Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Eli (hizzownself) in the Army Air Force...all of twenty years old. [Photo: Ansalone’s Studio, Brooklyn, NY]

This evening marks the onset of Dad’s third Yahrzeit... the anniversary of his passing according to the Hebrew calendar.

I am a skeptic in matters supernatural - I am my father’s child, after all - but I still believe that there are mysteries having to do with the World to Come. Those mysteries might explain the peculiar earworm I have been dealing with these last few days: a piano rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

He played the piano, as many of you know. And out of all his repertoire, “My Funny Valentine” is the song that most stood out to me. Whether the piano was in tune or not (“Desafinado,” the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, was another favorite), it would drift through the house whenever he sat down to play.

I miss hearing my Daddy play the piano. I miss his convoluted jokes, many of them told in equally convoluted Yiddish. I miss his incisive mind, his menschlichkeit, his willingness to do what he believed was right even at personal cost. I wish he were here to see his granddaughters again, and I wish he could see how happy my brother - The Other Elisson - is these days. Alas, he is at an impenetrable remove: so much for wishes.

But when I hear that earworm, I know he is not far away. Perhaps he will hear me chant the Memorial Prayer and recite the Kaddish... and he will know that we remember him.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


“Hey, I canna taste that whisky - it’s frozen!” [Photo of Eric at his 2010 birthday party courtesy of Erica Sherman.]

The Mistress of Sarcasm - our younger daughter - is a woman with many talents, but the one most people are not aware of is her prodigious ability to detect the subtlest nuances of aroma and flavor. She is a supertaster.

It’s an ability she most likely inherited from her mother, who is also blessed with a remarkably capable palate. Dee can detect certain flavors with the same precision as a 200-inch telescope peering into a field of distant galaxies. Woe be unto the butcher who grinds up a pile of beef hamburger without thoroughly removing all traces of the batch of ground lamb immediately preceding it: Dee can sniff that lamb out at concentrations of mere parts per billion. I’ve seen her do it. Liver, lamb, onion - any of the Foods that Dee Will Not Consume can and will be detected and rejected in minute concentrations that normally require a mass spectrometer to measure.

In this regard, The Mistress is an apple that fell very close to the tree. She could have made a career out of being a cognac or whiskey blender... or a wine expert.

Recently, as I was sipping an Islay malt, she complained that my drink smelled like a Band-Aid. And it’s not a bad characterization, in its own way. She had managed to sniff out the trace aroma of iodine in my whisky... from several feet away. It was a masterful catch: peaty Islay malts typically have a noticeable iodine pong, probably owing to the amount of seaweed that finds its way into the peat used to dry the malted barley.

I’m telling you - the kid could’ve been a master distiller. Too bad she doesn't drink.


You’ve no doubt heard of tag-team wrestling. Here at Chez Elisson, we have tag-team boxing. Specifically, we have tag-team catboxing.

I’m not referring to the occasional times that Stella will try to swat Edith... or vice-versa. That happens from time to time, especially if both of them are on our bed simultaneously. Proximity amongst kitties is a bit like a chunk of plutonium: Too much, and it becomes a bit tetchy.

No, I’m talking about the remarkable spirit of caca-cooperation that has manifested itself in recent weeks.

Caca-cooperation? Whuddat?

Well, it has to do with the different toilet styles exhibited by Stella and Edith.

I’ve written about this before. Stella will make, at most, a token effort to cover up her, ahhh, by-products, either not trying at all or scratching ineffectually at the edges of her box. Is she merely being prissy (as befits a Ragdoll), or is she just clueless? Ragdolls, after all, are known for weird catbox habits. It’s not that they’re the Irish Setters of the cat world, but the box seems to be the one area where they’re intellectually challenged... and save for the box, Stella is a pretty bright kitty.

Edith, meanwhile, will bury her sculptural works to depths just north of the Mohorovičić discontinuity, which is a mixed blessing: It keeps unwelcome aromas down, but maintaining the box requires the discipline of an archaeologist
or a West Virginia coal miner.

Amazingly, though, the cats have developed what I can only call a Modus Cacarandi.

When Edith hears Stella in the box, she comes running. As Stella finishes up her work, Edith will give her the stink-eye (so to speak) and will inspect the scene after chasing Stella out of the way. If the Cat-Product has not been interred to her satisfaction - which is most of the time - she will promptly jump in and bury it herself.

“What the hell is the matter with you?”

It’s pretty amusing to watch - amusing enough to be worth putting up on You-Tube save for the repulsive fact that it involves Kitty-Dookie.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Julius Caesar. [Image courtesy Ohio State University.]

Today being the Ides of March, I thought it would be appropriate to resurrect this little gem from last year. Perhaps a Caesar salad with dinner would also be an appropriate comemmoration.


They prophesied to Caesar thus: “In March, beware the Ides,
When Senators you thought were Friends will perforate your Sides.”

And sure enough, that fateful Day, right in the Roman Senate,
They poked Holes in Caesar’s Body until not much Blood was in it.

He looked less like a Dictator and much more like a Sieve,
And Caesar came to realize he’d not much Time to live.

He saw that Brutus was among the Members of the Plot,
And whispered softly, “Et tu, Brute? I think you missed a Spot.”

Then as Brutus thrust his Dagger with a sharp and sudden Thwack,
He smiled and said, “No Worries, Mate - because I’ve got your Back.”

[Originally published January 1, 2016.]

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Summer Berry Pie
Tarte Tatin, the celebrated French apple-caramel upside-down pie... not to be confused with its Irish brother, ’Tater Tatin.

Today is Pi Day, March 14, so named because the date is traditionally rendered as 3.14 in American English. By sheer coincidence, it’s also the day on which Albert Einstein’s birthday is celebrated in his adopted home of Princeton, New Jersey.

Pi Day is not quite a holiday. Rather, it’s one of those days that come from the same people who bring you those incessant dopey Internet memes, such as Star Wars Day (celebrated on May 4, as in “May the Fourth Be With You.”) There is, however, a theory that Pi Day is the brainchild of the famous Greek mathematician and philosopher, the great Pi-thagoras.

Tomorrow, we should note, is another minor holiday: EATAPETA (Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA) Day, observed by consuming animal protein at every opportunity. Meat pies would allow you to kill two birds (more animal protein!) with one stone.

Monday, March 13, 2017


The first thing you notice when you open the door at Tops for Shoes is the aroma.

It’s an intoxicating pong, consisting mostly of Kiwi shoe polish with a soft undertone of leather. It whispers, “Come on in. We will be selling you a few pairs of shoes today, won’t we?”

Yes. Yes, they will.

Tops, for those who have never visited Asheville, North Carolina, is an enormous Shoe Emporium. It is not a discount store, simply a shoe store that has grown like a testosterone-laden high-school football player into what may be the largest such enterprise on the eastern seaboard. They claim to serve a six-state area, and I have no trouble whatsoever believing them. 

By far, most of the store’s square footage is taken up with merchandise for women. This only makes sense, because on that little extra snippet of X-chromosome that distinguishes ladies from gentlemen there must be a gene that creates an irresistible desire to own as many handbags and pairs of shoes as possible. And thus it is that at Tops for Shoes, roughly two city blocks are completely devoted to women’s footwear... with the mass of the merchandise contained therein actually sufficient to warp spacetime itself, creating a gender-specific gravitational attraction capable of drawing women from a thousand-mile radius right to the beating, bumptious heart of Asheville.

Lest you think Tops is sexist, I should also point out that they are also considerate enough to provide a (closet-sized) space devoted to men’s shoes. I refer to it as the Island of Lost Soles, where husbands and boyfriends congregate while their Significant Others convert any available liquid assets into Pedal Extremity Clothing.

To the store’s credit, the men’s offerings are reasonable in extent and depth, leaning mostly toward hiking models, peppered with the occasional dressy style. And (ahem) they offer my favorite walking shoe, the redoubtable Pikolinos.

In case you are wondering, I ended up getting a pair of those Pikolinos. It was the least I could do, considering the enormous pile of shooey swag Dee had purchased.

Tops for Shoes is for mortals who aspire to the status of Olympians. Well shod Olympians. It is the Shoe Store of the Gods.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


“Allowing a monkey to drive a race car sounds like an amusing idea, but only to those who have never tried it.” - The Bard of Affliction

The great Airship of State had been flying for 241 years now.

It wasn’t always an airliner, of course. Back when it began to function, a hot-air balloon was sufficient to hoist its machinery. As the years flew by, however, and new technologies became available, it eventually transferred itself into ever more efficient aerial transports, the better to float high above the hostile environment below. Propellers, in time, gave way to propjets, then to high-bypass turbojets, and the Airship moved faster and faster over the land and sea below it.

The Ship was an expensive proposition, cost-wise. More passengers joined it every year, some born on the craft and others from every land in the world boarding it. There were even a few stowaways, desperate people who were happy to perform the most menial tasks in order to stay on the Airship. Surprisingly, most of the new passengers contributed to the Ship in unexpected ways, creating improvements in fuel efficiency, or entertaining the other passengers with their literature or acting.

Remarkably, for an increasingly complex piece of machinery, the Airship had managed to stay aloft for well over two centuries thanks to its well designed mechanical systems. There were actually three linked, semi-independent control mechanisms, each designed to adjust and correct serious problems in one or both of the others. Over the years, a succession of (mostly) skilled pilots worked in concert with the control systems to navigate the Airship successfully.

Once in a rare while, a pilot would die unexpectedly while in the cockpit. In those cases, the copilot would immediately step in, sitting at the controls until the regular shift change came along. Except for such unusual situations, each pilot would work tirelessly for the duration of the shift, whereupon a replacement would be selected by the passengers. And many times, a pilot would pull a double shift if the passengers so willed.

There were some times when turbulence of one sort or another would sicken many of the passengers. There were also times when hostile forces threatened to shoot the Airship down. Fortunately, its skilled pilots - and its ability to cruise at an exceptionally high altitude - kept it safe.

Perhaps it was the length of the flight, or perhaps it was a growing diminution of the quality of the food in coach class (where steak had gradually given way to pretzels and peanuts), but eventually a significant number of the passengers grew dissatisfied with the course that the Airship traveled. They decided that dramatic change was necessary. Scraping the thin layer of stowaways off the Airship was one solution they proposed. The stowaways, of course, thought this was a bad idea. Most of them kept a low profile and paid their fares like everyone else, but now they were being accused of lurid crimes, such as farting in the galley. Rational discourse was becoming more difficult.

And then the shift change was upon them, whereupon the dissatisfied passengers proposed that an Orang-Utang be allowed to pilot the Airship. The proposal - no doubt a measure of its proponents’ disaffection - was derided by most of the passengers, but the selection process weighted votes by seat row, not simply by numbers.

It was a shock to almost everyone, not least the Orang-Utang, when the beast won and was immediately placed in the cockpit.

Entranced by the pretty lights and instruments, the russet-haired primate immediately began pushing buttons. The Ship began to lurch and whine, but the dissatisfied passengers figured the noises to be from the long-lost steaks being shifted around and moved into the galley. The triply redundant control system, meanwhile, kept things flying despite people on the ground becoming increasingly nervous about the unusual noises coming from the craft soaring above them.

Goaded by his trainer, the Orang-Utang kept pressing more buttons and banging on the dials. Many were delighted: Things were going to change, by God! Others, perhaps less sanguine, began to wonder. Would the triply redundant control system hold? Would the instrumentation continue to function? Would the great Airship keep airborne until the next shift change, or would it come crashing down? They had been unhappy with the pilot that had been chosen, but now they were in the peculiar position of having to pray for his success.

[Cross-posted at Like the Dew.]


I think that I shall never know
A treat quite like a CheddarBo.

With golden crust and gooey cheese,
Its flavor brings me to my knees;

With gooey cheese and golden crust,
O, must I eat it? Yes, I must;

A biscuit like a fluffy cloud,
That makes my taste-buds shout aloud;

The perfect blend of grease and salt;
With which we mortals find no fault.

Poems are made by fools, I know:
Bojangles makes the CheddarBo.

Monday, February 27, 2017


“Hey, funny boy. You’re fired.”

The circus was on its way out.

The legendary Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth, was on its last legs. PETA activists had maimed it by arousing public ire against animal acts, but the coup de gràce had been delivered by millions of portable devices. Nobody cared about acrobats and clowns when they had Angry Birds, Pokémon, and the soul-sucking Facebook, so the elephants had been sold off, cooked down into dog food.

Tucking his .45 into his belt next to the cyanide-filled syringe, the Ringmaster prepared to give the clowns their exit interviews.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Antique Valentine
Valentine, circa 1938, from collection of Dee’s late Dad.

As occasionally happens, Dee and I are observing Saint Valentine’s Day in different locations: me at our homestead in Atlanta, she in Texas. It happens now and again.

We miss each other when we’re apart - at least I do - but after being together for over four decades, a little vacation from each other is not, as they say, fatal. Besides, I am somewhat of a skeptic as concerns the Valentine Thing, particularly since it has been dragooned by the greeting card, restaurant, and chocolate businesses.

Love is a 365 day per year business... 366 every fourth year. It has its rhythms, its ebbs, its flows. It requires constant attention to keep it healthy, no matter how sturdy it may be... a bit like keeping an exotic house plant, except more fulfilling. And so boiling it down to a single day is a mite ridiculous.

Hey, I’d give Dee chocolates every day of the year... except she would resent it on account of the calories and the unsalubrious effects it would have on her blood sugar and her weight. But you get the point. I hope she does, too.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Caesar has a pair of tweezers
And Ebenezer, an orange squeezer

Should Caesar get Ebenezer’s orange squeezer
And Ebenezer, Caesar’s tweezers
Then both of them might have a seizure

Thus, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s
And unto Ebenezer what’s Ebenezer’s

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Marmota Monax, raise your Head -
By your Example we are led.
When you inhale the wint’ry Air,
Will you retreat into your Lair
Affrighted by a Shadow Fell,
Or (much more likely), human Smell?
If by the Sun a Shadow’s cast,
Might you predict a frosty Blast?
Perchance a Cloud obscures the Sky,
An Omen that warm Weather’s nigh.
Compared to you, Science is “Blawney,”
O, Oracle of Punxsutawney.

Today is Groundhog Day, that peculiarly American institution in which the scientific underpinnings of modern meteorology are discarded in favor of the random meanderings of a large, confused, squirrel-like rodent. It’s a holiday that seems especially appropriate given recent political developments.

Today is also the Thursday before the so-called Big Game, the term “Super Bowl” having been copyrighted, trademarked, or whatever. For those of us resident in the Atlanta area, it will be an exceptionally exciting Big Game, because our local NFL franchise is involved for the first time in eighteen years. And yet Sunday’s festivities will be a letdown compared to the real action, which will be taking place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania this morning. It is then that Phil, the local Whistle-Pig, determines the weather conditions for the next three fortnights via the arcane art of Shadow Observation.
I gave up on trying to get tickets years ago. Scalpers have jacked the prices up to where they are more dear than Masters passes... or Super Bowl ducats, for that matter. And that’s unfortunate, because the parades and pageantry in Punxsutawney put Mardi Gras in New Orleans to shame. (Also, fewer trombones. Phil doesn’t like ’em.)

Have you purchased Groundhog Day cards for your friends and relatives? Sent Groundhog Day flowers and chocolates to that special someone? Why the fuck not? What are you waiting for? And if you have not already booked a table at your restaurant of choice, it’s probably too late - the place will be packed with Groundhog Day revelers. You’ll have to fall back on Plan B, the ever-popular Groundhog Day Backyard Barbecue.

Enjoy the day... and may the shadows be few!

Monday, January 30, 2017


[Sung to the tune of “Dixie Chicken”]

I’ve seen the bright lights of Mumbai
And the Bannerjee Hotel
And underneath a street lamp, I met a Gujarati girl
Oh, she took me to the Ganges where she cast her spell
And in that Mumbai moonlight, she sang this song so well:

Can I be your Mango Lassi
You can be my Pappa Dum
And we can be together
And make num num num
And make num num num

We made all the hotspots,
My rupees flowed like wine
Then that low-down hemp from Hyderabad began to fog my mind
And I don’t remember incense, or the money I put down
On the corrugated tin roof on the house at the end of town
Oh, but boy do I remember the strain of her refrain
And the nights we spent together
And the way she called my name

Can I be your Mango Lassi
You can be my Pappa Dum
And we can be together
And make num num num
And make num num num
Many years since she ran away
Yes that sitar player sure could play
She always liked to sing along
She always handy with a song
But then one night in the lobby of the Bannerjee Hotel
I chanced to meet a bartender who said he knew her well
As he handed me a bev’rage he began to hum a song,
And all the boys there at the bar began to sing along:

Can I be your Mango Lassi
You can be my Pappa Dum
And we can be together
And make num num num
And make num num num
And make num num num

[Apologies to Little Feat]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017) and her longtime acting foil Dick Van Dyke, in a 1961 CBS publicity still.

Q: Who can turn the word on with her smile?
A: Not Mary Tyler Moore.
                                                   - Houston Steve

I, along with millions of others, was saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Tyler Moore today due to complications of pneumonia. She was 80 years old.

My first awareness of Ms. Moore was when she played Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, an exceptionally witty household sitcom, a show that also introduced me to Carl Reiner. But her greatest impact on the American consciousness was as Mary Richards, the spunky career woman of the eponymous Mary Tyler Moore Show. Even more remarkable was the fact that she stood out in a cast that included Ted Knight, Gavin McLeod, Betty White, Cloris Leachman, and Valerie Harper.

One of the most memorable episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was one from the sixth season. In “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” Mary and her coworkers attend the funeral of one Chuckles the Clown, who suffers a death that can only be described as befitting as clown: While dressed as Peter Peanut during the Circus Day parade, he is killed by a rogue elephant that attempts to shell him. Mary is appalled as her colleagues respond to the tragedy by cracking an endless stream of jokes before the funeral. But when the funeral begins, it’s Mary who cannot keep a straight face - until the minister urges everyone to follow Mary’s example and laugh. Of course, Mary then bursts into tears.

When I heard the news about Ms. Moore, I wondered whether anyone would laugh at her funeral. I think she’d like that.

Monday, January 16, 2017


’Twas tea-time at the circus: King Jimi, he was there
Through hoops he skipped, high wires he tripped, and all the while the glare
Of the aching, baking spotlight beat down upon his cloak
And though the crowd clapped furiously they could not see the joke

’Twas tea-time at the circus, though some might not agree
As jugglers danced, and horses pranced, and clowns clowned endlessly
But trunk to tail the elephants, quite silent, never spoke
And though the crowd clapped desperately they could not see the joke

- Procol Harum, from “In Held ’Twas In I”

“The people who have conquered the world have only two interests – bread and circuses” - Decimus Junius Juvenalis

“Heffalump is better than none.” - Winnie the Pooh

It’s getting harder and harder to take tea at the circus, especially so now that the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus plans to fold its tents in May of this year after 146 years in operation.

Who’s laughing now?

The circus - at least, in the form we’ve all come to know it - is a most peculiar and somewhat archaic form of entertainment. The Romans had circuses, of course, but they were typically bloody affairs: gladiatorial combat, people facing off against wild animals, chariot races, and similar mostly violent amusements. And no Roman circus was complete without the beloved “clowns exiting a chariot” act.

Modern circuses typically have elements in common: trained elephants, wild beasts, acrobats, horse-and-rider acts, and clowns, with the action taking place in one or more circular arenas - thus, “circus.” Sometimes this is accompanied by a carnival-style midway with rides and games.

Circuses are, by nature, traveling shows: after entertaining the villagers in a given spot, they would literally pull up stakes and move to another town - sometimes in haste. “Running away and joining the circus” was a real thing, back when the occasional visit of the circus to a backwater town seemed to offer the promise of an exciting life of travel and adventure. In reality, what it mostly offered was abuse, low and very intermittent wages, physical danger, and mountains of elephant shit. Always elephant shit. And thus, Esteemed Readers, it offered a veritable Lesson in Life.

I still remember - with as much crystal clarity as can be mustered after close to sixty years - my first experience with a real, honest-to-goodness circus. A traveling show (Cole Brothers? Clyde Beatty? I cannot recall) came to our town and set up shop in a large field, back when such things as large fields still existed there. Copious amounts of hay were laid down; then the tents went up. Dad - Eli, hizzownself - took me and The Other Elisson there one evening, accompanied by our next-door neighbor and their two boys Jon and Chris, who were roughly the same ages as we were. There were elephants, wild animals, clowns, trapeze artists, and acrobats. There was a ringmaster just like Claude Kirchner on Terrytoon Circus, a TV show we watched religiously in the afternoons mostly owing to its time slot immediately following Mickey Mouse Club. And most clearly of all, I remember the guy getting shot out of a cannon.

Yes, that was a pretty standard circus act - The Human Cannonball. He would get catapulted out of a device that looked a whole lot like a real cannon (provided you didn’t look too closely), fly through the air and through a hoop to land on nice, cushy netting. Of course, gunpowder or other pyrotechnics were used only for sound effects, compressed air or a spring providing the real propulsive force - but we kids didn’t know the difference. The sound (“BOOM!”) was loud enough to send our little neighbor Chris into a fit or hysterical weeping, but all was well after a dose of cherry sno-cone (most of which ended up on his nice white shirt, as I recall.)

The reason hay had been laid down became immediately apparent when the elephants came out. There was always some clown walking behind the huge beasts, vainly trying to keep up with their Prodigious Output with a shovel and bucket, but the hay served as a (mostly ineffective) way to neutralize the barnyard pong. At one point we were permitted to ride atop an actual elephant, which provoked little Chris to yet another bout of hysteria.

After that long-ago adventure, I never felt the burning urge to see the circus again... until the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show landed in Atlanta in the mid-1980’s. By this time, our daughters were both at prime Circus-Viewing age, so off we went to the huge downtown venue where the show was to be held, vacant fields being both thin on the ground and insufficient for the job at hand. And it was all there: the clowns, the elephants, the wild beasts, the trapeze artists, the motorcycles speeding around in a spherical cage (human cannonballs having been taken off the menu), and the acrobats.

Ahh, the acrobats... one of whom performed an act in which she was suspended by her hair by a long cord, rotating and spinning high over the ring. She was there in the spotlight, a sparkling human jewel... and then she disappeared. Her hair had slipped out of its bindings and she had flown out of the cone of the spotlight, landing hard on the ground. We saw none of this - all we saw was the army of clowns, presumably released from the Volkswagens in which they had been imprisoned, trying to get our attention away from whatever terrible thing had just happened. We discovered later that the young lady acrobat had broken her neck... and we have never gone to the circus again.

What killed Ringling Brothers? There are, no doubt, plenty of explanations for the decline in ticket sales that ultimately doomed the show. Last year the elephants were dismissed, mainly due to ongoing outcries from animal rights activists... but that alone doesn’t explain it. I think the Ringling Brothers circus was a victim of its own success.

The circus - as I experienced it as a young snot-nose, anyway - was a personal experience. You sat in hastily erected bleachers. You smelled the hay, the elephant shit, the greasepaint of the clowns, the sweat of your fellow attendees. But the modern circus was a huge affair, mounted in humongous arenas like Madison Square Garden, or the Georgia Dome. And in our device-driven ADHD world where most kids would rather chase Pokemon than crack a library book, what chance does such an old-fashioned amusement delivery device stand?

Today, professional sports, politics, and Facebook have become the circenses to go with our panem, alas. (But you can keep the elephant shit.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Two loaves emerged from my bakery
Alike as twins, as I could see
But their aroma displeasèd me
So I pulled the handle and set them free