Friday, June 20, 2008

"Take Your Dog to Work" Day

Yes, it's official. June 20 is "Take Your Dog to Work" Day. For those of you planning to participate in this exciting event, I offer a few "pointers" (pun intended) to make it a pleasant day for all:

1) Before taking your dog to work give him a nice bath. And please, don't torture the dog with soap and water...let him swim in pond scum. Dogs love to splash around in algae and plankton. Be sure that your dog is still a bit wet when he gets to the office. The scent of wet dog always gets a reaction. In fact, Calvin Klein is creating a new perfume inspired by this potent, organic aroma.

2) Be sure to introduce your dog to all your coworkers. Especially those who are allergic to dogs. Of course, they may run down the hall panting for breath with their tails between their legs (the coworkers, not the dogs), but don't let that deter you. Deep down inside, these people love dogs. It's for their own good. Remember the adage: "That which kills us only makes us stronger."

3) While at the office, your dog may get a sudden urge to gnaw something. Don't bring a chew toy from home. Let the dog explore the office and find his own chew toy: the only existing copy of the 30-page marketing report that Sally worked on all weekend...the computer cables in IT...Harvey's brand new $500 Italian leather briefcase.

4) Of course your dog may have to "piddle or poop" while at the office. Responsible dog owners always clean up after their pets. Have a supply of plastic bags handy. Scoop up the "droppings" and discard them in the garbage bin in the break room. When your coworkers take their coffee break, they can't help but smell the offensive fumes, thus ruining their appetite for donuts and helping them to lose weight. They'll thank you for it.

5) Allow your dog the freedom to follow his natural instincts: barking, jumping, running, scratching, licking, crotch-sniffing. Don't worry about offending your coworkers. Many people who work in offices practice these behaviors as well. Photographs taken at the last office Christmas party attest to the fact.

6) Remember, just because your dog is at the workplace doesn't mean that there will be less productivity. To avoid encounters with your dog, your coworkers may choose to lock themselves in their offices, refusing to come out until quitting time. The result? Your boss will encourage more "Take Your Dog to Work" days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


It had to happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, poor old Marvin was the hapless victim. People looked up in the sky, shook their fists and shouted, “Why Marvin? He never hurt a fly!” There was no answer. And there never would be.

Marvin Gardner was a 64-year-old banker, who always wore a gray felt fedora, even though they had been out of style for thirty years. In fact, his entire wardrobe was acquired from a second-hand store that sold “authentic” clothing from the 1950s.

As was his custom, he arrived at DaVinci’s Deli on 63rd Street in Chicago promptly at 1 p.m. He’d eaten lunch at DaVinci’s every day for the past 24 years and he always ordered the same thing: corned beef on pumpernickel and a cup of black coffee. He sat in his favorite spot at a table near the window where he liked to watch people pass by. Rich ladies in their mink coats. Winos begging for coins. Punks with purple hair and safety pins in their noses.

But that afternoon something unusual happened. Something totally unexpected. Something that parents would tell their children about for generations to come. Something unprecedented since the dawn of time.

On November 16, 1984, at 1:13 p.m at DaVinci’s Deli, while eating his corned beef on pumpernickel, Marvin Gardner transformed into an ape.

Thick, coarse hair started to grow on his hands and face. He began to slouch and his visage favored King Kong’s younger brother. His first clue that something was amiss was the looks on the faces of the other patrons in the deli. Looks of fear and confusion. Looks of surprise and dread. Marvin tapped the shoulder of a woman who was seated at the next table to inquire what was wrong. She looked at Marvin and ran shrieking from the deli.

At that signal, everyone screamed and dashed out the door as fast as they could, occasionally looking back at Marvin in utmost terror.

Marvin suspected that he was the cause of the chaos. As he reached up to adjust his glasses, he noticed his hairy hands. Panic-stricken, he charged into the men’s room to investigate. Staring wide-eyed into the mirror, he discovered to his horror that he, indeed, had become an ape.

He took off his clothes and examined his body. He was ape all over. It took a while for Marvin to recover from the shock. How did this happen? What could it mean? How would he function day to day? What would his friends and family think? Should he go to a hospital? What kind of warped disease was this? Was it even a disease? Who ever heard of a man turning into an ape? Would he gain celebrity status and become rich and famous? But what good is money and fame if you’re an ape? And what about his sex life?

Marvin was going through a terrible time thinking about his future as a primate. They could send him to a zoo. Perform experiments on him. Quarantine him for fear that he might contaminate others. They could even kill him.

These thoughts raced through Marvin’s mind, rendering him incapable of action. Every few minutes DaVinci, the deli owner, would peek into the men’s room to get a look at Marvin, and then quickly shut the door when Marvin made eye contact. Marvin grew more and more uneasy. He knew he couldn’t spend the rest of his life in the men’s room at DaVinci’s Deli. But he was afraid to leave. He feared the humiliation of exposing himself to the public. The leering glances. The questioning eyes.

When he finally summoned the courage to open the door and walk out, he saw that the deli was empty. But not for long. The cops stormed the deli and soon reporters arrived with their cameras and microphones. Outside, crowds of people pushed and shoved to get a better look at Marvin … a 224-pound gorilla in a sixty-dollar suit.

So it was that man became ape. The significance of this phenomenon was unsurpassed in human history. Marvin was soon caught up in a frenzied media blitz. His face was plastered on the cover of newspapers and magazines. He was featured on “Sixty Minutes,” and even made a guest appearance on “Cheers.” Writers bombarded him with offers to publish his story. He was probed and analyzed under the cynical eyes of doctors and scientists. There was no explanation. The greatest minds in the world could not comprehend how a man could metamorphose into an ape. Marvin was an enigma.

Immediately after the event, authorities closed down DaVinci’s Deli. It was thought that the food caused this freakish transformation and DaVinci was losing money. But savvy businessman that he was, he turned the deli into a tourist attraction and grew rich. Everyone wanted to see the place where Marvin Gardner went ape.

Marvin longed for the good old days when he could walk down the street unnoticed. How he wished he could sit at his favorite table at DaVinci’s and eat his corned beef on pumpernickel. But it was not to be. Marvin was an ape and there was nothing he could do about it.

Marvin’s metamorphosis caused a dramatic change in his way of life. He used to read the newspaper in the morning while sipping his coffee; now he just wanted to swing from the branches of the sycamore in the front yard. He used to listen to Bach and Mozart on his stereo; now he could amuse himself for hours playing with a jack-in-the-box.

Marvin’s future was uncertain. Scientists wanted to keep him in their laboratories for observation. Hollywood offered him a movie deal. Barnum & Bailey insisted he become their main attraction. None of these options appealed to Marvin. He needed solitude and a place where he could reflect on his predicament. When animal rights activists suggested that he be sent to a pristine rainforest where he could live out the rest of his years in his natural habitat, Marvin agreed wholeheartedly. He was on a plane to Brazil before he could say “monkey’s uncle.”

Months passed. Marvin enjoyed the jungle. Squawking parrots in their colorful plumage. Lazy anacondas basking in the sun. Stealthy jaguars prowling the forest. He liked sitting in a high branch of his favorite tree where he could watch the action while he ate a banana.

And to Marvin’s delight, his banana always tasted like corned beef on pumpernickel.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bubblegum Voodoo

I'm one of those people who likes to dabble in bubblegum voodoo. That's what I call popular cultural trends that determine your personality traits and life path. The word "voodoo" refers to mysticism and magical thinking, while "bubblegum" connotes childlike innocence and not taking things too seriously. Bubblegum voodoo is pink. Bubblegum voodoo is gooey. And before its approval by the FDA, bubblegum voodoo caused mad cow disease in laboratory rats.

One of the most well-known aspects of bubblegum voodoo is astrology, inspiring the famous pick-up line "What's your sign?" I'm a Taurus, which, according to the charts, proclaims that I'm a stubborn, bull-headed rose-sniffer who overeats and listens to Mozart.

Despite my affinity for flowers and Wolfgang, I wasn't too happy with this analysis, so I found out what the Chinese have to say. According to the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Rooster, which means I like to primp in front of mirrors, go shopping and tell everyone else what to do with their lives. That's more like it.

I also get a kick out of those personality quizzes in magazines and online. There's something intriguing about answering a few multiple choice questions and discovering that because you prefer mashed potatoes over French fries, you're a fiery extrovert with anal tendencies who would do equally well as a blackjack dealer or a marine biologist.

A few years back, color analysis was the big thing. To succeed in life you needed to know which "season" you were: Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter. According to the experts, each person looked best in the colors that matched his or her skin tone and hair. As a "Winter," my colors were, among others, red, white and blue. I couldn't wear an orange pant suit, but drape me in an American flag and I was good to go.

And let's not forget numerology. This ancient art determines your Life Path by assigning you a number between one and nine. By calculating the numbers in my birthday, I learned that I am a nine. This means I'm generous, artistic, passionate and spiritual. Cool. But it also means that I have the managerial skills of a cockroach.

As a psych major, I studied handwriting analysis. Loopy letters meant the writer was friendly and creative. Angular letters depicted someone who was methodical and exacting. My handwriting varied between perfect penmanship and psychotic scribbling. To this day I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm more like Martha Stewart or Britney Spears.

"To sleep, perchance to dream." The first time I read a book on dream analysis I was hooked. The interpretations were so correct it was eerie. My dream of a polar bear storming through my kitchen looking for scrambled eggs obviously meant that my purchase of plaid Bermuda shorts was a huge mistake. You better believe I took them back the next day for a full refund!

And just when you thought a coffee table was just a coffee table, along comes Feng Shui. Who would have guessed that the arrangement of the furniture in your home effects your success and well-being? According to followers of Feng Shui, your front door is the portal of positive energy, also known as "chi." The chi must be allowed to flow around your home unhindered. Mirrors will deflect the chi. A heavy sofa will stop the chi. A chipped plate will anger the chi. Best advice: hang wind chimes to soothe the chi. Afterward, make the chi a cup of hot cocoa and tell it a bedtime story.

Don't worry, the chi is polite. It won't stick its bubblegum on the bedpost before it goes to sleep.