Thursday, September 10, 2015


It all started with a thunderous crash in the kitchen.  The source, I quickly
determined, was the pantry.  An upper shelf had collapsed onto the shelf below it, which, in turn, collapsed and fell onto the shelf below it, which in turn toppled the shelf below that.  A tsunami of cans, bottles, and jars lay on the pantry floor.  Unfortunately, nothing had broken.  Even more unfortunate was that I could no longer avoid the twenty-plus years of house gift accumulation, all brought by well-intentioned people -- like me -- who had been raised on the same commandment I had been:  “You never go to someone’s house empty-handed.”
            I began picking the “stuff” off the floor, stacking it all on a kitchen counter, and reading labels as I went: Ajika Channa Masala Punjabi, African Shito Seafood, Raspberry Rhubarb, and Texas Tongue Torch.  As I set more stuff on the counter, I wondered if that was how “foodstuffs” got its name, given that as soon as we got a jar of  Sweet Montana Dills, Spicy Grill Glaze, Fig Butter, or Moutardeen Grains we quickly stuffed it into the pantry, never again to see the light of day.     
            I guessed it was our latest host-hostess gift -- the three-pound quart jar of Bulgarian Plum Sauce --that had triggered the avalanche.  I set it on the counter along with Mamma Joe’s Exotic Delight, Tart Mayhaw Jelly, Rocky Mountain Horse Radish Sauce, Torch Hazel Nut Spread, Apple Butter, Eggplant Ecstasy, Olive Tapenade, and Raspberry Pomegranate.  To make room for the jars of Cinnamon Apple Sauce, Fresh and Salty Salsa, the Marinated Red Pepper, Bitter Sweet Orange Marmalade, Thick and Spicy Barbecue Sauce, and Sliced Brazilian Peppers, I pushed the stuff farther down the counter.

      Then came jars of Fresh and Fruity Apple Salsa, Kuntry Kettle, Pickled Okra Fresh, and a bottle labeled “Amazing Grass Green Super Food" to the inventory.  Amazing Green Grass? That, I thought, didn't sound like something that belonged in the pantry – more likely the garage, which is where I put it.   
The jar of Organic Raw Honey: Unprocessed and Unheated, sounded pernicious as did the can labeled Smoked Rattlesnake. When the bottle of Olive Tapenade fell over, I noticed the sticker taped to the bottom of the jar:  “To Julie and Jim.  Enjoy.  From Arlene and Arnie” it read.  We were not Julie and Jim, and we didn’t know any Arlenes and Arnies.  The Tapenade had obviously been regifted – maybe more than once -- which got me to thinking – maybe instead  of returning this stuff to the pantry I could do the same. Regift it all.       
       The jar of Torch Hazel Nut, for example, was in a beautiful reusable jar, a narrow yellow bow still tied around its neck. It would make a lovely house gift, but given the amount of stuff I had, I shuddered to think how long it would take to transfer all of my stuff to someone else’s stuff.  I counted the inventory -- a total of 45 jars, bottles, and cans.  It would never work, I decided.  Even if we got one invitation a week (which seemed a bit optimistic), it would take almost a year to clean out the pantry.  Plus, knowing my luck, I would probably end up regifting to the original gifters.  There had to be another way.

      I could “shop the pantry,” like people were now “shopping their closets,” I thought.  There had to be recipes that called for Mountain Horse Radish, Tongue Torch Hazel Nut, Organic Vindaloo and the like – but, no, even if there were, such exotic ingredients would probably call for ten to fifteen or more exotic ingredients, and I didn’t do recipes with more than five ingredients. Most of the titles of the cookbooks on my shelf had titles like: “The Three-Ingredient Cookbook,”  “Fifteen Minute Kitchen Prep,” and “A Meal for Ten in Thirty Minutes.”  More than likely I would be joining those other  Americans who toss out $165 billion worth of foodstuffs every year.

      But before I did that, maybe some soup kitchen could find a use for this stuff.  But I didn’t want to make anyone sick… so I began checking the expiration dates.The Torch Hazel Nut had expired in 2005.  The Cinammon Apple Sauce in 2010.  The most current expiration date was 2016, but the worst were some with no dates at all!  That stuff had probably been here since time immemorial.  It all had to go.   

        Photo courtesy of David Wickersheimer 
I hope I don’t sound ungrateful because I’m not.  I know you don’t bring wine because we don’t know one wine from another. Or flowers because I’m allergic to most scents… but how about a pound of butter or a dozen eggs in the future?  You can wrap a bow around it, and I promise, Girl Scouts word of honor, it will never be regifted!

 Whiningly yours, Carol

Sunday, July 19, 2015



“Go out and play!”  I grew up on that command.  Out I went and glad of it because it was while I was “out there” that I not only developed physical, mental and social skills but began to exercise my creative juices.  Like what?  …like deciding that the winner of an argument was the person who could stand on his/her hands the longest (which was me, by the way).  Unsupervised play also teaches how to compromise, to lead and to follow, how to win with humility and lose with a smile; that is, if you want to have friends.  And on rainy or blustery winter days when we had to play indoors, our imaginations took over, and we made up stories and produced plays based on ideas extrapolated from the “stuff” in our basements. 
Being “out there” is also responsible for many wonderful childhood memories, such as when my then best friend Margaret and I decided to break into a mysterious and abandoned mansion a few miles from our homes.  We biked there one summer day, hid our bikes under a bush, and circled the mansion, checking all the doors and windows for a point of entry.  A locked screen door leading onto a small porch looked like a possibility.  We scratched a hole in the screen and unhooked the latch.  Standing on a milk box (yes, milk was delivered back then), we were able to reach a small window, which was unlocked.  We climbed through, descended on pantry shelves and entered the kitchen.  After touring the first floor, which was the size of a hotel, we climbed to the second floor, quickly took stock of the eight bedrooms, which were all littered with papers, bottles, and clothing. 
As avid readers of the only female hero in our lives, Nancy Drew (of mystery novel fame), we were accustomed to a heart-stopper-a-page; therefore, we quickly found the second floor boring and decided to descend to the basement, the floor of all evil. There was no electricity in the house, but we found a candle and matches in the kitchen, and proceeded to the basement.  Margaret, holding the candle in a shaking hand, went first.  A moment after we hit bottom, she let out a blood-curdling scream, ran past me, up the stairs and into the kitchen.  She scrambled up the pantry shelves, exited through the window, and ran.  I was right behind her.   
“What happened?” I asked, when we reached our bikes.
“I hit something with my foot.  I bent down to see what it was, and touched a hand.  There’s a dead body in the basement.”
“You’re making that up!” I accused. 
“Look!  Up there!”   

I looked.  A man was standing at a second floor window, staring out at us.  We did not hesitate.  We got on our bikes and raced home.    
Yup, those were the good old days, when children were out on the streets, playing games, climbing trees,  jumping rope, developing strengths, testing their limits, learning to improvise, discovering what they are capable of and what they should leave to the pages of Nancy Drew mystery novels.  But now when you drive or walk through these same residential areas you rarely if ever see a child … though you will see a number of adults walking their dogs; after all, everyone knows that dogs need exercise and happy and healthy chickens should be free range.
Childless streets, sidewalks, and yards are not limited to a few neighborhoods.  My friend Ralph, who has been flying a hot air balloon for forty years, says that he has floated over our community thousands of times – at 4 MPH and from a height of 400 to 500 feet, which provides “a unique perspective of life below.”  According to Ralph, it can be a beautiful summer evening, but there’s not a child in sight -- not unless he’s part of an organized little league game.  “It wasn’t always like that.  Up until fifteen years ago, children were outside, playing. Not anymore.”
            So… where are they, the children?  They’re inside their homes, their playground a digital one, made up of videos, computer games, friending and following.  And on those rare occasions when they do venture outside, ostensibly to meet up with other children, their play is parallel, not interactive.  I call it PAT, playing alone together.
`           Despite the fact that researchers have proven that unstructured play and social interaction are an important part of a child’s overall development, public schools have reduced the number of gym classes and recess has almost disappeared.  Where it is available, it’s frequently denied students as a punishment for misbehaving.
If you ask parents why their children aren’t outside playing, they’ll most likely tell you that they’re afraid they’ll be kidnapped.  In actuality, kidnappings are very rare, and when they do happen, it is usually an angry spouse who is responsible…still, it is understandable that even a “few and far between” highly-publicized kidnappings is enough to put fear into the hearts of any parent…
…but there is a way to both protect the children -- without penning them up inside a safe house and sedating them with a mountain of electronics  -- and get them outside: establish neighborhood “Watch” groups.  Many neighborhoods already have them, though originally created to “watch over” homes and property. It's time to add children to the "watch" by having parents (or their designated substitutes) monitor them, unobtrusively.        
So let's hear it again for "Go out and play!' Otherwise, future generations of children will be deprived of the kinds of experiences that promote cognitive, physical, mental, and social development, and the numbers of obese children and diabetics will continue to grow.

                                                Whiningly yours, Carol

Monday, June 8, 2015


             I was second in line at a local coffee shop.  The man ahead of me chatted away on his cell phone while the barista waited, patiently, to take his order.  It made me think about my mother, who was frequently heard to say -- especially in her later years: “I’m not meant for this world.”  By this she meant that whatever it was she was witnessing at the time was so far out of line with the world she grew up in and the values she was taught that she felt she was visiting an alternate universe.   The older I get, the more I sound like my mother, though instead of saying “I’m not meant for this world,” I’m thinking:  “Hey!  It’s not all about you!”              The line behind me was now five-deep; yet the man in front was still on his phone, oblivious to everything and everyone around him.  The barista made eye contact with me and shrugged, helplessly.  I tapped the talker on his back.  He turned and glared, his cell phone still glued to his ear. 
            “You’re holding up the line,” I shouted. “The barista is waiting for your order.”
After he had his “quad venti half caf breve, no foam and with two Splenda stirred,” I took my simple cup of coffee and looked for a table.  There weren’t any.  All the tables -- for two or four -- had been taken by singles and were covered with laptops, books, papers, travel bags, and drinks.  The so-called “empty” chairs were covered with more personal belongings.      

 A woman left her table and headed for the exit door.  Although it was covered with dirty dishes, litter, and a puddle of water, I grabbed it and bused it myself. On my way back to my table, I noticed that the woman at the order counter was juggling her infant in her arms while struggling to get her wallet out of her purse.  Finally, she set the possibly urine-saturated child on the counter.   Would the barista wipe off the counter with a strong detergent?  I decided I didn’t want to know and took the chair that put my back to the counter. 
A cell phone rang.  Its owner, the man at the table to my left, answered, speaking in a very loud voice.  I was going to ask him to either lower his voice or take his call outside when music blasting from a nearby laptop drowned him out.  It was the overture to Lawrence of Arabia.  Did someone actually intend to stream a four-hour movie on the coffee shop’s broadband?   
           The woman to my right covertly pulled a Styrofoam cup and tea bag from her book bag, filled the cup with the shop’s free hot water, and returned to her table with a fistful of sugar packets, stirrers, plastic utensils and napkins.  She, at least, knew to be discreet, unlike the moocher in front of me who obviously saw nothing wrong with bringing food and drink into the store.  A jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and a drink can were on his table, out in the open, for all to see.  

    Another kind of coffee shop parasite are those who nurse one cup of coffee for four to six hours, negatively affecting store turnover.  These “shoplifters” (of the coffee shop variety) apparently feel no economic or moral obligation towards their benefactors; after all, "It's all about them." 
The problem for coffee shop owners is that they have been too successful in making customers feel “at home.”  That’s why you often see them …

                                  ...MANICURING THEIR NAILS...

                                                       ... PICKING THEIR NOSES...

                                                                              ...PLAYING GAMES...

                                                                                     Image result for playing cards in coffee shop

                                                                                                ....AND MORE !

          People didn’t used to be so self-absorbed and disinterested in how their behavior impacted others.  If Mother were here, she would pitch her thesis on “reciprocity,” which goes like this:  “Successful lives and relationships are based upon reciprocity.  If givers give but never receive (not even a simple thank you), givers will eventually be sucked dry and have nothing left to give.”
            Mother was right, I thought.  Slowly but surely there's a “laptop backlash” across the country.  In some coffee shops there are signs asking patrons to share their tables -- especially during peak hours.  There are also signs notifying customers that laptops are banned during high traffic hours -- unless the customer is eating and keyboarding at the same time.  Many shops have discontinued free Wi-Fi service on week-ends and cover electrical outlets.  And believe it or not, there are coffee shops that prohibit laptops at any time!
            Owners of a coffee shop in France became so annoyed with customer rudeness that they started charging different prices for the same drink, depending on relative politeness.  For example, if the customer says “One coffee,” the coffee price is 7 Euros. “One coffee, please,” 4 Euros, and “Bonjour, one coffee, please,” 1.4 Euros.       
            If coffee shop devotees don’t want to lose their privileges, they should follow these ten commandments:

1. Don’t download huge files or stream movies.  They take up a lot of
2.  For every hour you’re in the coffee shop, buy at least one item.
3.  Take the smallest table you can, and leave room for others.   
4.  Don’t hog electrical outlets, and use your own battery whenever possible.   
5.  Mute the sound on your computer or wear headphones.
6.  Turn off your cell phone or put it on vibrate, and take your phone 
      calls outside.  
7       Bus your own table.
8.     Never bring your own food and drink into a coffee shop!
9.     Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”  It doesn’t cost anything!
10.  If you’re going to hit on the barista (or baristo), pick a “slow” time of day.

Follow these rules and maybe you and your coffee shop will be able to enjoy a long and happy life together.                              
                Whiningly yours, Carol

Sunday, February 1, 2015



Once upon a time and not that long ago my bucket list was filled to the brim with places to go and things to see, but not anymore. That bucket has sprung a leak; in fact, it’s hemorrhaging. 
            ENGLAND had once been at the top of my travel list, but now it’s a place where Jewish bikers are stoned, Rabbis attacked, synagogues fire bombed, Jewish-owned businesses threatened with burnings and bombings, swastikas painted on Jewish homes and houses of worship, and where death threats against Jews have become commonplace. The number of anti-Semitic attacks in England hit a 30-year high in 2014,  95% of all hate crimes were against Jews, and a recent survey of British Jews revealed that 50% see no future there and are intending to leave.   
            Rabid anti-Semites also include members of Parliament, such as neo-Nazi MP George Galloway, leader of the “Respect Party” (I kid you not!) who – with the support of his constituency -- has declared the district of Bradford an “Israel-free zone.”  That means no Israeli goods, services, academics, or Jewish tourists. Ta Ta to merry old England…  

            … and au revoir to FRANCE, which also experienced an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic events in 2014.  In the past two years alone, there have been eight synagogue attacks, Jewish homes, businesses, and houses of worship have been looted and firebombed, Jews terrorized and verbally attacked with: “Death to the Jews…Hitler was right…Slit Jewish throats,” and “Gas the Jews!” In France a seventeen-year-old- girl was pepper sprayed in the face and called a “Dirty Jewess,” a woman who hung an Israeli flag on her porch received death threats, and people who “look Jewish,” can be beaten to a pulp by Islamists on Paris metros.  Add to that the 2012 murder of three Jewish children and their teacher in Toulouse, the fire bombing of its Jewish Community Center, and the continuing harassment of this community, and you’ll understand why 7,000 French Jews emigrated in 2014, and 10,000 more are expected to leave in 2015. 
            Anti-Semitism has become so mainstream in France that the “comedienne” Dieudonne has become a celebrity for popularizing a reverse Nazi-salute which he and his followers enjoy flashing at Jews. 

This anti-Semite recently announced to the world:  “I am Charlie Coulibaly,” (as in “I am Charlie Hebdo"), the family name of the terrorist brothers who murdered four Jewish men in the kosher supermarket in January of this year (while their comrades were busy killing twelve journalists and cartoonists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.). .
              Life in France will become even more dangerous, considering that the 1,000 homegrown terrorists who went to Syria to join ISIS, et. al, have returned … but  cannot be found.   
            Another hole shot in the bucket!
            In BELGIUM terrorists killed four non-Jews this past year at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, thinking they were Jews, a doctor refused medical assistance to a 90-year-old woman because she was Jewish, a train conductor announced he was going to send Jewish passengers to Auschwitz, a storekeeper posted a sign in his storefront that reads: “Jews and Zionists not allowed but dogs are,” and a woman was refused service because “management doesn’t sell to Jews.”
Once again, it’s not just the riff-raff at work.  Elected politicians have joined in the fun, calling for the “slaughter of Jews” at a 500-person rally in Antwerp this past summer.  It’ll get worse in Belgium before it gets better – now that 300 home-grown terrorists who fought with ISIS in Syria have returned.  
Another piss hole in the old bucket!

            Hate speech might be a crime in GERMANY, but it’s not one the authorities take seriously.  That’s why Berlin’s leading imam feels free to call upon allah and his congregationists to “slit Jewish throats…destroy the Zionist Jews… kill them, down to the very last one,” and the far right Green Party calls for the gassing of Jews.  This satanic union has led to multiple attacks on Jews, their homes and houses of worship.      Germany?  No thanks.  Alviderzein.    
            And remember Holland, once the home of “live and let live”?   Now it’s a country where its Chief Rabbi is twice-attacked with stones,  anti-Semitic crowds scream for the “slaughter” of Jews, Holocaust memorials are defaced; Jewish women are targeted in fire bombings, the CIDI (the Netherlands main anti-Semitism watchdog group) receives more than 70 calls every month from alarmed citizens, and in the Hague (home of the International Criminal Court, a political organization dependent on donor countries), the mayor refuses to order the arrest of ISIS supporters threatening to kill Jews in the city center (while ISIS simultaneously posts photos of their day’s beheadings on Twitter).    
     This is the New Holland, where murderers fear no reprisals for violent anti-Semitic attacks.  Another hole in the bucket!
And no to DENMARK, where Jewish children are warned not to wear religious symbols to school or near school grounds for fear of attacks,  Jewish tourists are told to hide their religion, and Israelis are cautioned to speak Hebrew “softly.” And it’s in Denmark that the deputy head of the National Zionist Organization receives death threats and the government shuts down a peaceful pro-Israel rally but lets threatening Muslims take over the streets.  Peaceful voices are silenced, and hate mongers rewarded.  Things are still rotten in Denmark.  Ping. Ping
And scratch off SWEDEN -- where anti-Semitic attacks have tripled in the last three years and DOUBLED after the January attacks in Paris-- and NORWAY, where anti-Semitism has become so pervasive that most of its tiny 1,000 Jewish community (less than .0002% of the population) is leaving the country. 
I’ll leave Scandinavia to the Scandinavians and their peace-loving population.   
            And “no” to HUNGARY, where last year a member of its parliament publicly demanded that a list be made of all Jews in the country because he considered them to be a “security risk.”  This anti-Semite is still in office.    
ITALY’s peace-loving citizens spent 2014 defacing Jewish homes and houses of worship with swastikas, spray painting Jewish businesses with anti-Semitic graffiti (i.e.  “Dirty Jews….Jews, your end is near”) and attacking Jewish fans at a baseball game with baseball bats and knives because their team lost. But what else can you expect in a country where a member of the Italian parliament announces on its state radio station that “Israel is a bit worse than the Nazis,” and “I’d like to shoot those Zionist bastards!”  Arrividici, Italia. 
And SPAINNo way, Jose.  This dystopian country is mismanaged, bankrupt, and schizophrenic.  The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing so while the Government puts out a worldwide APB to Jewish descendents of the Spanish Inquisition (those they didn’t burn alive at the stake), extending a (bladed) hand in friendship and an invitation to return to Spain after 500 years and gain a Spanish passport, the publishers of Spain’s second largest newspaper, El Mundo, explains to its readers that Jews were expelled in 1500 because they “cannot coexist with others…Jews end up creating problems for everyone…It’s not a surprise they have been so frequently expelled.” …
…and celebs like Penelope Cruz and Jamie Bardeem lead packs of anti-Semites though Spanish streets screaming for Jewish “heads,” but, hey, Bardeem’s no anti-Semite.  “Some of my best friends are Jews,” he proclaims.  
            Spain is also the home of the cowardly Real Madrid basketball team, which -- after losing to the Maccabi Tel Aviv team -- screamed anti-Semitic obscenities at the players and continued their temper tantrums on social media. 
            Nah.  I’m not going to Spain, which ranks third on a list of Europe’s most anti-Semitic countries.  Another piss-hole in the bucket!  
I’m skipping GREECE, as well, considering that 69% of the populace was found to be anti-Semitic, the neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, grows in strength, and 16% of the last mayoral vote went to a candidate with a swastika tattooed on his shoulder. 
And NO, NO, NO to TURKEY, where the Erdogan government leads the anti-Semitic dog pack, holding Turkish Jews personally responsible for Israeli policies and threatening them with pogroms (to be led by Turkey’s “unconstrained youth”) if Israel doesn’t do Turkey’s bidding.  And it’s in Turkey where parliamentarians participate in violent anti-Israel demonstrations and can be heard screaming in the streets: “May God Bless Hitler.”     
PingPing!  Slosh! What a mess on the floor! This bucket is beyond repair.  Time for a new one!    
            Yeah, I know.  My critics will say that most Europeans are peace-loving people.  Maybe so, but they’re irrelevant because when the going gets rough, those same peace-loving people get going – in some OTHER direction.  My recommendation to the Jews of Europe:  Get the hell out, and until you do, arm yourselves!
                                                               Whiningly yours, Carol


Sunday, January 4, 2015

#29 I Love a Cliche

CLICHE:  an expression, aphorism, proverb, maxim, idiom, or phrase that is overused, trite, hackneyed, stale, commonplace, banal, unimaginative, worn-out, and tired. 

About the worst insult one can hurl at writers and speakers is to accuse them of being a purveyor of cliches, and, therefore, deficient in original thinking.  In truth, attacking cliches has become a cliche itself.

Well, I’m here to defend the cliché and those who use them and to convince you that the study of the cliché not only improves one’s critical thinking but teaches us to appreciate the history of human experiences, shared across cultures, language groups, and time.   

To begin, ask yourself:  

            “Why would a group of words be used, re-used, and overused?  

The answer:

            Because they describe undeniable truths about the human experience,
            and they do so effectively and efficiently. Cliches are shorthand forms
            to human behavior and history.

The cliché’s crime is its success, and its success lies in its ability to cut to the gut (a future cliché, I hope) of a matter in a language understood by all.  Oh, yes, I suppose a writer or speaker could invest countless hours in search of a new and different way to say “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” but why bother when chances are the result will be second-rate and not connect as powerfully as the original with the receiver?

And that’s because clichés reflect the best thinking of our forebears.  Their users should be thanked for perpetuating their usage; in fact, if I had my way, public schools would be mandated to teach a course on the “The Wisdom of the Cliché.”  If studied, understood, and examined through observation, we would all be better-armed against double-talk, scams, fluff, and all around bullshit.  The cliche, a rational commentary on life, lets you penetrate below superficial surface structures to the truths that lie below.    

To prove my point, take the three cliché tests below, all descriptions of real life events, and pick the cliché(s) that go to “the heart of the matter.”

1.     A parishioner attends the same church every Sunday for twenty years and listens to the minister deliver anti-American and anti-Semitic sermons.  Later in life, the parishioner insists that he never agreed with the minister’s views of the world.  

      a)   It’s not what you say.  It’s what you do.
b)     Birds of a feather flock together.
c)     You will be judged by the company you keep.
d)     Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.

All four describe the truth of the parishioner’s  behavior.   

2.     An engaged woman is leaving her hospital room after undergoing abdominal surgery.  Her fiancé says to her:  ‘I’m glad that’s over.  I was sure worried about you.”  He starts out the door, turns to see if she is following, and says:  “Pick up your suitcase, Honey, and let’s go.  I sure do love you.”

a)     A friend in need is a friend in deed.
b)     Actions speak louder than words.
c)     What you see is what you get. 
d)  A stitch in time saves nine.

A, B and C are correct. (And my advice to the young woman is to “run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit!” ALONE!)

3.     We are told that Cuba is an economic and social success; that its people are healthy, happy, and productive.  Yet on a recent eight-day tour of Cuba, my fellow-travelers and I were chased through the streets of Havana by crowds of raggedy people, begging for food, soap, and toilet paper.  Scaffoldings -- erected 15 plus years earlier for the purpose of reconstructing deteriorating buildings – were now stories-high metal trellises, now long-time carriers of vines and debris. And driving hundreds of miles across the island, one sees only a trickle of cars and trucks (until the vintage cars of Havana).  Most transport is by horse-drawn wagons, and despite the obvious shortage of food in the country, acre after acre of fields are uncultivated.   

a)     One picture is worth a thousand words.
b)     Seeing is believing
c)     Don’t believe everything you read.
d)     Killing two birds with one stone.

      The answers:  a, b, and c.

At the root of these vignettes and all good stories (novels, plays, movies) are cliches. And that's because LIFE IS A CLICHE!  These age-old truths are not the products of lazy minds, but their automatic rejection is most definitely a sign of the closed mind.

                    To reject the cliche is to reject human history.


                                               Whiningly yours, Carol

Cliches deserve your respect.  They are not the product of a lazy mind, but their automatic rejection is most definitely the product of a closed mind. To reject the cliché is to reject human history! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014


     It’s December, which means that in no time at all New Year’s Eve will be here.  But instead of getting excited, I am indifferent, and I wonder if there are others like me who hate New Year’s Eve.  I do a Google search and input “I hate New Year’s Eve,” and would you believe?  There are over 6,500,000 entries. Apparently I’ve got plenty of company.  I don’t know what their beefs are, but I can tell you mine.   
             It started way back, as far back as I can remember.  My parents would be all gussied up and flushed with excitement, apparently heading out for the be-all and end-all of nights, while I was being left behind in the care of a babysitter who obviously hated me.  The sitter’s instructions were to take me to a movie.  She would enter the movie house, hat pulled down low over her forehead, and look furtively about, praying that no one she knew would see her.  As young as I was, I got the message: the worst thing that could happen to a girl of dateable age was to be seen in public on New Year’s Eve without a date.  
Years later, when it was Near Year’s Eve, and I was of dateable age and without a date, I would close my bedroom door, draw the drapes, take the phone off the hook, and read a book.  God forbid anyone should know that I was dateless.  And back at school after the holidays, when the girls would stand together describing in exaggerated detail their fabulous New Year’s Eve, I would join in with a fictionalized account of my own.  I was out-of-town, of course.  Out-of-town dates were impossible to disprove… plus they sounded more exotic.   
One year I was in Chicago, where I met up with my long time pen pal and his family, who were visiting from Paris. We made the rounds of comedy clubs and ate dinner in an exclusive restaurant. Dustin Hoffman was at the next table.  Another year I joined a group of exchange students from Mexico at a private party hosted by the Mexican Museum of Art, but my finest New Years Eve fantasy took place in Cleveland, where my cousins and I went on a city-wide scavenger hunt that took us to bars, restaurants, famous landmarks, and—in the end – to a police station for a pair of handcuffs.   
I was thankful when in my senior year of high school I was invited to a party.  I didn’t think I could dream up anything to top the previous year’s scavenger hunt.  John came to the house, and with shaky hands, pinned a corsage to my dress (that was the fashion back then), and off we went. I was looking forward to a night as unforgettable as the ones I had invented, one filled with witty jokes, clever repartee, and Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire-like dancing couples; instead, we all stood awkwardly about, waiting for someone – anyone – to make this night different from all other nights.  It wasn’t; in fact, it was worse – except for the few minutes some time before (or after) midnight during the Disputation.       
 “Get ready!” the host yelled.  “It’s midnight!”  “No, it isn’t!” someone argued. “It’s five minutes to."  Another voice piped in.  “You’re both wrong.  We missed it.  It’s five minutes after twelve.” Everyone was on a different time.  Mayhem ensued… until the voice of reason took over.  “It doesn’t matter what time it is,” he shouted.  “It’s arbitrary.  So I say that the New Year starts when I reach zero.  So get ready!  Pick up your glasses!  Sixty, fifty-nine…”  And down he went.   When he hit zero, screamers screamed.  Drinkers drank.  Tooters tooted.  Kissers kissed, and John planted a saliva-drenched smack on my mouth.  It was all downhill from there.
If I had known years earlier that New Year’s Eve was a hoax, I would have enjoyed those nights I spent behind a closed door, curtains closed, and the phone off the hook.  Yes, New Year’s Eve is different from all other nights, I decided.  It’s worse, much worse, but how could it be otherwise?  Such a build-up can only lead to a letdown, which is why I spent the next two New Year’s Eves in my bedroom.
In my junior year of college I was part of a sixty-student contingency traveling by busses to Mexico City for a semester of study.  On New Year’s Eve we stopped for an overnight in the town of Ciudad de Valles.  One hotel room became the designated party room. When we arrived at the party, three naked young men were in the bathtub, singing their hearts out.  Fifty-seven more students stormed the bathroom and joined in a drunken rendition of Auld Lang Syne.    

 This was no forced gaiety.  This was real.  These were the unconstrained voices of students in the 1950’s who were suddenly liberated; no dorm mothers, counselors, chaperones, hall monitors, sign-in, sign-out sheets, or curfews for probably the first time in their lives.  We had freedom of choice: to behave or misbehave, get drunk or stay sober, stay with the crowd or go to sleep.  It was a New Year’s Eve that surpassed all my imaginary exploits.  That raised the question: could such a high lead to comparative lows in the future?        
            The answer to that question is:  if and only if you buy into the commercial fantasy of New Year Eve: the $100 a plate dinner, an on-site presence at Times Square when the ball drops, or being in a roomful of old friends you’ve never met before.  You have the power to make New Year’s Eve (and every other eve) whatever you want it to be.  But if you’re one of those people who makes a list of resolutions for the new year, do yourself a favor and don’t!
 First of all, you and 92% of the population will break them before the month is out – at which point you will beat yourself up.  So this year make yourself a different kind of list -- a list of your past year’s successes.  Let the positive energy of everything you did right in 2014 carry you into 2015.   

                         Whiningly yours, Carol
                                                               And HAVE A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!