True stories with a twist!

Years ago we enjoyed going to an Italian Restaurant called Il Molino, located in Greenwich Village, New York. What could be more welcoming a greeting than the huge wheel of parmesan cheese right past the entrance? It instantly put us into the mood for a wonderful Italian dinner.

One day this summer we discovered a happy surprise; Il Molino cloned itself into a charming country Inn called Il Monello. A familiar site filled us with joy: a large wheel of Parmesan cheese about where the wheel of Parmesan was placed in the Manhattan restaurant. The food is prepared in the style of the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic coast. The wait staff originally worked in the original Il Monilo in New York and were good natured, friendly and helpful, full of good intentions and expert advice.

We wanted to share our “find” about good dinner spots, so we invited another couple to join us. They were also fans of Il Molino in the city. After a peaceful half hour drive through country roads lined with lovely bucolic scenes of magnificent estates and working farms lining the road to Peacock we turned into the driveway of Il Monello. Our friends were expectantly anxious about the experience they were about to enjoy at our recommendation.

But something was wrong. As we drove into the driveway no familiar sights greeted our eyes; no silhouettes full of diners, no waiters rushing from kitchen to tables carrying trays of delightful dinners for their guests. The parking lot was empty.

When we walked to the entrance of the restaurant we were met by a group of staff with the following story: “We almost called you to tell you not to come tonight. We’ve already turned way all the customers that were planning to have dinner here this evening. There was no power in the kitchen: no means of cooking anything. But the men from the public service company just left. They worked for 2 1/2 hours until power was finally turned back on. You have the restaurant to yourselves tonight!”

And we did! There were the four of us, being waited on by a full staff of professional waiters, assuring our every whim would be met. Although we didn’t really have any whims: just the desire for an authentic Italian dinner.

The meal was delicious, and as a special treat the staff brought out some after dinner treats: two bottles of cordials, one Sambuca and one Anisette. Treats for braving solo guest night at Il Monello.

I felt as if I should be the one to give them a treat for working that night for one small table of four hungry, happy customers from Morristown.

It was in the mall as I walked from one end to the other trying to ratchet up my ten thousand steps a day. This is the goal the American Heart Association considers the number of steps all of us should strive for. The people in the information booth told me that four circles around the mall equals one full mile of walking at the Short Hills Mall: a mile is generally 10,000 steps. They don’t tell you how much time it takes to walk around the mall one full time, but window shopping or stopping to buy something wonderful, even something on sale, does not count as added numbers of steps.

In front of me on my quest for ten thousand steps was a young woman with her two young daughters. The older girl was about eight with no obvious signs of strange behaviors. Her younger sister, though, was channeling Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh”. She bounced along, keeping pace with her mother and sister, her feet barely touching the ground. And she kept on bouncing all the time they were ahead of me, which was right before they turned into the store.

Her bouncing immediately brought to my mind Tigger’s song in the Disney movie “Winnie the Pooh,” sung by the Tigger character:

“The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is tiggers are wonderful things,
Their Tops are made out of rubber, Their bottoms are made out of springs.”

Tigger gleefully sang this song as he bounced along through the forest with his animal friends and one human friend, Christopher Robin, dancing and bouncing along the path with him.

That was how the four year old girl at the mall advanced through the mall: she bounced. I doubt whether a happier little creature ever traversed the area, missing the ground by inches per step.

I have noticed children three or four years old skipping along, accompanied by regularly, ordinarily paced adults walking beside them.

Skipping, bouncing and jumping: style of transportation used by the “recently learned to walk” set. Where is the turn-off button for this fast paced conveyance called a partially grown young human child?

Everyone says, “Happy 4th of JULY,” But what about Independence Day, another name for the holiday?

Do you feel independent? More independent that you did ten years ago? Or twenty? Perhaps from England’s rule, but not independent or secure from tyrants in other parts of the world.

I still remember the plaintive and morose voice of the boy in my social studies class complaining, “Why do I have to know about Laos? I’ll never hear of it again after this semester ends.”

So many places and causes and movements that none of us ever heard of before that now are every day words or expressions. If only I could say that I’ll never have to hear of terrorist acts from groups such as El Queda, Isis, Boko Haram or The Muslim Brotherhood again.

The semester is over, graduation just celebrated all over the country, but those words are still very much in our awareness. They monopolize newscasts, blare from on line headlines and bellow from newspapers. They cause fear and dread everywhere.

Our independence is challenged from all directions; it doesn’t sound like the concept as seen by our forefathers in 1776. The lack of independence from going where you wish, fears of traveling places you’ve always wanted to see, visiting large public places are frought with measures making heightened security necessary. Terror alerts, armed guards with trained dogs and personal searches are part of the new scene of traveling.

Airline travel is no longer exciting or enjoyable.

The great seer, Nostradamus, back in the 16th century, prophesied great world problems that came to pass: wars, famines, despotic, powerful leaders. His final prediction was that a “great swarm of warriors from the east will swoop down upon the west, overrunning and overwhelming it.” Can this be true?

So are you more independent now?


Is there such a thing as being born under a black cloud? Do some people seem perpetually worried and have more problems than other people, even though they start out seemingly hopeful, trusting and optimistic? Do their plans get convoluted and go awry most times for things they plan?

Horatio Hamburger is one of those people for whom things start out normally but quickly turn to disaster.

That pattern started the day his parents gave him the name they did. Everyone he ever met seems to find his name quite funny. Some giggle or try to stifle a laugh when they’re introduced. His name makes him stand out and creates a strange aura that he is different from the rest of humanity.

If he plans a picnic during a sunny and hot summer day the clouds unexpectedly move in to warn of rain approaching out of nowhere. The skies may be flawlessly blue, filled with puffy white clouds. Until word reaches the skies that Horatio is planning a picnic. That’s when the puffy white clouds invite black stormy ones, which come and deliver pounding rain.

Great for crops, lovely weather for ducks, but pathetic for Horatio and his picnic.

When he buys a new car it will, of course, turn out to be the very model that must be recalled because of ignition problems. Or rollover problems. Or fuel leaks.

But when he mentions that he has a problem with his Apple computer that is going too far. “Not Apple,” people insist. “Steve Jobs was the most finicky person ever known to mankind. His computers are designed perfectly; the pieces are exact. They never fail.”

Every tech person expressed that opinion, suggesting that it was he who was doing something wrong. The computer could not be wrong. It would hear, see or speak no evil. Nor would it play silly games or riddles with its owners.

Everyone who knew Horatio thought, “There he goes again; The Man Who Cried Wolf. This time he’s gone too far.”

Friends and relatives were unsympathetic and tired of Horatio’s endless complaints and criticisms. So alone he went to the manager of the Apple Store with his tale of apple-angst.

“The computer’s monitor screen falls off its hinges and hangs down. Every time I try to make the screen stand straight it droops down as soon as I take my hand away.”

Then something surprising happened. Something he never expected. The manager sat up and took notice of Horatio’s complaint. Waiting for the usual response of, “You must be mistaken. That can’t happen…” he said,

“You’re right. It’s not normal for the Apple to behave this way. I’ve never seen this problem before. There definitely is an issue with the computer, and we’ll take care of it.“

How refreshing! How amazing! Horatio’s concerns were taken seriously for the first time he could remember. Apple would make it all right again. It was a flaw in the assembling of the computer: he wasn’t imagining it all. It really happened the way Horatio described it. Nobody was trying to talk him out of his problem or tell him it all was because he was doing something wrong.

All Horatio had to do was get the desk top over to the Apple Store, leave it for a few days, allow the technicians to take the computer apart and await the arrival of a new, perfect version.

Steve Jobs, even you could have produced a machine with one fatal flaw. Even with your perfectly ordinary, normal name!

But why was Horatio the one in a million to have bought the computer with the defective hinge in the cover?

Was he born under a black cloud?

Originally posted on Eléctrica in the Desert:




“I tell you Alfonso, Flatbush be damned – the world  is our oyster”

“I couldn’t agree more. Our form is absolutely exquisite. One performance with Katherine Dunham will put the dance world at our feet.”

“Meanwhile, I refuse to dance the polka ever again.”


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Thank goodness I no longer have young children at home watching prime time TV with us. It was always bad enough to suffer through boring “hard sell” commercials. But now I wince as I watch them.

Where are the sweet jingles of my youth, promising, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”

Now we have very different tunes and messages. Every time I see a commercial I wonder how parents answer their childrens’ questions about what is appearing on the screen for all to ponder. The extra large, extra wide television screen with surround sound, the better to see and hear the commercials.

I can imagine a child asking Dad what “an erection lasting more than four hours” means. What’s an erection, Dad? And don’t say, “Ask your mother.”

Or the one promising you’ll “be ready when the time is right.” What does that mean, Mom? When the time is right for what? Visiting grandma?”

How about the one assuring there’ll be no embarrassing leaks when you dance? What does our leaky garden hose have to do with dancing, Daddy?

Or the woman rushing off to get to the bathroom in the middle of her daughter’s wedding? “Mommy, where’s she going and why is she in such a hurry?”

The man who feels as if he has rocks in his belly and “can’t go”? “How did that poor man get all those rocks in his tummy, Mom?”

Here’s a typical 50’S ADimages-4

I used to enjoy commercials; I still remember a few. Remember the cigarette ad:

“I gaze into the crystal ball and what I see I like, He’s not so dark and handsome, but he’s smoking Lucky Strike. Be happy, go lucky, go Lucky Strike today.”   Those were the good old days, although the message of the commercials could leave you dead, hacking with emphysema or gasping for breath with COPD.

Please tell me, parents and grandparents of children, how do you answer these questions?Unknown-3


With all the violence, illness and sadness in the world, the bright rainbow seems to be taking a sabbatical.

“I can’t read the newspapers any more.”

“I won’t turn on the TV news these days.”

“I’d rather listen to a Book on Tape than listen to the radio,” are comments I hear everywhere.

The Ostrich Effect is alive and well; if I hide, it must not be happening. If it is happening I won’t know about it and don’t have to watch it unfold, one ugly incident at a time.

But attitudes change when anyone enters our house. Our home is tranquil; the peaceful sights of salt water fish tanks assure the calm of life on earth. Whether a serviceperson, a friend or a deliveryman stops by, not a person comes in without approaching the tank in awe. “Oh, they say. This is so beautiful. So peaceful. If I lived here I would sit and watch the fish all day. It’s therapeutic. So relaxing.”

Really? These words, universal to my ear, are spoken by tourists, who see only external factors and haven’t the slightest idea of what this hobby is really all about. Here is one small example.

This afternoon my husband, Harvey, was troubled because his clown fish were attacking his red hawk fish.Unknown-2

Clownfish, cute as they may be, are fiercely territorial, and any critter with fins and a tail had better not swim anywhere near their self-claimed backyard. Or front yard. Or underwater yard.

Clownfish are those adorable striped fish who starred in Walt Disney’s popular animated film, “Finding Nemo.“   images-1 The fish Harvey has are more rare than the orange and white wiggly swimmers who endeared themselves to the public. Our clownfish have the striped markings of their cousins but are white and chocolate brown rather than white and orange. imagesThey’re called “Designer Clownfish.” Their behavior suits their elite status. It is not relaxing to watch two fishy bullies attack a tank mate who gets too close for their clown sensitivities.

So, listening to the advice of the owner of the “Absolutely Fish” store, Harvey drove down to Clifton, NJ, to buy a pair of Damsel fish to distract the bossy clowns and keep the hawk fish safe. With great anticipation he made the round trip, acclimated the new fish for a half hour in an incubation tank and haltingly put one into the tank at a time.

Did they attract the clowns? Did they distract them? Did they repel them? Hah!

All they did was provide more small fish upon whom the clowns could assert their leadership and show the newcomers exactly who was boss of the tank. They went after the small damselfish Unknown-1

immediately, chasing them under the coral coves and out of sight. Watching the attack was unquestionably neither peaceful, relaxing or pleasant. Now not only is there bad news in the papers, on television, and on the radio.

Now there’s bad news in the incorrectly assumed peaceful tanks somewhere in Morristown, NJ. Civil war is going on even as we speak. I call the salt water fish tanks “The Isis of the Sea.” Brutality knows no boundaries, on earth or in the ocean.

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