Sunday, August 29, 2010


You never hear of twins going on shooting sprees. Twins seem so well-adjusted, and how could they be otherwise; they always have a real-life image of themselves to pose as a sounding board. Starting from birth, they have the luxury of talking everything out with their double before making life-changing decisions. Just imagine their conversation while readying the firearms:

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea."
"Why not, we agreed on this last night. Certain people must pay."
"Yeah, but maybe we've been listening to too much Kenny Chesney lately."
"It's colored our world, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, and when it's over they're going to put us in separate cells."
"Right, we won't be able to talk to each other ever again."
"Yeah, and then we'd be like everybody else, alone and bewildered."
"But what'll we do with all the ammunition we've stockpiled."
"Donate it to Jerry Lewis. He'll know what to do."
"Great Idea; I've been thinking, maybe we should change our hairstyle."
"Yeah, you're so smart."
"No, you're the smart one."
Twindom. No telling how many lives it's saved.

And dictators. Twin dictators are simply an unthinkable concept. Any potential ones likely had similar conversations, discouraging them from their impending practice:

"We could take over this country, yell at everyone, make them afraid, and get all kinds of free stuff."
"Yeah, but no one would come to any of our slumber parties."
"I never thought of that. You're so smart."
"No, you're the smart one."
There's always that affirmation.

The real benefit to having a twin would be to pretend that the two of you are one person, and alternate your days going to work or school, giving you a great deal of free time. Every other day would be a day off. And in the evening, you could exchange notes on what transpired during the day so you'd both be up to speed on the previous day's events (when really, one of you was at home working on various crafts projects).

Honestly, I'd feel sorry for my twin, what with me constantly saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and being grossly misunderstood. It would be a laborious task, going around the next day apologizing, explaining, and tidying up my disturbing wake.

Maybe everybody should have a twin. It would be humbling, a constant reminder that there's an exact copy of you who could take over upon your demise. And you'd probably take better care of your health, secretly figuring from the very beginning that you'd want to be the last one standing.

I dated a twin once, and she and her twin played a trick on me and had me take the wrong one out on a date. Right off, something didn't seem quite right, and I didn't entirely figure it out until we got to the beach and changed into our swim suits. They were fraternal; the stand-in twin was a boy, so the swim trunks was a giveaway, but being polite, I let the joke play out until the kiss goodbye. Nobody likes a spoil sport, especially trickster twins.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sail on Sailor

Ed Pasternack lives five houses from me and has a pretty nice boat, named after his first wife, Meredith (Its been rumored that the boat had something to do with the break-up of his other two marriages). Meredith is a sailboat with a teak deck that he refinished himself. It sits on a trailer in his backyard, and while some of his neighbors complain, I think his boat is a thing to behold. More than one neighbor has said that Ed and I are two peas in a pod, so I often make an effort to talk with him, just to see if the theory has any credence.

The other day, while we were discussing the properties of a good dip to compliment Lays Classic potato chips, the only chip Ed and I feel worthy of dipping, he asked me if I wanted to go night sailing. He said that's the best time; it's peaceful and relaxing to gaze up at the stars without anybody snooping. I was a little apprehensive and asked if it was dangerous, sailing in the dark, but he reassured me that a more seaworthy craft than Meredith has never been built, and he's had over forty years experience at the rudder. So I agreed, and he said to be at his house by sundown.

I arrived at Ed's door, with some beverages in tow, just as it was getting dark. I also packed my wallet in a waterproof plastic bag. Despite Ed's experience, I'd heard that Lake Michigan can be unpredictable, and I didn't want anyone confusing the bodies, should there be a mishap and days later we happen to wash up on shore together.

Ed greeted me with an enthusiastic hello and a pat on the back and motioned me towards his backyard. He retreated back into the house for a minute and emerged with a flashlight and a yachting cap. "Can't sail without my lucky skipper's hat. This cap has never failed to bring me home safe."

There was a stepladder against the sailboat's hull, and Ed quickly galloped up the steps and climbed aboard the boat. Then he called out, "Come on buddy, get aboard; let's shove off!" Once on board, I handed Ed the beverages, and he said, "Put 'em in the galley below (he knew all the nautical terms). There's ice and chips down there. And give me a hand with the mast." Once the mast was raised, he unfurled the sail. "No need for the jib just yet. Wind might kick up and tip us." He handed me a rope, "Here, tie this off to the starboard cleat (again with the nautical lingo). It'll keep the boom from knocking our heads off."

Ed's cautious prediction was right, a wind did kick up, and he faced it with arms outspread, eyes closed and said, "Feel that warm summer wind. Nothing better than to be out sailing on a night like this." He got busy, threading various ropes through spinning pulleys and tying them one place and another.

The silhouettes of Ed's bushes and his garage loomed just a few feet from us, but I'm pretty sure, once we "got under way," they were invisible to Ed. It was apparent, in Ed's mind, that water was an unnecessary ingredient to boating.

"Better turn on the running lights. Coast Guard regs," he said while flipping a switch, energizing some red and green lights at the bow and stern and one at the top of the mast. Even though the sail was peppered with a thousand holes, allowing the wind to pass straight through, Ed kept a sharp eye on it. He took his place at the rudder and said, "Usually sail solo, but it's good to have a mate." At that, I handed him a beer. It was the least a mate could do.

I brought out the chips and dip, and for awhile, except for the crunching of chips, we "sailed" in silence. Ed couldn't have been a more gracious captain. He even offered me a turn at the rudder and cautioned me to keep it on a straight course (which meant pointed towards Ed's house).

Soon it began to rain and Ed opened a hatch labeled "foul weather gear." "These'll keep the weather out," he said while handing me a yellow, hooded slicker. The rain pounded on the deck, making it difficult to hear one another. "Looks like a real squall!" He shouted.

The chips quickly became a soggy mess, so I yelled, "Why don't we continue this in my basement where it's dry!"
"There's no boat in your basement!" he replied.
He had a point, so we sat in the rain for about a half hour before I said, "Ed, I think I'm going home." I began to stand up, and he motioned me back to my seat.
"Wait till I pull up to this dock!" And he swung the rudder hard to the left, waited about thirty seconds, and yelled, "OK, make a jump for the pier!"
While climbing down the ladder, I asked, "Aren't you coming?"
"No, I've got to bring the boat back to the harbour!"
So I waved good-bye, and while closing the gate, I could see Ed hunched over the rudder, squinting straight ahead through the driving rain, determined to bring Meredith home.

While it may be that Ed and I are two peas in a pod, I'd like to think I would have had enough common sense to store the chips in a water-tight container, especially with the unpredictable sailing conditions on our block.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No Pajamas

They call Ho Sook the pit bull. She works the check-out counter at the local library and eyes every customer with a squint of suspicion. She's been waiting to get the goods on me for quite some time, scrutinizing my record every time I check out, searching for some past overdue fine or something equally incriminating. Her dreams were fulfilled the other day when I wore a new pair of shorts to the library. The shorts are black and decorated with red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, and already they've garnered their share of compliments from a variety of merchants. Marita Vega, the captivating, yet down-to-earth waitress at Wholly Frijoles, gave me a big smile and called them "salsa shorts" when I stopped in for some enchiladas.

But not Ho Sook. Right away, she shouts at me, "No pajamas in library!" (I think her English breaks down during her interrogation process).
--Me (pointing at my shorts): These are shorts, not pajamas.
--Ho Sook: Look like pajamas to me. No pockets.
--Me: There's two side pockets.
--Ho Sook: No back pockets. Pajamas.
--Me: What about the two side pockets.
--Ho Sook: Those are cookie pockets. You bring cookies to bed.
--Me: These are brand new shorts.
--Ho Sook: Where you buy, at pajama store?
--Me: Target.
--Ho Sook: In pajama department.
--Me: I'd like to check out some books.
--Ho Sook: Not in pajamas; too dangerous.
--Me: Dangerous?
--Ho Sook: Nothing holding up pajamas. Could fall down any
minute; upset everybody. Little children cry.
--Me: The world is safe. I'm wearing underpants.
--Ho Sook: I don't want to see underpants; enough to see
--Me: I don't want to show you my underpants.
--Ho Sook: Better not. I call police. They come get you with siren.
--Me: How 'bout I hold my much-feared "pajama-shorts" with one hand to insure they don't somehow slip to the floor?
--Ho Sook: Good idea. Make sure don't let go. Get good grip.
--Me: Where is the sign that says "no pajamas?"
--Ho Sook: No sign. Sign is in my head.
--Me: You need a "no pajama" sign.
--Ho Sook: Maybe I make one just for you.
--Me: I'd like to check out some books.
--Ho Sook: OK, pajama man, I let you go this time, but I write
lotta bad stuff about you on computer; let everyone know about you, pajama man.

Just when I thought my permanent record was clean.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Water Fight

I got into a water-fight with my neighbor, Big-Buckle-Mike, and I think he still might be harboring a grudge. Mike has a Fu Manchu mustache (a mere forty years behind the trend) and wears belt buckles large enough on which to fry a trout, hence the nickname, Big-Buckle-Mike.

The water-fight began by accident. It was a sweltering hot day and I was watering my bushes, and Mike was walking to his SUV (a Big SUV, of course, a special edition called the Outta-My-Way). A chipmunk ran across my foot, causing me to lose control of the hose and accidentally squirt Mike. I immediately apologized, but he said nothing, just walked back to his house and returned with a garden hose with a Big Nozzle attached and began squirting me. I, of course, had a small sensible nozzle, but was not to be bullied by Mike's late night TV super-sized contraption. So the fight was on, and at the end we were both soaked right through to our skivvies. Mike's buckle was wet and both sides of his Fu Manchu were dripping, so he threw down the hose and stormed back into his house.

Reflecting on this, I think there was a philosophical difference in our waters. My water was the playful, summer-fun, gotcha-water, the running through the sprinkler kind. I'm pretty sure Mike's water was the kind that was sprayed on protesters in the 1960's to keep them at bay. It was an angry water, filled with contempt and get outta-here crab apples.

I'd like to smooth things over but am not sure how to proceed. He once called me a tree-huggin' peacenik, and my thanking him for his keen powers of observation didn't exactly ameliorate the situation; in fact it escalated into a sour-faced-sneer from Mike whenever we happened to meet. Over time, the sneers gradually gave way to his casual, post-office-wanted-poster look.

It actually seemed like our relationship was improving when, not long ago, he opened up to me while explaining his methods for beating the slot machines in Las Vegas. I forget the exact procedure, but it was scientifically akin to keeping your fingers crossed when telling a lie. We probably won't ever be close friends, which was never more evident than when he refused to attend our Liza Minnelli yard party, but I'd like to at least keep things on a mannerly basis.

My plan is to begin the peace process by blaming the chipmunks for everything. I'll say something like, "Let's not let a chipmunk drive a wedge between us." Then I will make a point to compliment Mike and his family on their new tattoos. It must have been family night at the tattoo parlor, as Mike's wife, Margie, and both adult children are sporting new, very elaborate tattoos. I'm going to praise them for their wisdom, impeccable taste, and thoughtfulness for making their bodies easy to identify in case of a terrible accident. They claim the tattoos are tribal characters identifying them as warriors, but I'm pretty sure no one in the family speaks any kind of tribal anything, so for all they know their new ink could identify them as Parcheesi cheaters.

If this doesn't work, I'm going to bake cupcakes with a cigarette stuck in the top of each one, like a candle, and present them on a crepe paper-decorated platter. The entire family enjoys the stylish pastime of smoking, so this is more than a gratuitous treat. It's dessert and a cigarette rolled into one thoughtful gift.

Peace and harmony is not always easy to achieve, but I'm making a genuine effort.

And I've already made amends with the chipmunks for taking the blame for this fiasco by giving them a big handful of nuts. If Big-Buckle-Mike was a chipmunk, it would make things much less complicated, and then I could really like him and forget about this pretend-to-like-him charade.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

If I Don't Wake Up

This may be my very last communication, ever. Today, while riding my bicycle, I had a head-on collision with a wasp, hornet, or other such vicious stinging insect. It stung me on the head, just above my right ear where there's a wisp of distinguished-looking grey hairs that, according to the often-opinionated Marilyn Peecher, might fool the casual onlooker into a false perception of respectability. This human bug-zapping incident happened about eight hours ago and it's after-effects are beginning to reveal themselves. The side of my head feels partly frozen and partly toxic. If I didn't know any better, I'd say I was bitten by a flying Egyptian cobra, but I don't think there are any of those around here.

I asked my ever-fashionable wife if she would wear that Florence Nightingale costume (from Florence Nightingale meets The Cisco Kid, one of our historical plays), but she just handed me an ice cube and told me to be careful from now on. She's a much better pretend nurse than a real-life one. I don't know how a person can be careful of an insect collision. They are very small and are upon you before you even know it. Did I mention that the terrible bug was going the wrong way in my lane? It was.

If this sounds goofy, it's because the deadly venom has already taken over my body, rendering my feet-on-the-ground common sense, developed by watching years of Andy Griffith reruns, ineffective. They say the first thing to go is a semblance of coherence. A little while ago, after my one and only ice cube melted, I began thinking of Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden and couldn't remember who was the witch and who was the genie, a possible sign that my delicate cranial pathways have wandered from their usual channels. Also, I mixed a bloody-mary, thinking it would take the edge off the sting, and to my surprise, discovered I've lost the ability to stir counterclockwise. Clockwise is still OK, but who knows how long that will last, so I immediately made a standby drink, just in case.

I may not wake up in the morning, or worse, sink into a coma that lasts for years. If that happens, here's some of the things I'm worried about:
- My mail. Someone should take it in and not be fooled by all the unscrupulous free offers that really are not free and not sign me up for something wacky. And they'll have to cancel my magazine subscriptions; I don't want them stacking up around my bed.
- Perhaps the most important thing: the media should not be allowed to film me while I'm looking all shriveled up and unkempt. There are two hundred 8 x 10 copies of my high school graduation photograph in the top drawer of my dresser for just such an emergency. These should be distributed to the press with a statement indicating I haven't aged a day since the picture was taken.

It could be a few years before anyone hears from me.

One more thing: the reporters should be told that I woke for a brief moment and uttered the words, "Geraldo is a jackass," before drifting off into a deep sleep.