Tuesday, August 19, 2014

KEEP OFF THE GRASS!

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for people. Dogs, yes, people, no. I also thought dog owners were better people than non-dog owners, but this past year has taught me even assholes are allowed to adopt pets.
From the moment I adopted Miss Rose Marie, I have encountered everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. For those who don’t know, she has three legs. She’s fine. All of you only have two, which is why she feels sorry for you.
“What happened to her leg?” You ask.
“Nothing.” That has become my answer. “Nothing.” If you think that is rude, it is much better than what I want to say, “None of your fucking business.”
Then they get insistent. “Her leg, what happened?”
I look down and say, “Nothing. Her legs are fine.”
“No, I mean she’s missing one leg.”
“Yes, I know.”
“What happened?”
“Nothing.”
Then I usually get, “Asshole.” “Jerk” and even “Faggot.” Yeah, I got that from a kid. Lovely. I can only imagine that one’s parents.
People stop their cars to ask me what happened to her. They never say hello. When I refuse to tell them, they tell me I am rude. I’m rude? Seriously?
What if I were walking with a disabled child, and someone stopped his car and asked, “What’s wrong with him?” Who would be rude?
What if I had one leg and someone stopped to ask me what happened? Who would be rude?
To those of us who have pets, they are part of our family, and your nosy questions about our pets bother us. Of course, 99 percent of you reading this wouldn’t be so rude.
One day, a bus driver slowed down, opened the door and said, “I don’t know what happened to your dog, but I just want you to know she is beautiful.”
Now, that is an appropriate thing to say.
I just don’t understand the fascination with her missing leg. I am more fascinated with the parts she has. I can’t do anything with a missing leg.
I have experienced this before. Miss Serena Rose Elizabeth Montgomery went deaf at eleven years old and blind at twelve. For the last two years of her life, I would carry her across the street when we were out for a walk. She could smell grass, so I was always sure to have her walk on my left with the grass to her left, but curbs and streets were an obstacle.
Once after carrying her across the street, some smart ass said to me, “What? Is your dog too prissy to touch pavement.”
I said, “No, asshole. She’s blind and deaf.”
I know. One of these days, somebody is going to punch me in the mouth.
When I first adopted Miss Esmeralda Rose Alice Ghostly, she was thin and her teets were sagging due to being a puppy mill bitch for eight years. As I was walking her around the armpit of Maryland, otherwise known as Rockville, somebody screamed at me, “Did you breed that dog enough? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I was dumbfounded. I flipped him the bird.
I know. One of these days, somebody is going to reach over and break my finger.
While Rose Marie is a magnet for rude and nosy people, she is also a dog to be feared.
She isn’t aggressive or rabid. She walks on grass, and she has only three legs. Fear the tripawd on the lawn!
Take that in for a minute.
Yes, she walks on grass.
Before I go on, keep in mind, Esmeralda lived in the trailer park with me for a year. I walked her at least six times a day. This takes me back to Mount Pleasant, which is neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss. I used to walk Serena at least six times a day, and I can’t begin to tell you how many people were concerned with how often I walked my dog. Again, whose business is it anyway? I lived in an apartment, and that was how she got her exercise.
Why is everyone so fascinated with everyone else? Do I criticize how you raise those future serial killers?
Where was I? Oh yes, Esmeralda in the trailer park.
No one ever gave me grief about walking her. Esmeralda had four legs, but she was very timid and she would walk right next to me, never behind, never ahead. She didn’t sniff. She just walked. She did her business and went on.
I also am one of the few people who cleans up after his dog. In my neighborhood, there are no swales. That is the grassy area between the sidewalk and the road. Apparently, it is a Florida term like lanai. This means they do their business in a yard. I am a good citizen, so I make sure she does her business as close to the sidewalk as possible. That way I am not standing in someone’s yard while she puts herself in a north-south position to pinch a loaf.
On Rose Marie’s adoption day, I walked her every ninety minutes to get her used to the neighborhood and going outside. She was house trained in twelve hours.
Sidenote: If you adopt a dog, walk it every ninety minutes the first two or three days, and he or she will be house trained quickly. Making a dog sit in a cage for five hours or just hold it for five hours is not house training. When I was an adoption counselor at a rescue organization, I can’t begin to tell you how many people would bring a dog back because it couldn’t be house trained.
“What did you do?”
“I made him hold it for four hours in his cage, but he went anyway.”
“Can you hold it for four hours?”
“No.”
“You just answered your own question.”
Also, a crate is a cage. Call it what you want, but it’s a cage. I refuse to say crate.
This world is full of idiots, and I have to live in it.
Anyway. Back to Rose Marie’s first day.
I walked by a dog-owning neighbor’s yard, and she came running out. She saw my little three-legged dog, and she said, “You need to keep that dog off my grass.”
Rose Marie was just sniffing around and had already gone near the mailboxes.
“Oh, she’s just sniffing around.”
Then she hesitated and said, “Well, the vet said my grass has fleas, so you don’t want her on my grass.”
“What do you do with your dog?”
She didn’t have an answer.
A few days later, I found out she thought my dog had leprosy and her dog would catch it and lose a limb. I wish I could make this shit up.
I decided to keep Rose Marie off her grass in case her dog had moron-cooties.
Then, we had another winter from hell. This was Rose Marie’s first winter. She loved it. We couldn’t spend enough time outside. The only problem was finding a place to poop. Peeing was easy as that is a squat, but with only one front leg, she needs to find a place where she can keep her balance while in pooping position.
The easiest thing about having all that snow is cleaning up the poop. You can scoop all the snow around it or, better yet, it just sits on top of the ice. It is much easier than trying to clean it up on a wet un-mowed lawn. You dog owners know what I mean.
One neighbor actually had some exposed grass in her yard. Again, Rose Marie had already done her business, but she wanted to feel grass under her feet, so she walked on the grass. No sooner had she taken a step when this ancient battle axe came running out her door.
“Keep that dog off my grass.”
“She is just walking on it. She isn’t going to do anything.”
“I don’t care. Keep that three-legged dog off my grass.”
My jaw dropped. I froze, which was easy since it was six degrees with a wind chill of minus twelve.
We moved along.
Do you know that bitch had the nerve to wave at me every time she drove by after that?
One day, she was having trouble unfolding her husband’s wheelchair after she retrieved it from the back of their Ford Escape. I walked over and asked if she needed help. While I unfolded the chair, Rose Marie stepped on her grass, and she said, “Keep your dog off my grass.”
I locked the chair for her, looked her in the eye and said, “Go fuck yourself.”
Her husband thanked me. Poor guy. He had to screw that at some point.
Then the piece de resistance happened. I got a call from my dog walker telling me someone called the police on him because Rose Marie walked on his grass.
Before I go on. We rent our lots. This grass, crabby, weedy, dandylionee as it is, belongs to the park, not us. We mow it. There is only one descent lawn in the entire park, and the lady who lives there has a dog and doesn’t care if I take a dump on it.
Again, I was dumbfounded. The police thought the neighbor was ridiculous, but they had to answer the call.
We never found out which neighbor called, and no one has stepped forward.
But wait, there’s more. Just last week, I was walking Rose Marie, and she peed on the common area of grass near the mailboxes, and a neighbor, another dog owner, who never walks her dog, just lets him pee and poop in her driveway, yelled at me about letting my dog pee on the grass.
“Where is she supposed to pee?”
“In your yard. Pee kills grass.”
That did it. I was done.
In front of a couple of neighbors, who were retrieving their latest issue of Redneck Monthly from their mailboxes, one of which was the flea lady herself, I calmly told this wrinkled, chain smoking dog owner (who is probably younger than I am) – yes, she also owns a dog, “Dog pee killing grass is the oldest wife’s tale in the book. Dog pee kills ants. It is a natural fertilizer. In order for it to kill grass, the dog would have to pee in the same exact spot for two months straight at least three times a day. And another thing. She was born this way. She has no disease that your mangy, flea bitten, non-exercised, neurotic yappy dogs can catch. Leave me and my dog alone. I clean up after her, which is more than I can say for most of you. I will walk her where I want, when I want. And the next one of you who calls the police on my dog walker better grow a pair and step forward.”
Then I snapped my fingers, turned on my heels, and Rose Marie and I sashayed up the walk.
The following Sunday, as we walked by the wrinkle’s house, she yelled over to me, “Good morning.”
I pretended I didn’t hear her, so did Rose Marie.
If you want to pee on my grass, visit my site first, and by one of my books: www.miltonstern.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

People Can’t Read … or Listen

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who spends the entire time formulating a reaction to what you are saying but doesn’t actually hear what you are saying?

Do you tell someone something, and then you hear that person tell someone else the same thing, only to hear it told completely wrong?

Are you a writer who gets letters to the editor about columns you’ve written, and they supposedly quote you or put words in your mouth you never said?

If you answered yes, you are I.

The other day, one of my four bosses – the joys of contract work is the blurring of the chain of command – asked to see me, and he said, “Well, do I have hell to pay?”

“What?”

“You said, if I you weren’t offered this position, there would be hell to pay.”

Let me be clear. I have NEVER said “hell to pay” in my entire five-plus decades on this planet. I have said some pretty nasty things and made some pretty idle threats using language that would make a crack whore blush, but I have NEVER said “hell to pay.”

He even said he had a witness. Well, the witness proved him wrong.

By the way, the position was eliminated when the alcoholic abandoned it, so there wouldn’t be a way to offer it. Therefore, there was no hell to pay, imagined or not.

This is my life.

When one is loud and opinionated – Who? Me? – one spends a lifetime being misquoted.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting with a hotel representative planning a conference with someone from my organization who is known to be pretty shady. I said, “For every 50 nights we reserve, there should be a comp room; therefore, we should have three comp rooms since we have reserved 160 nights.”

Before the hotel rep could say anything, Mr. Shady yelled, “We aren’t giving rooms to the entire board!”

I thought, where in my sentence did I say “board”? There he was getting ready to react to something that wasn’t said, but reacted anyway. Well, one shouldn’t do that with me because my next comment was, “When did I say board? Did anyone in this room hear me say board? Now, you need to shut up because you have been given a free room, meals and drinks for five years without informing anyone in the organization, which is essentially stealing from us as that was our room, food and drinks. It says so right here in this contract in black and white that they have provided you these things.”

Some people forget I actually can read. They also forget I actually listen … when I want to.

Growing up, family members would ask me to recall conversations. What always amazed me was what they didn’t remember. My mother was famous for selective memory. My father on the other hand had no listening skills. He would hear a sentence on the news and go off without any context.

Reporter: “A man riding a bicycle was hit by a truck during last night’s thunderstorm.”

Dad: “There go the Russians, screwing with our weather again.”

OK, he was one aluminum hat short of a trip to St. Elizabeth’s.

Recently, I wrote a column about the mid-1970s, mid-size, rebadged Plymouth Fury for Hemmings Classic Car. In the article, I mentioned how I remembered watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno and Clint Eastwood were guests on the show. Jay Leno mentioned that Clint Eastwood drove used Plymouth Fury police cars.

A few days after publication, I received a letter forwarded by my editor. The author said in an angry and condescending tone intended to get me in trouble that I “specifically mentioned Dirty Harry driving Plymouth Fury police cars,” and I was wrong. He then went on to set me straight (good luck with that) and listed all the cars Dirty Harry drove, none of which were Plymouth Furys.

Well, I kind of freaked out at first because I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan, and I have seen all his movies, and I know Dirty Harry never drove Plymouth Furys, but had I accidentally said that and it was overlooked by the fact checkers? I did an electronic search of the publication and the words “dirty” and “harry” never appeared.

You now have proof I don’t write for a porn magazine. Think about it.

I was furious. My editor said this was normal, so I laughed about how I was sitting at home getting angry in a room with Rose Marie while eating egg whites and Brussels sprouts (I am always on some weird diet).

However, I decided to write this illiterate car nut and let him know I never mentioned Dirty Harry in a letter that thanked him for supporting our publication and reading my column. He responded that he equates Clint Eastwood with Dirty Harry and that was the excuse for the mix-up. Never once did he apologize or admit he was a moron.

My favorites are doctors. I have been to too many doctors who don’t hear a word you say. They just think you are crazy or they are waiting for a break to look up what they think you said on the internet. Recently, I had to change primary care physicians after going to one who would look up symptoms on Google images; he didn’t even use WebMD, which always leads every symptom to cancer.

I especially appreciate the doctors who act as if they don’t have time to listen and just want to see the next patient, so their day will end soon. I had one who seriously heard nothing I said, and when I asked for a prescription for estrogen just to see if he was listening, he gave me one. I was an emotional wreck with tender nipples for months, but the hot flashes did subside.

When I went to my current doctor for the first time, he listened to every word I said, which almost gave me cardiac arrest. And, he heard me when I told him that, too.

My faith in actually finding people with listening skills was restored.

The saddest part is when you put information in front of people, and they choose not to read it. I edit and write a car club newsletter. Recently, I included an article about an upcoming event – The 25th Annual Orphan Car Tour. I included it in two issues of the newsletter, meaning it appeared for two months.

Ask me how many emails I got from people in the club, who have access to the newsletter and get emails announcing events that essentially said, “Hey, did you hear about this Orphan Car Tour? You should write something about it for the newsletter.”

I especially enjoyed the post on Facebook, where a member wrote, “The car club should promote this Orphan Car Tour.” He then included a link to last year’s tour!

A board member wrote, “I wish I still had my Corvair, or I would go.” I about spit up.

Instead, I responded, “That is last year’s tour. This year’s tour has been written up in the newsletter for two months now. A Corvair is not an orphan. Why in the hell do I bother?”

When I posted pictures of the tour on Facebook, which by the way, no one from the car club attended, one comment was, “Oh. Was that today?”

Maybe someday, I will find somebody who can read.

If you can read or listen, visit www.miltonstern.com and buy a book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Don’t Use Me to Check Your Balance


If you are into drinking games, drink a shot every time I say crap or drek in the following!

When I lived in Mount Pleasant, which was neither a mount nor pleasant – discuss, there was a bodega on the corner owned by a nice Korean family. I don’t know if they were North or South Korean. They had different hairstyles, so I am assuming South. Also, a bodega refers to a Latin owned store, but we called this a bodega. What is the Korean word for Bodega? Sijang is the Korean word for market. So, let’s say they owned a sijango.

Anyway, one day I went into to pick up some items, and amazingly, they always had everything. I mean everything. This place was one-third the size of my home. The customer before me left with no bag, and the owner said, “Don’t use my store to check your bank balance!” Apparently, the person kept taking away items in hopes of getting his debit card approved, and when he reached the magic number, decided to forgo any groceries.

I asked if that happened often, and she answered in the affirmative. I wondered why they didn’t go to the ATM. Then I thought about it. These are the people I end up behind at the ATM. They punch every key hoping to get cash, and even when the machine tells them they are broke, they keep trying until I usually say, “It is obvious your card isn’t working; mind stepping aside?”

I think it would be easier for them to rob a store with a pocket potato.

These same people end up in front of me at the Metro kiosk. They keep slamming their Smartrip on the reader and will not accept the fact that it has no funds. “Just jump the turnstile already, I have to get to work!” That is the first time I have written turnstile, and I had no idea it was spelled that way.

Not only do people check their balances in the most annoying way, but also they gauge the market this way as well.

Here is an example. How many of you shop on eBay? How many times have you bid on something only to see that the reserve is ridiculously high? When someone sets a reserve at a wishful level, they really have no intention of selling the time. They are just testing the waters. They may tell you they refuse to take less than what they have invested in the item, but that is bull shit.

If you really wanted to sell something, you would start the bidding at a reasonable price and have no reserve. That is what I believe.

Do you go to garage sales? The people may be trying to make a few bucks selling all their old crap to you, so you can have new crap, but the real reason for a garage sale is to get rid of the old crap without having to haul it away.

Years ago, when we would hold rummage sales for charity, around 1:30 pm when the crowds died down, a Fred Sanford type would show up and make us an offer on all the remaining drek. We would take the offer because the whole point was getting rid of the drek. It was already donated by people who didn’t want it, and we didn’t want it either.

I have never held a garage sale, so I don’t know if this still happens. I am the guy who donates his crap to charity or a dumpster depending on how crappy my drek is.

If you really don’t want something anymore, are you going to price it so high, no one else will either? Some people do because they think their shit smells better than your shit. Well, darlings, all our shit stinks, and the same goes for our old, crappy drek.

I am not a hoarder, and I hold no sentimental attachment to objects. I have a table that belonged to Nana. It is a nice table, but both Esmeralda and Rose Marie chewed away at one of the legs. I have it in my bedroom, where you can’t see the leg. I only keep it because it makes a great night stand. However, I would put it on the curb as soon as I found a table with two drawers that could replace it. If Nana were really attached to the table, she would have taken it with her when she died.

I had a Greek boss tell me once. “You only own one thing your entire life – the plot where you are buried.” You don’t even own the casket. Your family will be making payments on that until they pick out their own then their kids will make payments, and so on, and so on. It is like Heather Locklear and her Faberge Shampoo.

Wow, I am really aging myself. Perhaps, I should only shop for furniture with a lid?

This market research doesn’t just apply to clothes, furniture, National Geographics and unintentional sex toys. I think it happens most often in the hobby world – especially car collecting and the like.

Antique car prices over the last several years have become ridiculously inflated. This, of course, is a discussion for another time. As many of you know, I write a column for Hemmings Classic Car called “Detroit Underdogs.” I focus on the cars you can still buy for less than $9,000 and be a part of the vintage car hobby. Personally, I think $9,000 is still way too high.

Some call these cars crap. Well, any queen can drive a Cadillac. It takes a real man to show up at Pebble Beach in a Ford Granada.

Browse the car classifieds such as Hemmings, eBay or Auto Trader, and you will see that even the most mundane daily drivers from our respective childhoods are listed at very high prices. If you go to a vintage car insurance site, you will see the values listed for these cars are still realistic. That means, if you buy a Mercury Monarch for $18,000, your insurance company will give you an agreed-upon value of about half that amount. And if you do buy a Mercury Monarch for $18,000, you won’t be able to drive it because the men in the white suits will come and take you away with a net.

Around six months ago, a man listed a 1961 Rambler American Super four-door sedan with 16,000 original miles on a Rambler Car Club site for sale for $4,000. The car’s only options were full wheel covers and automatic transmission. It was a radio delete car with no driver’s side rearview mirror either. Had it been all original, he might have sold it for that price, but it had been repainted at some point, though not very well but, granted, in the original color. There were dings, a dent and lots of thin areas in the paint. It is better to be all original with dings and dents than repainted with them. The bottom had its share of surface rust, the engine and transmission leaked, and the engine compartment needed some serious cleaning and detailing. The spark plug wires weren’t even a matched set.

At the time, a Rambler guy offered him $3,350 for the car. Considering the seller bought the car for $2,500, that was a pretty good offer. Also, a 1961 Rambler American Super four-door sedan in #1 condition, which means, flawless, pristine, concourse quality, or in laymen’s terms, fabulous, is valued at $3,125. In #2 condition, it is valued at $2,750. This car was a #3, and I will be generous and say closer to a #2 than a #4. It was going to need at least $2,000 worth of work and the addition of a driver’s side rearview mirror to make it safe enough to drive in modern traffic.

He refused to let it go at that price because he wasn’t quite ready to sell it yet. When he told me this, I decided not to make an offer but did tell him to contact me if he ever did decide to sell it.

So, why did this shmuck list it? You know why, and he got his answer.

Six months go by, and I get an email asking me if I am still interested in the 1961 Rambler American. He contacted the first bidder, but that guy went ahead and bought an AMC Hornet Sportabout instead. I wonder if he bought that beautiful, all original, mint green one I saw for $2,750? See? The deals are still out there.

He should have sold the Rambler when he had the chance.

We exchanged a few emails on the car, and he sent me a picture of the original owner standing next to it. He told me how he had to sell it because his kids were in braces and the expense of owning an old car was not a good idea now.

When will people learn that their personal financial situation does not figure in the actual price of an item? After all, I didn’t fuck his wife, so those aren’t my kids, and their teeth aren’t my responsibility. 

I should whine that I have to maintain a mobile home lifestyle with Rose Marie at my side.

Knowing already what his answer would be, I explained the condition of the car and what it needed to be road worthy. I offered him $2,800, which was more than the value of a #2 condition car, and it was $300 more than he paid for it.

His answer was he couldn’t let it go at that price, and he was going to keep it.

If his kids’ braces were that important, he would have sold it and saved himself the expense of insurance, registration, etc., for a car he didn’t need that was going to cost him money in repairs if he wanted it to remain roadworthy. So much for straight teeth.

Fortunately, I saved myself four hours at the MVA (Maryland’s version of DMV, which is still a pain in the ass) had he actually said yes.

Yuckduck had no intention of selling the car, and he also knew his asking price was still way too high.

I wanted to say, “Don’t use me to check your balance!”

If he contacts me again, I am going to offer to shove the car up his ass.

Visit www.miltonstern.com to see what else I write.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Rules Are Not Made to Be Broken

Dr. Sheldon Cooper is right. If we don’t follow the rules and keep things in proper order, the entire world will dissolve into chaos, and we might as well just forage for food and kill or be killed. At least that is how I feel after this past weekend’s snow storm.

For the last two winters in the Trailer Park, we haven’t had much winter weather, and I complained. Me and my big mouth. On Friday, the meteorologists predicted we would get a dusting of one inch of snow on grassy areas. I shouldn’t be angry because the television meteorologists are usually drama students who couldn’t make it in New York or Hollywood, and I don’t know about your home town, but all of them here are Gay! I know firsthand. Don’t worry about how I know, just know that I know.

What we ended up with in Jessup was around six inches of snow and freezing temperatures creating an ice rink on our streets in the ‘hood. One of the 400 rules, which first attracted me to this community, was that your walkway and the sidewalk in front of your house were to be shoveled no more than eight hours after the snow ended. I would like to report that most of my neighbors complied, but I cannot.

Curiously, everyone shoveled their driveways, creating mounds on either side, but on my street, only three of us actually shoveled the sidewalks in front of our homes. I was the youngest. The other two have a combined age of 162, so there was no excuse for what Rose Marie and I encountered.

To compound matters, the park management hired a redneck with a Ford F-250 Super Duty and a snow plow attached to the front to clear the streets. Well, he managed to pile all the snow onto the sidewalks and create a sheet of ice on the street. What is the use of plowing if you don’t treat what you leave behind?

I have never been snow climbing or glacier climbing or whatever extreme sport involves climbing up icy mountains, but after this weekend, I don’t feel a need to add that to my bucket list.

Rose Marie with her three legs managed quite well and like all dogs enjoyed the weather. She also carried around her share of ice chunks. She loves ice cubes, so this was an ice cube buffet for her. I, on the other hand, with only two uncoordinated legs, managed to slip and slide and fall a few times. Do you know what they call a Jewish ballerina? A klutz!

The last time I had to deal with a situation like this was when Serena Rose Elizabeth Montgomery was alive, and we were hit with a huge snow storm in DC in March 1999. Serena died before Snowmaggedon in 2009; she must have known it was coming. The 1999 storm was another one that caught everyone off guard, so streets weren’t cleared. In Mount Pleasant (which was neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss), drivers were leaving their cars all over the place, and the streets weren’t plowed. However, everyone in the neighborhood shoveled their sidewalks. The problem was you couldn’t walk across the street because of the snow banks and cars left every which way. I called the police to complain about all the abandoned cars and the unplowed street. They came out and plowed the street, but did nothing about the abandoned cars.

I then learned of the city policy that if a car is parked in front of your driveway or let’s say some moron left his car in gear, causing it to roll downhill into your car, not causing damage but keeping you from getting out because every time you moved, his car moved, it was your responsibility to have the car towed, not the city’s. Can you believe that?

I once parked in the driveway because Serena was having a health crisis and I needed to get her to the vet (the psychos upstairs had the use of the driveway, and I usually had to park on the street). When I came out, there was a car parked on the street blocking the driveway. I didn’t know whose it was, and when I called the police, they said it was my problem. Yet, when I parked 22 feet from the corner rather than 23 feet, they didn’t hesitate to give me a $50 parking ticket. Get this. It was right after they passed the law that you could park 15 feet from the corner. Did I fight it? You better believe it – just as hard as I fought the speeding ticket someone got using plates I had turned in to the DMV. That gem of a situation took three trips to DMV and two trips to court to prove I didn’t own a white Toyota Rav 4. Did they care that the plates were stolen, probably by a DMV employee? No. When I moved to Maryland, I obviously didn’t turn in my DC plates. I didn’t want to get a ticket for driving a Hyundai Accent through a red light on New York Avenue.

Anyway, when I made it out to 16th Street during the March 1999 storm, I noticed the street was plowed with all the snow piled up on the sidewalks. I was just amazed at how much they did to make it easier for drivers to get around, yet pedestrians had to traipse through an obstacle course. What made me angrier was they kept telling everyone to stay off the roads. Bitch, the roads were the only safe place to be!

So here I am 15 years later, and I am dealing with the same issue. I have to walk Rose Marie, so she will go pee and poop. By the way, that whole thing about dogs pooping in a North-South direction? So true! Rose Marie always faces North or South. My toilets face West, which may explain my irregularity.

Everyone made sure they could get out of their driveways, but few made it possible for us to walk. What I did notice was that the older the resident the more likely the sidewalk was cleared. One thirty-something smart ass said as he saw me sliding around, “You should get spiked shoes.” And in the next breath, “I need to go get a snow shovel.” Really, dude?

One of the first things I bought when I moved in was a snow shovel. It was July, and I got a Lowe’s employee to drive one of those forklifty things with a ladder, so he could climb onto the top shelf to get me one. I am sure he had a few things to say about the OCD queen who just had to have a snow shovel ready when the temperature outside was 92 degrees.

Well, the rules said shovel your goddam sidewalk, and I follow the rules.

I should thank the selfish thirty-something because when we returned home I remembered that I had bought a pair of soccer cleats back in my Mount Pleasant days to help me negotiate the icy conditions when walking Serena. They still fit, and I was finally able to walk without falling on my face. I always fall forward. I even have a scar on my chin from falling on my face. This makes no sense, since I have a large built-in airbag in my trunk.

One other thing happened during that 1999 snow storm. I was walking back from the market with bags of groceries, including three dozen eggs in preparation for Passover. I couldn’t tell where the road ended and the sidewalk began, and I slipped and fell on my face, breaking all the eggs. Some driver, who was able to get through because the main road was paved and treated, laughed at me. If I could have moved fast enough, I would have mooned him.

I managed to get out this past weekend, since the roads were cleared of course. Then, another unfollowed rule popped up. Why is it so difficult for people to brush the snow off the roofs of their cars. You can do this with a broom, people! I really don’t appreciate having ice projectiles hitting my truck and windshield while I am going down the road. These same people would be pissed if their windshields were damaged – the narcissistic bastards. I consider this the height of inconsideration.

On Sunday, I had to meet my publisher at a Starbucks in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I expect when I go into a coffee shop to find adults either having conversations or working on their laptops. What I found surprised me, and now, I know why I rarely go to Starbucks.

I know it was a crappy snowy day, but why are you bringing your little obnoxious loud children into a coffee shop? Is this how you entertain them? Take them to Chucky Cheese or Gymboree or that place with the box of balls they can play in. Oh wait, I go to the place with the box of balls – well the one with a sling and a recovery room.

Not only were there a dozen kids in there, they were all over the place. I ordered a large coffee, which confused the barista because it wasn’t a double half-caf espresso latte with a cinnamon stick, nutmeg and a hint of whipped cream resembling a cumulous cloud. As I turned, holding my extremely hot cup of coffee (how the fuck do they get it so hot?), a child charged to the counter in front of me. I almost burned her. Then I went over to the cream and sweetener station, and this yuppy mother kept reaching back from her table for napkins and pushing me out of the way because her ill-behaved devil spawn spilled something. She was giving me dirty looks because I was apparently in her way. Then her kids proceeded to run all over the coffee shop to the annoyance of the few mature adults in the place. My mother would never have allowed this or taken us to a place like this had they existed in prehistoric times.

They think they are perfect parents because they brought their kids to Starbucks. Seriously? You were two lazy or self-absorbed to take them where they could be entertained and not disturb people who were looking for a quiet place to work or have a conversation.

The rules clearly state that kids do not belong where adults go to escape. Period.

This is nothing new. These “mother of the year” parents have been around for decades. When I waited on tables in an upscale restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the 1980s, we had such a mother, who was pissed when we expressed our concern at all the food her unruly children had thrown all over the floor and the mess they made of the booth, upsetting all the diners around them. She yelled, “You should be ashamed. Your restaurant does not cater to children.”

I responded, “No, we don’t. They don’t have wallets. And, if you don’t control your children, I will.” I actually got applause.

Follow the rules, or we will continue to dissolve into world of chaos! And, shovel your goddam sidewalks! And, brush the snow off your cars! And leave your horrible children at home with a babysitter … or a wolf dressed as a grandmother. You decide.

Can you tell I am already over winter?

Follow me, join me, tell your friends. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The War on Christmas – You Brought This On!


Warning: Some of you will find this highly offensive. Well, I have spent 40 some odd years being offended, so be it.

I like the holidays as much as the next guy, but enough already. From the beginning of October to the end of December, Christmas, Christmas Christmas. What’s more, and I need not remind you as you can read my prior post, Jesus was born in Elul, which falls around late August/early September. You are celebrating a pagan holiday. As a former practicing Wiccan, I can appreciate that, too.

Since fourth grade when I opened my mouth at how sick I was of Christmas crap – yes, I wrote a letter to Mrs. Tillman telling her exactly that (I think that was my first blog post) – I have been made out to be the bad guy for complaining. So, I quit complaining … about Christmas.

Seriously, why should I, a Jewish kid, have to make Christmas tree ornaments? Where am I going to hang it? On my shmekel?

After being dragged into the hall and being told I was inappropriate, Mrs. Tillman actually let me make a menorah ornament. It was still hung on the classroom Christmas tree, but it was a small victory. It was better than when Mrs. Motley, my third grade teacher, told everyone I killed Jesus. Killed him? I didn’t even know him.

Over the years, I have calmed down and drudged my way through the season. On Christmas day, I do volunteer work, so my gentile friends can have the day off. Then, I take myself out for Chinese food and have one of the few cocktails of the year, which I sip while the other people look at me with sympathy. The middle-aged Jew, drinking alone on Christmas. Please, that is how I like it.

I have endured forty years of dealing with trees and music and all things Christmas … until now.

What is it about this year that is irking me so much? Am I getting old and cranky? No, that can’t be it; I have always been old and cranky.

The problem started on Rosh ha Shana when I was asked to perform a task by someone who should have knowledge of the fact that it was a Jewish High Holy Day. I was aghast when she didn't understand I would be off. And, I think this has been boiling up ever since.

Then on November 22, my 51st birthday and the 50-year anniversary of the Kennedy assassination (by the way, he’s still dead), three radio stations here, one I listen to regularly in the car, decided to go all Christmas music until January 15. Oh my God! Christmas music 24 hours a day seven days a week for two months! I am surprised the DJs aren't sticking knives in their ears. What’s more, this area is probably one of the most diverse in the country. How many listeners will you lose in those two months? I already found a new station and will never change the dial again. Can you tell I’m old? I said “dial.”

Maybe it is the so-called “War on Christmas” that has people going even more Christmasy? Really? If there is a war, why are stores opening on Thanksgiving? Whose war is it anyway?

The only war I have seen is the shopper-on-shopper violence in the stores. People getting shot over sweaters, people getting trampled for stretch pants, people getting stabbed for scarves. Knife fights, car jackings and taser attacks. Who brings a taser to the mall? What could you possibly want that is causing you to taser someone? Or is it tase?

On an unrelated note, when I go to a clearance sale, I carry a cross bow. It is much more effective.

Then, I hear this commercial on the radio asking for donations, so this woman, who is crying her eyes out because her baby daddy ran out on her, can have a nice Christmas for her five children. Forget Christmas. If she is that broke, she needs food and clothes and toiletries and medicine, but her biggest concern is having enough presents under the tree. Where are your damn priorities?

Once they open the presents, where does that leave you? You can’t live in a Barbie Dream House although a friend of mine’s sister does. Those Legos cannot build you a financial future. That Tonka truck isn't going to carry your ass to a job.

How spoiled are your children that you have to get everything on that list? What are you teaching them? Why do you let them write those damn lists in the first place? And, why do you let them sit in a pedophile’s lap? This man knows when they are sleeping, when they are awake, when they’ve been good or bad, and you leave him milk and cookies after you let him break into your house. To put your children in further danger, you take them to the mall, so they can ask this pervert for presents. My God, people! Are you fucking insane?

I know you are insane because your children now work for the government as interns, and I have to sit in meetings with them. You know what you taught them? You taught them that if they don’t get their way, they can throw a tantrum and be disrespectful to people who are twice their age. On the plus side, since they always got what they wanted, when something doesn’t go their way, they quit. On the negative side, we end up with a new set of interns.

Here is the best example of all. When I was young, the telephone was rented to you by Ma Bell. We had the same rotary phones in our house, one in the living room and one in my parents’ bedroom, from 1962-1973. They were both flesh tone (that was actually the name of the color). We kept them for eleven years! When call waiting became available, we switched them out for push button phones, which we kept for the next dozen years. Not today. Now you own your phone, and you can pay as much as $600 for one, and in twelve months, it is obsolete, so what do you do? Demand a new one for Christmas. And if you don’t get one, you throw a tantrum – no matter your age.

Funny, I always keep my phones until they absolutely fall apart, which explains why my iPhone has a rotary dial and weighs thirteen pounds. It is difficult finding a long enough cord, too.

The last time I got what I wanted for Hanukah, Uncle Stanley gave me a fire engine pedal car. That was 1967. I loved it so much that I haven’t asked for anything since. This may also explain my love for base model antique cars. Funny thing is my brother dared me to ask him for the fire engine pedal car, so I did, and I got it. I remember as if it were yesterday. We were watching black and white television in my parents’ bedroom while the adults were downstairs, and I was wearing blue footie pajama with little football players all over them. I loved those pajamas.

Later, if I had asked for something, it wouldn’t have mattered. My mother was the last person to climb over a bunch of goyim to get me a … what did we have back then? Oh yes, a Hot Wheels set. I eventually got one, but I didn’t ask for it.

Today was the final straw. I walk into the office and see a Santa, lights and a manger scene made out of wooden dolls. I said nothing, but two Christian co-workers actually mentioned how they found it offensive.

Then while standing near the holiday potluck – let’s call it what it was – Christmas potluck, the same individual who asked me to work on Rosh ha Shana asked me, “So, what are you plans for Christmas?” Normally, I would have thought she meant, “As a Jew, what do you do?” But, this clearly wasn’t the case. All of a sudden, it was 1973 again, and I was explaining to Mrs. Tillman why I was tired of all this Christmas crap.

But, I didn’t say a word. I was raised right, so I smiled, walked away and didn’t participate in the pot luck although I contributed. They also held a gift exchange, but after years of ending up with cheap gifts including a pair of women’s slippers that someone regifted, when I made the effort to get the perfect gift, I decided for the first time not to participate. Someone ended up with a bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Lotion. Seriously. That is just wrong.

If you want my opinion, and if you’ve read this far, you do, the only reason there is a War on Christmas is because year after year, there is less and less true meaning of the holiday, and it all gets shoved down our throats whether we like it or not beginning in October.

Next time your kid hands you a Christmas wish list, tell the lazy bastard to get a J-O-B and earn it.

One final note from the world’s greatest bargain hunter: Shopping, no matter how good the bargains are, is not worth losing your life! Vaysmir.
P.S. Rose Marie did not make a list. She is being raised right.

If you are offended, good, buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Annual "Eight Myths of Hanukah"

(About 12 years ago, I gave a drash during Shabbat services on Hanukah, where I presented for the first time my “Eight Myths of Hanukah.” A few years after that, I was asked to present them again. For your reading pleasure, I present them as I do every year.)
 
Introduction
 
Many people do not realize that Jesus was not born on December 25. He was born September 11, 3 BCE, which on the Hebrew calendar for that year was Elul 1.
 
To make a long story short, in the year 380, Pope Damasus I made it his goal to have all Christians in the Roman Empire yield to his authority, and he convinced the Emperor to issue an edict requiring them to practice the religion of Rome, Catholicism. Damasus I was also seeking to lure the people away from the pagan rituals honoring the birth of the sun god on December 25 at midnight by demanding attendance at a memorial in honor of Christ's death – in other words, the Mass. The people confused this Mass with the pagan solar birth rituals conducted at that same time, and gradually, the Christ-Mass became associated with the Nativity, hence, Christmas. Somehow, many of the symbols and customs remained, most notably, the Christmas tree and fruitcake.
 
Did you know all fruit cakes were actually baked before the year 380? That is why they are so dense and hard to slice.  
 
In the United States, Christmas wasn’t even celebrated during our country’s first 94 years because in England it was celebrated with excessive drinking and lewd and lascivious behavior. Not unlike a Tuesday night in my home.
 
As a matter of fact, Washington crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776, to attack the British in Trenton because he knew the Red Coats would be hung over.
 
Americans wanted to reject all things British, so Christmas and afternoon tea were the first to go. I wish we kept the tea.
 
Congress met on Christmas day every year until after the Civil War. Americans complained there were no federal holidays, so on June 26, 1870, Christmas was officially made a federal holiday. However, you can thank the Jews for something else because we invented the weekend. You know: God worked all week then rested.
 
So, to all my Jewish friends out there, hang up those Hanukah lights this weekend because Christmas is not a religious holiday; it is a federal holiday, and we want to be patriotic!
 
Now, I present:
 
The Eight Myths of Hanukah
  1. Hanukah is the Jewish Christmas. False. How many times have I been asked, "Is Hanukah the Jewish Christmas?" Let me set the record straight. Christmas is the Jewish Christmas. Mary and Joseph were Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, and at least one of the Wise Men was Jewish – the one that brought the fur.
  2. Hanukah is the holiest of Jewish holidays. False. Hanukah isn’t even a religious holiday. The holiest of Jewish holidays is April 24, Barbra Streisand’s birthday. The second holiest Jewish holiday is December 29, the wedding anniversary of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (may she rest in peace).
  3. Hanukah is another Jewish holiday where they tried to kill us, they didn’t, so we eat. True. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century BCE, which brings us to ...
  4. Hanukah commemorates the miracle that one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days in the Holy Temple. True. But, this is hardly a miracle because I witnessed my grandmother doing the same thing with one tea bag.
  5. During Hanukah, children get a gift every night for eight days. False. If you grew up in my house, you got a gift the first night, then for seven nights, you heard about how awful it was to grow up during The Great Depression. The ritual of gift giving is actually very American, since Jewish children in this country are totally exposed to Christmas customs. 
  6. Hanukah is a holiday when Jewish people eat bland, colorless foods that are fried in oil and difficult to digest. True. This can actually be said of all Jewish holidays, except Passover, when the foods are not fried but still difficult to digest. On Hanukah, we eat latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiot, if you are Sephardic. Sufganiot are similar to jelly donuts. I am part Sephardic, so I like donuts, just not jelly ones. 
  7. There are many popular songs about Hanukah, and Jewish people know the words to all of them. False. Other than “Dreidel, Dreidel, DreidelHanukah song, except for “The Hanukah Song,” by Adam Sandler, which brings us to Number 8 ...
  8. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (may she rest in peace) and Barbra Streisand have recorded Hanukah albums. SO NOT TRUE! Would you believe Steve and Eydie have recorded a Christmas album, and Barbra has recorded not one, but two, Christmas albums?! And all those Christmas songs we hear on the radio are mostly written, and oftentimes performed, by Jews! Oy vay! This brings us back to myth Number 1, proving once again that Christmas is the Jewish Christmas!
So, from my Trailer Park to Yours, here is wishing you a very Happy Jewish Christmas and a Merry Hanukah!
 
If you like what you just read, get on my email list, join me, follow me, tell your friends, and hang up a string of blue and white lights! Buy my goddamn books! www.miltonstern.com.
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    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Now, That’s How You Throw a Wedding


    Over the years, I have been to my share of weddings, and you know how I feel about weddings, especially the gift registries. I am still waiting for my “I Didn’t Marry that Moron Shower.”

    Some weddings are more memorable than others. My cousin Lisa’s for one. This had to be the most elaborate one of all, complete with a melting ice sculpture that almost killed Mrs. Minkoff. They showed a slide presentation of their undying love, and I still remember the Best Man’s toast: “Mazal Tov, you two deserve each other.” They were divorced within eighteen months.

    There was my cousin Carole Sue’s wedding. I think it was her third, or was it her fourth? On the buffet table, they had fried chicken livers, a bowl of gravy and a bowl of strawberries. It was at this reception that my mother discovered that fried chicken livers dipped in chocolate are not that tasty. I can still see her spitting it out. You probably guessed the gravy was chocolate dipping sauce. I still laugh when I think of that moment.

    My friend Kendra’s wedding ranks among my favorites. Her mother told her she could have $10,000 for a wedding or a down payment on a house. This was 1988, so you could still put a down payment on a house for that kind of money. She took the down payment. They were married in their living room in a private ceremony, and afterward, all their friends joined them for a barbecue in their backyard. No silly bride’s maid dresses, no formal wear, just a good time.

    One of the most bizarre ones was my co-worker Brenda’s wedding. The guests were all white Southern Baptists, except for one Black girl, my friend Kathy, and one Jew, me. Surprisingly, they had the most elaborate buffet of just about any affair I ever attended – all Southern deep-fried fare, my favorite! And, they say Baptists don’t serve food. However, none of the guests ate a thing; they just drank. The line at the bar was always a dozen deep. Kathy and I attacked that buffet like a couple of bears at a Boy Scout Jamboree. We even asked for to-go containers. The other guests were all drunk, so we skipped protocol and took home the reception. I can still taste that fried chicken and macaroni salad. Yum.

    Charles, my good friend in New Jersey, threw a lovely wedding. This was one of my first Gay weddings, too. He held a reception in a friend’s backyard complete with gourmet porty potties – yes, those exist. This kept people from trampling dirt into the house. He cooked all the food himself, and it was just wonderful. Everything was decorated with yellow roses and very beautiful. I sat with his husband’s family, who are from Baltimore. Get this. His husband came out to his family by sending them invitations to his wedding. “Oh by the way, I am Gay, and I am marrying a white boy from Philly!” I sat with the Ken’s family. You want to have a great time, sit at the Baltimore Black girls’ table, especially when they are just discovering their cousin is Gay! One of his cousins said she started photographing the wedding, and when Ken kissed Charles, she couldn’t stop snapping pictures. Sadly, no parents of either groom attended. What a shame. This was a beautiful wedding with fantastic food.

    Other memorable weddings occurred. At one, the mother of the bride picked up the cake and threw it into the street, then a melee broke out, and a few of us shoved all the guest out the room, onto the street then ran back and barricaded the doors. I was pissed. I really wanted a piece of that cake.

    My all-time favorite was the Gay wedding where at the end of the reception, we were handed separate checks. Yes, we paid for the reception. Yes, you read that right. This self-absorbed couple, who had already lived together for more than a dozen years, also had the balls to register at one of the most expensive stores in town. Want a good laugh? One of them worked as a wedding planner. I spent more on their wedding than a New Jersey couple pays for their kid’s Bar Mitzvah. They felt we should be honored to have been a witness to their nuptials.

    Of all the weddings, Gay, Straight and Bi-curious, the one I attended the past weekend was the first “legal” Gay wedding I ever attended in these United States.

    A little background.

    Minnesota recently legalized Gay marriage, and then the wonderful city of Minneapolis started a campaign to get Gay people to come there to get married! This is where the conservatives are screwing up. Gay people spend money. You want to improve the economy? Let them get married, you morons!

    One of my oldest friends, Danny, and his marvelous and patient partner of many years, Michael, decided to get married. When their home state of Michigan refused to make a decision, Minneapolis came a calling. With only a couple of months to plan, they managed to put on one of greatest weddings ever. And dear, this bitter old trailer park queen has seen his share of affairs!

    We stayed at the Minnesota Grand Hotel, a 100-year-old structure that is as magnificent as a hotel can be. Of course, I am used to Motel 6s, but you get the idea. The room was so classy, I walked out of it each day with personality. They had all these snacks on the bar, including a can of Pringles. When I saw the Pringles were $15, I did not partake, although they were calling me every time I walked by. In the short time they had to plan, they managed to get a room block for $75 a night – that is less than half the going rate. I told you Minneapolisons are brilliant!

    Soon after your arrival, they handed everyone a gift bag, filled with snacks, bottle water, maps of the city, a deck of cards, note pad, pen and an itinerary for the wedding complete with walking directions. This is why every wedding planner should be Gay, with one exception – the cheap queen in the abovementioned affair.

    While standing in Danny and Michael’s suite and holding my gift bag, I noticed something. Nobody in the wedding party was taller than five-three. Everyone was looking at me as if I was either going to eat them or destroy their city. I made a hasty exit when one of them lit a torch.

    I promised Danny a couple of things would make it into my blog, so here goes. When we prepared to leave on Friday night for the opening meal at a Thai restaurant, Danny put his family in cabs because his mother, a lovely Italian woman, who could pass for any of the Jewish women I grew up admiring, was wearing heels. It was then obvious Danny and Michael come from different backgrounds. Danny’s family is of Bostonian extraction, while Michael’s family is of Midwestern stock. I joked that it was like the Kennedys meeting Honey Boo Boo. Being the good trailer park queen I am, I walked over with Michael’s family, since I come from a similar stock. I took one step, they took six, and continued to look at this giant with suspicion. The temperature was a pleasant fifty-five and clear, so it was a nice walk through the cleanest city in the United States.

    We were treated to dinner – no separate checks, please!

    The first thing I did notice about my new favorite city is that regardless of the weather outside, they keep the inside a toasty 102 degrees. I am not kidding, and upon further investigation found out this was their thing. Had I known, I would have ditched the sweaters for a tank top and hot pants.

    The following day, I trotted over the Target because I had already run out of face cream. That three-ounce rule is for the birds. I sweated my way down the aisles then returned to the hotel to take advantage of their gym. Now, most hotel gyms consist of a stationary bike, a Soloflex and a bacteria-ridden yoga mat. This gym? Ha! In the basement was a pool, and on the third floor – the entire third floor – was a gym. Yes, a complete gym. I can honestly say I was the oldest guy working out.

    Come to think of it, the only people in the entire city over thirty were those of us in the wedding. What do they do with their middle-aged and elderly people? Do they melt inside all those hot buildings? Is that why the city is so clean?

    The wedding and reception were held in a private room at Crave. You must go there when in the city. Have I told you they only had a couple of months to plan this? The tables were decorated with huge angled snifters, sitting on a tree trunk cut-out base, and inside were a bed of pine cones topped by a bouquet of white roses. Each place setting had a pine-cone and card with the guests’ names on them. I don’t think I have ever seen anything so elegant.

    The ceremony was beautiful. I hope so. I wrote it.

    Speaking of writing. I gave one of the toasts, and to put it mildly, I bombed. I seemed to have used all my best lines every other time that weekend except where it counted. I was going to throw out what I wrote, and my gut told me to, but for some reason I went through with it. I realized three seconds in, I was in trouble. I haven’t laid an egg that big since I tried to sing “You Make Me Feel So Young” during Junior Cabaret at Rodef Sholom Temple in 1971.

    The worst part was that Danny introduced me as Shecky. My cousin Lisa, of the “you two deserve each other” wedding above, used to introduce me to her friends as her funny cousin, then she would say, “Say something funny.” Yeah, it was like that.

    Fortunately, no one cared but me.

    At the end of the reception, no separate checks, please, and they had an open bar. I must say the delicious food was restaurant quality.

    Sunday morning, we were treated to a goodbye breakfast, and we were on our way. Again, no separate checks, please.

    I want you to realize that Danny and Michael are two hard-working guys. They aren’t rich or pretentious; they are just generous. They wanted us to have as good a time as they did. And, we did.

    They didn’t even register for presents and asked people not to give them any, which is why they are going to kill me when they see what I got them. Rule: Never mention to me that you always wanted something then tell me not to buy it. I love giving presents and I give the best gifts, if I do say so myself.

    I wish them the best and many years of happiness. I also wish Minneapolis the best, too, because they get it! What a great place even if the median age is twenty-one and the average indoor temperature is the setting for heating up a Lean Cuisine!

    If you were handed a check at a reception, follow me, join me, or buy my damn books: www.miltonstern.com.