Thursday, July 28, 2016

Marriage Fantasy Camp

Darlene and I have been husband and wife for a decade. The past 9 years and 11 months have been such a disaster that if a writer ever got wind of our marriage, they would have no trouble adapting it into a horror movie franchise or a Donald Trump foreign policy speech.

It was becoming patently clear that our relationship was on the brink of a monumental collapse the likes of which had not been seen since June, 1964, when my overly-industrious and psychotically frugal Aunt Edna embarked on a do-it-yourself facelift.

But just as we were about to tumble off the conjugal cliff, a miracle happened. One morning, instead of waking up angry, Darlene and I woke up to the fact that we had tied the knot for the wrong reason. We had been dumped by our respective mates and mistakenly believed that we were meant for each other because, in a fit of pique, we both committed to a one-year subscription to “Affordable Hitmen Monthly.”

The strange thing is that this revelation actually brought us closer together. It made us want to seek help to repair the damage and give ourselves a second chance at, if not love, then the restraint to throw fewer good dishes at each other.

However, getting there was going to be anything but easy. Indeed, it was a veritable Herculean task, not unlike attempting to scale Mt. Everest without proper equipment or attempting to define Herculean without

At first we tried couples counseling, which, besides being insanely expensive, was a complete joke. Literally. Our therapist, who came highly recommended on Yelp by “Crazy Pete,” was a former ventriloquist who spent most of our sessions drinking a glass of water while his Sigmund Freud dummy sang “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”

From there, we made our way to a couples’ yoga meditation retreat. Sadly, it was equally useless. While very sweet, the instructor was under the impression that every marital problem could be solved by her overpriced merchandise, which included $300 yoga pants imprinted with a Hindu yogi in the lotus position wearing a Yogi Berra T-shirt featuring the quote: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We also invested in a couples’ Tea Party weekend that seemed promising on paper but in reality was akin to a flood insurance PowerPoint presentation. The death knell for us came in the person of keynote speaker Ted Cruz who spoke passionately for twenty minutes about the sanctity of marriage and how its importance ranks just below God, country, and repealing Obamacare.

Darlene and I had all but given up hope when a glossy, six-page brochure arrived in the mail touting the salutary benefits of Marriage Fantasy Camp. As an inveterate baseball fan, I was instantly intrigued. I had once attended Baseball Fantasy Camp where I suited up in a Minnesota Twins uniform for five days while Hall of Famer Rod Carew provided us with invaluable inside tips on everything from hitting and fielding to adjusting your cup on national television without giggling.

Marriage Fantasy Camp, which takes place at the Hampton Inn in Boynton Beach, Florida, every August during the height of prickly heat season, is based on the same principle. Highlights include:

  • Wedding Vow Calisthenics.” Major League Baseball conditioning coaches exhort couples to pledge their love for each other while doing 600 squat thrusts. This is a vital reminder that at the heart of all marriages is a verbal commitment and stomach cramps.

  • Picking Up the Signs.” Couples are schooled by Dr. Phil in detecting unhealthy communication patterns, such as not making eye contact while talking to each other and texting during sex.

  • Close Calls.” All interactions will be videotaped and any conflicts will be settled by former Major League umpire Ed Montague via replay review. If either party disagrees with his decision, they can challenge it. The penalty for a denied challenge is 600 more squat thrusts.

Before we even finished reading about the Lou Piniella workshop, “How to Express Anger through Words, Not Kicking Dirt on Each Other,” Darlene and I knew this was just what the doctor ordered. We signed on the dotted line, ponied up enough cash to finance a six-year Bolivian revolution, and headed down to Boynton Beach. It was a glorious week. Our love for each was reaffirmed and we were on the road to renewed connubial bliss.

Until we weren’t.

Shortly after we returned, I decided to surprise Darlene by coming home early from work one day with a bottle of Champagne and a case of cocktail franks. I entered our bedroom and found her under the covers next to a ventriloquist dummy. At first I thought she was trying to spice up our sex life. What I heard coming from the bathroom quickly quashed that idea—a Viennese rendition of “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

                                         Not Just a Weatherman…a Weather-mensch

This year marks the 40th anniversary of my graduation from Shakra University, which U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked as “America’s #1 Safety School.” I don’t remember much of my six years there. However, two things do, indeed, stand out. One was that wild night in the winter of ’72 when I broke into Dean Klumph’s house and short-sheeted his bed, an episode that cost me dearly. I was forced to relinquish my role as the beloved school mascot, Herb the Certified Public Accountant.

As for my other memorable collegiate moment, it was the graduation commencement speech. The speaker was Mike Busby, the weatherman at Channel 2, our local news station. Though a fine meteorologist with a keen sense of whimsy—he was renowned for reporting on devastating tornadoes dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby slippers—he wasn’t the original choice to address our graduating class.

That honor belonged to Gil Futterman, aka Dr. Hy Colonic, the chief plastic surgeon on the long-running soap opera, Scalpel, Please. Unfortunately, Gil had to cancel at the last minute when he was rushed into surgery for an emergency tummy tuck.

“How ironic, Dr. Colonic.”

That was the unforgettable response all of my classmates had when we heard the news. Not surprisingly, the hearty chuckles we exhibited externally belied what we felt on the inside. We were all deeply disturbed that we would not get to hear the pearls of wisdom from a man who had been snubbed by the Daytime Emmy Awards sixteen years running. (It was rumored that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had it in for Gil because he repeatedly referred to them as “excrement incarnate” every time he lost.)

I had been a big fan of Gil Futterman ever since the 7th grade when I was bedridden for a month after a freak accident involving a can of Cheez Whiz and a blowtorch. While out of commission, I spent hours upon hours watching television. I loved the game shows in particular, especially Name That Tuna, where you could win valuable prizes by identifying songs with the words “albacore” and “chunk light” in the title. I was also drawn to the sitcoms, most notably, My Mother the Ferret, and classic westerns, such as Have Gun, Will Buy Bullets.

But it was Scalpel, Please that totally grabbed my attention. It was impossible not to tune in every weekday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. to experience the ups and downs of whiny rich people who were so miserable that they were practically foaming at the mouth to have their noses narrowed, their breasts augmented, and their eye lids Martinized.

And it was equally impossible not to be enthralled by Dr. Hy Colonic’s soothing bedside manner as he explained to patients the risks involved in surgery, the ample rewards when successful, and the exorbitant fees he was forced to charge by the International Nip and Tuck Union.

That’s why when Gil Futterman’s replacement was announced we were all duly shocked. How could a lowly local weatherman give the most important speech at the most important moment of any college student’s career (Freshman WedgieFest being the lone exception)?

Suffice it to say, we were all wrong. Mike Busby was a rock star. He provided us with inspirational nuggets that, to this day, I continue to use to guide me in my work as Professor Emeritus of Dermatology at The Online Zit Institute, and in my personal life as a husband, father, and weekend forklift enthusiast.

Here are a just few of the gems Mike imparted to us:

Never thank your boss for giving you a raise by downgrading them from a Category 5 Moron to a Tropical Storm Moron

Gale force winds are a sign from God not to wear your good toupee

When life gives you high pressure systems, make high pressure system-ade

I was moved by that commencement speech like no other speech I had ever heard, including the one my barber gave me when he discovered a family of lice nesting in my comb-over. That’s why it saddened me to read the other day that Mike Busby had passed away. He was giving the commencement speech at his grandson’s kindergarten graduation ceremony when he was struck in the eye by a spitball, fell over backwards, and split his head open on a Pyrex dish piled high with vegan Hostess Ding Dongs.

To honor the man I only knew and admired from afar, I decided to attend his funeral. And I’m very glad I did. The minister spoke of Mike in glowing terms while standing in front of a satellite map that showed the meteorologist’s soul off the coast of Nantucket.

After the service, we were invited to say goodbye to our dearly departed friend for the final time. I approached the open casket apprehensively as I had never seen another human being completely devoid of life (unless, of course, you count my ex-wife on our honeymoon night).

Much to my surprise, my apprehension turned to complete and utter calm. A huge smile formed on my face as I peered into the casket and saw Mike Busby decked out in his official Channel 2 blazer, his official Channel 2 khakis, and his unofficial Channel 2 ruby slippers.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Hate Facebook

I hate Facebook. Why? Let me count the ways. One, I hate that people say such stupid things on it. Like the Lipbaums. “It’s 5 o’clock and we’re going to dinner with the Mendermans!” Who cares who they’re having dinner with? No one, except maybe the Mendermans. And truthfully, I’m not even sure the Mendermans care. They’ve never liked the Lipbaums but always go to dinner with them because the Lipbaums always buy. How do I know? They never fail to post a video of Sy Lipbaum picking up the check and mouthing the words, “I’m buying.”

And who cares that they’re going to dinner at 5 o’clock? Is that important information? Maybe to burglars who will be happy to know that while the Lipbaums are on their way to dinner with the Mendermans no one will be at home except their arthritic dog Butch who hasn’t barked at an intruder since the Hoover Administration. And what if the Mendermans are robbed? Will they be able to sue the Lipbaums because they blabbed that they were not going to be home at 5 o’clock? Probably not because the Mendermans immediately posted this unforgettable response: “See you then!”

Though, truthfully, I’m not surprised the Lipbaums are going to dinner at 5 o’clock because that’s when the early bird prices kick in at the House of Meat Loaf where they eat on regular basis. How do I know? Because they post pictures of their meat loaf every damn time! Why? Why do people take pictures of their food? Especially this food. It’s not the least bit appealing in person so why would I want to look at it online? In protest, I refuse to click “Like,” “Comment” or “Share.” (Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: How about a “Who Gives a Crap” button?)

And in case you were wondering, it makes no difference to me that the Lipbaums are going to dinner with the Mendermans. I wouldn’t have dinner with the Mendermans if my life depended on it. Like Facebook, I hate the Mendermans. Not only do they mooch free dinners off of the Lipbaums, but last summer they had a barbecue and didn’t invite my wife and me. How do I know? The Sternferns posted it on Facebook! “We’re going to the Menderman’s for a barbecue! Can’t wait!” Can’t wait for what? Alice Menderman’s ptomaine-tinged tuna casserole and Herb Menderman’s lighter-fluid-filled London broil? Of course, the next day, they posted a slideshow of the menu items for all those not invited to see what they were missing. How nice of them to want to bring a little melanoma-inspired sunshine into our drab, leper-like lives.

I also hate Facebook because in addition to posting pictures of painstakingly putrid food, people post pictures of their kids in the most banal situations. Okay, not just any people — the Mendermans! Do I really need to see their 6-year-old daughter eating her first burrito in a restaurant two blocks from their house? Does that advance civilization in any way, shape or form? No, it just advances my blood pressure to a level slightly north of massive coronary.

At this juncture, you may be thinking: if I hate Facebook so much, why do I even have an account? An excellent question. And one that I’m not going to dodge. It would be immature of me to be such a virulent critic and then take the Fifth. I’m hopeful that people will one day wake up and smell the virtual coffee and begin using this intelligent communication tool not as sheep but as shepherds, leading the way to a world where discretion is the better part of squalor. 

Until then, I will continue to rant and rave and be the lone sane voice in the wilderness raging against the inanity and insanity of it all. Like the video the Lipbaums posted of the Mendermans throwing up on their shoes in the parking lot of the House of Meat Loaf. And while it was crass, gross, and mind-numbingly moronic, for some strange reason, I found myself clicking “Like,” “Comment,” and “Share.” (Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: How about a “Best Barfing Video Ever” button?)

Death By Recruitment

Dear Mr. Glavin:

I am a senior recruiter with Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC and I was totally blown away by your resume, which I saw online this morning. In fact, upon reading it, both my jaw and my cinnamon cruller nearly hit the floor. Your skill set matches exactly what we are looking for to fill the position of Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. The job, which pays in the six figures and comes with full benefits for you and your family, begins immediately. Truthfully, I am so stoked about the prospect of you taking this offer I know you can’t refuse (no pun intended). Please get back to me ASAP!

Barb Flank
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Ms. Flank:

Thanks very much for your email. And while it’s always an ego boost to be so well thought of, I must tell you that I am not at all qualified for the job of Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. I’m a marketing copywriter who specializes in web content and B2B emails. I wish you the best in your search.

Paul Glavin

Dear Mr. Glavin:

Thanks for getting back to me ASAP. By the way, getting back to people ASAP is one of the necessary qualities for being a Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. When you are hired to rub out someone who has so rudely dissed your employer, you will need to respond ASAP to said employer with news that said someone who dissed them has, indeed, been rubbed out. I am still incredibly stoked about you taking on this fabulous position that, IMHO, is a sure-fire match (no pun intended). I look forward to hearing from you today!

Barb Flank
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Ms. Flank:

Perhaps I did not make myself clear in my last email. I am not qualified for — nor am I interested in — the position of Mafia Hit Man in the Great Chicagoland area. Or any area, for that matter. I’m a marketing copywriter. Just your average, garden variety marketing copywriter. Again, best of luck in your search.

Paul Glavin

Dear Mr. Glavin.

As someone who has been placing people in the perfect job for over 6 weeks now (it will be 7 weeks next Tuesday!), I know a thing or two about the human psyche. And you are too darn modest for your own good. Of course, it goes without saying that modesty is another necessary quality for being a Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. No one will ever hire a braggart to pull off an assignment as sensitive as snuffing out the life of another human being. Please call me as soon as you receive this. The suspense of hearing your voice saying “Yes, I want the job” is killing me (no pun intended)!

Barb Flank
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Ms. Flank:

Look, I don’t know if this is a joke or what, but for the last time I don’t want the job of Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. I write marketing copy. Not that I’m proud of it. Far from it. It’s just a lot of corporate drivel that pays the bills but drives me batty. I really wanted to be a playwright but I never had the confidence (read: talent) and I ended up selling out. Of course, if I ever had a scintilla of support instead of a bottomless cup of criticism from my sorry-ass parents, things might have turned out a HELL OF A LOT DIFFERENT. I’m sorry for that outburst. You see, things have been a little slow for me lately. I’m 50 years old and no one will hire me. Not only that but my wife is divorcing me and getting the house in the process. I have nothing. Ms. Flank, if you know of any marketing writing jobs, full-time or freelance, please get in touch.

Paul Glavin

Dear Mr. Glavin:

Since I did not hear back from you today, I was forced to withdraw your application for the position of Mafia Hit Man in the Greater Chicagoland area. I’m very sorry that I had to do that, especially since you are eminently qualified. I do hope you will keep in touch. And if any other Mafia Hit Man opportunities open up, you will be the first person I contact. Best of luck! Though I know a man with your killer skills won’t need it (okay, that pun was intended).

Barb Flank
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Ms. Flank:

Clearly, nothing is ever going to happen between us in regards to my work. And that’s okay. I have a little savings and I can scrape by for awhile. However, I can tell from your emails that you are a warm, sensitive person with a great sense of humor (the exact opposite of my ex-wife). I would very much like to meet you for a drink or coffee, whichever you prefer. Please let me know ASAP!

Paul Glavin

Dear Mr. Glavin:

I’m writing to inform you that Barb Flank, one of the nicest gentiles I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, is no longer with Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC. As her replacement, I nearly plotzed when I saw your resume online this morning. Your skill set matches exactly what we are looking for to fill the position of Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Amarillo, Texas. The job, which pays a boatload of shekels and is definitely not chintzy with the benefits, begins immediately. Truthfully, I am experiencing such shpilkes at the prospect of you stepping in to replace Rabbi Simon Lipbaum who suffered a massive coronary and passed away, ironically, during a shiva call (may his memory be a blessing). Don’t be a putz—call me!

Beth Steinberg-Bernstein
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Ms. Steinberg-Bernstein:

What happened to Ms. Flank? Did she leave a forwarding email address?

Paul Glavin

Dear Mr. Gavin.

Regrettably, Barb Flank was gunned down by a Mafia hit man in the Great Chicagoland area (may her memory be a blessing). Even more regrettably, the position of Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Amarillo, Texas has already been filled. However, if any other Senior Rabbi opportunities open up, you will be the first person I contact. Best of luck!

Beth Steinberg-Bernstein
Senior Recruiter
Waverly Recruitment Specialists, LLC

Dear Valued Guest

I’d never been to Boise, Idaho though I felt compelled to visit last month after beginning my all tater tot diet. Before heading off to the land of “Famous Potatoes,” I researched some hotels. All I can say is, thank God for the Internet! In the event you have reason to venture to Boise, Idaho in the near future (tater tot diet or not), you may want to check out these recent TravelVisor reviews about the Best Days Motor Lodge so you can sidestep a lodging landmine. 

“Horrible stay!”
Reviewed 3 days ago

My stay at your Best Days Motor Lodge was horrible! There was a rat the size of a fullback in my room. When I tried calling the front desk, I got a message saying that the number had been disconnected and was no longer in service. I had no choice but to shoot the rat with my complimentary handgun, which was not really complimentary at all as I was charged for the bullets. Really, Best Days Motor Lodge? Really? That’s like saying the breakfast is complimentary and then charging for the silverware. Wait a minute…you DID charge for the silverware—a $4.95 forkage fee! You should change the name of your hotel to Best Days Clip Joint. I will leave you with these two words: Fork you, Best Days Motor Lodge, fork you! (I know that’s more than two words but don’t worry…the other six words are COMPLIMENTARY!)

Dear Valued Guest: We are sorry you were not satisfied with your stay. And we thank you for bringing these items to our attention. Please note that you are always welcome to bring your own bullets to Best Days Motor Lodge. And contrary to what you might think, we do not levy an ammunage fee. Also, we would like to point out that we did not charge you for the removal of the dead rat. Since this was your first time offing a large rodent in our hotel, we happily waived the $15 rattage fee. We look forward to seeing you at Best Days Motor Lodge again soon!

“Awful experience!”
Reviewed 5 days ago

My experience at the Best Days Motor Lodge was awful! I couldn’t sleep a wink because my king-size bed with pillow-top mattress was incredibly lumpy. Turns out it wasn’t a pillow-top mattress at all but rather a Stove-Top Stuffing mattress! WTF? I called housekeeping for a replacement mattress and was told, in no uncertain terms, that the entire staff is Orthodox and doesn’t work on the Sabbath. (But they can answer the phone? Yeah, REAL Orthodox!) They then transferred me to room service. WTF? Ten minutes later, a waiter showed up at my door with a piping hot gravy boat—but NO cranberries! (Apparently, room service is not Orthodox but Ortho-dopes!) I will never stay at your hotel on the Sabbath again—or ever!

Dear Valued Guest: We are sorry you were not satisfied with your stay. And we thank you for bringing these items to our attention. Please note that our housekeeping staff is Modern Orthodox and is allowed to answer the phone and transfer calls on the Sabbath but not replace mattresses. As for your experience with room service, gravy is the traditional condiment of choice for our Stove-Top Stuffing mattresses. Cranberries stain and are nearly impossible to get out—especially on the Sabbath. We look forward to seeing you at Best Days Motor Lodge again soon!

“Worst services!”
Reviewed 7 days ago

The services at Best Days Motor Lodge are the worst! You advertised a fitness room on your website. A medieval torture chamber is more like it—and a crummy one at that. There was only one strappado and I had to wait over an hour for it because some sado-masochist wannabe couldn’t figure out the simple rope and pulley system. Lame! To add insult to injury, the rack was temporarily out of service. Lame plus! Following that debacle, I headed over to your outdoor pool, which your website touted as heated. And it was—thanks to the Himmelfarbs, an elderly and mutually incontinent couple from 
Pocatello. Lame-o-Rama! Needless to say, I will never recommend your PISS poor hotel to anyone (not even my elderly and mutually incontinent friends). 

Dear Valued Guest: We are sorry you were not satisfied with your stay. And we thank you for bringing these items to our attention. Please note that the rack is, and always has been, in working order. The “temporarily out of service” sign was put up by a disgruntled employee who was fired for repeatedly short-sheeting beds. Regarding the elderly and mutually incontinent Himmelfarbs, they’ve been unselfishly heating our pool for years, allowing us to earn Idaho’s Green (and Yellow) Hotel Seal of Approval. We look forward to seeing you at Best Days Motor Lodge again soon!

Atone Deaf

Thank you for coming. I must admit I’m a little nervous. And not just because I’m standing before the editors of some of Northern New Jersey’s most respected synagogue newsletters. I’m nervous because I’ve never held a press conference before. Truthfully, I didn’t want to hold a press conference but I felt this was the only viable way for me to atone for my sins of the past year and apologize to those I’ve hurt.

FYI, I had intended to do this privately on Yom Kippur and not on the front lawn of my modest two-bedroom Paramus home. I completely missed the boat. It’s not like I didn’t know the day was coming. I wrote it down on a Post-It note and stuck it on my Water Pik. Unfortunately, the excessive moisture caused the letters to run and I thought it said “Yummy kipper snacks.”

You should know that I’ve never made a public display of my apologies before. Normally, I would craft well-thought out, heartfelt messages to those I had hurt. The only problem was I never told any of them. I was afraid that the apologies would not sound as good verbally as they did in my head. I was also afraid that the recipients would react poorly and smack me repeatedly with their lulavs. I’m sorry. That’s a reference to another holiday, either Sukkot or Palm Sunday. You know, I really wish I hadn’t cut so many Hebrew school classes.

On several occasions, I’ve attempted other ways of communicating my apologies that didn’t require putting myself in this potentially vulnerable position. One year I sent a Yom Kippur Gram. Another time I tried atoning through an orthodox rabbi hand puppet. I even had the chutzpah to send a Day of Atonement e-card.

As difficult as it is for me to stand here and seek the forgiveness of others, I know it’s the right and decent thing to do. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I considered canceling the press conference. Now, I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes like that. I know I’ve canceled the press conference a few times before. Okay, two dozen. But I had some darn good reasons.

Once, I had to drive up to Cornell to console my son Kyle whose girlfriend dumped him for an orgasm app.

Another time, I was attending the opening of my new play, “Pledge Break: The Musical!”

And then there was the day I spent composing a letter to Miss Manners regarding the propriety of texting while cradling a child about to be circumcised.

Okay, now it’s time to get to the meat of the proceedings. There are many people I have injured by my insensitive behavior during the past year and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of them.
To my uncle, Myron Entemman: I feel awful for shaking your hand with a joy buzzer at Aunt Edna’s shiva call, causing your toupee to pirouette into the clam dip.

To my rabbi, Yonaton Shikker: I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for planting that wiretap in your yarmulke.
To my sister, Francine Lipbaum: I never intended to spend your wedding day being held for questioning at Newark Airport. But after a TSA agent insisted I remove my shoes, I thought it would be really funny to yell, “I can’t blow a plane to smithereens with Dr. Scholl’s bunion pads!”

To my acupuncturist, Helga Mandelbrat: If I had known that your work entailed piercing the human body with exceedingly sharp needles, I never would have lambasted you on Yelp, leading to your immediate deportation.

And finally, to the cast of “The Book of Mormon”: I’m sorry for leaving at intermission but I was under the impression that I had purchased a ticket for a musical based on the life of Ethel Merman.

Wow. I feel a lot better. And now, I’d like to take any questions you might have. Wait a minute, is that rain? No, I forgot to shut off the sprinkler system. I’ll be right back. In the meantime, feel free to stop by the buffet table and help yourself to some coffee and yummy kipper snacks.