BOARD OF MANAGERS

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love not having to shovel snow, rake leaves and lugging that garbage can brimming with bags of used litter down to the curb twice a week. That said, I really find the Board of Managers of my Homeowner Association, um, what’s the word?  Yes, ‘exasperating’ works.

Every condo association has one and they are supposedly put in place to keep order and symmetry to the entire living experience. And, yes, a great many of these meetings are meaningless or worse, counter-productive. Why? Because when meetings are held decisions have to be made. Does it matter that those decisions are? Does it matter that those decisions in no way affect the daily life of the residents? Don’t be silly. Just make a decision…on something.

 Having attended a meeting or two, I can say with some certainty that many of them sound like this: “Welcome everyone. As you all know, this is a meeting and we’re here to discuss a concern of many of our residents. Now, does anyone recall what that concern is?” “Wasn’t it about the, oh wait, I think it might have been about the dog poop left in mailboxes?” “No, that wasn’t it. Okay, let’s take a vote. Who wants pizza? All in favor of getting pizza, raise your hand. (Hands waving in the air) Great, pizza it is.”

We had a small tree in the back that by all accounts died sometime during the Hoover Administration but, for some reason, was still in the ground. We wrote to the board asking if it would be okay to have the tree removed and put up a small, latticed type fence in its place. We, of course, mentioned the demise of the tree and that the fence we have chosen would only add to beautify the property. A few days later, we received an unsigned note from a member of the board saying that we could proceed with the plans.

We put our contractor, Gomer, on it and a week later, the tree was gone and the fence was up. It was truly a work of art and although we greatly appreciate his handywork, what we loved most was the fact that he worked for four cases of Bud Light. Oh, how I wish the story ended there, but, no.

The board had to perform what the call a ‘walk around.’ This is where they take a stroll around the complex and find problems that don’t exist for the sole purpose of having another meeting. They descended to have a look, led by the president, a gruff guy named Jim with armpit stained tee shirts and a faded Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage tattoo on his bicep. “Where’s the tree and who gave permission for this fence,” he wanted to know?  “Donna, was it you?” “Well, I’m not sure, Jim. They said the tree was dead but I thought Betty had talked with Norm and everyone had signed off on it.” “That’s ridiculous,” Jim screamed. “ I don’t think I ever knew about this, did I Norm?” “No sir. If you say you didn’t, you didn’t.” “Betty, do you remember speaking with the Miller’s?” “Not really, sir, no. I’m pretty sure I never spoke with them…I think, maybe.”  By now, Jim was ready to explode. “Well, how dead was the Goddamn tree, anyway?” “Pretty dead, sir.” “Crap! Meeting in 5 minutes!”

So, the fence remains up while they continue to ponder just what to do to us for the horrific display of malfeasance we have burdened them with. Please don’t misunderstand me. I have the utmost respect for the Board of Managers. I just think that their decisions should be confined to things that they feel strongly about. Something that evokes a visceral reaction in them. Something they can really sink their teeth into. Wait, I got it…pizza!

LITTLE OL’ MATCHMAKER, ME

 

I’m not a matchmaker nor have I ever tried to be one…until recently.  Our friend,  Linda, is a lovely single woman with a steady, well-paying job and a back yard that replicates the perfectly manicured infield at Yankee Stadium, complete with pitcher’s mound and rosin bag!  Yes,  Linda is THE BIGGEST YANKEE FAN IN THE WORLD! We all have our own crosses to bear, I guess.

Linda’s tried all the computer dating sites including something called E-Horny. After she fed in all the figures and the computer did its homework,  it turned out her ideal match was Alex Rodriquez. As much as she loves the Yanks, that would never do. Linda made a promise some time ago never to step in the romantic ring with J-Lo.

Let’s consider this year to be an anomaly, but Linda could probably get into Yankee Stadium anytime she wanted to. I think it may have something to do with those photos she claims to have of Aaron Boone involving a jock strap, a hula dress, a bottle of tequila and some pink flamingos.

Enter Curt: A caring, unattached man in his 40’s who can actually carry on a conversation without using the words ‘I,’ ‘Me’ or ‘Myself’ in a sentence. Unlike many Linda’s dated, Curt never breaks out a mirror so he can have an occasional glance at his favorite person in the world. He visits his mother on Mother’s Day and tries to stop by OTB on Father’s Day to see how dad is faring. He rides a Harley but loathes the typical motorcycle stereotype: the chains, the tattoos and the black leather everything (including underwear). Curt’s the real deal and I thought he might be a great match for Linda. His only character flaw is that baseball leaves him cold. His knowledge of America’s past time is somewhat limited. Other than his knowledge of Jon Fogerty’s song, Centerfield, and that Joe DiMaggio used to date Marilyn Monroe, the concession stand is pretty much closed.

I got them to agree to go out but, before the big day, I cautioned Curt about her obsession with the Yanks. I said WHEN the subject comes up, which it probably would within the first two minutes, just shout, HERE COME THE JUDGE, or ‘VOGT SENDS ONE TO DETROIT.’ That will win you some points.

As for Linda, she demanded to know if he had any issues she should know about. “Issues?” I asked, thinking she would press me about his baseball allegiance. “Yeah, Bob, does he try and impress women with his marvelous array of arm pit noises or will he tap me on the shoulder and say, “Watch this,” as he ‘hocks a loogie’ twenty-five feet into a garbage can?” I assured her that she had never met a guy quite like Curt before. He was a very genuine and talented person. I did however let it slip that he has a slight obsession with the Rubik’s Cube and that he can also recite the alphabet backwards, in Latin while pogo-sticking.

As I’ve mentioned, I hate trying to hook people up, but I must admit, I envisioned giving a toast at their big 25th Wedding anniversary party where their kids, Babe, Derek and Roid would deliver chin quivering, tear dripping, heartfelt memories of mom and dad.

It was showtime and Curt had arranged a very impressive first date. They were going to The Bronx Zoo where I’m sure he will enlighten Linda on the mating habits of the Poison Dart frog. Then it would be off to dinner at Harry’s Hot Dog Haven (buy one, get one free with the purchase of a diet egg cream). What could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s find out.  My father always told me to count to three before I said anything stupid. I must have left that part out when training Curt, which may have been why he blurted out to Linda, “What’s with all the homoerotic behavior among ballplayers, anyway?” She stopped in her tracks, shook her head and said, “Say what?” He elaborated, “Why do ballplayers always pat each other on the butt and perform a type of Cirque du Soleil dance with each other after someone does something good? I don’t walk into Hannaford and fondle the guy in the green apron who’s putting out fresh apples?” Oops! That’s what could go wrong. Shortly thereafter, Linda, inexplicably, developed the mother of all headaches, abandoned her half eaten Sabretts, called a cab and told the driver to “Just get the Hell out of here!”

 

In my postdate meeting with Curt, I told him he really had learn to think before he spoke. I told him he has to know his audience. “Jesus, Curt, why don’t you just go up to Jerry Falwell, Jr. and ask him if he knows of any good pool boys!”

Clearly, my dreams have been shattered to smithereens. There will be no 25th wedding anniversary party. There will be no Christmas cards thanking me for getting these two lovebirds together and, more to the point, there will be no second date. Curt, my friend, you blew it and you made me look bad in the process. From now on, you’re on your own. If you want to try looking for love on E-Horny, knock yourself out but should you notice an ad that reads, ‘Single Gal with dreams of $12 beer and long, romantic walks through Monument Park,’ better keep looking.

BAN THE SPROUTS; SAVE THE CHILDREN

 

I strayed from my usual dinner of Salsa a la Triscuit the other night and had something called Brussels Sprouts. As I recall, they weren’t very appealing and tasted like wet cardboard with a dash of cumin, which is something I’m sure we can all relate to. They also had a negative effect on my digestive system and consequently the environment but that’s not what this is about.

This is about a dream I had concerning Jimmy Wolinski the same night I ate the sprouts. Coincidence? Jimmy was a friend of mine when we attended Deerfield High School on the north side of Chicago. Jimmy was a good kid and the first to suggest that we play a game of touch football instead of tackling our biology homework. Twist my arm, Jimmy. It should come as no surprise that you will not be reading about Jimmy discovering a cure for cancer or even an ergonomically correct beer glass anytime soon. Jimmy now teaches gym at the very same high school that he attended and I can say with confidence that his students will never have a better mentor on the proper way to climb a rope (an exercise that  comes in handy should you ever need to scale a prison wall) or how to serve shuttlecock in badminton and still look cool. However…

In my dream, Jimmy was called into service to teach trigonometry in addition to his torturous gym instructor duties, which include blowing the whistle and carrying a clipboard.  Let me be clear: Jimmy MUST NOT teach trigonometry. Jimmy’s highest math class was a paint by numbers pre-introduction to junior remedial algebra. I know because I sat right next to him. I would be willing to bet my Cubs footsie pajamas that Jimmy thinks trigonometry is a breathing procedure where a tube is placed in the neck.

I’m painfully aware that the current economy is forcing workers to double and sometimes triple up on duties as a result of lay-offs and as distressing as this is, the thought of Jimmy going anywhere near a classroom where they have actual books and instruments of higher learning is mind-numbing.

Teachers need to stick to what they know and I certainly wouldn’t want a trig teacher telling me how to put someone in a full nelson or how to do backflips. I need Jimmy for that. Here’s what some of his former gym students have said about him.

“His gym shoes were always really white!”.”

(Steve Kelly)

“Mr. Wolinski taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life; never eat an entire pizza before doing somersaults.”

(David Ives)

“That man could really blow a whistle.”

(Hunter Lessner)

“Thanks Mr. W. for the valuable lesson about the jock strap and the hockey stick.”

(Dan “The Soprano” Lindquist)

Jimmy’s a great physical education teacher and the master of the wet towel snap to the buttocks, but teaching trig?

“Okay, Kids, settle down. My name is Mr. Wolinski and if you don’t behave, I’ll blow my whistle. Today, we’ll be discussing the Pytha…that theory thingamabob that says that 2 sides of a triangle equal…no, wait a minute…I mean when you add up three sides then subtract the short…no, wait. Ah heck, anybody want to go outside and play kickball?”

Hey, dreams can come true and if this one does, the kids in Deerfield are in a world of hurt! I’m planning on doing my part. There will be no more Brussels Sprouts on my menu, ever again. As much as my mouth salivates for the taste of soggy pizza boxes, I’m giving them up and I suggest you do the same. I say keep Jimmy in the locker room and out of the classroom. Our children deserve at least that.

 

MY SUMMER VACATION

 

I picked up copy of The Sun the other day. In this particular issue the big bold headline was, “MAN HOLDS STORE MANNEQUIN HOSTAGE: THREATENS TO BLOW HER BRAINS OUT.” I also noticed an ad they were running that read, “We pay money for stories. Be a Sun reporter. No experience necessary.” I liked that idea, especially the part about no experience necessary. That’s my best thing. So, I thought I might submit a paper I wrote in the second grade entitled, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

We were traveling from Chicago to a place called Meadville, Pennsylvania to see my grandparents. For you non-historians, Meadville is not where the mighty Casey struck out; it’s where technology struck out.

We stayed at the Ro-Ho-Cho Motel and I must say that the view we had from our room of the ice machine was the reason the Lord invented post cards. Couple that with all the marvelous things my grandmother could do with her false teeth and, well, the trip was just a couple of inches shy of Nirvana. But, unfortunately, this year I didn’t quite make it all the way and so my paper began.

My father, tooling down some dirt road in Ohio singing Tennessee Waltz at the top of his lungs, suggested that my sister and I play a game in the backseat. I think his exact words were, “Kids, why don’t you play the game called, “See who can throw the other one out of the car first.” My sister won.

I got picked up by this farmer plowing his field who was totally convinced that I was the baby Jesus sent from Heaven to pray for his freshly planted corn crop. He took me inside to meet the ‘Mrs.,’ and as soon as she laid eyes on me, the funniest thing happened. Her arthritis, bursitis, laryngitis as well as the dandruff that had been plaguing her for years mysteriously vanished. The next day, with the full intention of adopting me, they loaded me on the tractor and took me down to Balls, the local bowling alley, where the town judge, who moonlighted as a custodian was busy disinfecting bowling shoes. I tried to tell them that they were making a big mistake. I said that I was just a six-year old kid who got tossed out of the car by my sister at my father’s urging. I tried to convince them that I was part of a loving, nurturing, wonderful, nuclear family, but they wanted no part of it.

The next day, the local paper ran the headline, “Farmer Drover and wife adopt the Baby Jesus. Good corn crop all but Guaranteed.”

Days passed and neighbors became more envious of my presence in their little town.  Every night when I went to bed, they would take turns climbing through the window begging me to help them out. Many were on their knees, face to face with me, tears streaming down their cheeks, tugging on my pajamas, pleading their needs all the while spitting the remnants of that night’s squirrel dinner on my forehead.

Finally, I was able to sneak out of the Drover’s place late one night and head back to the main road. I knew that my family would be returning home to Chicago and I was hoping that if they hadn’t already passed, they might stop if they saw me. Then in the distance I heard a disturbingly loud muffler noise and the sound of an equally obnoxious country song blaring on the radio. I was in luck. They stopped. Mom said that she felt terrible about not turning around and picking me up but added, “You know how your father gets when he wants to be someplace.” Then they asked me what I did and I told them that I stayed with this old farmer and his wife. It was at that moment that something strange happened. The muffler started purring like a kitten, my father’s cigar fell into his coffee cup and the country music station just vanished from the air!

We had been home for about three days when my mother heard a story on the news about this town in Ohio that had a miracle corn crop, prompting the President to proclaim it “Corn Capital of the World.” I thought, “Hey, that’s neat. I was just there.”

Yeah, it was a summer I’ll never forget and believe me I’ve tried. But when I got my paper back, I got the shock of my life. There was a humongous red “F” sprawling the full length of the page. “Oh no,” I thought. “I’m going to get killed. I just failed my very first paper of the school year.” Then I looked up as the principal came strolling in. He said he was there to unveil the school’s new grading system. “Boys and girls, from this day forth the new grade scale will be as follows: A = abhorrent; B = below average; C = commonplace; D = dismal; and F = fantastic.”  Wow! Double Wow!

When I submitted the story to The Sun, I got this response: “Thank you for writing to The Sun. Unfortunately, the story you submitted has already happened to one of our staff members. However, if you should ever run into Jimmy Hoffa enjoying a peanut butter and banana sandwich with Elvis in the French Alps, let us know. And remember, if you subscribe today, you can get 50% off the newsstand price. Sincerely, The Sun.”

 

 

NO CLOWNING AROUND

 

Hello and thanks for coming. My name is Bob and I’m afraid of clowns.

(crowd responds) HI BOB!

I first developed a fear of clowns when I was six years old. We were at my father’s company picnic when a strange looking man wearing red and green size eighty-two shoes and sporting really bad hair tried to stuff a pound of steaming hot bratwurst down my pants. When I finally came to, my pockets were turned inside out and, well, let’s just say I was red and blistered. My father then pulled me aside and told me that I had met a very bad man. “Gee, thanks dad for that stunning observation.” I never got over that incident and my fear of clowns has only intensified over the years.

Obviously, the good clowns outnumber the bad clowns. OK, not obviously, but hopefully. I’m also sure many parents of newborns raise their fresh from the womb additions high up in the air and exclaim with tears in their eyes, “Son, you’re going to be everything I wasn’t. You’re going to be a clown, damnit!”

My old roommate in New York was a clown. Prior to that, he was something equally as frightening, a New York City taxi driver, something he had to give up due to his penchant for running into fire hydrants. Mark was a great guy and at one point he even attended clown college. Yes, there really is such a thing. But, as luck would have it, he didn’t make it all the way through the entire program. Maybe he wasn’t quite scary enough but I never inquired as to the full story. He did tell me that he was infatuated with the idea of clowning because it gave him the opportunity to become someone else entirely. By the way, a few years later, Mark accomplished that in spades. He not only changed his name but his gender as well. At last check, ‘Marsha’ had found love in the arms of a fireman. A fireman, who apparently doesn’t mind getting squirted in the face with a carnation. Was it something about being a clown that forced such a life altering change? Only Marcia and her therapist will ever know the answer to that.

According to the Coulrophobia Society of America, of the nearly 328,000,000 people in this country, fourteen, at last count, had no feelings, good or bad, concerning clowns.  Showoffs!

I’m a straight thinking and logical adult and I know in my heart that no clown is ever going to break into my house in the middle of the night, spray me with his tulip and strangle me with his suspenders all the while blowing his silly little horn but that’s exactly what’s going to happen and I know it.

Well, that’s my story. Thanks for coming. My name is Bob and I’m afraid of clowns.

(WILD CROWD APPLAUSE) “Thanks Bob. Hey, got any brats?”

 

KEEP THE CHANGE

 

So maybe you’ve noticed over the past few months the entire world has turned upside down on us. It has brought us such novelties as not being allowed in a bank without a mask, earworms in everyone’s brain of Happy Birthday as a result of washing hands every three and a half minutes and, of course, finally coming to the startling realization that your partner or spouse can be really annoying!

In addition to all of these little annoyances, we also have a national coin shortage. We’re not buying anything so there are no coins in circulation. As a point of full disclosure, I have a massive collection that I am loathe to part with. Why?  Allow me to rip the bandage off and air it out for you.

Sure, there was a time when I had no problem cashing in my coins. I’d roll them in those paper coin roll wrappers and after a few paper cuts, I would take them to the bank where they would be transferred into dollar bills and I’d merrily be on my way. Then came the dreaded Coinstar machines. My anonymity has now vanished.

The last time I turned in my coins was the day I started therapy. Let me explain. I walked into Stop & Shop, unshaven, wearing my favorite pair of shorts that were literally being held together by about thirty or so iron on denim patches and on my back was a tattered and torn old radio station Battle of the Sexes tee shirt.  As I pushed my wheelbarrow up to the Coinstar machine, I couldn’t help but notice the number of shoppers that were gathering around much like they would after witnessing a train wreck. Some even had tears dripping down their cheeks. I’m pretty sure I heard one of them say, “How sad. What do you say we all chip in and buy the poor guy an apple of something?”  I tried to carry on but I felt a little like the guy who stands at the intersection holding up a piece of cardboard with the writing, ‘4 children, 2 dogs and 3 kids in college. Anything you can do. I really could use a beer. God Bless.’   

As a result of that horrible experience, I believed therapy was my only option. I found a very talented and lovely woman named Marilyn. When entering the room, I would always take the seat on the end of the sofa right next to the small table with the Newton’s Cradle and the obligatory box of Kleenex.   

During our first session as I was explaining that damaging episode of my psyche, I was shocked to learn that Marilyn was actually in the store at the time and, in fact, was the one who suggested buying me the fruit. As difficult as this experience was going to be for me, it must have been Hell for her thinking that my brain was just up there floating around, unattached.

Marilyn told me early on that although she understood that being seen turning in coins could possibly be perceived as a sign of desperation, it probably didn’t help my cause any by using the wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the progress that either one of us had hoped for and it eventually came to an end. It was in our final session that she sighed, leaned forward in her chair, cupped her chin with both hands and said “Bob, I seriously don’t think I can help you. I think you have issues that are beyond the scope of my diplomas.” Ouch!

As I pulled myself off the couch and slithered towards the door, she turned and said, ‘I’m so sorry, Bob. Here have this apple. No charge.’

 

SEARCHING FOR SNOWBALL

 

There have been a ton of books written on what happens to our beloved pets when they pass on. The bottom line is that all good pets go to Pet Heaven where they chase imaginary flies, fertilize perfectly manicured lawns at will and lick their privates while waiting for us to join them in the afterlife. The bad ones that routinely devoured mailmen, manuscripts and Manolo Blahniks go to a place called Pet Purgatory where they atone for their sins by watching on television the other good departed pets having sex on white, puffy clouds all while being fed grapes by Rin Tin Tin.

If you have ever read any of these fine literary tomes, you’ll easily spot one common thread: all the people giving testimonials on how their late furry friends have given them a sign from the afterlife, all inhale inordinate amounts of Magic Marker fumes.

Michele and I have never been sent anything even resembling a sign that our past brood is all right and loving the great beyond and, for the record, you couldn’t find better pet parents than we were. Little urns, complete with names and dates, cover our mantle and we acknowledge them every morning. Do we get one tiny sign? No, we don’t. Why? Because we clearly don’t sniff enough Magic Markers!

Just how badly do people want to believe that they’re actually getting messages from their deceased pets? Do they want to believe so much that they take any miniscule thing as a sign? I’ve done some extensive research on the subject during commercial breaks of a fifty-year old baseball game that the YES Network has been prone to show every night for the last four months, so I clearly qualify as an expert on the subject.

Here’s what Mary P. had to say about her communications with her recently departed Siamese feline Fluffy.

“I was sitting there all alone, just drinking a jug of wine when all of a sudden, I heard this distant meow. I looked all around and didn’t see anything. Just then, a leaf blew in through the window and I knew it must have been Fluffy telling me that she’s doing well and misses me.” What? A leaf that managed to blow in through the living room window must have been a message from her deceased cat? How much wine did Mary have anyway?

Susan from Olympia, Washington, had this to say.

“I cried myself to sleep for months, missing Mr. Fartypants so much. I often called his name hoping he would send me a sign that he was okay. Then, one night while I was taking my bath, the candle by the side of the tub just went out all by itself. I thought for sure it was a message that he was doing fine. Seconds later, I began to pick up what I thought was the scent of his wet fur as I remember it from giving him his weekly bath. However, my joy quickly turned to disappointment when I realized that it was only a pile of damp, moldy towels balled up in the corner. Just then, it happened: a sure sign had arrived. A bird came crashing into the window and I’m positive it was Mr. Fartypants telling me that he still loves me. I’m sure of it. He just wanted to tell me that he’s fine and that he’s forgiven me for those rare occasions when I fed him cut up Slim Jim’s telling him instead it was a new Alpo flavor.” It’s hard to dispute the story that Susan tells because, honestly, what could say “I love you,” more from a deceased pet than having a bird come crashing into your bathroom window?  It’s fairly obvious that Susan has cornered the market on Magic Markers but I also wondered aloud if she had been sharing a jug with Mary as well? As I’m sure we all know by now, wine and Magic Markers DO NOT MIX!

Can we be the only ones who have never gotten any kind of sign?  C’mon guys, show us something here. Make the lights flicker or put a little cat head indentation on our pillows, anything. We really want to know that you’re doing well in Pet Heaven. Hey wait a minute (cue Twilight Zone theme).  I’m hearing something. Is that the faucet dripping? It’s never dripped before. OH MY GOD!!!  Can it be? Yes, I hear it. I love you, too! Thank you. I love you. What’s that? You’re happy because you get to eat delicious heavenly mice and all the grass is really catnip?  I’m so happy! I love you guys!  We both miss you so much!  Thanks for the message. We love you!  Wait. You’re starting to fade. I can’t hear…Wait! Please don’t go. Just hang on and let me get a fresh marker!

BABY, I’M YOUR HANDYMAN

 

Times are tough and we’re trying to save wherever we can. The other day I discovered that if you separate the two-ply toilet paper, a roll will last twice as long. But we can split all the Charmin we want and cut paper towels in two to double the life, but when it comes to certain household projects, most are better left to the professionals. We had a bedroom that needed new carpet and I was hellbent against paying someone who actually knew what they were doing. No Sir. This was my job. Get out of my way, let me strap on the tool belt and watch the magic happen.  I was confident of success but, truth be told, up until now my knowledge of carpets was limited to vacuuming them.

I would, by no means, consider myself a handyman. I remember when we first moved in to our townhouse three years ago, I painted a door and the celebration didn’t end for a week. I think I’d probably have to rank myself somewhere between ‘deceased grandmother’ and ‘Golden Retriever,’ on the handyman scale.

I ventured into Home Depot with the obligatory pencil behind my ear in an attempt to fit in and was immediately approached by a very helpful apron clad employee with the name “Joe” written across his weight belt. “Hi, Joe. I’m looking for one of those thingies that pounds nails into wood. One end is like a handle where you would hold it and the other end is an odd shaped piece of steel.” Joe scratched his head and asked, “Do you mean a…hammer?” “You got it, Joe, that’s it. The name escaped me for just a moment. Do you like my pencil?”

The day of reckoning had arrived and I felt good. I think the pencil behind my ear gave me a big psychological advantage. I quickly kicked the roll of carpet out flat and began smoothing it out as per the instructions in the How to Lay Anything book.

One hundred and twenty-seven staples later, I spotted a pesky, little bump in the middle. At the same time, I noticed that the little Kleenex package I had in my shirt pocket was gone. Crap! I could either pull the entire carpet back up, retrieve the tissue and start from scratch or smash it to smithereens. I’ve had to make some tough decisions in my life, but this wasn’t one of them.  After a few minutes of pounding, the bump was virtually gone. This was to remain my little secret.

 

I stood up straight and proud, arms folded; sweat dripping from my forehead admiring the job I had done. I did it. I really did it! My only other experience that could even come close to rivaling this proud moment was when I won the highly coveted Paperboy of the Week honors in Deerfield, Illinois a number a years ago.

When Michele got home, I was brimming from ear to ear. “Honey, come on upstairs. I want to show you something.” Michele was truly amazed. “This looks great, sweetheart. You did this all by yourself,” she asked?  “Of course, I did. I even used the Benjamin Moore thing over there.” She looked puzzled. “You mean the…yardstick?” “Yup, that’s it. I’ll show you how to use it one of these days,” I told her. She gushed and hugged me and said, “I’m so proud of you. Oh, by the way, when I was coming in, I found your Kleenex pack on the floor downstairs. It must have fallen out of your pocket. By the way, have you seen the parakeet?”

 

 

 

 

DON’T BE A BRAD

 

Whether you’re a recent graduate searching for that first job or someone who has been out of the workforce for a while and finally decided to get back in the trenches, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the landmines that await you. We’ll concentrate one just one of those creatons here. You probably know him by his more common name: The Ass Kisser. The politically correct term however is The Captain of the Caboose. Let’s put a name on him and call him Brad.

If you’re an office veteran, you know Brad. He’s the one who, when the tedium of a long conference room meeting is getting ready to wrap up, introduces a new, totally out of left field topic, thus elongating the proceedings for at least another hour. And his sole purpose of doing so is to pucker up to the big guy’s buttocks. He knows exactly what he’s doing and you hate him for it…and you should.

The Brad’s of the world are among the most scornful of co-workers. Short on talent and long on bravado, he can bring an entire office to its knees if he so chooses.  Sure, you have an MBA from Harvard Business School and your ability to negotiate the travails of the treacherous financial landscape is beyond reproach, but Brad seems to be advancing faster and that’s puzzling to you. How can someone whose only venture into the business world has been making change for a pack of rolling papers on the overnight shift at 7/11 be making more strides than you?

Okay, let’s go way back and see how a true Captain of the Caboose plies his trade, shall we?

Don’t be fooled. Some of these miscreants, like Brad, are smart, very smart. They play the game well and the good ones begin even before the interview process. Make no mistake. They’ll find out the most minute things including how the boss likes his coffee, the names of his children and what country club he belongs to and they’ll use every bit of that to their advantage in the job interview process, as noted below.

Boss: Welcome Brad, have a seat.

Brad:  Thank you very much, sir.  I brought you some coffee, cream, no sugar, right?

Boss: Why, yes, that’s right. How did you know?

Brad: (wry smile and a wink)

Boss: Brad, this position requires an extremely tech savvy person, one who can predict trends long before they’re on the horizon. We’re looking for someone who breathes, eats and sleeps research. Why do believe you’re qualified for such a highly sought after and demanding position?

Brad: While it’s true that I still use AOL and rely pretty much on social media platforms like Fark and Facebook for my news and information, I am probably the quickest learner you’ve ever run across.

               (allow me to interrupt for just a moment)

Well, it doesn’t appear that ‘ol Brad is doing very well so far, does it?  One question in and he’s already on the ropes, dizzy and befuddled. He knows that he needs to get his wits about him and do it right now or the death knell awaits. It’s time for Brad to break out his ace in the hole. Okay, back to the interview.

Brad: Excuse me, sir, but I’m hearing a noise in the parking lot.

Boss: (turning to look) What the… There’s a group of people detailing my car.

Brad: Seriously sir, we can’t have a man of your stature pulling into Briarwood Country Club with anything less than an immaculate vehicle, can we?

Boss: How did you know I belonged to Briar…Oh, you are good, Brad. Very good. I think you have more than proven your impeccable research skills to me. Well, I’m convinced you are the man for job. Congratulations. Now, let’s see what we can do about getting you that corner office shall we?

So, Brad managed to land the job that he was woefully unqualified for, leaving his now co-workers numb from disbelief. Have no fear for Brad will get his comeuppance soon as most Captains of the Caboose eventually do. Yes, one day in the very near future, all of his co-workers will gather outside his corner office door and invite him to happy hour. Surprised, Brad will lean back in his leather chair (complete with full body massage button) and happily accept their invitation as he is now convinced that he has finally won their love and admiration. When the first round of drinks arrives, however, they will all give each other that little wink, toast Brad, then take great delight in grabbing their swizzle sticks and poking his eyeballs out.

Don’t be a Brad!

 

 

WAR OF THE ROSEBUSHES

 

Blow the dust off the seed spreaders, the edger’s and, in some cases, the family landscaper.  It’s time to peek out the window to see what kind of damage the neighbors are inflicting on our bank accounts.

On weekends when we see the neighbors outside getting all hoity toity on us by planting things and making landscaping improvements, it’s a natural reaction for us to shake our heads, stomp our feet and perhaps even take the Lord’s name in vein. In short, we hate them. The medical term for this reaction is “Evergreen Sweats.” All we really want to do is sit down, watch a recorded movie we might have only seen seven or eight times and relax. We work hard during the week, damnit. Don’t make us labor on our brief 48-hour respite as well. But, the neighbor’s started it and we accept the challenge.

Last spring, my jerky neighbor decided he wanted to plant something called Rhododendron in his front yard. I, being of the competitive nature, raced immediately to Adam’s Farms and asked them what trumps a Rhododendron?  And the war was on.

For some reason, we feel compelled to stay one step ahead of these nasty, self- absorbed show offs. And, let’s make one thing very clear. This runs far deeper than just the person living next to us. This snowball effect rolls all the way down the street.  No one is immune. This behavior is infectious, insidious and, no doubt, our thinking is diseased but, for some reason, we’ll stop at nothing to be the last one standing in September. Yes, it’s true, our families will be reduced to a steady diet of beans and franks, but, damnit, people will travel from blocks away just to get a glimpse of our beautiful Japanese Maples.

From the official guidebook, Miller’s Gardening Tips for The Paranoiac, we have posted the exact pecking order of improvements so, at a glance, you’ll see what you must do to ‘one up’ your snooty neighbor. I have listed just five examples to get you started. This convenient guide should help to keep you one tiller’s length ahead of this…this…sub human masquerading as a caring and involved neighbor.   Ugh!  I can’t stand him!

1)  Hydrangea trumps Rhododendron

2)  Wisteria trumps Ivy

3)  Lattice trellis trumps a patio

4)  In ground pool trumps horse shoe pit

5)  Deck with hot tub trumped only by deck with hot tub filled with Bud Lite Girls.

So, good luck neighbor.  I’ve got my eye on you and this time you can’t beat me. We’re just like two gunslingers facing each other on a dusty but eerily quiet Main Street (right in front of the saloon, of course) as the women folk and children scamper for cover. “I’m calling you out, neighbor! Draw you shovel on the count of three you varmit…if you dare.”