Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's About the Exterior, Stupid

As a Gay man, I always thought home ownership had to do with the interior, being sure your home was color coordinated, fresh smelling and clean and that all one’s sex toys were out of sight while still being easily accessible. If you are in a condo, this is all true.

In a house or mobile home, or even a camper, it’s about the exterior, stupid!

Considering yard work a chore is something I am resigned to accept, and I promise by next spring to plant a few bushes to give my home a more landscaped appeal. However …

Had I known before embarking on the trailer park adventure that I would have to do what I had to do today, I might still be an apartment dweller.

In the lot lease, we are instructed to keep our homes clean and free of trash along with hiding our trashcans and recycling bins. We are also told to “wash down” our houses at least once a year. These are easy things to do. I keep my trash cans behind the deck, and I am going to get one of those power wash attachments for my hose to wash my home next spring. I think the Mr. Clean car wash kit should do the job nicely.

But I was starting to have a problem with the trashcan placement. With all the rain we were getting this year, my yard was full of mud, and I was constantly traipsing through a soggy pit to empty my trash and recyclables, not to mention disposal of poop bags. I needed a walkway.

I noticed my cute next-door neighbor (whom I am convinced masturbates to fantasies of me behind those closed curtains – let me have this one tidbit) had pavers from his deck to his trash cans, so I decided to buy some pavers to go around my deck to keep my shoes clean. As I have told you, I am legendary for my clean shoes.

While I was admiring his pavers and measuring them, I heard a voice from above. I was startled and said, “I was only measuring them to see how many I need; I wasn’t going to steal them.”

No worries; it wasn’t God. It was my neighbor.

He was on his roof, cleaning his gutters. And he was pulling out a shitload of leaves.

Earlier that day, I did something I thought I would never do. I raked my leaves – all of them! But, I never considered the ones on the roof or in the gutter.

I asked him, “How often do you have to do that?”

“At least once a year, maybe twice.”

I then got on my deck and reached up to see if my gutters were full. Being tall does have its advantages. Oh yes, there were about four inches of leaves in my gutter. I needed to clean them out. And, cleaning them meant two things.

I had to climb up a ladder, and I had to get onto my roof. Two things I have never done and do not have on my bucket list. I am not afraid of heights. I can stand on a balcony and look over the edge with no problem. I am afraid of falling. I am a natural born klutz. If anyone is going to fall off a roof, it is I.

Growing up, I don’t think we ever cleaned our gutters, or at least I didn’t. I never climbed up on ladders either. I never saw the inside of our attic. Our house had all the worst qualities of the homes of the Munsters and the Addams Family, including cultivated weeds and loose shingles.

I, however, am determined not to care for my home the way my parents did. So, I decided to buy a ladder and clean my gutters.

My neighbor offered to lend me his, but for a few reasons I decided not to. His was a little rickety, and I weigh over two-hundred pounds, and I don’t want to be that guy who borrows stuff all the time. I hate those people.

Does anyone borrow a cup of sugar anymore?

On the Saturday morning after Black Friday, I showed up at Lowe’s when they opened. It was empty (for those who don’t know, that Saturday morning is the best time to shop). I first found a ladder with a 300 pound weight limit that was on sale, so I put it in my cart and attempted to maneuver it through the store. That wasn’t going to work. I knocked six displays over before I asked if I could leave it up front until I was ready to leave. I am so much like Lucy Carmichael, it isn’t even funny.

I then went to look at pavers. I found some that were perfect and I loaded them onto a cart. According to my measurements (and contrary to belief, this Gay man does measure, and I measure exactly), I needed forty-eight of them. They weighed twenty pounds each. The cart weighed 960 pounds, and I pulled that bastard from the garden center all the way to the front of the store where I had my ladder and green bungee cords. Did you expect me to buy any other color?

Just so you know. I was the only one in the store, and no one offered to help me. Of course, I didn’t ask for help either. I never do. I am the perfect martyr. I should be in the Bible somewhere. – maybe hauling stones in ancient Egypt then falling off a pyramid to my death because I wouldn’t ask for help.

I checked out then I pulled my car up and proceeded to load it up and strap the ladder to the roof with my new bungee cords. There were some Girl Scouts selling cookies and watching me the whole time. They giggled when I tripped and almost landed face first in my pavers. I made a note to buy some thin mints.

If you don’t know me, you are not aware of the fact that I dive a twenty-eight-year-old station wagon. I loaded the car with no help, and with each paver, the back went down a little more, and once all were in, it was almost bottomed out. I then strapped the ladder to the roof rack, again with no help. I even wore a plaid jacket that morning.

After buying a box of thin mints and a box of lemon cookies, I made it home, and it was like driving uphill the whole way. I took a picture of my car because I figured no one would believe I did this.

Once I arrived home and after I took the picture, I walked Esmeralda very quickly. I was sure my rear leaf springs were going to collapse if I waited any longer. Then, I emptied out the 960 pounds of pavers and laid out my walkway. Unlike most Gay men, I measured exactly. But I do get to keep my Gay card because my measurement ended in “eight,” and I needed forty-“eight” pavers. Think about it.

That went well. However, now came ladder time.

Again, I am not afraid of ladders, just falling off them. I am, however, afraid of spiral staircases. I don’t know why, but I conquered that fear when visiting the Baltimore Washington Monument with my friend Louis, which is also an obelisk, and climbing the spiral staircase to the top. Going down was another story, and I almost had to change pants at the bottom. So …

I used the bathroom then I mustered up the courage. At first I thought I could put the ladder beside the house, climb up a couple of steps then reach up and clean the gutters that way, but even I couldn’t reach that far.

With my cell phone in my pocket in case of an emergency, my wallet in my pants, so they could identify the body, and the ladder on the deck, I decided it was either now or never. I climbed up and looked at the roof. I climbed up one more step then another. With the grace of a goony bird, I clamored onto the roof. I am sure that was a sight to behold.

I was on the fucking roof! I looked around. I was on top of the world. OK, it was only 16 feet up, but I did hyperventilate slightly then I sat down and scooted to the edge to clean out the gutters. Fortunately, I was wearing gloves because no one told me about the gunk under the leaves.

Scooting on my fat ass, I managed to complete one side and only had two near misses. I then looked to the other side thinking those gutters couldn’t be full because the leaves tend to fall on one side of the house. Oh was I an optimistic idiot. There were more leaves on the far side than the side I just cleaned.

I then walked over to that side, looking like Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley putting up an antenna, and again on my fat ass, cleaned that side.

The whole time I was thinking, “I am going to fall off this roof and die, or I’m going to have to call the Fire Department to get me down.” The second option didn’t seem so bad.  

I’m really surprised I didn’t throw up for the first time since 1997.

Then, I was done, but I was now stuck on the roof. A neighbor walked by with his dog, and I asked him if he would hold the ladder for me. Thank God, I live in a trailer park. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help. In Rockville, they would have acted as if they didn’t hear me.

He held the ladder, and I somehow got down in one piece.

Also, no one told me how wet shingles get. My jeans were soaked through my ass, so I took a shower immediately to avoid getting a yeast infection on my bum.

When all was said and done, I was informed there is an attachment for the garden hose for cleaning gutters without leaving the ground.

Why do I always find out about these things after the fact?

Cross one item off my bucket list – after I put it on there of course.

The thin mints were delicious, all of them. The lemon cookies were crap.

If you like getting on the roof, follow me, get on my email list, tell your friends …

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Only Date Latin Guys

I went on a date with a guy four years ago. We’ll call him Randy – not because of his libido but because that is his real name. No protecting the innocent here.

We had what I considered a fantastic time. We talked about a variety of subjects and not ourselves. You know how first dates go being almost like a job interview with the avoidance of subjects like politics, religion and preferred interior design themes. You pretty much spend two hours talking about yourself – a subject I find truly fascinating. The evening ended nicely, and we were going to go out on a second date. However …

Just before the second date, he informed me that his mother had taken ill and he had to take care of her. I told him that it was very important to take care of her and keep me informed. He even texted with medical updates for a day or two. It is amazing what someone will do to his mother to get out of a date.

It should be no surprise that we never did go on a second date. I read the book, He’s Not That Into Me, so I just wrote it off as one good date with no possibility of a relationship. I am also no idiot. Once the sick mother appeared, I knew I wouldn’t see him again.

About a year ago, I had dinner with someone who was friends with him, and I told him about how we never went on a second date or communicated again. And, our mutual friend said, “Oh her. She only dates Latin guys.”


This only dating a certain “type” thing has always fascinated me. I could understand his only dating Latin guys if he were Latin. But, he’s a goddamn blond blue-eyed WASP!

Rita Morena’s character in West Side Story, Anita, sang in “A Boy Like That” about seeking your own kind. That I can understand. If the guy is Latin and only dates Latins, there is nothing wrong with that. You share beliefs, ethnicity, culture, etc. You never have to explain the ingredients in gefilte fish.

There was a time when I only dated Jewish guys, but it is very difficult for two whiny, neurotic men, who are obsessed with pleasing their mothers, while dealing with stomach issues and bad feet to form a lasting relationship. I’m just saying. But, I still date Jewish guys, just not exclusively anymore.

In the Gay world, guys usually date their own kind. Juice heads only date juice heads – that way they can inject each other’s asses with steroids. Twinks date twinks, so that one does not crush the other in bed. A-listers date A-listers, so they don’t have to show each other how all the buttons work in their BMWs. Hairy bears date hairy bears, so they don’t have to feel guilty when they bring home a side of beef from the Safeway. And so on.

What this creates is the “clone culture” where guys are always dating guys who look like themselves. They also only befriend guys who look like themselves. Look at their pics on Facebook. You will notice all the guys look alike, dress alike and act alike. Also, all of A-listers are photographed at parties holding red plastic cups – the ultimate A-list accessory.

The fun part is when one of them starts dating someone else, and you cannot tell the old and new boyfriends apart. You call the new boyfriend by the old boyfriend’s name, and things get a little awkward. If you are like me, you diffuse the situation by saying, “I’m sorry, you look just like Brad and Jon and Chris and … oh who cares? All his old boyfriends look alike, and he goes through them like Kleenex …” By this time, someone is shoving an hors d’oeuvre in my mouth and dragging me away from the situation. Fortunately, I never get embarrassed, nor do I have a filter.

I have never looked like, acted like or dressed like anyone, so I have been spared the curse of clonism. However, this does make being part of a clique impossible, which is fine with me because I have never been one to succumb to the clique culture either. My friends come in all sizes, shapes, colors, ethnicities, etc.

But, this isn’t about me …

A Latin friend of mine was in bed with a guy once, who in the middle of copulation said, “Oh yes! Fuck me with that Puerto Rican dick!” He pulled out immediately, dressed and left.

As he put it, “At that moment I was dehumanized and reduced to my Latin penis.” He was right, not to mention the fact that he is Venezuelan.

What is really weird is when you are the subject of someone’s obsession. My ex, Philip, is bald, and nothing bothered him more than when someone said, “Oh I find bald guys so hot.” I could totally understand this.

My friend Joel once tried to set me up on a date, and the guy said, “I can’t go out with him; he’s too tall.” He had written me off immediately.

That same guy tried to pick me up in the shower at the gym a short time later, and I said, “I can’t play with you; you’re too short.” Of course, I could have kicked myself because he was hung like a … never mind.

I have had guys come up to me and say, “I just love Jewish men. I only date Jewish guys.” These are the ones I avoid completely. They truly creep me out. I expect them to say, “Some of my best friends are Jewish.” Oy vay.

Do the guys who only seek a certain kind, who are not what they are, really think that is a turn on for the object of their desire? Apparently for some it is.

I recently went to a birthday party with two distinct groups in attendance: middle-aged white men and young Asian men. All were partnered up. Being a writer, I just found the situation fascinating and observed the interactions. In this group, all seemed to have found what they were seeking. I didn’t judge, but I thought how limiting life could be if you only seek one thing.

To me, it is like going to a buffet and only eating the beige food.

Now, few people will come right out and say they only date a certain kind to someone who has asked them out, but I have experienced this firsthand. I met a friend of a friend of mine at a party once. We’ll call him Rod, not because he had a certain physical attribute, but because that was his real name.

We chatted it up for quite a while that evening, and I finally said, “Would you like to go out on a date sometime?”

He said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I only date Latin guys.”

He was Polish.

I ran into him years later, and he was still single. I asked, “How is that only dating Latin guys thing working out for you?”

And back to Randy.

Just the other day, out of the blue, I ran into Randy, and he asked me out on a date, saying it has been a long time, and we should catch up. I agreed to it, thinking maybe he got that only daing Latin guy thing out of his system.

The morning of the date, he texted me that his mother was sick and he had to put her in the hospital.

So let me understand this. If we plan another date in the near future, is he finally going to kill his mother?

And people wonder why I am still single.

Regardless of their ethnicity, if you like what you just read, follow me, get on my email list, join me, tell your friends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Creamed Corn and the Brown Bag Turkey

I am ambivalent about Thanksgiving. It should be my favorite holiday. After all, I was born on Thanksgiving, and next year, I will turn fifty on Thanksgiving, but therein lies the dilemma. When your birthday falls on or near a holiday, especially on a holiday with no specific date, i.e., the fourth Thursday of November, you feel gypped. “We’ll celebrate your birthday on Thanksgiving, even though it falls on the Tuesday before.”
Maybe this is why I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday since we were always celebrating it not on my birthday.

I wonder if this happens to people who are born on President’s Day. “Oh, we’ll celebrate your birthday on Monday, even though it falls on Saturday.” I imagine Christmas babies have it worse than anyone. Everybody gets presents, and they probably do not get any extra ones for having their birthday under the tree (but I'll bet they take inventory). Then again, January 1 babies must have it bad. After the initial excitement of being born on New Year’s Day, for every year after that, your family is hung over at your birthday party. Leap Year babies have it worse – they have quadrennial birthdays, but they are always younger than everyone by multiples of four.

That is the first time I have used quadrennial in a sentence.

Now, I don’t dislike Thanksgiving, and as I have gotten older, I have begun to enjoy it. However, there is one thing about Thanksgiving that can make it a painful experience: You usually spend it with your extended family. Your own family is fine, but those cousins … don’t get me started. Fortunately, our extended family consisted of five people.

Growing up, we spent Thanksgiving with my dad’s family. Uncle Stanley married a Catholic, so it was Thanksgiving at our house and Christmas at theirs. No matter where we went, we would spend ten minutes at the beginning of the meal discussing food ingredients because of Wendy’s allergies, cringe at Jeff’s crude jokes, and make sure Carole-Sue was the center of attention, or she would run crying from the table. My mother would undoubtedly say something to someone to set him or her off, and a good time would be had by all.

Mother once put a ham on the table and told my grandmother it was rare roast beef.

When I moved to Florida, I would come home for Thanksgiving, and by then, it was just the immediate family and my mother’s brown bag turkey.

Growing up, we were convinced my mother was a great cook. Once I experienced properly prepared foods, I soon realized my mother’s cooking was ok at best. Some things were great, but others were … how shall I put this … inedible. Her chopped liver and chicken cacciatore were phenomenal. However, her chuck roast on the grill was disgusting. It was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. They call this Pittsburgh style. I have never wanted to visit Pittsburgh.

On one visit home, my mother asked if I would like for her to grill a chuck roast. I said, “I would rather you not make a burnt offering on my behalf.” She laughed.   

I still do not like steak because she would buy these lousy steaks full of gristle and fat and make me chew them. My napkin would be full of chewed up but unswallowed meat.

Then, there was her kugel. I was in my thirties when I finally learned that kugel is not supposed to be crunchy. I had made my first one and followed the recipe to the letter. I also learned that kugel is delicious when prepared properly.

And, don’t get me started on the oily cakes. I am known for my baking, and I have never been able to replicate my mother’s oily cakes. I think this had something to do with the fact that she would substitute Sweet-n-Low for sugar. It is a wonder I am still alive.

However, her pièce de résistance was her brown bag turkey. A gentile co-worker of my mother’s gave her a recipe for roasting a turkey in a brown grocery bag, which is why I never get recipes from gentile co-workers.

Seriously, this is what it involves. You take your turkey and coated it in vegetable oil. Then you stick it in a brown grocery bag, staple the bag shut, and roast it for twenty minutes per pound. There are two good reasons for doing it this way. One, you don’t have to baste it. Two, you can throw away the entire bird because it is already in its own garbage bag.

As a matter of fact, if you adopt this method, skip the middle man and put your turkey out with the trash.

But, here is the best part. After my father would attempt to carve this dry bird, which would have the consistency of drywall, my mother would make the same declaration after chewing her first bite. “I bought a bad bird this year. This is awful. I will never buy that brand again.”

Get this. She used this method for twenty-two years and said the same thing every year, including the first time she did this. Are there twenty-two brands of turkeys? The last holiday I spent with my mother was Passover. Her health had been failing, so I came down knowing this would be our last holiday together, and she had actually rallied a bit and was driving again. It turned out to be a nice visit.

The conversation before preparing the turkey, our Passover meat of choice, went like this:

“We have to put the turkey in the bag by ten o’clock …”


“What do you mean no?”

“I am making a decision. If you cook one more turkey in a grocery bag, I will never eat in your house again.”

Laughter heard from my father between his farts while he sits in his easy chair with my dog, Serena, in his lap.

“That is the way I am making it …”


“Then you can eat a bologna sandwich.”

“I will. In the meantime, we are roasting the turkey my way with no brown bag. Every year, you make it in the brown bag, and every year you declare you bought a bad bird. It is not the bird, it’s the bag. I cannot eat another drivy fertz turkey. I don’t know what goy-friend of yours gave you that recipe, but we are not doing it that way as long as I am here.”

“He’s right,” my father said between farts.

“Who asked you?” my mother said with a smile. “But if yours is dry, you can take the whole thing home with you.”

“I will … and it won’t be dry.”

We roasted it my way. No bag, perfectly seasoned. The part that drove her nuts was my not letting her open the oven to baste it. It took everything to convince her that opening the oven and basting it only created wet skin and a dry bird.

Needless to say, I inherited my stubbornness and insistence that I am always right from my mother. Lately, I fart as much as my father.

The turkey was perfect, and she even said my chopped liver was as good as hers. That was the ultimate compliment.

That Passover was the nicest holiday our family spent together.

Less than two months later, my mother died, but at least she got to eat one good turkey before she left this earth to help God run things in heaven – or Boca – or wherever Jews go when they die.

I also inherited my need to be in charge from her.

After my mother died, I took over Thanksgiving duties. For the first few years, my father would come up for a visit with my friends for the holiday, giving my brother, who lived near him, a break.

My father was always a pleasure, especially when he would comment on my guests’ weight or other physical attributes, and soon, I realized this combination was not working.

Then, we held the first Stern Family Thanksgiving since my mother died. My brother, sister-in-law, nephew and father came up. Dad stayed with me, while the others stayed in a hotel. This gave me the pleasure of witnessing my father doing his morning exercises in his briefs with his man boobs flapping about.

I have seen my future, and it is not pretty.

For that Thanksgiving, I decided to go all out. My delicious roast turkey, mushroom bordelaise gravy, cornbread stuffing from homemade cornbread (no bag of croutons crap), cranberry apple relish, pumpkin-sweet potato-carrot mash with molasses and brown sugar, and homemade biscuits.

I asked my brother if my nephew had any favorite food. He said, “Yes, creamed corn.”

I hate creamed corn. Creamed corn looks like predigested food. I don’t want to know how they cream it. I really don’t want to know. But, I wanted him to be happy, so I bought two cans of that dreck.

We sat down to dinner, and I put everything out so beautifully. If I do say so, myself, I set a beautiful table. I have few talents when it comes to entertaining, and working in a five-star restaurant taught me how to set a table. I always take a picture of the table before anyone sits down and messes it up. Everything is color coordinated. I have more table cloths than the Marriot and matching napkins for all of them, enough to make Martha Stewart jealous.

The food looked wonderful, and I thought I had outdone myself. Then someone said it, “Pass the creamed corn.” And another, “Yes, pass the creamed corn.”

Then, “Oh this creamed corn is delicious.” Followed by, “Do you have any more of the creamed corn?”

Seriously? This is your favorite dish on the table? Creamed fucking corn? I should have made Stove Top Stuffing, French’s gravy, and opened a can of jellied cranberry sauce!

I thought it; I didn’t say it.

If I were suicidal and owned a gun – and knew how to use one – I would have blown my brains out right there at the dining room table, which would have been followed by, “Oh, I hope he didn’t get any brains in the creamed corn.”

“Yes, let me open another can of creamed corn,” I said with my best Donna Reed smile. It wasn’t even brand name creamed corn!

While I love my family dearly, we are just trash.

I never cooked another Thanksgiving dinner again.

My father died of a heart attack after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease a couple of years ago. Now for Thanksgiving, my family comes up to visit, and we go out to eat. Going out was my brother’s idea because he doesn’t want to bother with dishes. No offense, Alex, but when did you ever wash a dish in my home? Wait a minute. Was he commenting on my cooking?

Last year, we had a lovely meal at an upscale restaurant.

But, I now live in a town that allows trailer parks, so our choices are limited. I think I’ll make a reservation at Wing’s Liquor, Sports Bar and Grill. I hear they have their own special recipe for creamed corn! We should fit right in.

If you like what you just read, become part of my email list, join me, become a fan, share me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Being a Crazy Magnet Ain’t Easy

Just when I thought I had reached my limit in attracting crazies, the gods throw another one my way. And, I must admit this time it was my fault for initiating contact.

One of my neighbors has a gold Chevelle four-door hardtop. I had never seen the owner, and the other night while walking Esmeralda (do I ever not mention her?), he was outside, so I asked him what year was his car.

That was my first mistake.

After telling me it was his grandfather’s car and it was a 1971 (the square taillights are the clue), I made the mistake of telling him I was president of an antique car club.

When will I learn to keep my mouth shut? I really should carry a clothes pin with me.

He then ran inside and came out with a pile of papers and a pen, and for the first time, I noticed his “outfit.” It was forty degrees out that night, and he was wearing a T-shirt, a weight belt, parachute pants, and flip flops. For once, I was the fashionable one.

“I want to join your car club. Give me your number and the Website. Here, write it down,” he said handing me the pile of papers and the pen. I wrote down a wrong number and the Website with a few letters missing. Forgive me, but we have enough crazy people in the club.

I told myself to say a Hail Moses later.

I thought that would be the end of it, but then he said, “I’ll walk with you. I want to see your cars.”

“Oh, I have to go to work now, so I don’t have a lot of time.” It was 6:30 on a Wednesday night, and I had to lie to get out of this situation.

Now, I would have to say a Hail Miriam.

He followed me anyway and then proceeded to tell me his life story.

Sometimes, life writes itself, so here goes:

“My name is Tim. What’s yours again?”


“I’m on disability because I was a computer programmer during Y2K and lost my mind after that. That did me in. As a result, I have no short-term memory. I was then an agoraphobic and didn’t leave my house for ten years, but once I got over that became a hoarder. I just finished cleaning all the crap out of my house. I have no short term memory, so I have to write everything down. What is your name again?”


“I want to be your dog walker.”

“I have a dog walker, thank you.”

“What is your name again?”


“I’m on disability. I have no short-term memory. I was a computer programmer. Y2K did me in. The car belonged to my grandfather. See that house there? I was going to buy it, but it had no driveway. I should have bought it. My mother-in-law lives over there. I don’t talk to her. What is your name again?”


“I want to adopt a dog. What is your dog’s name? I want to be your dog walker.”

“Esmeralda. I have a dog walker.”

“Twenty years ago, I gave my wife one of my kidneys. Then they told me she died. Two years ago, I found her. She was alive. I’m on disability. I have no short-term memory. What is your name again?”


“I want to be your dog walker.”

“I have a dog walker.”

“I was going to buy that house there, but it had no driveway. My mother-in-law lives over there. I’m on disability because I have no short-term memory. What is your name again?”


We then arrived at my house. Maybe I should have walked up to another house and pretended it was mine, but he said he had no short-term memory, so I took my chances.

“Wow. Two AMCs.”

“Well, it was nice meeting you, but I have to go to work now.”

“What is your name again?”


“Where is my house?”

“Just keep walking in that direction, and you are the fourth house around the corner.”

“OK, that way?”


He may have no short-term memory, but he certainly has long-term memory.

Now, when I walk by his house, he says, “Hi, Milton. I want to be your dog walker.”

If he weren’t so weird, I would ask him more about the dead wife with his one kidney, who turned up eighteen years later. Now there’s a story worth publishing.

If I offended anyone with the disability of no short-term memory, I apologize. Oh hell, you won’t remember this.

If you like what you just read, join me, follow me, get on my email list.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

From Aloof to Cuddler

I have lived with dogs for as long as I can remember. The first dog in my life was actually one I don’t quite remember. His name was Lucky, and apparently when my mother brought me home from the hospital, he would stand guard over me. He snarled and sometimes bit whoever came near me, with my mother being the only exception. She must have been the one to feed him. When he bit a meter reader who came within fifty feet of my playpen in the backyard, the decision was made to send him to a farm. I guess he was Lucky. He got out while he could and no longer had to live with my family.
When I was four, my parents gave my brother and me this funny looking dog who was the runt of the litter. Although quite popular today, few people had seen a pug in 1966. Oh My God! Was I four years old in 1966? Where is my Geritol?

Because she was the runt, she was small and her tail did not curl quite right. We didn’t care about that. She was a puppy, and all kids love a puppy.

Anyway, Kelly Gaye Stern, her full name since she came from a long line of champion pugs, was the sweetest dog, and as the name implies, she was a lesbian. We tried breeding her with a handsome pug named Ralph on several occasions, but she would have none of it. She adored my mother and would whine whenever my mother left the house.

When she got older, she would insist on sitting in a recliner with my mother even though she couldn’t jump anymore, so my mother would help her up. My father remarked upon witnessing how my mother would assist her from behind, “That dog thinks you are a lesbian because you keep sticking your finger up her ass.”

As I said, most people had never seen one before, and she would sit in the window all day watching cars go by. Our friends would ask about our funny looking Siamese cat in the window.

And, my mother taught her how to sing “I Love You.”

Kelly was also a snuggler. She would alternate between sleeping with my brother and me and always under the covers and snuggled up against our legs. The two of us would watch TV lying on our stomachs on the floor, and Kelly would have to lie down between us.

They say you have not owned a dog until you’ve been owned by a pug. They are right.

Kelly died at age sixteen. Imagine having a dog from age four to twenty.

Next, came Daisy, the craziest dog ever to grace my world. Daisy was a long-haired Dachsund terrier mix, whom my mother picked out at the Animal Rescue League because she was on top of a dog house barking at all the big dogs. She was tiny when they brought her home, and she had three hairs for a tail.

Daisy was extremely affectionate and loved to sit in my father’s lap or sit up next to him in a “beg” position. Whenever anyone yelled, she would run for Dad and seek comfort from their wrath. We would sometimes yell goddammit just to watch her crash through his newspaper and sit up next to him.

When we would leave the house, she would take every item from my bedroom closet and bring it into the living room. I wish we had webcams back then because I would love a video of her taking every item one by one through the house.

Daisy would usually sleep with my parents because she adored my father. My mother once said, “He comes home from paying golf, pats me on the head and kisses the dog.”

She also attacked vacuum cleaners and once punctured the bag while I was vacuuming. Not funny … well it is now. And, she had a thing for basketballs and could entertain herself rolling one around for hours.

I never saw a dog age the way she did. Her brown and black fur, which by the way, grew to floor length with a long bushy tail, turned completely gray and almost white during her final years. A year before she died, I adopted Serena, a toy parti-poodle.

Serena wanted so much to play with Daisy. Daisy wanted nothing to do with Serena.

Daisy died at sixteen.

Of all the snugglers out there, Serena was the oddest. When I adopted Serena, I swore I would not have another dog sleep in the bed. The first week I had her, I actually was taking care of her and her twin brother Moochy, while they were being weaned from their mother, Venus, who was also a rescue and was pregnant when she was saved from an animal abuser. Before you ask, the Serena-Venus connection was purely accidental since no one had heard of them when I named Serena. She was named for Samantha’s cooky cousin.

So, the first night, they whined because they wanted to get into the bed. I made a deal. They could stay in the bed until they fell asleep, then I would put them in their bed. They fell asleep on top of each other. At barely two pounds each, it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended. Serena was black and white, and moochy all black. I then picked them up with one hand – both fit in one hand – and put them in their bed, and they slept through the night. This went on for two nights until …

My apartment in Florida was the second floor of a cottage, which once served as a butler’s quarters. On the way down the stairs on the second morning to put them on the grass to pee and poop, I slipped. I was so worried about the dogs, I did everything to keep them safe, and I broke my foot.

They were fine; I was not. I had a performance with my modern dance troupe that evening, and well, that was not going to happen. After returning from the hospital and hobbling around all day, it was bed time.

Same deal as before – fall asleep in my bed then you go into your bed. But, I was tired, and they ended up sleeping with me all night, and after Moochy went back to my friend John, Serena always slept in the bed.

Now, Serena was also an alpha dog, and I often said our relationship was like that of Joan and Christina. I would say to her, “Why must everything be a contest?” and she said, "Because I am not one of your fans!"

She slept where she wanted to and had to be touching me at all times, often shoving me right out of the bed. It is amazing how much room a nine-pound dog can take.

Serena also had to sit in my lap at all times during the few times I actually would sit still. However, I was not allowed to pet her unless she wanted to be petted. Did I mention she was alpha?

She went deaf then blind, and I had to train her not to sleep in the bed because she had fallen off a couple of times when she couldn’t find the edge. Now, she could never jump that high, so I didn’t have to worry about her jumping up on the bed, but …

For three nights she whined very loudly by the bed near my head all night. All night! Finally, she realized that she wasn’t going to get up there anymore, and she slept in her bed for the last three months of her life. She died at age fourteen. Moochy died the week before she did. Venus, their mother is seventeen years old, and she is still alive. Amazing.

Now, with three snuggling and cuddling dogs, I kind of expected the same from Esmeralda. I was in for a surprise.

Emeralda is a study in what happens when human contact is denied for so long. I read somewhere that because dogs have been domesticated for more than 15,000 years they need human contact and companionship for their psychological well-being.

Since Esmeralda spent almost eight years in a cage, she did not understand what it meant to live with a person, and I expected that. One of two things can happen with a dog with her background; she can become withdrawn, or she can suddenly discover her puppyhood. The bonding, and especially affection, can take as long as a few years to occur.

I have never stuck around long enough for any of the jerks I dated to become affectionate and bond with me, so I had no experience – or patience – in this area.

You already know about her need to escape and the fact that it took almost a year for her to eat in front of me during the daytime rather than wait for me to go to sleep. Now, she looks forward to meal time and eats while I am standing near her, and I don’t have to worry about spooking her by walking around. Just doing things in the same room would make her stop eating once she started eating in daylight. Now, she acts like the dogs they used to starve for the Alpo commercials in the 1970s when I feed her. She dances around and gobbles her food down so fast that she belches after every meal. She does slow down if I say, "Enjoy your food; no one is going to take it away."

About the bonding thing. My brother noticed this when I was walking her. She looks up at me the whole time. But that is OK to some extent, but the whole time we lived in Rockville, she would stay in the bedroom, under the bed, while I was in the living room watching TV, unless I closed the bedroom door and forced her to spend her time with me. Then, and only then, she would hop up onto the couch and sleep on top of one of the back cushions and keep her distance.

I was allowed to pet her but only at arm’s length. She never, and I mean never, sat next to me. I would constantly kiss her forehead and tell her I loved her, but she is the first dog I’ve had who does not lick my face. Maybe that is a good thing. A boyfriend did that once, and I still get nauseated thinking about it.

She has never played with a ball. If you throw a ball, she looks at you as if to say, why did you do that. So, bonding through ball tossing was not an option. She does like to run around in circles barking if you do the same thing. If anyone peaks into my windows and sees us barking at each other on all fours, they are surely going to get me a suite at St. Elizabeth’s.

But, I had to remember everything I read about it taking as long as a few years for a dog to show affection. Studies are all well and good, but when Mrs. M. came over for a visit, and Esmeralda sat next to her on the couch, while Mrs. M. scratched her, I got a little jealous. “Wow, she never sits next to me on the couch,” I said.

And, I thought I was doing everything right.

Then, everything started to change.

When I would come home from work, she would carry on and run around in circles, howling and barking. She doesn’t even do that for Mrs. M. So there!

Esmeralda started following me from room to room, and she had to be in the same room I was in. I didn’t have to close a door to a room to get her to spend time with me. I sometimes purposely walk all over the house just see if she will follow me, and she does.

I no longer had to grab her to brush her every night. I could sit on the floor holding the brush, and she would come right up to me. As a matter of fact, if I am fifteen minutes late with her evening grooming, she reminds be by sitting in our spot on the floor and whines. She even comes right up to me for her weekly ear cleaning, and she loves her monthly bath (although she has always liked her monthly bath).

Then, she started coming up to the bed and pounding out “Babalu” with her paws because she wanted to sleep with me. Wow, nobody wants to sleep with me.

However, she still kept her distance. In the bed, she would stay on her side or sleep on the other pillow.

Then …

In the middle of one night, she snuggled up close to me and put her head on my shoulder and snored away until it was time to get up. I was so happy that I didn’t move because I didn’t want to disturb her. This was a breakthrough.

Then …

After dinner, she started hopping up on the couch and sitting close to me, not touching me, but close enough for me to scratch her, especially behind the ears.

And, she started coming up to me and sniffing my face then touching my nose with hers, wagging her tail, then walking away. This is her way of kissing. Esmeralda did this in front of the veterinarian last week after insisting on sitting on a chair next to mine. The doctor said, "Oh, she really likes you."

Then …

Two nights ago, we were watching TV, and I was scratching her and leaning on my left arm with my feet propped up on an ottoman. Esmeralda then lay down on top of my arm and went to sleep. My arm went numb, but I didn’t want to disturb her. Her comfort was more important than mine. She even snuggled closer after a while. We stayed like that for an hour.

Now, my world is complete.

If you like what you just read, get on my email list, join me, follow me, tell the world about me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I believe it was Al Gore who said his dog gets better health care than his mother-in-law. He was right.
In my further efforts to Jessupize my life, I figured it was time to find a veterinarian close to home rather than fight Beltway traffic for three hours just to get a fifteen-minute exam even though I love Esmeralda’s veterinarian.
Decades of experience has taught me that finding vet is a bit easier than finding a primary care physician. Ironically, in Florida, I had an easy time finding a doctor, while finding a good vet was quite problematic.
When I first adopted Serena at eight weeks in West Palm Beach, Florida, I went to a vet a co-worker recommended. They were a bit vaccination happy and had me bring her in every two weeks for two months for boosters and the like. She had developed a problem and couldn’t keep her food down, and they recommended a tonsillectomy. The price alone scared me, not to mention the prospect of surgery on such a young dog. And do you bring a dog ice cream after that? How do you keep her from barking?
In Florida, a state with very tough animal abuse laws, the Humane Society has retired veterinarians who volunteer their time to conduct exams and minor surgeries, along with spaying and neutering, for around $25 (at least that is what it was in 1995). Having spent a small fortune on vaccines and exams for her stomach, I was running out of money, so I went to a Humane Society vet.
This retired veterinarian in his eighties told me that her diagnosis was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard and in fifty years of practice never once performed a tonsillectomy on a dog. She was diagnosed with irritable bowel and a sensitive stomach and put on prescription dog food, which she remained on for the rest of her life with no more problems until a guest at a party fed her something that almost killed her – but that is another story for another time.
Note: It is not cute to feed someone’s dog without asking first. And, if the host has a sign on the buffet that says “Do Not Feed Serena Any Food,” pay attention to it.
Yes, I am obsessive and anal retentive. Get over it. As I have told you before, my mother rushed my potty training, and now you are paying the price for it.
I continued to go to the veterinarian at the Humane Society, being that my new puppy was eating all my finances. When I moved to DC, I went to work for a company filled with weirdoes (apparently that is spelled with an “oes”).
My boss was a British Royal Family-obsessed hoarder, who was bitter about being single at fifty and passive aggressive as well. Her desk was surrounded by piles of newspapers, and we worked in an open office! She told me she has all the old tires from her car on her balcony. When Princess Diana died, she started spouting off about conspiracy theories and how Diana really wasn’t in that car.
Her boss was a man they had been trying to fire for two years. His office looked as if a suicide bomber loaded himself up with memos and blew himself up in there. Every time the vice president would come by to fire him, he wasn’t there. He always said he was at a funeral, when in fact he was playing tennis. On many occasions, the VP would ask me where he was, and I said he was at a “tennis funeral.” One day he came in wearing his tennis outfit and stood at my desk talking to me and farted. He said excuse me and continued with what he was saying. Oh my God! No boss ever – or co-worker of mine for that matter – farted mid-sentence before … or since.
They ended up firing him by phone. I had the pleasure of cleaning up his office, and I found memos from the Nixon years. How long had they been trying to get rid of him?
They had the worst computer equipment, and mine would crash all the time. I decided to wear my bike helmet at my desk. When asked why, I said, “If my computer crashes, I don’t want to hurt my head.” A week later, they replaced my computer.
Meanwhile, we had one editor, who as my boss bitterly said, lived a charmed life. She married the perfect man, had perfect skin, gave birth to the perfect baby, lived in the perfect house, etc.
I needed to find a vet in DC, so I decided to take Serena to the Adams Morgan Animal Clinic because it was within walking distance of my apartment. When Ms. Charmed caught wind of this, she got up from her desk (something she never did), walked over to me and proceeded to tell me how they kidnapped her perfect cat and wouldn’t let her have him for two weeks until she paid a ransom.
Did I mention that even some insane people lead charmed lives?
I would make a comment about how they hired nothing but weirdoes, but they hired me, so I better not go there.
Fortunately, I have learned over the years that there are some people who seek drama and aren’t happy until they find it. These people also seem to find themselves in situations that are totally unbelievable. Did she seriously think I would believe they had kidnapped her cat for ransom?
These are also the same people who leave negative comments online on Yelp and Epinion and other sites, while 90 percent of the comments are positive. You know what I mean. “I got a massage from Peter, and he pulled a gun on me during the session because I didn’t like the music he was playing. Don’t go to him!” Too bad Peter didn’t shoot him.
My friend Danny took his dog to Adams Morgan Animal Clinic (a big dog that is still alive at sixteen) and couldn’t say enough good things about them, even though he made fun of the one veterinarian who looked like Herman Munster.
They remained her clinic from 1997 until she died in 2009. They always had an opening for an appointment, and they took good care of her. They were especially good when I had to make the decision to put her down.
I wish my experiences with health care in this area were as good as Serena’s.
In Florida, as I mentioned, I had a very good doctor. When I had a minor bicycle accident and a few days later started emitting strawberry cream (use your imagination), my doctor immediately diagnosed it as a broken blood vessel caused by the bicycle seat. He said he saw it many times with men in the Czechoslovakian cavalry where he was a military physician. He always had open appointments, never a waiting room filled with dozens of people, and didn’t guess at a diagnosis.
When I first moved here, it was a different story entirely.
There was the doctor who had to look everything up in a book – I mean everything. Now, she probably uses Wikipedia to determine what to prescribe.
There was the doctor with ADD who would have you strip down and wait for him then forget you were there. A nurse there once told me he had a patient on all fours waiting for a prostate exam, who stayed that way for an hour. I am all for a prostate exam, but who has that kind of time?
Then there was Doctor Colombo. He really wasn’t Colombo, but Peter Falk, alav hashalom, would have been tapped to play him in a movie. Doctor Colombo would get his prescriptions mixed up. I was on the pill for two months before I realized it. I was so emotional all the time, and my periods had stopped.
There was Doctor Himmler, as I called her. She would yell at me and bark orders. Drop you pants! Up on the table! Quit whining! I always pictured her coming in wearing strap boots and a harness, carrying a whip. Would you believe I went to her for three years? Yes, you would. Moving on …
Finally, there was Doctor Three-Hour. No matter what your ailment or reason for going to him, your visit lasted exactly three hours, and they put you through complete blood work, urinalysis and whatever special they were running that day. I had an echocardiogram when I complained of an earache. I had a pelvic exam when I sprained my hand.
I think they just loved billing the insurance company. The doctor never examined you, himself. He would sit across from you at his desk and write prescriptions based on what you told him you needed. As a result, I have a fifteen-year supply of Viagra. Of course, with the state of my “social life” that could be fifteen pills.
I have finally found a good primary who unfortunately is in Rockville. But this isn’t about me.
When I adopted Esmeralda, I took her to Adams Morgan Animal Clinic even though I was living in Rockville, but the drive was killing me, so I reluctantly switched to a veterinarian in Rockville, recommended by a co-worker, Nebel Street Animal Clinic. They are fantastic. I actually called Adams Morgan Animal Clinic to apologize for switching. They understood completely.
I was reluctant to switch again, but after much research, we have once again found a good veterinarian, Cat and Dog Hospital of Columbia. I found them through a web search. They had phenomenal reviews, with one exception. You guessed it – some drama queen, claiming they killed her cat. Upon further reading, it was revealed that the cat was twenty-two years old. My guess is the cat was past its expiration date, begged for mercy and eventually committed suicide.
My advice: Read all the reviews. If the majority are positive, take the negative ones with a grain of salt. There is always one drama queen.
Obeagle Care is a success. Please don’t repeal it.
I know I mentioned some animal clinics by name – but only the great ones!
If you like what you just read, get on my email list, follow me, recommend me to your friends …

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bane of My Existence

In the early 1980s, Lucille Ball was interviewed by reporter from Rolling Stone Magazine. There are two things, among many, about the interview that stuck with me. Lucille Ball would not let them photograph her, and when asked about her hair, she said, “It is the bane of my existence.”

I can totally identify. For as long as I can remember, I have had a battle with my hair. I come from a family of good hair on one side and not so good on the other. They say you inherit your hair traits from your mother’s side. If her father was bald, you will be bald. If her hair turned gray, yours will turn gray. Whatever.

On my father’s side, they have thick, wavy hair, gorgeous hair, which may turn prematurely gray, but looks great until their last breath. On my mother’s side, they either style the few hairs they have in a bouffant or wear a wig.

My hair is thin, semi-curly, dry, and unmanageable. Before I discovered mousse and gel, I always looked like a dirty Q-tip. My hair has never been fashionable. I could never wear it in any style that was longer than an inch and look stylish. I always threatened myself that I would shave it all off.

In the early 1990s, when I lived in Florida, my friend Farrah went through chemotherapy. In solidarity with her, I shaved my head. I never felt so free in my life. My hair never looked better ... then it grew back.

For the most part, I decided to keep it short and quit trying to make it look like something it wasn’t. I even managed to find a stylist who could cut it every two weeks exactly as I wanted, and here is where my dilemma remains today.

When you have good hair, you can use any shampoo and product and pretty much look presentable at all times. When you have bad hair, you first must find someone who knows how to cut it, and then find products that tame your mane. You must also hope your stylist sticks around for a few years!

Now, I have been to salons, barbers, beauty schools and every hair styling place in between. In high school and college, I went to Jan Mar Beauty School for a $3 haircut. The owner knew me from my job at Baskin Robbins, so she would come over and cut my hair showing one of the students how to do it. For that price, I never complained, although she would cut it very short. But with the dry look, my hair was very manageable at that length.

I decided to let my hair grow a little longer when I taught school to be in style with the big hair of the 1980s. But, I should have known better. No matter who cut my hair, I was back to being a dirty Q-tip.

I did find the first person since the owner of Jan Mar who could cut my hair. She was a beautician at Danny’s Hair Loft, and she was fantastic. Then, I discovered mousse and volumizer. I may have looked as if I was wearing a black fuzzy football helmet, but my hair did stay in place. Unfortunately, my new hair dresser moved to Germany, and I was back to trying to find someone who could cut my horrible hair.

I had little to no luck. Just when I would find someone, he or she would move. I was spending a fortune and no matter who cut it, I looked awful.

In Florida, it took four years to find the stylist, mentioned above, who could cut it perfectly after the shaving of my head and the decision to keep it short. He worked in a Cuban-owned shop. The owner had Dairy Queen hair – you know the type, all whipped up and dyed platinum blonde. She would sit at the front desk with her Maltese in her pocket book. Rumor has it her bags were packed and ready in the back of the shop, while she waited for Castro to die, so she could return to Havana and reclaim the land her family lost in the revolution. Come to think of it, she was always holding her car keys. I guess she wanted to be the first to return.

Then, I moved to DC, and I was back to square one.

Over the years, I have alternated between barbers and hairdressers, and I have found barbers to be better at cutting my hair. But, that has not stopped me from trying the occasional stylist. I am an optimist, and I am convinced there is a stylist who can cut this wiry mess, allowing me to let my hair grow longer than an inch.

There is an expression in Florida that goes like this: “He’s got a big ass charging those prices,” which is usually followed by: “This is ridiculous.”

You use that expression when someone just starts a business and charges as much as someone with twenty years’ experience. For example, a guy graduates from beauty school and on his first job charges $40 for a haircut. “He’s got a big ass charging me $40! This is ridiculous.” See how it works.

That is what I ran into. A salon opened next to my gym in what was originally a gallery. I thought I would give them a try. They charged $55 a haircut. I knew I was crazy, since I could get five barber cuts for that price, but I wanted to give them a chance, and perhaps I would let my hair grow out and be somewhat stylish … or at least contemporary.

I don’t know how, but I managed to get the only straight stylist in a gay-owned shop. I am also the guy who ends up with the unsexy handymen and plumbers. My friend Ed always ends up with porn stars. Life is not fair. However, my jobs get done right the first time, and his leave a mess … think about it.

So, there I was being styled by this pierced, tattooed straight guy, fresh out of beauty school, and the first thing he says is, “I have to fix what your last stylist did.” That to me is the equivalent of a contractor walking into your house and saying, “Uh oh.” Translated: “This is going to cost you.”

I said, “Don’t tell me that. Just cut me hair the way I asked you.” He cut my hair and put in enough product to make it waterproof for a season. However, one washing, and my hair never looked right again. You see, that is the sign of a bad haircut. It may look good when you leave, but if you cannot get it to look right again, don’t go back.

I then spent almost ten years trying to find the right barber. No more $55 haircuts for me. And seriously, when did it get so expensive to get a bad haircut?

I finally found a women barber in a gangland barbershop in Mount Pleasant. Sure the MS-13 guys were always in there getting their buzz cuts with their names trimmed into the back of their heads, so you would know who got capped that night. But, she did a good job, and getting my hair cut there gave me street cred. God knows I needed street cred.

Then I moved to Rockville. After one bad barber, I found a Vietnamese barber, named Nick. When I first walked into his shop, there was no one there, so I walked out and asked one of the business owners in the strip mall if he was any good. They assured me he was, and they were right. Curiously, his shop was always empty.

When I moved to Jessup, I tried out a barber near the grocery store. I left the shop looking as if I were headed for the electric chair.

After that, I found myself driving the Beltway back and forth to Rockville for a $10 haircut every three weeks. If you do not live here, I cannot begin to tell you how miserable driving on the Beltway can be at any hour of any day.

It was time for me to “move my life” to Jessup. I could not keep going back to Rockville for haircuts and doctors and veterinary visits and car repairs, etc.. I went online and found the barbershop Nick had mentioned when I told him why I kept coming back, and they had great reviews.

As luck would have it, they are Vietnamese owned and staffed as well. In my politically incorrect defense, Nick suggested I look for a Vietnamese owned shop, and he did mention this one. Is it racist to be happy when you discover a certain ethnic group owns a business? I mean I wouldn’t buy Chinese food from a restaurant owned by Irving Greenberg? Then again …

A female barber named Sue Anne cut my hair and did a perfect job, and it was only $9! I tipped her $5. As it turns out, she usually does not work Fridays, but the owner was out that day, so she took his place. God was looking out for me that day. Yes, God has nothing better to do than help me find a good barber, which reminds me of an old joke.

A man goes to his barber before flying to Italy to meet the Pope. The barber gives him the full treatment, including what he, the barber, considers his best haircut ever.

When the man returns, the barber asks what the Pope said to him. The man says, “I kneeled before him, he put his hand on my head and asked, ‘Where did you get that lousy haircut?’”

One more tidbit. I no longer use mousse or volumizer. I have since discovered hair gel, and I buy it in five-pound jars. I use more than Pauly-D on Jersey Shore!

This week, Esmeralda tries a new veterinarian in our continuing efforts to become Jessupized.

If you like what you just read, join my email list, follow me, share me with your friends, tell Andy Cohen I need my own reality show!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween in the Hood

If there is one holiday that really gives you a feel for your neighbors and your neighborhood in general, it is Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a huge deal, or at least I thought it was. Our costumes pretty much consisted of a mask. Or, we went as hobos. Remember when hobos were not politically incorrect? I would love to see a kid dressed as a homeless person today. I think that would be hysterical. Or, maybe not.

I find it funny with my good memory that I cannot remember one Halloween costume I wore as a kid. I guess because I was inside the mask looking out, and we also stopped trick or treating around age nine. Today, they trick or treat up to age twenty-two. My mother was not one to put much effort into costumes the way mothers get into them now, so I think I wore my regular clothes and a mask, and that was it.

Maybe she thought a full-fledged costume would make me gay or a drag queen. How is that abstinence education working for you, Mrs. Palin?

Around age ten, my friend Jerry from across the street and I would make a haunted house out of his garage for the trick or treaters, and this was a lot of fun, too.

On Halloween, we had the usual hijinks – kids bags being lifted, smashed pumpkins in the street, toilet papered trees and the like. These were to be expected, and a Halloween without such mayhem would be un-American.

As an adult living in apartments, Halloween was not a big deal in Newport News or Florida, but when I moved to Mount Pleasant, the gates of hell opened up, and all the monsters and ghouls were on the hunt. I lived one block from an elementary school, and little did I realize how many children lived in my neighborhood. I went through three bags of candy in twenty minutes then I had to turn off the lights and hide under my bed. They kept knocking on the door until 10:00 pm! I kept hearing in low, growling voices, “Trick or Treat … trick or treat … we know you’re in there!”

I learned my lesson, and every year after that, I bought ten bags of candy as did all my neighbors. We would dress up for the trick or treaters, and a good time was had by all.

Then came Rockville, and living in a luxury apartment building, I went for two Halloweens with no trick or treaters, not even the man from the third floor whom the nut on the fourth floor claimed was a registered sex offender. The first year, I ate two bags of miniature Mars bars. Someone had to enjoy them.

So, I expected living in a mobile home community to be much like Mount Pleasant. While the average age of our residents is fifty-five, there are about ten teenagers and an equal number of smaller children, plus there are some who babysit their grandchildren while their parents work at night.

I bought eight bags of the crappiest candy I could find – at least crappy to me, so I wouldn’t eat any of it. Jolly Ranchers, Smarties, Nerds, Starburst and something called Monster Sticks. Of course, I had to sample one of everything to be sure I didn’t like them. I didn’t.

Then, I waited, and I waited, and I waited. Around 7:00 pm, the first trick or treaters came. I gave the two of them a handful of candy. They were very polite and said thank you. Fifteen minutes later, three more came. They were very polite and said thank you. Ten minutes later, Mrs. M’s grandchildren came and asked where Esmeralda was. Esmeralda was sitting on the back of the sofa wondering why people were constantly knocking on the door and interrupting her after dinner nap.

Have I told you she doesn't bark when someone knocks on the door? She doesn’t even care. Someone could walk in and attack me, and as long as they didn’t wake her, she wouldn’t care.

I was impressed with the costumes. All were well executed, and my favorite was the five-year-old, complete with perfect bouffant hair piece, dressed like a bride with a veil and train. She looked like a midget bride. Can one say midget anymore? I meant Munchkin. Can one say Muchkin?  

Twenty minutes and ten kids later and Halloween in the hood was over.

That’s it! No one came from other neighborhoods to trick or treat in our fine community? No teenagers came out trick or treating? Only little kids? All very polite well costumed little kids?

With no more kids, and four unused bags of candy (I threw a fistful in every bag), I took Esmeralda for her before bed walk. Here is what I noticed. Half the porch lights were out. No one had a real pumpkin, and only one family, a mean father, his stumbling drunk wife, holding a Budweiser tall boy, and their two unhappy children were out. While four of five houses were decorated, this was a major disappointment.

What is happening to our country? This is un-American! These people are gun-toting, God fearing Americans! Is there no hope left for our great nation?

I really should not have been surprised. My parents did the same thing once we were grown, and I guess anyone without children figures they did their Halloween time. I am childless – well, human childless – so I am immune to Halloween burnout, and those of my persuasion love Halloween – another excuse to do drag, any kind of drag!

But, come on people. What is Halloween without at least one smashed pumpkin in the street? No one egged a house or toilet papered a tree. Is the economy so bad that people can’t even spare one roll of toilet paper? Next year, I’ll toilet paper my own trees and smash a pumpkin on my deck.

As Endora would say, “I find this situation utterly boring.”

Maybe during Thanksgiving they will drop turkeys from a helicopter.  As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!” Arthur Carlson, WKRP in Cincinnati.

If you like what you just read, follow me, share me, get on my email list. Tell Bravo to give me a reality show!