Saturday, April 27, 2019


This time of year, when everyone begins to talk about their summer plans – mainly because they are fed up with cold weather and are eager to look ahead to warmer days – I think longingly about the summers I spent back when I was in my early teens.

My friends and I never were bored. We always thought of something to do or some way to pass the time – that is, when we weren’t earning a few extra dollars babysitting for various neighbors. There was the summer we decided to form a rock band, even though we couldn’t sing or play any instruments. There was another summer when we made costumes and put on horror shows in my basement for the local kids in the neighborhood. And there also was the unforgettable summer my friend Janet, my parents and I spent camping in the wilderness – the adventures of which I have documented in my book, There’s a Tick in my Underwear!

But no matter which summer it was, there always was downtown Manchester, the favorite summer hangout of just about every teen back in the 1960s. Manchester was where the movie theaters, library, pizza parlors, bowling alleys and endless stores were located.

The one place, however, where everyone inevitably ended up at some point or another, was the Puritan on Elm Street.

The Puritan was THE place to be back then.  On the main floor was a casual restaurant (sandwiches and burgers) and a big soda fountain, the entire length of the restaurant.  On the second floor was the Tea Room Restaurant with, from what I've heard, fancy tablecloths and real silverware.  In all of the years I went to the Puritan, I never once set foot upstairs.

The soda fountain usually was where my friends and I hung out during the summer months.  We’d sit at the Formica counter and nurse cherry colas or ice-cream sodas and enjoy the air-conditioning until one of the managers would give us his familiar “buy something else or quit taking up space” looks.

Although our main reason for going to the Puritan usually was to have a place to sit and cool off in 90-degree weather, our reason suddenly changed during the summer before I entered the 10th grade.   I still like to refer to it as “The Summer of Wayne.”

It all began one Saturday afternoon when my friend Sue and I walked to the Puritan for our usual Saturday chocolate ice-cream sodas.  There, behind the
counter was a new employee - a cute, dark-haired guy in tight black pants, a short-sleeved white shirt and a white apron.  As he wiped the counter, both Sue and I stared, mesmerized, at his flexing biceps.  We ordered so many sodas that day, we used up our whole week’s babysitting earnings in one shot and ended up with wicked gas pains from all of the carbonation. But we figured it was worth it, just so we could sit there and stare at the new, resident hunk.
“I think he smiled at me,” Sue said as we walked home from the restaurant that day.

“Well, I think he winked at me!” I shot back.                       

“He probably just had something in his eye,” she muttered.

During our subsequent visits to the Puritan, we learned (only because the
manager once called him by name) that our dream guy’s name was Wayne.  He even began to chat with us as we loitered at the counter.  By then, Sue and I
had become masters at nursing our ice-cream sodas until the ice cream turned to liquid and all of the fizz had fizzled out (which helped us avoid the aforementioned gas pains). 

“I wish I knew Wayne’s last name,” Sue said as we sat on my front steps one afternoon.

I shrugged. “Why don’t you just ASK him what his last name is?”

Sue looked appalled. “I couldn’t do that!  It would be too obvious!”  She paused for a moment, then added, “If I knew his last name, I could look up his phone number and call him!”

“And that’s not too obvious?” I asked.
“Yeah, but at least I wouldn’t have to face him in person!” she said. "I'm much braver on the phone."

As it turned out, we learned Wayne’s last name the very next day.  The weather was raw and rainy, but we still headed over to the Puritan.  Wayne was just arriving for his shift as we got there.  He was wearing a black satin jacket that had “Wayne” embroidered across the shoulders on the back, with “Bass” embroidered under it, right above a picture of an eagle in flight.

“That’s it!” Sue excitedly whispered to me. “His last name is Bass!”

That night, as I watched in disbelief, Sue looked up every Bass in the phone book and methodically called each one. 

“Maybe he lives out of town,” she said, frowning, over an hour later, after she’d dialed the last Bass and was told for the umpteenth time she’d reached the wrong number.  She slumped down on the sofa and sighed in defeat. “Or maybe he doesn’t even have a phone.”

 Still, Sue and I weren’t easily discouraged.  We allowed ourselves to daydream about Wayne and imagine what it would be like to become “Mrs. Bass.”

“We’ll have two children,” Sue said as she doodled the name “Susan Bass” all over the cover of a magazine she’d been reading. “A boy and a girl - Wayne Jr. And Cassie.”

“Cassie?”  I repeated. “They’ll call her Cass for short, and then she’ll be Cass Bass!  What kind of name is that for a kid?”

“Oh, you’re just jealous!” Sue snapped. “You know Wayne likes me better!  I’ll bet you a dollar he asks me out first!”

My chin rose defiantly. “You’re on!”

But reality has a way of destroying even the best daydreams.  A few days later, as Sue and I approached the Puritan, we happened to see Wayne standing out front on the sidewalk.  Attached to his arm was a blonde who was so sexy, she made Marilyn Monroe  look like a boy in comparison.  Two other guys, both wearing the same black satin jackets as Wayne’s, also were standing there.  When I got close enough to catch a glimpse of the backs of their jackets, I burst out laughing. 

Sue frowned at me “What’s so funny?  Our Wayne is with some sexy blonde and he seems to be enjoying her company way too much!  We can’t even begin to compete with someone like her!”

“Read the guys’ jackets!” I said, still giggling.  Embroidered on the backs were “Mike” with “Keyboards” under it and “Danny” with “Drums” under it.

Sue just stared bewilderedly at them.

“Wayne’s last name isn’t Bass!” I explained. “He must be in a band with those other two guys.  Bass is the instrument he plays, not his name!”

In spite of herself, Sue started to laugh. “And to think I called all of those Basses in the phone book!” she choked.

At that moment, Wayne happened to spot us. “Hey, girls,” he cheerfully called out. “Coming in for your usual chocolate sodas?”

“Sorry, we’re dieting!”  Sue called back, as we walked off, giggling. 

We avoided the Puritan for the rest of that summer.

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Monday, April 22, 2019


A couple months ago, I received an invitation to be the guest speaker at an upcoming meeting of a prestigious women’s organization. Flattered, I accepted...and then I headed straight for the bottle of Pepto Bismol.

The truth is, I’d rather sleep in a pit filled with venomous snakes than speak in public. So why did I accept the invitation? Because I was determined to conquer my phobia once and for all.

My first (and last) public-speaking engagement took place back when I was 21, when a friend asked me to read some of my original poetry at his Lions Club meeting.

I’ll never forget that night. There I stood, reading my love poems to about 35 men who looked as if they’d rather be watching pro-wrestling. I actually heard snoring coming from the back of the room. And to make matters even worse, my nervousness caused me to perspire so much, my mascara ran in two big streaks down my cheeks. When I later saw my “Alice Cooper” reflection in the restroom mirror, I was so embarrassed, I wanted to flush myself.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” one of my friends asked when I told her I’d accepted the women’s group’s invitation to speak.

I nodded. “If I can get through it, then my fear of public speaking finally will be over and I’ll do just fine after that.”

“Unless you fail miserably.” she just had to add

So I decided to ask a few of my friends, seasoned public speakers, for some helpful pointers. Of course, more than one gave me the standard, “If you feel nervous, just picture everyone in the audience sitting there wearing nothing but their underwear.”

“That will make me feel even worse,” I muttered. “These women are so classy, they’re all probably wearing La Perla panties from Neiman Marcus. I buy mine at Family Dollar!”

“Open your talk with a joke to lighten the atmosphere,” another friend suggested. “If your audience laughs, then you’ll know you’re all set and can relax.”

“And if they don’t laugh?” I asked.

“Run for your life,” he answered.

Once again, I reached for the Pepto Bismol.

I spent a lot of time rehearsing what I was going to say during my required 20-to-30-minute guest appearance. I stood in front of my full-length mirror and practiced facial expressions and hand gestures. And when timing my speech, I even paused to allow for laughter, all the while praying there actually would be laughter to pause for.  The problem was, the more I practiced, the more artificial I looked – like a puppet or a wind-up doll.

So I tried out my material on one of my friends, to test her reaction.

If she had been in the middle of suffering from a gallbladder attack, her expression couldn’t have looked more pained.

“That does it!” I whined. “I can’t go through with this!”

But as the big day of my speaking engagement drew closer, I actually began to feel more confident. I practiced deep breathing to calm myself. I memorized the notes I’d scribbled down during my flashes of inspiration. I even mastered a smile that didn’t look as if it had been stamped on my face. I was ready.

And as luck would have it, the day before my scheduled appearance, I developed the world’s worst abscessed tooth. I had no choice but to call the women’s organization and cancel my big debut.

Sitting in the dentist’s chair and hearing him revving up the drill for my root canal, I realized that the thought of impending, excruciating physical pain made me feel less nervous than the thought of speaking in public. I was convinced that the toothache had been part of some divine intervention...that it had rescued me from making a stammering, mascara-streaked fool of myself and inevitably experiencing the most humiliating day of my life.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

#   #   #

Actual newspaper clipping from my poetry reading!


Monday, April 15, 2019


It has taken me most of my life to realize I have a tendency to talk too much.

Sure, there have been plenty of hints over the years (like when a politician, of all people, asked me if I had an "off" button!), but I probably was talking too much to hear anything.

I'd honestly thought it was an adult-onset problem, but I found my old kindergarten report-card the other day and the teacher had checked "no" under the question, "Pays attention and is quiet while others are talking?"  So I figure it's highly probable I've been cursed with a motor-mouth ever since the first moment I emerged from the womb. 

Not only do I talk too much, I have a bad habit of blurting out things I shouldn't.  For example, one time when my husband and I were out shopping for a new car and finally found one we really liked, I couldn't stop gushing about it during the test drive.

"Oooh! I love it!" I practically squealed. "This is the perfect car for us!  We just HAVE to buy it!"

My husband kept casting sideways glances at me that clearly told me to be quiet, but I couldn't figure out why he didn't want the sales guy in the backseat to hear how excited I was about the car.

When we got back to the lot, my husband took me aside and whispered to me, "Stop talking about how great the car is!  You have to sound indifferent, otherwise we won't be able to talk him down on the price. Every time you 'oohed' and 'aahed' in the car, I saw dollar signs pop up in his eyes!"

And just the other day, I was in the local hardware store and the guy in line behind me – a giant of man wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses – was standing there holding a big axe.  Immediately I thought, just by his stance, how much he looked like an axe-murderer.

"So, what're you going to do with the body?"  I asked him.

Luckily, the guy had a good sense of humor or he probably would have used the axe to hack off my tongue out in the parking lot. 

And then there was the time I went for a job interview.  I was understandably nervous, so I rambled on and on as the employer just sat there silently staring at me.  Finally, I ran out of the things to say.

The employer still remained silent.

"Is something wrong?" I asked him.

"No," he said, shaking his head and sighing. "I was just wondering when you were going to come up for air." 

And whenever I go to the bank to cash a check, I have the bad habit of chatting with the tellers when they are trying to count money.

I’ll say something like, "I’m running late today. I have to be in Manchester at 1:15.”

And the teller will say, "Twenty, twenty-one...fifteen dollars." 

For this reason, I probably hold a world's record for getting back the wrong amount of money during bank transactions.

My dentist is another one who probably wishes I'd shut least long enough to let him work on my teeth. I've noticed that when I'm really in a chatty mood, he'll keep stuffing dental instruments and cotton into my mouth until I can't talk any more without choking.  But even then, I still somehow manage to squeeze out a few muffled words.

I remember when I had dental impressions taken for some crown work and had to sit there with my mouth full of the gooey impression stuff for five minutes while it hardened.  The dentist commented, "This is the longest I've ever heard you be quiet!"

The problem is, when I try to be silent, people think I'm sick.

"Gee, you're awfully quiet tonight," they'll say. "Are you feeling okay?"

One night, when my husband was trying to concentrate on a documentary on the History Channel, I sat there chatting endlessly about paint colors for the kitchen.   Finally, during a commercial, he turned to me and said, "I wonder if there's such a thing as a local chapter of Overtalkers Anonymous?"

I cast him my fiercest glare. "Maybe you'd be happy if I just have my lips stapled shut!"

I barely could hear him when he muttered under his breath, "With my luck, you'll take up ventriloquism."

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Monday, April 8, 2019


Over 20 years ago, I was in a doll-collectors’ shop when I happened to spot the cutest mouse figurine I’d ever seen.  It was tiny, only about an inch tall, and was riding a little tricycle that had buttons for the wheels.  It was love at first sight. 

“That mouse is so adorable!” I said to the clerk.

“That’s one of the Wee Forest Folk collection,” she said. “They’re made right in Massachusetts by a family called the Petersens.  That little guy there is only $49.”

My enthusiastic smile faded.  I’d been all set to whip out a $5 bill and buy it, but $49?  I could just picture my husband filing for divorce.

“Yes, Your Honor, that’s right!” he’d say to the judge. “She fed me macaroni and cheese every night for two weeks, all because she bought a dumb little mouse on a tricycle!”

I went home without the mouse, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

Fortunately, my birthday was only a few weeks after that, so when both my mother and my husband asked me what I wanted for a gift, I told them about the mouse. Then I crossed my fingers that one of them actually would go to the collectors’ store and the mouse still would be there...and they wouldn’t need a defibrillator when they saw the price.

It was my mother who came through with the mouse for me, but I could tell she thought I’d lost what little mind I had left.

“That’s really what you wanted?” she asked when I squealed with delight upon opening the box. “I nearly needed a magnifying glass to find it!”

Then my mother made the mistake of handing me something I hadn’t even known existed – a Wee Forest Folk brochure.  My eyes lit up like 100-watt bulbs as I stared at the photos.

There were angel mice, Halloween mice and mice with cute names like Chief Geronimouse, Father Chris-Mouse and Joe Di-Mousio.   The average price for each one was about $50, with some as high as $300. 

I wanted to buy every mouse in the brochure.

I soon discovered that a store called Noah’s at the Mall of NH sold the Wee Forest Folk, so I started hanging around there, eyeing the mice on display in the glass case. The clerk finally told me I reminded her of a kid in a candy shop. 

I think the drool in the corners of my mouth might have tipped her off.

For Christmas that year, my mother bought me a Wee Forest Folk Skier Mouse, complete with tiny skis and ski poles.  My husband bought me the First-Date mice, sitting on a sofa and sharing a box of chocolates. And my neighbor surprised me with April Showers, a mouse wearing a yellow rain-slicker and hat. 
I was in heaven.

Over the years, I collected more and more Wee Forest Folk and displayed them in a glass case on the wall.  When that case got full, I bought another case and hung it next to the first one.  And when that one got full, I bought two more.

“All these display cases are beginning to make this place look like a museum,” my husband said.

“More like a ‘mouse-eum’!” I joked.

He rolled his eyes and groaned.

The only problem was, each year new mice were issued, and each year the prices got higher.  A motorcycle-riding mouse was $145.  A bride and groom were $118.  A scarecrow mouse was $168.

So I turned to Ebay to see if I could find a better deal there.  There were over 300 Wee Forest Folk listed.  The competition was pretty fierce, but I finally won a “mint-condition” Miss Bobbin, a mouse sitting at sewing machine, for only $55.   I was thrilled.

When Miss Bobbin arrived, I eagerly opened the box…only to discover she had an ear missing.  Even more puzzling, the ear wasn’t anywhere in the box. 

“That’s a pretty good clue that your ‘mint-condition’ mouse was already broken when it was sent,” my husband said. “If the ear fell off during shipping, it would still be in the box somewhere.”

He had a point.  I contacted the seller and explained the problem.

Her tone immediately was defensive.  “How do I know you didn’t open the box and drop the mouse and break it yourself?” she said. “All of my items are in perfect condition when I ship them.  I’m not about to give you a refund!”

I was so upset, I vowed never to look at another mouse again.

“It’s probably a good thing you stopped collecting the mice,” my husband said one day a few weeks later. “They’re too expensive now anyway.  And you’ll never get back what you paid for them if you try to sell them in the future.”

“Well, ‘Pack Mouse’, which was $19 when it first came out back in the early ‘80s, just sold for $410 on Ebay,”  I told him.

“Get your coat,” he said. “We’re going to Noah’s.”

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