"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Making A Bee Line

Sammy Baum, from my second-grade class, had a birthday party that was the first boy-girl mixer I'd ever been to outside of mothers with toddlers get-togethers. Sam was a pretty smooth operator for an eight-year-old; a short, stocky Jewish kid with a preternaturally low, raspy voice -- he sounded and acted with a maturity and self-assurance well beyond his tender years (imagine SCTV's Eugene Levy in grade school). So, when it was time for Sammy's birthday blow-out of course there were going to be ladies in attendance.

I recall about a dozen classmates at the party, evenly divided between guys and gals. It was a warm Saturday afternoon in late May and Sammy's mother, quickly tiring of having us run rampant through her house, suggested we go across the street to an undeveloped lot to gallivant and release some of our cake-and-ice-cream-fueled energy while she stretched out on the couch with a damp washcloth covering her eyes. Without parental oversight we quickly divided along gender lines: the boys hung out together to throw stuff and the girls formed a circle for some game involving chants and random frolicking. The property had a stream running through it -- in reality a culvert for storm runoff but in our minds it was a mighty river to explore. In the midst of our playing I suddenly heard a scream; I looked up and Andrea Goldberg was on the other side of the creek, shrieking and running for her life.

Andrea was tall (taller than me, anyway), with blue eyes and pale skin and wore her fine blonde hair in what I imagined were Scandinavian braids. She was very smart, especially good at math. I loved her -- we were going to get married and have four children together and she would invest our savings, a future of which she was not yet aware. As Andrea shrieked and ran past I felt compelled to rescue my damsel in distress. "I'LL SAVE YOU, ANDREA!" I cried out (those were my exact words), leaping into the water to ford my way across and offer my gallant assistance in the face of whatever had frightened her so. While the water was relatively shallow, I was not much more than four feet tall at the time and quickly sunk down nearly to my knees. Struggling through the muck at the bottom of the stream, one of my brand-new PF Flyers came off my right foot, forever surrendered to the murky depths. I emerged on the other side of the culvert with muddy trousers, a soaking wet shirt and one foot clad only with a damp, floppy sock. But I remained focused on my mission and stumbled toward my beloved. "Andrea, are you OK?" She had stopped running by then, and when I spoke to her she turned to look at me with a broadening "Why are you talking to me?" look on her face. Another one of the girls -- I don't recall who because she was not my intended -- explained that Andrea had been running from a bee, but the bee had flown off and Andrea didn't need some stupid boy's help anyway.

Now not only had I shed my shoe but also my dignity. By this time, Sammy's mother heard all the commotion, springing off the couch to come outside and see what the hell was going on across the street. She ordered us all back to the house and promptly made me remove my pants so she could rinse the mud off them. What's left to lose after being stripped of your dignity (and pants) -- your will to live? I was now completely humiliated, not only in front of Andrea but all my classmates at the party. Sammy's mother called my mother to explain the situation and shortly thereafter my mother showed up to take me home (rather than just bring me some dry clothes; Death, take me now...). My memory of events gets a bit hazy at this point; while I don't know for certain I left with tears in my eyes I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.

School ended shortly thereafter and I didn't see Andrea again until the fall, when we all returned to start third grade. She was in a different class that year -- I only saw her on occasion in the hallway, or the lunchroom, or the playground (this is when "recess" used to be an essential part of the curriculum). She never spoke to me, nor I to her. I recall one time when she was huddled with her girlfriends on the playground and they all burst into laughter while stealing glances in my direction, which I imagined was the result of Andrea telling them about the time over the summer when that stupid boy over there was delusional and thought he was being heroic when he was just being a stupid boy.

I thought I'd never get over the shame and rejection, and would face a lonely school year without a prospective life-partner. Then I met Ginger Gerton (you can read here how that and some other subsequent relationships went awry).

Dear Andrea Goldberg: I may have been the one with soggy pants but you were the one who was all wet. Hope you're happy with whatever fop you settled for and I trust he's being a good father to our children. And if by any chance you are now a financial planner -- could you please give me a call?

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Another birthday is here, so let's assess how I've done with my goals since the last one:
  • Get in shape: That shape is "rotund".
  • Read more: The disclaimers that come with my prescriptions go on for pages.
  • Make new friends: First step was to alienate most of my old ones.
  • Travel: Some nights I make as many as three trips to the bathroom.
  • Learn a new language: I now know how to say "mofo" in Armenian.
  • Find something to be thankful for every day: On those mornings when I step into my slippers and don't discover a hairball in them, I am thankful.
  • Love more: Carol is curious where I go on the weekends.
  • Watch less TV: Thank God for streaming services.
  • Get closer to the earth: I've slipped and fallen to the ground several times.
  • Worry less: I'm concerned I haven't made enough progress with this one.
  • Speak truth to power: Stop letting authority figures intimidate me, so I use my cellphone in the library.
  • Embrace failure: Actually, I found this one on Carol's list. No wonder she's been hugging me so much lately.
Years ago I worked at a company where the director was fond of saying, "Every day I can wake up and put both feet on the ground is a good day." His words inspired me to set my expectations at an absolute minimum.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Holiday Newsletter

Besides sharing the latest edition of our holiday newsletter, we'd also like to share our resolutions for the new year:

  • Lose weight by shedding inhibitions
  • Read more by paying attention to the terms and conditions we were blindly accepting on all those websites
  • Save money by cutting back on charitable donations
  • Get more sleep by trying to crack the 10-hours per night barrier
  • See new places by moving the couch rather than vacuuming around it
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle which will allow John to tell the same tired old jokes for yet another year
  • Drink less alcohol by adding more ice to our cocktails

We feel these are achievable and have already started on that last one.

Hoping this finds you all well and prosperous. If you're prosperous but not all that well, please remember us in your will.

Happy New Year,

John and Carol