Monday, May 28, 2018


I was cleaning the closet in the spare room the other day, not because I had a sudden urge to do housework (which, in my case, will never happen unless scientists invent a mind-altering “urge-to-do-housework” drug), but because I needed a place to store the latest stuff I'd purchased. Cleaning the closet is an annual tradition because I have to get rid of some of the old stuff before I can cram in the new stuff.

So there I was, digging into the dark and mysterious depths of the unknown, pulling out empty Christmas boxes, bags of bubble wrap, assorted Barbie dolls, 5-lb. wrist-weights and a heating pad (in case I ever decide to actually use the 5-lb. wrist-weights), when I found, hidden in a box way back in the corner, a treasure I hadn’t seen in decades.

It was my old Beatles scrapbook from the 1960s.

I grabbed it, then sat down on the edge of the bed and took a trip into the past, page by page. The scrapbook was in terrible shape; loose pages, very yellowed and torn, with pieces of dried-up cellophane tape falling out of it like confetti.

On the first page was a drawing I had done of George Harrison, my favorite Beatle and the love of my life, back when I was 14. The drawing made him look as if he’d been the victim of a terrible accident. His nose was off-center, one eye was higher and a lot smaller than the other, and his teeth looked like a picket fence. The famous Beatle haircut didn’t look too bad, though. Not only had I personally signed my masterpiece, I had entitled it, “My Future Husband.”

I cringed when I looked at the next 10 pages. I had GLUED about 100 original Beatles trading cards onto them. And if that hadn’t been enough to destroy them, I’d written comments in ink on each one, like; “Is that a booger up in Ringo’s nose?” or “I love George’s tight pants!”

I remembered how many five-cent packs of bubble gum I’d had to buy to get those trading cards, and how many soda bottles I’d had to collect and cash in for the nickel refund just so I could buy more cards.

Out of curiosity, I set down the scrapbook for a moment and went to my computer to see how much my Beatles cards would be worth today if I had kept them in mint condition. 

You know, psychologists say it’s healthy to have a good cry now and then. Well, let’s just say that after I looked up the value of the cards, I was feeling exceptionally healthy. And when I saw that the wrappers from the packs were worth even more than the cards (who on earth kept the wrappers?), I felt even healthier.

The scrapbook also contained dozens of newspaper and magazine clippings…old, falling-apart, mildewed clippings, mostly about George. In one photo, the Beatles were wearing old-fashioned striped swimsuits that covered him from the neck to the knees, with snaps down the front. Funny, but I’d never realized before what skinny legs and knobby knees George had. In fact, in most of the clippings, he looked as if he weighed about 135 lbs. soaking wet. He’d looked so much more rugged and muscular to me when I was 14.

In the scrapbook, I even found my original ticket from the State Theater in Manchester for the premiere of the Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. The ticket was large and blue, with the Beatles’ photos on it, along with the date and the name of the movie theater. In magic marker, I had written across it, “Fab movie!”

I groaned. I was tempted to look up the value of that ticket, just to see what it would be worth if I hadn’t destroyed it, but I figured I’d already shed enough tears to boost my health for one day.

My scrapbook abruptly ended with several clippings about George’s marriage to British model, Patti Boyd. In their wedding photo, Patti was wearing a mini dress, white stockings and a big fur coat. In various shades of ink, I had drawn a mustache and warts on Patti’s face, a bushy tail hanging out from underneath her fur coat, and big squiggly varicose veins on her white legs (which were even skinnier and knobbier than George’s).

I closed the scrapbook and smiled. The time had come, I decided, to toss out the musty old thing. But just as I was about to stuff it into the trash bag, I came up with a crazy idea. Just for the heck of it, I’d try putting it up for bid on Ebay. Would anyone want to bid on something that was so old, if they sneezed on it, it would disintegrate into powder? Would anyone want to bid on memorabilia that I and my faithful marking pens had turned into nothing but a collection of graffiti? I was about to find out.

The winning bid was $35.

All I can say is that in the future, if I see that scrapbook being resold on Ebay for about $500, you can bet I’m going to be one of the healthiest people around.

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Monday, May 21, 2018


I often wonder what it is about men that makes them so attached to their cars.  I swear, there are some men who, if a police officer came to the door and said, “Your wife just accidentally drove your car over a cliff,” their response would be, “Ohmigod!  Is my car okay?!”

These are the same men who think nothing of shelling out thousands of dollars to make their cars look beautiful, yet would make their wives get a second job if they wanted to buy a new dress for a party.  A few years ago, I even saw a news item on TV about this man who was so in love with his car, he actually held a wedding ceremony and married it! The news footage showed the guy kissing the hood of the car and hugging it.

You might be wondering what got me started on this “some men love their cars way too much” kick today.  Well, it all began this afternoon when I happened to see a vintage Corvette zooming down the highway.  The moment I set eyes on it, I was transported back to the year 1968 - the year I first learned just how deeply a man can love his car.

It began on a Thursday night in downtown Manchester, which, in 1968, was THE place for everyone under the age of 20 to hang out with their friends. You might say Elm Street back then was like a giant shopping mall - only completely outdoors.

A couple Thursday nights in a row before that night, my friend Alice and I had talked to these two cute guys, Bob and Norm, from Central High (we were from their rival, West High).  Finally, on this particular Thursday night, as Alice and I stood waiting at Thom McCan’s (one of the main downtown bus-stops back then) for our bus to come, Norm and Bob offered to give us a ride home.

Alice, being much more daring than I was, immediately said yes.  I followed her and the guys to what I thought was their car.  As Alice and Bob climbed into the front seat, and I started to climb into the back, Norm stopped me.

“I brought my own car,” he said.  Then, smiling proudly, added, “It’s a '56 Corvette convertible in mint condition.”  

The expression on my face remained unchanged.  I didn’t know the difference between a Corvette and a Winnebago, nor did I have any desire to learn.  All that concerned me at that moment was that Bob and Alice were zooming away, leaving me alone with Norm.  I was ready to dart back to the bus stop.

When Norm pointed out his car to me, however, I nearly laughed.  It was so small!  And the convertible top was down, which made it look even smaller.  The car barely came up to my knees, it was so low to the ground.   And, I thought, with a small sense of relief,  if Norm tried to get grabby (though heaven only knows where he’d find the room to make a move in a car that small) I could climb out of it as easily as climbing out of a bathtub.

Norm looked disturbed when he noticed how unimpressed I was. “Don’t you like my car?” he asked. “Everyone LOVES it!  You should see people stare at me and point when I drive around in it!  It was really expensive, but believe me, it was worth every penny.”

“Expensive?” I repeated. “It’s so small, it looks as if it should have tricycle pedals on the floor - you know, like one of those kiddie cars for toddlers?"

Believe me, his expression told me I wasn’t earning any brownie points.

I soon learned just how important Norm’s car was to him.  During the ride home, I wasn’t allowed to wear my shoes in the car, because they might dirty his carpet.  I wasn’t allowed to touch the dashboard because it would leave fingerprints.  And he nearly drove into a tree when I took a piece of gum out of  my purse.

"There is no eating allowed in my car!" he told me.

"But it's not food," I said. "It's gum!"

"Have you ever tried to remove a wad of gum from upholstery?  It's a nightmare!"

I wanted to ask him if he thought I chewed gum like a cow chewing its cud, and would allow the gum to fall out of my mouth and land on his upholstery, but I kept silent and put the gum back into my purse

Despite Norm’s obsession with his car, he seemed like an okay guy, so I accepted a date with him for that Saturday night. 

As it turned out, he arrived 45 minutes late because he’d spent all day washing and waxing his car, and hadn’t noticed the time.  After a nice dinner at a fairly expensive restaurant, we “cruised” up and down Elm Street for the next two hours so (according to Norm) all the guys could turn green with envy when they saw him in his freshly polished Corvette.

All that riding around with the car’s top down not only chilled me to the bone, it made my hair, which I had spent a good deal of time styling for my big date, look as if it had been combed with a pitchfork.

When Norm finally took me home that night,  I got out of the Corvette and slammed the car door a little too hard.

“What are you doing?!” he shouted, clutching his chest. “Do you want the door to fall off?  Be gentle with her!” 

Her?” I repeated.

“All cars are female!” he said. “You can tell just by looking at the shape of their headlights!”

That convinced me.  The guy was a bona-fide lunatic.

Still, glutton for punishment that I was, I accepted another date with him to go to Canobie Lake Park.  An hour before he was supposed to pick me up, he called.

“I can’t make it tonight,” he said, sounding frantic. “I just found a scratch on my car!  It must have happened when I stopped at the supermarket on the way home.”

I tried to sound sympathetic. “That's terrible, " I said, imagining a foot-long chainsaw type of gash across the door of his car. "How big is the scratch?”

“Three-quarters of an inch!” he said in a tone that normally would be reserved to describe a head-on collision.

“But the car is still running fine, isn’t it?” I pointed out. “And a little scratch never hurt anything.  There’s no reason why we still can’t go to Canobie Lake.”

“Are you serious?” he cried. “How on earth can you possibly expect me to have a good time when I’m so upset about the damage that was done to my poor baby?  And when it comes to Corvettes, NO scratch is little!  I am literally sick to my stomach over this! I'll talk to you later. My baby needs me right now."

Now that I think about it, I should have paid closer attention to that news report about the guy who married his car. I have this sneaking suspicion his name might have been Norm.

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Monday, May 14, 2018


Another Mother’s Day has just passed and I found myself thinking about days gone by, back when my husband and I faithfully took our mothers out to dinner every year on their special day.  My mother always jumped at any opportunity to go out for a meal, but my mother-in-law often hesitated before accepting our invitation.

“Are you going to be trying another new restaurant this year?” she seemed almost afraid to ask.

I honestly couldn’t blame her for he reluctance. For some reason, instead of taking our mothers to their favorite restaurants on Mother’s Day, my husband and I thought it would be more exciting and adventurous to try new places every year. The results, for the most part, were pretty disastrous.

There was one restaurant north of Concord, for example, we’d seen highly praised in a dining guide, so we thought it would be the perfect place for a Mother’s Day drive and dinner.

The food turned out to be so terrible, I’m surprised my dogs didn’t report me to the SPCA when I brought home the leftovers in a doggy bag for them.

I’d ordered barbecued lamb that, without exaggeration, looked exactly like a pile of black raisins on my plate. My mother-in-law’s barbecued chicken-tenders were soggy pieces of chicken drenched in cold barbecue sauce poured straight from the bottle. And my mother’s turkey dinner was a mouth-watering piece of old bread with some sliced cold-cuts stacked on top of it, all buried beneath a layer of bright-yellow canned gravy.

I left there seriously wondering if we’d live through the night.

The next Mother’s Day, we tried a different restaurant, one that several of our friends had recommended.

“I think I’ll have a nice thick sirloin steak,” my husband said as we pulled into the parking lot. No big surprise from a man who’d spent his life eating so much beef, if someone wearing a red cape ever happened to walk by him, I’m pretty sure he would have lowered his head and charged at him.

At the restaurant, we were seated in a spacious booth and handed a single sheet of paper with five meals listed on it: Chicken Cordon Bleu, seafood pie, filet mignon, prime rib, and stuffed haddock. The prices were high enough to make even the Rockefellers develop palpitations.

“What is this?” I asked the waiter as I flipped over the paper, hoping to see more selections on the other side.

“It’s our special Mother’s Day menu,” he said, smiling brightly.

“Where’s the turkey? The baked ham? The sirloin steak?” I asked, tempted to add, “Where’s the cheap stuff?”

“Oh, those aren’t Mother’s Day items,” he said.

Even though the price was what I’d expect to pay for a whole cow, I settled for the filet mignon. My husband also ordered it.

We placed our orders at 2:15. At 3:45 we had yet to see anything edible other than a basket of breadsticks, which we’d turned into a pile of crumbs by 2:30. By then, we were ready to gnaw on the basket.

“I’m getting weak from hunger,” my mother-in-law said. “If I had known this, I would have eaten lunch.”

“My stomach’s holding a full conversation with me,” my mother, who normally would have been on her fourth meal of the day by then, added.

“Well, at least we’re spending quality time together,” I said, smiling weakly.

Finally, after we had been staring so long at the food on the tables around us, the other diners were getting ready to toss their table scraps at us out of pity, our meals arrived.

Even Barbie and Ken would have starved on the portions on our plates.

My husband stabbed his piece of filet mignon, which was about the size of a meatball, held it up and said, “Is this all of it?” Before I could answer, he added, “Gross! Look at all the white fat around it!”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Filet mignon doesn’t have white fat on it!” I happened to look down at my piece and noticed that it also had some kind of gelatinous white stuff around it. When I touched it with my fork, it fell off onto my plate.

“It’s a thick slab of bacon!” my husband said, as if he’d made some exciting discovery. “Raw bacon!”

I was hungry, but not nearly hungry enough to eat raw bacon.

The meals that had taken nearly two hours to receive, took us all of ten minutes to eat. I still was so hungry, I was tempted to lick everyone’s plates.

“I wonder what they have for dessert?” my husband said. “I’m ready for a big slab of chocolate cake!”

“Odds are that it’s not part of their Mother’s Day menu,” I said. “But I’ll bet you can get a nice tablespoonful of rice pudding for about $25.”

So after that, we had our mothers choose where they wanted to go on Mother’s Day. That way, if the meals turned out to be a failure, my husband and I wouldn’t be to blame or feel burdened with guilt afterwards.

Unfortunately, they chose a home-cooked meal at my house…

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Monday, May 7, 2018


I have been obsessed lately with collecting fir-tree cones for craft projects. Unlike pine cones, fir-tree cones are tiny, some not even a half-inch in length, and I can fit about 350 of them in a plastic sandwich-bag.

This year, the cones have shown up in abundance, something they do only every few years, so I’ve been trying to gather as many as possible while the getting is good. I figure I can stockpile them for every craft project I’ll need them for until the year 2025.

So every day lately, during my daily two-mile walk, I have been collecting the cones. This has led to a bunch of problems, several of which I’m fortunate haven’t landed me in jail.

I started out picking the cones from my own fir trees. The problem was, I picked all of the cones as high as I could reach. Every day, I would go out there and glare at the huge clumps of cones about 10 feet up on the trees and wish I suddenly could grow another five feet in height. I wasn’t about to try to climb any trees – or ladders – mainly because I’m afraid of heights, so the cones taunted me every day, calling out to me, “Ha!  We are the nicest shaped cones on this tree but you can’t reach us! Good enough for you, shorty! That’ll teach you to strip our bottom halves bare! How would YOU like it if we did that to you?” 

But then came the recent strong winds and everything changed. Suddenly, there were fir-tree cones everywhere in my driveway and on my lawn, and all I had to do was bend over and scoop them up. No more leaping into the air while trying to reach the higher branches. No more whacking at the branches with a rake to try to shake off some cones. They were flying through the air and practically landing at my feet! I felt as if I’d just struck gold.

But I became greedy and wanted an assortment of shapes, sizes and colors. All of the cones on my trees looked the same – mainly because all of the trees looked the same. So I decided I probably should collect some from other trees – like maybe from my neighbors’ property – to add some variety to my collection.  No one would miss a few cones, I told myself, especially since every tree in the area had about a gazillion on them.

So each day during my walks, I brought a sandwich bag with me and vowed not to go home until I filled it.  On one wooded stretch of my road there were hundreds of cones just lying on the ground, so I greedily began to fill the bag. As I was doing so, a jogger came by.

“Looking for old cigarette butts?” he called out to me, laughing.

“Yeah, I’m having trouble kicking the habit!” I called back.

I filled the bag in five minutes, then smiling with satisfaction, continued on with my walk. That’s when I noticed a huge fir tree on someone’s lawn. The cones on it were works of art – perfectly shaped, a nice dark shade of brown, and ripe for the picking. There was no sign of life anywhere in or around the house, so I nonchalantly made my way over to the tree, then frantically began to pick the cones and stuff them into my pockets. When my pockets were full, I quickly walked off the property – where I noticed two guys who’d been putting siding on the house across the road, standing there staring at me. The expressions on their faces told me they thought I might know something about fir-tree cones that they didn’t. Considering how frantically I’d picked them and shoved them into my pockets, they probably thought I was going to take them home and smoke them.  

When I got home with my “stash,” I emptied the cones from my pockets and laid them out on the kitchen counter. My smile of satisfaction faded, however, when a bunch of ugly black bugs crawled out of them.  I had no idea what the bugs were, but I was pretty sure they were some evil cone-eating breed that was going to seek out and destroy all of the other cones I’d managed to gather. So I shoved all of the cones and bugs back into the bag, sealed it, and then tossed it into the outdoor trash barrel. I felt so upset, you’d think I was tossing out a dead relative’s ashes.  I then shoved my jacket into the dryer to kill any bugs that might be hiding in the pockets.

I had to suppress the urge to go complain to my neighbors that they were harboring a crop of ugly fir-dwelling bugs that could overrun the neighborhood and cause a fir-cone blight, but I didn’t want to risk being arrested for grand-theft cones.

So the next day I “visited” another neighbor’s property and helped myself to some of the cones there. They looked great and I checked them for bugs before I started to pick them.  That’s when I heard barking – and saw a dog running across the yard, right toward me.

I froze.

Not far behind the dog was the owner. 

“Great. I’m going to end up sharing a jail cell with a heavily tattooed woman named Big Bertha,” I mumbled under my breath, clamping my eyes shut. “That is, if there is anything left of me after the dog gets through with me.”

As it turned out, both the dog and the owner were friendly.

“What are you doing?” the guy asked me.

“Picking cones for crafts,” I said. “I hope you don’t mind, but the ones on your tree are just about perfect in shape and size for what I need.”

“No, not at all.” he said. “In fact, I’ll help you pick some!”

I wasn’t about to turn down his help, but he wasn’t a craftsperson. He didn’t know that each cone had to be perfect. He didn’t know I didn’t want the shriveled-up or lopsided ones. He just grabbed every cone in sight and stuffed them into my bag. I wasn’t certain if he really wanted to help me or if he just wanted to get rid of me as fast as possible.

I ended up, after days of picking, filling a five-gallon bag with cones. I sorted through all of them and weeded out any that had missing parts, dirt or irregular shapes before putting them into the bag. So I ended up with a collection of perfect specimens. I overcame plenty of hazards to get those perfect cones, too. I had a snake crawl over my foot. I had a tick on the back of my hand and later found one on my calf. And during a particularly windy day, a huge dead tree came crashing down only 20 feet away from me. I nearly suffered a heart attack.

I also became intimately acquainted with my heating pad after suffering from muscle cramps from so much bending and stretching.

And more than once, when I didn’t take my walk until dusk, I picked up what I thought was a cone…and it turned out to be some kind of small-animal poop.

Then there was the rainy day I was able to pick only a few more cones to add to my collection. I put them into my “perfect specimen” bag and sealed it for future use. I figured I finally had enough cones. No more picking. I was done.

As it turned out, those last few cones I added to the bag were damp from the rain and caused 85 percent of the other cones in the bag to rot.

I would like to describe what my reaction was when I discovered the crumbling mass of cones in the bag – but it’s not printable. 

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