Short Stories by a Longwinded Guy No. 100

Toast

Raise your hand if you remember your first hangover. I’m 15 and laying in bed Saturday morning when Mom comes up to check on me because it’s the first time I ever missed breakfast in 15 years. "What's wrong?"

"I’m sick."

She walks out, and comes back a minute later, this time with her arms folded - usually a bad sign.

“What’s really wrong?”

Nauseated to near death,  I confess. “Mommy, I’m hung over.” I sound like a toddler admitting to an adult crime.

Mom was a natural-born Jewish grandmother, a real Goodie-Two-Shoes. I never got caught making mischief because mischief was beyond her frame of reference.

“What did you drink?”

“Canadian Club and Coca-Cola,” I groan.

I’m waiting for her to hit the roof. “Aha! Coca-Cola! Never mix your drinks. Drink Scotch straight, Dewars or better.”

Who is this woman?

“If you like, add an ice cube or two.” My jaw drops. She leaves and comes back with tea and toast.

Years later we’re together at a party. I’m telling this story. Mom hears me get to the “Dewars or better” part and she explodes. “I never said that.”

“Ma, it was a major event in my life. I remember exactly what you said.”

And in a very posh, arrogant voice she replies, “I said Chivas or better.” 

The truth is back in ’65 Mom didn’t know from Chivas. The family liquor cabinet was quite modest, and it didn’t know from Chivas. But back in the ‘80s Cousin Michael was the boy toy of a multi-millionaire heiress. That woman knew Chivas. It wasn't until that woman hung out with the family in the '80s that Mom elevated her tastes to the finer levels of malt beverage.

A few things come to mind. That in America, even Mom, the daughter of an immigrant sweatshop tailor from a family of seven raised in a two-room flat, can grow up to enjoy expensive Scotch with a wealthy heiress.  Also, that in America, a modest, black-leather-jacketed thug like Michael can grow up to screw around with that same wealthy heiress. And finally, even though it’s nice at any age to win an argument with your mother, parents will always be a font of wisdom. To this day, my drink of preference is a Scotch with two ice cubes - Dewars or better. A lot better if I can swing it.

And as Mom would toast: "L'Chaim - To Life." Be careful out there, Friends.

Short Stories by a Longwinded Guy No. 99

DOG YEARS

Our first dog was a purebred Cocker Spaniel whose first owner, an old Jewish immigrant, couldn’t navigate the registration form. She filled in her own name where the dog’s should go. Officially, our dog’s name was Sylvia Lillian. Unofficially, it was Gabrielle. Gabby joined the family when I was eight. She was a perfect young lady - obedient,  chipper, and with gorgeous red hair. I was 20 when she died, a tired, gray and beloved family elder. Dad took it hard. For two years, walking through the woods made him sad.

So we adopted a mutt named Charlie. Dad hated her. Charlie was only five months old, and we were her third owner, fourth including her birth home. This was a major clue we overlooked. The dog was crazy. It perpetually ran away, regularly ate valuables, occasionally nipped a finger, and once bit a neighbor on the butt. But just like Mom never put my little brother (“The Tiger”) up for adoption, the new dog was ours for keeps. 

Dad was an avid, sloppy, and Depression-Era-frugal home repair guy - the kind that straightened used nails and reused them. He was so cheap that even though he wanted an enclosed backyard for Gabby - then Charlie - he waited 15 years for all three neighbors to put up their own fences to surround our backyard. A month after the third neighbor added their fence, Dad put up two short spans of picket fence abutting our house and enclosing the perimeter.

Mom was proud. It was Dad's first-ever attractive home improvement project. Charlie escaped. Dad added boards below the gate. Charlie escaped. Dad added chickenwire above, then a metal grid above and below. Somehow Charlie got out. More boards. By summer’s end, Dad’s pretty little picket fence looked like an Appalachian junkyard. It never held Charlie.

Eventually, Charlie got old - around the same time as Dad. She stopped running away, stopped pulling on her leash, stopped chewing on things and people, and started sleeping next to the family easy chair. Dad mellowed and grew to love Good Ole Charlie as much as he hated the young one. They ended up spending a number of happy years together. Dad even started walking in the woods with Charlie, like he did with Gabby.  Out of the 210 dog years that blessed our family, most of them were wonderful, all of them were worth it.

Live long, People. Eventually things turn out fine.

Short Story by a Longwinded Guy No. 98

CRIME PAYS

I was a court reporter - stenographer - and covered every type of proceeding imaginable for over 35 years. Every day was fascinating, like watching reality TV, except, you know, real. Here’s a few lessons I learned hanging out with heroes, villains, victims, and lawyers.

  • When a prison door clangs shut, it sounds exactly like in a Jimmy Cagney movie - loud, echoey, heavy metal, and filled with doom. Even when you’re getting out in two hours and the witness is sleeping over.
  • Criminals are people, too. They look normal. If they actually did lurk down the street accompanied by a creepy sound track, we'd all make detective. Here’s one tip: In court, he's the guy in the handcuffs.
  • I once heard a mobster make a threat on the witness stand, and later heard Big Pussy make the same threat on "The Sopranos" word-for-word. Whether the writers researched the mob or the mob researched "The Sopranos," you can learn the lingo from your living room. No need to hang out with those people. And, yes, they all “tawk like dis.”
  • FBI agents really wear plain blue suits and black wingtips, but only to court. Undercover, the way they dress is criminal - just criminal.
  • Amateurs make terrible arsonists. Once they’re in criminal court, bankruptcy court doesn’t look that bad after all.
  • The only thing between a lunatic murderer testifying and the court reporter sitting three feet away is a computerized steno machine - or what I liked to call my personal $3,000 disposable protection bat.
  • Some people believe it's your fault for leaving your money where it can be stolen.
  • Not everyone who lies is a liar. Some just need to believe their own stories.

 It was fascinating to witness the search for truth and an honor to play my part in the system. And if you see someone in a mask, don’t assume the worst. The good guys wear them now, too.

Old Folkies Telling Jokies No. 2

Some Jokes Before Wednesday's e-Gathering

First Joke:

A car hit an elderly man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable?”

The man says, “I make a good living.”

Another Joke: 

A poodle and a collie are walking together when the poodle suddenly unloads on his friend. “My life is a mess,” he says. “My owner is mean, my girlfriend ran away with a schnauzer, and I’m as jittery as a cat.”

“Why don’t you go see a psychiatrist?” suggests the collie.

“I can’t,” says the poodle. “I’m not allowed on the couch.”

A Good Joke:

A man, shocked by how his buddy is dressed, asks him, “How long have you been wearing that bra?” The friend replies, “Ever since my wife found it in the glove compartment.”

The Last Joke until Wednesday's Folk Project e-Gathering

A ventriloquist is performing with his dummy on his lap. He’s telling a dumb-blonde joke when a young platinum-haired beauty jumps to her feet. “What gives you the right to stereotype blondes that way?” she demands. “What does hair color have to do with my worth as a human being?”

Flustered, the ventriloquist begins to stammer out an apology.

“You keep out of this!” she yells. “I’m talking to that little jerk on your knee!”

Thank you, Reader's Digest and all the dentists that kept us waiting.

Old Folkies Telling Jokies

Best Jokes from Reader's Digest

Two Hunters

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911.

“I think my friend is dead!” he yells. “What can I do?”

The operator says, “Calm down. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”

There’s a silence, then a shot. Back on the phone, the guy says, “OK, now what?”

 

A turtle and the snails

A turtle is crossing the road when he’s mugged by two snails. When the police show up, they ask him what happened. The shaken turtle replies, “I don’t know. It all happened so fast.”

What religion are bears?

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it. Later they get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”

“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.”

They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.”

Talking dog for sale

A guy spots a sign outside a house that reads “Talking Dog for Sale.” Intrigued, he walks in.

“So what have you done with your life?” he asks the dog.

“I’ve led a very full life,” says the dog. “I lived in the Alps rescuing avalanche victims. Then I served my country in Iraq. And now I spend my days reading to the residents of a retirement home.”

The guy is flabbergasted. He asks the dog’s owner, “Why on earth would you want to get rid of an incredible dog like that?”

The owner says, “Because he’s a liar! He never did any of that!”

Thanks to Reader's Digest for these jokes and years of laughs.

Short Stories from a Longwinded Guy No. 94

Easel Does It

Marriage is tough. Not for me, the extrovert. For my introverted spouse.  Robin says, “It takes a village to raise a Mark.” That’s why we both fell in love with the Folk Project. For me, it’s a good reason to get out of the house. For Robin, it’s a good reason to get me the hell out of the house.

Over the years, I was out alone so often, some Project members thought I was single. Some acquaintances thought we were always fighting. Friends who truly knew us thought thank God she gets a break.  My favorite reaction was from the woman who asked about Robin every week until she finally broke down and blurted out, “I’ve known you five years and have never met Robin. I think you made her up.”

Isolation is toughest on isolationists like Robin, so she developed an interesting COVID strategy - sleep. She wakes up and goes to bed two hours earlier than before. That’s four hours a day I’m not underfoot or in her ears. Then she decided her kitchen was too small for two people. That got her 45 minutes alone before dinner and ultimately got her a new kitchen. (Wife’d again!) Lately, she’s taken up painting. I was surprised she’d hidden this talent for two decades, until she admitted it was paint-by-numbers. Her true passion wasn’t art. It was being left alone. 

Science teaches us that everybody’s nuts. 2021 teaches us, oh, you thought you knew from nuts?  Isolation teaches us the importance of human contact.  And Zoom teaches us to use the mute button online or off. Hug your partner if you have one. Make a phone call if you don’t. The virus is everywhere. Put a little love in your bubble.

Stay Safe & Avoid Flying Pans,

Mark & Robin

Your Essential Guide to Re-Socialization

Your Essential Guide to Re-Socialization

Herd immunity will arrive eventually. In preparation, Team Getaway offers this Essential Guide to Re-Socialization: 

  1. Staying Present: Sadly, real life has no mute or video-off button. Remember to remove yourself from dull conversations with a polite excuse.
  2. Hygiene: Although medieval hygiene is not as repulsive as we thought, do not change your post-hermitage shower habits without consulting a spouse, a friend, or a beagle.
  3. Pants: Wear ‘em.
  4. Flatulence: Your new habits will lose old friendships. Treat the world like an elevator - with extra vigilance.
  5. Etiquette: When neighbors receive their vaccinations before you, the proper response is “Congratulations,” not “Dammit, who did you pay off?” 
  6. Driving: Enjoy it while you can. There is a rush hour in your future.
  7. Watch Your Mouth: Without a mask, people can see you scowl. Practice using your happy face when you don’t really mean it.
  8. Greetings: Upon hugging your first friend in a year, remember to let go. Try not to sob.

This Essential Guide to Re-Socialization will do you absolutely no good. After vaccination, we still have to stay masked, distanced, and outdoors.

Short Stories by a Long-Winded Guy

A Perfect World

In a perfect world, there's no need for Hallmark apology cards, we dote over grandchildren with the same sweetheart we took to our junior prom, and when I hop on a plane for Tel Aviv in 1973 to propose marriage, the postman doesn't deliver my “Dear John” letter the next morning. Welcome to Earth. It's a tough planet.

Falling in love is a humongous hormonal overdose that works as Mother Nature's Gorilla Glue. It's a bonding experience on both a cellular level and a cosmic scale. But falling in love is more than poets, artists and especially a 21-year-old me can understand. I was on the rebound when I met the perfect woman, so my heart was in mourning and in no way ready to re-flutter. When I didn't fall, I assumed I'd never fall. She fell and proposed on the day we met. Call me stupid, but... Never mind. Just call me stupid. I was pigheaded and rejected her for years. When I finally realized she was right and I was wrong, I got so excited, I dropped out of school and hopped on that plane a week earlier than she expected.  Twelve hours after takeoff, my "Dear John" letter arrived back home and Mom, assuming it was a love letter, happily forwarded it to me in Israel. I had already gotten the message face-to-face.

Thirty years later I break off an engagement with an imperfect woman - the right move - and within a week I meet my Robin. It's too soon for the hormonal hoot, but I'm not making the same mistake twice. We marry, and SURPRISE! Three years after we're hitched I get the crush -  the oxytocin tornado - that falling frenzy when your heart feels too big for your chest and every moment without her feels like withdrawal.  That summer, I clung to my wife constantly and followed her around like a puppy.  Robin found it slightly cute and moderately annoying.

There's life after love, and even love after love, but make sure there's life after COVID. Stay masked, outdoors and distanced. You may need the extra time to fix a monumental screwup.

Stay well and Stay away,

Mark & Robin

 

Short Stories by a Short Guy

Bad Girls

Pic by Robertus Pudyanto

Aunt Leah was 87 at the time, long-widowed, still beautiful, and perpetually confident. Most people need to get pushed out of the womb. Leah walked out strutting. She actually lied on “Truth or Consequences” and paid no consequences. Three generations of cousins had a 20-year supply of Campho Phenique because Aunt Leah managed a surgical supply closet. She gave good, solid advice and never seemed to need any. She lifted everybody else's confidence up to her level. The woman was strong.

So it was surprising when she pulls me aside on Passover and whispers, “Mark, you're the only one I can ask. What should I do? My boyfriend wants to touch my breasts." She points. They were very big and very low. ”Should I let him?” 

It was strange to be drawn into a sacred ritual normally held in secret by 15-year-old girls, and stranger to discuss anatomical adventures with a very elderly aunt. The strangest thing was to hear Aunt Leah ask for advice. Until I realized she was really asking for permission. “The Greatest Generation” defined a bad girl as one who "does it." My generation hopped on “The Love Train.” We had no such definition. “Doing it” or “not doing it” had nothing to do with it. I gave her the permission she needed.

Aunt Leah’s boyfriend evidently got what he was looking for. They shacked up a month later. After he died, Leah put a sign on her nightstand for the Angel of Death, “I’m not ready yet.” When Leah died at 103, her kid sister, my Mom Ruth, got the sign and put it on her nightstand. Mom's 100 now. Every night before bed, "Little Ruthie" touches her big sister's sign and whispers "I'm not ready yet." Time is precious. Wear your mask and keep faith. There’s always a chance for a little whoopee in your future.