Friday, November 11, 2011

Fun At the Mall

Fun at the Mall

My wife needed a dress for an upcoming wedding.  Not too formal, not too casual.  We went to boutiques and department stores near us and found Drek! (For the uninitiated that means crap).

The next week we decided to go to a Mall in North Miami.  It was known for its boutiques and we thought we could find something there.  Barbara made sure to bring dress shoes with her, which she carried in a plastic Publix bag.

We arrived at the Mall, parked and entered.  Lo and behold the first store we saw was a fancy designer boutique (the name meant nothing to me and I have blocked it from my mind).

We entered the store and were greeted by a very fashionable woman.  She offered to help us in our selection despite my gruff appearance and Barbara’s Publix bag, and we proceeded to pick out a few dresses.  I have to admit the selection was quite good and I happily went around suggesting one style or another.

Barbara was about to go into the dressing room when she asked the cost of one dress in particular (there were no prices on the labels).

“ $1500.00.” the fashion consultant casually said.

She must have seen my look of horror and astonishment so she informed us the dresses started at $1395 and went up to a few thousand.

“Well,” I said, “that’s a little more than we wanted to spend. Any place else in the mall we should be looking at?”

“I understand,” she said. “Why don’t you try the department store next door?”

We thanked her and went into the department store.  We found the dress area and I happened to see the same dress, from the same designer as the $1500 one for a measly $2800.00.  The two stores were right next to each other!  What was the department store thinking?

We left the department store and wandered around the mall.  We soon found another boutique and Barbara tried on a couple of dresses but no sale.

We continued our quest.

Almost all the stores had dresses, but they are made for 17-25 year olds who are a size 0-2. More than ½ the styles were strapless or off the shoulder, both requiring a strapless bra that Barbara has vetoed.  This further narrows our search criteria.

The next store we actually went into had a mix of casual and dressy.  The owner/manager came over and declared,” You’ve come to the right store.  We have clothes for you and not necessarily your daughter or granddaughter.”

This certainly sounded hopeful and she helped us pick out a couple of dresses for Barbara to try on.

While Barbara was trying on dresses, the manager was talking to me in between helping Barbara.  She explained all the clothes came from France so they were a little different and she had stuff for men and women.  She urged me to try on the casual men’s clothing. 

I told her I like to “stick to the task” when shopping and we were here for a dress for Barbara.

We found a dress there that looked great and fit our cost criteria (not $1500!).

We left the store with our purchase and were faced with what to do next. 

Barbara insisted we go to Macy’s to get me some long sleeve shirts.  After some arguing about it, I agreed and we proceeded to Macy’s.

We found the men’s section and were looking over the shirt selection.  A sales lady (not fashion consultant thank God) offered to help.  She showed us various designer named shirts including the Donald Trump Collection.  I innocently inquired if I would have to change my hairstyle or did the shirts come with a “hirsute accessory”?

The saleslady thought this was hilarious (I have to agree) and proceeded to tell her associates about my idea.  We discussed a display for the collection featuring a Donald Look a like wig, which everyone felt was a stroke of genius (once again I have to agree).  Barbara of course just rolled her eyes.   She seems to resent my acquiring fans wherever I go.

Since it was lunchtime, and Barbara is always hungry, we had lunch.  But not before Barbara informing me she needed to lose 5 lbs and it was up to me to keep her in line (fat chance, no pun intended).

We wandered around the Mall looking for potential gifts for other people.  I suggested we go back to the shop where Barbara had gotten her dress and look at things for our son and son-in-law, which we did.

We entered the shop and a young sales associate who had seen us previously, came over.  I said, “The president called and said we hadn’t spent enough in your store yet to stimulate the economy.”

“Huh,” she cleverly replied.  She looked puzzled and then said. “Wait a minute, you were here earlier, right?  Now I get it, about the president.  I’ll have to remember that.”
I smiled, acknowledging her intelligent grasping of my little inference.

She was very nice and tried mightily to help us. 

We told her that the people we were looking for while relatively young were very conservative in their choice of colors and styles.

She showed us some items that we thought were fitting.  There followed a spirited discussion about colors, all of which focused on gray, black, tan and very dark blue.  I tried to hold out for brighter colors. 

By this time the girl knew who we were buying for, their names, likes, dislikes, etc.

I found myself wandering around looking for “brighter” selections or ones with character.  I told the girl to not show Barbara any more black items.

I also tried to enlist the salesgirl in helping me get Barbara into a lingerie shop to get a more figure-flattering bra.  I told her to say to Barbara, “I saw the dress you bought, it would look spectacular with a push up Bra”.  For some reason she was reluctant to do so.

Taking matters into my own capable hands, I mentioned to Barbara that the salesgirl had a suggestion for her.  The girl looked stricken and tried to blame me.  Barbara of course just laughed and rolled her eyes.

Barbara had settled on a few shirts, all of which looked very similar to each other.  Once again I tried to get her to consider something less conservative (boring).  I had found a polo shirt that said “Dead Presidents” and had 9 pictures of various presidents, formally dressed as if for their portraits, but they were all skeletons.  I thought this was a winner.  Oddly Barbara did not.

The salesgirl and owner seemed to side with me, all to no avail.  I tried to get my son on the phone to confirm he would wear it, but sadly he was unavailable.

I then suggested we buy the shirt for my daughter-in-law’s father.  Barbara pointed out that he was more conservative than our son (quite an accomplishment) and wouldn’t even eat pizza or chicken wings with his hands.

During all the time we were at the shop, the salesgirl kept laughing and asking us not to leave.  At one point she became somewhat confused when I mentioned Barbara was celebrating her anniversary soon with her first husband.  The girl stopped short and asked incredulously “You’re not married to each other?”

Once again, rolling her eyes, Barbara explained my cute way of referring to her marital status.

We all had a good time, laughing practically the whole time we were in the store.   The salesgirl was sad to see us go.

On the way home, our son returned our call.  I asked him “theoretically would he wear the Dead Presidents shirt?”  His disappointing answer was “not if he could help it.”

Barbara immediately wanted to call the salesgirl to confirm who was correct in regard to the shirt. I thought it was a good idea, but the number of the store was in the back seat with our purchases so we didn’t.

“If we were retired and rich, we could do this all the time.  This was really fun,” said Barbara while we were driving.

“We could do this just not buy anything.” I answered.

“What would be the fun in that?” she ended our discussion.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Redoing the Kitchen

Redoing the Kitchen

“We need a new kitchen” stated my wife, Barbara.

I tried to ignore her.

“I said, we need a new kitchen.”

More ignoring

“Shell, we need a new kitchen,” she said louder and more forcefully.

I looked up from reading the paper, looked at the kitchen and said thoughtfully, “Why?”

“These cabinets are 30 years old, that’s why,” she stated.

“They’re in great shape,” I answered. “Besides, we don’t use the kitchen for cooking.  Look at the new stove we just bought that has only been used once in the last year.  We don’t need a new kitchen.  This one is just like new from lack of use.”

Ignoring my logical and well reasoned argument, Barbara asked, “How much would a new kitchen cost?”

Knowing she would persist, I answered, “about $5,000, $1300 for cabinets, $2,000 or so for granite countertops and then there is labor.  Do you really want to spend that much on something we don’t use or need?”

I hoped that would be the end of it.  Fat Chance.

About once a week, Barbara brings up the new kitchen.  She invariably brings it up when we are with friends seeking their support. 

“Look how well the bathrooms came out,” she says, “You didn’t object to that, why are you objecting to a new kitchen?”

I try to counter with the “lack of use” argument: “Because we use the bathrooms,” I answer, “we don’t use the kitchen”.

This works well with the guys, but the wives have a different slant on it.  They go with the “Style over Function Theorem”

The Theorem states that “A cabinet that has not been redone must be redone even though it is in good shape and is not used”. The corollary to this is: “A kitchen that has not been remodeled is a poor reflection on the wife of the house and must be redone to restore her reputation.”

 I think the author of this theorem worked for the Woman’s Fashion Industry, since it seems to apply to clothes as well as kitchens.

My reasoned arguments that we don’t need to replace a perfectly presentable good kitchen with a new one are usually ignored by all the women who my wife presents to me as supporters of her argument. 

I counter with the “Money Ploy” which states that: the cost of the kitchen would pay for 10 trips to visit our daughter and her family in South Carolina.  It would also preclude our taking a vacation. I also point out that we are hoping to retire soon and we could use the $5,000.

Barbara is growing tired of my arguments against a new kitchen and is becoming more skeptical of my “lack of money” argument.

Once again the Sword of Damocles hangs over me.  I cling to my arguments and hope to outlast her persistence.

People who know us are betting on Barbara.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Father's Funeral

My Father’s Funeral

My father went from healthy to dying on a ventilator with his lungs full of water from pneumonia in 7 days with nothing we or the doctors could do.  It was devastating and so unfair.

I got the call from the hospital at 2 AM that he had died.  My wife and I got my sister who lived near us and drove to get my mother.  We all, along with my aunt went to the hospital to see him and make arrangements for his being moved to the funeral parlor.  I took my mother and aunt home to stay with us.

That morning we went to the funeral parlor and arranged for the burial the next day.  My mother and father had planned for this so all we had to do was sign a few documents and notify friends and relatives.

When we got home, my aunt and my mother suggested I take them home, which I refused.  The complaining then turned to who was riding in which limo to the funeral parlor and service.  Since I didn’t care, I let them argue and tried to stay out of it.  Impossible to do, they kept trying to get me involved.

Between their arguing about the limo and arguing about whether they should go home or not I was beginning to get really stressed out.  I took to taking Tums in large quantities.
I finally went into my bedroom and closed the door.  They tried to follow me in the bedroom, supposedly to comfort me but really to continue the “discussion”.

I told them to go away, they were giving me an ulcer.  Their solution was to try to come in and give me Zantac.  I thought I was being chased by the 3 witches from Macbeth; although there were only two of them.  I locked them out.  They didn’t realize they were the cause of the problem.

The next morning the limo’s showed up and we all were driven to the funeral parlor in Delray. 

When we got there, the place was packed with friends of my parents from the condo along with my friends and family.  My father was very popular and everyone came.

The funeral parlor set up a reception room where we could sit prior to the service and people could come to see us.

The condo people lined up to come in and we had to set up a reception line to greet them.  My family and I spaced ourselves around the room so as to be able to speak with everyone.

They started coming in.

Now most of the Condo people were fine, but many of them are kvetchy and combative.  They hated to wait in line and this time was no exception.  They became impatient and started making remarks about how long this was taking.

I was first in line for them to speak with. A woman had just come up to me and was saying how sorry she was about my Dad.

The woman behind her suddenly said “Can’t you move along, you’re taking too much time”.

The woman in front of me turned to her and said, “I’ll take as much time as I want and you can’t stop me”.

The situation only got better from there.  They almost came to blows.

I stood there transfixed at what was happening, kind of like a deer caught in the headlights. I had to do something or this whole day would be a disaster. People in the room had noticed the commotion and were staring.  My sister looked like she would like to come over and smack them.

“Ladies. Ladies,” I said somewhat forcefully, “please don’t fight, this is my father’s funeral and you’re causing a scene”.

It gave them pause and they stopped fighting. They continued down the reception line muttering about each other’s rudeness and what they would do to each other.  At each stop, I kept a leery eye on them afraid their fight would break out anew.  They finally exited the room.  I later found out they were friends.

The rest of the day went as planned. The funeral parlor had never seen so many people at a local funeral.

My mother and aunt returned to my house for the Shiva. 

They remained at my house for two weeks.

I continued eating Tums for the whole time they were there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God's Big Plan

God’s Big Plan

It was around 1985; my wife announced she didn’t want to take birth control pills anymore.

“So what do you want to do?” I asked innocently.

“What do I what to do?  It’s time you did something.  I’m not having any more operations (she had had an operation on her ovaries and 2 C sections)”!

“Oh, I guess we could use something,” I said.

“No, I have something else in mind” she said. “You know Bob (my brother-in-law) had had a vasectomy and he said it wasn’t too bad.  What about you getting one?”

I probably turned pale, and cringed, but she pressed on.

“We should go and see a urologist, this would be great, and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt,” she said.

“Yeah, it wouldn’t hurt you,” I replied continuing to cringe.

Not to be dissuaded, she made an appointment for a consult.

We arrived at the doctor’s office and eventually made it in to see the doctor.

“What do you want to do?” the doctor asked me.

“I would like to leave,” I replied.

“No we don’t,” said my wife, “we want to consider a vasectomy”.

“WE???” I said.

“Stop being a baby,’ she retorted, “I’m sure it won’t hurt, right doctor?”

“Well…” he said “you’ll feel a pinch when we inject the Novocain”.

At that point I was picturing this giant needle approaching my private parts.  The doctor must have seen this reaction before and sought to reassure me, but the image of the giant needle remained.

Seeking any excuse, I asked “Is this reversible, what if I want more kids?”

“With who?” my wife asked.  “You're sure not having them with me”.

“Maybe my next wife would want some kids,” I calmly replied.

“So you’ll adopt,” she countered.

The decision was a foregone conclusion.  An appointment was made.

The afternoon before the procedure, we went to the doctor’s office for a final check up.  They took blood and urine tests, everything was fine, I was scheduled for the next afternoon.

The next morning I woke up with a severe urinary infection: pain, blood, the works.

“How did this happen, you were fine last night”, my wife said.

“I don’t know, we’ll have to go to the doctor”.

We arrived at the doctor’s office and I told them what was going on.  They took blood and urine and announced I had developed an infection overnight and we would have to postpone the operation.

“I’ve never seen something develop so fast” the doctor said.

“When should we reschedule?” my wife asked.

“I’ll call them,” I said and we left.

My prayers had been answered, a genuine miracle had occurred.

“This is God’s Will”, I stated to my wife.  “God has decided against this and has other plans for me. I’m not doing this”.

My wife gave me a very skeptical look.  She started to give me all the arguments why we should reschedule; but I kept countering with “God’s Will” How could she argue with “God’s Will”? We never rescheduled.

Perhaps God does have a plan for me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Captain Hook Comes to the Birthday Pary

Captain Hook Comes to the Birthday Party

My youngest granddaughter was turning three.  Her mother decided to have a themed party of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan characters.  She asked that the kids come as characters and if the parents wanted to come in costume that would be fine too.

My granddaughter loves to play “Peter Pan”.  She is either Peter or Tinkerbell, my wife is Peter or Tinkerbell (depending on which my granddaughter chooses to be) her brother is a lost boy or pirate, and inevitably I am Captain Hook.

Captain Hook is always defeated and thrown into the water to be eaten by the crocodile.  Try as I might, I am never allowed to be anything but Captain Hook.
When the invitation came, it was a forgone conclusion that I would get a costume (remember who you are dealing with here).

My wife and I went to the costume shop.

There was a Peter Pan costume there I wanted my wife to get as our granddaughter was going as Tinkerbell.  My wife refused to spend the money (I think it was her desire not to wear green tights), and we proceeded to focus on me.

The first hat we were shown was a perfect “Hook” hat but way too expensive.  I finally picked out a hat, hook and sword.  I wanted to get more, but the "Secretary of the Treasury" said it was too expensive. We paid and left the shop.

The next day, I played golf with my son and we “coincidentally” ate lunch at a diner next to the costume shop. 

I dragged him into the shop and we looked for more items.  

I insisted he get a hat and sword, and since I was already there, I took it as God’s way of saying it’s ok to buy something. 

I looked around for items to improve my costume.  I chose a curled mustache and bright red sash to compliment the already purchased hat, hook and sword.

The big day came.

I attached the moustache with spirit gum purchased at the costume store, put on a long sleeve white shirt, black pants, black shoes, a vest, my sash, sword, hook and hat.  I was a great looking Captain Hook.  I was ready to go.

There was a slight problem.

A couple of the guests coming to the party required special dietary foods.  I was the one to pick up the food.  I figured I would get it on the way.

My wife and I drove to the shopping center and I parked the car.  I got out of the car.  My wife refused to join me.  I couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t come with me.  I had taken off the vest, sash, hat and sword, what could be embarrassing?

As I entered the store, people were pointing and the owner was laughing.  Could it be me?

Of course it was me!  The large curling black mustache was an eye catcher.  With my white shirt I looked like part of an old fashioned Barber Shop Quartet.

I quickly explained why I had on the mustache.  Since most of the people there were grandparents they immediately understood.

I purchased the food and returned to the car where my wife was trying to look as if she didn’t know me. 

People stared as we drove past them. It really was quite a spectacular moustache.

We went to my son’s house.

I called my son and told him to open the garage door and meet us outside so my grandkids wouldn’t see me.  We unloaded the car and I got into costume.  I went to the front door.

My son opened the door with my two grandkids in tow.

“Har Har Har” I exclaimed, “It’s me Captain Hook”.

My granddaughter’s eyes grew huge and she backed away.  Not the response I was looking for.  Her little brother didn’t seem afraid and I came in.  She wouldn’t come near me for the rest of the day and kept a wary eye out to see where I was.

As other children came in, some were frightened, some took it in stride (most were under 4).  All the little girls came as Tinkerbell.  The boys didn’t come in costumes but were provided with a hat and blow up sword.  Some of them engaged me in sword fights.

The adults smiled and seemed to appreciate the effort I had put into the costume.  It was disappointing they weren’t in costume.  I had expected a few of them to be in costume.  The saving grace was I did present a dashing figure.

It was hot, and the long sleeves, vest and long pants made it hotter. The mustache was itchy and annoying and had to be reglued twice.  I stuck it out until the cake was cut and pictures taken.

I took off the mustache and vest; gave the hat and sash to a boy; and ate some cake.

Right before we went home, the boy gave me back the hat and sash.  I gave the hat, sash and sword to my daughter-in-law’s sister who had just gotten married.  She had brought a pirate outfit with her but didn’t put it on. I figured she and her new husband could play pirates one night. She said she would save it for Halloween.  Who do you believe?

My wife thought my getting the costume was a waste of time and money since my granddaughter was frightened of me and didn’t seem to care.  

I thought the looks on the people’s faces in the food store was to quote a credit card commercial, “Priceless”.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Uncertainty at the Diplomat

Uncertainty at the Diplomat

We have a friend and former business partner named Bill (last named withheld to protect all concerned), whose last name ends in a vowel.

Bill is an interesting guy.  He is about 10 years older than us, comes from New Jersey and talks like Joe Pesci.  In fact, he and Joe grew up together in Newark.  When I first saw “Goodfellas” I called up Bill and said “Hey Bill, this guy Joe Pesci is imitating how you talk.”  Bill laughed and told me how they used to pal around together.

Bill knows a lot of people with “Bent Noses” and he used to own a hotel in Atlantic City.  Bill always wears a lot of gold jewelry and is nattily dressed. Various “guys” would often visit Bill at his place of business, a travel agency in South Florida.

I once was stopping off at the travel agency to see Bill.  I parked in front and as I got out of the car, a man in a suit was kneeling behind my car taking down my license plate number.  He quickly moved away before I could ask him what was going on.

I went inside and asked Bill if he knew what the guy was doing.

“Oh yeah, he’s an FBI guy,” said Bill.

“FBI!” I said, “What is he doing here?”

“Oh he’s checking on me.  Every once in a while they review an old case I was involved in,” Bill answered.

He proceeded to tell me the story of an infamous case in New Jersey a number of years before.

Bill had had a partner who was trying to scam everyone who he was associated with.  The guy was found cut up into pieces in a 50 gallon drum.  The drum was discovered in a warehouse Bill was an owner of.

The FBI could never prove anything, and Bill claimed he didn’t know who did it.  Besides he was out of town when it occurred.

The FBI Agent in Charge retired and wrote a book about it.

Bill was questioned by a new FBI agent later on and Bill tried to be helpful and give him some answers.  The Agent demanded to know how Bill knew so much if he wasn’t involved.

Bill’s answer was “I read it in your guy’s book”.  They had no answer for that, but still followed Bill around every so often.

One time I was down in Hallandale when I got a phone call from Bill.  He asked if I could stop off at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood and pick something up for him.  Since I was only 5 minutes away and it was on my way home, I agreed.

Bill told me to meet a friend of his (John something with a vowel at the end) at the Diplomat.  He said I should use the house phone and go up to the guy’s room and he would give me a package for Bill.  The guy had just flown in from New Jersey.

I arrived at the Diplomat (a very nice Hotel on the Hollywood beach, known for some unsavory connections) and went to valet.  I told the valet who I was there to meet.

His attitude went from somewhat surly to ingratiating.  He assured me there would be no charge and he would leave the car right where I could get it immediately and would personally watch over it.  I thanked him and went inside.

Now, I’m beginning to get a bad feeling about this.  What could be in the package?  Why didn’t Bill get it himself?  How much trouble could I be in?  Was this guy under surveillance?

I used the house phone and spoke to the guy (he talked like Bill) and went up to his room.  A very nice room by the way.  

“Come in, take a load off,” he said, “I’ve got the package here for Bill.  Give me a minute to get it out”.

I was becoming somewhat uneasy and I guess it showed.

He picked up a large paper bag and said “So what do you think is in here?”

“I don’t know, Bill didn’t tell me” I answered.

“It’s bread you mope!  What did you think it was drugs?” he said laughing.

Bill had asked him to get a couple loaves of bread from a particular bakery in Newark.

Feeling both relieved and stupid, I took the “package” and left.

Sure enough, the car was waiting for me and I drove away with a wary eye for an FBI tail.