Thursday, July 31, 2008

Moose On The Loose

For a group that doesn't own a watch and can't tell time, most wild animals seem awful regulated, and often at odds with the human world.

Both fishing and hunting, for example, seem to require getting up really early. Fish apparently, consider breakfast the only meal worth eating. Miss that and you miss your chance to land a couple of big ones (though, luckily, the serious fishing time ends just as the serious beer drinking time begins). If the weather is cold, rainy or just plain horrible, that increases the odds that the fish or animals will be waiting for you.

We're leaving for Maine tomorrow, and the two things I've learned is that if you want to see a moose you have to:

1) Get up at 5:30 a.m.
2) Kayak a great distance away from your cabin (the point where your arms feel like they're about to fall off is usually perfect)

The third thing I've learned is that if someone else goes moose "hunting" (actually "moose looking") and brings back a photo, it will look for all the world like a large brown rock in the distance. You won't regret sleeping in.

For those whose moose knowledge begins and ends with Bullwinkle, this is quite a disappointment. Having said that, it makes the decision not to get up at 5:30 on a perfectly fine vacation morning very easy.

Every year (this will be our fourth summer Maine trip) my wife and brother-in-law go looking for moose at least one morning, and my wife proudly brings back her camera to show me this year's picture of a far away brown rock. Sadly, she never gets the thrilled reaction she wants.

From either the moose or me.

(We're off to Maine, far from computers and the Internet, so I won't be posting for 10 days or so. Keep smiling.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let's Roll The Tape

If you like a story that combines sex, religion and public embarrassment, there's only one place to go: your local electronics repair shop.

Next to the elementary school our youngest daughter attends is an electronics repair shop. One day I stopped in lugging my large, heavy, broken Mitsubishi TV, 27" of glass surrounded by what felt like a ton of wood.

The guy behind the counter told me parts were unavailable, but he had some good news: a customer had left a 27" Zenith to be repaired and never picked it up, and I could have it for the $95 he'd spent in time and materials to repair it.

I jumped at the deal, but what was even better were the stories he told about some of his customers.

People, it seems, like to hide things in VCRs. Sex toys, for one. Drugs, for another. And if you think it would be embarrassing to have a technician remove a vibrator from a VCR, a bag of pot or cocaine would be more than embarrassing.

The first time the technicians found drugs in a customer's VCR, he said, they did the dutiful thing and called the police. The amount of time, trouble and paperwork it led to convinced them that in the future they'd just throw the drugs away and not bother calling the police, so that's what they've done ever since.

One day a very sexy woman brought in a VCR with a tape jammed in it. After she left the technicians removed the tape and then used that same tape to test the repaired VCR. It turned out to be home porn featuring the customer.

Being all male, the technicians made a copy of the tape for themselves, then packed up the original tape and VCR for the customer. When she picked it up, she asked if they'd viewed the tape after removing it from the VCR. No they hadn't, they assured her. "Too bad," she replied. "It was some of my best work."

But the better story was one that only involved the guy who was working the day I stopped in. (I'll call him Ed, because I can't remember his real name and he looked like an Ed.)

Ed, a nice Catholic boy, grew up and went to church on the east side of Baltimore. When he got out of school he moved to the western suburbs, 10-15 miles away from where he'd grown up. Consequently, he was a little surprised when a priest from his old church walked in the door carrying a VCR.

"Hello, Father________," said Ed, greeting the priest (whom he knew) by name. The priest suddenly got a funny look on his face. dropped the VCR on the counter, mumbled that there was "something jammed in it," and fled.

Ed opened up the VCR and found out why: yes, it was a porn tape jammed in the VCR, and the priest had, obviously, brought his VCR way across town to be repaired so no one would know him.


Sadly, the death of the VCR and the rise of the DVD may mean the end to stories like these. Hopefully, even as you read this, there's an historical society working to preserve these moments of American history.

Although I know a certain priest who's hoping they aren't.

Tainted Love

Comcast loves me more than ever.

Oh, when we had a relationship — granted, a relationship based on my paying them for television and Internet access — I felt much less love.

Like many relationships, the honeymoon period was the best: I had a shiny new router and cable box, I was getting some promotional savings, the service was fine. The installer knew nothing about our Macs, so I had to set up that part myself, but nobody's perfect.

Then, the relationship began to lose its luster. Promises were made and broken. Lies were told. Appointments were missed. Sometimes, patronizing tech support reps would tell me I didn't know what I was talking about when a router went bad (happened twice). Sometimes, tech support didn't know that service was out in our area and wanted to schedule an appointment (always for the following week). Once, without asking, Comcast ran a cable from the cable box in our yard across the yard and sidewalk to a neighbor's yard, then knocked on our door and said a crew would come to bury it within a week. For weeks we mowed around the cable, and finally after four phone calls someone dug up our yard to bury the cable. (It was another two calls to get them to return and repair the damage to our yard.)

And, of course, as our service went down — Internet service went out so often I had tech support on speed dial — the price crept up.

Our parting, when it came, encapsulated the entire relationship. When I called to cancel, here's the entire response I received: "Return all equipment within 30 days or you'll be billed for it." Luckily, I knew the location of the closest Comcast office (I'd been there more than once to swap defective equipment for new).

I thought that was the end of my relationship with Comcast. My new relationship with Verizon FiOS was going well — the one time we had a problem, I called in the morning and two repair people came and fixed the problem that afternoon — and we had better service and more "stuff" for less money.

Apparently Comcast had pangs of regret: after a month of no contact, I started to receive little enticements in the mail if only I'd return to my first electronic love. At first, the sweet nothings whispered in my ear were small: a price break for three months, a little bit of free HBO, a discount on equipment upgrades. And, mixed in with these little entreaties to return were veiled criticisms of my new love: "If your new service isn't quite everything you were promised..."

But when my stone heart refused to melt, the enticements became sweeter: free HBO and Showtime for six months, a discount price for a year, a free high definition LCD TV (size not specified).

Yesterday came the best offer ever: a free Nintendo Wii ($249 in a store if you can find one), and the promise of a faster Internet and more high definition channels than I have now. But I must be strong. I cannot weaken.

I wonder if they'd throw in a couple of games.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leaky Career

My career as a roofer was brief but, at least for onlookers, humorous.

One of my best friend's Moms had a rowhouse (townhouse for you non Baltimoreans) with an enclosed front porch that had a very leaky roof. In ay storm, large puddles would appear on the floor. Because she was an older woman who lived alone and had little money, hiring a professional to fix the problem was out of the question.

No problem, she had us.

On one of the coolest February days ever (temperature was in the teens) we grabbed a tube of caulk and a caulk gun and headed over there. We had no ladder, but figured we could crawl out on the porch roof from a second story window. It was a little damp as well as cold, but we were manly men and could handle it.

The roof, as it turned out, was slippery slate and had a very steep pitch. Anyone climbing out the window onto the roof would immediately slide off and land on a concrete walk that was a long way down.

My friend, Chip, was (and is) deathly afraid of heights, so the person on the roof was going to be me. Luckily, Chip was also larger and stronger than me, and together we hatched our plan: He would tie a rope around my waist and lower me out the window, so I could hang over the edge of the roof and caulk the eaves (where we were sure the leak was). To ease his load, since we had no pulley, we decided that Chip would loop the rope around a cast iron radiator that was near the window.

With the wind blowing, adding wind chill to the ass freezing cold temperature, I crawled out the window head first and crawled/slid to the edge of the roof. I began frantically caulking every gap in sight while hanging upside down, my head 20 feet above the concrete walkway, hoping to use up the tube of caulk before it or my fingers froze. (Oh, yes, we'd neglected to bring gloves.)

I scrabbled along the edge of the roof upside down, caulking like a maniac, until the tube was empty.

It was noisy on the street, and the blowing wind didn't help. "Chip, I'm done. Haul me in." "What?" "Pull me in." "What?!" "PULL ME IN!"

Inch by inch, with a few fits and starts (a cast iron radiator makes a lousy pulley), Chip pulled me back in. Half frozen and dizzy from hanging upside down, as well as a little damp from the roof, I was relieved to be inside. Chip's Mom made us hot chocolate (we were in our late 20s at the time), and we strutted around the house like Testosterone On Parade.

It rained the next day. The roof leaked like a sieve.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ring A Ding Ting

Our oldest daughter loves the Ting Tings, and the other day when we were in my car one of their songs came on.

"Gee, these folks sound familiar," I thought. In fact, they should an awful lot like the Tom Tom Club.

But unlike the joyous, never too serious Tom Tom Club, which was mostly a side venture for Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the Ting Tings are calculated and, at times, a bit annoying. The Tom Tom Club's sunny, island "don't worry, mon" has been replaced by a "we're cooler than you" snideness.

They may be cooler than me (actually, almost certainly so). But they ain't much fun.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It's hard for me to say which clients of mine qualify as the wackiest. There have been a number of contenders.

There was the gentlemen who was starting his first business, and came to our initial meeting armed with a spreadsheet that listed every penny he planned to spend on marketing: newspaper ad space, radio time, my services, a graphic designer's services, radio production, everything. It was one of the most beautifully formatted spreadsheets I'd ever seen.

It was all wrong. 

Ignoring media rate cards and average prices for various services, he'd plugged in numbers that suited his budget. His number for ad space in the Baltimore Sun, for example, was less than half of the rate card price. "Everything's negotiable," he explained to me, in the same tone you use to explain bedtime to a four-year-old. His new logo was going to cost him $175 because... that's how much money he had. (Most designers in this area charge $750-3,000 for a logo.) The radio voice talent he planned to use would cost 1/3 of union scale because... "I'm paying in cash!"

He'd listed everything I was to write, and helpfully listed how many hours each project would take and what he was going to pay me per hour. I can't remember everything, but I remember that he figured I could write a brochure in four hours and a radio script in an hour and a half, all for the princely sum of $15 an hour.

I tried to gently tell him that nothing he'd budgeted was going to happen for the amount he'd listed, and he became quite angry. He threatened to take his $60 budget for writing a brochure and $22.50 for a radio script elsewhere. I wished him luck.

I never saw any evidence that his business actually got off the ground.

Of course there have been the clients who wanted my home phone number "so if I get a brainstorm at 11 p.m. I can share it with you right away," the ones who couldn't understand why I stopped working when their deposit check bounced, and the ones who wanted me to work for free initially, "because when my (fill in the blank) becomes a big success you'll share in the wealth."

I think my favorite, though, was the man who'd inherited a paint company from his father, and apparently was sick of talking about paint. His creative direction for the print ads, radio commercials and TV spots we'd proposed: "Don't mention paint or talk about painters."

Uh, OK, what should the ads be about? "Talk about how paint makes people feel. But don't use the word paint."

While we were scratching our heads over that, he added his media plan to the creative direction: "I don't want the usual media, the magazines, the newspapers, the TV, the radio. I want outside the box gorilla marketing stuff. You know, guys with sandwich boards, media events, flyers stuck on windshields, things like that. Be creative!"

You won't be surprised to learn that his company was bought by a competitor and it was "suggested" he retire.

Don't get me wrong: I work with a lot of folks whom I greatly respect (and, hopefully, vice versa). I've worked with many who trusted my recommendations, and wanted to learn about marketing and advertising from me. I remember the ones who wore sunglasses to every meeting or insisted that their color blindness wouldn't prohibit them from choosing logo colors because there have been so few of them.

And because they've been so memorable,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Floored

Today the linoleum (or was it vinyl?) in our kitchen and dining area, and trashed, stained, worn Berber carpet in our family room, was replaced by wood. Well, that fake wood, but it looks as real as the hardwood floor in our entrance.

It is gorgeous. It, of course, makes our walls and furniture look shabby. (Too bad we don't have the money for new furniture.)

What I like best about it, though, is what our sock wearing children did as soon as they saw a large, open expanse of wood floor: they slid/surfed/skated around and around. The two that weren't wearing socks immediately put some on and slid into the new family skating rink.

For a few moments they left the digital, screen laden world, and were the same kid I was decades ago.

It was heart warming. And it saved my wife, at least for the moment, from having to buy a dust mop. That floor is now the cleanest it will probably ever be.

Unless we don't move any furniture back in.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Model Behavior

You might be surprised to hear this after looking at my photo, but I was a model. A paid, professional model.


The first stemmed from the year I was Wolfman for Halloween. My then girlfriend was skilled with theatrical make-up, and a photographer at the publishing company where I worked (I was a newspaper editor at the time) happened to see me. A few days before Halloween, my girlfriend and I trekked to the company's main office with a huge bag filled with make-up, glue, fake hair and a shirt I could slice so my "fur" would come bursting out. It took hours to apply the fake hair and makeup in stages, so I could "metamorphisize" into Wolfman, and I was scraping glue and bits of hair off of various areas for days, but it was worth it. I wound up on the cover of one of our newspapers.

The second time was when my roommate, a photographer, asked me to come to the studio to be a hand model. Puzzled, I agreed.

On the day of my modeling gig the manager of the department, a very attractive young lady, gave me a manicure on one hand and massaged lotion into every pore. It was great.

I held my hand as instructed in front of a white seamless background, holding a small school bell, as instructed. It was then that I found out why my right hand, which never seemed particularly remarkable to me, had been chosen.

The photo was to illustrate a story on parochial schools and my roommate thought it would be funny to have a Jewish hand holding a school bell. It was the "Most in" of in-jokes, because only he and I knew that I was Jewish.

Humor is a tricky thing.

The shoot went great, though the department manager showed no interest in continuing her massaging after the session.

Maybe if I'd been more of a diva.

Small Wonders

Sometimes huge life changes hinge on seemingly minor incidents.

I was thinking of my friend Debbie (not her real name), who was trapped (or at least felt so) in an abusive marriage. With no job and two children to support, she felt there was no way she could leave the marriage. Debbie and I had worked together at an ad agency, where she was the head designer and I was the copywriter.

Years later I was an associate creative director at my third ad agency, and we needed to hire an art director. I gave the other ACD, my art counterpart, a list of three names: Debbie and another person I'd worked with at that same agency, and someone else.

The ACD called the first person on my list, who wasn't home. He then called Debbie, who normally would have been out but was home with a massive headache.

Shortened story: Debbie came in, got the job, and with an income felt able to leave her abusive husband. They got divorced, she got her life in order, and life has, so far, been great for her and her children.

All because she was home one day to answer the phone when someone else wasn't.

Now, if you're religious, you might see the hand of God in this story. If not, you might just think it's a nice story.

I think it illustrates the utter capriciousness and randomness of life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Game On

Though my children will never believe it, I was once pretty good at video games. In a bar a friend and I frequented, I could make a quarter in Galaga last through two beers sometimes. I could make it deeply into the upper levels of many arcade games. I almost always got extra plays on pinball machines.

Now, thanks to a four-person Nintendo Gamecube, I know the joys of fourth place. And only fourth place. Somehow, my Mario drives of the road every hundred yards. My fighter turns the wrong way and kicks the air behind him. I leap into the pixellated arms of enemies. A nine-year-old child can wipe the floor with me. (I know, because I have one.)

I remember with great fondness when I used to play cards with the kids, and deliberately lose. Same with chess and checkers. As they got older and smarter, it became more and more difficult to deliberately lose without looking as if I'd deliberately lost.

I miss those days. Initially, our kids were suspicious about my ineptitude, but now they've realized that I really am as clueless as I seem when it comes to Tony Hawk, Mario and the rest of their electronic playmates.

My only hope is teaching the dog to play Gamecube. He's younger and has much faster reflexes, but I have opposable thumbs.

I think I can take him.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lead Pipe Cinch

WHen I was a kid, probably around the age of six or seven, I almost literally stumbled upon what I thought was my ticket to fame and fortune.

Walking down our driveway, I spied what I thought was an odd looking, dull gray rock. A contractor was building a house on the lot next to ours, so all sorts of debris drifted over into our yard and driveway every now and again. But this was different from anything I'd ever seen.

It looked softer than normal rock, and was slightly warm to the touch. Amazingly, when I picked it up, it seemed "soft" for a rock. And I watched in wonder as I pushed on it and it bent. It bent!

Instantly, I knew this was money. "Come see the Amazing Bending Rock, 25¢" was the banner I pictured above our front door. The line of people would be down the block. I'd be famous! I'd be the school hero!

I dashed into the house to show my mother. "Mom, Mom, look what I found!" I shouted as I ran in the door. She looked at the Amazing Bending Rock in my hand.

"Where'd you find that piece of lead?" she asked me. "It must have come from the house next door.

Poof! Riches, fame, gone in an instant. I was crushed.

And I'm still neither rich nor famous.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Drink To Forget

I listed my sister's orthodox wedding below as one of life's marathon events, but I have to give equal time to an equally long day of nuptial bliss, which was the wedding of a co-worker.

She was an advertising rep at a newspaper where I was the editor. I think her name was Debbie (this was years ago). I don't know if Debbie had few friends, or had few friends who were willing to attend her wedding. (They may have known what attendees were in for.) Anyway, she invited the features editor, who happened to be my best friend, elliott, and me. The church was five minutes from my house, so it seemed about as convenient as a wedding could be.

Debbie was a born again Christian, and after surveying the crowd at her wedding I was pretty sure that Elliott and I were the only Jews in the place. I'd never been to a born again Christian wedding before, and didn't even know if there was such a thing.

Boy, was there ever. The service, on a hot day in a non air conditioned church, was two hours long. The sermon was a good 5 minutes, though the minister (I guess that was his title) said only these few words at the beginning of his sermon: "Words cannot express what's in my heart about the marriage of Debbie and (whomever), so I'm going to offer a musical interpretation of the way I feel about these two fine Christians. He then sat down at the piano and began to play.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was awful: wandering rhythm, wrong notes, inability to stay in one key for any length of time (or even play in the same key with both hands). It was excruciating. Every time he started to fade and I felt hopeful that he was near the end, he'd rev it up again.

When he finished I, along with everyone else, applauded mightily. Some may have been applauding his playing; I was applauding its end.

Sitting in the back I could have easily nodded of in the heat. Unfortunately, Elliott, an amateur hockey player at the time, was in pain from a recent hockey injury. Because the pain made it impossible for him to grab a catnap, he decided I should share his misery and nudged me every time I started to nod.

Finally the service ended and we proceeded — maybe stumbled would be more accurate — into the church's social hall, which was the setting for the reception.

Fate delivered the coup de grace: the beverage choices had one glaring commission — no alcohol. Surrounded by born again Christians, I waited in vain for Jesus to turn my water into wine.

Apparently, that was a one shot deal.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Love Your Sofa

Just as the Nigerian gold bar scam (and many other "just send me your info and share in my late husband's $300 million") attempts to separate the gullible from their bank accounts have spread across the country, so, apparently, is a scam I wrote about a couple of weeks ago: the devilishly clever furniture scam.

I don't know precisely how it works, since I didn't bite on the scam, but the way it works is this: someone contacts you about furniture you're offering for sale (generally on Craigslist), tells you he's on his honeymoon but wants your furniture, tells you he'll pay $50 more than you're asking and asks you to send him your address/contact info so he can have his secretary send you a check and his mover come to pick up the furniture.

Other folks who've had this happen to them say the scam is this: you're sent a "certified check" for too much money — generally, his secretary adds an extra zero — and you're asked to send back the overpayment via Western Union. By the time the certified check bounces and gets back to you, your money is long gone.

(Oh, and he assures you that he's fired his incompetent secretary. Who wouldn't, after she/he sent $2,500 for a $250 sofa?)

So the next time someone emails you that he's on his honeymoon and all he can think about is your sofa, futon or dining set (or bunk beds, in my case), tell him that the only thing he should be screwing is his new bride. Not you.

Fizzle Ed

I'm not saying that many Phys Ed teachers operate well below genius level — one of my many brothers in law was an elementary school gym teacher for several years — but I've had a few non Einsteins over the year.

One, in high school, was Coach Schlenker. He insisted on being called "coach," we insisted on calling him "Coach Canker" (though not to his face). Yes, we were a mature bunch.

"Line up in a semi-circle," he'd say. Then: "How come no one is behind me?"

"How can you add more zinc to your diet?" he asked once during health. I raised my hand: "Go out in the parking lot and lick someone's bumper." (I wasn't the class clown, but I had my moments. That one earned me a trip to the principal's office. What can I say? I was bored and blurted it out. I don't even know if there was any zinc in a car bumper.)

I had gym teachers who didn't know how many laps around the track equalled a mile, whether the markings on the track indicated metric or English measurements, how many people were on a soccer or volleyball team, and all sorts of other things that a gym teacher should probably know.

My favorite, though, came during my sophomore year in high school. The school hired two gym teachers on a temporary basis for the year, intending to keep one after seeing how the year went. Just before the end of the school year, the one who was younger (and, I thought, much cooler), was in a car accident and apparently left the scene on foot. When police searched his car they found a big bag of pot and some drug paraphernalia.

Sadly, the Board of Education decided to offer a contract to the other gym teacher. Not the decision I would have made.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Walter Falters

I'm a big time Walter Mosely fan, with a caveat: the man's mystery stories, which are really character studies with a mystery as a backdrop, are superb, extending the genre and bringing something new to it. Unlike, say, Robert Parker, who has been on cruise control for half a dozen books, Mosely's mysteries work hard.

His non-mysteries? Ehh. I just read The Tempest Tales after spotting it in the new books section of the library, and despite the five very positive reviews on Amazon I have to say that I thought it was weak: a very talky book that tried to make the point that situational ethics might justify the conventional notion of sin if your skin is brown.

The story involves an African American man, Tempest by name, who is accidentally shot by the police. When he gets to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates and is told he has to go to Hell, he refuses. Apparently you can only be sent to Heaven or Hell if you agree that your life on earth warrants it, and Tempest is the first person to ever argue that his sins don't deserve an eternity in Hell. This throws Heaven into a tizzy.

Tempest and an angel are sent to earth in human form, and the angel spends years attempting to convince Tempest that he must go to Hell. Tempest continually disagrees, eventually meeting the devil (and besting him, as well as Heaven).

I won't give away the ending, but you'll see it coming a mile away. It involves an apple. (I bet you have a pretty good idea about the ending already.)

I wish Mosely, a gifted writer, would stick with Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones and his other great, great mystery story characters. Of course, he has more than earned the right to write what he wants. I think he could have passed on writing this one.

Bumpy Career Paths

I don't know if they still do this in high school, but when I was a sophomore we all had to take something called the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey. By answering a series of questions about things you did and didn't like to do, the survey (after the company had analyzed your answers) was supposed to tell you the occupational choices that would make you happy and miserable. (One or the other, not both.)

The problem was that none of the questions were direct. They wouldn't ask if you liked waking up early and shoveling manure — aha, a potential farmer! — but whether you liked animals and being outdoors. Actually, the test was too clever by half, so the real question would be: What would you rather do, ride a horse or go to a movie? If you chose the equestrian option, being a farmer or a jockey was clearly in your future.

I dutifully answered the questions, and a few weeks later, with great fanfare, the teacher handed out our computer generated career recommendations. I eagerly tore open the envelope.

Top four recommendations: psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, minister/priest.

I thought minister or priest was an odd career recommendation for a nice Jewish boy, but no matter. Clearly there was a thread running through the recommendations.

Unfortunately, the test had omitted what would have been the key question for me: Which would you rather do, keep going to school until you have a Master's Degree (or better), or be done with school as soon as possible?

Since I skipped my senior year of high school and finished college in  3 1/2 years, I think we know what my answer would have been. Unfortunately, psychiatry, psychology and social work all require an advanced degree, and even, in the case of psychiatry, medical school.


Bottom three occupations? Police officer, editor, reporter. Apparently the solitary, antisocial life of a writer is making me miserable.

Who knew?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jew Eat Yet

If you're ever invited to an orthodox Jewish wedding — I realize that most people will never have this pleasure — my advice is to politely decline. Barring that, pack a sandwich, and maybe a change of clothes. You're going to be there for awhile.

My sister went from a casual interest in religion to a full speed ahead mega mode in college, and met, dated and became engaged to a man who was pretty religious. When they decided to get married they chose an orthodox synagogue. Un-airconditioned. In July. In his hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Sitting in the stifling heat of the synagogue, while the rabbi prayed for a happy marriage and I prayed for a breeze, I had an epiphany: this is what it must have been like for the Jews who wandered the desert with Moses for 400 years. On the other hand, they didn't have to wear a suit and tie and sit on unpadded metal folding chairs for two hours. All things considered, the desert thing looked easier.

The groom's family had imported a whole bunch of orthodox Jews from Brooklyn, who looked quite snappy in their all-black attire, beards, payot (look it up) and wide brim hats. They, unlike the rest of us, never wilted during the two-hour service, probably because:
they were used to it 
they understood the 95% of the service that was in Hebrew.

After the service we enjoyed an orthodox reception, which included both a lack of alcohol and a lack of mixed (men with women) dancing. The orthodox women danced with each other, the orthodox men danced with each other, and I briefly considered dancing with my friend, Larry, before rejecting the idea.

Perhaps if alcohol had been served.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Crime Time

If I'm ever chosen for jury duty and asked if I've ever been the victim of a crime when interviewed by one of the attorneys, I'll have to say yes. Twice. Though both crimes were slightly odd affairs. And both involved cars.

When I was in college I had a 1966 Ford Fairlane 500, which cost me all of $600 and ran for two years before it threw a rod. (Right through the engine block, but that's another story.) One semester I was taking a night class, and when I walked out to the school's parking lot (I commuted to school, since it was only five minutes from our house) I noticed one thing immediately, even though it was night time and pretty dark: both of my car doors were wide open.

"I didn't leave it that way," I said to myself. (If you're thinking I had a 4.0 GPA, think again.) As I got closer, I noticed the hood was slightly open, too.

Someone had ripped both speakers out of the doors, cheap ass things that had come with the car and weren't hooked to anything. That same someone, presumably, had also stolen the wingnut — the wingnut! — that held down my air cleaner.

I wanted the guy to get caught just so I could ask him why.

Years later, someone broke into my Mazda Miata — maybe "broke into" isn't accurate, since the top was down — when it was in my driveway, and stole the ashtray. At first I thought he'd stolen it for the change I kept in it for tolls and parking meters (probably all of $3), but when I went to the dealer for a replacement I learned the real reason: a new ashtray was $80.

Seeing the look on my face, the guy behind the parts counter asked, "Do you smoke?" When I told him I didn't, he suggested I live without an ashtray.

I should have asked him about the prices of wingnuts.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ex Marks The Spot

There's nothing like an email exchange with your ex-wife (or ex-husband) to add a little sparkle to your week, especially when you haven't had any contact for  25 years or so.

This actually happened a year or two ago, but I was reminded of it yesterday in a client meeting, for some strange reason.

My first marriage was relatively brief — less than two years — and we parted on neither good nor bad terms, in my opinion. We weren't compatible, probably shouldn't have gotten married in the first place, recognized it and separated. No children, few possessions, a painful parting but relatively quick healing. (At least for me.)

So a couple of years ago, out of nowhere, I got an email from a woman with the same name as my ex-wife, saying she had googled and found a few folks with my name (it's not common; there are probably only a handful of folks with my name in the country). She asked if I was her ex-husband, and apologized for bothering me if I wasn't.

I wrote back, telling her that yes, she'd found me, and she almost immediately sent back a long email telling me all about her life, where she was (Silicon Valley), and what she was doing. I responded with an email listing my situation.

She then sent anther email with photos of her family. In that email, she went out of her way to mention that her second husband was quite tall. I'm 5' 6", and hadn't realized that height was in an issue in our relationship, but apparently it was.

Since I didn't really care about her life — or, for that matter, the height of her second husband — I thought I might as well get something out of the email exchanges. So I emailed her back, asking what she thought of our marriage and what she'd learned, now that she'd had the benefit of 25+ years of hindsight and reflection.

I never heard from her again. Apparently, she'd communicated everything she wanted to communicate, and she was done.