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

Thursday, September 29, 2016


The Clancy Shelf... a small niche within the Elisson Library.

Back around the turn of the century, Tom Clancy came out with a novel titled The Bear and the Dragon. Now, sixteen years after having read it, I am a bit fuzzy on the specifics of the story except for remembering that it involved the intrepid Jack Ryan as well as Russia (the Bear) and China (the Dragon).

I haven’t given much thought to The Bear and the Dragon in all those years despite its occupying a prominent shelf in our den’s bookcase along with several of its Tom Clancy-penned brethren. And yet the Bear and the Dragon are on my mind all the time.

I’ve written about The Bear before... the mysterious lancinating pain that had become my all-too-frequent visitor over the past several months. I had figured out that The Bear was a manifestation of trigeminal neuralgia, and my neurologist agreed with my self-diagnosis. Happily, I have been successful at chasing The Bear away (or at least quieting him down) with the right kind of medication.

But now I have The Dragon to deal with, too.

Most people get the occasional floaters - spots in the field of vision caused by debris in the eye’s vitreous humor (the clear jelly that fills the part of the eyeball behind the lens capsule). Floaters are usually no big deal, unless they’re really huge... in which case more serious problems may be lurking. Yesterday I suddenly noticed a massive new floater in my right eye, one that bore a striking resemblance to - you guessed it - a dragon. Knowing that a floater that size can be accompanied by retinal detachment, I called my ophthalmologist first thing this morning. (Anything involving the retina is really scary business... nothing to screw around with.)

After my Op-Doc gave me a thorough lookover, I am happy to report that my retina is fine. So far. But I have a vitreous detachment, apparently a fairly common condition in people who are, ahhh, of mature years.

Well, fuck. I am now officially an Old Guy.

The Eyeball Croaker tells me that The Dragon will be a long-term companion: Vitreous detachments do not resolve themselves spontaneously. They tend to shrink and even vanish in time, but that is simply the result of the brain training itself to ignore them. Already I see hopeful signs, with Mr. Floaty looking less like a dragon and more like a tarantula... or a wad of hair, or a fly on my glasses, or a dark booger. I suppose I will have to learn to live with him.

I envision a Kim Stanley Robinson - Tom Clancy mash-up, one that will describe the remainder of my days on Earth: The Years of Bear and Dragon. Feh.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Still more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives. For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

For you delectation, may I suggest this useful coinage:

Panamanian wax [pa-na-mei-ni-an waks] (n) - a type of grooming technique in which hot wax is used to remove pubic hair from the female pelvic region, vulva, labia, perineum, and anus. Unlike the Brazilian wax, in which almost all hair is removed, the Panamanian wax leaves a strip of jungle on either side of the canal.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives. For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

Here’s today’s entry:

grachitz [gra-khitz] (n) - any disgusting material of the sort that tends to accumulate in cracks and crevices and/or the necks of ketchup bottles. A faux-Yiddish coinage.

“I can’t stand to take a bath at Grandma’s house any more. The drain in her tub is half stopped up with fifty years worth of grachitz and hair. Feh.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Dee uses the above phrase to refer to a cemetery. “It’s where the dead people live,” she’d say as we would drive past one. (That pun, I found out some time ago, only works in English.)

But we have several “bury patches” in our house: They’re the kitty litter boxes, and they illustrate the fact that cats, like humans, are very individualistic in their personal habits.

Edith in her former home.
Stella, for example, will leave a pee-muffin in the box (we use clumping litter) and make no attempt to cover it. On other occasions, she will deposit a fragrant load of Kitty-Dookie atop the bed of litter, whereupon she will scratch uselessly on the side of the box. It’s as if to say, “I know I’m supposed to be scratching something after I pinch a loaf, but I have no idea why.”

Edith, on the other hand, is quite fastidious. Her box is fitted with both a cover and a door for maximum privacy. And she buries her by-products as deep as the ancient Egyptians buried their Pharaohs. (One time, in Pharaonic fashion, she even brought a toy into the box as a sacrifice to the Afterworld of Cat-Poop.) Cleaning her box is not unlike a piratical treasure hunt.

Just call me Captain Jack Spoorow. Or Captain Kiddney... digging for buried doody booty. Arrrh!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The kids at Junior Einsteins Preschool were not your average rugrats.

The privileged and wealthy of New York endured a waitlist so lengthy, they would rush to apply for a slot before a fertilized ovum was fully implanted. That merely entitled you to submit an application. Acceptance of your special little Bitsy or Geoffrey was far from guaranteed.

And once your child was admitted, it wasn’t all finger paints, glue, and construction paper. That’s not how you trained future Captains of Industry.

The only problem was the homework. It was a bitch trying to help your kid with his Blockulus.

Monday, September 19, 2016


... thud ... thud ...thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ... thud ...

(Arrrh. This joke be stupid.)


Way out West, Deadwood was a rip-roaring lawless mess of a place. There was only one person who could stand up to Al Swearingen, the corrupt owner of the local hostelry.

It should be noted that “hostelry” included more than simply lodging: whores and alcohol were also freely available. Swearingen was an evil bastard, but he ran a straightforward business provided you didn’t get in his way. Bad things could befall you otherwise.

Whenever Al got too far out of line, Jane would pepper him with olive pits until he’d beg for mercy.

Of course you’ve heard of Calamata Jane.


As a child, Perry had grown up wanting to wield the peppermill in the local Italian restaurant.

It was no easy career choice. The Guild of Peppermillers insisted on lengthy study and a lengthier apprenticeship. You had to know everything about the many types of pepper and the various milling techniques to be employed to achieve the proper fineness. Perry nevertheless aced his exams, landing a job immediately.

Unfortunately, Perry hated it. Carpal tunnel syndrome drove him nuts.

“How’s the job?” friends asked.

“A real grind.”

Alas, the Parmesan cheese gig was just as bad. It grated... on his nerves.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


In the process of cleaning out our Basemental Archive of excess inventory, I try to keep in mind that old maxim: “One man’s detritus is another man’s delightus.”

It makes sense, in a certain way. After all, I can’t be the only one to amass huge collections of useless ephemera. Matchbooks. Hotel soap. Shoe mitts. Shoe horns. Airline first-class meal menus. Airline toiletry kits. Hotel stationery. Other people probably pack-rat this stuff too, although I cannot imagine a secondary market for it. Nevertheless, we humans like to collect stuff, a practice that distinguishes us from a handful of animals.

Most of this crap has been given the old heave-ho, but I still have a pile of old TV Guide magazines. I suspect eBay is the best route to get rid of these, but we shall see. For there are little treasures amongst the dross.

F’r instance, the TV Guide pictured in this post? I has it.

And there’s this one:

You’re looking at the TV Guide Fall Preview issue for the 1966-67 television season... an issue that is fifty years old this week. Back then, most shows would premiere in September and would run until May or June, when summer re-runs would take over until the next season began. The Fall Preview Issue was where you could learn about all the New Crap that was going to be on the tube (that’d be a cathode-ray tube, the kind of teevee we all had until flatscreens came along) that year. And the 1966-67 season was kinda sorta historic. Take a look at some of the shows that got their start that season:

Family Affair - with Brian Keith as the footloose bachelor saddled with three orphans, and Sebastian Cabot as the English manservant who actually does the heavy lifting.

The Monkees - Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, David Jones, and Mickey Dolenz star in the adventures of the eponymous band, a half-assed knockoff of The Beatles that somehow manages to come up with some half-decent music.

Star Trek - Perhaps you may have heard of this one. Interestingly, the preview in TV Guide refers to Mr. Spock as a Vulcanian from the planet Vulcanis. At least they got the half-Earthling part right. Today, incidentally, is the fiftieth anniversary of the show’s official premiere: The episode broadcast on September 8, 1966 was a “sneak preview.”

The Jean Arthur Show - Cancelled after only four weeks.

Rat Patrol - based on the adventures of a pack of desert commandos during the WWII North Africa campaign.

Mission Impossible - Before it was a movie starring Tom Cruise, it was this.

It’s About Time - take two dopey astronauts and time-travel their asses to the Stone Age. Hilarity ensues. Starring Joe E. Ross (the “Ooh-ooh” guy from Car 54, Where Are You?) and Imogene Coca, from Your Show of Shows.

That Girl - with Marlo Thomas as an early incarnation of a character that would later resurface on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Ally McBeal years later.

The Green Hornet - a show that suffered from a lack of good buzz.

Time Tunnel - I had high hopes for this show, which featured a time-travel plot device. But the producer was Irwin Allen, thus guaranteeing suckage on an epic scale.

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. - a poor knockoff of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., this time with (duh) a female lead.

The Pruitts of Southampton - with Phyllis Diller. Great show, provided you could tolerate more than five minutes of Phyllis Diller.

If you’re old enough to have heard of all these shows, then you’re pretty damned old. What surprises me is how many of them became enduringly embedded in our popular culture (some more enduringly than others). And looking at the listings, you could see all kinds of shows that were still in their first runs. The Munsters! Bonanza!

Now, in the age of 2,000 channels, streaming video, and play-on-demand, the notion of an actual weekly print magazine that told you everything you needed to know about the week’s programs seems rather quaint. If you wanted to watch a show then, you had to park your butt in front of the set when the show was being broadcast... no home recording. No whipping out your smartphone and telling your DVR to snag the latest episode of “Cute Cooks Wearing Cutoffs, Cooking Cookies in a Cookoff” from the Food Network.

Sometimes I miss those days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


In the process of deinventorying and cleaning out the Elisson Basemental Archive ’n’ Miscellaneous Debris Storage Facility, Dee came upon an item I had not seen for almost two decades. I knew it was somewhere, but the “where” had escaped me.

It was a Brumberger 3-D slide viewer, a little contraption that was designed for looking at 3-D transparencies. Made sometime in the early 1950’s, my parents had purchased it some 63-plus years ago.

In the box with the viewer were a handful of cardboard slide mounts, each one containing a matched set of two Kodachrome transparencies. You would stick a mount in the viewer, look through the binocular eyepiece, and push a button to illuminate the photo in all its three-dimensional glory.

Imagine the wonderful things you could see in realistic stereovision! The Matterhorn. The Eiffel Tower. The Empire State Building. Pike’s Peak. But no, my parents had bought the device for a much more prosaic application: to look at photos of their baby.

How they got the damned kid to sit still for the photographer, I have no idea. Probably they drugged him. There seem to be two different sets of photos, one earlier, the other taken some months later. In the first set, the kid clutches a blanket while parked on a bed fitted with white sheets.  He does not look happy in many of these pictures, unless you stretch the definition of “happy” to include “mildly bilious.” In the later session, clothed in a fashionable little set of plaid overalls, the little guy looks like he has put on a few ounces and displays a more positive demeanor. Possibly this is because of the various vinyl toys with which he is playing. A giraffe! A fish! A lamb! Look there, is that a smile? Or is he just squeezing out a deuce?

The viewer needed a little reconditioning. The D-size batteries that had once powered it had unleashed a flood of corrosion that had to be cleaned up. Happily, a little work with Mr. Dremel and a pair of needle-nosed pliers and the old Brumberger was right as rain.

As for the pictures, it had been a long time since I had been able to look at them... but there they were, with their familiar stereovision charm. They had held up pretty well for having been about sixty-three years old... better, perhaps, than their subject. And I cannot exactly describe the sensation of looking at little old me in three dimensions. It is a peculiar feeling.

Of course, you’ve already figured out that the photos were of Yours Truly... probably around the time you reached the word “bilious.”

Thursday, September 8, 2016


...to boldly go where no man has gone before.

By the time this issue of TV Guide came out, Star Trek had already established itself as a hit... and Leonard Nimoy’s Mister Spock as an unlikely sex symbol.
Yes, I watched that very first “preview week” episode on September 8, 1966 on our dinky little black-and-white television set. “The Man Trap,” it was titled, cleverly playing on both the allure of old girlfriends and the lethal salt-sucking alien featured in the episode.

I can remember the first time I saw that iconic image of the USS Enterprise swooshing across the screen (never mind that space is silent). The introduction! The theme music, high-pitched and eerie (to be toned down in later episodes)! This was gonna be great!

Star Trek, as it turned out, was great - very different from its space-oriented predecessor, the disappointing and hokey Lost in Space. It actually had SF elements in it, leavened by short-skirted female officers and romantic subplots. Star Trek was something new. Something special.

Of course, we hadn’t yet heard about Gene Roddenberry’s one-line network pitch: “Wagon Train to the Stars.” Nevertheless, the suits bought it... and despite the cheap sets and special effects, there was enough of that something special to keep us watching it, even though the first season was the only really good one. Transporters! Velour uniforms!

William Shatner, the irrepressible, scene-chewing, and ever-horny Captain James Tiberius Kirk, was no doubt shocked to see that Leonard Nimoy’s mysterious, emotionless Mister Spock was the character that had all the teenage girls in a lather. Must’ve been those pointy ears.   

Half a century later, it’s a huge franchise. Multiple television series, multiple film series, and yet it is still going strong, thanks to a mysterious chemistry between the characters that, even when seen for the first time through the eyes of a (not quite) fourteen-year-old kid, was instantly recognizable as a hopeful vision of the future.

Star Trek... may you and your spawn live long and prosper!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Some of us believe in reincarnation. It’s an attractive enough idea, that of eternal souls transmigrating - being born over and over into this vale of tears and joy - ostensibly for some sort of Higher Purpose.

In early 1997, reincarnation was a critical element of Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun, a biography of sorts of the Dalai Lama. The film’s story begins in 1937, at which time the thirteenth Dalai Lama has been deceased for four years. A group of monks visits a family in a remote part of Tibet. [Is there any part of Tibet that isn’t remote? - E.] After exchanging a few pleasantries, the monks get down to business, taking out an assortment of trivial personal objects and placing them on a mat in front of the family’s two-year-old child, who proceeds to select several of the items and claim them as his own (“Mine!”). They are objects without a scintilla of use to a typical two-year-old, but the child is insistent and, apparently, unerring, for after the final object is identified the monks all bow low and, in complete awe, intone the word Kundun - the Presence. The boy is the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

I’m not entirely sure about whether reincarnation is something that actually happens, or whether it represents the kind of wishful thinking we humans are all to prone to indulge in, the hope that somehow, some way, our souls are immortal and can outlive us. But I do believe that we can have strong connections to those who no longer walk this earth with us... and by way of evidence, I can offer a story.

The story concerns our friend Houston Steve, his wife Debby (who, alas, passed away last year), and their granddaughter Isla, who, at nearly two years of age, is comparable to the young Dalai Lama in the tale above. Debby spent as much time as possible with her granddaughter while she could, and they developed a considerable bond. But then Debby was gone, with only some photo albums to serve as a direct reminder - aside, of course, from frequent visits with Grandpa.

Then comes this weekend, the weekend immediately before Debby’s Yahrzeit - the anniversary of her passing according to the Hebrew calendar. Isla and her parents are here in town, and, along with Houston Steve, they head to the synagogue.

Isla has never been to synagogue, yet enroute she repeats, “Gamma, gamma” several times. Upon arriving, as she walks through the corridor adjacent to the Holocaust memorial garden, she is inexplicably drawn to it, crying out, “Gamma, gamma!” Daddy opens the door to the garden and the child rushes out, making a beeline directly to the memorial brick inscribed with her Grandma’s name. In her hand she clutches a pebble, and when she reaches the brick, she repeatedly taps the pebble against it.

There are times when, looking at Isla, we all see her genetic heritage: We know exactly whose granddaughter she is. She is almost a Debby in miniature, all the way down to her feisty, unsinkable attitude. She is obviously no revenant, no reincarnation of her beloved Grandma, having been born almost a year too soon. But, short of reincarnation, can there be some sort of mysterious connection between those of use on either side of the Great Divide? An entwining of souls, perhaps? You tell me... but I think I have all the evidence I need.

[Photo: Neil Caron]

Postscript: Kevin Kim offers a thoughtful examination of transmigration and reincarnation from the perspective of Asian religion, notably Buddhism and Hinduism.

Friday, September 2, 2016


Look at me
I’m a kitty with pantaloons
I live in a great big house
A kitty with pantaloons
If I should make a poop
It might stick to my pantaloons
And then my Daddy comes
With scissors and brush

[sung to the tune of “Stranger in Paradise”]