m getting tired of going to those shows,” he said, “And I really hate driving through Boston. I think we should just skip this one.”

“Skip it?!” I clearly was appalled. “But the newest Star Wars villain, the guy who plays Darth Maul, is going to be there – along with close to 100 other stars, all signing autographs! How can we possibly miss that?”

The look he gave me told me he couldn’t have cared less, even if Marilyn Monroe herself had arisen from the grave and would be there signing autographs at the show.

It took a lot of arm twisting, but I finally convinced my husband to take me to Bayside Expo.  But from the moment he agreed, the whole idea seemed to be cursed.

First of all, the day before the collectors’ show, my husband’s car started steaming worse than Old Faithful.  Our luck, it needed a new hose that had to be ordered from some far-off company that delivered only on days that began with the letter “T.”

That left only my little car for our excursion.  Unfortunately, my husband would rather have been dipped in honey and tossed into a giant colony of fire ants than drive my car, which he frequently compared to Barbie’s Dream Car. And there was no way I’d attempt to drive it through Boston, not even if all of the banks there had been handing out free $100 bills.

 Knowing how much I wanted to go to the collectors’ show, however, my husband finally relented and said he would drive me.

We thought the traffic in Boston wouldn’t be too bad on a Sunday morning, but we’d thought wrong.  Getting through the city seemed to take an eternity, especially since I was so eager to get to the show and meet the actor who played Darth Maul.  In fact, I’d even bought a disposable camera (there weren’t any cell-phone cameras back then) and tucked it into my purse, just in case a good photo opportunity presented itself.

It cost us six dollars just to get into the parking lot at the Expo Center.  It cost us another $20 to get into the building.  Every time my husband opened his wallet he grumbled, even though I offered to pay for my own admission (but I never actually unzipped my purse).  Finally, we set foot inside.

The center was huge, with tables and booths as far as the eye could see.  Lined up all along the wall were tables where the autograph-signing stars were seated. Their names were posted on signs behind their heads, for the benefit of those who didn’t recognize them.  The first star I recognized was Lou Ferrigno, who used to play the Incredible Hulk on TV.  He was sitting by himself, in all his muscular glory, with not a soul around him.  I rushed over.

He greeted me with a smile and a hello.  I took my camera out of my purse and asked him if I could take a photo of him.

“If you want to take a photo of me, it’s okay,” he said. “But if you want to take a photo WITH me, it’s $10.”

Maybe I was too na├»ve when it came to dealing with stars, but I honestly thought he was joking about the $10.  I laughed.  He didn’t.  I quickly snapped his photo and took off.

While my husband was busy looking at a table stacked with trading cards for sale, I checked out some of the other autograph tables.  I hardly recognized any of the stars’ names, which was pretty disappointing.  Even more disappointing was the fact Darth Maul turned out to be a no-show.  The only Star Wars character I saw was a guy who’d played a Jawa  (a little desert-dwelling hooded character) for a grand total of four minutes in the very first movie.  His autograph was $10, which seemed to be the going price there for anything associated with the stars.

As I continued to walk past the long line of tables, I happened to notice a striking young guy with shoulder-length hair and piercing blue eyes.  Without thinking, I stopped dead in front of his table and began to look at all the 8”x10” photos of him that were spread out across it.  They, however, were $20 apiece.

“Do you know who I am?” the young man’s voice suddenly interrupted my perusing

“No,” I said, still ogling his photos.  Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “But you’re pretty sexy looking!”

It wasn’t until he laughed and thanked me that I realized what I’d said.  I felt my cheeks burst into flames.

“I play Byron on Babylon 5,” he said. “Have you ever watched the show?”

I shook my head.

“But you WILL watch it now, won’t you?” he said, smiling.

“I thought that show was canceled,” I said (once again tasting shoe leather from putting my foot in my mouth).

His expression sobered. “Yes, but there are always the reruns.”

I decided I’d better head to another table.  A few tables down, I was excited to recognize an actor who played Reverend Carpenter on one of my favorite soap operas, “One Life to Live.”

After he greeted me, I said, “I heard that your co-star on the show got fired because she was pregnant in real life.”

 “Oh, that’s a bunch of tabloid bull***t!” he said, in a very un-reverend-like manner.

Nevertheless, I splurged $10 for an autographed photo of him.  He took the photo I selected and, with pen in hand, asked, “So, what’s your name?”

“Oh, don’t put my name on it!” I said. “If you do, I won’t be able to resell it!”

 The taste of shoe leather returned.

Reverend Carpenter laughed, in spite of himself. “You’re a real pro at this, aren’t you!” he said.

I grabbed the photo and headed off to find my husband.  He was standing behind a post and staring at a table of autograph-signing former Playboy centerfolds.

“I’ll bet you’re thinking it would be pretty cool to have one of those centerfolds personally autograph a photo for you so you could show it to all your buddies,” I teased him.

He shook his head vigorously. “No way am I going over there."

“Tell you what,” I said, “you were so nice to bring me here, I’ll go get an autographed photo for you!”

So there I stood, in line with about 10 men, while my husband continued to hide behind the post.  Of course, I chose the Miss Centerfold who was so old, when her photo appeared in Playboy, the printing press had just barely been invented…but that was besides the point.

When we finally emerged from the collectors’ show three hours later, our arms filled with such must-have purchases as Laverne and Shirley dolls from the TV show of the same name, a Stormtrooper’s helmet and a Cher doll, we were surprised to see that the sky had turned black and exploded into a terrible storm.  We stood in the doorway and watched the unbelievably heavy downpour for 10 minutes before my husband, who’d never been known for his patience, finally said, “I’m going to make a dash for the car, then I’ll come pick you up.”

As I stood there, waiting for him to pull up, I heard the man next to me say to his friend, “Look at that idiot driving right through that huge puddle over there!  It’s up over his tires!  He’s going to stall out the car for sure!”

I followed their eyes.  The “idiot” was my husband.

Funny, but the next time I mentioned going to another show at the Bayside Expo, my husband handed me $25 and told me it would be a really nice, relaxing bus ride.


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Saturday, August 13, 2016



Last week, I woke up out of a dead sleep with the world’s worst toothache. It felt as if someone had taken a metal spike, heated it to 1,000 degrees and rammed it into my tooth…and then twisted it. The pain shot into my ear and then into my eye. Unfortunately, for my entire life, my mouth always has lived by one specific rule: toothaches, especially really bad ones, must strike only on weekends, when dentists are closed.

So I suffered all weekend, counting the minutes until Monday morning…and eating all of my meals from a blender because it hurt so much to chew. Believe me, chicken and potatoes pureed in a blender weren’t exactly what I’d call gourmet fare. In fact, the end result was a cross between wallpaper paste and pudding…chicken pudding.

Excuse me…I had to pause for a moment there to gag.

Last Monday, as I was lying in the dentist's chair, awaiting the results of  my x-rays, I couldn't help but think back to the days when dentistry was downright barbaric, and I silently thanked my lucky stars I wasn't having my toothache taken care of back in the early 1900s.

I can remember my grandmother telling me stories about her dentist, whose cure for everything was to just yank the tooth. She said he would sit her down, wedge his knee somewhere between her ribs, and then reach into her mouth and yank. If the pain became too unbearable and she cried out, he kept a bottle of something about 80-proof handy to help ease the pain (or to make his patients too "happy" to care about it).

Funny, but back in the 1960s, I regularly went to a dentist who must have trained at the same school as my grandmother's dentist.  Actually, he said he'd learned dentistry in the navy years before, during the war. He never said which war, but considering his techniques, I'm pretty sure it was the Civil War.

For one thing, he kept a bottle of whiskey in a cabinet near the examining chair (he had three dental chairs in his office: one for examinations and cleaning, another for x-rays, and a third one for the actual dental work).  He often showed me the bottle, which was covered with dust, and told me it was the first Novocain ever invented...and the best.

He was a sociable guy, who loved to talk. Unfortunately, he usually spent more time talking than actually working on my teeth.  Even a small filling was guaranteed to take about two hours. He'd pause about 20 times during the procedure to tell his old navy stories, complete with exaggerated hand gestures. The filling probably would have taken only about 10 minutes if he had stopped talking long enough to actually work on it.  And he always worked alone when fixing teeth. Dental assistants, he said, just got in his way (and probably would have quit anyway, after hearing his same old navy stories four or five hundred times).  He did have a secretary/bookkeeper, though.

This dentist had some unusual habits, which, because I didn't know any better, thought were perfectly normal.  For example, after he filled a tooth, he would press his finger on the filling until it set. And while he was pressing it, he would sit there and read the morning newspaper.

He also had a habit of disappearing in the middle of a dental procedure.  He suddenly would set down the drill and say, "Hang on a minute, I'll be right back."  Then, a few minutes later, through the window in front of the chair, which faced the street, I would see him, bundled up in his hat and coat, walking his dog. Sometimes he wouldn't return for a half-hour.  And one time, when my mother was in the chair, the dentist took off with his dog, ended up meeting some old buddies, and forgot all about her.

The incident that still stands out the most in my mind, however, occurred on the day the dentist brought his new puppy to work. He kept the dog in a storage room out back, which contained a blanket, dog food, water, and puppy toys, but still, the dog howled so much, it disturbed not only the patients, but also just about every tenant in the building.

As I sat in the dental chair, waiting for yet another dreaded filling, because my voracious penny-candy addiction back then caused me to sprout a constant crop of fresh cavities, the dentist walked in with the puppy slung underneath his arm. "Here," he said, thrusting the dog at me.  "You like animals, don't you?  Can you hold him and keep him quiet while I work on your teeth?"

Naturally, being a kid, I was thrilled to death, even though now that I think back to that day, I'm sure the Board of Health would have slapped him with every violation known to man, had an inspector popped in and spotted the puppy sitting on my lap and sniffing the spit drain.

Anyway, I sat there happily clutching the puppy and feeling as if maybe the dentist's office wasn't the worst place in the world to be forced to spend a perfectly good summer morning after all, when suddenly the dentist fired up the old drill. The sound of it startled the puppy...and it promptly wet all over my lap.

When I cried out in surprise, the dentist looked down at my wet lap, frowned, and calmly said, "I won't charge you anything for your filling today."

I remember how, when I told my dad about it, he’d laughed and said, “Too bad the dog didn’t poop on you – you might have been able to get free dental work for a year!”

And I'll never forget when, in later years, the dentist first learned a brand new dental procedure called bonding. My mother was one of the first people he tried it on, and he proceeded to bond her two front teeth together.  When she got home, she smiled at me and said, "How do they look?"

"Like you have a big clump of white bread stuck to your front teeth," I said. "Aren't you supposed to have a line separating your teeth?"

My mother rushed to the nearest mirror and gasped.  "My two front teeth have been turned into one giant tooth!  What am I going to do?  I look like a beaver!"

She returned to the dentist's office and he, using a strip of something that looked like heavy-duty sandpaper, tried to "saw" a space between her two front teeth.  My poor mother said that having her toenails ripped off with pliers would have been less painful.

So why did we go to this dentist?  Because he was cheap. In fact, he was so cheap, no other dentist in town could compete with his rates.  And in the days when dental insurance virtually was unheard of, cheap was important. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.  I eventually needed a root canal in just about every tooth he ever filled because he was so "drill happy," he drilled right into the pulp of every one of them.

A few years ago, I was telling my current dentist about my old dentist and his antics.  He listened, smiling politely and nodding, then finally shook his head and said, "You don't really expect me to believe any of this, do you?"

"She's telling the truth," his secretary, who, unbeknownst to us, had been listening to every word, cut in. "I don't usually admit this, but back when I was in high school, I worked for the guy she's talking about.  She's not exaggerating at all. In fact, I could tell you a few stories about him that would beat hers by a mile."

So now, years later, as I’m sitting here still feeling the effects of  my most recent toothache and all of the pain – and money – it ended up costing me, I'm thinking that maybe a  couple swigs of whiskey, a knee in my stomach, and a swift, forceful yank on that tooth really might not have been so barbaric after all.

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