Friday, December 23, 2005

Get Real . . . It's Christmas!

It was 1969. Moon landing. Woodstock. Brady Bunch. A crazy year that inspired such toe-tapping tunes as “A Boy Named Sue,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Jam Up and Jelly Tight.”

“Hair” was on Broadway and the Best Movie of the Year was “Midnight Cowboy.” Literary types were reading “The Godfather,” “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “Slaughterhouse Five.” And the Mets won the World Series. Like I said . . . it was a crazy year.

Christmas of 1969 was a bit crazy for our family, too. It was the first time that we would spend Christmas far away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Maybe that’s why we had the “courage” to do what we did.

That year, all the glitz and commercialism of the season had somehow seeped into our psyches and we believed the TV ads that said we were hip. We were cool. We were groovy. No boring old-fashioned Christmas traditions for us. No-Sir-ee. So we did it. We bought an aluminum Christmas tree.

I’ll never forget that day. We had gone to Sears to do some Christmas shopping, each of us with our own agendas. My little brother Steve and I had some cash left over from our allowances to buy gifts, while Mom and Dad were checking out prices in the toy section. As we rounded a corner in the home appliances department we saw . . . IT.

There before us was a six-foot-tall aluminum tree decorated with identical silver glass ball ornaments and a big glittery star on top. We stood in amazement as the tree changed color from yellow, to blue, to green, to red and back to yellow. These brilliant colors were created by a rotating color wheel attached to a large flood lamp on the floor.

A sign next to the tree read: As advertised on TV! Permanent Christmas Tree! Easy to set up! No pesky pine needles! No messy tinsel! No clumpy garland! No strings of tangled lights with burned out bulbs! Lifetime guarantee!

Steve and I looked at each other with huge grins on our faces, but before our pleading whines even began, Dad grabbed one of the boxed trees off the top of the nearby pile and we were on our way to the cashier.

That night while Dad assembled the tree, Mom made some hot cocoa. Steve was ready to plug in the flood lamp at Dad’s command and I was sitting Indian-style on the floor munching on a sugar cookie waiting for the show to start. Perry Como started crooning “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” on the record player, and the scene was complete.

We watched as Dad stuck the individual branches into the tiny holes in the center of the silver-painted pole and before we knew it, the tree was up. Steve plugged in the lamp and the four of us watched our aluminum Christmas tree change color right before our eyes.

Mom made sure it was right in front of the big picture window in the living room. We wondered what it looked like from outside so we all ran out the door and stood on the sidewalk in front of the house. Our faces glowed as we watched the majestic display. Yes, we had the best tree on the block.

We were proud. We were exalted. We were on an ego trip you wouldn’t believe. Mom decided to plan a Christmas party to show off the tree. Steve and I invited the kids in our neighborhood to come over and see the tree. Dad bragged about the tree whenever he had a chance: “Hey, that’s a nice chainsaw you got there, Ed. By the way, have you seen our new Christmas tree?”

A few days later, Steve came home from school with a hand-made Christmas ornament made of construction paper, glue and glitter. It was a brown reindeer with a red button nose and a cotton ball tail. But when he started to put his masterpiece on the tree, we screamed, “No! You’ll ruin it!” Steve was disappointed, but he understood. The tree reigned supreme. His ornament was relegated to the refrigerator door.

One night there was a mechanical problem with the rotating color wheel. It stopped spinning. The tree stayed yellow and wouldn’t change. I sat by the wheel and manually switched out the colors every few seconds. Finally, Dad took it to the garage where he adjusted the whachamacallit and the dinglefrazz-o-meter. Everything was back to normal and we could all rest easy.

Mom got it into her head that all the gifts should be wrapped in silver paper to match the tree. That way, when the color wheel turned, the gifts would also reflect the light. And although I preferred the pretty red paper with the snowmen and penguins, I knew she was right. The silver packages glowed and filled the room with their glory.

I hate to admit it, but after a couple of weeks I was getting pretty tired of looking at that tin foil tree. We all were. It was two days before Christmas and we had just come home after visiting our neighbors across the street who had invited us over for eggnog and cookies. They had a real tree. It smelled like a forest and the dark green pine needles looked so festive with colorful ornaments hanging from the branches.

As we walked into the house that night, the aluminum tree shimmered in the moonlight from the picture window. Steve, with the excitement of a sloth, turned on the color wheel. We stared in disgust as the tree changed color. We were wrong. Our tree wasn’t the best tree on the block, after all. It was tacky . . . and we knew it.

As our grim faces turned yellow, blue, green, red and back to yellow, Steve went into the kitchen to get his reindeer ornament off the refrigerator. He put it on the tree and stepped back. We all smiled. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Twilight Zone: I Know Why the Caged Bird Squawks

Narrator: You unlock this door with a key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into . . . the Twilight Zone.


Narrator: Polly Esterburg lived alone in a small cottage in a small neighborhood in a small town. The only thing she cared about was her parakeet Ronald. But Polly and Ronald would soon be involved in a deadly game . . . a game that would change their lives forever . . . a game that would ultimately lead them into . . . the Twilight Zone.

Polly: Ronald, you haven’t talked to me in hours. What’s wrong?

Ronald: (From inside his cage) Squawk! I’m sick of those peanuts you’re always putting in my food dish. Squawk! For once in my life, I’d like peanuts with the shells.

Polly: I’m sorry, Ronald. I didn’t know you cared. I’ll get you some right away!

Ronald: Squawk! And make it snappy! I don’t have all day!

Polly: Oh, no! We’re all out of peanuts with shells.

Ronald: Figures. Squawk!

Polly: I have an idea. Let’s play a game to get your mind off the peanuts. How about Parcheesi?

Ronald: Squawk! Can I be blue?

Polly: Of course! You can be any color you like. And you can go first.

Narrator: Since Ronald is unable to throw the dice, Polly rolls for him and moves his pieces. Hours pass as Polly and Ronald play Parcheesi late into the evening. Ronald is winning but Polly doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, the way she’s playing, it looks like she’s letting Ronald win. Finally, Ronald’s last piece is in place.

Ronald: Squawk! I win! I win! Suck it up, loser!

Polly: Oh, Ronald … you’re such a wonderful Parcheesi player. I didn’t have a chance. Squawk!

Ronald: What did you say?

Polly: Nothing, Ronald. I didn’t say anything. Squawk!

Ronald: There! You said “Squawk!” I heard it with my own ears!

Polly: I don’t know what’s happening . . . Squawk!

Ronald: Good Lord! You’re turning into a . . . a . . . parakeet!

Polly: No! That can’t be! Squawk! It’s impossible!

Ronald: And I’m becoming a human! Oh no! My beautiful wings! My colorful feathers . . . all gone! Quick, let me out of this cage!

Polly: Squawk! Here, I’ll lift the latch with my . . . beak. (Opens latch) There! Squawk! You’re free!

Ronald: Yes! Yes, I am. Free at last. And you should get into the cage . . . for your own safety, of course. The neighbor’s cat often sneaks in through the window, and you know what that means.

Polly: (Flying into the cage) Squawk!

Ronald: (Sneering) Ah . . . perfect! Now I finally have you where I want you, my precious.

Polly: Squawk! What do you mean, Ronald?

Ronald: I’ve hated you for years . . . your relentless coddling and catering to my every whim. Disgusting!

Polly: Squawk! But I gave you everything you wanted. I treated you like a king!

Ronald: But don’t you see? I didn’t want to be treated like a king! I wanted to be independent! Make my own decisions! Be in control of my own destiny!

Polly: But Ronald! Squawk!

Ronald: You forced me to get my wings clipped! You obsessively shined my mirror four times day! You insisted I eat gourmet bird seed with pieces of corn and sunflower seeds, when what I really wanted was a millet-covered banana!

Polly: Forgive me, Ronald! Squawk! I only wanted the best for you! Squawk!

Ronald: Enough! It’s all over now, my pet. Don’t worry. I won’t kill you, if that’s what you’re thinking. No, I have better ways of exacting my revenge.

Polly: Squawk! You mean . . . No! Not that! Anything but that! Squawk!

Ronald: (Serpentine voice) Polly . . .

Polly: Stop! I beg you! Squawk!

Ronald: Want . . .

Polly: Squawk! Somebody help me!

Ronald: A . . .

Polly: Squawk! No! Don’t say it!

Ronald: CRACKER!


Narrator: A friendly game of Parcheesi releases supernatural forces resulting in a bizarre transformation. Evil is unleashed while Good is entrapped. Polly Esterburg, so devoted to her pet parakeet, now becomes his slave. Another strange paradox. . .in the Twilight Zone.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A Funny Thing Happened in the Garden of Eden

I'm an actor in a church drama team. We perform comedy sketches during our two morning worship services that relate to the pastor's message and help to get the point across.

A couple of weeks ago, we did an Adam and Eve sketch. I was Eve. We were to go on stage in the middle of the pastor's sermon. But we didn't know our cue to start. We were all backstage, wired for sound, saying things like:

Eve: When do we go on?
Adam: I don't know.
Serpent: What's our cue?
Adam: Is he ready for us yet?
Eve: (peeking out the door) I'm not sure. He's just standing there.
Serpent: Oh, no! Our microphones are on!

Needless to say, everyone in the auditorium heard our backstage banter. I accidentally crashed into a couple of metal folding chairs, making a terrible racket. We finally figured it was time to go on and just went out and did the sketch. Afterwards, everyone said how much they enjoyed it. They thought the backstage bit was part of the sketch!

The second service performance was perfect with no problems. Live and learn.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Secret Lives of the Famous

1) Einstein closed his routine with the joke about the duck and the traveling salesman and got the laughs he expected. He was a regular Monday night stand-up at the Silver Scorpion Casino in downtown Berlin. Albert had started out as a prop-comic in a dingy barroom in Hamburg, but his skill in doing impersonations and his excellent comedic timing soon attracted the attention of theatrical agents. In between sets, he’d solve mathematical equations on cocktail napkins.

2) The sound of the Harley’s roar pounded in Eleanor’s ears as she clung to Winston’s waist for dear life. She knew that Franklin would be upset, but she didn’t care. The obese Prime Minister and the First Lady had been meeting secretly for months to ride Ireland’s scenic byways. On these romantic excursions they always stopped at their favorite roadside diner for fish & chips and cold Heinekens.

3) Kissinger’s pet gorilla rattled his cage again. “For Pete’s sake, be quiet!” Henry was preparing for a meeting with heads of state to discuss U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia when Bonzo insisted on eating a banana. The cage was hidden beneath the floorboards in his office and a large area rug covered the spot. Fortunately, Henry had recently purchased a bunch of bananas from Spiro and was able to satiate the ape.

4) “The life of a rocket scientist isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” lamented Marilyn to her handsome escort as they were seated at the bar. Miss Monroe delicately sipped her martini; her tousled blonde hair covered one eye. She then proceeded to expose the contents of her briefcase – her 250-page treatise on projectile motion and vertical trajectory.

5) Fidel was worried. He’d booked too many Tupperware parties during the month of October. How would he fit them all in? He should have known that being a Tupperware representative would seriously interfere with his day job. But he couldn’t resist the free tumbler set and matching mauve pitcher, which had a lifetime guarantee.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hey, Dude

Trevor: (greeting his friend Josh outside the mall) Dude!

Josh: (flashing Trevor a twisted-hand gesture with pinky and thumb extended) Dude.

Trevor: (puts hands in pockets of his baggy jeans) Duuude.

Josh: (flaps his arms like a chicken) Dude . . .

Trevor: (adjusts volume on his iPod) DUDE!

Josh: (gawks at girl walking by in low-slung jeans and a belly ring) DUUUDE!!!

Trevor: (puts his baseball cap on backwards) dude.

Josh: (counts the change in his pocket) Dude?

Trevor: (flashes his father’s MasterCard) Dude!

Josh: (high-fives Trevor) Duuude!

Josh and Trevor: (enter mall as the girl in low-slung jeans and belly ring walks out) DUUUUUUDDDDE!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ticked Off

I’ll never forget the day I found a tick on my belly.

I was taking a shower and noticed a tiny black spot about two inches to the right of my navel. I picked at it, thinking it was a piece of dirt, but it wouldn’t come off. I looked closer and saw that it had legs and its head was buried in my flesh. I screamed like Janet Leigh in “Psycho.” But I wasn’t being stabbed by Norman Bates in drag. It was worse . . . I was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet for a blood-sucking parasite.

My cries of terror summoned my hubby, who came charging into the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?”

“A tick!”


“On my stomach! Get it off!”

I ran out of the shower and grabbed a towel.

“Let me see,” hubby said. I showed him the spot. “It’s a tick, all right.”

I stared at the disgusting creature on my belly that seemed to expand with each passing minute. The bug, not the belly.

My knowledge of ticks was minimal. I knew what they were (ugly insects) and what they did (sucked your blood). I hoped hubby knew more about ticks than I did and could dislodge the critter without too much fuss.

“I’ll need turpentine and a match,” he said.


“Ticks need to be burned off. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Lie down on the bed while I get my tick First Aid kit.”

I wasn’t very comfortable with this suggestion, but I figured he knew what he was doing. He sounded so confident. While he went for the supplies, I put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and lay down on the bed. He came into the bedroom carrying an old shoebox.

“Okay, sweetcakes. Let me see your tummy.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked nervously. “You’re not actually going to douse me with turpentine and light a match, are you?”

“Not right away,” he said, as he rummaged through the box. “First we’ll try a less invasive technique. Suffocating it with Vaseline.”

As I lay on the bed, watching the tick’s legs wiggle. I started to freak out again.

“Hurry! Do whatever you have to do, but get it off!”

Hubby dipped his stubby index finger into the Vaseline jar and proceeded to cover the tick with the slimy goo. I watched in curious horror; I’d never seen anything like it. The tick was covered in Vaseline and its legs started wiggling faster and faster.

“It can’t breathe,” hubby said.

“Of course it can’t breathe. Its head is buried in my skin.”

“Ticks breathe through their backs.”


“It should pull its head out any second,” he said.

We watched as the tick continued to squirm. After several minutes, it finally stopped. But nothing happened.

“It’s not coming out!” I screamed. “Get more Vaseline!”

“No,” hubby replied calmly. “That doesn’t seem to be working. Time for Plan B.”

“What’s Plan B? Not the match, I hope.”

“Nail polish.”

“Great,” I said. “I’m lying here with my belly smeared in slime and the tick gets a manicure.”

Hubby patiently wiped the goo off the tick and then pulled out a bottle of “Sunset Mist” nail polish from his magic box. With the intensity of an explosives expert defusing a bomb, he carefully painted the tick, which turned a bright shade of cantaloupe orange.

“That oughta do it,” he said. “This is another method of suffocation, but because the nail polish is toxic, the tick should move out pretty quick.”

Again we watched the tick’s legs wiggle. But the head remained firmly attached beneath my skin.

“What now, Einstein?” I asked.

“Time for the last resort.”

“You mean . . . ?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to use the turpentine. Just a match.”

“Are you sure you can’t try another smothering technique? Avocado dip? Pepto Bismol? Bacon grease?”

“Relax, sweetcakes. I have everything under control. I’m just going to light the match and gently tap the tick on its back.”

He struck the match and I watched the flame, eyes wide in horror. I was motionless and held my breath. I feared that any sudden movement might cause him to lose his concentration and he would miss the mark.

Slowly and with purpose, he moved the flame closer to the tick.

“Stop it!” I shouted, and blew out the match.

“What did you do that for? Don’t you trust me?”


“Okay, what do you suggest?”

“Call my mother. She’s from Oklahoma. She knows all about ticks.”

Hubby didn’t argue with me. He knew I was right. Mom was a tick expert. She also had a Ph.D. in chiggers, black widows and yellow jackets. He picked up the phone and dialed her number.

“Luana has a tick on her belly. How do we get it off . . . tweezers . . . yeah . . . okay.”

He poked around in the shoebox and found the tweezers, holding them like a surgeon brandishing a scalpel.

“Now what . . . grab the tick as close to the head as possible . . . pull firmly, making sure not to leave the head in . . . what happens if the head breaks off . . . infection . . . uh huh . . . antibiotics . . . yeah . . . gangrene . . . amputation . . . right.”

I started to feel faint. I watched as he followed Mom’s directions. He grabbed the tick close to the head and yanked. Before I could say “Lyme disease,” the tick was out, squirming between the tongs of the tweezers.

“I got it!” Hubby beamed like a proud papa. He thanked my mother and hung up the phone.

I sighed with relief. The ordeal was over. But now Hubby was scrutinizing the cantaloupe-colored tick like a deranged entomologist.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“It’s still alive. I wonder if I can use it for fish bait.” Hubby left the room with the tick still in the tweezers.

I got up from the bed and rubbed the spot on my belly where the tick had been feeding. Who would have thought that a little bug could cause such pandemonium. As I reached for my sneakers, I spied a small black dot on my arm. Another tick. His tiny legs squiggled as he made a glutton of himself on my “A” positive. Party’s over, pal.

“Honey,” I yelled. “Get the bacon grease!”

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Go Ahead, Make My Day: Your Daily Horoscope

Saturn is aligned with Mercury, so it’s a good day to buy a car. Look in the Yellow Pages and call “Yurrah Sap Auto Pix” where you’ll get a deal on a pink Hummer, complete with a peppermint-striped nuclear warhead.

You’re neighbor’s howling beagle has tormented you long enough. Fix the pooch a fat, juicy Nyquil burger one hour before bedtime. Of course, you’ll be sued by his owner for millions of dollars, but isn’t a good night’s sleep worth it?

As Uranus enters the Seventh House, your obsession with fleshly pursuits has completely blocked your psychic channel to the spirit world. Replace your ellipses with colons and periods with semicolons.

The vampire who’s been stalking you will finally make his appearance tonight. Eat lots of garlic to ward him off. Not the store-bought stuff from Safeway. You have to order it special from Transylvania at Vampires R Us Dot Com. Warning: if you order from them, you'll be on their mailing list until hell freezes over, or the Colorado Rockies win the World Series . . . whichever comes first.

Do not leave your house today. In fact, do not leave your bedroom. Wait a minute . . . don’t even get out of bed. Oops! Too late. If you’re reading this horoscope, you’re already doomed.

You will finally finish your 512-page thesis “'Who's On First' And Why This Matters In the 21st Century" that’s taken you nine months to complete. Unfortunately, your computer crashes and you have to start over. Send Bill Gates a polite letter of complaint and switch to decaf.

Jupiter’s alignment with Goofy . . . I mean Pluto . . . makes this a good time to finish your screenplay “Mickey Mouse: Cross Dresser.” For inspiration watch “Some Like It Hot” in your underwear while nibbling a block of cheddar cheese.

The Horse is your spirit guide. Go to the track and bet one thousand dollars on Nomad Noodle to place. To prevent an embarrassing outbreak of acne, send your winnings to: Daily Horoscope Writer, 123 Gullible Avenue, Lamebrain, Kansas.

Mars aligns with Vulcan causing you to sprout pointy ears. Your close encounter with an alien life-form will create an obsessive desire to sculpt a replica of Devil’s Tower with your mashed potatoes. Resist the urge.

With Venus about to implode due to a monumental build-up of greenhouse gasses, your love life is taking a turn for the better. Your dream date will be waiting for you at the bus stop reading “Oatmeal For Dummies.”

Health conscious and robust, your daily workout at the gym is finally paying off. You have buns of steel and six-pack abs. Oh, sorry, that’s not you. My mistake. You’re the one with the cottage cheese butt and beer belly. Never mind.

Your therapist will diagnose you as paranoid schizophrenic. But don’t believe him. He’s lying. In fact, he’s plotting against you and talking about you behind your back. Your only hope is to listen to those voices telling you to strangle him in his sleep.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Dog's Tail

Fido salivated hungrily at the blood-soaked tenderloin swimming in the bottom of his silver-plated “Betty Boop” dog dish, recalling with delight that moments before, his deadly canine incisors had penetrated the fattened calf of a U.S. postal worker, who had just delivered the long-awaited Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated into the rickety, rusty-hinged mailbox of one Seymour Butts.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dolphins vs. Broncos

My hubby is a sports fan. Well, maybe that’s the wrong word . . . he’s more of a sports fanatic! He’s the kind of guy who can simultaneously listen to a basketball game on the radio, watch a football game on TV, clean his hunting rifle, polish his bowling ball and organize his fishing tackle. A real multi-tasker.

I had no idea what I was getting into when we got married. The men in my family shunned sports. The closest thing to a sport my father ever played was pinochle. And in high school, my brother was the band nerd, not the jock. Our family followed sports events only during the Olympics when we gathered in front of the TV to watch women’s gymnastics.

As a new bride, I learned that hubby’s number one passion was football. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day were spent eating, talking and playing charades. But when I got married, football took center stage. Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Super Bowl – we had more bowls than a Tupperware party.

I spent my weekends reading, doing household chores and running after the kids, so I got used to the constant background noise of football – the banter of sports announcers, the whistles of referees, the booming blare of the Chevy truck and Budweiser commercials, and the groans of hubby when the opposing team scored.

I figured early on in our marriage that if I wanted to spend time with my hubby, I’d better learn to like football . . . or at least not to loathe it. The first game we watched together was between the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos (hubby’s favorite team). I wanted to learn about the fascinating sport of football and I was an apt pupil. We were snuggling on the couch munching popcorn. Hubby was intent on downing a six-pack of Coors and I was sipping a coke.

“So what are they doing now, honey?” I said.

“They’re in the huddle, sweetcakes.”

“Why, sugar baby?”

“Planning the next play, bunny boo.”

“They should have thought of that before the game started, lemon drop.”

Hubby rolled his eyes and finished off beer number one, crushing the empty can with his bare hand. We continued watching as one Bronco threw the ball to another Bronco, but a Dolphin jumped right in and snatched it in mid-air. Hubby grunted and reached for another beer, but I was outraged.

“Hey, did you see that” I yelled. “He just grabbed the ball when that other guy was trying to catch it!”

“It’s called an interception.”

“I don’t care what it’s called. It’s not fair!” The next thing I knew, the Dolphin that “intercepted” the ball was crushed by a pile of Broncos.

“Good,” I said smugly. “He got what he deserved.” Just then the sports announcer said something about “first and ten.”

“What does that mean, cupcake?” I asked.

“It’s first down for the Dolphins. They have the ball now . . . muffin.”

“No they don’t. The umpire took it.”

“That’s the referee.”

“Yeah, right. You don’t fool me. I happen to know that referees do basketball.”

Hubby glared at me for no apparent reason and popped the top off his third Coors as we watched the Dolphins score a touchdown. I have to admit at this point I was getting a little bored. The announcers were tossing off words like “offensive line,” “punt,” “field goal,” “scrimmage,” “blitz,” “wingback” and “fumble.” Complete gibberish. I had no idea what was going on, but I was here to learn.

“Why do they wear black paint under their eyes, sweet pea?” I asked. But I don’t think he heard me. Just then a Bronco scored a touchdown and hubby was staring at the TV to watch the instant replay.

“How many points in a touch down?” I asked.

“Six for the touchdown and one for the extra point.”

“Why can’t the touchdown just be worth seven points and be done with it?”

“That’s the rules.”

“Stupid rules, if you ask me. What a waste of time.”

“Look if you don’t want to watch the game, why don’t you find something else to do . . . lamb chop?”

Here was my chance to make a break for it. Suddenly washing the dishes seemed like a vacation paradise. And even the thought of cleaning the toilets held some appeal. But I was determined to stick it out no matter what.

“No, that’s okay. I like watching the game . . . pudding lump.”

“Whatever you say . . . ginger snap.”

I was watching the little clock on the TV screen, counting the minutes until the first quarter was over. Hubby said the game comprised four quarters of fifteen minutes each. But the clock kept stopping. I was getting frustrated. The game would go on forever at this rate.

“Why does the clock keep stopping?” I demanded.

“Time outs.”

“That means a quarter doesn’t really last fifteen minutes . . . it’s more like half an hour. No wonder these football games are three hours long.” Silence from hubby. This encouraged me to continue:

“You know, those uniforms are pretty dirty; I wonder how they get those pants so white after a game. They must use special bleach. And speaking of uniforms, don’t you just love the Dolphins’ uniforms? They have that cute little dolphin on the sides of their helmets.”

I don’t know how it happened, but the game had only been on less than an hour and hubby had already finished off the six-pack. I had barely made a dent in my coke. He seemed kind of miffed, too, but I don’t know why. The Broncos were winning.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Hot Night in Bedrock

It was a hot night in Bedrock. Sweat was pouring down my back and the monkey that pedaled the fan motor decided to take a banana break. When you’re a private investigator, you sometimes have to burn the midnight oil, and this was one of those nights.

It had been a long day and I was just about to mosey down to the local watering hole for a tall glass of pterodactyl juice on the rocks before heading home to watch the match between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Bugs, my bookie, had given me a tip that tonight the bird was gonna lose . . . and lose big. I’d bet 100 clams on the coyote. The odds were high, but if Bugs knew what he was talking about, I’d be swimming in oysters for a month.

I grabbed my hat and walked toward the door when a dame walked in. Dames are a dime a dozen in Bedrock, but this one stood out like a cherry on a vanilla cone. She was tall, slender, and her red hair was pinned on top of her head with a little dinosaur bone. Her sexy white dress looped over a shapely shoulder and a single strand of pearls enhanced the curve of her neck. I could tell she was nervous and a little flustered.

“Are you Rocky Feldspar? Private Eye?”

“That depends on who wants to know.”

“My name is Flintstone. Wilma Flintstone.”

Flintstone . . . Flintstone . . . the name was familiar. I knew a Reuben Flintstone who worked out of Jellystone Park undercover as a bear, staking out picnic basket thieves. I’d also heard of a Seymore Flintstone, an informer that had testified in the Bullwinkle Moose trial and was now in the witness protection program. But one look at Wilma’s baby browns told me I was sniffing around the wrong fire hydrant.

“Have a seat,” I said, and offered her a chair next to my desk. She crossed her legs and her skirt slid up a few inches, but she quickly pulled it down over her dimpled knees.

“So, what’s your story,” I asked.

“I think my husband is trying to kill me.”

“What do you mean?”

She started to tear up and unsnapped her turtle purse, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe her eyes.

“Fred’s a foreman at the Rockhead Quarry. He’s not much in the brains department … or looks either, for that matter . . . but he’s a good provider.”

“Go on.”

“He’s a simple man. A member of the Royal Order of Water Buffalos. He goes bowling on Friday nights. And all he wants from me is a rack of barbequed spare ribs ready for him when he comes home.”

“Sounds like a great guy.”

She picked up on my sarcasm right away and a smile played at the corner of her mouth. “Yeah,” she said. “Fred’s one in a million.”

“Then why do you think he wants you dead?”

She unsnapped her purse again and pulled out an envelope, which she passed on to me. “I found this in his bowling bag. An insurance policy worth 500,000 big ones.”

I opened the envelope. The policy was legit, all right. Looked like Flintstone was in like flint . . . if he could pull it off. But something in my gut told me there was more to the story. I looked up and Wilma was standing next to me. She took the bone out of her hair and auburn tresses cascaded down her back.

“I’m pretty sure Fred is having an affair,” she said in a sultry voice.

I’d been down this road before. A dame finds out her husband has a lover, so she goes after the first guy she finds to prove she’s still desirable. I’d learned that lesson the hard way with Jane Jetson. Her husband George came after me one night with a loaded forty-five. Lucky for me his aim was lousy and he just riddled the wall behind me full of holes. What do you expect from a guy who walks his dog on a treadmill.

“Look, sweetheart,” I growled, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back into the chair. “I’m not gonna play your reindeer games.” She looked hurt, but got over it faster than you could say “yabba dabba doo.” She pinned her hair back up with the dinosaur bone and smiled.

“No games, Feldspar. I just thought it would help the case if you knew what Fred was up to in his spare time. Not that I care. Our marriage has been dead for years. We’re only staying together for the sake of Pebbles.”

“Fruity Pebbles? The cereal?”

“No. Our baby daughter.”

“So who’s the dame?”

“Betty Rubble.”

I wrote the name down, but it was just for show. I knew Betty. A slinky brunette with big brown eyes and legs that wouldn’t quit. Fred didn’t know what he was getting in to, the poor sap.

“How do you know he’s having an affair?”

“He comes home late from work with lipstick on his collar. And I found some pink panties in his pocket. Not mine.”

“Maybe they’re his.”

“Not a chance. They were monogrammed ‘B.R.’ I know they belonged to Betty.” She showed about as much emotion as an accountant reciting the tax code at an IRS conference.

Like I said, I knew Betty very well. But I also knew about her dopey husband Barney and the double life he led. Those panties were his or my name wasn’t Rocky Feldspar.

“Can you help me, Feldspar? I heard you were the best P.I. in Bedrock.”

I couldn’t argue with her there. I was proud of my record. If it wasn’t for me, Mr. Magoo would still be jaywalking. And thanks to my efforts, Speedy Gonzales was locked up in the slammer without parole for running guns in Mexico. In fact, because of my deft detective skills, Boris and Natasha were nabbed for trying to skip the country with that nuclear warhead. Now they were waiting their turn at the gas chamber instead of knocking back vodka shots in Minsk.

I walked over to Wilma and put my arms around her. She didn’t resist. Despite her cavalier air, I knew she was in pain. I don’t usually get personally involved with my clients, but there was something about her that aroused my inner caveman.

“Sure angel, I’ll take the case.”

“Can I call you Rocky?”

“Call me whatever you like.” I turned off the desk lamp and we embraced in the moonlight. Tomorrow I would get to work, but first I had a bone to pick with Wilma Flintstone.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ruby Slipper Odyssey

I love Hollywood musicals.

I was eight years old when I saw my first – “The Wizard of Oz.” It came to our local movie theatre that summer and then I watched it on television every year around Easter time. I nibbled on chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks, eyes wide with horror as the Wicked Witch of the West sent her flying monkeys to the Haunted Forest.

I learned all the songs from the movie and I’d sing anytime, anyplace . . . at the school playground (“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”) . . . in the car on family trips (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) . . . making mud pies in my Easy Bake Oven (“If I Only Had a Brain”).

As I matured, I got into the harder stuff – “Singing in the Rain,” “Summer Stock,” “South Pacific.” I watched these “oldies” on the Late Late Late Show, munching popcorn and sipping Nestles Quick.

It was 1969 . . . Vietnam . . . protest marches . . . Woodstock . . . and I was a clueless 12-year-old. My friends in junior high were into Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors. Not me. I daydreamed about tap dancing with Gene Kelly on a shiny mahogany desk to the tune of “Moses Supposes His Toeses are Roses.”

Later on I discovered “West Side Story,” “Anything Goes” and “Cabaret.” I saved up my allowance and bought the record albums of my favorite shows, elbowing my way passed the blue-haired ladies and the men in plaid suits with Clark Gable mustaches in the “Showtunes” section. I karaoke-ed to “My Fair Lady” before there was such a thing as karaoke. It was my secret vice. While other teens were smoking pot, I was getting high on “The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly on the Plain.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” made its debut in the early 1970s and every girl in my high school was swooning over Ted Neely. The fact that he was Jesus didn’t seem to matter. For the first time in my life, I was on the same “musical” page as my peers. Everybody loved the “Jesus” movie. For the next three years without fail, our high school talent show featured a girl singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” The song was so popular the marching band played it during halftime at football games.

In the 1980s, I was a young mother with two impressionable children who were exposed to the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and MC Hammer. As a responsible parent, it was my duty to provide an antidote to this poison. So I began an intensive, systematic method of de-programming. My offspring would listen to the best in musical entertainment. They would learn the most sophisticated, high-brow songs of the musical theatre. My efforts paid off. I’ll never forget the day I found them prancing around the house singing “There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame.” I was a proud Mama.

The brainwashing . . . I mean the “lessons”. . . continued throughout their childhood. We sang in the car on our way to Little League practice. We sang in the kitchen as we baked chocolate chip cookies. We sang in the back yard as we played fetch with the dog. When the kids got familiar with the movies, I’d quiz them:

Me: In what movie did Gene Kelly play a sailor on shore leave?

Luke: “On the Town”!

Me: Right! Who played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls”?

Jennifer: Frank Sinatra!

Me: Right! You kids are on a roll! What song did Fred Astaire sing when he wore the red socks?

Luke: “Steppin’ Out With My Baby!”

Me: From what movie?

Jennifer: “Easter Parade”!

Me: Excellent! Come on, let’s go to Blockbuster and get “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I want to teach you the “What’s the Buzz?” number!

Fast-forward to 2005. My 24-year-old son called me on his cell the other day. We were discussing books, blogs and the situation in Iraq. I was quite pleased the way he worked the phrase “I’m Just a Fella With an Umbrella” into our conversation.

I choose to believe this unexpected utterance was inspired by his adoration of that romantic duet with Judy Garland and Peter Lawford in “Easter Parade” . . . and not the fact that he lives in Seattle.