Friday, November 27, 2009

American Idle

I stood at the counter, a stack of books in my hands, waiting to pay. Five employees outnumbered the customers by two. They chatted, all ignoring me. A man in his 30s was complaining that there are no uniquely American holidays besides the 4th of July.

“Thanksgiving?” Someone offered. Not terribly profound, it was yesterday.

“Maybe.” He conceded reluctantly.

“Excuse me?” That was me. “Can I pay for these?”

He was annoyed, and made a production out of it, which was odd since I was paying in cash. He kept yammering to the others about how all of our holidays are also celebrated elsewhere.

I thought I’d try to be friendly. I smiled. “What about President’s Day?”

He glared at me. “I suppose you could say that.”

“And Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” I continued. “Arbor Day?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” He frowned. “I suppose. Maybe. Do you want a bag?”

I kvetched all the way to the car. Robert pointed out that when we walked into the store, the guy was talking about something his mother had said at breakfast. Over 30, and he lives with his mother. No wonder he doesn’t think Thanksgiving is a holiday. It’s his daily life.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude Shmatitude Bad Attitude

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, and my shopping list made, it’s time to hearken back to days of yore, and those godawful forced gatherings of our collective youth.

Some things are universal. There was always (at least) one relative who drank too much, and (at least) one who didn’t drink enough and was wired tighter than an actuary on crack. Maybe someone used the meal as a therapy session and maybe another took notes for future grievances.

Is it starting to sound familiar? We’ve all been there.

The first time I was old enough and tough enough to say No and spend the holiday with people I enjoyed, was revelatory. With few exceptions, I’ve never looked back.

Middle age brought tranquility, and the confidence of being able to cook well enough to provide abundant deliciousness for my loved ones and any dear friends who may grace our table. I now look forward to Thanksgiving with the contentment of a Hallmark card and the zeal of the Food Network.

So, although I can’t help thinking of my distanced relatives, I merely wish them well and get on with what matters: the all-important decision of what to make for dessert on Thursday. My adorable mother doesn’t like pumpkin pie. At the moment, it looks like caramel-apple-pecan cake, but that could change. Delightfully, la belle Tsarina will be here too. Let me know if you’d like a chair. There’s plenty of everything.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doofus And Gallant

My mother has a saying, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

A few days ago, two young men came to our door within an hour of each other. Both were scamming – I mean, selling something.

The first was an exercise in contrasts: nice shirt, ugly tie and a million dollar smile with a mouth full of expensive metal caps. He was ostensibly selling magazines to help urban youth. I fell for that scam twice, ages ago in another city, and won’t again. But he went out of his way to charm, and I was charmed. I gave him a few bucks for the entertainment --- I mean, for the Cause.

The second guy was his antithesis. In scruffy shorts and flip-flops, he either had an unfortunate harelip surgery or a permanent sneer. He wanted me to replace our lovely original 1939 wooden windows with aluminum. I refused. He looked scornful and called our windows “ugly”. I shrugged. Then, as if he was talking to a child, he explained that aluminum windows would reduce our heating and cooling bills. So I told him we don’t have either central heat or air conditioning.

You’d think I’d just spat in his beer bong. With infinite contempt, he asked, “What do you do when it gets hot?”

I smiled sweetly and answered, “We open the windows.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Earlier this century – don’t ask me what year because I don’t know offhand and would have to look it up – Robert and I took one of our regular trips to Las Vegas. (Check the archives. We go often and there are good stories. Put “Vegas” in the search box.) This particular trip included @rpaulwilson, star of the British TV show “The Real Hustle” and a dear friend.

We drove home on Robert’s birthday and made two detours before leaving Vegas. Paul wanted to go to the Gambler’s General Store, and we had to stop at a chapel. Paul didn’t know that on the first day of the trip we’d snuck over to the registrar and bought a marriage license. You see, after more than a dozen birthdays and Christmases, I ran out of gift ideas. So for Robert’s birthday that year, I married him. The look on Paul’s face when I parked the car was better than any prank ever.

We only told two people.

There was no reason to talk about it. My name didn’t change, nor did we need another toaster or stick blender. After a few years, on another of his birthdays, we got rings. People became aware. By then it wasn’t a secret, just not a topic of conversation. Well, not until Robert checked the box “married” on Facebook, but that tempest never left the teapot.

Why am I making it an issue now, and outing myself as a married person? Because of irony, darling. Irony and Twitter.

When I finally persuaded Robert to join me on Twitter, he bastardized my name and became @AlphonseBunter. After all those years of refusing to answer to “Mrs. Wilson”, now it looks to the world like I am Mrs. Unter. Feh! Feh and phooey. Don’t ask where “Alphonse” came from, I doubt he knows.

In closing, I recommend that you do two things: follow @AlphonseBunter on Twitter, and youtube “The Real Hustle”. While you’re at it, check out my cherished @Cybrarian’s ‘Word Of The Day’ blog

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There’s no dialogue anymore. If you’re lucky, you get to alternate monologues. Even this doesn’t happen all the time. You’re reading a monologue right now and I thank you for that. We might as well embrace the process, and celebrate the soliloquy.

Don’t ask for my opinion just to get me to listen to you rant. Tell me the rant. I don’t care if you value my opinion. What bothers me is the lie.

“I’d love to get your take on this,” he lied. What he wanted was validation. He wanted me to watch the commercial, oops, I mean listen to his story. I was in the gym at the time and had no way to fast forward.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Clean Slate

I spent today in a cleaning frenzy. If you’ve seem our home, then you know how many nooks and crannies can hold the dust and dog hair. Feel free to grab white gloves and inspect. I defy the most neurotic germ-phobe.

What I didn’t know was that I was also cleaning metaphorically. Last week left a residue of mental suckiness that somehow got polished away in the process.

Sure, next week will bring its own, uh, “challenges.” (Don’t you hate it when people use that word? I do. Problems are problems, not “challenges.” Euphemism deflates meaning.) But now I can start from square one, not square minus ten. And that is a triumph of sorts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Miss(ed) Popularity

Society loves a winner. “The gold ring” is the summa of all desiderata, as is “winning the lottery.” If I was cynical, I’d say that life is a popularity contest. Oh, yeah. I am, and I often think it is.

My un-secret vice is When Life’s been kicking me in the shins, I tend to run whimpering to Pogo. There I play the same handful of games at which I excel. Lookit me, oh goody, I can beat a bunch of random strangers who all have better things to do than get really good at a computer game – but it makes me feel better.

Today in the gym I was asked why I’m so pleased about my Twitter follower count. It’s a foolish but quantifiable show of popularity to have spambots and porngirls follow me online. That’s like bragging that your favorite TV show has the most commercials.

I should strive for distinction by making the world a better place. Until I do, I’ll take the top score on Pop Fu™ and try to be clever on Twitter.