Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolutions anyone can keep

I usually don't make New Year's resolutions because I never keep them. However, since it is the beginning of a new decade, I've decided that if at first I don't succeed, I should try and try again or blame it on my supervisor.

So here is a list of my resolutions for 2011:

I resolve to not make fun of Sarah Palin until she does something stupid again.

I resolve to eat only healthy meals between unhealthy snacks.

I resolve to support a green environment by walking to work. This shouldn't be too difficult since I work at home.

I resolve to not attend any stockholders' meeting where the board chairman insists that I hold the heavy pig.

I resolve to limit the reality TV shows I watch to "Dancing with the Stars", "American Idol" and "Desperate Housewives".

I resolve to send Christmas cards early. I'm thinking a good time will be July.

I resolve not to give any fruitcakes for holiday gifts because people keep returning my mother-in-law.

I resolve not to resolve to drop a few pounds because I have no intention of going shopping in England – not until the exchange rate gets better.

I resolve to let the constitution uphold itself so my hands will be free to text while driving.

Ok, now that I've have my fun, I'll get serious. I'm only making one resolution this year and that is not to make any.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Question the mysteries of life

As I prepare to enter 2011 with hope and optimism, I have discovered I have a lot of unanswered questions. So I am asking readers of Nancy Jo's Jokebox to supply the answers to some of life's greatest mysteries. Write your answers in the comment section at the bottom of this posting. And remember – your first comment doesn't have to be your final answer!

Nancy Jo's Points to Ponder:

1. Exactly what kind of music does the Lap Band perform? Could they use a mediocre sax player?

2. Will James Bond's "Goldfinger" turn green?

3. Why doesn't Sam I Am like green eggs and ham?

4. Did Alfie ever discover what "It" was all about? If so, what is "It"? And, what is "It" about?

5. Do you know the way to San Jose without a map or GPS system?

6. Why does the game show host always ask, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" when we all know no one will answer, "Not me!" during the next two years?"

7. Where's Waldo? If you know, could you please send him home? His dinner is getting cold.

8. Why did I see Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night when last night was June 12?

9. If the best things in life are free, how many puppies do you want?

10. What was I thinking?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Them's fightin' words

I read on the Internet that some people are mad because toy stores are selling out of automatic marshmallow launchers. Believe it or not, we had those when I was a kid, but we could get them for free and we called them hands.

I find it amazing that during a season that celebrates peace and love, adults will get violent if they can't find a particular item. One thing I would never fight for is a diamond. That's because diamonds are supposed to be a girl's best friend, but they won't accept my Facebook friend invite.

Meanwhile, here is a top 10 list of things I would fight to obtain:

1. A battery-operated battery charger

2. A sound-proof room where the Little Drummer Boy can practice

3. A politician who realizes it is sometimes better to give in than to receive

4. Six months of lessons at the Bristol Palin Dance Studio

5. A chance to look like Reese Witherspoon without losing 70 pounds and 20 years

6. A boss who is smarter than a fifth-grader

7. A good price for my mother-in-law when I try to sell her on "Pawn Stars"

8. A hip that will hop

9. A Blackberry that washes dishes

10. A copy of the words to that song "The Impossible Dream" so I can remember why I'm supposed to fight the unbeatable foe.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't deck the halls with holly

My husband told me he was going to deck the halls with holly tomorrow night. I should be grateful, but I'm not because I thought he stopped seeing Holly.

My husband sure tricked me by donning his gay apparel and saying he was going out to sing, "Hark," with that angel, Harold.

Last weekend, we put up our Christmas tree. It was my turn to put the star on top. If I do say so myself, I chose a terrific picture of Justin Bieber.

I believe in living green. So I bought a small artificial Christmas tree this year. It's scented. And, it looks really pretty hanging from my rearview mirror.

A big selling item this holiday season is the Obama Chia Pet. That proves that all this talk about a green environment has gone to his head.

This is a busy time of the year. Not only do we have to observe Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza, but I have to get myself psyched up for December 12. That's National Ding-a-ling Day. It's appropriate because it's also when my mother-in-law arrives for the holidays.

Actually, it's fun getting my mother-in-law to help me decorate the yard and the outside of the house. While she's on the roof stringing lights, I love to put the ladder away.

I have no clue what I'm giving my mother-in-law for Christmas. She hated the birthday present I gave her last month. I can't believe she didn't want a Hello Kitty toaster.

She said she expected something bigger and better from me. Then, she got mad when I told her, "But I'm already taken."

My mother-in-law is staying for a month, so I don't have to do anything to get ready to celebrate December 31, which is National Unlucky Day.

Kate Gosselin and her eight kids are going holiday camping with Sarah Palin for an episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska". To prepare, they attended bear safety school. But, Kate isn't worried because she discovered the best bear repellant on the market – a copy of "America by Heart".

Speaking of reality shows, Bristol Palin contends her mother didn't force her to be on "Dancing with the Stars". Bristol said it simply made good scents. She could either dance badly and smell sweat or be on her mom's show and smell fish guts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Power of the press isn't always powerful

The power of the press ain't always that powerful. In my case, it took only 30 minutes to learn that I was incompetent, I had been using the wrong last name for 40 years and I was really a man in a woman's physique.

Just last week, while sipping lattes at Starbucks, a friend reminded me why I preferred writing comedy to changing the world as a journalist.

Specifically, I recalled a day that occurred about a decade ago when I was editor of a weekly paper in the Seattle suburb of Burien, Washington. I walked into my office one Friday morning with the goal of creating a well-informed community.

As I scurried to get last minute stories written and edited on that deadline day, I also found myself sharing front-desk duties while we anxiously searched for a new receptionist willing to slave for minimum wage.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't mind taking my turn at greeting the public. I realized how important a receptionist's job is. That was the first person people saw as they entered our establishment to conduct business. First impressions could make or break us.

I tried my utmost best to welcome the masses with the cheeriest face I could rustle up before my third cup of instant coffee in the Starbucks Capital of the World.

I really tried not to growl after the first few insults. I told myself to take mental notes and try out the philosophy for a possible book entitled, "Zen in the Art of Journalism".

Trust me, being a receptionist is not a glamorous job. If it were, I would have had time to apply lipstick, buff my nails and eat ├ęclairs while I sipped my instant coffee.

Five minutes into my stint, I answered a call from a person asking for Carmen.

"We don't have a Carmen on staff," I said. "But, I will be glad I help you."

"No, I need to talk to Carmen about my ad."

"Oh, you need to speak to Claudia. She's our advertising director," I said, speaking with my most professional Texas drawl. "I'll be glad to take a message. Could you spell your name please?"

"No, I'll call back when someone competent is there," the customer said.

It took me a while to adjust to that one. I'm sure I would have made the transition sooner had I not been incompetent.

Caller number two specifically requested to speak to Nancy Jo Dupree. I explained the only Nancy Jo we had was me, but my surname was Perdue.

"No, that's not it. I wrote down Dupree," the caller said.

The woman announced she was campaigning as a school board candidate and wanted to know if we would publisher her statement although she missed that week's deadline two days earlier.

I kindly explained all candidates would be treated equally, and we would publish a voter's guide after everyone had filed.

I contemplated when my name was changed to protect the innocent. I just didn't get it. But, the name I thought I had – Perdue – does mean lost in French, which explained why I never realized I was incompetent.

Next came the call from the man who contended the editor personally guaranteed something would be published.

"I talked with the editor yesterday, and he told me I could get my information in today," the man insisted. Let me speak to him."

"You are speaking to the editor, sir," I announced.

"I am not," he declared. "Let me speak to him now."

Sheesh! How could this customer expect me to find time to undergo an instant sex change when I didn't even have a free minute to apply lipstick, buff my nails and eat ├ęclairs while I sipped my third cup of instant coffee?

The mail carrier arrived a few minutes later with letters to the editor addressed to "Dear Sir".

I tried to delve into my Zen mode. I figured I could adjust. I had been a professional journalist for more than a decade. Since this was not my first rodeo, I could handle an eight-second ride on the wild side.

But, I questioned if I could handle a full hour at the receptionist's desk.

"I'd love to be all things to all people," I told myself. "But, that's impossible. I'm incompetent. I don't even know what my name is. And, I'm having an identity crisis as to whether I'm a Nancy Jo or a Nancy Joe."

I gave up. I couldn't please everyone at the garden party. So I just pleased myself. I pulled rank.

As editor, I assigned my ace reporters, Maggie and Terrie, to share front desk duty. I promised to relieve them as soon as I discovered if my third cup of instant coffee was good to the last drop.

The reporters showed their true ability to question everything as they offered enlightenment.

"Is that instant coffee you're sipping?" they inquired. "Seattle is the Starbucks Capital of the World. If you're drinking instant coffee, that explains why you're incompetent."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give thanks for TSA scans

I've decided to invite Sarah Palin to my house this year for Thanksgiving Dinner. I figure she won't eat that much because she'll arrive full – of herself.

Last Thursday, we celebrated the Great American Smoke Out and vowed to live in a smoke-free house from here on out. That means I'm not allowed to cook Thanksgiving Dinner.

Every year at this time, the President of the United States pardons a turkey. I don't think President Obama should even bother this year because the turkeys in Congress sure aren't pardoning him.

I'm thinking the TSA security scan system should be added to health care reform. Radiologists could be hired to read the new scans, and while they're checking air travelers for weapons, they can also screen for medical ailments.

People are concerned about being touched by an agent when they go through the TSA scanner. I don't understand the fear. Government officials have been groping people for years, specifically California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some people are angry that top government officials may be exempt from TSA scans. I don't see the problem because we all know that in many cases the scan will not detect a heart.

I should be embarrassed about the thought of what agents will see when I go through a TSA scanner. Due to all the extra-weight I'm packing, the agent viewing the scan will be the real terrorized victim.

About a thousand rats are awaiting adoption in California after being rescued from a house featured on the A&E reality TV show "Hoarders." I probably won't participate. If I wanted to live with a rat, I'd just move in with my ex-husband.

I don't know why everyone is so upset about the fact Sarah Palin supporters may have created a bloc vote to endorse Bristol Palin as the winner of "Dancing with the Stars." After all, it wouldn't be the first time the Tea Party tried to sway election results.

Some astrologers predict that an unusual alignment of the planets may cause a volatile and unhappy holiday season this year. The planet alignment isn't going to ruin my happiness, but if someone gives me a copy of Sarah Palin's new book, that will do the trick.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laughter is the Best Medicine, but Does It Cure a Cold?

Well, the cold season is upon us. Contrary to popular belief, my idea of the cold season is sunny days with highs in the low 50s.

Whoever said "Easy come, easy go," wasn't talking about the common cold.

But that person was talking about a cold when he or she said, "It's better to give than receive."

Colds are so contagious. But, why is it that when you give it to people, you usually still have it?

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but so does a lack of health insurance.

My cold got so bad that I went to the doctor. He said, "Cough it up." I went into a coughing fit. He said, "I didn't mean phlegm. I meant your co-payment."

My doctor didn't give me a clean bill of health. He gave me one stained with spaghetti sauce.

People are always ready to share home remedies to get rid of a cold. They include everything from putting grated ginger in hot water to eating unpeeled onions. I would say you have to take those remedies with a grain of salt. But that would make those remedies taste so bad.

I heard that if you eat a lot of garlic, it will help prevent colds. It's not so much that garlic has any medicinal value. It's because people with germs avoid you because of your breath.

Some people say it helps to wear a strand of garlic around your neck. Personally, I prefer pearls. (However, rubies would match the red in my bloodshot eyes.)

When cold season comes around, I'm always tempted to become germaphobic just like Howie Mandel. But, I could never be like Howie because I'm not bald or Jewish.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Logic isn't always logical

So far November has been an interesting month. It's been filled with deception, criticism and illogical logic. And, that's just the election.

I don't even want to know what Americans were thinking when they voted out decent people – especially those talented couples on "Dancing with the Stars."

Then, there's my temporary day job. For ten more days, I'm a file clerk in a bank. My chore is to remove staples and scan documents.

When the scanner broke last week, my boss said, "Take it apart and wash it with soap and water. But whatever you do, don't get it wet."

I don't even want to know what she was thinking. It's a cheap operation. They don't supply instant water.

So I used coffee crystals. Well, I figured if I couldn't clean the scanner, I could at least wake it up.

Turns out the scanner broke because another temp scanned documents with staples. When I pointed out our job was to remove staples, my colleague remarked, "If I do that, I won't have time to do my job."

This same guy went looking for a file called "Heart and Hand". He came back empty handed, but with heart, he bellowed, "I couldn't find it, and I looked through every folder in the Bs."

I don't even want to know what he was thinking. But, I know I had to fight the urge to say, "While you had the B drawer open, you should have filed yourself under Butthead, Beavis."

I began temping last year to supplement my income because a lot of people who hire writers believe in keeping the free in freelancer. I love temping. It provides great fodder for comedy writers. And when the job is complete, I can walk away from incompetence, hypocrisy and illogical logic.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from an agency where a woman interviewed me in person six months ago. She suddenly had a sense of urgency and insisted I needed to take some tests that day.

Three days later, the woman said I scored really high on Microsoft Word, basic skills and typing.

"But, you flunked the personality test."

Specifically, she indicated my answers stressed I was not a reliable team member as I was not willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. You see, I answered that I was not willing to work unpaid overtime and skip lunch to pick up the slack created by colleagues with less enthusiasm but better personalities.

I guess I shouldn't let a little thing like the law stand in the way of my being a good person.

The woman promised she would call the next day with some follow-up questions to help me boost my score on her computer-generated personality test.

I don't even want to know what she was thinking. I've learned her definition of a day is 72 hours or longer. True to her word, she called me three days later and asked what I'm currently reading at night so I can become an A-lister in the industry.

I said, "Kathy Griffin's autobiography about getting on the D-list."

The woman said that wasn't industry-related unless I write comedy or do standup. I said, "Duh!"

She inquired, "I want to know what you're reading after hours to get better at your current temp job that ends in two weeks."

I had a great answer for her absurdity, "the Staples catalog."

I was told I'd receive an e-mail at the end of the next business day, which in real time would have been yesterday. Quite frankly, I don't care if she upholds her integrity by replying on Friday.

I don't even want to know what I was thinking. After all, this is a human resources executive who wore jeans and a tank top to our interview. I remember she was braless and adamant that I should "always dress like a professional and always look the part."

This woman obviously doesn't practice what she preaches. My first clue should have been when I saw she was flat-chested in Beverly Hills.

I don't even want to know what I was thinking when I assumed that, while I have the skills, I also have the personality to fit into an office environment filled with double standards and people who need to consult a computer quiz to determine if they like me as a human being.

But, there are a couple of things I want to know. How is it possible to actually flunk a personality test? And, is that worse than getting voted off "Dancing with the Stars"?

Nancy Jo's Jokebox: Logic isn't always logical

Nancy Jo's Jokebox: Logic isn't always logical: "So far November has been an interesting month. It's been filled with deception, criticism and illogical logic. And, that's just the election..."

Logic isn't always logical

So far November has been an interesting month. It's been filled with deception, criticism and illogical logic. And, that's just the election.

I don't even want to know what Americans were thinking when they voted out decent people – especially those talented couples on "Dancing with the Stars."

Then, there's my temporary day job. For ten more days, I'm a file clerk in a bank. My chore is to remove staples and scan documents.

When the scanner broke last week, my boss said, "Take it apart and wash it with soap and water. But whatever you do, don't get it wet."

I don't know even want to know what she was thinking. It's a cheap operation. They don't supply instant water.

So I used coffee crystals. Well, I figured if I couldn't clean the scanner, I could at least wake it up.

Turns out the scanner broke because another temp scanned documents with staples. When I pointed out our job was to remove staples, my colleague remarked, "If I do that, I won't have time to do my job."

This same guy went looking for a file called "Heart and Hand". He came back empty handed, but with heart, he bellowed, "I couldn't find it, and I looked through every folder in the Bs."

I don't even want to know what he was thinking. But, I know I had to fight the urge to say, "While you had the B drawer open, you should have filed yourself under Butthead, Beavis."

I began temping last year to supplement my income because a lot of people who hire writers believe in keeping the free in freelancer. I love temping. It provides great fodder for comedy writers. And when the job is complete, I can walk away from incompetence, hypocrisy and illogical logic.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from an agency where a woman interviewed me in person six months ago. She suddenly had a sense of urgency and insisted I needed to take some tests that day.

Three days later, the woman said I scored really high on Microsoft Word, basic skills and typing.

"But, you flunked the personality test."

Specifically, she indicated my answers stressed I was not a reliable team member as I was not willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. You see, I answered that I was not willing to work unpaid overtime and skip lunch to pick up the slack created by colleagues with less enthusiasm but better personalities.

I guess I shouldn't let a little thing like the law stand in the way of my being a good person.

The woman promised she would call the next day with some follow-up questions to help me boost my score on her computer-generated personality test.

I don't even want to know what she was thinking. I've learned her definition of a day is 72 hours or longer. True to her word, she called me three days later and asked what I'm currently reading at night so I can become an A-lister in the industry.

I said, "Kathy Griffin's autobiography about getting on the D-list."

The woman said that wasn't industry-related unless I write comedy or do standup. I said, "Duh!"

She inquired, "I want to know what you're reading after hours to get better at your current temp job that ends in two weeks."

I thought I had a great answer for her absurdity, "the Staples catalog."

I was told I'd receive an e-mail at the end of the next business day, which in real time would have been yesterday. Quite frankly, I don't care if she upholds her integrity by replying on Friday.

I don't even want to know what I was thinking. After all, this is a human resources executive who wore jeans and a tank top to our interview. I remember she was braless and adamant that I should "always dress like a professional and always look the part."

This woman obviously doesn't practice what she preaches. My first clue should have been when I saw she was flat-chested in Beverly Hills.

I don't even want to know what I was thinking when I assumed that, while I have the skills, I also have the personality to fit into an office environment filled with double standards and people who need to consult a computer quiz to determine if they like me as a human being.

But, there are a couple of things I want to know. How is it possible to actually flunk a personality test? And, is that worse than getting voted off "Dancing with the Stars"?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

They may not be swift, but they're Swifties

"Well, you didn't have to blow up our getaway car," the terrorist said explosively.

"Don't laugh at me," the comedian said jokingly.

"My bangs aren't even," the hairdresser said snippily.

"I think I need a nap," Rip Van Winkle said dreamily.

"You need trifocals," the optometrist said clearly.

"Be sure your pencils are sharpened," the proctor said pointedly.

"I knew Sea Biscuit and I would win the Triple Crown," the jockey said hoarsely.

"I can't believe we survived an 8.5 earthquake," the seismologist said shakily.

"I lost my pet," Little Bo Peep said sheepishly.

"We'll have a candlelight dinner as soon as I light this match," the romanticist said strikingly.

"I refuse to wear high heels," the model said flatly.

"I was not singing off-key," the American Idol loser said sharply.

"Your honor, my client is innocent," Lindsay Lohan's attorney said defensively.

"Do 100 sit-ups, 200 pushups and 300 leg lifts," my personal trainer said firmly.

"I love your new book, Mr. Hemmingway," the librarian said earnestly.

"You really should look at yourself in the mirror," the store clerk said reflectively.

"We think your spine is out of alignment," the twin chiropractors said jointly.

"I'd like to blow out all the candles on my birthday cake," Grandma said wishfully.

"I simply love champagne," the socialite said bubbly.

"I absolutely love alphabet soup," David said Lettermanly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sleep disorders are tiring

Whoever said, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," probably was not a late night television show host.

It is more likely those words of wisdom were spoken by a sleep specialist. Such an expert would contend that sound slumber may be better medicine than laughter for people seeking solace for their souls. After all, scientific researchers have discovered restful sleep reduces stress, boosts the body's immune system and promotes mental alertness.

Unfortunately, I rarely get the luxury of a good night's sleep. OK. It's true. I stay up watching funny late show hosts. But, that is not the reason for my lack of restful slumber.

I am one of scores of people who suffer with sleep apnea, a malady that causes us to stop breathing while we snooze. We unconsciously awaken several times an hour to kick-start our breathing. As a result, our sleep cycles rarely reach the deep dreamy stage.

When we are awake, our lives can be depressing nightmares. Apnea-stricken sleepers often arise in the morning feeling as dead as the corpses we disturbed during the night with our serious snoring and snorting.

"I slept 13 hours last night," I announced one morning before being diagnosed. "But, I feel so tired. And, I don't think I'm nocturnal because I'm not wise enough to be an owl."

My companion made it obvious he believes he is the one who truly travails.

"I'm tired too," my mate muttered. "I woke up at 3 o'clock this morning and couldn't get back to sleep."

"Did you have a nightmare?"

"No, you were snoring really loud. I think you awakened all the deceased this side of the Mississippi River."

I blamed my buddy's grumpy demeanor to the fact he had not finished his cup of coffee. But as I ate breakfast and he slurped his brew, he expressed the fact he was worried. He was convinced I had a sleep disorder. At least I think that is what he did, but I'm not sure as I uncontrollably began snoozing and spilling cereal on the cat.

The slosh of cold milk in my lap awakened me momentarily. But as I spent the morning plucking letter-shaped oats from the feline's ears, my eyes automatically closed to catch some more Zs. This routine went on for hours. At least I think it did, but I'm not sure as I kept impersonating Rip Van Winkle.

Finally, I rejoined the living.

"I'm so tired!" I exclaimed. "I think it's starting to affect my memory."

"Oh yeah, what did you forget this time?"

"I don't remember dying my hair red."

"Oh, that happened about an hour ago when you were eating lunch," my buddy explained. "You nodded off, and your head plopped into the spaghetti sauce."

Grabbing the telephone book, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He made arrangements for me to spend the night in a sleep clinic. At least I think that's what he did, but I'm not sure as I irresistibly sawed some more logs.

A week later, I moseyed into the offices of Dr. Sandman and Associates where sleep technicians plastered a clump of electrodes to my head with white Silly Putty. The next morning, Dr. Not-So-McDreamy declared his diagnosis. I indeed had sleep apnea.

He said there was no cure, but the disorder could be treated. All I had to do was use a Continuous Positive Air Passage machine, affectionately known as a CPAP. It would involve sleeping while wearing a mask attached to a hose that constantly blows air into my nostrils. Supposedly, this contraption resembling an elephant trunk would result in restful sleep.

That was the good news. The bad news was the doctor got dramatic. As he explained the mask concept, he entertained himself by singing an off-key rendition of "Masquerade" from "Phantom of the Opera". That prompted me to question his professionalism.

"Doc, let's go back to the days when we were in fourth grade," I said sarcastically. "Let's pretend we're learning about sets and subsets. Which of the following does not belong to our set – a nightgown, a nightlight, a nightcap or a night mask?"

He didn't fall for it.

"Trust me," he said. "A night mask is not a nightmare."

"That's easy for you to say," I remarked. "How do I know you're not in cahoots with the CPAP salesman?"

"Again, a night mask is not a nightmare. A night mare is a horse after day light."

After hearing his lousy impersonation of a late night TV show host, I begged the doctor to revert to singing show tunes. I also agreed to go home with a CPAP, although I later made excuses for why I should not wear the darn mask.

"I don't want to wear this stupid thing," I told my roommate as we got ready for bed that evening.

"It can't be that bad," he said. "A lot of people wear CPAP masks. I don't hear them complaining."

"That's because you don't know those people."

"Just put on your mask and give it a rest!"

"I'm telling you, the only night I want to wear a mask is on Halloween."

But, I donned the dumb thing and proceeded with my regular bedtime routine. As expected, the CPAP was distracting.

"If I put this on when I crawl into bed, I can't read until I drop off to sleep," I whined.

"Why?" my inquisitive pal asked.

"In order to get comfortable, I have to position the air hose above my nose and over the center of my forehead. That keeps my eyes from seeing together. I might as well have one eye on the right side of my head and the other eye beside my left temple."

"You're exaggerating," he contended.

"I am not. Why do you think you never see a goldfish reading a novel?"

I continued stressing my point.

"I've got to figure out a way to sleep without the air hose getting in the way."

"It will be OK," my companion said supportively. "The hose will move with you when you change positions."

"As much as I toss and turn, I'm afraid it's going to get wrapped around my neck and choke me."

"That's ridiculous," he countered.

"Well, you're going to appear ridiculous when you have to explain to the coroner why I was strangled by King Kong's umbilical cord."

While the air pressure hurt my ears, I eventually dropped off to sleep. The next morning, my comrade said the CPAP seemed to result in better slumber. Since the machine kept me from snoring, he slept superbly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Godfather Calls for Chocolate Truce

It looked like a chocolate convention. All the power bars were present, neatly placed around the table for what could have been the sugar rush of the millennium.

Only the M&Ms were missing. They couldn't decide if Red or Blue should run their organized family.

It was Don Hersheoni who called the meeting to order. His right-hand body guard bar, Ressiano Cupini stayed close to the chocolate patriarch's side.

"I, Don Hersheoni, want to thank Don Nestleoni for helping me organize this meeting here today. I also welcome the other heads of the five chocolate families. From Nashville, we have Googoo Cluseterino. From the West Coast, we have Don Seesino. And, we have our associates from the interplanetary syndicate – Mars Bariano and Milky Wayini. Thank you!

"How did things ever get this far? I don't know. It's so unfortunate, so unnecessary for the feds to assume we're behind the reason their children are chunky. Because of it, Don Nestlenoi's son got crunched. I, too, lost a family member close to my heart when my nephew, Almondo Joiano, was done in because some senator's son had an allergic reaction to nuts.

"This chocolate war stops now! And if Kit Katsini and his impersonator Kit Katsiano agree, then I'm willing to let things go on the way they were before."

Don Nestleoni cracked his rice knuckles as Don Katsini offered his response.

"We're all grateful to Don Hersheoni for calling this meeting. We know him as a chocolate bar of his word. A modest bar, he'll always listen to reason."

But Googoo Clusterino had not stayed in business by remaining silent. He had to offer his caramel-coated comments.

"Yes, Don Hersheoni is too modest. He had all the FDA dieticians and holiday promoters in his wrapper and refused to share them."

"When did I refuse an accommodation?" Don Hersheoni asked. "All of you know me here. When did I ever refuse, except one time? For what? Because high-fat milk and saturated fat in our products are going to destroy us in years to come.

"I mean it's not like bagged spinach with e-coli or lettuce harvested from soil with traces of bacteria. Fresh green roughage is something most people want now days, and some of it has been ordered off the shelves by the USDA.

"Even the health departments and the holiday promoters who have assisted us in the past will all refuse to help us when it comes to chocolate with a high-fat, high-sugar content. I believed that when I saw that senator's preadolescent son inflate to 200 pounds. And, I believe that now."

Mars Bariano could not resist offering his intergalactic view of current day consumption.

"Times have changed. It's not like the old days when we could use any ingredients we wanted. A refusal is not an act of a friend. If Don Hersheoni has all the FDA dieticians and holiday promoters in his wrapper, then he must share them, let others use them. He must let us draw the chocolate from the vat."

However, Don Seesino had always considered his family to be of superior quality. He wanted to make sure his assorted chocolate family continued to exude temptation.

"I also do not believe in empty calories. For years, I paid my William Wonkarinos extra so they wouldn't use anything but the best goobers and fruit in our products. Then, Whitman Sampliano's flunky comes to them and says, 'Hey fellows, if you put up three or four thousand dollars for store brand peanut butter and crisp rice cereal, we can make fifty thousand distributing at holidays.' So my Willies can't resist."

Milky Wayini also viewed himself as a chocolate bar of star quality. He wanted assurance Don Seesino wouldn't try to compete with Milky Wayini Enterprises.

"I want to control it as a business and keep it respectable. I don't want our bars near schools. I don't want Hersheoni Kisses sold to children. In my galaxy, we would keep the traffic to dark chocolate lovers, the colored lovers. They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls."

Don Hersheoni got the meeting back on track.

"I hoped that we could come here and reason together. And as a reasonable chocolate bar, I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to find a peaceful solution to this problem."

"Then we all agree," Mars Bariano confirmed. "The traffic of chocolate candy will be permitted, but controlled. And, Don Hersheoni will give us protection, and there will be peace."

"But I must have strict assurance from Don Hersheoni," Don Clusterino said with a drawl. "As time goes by and his position becomes stronger, will he attempt any individual vendetta?"

"Look, we are all reasonable chocolate bars here," Don Nestleoni bellowed. "We don't have to give assurances as if we were lawyers."

"Talk about vengeance," Don Hersheoni replied. "Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my nephew back to me? I forego the vengeance of my nephew. But, I have selfish reasons. My youngest son, Baby Ruthiano, is supposed to leave this country because of his commercial business. And, I have to bring him back here safely clear of all his false charges.

"I'm a reasonable chocolate bar, but I'm also superstitious. If Baby Ruthiano gets his nugget smashed by one of Butter Fingerino's bars, or if Baby should choke himself on his peanuts or if he's melted by a lightning bolt, then I'm going to shred some of the bars in this room to coconut and put them in mounds. That I will not forgive.

"With that aside, let me say that I swear on the souls of my future chocolate products, that I will not be the one to break the peace that we've made here today."

While riding home from the meeting, Reesiano Cupini sat in the back of the limo and contemplated future business negotiations. After all, Christmas was just around the corner and Easter came on the Yuletide cusp. These were major business days for those whose lives were tied to the chocolate syndicate.

"When I meet with Kit Katsini's people, should I insist that Santiago Clausette and Eastere Bunnioni and all the other middle mascots for the holiday promoters have clean records?" Cupini asked Don Hersheoni.

"Mention it," the Don responded. "Don't insist. Katsini is a chocolate bar who will know without being told."

"You mean Katsiano?" Reesiano Cupini inquired.

"Katsiano is a pimp," Don Hersheoni said calmly. "He never could afford dark chocolate and low-cal sweetener. But, I never knew until this day that it was Katsiano all along."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang celebrated their 60th anniversary this month. Shroeder was going to provide entertainment, but the arthritis in his fingers was flaring up.

I can't imagine growing up without Peanuts. They taste so good covered with chocolate.

Snoopy was really smart. He taught me that you don't have to worry about keeping a roof over your head because you can sleep quite comfortably with a roof under your head.

Without Snoopy, I never would have known it was a dark and stormy night.

Lucy made it clear we don't need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on health insurance because the psychiatrist only charges five cents.

From Lucy, I learned even a girl who thinks she knows everything can't help falling for a musician.

Contrary to popular belief, thanks to Lucy¸ I am only the world's second greatest fuss budget.

I don't care what anybody says, we're still in the midst of a recession. If you don't believe me, consult Charlie Brown's hairline. (Hey, if I don't blame him, Lucy will.)

If Charlie Brown had grown up to be an adult, he probably would have been a fireman so he could rescue his kite from the kite-eating tree.

I can't prove this, but I'm pretty sure Charlie Brown's teacher spoke English as a second language.

*** This is no joke. That loveable 60-year-old, 8-year-old round-headed kid reinforces that we should never lose touch with the child within us – regardless of our age. Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shopping on Empty Results in Fullness

Chances are slim dieters will lose anything other than money if they go grocery shopping with empty stomachs.

Such a practice can lead some people to fail in merely preparing to succeed. I know because I am one of the some.

In my case, the sum ain't pretty. The total is approximately 50 pounds of surplus fat. So, I recently decided to do whatever it takes to lose one-fourth of me. It also means whatever includes ridiculing from my roommate.

"From this day forth, I am going on a diet," I declared. "I pledge to never leave home without a grocery list and to never purchase items that are not on that list."

While I made these vows to myself, my companion heard every word. I know because he started laughing.

"That list trick never works if you shop when you're hungry," my compact comrade exclaimed between chuckles and gasps for air. "For example, Santa Claus has a list and checks it twice. But, he's still fat."

Secretly, I felt proud because I have a friend who loves me regardless of my shape and size. However, my stubborn streak made me even more determined to put my plan into place. Grabbing a pencil and last week's grocery store tab, I began drafting my first dietary shopping list on the back of the receipt. I also tried to ignore my pal's rude remark about St. Nick.

My buddy knew I was miffed. I know because he started cleaning the kitchen, a task he never tackles unless he is trying to get back on my good side. Then, his kissing up became sappy.

"Why don't I cook you some bacon and eggs to eat before you go to the store?"

"No, that's OK," I responded. "I'm starting a diet so I shouldn't eat fried bacon."

"I can poach the eggs and broil the bacon," he insisted. "You really should eat so you won't buy everything in the store because you're hungry."

"Part of being on a diet is having the discipline not to buy food you don't need," I contended. "Besides, we're out of bacon, which is one reason I'm going to the store."

To demonstrate I had control, I read him my two-item list – vegetables and bacon. Just to be cordial, I queried if he had additions for my roster. But, he showed little concern for my compilation. Instead, he continued his sweet talk.

"I still think you should have something hot to eat before you go," he said. "It will only take a minute for me to serve you a bowl of cornflakes."

I replied, "A bowl of cornflakes does not constitute a hot meal unless you left the milk out."

"We're almost out of milk. Add that to your list," he demanded. "While you're at it, also write down chocolate milk."

"I'll get regular milk," I announced, making his addition to my list. "We really don't need chocolate milk. That's too tempting. It would be like eating liquid ice cream."

Before my roommate could comment, I picked up my car keys and headed out the door. An hour later, I returned home. I was delighted because I purchased fewer items than I usually buy. But, my companion still was not convinced my list plan was working. His desire was to prove the flaw in my system.

"What took you so long?" he asked.

With hesitation, I answered, "I forgot my list so I had to improvise."

Then, smugness surged into my chum as he began offering unsolicited quips.

"It looks like you bought everything in the store and then picked up a few items at another one."

I reacted as any sane woman would behave. I became defensive.

"I didn't buy beets, Brussels sprouts or balsamic vinegar."

"You don't like those things."

"I didn't buy dog food."

"We don't have a dog."

"See, I only bought half of everything in the store."

"Well, that's all you could fit in the trunk of your car."

I realized giving him the silent treatment would serve no useful purpose. So, I dismissed his criticism of my latest purchases. Wasting no time, I returned my focus to the heart of the matter – getting on with my diet and relieving my hunger pains.

"While I put everything away, why don't you fry some bacon and eggs," I requested. "That would taste so good with a large glass of milk."

"Is the bacon in the bag with the six cartons of cupcakes or in the small bag filled with jelly beans?"

He proved his point, which forced me to admit my defeat.

"Oh, man! I forgot to get bacon and milk."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Old Adages Take a New Twist

The bad news is my dog has fleas. The good news is my ukulele is in tune.

If working long hours is making you tired, hire me. For $8 an hour, I'll take a nap for you.

Little Boy Blue wouldn't be blue if he took a breath before he blew his horn.

If at first you don't succeed, blame it on your supervisor.

If it's one, two, three strikes you're out, you need to get another box of matches.

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away¸ who is going to examine the worm?

If you kill two birds with one stone, you could be accused of being a serial killer.

A stitch in time may save nine, but it won't guarantee you won't rip your britches again.

If you burn the candle at both ends, make sure you have fresh batteries in your smoke detectors.

Late to bed, early to rise, means you live too close to a rooster.

Before you take stock on Wall Street, consult Humpty Dumpty.

Don't think about what other people think. Let them do their own work.

Out of sight, out of mind doesn't apply to your bill collectors.

Whoever said "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile," was talking about hairdressers.

Pie are squared, but they taste great with ice cream on top.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet because all the chairs were taken.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Woman's Search for Work is Never Done

No one disputes that a picture paints a thousand words. But these days, writers and people who need wordsmiths are not on the same page regarding payment for those words. The people in need appear to be people with greed. They seem to think those communicative clumps of letters are worth much less than a dime a dozen.

In my case, few people question the quality of my comedy writing ability. In fact, I would be an extremely wealthy woman if I had a dollar for each time I hear, "You really want to get paid for your work? That's funny. You're a freelancer not a paidlancer."

Still, I must admit my guilty pleasure. There are few things I love more than seeing my name in print. Those things happen to be stocking my cupboard with Ramen noodles, investing in my landlord's future and hiring a hairdresser to paint my skunk stripe red.

Unfortunately, the best things in life are not free. Otherwise, I'd just get a puppy.

To do my part for economic stimulus, I recently decided to supplement my writing income by diving into the temp agency talent pool. After all, I have the audacity to assume I have a lot to offer. I can type 60 words a minute. I can write a complete sentence. I'm proficient with several computer applications. I can even file because as a writer I know "I" comes before "E" except after "C".

However, I'm beginning to think corporate America is not cut out for me. Fortune 500 companies will have to become Fortune 5000 companies without my help. Although I scored above 95 percent on skills assessment tests, temp agency consultants continuously tell me, "It's tough out there. Only the cream-of-the-crop gets hired. You're going to be hard to place because you're over-qualified."

As a former full-time journalist, I'm trained to ask questions. "If only the best get hired, then shouldn't being over-qualified be to my advantage?"

"Well, we only place our most-qualified candidates," one hiring executive in Beverly Hills explained.

"Well, what is the difference between most-qualified and over-qualified?"

Her possibly illegal answer to that question left me baffled. "Younger people with less experience are easier to teach because they're eager to learn."

"So does over-qualified really mean overweight or over 30?" I queried for clarification. "If it means over 30, I can look younger. But, you have to get me a temp gig so I can afford to get my skunk stripe painted."

The employment consultant tried to save face. "Oh, your hair looks fine. But, you might want to go shopping on Rodeo Drive and buy some designer suits. When you go, think Paris."

"But, I don't want a Chihuahua."

My cynicism caused her to reconsider, "OK, that dress looks professional, but those orthopedic shoes have to go. You need to wear heels or I can't send you out to a Fortune 500 company. They adhere to a dress code."

None-the-less, dressing for so-called success may not be feasible for some folks – including moi. "I understand the need to look the part. But in 2002, I broke both of my ankles. I have to wear orthopedic shoes so I won't sustain further injury or look like a human leaning tower of Pisa."

I risked digging the rest of my grave while defending my rights. "I thought it was illegal to discriminate against people with physical disabilities. I think a pair of orthopedic shoes is a reasonable ADA accommodation. It's astonishing to think heels on my feet would increase my typing speed."

"Well, they're not going to hire you in those shoes."

"Let's sic Judge Judy on them," I suggested. "She won't let those heels walk all over us."

Finally, I got sent for an interview for a temporary position answering phones. The youthful company cheerleader tried to stump me with her thought-provoking question. "How do you feel about world peace?"

I said, "Is my tiara on straight?"

This confused the child panelist. Maybe it was because I wasn't wearing my tiara. While my crown would have concealed my skunk stripe, the zirconium clashed with my shoes.

An hour after the interview, the agency representative called to say, "They decided to hire the office manager's girlfriend's husband's niece."

Two mornings later, my ringing phone interrupted me as I poured kibbles into my new Chihuahua's dish.

"I've got the perfect job for you," the agency rep announced. "It uses all of your skills. You'll be reporting to a bank president. So brush up on Excel. Now, don't mess this up. Your future depends on this."

I eagerly reported for duty, which began with a two-hour training session on the art of using a staple remover. Yep, my job for the next two weeks was to prep paper files for scanning.

The trainer didn't have a boring instructional manual, so she dramatically demonstrated the desired technique of using the gadget resembling Pac Man. Thumb on the bottom. Fingers on the top. Then, click as if I were playing castanets.

"Don't worry if you don't get it immediately," my instructor said. "The important thing is to get familiar with the feel of the staple remover. Think of it as a giant claw in an arcade machine. But, this little jewel clutches staples instead of a stuffed monkey or a tiara."

After completing the gig, I have to admit my hiring manager was right. Acquiring staple-removing skills is a stepping stone to success. I'm now qualified for a career in sock puppetry, which I understand pays almost as well as freelance comedy writing. I just need a sock that resembles a puppy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not Such a Close Call

Buzz about the new sitcom "Outsourced" takes me back to a past life in Seattle. While the city is smaller than Los Angeles, where I now live, there is no denying the Seattle metropolitan area is viewed as a global community. It is after all home to such worldly phenomenon as Microsoft, Boeing and Big Foot.

But, an international hub is not complete without a few glitches. For example, jobs often are outsourced to foreign nations, which explains why quality service is an Indian phrase meaning, "Good luck, Sucker!

You see, worldliness centers around cultural and entrepreneurial diversity. If it were a perfect world, our differences would create Heaven on Earth in the Great Northwest. However, the likenesses shared by mankind throughout the universe plays havoc with reality, causing the Puget Sound region to sometimes become unsound.

My companion and I became victims of this synergism. All we did was attempt to communicate. It was on one of those rare fall days when the sun actually showed its face. We decided to play hooky from work so we could go check out the area's volcanoes. Little did we know our tempers instead of a mountain would be exploding.

"Let's call in sick for work and go see Mount St. Helen's," my roommate suggested.

Upon conducting a quick self-diagnosis, I agreed. "Yeah, I think I'm suffering with an asthma attack. Breathing some fresh mountain air will be good for me."

My buddy picked up the phone and his sunny disposition turned to outrage. Instead of a dial tone, he heard only the sound of silence.

"I think the cat has been chewing on the phone cord again," he scowled.

His expression reeked of exasperation. So, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the number to our landline to make sure the problem was nothing more than the cord. After a few rings, I heard, "The number you are calling is no longer in service or has been disconnected. Please try your call again later."

"It's more than the cord," I announced. "We have a serious problem of some sort."

"Some Microsoft nerd sent out a universal e-mail saying Big Foot has been sighted again," my pal grumbled. "Maybe when Big Foot was on his way to the creek to do some bare-handed salmon fishing he accidentally ran into the telephone poles and knocked down the overhead wires."

My companion tends to revert to cynicism when he's angry. I'd like to think I remain sensible. So, I grabbed my cell phone and called the phone company to report the situation. Of course, an automated system was screening calls from people like me.

After 15 minutes of pressing numbers, a switchboard operator finally came on the line and said she would connect me with a customer service representative. I was delighted to know I soon would be assisted by a real person. My outlook changed when I learned that human touch would be reaching across the continent and over the sea from India.

As I explained my dilemma, it became clear a language barrier existed between me and the outsourced phone center employee. He could not seem to find our account information in his computer system, although he was sure a person who shared my partner's nomenclature – but with a different middle initial – had to be us. It seemed the imposter was a derelict with a delinquent bill.

"That's the wrong name," I screamed at the phone representative. "What do we have to do to prove that to you?"

In garbled English, the guy answered. "You need to go to office, pay $80 rehooking fee, show two photo identifications and proof of – what's the word, it's either citizenship or citizenboat."

"An $80 reconnection fee is absolutely ridiculous," I shouted in hopes that he could understand the language better if I yelled. "This is not our fault. To charge a fee to restore our service is wrong."

"Oh, you want sarong," the man replied. "You call back in an hour when I start answering the women's wear customer complaint line."

"I'm sorry," I enunciated. "I think you misunderstood."

"Oh, you want sari. You call back in forty-eight minutes when I start answering the women's wear customer complaint line."

It instantly became obvious this guy held a monopoly on outsourced customer service jobs. This situation only added to my frustration. "I don't want women's wear, I want phone service. I want it now!"

"You want phone company service center. That line is now closed. Now, I open women's wear hotline."

"If you want to talk women's wear, then let me tell you something, mister. You are wearing on this woman's last nerve."

Suddenly, I heard a click followed by the sound of silence. I checked the cell phone battery thinking I just needed a recharge. But, I discovered the customer service man had an attitude in need of adjustment. He had hung up on me.

I called back. But I waited a few minutes to tame my temper. After all, it really wasn't the phone center worker's fault. He was just some schmuck in Bombay trying to earn a living. He had that right. It is the American way.

Following the seventh ring, I heard a familiar voice. "Microsoft technical service center, how may you help me today?"

"I was calling Teleco Northwest about getting my phone service reconnected," I said. "I thought I dialed 206-432-1666. Is this the right number?"

"Yes, but for next two hours, I answer computer consumer calls. What problem are you having with your Windows?"

"I'm not having Windows problems. However, I cannot connect to the internet because you can't seem to understand that my phone service was mistakenly disconnected. Therefore, I have no working modem."

"If you need to reload your Windows, you call back in three hours when I answer Builders Block hardware hotline."

"You're impossible," I bellowed. "You and I obviously are not speaking the same language. We're definitely miles apart in mutual understanding as well as geography."

"Where are you calling from, sir?" he inquired.

"I'm in Seattle. Now, let's talk about getting my phone service reconnected."

"Are you related to Big Foot?"

When the snickering ended, I screamed, "What does Big Foot have to do with my phone service?"

"You must be kin to Big Foot. You are Big Mouth."

By now, I was ready to blow my top. I knew the sight would not be pretty. I knew my eruption was going to make Mount St. Helen's 1980s action look wimpy.

"I am the customer here. I do not want to hear any more of your lip. I want to speak to your supervisor. I want to speak to him or her now."

Reluctantly, he transferred my call. Following the seventh ring, I heard his familiar voice. "Thank you for calling the Boeing Aviation job line. We currently have an available position in our customer service phone center. Qualified candidates must be willing to relocate to India."

I hung up, sighed and consulted with my friend. "Well, Darling, I guess we better hurry and get dressed or we'll be late for work."

Note: The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Some of the facts have been changed to protect the comedy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cooking Up Laughter

My cooking is atrocious. It is so bad that when it's time to set the table, the dish runs away with the spoon.


My cooking is so bad that neighborhood dogs had the health department close down my trash cans.

I went to the doctor last week, and he told me to change my diet. So, instead of country-fried steak, I'm now eating suburban-fried steak.

Gas prices are so high that rival gang members have to car pool to their drive-by shootings.

Gas prices are so high, I'm thinking of buying a hybrid. I found a good deal on a used one fueled by feet and a pterodactyl.

The musician made a career move to the land of California earthquakes. He never made it into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of fame, but his house did.

When the 6.5 earthquake rearranged my furniture, one thing became clear. Mother Nature doesn't practice Feng Shui.

You know you're losing your sex appeal when your hour-glass figure starts taking up 12 hours.

Middle age is when rock 'n roll starts involving a chair and a bed.

You know you're unlucky when you arrive at the station to board the midnight train to Georgia and you find out it left at noon.

You know you're unlucky when you order a happy meal and get a disgruntled meal.

I hate Sudoku for numbers of reasons – specifically one through nine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mailbox Filled with Star Power

While technology makes written communication easier and faster than ever before, nothing can replace the intimacy of hand-delivered mail. Yep, the real thing straight from the United States Postal service is unparallel to e-mail, text messages or even smoke signals.

Come rain or shine, our letter carrier never fails to stuff our mailbox with exciting items such as greeting cards from insurance companies, coupons from hardware stores and campaign literature from folks with political ambition. OK, the latter ain't exactly representative of literary classics such as "Grapes of Wrath" or "Little Women." But, well-written election propaganda does resemble a fabulous mud-slinging abridged version of "War and Peace."

With anticipation, I await the daily arrival of my snail mail. The thought of getting junk with a personal touch is the highlight of my day.

Ditto for my companion. "What did the mailman bring us today?" he eagerly asked yesterday.

"I got a therapy bill and a lifetime opportunity from the marketing director of Startouch magazine. You got a summons for jury duty."

"You can keep the bill. But¸ I'll trade you my jury duty for the magazine pitch letter."

His enthusiasm inspired me to rip open that letter to learn why the marketing director decided to be my pen pal. The word "free" dressed in bold letters seemed to tap dance across the page just above this stranger's salutation of "Dear Friend."

She hooked me with "friend." So, I read on. She wasn't just a marketing guru. She was a mind reader. Her practical prose got right to the point. Her first sentence revealed I had a hectic life and I deserved more than a few fleeting moments of leisure time. I could not contain my excitement.

"Honey, the Startouch marketing director wants to help me melt away my stress. She wants to treat me to the relaxation remedy I need."

"Beware," my skeptical supporter insisted. "If she were a licensed therapist, she wouldn't be writing sales pitches."

"She's giving me a gift certificate for six issues of Startouch. This certificate entitles me to the perfect therapy for my mind, heart and soul."

"A magazine instead of therapy. Your medical insurance company probably hired her to write that letter."

Undaunted, I continued to cherish this opportunity for satisfaction. "My gift certificate also entitles me to steal moments with George Clooney and Patrick Dempsey over morning coffee. Would you be jealous if I accepted this offer?"

"Not at all," my companion said a little too enthusiastically. "While you're out with George and or Patrick, I can spend time alone with my soon-to-arrive mail-order bride."

"You're just jealous."

"Go. Have coffee with George. Just don't tell him where you hide your diamonds."

"What do you mean?" I inquired.

"While George lures you out of the house for lattes, he might send over his criminal companions from Oceans 13 through 27. George can't be trusted."

I ignored the cynicism and returned to my letter. In addition to caffeine connections with George and Patrick, I could curl up in my favorite armchair and spend blissful afternoons with old friends and new such as Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston.

"I doubt if Julia would like to be called old, although she might have a few years on Jennifer," I criticized. "Still, spending time with Julia would be fun."

Of course, my pal played devil's advocate. "I don't think so. Julia might be a steel magnolia, but she's also a runaway bride. Plus, she tried to foil her best friend's wedding. Julia can't be trusted."

"What about Patrick?"

"You don't stand a chance. Thanks to his role in 'Grey's Anatomy', Patrick has quite a reputation as Dr. McDreamy. He can walk into any room and hear women's hearts fluttering. He doesn't even need his stethoscope."

"What about Jennifer?" I questioned, expecting my companion to cast more rain on my parade.

"With Jen, it's friends forever. She can be trusted."

I interrupted this stimulating conversation to read more. The marketing director said if I like my six issues of Startouch, I can get 16 more for three easy payments of $13.14 each.

My budget-conscious buddy ruined the charm. "If you spent afternoons curled up in your armchair, you'd have to quit your day job. Then, you wouldn't earn a paycheck. So in order to make those easy payments, you'd have to steal more than moments from George and Patrick."

"But I'd be saving $2.19 an issue. That's a bargain."

"Well, since you put it like that!"

"Don't be sarcastic," I pleaded. "My letter states, and I quote, 'for best results, read all six free issues before making Startouch a weekly rejuvenation ritual.' "

"Go ahead and cash in your gift certificate."

"Do you really think I can put a price on therapy for my mind, heart and soul?" I queried.

"Well, $13.14 is $1.86 cheaper than the co-payment for your therapist. Besides, reading Startouch will give you something to do at night if I get on a jury panel and the judge has us sequestered."

Writer's note: The name of the magazine has been changed to protect the shameless. Some of the facts have been changed to protect the comedy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top Ten Things Not to Say to Editors, Publishers and Agents

1. If you've got the money, honey, I've got the lines.

2. I'd love to tell you what my book is about, but it's a mystery.

3. I'm an experienced ghost writer. I've written scores of newspaper obituaries.

4. My goal is to be a cowboy poet. It's been my lifelong dream to be named poet lariat.

5. My book is great for bedtime reading. Just ask my husband. He fell asleep reading the first page.

6. If I wanted to show and not tell, I'd write picture books.

7. My autobiography captures me from top to bottom. It has a weak beginning, an ample middle and a huge end.

8. When it comes to choosing a publisher, forget Doubleday. I'm holding out for Tripleday.

9. My book is so good it makes "Harry Potter" look like kid stuff.

10. I don't believe in making every word count. But I think they should be encouraged to sing, dance and do Pilates.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If Chocolate Was Illegal

Welcome to the city. Two million people live here. It never sleeps. When it fails to snooze for illegal reasons, I get involved. My name is Bob Tuesday. I’m a police detective. I carry a badge – but not necessarily a red one of courage.

8:32 a.m. October 12. My partner, Detective Fred Jones, and I were assigned to the Chocolate Division. We started our morning meeting with Mayor Seymore Thinley and members of the organized chocolate syndicate. They included Don Ghirardelliano, Peanut Clusterini and Willie Wonkarino. With the exception of the mayor, these men were not nice people.

Today, they were more riled than usual. The mayor called the meeting to order. “As you know, a ban on chocolate has been in effect within the city limits for the past 11 months. Working with the chocolate syndicate through plea-bargain agreements, we have drastically reduced the chocolate trade and the waistlines of our once obese youngsters.

“But during the past three weeks, something has gone drastically awry. We have serious reason to believe illegal chocolate trade is inundating even our quaintest neighborhoods. I noticed this about a week ago, when my son, Seymore Junior, began to chunk out after losing 35 pounds. Only one thing can cause this phenomenon – devouring chocolate between meals.

“We have to get this situation under control before the feds halt financial subsidies to our city coffer. Besides, the city doesn’t pay me enough to buy Junior new britches.”

Peanut Clusterini was angry enough to throw rotten Cadbury eggs at enemy mobs. “This smells like Almondo Joie is behind this. You just can’t trust those gangsters dealing in Swiss chocolate.”

“Joie is French,” Don Ghirardelliano set the record straight. “But, I think German chocolate may be the culprit. I never did trust Don Hersheygut.”

Willie Wonkarino wanted to give his fellow criminal element the benefit of the doubt. But, he too had strong feelings that crossed lines of the underground chocolate turf. “I have reason to believe Mario Nestleoni’s family is involved – specifically, his nephew Ralph. We all know Ralph doesn’t think with his noggin. When the chocolate ban went into effect, he was the first to get busted. Why? Because he can’t resist wooing the women with heart-shaped boxes filled with assorted chocolates. It wouldn’t have been so severe had he done this in February – the month of love and Valentine’s Day. But no, it was January when he used chocolates to steal a few hearts.”

Wonkarino’s theory led the mayor to suspicion. “Wait a minute. Willie just reminded me of something Junior said during breakfast this morning. I was having toast and chocolate milk. He was eating a bowl of Chococrisps. We spent quality time together this morning because Junior was in bed when I got home last night after the City Council meeting.”

“Yeah, go on,” Sgt. Jones insisted.

“Well, Junior said that a few weeks ago he and his friends were playing near the Nestleoni warehouse down the street from the elementary school they attend. They saw the school nurse, Clarice Godiva, leaving the establishment with Ralph. They were walking to a black stretch limo parked in the alley. Junior thought he saw Clarice holding a piece of chocolate. But, he couldn’t tell for sure. He was distracted by her long blond hair hanging down around her knees.”

I jumped into action. “Fred, we better go to the school and have a talk with this Lady Godiva.”

Tom ta tom tom! Tom ta tom tom tom!

10:42 a.m. Fred and I drove to the elementary school. We announced ourselves to the principal. Then, we headed straight to the nurse’s office. But, we had to wait 15 minutes to question Lady Godiva. She was attending to three children complaining of belly aches. The belly aches came on right after recess. Fred and I suspected illegal chocolate consumption was involved.

“Why do you want to to talk to me, sergeants?” The nurse asked innocently.

“Where were you about 3:47 p.m. on September 19, Miss Godiva?” Fred queried. “It is Miss isn’t it?”

“Well, I can’t be too sure. But, I think I was getting my hair trimmed. I do that about every six months. Otherwise it hangs down way below my knees. My husband doesn’t like that.”

I explained our line of questioning. “Some students here think they saw you that afternoon, Mrs. Godiva. And, you were not at the beauty parlor. You were spotted in the alley outside the chocolate warehouse with Ralph Nestleoni. The boys thought you were clutching contraband chocolate.”

“Why do they think it was me, sergeant?”

“One kid thought he recognized your hair. But one thing is for sure, he knows you were holding something, and you had your right pinky finger extended. So just give us the facts, Mam. When you left with Ralph, were you or were you not holding a chocolate truffle?”

“OK, I was with Ralph at the chocolate warehouse. I like Ralph. He gives me what my husband can’t. Ralph has access to chocolate. My husband can’t provide that because Mayor Thinley banned chocolate within the city limits.

"Please don’t tell my husband. After all, it is not what it seems. I was eating that truffle because I would never be caught carrying surplus chocolate. I don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.”

“It already has, Mam,” Fred replied. “We have reason to believe someone is selling stolen chocolate to children at this school.”

Lady Godiva seemed baffled. “What? Hot chocolate?”

Tom ta tom tom! Tom ta tom tom tom!

3:58 p.m. Fred and I decided Lady Godiva appeared genuinely startled. We doubted if she was the campus chocolate pusher. We decided to pay a visit to the mayor’s house. We wanted to interview Seymore Thinley Junior. As luck would have it, Junior answered our knock at the door. Something was smeared all around his mouth. It looked like chocolate.

We showed Junior our badges and invited ourselves inside. There on the coffee table beside a glass of chocolate milk and four chocolate chip cookies was a mound of evidence. It appeared chocolate-covered nugget, chocolate-coated almonds and chocolate Santas were being weighed and packaged for sell in clear plastic baggies.

“OK, OK,” Junior admitted his guilt. “My friends and I weren’t playing outside the chocolate warehouse. Two of us were standing guard while our pal went inside and stole some candy. We were only going to sell enough to earn money to buy Christmas presents. Our idea was to keep the rest for our own consumption.”

4:52 p.m. We handcuffed Junior and took him downtown where he was fingerprinted and booked for possession with intent to sell a controlled substance.

The story you have just read may or may not be true or false. The names may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent or not so innocent. In a moment, you will read the results of this story.

On October 31, Seymore Thinley Junior appeared in juvenile court where he was found guilty of breaking chocolate laws. He was sentenced to serve up to two years in juvenile detention or to lose 35 pounds, whichever comes first.