Friday, December 23, 2005

Oh, and another thing about the strike

I forgot to mention that we were also discussing how slimy the MTA (the employer) is in all this strike business.

The Taylor Law in New York makes it illegal for public employees to strike. It was enacted (I think) after another transit strike many years ago that crippled the city. The MTA has beem making a lot of noise about how what the transit workers did was "illegal." The union leaders were threatened with jail time if they didn't call off the strike.

Meanwhile, the MTA has been pulling their own shady shenanigans for years, cooking their books, lying to the union and public, pretending to be in dire financial straits to justify a 33% fare increase to the public and then "unexpectedly" finding enormous budget surplusses after the fact, effectively lying to and cheating both the workers and the riders. The MTA leaders should have been fired and thrown in jail, end of story.

Meanwhile, they have this Taylor Law on their side and get to threaten the union with jail for taking the only steps they have to protect themselves.

My point is, while this Taylor Law makes sense because we simply can't have the city brought to its knees over things like this, shouldn't the employer have some sort of legal obligation to avert a strike as well? If you remove the ability to strike but don't balance it with an obligation on the other side, you're really putting all the power in the hands of the MTA. And we know from experience that that ain't good. Lying bastards.

Did you like it better when I talked about my cat?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I've revised my position

Hello faithful readers,
George & I made it to Chicago, and barely. It took hours to get to the airport, but thanks to Jim's willingness to pick us up & brave the horrible traffic, we made it in the nick of time.

Jim and I were talking about the strike, and I would have to agree with his point of view to some extent. People are pissed as the transit union for striking, but more because of WHEN they chose to strike (right before the holidays) rather than BECAUSE they chose to strike.

It's true that they are already more highly paid than the majority of workers, and they don't currently contribute anything at all toward their health or pension plans. It seems unfair to the rest of us.

But that's why they have a union. Unions serve a good purpose (at least the ones that aren't controlled by gangsters.) And just because all the other workers and/or unions in the US have caved to The Man doesn't mean the transit union has to. They've decided to draw a line, and they're sticking to it. So, ok.

But they finally realize what a PR nightmare they've created for themselves. This strike would have been more effective if they had made noise in the media about seeing New Yorkers through the holidays before going on strike. People would have appreciated that gesture. And so, that is why (in my opinion) they have called it off for the duration of the continuing negotiations.

While we're still on this topic, what is the deal with calling Bloomberg a racist because he called the union leaders "thugs"? Everyone knows the stereotype of unions being run by the mob. I thought "thug" was just a synonym for "mobster." I have never associated that word with any kind of race. When I think of a "thug" I think of one of those big bald guys with five o'clock shadow that you might see in a Mad Magazine cartoon - the kind of guy who grunts out "dis is a stickup!" Since when does "thug" refer to a black, Latino or Asian person? It's quite possible that I'm behind the times with respect to the definition or connotation of this word. Just curious.

Random thoughts during a mass transit strike right before the holidays

1. Everyone in New York now hates the transit union. They have certain beefs with their employer, so they're punishing the public at large. It is just unbelievable what removing transportation has done to New York. I get heartsick when I think of all the hourly workers who can't get to their jobs (and consequently cannot get paid) because they have no transportation. All sorts of stores, restaurants and other businesses have just shut down for the duration of the strike because they either can't get their workers there or they can't get their supplies delivered. It's really despicable that the union chose to do this right before the holidays. They could have just as easily waited until January 2 to go on strike.

2. I hope the courts strictly enforce the $1,000,000 per day fines that they have imposed upon the union.

3. We are supposed to fly to Chicago tomorrow. I've been getting anxious voice mails from my family asking if we'll be able to get there (since there are no good options for getting to the airport.)

4. The problem mentioned in #3 above has been addressed: our friend Jim is going to drive us. Parts of the freeway to La Guardia will be off limits to us because they're only allowing cars with 4+ passengers to use them. Through a combination of partial side-street and highway driving, we should be able to find our way there, though we will be sure to leave 3.5 hours early.

5. My friend Oddrun let me stay over at her apartment last night so that I could make a 10 am meeting this morning. I still had to leave her apartment before 8:00 am to make the 2-mile walk to the appointment. If I had been gimped I wouldn't have been able to go at all.

6. Today, George + Tom = 8 years! We celebrated this evening with Sarah, Ben, Sue & Jim in New Jersey with a lovely pork roast, red cabbage, potatoes, champagne & cake dinner. It took over 2 hours to make the trip to their home, since the transit strike has caused mayhem all over the tri-state area.

7. Did I mention that everyone in New York hates the transit union? This strike had better be over by the time I get back from Chicago, or they're going to have one serious bitch on their hands. And I'm not even talking about what George's mom will do if she can't make it back to the horse races by then!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The New York MTA workers (subway operators & bus drivers) are on strike now. It is going to take hours upon hours to get to work. And I don't even want to think about what it will be like trying to get home.

I have a ton of sh*t on my desk to take care of by EOD tomorrow, because Thursday I'm supposed leave for Christmas vacation. And tons of stuff to take care of during non-working hours, which I will now have to forfeit because I'll need the time to walk to & from work instead.

The union is striking because these already highly paid employees are now being asked to contribute something to their own health & pension plans, like 99.999% of the other workers in this country, present company included.

Happy f*cking holidays, sh*theads.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Happy Holidays from 30 Second Bunny Theater!

The folks who create our favorite reenactments have a new one on "A Christmas Story!"

Watch it here!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Random Thoughts on a Saturday

1. Our new apartment has dimmer switches in every room. I can't stress the importance of mood lighting in the bathroom. When I first get up in the morning, nothing really works but soothing dim. By the time I'm done with my shower & ready to confront my face, I up it a little bit. When I need to do some heavy duty examination, I turn it all the way up and it's like an interrogation room in there.

2. We have a cool medicine cabinet that has another mirror inside the door - you can open it up and do minor surgery on yourself. (This next part is really gross, so if you're disgusted by bodily things, stop reading.) I had a soreness in the back of my throat last week and it seemed kind of odd, so I turned up the bathroom lights & opened wide to see what was what. I discovered I had one of those annoying little canker sores (fever blisters) on that flappy thing that covers your windpipe when you swallow! Yuck! Couldn't exactly get any cold sore medicine back there. So I had to endure the stupid thing being aggravated every time I swallowed for about a week. It's better now.

2. Ok, that was TMI. Sorry.

3. I'm turning forty and I get to behave however I want on my bloody birthday, Sweetie, house rule.

4. Certain people that I work with are big liars, and I'm not afraid to point this out to them when they try to dick me. I'm becoming more of a New Yorker every year.

5. I'm writing Christmas cards again this year after missing 2004. If you are not normally on my list and want to receive one, you should email me your address.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Traumatic Etiquette Whore Series: Miss Manners sticks it to the Bride

My favorite Miss Manners columns are the ones where someone writes in all upset about some social gaffe they imagine to have been inflicted upon them, only to have Miss Manners side with the purportedly rude party. She slays me.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I announced our engagement four months ago. We have not set a date yet, as we are still trying to figure out the details of our wedding. We told everyone that it would probably happen in the fall of 2006, but we weren't certain.

My fiance's closest sister, who is older than he and is not married, was happy for us when she heard the news, but also a bit jealous. You see, she has been living with the same man for 10 years and she very much wants a family and he has yet to commit.

Much to everyone's surprise, she suddenly announced that she, too, was getting married and the wedding would be this January! I am very upset because I feel that she is being inconsiderate by not waiting for my fiance and me to set our date and now their family has to attend two weddings in one year! What is the proper etiquette, if any, that she should have followed in setting her wedding date?

GENTLE READER: Are you suggesting that since she has waited 10 years for a husband and children already, she might as well wait another year so that you can have the spotlight all to yourself? Or rather, that she should do so out of courtesy to the poor relatives who might face the hardship of attending two weddings in a single year?

Miss Manners finds it imprudent of you to have brought up the question of jealousy. Let us assume that your prospective sister-in-law is getting married because she wants to, as you acknowledge, and because the gentleman is willing, which you oddly fail to acknowledge but is surely a prerequisite. Let us also assume that she sees her marriage as living her life, rather than trying to top yours, and that she wishes you and her brother well, which she has indicated.

Miss Manners is hoping to hear that you can manage to behave as if you had the same attitude.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm damn mad. I'm talking Mommie Dearest mad.

My blood almost boiled over when I read the following NYT op-ed piece on the subway this morning. The IRS (an agency of a completely right-wing Republican-controlled government) has decided to go after a notoriously liberal church for daring to overstep the church-state line that the Republicans have been working so hard to abolish. I'm so upset over this that I don't even know what to say. Therefore, I am delegating the assignment to blog our collective outrage to the lovely & talented Mindy June, editor of the blog-o-punditocracy known as I'm a Liberal and You Should Be, Too. That is, when she has time.

Meanwhile, see the op-ed piece reprinted below. I used to attend All Saints periodically when I lived in California. I have several friends who are faithful attenders, and the priest there is/was outstanding. I believe he was one of the first to get in hot water for blessing same-sex unions.

New York Times
November 22, 2005


Taxing an Unfriendly Church

Shortly before the last election, a former rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., gave a fiery antipoverty and antiwar sermon. He did not endorse a presidential candidate, but he criticized President Bush's policies in Iraq and at home. Now the Internal Revenue Service has challenged the church's tax-exempt status. It's important to know just how the tax police have chosen this church - and other congregations - to pursue after an election that energized churchgoers of most denominations.

I.R.S. officials have said about 20 churches are being investigated for activities across the political spectrum that could jeopardize their tax status. The agency is barred by law from revealing which churches, but officials have said these targets were chosen by a team of civil servants, not political appointees, at the Treasury Department. The I.R.S. argues that freedom of religion does not grant freedom from taxes if churches engage in politics.

That should mean that the 2004 presidential campaign would be an extremely fertile field. While some churches allowed Democrats to speak from the pulpit, the conservative Christians last year mounted an especially intense - and successful - drive to keep President Bush in office. Some issued voter guides that pointedly showed how their own religion was allied with Mr. Bush's views. Several Roman Catholic bishops even suggested that a vote for John Kerry would be a mortal sin. Since the election, Republicans have held two openly political nationally televised revival meetings at churches to support Mr. Bush's judicial nominations.

If the I.R.S. is pursuing any of those churches, we certainly have not heard from them about it. All Saints in Pasadena has released copies of the letter from the I.R.S., along with tapes of the sermon and a defense of the church's antiwar mission going back to the days when church leaders protested internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The I.R.S. letter stated that the agency had "concerns" about a sermon by the Rev. George Regas that The Los Angeles Times called "a searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq."

Church leaders have hired lawyers and refused to agree to a settlement that requires them to admit that the sermon was over the line drawn by the I.R.S. The Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, the rector of All Saints, told parishioners that the church would continue to resist the government's efforts. That sounds right. With the feverish courting of religious voters these days, the I.R.S. does have the daunting task of separating politics from church policy. Still, it would seem to be hard to justify picking on a church that has a long record of opposition to wars waged by leaders from both parties.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cuter than Sh*t Series: Cute doggies

Mindy June once told me she's not into "puppies & kittens" - meaning, essentially, "don't baby talk at me or show me all sort of cute sh*t and expect me to be happy about it." (Although I'll welcome comments from MJH if I have that wrong.) Of course, being who I am, I now find it necessary to forward her as many cute-as-sh*t pictures as possible just to annoy her a little bit. I should really stop that kind of behavior before I end up in Hell. Nonetheless, I'm now inflicting this on the rest of you, my loyal readers.

My friend Greg has always been deathly allergic to mammals, but somehow was able to get along just fine with his boyfriend's dog, Foster. (Which only strengthens my resolve in insisting that these "allergies" to animals are mostly psychosomatic, and that if you love someone enough you'll take Benedryl and buck up.) Anyway, Greg grew to love Foster sooooo much that his boyfriend bought him a new puppy dog to go along with Foster. Even the crustiest among you will have to admit, this picture is Cute as Sh*t:

Foster & Spencer Posted by Picasa

This next one is a picture of my friend Joan's dog, Buddy, who is sitting happily next to his gurlfriend. Apparently he gets all happy & giddy whenever she's around, and in this photo he is actually smiling:

Buddy smiling Posted by Picasa

Now if that's not Cuter than Sh*t, I don't know what is!

Friday, October 07, 2005


Ok, now I HAVE seen everything.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

This is really disgusting

The python that ate too much Posted by Picasa

My friend Jen at work likes to track bizarre news stories, which she often forwards to me. This one is really disturbing. An enormous python in the Florida Everglades swallowed a six-foot alligator whole, and then busted a gut - literally.

Might be something to keep in mind as the holiday season approaches....

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Serious Time Waster

See this link:

I'm usually pretty good about not blogging at work, but I thought you might need to make use of this tool sooner rather than later. Thanks to Vincent for the head's up.

I like to make him do the splits!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Oh puhhhh-lease

Some conservative groups are worried that Harriet Miers won't be right-wing enough to sit on the Supreme Court. Bush has known her for ten years, and has worked with her for the past five. Who in their right mind could ever think he'd pick someone who won't send women back to the alleys & elevator shafts? Even Cheney says "Trust me!" to those who would be concerned. Sends shivers down my spine, and not the good kind.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Fun link

We used to do this kind of stuff to Betty, but never took pictures, unfortunately.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I didn't get scared until

right before I went into the haunted house, when my mom said "remember, it's not real." Something about her saying that freaked me out, and so I walked close behind the big kid in front of me the whole way, holding onto a wrinkle in his shirt so gently that he never knew I was there.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ma vie sans chat

This will be the first time in 15 years I have not lived with a cat. As I got out of bed today and walked to the bathroom, I kept watching my feet to be careful not to step on a cat eager for her breakfast. Although I've noticed that before during periods when Betty was staying over at her Aunt Oddrun's, it was especially poignant this morning. Then this afternoon I sat down to watch TV and had to keep myself from calling her to join me. (We both loved lazy TV days sometimes.)

George and I had a nice quiet little "service" for Betty. We laid her to rest in a quiet spot in our backyard. We buried her with her hand-made kitty bowl (since food was her favorite pasttime), an old t-shirt of mine, a few of her toys, and pictures of me, George and Oddrun (who was her sometimes-mommy). Then we lit a pretty citronella candle holder that looks like a miniature gazebo, some other candles and incense sticks, and sat at her grave for about an hour sipping tawny port wine. It was very healing.

Thanks to everyone for all the very sweet phone calls, emails and notes on the blog entry. We are sad, but compared to the other two deaths we have dealt with the past few months, at least this one wasn't tragically early. It's the difficult part of having pets - having to say goodbye at the end of their lives. But we know what a difference we made to Betty, having saved her off the farm and giving her 14 years of food, warm beds and love. And she returned it all tenfold (at least the love part of it.)

We're going to be pet-free for a while until we get settled into our apartment after it is rebuilt. At some point after that, be prepared for a blog entry to introduce you to our two new pets: a French bulldog for George and a new kitten for me. We're going to raise them together, and also bring them over right away to meet Oddrun's cats, Clarence & Lucy, so that they can all be pals and have sleepovers together.

Friday, July 29, 2005


There's a new angel in heaven.  Posted by Picasa

In the fall of 1991, when I was still living in Minneapolis, I decided to get a playmate for my cat Shirley, who had recently moved in with me and away from her step-brother, Atticus. I was doing that stupid thing where you assign human emotional norms to your pet. I figured, Shirley is lonely and she misses Atticus! She needs another cat around to keep her company while I'm at work! Only later did I discover from Shirley's previous owner that she HATED Atticus, and couldn't wait to get away from him.

So, in keeping with my stupid human plan, one chilly Sunday morning my then-boyfriend Mark & I drove out to Vasa, Minnesota, where my friend Aimee's parents lived on a large country estate with lots of random animals, including a pack of barn cats. The most recent litter of kittens had been born just a few weeks earlier. Autumn is late in the year for kittens to be born on Minnesota farms, where the early cold can make it hard for a non-house litter to survive. So I knew that whichever kitten we chose was going to be one lucky cat to be able to go home to a nice warm apartment.

I really wanted a grey kitty. There were several that I thought were really cute, but they were already a bit long in the tooth to be handled by humans, and kept running away from us as we tried to catch them. At one point Aimee did grab hold of one very pretty grey tabby, who subsequently bit her finger almost clear through to the bone. We let that one go.

Betty with prey.  Posted by Picasa

After a while Mark said "look at this little orange and black one. She keeps following us around." I looked down and saw the tiniest little tortoise colored kitten in the world. She was only about as big as one of my fists, but she was plenty feisty, walking around on all fours, mewing up a storm. When you looked at her she would return your gaze and head straight for you, meowing as if to say "Pick me, pleeeeeease, pretty please, pick me!!!" I wasn't that fond of her coloring, and besides that she had a pin head with a strange orange stripe running down the length of her forehead. I kept on with my search for a grey kitten.

But she would have none of it, and would not leave us alone. Finally Mark said "well Tom, I think this one is choosing us!" And I had to admit, something about her insistence was really endearing. She was clearly very intelligent, which I figured would make up for her strange appearance. I decided to take her home, and the second I picked her up she started purring.

I drove home, and the new kitten slept on Mark's lap the entire way. "What should we name her?" I asked. Mark suggested the name "Stripe" because of the orange stripe on her forehead. Hmmm, not really my style. I've always preferred old lady names for my female cats: Shirley, Lucy, Samantha - that sort of thing. I never wanted to name a pet something that might be confused with a beer commercial mascot.

"How about Sabena?" I replied. Mark was of German descent, and I thought he would appreciate it. "Sabena? That's weird. Let's think about it some more."

Betty was an avid connoisseur of house plants. Posted by Picasa

I took the kitty home that evening, and set up a tiny little bed for her in a corner of the bedroom. (Shirley, who had not reacted well to the kitten's entrance, was banished to the living room for the night.) I didn't want the kitten sleeping in my bed because she was so tiny, I was afraid I'd roll over on her and not hear her meows. So I put the kitty in her bed, got into my own bed, turned out the lights - and then about 10 seconds later heard this little scratching noise. Then I noticed the comforter moving slightly - and up appeared the kitten, who climbed up the comforter into bed with me. After several attempts at putting her in her own bed, I had to let her sleep with me. And we succeeded - she curled up on a pillow next to my head where she was remained safe from possible suffocation.

The next morning I was talking to my friend Laurie, and we were reminiscing about an old joke of ours where we thought it would be really funny if we started calling our friend Beth "Betty". It was really, really stupid, but for some reason it just made us laugh uncontrollably. My friend Sarah had always gotten a kick out of that joke as well. Later I started thinking "Betty. Why not name the cat Betty?" I made a mental note to speak with Mark about it. I also called my friend Sarah and left her a message to tell her about my great idea for the cat's name.

Normally I would have wanted my boyfriend to like the name of my new pet. But as fate would have it, Sarah called me back later that day, before I had a chance to see Mark, and left me a message on my answering machine: "Hi Tom! Hi Betty! So how is Betty enjoying her new home?" It seemed too much like fate that the cat was already getting answering machine messages addressed to her by her name, "Betty."

Betty was a notorious cover and pillow thief.  Posted by Picasa

A few hours later I talked to Mark on the phone and told him why I had decided, finally, that the new kitten would be called "Betty." "Betty?" he said. "How about Sabena? I guess I really like Sabena!" I detected downright panic in his voice. But it was too late. Betty was already becoming known in my circle.

Betty was nothing if not a charmer. She was very bright, and had a distinctive and sometimes rambunctious personality. When we lived in West Hollywood she used to sit outside in the front yard of my house and greet all the passers-by. Sometimes I would sit out front with her and complete strangers would walk right up to us and say "Hi, Betty!" She had more friends in the neighborhood than I did.

Betty loved food almost more than anything else. I used to call her "Concentration Camp Kitty" because if left uncontrolled, she would eat as if she'd been intentionally starved for months. Those early days on the farm without enough food for all the cats must have made a strong impression. I remember the first week that I had her home as a kitten in Minneapolis. I was having my dinner, and Betty was sitting on my lap while I ate. She was obsessed with trying to taste all the food on my plate. I let her sniff a piece of meat before I put it in my mouth. She wanted it so badly and she actually reached up and stuck her entire little paw in my mouth to try to get it.

Betty's religion considered it a sin to let humans eat alone.  Posted by Picasa

Probably my favorite thing about Betty was her love of cuddling. I used to call her the "Teddy Cat" because she would cuddle on demand. If I was in the living room watching something sad on TV, sometimes I would decide I needed Betty to come keep me company. I would call "Betty! Come see me!" and in about five minutes she would appear from whatever she had been doing to join me on the couch. I'd never had a cat so willing to drop everything for a cuddle. She was an absolute sweetheart. She would also sleep right next to me in bed every night, letting me clutch her like a teddy bear.

There are too many Betty stories to share right now, as we mourn her passing earlier today. I had her for fourteen wonderful years, and George enjoyed her company for eight of those years. I will write more Betty blog entries as the thoughts come to me. Meanwhile, we drink a toast to the life of this remarkable and wonderful cat.

Betty 1991-2005 Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 22, 2005

Is John Roberts a Total 'Mo?

Maybe Souter won't be the only closeted justice on the Supreme Court. See this link for details.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

My new summer drink

One of the best things about being a transplanted Midwesterner is that everyone thinks you're some kind of genius just because you know how to mix a drink. It just doesn't seem to dawn on people that if you grow up surrounded by drunkards you have to learn these skills at a tender age.

I'll admit that I'm not always that swift in the kitchen. I can manage just fine, but I'm not always the kind of cook who knows how to add "just enough." I like measurements, approximate if not exact.

But when it comes to drinks, I do it all by feel. I just know when I've got the right mix of vodka to orange juice, for example. I can tell by the smell of the lime how much sugar I'll have to add to make that cocktail delicious instead of too tart or bitter. I know how to eyeball a jigger, even if I'm a bit heavy handed (another Midwestern bonus.) It is a proven fact that my mixed drinks are so delicious and deceptively strong that I can put an entire dinner party under the table before the first course is on the table. (I've learned, the hard way, to give the chef half strength drinks to avoid having your dinner ruined before it's served.)

With that, I will share with you my latest summer cocktail advenure, Planter's Punch.

 Posted by Picasa

Squeeze the juice of one lime (or 1.5 limes if you like it tart) into a collins glass. Add sugar or sugar syrup - up to a tablespoon's worth (more if the limes are especially tart.) Mix well. Add soda, about twice as much as the amount of lime juice. Add a bunch of ice cubes and stir until the glass becomes frosted. Throw in a few dashes of bitters, and fill the glass almost to the top with light rum (a shot or two.) Add more ice, then top with grenadine (I like to see the grenadine drizzle down over the ice cubes.) Garnish with lime wedges & whatever other fruit you have. DELICIOUS!

Advice from my mother

One time when I was a teenager I was complaining to my mom that people don't automatically like me because I don't smile enough. She said "so do you think you should walk around like you have a mouth full of shit?"

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore Series: Miss Manners Part 1

Gentle Readers,

I've spent much of 2005 either terribly stressed out or in mourning, having lost two loved ones in the space of three months, on top of a few other disasters of notable size. One of the things I've noticed about myself is that in these recent times of turmoil, I have become incredibly aware and critical of the bad behavior of others. From the strange behavior of certain individuals at Jacob's memorial service to the acquaintance who wore flip-flops to our friend Jae's wake and funeral, I've been there with my mental notepad, keeping score on who commits the biggest social gaffes in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

I keep track of who calls and who doesn't call; who sends cards & flowers and who sends none; who dresses and behaves appropriately and who ends up lacking. I make note of the stupid and thoughtless things people do and say, although I do offer a sliding scale for people who unwittingly commit gaffes when they are just trying to be nice. But come on. Flip-flops at a funeral?

It's obviously a coping mechanism, a way of avoiding the overwhelming sadness that might otherwise engulf me and take over my life. But for whatever it's worth, for good or for bad, it's who I've turned out to be. And although I don't deny that I've been incredibly rude myself at times during my life - remember that I get scored along with everyone else - the plain & simple fact is that I've turned into a Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore.

Miss Manners would not be kind about this blog entry, and I don't blame her. After all, the purpose of etiquette is not to make others feel uncomfortable or embarrassed; in fact, the purpose of etiquette is quite the opposite. Those of us who weren't raised in barns try to observe simple rules of good manners to show our respect for others and to avoid making others uncomfortable. Publishing crudely worded blog entries seems to fit neither of those purposes.

I sincerely hope that none of my gentle readers feel uncomfortable with what I am expressing today. But if anyone were to feel uncomfortable with my new moniker "Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore," I would simply have to remind him or her that Coaster Punchman's World ain't no tea party. In this purportedly warm & welcoming cyberspace, we live only by the rules conjured up by my sometimes dark & twisted mind. "House rule, sweetie."

And so, to celebrate my newfound status as Post-Traumatic Etiquette Whore, I have decided to share some occasional words of wisdom from the etiquette maven of the millennium herself, Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners. My hero, she is. Only Miss Manners can slay people with such delightful charm & grace.


DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance of mine recently informed me and others, through e-mail, that our children would not be invited to her child's birthday party due to the large number of possible guests. She was very apologetic and hoped that this would not harm our relationship.

I had thought not to invite her child to my own child's party for similar reasons. Should I now inform her so, as she did for me, or am I right in thinking that this approach is presumptuous and rude?

GENTLE READER: The announcement that you - or in this case, your child - did not make the cut when a guest list was scaled back to only the most desirable guests is not Miss Manners' idea of a charming social form. You did not seem to care for it, either. So why would you consider adopting it?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Nazi Pope

Ratz is at it already with the gay-bashing. God forbid more than a few months should go by in his papacy without his lashing out at birth control and same-sex marriage. See this Yahoo! news story.

Why is it that millions of people take all this advice on sexuality from people who claim to have never had sex? Even if they know what they're talking about, they're not supposed to.

The Pope can bite me. There, I said it.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dysfunctional Family Dialogue

Me: I'll try to be nicer to you.

Him: That's ok, I'd rather you just be yourself.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Jae Woo Yoo (known to his American friends as "Jae") came to New York from Korea in 1980 to stay with his brother Jae Hyun, who was then a Ph.D. student at Columbia University. It soon became apparent to Jae, his family and everyone else that had ever met him that Jae was made for America and especially for the excitement that was life in New York. Although Jae never lost any love for his family or his native land, with his vivacious and artistic personality and his profound knowledge of American movies, music and media, Jae found so much happiness in the US that he decided to make New York his permanent home.

George met Jae in 1982 while they were both volunteering for an Asian men's organization, and they formed a strong bond that would last for the next 23 years. A talented visual artist with a boundless sense of humor and an extraordinary zest for living, Jae was immediately drawn to George because of his own humor, artistic talent and strong personality. Although nearly five years older than George, Jae placed him on a pedestal and found in him a role model for living as a strong Asian-American man. Together they bounded through New York life, sharing their respective joys, sorrows, triumphs, defeats, romances and heartaches. They were true soulmates in every sense of the word.

I first met Jae in January, 1998, shortly after George and I had begun dating. The moment we walked in the door to his apartment, Jae said "You play piano, right? Here, play this for me!" and handed me the sheet music to Madonna's "You'll See," a sad love ballad. I sat down to sightread the music, and Jae immediately plopped down next to me on the piano bench, belting out "YOU THINK THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOUR LOVE, YOU'LL SEE!!!!" - almost so loudly that I couldn't hear what I was playing. I looked across the room and saw George sitting with this big grin on his face.

About halfway through the song, Jae jumped up from the piano bench and said "George, you have to see this new Chinese movie that I just got!" and ran over to his VCR and started fumbling around with his tapes. Since we were obviously through with the Madonna song for the moment, I went over and sat next to George on the couch to watch the movie that Jae had started playing. He'd say "George, watch this scene, this is really great!" and then he talked all the way through the scene. "Oh, you have to see this Korean movie I have..." It became apparent within the space of about 10 minutes that he had a serious case of ADD. But he was so sweet & charming that it didn't bother me.

Jae & George Posted by Hello

A kitchen designer by trade, Jae would sometimes hire random workers to help him deliver new kitchen cabinets to his customers. When I first moved to New York I wasn't working, so Jae enlisted my services as a driver to make deliveries. I spent about eight weeks working with Jae, and nearly lost my life several times in the process. I loved Jae, but he was a MAJOR spaz. I'd be driving along the interstate when all of a sudden he would SCREAM at the top of his lungs "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!" causing me to swerve or slam on the breaks. "What's the matter?" I would ask. His reply was usually something like "we missed the exit!"

I didn't fare much better during the physical delivery of the cabinets. I tried to help him carry cabinets into buildings, being careful not to scratch and mar doorways or damage the merchandise. I soon learned that carrying a heavy, bulky item with Jae was not a good idea. Several times I almost had my arm ripped off as Jae violently maneuvered us through tight doorways and elevators. Invariably Jae would start hoisting entire cabinets onto his back and running with them. One time he tried to run through a garage door with a low clearance. The top of the cabinet crashed into the doorway, knocking Jae over so that the heavy cabinet fell right on top of him. I was horrified, sure that he had broken several limbs or his neck. He laid on the ground for about 10 seconds, groaning in pain, after which he jumped back up to repeat the entire process.

The merchandise got broken often. "Jae, the cabinet is cracked!" I'd say, and he'd stop to look at it and say "oh, it's only the back side, it won't matter." Occasionally he would damage the cabinets so badly that he'd have to replace them, but I guess he figured he was at least breaking even considering the high volume of work he was able to deliver at (almost literally) break-neck speed.

Although Jae was frightening as a worker, I actually appreciated his rough antics the day he came to our house to deliver new cabinets when we remodeled our kitchen. When George's mother, who is often stubborn and difficult for no apparent reason, saw him hosting the cabinets up the steps, she came out to try to stop him. "No, no new cabinet!!!" she screamed. He literally shoved right past her the entire time, even when she physically tried to block him. When he was through, Jae said to me "God, I always think George is so mean talking about his mother, but now I understand. She's just so, so bitchy!"

Jae played as hard as he worked. He enjoyed a 20-year love affair with Fire Island, and often rented houses for the entire summer with various friends, including George & me. He barely slept whenever we spent time with him because he never wanted to miss any of the action. He also enjoyed the company of many, many friends during these summer adventures.

Jae loved living so much that he usually ignored any pain he was feeling. He was incredibly accident prone, and had a body full of scars to prove it. "I don't need tattoos, I have scars" he would often proclaim proudly. While we can never be sure why his liver cancer was not diagnosed until it was much too late to help him, we can only guess that his incredible tolerance for pain may be part of the reason.

A few weeks ago Jae went to the emergency room because he was having pain in his chest & abdomen. The doctors diagnosed him with pleurisy, an inflammation of the lung lining that can cause a lot of discomfort. They discharged him, sending him home with painkillers.

A week later, Jae called George and asked him to come over because his pain had returned with a vengeance. Knowing I was nearby, George called me on my cell phone and asked me to go help Jae immediately. By the time I got to his apartment, the paramedics that George had called had already arrived. I rode with Jae to Belleview hospital, holding his hand the entire way. Three hours later, the doctors told me that Jae had an enormous tumor on his liver that had ruptured, and that I needed to get his family there immediately.

Since Jae had given me a key to his apartment years before, I ran back to his apartment and rifled through his files until I found an address and phone number for his brother, Jae Hyun. With the assistance of one of Jae's Korean-American friends, we called Korea to notify the family, and Jae Hyun was with us in New York several days later.

Jae's very short battle with cancer came to an end yesterday morning at 6:15 am, with several of his best friends at his side.

We all miss you, dear Jae Woo Yoo, and will be forever grateful for the fun, laughter and love you shared with us over all these years. May we all take a lesson from you and live every minute of our lives as though it were our last. May God bless and keep Jae in His loving care for all eternity, and send comfort and peace to Jae's family and other loved ones as they mourn the passing of this truly remarkable person. He will be missed more than I can put into words.

Jae Woo Yoo September 20, 1954 - May 29, 2005 Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Saturday, April 30, 2005

TV Expert

There's this quirky movie from 1990 called "Metropolitan" about these horribly pretentious Manhattanite college students. One of them talks about literature a lot, but admits that he never actually reads novels; he only reads literary criticism. At least he did better than our former vice-president Dan Quayle, who saw himself fit enough to criticize Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses in public without ever having read the book. (Click here for that story and more entertaining Quaylisms.)

I've decided to take the Metropolitan/Quayle idea a step further. I'm going to become a renowned expert in TV shows I've never seen by watching only the E! True Hollywood Story behind-the-scenes documentaries about said shows.

I'll admit I sort of backed into this project by accident. One day I was channel surfing when I came across The E! True Hollywood Story of the sitcom Growing Pains. I started watching, even though I had never even heard of this show that ran from 1985-1992. After only a few minutes I was hooked on the tale of how this show was cast, the love-affair-that-almost-was between Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns, and the love & respect the players had for each other until teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron's foray into fundamentalist Christianity and oh-so-cute Tracey Gold's anorexia almost tore the cast apart. Throw in a former Playboy Playmate getting kicked off the show because it offended Kirk's new Christian sensibility, and you have a real behind-the-scenes HIT with me. I had more fun watching this drivel than I ever would have seeing the show itself. The way I see it, why waste your time with the real show at all if you can get the recap AND the scandals in one shot from the E! True Hollywood Story?

It's like CliffsNotes for TV. It's brilliant. From now on when somebody asks me if I've been following such-and-such show, I can just tell them "oh I don't watch shows on TV - I just wait for the E! abbreviated version to come out." Imagine how much time I'll have for other projects.

And it doesn't have to stop with sitcoms either. Thanks to VH1's Bands Reunited, I am now intimately familiar with the careers and surrounding scandals of the members of the bands Vixen and Klymaxx, two bands I had never even heard of before this brilliant VH1 series brought them to my attention. Years down the road when I'm sitting around with my friends reminiscing about the past, I'll be able to talk about how I used to rock down to Vixen & Klymaxx. (I'll conveniently forget to mention that I rocked down to them for a period of one hour apiece during these VH1 specials.) I'll seem that much more culturally literate. It can only help.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Wizard and I

For months I've been going over to the Gershwin Theater at random intervals to stand in line for the $25 lottery to try to get tickets to the Broadway musical "Wicked." It's a great deal. You can show up two hours before any show and put your name in a raffle for the right to purchase up to two front-row tickets for only $25 each. Several theaters do this as a way to enable regular-income folk like us to see Broadway theater at affordable prices.

George and I agreed on a once-a-week trip (for him) into the city to meet me after work to try to get tickets, and then go out for a consolation dinner when we don't make it.

I've REALLY been wanting to see this musical. I read the book "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire last summer and really fell in love with the story. For those of you who haven't read it, it's a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the "Wicked" Witch of the West, starting with the story of the relationship of her parents before her birth.

Although it's a fun fantasy-type story to many, I found the book to be much more than that. It's really a social and political commentary that rings true to so much that is happening in the world right now. It's about people and nations creating "enemies" that they can unite against, because having these enemies makes it easier for said people and nations to achieve their own covert and dishonorable objectives. Sound familiar?

And to those who stand up to the masses to say "this is wrong, this shouldn't be happening" - what becomes of them?

Aside from the political overtones, the story also speaks to the universal theme of not belonging, and the feelings of isolation and vilification that accompany. The search for love and acceptance, of finding your safe zone in the world, only to have it yanked out from under you unexpectedly. The heartbreak that comes with the realization that the generally accepted ideas of "good" and "true" in the world are specious, based on lies and deceit.

Most interestingly, the story speaks to the problem of negotiating the fine line between "good" and "evil." Everyone makes their deal with the devil at some point in their life. How do we navigate and manage the inevitable changes in our personalities that come from years of hard living?

The book goes into a lot of complexities about these ideas, much more than the Broadway musical adaptation is able to. But the show does a great job of at least skimming the surface of all of the above. I highly recommend it. The music adds a lot to the emotions behind these questions, and there are some really great showstopping numbers to boot. I think my favorite one is "The Wizard and I," a song the witch belts out early in the show, as she describes her feelings of hope and elation after she is told she'll be able to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in person. Although the song itself is upbeat, the idea behind it is just so heartbreaking that I sobbed all the way through it.

I just realized I never told you how we got in to the show! Yesterday afternoon I called George to tell him to come into the city to meet me for the weekly lottery. What I didn't realize was that Tuesday shows start at 7:00, not 8:00, so I got to the theater an hour too late to join the lottery. So instead I decided to stand in the cancellation line, and in less than an hour was rewarded with two orchestra level tickets, just about the best seats in the house. I paid a pretty penny to get them, but the joy seeing the show brought me made it all worth it. As for George, he says he's never enjoyed a Broadway production more in his entire life.

Read "Wicked." Buy the soundtrack. Come see me in New York and go to the musical with me. You'll like it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I'm still here

Sorry for my lack of blog updates. I am still here, but have been suffering from a lack of free time as well as a lack of interesting things to blog about. ("Well that never stopped you before," many of you are thinking to yourselves.)

Some of you know about our domestic disaster. I'm not blogging about it in detail due to potential legal ramifications, but suffice to say that a utility company destroyed our apartment and we have been left without a permanent place to live for nearly three months. It is starting to get old. We just want our stuff back and a place to call our own. Meanwhile, everything in life feels up in the air and unsettled. I'm starting to have fleeing fantasies - wanting to flee this side of the country as quickly and as soon as possible. I can just hear the Monty Python knights in my head shrieking "run away! run away!"

Mindy June thinks I should move to England to get away from the stresses of my current life as well as from all the bad people who support the Iraq war and the idea of an American totalitarian theocracy. Although it's kind of like the cat telling you "you should really come have all your meals on the floor, next to me!", she does have a point. I told her I should probably stay in the US because someone needs to keep voting against the bad people. She said "oh you should definitely still vote, but it doesn't mean you have to live there with them."


Thursday, April 07, 2005

30-Second Bunnies Theater

No post tonight except to draw your attention to my new links for a few of my favorite 30-Second Bunnies Theater. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Joys of New York

The other day I was walking down 44th street when I came across this guy handing out flyers inviting gentlemen to visit a local strip club. He was shoving these flyers in the faces of practically everyone, male & female, who passed him. I was actually curious to see what the flyer said specifically, but when I got up to him he completely ignored me. Didn't offer me a flyer, wouldn't even look at me. I guess I'm not the type of riffraff they want hanging out in their club.

Then the other night George & I were offered free tickets to a dress rehearsal for "Purlie," a remake of a musical from the 1970s. We were walking toward the stage door where our friend, a musician in the pit orchestra, told us to meet him so we could pick up our tickets. As we approached we heard a man shouting obscenities about 5 feet from where our friend was standing waiting for us. He was really unleashing a stream of words I hadn't heard since I burned a hole in my mom's new carpeting when I was a kid. I made a comment to our friend about it and he said "oh yeah, he's here every night, he's really funny" and then changed the subject and started talking about an upcoming audition. Then three busses pulled up and dozens of preteenage kids started to disembark - apparently they were attending the show that night. The foul mouthed man continued belting out "why you pack of mother-f***ing rats, get the h*** out of my space you a** wiping worthless no good sh*theads....." Everyone just completely ignored him and carried on their conversations.

Will I ever get used to living here?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's with all the big heads?

Parts of this entry are kind of gross so if you're squeamish, consider yourself warned.

I had a dream many years ago that still haunts me. In the dream I was walking in a woods when I came to a clearing and a wide river. There was a car stuck in the middle of the river. Trying to escape from the car was this family of people with normal bodies but incredibly huge heads, like cartoon character size. The father of the family was standing in the river while trying to pry open the doors of the car to free his family. His huge bulbous head kept bobbing all over the place as he tried to jimmy the car door, while at the same time diarrhea was spilling out of his pants.

This dream disturbed me to such an extent that even today I still get alarmed when I see a drawing or other likeness of a human with an enormous head. Which brings me to the question that is the subject of today's post: what's with all the big heads?

A few years ago I stopped dead in my tracks, slackjawed, after I came across an NYC bus stop shelter displaying the then-new Steve Madden ad campaign that featured cartoonish people with enormous heads. See this link: Disturbing.

Or when I was in law school I was reading a case about the creators of HR Pufnstuf suing McDonald's for allegedly stealing their idea for make-believe characters with gigantic heads, like this one: This bothered me as well.

But today I saw something even more alarming along these lines. I was passing by Saks Fifth Avenue when I noticed that in their display windows they had mannequins, both male and female, dressed to the nines in their new spring line. But instead of having human heads, or no heads at all, these mannequins were adorned with humongous heads of chickens and bunnies where the human heads should have been. I wish I had a picture to share with you.

Please make it stop.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Luck 'o the Irish + Prader-Willi

Last week was St. Patrick's Day, which is quite an event for the people of New York (except for the gay Irish who aren't allowed to play with the other parade people). My office is on 5th Avenue, so this year I had the pleasure of the parade taking place right outside my door. At one point I went around the corner to the drug store, and it took 25 minutes there and back. There was a big pool of spilled beer right in front of the door to my building, with a bunch of drunk frat boys doing stuff like jumping up in the air and bumping their torsos together. People told me that the police had really started cracking down on public drinking on St. Patrick's day, but the shenanigans I just described were happening right in front of a group of cops, so who knows.

The day before I had been at a department store downtown across from the WTC site. In front of me in line there was a group of drunk Irish people. They were involved in some sort of gentle row with the sales clerk over the use of a coupon. Apparently they weren't able to use $5 worth of the coupon right then. They left after far too long, and I asked the clerk what was going on. She said "they're Irish and they're already drunk. I swear, these people can't wait until March 17 to start drinking." I was nodding my silent understanding when one of the drunk Irish people walked up to me and handed me the $5 coupon that she wasn't able to use. So I saved $5 off my purchase. Then I felt bad for agreeing with the clerk that they were drunk & obnoxious. That's what I call the Luck o' the Irish!

PS: Now I'm watching a Discovery channel program about people with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare disorder that makes people eat uncontrollably. They have to live their entire lives under constant supervision or else they will literally eat until they die. And when you don't let them eat, they fly into these hideous rages.

I think I might have Prader-Willi syndrome. And now my relationship with George is taking on a whole new meaning.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Now that we're all back home and the funeral services are over, we resume our daily lives. My clients call me in the office demanding things; friends leave casual chatty voice mail messages on my cell phone; I give the cat her daily medicine.

But I don't know how to go on after all this. I either feel empty or hopeless. My sister in law Ruby invited me to go to the movies tonight. I don't want to go. I don't want to do anything that is supposed to be fun. I don't feel like trying to have fun. I don't feel like doing yoga or mixing drinks.

When Jacob graduated from high school he announced that he wasn't going to college. He thought maybe he'd do a technical program at one of those schools that advertise on late night television.

His parents weren't happy. My sister called and said she wanted to send Jake out to stay with me for a while so that I could convince him to go to college. I said "fine." He came out, we had a blast, we talked about college every now & again. When he got home he told his parents that he was taking a year off, but that he would go to college after that. He did. He graduated with straight A's.

A few years ago my sister called to tell me Jake wanted to join the Army. She asked me to call him and talk him out of it. "He'll listen to you," she said. I never called. I figured he was an adult and able to make up his own mind. I also believed the lines they fed him and his parents about not sending only children into combat.

I wish I had called him. I could have called and said "Jake, I know you hate your job. I'm sending you a ticket to New York. Come stay with us for a while, take a break, do whatever you want. Let's talk about this Army idea." It would have been so easy. A phone call, a plane ticket. I didn't do it.

Then when we found out he was going to Iraq, my sister asked me to come for Christmas because he'd be home. I didn't go. I was having stresses on my new job, and I just wanted some time to myself. I could have seen him again. I could have given him a hug before he left for Iraq. Instead, I called him from a bar in Manhattan on Christmas Eve. I said to him "it will be ok. They'll just have you in an office over there." That was the last thing I said to him.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Jacob Christopher Palmatier

My sister Margaret had only dated David Palmatier for a short while before they were married on May 3, 1974. My mom had panicked when they announced they were going to have their wedding outdoors in the Deer Grove Forest Preserve in Palatine, Illinois, because she envisioned a hippy wedding with a bunch of unwashed kids in bare feet and cutoff jeans. She didn't need to worry, though, because it was a very nice affair. My sister wore a white prairie dress with a matching shawl and a big floppy white hat and this fabulous Mia Farrow haircut. It was very period.

The thing I remember most about this wedding, however, was that after it was over, and all the food was eaten and guests were starting to leave, I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. And so I started to cry. Of course then people came over to console me because they thought I had been hurt or that I was feeling neglected or something. I was only 8 years old, and I didn't have the language at the time to describe what was going on, but what was happening was that I was suddenly realizing that my sister was married now, that she wouldn't live with me anymore, and that things would never be the same again. And it made me sad.

I still remember that day in early 1975 when I came home from school and my dad said "Thomas, get on the phone - David wants to talk to you." So I picked up the phone and David said "Hi Thomas. I wanted to tell you that you're going to be an uncle."

Wow. I didn't even know what to do with this information. It seemed so strange that I was going to be an uncle. Uncles were supposed to be old people who drove cars and wore mustaches. They certainly weren't 9 year old boys. But nonetheless, I became very excited, and it was pretty much all I could talk about for the next nine months.

I spent a lot of time with Marg & Dave during those days. I worked with them to prepare one of their bedrooms to become a nursery, painting the walls, pasting Winnie-the-Pooh decals, selecting toys, and I even helped them refurbish an old crib that had belonged to David when he was a baby.

And I remember their choosing names for their baby. It was a rather arduous process, as is normally the case, but eventually they came to their decisions and announced that if they had a girl, her name would be Kristin Kelly. And if it was a boy, they would call him Jacob Christopher.

On the morning of November 7, 1975, I got up for school and went out into the family room where my brother was sitting. When he saw me he said "guess what?!!! Marg had a baby boy early this morning and his name is Jacob!!! David called in the middle of the night with the news!!"

I was SOOOO EXCITED!!! I immediately threw on my clothes and ran downstairs. My parents weren't even home because they had gone to see my sister at the hospital, so I just grabbed my school books and ran outside across the yard to my friend Jenny's house (Jenny & I usually walked to school together.) I was about a half hour early, so I rang the doorbell and Jenny's older sister Beth answered. She normally couldn't stand me. But as soon as she opened the door, I just shouted "My sister had a baby boy and his name is Jacob and I'm an uncle!!!" Beth came outside and gave me a big hug saying "I can't believe you're an uncle!!!" And I knew this really was an event because BETH was hugging me!!!

And thus began my childhood with Jacob.

Jacob was part nephew to me but also very much part younger, pesky brother. We were just shy of 10 years apart, and we lived near enough that we saw each other every week. Jake was a child of boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm. And I know this will come as a suprise (NOT!) to those of you who knew him, but Jake was also EXTREMELY stubborn. We did not always have an easy time, but there were plenty of laughs involved in our sometimes tumultuous relationship.

I babysat fulltime for Jake during the summer of 1977. One of my projects that summer was to make cassette tape recordings of some of my sister's record collection. These were the days before integrated stereo systems where you had tape decks wired to turntables. My system of making these tapes involved my putting a cassette into a tape recorder and shoving it up against the record player's speakers. Of course, this means that the tape player would pick up all the sounds coming from the room, not just from the record player. And so, up until about 10 years ago, I was the proud owner of a series of cassette recordings with Barry Manilow singing "Looks Like We Made It" and Jacob trying to sing along in the background along with my voice screaming "Jacob!! Be quiet!!!" I wish I still had them.

At one point, when I was a teenager, I got to my wits end with Jacob's antics and I wrote him a little song called "Jacob is Such a Dumb Brat." I used to play it for my friends on the piano and we would all laugh. One day Jake was really getting on my nerves so I decided to torment him a little by playing him the song. After I was through he said "that was great Uncle Thomas! Play it again!" Despite my teenage angst and all my bad behavior, Jacob didn't have a mean, vindictive bone in his body.

Jake & me as kids with Jake's father, David Posted by Hello

A lot of us have been talking recently about how funny Jacob was. He had impeccable comedic timing, which actually started when he was a very small child with a penchant for toilet humor. One of our favorite family stories is the time Marg & Dave took him with to the DMV when they had to renew their drivers licenses. It was a Saturday and they were in one of those horrible government offices with about a thousand people in line and one bathroom to share. Jacob had to go to the bathroom, so David took him inside & sat him on the toilet, and then left the bathroom to wait for him outside. He had just walked about 5 feet away from the bathroom door to help Marg with something, when all of a sudden Jake walks out of the bathroom into this room with a thousand people, pants down around his ankles, and announces to the entire room "Dad, you have to come wipe me!!!!!"

Another time when I was about 14 we were out for dinner and they asked me to take Jake to the bathroom. I took him in and helped him with his business. When he was through I helped zip him up, but unfortunately caught a tiny piece of skin in the zipper. He yelped in pain, understandably. I checked him to make sure there was no real damage, and everything looked fine except that he was still whimpering. I was trying to console him when in walked an elderly gentleman, at which point Jake yelled at the top of his lungs "YOU HURT MY PENIS!!!!" I could have died.

He was funny his entire life. One time when I was living in California Jake came out to spend a week with me. I remember going out to dinner with him at Johnny Rockets on Melrose Avenue. We were sitting in the outdoor cafe section when he started telling me stories about his mother complaining about bad service in restaurants. He started doing this imitation of her in this silly nasally voice and I just lost it - he had me on the floor laughing. "I want that waitress to come back here and apologize!!!" he kept murmuring at intervals whenever I had my mouth full of food so that I would laugh and almost choke myself. He was really hysterical.

Even though he made fun of them, Jake was incredibly devoted to his parents and family. He was clearly one of the smartest people around, but he chose to go to a small local college instead of branching out to a big name school, where he surely would have been accepted and done well. When he graduated from college I begged him to move to Chicago or one of the coasts where he might find better opportunities, but I think I he really didn't want to go far from home at that point. He enjoyed every minute he spent with his parents. Well, almost every minute, with the exception of a few years when he was a teen. But he was a really fun kid, and his parents are really fun people, and he wanted to be with them. And I know he was equally devoted to his wife, Bridget.

Our good family friends Bob & Judy Ward recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune, which included a lovely tribute to Jacob. One of the things they said in this letter was that while it remains to be seen whether the world will be better off without Saddam Hussein, one thing is for sure: the world is not better off without Jacob. I couldn't agree more.

I can tell you that Jacob's death is the worst thing that has ever happened to our family. And so now, all these years later, I find that I've come full circle from that day in 1974 when I cried at my sister's wedding. Now I'm crying over my sister's son's death because I know that nothing will ever be the same for us after this.

I'll never forget the sound of my sister's voice when I talked to her on the phone the night that Jacob died. She couldn't talk except to say over & over "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do." I don't know either. We all lost a piece of our hearts when we lost Jacob.

Maybe we can try to fill these holes in our hearts with some of the love, compassion, gentleness, kindness and forgiving spirit that Jacob embodied during his short stay on earth. And maybe we can all try to be just one-tenth the kind of person that Jacob was. It's true: the world is not better off without Jacob. But if we can try to do these things to honor his memory, we will know at least that the world is better off because Jacob was in it.

Jacob Christopher Palmatier 11/7/75 - 2/24/2005 Posted by Hello

Jacob was killed by a roadside bomb in Muqdadiya, Iraq, only two weeks after his arrival. He was 29.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Smithereens

Earlier this week I was reading the Village Voice when I noticed The Smithereens would be playing BB King's on Friday night. I was kind of surprised to see them listed because I had no idea they were still playing together.

The Smithereens were one of the "cool" alternative bands I got into during my college years. As far as I could tell, they never moved too far out of the college-alternative genre and into the mainstream. No one I know except people from my early 20s has ever heard of them. So, I decided to go to this concert, not so much because I was that excited to see them, but more because I was dying to see what kind of crowd would show up for this. I figured it would probably be a lot of late 30s - early 40s crowd, and a lot of guys screaming "fuck yeah, the Smithereens, you guys are AWESOME!!!"

I did go last night, and I was not disappointed on any level. At first when my friend Oddrun & I entered the room, we discovered it was cabaret-style seating, where you sit at a table and order food & drink ($10 min. per person) while you listen to the concert. This seemed to be a strange way to hear rock music. I think the last time I saw the Smithereens was in 1988 at First Avenue in Minneapolis - you know, the kind of real joint where you stand around drinking beer in front of a stage.

But if you think about it, cabaret style seating for rock concerts is actually entirely appropriate for this kind of crowd. We're busy busting our butts all week selling insurance, working in law firms, slaving away as CPAs and whatnot. You need a place to rest your weary ass while you enjoy some good tunage from your youth. I kind of got into the scene.

We were seated at a table with these guys in their mid forties with graying hair, paunch bellies and accompanied by similarly aged female companions with cheap dye jobs and leather pants. The rest of the room was fairly similar. A lot of people looked like they were eager to have a few hours of fun but-not-for-too-long-because-I have-to-get-home-to-pay-the-sitter kind of thing. A lot of bleary-eyed tired from the work-week faces. Totally understandable, if you ask me.

The opening band sucked ass. Oddrun was just looking at me as if to say "what the hell are we doing here? This sucks ass." I shrugged and reminded her that we were there as part of a sociological study.

The sucky band ended after far too long, and then after about 20 minutes the Smithereens walked out on stage, rather casually, and picked up their instruments. No big hoopla or fanfare of any sort. The first thing I noticed is that their lead singer, Pat Dinizio, has BALLOOOOOOONED. I'm talking an Orson Wellian kind of roundness. The rest of the band looked pretty much the same, but about 20 years older. The bassist still does this really gay two-feet jumping in the air kind of thing when he plays, which I always thought was amusing. Lead guitarist Jimmy Babjak is still kind of a Baldwin - just want to give him a hug whenever you see him.

Then they started playing. Opened with "Spellbound" which is kind of a slow ballad. It sounded great, which kind of surprised me because I thought that if these guys haven't been playing together regularly for 20 odd years, they must be rusty. Not so. They sound like they've never quit playing. I was also pleasantly surprised to notice that this band that I thought was so "cool" in my youth actually consists of four very excellent musicians. I've had that experience where I listen, as an adult, to some group I liked when I was young - and notice, as an adult, that they really kind of suck. I saw the Go-Go's a few times when they reunited and was sad to note that they are terrible performers. While I will be forever devoted to Belinda Carlisle (seeing as how we're psychically linked, which I'll blog about later) the woman can't sing for shit. Off key, terrible.

Not so with Pat Dinizio. His intonation was right on the money throughout every single song. He was always the one member of the band who kind of annoyed me for some reason. It always seemed to me that he thought he was just too cool in a beatnick sort of way. But after his performance last night, I have newfound respect & admiration for the guy. He really loves his music, and it shows. Jimmy's guitar playing was also amazing. In short, these guys WERE awesome.

I remembered the lyrics to every single song they played, which kind of amazed me because I haven't listened to these guys in years. After about 30 minutes I decided to screw the cabaret style seating arrangement and I stood up and started yelling "BLOOD AND ROSES!!! BLOOD AND ROSES!!!" My table companions got very excited and started whooping & hollering right along with me (apparently it was their favorite song too.) By the end of the concert, I had become the very object of my sociological study - the almost-fortysomething with graying hair and paunch belly screaming "Fuck yeah, the Smithereens, you guys are AWESOME!!!!!!!" Oddrun laughed and danced next to her chair.

It was a really great night. While it would be nice if there were some twentysomethings around today who had a chance to know and appreciate the Smithereens, it was kind of fun to rock to them with this fortysomething crowd. I felt a mild sense of connection and bonding as I stood surrounded by all these guys who probably would've tried to beat me up if they'd known me in high school.

And the best part- I was home in bed with my cat by 11:45! Rock on man!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Guest Blogger: E.M. Stover

Since I don't want anyone to accuse me of being all hoggish with Coaster Punchman's World, I'm welcoming the occasional guest blogger to offer his or her finest anecdotes and noteworthy tales for weblification here. I feel it's very important that Coaster Punchman's World be seen as a warm, friendly and welcoming webspace.

With that, I would like to introduce to my loyal readers my good high school friend, Beth Stover, associate professor of English at the State University of New York, Buffalo, as she blogs about her young daughter's first bout with writer's block.

Take it away, Beth!


There is nothing sadder than an eight year old child with writer's block, and I think it is especially ironic when it is my own. I am, after all, a writing teacher with a whole artillery of strategies meant to head it off before it begins. But there was Rebecca this morning, 15 minutes of tears and at least 15 wadded balls of wet tissue, because she didn't have a dream, or no dream she cared to write six to eight sentences about.

At first she dreamt for no more writing-- a very meta-whatever approach, but this yielded but two sentences, and five minutes of staring at a blank page before total despair set in. "Well," I say, "why don't you write about why you don't like writing?" Tears and tears, and she doesn't know why. More suggestions on my part: "Is it because it's hard to write the letters?"

The other day she asked how I could write so fast, meaning the physical act of forming letters and words. "Maybe it's spelling." She refuses to mis-spell, which can really slow down the process.

So now we have major tears. "I don't know why." I handle this by hugging her, and I wonder if this would be a good approach with my students. "You're having a hard time with this paper? Here, let me give you a hug."

Let's brainstorm!!! So I suggest ending war, feeding hungry children ("Why don't they plant food?"), keeping the world clean. But nothing's happening, just more tears, and we have to leave for school in 15 minutes. "Okay, just write something, write whatever you think."

Now I'm writing a note to her teacher--about 45 minutes have passed since she sat down to write, after she went through the rituals of procrastination which all good writers are familiar with. I'm having visions of a permanently writing-disabled person; I'm thinking of my students who can barely manage a three-sentence paragraph, not because they're not smart, but because they can't develop; I'm imagining Rebecca in college staring at a blank screen; I'm imagining all the psycho-somatic reasons why she can't just spit out 8 sentences and be done with it: Does she not want to commit to a dream and be held accountable for it? Is she worried it won't be good enough? Is she worried her dream won't be original enough? Is she worried that if she starts with two or three sentences and can't come up with anything else, the whole endeavor will be for naught?

I turn and tell her we have five minutes, and if she doesn't get it done, she doesn't get it done. I begin looking for my sunglasses.

When I come back to the kitchen, she's writing and asking me how to spell "chocolate" and "patients." She dreams that it would rain chocolate and candy so children could eat them all the time even though their dentists and parents might not like it. She spits it all out in under 10 minutes, she's happy because it's not serious(?). It's witty and not your standard Miss-America-I-Have-A-Dream fare; suffers a little in execution, but who cares, it's done, the crisis has passed--for now. But I think to myself, is this what kind of writer she's going to be? How awful for her, a prisoner to writer's block until the last possible moment? And if it's bad now, what will it be like in the future? If she can't spit out a paragraph, how will she write a paper?

I can't help it, but I do want my daughter to be a good writer, or at least take some pleasure in the process. At some point during my pregnancy I was worried about having a girl who wanted to be a cheerleader; I can't help but think this is 100 times worse.


No Beth, it would definitely be worse to have a cheerleader. And your story reminds me vaguely of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It turns out Rose was the editor responsible for crafting the "Little House" series into the enjoyable reads that they are. She took Laura's rough-and-tumble, stilted sketches of pioneer life and breathed life and language into them. And (unlike you of course) apparently Laura was a real bitch to her the whole time Rose was making her mother famous.

Maybe you and Rebecca will have a similarly meaningful relationship, but in a much more positive way.

Monday, January 10, 2005

One-Line Poem: Jon's Grandma

She rocked in her chair and avoided all communication except to repeat that somebody hurt the baby.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I'm a secret-eating-listener

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know about my deep love for the CMTVM genre. But here’s way #2 that I’m a freak: I have this weird fetish where I like to listen to people eat. But not just ordinary eating. I like to listen to people eat when they are trying to pretend they are not eating. Like when they are sneaking bites of food while talking on the phone with me. Or when they’re eating somewhere they’re not supposed to be eating, while trying to be quiet about it. In short, I'm a secret-eating-listener.

When I was in college, students used to sneak food into the library all the time. They would squirrel themselves away in their little study carrels, thinking they were going to be able to munch away privately. Not so, as long as I was around. It’s not like I would seek it out, but as soon as someone would set him or herself up with a bag of chips or a sandwich in a neighboring carrel, I was theirs for the duration. Whatever else I was working on would just have to wait until “lunch” was over. I probably wasted an entire month’s worth of study time over the course of my college career with my secret-eating-listening.

I should note that while the word “fetish” has a sexual connotation, my fascination with secret-eating-listening is distinctly non-sexual. I don’t know quite how to define it, but secret eating stimulates some kind of positive energy within me, like the warm fuzzies some of us get when a cat is purring. One time I was on a hour-long business call where the person on the other end of the phone was trying to pretend he wasn’t eating. I was absolutely week-kneed. Had to keep asking him to repeat himself. Another time when I was working phone tech support, this woman I was helping was quietly sucking on cough drop for about 20 minutes, and it made me positively dizzy.

For those of you who know me, I should also note that obvious eating doesn’t do the same trick for me. I told George about this little fascination of mine when we were first dating long-distance, and after that he was always trying to titillate me by eating whenever we were on the phone. It didn’t work, because I could tell he was trying. It has to be bona-fide secret eating to get my fancy.

I wonder if I’ll upset anyone with this news. I once worked in an office where there was this secretary who had a fascination with watching people eat. If you worked there any length of time, you were warned to look out for her in the lunchroom because at some point everyone would catch her sneaking a peek. One time she was sitting next to me, and halfway through lunch I realized she’d been enjoying my three-bean salad right along with me for at least half an hour. Her staring was kind of cute, but I made her stop nonetheless.

So if you are reading this, consider yourself on notice. And if you ever think you’re fooling me while you’re quietly munching on that power bar or swallowing tiny spoonfuls of yogurt while you’re on the phone with me, think again. But if you’re lucky and you convince me that your eating is secret, don’t be surprised if I figure out a way to extend the call an extra 20 minutes or so.

One-Line Poem: Don't Sing Mama

Next time you make me the center of attention, I want to hear about it in advance.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Beauty of the CMTVM

My friend Regular Tim recently sent Mindy June and me a link to a website that discusses and displays the bodily blemishes of various celebrities, e.g. Leo DeCaprio's facial chicken pox scars and that sort of thing.

While I thought it was a perfectly natural website link to forward to one's friends, Mindy June took it upon herself to ask Tim where he'd come across this jewel. His reply? He'd simply run across it by accident while he was searching for a list of tv actresses that have appeared in the most made-for-tv-movies. Again, a perfectly normal Internet query, if you ask me.

Tim's quest reminded me that I need to start blogging more about my fascination with the CMTVM (cheesy-made-for-tv-movie.) My preferred flavor of CMTVM plays on Lifetime Television for Women and features an abused woman who finally snaps & blows her filthy stinking husband's head off or burns him alive. (see "The Burning Bed" or "Extremities" - both starring Farrah Fawcett.)

Another good one has Josie Bisset (of "Melrose Place" fame) unknowingly married to a serial rapist. But I gotta tell ya - the sine qua non of CMTVM's would have to be "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story" starring Meredith Baxter. This CMTVM, along with its sequel, "Her Final Fury," was so unabashedly fabulous that it founded a whole new genre of CMTVM in my mind: the CMTVMMB (cheesy-made-for-tv-movie starring Meredith Baxter.)

Meredith Baxter rocks my world. Something about watching Elise Keaton act like a total crazy bitch for two hours before finally blowing away her ex-husband and his boneheaded fiancee in their sleep just made my day. And then the call she made from the phone booth to her friend right after it happened - "I finally did it, I killed the bastard...." I'd never seen anything like it. Outstanding.

I think a close second would have to be that Mary Tyler Moore vehicle "Like Mother Like Son" where she plays this crazy bitch mother who teaches her sons to shoplift as young boys, and then eventually teams up with one of them to kill Edith Bunker in order to take title to her apartment building. Included are several great scenes where Mary displays some revolting incestuous tendencies toward her boy. If you ask me, all Mary has to do is participate in a few more of those gems for me to create a new category in her honor: the CMTVMMTM.

It's always the fomer sitcom adorable-stable-mother-type actresses who make the best CMTVM's. See Elizabeth Montgomery in "Sins of the Mother" where she plays this quasi-sadistic crazy ass bitch mother who turns her son into a serial rapist. I think that one had some incest themes as well.

Not that I approve of any of this. Trust me, I am plenty filthy in my own right, but I do not in any way condone serial rape or incest. But that's what is so great about watching these tv uber-mommies just lose it and go all the way to the dark side. Maybe I should explore this fascination of mine in therapy. Nah, I don't really want to ruin it. It's just too much damn fun.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me was when I was in St. Paul, Minnesota recently. I went out for dinner with my friend Kapooch and her husband, Special Tim. I've been coming out of the closet recently about my CMTVM fetish, and I decided to share this news with Kapooch & Special Tim.

Little did I know that Kapooch, who is married to a real GUY's guy, is also married to her very own CMTVM fetishist. That's right: Special Tim watches Lifetime!

My favorite part of the whole evening was learning that he and Kapooch got so hooked by a certain CMTVM one day that they refused to answer the doorbell when their friends showed up to watch the final game of the World Series. Just couldn't get up out of their chairs because some crazy ass bitch was busy gunning down an entire convenience store while her daughter binged & purged in the backseat of the family SUV or something like that. Just couldn't do it. Had to keep watching. I love my friends.

I should note that while I'm becoming more open about my CMTVM fetish, an openness that is only more strongly encouraged by the deliberate self-outing of Special Tim, I am nevertheless still afraid to get TIVO for fear of what that little machine might say about me. I'd probably watch TV for a week, and then TIVO would start suggesting some Danielle Steele miniseries for me. Can't have that. I don't know if TIVO is sophisticated enough to differentiate between a truly great CMTVM and some schmaltzy love story that could possibly induce self-mutilation on the part of the viewer. Then again, maybe that in itself could be the subject of a new kind of CMTVM.

I want Mindy June to quit her fancy London job, come back to the states and start producing some fine CMTVM's with me. I hear Patty Duke & Shannen Doherty may be looking for work, and I have just the vehicle for them churning in my brain.