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

Friday, July 31, 2015


“If you expect the unexpected, it is not unexpected: it is expected, I expect.” - The Bard of Affliction

Sometimes I think the Big Guy Upstairs is trying to tell me something, and I’m not sure it is something I want to hear. At least, that’s the feeling I had when I prepared to sit down at my office desk and work on the Torah reading I’m doing tomorrow morning.

Reading Torah takes some preparation. You’re essentially looking at a large parchment scroll filled with carefully handwritten text... but said text consists only of Hebrew consonants. The vowels that enable you to pronounce the words correctly and the cantillation (trope) notes that provide the melody are not there. Even more fun - there’s no punctuation. You have to know the material well enough to fill in the missing data - on the fly.

What’s it like? Here’s an example:


If you can look at this (apparent) gibberish and belt out a flawless rendition of Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live,” you have some idea of what I’m talking about. Now, pretend your native language uses a different alphabet - to you, Roman letters are just a bit mysterious - and you have an even better idea.

So: preparation. Especially since I’ll be reading the Ten Commandments (the version from Deuteronomy, which differs slightly from the one in Exodus), a reading so central to our religious identity that the congregation stands during its recitation.

What I did not expect was that, as I sat down, I heard a sharp CRACK! and my office chair deposited me on the floor in a heap. Part of the metal frame had given way due to a hitherto invisible stress fracture.

That chair was guaranteed for ten years. It was ten years and six months old. Damn.

The bad news is, I need a new chair. The good news? There’s a tax holiday this weekend, so I can maybe save a few bucks on said new chair. But that’s kinda not good news, because it means the office supply emporium will be packed with eager bargain hunters. Gaaaah.

Well, the chair is broken. At least I’m not. Things could be worse.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Today I saw a cloud that looked like the Pietà.
A testament to Heaven’s glory, thought I. What could be greater?
But as I watched, the cloud dissolved and slouched,
Becoming, so it seemed, a chubby woman on a couch.

With yet more time the lofty breezes did their work,
Turning God’s art to just so much chaotic murk.
O, Entropy, thou changest beauty into dross:
Perhaps that was the testament that was meant for us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The Fart Ball Rack.

Are you sick and tired of your fart balls Brussels sprouts rolling all over the fucking place? Have you ever wondered how professional chefs keep those little green gas-bombs evenly distributed on their roasting pans?

Well, wonder no more. We have the solution to a problem you didn’t even know you had: the official Fart Ball Rack™! Simply place your Brussels sprouts in the triangle, move it around until they form a nice, tight pattern, and then apply your seasonings.

The photo above shows a wooden prototype, but the final product will be made of heat-resistant silicone and will include several sizes in order to accommodate any size of choux de Bruxelles, from those tender little quail egg-sized beauties all the way up to humongo-sprouts with Rocky Mountain Oyster dimensions. Its just the thing for every anal-retentive chef!

If you feel especially playful, you can get a chopstick and practice your three-cushion billiards shots. A standard half-sheet pan has about the right aspect ratio. Sharpen your game while you keep your kitchen orderly and those pesky Fart Balls in their place!

Dee came up with this concept as I was preparing some roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar. I think it’s Kickstarter-worthy. What say ye, Esteemed readers?


A rare treat: a distiller’s reproduction of the Scotch whisky that was abandoned in Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton in 1909 and found over a century later... in perfect condition.

I have been informed that today is National Scotch Day.

I really have no idea who makes these faux holidays up. Sometimes it’s the obvious work of the greeting card industry: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all of the other Trivial Celebrations of Close Kindred all started as individual attempts to honor a beloved family member but eventually mutated beyond all recognition thanks to the likes of Hallmark, et al. This one would seem to be the doing of the Scotch Whisky Distillers’ Collective, who probably got the naming rights via the time-honored method of applying palm-greasage in the right locations. (Apparently they did not secure an exclusive, for it is also National Crème Brûlée Day. And, perhaps more complementary in theme, it’s Bagpipe Appreciation Day. )

Of course, the appropriate thing to do would be to have a wee dram... or perhaps a cocktail based on Scotch whisky. Single malts generally don’t play well with others - prima donnas! - but blended Scotch is the base of several nice tipples, including the Rusty Nail (Scotch and the Scotch-based liqueur Drambuie), the Mamie Taylor (a Scotch whisky version of the Moscow Mule), and the Rob Roy (a Martini using Scotch in lieu of gin) - the latter having been a favorite of my late mother.

Naah. Screw the cocktails. It’s single malt for me... and to put us in the proper frame of mind, here are a few Scotch whisky-inspired limericks:

It’s National Scotch Day - rejoice!
The Balvenie’s often my choice.
Sometimes I’ll be havin’
A wee dram of Bunnahabhain,
Though those Scottish names just sound like noise.

Laphroiag tastes like coal tar or pitch,
And for many, that flavor’s too rich.
If you drink Lagavulin,
You’re really not foolin’ -
That’s one smoky son-of-a-bitch.

The warm malty drams of the Highland
Are tasty, no matter their stylin’.
When the glass hits my lips
And I take a few sips,
It’s not long before Elisson’s smilin’.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Actor Irwin Keyes, 1952-2015. Barukh Dayan Emet.
[Photo from www.lukeford.net. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.]

I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Irwin Keyes, a gentleman of unusual countenance who made his living as a Hollywood actor.

You may or may not know Irwin unless you are a horror film aficionado: most of his work was in that genre, including a star turn in House of 1000 Corpses. But you may have seen him on The Jeffersons, where he appeared several times, or even on Police Squad!, where he was cast in one episode. The mainstream movie audience was also likely to see him in the two Flintstones films (The Flintstones (1994) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)), in which he played Joe Rockhead. And then there was my personal favorite, Intolerable Cruelty, in which he played Wheezy Joe, a hapless hitman whose asthma proves fatal in an unexpected way.

Irwin’s death - from complications of acromegaly, the glandular condition that gave him his somewhat scary appearance - hit me a bit harder than most Hollywood fatalities. That’s mainly on account of Irwin being my age - just a few months older, to be exact... which makes perfect sense, because he was also my high school classmate.

Irwin’s photo from my
high school yearbook, 1970.
I’ll confess to not spending a whole lot of time with Irwin in high school. By that time he had become a brawny young man, someone who spent a lot of time involved in athletics. Football, which made perfect sense. But he and I spent a lot of time together back in our middle school days, mainly because we attended the same synagogue and were in the same Hebrew school class.

Alas, I never reconnected with Irwin on Facebook the way I did with so many of my old friends from as far back as elementary school. I would have liked to measure his recollections of our congregation’s clergy against mine.

Requiescat in pace, Irwin. May you be bound up in the bonds of life amidst the holy and the pure under the sheltering wings of the Eternal’s presence. Godspeed, buddy.


This morning, Houston Steve proudly displayed his latest acquisition.

“I finally got them! Polish laces!”

Polish laces... the genuine article.

And indeed, they were laces. Black dress shoelaces, to be precise. They were authentically Polish, too, having been brought back from Warsaw by our rabbi, who had just completed a two-week congregational trip to Eastern Europe.

Of course there’s a story.

It seems that when Houston Steve was a young midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, there was a cobbler shop just outside the gate with a sign in the window that looked something like this:

(Artists’s rendition.)
For years, that sign was a source of bewilderment to Steve, who wondered just exactly what these “Polish Laces” were. He could not figure out why anyone would want shoelaces from Poland, and why would they be a big enough deal that a shoe shop in Annapolis, Maryland should feature them so prominently in their window. Now let’s let Houston Steve tell the story in his own words, shall we?

“In 1976, as a somewhat freshly minted officer in the Navy’s JAG Corps, I was back in Washington, DC for the annual JAG Conference, and I took a side trip to the alma mater. I went by the old cobbler shop, and there was the sign. Yup: still there. And then it dawned on me. Polish... Laces... what a dumbass!! It’s the stuff you shine the shoes with and the stuff you keep them on with. Two nouns, not an adjective and a noun.

“But, then, last month my synagogue was sending a group to Eastern Europe, led by my friend Rabbi Shalom Lewis. I stopped by his office before he left, and I asked him to have a look around while he was in Warsaw and Krakow to see if he could find any. And he did! And he brought some back for me.”

Polish laces, Esteemed Readers. Now: What does this one rate on the Dolt-O-Meter?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I am an idiot.

Let me rephrase that: Sometimes I do amazingly idiotic things. The specific degree of idiocy may vary; past results are not a guarantee of future performance.

Yesterday I did something that, on the Dolt-O-Meter, probably registers about a three. It wasn’t something that endangered any lives or jeopardized any property, nor was it anything that would have resulted in my arrest. It was just something silly. Something that would cause, in a normal human being, a brief sensation of Fu-Na, our special made-up word for extreme embarrassment.

While getting dressed yesterday morning, my shirt buttons felt strange, somehow. I should explain that I was wearing what Dee refers to as my Traveling Shirt, a dark green shirt made of some bizarre high-tech fiber that stays cool in the hottest weather and which can be washed in a jungle river, hung up to dry in a 98.9% humidity environment, and be perfectly dry and ready to wear the following morning. It has snaps in lieu of normal buttons, presumably so one can dress oneself after one has gnawed off one arm after a bizarre hiking accident.

As I was snapping those buttons, they just didn’t feel quite right... but I ignored that subtle feeling. In retrospect, that subtle feeling was something I should have paid more attention to... a bit like the feeling I had when I had committed a similar Act of Idiocy almost eleven years ago.

Cut to a few hours later, when I was at the eye doctor to pick up an order of contact lenses for Dee. As I stood there waiting for the receptionist to return with the package of lenses, I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflective surface. Hmmm, thought I. What’s that tag doing hanging off the side of my shirt? My shirt doesn’t have tags hanging off of it... on the outside.


Glancing over at my shoulder, I could see that there was a pronounced seam where my shirt’s sleeve was attached. Oops. I had somehow managed to put my shirt on inside out... and proceed to wear it for hours without noticing anything amiss.

Of course, I had to take the shirt off and put it on properly, just in case a random stranger might notice my sartorial faux pas and think less of me before wandering off and disappearing from my life forever. But where? Not in the eye doctor’s waiting room. That would be nekulturny.

The restroom was the obvious place. As soon as I had Dee’s Box o’ Lenses in my hot little hand, I made my way to the men’s room, which was (thankfully) unoccupied. I went into an empty stall and proceeded to remove my shirt and then don it properly. Ahh, that’s the way those snaps should feel!

By this time someone else had entered the men’s room. I flushed the toilet to provide a cover story - what was that dude doing in the stall if not to drop a deuce, after all? - and of course washed my hands afterwards. Because ewww. (Ya gotta wash up, even if you’ve only dropped an imaginary deuce.)

When I related this story to Dee later that evening, she laughed almost unto the point of involuntary micturition.

Yes, I’ve done plenty of waaaaaay stupider stuff... but it’s nice when my antics are just dopey enough to be entertaining without being dangerous.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Donald Trump
Is in a funk -
His campaign may have hit a bump.
There’s many think he is a chump
With all his brains wedged in his rump
For squeezing when he takes a dump.

Donald Trump,
You smarmy lump -
You live your life with the assump-
Tion that you are the Camel’s Hump,
The Cat’s Meow, and all that junk.
But you’re not. Just one rich cunt.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


[Duetto per tenore italiano e parlando cane Great Dane]

Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più
Mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu
Poi d’improvviso venivo dal vento rapito
E incominciavo a volare nel cielo infinito

Volare, ruh roh...
Cantare, oho ruh roh...
Nel blu dipinto di blu
Felice di stare lassù

E volavo, volavo felice
Più in alto del sole ed ancora più su
Mentre il mondo pian piano spariva, lontano laggiù
Una musica dolce suonava soltanto per me

Volare, ruh roh...
Cantare, oho ruh roh...
Nel blu dipinto di blu
Felice di stare lassù

Ma tutti i sogni nell’alba svaniscono perché
Quando tramonta, la luna li porta con sé
Ma io continuo a sognare negli occhi tuoi belli
Che sono blu come un cielo trapunto di stelle

Volare, ruh roh...
Cantare, oho ruh roh...
Nel blu degli occhi tuoi blu
Felice di stare quaggiù

E continuo a volare felice
Più in alto del sole ed ancora più su
Mentre il mondo pian piano scompare negli occhi tuoi blu
La tua voce è una musica dolce che suona per me

Volare, ruh roh...
Cantare, oho ruh roh...
Nel blu degli occhi tuoi blu
Felice di stare quaggiù

Nel blu degli occhi tuoi blu
Felice di stare quaggiù con te

[Apologies to Domenico Modugno]

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The Deauville Beach Resort... a slice of the 1950’s.

After eleven sweaty hours of driving spread over two days, I have finally returned home from an epic week-long trip to Florida.

Marge + Pisco sour = trouble.
I had decided to drive because I wanted to stop enroute and visit with my Aunt Marge, who now resides in Tampa at an independent living facility. Marge is always a pleasure - she always has a few stories about my mother that I haven’t heard before, the kind of stories only a BFF from high school days would know. And she introduced me to a new tipple, the Pisco Sour, with which we both got pisco’ed.

The visit with Marge was a bonus, though. The main reason for my journey was to attend the biennial International FJMC Convention, a gathering of members of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. I’ve been going to these little affairs since 2007, and they’re always a pleasure - a chance to catch up with old friends and make new friends, to refresh and learn leadership skills, to exchange knowledge, and to enjoy a unique blend of spirits and spirituality. This one was no different... except for the venue, which was (to put it mildly) several notches below previous ones.

Now, the decision to have a convention in Miami Beach in July is not as insane as it may appear at first blush. Yes, it’s ridiculously hot. Blast furnace hot... almost (but not quite) as hot as Houston. But most activities are indoors, and you have a pool - not to mention the whole honkin’ Atlantic Ocean - where you can cool off and even catch some rays.

The choice of the Deauville Beach Resort... ahh, that’s where things went a bit pear-shaped.

When a hotel is described as “historic,” it generally means “in serious need of renovation.” And the Deauville is, indeed, historic. Its main claim to fame is that it was the venue for the Beatles’ second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which was taped on February 16, 1964 in the Deauville’s Napoleon Ballroom. The hotel - fictionalized as the Miramar Hotel - also was used in location shots for the Starz television series “Magic City,” which ran for two seasons in 2012-13.

The Deauville pool, AKA “Beatle-Juice.”
As glitzy as the place may have been a half-century ago, though, it has not aged well: It has gotten a bit crumbly around the edges. Adjectives such as “well-worn,”  “shabby,” and “rumpled” come to mind. The pool looked nice enough from a distance, but a thin film of human grease and detritus floated on its surface. The Beatles swam in that pool fifty-one years ago, and it is entirely possible that some of their skin cells are still floating around in it.

To call it a “dump” would be praising it with faint damn... and yet it was not truly abysmal, not quite sinking to the levels of “toilet” or “shithouse.” Just worn out

It’s a little like a superannuated call girl. You look at the lobby and you think, “not bad.” but when you get under the covers, so to speak, you realize that your double sawbuck would have been better spent elsewhere.

The carpeting on the mezzanine level looked tired and sad, desperately in need of replacement... and the place had the aroma of your grandma’s house. Not your grandma that bakes chocolate-chip cookies, but the one that went to live in a nursing home and pees into a bag.

The staff was friendly and courteous - when you could find any of ’em - and a few even spoke passable English. Valet parking was nonexistent, bell staff vanishingly scarce. Thank Gawd I am capable of schlepping my own bags.

Extra entertainment was provided by the army of fifteen-year-old girls from Argentina, who were in Miami Beach enjoying their quinceñera vacation and helping to ensure that the one regularly functioning elevator (out of four) was constantly packed to Tokyo subway car capacity.

Genuine Art Drekko lobby furnishings.
If you wanted coffee, you could choose between the vile brew offered at mealtimes in the Richelieu dining room, AKA the Ricky Ricardo... or you could go to the little coffee shop adjacent to the hotel and get a café Cubano - a tooth-shatteringly sweet Cuban-style espresso that could wake you out of a coma. I had a couple of those and I’m still wired, five days later.

My room was nothing to write home about, but it really wasn't all that bad. The hot and cold water taps worked, the shower functioned properly, and the balcony faced eastward, providing me with spectacular sunrise views across the murmuring surf of the Atlantic. And yet, as I surveyed my little kingdom, I could not help but remember another trip a decade ago, one where my choice of lodging was, errr, ahhh... a bit disappointing. At least this time, I was not the one who selected the venue, and Dee was not present to give me The Look.

Ah, the Deauville, AKA the Deau-Vile, the D’oh! ville, the Doo-Dooville. Our Convention was a blast despite you, and you gave us so many stories to tell - not like one of those boring high-rent cribs. Seriously - how often do you get to live in an honest-to-goodness Time Crapsule?

Hey, the place wasn’t all that bad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Hail to thee, blithe spirit -
Boid thou never woit.

- Poicy Shelley, from “To a Skylark”

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door...

- Edgar Allen Poe, from “The Raven”

As I pounded away at my keyboard, I heard a bizarre tapping sound, a sort of clickety-click coming from the nearby foyer.

What was Stella up to? I thought. But then I realized that she was stretched out on the floor next to me... and Dee wasn’t due home for another hour. Hmmm.

A quick look upward and I saw the source of the sound: a yellow bird that had perched on the palladium window above our entry door, pecking intermittently at the window as if to entreat entry.

This little guy had visited us before. Several weeks ago, Dee had caught him doing the same thing... but he flew away before I could photograph him. Now he was back, and he was bolder. The camera’s flash didn’t faze him in the slightest.

I’m guessing he is a canary, or possibly some other kind of finch. It looks like he is missing his long tailfeathers. An encounter with a cat? Bratty kids? Who knows? His flying abilities appear to be unimpaired.

No, I’m not looking for a pet bird. Nothing good comes from adopting the random exotic critter that flies into your window - at least, so I’ve heard.

The little bastard’s back... again. And again.

Monday, July 6, 2015


as i was getting into the car the other day
i noticed a bug that had adhered himself
to the drivers side window
it was a firefly i observed
his abdomen having the familiar neon signage

as i drove away he tried with all his might to hang on
but eventually the mighty slipstream carried him away

so many lessons in so short a time thought i
the one that first occurred to me was that
you cannot stay still when the winds blow
you must bend or break if you wish to not be carried away
two other thoughts also occurred to me boss

one is that there are few things sadder or more useless
than a firefly at noon
another is how the fuck is a cockroach driving a car

i leave you to ponder these mysteries boss
while i search for my daily sustenance

 - archy

[apologies to don marquis]