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.

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Menopause Puppy

    Back in the day, and I am talking even before my time and the pill, women often gave birth to a menopause baby. My Uncle Yale, Nana’s youngest brother, was one such baby. He was only nine years older than my mother.

    For those not understanding this term, a menopause baby is exactly what it sounds like. A woman in her mid- to late-forties gets pregnant one last time, gives birth and never has a visit from Aunt Flo again. Remember the episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche thought she was pregnant but discovered she was actually going through menopause? My favorite line from that episode was when Sophia talked about growing a beard and said, “One morning, I woke up, and I was Yassir Arafat.”

    Menopause babies also bring on something else: confident parenting. How’s that? Well, with your first child you are over-protective and watch your every move. You won’t even let your baby play in the dirt or crawl on the floor. With your second child, you let your child play in the dirt and crawl on the floor. By the time you have a menopause baby, if your child is still alive and in one piece at the end of the day, you’ve done your job.

    For me, Rose Marie is like my menopause puppy. The last time I had a puppy, I was thirty-three. I held Serena when she was two days old, and I held her fourteen years later, when she took her last breath. Did I make mistakes as a new daddy with her? Of course, I did. Was I over-protective? Have we met?

    Here are some examples.

    I wouldn’t let children touch her. I was like Lucy Ricardo. All those other children have germs. Kids have dirty hands filled with jelly and other stuff I don’t like. Unfortunately, I ended up with a dog who hated children – and many adults.

    My dog was clean. Serena had a skin condition requiring her to be bathed every week in special shampoo. Yes, for fourteen years, she got a bath every weekend – 728 baths. She was brushed every night. She was always coifed and perfectly groomed. That is why I wouldn’t let children – and many adults – touch her. They would mess up her do. She also was prissy and wouldn’t play in the dirt or walk in mud. Seriously! I never once saw her step into a puddle or roll in the grass.

    People always wanted to pick her up, but she had back and knee problems, so I was constantly pulling her out of people’s arms. Once I was walking her in Mount Pleasant (which was neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss), and this stranger walked right up to her and picked her up. Who does that? I immediately demanded she let go of my dog, and I was made out to be the bad guy. Sorry, weirdo, but to me, this is my child. How would you like it if I walked up to your child and picked her up without permission?

    Training Serena was both easy and difficult. I often joked we were Joan Crawford and Christina. I would demand the respect that a star deserves, and she would declare she was not one of my fans.

    As a side note. Joan Crawford did that ungrateful child of hers a favor. Had she been all Donna Reed-like, Christina’s book would have been a flop, and she wouldn’t have made millions on it. I read Mommie Dearest and thought, “So what?” You should have grown up in my house. At least you had money.

    Where was I? Oh yes, training. I read every stupid dog training book there was. And I learned something about dog training books. They are ALL full of dog shit!

    For example: To teach your dog to come to you, tie a fishing line to her collar, then pull on it when you say come here. I did that. I pulled then Serena pulled. Guess who won? The alpha bitch, that’s who.

    Use a code word to get your dog to pee. Mine was “go pee pee for me.” Really, it was. Did it work? Hell no. Serena would hold it for hours out of spite. What I did learn was that yelling, “I am in a hurry; take a goddam piss already!” doesn’t work either.

    What does work? Just walking along and not saying anything and then saying “good girl” when she goes, and it only took me eleven years to learn that.

    I also wouldn’t let Serena play with other dogs unless I had a complete dossier and medical records to review. As a result, her only playmate was an elderly Great Dane. For those who don’t know, Serena was a toy parti-poodle, weighing nine pounds.

    As a result, she learned that all other dogs were a menace. Any other dogs who came near me, she would growl at and scare away, regardless of size. She was the best bodyguard I ever had. Too bad she didn’t do that with the jerks I dated.

    I also let Serena sleep in the bed. The bad thing about that was when she was old, went blind and deaf, and fell off the bed one night I had to train her not to sleep in the bed. I spent four nights with a dog crying all night long to get into the bed. She finally got it, but she was never the same after that. Neither was I.

    I may have made mistakes with Serena, but she lived a good long life and ironically, she died two weeks to the day after her twin brother, who was raised by my friend John, who rescued her mother from an abuser. He soon discovered Venus was pregnant, and that is how I got Serena (their names were only a coincidence and before the Venus/Serena tennis twins).

    John was way more relaxed in raising Moochy than I was with Serena, and both lived to be fourteen.

    With Rose Marie, have I changed my methods. Yes. I let children play with her. So what if their hands are dirty. I can always give her a bath if she gets sticky. I let her play with other dogs, provided they appear friendly, and what a surprise, most dogs are.

    I even took her to a huge car show with hundreds of people and dogs, so she would get used to crowds.

    I also don’t yell, “Take a piss already! How f-----g hard is it to piss? Just squat and go!” We just walk, and she goes. I say, “Good girl,” then we continue on our way.

    However, she does sleep in the bed. Talk to me in fourteen years about how that is working out for us.

    There is one thing that I don’t know if I will ever understand. Every day, someone walks up to me and says, “What happened to your dog’s leg?” If I were walking a child, and she were missing a leg, would you ask me that? Weren’t we taught how to be sensitive to disabilities? I now know how my mother felt.

    When I was born, I was huge. I never wore infant clothes and went directly to toddler size. When I was six months old, my mother said she couldn’t count how many people walked up to her and said, “Oh poor dear, is your child retarded? He is two years old and can’t walk or talk.” Can you imagine walking up to someone today and saying something like that?
     
    I never got how big I was until I was with my father in a Petco one day, and this woman had a huge baby in her cart. I asked how old he was. She said six months, and as my father walked by, he said without hesitation or surprise, “You were that size at six months.”
     
    The woman looked me up and down, and I know she thought, “How much does one of those eat?”

    I told my brother that from now on when someone asks me what happened to my dog’s leg, I am going to say, “Oh my God! When we left the house, she had four legs! It must have fallen off!” I got so used to people asking that when my friend Paul wanted to ask me a question about her, I automatically gave him the three leg story, when all he wanted to know is if she had Jack Russell in her. I felt bad for making an assumption.

    Not all people are rude. One of my neighbors babysits her grandchildren, and when they saw Rose Marie, they just wanted to play with her. The only question they asked was what kind of dog she was. No one mentioned her three leggedness. Her grandchildren, and obviously children, too, were raised right.

    My friend, Danny, said for Halloween I should carry Rose Marie while munching on a turkey leg and go, “Mmmmmm, only three more legs to go.”

    All I know is that at the end of the day, she is fed, watered, brushed, uninjured, and still alive, so I must be doing my job.

    If you want to come back as a gay man’s dog, get on my email list or better yet, buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    All She Needs Is a Black Bow


    For the last year, since Esmeralda died, friends have asked me, “When are you getting another dog?”

    When my father died, no one asked when I was going to get another senile, alcoholic Republican to brighten my days.

    My favorite was when one said, “I don’t like the fact that you are alone?” I answered that I have lived alone for more than half my life. She then said, “I know that. I meant that you don’t have a dog.” So, it didn’t bother her that I will die alone and probably not be found until the neighbors can no longer stand the smell emanating from my manufactured home.

    Oh, I get it.

    Most people who ask either never had a dog or have never had to make the decision to end a dog’s life. You can call it “put down” or “put to sleep,” but the fact is it is a heart-wrenching decision that makes you feel guilty no matter how much people say you did the right thing. I had to do it twice in a three-year period, and both times, I had to make the decision alone.

    I wasn’t ready to face that again.

    On the Facial Book, I was always sharing pictures of dachshund and bull dog puppies because I think they are cute, and although I didn’t have a dog, I still like them. The jury is still out on people.

    Dogs are proof evolution exists; people, not so much. Cats are proof aliens exist.

    Well, the last few months, I started to consider whether it was time to bring the pitter patter of little feet into my home. I don’t like children, so it was time for another dog. But this time, I wanted a puppy. At almost fifty-one, I figured this was my last chance to have a puppy and enough energy to deal with one. I don’t know why. I can’t even stand guys who are more than five years younger than I am.

    I visited every rescue site in the area for dachshunds, beagles and bull dogs, but what I found were organizations that had you fill out a twenty-page questionnaire online before you were allowed to contact them about seeing a particular dog. I do understand the application process since they don’t want abusers or dog fighters to get dogs, but they should at least contact you within a week, not three weeks later. Once they do contact you, that dog is already adopted or was never available in the first place. Then, they try to get you to adopt an elderly dog.

    I have nothing against adopting an elderly dog, but I did that with Esmeralda, and frankly, putting a dog down or to sleep or killing one every two years is not part of my life’s master plan. As I told my friend Danny, “If I have to do that again in the next two years, I will have myself put to sleep.”

    My master plan was to adopt a male puppy, name it Dr. Bombay and teach it to come when I said, “Dr. Bombay, Dr. Bombay, emergency come right away.”

    A friend told me once, “You want to make God laugh? Make plans.”

    My favorite was one on one of the English Bulldog rescues. They had a nine-month old dog available that had been returned. When I volunteered at a rescue, I saw this happen a lot with puppies because the people think the dog will be housebroken, can’t housebreak the dog or don’t know how to housebreak a dog. More on that later.

    Three weeks later, I was contacted by email after I filled out the magna carta of applications. They didn't even mention the puppy and sent me a picture of an English Bulldog that they said was five years old, who didn’t get along with children, people, cats or other dogs, was returned three times and had a nice disposition. Even though the description told me this wouldn’t work, I looked at the picture. The dog was so gray and old, it was wearing a Life Alert collar. I told the woman I needed a young dog that got along with other dogs and people and cats because I was considering daycare or a dog walker since I was away from the house for eleven hours three days a week.

    You would have thought I pissed in her Rice Chex. “Sorry to have bothered you. This dog is five years old. My dogs are in a crate eleven hours a day, and they are fine. Sorry again to have bothered you.” Her dogs were in a crate eleven hours a day? What kind of Bulldog prison was she running? I didn’t answer because if you get into a pissing contest with a skunk, no one wins. It can be fun with a bear. Just kidding.

    I am claustrophobic, so I don’t like crates, and when did this crate thing start? We didn’t use crates in my day. Kelly, Daisy, Serena and Esmeralda never were in crates. I know two people who keep their dogs in crates for ten or more hours a day. I don’t understand it. I would like to put each of them in a crate for a whole day and see how they like it.

    Even the rescue organizations call this humane. Sorry, but I see nothing humane about adopting a dog and keeping it in a cage all day. Notice they never say cage. Well, it is a cage. Go get arrested and see what it is like to be in a cage for fourteen hours with only an open toilet and twenty-one of your closest friends then do something horrible and go into solitary for a week. No, I have never been arrested although I apparently have plenty of friends who have.

    They also claim the crate is good for housebreaking, but it isn't. More on that later.

    With no luck with these other rescues, I started visiting the Washington Animal Rescue League site again. Esmeralda came from there. I had volunteered there and have a monthly recurring donation to them. I started my search with male puppies less than one year old. None really caught my attention and most were pit bull mixes, which is why I didn’t go there first. We aren’t allowed those here. Poor pit bulls. In England they are Staffordshire terriers – Nanny dogs. What they should ban are the horrible owners and that piece of shit football player who went to the same high school I did.

    Now, I was thinking, maybe I am not supposed to have a dog. Maybe the universe is telling me to wait. I was getting frustrated. I had already replaced all the carpet with laminate, so no accidents would cause me apoplexy, and I had researched daycares and dog walkers. So, out of curiosity, I changed my parameters to include females. All my dogs were female, so I just thought I was due for a change. Never think. It just gets you in trouble.

    And there was this cute black and brown face wearing an Elizabethan collar. I figured she had just been spayed when they took the picture. She was a four-month-old hound mix, but all they showed was this cute face with lopsided ears. Her name was Rose Morgan. My grandmother was Rose, and yellow roses are my favorite flower.

    I didn’t contact them right away. I would go on every day and look to see if any new dogs arrived, and one did – a beagle poodle mix. I contacted them, and they responded immediately that she was adopted as soon as they posted the picture.

    Rose Morgan was still there with the same post-surgery picture.

    The following Monday, I went on again, and there were new pictures of Rose Morgan without the collar. Something looked a little different. She was a small dog and looked to be a mix of beagle, min-pin, Jack Russell and who knows what else, but on closer inspection I noticed she was missing her front right leg. Anyone who knows me would not be surprised at what I did next. I emailed them again about Rose Morgan. I asked if she could walk up three steps; if she was good with other dogs; if she got along with people; if she had any other health issues. What I didn’t ask was what happened to her leg. I mean what’s the point? It wasn’t there anymore, so that was that.

    They emailed back in an hour that she was a tripod (that is what they are called), could run, walk, go up three steps, and play like a normal dog because she never had the used of that leg, so it was amputated. However, she was the feature dog on WTOP that morning, and if I wanted to meet her and fill out an application, I need to get down there when the opened on Tuesday at noon.

    The next day, I left work for a long lunch hour and only told two people where I was going. I arrived, and I signed in. Then an adoption counselor took me to the puppy room where he retrieved Rose Morgan. We went to another room to get acquainted, and she kangarooed – when they go up on their hind legs, and she licked my face. Then she played and romped, and in seconds, you forgot she only had three legs. She never had the use of four, so it was no big deal to her. She also let me scratch her belly, and she played some more. She even fetched a ball. And, she played some more.

    I was falling in love. And, she played some more.

    I filled out the application, and they said they would call me that afternoon. I also saw they put a pink adoption pending ticket on her room (they have rooms not cages). This meant no one else could apply to adopt her.

    But, they didn’t call that afternoon, or the next morning, and I was getting frustrated. A week earlier I figured I wouldn’t be getting a dog, and then I find a dog I was meant to have and no word. At 4:30 pm, I called them. They were going to tell me to be patient, but without my saying anything, the woman on the phone told me to hold for Sheniqua. I held. Sheniqua then asked me a few questions and remembered I had adopted Lulabell, who became Esmeralda, and that I volunteered there. She also said they were getting dozens of calls for Rose Morgan because she was featured on WTOP.

    Then she asked if I was aware of her health issue. I said what health issue? She said that fact that she has only three legs. Because I didn’t want to be rejected, I didn’t make a joke about how I hadn’t noticed and did they find the leg after I left.

    She then told me I was approved and could pick her up at 11:00 am the next day.

    I thanked her, hung up and cried. The Tin Man does have a heart.

    Rose Morgan may have received dozens of calls, but the Universe meant her for me.

    I did make one change. No, I did not change her name to Dr. Bombay. I changed it to Rose Marie. My gay friends want to know when I will put a black bow in her hair. My straight friends keep asking me, “Who is Rose Marie?”

    Rose Marie acclimated herself to my home very quickly. She found all the toys, and she ran around here like a bitch-ass-ho on cocaine. Rose Marie also requires a special harness. It took longer for me to figure that out than it did for her to make herself at home.

    Then, I began the house training immediately. Now, for those who get frustrated, here is the secret. First, they will have a few accidents. Rose Marie went into the bathroom and peed and pooped in there. If you gotta go, you gotta go. You have to accept the fact that a puppy has a small bladder and needs to go frequently. Some people think the puppy should hold it for four, five or even eight hours immediately, and when the dog does not, they give up and return the dog. I cannot hold it for two hours, so why would I expect a thirteen pound dog to do that?
     
    Putting the puppy in a crate, especially when you are home is cruel. I know I will piss people off, but that is how I feel. Eventually, the puppy will have to go, then soil itself. Using a crate as a time-out is even worse. Then it just becomes a jail cell for the dog. If you cannot deal with your dog's energy and play, don't adopt a puppy. Go buy a Digger the Dog toy.

    For the first day, I walked her every two hours, and she peed on every walk. With each pee, I praised her. Did I tell you her first four days here it rained non-stop? She didn’t care, and I continued to walk her and get drenched, but this was important. She only had one more accident that day, and it was by the front door – the door we use to go out, which meant she knew where to go but couldn’t hold it. She also would gently bark at the door if she needed to go. Serena did the same thing after her first day with me.

    It takes patience and a willingness for the first few week or two to take them out quite frequently, so they learn outside is where they go. You are not going to have a puppy who only goes twice a day, especially a small one. They will also have accidents but probably by the front door or whatever door you use to go out.

    Rose Marie also made it through the first night, sleeping my bed.

    I once dated a guy who asked about Serena, “Does she have to sleep in the bed?”

    I answered, “She was here before you, and I imagine she will be here long after you.” Serena lasted eleven years longer than that idiot. My friend Christian said he smelled like death and was the closest I ever came to necrophilia.

    That night, I peed five times but only got up three times. She was fine. I am fifty after all.

    When the morning came, I went to pee, and she came into the bathroom and did the same thing. I just said a firm no, but I couldn’t be mad. She held it for eight hours. That was her last accident. I now walk her every three hours, and she is fine. The next morning she waited for me to be ready in five minutes then she went outside.

    Then came the real test. I have a tendency to project a past experience on a present one. Whenever I left Esmeralda alone, I expected to come home to at least one destroyed object – usually a door jam or a wall. I have scratch guards leftover on the door and window sills here. Or, she would take down all the window treatments. Or, she would knock over whatever she could out of anger. That poor dog was through so much, I just had to deal. I also had to paper train Esmeralda because giving birth so many times left her with no bladder control. I can teach you how to paper train, too. 

    Serena on the other hand, never destroyed anything except for a small section of a wall while trying to extract her last baby tooth. That repair took five minutes.

    I went to the gym the next morning and did my back and bicep workout in a record twenty minutes. I was a black and gray blur! The manager said they always talk about how I work out with no rest between sets and run all over the gym, but this was amazing. Glad to know I am the subject of protein shake blender conversation.

    I pulled up into the driveway, and I took a deep breath. After all, I really am tired of that couch. I would like some new curtains, and who cares about the small area rug in the living room. I would just deal with whatever I discovered. I did close the two bedroom and bathroom doors, and the laundry and closets, too.

    I looked through the window first to prepare myself. The place looked exactly as I left it. I opened the door, and nothing was amiss, except my dog. She was nowhere to be found! No wonder the place was immaculate. She escaped. Then I heard a bit of scratching and who came crawling out from under the couch? Miss Rose Marie. Then she sang, “I Wanna Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces When He Breaks Your Heart to Bits.”

    I felt awful that she hid under the sofa, so I bought her a canvas mobile home dog house with no door where she could sleep when I am gone. It also coordinates beautifully with my decor.

    I have since gone grocery shopping and to a dinner, and each time I return to a perfect home. No, I am not going to another neighborhood by accident.

    I wonder if part of Serena’s soul is in Rose Marie. Serena had no interest in destroying things either. Part of Esmeralda’s may be – the part that hides under the couch when I leave, except Esmeralda hid under the furniture when I was home.

    I hired professional dog walkers who will come by twice a day for a few weeks, then once a day. It is owned by a nice middle-aged Jewish couple who run an insured, bonded and licensed service and offer boarding in their home. Mrs. M only took Esmeralda out back to smoke, and I don’t want Rose Marie to smell like Marlboros. There is also the issue with the Rose Marie tripping her. This little tripod is the fastest dog and the best leash walker I have ever had.
     

    She may only have three legs, but to me Rose Marie is perfect!

    On Halloween, I am going to put a black bow in her hair, and call her Sally Rogers. I did, however, get her a black collar. Surprised?

    If don’t have a leg to stand on or you wish to live in a cage, follow me, join me, get on my mailing list or just visit: www.miltonstern.com

     

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    It Is Only an Obsession if They Don't Work


    Last night, I watched this wonderful movie, House of Versace, on Lifetime Television for women and gay men. Raquel Welch was in it, and I love Raquel Welch. She is 73 and still hotter than any of these ho-bags on screen today – male or female. I know she has had work done, but it is good work, and her wigs are phenomenal. Anyway, I could talk about Raquel and her magnificent bosoms all day, but this is not a “Rack Report.” Do I watch too much Fashion Police or what?

    While watching this intriguing movie that sucked me in for two hours of drama and high fashion along with coke snorting and cigarette smoking, a commercial came on for a new reality series called My Collection Obsession. Usually, reality shows don’t hit home with me because I am not a housewife, hair dresser, drunk Italian whore, duck hunter, redneck toddler in a tiara, or Alaskan truck driver. I also have never been arrested or needed to be scared straight. Try as much as you will, you will never scare me straight.

    However …

    I do collect things, and when I do, it becomes an obsession for a period of time. This has been going on since I can remember. I started with tadpoles. Forgive me. I was just six years old at the time. I had bowls of them in my room until my mother threw them all out.

    In my early teens, I started collecting autographed photos. I had Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Steve and Eydie, Joan Collins, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford … Gerald Ford? How the hell did he get in there? It wasn’t enough that I collected them; I framed them and put them on the walls of my bedroom.

    Now, Stern family, seriously? You couldn’t figure me out then?

    Anyway, by framing them and decorating with them, I began my purposeful collecting. That is I don’t collect things I cannot use. If it doesn’t work, I don’t want it.

    When I discovered online shopping and shoes in Sasquatch size, I started collecting shoes, but unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I actually wear them. It may take a few years to get around to my fourteenth pair of black Chuck Taylors, but I will. Trust me.

    As you know from my more than a hundred posts, I sort of collect cars. Some would say, I just buy old cars and drive them because that is basically what I do. I don’t keep them on display in some vast garage, nor do I trailer them to Concourse events. If you saw what I drive, you would understand. Presently, my vast collection consists of three cars. My trusty thirty-year-old AMC Eagle wagon, a 1954 Hudson Jet Liner that I have already driven 1,500 miles in the last three months, and a Rambler undergoing life-long restoration that no one is allowed to mention in my presence unless I am drunk or in a coma.

    I also have a compact pick-up, and I drive all my cars every week, except the Rambler, which as I mentioned is going through a lifelong restoration.

    About that Hudson Jet Liner: I have driven it in the rain and up and down mountains and on road rallies. It’s a car, and if I can’t drive the car, I don’t want it, unless of course it is a Rambler going through a lifelong restoration, which you are not allowed to mention.

    Lately, something has happened to me, and I blame my friend, Frank, the foremost authority on all things Mid-Century Modern. For my fiftieth birthday, he gave me a beautiful glass Procter-Silex percolator from the 1950s. I brewed my first pot, and I was hooked.

    I never liked the drip makers. My OCD caused me to replace mine every three months because they would get so nasty, and I couldn’t get them as clean as I wanted, so I threw them out. Also, the coffee usually tasted like crap.

    Enter the percolator. Why did people quit using these? They are easy to clean and the best part is that when you pour coffee into your cup, it goes into your cup! Who designs those drip coffee pots? My father always said he would pour the coffee directly onto the counter and hope some ended up in the cup.

    Typical Milton, one percolator wasn’t enough. I had to buy another one, and another one, and another one. Before I knew it, I was collecting again. I have three chrome Sunbeams, an orange and a green Poly Perk, a chrome and green plastic totally immersible GE, and an avocado green Cory Buffet Queen forty-cup percolator. In total, I have thirteen percolators, including two stove top models from the 1920s. Before you ask, I tested all of them and they all work. I even have a travel percolator I display with the Hudson. I even talked a co-worker into getting one, and she loves it!

    If you get one, the secret to a good fresh pot of delicious coffee is coarse grinding your beans and using ice cold water. It doesn’t hurt to wear pearls and heels either.

    They are arranged on my kitchen counters and don't take up a lot of room. People do remark on them when they visit. Strangely, once they see all the percolators, they rarely come back.

    Did I mention I use all of them? Not at once of course. That would be weird, and I don’t want you to think I am weird.

    Funny thing about my collecting is when I run out of room, I stop. There aren’t percolators in boxes (well there is one, but that is a gift for someone). There aren’t percolators on the floor of my closet or in my bathroom vanities or even in my storage shed. The blessing of being OCD about a place for everything and everything in its place is that stopping is easy. I am not, nor will I ever be, a hoarder. 

    But that didn’t stop me from jumping right into another obsession. This one, however, is strange indeed. Thanks to Frank again – did I tell you he also got me addicted to Jerseylicious? – I wanted a rotary phone. He has a rotary wall phone, and it is lovely and it works.

    I have my phone service through my cable company. I rarely used my home phone because it was one of those cordless phones, and I hated it. I also didn’t like the way it rang and pushing the buttons, then hitting send like a cell phone. Also, the phone is plugged into a modem and the extensions are these ugly radio transmitter looking devices. I am sorry, but phones have absolutely no style anymore. None.

    I tried cancelling it, but thanks to “bundling” that would have cost me an extra $50 a month. Instead they gave me a loyalty discount of $18 a month if I kept my phone service.  Go figure.

    So, I thought, if I get one rotary phone, maybe I won’t mind having this phone service anymore.

    Did I tell you I have a knack for finding the most obscure things?

    I found a restored early 1950s style phone just like the ones on I Love Lucy from this guy who restores phones as a hobby and a business. I wonder if people think he has a collection obsession? I bought one. While it was in transit, I started to panic. What if rotary dialing doesn’t work on a modem? Maybe I should get the landline hooked up? Maybe I should just cancel the service and go with DSL, satellite and landline? Where I live that is the only other option. I called this company and that company and then I found a tone to pulse converter, and I ordered it just in case. I couldn’t wait to see if the phone worked when it arrived; I had to spend that $49 on the converter now.

    The phone arrived. I plugged it into the modem and picked up the receiver. I had a dial tone. I then dialed my cell phone and loved the whirly wheel. It worked. Oh my God, it worked! It rang! All I had to do was dial. No pressing special buttons. No hitting send. No lighted dial. It actually connected faster than that appliance they called a phone that I had before. I then dialed the phone from my cell phone. And it rang!

    Now, I was hooked, so you know what that meant. I had to have one in every room. Within five days, I had a flesh colored rotary phone next to my bed and a never used 1970s push button model fresh out of the box (you need one push button phone so you can choose 2 for Spanish) for my desk. The Pièce de résistance is an avocado green rotary wall phone just like Nana’s! When I answer the Nana phone, I have an urge to light a Kent cigarette and adjust my wig, while I scream into the phone.

    Did you ever notice Jewish people always yell while on the phone? We just aren’t convinced the technology works because Alexander Graham Bell was a Goy. Also, when we whisper, they can hear us in Paraguay.

    In addition, I have four other phones I just had to have, one is for my brother and two are for Frank, and the other I am saving for my weekend getaway home someday. I cleaned all the phones I didn't get from the restorer, and yes, they all work beautifully! Right now there are nine old phones in my house and three on the way. I am a collector not a hoarder – I hope.

    To get the extensions to work, I found a General Electric wireless jack system that is easy to program. After all, what is the point of having a phone as a decorator piece? That is what I had with that cordless crap, and they weren’t even pretty.

    You may wonder how well they work. First, the ring. I love the sound when the phones ring. These sissified rings on electric phones these days are disgusting. When you pick up the receiver, you know you are holding a quality product in your hands. The best part is that the sound quality is amazing. No buzzing, no static and no sounding as if you are in an echo chamber. The youngest phone is forty years old, and they work better than anything you find today.

    I now know why our grandmothers were in such good shape. That I Love Lucy phone has a heavy receiver, and holding it for more than thirty minutes is a workout.

    Now, if only I could find a modern TV in a 1950s style cabinet. But, what will I do with the eleven televisions I know I will end up buying? Oh well, as long as they work, I can give them as gifts.

    If you miss avocado green and harvest gold appliances, join me, follow me, buy my books: www.miltonstern.com