Whimsy

A Career-Long Freelance Writer Goes (Pro-)Postal

As the election nears—it’s only four weeks and two days away, in case you hadn’t heard; also, Christmas Eve comes out on December 24th this year—I’ve gotten a kick out of reading the testimonials on behalf of, and tirades against the survival of, the U.S. Post Office.

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Doze Were The Days, My Friend

Doze Were The Days, My Friend

The American Heart Association’s logo always looks to me as though an arsonist got hold of a valentine-candy box. But in light of its recent mixed-signal advisory about napping, the organization might want to change its brand to a tower of Jell-O®. Any flavor will do. Even third-cousin Monya’s Seafoam Salad Surprise.

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The Jewish New Year Begins at Sunset: Grab Your Oys-Maker!

The Jewish New Year Begins at Sunset: Grab Your Oys-Maker!

At sunset today, the Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hoshanah, the “head”(rosh) or beginning of the year 5780. The commemoration reaches its zenith nine sunsets later with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), when the annual singing of “Kol Nidre” is as comforting to my people as when Sir Paul McCartney sings ”Yesterday” at a concert—even though you expect it, you’re still thrilled when neither disappoints.

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Why Isn’t My Cat a Service Animal?

Why Isn’t My Cat a Service Animal?

Do I qualify as my cat’s service animal? I ask because these days, whenever I head “down-state” (from Northern to Southern California), I get a little uncertain about leaving behind my 18-year-old cat, Osborn the Magnificent.

For the past couple of years, Osborn’s had a wonderful caregiver—musician and pet whisperer Laura Sterner. She comes by a couple of times a day to feed him, clean up after him and, probably discuss a few of the day’s issues. While Osborn’s tendency is to dominate conversations (usually saying the same thing over and over, to be candid about it) Laura holds her own with anecdotes from her dual careers in science and performing.

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Good News on Labor Day: We Want to Work!

Good News on Labor Day: We Want to Work!

This being Labor Day, I thought you might enjoy knowing that a new national survey indicates American workers are flexible and optimistic.

The good news, as reported by the Robert Half Agency, an international staffing firm, is that America is ready and expects to go back to work—though maybe not the same way as it has for decades. Debbie Lazo, a spokesperson for Half, recently sent me the following data:

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Covid-19 Inspires “Space” Travel—

My condo is not what you’d call spacious. If I had a party here and observed the current rules about social distancing, several guests would have to stand outside. Or possibly in my neighbors’ yards..

A few years ago, the need for “space” no longer had anything to do with sending U.S. astronauts back to the moon. It became a word used to connote a basic human need. “I need my space” was a more common phrase to end a relationship than the more current, “It isn’t you. It’s me.” To me, the latter is a more flexible kiss-off than “I need my space” because it lends itself to juxtaposition and, therefore…

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Lysol’s Manufacturer Gets Everything It’s Sprayed For

Sales of Lysol disinfectant products, including the company’s popular ozone-destroying aerosol, are enjoying a pandemic-inspired surge, according to the Wall Street Journal. To which I respond: Why not Windex?

If you ever saw the wonderful character actor Michael Constantine in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you’re probably ahead of me already. In the 2002 film starring and written by Nia Vardalos, Constantine (who just turned 93 in May, by the way), plays Vardalos’s character’s dad, who touts the various virtues of Windex as he sprays and wipes it somewhat indiscriminately. He claims it can cure everything “from psoriasis to poison ivy.”

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Enforced Home Schooling Can Be a Genuine Education

Enforced Home Schooling Can Be a Genuine Education

I home-schooled my daughter Jessica for two days when she was eight or nine years old and had strep or something. I don’t recall the particular malady because there’s a certain age when children aren’t just children: they’re carriers. (And you can believe that if this pandemic had hit when I had a kid in school, she’d have stayed home. Why endanger teachers, parents and other children? Discussion over.)

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“Packing” and Flying Don’t Mix

It’s one thing to pack before taking a plane trip. It’s quite another to be packing while on the trip.

I’m referring to an Associated Press story this month that revealed a staggering number of airline passengers are attempting to board while armed. “With air traffic nearing a five-month high, airport security is finding guns in passenger carry-on bags at three times the rate recorded before the pandemic,” AP reported, adding as a stand-alone paragraph, “And 80 percent of the guns are loaded.”

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Hotels Push the “Nostalgia” of Family Road Trips—Whose?!

Hotels are regrouping during the pandemic by promoting the purported nostalgia of family road trips, according to a story in the New York Times. I guess the idea is that you and the whole family are just stir-crazy enough in the confined space of your home to jump into the confined space of your car and go on a long drive, spending your nights enroute in the confined space of motel rooms.

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Why Do We Call Some Foods “Healthy”?

Why Do We Call Some Foods “Healthy”?

Why do we call food that’s not bad for us “healthy” food? The food itself isn’t healthy—in most cases, it’s dead—so why do we make the leap from calling it food that may help us be healthier to bestowing on it a misleading adjective (and virtue)?

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Learning to Love Our New Pajama Culture

Learning to Love Our New Pajama Culture

A funny but informative article by Patricia Marx in a recent issue of The New Yorker discussed (for real) shelter-in-place fashions, with an emphasis on day and night pajama ensembles. One of her many lines that made me burst out laughing was when she wrote, “With the right waffle-weave bathrobe, you can convince yourself that quarantine is actually a stay at an appallingly understaffed spa.”

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When Sheltering at Home Brings Out One’s Inner Claustrophobe

Whenever I get an irresistible impulse to suffer a bout of claustrophobia, I watch Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and that seems to satisfy my neurotic need. The film, if you recall, focuses on a photographer (played by James Stewart) recuperating from a broken leg and, apparently not being much of a reader or TV watcher, spends his days staring out the window of his second-floor courtyard apartment, his camera allowing him to surreptitiously keep tabs on his neighbors’ comings, goings and eccentricities. He also concludes that one of his neighbors murders his wife and thereby hangs the movie, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

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Where the Big 3 Banks Stashed $25 Billion—Revealed!

In mid-July it came out that during the second quarter of 2020, the three biggest banks in the United States hid away billions of dollars in the likelihood that the pandemic would continue to wreak havoc on the economy, just as it continued to ravage the business, education and maskless-moron sectors.

I was curious to know where these banks—JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, that annoying little brother they have to let tag along—could have stowed as much as $25 billion, collectively. I was guessing it wasn’t in their own banks, since interest rates are awful…

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On Saturdays, the Postman Doesn’t Even Ring Once

Before I could explain to the new rabbi in my mom’s temple why I’d given up on the idea of becoming one, too, she blurted out, “He didn’t want to work Saturdays.” In biblical terms, you could say this smote the rabbi, who doubled over not in pain but laughter.

I think my local branch of the US Post Office must have hired a similar rabbi-training dropout to deliver my mail on Saturdays. He or she doesn’t want to work that day, either. Ergo, I don’t receive my Saturday mail until Monday.

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36 “Intelligent Civilizations” in Our Galaxy.

Researchers think there may be 36 intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. And while they mention ours, they haven’t worked up much enthusiasm about it.

In “The Astrophysical Journal,” a study credits “scientists at the University of Nottingham” with surmising there are at least “36 communicating intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy”—adding that there may even be more.

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Study Says “Modest Drinking” May Help Brain

The headline of a recent New York Times story intrigued me: “Modest Drinking May Aid Brain.” The Times article was regurgitating another article, from the Journal of the American Medicine Association. The group is jauntily known as JAMA, which to me sounds like the single tense of the word “pajamas.”

The Times and JAMA articles reported on a University of Georgia study that indicated some drinking could sometimes be better than non-drinking for the brain. …

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Was the Moonwalk a Hoax 51 Years Ago?

Exactly 51 years ago today, the United States landed on the moon and I landed in Bakersfield.

I was there to visit a young woman I’d met at a journalism conference in Anaheim and had taken the Greyhound bus from Long Beach, where I lived in an apartment built in 1926 and last fumigated in 1928, to the town that sometimes called itself Nashville West. The young woman lived there with her sister, the sisters’ divorced mom and the sister’s boyfriend, who dreamt of becoming the first Chinese sumo wrestler in Japan. (As of five years ago, there were only 10 non-Japanese Sumo wrestlers, and seven of those guys were from Mongolia, according to my fact checker, Ida Noh.)

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My Boss Turned 18 on Bastille Day

My Boss Turned 18 on Bastille Day

If you claim to be your own boss, I respectfully submit that you don’t have a cat. Mine, Osborn the Magnificent, turned a staggering 18 years old on Bastille Day, a little more than 72 hours ago.

While he’s been with me since 2007, in 2012 I gained full custody rights in a divorce (to clarify: my own). Ever since then, we’ve been our own bachelor-roommates sitcom, complete with pesky neighbor. This neighbor, who always tried peering into my yard as she walked by, heard Osborn and me arguing about his coming inside to have his dinner late one afternoon. I called him, told him it was time to eat and he meowed something back…

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