Monday, June 25, 2018


There was a plastic surgeon on TV the other night who was saying that if women would like to know what they should look like after a successful facelift (no "cat" eyes or lips pulled into a tight, Joker-like smile), all they need is a hand-held mirror.

He said to sit on a chair, tilt your head all the way back and then look up into the hand-held mirror. That's how a facelift should look - subtle and natural. Then he said to put the mirror on your lap, lean forward and look directly down into it to see how you might look in 10 years if you don't get a facelift,

No kidding, the image staring up at me scared me. All I needed was a poison apple and I could have doubled as the wicked witch in "Snow White."  The doctor also suggested taking "selfies" of each look and then comparing them. Heck, I wasn't about to go 10 feet near a camera after seeing what I saw in that mirror, because the last thing I wanted  to do was immortalize that image in any way.

When I was younger, like in my teens and 20s, I loved having my photo taken. In fact, you might say I was a real ham. But as I aged, the camera gradually became my enemy. This is why, back when I was writing a humor column for several newspapers, people began to ask when I was going to change my photo. 

Personally, I didn't think that using the same photo for 15 years was that long. In fact, I'd have been perfectly content to use it for another 15.

“You’re the one who writes the column in the newspaper?” people began to ask when they'd meet me in person, not even attempting to conceal their obvious looks of surprise. 

And the comments I heard ranged from, “So, what's that photo in your column? Your high-school graduation?” to, “Are you trying to be like Dear Abby?  She used the same photo for about a hundred years!”

The main problem was, it wasn't easy for me to get a decent photo of myself.  In every group shot, I always was the one with her eyes closed, mouth hanging open, nose crinkled as if smelling something that died, or looking somewhere other than at the camera. If the shot was a close-up, there usually was a zit the size of the planet Jupiter somewhere on my face, or my hair looked as if it just had been struck by lightning.

Whenever I needed a new headshot of myself for my column, it usually involved asking my husband (rest his soul) to take it.   And believe me, a photo session with him was a true test of patience...something I've always lacked.

For one thing, most people hold the camera up to their right eye when they snap a photo.  My husband always used his left.  The end result was a stack of off-center photos with one side of my body completely missing.  It looked as if I'd cut off a previous "significant other" so he wouldn't be in the photo.

But after I purchased a digital camera with a view-screen on it, I felt certain my problems finally were over.  I mean, whatever could be seen on the screen was exactly what was going to be in the photo.  Simple...even for someone like my husband.

So brave soul that I was, a few years ago I asked him to snap a new photo of me for my column. Seeing I had a new, state-of-the-art camera, I figured it would take only a few minutes. 

Once again, I'd figured wrong. 

Normally, when someone is holding a camera, his finger poised on the button, and he asks, “Ready?” it means he’s going to snap the shot.

Not my husband.  To him, “Ready?” meant at least another 30 seconds of trying to aim the camera "just right."  In the process, he'd inevitably move his hand and then wouldn't be able to find the button again. This usually resulted in my getting frustrated and shouting, “Well, what the heck is taking you so long?” just as he finally snapped the photo.

That explains why I’ve amassed a collection of photos with my mouth wide open and my expression looking as if I’m preparing to go wrestle a grizzly bear.

Even though I specifically told my husband I needed a nice,  close-up headshot for my column,  the first photo he snapped, which he deemed as “perfect,” had my entire body in it, along with the chair I was sitting on. 

“You call that a headshot?” I asked him. “You can even see what color shoes I'm wearing!"

“Well, your head’s in it, isn’t it?” he answered. “Just cut out the rest!”

He also had a problem with the camera’s view-screen.

“ I can’t see anything on it!” he complained. “Why can’t I see you?”

“Because you’re aiming the camera at the blank wall above my head,” I said, rolling my eyes...just as he lowered the camera and snapped the photo.

The shot made me look as if I had white eyeballs and was on the verge of having a seizure. 

When I complained, he said, “Well, you write a humor column, don’t you? Maybe you should purposely try for a funny photo – like making a face, or wearing a clown nose or something!  Then people would know right away that the column is supposed to be humorous.”

The thought of being immortalized while sticking out my tongue or wearing a clown nose didn’t really didn’t appeal to me, even though by then, I was getting desperate enough to seriously consider it.

“Just take a photo, will you?” I practically growled at him. “At this point, I don’t care if I look like a 110-year-old hag in it!  I’m going to use it!”

Twenty photos later, I finally surrendered.  There was no way, I concluded, I was going to get a shot that didn’t show my chipmunk cheeks, crooked bangs, double chin or crow’s feet...not unless I put a paper bag over my head.

So I finally decided to use the photo you now see at the top of this column.

And mark my words, it’s going to stay there for at least another 20 years. 

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Monday, June 18, 2018


I can’t believe how far video games have progressed in just the past few years. I can remember the very first video game we purchased. It was called "Pong" and featured two on-screen paddles and a ball. The game basically involved batting the ball back and forth with the paddles.  Talk about a snooze-fest. And the next games progressed to stick figures of humans doing battle. They moved around like robots and had limited capabilities, such as being able to move only left and right or up and down.

Today’s games, however, are so realistic, the on-screen characters actually breathe and have beard stubble. I sure wish my husband were still around to see them. He would be as excited as a rottweiler in a butcher shop.

Back during the height of the video-game craze about 15 years ago, my husband actually had no interest in any of it. But I (unfortunately) changed all of that.

It all began when I read an article that said home-video games such as Nintendo and Playstation could greatly relieve stress. According to the article, not only did the games involve a lot of careful planning and strategy, they also allowed people to relieve their tension by smashing, destroying and blowing up things onscreen.  Seeing that my husband was under a good deal of stress at work at the time, I thought a Playstation (or mass quantities of valium) might be the perfect solution for him.

Knowing about as much about video games as I did about building my own missile launcher, I headed to the store.  The clerk was very helpful, even suggesting the most popular games and accessories to go with the Playstation system.  I arrived home about $250 poorer, but with high hopes.  To my disappointment, my purchases were met with less than wild enthusiasm.

“I don’t know when I’ll ever have time to use a Playstation,” my husband said. “I just have too much work.”

“But that’s the whole point,” I protested. “I bought it to take your mind off work.”

The next Saturday morning, he tried the two games I’d purchased - one with killer zombies running rampant and the other with a shapely woman adventurer.  He ended up  yawning halfway through them.  The Playstation was neatly put away in its box after that, never, I assumed, to see the light of day again.  Needless to say, I was not pleased.

Two weeks later, however, as I was browsing in a department store, I happened to notice a Playstation game that seemed to be tailor-made for my husband.  He’d always told me that when he was a child, no game, toy or bike ever came close to giving him as much pleasure as playing with his simple set of green plastic toy soldiers. Well, sitting right there in a glass case in the store, was a video game featuring little green toy soldiers battling little tan toy soldiers.  It also was on sale for only $19.95 instead of the usual $39.95.  I snapped it up. 

Just as I’d hoped, when I presented the game to my husband, his eyes lit up like 100-watt bulbs.  He immediately dug out the Playstation and hooked it up.  Within minutes, he was so involved in playing the game and leading his soldiers to victory by capturing “Fort Plastico” (or whatever it was called), I ceased to exist.

Hours passed…then days, weeks and months (or so it seemed) and still he played

“I’ve made it to another level!” he’d victoriously shout after completing each new mission.  Then he’d go on to another…and another.  Of course, back then, in order to play the game, he had to completely take over the TV set.  I honestly began to forget what a TV screen (without little tan and green soldiers running all over it) looked like.

“Only one more game,” he would say at 8 o’clock every night. “I’m really tired tonight.”  Whenever he’d say that, I’d nearly jump up and cheer, foolishly believing it meant I’d actually get to watch my favorite TV shows for the first time in ages.

Alas, ten o’clock would come and go, and still my husband wouldn’t be any closer to going to bed…or quitting his game.  I figured if I ever wanted to see my TV shows again, I’d have to wait for them to be released on DVD.

“The Playstation is relieving my husband’s stress,” I kept telling myself, all the while feeling more and more stressed myself.  Then, one night, my husband came out with something that caught me completely off guard.

“Did you know that two people can play this game?” he asked. “Why don’t you grab one of the controllers and play a game with me?  You can be the tan army, and I’ll be the green.”

“But I don’t even know the first thing about it,” I protested, staring at the controller as if it were contaminated with some fatal bacteria.

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you,” he said.  

Fool that I was, I believed him.

Barely one minute into the game, his little green soldier leaped out from behind a wall and shot my tan soldier.  My soldier groaned, then keeled over backwards and landed with his feet up in the air.

I glared at my husband.

Within seconds, I had another tan soldier armed and ready to do battle.  Once again, my husband’s green soldier popped up out of nowhere (this time, with a flame thrower) and reduced my poor guy to a puddle of melted tan plastic.  My husband cackled fiendishly.

“I’ve had enough of this game!” I snapped (gracious loser that I was), throwing the controller down. “You’re too mean!”

“Oh, all right,” he said. “I’ll go easy on you till you get the hang of it.  Just give it one more try, okay?” 

Against my better judgment, I played another game. This time, I put my soldier in a big tank and went zooming toward the enemy lines, knocking over little plastic trees and bushes in the process.  When one of my husband’s soldiers suddenly sprang up from behind a rock, I blasted him with the tank’s gun and kept right on rolling.

My husband looked openly shocked that I’d actually managed to aim at something and hit it.  With his mouth set in a straight line of determination, he sent in another soldier.  I promptly flattened him with my tank.   

“Not bad,” my husband said, though he had a distinct “revenge is mine” look on his face.  He then casually added, “By the way, there’s a big black spider crawling down the wall right behind your head.”

I laughed, not taking my eyes off the game. “Good try,” I said. “But you’re not going to make me lose with a lousy trick like that!”

Even though I didn’t break my concentration, my husband’s soldier managed to get his little green mitts on a bazooka and blow most of my soldier away.  His tiny plastic feet were all that remained standing after my husband finally ran out of ammunition.

“What do I do now?” I asked. “How can I shoot anyone when I have nothing left but feet?”

“Your soldier has to find a first-aid kit,” my husband answered. “It will magically patch him up and make him whole again. But I’ll tell you right now, my soldiers are carefully guarding it, and I’ve surrounded it with land mines!”

I was determined to find that darned first-aid kit, even though my soldier didn’t even have a head to search for it with.  Just as my soldier’s feet moved around a pile of rocks, I happened to catch a glimpse of something running along the arm of the sofa - on which my arm was resting as I played.  It was the aforementioned big black spider.  I screamed and jumped to my feet, dropping the game controller in the process.  My husband immediately seized the opportunity to fling a grenade at my soldier’s feet and disintegrate them. “Green Team Wins!” flashed across the TV screen.

I scowled at him. “That’s not fair!  I had interference!”

He shrugged. “I warned you about that spider and you didn’t believe me!  Besides that, all’s fair in love and war.”

I told him exactly what he could do with his dumb old game.  Undaunted, he continued to play it alone, for hours on end.  It finally got to the point where I honestly was on the verge of taking a sledge hammer to the thing, until one night, when my husband suddenly uttered the words I’d been longing to hear for at least two or three centuries: “I’m getting sick of this game.”

I watched in disbelief as he put the game back into its box and switched the TV to an actual network program. 

I could NOT believe what one of the first commercials was (and I swear this is the absolute truth)...a colorful advertisement for a brand NEW Playstation toy soldiers game!  My husband left skid marks as he rushed to the store to buy it.

Mysteriously, when he returned with his treasured purchase, his Playstation didn’t work. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the new game- or any other game – to play on it.

Gee…I wonder how that happened?  ☺️

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Monday, June 11, 2018


            You’d think that by now, I’d be old enough to realize that when I try to cut corners, I usually end up losing money.  Such was the case with a catalog order I placed several months ago.

            The item was a do-it-yourself electrolysis kit.  When I first saw the ad for it, it sounded like a dream come true.  This kit wasn’t like the others I had seen, where you had to kill only one hair at a time by jabbing the roots with an electric needle and then holding it there for hours before the hair finally surrendered and dropped dead.
No, this state-of-the-art kit had self-adhering pads that could kill hundreds of unwanted hairs all in one shot.  And the ad really emphasized the word “kill.”  Stubborn hair would be gone forever, it promised, gone to that giant hairball in the sky, never to return again.

            Needless to say, I was excited. If there's one thing I've learned about growing older, it's that you begin to lose hair where you want to keep it, and start growing it where you don't want to see it - like your chin and upper lip.  Could I, I wondered, really throw away my tweezers, my Nair, my wax strips and my razors?    Could I really have forever-smooth skin and finally be rid of those stubborn black hairs on my chin - the ones that were the consistency of wire and defied all attempts to pluck with anything weaker than vise-grips?

            There was only one way to find out.  I wrote out a check for $102.99 and sent for the machine. 

            Unfortunately, the item was on back-order and took nearly a month to arrive.  When it did, I immediately tore open the box and examined the contraption.  It looked like a torture device. 
Coming out of the little white plastic machine were three wires - one that snapped onto the self-adhering hair-removal pad, another that snapped onto the “ground” pad (the pad that prevents the user from getting an electrical jolt that makes all body hair that’s NOT under the pad stand up straight on end) and a  third one, which connected to the conductor pad. 

Eager to get started, I hooked up the pads, then slapped one onto my chin and the other two onto my arm.  I cranked up the machine to “super kill.”.

“If you have any dental fillings, you might experience a slight metallic taste in your mouth during the treatment,” the instruction booklet stated.

Metallic was an understatement.  A few seconds into the treatment, I felt as if  I had a giant ball of aluminum foil in my mouth.

“And you might experience a slight tingling sensation,” the booklet also added.

“Slight tingling” turned out be the equivalent of being attacked by a swarm of killer bees.  Still, I figured the torture would be short-lived and worth every minute of it if it saved me from ever having to shave or pluck again.

When I finished one section of my chin, I decided to move the pads to another area of my body.  In my eagerness, I did something unthinkable.  I yanked one of the wires too hard and tore the snap right out of the ground pad.

Panicking, I grabbed some duct tape and taped the snap back onto the pad.  Then I tried it.  I swear my eyes flashed “TILT” when I turned on the machine, the jolt was so shocking. Obviously the ground-pad no longer was grounding anything. Frustrated, I tossed everything back into the box.  Leave it to me, I thought, silently cursing myself.  In only 20 minutes, I had managed to destroy a $103 machine...and only about four hairs.

I desperately scanned the warranty information in the booklet and happened to notice an order blank for a set of replacement pads…for $36.   Muttering under my breath, I ordered them.  I figured I had no choice.  I mean, I needed those darned pads or the machine would be useless.  Still, I thought $36 was a pretty high price to pay for my carelessness.

A month passed, with no sign of the pads.  I called the company in New York.  The customer-service lady told me that my order was at the warehouse in California and would be shipped soon.   Another month passed.  Again, I was told the order was in California.

“How much longer will it take?” I protested. “I desperately need those pads!  Do you want me to end up looking like a gorilla?" 

“I’ll have someone call you about it tomorrow,” the woman answered mechanically, not sounding the least bit sympathetic.

Had I been holding my breath waiting for that call, I’d have been as blue as a Smurf.  Once again, I called the company.

“We’re sorry,” the woman said. “The company recently has changed hands and we have no idea what happened to the California orders.  No one is even answering the phones out there any more.  I suggest you put a stop-payment on your check.”

“Are you trying to tell me I’m never going to get the pads?” I asked.

“It doesn’t look that way,” she said.

Am I upset that I wasted a total of $139 on a product I can never use?  

Not at all. 

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to track down the former owner of the company, turn my electrolysis machine up to "super kill" and then duct-tape the non-grounded wires to his...

Never mind.

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Monday, June 4, 2018


It's already begun, and I don't like it one bit.  I'm talking about mosquito season.

Years ago, mosquitoes were just pests – something to drive people crazy and ruin their enjoyment of the great outdoors – or to buzz in their ears when they were trying to sleep. But nowadays, mosquitoes, because they spread all sorts of dangerous diseases, are right up there with scorpions and tarantulas on the “fear this insect/critter” list.

Sure, I understand that all creatures were put on this earth for a reason, but I still haven't figured out a logical reason for the creation of mosquitoes...other than to make humans' lives miserable.  Unfortunately, there's a small swamp out behind my house and it’s the fertility clinic of the mosquito world.  They breed there by the zillions.

When I lived in the city, it actually was possible to sit out on the front steps on hot nights and not have to spend all my time swatting myself.  Now that I live in the country, however, I wouldn't dare sit outside unless I had the Red Cross standing by, ready to administer a transfusion.

The first summer we lived in the country, my husband and I were so naïve, we actually sat out in lawn chairs in our yard one night.

"Do you hear a little ringing noise?" my husband asked me, looking around.

I glanced up and saw squadrons of mosquitoes lining up in "V" formation, preparing for attack.

 "I think they’re ringing a dinner bell," I answered.

I really envy the people who, for reasons unknown, do not appeal to mosquitoes.   My mother was one of those people.  She could stand naked outside with a "free vintage blood" sign hanging around her neck, and the mosquitoes would fly right past her.  I, on the other hand, could be hiding inside a giant Hefty bag behind a stack of boxes in a locked closet, and the mosquitoes still would find me.  To them, I figure I look like a giant bottle of fine, aged wine.

My late husband was even more appealing to mosquitoes than I am.  In fact, he was so popular with them, I suspected the mosquitoes were calling ahead to make dinner reservations for a choice spot on his body.  When they bit him, he immediately developed these golf-ball sized lumps that itched so intensely, he would end up frantically scratching himself with everything from his fingernails to a Brillo pad or the garden rake.  So, thanks to the little winged vampires, I usually ended up having to spend the whole summer with a man who was a mass of scabby lumps. 

We tried insect repellents, but they actually were worse than the mosquito bites.  Some of them had so many warning labels on them, they made me afraid to touch the stuff without using tongs and rubber gloves, so I definitely wasn't eager to slather it all over my body.  I even tried a few all-natural methods, such as taking garlic tablets (they say mosquitoes hate the smell of it) but I still attracted a swarm of bugs that obviously thought they'd found a new Italian restaurant.  I also tried a citronella-oil spray that even after several baths, still made me smell as if I should be sitting in a candle bucket on somebody's patio.

I then sent away for a little electronic device to carry with me. The device supposedly emitted a high-pitched noise that repelled mosquitoes.  It set me back $19.95 and it didn't repel a thing.  The mosquitoes even landed right on the device and sat there for a while...before savagely attacking me.

Not long ago, I noticed during my early evening walks that several other walkers were carrying what looked like small tennis rackets. I started wondering if there was a tennis court in my neighborhood I didn’t know about.

One early evening, I happened to meet another neighbor, Ken, who was out walking, and he fell into step with me. We were chatting and enjoying our walk when another couple, carrying rackets, walked past us.

“I hate those dumb rackets,” Ken said to me when the couple was out of earshot. “They look ridiculous.”

“What are they for?” I asked him, clueless.  

“They are portable bug zappers,” he said. “You swat the bugs with the racket and they get fried.”

I didn't want to admit it to him, but the racket sounded like a pretty great invention to me. And personally, I didn’t care how silly it looked to carry one. I mean, if someone told me that mosquitoes were afraid of clowns and wouldn’t go anywhere near one, you can bet I’d be wearing a Bozo (or Ronald McDonald) costume on my next walk.

And speaking of bug zappers, I’ve never really figured out how those fancy yard bug-zappers work.  The way I see it, the only bugs that are attracted to the lights in them are moths, and as far as I can tell, moths have never attacked anyone (well, unless the person was wearing an all-wool suit), so it really seems a shame to fry the poor little things. 

But even if those big bug-zappers do work on mosquitoes, I'd still hesitate to get one for my yard.  A report on the news not long ago stated that you shouldn't eat too near to a zapper because when the bugs explode, their little body parts can be propelled up to seven feet and land on your food.  So, although your outdoor barbecue might be free of annoying little pests, you could be serving moth spleens on your burgers.

I guess there's no sense complaining about it.  The mosquitoes are here and I have no choice but to try to live with them for the rest of the summer.

Meanwhile, I’m going to head over to my nearest Walmart. They’re having a big sale on those bug-zapping tennis rackets and I just might buy several of them in a variety of colors to match all of my outfits.

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