#40 – Emergency

On occasion I’ve been known to assume the worst in medical situations.  Take the condition which resulted in this morning’s trip to the doctor, for example.  I’ve been experiencing a bizarre crunching sensation in my ear for the past several days. Naturally, I reached the only logical conclusion: “tumor.”  And since I could already hear the cancer crackling, I figured it must’ve grown beyond the point of removal. 

Although resigned to meet my maker, I nonetheless scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician.  He’s a humorless personality I sarcastically refer to as “Dr. Chuckles,” though thus far only to myself.  As always, I internally questioned the merits of the obligatory weigh-in, wondering how my weight would help diagnose the cancerous growth within my auditory canal.  I also questioned the need for the equally-obligatory measurement of my vital statistics.  As I saw it, the expanding squatter in my skull wouldn’t take a holiday while the nurse paused to take my temperature and pulse.

When Dr. Chuckles finally made his appearance, I explained the dire situation. Then I showed him the “do not resuscitate” order contained in my Living Will, a copy of which I’d brought along just in case I happened to flatline during the examination. 

The physician listened intently, assuming an admirable air of gravitas for the duration of my recital. He grabbed a doohickey with a built-in flashlight and used it to take a peak inside my ear.  After what felt like only a few seconds, Dr. Chuckles … chuckled.  That’s when I deduced why I’d never heard him laugh before.  Apparently, only terminal conditions jiggled his funny bone. I imagined him doing standup routines in pediatric cancer wards, mocking the soon-to-be-departed. 

Opting for the high road, I chose to ignore the lout’s sociopathic bedside manner and instead focused on the matter most near and dear to my heart: “Give it to me straight Doc.  How much time do I have?” 

I thought it a clear enough question yet it appeared to confuse the man:  “Time, Richard?  What are you talking about?” 

I didn’t much appreciate having to spell things out:  “I’m talking about the tumor in my ear!  How long before it finishes me?” 

I’d thought his prior chuckle inappropriate, yet it paled in comparison to the rude howls of laughter my question elicited.  Tears streamed from his eyes before he calmed sufficiently to answer: “A tumor?  Oh,
that’s a good one.  You, my friend, do not have a tumor.  What you suffer from is an impressive case of earwax.”

ear scope

An Otoscope — you know, for looking inside an ear

#41 – An Understandable Misunderstanding

One of the Bar associations I belong to has issued the first call for volunteers — to man our booth at a metro area festival this fall.  Though I’ve participated the past several times, and undoubtedly will sign up once more, I can only hope nothing like last year’s misunderstanding happens again. 

Last September, the event coordinators sandwiched our booth between the NRA and the local suicide prevention hotline.  Like most of the participating vendors, we’d prepared literature about our association for distribution to passers by.  I did everything I could to place our brochures in as many hands as possible, including exchanging materials with both the NRA and suicide people. 

The NRA literature proved especially handy when one of the festival attendees shared her recipe for Mac and Cheese with me.  Using the paper as a makeshift notepad, I wrote a reminder to myself to “buy shells” so I could try her dish. I left that reminder note, as well as my other festival paraphernalia, on the kitchen counter when I returned home that night.  Then I forgot about it. 

The next day, I suffered an unfortunate setback in court, in a case involving my sleazebag nemesis.  I couldn’t believe the rat bastard had gotten away with his B.S. again.  In my state of pique, I happened to tell the Mrs. how I’d like to line both my adversary and the judge against a wall for a personal firing squad. 

Sophia seemed unusually solicitous – and clingy – for the rest of the evening.  To my astonishment, when we went to bed, she offered to do for me what she usually reserves for my birthday and national holidays. But I remained so worked up about the day’s fiasco that I declined. 

You can probably guess where this story’s going.  Unbeknownst to me, Sophia had read the NRA and suicide hotline materials and seen my note written on the NRA brochure.  Those documents, combined with my comments about the firing squad, led her to an understandable though incorrect conclusion.  Unfortunately, rather than asking me point blank about her deduction, she decided to take immediate preventative action. 

The next afternoon, I returned home to find Sophia waiting at the door with a stranger she introduced as her “friend” Tim.  Tim, it turned out, was a psychiatrist specializing in patients having suicidal tendencies and violent delusions.  Of course I didn’t hear his bio until later, which explains why I didn’t take him seriously when he asked me, in a roundabout way, whether I held thoughts of hurting myself or others. My wise-ass answer was: “Hurt myself?  No way.  Blow myself up?  Absolutely, but only after I take out the twenty-two people on my hit list!” 

Matters got sorted out, eventually … after Tim surreptitiously dialed 911 and six Sheriff’s officers arrived.

NRA brochure

Doubles as a makeshift notepad

#42 – The Shame of It

Well put me in a skirt and call me “Loretta.”  Last night, I figuratively kicked the teenage me in the nuts and then spit on him. 

When I was sixteen, I wrote one of those letters to my future self, to be opened at the age of forty. That was more than five years ago, but I still have the Pulitzer-worthy correspondence.  And since it’s pertinent to today’s post, I’ll reproduce it here for your amusement. 

            Dear Old Richard, 

I’ll be quick, just in case someone finally makes a movie out of the Lord of the Rings and you need to get to the theater.  I don’t care what you do with your life as long as you don’t do any of these things.


1.      Become a lawyer.  Do you really want Frank for your role model?


2.      Live anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.  You won’t want to mix with a bunch of rednecks flying the Confederate flag!


3.      Do drugs.  They’re nobody’s friend.


4.      Keep screwing up.  I don’t have time to list all the ways that can happen.  But you know what I mean.


5.      Whatever else, don’t be one of those shemales who carries a crappy little dog around in a purse. 

Sure, I violated every item on teenage me’s “don’t” list.  But it’s the last that would’ve hurt him the most.  Sorry young Richard, but Sophia insisted on taking Prometheus along to the bookstore last night, nestled in his very own Louis Vuitton pocketbook.  I tried to keep my distance from the pair as the Mrs. sauntered along — the bag hanging from her shoulder and the critter’s little head poking out.  I did my best to act like I didn’t know them.  But what’s a guy supposed to do when his wife starts whining about her aching shoulder and asks him to “please, please carry the bag for a while?” I’ll tell you and the younger me what he does … if he wants some lovin’ when he gets home.  He grabs his temporary “manpurse,” swings it over his shoulder, and hopes he doesn’t need to use the Ladies’ Room during the next half hour.

Louis Vuitton dog carrier

#43 – Hear This

Our friends Tracy and Ron live nearby, together with Tracy’s 90-year-old grandmother Betsy.  As one might expect, nothing on Betsy works quite like it used to. She suffers from hearing loss and arthritis and sometimes gets confused. Nonetheless, she’s remarkably spry and mentally agile for a woman her age.  She also happens to be a real firecracker: a feisty, highly-opinionated and surprisingly current character, whose love for expressing views to anyone and everyone is matched only by her disdain for listening to anyone and everyone (a trait explained only in part by her hearing difficulties).

Best of all, Betsy has a catchphrase.  She typically employs it when advertising a negative opinion about persons or entities.  Take Chick-fil-A for instance.  Last month, Betsy read a blog piece criticizing the company’s stance against gay marriage.  She told Ron about it and he asked what she thought of Chick-fil-A now, seeing as how she’d previously been a fan of the company’s chicken sandwiches.  Without missing a beat, the notorious liberal replied with her patented catchphrase: “Fuck ’em!”

This morning, I stopped by Tracy and Ron’s house and Betsy answered the door.  She was the only one home.  When she invited me in for a cup of coffee, I accepted and joined her at the kitchen table. As we chatted (or more precisely, as she talked and I listened), she told me her hearing aid was acting up again. She asked if I’d mind her calling the ear doctor for an appointment.  I didn’t.

So Betsy grabbed her address book, turned to the page containing her list of doctors, and dialed a number on speaker phone.  After a couple of rings, a woman answered: “Dr. Johnson’s office; how may I help you?”

For the next several minutes, Betsy provided the receptionist with a nonstop, excruciatingly detailed account of the strange frequencies and noises her hearing aid had begun receiving, and the detrimental impact of such interference on her auditory abilities.  The receptionist couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Betsy simply rode over the woman’s multiple attempts to short-circuit her recital.

When her impromptu filibuster finally ran down, Betsy concluded with: “So I’ll need an appointment to get this contraption fixed.”

The receptionist kept her response short and to the point: “Maam. This is the eye doctor.”

hearing aid

#44 – Are Those the Lips You Kiss Your Mother With?

It never ceases to amaze me how conveniently selective my wife can be when it comes to choosing which objects she’s willing to put in or against her mouth.  Last month, she pressed her lips against my late iguana’s face with disastrous results.  A few days ago, she returned home from work and French kissed Prometheus for forty-six seconds.  

Ten minutes prior to Sophia’s impromptu tongue action with our puppy, the critter had eaten a dead bug off our driveway.  Five minutes before he flossed my wife’s back molars, Prometheus had utilized his tongue to mop debris from the floor under the kitchen counters.  And commencing two minutes before he and Sophia swapped saliva, and continuing until the kitchen door opened, the furry lad had employed the same appendage to give his tallywacker and rectum an admirably thorough scrubbing.

In contrast, last night in bed when I whispered a certain suggestion in Sophia’s ear, the same woman who’s seemingly practicing for a debut in the specialized market of bestiality-kiddie-porn answered me with: “You want me to do what?  Where?  With my mouth?  That’s disgusting!”

dead bug

moldy bread

A couple of things most people wouldn’t want to put in their mouths

#45 – Where’s Your Jumping Point?

This morning, I saw an example of what may be the most universally applied and versatile parental answer to childhood stupidity in all its forms.  My neighbor caught her eight-year-old son and his friend skateboarding without a helmet.  When she yelled at her boy to put one on, he responded with classic child logic, explaining that his friend Jessica doesn’t wear a helmet.  His mother in turn applied a version of the standard response to such an assertion: “If Jessica jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” 

Listening to that exchange made me wonder how mothers in different parts of the world reply to their kids in similar situations.  I’ll bet moms in France say something along the lines of: “If Pierre leapt off the Eiffel Tower, would you?”  And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear a Sherpa’s wife in Nepal questioning: “If Bina took a header off the peak of Mt. Everest …?”  Whatever the particular phrasing, the underlying absurdity of each participant’s lines remains the same. 

I can personally attest to the versatility of a mother’s cliff jumping (or similar) response to end a debate in even the most absurd scenarios. For example, take the time when I was six or seven playing at resurrection.  On a rainy Saturday morning, I’d headed through the kitchen toward the back porch, intending to restore life to a deceased caterpillar ala Dr. Frankenstein.  My mother, who was sitting at the kitchen table drinking her coffee and reading the morning paper, didn’t bother looking up as she interrupted my progress. 

“Where do you think you’re going, Richard?”


“Just going out back to raise the dead, mom.”


“Not without your raincoat you’re not.”


“C’mon mom.  Dr. Frankenstein’s mother didn’t make him wear a raincoat when he created the Monster. And the weather was way worse that night.”


“In case you haven’t noticed Richard, my name isn’t ‘Mrs. Frankenstein’; it’s ‘Mrs. Stern.’  And Mrs. Stern doesn’t want her son catching a cold.  Mrs. Frankenstein should’ve known better too.”


“But mohhmmmm.  Dr. Frankenstein didn’t catch a cold.”


“And I suppose if Dr. Frankenstein jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, you’d jump too?”

Yep; a flexible weapon in a parent’s arsenal, indeed.

Brooklyn Bridge

The venerable Brooklyn Bridge

#46 – Hose Job

My wife and I maintain vastly different views on privacy in a marriage.  I believe in preserving a degree of mystery, no matter how many years we’re wed.  In contrast, Sophia subscribes to the motto: “That’s nothing either of us hasn’t seen before.” 

Consistent with my stance, I always close the door to the bathroom when using the facilities. When appropriate, I also switch on the ceiling fan.  I expect Sophia to do the same, since there are certain sights and sounds I really don’t need to experience.  Equally, except in the pursuit of matters sexual, I have no interest in either of us undertaking a close inspection of the other’s nether regions. 

Sophia owns a much different take on these issues.  To my continuing dismay, she seems to think my wedding vows included an implicit promise to act as her surrogate gynecologist in addition to my more traditional husbandly duties.  I’m as happy as the next guy to hear his wife say: “Come look at my vagina.” However, I’m considerably less overjoyed when the request tacks on an addendum such as: “Tell me if this looks like mucous”; or “do you think this smells like a yeast infection?” 

One area where the two of us have repeatedly butted heads concerns Sophia’s periodic supplications to hold my pecker while I pee.  Even Little Richard, normally a “hands on” kinda guy in the realm of female attention, objects to this particular interaction.  I can’t begin to fathom her peculiar desire.  In my opinion, unless she’s contemplating a sex change operation and wants to get a feel for the new plumbing, she has no need to direct my personal fire hose. 

Last night I finally gave in to Sophia’s entreaties, but only to put an end to her complaints about my occasional “misses.”  Any guy’ll tell you that urinating from a standing position isn’t always an exact science.  Sometimes, the stream will spray a bit.  And name one gent who hasn’t occasionally forgotten to raise the toilet seat before peeing.  Sure, nobody wants to unwittingly sit in a wet spot during a  late night bathroom break, but there’s no need to endlessly bitch and moan when such an understandable accident occurs.

Safe to say, Sophia now realizes hitting the bowl isn’t as easy at it looks.  During last night’s experiment, she managed to anoint everything in the room but the bowl.  She spent a good hour afterwards scrubbing the toilet tank and floor.  And the jar of potpourri atop the tank, and the wicker basket beside it containing home and garden magazines and Sophia’s other bathroom literature, went straight into the trash.  

The good news is, Sophia has now assured me of my future privacy when attending nature’s call.

toilet bowl

#47 – There’s No Such Thing as a Unicorn! — Part 1

[This tale is presented in two parts, today and tomorrow, so as not to overburden the reader]


In order to understand the unicorn debacle, you first have to understand Gina.  My sister-in-law thinks
of herself as firmly grounded in reality. As I see it, her monthly credit card debt (at times greater than her
husband’s take home pay) proves the last thing she’s actually grounded in is reality.  Nonetheless, in this instance it’s the thought that counts. 

While she’s made limited exceptions for Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, Gina draws the line at children believing in mythical beasts.  I consider her posture on those subjects a tad fanatical, and also impossible to understand.  But like any good zealot, she seems unwilling or unable to justify her position. 

In any event, her strident campaign against all things mythological helps explain the increasing severity of her reactions several days ago, when her son Franco — who’s just turned five — surprised her with the announcement: “Mommy, I got a unicorn!” 

The fact that Franco made his stunning proclamation in his parents’ bedroom without having knocked, after he and his sister had supposedly gone to sleep, didn’t exactly calm his mother either.  She sternly informed him that “there’s no such thing as a unicorn, so get back to bed right now!” … after lifting her head from the vicinity of her husband’s nether region.  Considering the celerity with which the lad exited his parents’ boudoir, I doubt he heard his father’s added comment, to “listen to your mother!” … spoken while peeking up from Gina’s derriere. 

Alas for Gina, her son’s nighttime unicorn proclamation did not constitute a solitary blip on his imaginary radar screen.  Throughout the following day, she faced a litany of similar outbursts from the lad, as he interrupted various chores and activities with cries of: “Mommy, I got a unicorn;” and “Mommy, look at my unicorn.” 

Gina did her best to remain calm in response to her child’s running commentary.  She heroically buttoned
her lip while dragging Franco through the aisles of the supermarket, to the counter at the dry cleaner, and to the prescription pick-up at the pharmacy.  Each time her son raised the unicorn specter, she coolly responded: “Franco, there’s no such thing as a unicorn.” 

But every person has a breaking point, and early that afternoon Gina reached hers.  Franco made one more request to “look at my unicorn” than his mother could bear.  Unable to stop herself, she shouted: “God dammit, Franco!  For the last fucking time, there’s no such thing as a unicorn!!!” 

It was a close call as to which bystanders seemed most shocked by Gina’s eruption.  The main contenders consisted of: a)  Franco, who broke into tears at the surprising vehemence of his mother’s retort; b) the reference librarian, who didn’t normally have to contend with shouting at the public library; and c) the other, largely-Christian parents and kids who also happened to be attending the children’s reading hour.


There’s no such thing as a unicorn.

#48 – There’s No Such Thing as a Unicorn! — Part 2

[Here’s the conclusion of yesterday’s story.]


Though Gina prayed Franco’s unicorn fantasy would magically vanish after the library fiasco, she felt no surprise when her son revisited the subject the very next day. She was in the kitchen doing some last minute straightening when she heard a painful yelp echoing from the foyer.  Responding immediately, she found her boy on his knees, crying and bemoaning: “My unicorn hurt me!” 

Worried over what she deemed a disturbing escalation of Franco’s imaginations, Gina conceived a drastic, spur-of-the-moment plan to end her son’s flight of fancy once and for all.  She began by quietly and sweetly asking him to tell her where the unicorn had gone.  Still hiccupping with tears, Franco mutely pointed in the general direction of the floor. 

Gina moved her son gently aside and convincingly mimed a series of actions, beginning with the loading of a double-barreled shotgun.  After identifying her “special unicorn-killing gun” to Franco, she took aim toward the floor and let loose with both barrels, yelling: “Bam!, Bam!” Then, for good measure, she alternated between beating the newly-deceased beast over the head with her shotgun barrel and stomping on its invisible carcass with both feet, all while crazily shouting: “This’ll teach you to hurt my son!”; and “take that, you stupid horse!” 

So intent was Gina on demolishing her boy’s fantasy companion beyond recognition that she failed to hear a fist knocking on her front door.  She also failed to note the two wide-eyed faces gaping at her antics through the sidelights.  Not until several minutes later — after she’d finished burying the unicorn’s remains with her imaginary shovel — did she learn from her son that the child and mother who’d scheduled a play date for the afternoon had come, and gone, already. 

Much to Gina’s dismay, her grisly performance did not terminate Franco’s fantasy.  Yesterday morning, when she instructed him to put his shoes on and come downstairs, the tyke stubbornly refused, calling out: “I can’t; my unicorn’ll hurt me again!” 

Gina marched up to her son’s bedroom, fully intending to spank the unicorn out of him. But her intent and anger died the moment she walked in and got a look at his toes.  One of them sported a massive, angry-looking bunion, the sight of which previously had eluded her.  As she rushed to the boy’s side, he thrust forward his inflamed digit and once again proclaimed: “Do you see my unicorn now Mommy?” 

Naturally, Gina felt mystified by her son’s odd designation for his bunion, so she asked him why on earth he’d decided to call the growth on his toe a “unicorn.”  She grew considerably less mystified and pathetically more apologetic after she heard his explanation. 

“Daddy said the bike at the circus I saw with one wheel’s a unabikle.” 

“It’s a ‘unicycle,’ but okay,” Gina replied. 

“And daddy said ‘una’ means one thing.” 

“‘Uni’; that’s right Franco.” Gina couldn’t follow her son’s reasoning yet, but played along anyway. 

“And one time Mommy, you had these on your foot and you said they’re ‘corns.’” 

“Uh huh.” 

“Well I got one corn, Mommy … so it’s a unicorn!”

unicorn 2

Still no such thing as a unicorn.

#49 – Scammers

This has been one of those “good news, bad news” kind of days. 

Periodically I receive scam e-mails from supposedly divorced women in Japan or England asking me to help collect divorce settlements from their ex-husbands in the US.  The scam entails the duped lawyer collecting a certified check from the “defendant.” After the lawyer deposits the check in his bank account, he keeps a substantial sum for himself and sends his own check to the “client” in the amount of the much larger balance.  A few weeks later, however, the lawyer’s bank informs him that the certified check was fraudulent and that he’s responsible for making good the entire amount. 

Shortly before I went out this morning, I received one of those scam e-mails.  This one, from a Mrs. Hoshiko, added that her New Jersey lawyer had referred her to me.  Of course she didn’t identify the attorney. I told my part-time secretary Denise to e-mail the con artist my standard fraud response letter, which notifies the “divorcee” that I decline her request for representation and will prosecute her illegal activities to the fullest extent of the law.

Here’s where today’s good news enters the picture.  Denise failed to send out my fraud response letter; a lucky break since it turns out the e-mail I received was no scam.  I learned of its legitimacy through a voicemail I received this afternoon from Ed Greenspan, the divorce lawyer who (may) marry my sister Lisa next month. Ed said he’d told one of his clients, Myoki Hoshiko, to contact me for help in securing her divorce settlement.  

Now for the bad news. While Denise did not transmit my fraud response letter, she did accidentally send Mrs. Hoshiko something else: namely, a file titled “Fake Retainer Agreement.” It immediately precedes the fraud response letter in the same directory on my computer system.  I’d drafted the “Fake Retainer Agreement” solely for my own amusement, as a joke response to the scam e-mailers.  Obviously, I didn’t intend to send it to anyone, especially a valued client of my future brother-in-law! 

I shudder to think of Mrs. Hoshiko’s reaction to my mock contract, and her ensuing conversation with Ed.  Though I expect she’ll blanche at a number of the document’s outlandish provisions, I can easily guess which ones she’ll find most offensive … those in which the client a) acknowledges that the only account I maintain is at the local sperm bank and b) agrees that she’ll receive her portion of the settlement funds in a form other than cash, drawn from the “deposits” in my account.  

I suspect this comedy of errors isn’t what Ed had in mind when he closed his voicemail to me with: “I know you’ll treat her right, Richard.”  

Welcome to the family, Ed!


email scam