Home Come, How To Books, Don’t Work?

 

I’d like to have more friends, money, sex, power, strength, sleep, intelligence, and feelings. In addition, I’d like to improve my tennis, skiing, jogging, fishing, and cooking. Furthermore, I’d like to learn to speak Spanish, sail a sloop, throw a pot, snorkel, and do macramé.

All of the above are possible my making a trip to the local paperback bookstand. There is a “How-to-Book” for each of my desires. For a couple of dollars, I can purchase the means to gain a skill, a friend, a job, a lover, or even a new personality. For another two dollars, I can buy a “How-to-Lose” book which can undo all that I have gained.

Now that I’ve purchase the book, my life gets complicated. I don’t read!! Well, I do know how to read, but rather slowly. No problem! On the rack above “How-to-Peel Onions and Eat Garlic without Coming Apart”, is a “How-to-Improve Your Reading Speed in 10 Minutes per Day.”

I purchase the speed reading book and head home. It is now time to make life worth living! I am not really interested in reading faster, so I will skim the reading book. Skimming a book is a skill in itself, like skimming milk. How does one skim milk, let alone a book designed to improve your reading speed?

I read the authors’ notes on the front and rear covers; then I read any book reviews extolling the virtues of the book; then I read the chapter contents. Sounds good! Just 10 minutes per day for 300 days. That’s 3000 minutes of training or fifty hours. Why not one hour per day for fifty days, or perhaps a marathon of 50 hours? I wonder if you can adjust the training schedule and still improve? If I fail, I know it will be due to my modifying the training schedule. I am anxious to see exactly what is involved in the program.

I light up a cigarette and sit in my reading chair, a stool in the kitchen. I wish I had a comfortable reading chair, and proper reading lamp. Maybe I’ll read in bed? Maybe I’ll go to sleep.

But what about the improvements? What about my friends, money, sex, power, Spanish, and macramé? Oh well, I saw a book entitled, “How-to-Procrastinate and Enjoy it.”

Copyright, Thomas Golden, 1981

If Birds Fly, Why Can’t I?

 

Everything is fine until the plane starts to move. Up to that point the experience is like sitting in a carpeted egg box. As the plane leaves the terminal parking area, the wings show the first signs of poor engineering and loose rivets. With each bump on the airport runway, the huge wings flutter. The flex is minimal, but only total repression would allow you to not see the wing tip movement. My first response is to make certain that my seatbelt is right, although the totality of a crash has always made the seatbelt procedure seem ridiculous.

Throughout the flight, I am devoted to the signal lights above my seat. I believe that firm adherence to the “No Smoking” and “Fasten Seat Belt” signs will insure the safety of the flight. It is as if that were my way of controlling the flight.

“Is this is 727 or a DC 10?”

“Which plane, design, and manufacturer was involved in the last crash?”

“Remember the saying, ‘Never two without three.”

“Damn it, were there two crashes this year, or only one?”

“Perhaps there were three already this year. Perhaps there were several in Europe or Russia. You never know. The local paper doesn’t report each plane crash. If only there were three crashes already, then I’d be safe.”

The stewardess is informing us of the emergency procedures in case of a land crash, sea ditching. or oxygen deficiency. They seemed so bored, so mechanical, so very pretty. What an exhausting job! I try hard to believe that they really are knowledgeable about, planes, engines, and flight. Certainly, if something went wrong they would detect it, and being very sensitive I would read it in their faces. Actually, I know better. The hostesses are no more aware of aerodynamics than I am. They must serve 164 people a meal, a cordial, a snack, a drink, and still look pretty.

The captain announces his presence, our flight arrival time, our cruising attitude and speed, and the weather in Dallas. Who cares! I want to ask him if he flew a B-29’s in World War II. Was he an ace? Does he drink? I want to see his face, his confident smile and sparkling eyes. I don’t care when we arrive. The airline worries about schedules. I need to know that we will arrive!

I survey the passengers looking for a young child, preferably an infant. If there is a God in heaven, he won’t take the life of an infant. Yes, there are two infants. One I can’t see, but I can hear her loud and clear. The stewardess finds the screaming charming.

“Oh, what blue eyes you have. Oh, she is so cute.” It is as if the infant were truly unique. In fact, the infant is great! Two babies are almost a guarantee of a safe flight.

Seated near the first-class compartment is a rather swarthy man. Approximately 36 years of age, dark complexion, and slick black hair. His jacket is wrinkled and his nails are dirty. He could be trouble. What kind of trouble? A hijacker, a bomber, or just bad luck. Just ready to die, since he’s obviously good for nothing and, damn it, he is on my plane.

We’re next in line for takeoff. The engines are revved up. It sounds as if the captain is testing the engines. We’re not moving, so he must be testing them. What a time to test the engines! I wonder if the hundreds of dials and lights in the cabin are all green, or blue, or at least on! A red light would be bad, but a yellow light is even worse. Yellow means caution. Not yes! Not no! Not stop! Not go! Just beware? Beware of what? Human error causes 99.9% of all crashes. If the captain has to decide in the face of a yellow light, is that the beginning of human error?

The engines sound so smooth, and very powerful. We head down the runway, faster and faster. Could he stop now? I try and estimate the speed of the plane. Maybe we’re going 100 mph. I have never driven my car more than 70 or 80 mph. I can’t tell how fast we’re going, but we are airborne. We rise in the air and the clang! crunch! squeal! What’s that? I look out the window. The wing is still there. I can’t see the damn engines since they are bolted at the tail. I hope the bolts hold. The noise must be the wheels being raise, or the flaps flapping. More squealing and grinding noises. The last noise was the flaps. Why doesn’t the ground crew grease the joints? What is so difficult about properly lubricating the gears? How often is the plane overhauled? The interior shows signs of wear. The seats are worn and some of the plastic light fixtures are yellow with age. How old is this plane?

We bank to the left and continue to gain altitude. If you turn the steering wheel too sharply, will the plane refuse to flip over? How many back-up safety systems are there? Even the idea of a back-up system is frightening. You install a back-up system when you know the front system will go haywire! The “No-Smoking” light goes out. That means any gas fumes that have accumulated in the cabin have dissipated. The seatbelt sign stays on.

The stewardess offers drinks and the food orgy begins. The food is worthless. The quality is always poor to neutral, but it is so welcomed. The food occupies the sense. Little packages to open, butter to spread, drinks to balance. I finish everything on my tray. Even the powdered chocolate mousse tastes fine. I could eat all the way to Dallas. The seatbelt sign goes off. I leave mine fastened. Why not? Why unfasten the seatbelt? The seats are cramped, the air is stuffy, the leg room is minimal, and the elbow room is non-existent. So why not leave the band around your stomach? Besides with the first sign of turbulence the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign will light once again.

Darwin was right. Evolution follows natural laws of nature. Fish swim, snakes crawl, and happy little blue bird fly, but why, oh why, can’t I?

World War III

 

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth. That was good, but the masterpiece was the creation of the coffee bean. Unfortunately, he planted most of the beans in Columbia and Brazil, and we will rue that decision. One of these days, the Colombians and the Brazilians will tire of being treated as third class persons. At that time, they are not going to send anymore coffee to any of the world major powers.

“That’s right. We not going to send anymore coffee – no more coffee – that’s it! We’re no send coffee at 60.00 dollars a case, 600.00 dollars or 6000.00 dollars a case. We no send any coffee. We no know what we do with the coffee, but we no send to any big powers – starting with the United States of America in the North America, Western hemisphere continent.”

“No more gringo – no more. We no give a damn what you pay us. We send nothing. Yeah, maybe you get some on the black-market – big deal. We no send and you are going to be in mucho trouble, because which big power drinks more coffee is gonna be more out of it. That’s when we start the Third World War. The United States Army is not gonna move their ass unless they have their coffee. Trucks ain’t gonna go, fliers ain’t gonna fly, jets won’t take to the sky, missilemen won’t watch their missiles, mommas won’t fuck their husbands, husbands won’t go to work, and children will go crazy because they get really loco parents who didn’t have their cup of coffee in the morning.”

“It’s gonna be all over for the United States of America, north America, because we ain’t sending you no more coffee. Oh, you try some artificial filler-inner, but that ain’t coffee. That ain’t the smell of coffee on the highway. It ain’t a hot cup of coffee on a cold, rainy morning. No more cigarette butts in the old coffee cup in the conference room. No, we no send anymore coffee, and if you don’t like it you better be nice, cause we got the bean.”

I wonder if the Russians drink a lot of coffee. I know the Chinese don’t – they’re hooked on tea. Perhaps that’s the answer to a coffee boycott. Tea and donuts; tea and a buttered roll; two eggs over easy, hashed browns, order of bacon, toast, and a mug of tea! What hath God wrought!!

The Multiplication Tables

 

Have you ever given a toll booth collector a Canadian nickel? He will blow up your car!

Instead of giving the collector the toll of 65 cents, you give him sixty American cents and a Canadian nickel. God forbid you give him sixty cents and no nickel. He will ring the bell, sound the gong, flash the lights – just go completely berserk.

“What the hell are you doing, mister? You owe me a nickel – you owe me a nickel!”

“Yes, I know.”

He stares are you – glaring with all his venom because you busted him for a nickel.

When you think about his position, a nickel can be important to his well-being. What if the toll collector is really negligent? Four hundred thousand people a day pass through his booth and each one “stiffs” him for a nickel.

“Oh, it’s only a nickel; – it’s only a nickel.”

Let’s see the mathematics of it all: 400,000 people a day times a nickel. That’s like, $2,000.00 – no – $20,000.00. I know it’s the four times the five and then you have to handle (in your head) all those zeros. It is the zeros that can create havoc in your head.

Now 400.00 times five cents – five times four is twenty. Now, 400,000 times decimal point, zero, five, then I do a twist in my head, just behind my eyes. Four times five is twenty, zero, zero, zero, comma, zero, zero, zero. I strain to see my mental blackboard.

Now you understand what makes multiplying in your head difficult. It is handling all the commas and the zeros.

Tom Golden, PhD. Copyright, 1976

The Asterisk **

 

 

While riding down the New Jersey Turnpike, I noticed on the right-hand side a huge billboard picturing a Buick, Le Sabre. The sale price was up at the right – $35,999.99 followed by a large asterisk, to the right and above the nine.

We know what to do when we see an asterisk. When we see an asterisk we usually scan the page and see what the asterisk refers to. Try and scan a billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike while driving at 65 miles per hour. Thirty-Five Thousand, Nine Hundred Ninety -Nine dollars and Ninety-Nine cents, asterisk and then you start scanning. Before you know it, you’re smashing through the side rails, guard rails, signs, billboard, power plant, while riding down the New Jersey Turnpike.

By the way, if you bother to stop and actually scan the billboard, you will that the asterisk means that the $35,999.99 means FPOE, COD, and FET. All that secret coding means that General Motors is going to own your life for several years.

Tom Golden, PhD. Copyright, 1976.

The Golden Rule

 

Why just one moment of silence?

The election results of November 8th, announced a new day for America. Pundits predicted major policy changes for defense, economy, rules of government, gun control, abortion rights, immigration regulations, and even changes in the Constitution of the United States.

Unbelievable as it may seem, the 36% of the eligible voters who went to the poles demanded a fundamental change in the constitutional prohibition against prayers in the public schools. Did I say prayer? Well I meant to say, a moment of silence, not prayer. Immediately, various lobbying groups voiced their opposition to just a ‘moment of silence’ in the old school house. The most vigorous groups protesting the ‘moment’ were the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of Public School Administrators and the National Education Association. The following is an office memo secreted out of the headquarters of the AFT. It is addressed to the President of the United States, with copies to New Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.

Dear Mr. President,

We take this opportunity to offer our total support for the notion of a moment of silence amendment, but we must humbly protest the restrictive nature of the ‘moment’. The silence that we would prefer is somewhat longer than a ‘moment’. Owing to the length of the public school day, and the unavoidable presence of children, we would suggest that the ‘moment’ be extended throughout the school day, approximately 6.5 hours.

Several advantages supported the extended ‘moment of silence’ concept. A student may pray at any time during the day, or even throughout the day. The privacy of silence would allow students of any religious persuasion to practice their beliefs to their hearts content. Even the agnostic, or the atheist could benefit from the silence period. Non-believers could recite the alphabet, or practice the difficult 8s and 9s multiplication tables. A student could daydream without punitive consequences. Children could think whatever they wished for as long as they desired.

Clearly the freedom to think is to be cherished, but there is a greater good that would derive from the extended moment of silence. The teaching population would be spared the incessant talking, whispering, shouting, gossiping, whining, hollering, and cursing that children are inclined to do. The constitutionally mandated daylong period of silence would free teachers from demanding silence, or punishing for speaking out of turn. The classroom would never again resound with such teacher outburst such as: Shut-up! Cut it out! No talking! Button your lip! Both the teacher and the student would have their privacy protected by the constitution. A student would never have to respond to a question, and possibly be in error. A non-responsive student might simply be engrossed in prayer. A prayer that is protected by all of the power of the United States Supreme Court.

We are proud of our chosen profession, and the responsibility that we have for the education of our children. We believe more than ever that silence is golden. We believe that prayer is good, but silence is better.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Amercan Federation of Teachers.

 

Cc: Newt Gingrich

Rush Limbaugh

 

Copyright 1994, Writer’s Cramp, Tom Golden

Style for the Infantile

 

I’ve been thinking about layettes. For those of you who have never thought about layettes, I’ll describe them for you. A layette is the first fashion wardrobe given to a newborn child. It is usually a blanket, pillow case, booties, sweater, panties and assorted accessories. If made by hand, the layette is crochet or knitted.

Boy babies are given blue layettes, and girl babies are clothed in pink. Sometimes, the infant is given a yellow layette. Yellow – why yellow? That is because the layette was purchased prior to the birth of the child. There is no explanation for the yellow color, other than to match a rather jaundiced complexion.

There has not been a change in layette fashion for a thousand years! It is now time for a change. I suggest the opening of a “Layette Boutique”.

The fashions for layettes will be regal. A parent can buy yard of rich, black mink to wrap the baby. Hand-crafted, calf skin booties and jewelry of all sorts; gold earrings, precious stone necklaces, pearl head-bands. No more washed out blue or faded pink. The maternity doors of Bellevue Hospital open and a little prince or princess is presented to the world.

Another issue comes to mind, and that is the contrasting styles of death and dying as opposed to birth and living. Funerals are led by police motorcycles, follow by flower cars and shining black limousines. Mourners are dressed in their finery. Who comes out of the hospital with a newborn? The father goes to the hospital and pays for his wife and child. The wife is weak, and woozy. She hasn’t been out of the hospital for days – her head is spinning. Father doesn’t know how, or who to hold first.

They drive home, alone, no fanfare – no public acclaim. When they arrive at home there is frequently a family gathering, but rather subdued – no grandeur, no cops, no politicians, no theatrics.

Why not blast the horns, ring the sirens, shoot the pistols. A child is born. A child wrapped in silk – magnificent Tahitian silk. Joy to the world. A child is born. Whose got the pampers?

 

Copyrights, 1980 Tom Golden.

No Trespassing

 

The nurse told me that the doctor would return in a few minutes to complete my examination; I knew thirty minutes would be the time of my isolation. I was naked under the white smock, and a slight chill set in after several minutes. I was tempted to plug in the portable electric heater standing in the corner of the room, but an ancient fear of touching the doctor’s equipment held me in check. There was so much to touch in the room, but each piece of stainless steel bore a vivid, yet invisible warning label, ‘do not touch, danger.’

The floor was cold beneath my bare feet, but I walked over to the white enameled scale, and I stepped on the rubber platform – much warmer. Do I dare touch the setting of brass weights? I listened for sounds in the hallway, and hearing none, I gently moved the brass marker to 175 pounds – wishful thinking. The bar didn’t budge. In order to salvage some pride, I moved the marker to 200 pounds, and the bar smashed to the bottom of the balance. Slowly I inched the marker toward the 190 mark, 189, 188, 187 ½ and achieved equilibrium at 186 pounds. The smock was a good ½ pound, but the 172 pound Cornell freshman was lost forever.

Once the initial trespass was committed, the property was mine to explore. I knew my height had not changed during the past 15 years, buy I raised the measuring bar to the six-foot level, pulled the extension over the head, and with a firmly arched back I touched the metal. Six feet tall was magical meaning, especially for those of us who actually measure five foot eleven and three quarters inches. Textbook posture can generate that extra quarter inch, and as a consequence – manhood.

The white enameled clock on the wall allowed me ten more minutes of uninterrupted adventure. Just to the right of the scale was a stainless steel bracket holding the blood pressure cuff. Above the cuff was the mercury filled tube which has given us our first visual contact with our heart, and life itself. Each movement of the mercury column reflects the vigor of our heart, our blood, our stamina, life span – everything. Only the doctor and his staff know that the initial precipitous drop of mercury is harmless – meaningless. For me, the mercury descent is pure terror. Relief comes when the column starts to beat and hold it’s own against the forces of gravity.

There was no time to put on the cuff, and I didn’t know how anyway, but I yearned to squeeze the black rubber ball dangling from the cuff. I squeezed the ball and looked to see if the cuff would inflate. Nothing happened. I squeezed again, but then realized that the shiny valve above the ball was probably closed. To turn the valve, I had to commit two hands to the forbidden property – one for the bulb and one for the valve. That was a commitment not to be made lightly. A single hand touch might be perceived as accidental. A gentle squeeze could be appreciated as innocent curiosity.  A two handed grasp could only be interpreted as possession. If caught how could I suggest that I was only accidentally touching and only gently squeezing the bulb. Not even our beloved family physician could accept such a deceit. Such private monologues have tied me up in knots throughout my life, and have disallowed innumerable fantasies and lusts.

I heard a door close, and I rushed back to the examining table and assumed the exact position I held when the doctor last saw me. Fortunately my blood pressure was not being taken, or I would have registered dead, or at least dying. No one came in. The doctor must have entered the examining room next to mine because I was able to hear him say,

“Look Sylvia, if you eat more calories than you need, you will gain weight – if you eat less, you will lose weight – it’s that simple”

I smiled to myself, “What a jackass.” If there was one thing I have learned after ten years in the psychotherapy business, it was that there was nothing – absolutely nothing simple about fat. Only my doctor’s thinking was simple. Doctors are inclined to see the insurmountable as simple, or at least worth a try. If you fail, call for another appointment.

Five minutes to go before that inevitable ‘cough’ test. I believe it is a test for a rupture, or hernia, or perhaps sterility. My doctor will hold my teste, ever so gently, and ask me to cough. I will cough ever so gently. “Again please.” Why again? Did I not cough loud enough? I fear that loudness is not the criteria for success, but rather vigor. My cough has to stimulate my teste to action. I’ll be damned if I’ll cough strong enough so that my privates will smash into my doctor’s hand. “Again please, Tom.” Obediently I will cough again, and he will say fine. To me the second cough is always a replica of the first, but it works and he lets me go.

Four minutes and no time to waste. On the white enameled cabinet was a tray of instruments. Some were all stainless steel, and others had jet black handles, laced with stainless steel hooks, twists, knobs. Pincers, knives, probes, and jars of liquid and containers of band-aides and gauze. My first Gilbert Erector Set paled against such as assortment of hardware. The round black tubular instrument with a cone-shaped top fascinated me. That tool had intrigued me, when first it was first stuck in my ear. Through the hole at the top, the doctor would peer and see things. I had just forty-five seconds to go, and with complete abandonment I grabbed the instrument and peered through the peephole. I saw light. Is that what he saw when he looked into my ear and through my brain? Of course not. I know better. What he did see was a field of potatoes! During my childhood, ear wax was potatoes. “Tommy, clean those potatoes out of your ears”, my mother would command. Why potatoes? Why not! In a childhood filled with cabbage patch births, fish for brains, and milk baths, why not starch your ears!

Suddenly, the door opened, and I dropped the ear thing onto the tray. It was the nurse. She smiled and announced that the doctor was delayed but he would come in a moment. She turned and left, closing the door. She saw me, I knew it. I knew she saw me holding the ear thing. I was trembling. I had never been caught so red-handed except for behaviors of a much more personal nature. Her smile told me she saw me with the medical instrument in my non-sterile hand. I had the audacity to hold Hippocrates staff, and I had never even entered a medical school building. Would she tell the doctor? Would she tell him I was holding the ear thing? I immediately checked the scale to reassure myself that I had replaced the brass weight and the height bar. Damn it, the height bar was up and extended. I quickly ran to the scale and replaced the brass weight at the zero mark and re-positioned the height bar. I felt as if I had ransacked the entire room. Why did I do it? For once I allowed my curiosity to overcome my timidity, and I was caught. I had trespassed, and coveted my doctor’s ear thing and I was quite upset, but even more than that I had to go to the bathroom. In that frigid temperature, my bladder had finally reached critical mass. I went to the door, opened it, and met my doctor face to face.  The nurse told him; even though he looked serene, actually quite friendly. I just knew he was vexed, and concerned about the sterility of the ear thing. He asked me what I wanted, and I informed him that I needed to go to the bathroom. He asked if I had given a urine sample, and I said I hadn’t. He told me to use one of the empty bottles in the bathroom for a sample of urine. I said yes and started to walk down the corridor, but I stopped and called to him.

“Doctor, I’m sorry I touched the ear thing.” He said, “I know”, and he went into an examining room and closed the door.

It took me approximately twenty minutes to fill the sample jar.

I Don’t Know

Man: What do you mean you don’t know?

Woman: I just don’t know.

Man: You always say that!

Woman: Well, it’s true!

Man: What’s true?

Woman: I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Man: Wait a second. You mean you just don’t know what’s true, or you just don’t know anything?

Woman: No – not at all. It’s that I just don’t know. I know some things – but I just don’t know about this.

Man: What don’t you know about it?

Woman: I told you. I just don’t know!

Man: Okay, I’m sorry – let’s forget it.

Woman: Forget what? That’s just like you.

Man: What do you mean?

Woman: You are always ready to dismiss me.

Man: That’s not true.

Woman: Well, you just did!

Man: Why do you say that? Just because I said, ‘forget it’??

Woman: Yes, that’s right. You always do that.

Man: I don’t always do that.

Woman: Oh, yes you do!

Man: But I don’t always do anything!

Woman: Sure.

Man: No, it’s true. I said ‘forget it’ because I didn’t want to have an argument.

Woman: I’ve had it! I can’t even tell you I don’t know something without you getting disgusted and then cutting me off.

Man: What do you want me to do?

Woman: Nothing.

Man: That can’t be true. Tell me – just tell me what to do when you say. ‘I don’t know’.

Woman: Nothing. Don’t say anything.

Man: You mean that I shouldn’t answer you at all?

Woman: Yes, that is exactly what I mean.

Man: I’ve never done that in my entire life.

Woman: Done what??

Man: I have never said nothing when someone told me that they ‘didn’t know anything, or something.

Woman: What do you say?

Man: Well, sometimes I say – ‘What don’t you know, or how come you don’t know, or why you don’t know?’ Many times I say, ‘What do you mean you don’t know?’

Woman: And what do they usually say?

Man: I don’t know.

Woman: Don’t be cute.

Man: No – you know what I mean. They usually say, I don’t know.

Woman: Is that so bad?

Man: No.

Woman: But you look confused. You look bewildered.

Man: Well, it’s just that I’m not sure how to continue after someone says, ‘I don’t know’. If I don’t answer them, then what do I do?

Woman: Nothing!

Man: Just be silent – not say a word?

Woman: Yes. Then forget it and go on to something else.

Man: But earlier I said forget it, and you jumped down my throat.

Woman: I know, but that was because I was angry at you.

Man: For what?? Why were you so angry?

Woman: I was angry because you wanted me to talk about something I didn’t know about. Do you know how difficult it is to talk about something you know nothing about, or not sure of?

Man: But I was asking about you. I wanted to know your thoughts – your feelings.

Woman: I know what you wanted.

Man: And that’s why you said, ‘I don’t know’?

Woman: Exactly… I think.

 

Help! There’s a Murderer in My Home

 

“I can’t stand you anymore,” my Mother cried out. “I won’t stand for it.” Her eyes were full of tears.

“But you said I could go outside.” I pleaded.

“Stop it, stop it now!” she screamed. “Stop it or your father…” She was interrupted by the sound of the tea kettle. She ran into the kitchen.

What about my father? I had heard the threat before, many times. “Ouch, damn it, god-damn it.” she hollered.

I reached over for my jacket, just as my Mother came back into the room. “That’s it! You’re really going to get it. You’re in for it now. Wait until your father comes home, ” she threatened.

I stopped listening to her threats, put my jacket down and went into my room. As I closed my door, I could still hear her ramblings of helplessness. “He’s gonna get it good. When his father hears…”

My mind was preoccupied with thoughts of my father. I was trying to recall his features, which proved to be difficult despite his having left home just five hours ago. My father, Sam, age thirty, almost five foot, eight inches tall, Caucasian, Jewish, and HOMICIDAL!

Could my father murder someone? Not just anyone – his own son!

The idea of my father being capable of murder was incredible, but my feelings of apprehension were undeniable.

My father’s daily behavior was the essence of non-violence. He was mild-mannered, and rather gentle. He spent most of time working, eating, and sleeping. I couldn’t recall being hit by my father, nor did I recall him sitting my brothers or sister.

At his assaultive best, he was heard to mumble – “You’d better listen to your mother”, or “Cut it out.”

Why was I so apprehensive? I could almost understand, “Beware, the Ides of March”, but what did “Wait till your father come home” foretell?

Perhaps my fears of bodily injury were related to his muscles. I remember him carrying the washing machine on his back up two flights of stairs to our apartment. God, I was amazed! He put a large canvas belt around the machine and tied the belt around his chest.

With one heave, he had the machine off the lobby floor. When he reached our apartment, he wasn’t even sweating or puffing.

Now I remember, I remember him saying, “Don’t push me” or “You’d better watch out.” Some references to not making him mad, or “I’m warning you.” I am fairly certain the troublesome issue involved my mom. I recall him saying phrases that suggested pain, if not doom. With my mother threatening his punitive potential, and my father hinting at some sort of limits to his endurance I was left with my fantasies. There were no hard facts to draw upon. I might get slapped, punched, kicked, choked, or KILLED.

The murderer in the home, was in my head – was I alone?

Did other children harbor similar fears of patricide?

My Gut Feelings

 

Dear Mr. Robin,

The following comments are in response to your opinion in the February 3rd edition of the Suburbanite.

I have gut feelings.

Somewhere near my spleen.

Like most gut feelings

They don’t equal what I mean.

I have gut feelings

That leave me in despair

For in my job as Editor

I have opinions I must air.

I’m not qualified to speak

Of barracks, wars and gays.

But I try my best to speak

If in rather schizo ways.

I’m trying to ignore my guts

But I can’t stay in my head.

I fear I may be going nuts

Losing readers is what I dread.

If gays fought with Washington

And rights are free to all,

Why then are my intestines

So knotted in a ball?

Oh to be born in ‘60

And not in ‘59

My guts would be less twisty,

My mental life sublime.

 

But It’s So Simple

 

While sitting in my smock and waiting (and waiting) for my doctor to return, I overheard the doctor saying – “Look Sylvia, if you eat more calories than you need you’ll gain weight – if you eat less, you lose weight. – IT’S THAT SIMPLE!” I couldn’t hear his patient’s response, but it was probably more distressed than joyful.

How often we hear the desire for leisure time – “Oh, I wish I had the time to play some tennis or golf”, and the concerned response is “So do it – if you really want to you’d find the time – you make everything so complicated.” Even in matters of “life or breath” as with the habitual cigarette smoker, the concerned public suggests that all one has to do is “simply” stop smoking.

Changing human behavior is typically not so simple, so easy or just a matter of “really wanting to.” In fact, each time we are confronted with the suggestion that changing our behavior “is so simple” and then we fail, the chances of successful change become even less. We are quite familiar with the feelings of self-doubt and embarrassment that result from our “failure” to achieve the “simple” goals of daily living.

The mistaken notion that we can readily change long standing habits by “simply” being told how easy it is to change is one of the myths about human behavior. In part, the myths come from our having learned that “you are the master of your own fate” and all change must come from within yourself. If you have been raised with the notion of “lifting yourself by your own bootstraps” and yet find yourself still on the ground, daily living can be quite depressing.

We need to become more appreciative of the complexity and uniqueness of each person’s behavior and the influences of the environment upon those behaviors. We must understand that most of our behavior, particularly habits of long standing are not maintained because we are “lazy”, “stupid” or “lacking desire” for change. Many habits, e.g. smoking, excessive eating and working, are continued because they bring pleasure and/or relief from discomfort despite the contentions of other persons. In addition, the social world we live in is often inconsistent in helping us change, e.g. the food store that has a sign requesting – “Please, do not smoke” – and just to the left of the sign is a fully stocked cigarette vending machine. The most caring family often belittles the fact that you are eating the bread, and yet ignores your having stopped late night snacks… Many of us find that the most appealing aspect of our lives, is the very habit we are told to change.

Although many persons in our lives are “good” intentioned when they suggest “IT’S SO SIMPLE”, that statement does not represent a realistic assessment of the hows and whys of human behavior. Telling someone to change and TEACHING them are not the same – TEACHING of behavior change requires more investment, and work – a commitment we must be willing to make.

 

Bedroom Technology

Our bedroom is quite ordinary at first glance. A large king size bed, a dresser, two night tables, curtains, and a chair piled high with yesterday’s clothes, a Burpee Seed catalog, and last Sunday’s New York Times. Perched on top, a half-finished bowl of oatmeal. Upon closer inspection one sees the chrome, plexiglass, wiring, dials, buttons and switches of the 21st century.

At the foot of the bed stands our color television. The cord for the set curls around the bed to a wall socket behind our bed. The skill with which we avoid entangling in the cord is the mark of a demolitions expert.

We recently acquired cable T.V., as a result a second fifteen-foot cable connects the television with a control panel resting on our bed along with ten feet of insulated wire. The cable installer told me the wire can’t short out, but I’ve never believed the Underwriters Label on our heating pad, and I am not going to start now.

In between our pillows lies the remote-control unit that controls our television. Fortunately, the remote unit has no wires or we would have long since strangled in a web of vinyl coated copper.

On each of our night tables rests a Tensor, high intensity reading lamp. Both lamps have low and high power settings. My wife’s lamp has a switch on the bottom of the lamp, while my switch is located just behind the bulb. The placement of the switch is crucial to ones’ health. On full power, my lamp shade is an inferno, requiring fine muscle coordination  to avoid third degree burns.

The height of the lamp is adjustable. When my wife is asleep, I can lower my lamp and read without disturbing her sleep. At the same time, I can remove the varnish from the top of my night table owing to my high-intensity torch light.

The sounds of the 21st century permeates our room. Our cable control box has fifteen switches, allowing access to thirty separate channels. Combine that with the three volume settings allowed by our remote-control unit, and we can click ninety times per night without repeating a sequence.

The late show is over and my wife clicks the off button on our remote control. The lamps are doused, and we pull up the covers and crawl under them. Our hands touch, and a muted click is heard, followed by a blast of light, and the blare of Gloria Gaynor singing, “I will Survive.” One move of my left knee, and all is quiet once again.

 

 

Style for the Infantile

I’ve been thinking about layettes. For those of you who have never thought about layettes, I’ll describe them for you. A layette is the first fashion wardrobe given to a new  born child. It is usually a blanket, pillow case, booties, sweater, panties and assorted accessories. If handmade, the layette is crochet or knitted.

Boy babies are given blue layettes, and girl babies are clothed in pink. Sometimes, the infant is given a yellow layette. Yellow why yellow?? That is because the layette was purchased prior to the birth of the child. There is no explanation for the yellow color, other than to match a rather jaundiced complexion.

There has not been a change in layette fashions for a thousand years! It is now time for a change. I suggest the opening of a “Layette Boutique”.

The fashions for layettes will be regal. A parent can buy yards of rich, black mink to wrap the baby. Hand  crafted, calf skin booties and jewelry of all sorts; gold earrings, precious stone necklaces, pearl head  bands. No more washed out blue or faded pink. The maternity doors of Bellevue Hospital open and a little prince or princess is presented to the world.

Another issue comes to mind, and that is the contrasting styles of death and dying as opposed to birth and living. Mourning families are led by police motorcycles, followed by flower cars and shining black limousines. Mourners are dressed in their finery. Who comes out of the hospital with a newborn? The father goes to the hospital and pays for his wife and child. The wife is weak, and whoosy. She hasn’t been out of the hospital for days. Her head is spinning. Father doesn’t know how, or who to hold first.

They drive home, alone, no fanfare and no public acclaim. When they arrive at home there is frequently a family gathering, but rather subdued    no grandeur, no cops, no politicians, no theatrics.

Why not beep the horns, ring the sirens, shoot the pistols. A child is born. A child wrapped in silk, magnificent Tahitian silk. Joy to the world. A child is born. Whose got the pampers???

 

A Foreign Language

Customer: I would like to buy a pair of jeans.

Clerk: Certainly. I can show you our latest Sassoons.

Customer: No, I don’t think so.

Clerk: But they are the latest fashion.

Customer: Oh. I didn’t realize that.

Clerk: Perhaps you would like to try our Jordach model.

Customer: No. I’m afraid not.

Clerk: We do have a nice selection of Clouds.

Customer: You do not seem to understand. I would like a pair of jeans.

Clerk: Sir, I do understand. I understand you perfectly well. That is why I have showed you the Sassoons, the Jordaches and the Clouds.

Customer: I know that, but I want jeans!

Clerk: Alright! I am doing my best, I assure you sir.

Customer: Excuse me. I did not mean to make you angry. I need a pair of jeans, and I had no idea that it would be so difficult to purchase a pair.You do have jeans, don’t you?

Clerk: Sir, we are the largest seller of jeans in New York.

Customer: Fine. May I please see some jeans.

Clerk: Of course, of course.

Customer: Great!

Clerk: We have just received a shipment of Wranglers.

Customer: That’s it!! I have never seen anyone so determined to lose a    sale!

Clerk What are you talking about?

Customer: What am I talking about? What a laugh! I came to buy jeans.      I have repeatedly asked you for a pair of jeans, and you refuse to sell          me any. That is what I am  talking about!!

Clerk: Sir, I am completely confused.

Customer: Well, I’ll make it simple. I would like to buy a pair of jeans.    That’s J  E  A  N  S! Will you, or won’t you sell my any??

Clerk: You’re damn right I will. What is your size!

Customer: 34 waist, and 32 long.

Clerk: Fine!

Customer: Great!

Clerk: How about Vera?

Customer: What?

Clerk: Vanderbilts!?

Customer: Who?

Clerk: Bonjour?

Customer: Au revoir!