Monday, December 30, 2019


I've never been on a cruise, but thanks to a complete stranger named Artie, I now honestly feel as if I have.

Artie bought an item from me on Ebay a couple weeks ago and mentioned that he was going on a cruise, so he would appreciate it if I delayed sending the package until he returned. He then asked me in his e-mail, "Do you want me to send you some photos of my cruise every day?" 

I thought he was kidding, but just for the heck of it, I wrote back, "Sure!"

Well, a few days later, I began to receive photos of Artie's cruise with his wife, Claire. In fact, he sent no fewer than 25 photos each day. I was surprised, mainly because I thought it was a little strange for the two of them to be sharing so much of their personal lives with me, a total stranger.

The first batch of photos contained a few shots of Artie, a middle-aged, stocky man with short-cropped hair, and his wife, a petite blonde, boarding the ship. The rest of the photos were of the food on the cruise...the buffets, the dinners, the snacks, and seemingly every single bite that he and Claire put into their mouths.

"Here I am eating breakfast," the caption read below a shot of Artie digging into a plate heaped with enough bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausages, muffins and donuts to feed an entire football team.

"And here I am having a snack."  The photo showed him wearing a T-shirt with the words "MR. BIG" on the front, a baseball cap shading his eyes, and a slice of pizza hanging out of his mouth as if it were a giant tongue.

His cruise itinerary listed places like Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, so I was eager to see some scenic photos of these exotic places. But when in port, Artie took photos of such scenic sites as Burger King, McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, with Claire posing model-style in front of them.

“Can you believe they have all of these American fast-food places here, too?” he wrote.

I was beginning to suspect that his sole purpose for going on this cruise was to eat...and as much as humanly possible.

"I order two entrees for myself every night for dinner," he wrote. "First a fish course and then a beef course. And two desserts, too!"

He sent close-ups of a fish the size of a dolphin and a slab of meat about the diameter of a Frisbee, along with various photos of himself tackling the food, his mouth wide open as he shoveled it in.

Then came the shots of his desserts. "This one is some kind of fancy thing where they set cherries on fire," he wrote. "And I don't know what this is, but it has a bunch of raspberries, cake and custard in it. I think it's called an English tribble."

Artie, I couldn’t help but notice (because the photos nearly blinded me) was a very colorful dresser. The photos showed him in a bright chartreuse-green shirt with a tie that had huge yellow, orange and green flowers and peace symbols on it; a red shirt with a British flag necktie; and a fluorescent orange shirt with a tie covered with dancing and smiling M&M candies. The man never could have fallen overboard without being spotted floating in the water, that's for sure. Claire, however, always was tastefully dressed in simple sundresses or a blouse with a plain skirt.

One photo showed Artie eating a huge bowl of fresh strawberries smothered in cream. The next photo was a shot of him and Claire on a boat he called a tender, which took them from the ship to the shore. Artie wrote, "All of the ships here anchor out at sea and bring people inland with these tenders. During our trip to shore it was windy and the seas were pretty rough. Boy, I sure wish I hadn't eaten all of them strawberries and cream."

In several photos, Artie and Claire were wearing Santa Claus hats. "We brought them with us," he explained, "so we can use one of these photos for our Christmas card this year."

Artie said that the ship's roving photographer constantly took photos of the guests, and at the end of each day, the photos were displayed so the guests could purchase them. Artie, however, sneakily took photos of the photos, just so he wouldn't have to buy them. The man's frugal side became even more evident when he said he and Claire walked over two miles from one port into town because a taxi would have cost him $6.00.

"I ordered my usual fish dinner and a beef dinner tonight," Artie wrote one night. "When the waiter brought me my meal, I couldn’t resist telling him my favorite steak joke...about a waiter who came out of the kitchen with his thumb on a steak on the plate he was carrying. The guy who’d ordered the steak asked him, 'Waiter, why is your thumb on my steak?'  And the waiter replied, 'So I won't drop it on the floor again.’  I really cracked him up with that one!"

I noticed that by day five of the cruise, Artie's waistline looked much bigger than it had on day one. In fact, it looked a good two inches bigger. The latest group of photos of him, his shirt buttons straining against his added pounds, showed him eating “snacks” of a triple-scoop ice-cream cone, shrimp cocktail, pizza and a mountain of French fries that filled an entire dinner-plate.

Just looking at him eating all of that food made me feel so bloated, I had to dig through my purse for some Rolaids.

"Tomorrow is the final day of our cruise," Artie wrote. "I will send you my last batch of photos then."

That was nearly a week ago and I haven't heard from him since.

I suspect he might be in some place like Bora Bora, hospitalized with clogged arteries.

#   #   #


Monday, December 23, 2019


As I write this, Christmas is only two days away. I will be spending Christmas with  my friend Nancy and her husband, and she recently e-mailed me to ask me to bring the Christmas stocking they gave me last they can refill it.

They don’t have to ask me twice.  Last year they filled it with everything from jewelry, postage stamps and lottery scratch-tickets to gift cards and makeup. When it comes to filling Christmas stockings, they definitely know their stuff.

I’ll never forget the first year I fully understood what Christmas stockings were all about.  I was about three years old and my parents told me to hang the stocking on my bedpost (because we had no fireplace) and Santa would creep into my bedroom after I fell asleep and fill the stocking with treats.

Sounded like a pretty neat idea to me.  So that Christmas Eve, I eagerly hung my little red stocking on my bedpost and began the long wait for Santa.  Every half-hour during that 200-hour night, I reached over to feel the stocking to see if Santa had been there yet.  And for some reason, every time I opened my eyes, my mother was standing right there, with her hands behind her back.  When I’d cheerfully greet her, she’d roll her eyes, sigh and tell me to go to sleep or Santa never would come. When I opened my eyes again and saw her by my bed, I could swear she was sleeping standing up.

Finally, I did manage to doze off, but within 20 minutes, I was awake and feeling my stocking.  I gasped.  It was full!  I was so excited, I yanked it right off the bedpost and dashed into my parents’ bedroom.

“Mommy!  Daddy!  Santa came!” I cried, whacking my poor father right on the head with the stocking. “And look what he bringed me!!”

Funny, but after that year, Santa put only really soft things in my Christmas stocking.

The next year, seeing I was a seasoned veteran of stocking-hanging, I was even more gung-ho about the whole thing.  I’d had all year to think about it, and I’d come to the conclusion that Christmas stockings were a pretty simple way to rake in a good haul if I just used a little ingenuity.  Yes, I’m ashamed to admit, I became greedy. 

So when it came time to hang my Christmas stocking, I also unloaded my whole drawer of socks and hung them all over my room.  They were for my dolls, I told myself.  After all, I reasoned, my dolls were my “babies” and they were human to me, so they deserved a few treats, too, didn’t they?  The fact that they wouldn’t actually be able to chew the candies or eat the cookies in the stockings didn’t matter.  I was more than willing to help them out.

When my mother saw all of the stockings hanging in my bedroom, she looked concerned.  “I don’t think Santa will bring enough treats to our house to fill all those stockings,” she said. “You can’t be too greedy.  You have to make sure Santa will have enough left to fill the stockings of all the other little boys and girls in the world.”

I gave her my very best pouty face. “But I love my dollies,” I said. “Doesn’t  Santa love them, too?”

My mother just smiled stiffly.  A few minutes later, I heard my father rush out of the house.  Sure enough, when I woke up on Christmas morning, there was something in every single stocking.  Looking back now, I sill feel pretty guilty about it.  My poor parents must have had to take out a second mortgage just to fill all those stockings…and keep me believing that Santa never would forget anyone, not even dolls. 

But I wound up learning my lesson.  By the time I ate all the candy in Ginny’s, Betsy Wetsy’s, Cinderella’s, Raggedy Ann’s, Minnie Mouse’s, Tiny Tears’ and everyone else’s stockings,  I had the worst stomachache in the history of all four-year-olds.

The first year I was married, I decided to try to recapture the excitement of stocking-hanging that I’d experienced as a little kid.  I bought a festively decorated stocking for myself and a matching one for my husband, and carefully hung them near the Christmas tree.   Then I threw hints.

“You know, when I was young,” I told my husband, “Santa used to fill my stocking with all kinds of things - candy, little stuffed animals, inexpensive jewelry, things like that.  It was so much fun to wake up on Christmas morning and see all the surprises!”

“That’s nice,” he said, not looking up from his reading. “We never did anything like that when I was a kid.”

“Then wouldn’t it be fun to do it this year?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said, still not looking up.

So I went out and carefully selected all sorts of goodies to put into his stocking:  tiny bottles of after-shave, his favorite candy bars, disposable shavers, a new leather watchband, lottery tickets, etc.

On Christmas morning, however, I was upset to see that my stocking was totally empty, flat as a pancake.  As my husband eagerly dug into his,  I just had to ask him, “How come you didn’t put anything in my stocking?”

He stopped what he was doing and just stared blankly at me. “Oh, you wanted ME to fill it?  Why didn’t you say so?  You know how bad I am at taking hints!”

In retrospect, I probably should have sent him over to my friend Nancy’s to take lessons.

#   #   #


Monday, December 16, 2019


About a week ago, I was shoveling some slush out in the driveway and when I flung a shovelful of it into the woods, I felt something in my back twist just below my left shoulder blade. The shooting pain that ensued in my neck and shoulder felt as if someone had just tried to skewer me for shish-kebab.  Even taking a deep breath hurt. I whined for a little while, then convinced myself it would be fine the next day.

It wasn’t.  In fact, the next morning I couldn’t even move my arm high enough to comb my hair or zip the back of my shirt.  I whined some more.

“Why don’t you go to the doctor and have it checked out?” one of my friends suggested. “You don’t want to lose the use of your arm, do you?”

 “It’s been only one day,” I said. “I’ll wait and see how it feels.” 

The truth was that even if the pain increased to point where I’d have to go out and buy a box of bullets just so I could bite down on one, I still wouldn’t see a doctor.  Why not?  Two words:  physical therapy.

Back when I was in my late 20s, I took a modern-dance class and ended up with a very sore hip.  In fact, the hip became so painful, I had to use a cane to get around.  Finally, after I’d nearly depleted the local pharmacy's total inventory of ibuprofen, I decided I’d better have a doctor take a look at my hip.  He gave me a series of cortisone injections directly into the hip joint, but they didn’t have any effect (other than to make me beg for mercy), so he decided to send me to physical therapy.  

I'll admit I felt uneasy about going because I didn't know what to expect.  I mean, I had visions of being twisted into a pretzel or being stretched on a torture device like "the rack." 

My therapist was a young guy named Phil, who told me he’d been on the job for less than a week. The fact that he was a rookie did little to ease my apprehension, but even worse, he looked even more nervous than I did.  His trembling hands and the little beads of perspiration lining his top lip pretty much were a dead giveaway.

Phil avoided touching me at all costs, which I thought was pretty weird for a physical therapist.  If his hand accidentally brushed against me while he was showing me how to do an exercise, he would yank it away so fast, you’d think I had just delivered 100,000 volts to it.  Somehow I wasn’t all that surprised when three days into my therapy, Phil mysteriously disappeared and was replaced by Joanne.

I’m pretty sure Joanne had been an army drill-sergeant in a previous life.  Unlike Phil, she was a take-charge kind of person who was determined to have me doing kicks worthy of the Rockettes in no time flat.  Five sessions later, however, when I still came limping in with my cane, Joanne began to lose her optimism.

“I’m going to send you to hydrotherapy,” she announced. “Basically, that’s where you sit in a big whirlpool tub and have jets of water spray onto your sore spots.  So be sure to bring your bathing suit next time.”

The whirlpool tub sounded like a great idea to me, but not the swimsuit. I didn’t even own one, and with my bad hip, I certainly didn’t feel like going out shopping for one.  I decided I’d bring a pair of old shorts and a halter-top and use those instead.

The night before my first hydrotherapy session, I was feeling a little nervous, so I decided to do something to take my mind off it.  Did I do something normal, like bake brownies or watch a comedy show on TV?  Heck, no.  I dyed my long, reddish-brown hair jet black!   Thank goodness I used a semi-permanent dye instead of a permanent one, because I ended up looking like a cross between an out-of-shape Cher and Morticia Addams.

The next day at therapy, I was led to a big stainless-steel tub, churning with bubbles. Unfortunately, I’d remembered to bring my shorts, but not a top. The only top I had with me was the one I was wearing, and I wasn’t about to use that…not unless I wanted to leave looking like a contestant in a wet T-shirt contest.  The therapist gave me a hospital johnny to wear over my shorts.  Believe me, I wasn’t a pretty sight.

I started to climb into the tub and was straddling the edge when the hydrotherapist came dashing over. “What on earth are you doing?” she gasped.

Even though I thought it was pretty obvious, I shrugged and said, “Getting into the tub.”

“You can’t do that!” she said, shaking her head. “WE have to put you into the tub!”

Before I knew it, I was hanging from a crane-like mechanism directly above the tub.  All I could think about as they lowered me into the water was how much I must have looked like a cow in one of those contraptions helicopters used when they hoisted large animals off the ground.   

The warm water felt heavenly.  I closed my eyes and completely relaxed as the pulsating water hit all of my achy parts.  But the soak didn’t last nearly long enough.  Too soon, I was lifted out of the water, my dripping johnny nearly transparent and feeling as if it weighed about 10 pounds.

The therapist handed a fluffy white towel to me.  I dried my face and the ends of my hair with it, and then heard her gasp.  I followed her eyes, which were staring at the white towel. To my horror, it was covered with big streaks of black hair dye…and, I soon discovered, so was the johnny.

I was so embarrassed, I never showed my face in that place again.

You know, now that I’m sitting here reminiscing about my physical therapy experience, my shoulder and back miraculously are feeling much better.

#   #   #


Monday, December 9, 2019


I read an interesting article in the newspaper the other day.  It stated that the major cause of neck and shoulder pain in women is their handbags.   Some highly intelligent, highly funded research team finally managed to figure out that walking around with a 40-lb. bag slung over your shoulder actually might lead to discomfort.

Heck, I could have told them that years ago.  When it comes to carrying heavy handbags, I pride myself on being the queen of sloping shoulders.  My handbag is so heavy, my right shoulder has a permanent droop of at least two inches. 

Why is my handbag so heavy?  I guess it’s because I’ve always lived by the motto, “be prepared.”  If my car were to break down in the wilderness and I became hopelessly lost, I could easily survive for two weeks on just the contents of my purse.

To be honest, I’d forgotten exactly what I carry in my “satchel” until about a week ago, when I finally decided to part with my old, worn-out, stapled-together handbag and splurge on a new one.  Believe me, transferring the contents from the old bag to the new one was a real adventure.  Each time I stuck my hand into the old handbag to pull out an item, I held my breath, not knowing whether to be intrigued or frightened.  

Although I realize I am about to violate a carved-in-stone ancient rule that stipulates no woman shall ever, not even on her deathbed, divulge the contents of her handbag to any member of the male species, I have decided to actually reveal some of the items I found in my old handbag…

1.   Clumps of colorful fuzz-balls that actually were an assortment of mints, cough drops, hard candies and Hershey’s kisses that had become so old and sticky, every piece of lint and tissue in the handbag had clung them.

2.   Coin and condiment potpourri -  12 pounds of assorted loose change that had fallen out of my wallet and mixed together in the bottom of my purse with the contents of all the little torn packets of sugar, Sweet ‘n Low, and salt and pepper I’d taken from restaurants.

3.    Lipstick with a missing cover (which probably explains why the lining of my  handbag was decorated with streaks of “Passionate Rose”).

4.    A wallet stuffed to capacity with expired credit cards, every driver’s license I’ve had since 1973,  already-scratched lottery tickets,  my nephew’s fourth-grade photo (he’s married now), a ticket stub from the State Theater’s first-run showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” and sales slips and coupons from stores such as Bradlees and Blockbuster Video.

5.    A small can of Lysol disinfectant to spray on public toilets - just in case I actually ever get desperate enough to use one.

6.    A bottle of fingernail polish in which the polish had formed into a little rubbery  pink ball.

7.    Rusty hair pins, safety pins, sewing needles, straight pins and a disposable razor, all of which, as I reached for them, made me wonder if I’d ever had a tetanus shot.
     8.    Approximately 112 plastic sandwich bags with only crumbs in them.

     9.    Take-out menus that still listed prime-rib dinners for $3.50.

    10.   Three mini-flashlights, two with corroded batteries and one with a half-       sucked red Life Saver stuck on the front of it.

    11.  Keys to things I no longer have locks for.

    12.  Two plastic rain-bonnets that fold like paper fans and once were given          free to customers in banks.

    13.  Aspirin, antacid pills, motion-sickness pills, Tylenol and nasal spray, all        with expiration dates old enough to make them lethal weapons.

    14.  Three bottles of perfume that smelled like old rubbing-alcohol.

    15.  One nose-hair clipper. ( Don’t ask).

    16.  A little black book containing phone numbers so old, they all had only          five digits in them.

    17.  A sheet of 22-cent postage stamps.

    18.  One contact lens, one artificial fingernail, one earring, one false eyelash and one knee-high stocking with a jelly bean and a wadded-up tissue in the toe.

    19.  Two extremely un-moist moist towelettes.

    20.  An envelope of negatives I was supposed to bring to the photo lab so I could have reprints made – negatives that had collected so many unidentified specks and blotches from my purse, the people in them looked as if they all were suffering from some sort of plague.

    21.  A square green hairy-looking thing with yellow streaks and an odor vaguely reminiscent of stale peanut butter.

And to think I found all of these “treasures” in only the first compartment! 
Now to describe what I found in the other three compartments…

Never mind.

#   #   #


Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Did you ever go Christmas shopping and despite knowing exactly what you wanted to buy in advance, come home with absolutely nothing? That’s what happened to me last Saturday night, and the reason why I came home gift-less might surprise you.

The clerks all were too sociable.

I think it might have been because the stores actually were pretty dead for a Saturday night, especially on the day after Black Friday, which was surprising. I had expected to be battling throngs of sale-hungry shoppers and waiting in endless lines. Instead, I was able to park almost near the front door at every store I visited, and there were no lines at any of the registers.

The first thing on my list seemed simple enough.  I wanted to buy a matching winter hat and scarf set for an elderly male friend of mine who lives in New York and walks everywhere. The first store I went to, I found only women’s hat and scarf sets, so I asked a clerk if she had any for men.

“We have some nice New England Patriots’ ones,” she said.

“Um, my friend is a New Yorker – I don’t think he’s a Patriots fan.”

“We have some sets for dogs,” she continued.

“No, I need it for a human male, not a dog.”

“Speaking of dogs,” she said, “We just lost our Benji. He was 15. We’re all heartbroken.”

I told her I really was sorry to hear that. She then proceeded to tell me all about Benji – his life, his death, his talents. She showed me photos of Benji that were stored in her phone.  She then asked if I had a dog. So of course, I had to spend at least 15 minutes telling her about my two.

I then wandered over to the “Seen on TV" products, where I stopped to look at a lipstick-shaped shaver for women. 

“Those work really great,” a voice next to me said.  It was a cashier who had no customers, so she was tidying up the register aisle. She looked at me and added, “Especially for post-menopausal facial hair."

I found myself wondering if I had any of those post-menopausal hairs sticking out of my chin.

She then went on to tell me she personally owned one of the shavers and her grandson kept borrowing it because he liked it so much. So she bought him his own men's razor so he would leave her shaver alone.

“And he proceeded to nearly decapitate himself with it,” she said. “He really cut himself pretty deep. So I bought him a nice Norelco shaver.”

I then asked her about three different gift-cards I was searching for. She helped me look through about 650 cards.  We didn’t find any of the three I needed...but we had a nice conversation about her granddaughter's dance class.

I ended up buying seven gallons of bottled water.

“Preparing for the snowstorm?” a different cashier asked me.

“No, my well-water recently tested positive for high levels of arsenic,” I said. “And I can’t afford the $1,000 to fix the problem.”

“That’s scary,” she said. “Have you had any bad effects from it?”

“None that I know of – at least not yet.  I mean, my liver hasn’t fallen out or anything.”

She smiled slyly and said, “Can I borrow some of your well-water?  There are a few people I think I’d like to make a drink for with it.”

I left there and went to another store, where I again asked for men’s hat and scarf sets. This store had them – for prices that made me gasp. I hadn’t even realized I’d gasped out loud until a clerk who was folding shirts nearby asked me if something was wrong.

“Yeah, my budget,” I said. “It’s going to be a lean Christmas this year.”

She walked over and showed me a less expensive scarf that came with something that looked like wrap-around earmuffs.

“These are what all of the young crowd is buying,” she said.

“The man I’m buying for is nearly 80. And I need a warm, thick scarf because New York gets pretty cold in the winter.”

“New York?” she said. “What part?  My daughter lives there – she just got a job in New York City.”

She then went on to tell me all about her daughter – her college degree, her amazing career opportunity, her high grade-average – complete with photos. She said how proud she was of her and her success at such a young age. We ended up chatting until I heard the announcement that the store would be closing in 10 minutes

I rushed over to the wall of gift cards and frantically searched for the three I still needed. Once again, I couldn’t find any. 

“Do you have any Amazon gift cards?” I asked the nearest cashier.

The look she gave me made me feel as if I’d just asked her to commit murder for me.

“This store NEVER carried Amazon gift cards and never will!” she said. “You probably can find one at a...supermarket.”

I wanted to ask her what the store had against Amazon, but seeing there were only a few seconds remaining until closing, I decided I’d better leave.

By then, all of the other stores in the area also had closed, so I had no choice other than to head back home – without a hat and scarf and without any gift cards.

But I must say I really did enjoy my night of shopping and all of the conversations I had. In fact, I came home with much more Christmas spirit than when I’d left.

And I’m hoping my friends will understand that...because I'll probably show up with no Christmas gifts for them this year.

#   #   #