Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bad day.

And I always used to like Thursdays . . .

I'm approaching the traffic signals on Rye's narrow Elm Place in the Starship Minnie, planning a right turn onto our main street.* A car is coming toward me, having made the turn from the main street.

Suddenly, the driver spots an open parking space, just ahead of me on my side of the road. She swerves across my path and noses into the space, but the road is way too narrow for a complete U-turn, even for a Prius (and even if it were legal). In fact, she's still mostly pointing in my direction, angled across the road and blocking both lanes. And so begins the long, laborious back-and-forth, a turning maneuver that has more points than the Star of David. I wait.

Eventually, she's completed the one-eighty, and pulls forward ahead of me to parallel park in the empty space. I wait. Unfortunately, the man in the space behind the empty one wants to leave, but I've been blocking him while observing this irritating but admittedly eco-friendly ballet. He doesn't realize she's about to reverse and edges forward to try to get around me on the right. La Prius stops in time, but she's now stuck, half in, half out of the space. He doesn't seem to want to back up and give her room.

But I now have space to get around the stalled Prius, so I bugger off and leave them to their Seinfeld re-enactment. I'm a man on a mission -- a forgotten trumpet must get to the elementary school before band period.

*It's called Purchase Street. At first, I was impressed by the unpretentious directness of the name of the city's shopping drag. (Although Rye is little more than a village in size, technically we're a city, the smallest in the county and the newest in the state.) Then I was disappointed to discover that the street got its name merely because it leads to the neighboring village of Purchase. I'm starting a petition to rename it Mammon Avenue.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Once upun a time.

Following on from my post "You had to be there" on September 19, I just remembered one other time when I may possibly have said something funny without taking half an hour to think of it and another four edits to hone it.

Come back with me through the mists of time to the early 1980s, and I am a callow youth working in Citibank's London office. A new medical officer has been appointed, whose previous job was in the services.

"He was a naval doctor," reported my boss, Paul.

"Boy, they certainly specialize these days," I responded insouciantly.

(It only works if you read it out loud. Am I too hip for the room?)

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Paid consulting work and especially LIFE (no, not the magazine, don't get me started) have been holding up completion of This Private Plot, my third novel in the Oliver Swithin series. So it's clearly time to reconsider my priorities.

How do I know? Many kind friends (some of whom have actually read my stuff, and yet they're still friends) ask me constantly how the book is progressing. My reaction has just switched from delight at their interest to guilty irritation. This is a sign. There's only a week or two of editing to be done, the boys are back and settled in school, I have more available time on my calendar anyway, and no social life whatsoever.

So if I don't get the book shipped off to my agent by, oh, Halloween, you may come to my house dressed as a character from Harry Potter and kick me in the organ of your choice. (Just don't turn up empty handed. I like Grey Goose.)

Do I know how to set a deadline or what? And this, from a man whose distractibility is legend; a man indeed who was once described as a "productivity vacuum" -- and this was by somebody who liked me -- although I plead special circumstances at the time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Daily Insult.

It's picture day at school, and Tertius is planning his wardrobe.

"Do you have a sweater vest in my size?" he asks, inexplicably. I'm not even sure I have one in my size, although I do recall sending a 20-year-old gift one to the Salvation Army recently because I'd only worn it, oh, never.

"I haven't been your size for many years," I inform him.

"Yeah," chimes in Secundus, "and they didn't have sweater vests in prehistoric times."

"Paleolithic," murmurs Primus, but now I know they're trying too hard to get another blog mention.

And this, in a post that appears on a significant birthday for my mother. I won't mention which one, partly because I'm a gentleman, but mainly because nobody would believe me. I just hope I got her genes when it comes to defying time. Happy birthday, Tricia.

And happy birthday, too, to Rhys Bowen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homegrown wisdom.

Tertius has a thought and pauses in his reading. "Why are they called cowboys," he asks, "when they ride horses? Shouldn't 'cowboys' be men who ride cows?"

Not sure where that came from, since we were reading a book about Santa Claus. Mind you, I'm not sure why were reading a book about Santa Claus on a September day when the temperature reached the 80s.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stupid bloody Tuesday man!

Aaagh! Rookie mistake. "Come out the cow with glasses!" is a quote from John Lennon's poem "The National Health Cow," which appeared . . . not in In His Own Write, which he was off plugging when he should have been in Hounslow with the others, but in his second book, A Spaniard in the Works.

Errors like that can get me smashed with a brick.

And in reference to the title of my last post, I know John said "the Walrus was Paul" in the lyrics to "Glass Onion," but he indicates that he himself is (or was) that aquatic beast, both in the original song and background discussion about it, and in his later lyric "God." So there. Anyway, John was thinking of Lewis Carroll's poem at the time he wrote "I am the Walrus" -- just as "the eggman" seems to be Humpty Dumpty, also from Through the Looking Glass, despite competing possibilities -- but he was distressed to discover later that the Walrus was rather an unpleasant character.

Wow, a post that combines two of my chief obsessions, the Beatles and Lewis Carroll.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Walrus was nowhere.

Proof that you can know too much. For me, no viewing of a movie is complete these days until I've seen all the special features on the DVD and looked up the background information on Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Data Base. Yes, I'm an anal-retentive nerd, so what?

This weekend's movie was A Hard Day's Night. This is the latest in Daddy's continuing season of great grown-up films that I hope will show the boys there's more to the art of movie-making than the abysmal The Sorceror's Apprentice. (Can't believe I paid for four of us to see that crap!) So far we've done A Night at the Opera, the Back to the Future trilogy, Hitchcock's North by Northwest (very popular -- Bernard Herrman's theme music anticipates Philip Glass by at least 20 years) and Goldfinger*.

It doesn't get any better than the beautiful Beatles at their best, in inky blacks and shimmering, glowing whites. (A Hard Day's Night was the first movie restored and released on DVD.) And, as ever, when we get to the "Can't Buy Me Love" sequence of the lads disporting in a field, I inevitably brag that it was filmed in my home town of Hounslow, in West London.

But then I'm shocked to discover during my later reading that only three of the Fab Four were there for that secret day of filming on Thornbury Road playing fields, when my seven-year-old self was at Alexandra Infants School less than a mile away. The mighty John Lennon was off promoting his new book, In His Own Write** ("Come out the cow with glasses!") and his place was taken by a stand-in. A couple of inserts of him were edited in later.

Okay, the lovable moptops made much of the film at Twickenham Studios, which is nearby, although just outside the Borough. But the Beatles in Hounslow is part of my personal mythology. And twenty-five percent off is too big a discount when the missing man is John.

I lost Lennon. Again.

*Primus didn't ask for clarification of the "My name is Pussy Galore" "I must be dreaming" bit. Don't know if that's good or bad.

**Our daily newspaper in those days was the now-defunct Daily Sketch. It carried "Peanuts," which was my principal source of education about American life. (And still is.) It also had a daily strip called "Focus on Fact," giving a week's worth of information on various topics. About this time, the subject for the week was "The World's Best Seller." My mother looked up from the paper one morning and asked me pointedly if I knew what the world's best seller was. I shrugged, knowing little about the contemporary publishing scene. (And still don't.)

"John Lennon's
In His Own Write?" I ventured.

Wrong answer from the junior apostate. What I should have come up with, apparently, was The Bible. And this was a whole year before JL's "more popular than Jesus" fracas.

Monday, September 20, 2010

That Mussolini touch.

"UPDATE: Rush Hour Trains to Run On Schedule"

What does it say about the punctuality of New York's Metro North service that the above is worthy of a headline on the Rye Patch news website?

(Actually, it was a slightly odd wording for the news that regular service had resumed following a fire under the railway bridge that crosses the Harlem River, the boundary between the Bronx and Manhattan.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You had to be there.

Having published two comic mysteries (or so it says in that bit on the right), I have the unmitigated chutzpah to occasionally refer to myself as a professional humorist. Not a bad thing for the gravestone, mind.

But the fact is, I can only remember two marginally quick-witted things I've ever said without having to think about it first. They both take a bit of set-up (and now that I have thought about it, they're not very funny).

The first was back when I was working in Citibank's corporate headquarters. The boss's boss's secretary was a lady well past retirement age, whom I always found charming, although my female colleagues had other opinions about the extent of her affinity with Satan. It was the time when personal records were being computerized and centralized, and her advanced years clearly thwarted the programmer's expectations.

"Well, I typed in my birthdate, and it said 'invalid,'" she declared proudly, beaming. (Pronounced in-VAL-id.)

"That wasn't in-VAL-id, it was IN-valid," I shot back.

Yeah, I know. And anyway, she was slightly deaf and didn't hear me. The other time -- I was prompted by remembering that Edinburgh show, bugger, 32 years ago -- was back in England. One of my fellow performers, having completed his initial medical degree at Oxford and put in the appropriate time at a London teaching hospital -- Barts, I think -- was given his first assignment as a fully fledged doctor.

"I'm going to Bury St. Edmunds," he announced.

"Why, was St. Edmunds one of your patients?" I quipped.

Of course, to get the joke, you have to know that Bury St. Edmunds is the name of a town in Suffolk. And I also have a vague feeling that the conversation with John actually went like this.
"I'm going to Bury St. Edmunds."
"Why, was he one of your patients?"
"Was who one of my patients?"
"St. Edmunds."
"I don't have any patient called St. Edmunds. I haven't started yet."
"No, you said you were going to 'Bury' St. Edmunds."
"Well, I am."
"But I meant Bury as in put someone underground. Because he's dead. Bury . . . St. Edmunds. Get it?"
Etc. Move over, Oscar.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Colin Firth: You have been warned.

A few posts back, I mentioned my adoration and envy of the sublime cartoonist Ronald Searle, creator of the anarchic girls' school "St. Trinian's" and illustrator of the equally immortal "Molesworth" series, words by Geoffrey Willans. (When I was at university, the small comedy group that I belonged to wanted to turn Molesworth into a show for the Edinburgh Fringe. Mr. Searle, God bless him, gave us the go-ahead, but the heirs of the late Mr. Willans wouldn't grant permission, so we did a skit show instead, called "Once Bitten.")

The first St. Trinian's cartoon appeared in 1942. (Ronald Searle is 90 years old.) As well as filling many books, the cartoons inspired several classic movies in the 1950s and 60s. And I just rented the 2007 attempt to revive the franchise. This St. Trinian's, featuring Rupert Everett as the headmistress, got decidedly mixed reviews (although a sequel appeared last year), but I thought it was a hoot from start to finish, not least because it features Stephen Fry in his best role -- himself, always -- and sends up Colin Firth mercilessly.

I've always found that the heterosexual male reaction to actors who continually set the ladies' hearts a-fluttering (and not just their hearts, I hear) falls into two categories. Either the "Yeah, he seems like a good bloke and I suppose I can see why you'd call him good-looking, not that I'm gay or anything" group or the "Just because you like the way his tight white pants fit in No Way Out doesn't mean I can forgive him for Waterworld or The Postman, and I still think he looks like a rodent" group.

The likeable Mr. Darcy, sorry, Firth clearly fits the first group. But so too, when I first devised this scientifically tested distinction in the 1980s, did Mel Gibson, who has subsequently imploded in every possible category of life. On the other hand, founder member of the despised second group, Kevin Costner, stepped up to try to clean the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon spill. So be careful, Colin. That's all I'm saying.

And Costner was very, very good in Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World. Mind you, after The Bodyguard and that bloody song, anything would be an improvement. My song "Once Bitten," from the show of the same name, is brilliant. People left the theater singing it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Laugh track.

Back from a long walk with Leila, and listening to the tail-end (ha! "tail-end"! dog walking . . . how do I come up with them?) of a radio documentary about the "Carry On" movies, the great British comedy film series of the 60s and 70s.

From 1965's Carry on Cowboy, the magnificent Kenneth Williams as a wily judge tells reluctant plumber-turned-marshal Jim Dale that he can't round up the bad guys alone:

". . . You gotta take a posse with you," says Williams.

"Why, don't they like cats?" asks Dale.

It's stupid, but why am I rolling around the kitchen floor?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Simply irresistible. (Me or him?)

Talking of life as a baby dada (see last post), we celebrated our first Christmas as a threesome (in 1999) with my family in England. Unfortunately, work pressures forced the mem-sahib to postpone her flight for a few days, leaving me to fly ahead across the Atlantic, overnight, in sole possession of a ten-month-old.

Ahem, nailed it. Even down to changing diapers twice in the airplane lavatory, without dropping the baby down the toilet on either occasion. In fact, when we landed, and I was strapping Primus into the Bjorn, the people in the row behind expressed amazement that there had been a baby in front of them for the entire flight and they'd never noticed. (In this, it helped greatly that Primus was the least fussy infant on the planet, and charmed the stranger who'd been given the mem-sahib's empty seat next to him.*)

The point is, as a competent and devoted solo Daddy with a cute baby, the (female) flight attendants were all over me. In fact, I regard this as the high point in my life in terms of being attractive to the opposite sex. Even over my front-stage rendition of "Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes" in the high school production of The Gondoliers.

And the irony is that the very situation that made me so desirable was also the very thing that signaled my complete unavailability.

*I found out later, by recognizing him from the unfamiliar British television I watched over Christmas, that this was the Irish actor James Nesbitt, at that time starring in a popular sitcom called "Cold Feet." I don't suppose he was too pleased to find himself billeted next to a baby for the entire flight, but hey, you live by the standby, you die by the standby.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pride goeth before a . . . really?

Recent domestic events remind me -- you'll see why -- of an occasion not long after I moved to Rye, in 2003.

A then-four-year-old Primus was in preschool and had been invited to an afternoon birthday party at the home of one of his new friends. This was an open invitation to all siblings, and since the house was just a five-minute walk away and it was a fine day, I decided to leave the car behind. (As the work-at-home Dad, I've always done the parties.) So we set out, me in t-shirt and shorts, a diaper bag over my shoulder, Primus clutching one of my hands, his two-year-old brother the other, and baby Tertius happily nested  in a snuggly on my chest.

I was the only man at the party, apart from the guy managing the rented inflatable slide. As I didn't yet know many of the much younger, blond-haired mothers who were watching their progeny, I strolled over to chat to the slide man, because, well, inflatable slides interest me. Primus and Secundus were part of the whirl of kids climbing and sliding and scurrying back, slapping fives with me as they passed. And I could only imagine the thoughts of the ladies as they checked me out from their seats on the porch . . .

"Who is that distinguished yet still handsome gentleman, flawlessly handling three children, including a baby?" "See how effortlessly he juggles not one, not two, but three boys!" "Oh, if only my husband were this accomplished -- I never realized before just how sexy skilled parenting can be!"

I looked down with smug paternal pride at the face of Tertius in the Baby Bjorn. He looked up, smiled, shuffled slightly, burped, and then projectile-vomited all over me. I stood, suddenly isolated in the middle of the lawn, dripping and stinky, no change of clothes for either of us, facing no alternative but to slink back home through the streets of Rye in that condition with a protesting, barf-stained baby still strapped to me.

The ladies were very understanding. You could tell from the knowing looks they gave each other over their spritzers. My work was done.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

. . . and strikes again.

"This is my latest disguise," announces Tertius, marching into the living room. "What am I?"

I check him over. Bright red fire department slicker, bright red fire department sou'wester.

"You're a firefighter," I hazard. He grins.

"No, I said it was a disguise," he crows, and whips off the two items to reveal that underneath, he's wearing the chain mail of a medieval knight. Daddy got fooled again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't let them bite.

Master of Disguise strikes again. Fully recovered from his malaise, Tertius reorganizes the furniture at one end of the family room, arranging a table, tipped-over chairs, imported kitchen stools, cushions, and a stray exercise mat into a symmetrical pattern, which leads the eye toward the dog's food and water bowls, now elevated on the fluffy pad from her traveling crate. The drum kit from our Guitar Hero set sits to the side, adorned with a large saucepan for extra volume. He shows a remarkable sense of feng shui and zen principles. He announces that it's a special resort for Leila.

Moments later, he turns up wearing the helmet from a police costume, his mother's leather boots, and the dog's bright red winter jacket as a kind of tunic and announces that he's Leila's special "SWAT protector and bodyguard." A shame that the beast seems a little underwhelmed by this sudden attention.

* * *

Picture by Kathleen MacDonald
The traveling crate was used once only, when four-month-old Leila had been in our care for only three days before we had to drive her to Virginia for Thanksgiving. Since then, we've discovered she loves car travel so much that she's quite content to sit quietly in an assigned seat for hours -- with a doggy seat belt, of course -- either napping or keeping an eye on the world going by her window.

For short jaunts (and I've been shuttling solo around Rye a lot recently) she travels beside me in the front passenger seat, only occasionally sliding off with a resentful expression if I have to brake too sharply. But when I first slip her into the car, she immediately takes up a position on the driver's seat, staring stoically forward, and she won't move to the sidekick seat until I get in and shift her over. I have no explanation for this behavior other than suggesting that dogs have a sense of humor, and she's teasing me. Bitch.

* * *

NPR's "Fresh Air" is the latest lump of the media to tackle the nation's ever- expanding epidemic of bedbugs. Terry Gross's guest was an academic expert on bedbugs, roaches, fleas, etc. who rejoiced in the title of "Professor of Urban Entomology."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ask your doctor if laughter is the best medicine for you.

So no sooner do the three boys step out of the minivan on their return from Virginia on Labor Day than they all start barfing. Either a gastric virus or food poisoning contracted at one of the gastronomic shrines on the New Jersey Turnpike. Mem-sahib follows them to the bathroom shortly afterwards. I spend the night emptying pans and changing sheets at hourly intervals.

Tuesday morning, she cancels her business trip and returns to her bed, the young gents miss the first day of school -- and for Primus this was to have been his first day at Middle School -- and the dog gets fleas. I spend the day delivering the saltines and jello and ramen noodles, and manage to cram in a flea shampoo and a dose of Frontline, plus vacuuming every place Leila has lain.

I draw a veil over these distressing domestic events, Gentle Reader, and instead divert you with two jokes that might have made good cartoons if I'd ever developed any skills or style as a cartoonist. One of these is, in my hog-bonking opinion, worthy of The New Yorker. To create unnecessary tension, I shall not reveal which.

A senior manager at an investment bank is passing a sheet of paper to a subordinate, at the end of a performance appraisal: "As you know, Bill," he says, "we're not allowed to pay obscene bonuses this year, but I think you'll find this pleasingly R-rated."

I see. Okay, how about this. A personal banker is making a call to one of her clients: "Good news, Mr. Filstrup -- you officially have too much money for your own good."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My brush with art.

One of the books I studied when I wanted to be a cartoonist was Drawing Cartoons (how do they come up with those snappy titles?) by regular Punch contributor and illustrator, the late Michael ffolkes. I liked it as much for the jokes as for the instruction.

(Noah is on his ark, looking across the choppy waters to a similar vessel, crammed with unicorns, minotaurs, centaurs, sphinxes, and other beasts of myth. Noah, shouting to the other boat's captain: "Personally, I don't think she's seaworthy.")

I later worked with ffolkes (not his real name) and discovered that he hadn't kept a copy of this book. So I gave him mine, getting an autographed cartoon collection in return, and then another in the mail a week later, because he'd clearly forgotten he'd given me the first.

I told him about my reaction to one example in the instruction book. A diminutive, weedy, apologetic man in Victorian clothes is walking along a street, but the shadow cast on the wall behind him is of a vast, threatening monster. A passer-by comments to his companion: "He's a master of the macabre."

"But you know who that was?" Michael asked, frowning.

I did by then, I assured him; but the point I was trying to make to him is that when I first read the book as a young teenager, the contrast between the unassuming expression of the strange, small man and his enormous shadow was enough to make the joke hilarious, a tribute to ffolkes's skills at capturing character. It was funny, even though I hadn't recognized the caricature of Edgar Allan Poe.

[Caption] "No, I'm quixotic. He's panzaesque."

I bought the original of one of Michael's Punch cartoons as a Christmas gift for my first wife. It featured two tortoises, withdrawn into their shells, with the caption: "I'll say sorry if you'll say sorry." Too late for that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pookie, we hardly knew ye.

Breaking news from the world of paleontology . . . (That could be the most unlikely lede ever.)

Actual photograph of a Triceratops.
Apparently, some scientists believe that there's no such thing as a Triceratops. That well-known beast with its three horns and bony frill is now thought to be the juvenile form of a Torosaurus, and the fossils in the museums are merely teenage beasts that never made it to adulthood. Perhaps they were too busy texting when the T. Rex snuck up on them. So all those documentaries -- Jurassic Park, One Million Years B.C., and especially the Land Before Time series (see the picture) -- got it wrong.

Remember One Million Years B.C., the one that really did have Raquel Welch in the fur bikini? (Be still my ten-year-old heart.)* Possibly it's the memory of that cinematic masterpiece that has led three out of ten Texans to believe that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time. (And why do dinosaurs always "roam" the earth? Is it some technical term or merely the brain-dead cliche that it looks like?)

Anyway, this is dreadful news for Secundus, whose favorite dinosaur is the Triceratops. He even has a stuffed one called, obviously, "Pookie." And a hat.

It was bad enough when they took away the Brontosaurus. I mean, didn't these guys have enough trouble with that meteor without scientists going all existential on them? But this reminds me of a joke that I actually invented.

When I was a teenager, I worked very hard at learning to draw cartoons, but although I got fairly good, I never developed a personal style that I truly liked. (Oh for the talents of Ronald Searle or Ralph Steadman.) However, one of the cartoons that I planned to execute when my line finally improved would have featured two dinosaurs, walking side by side, and one of them is saying: "You know, I get a feeling that dinosaur jokes are on the way out."

You had to be there. But if you're a Texan, you probably were.

*The famous full-page color picture of Raquel Welch in the furry two-piece (and false eyelashes) graced the back cover of a 1966 copy of Film Review that was confiscated when I was in the English equivalent of fifth grade. This was an irreplaceable edition that had a feature describing all the sections of U.N.C.L.E. from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." television series, so I wanted it back. (All we'd known until then was that the agents Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin were in Section II.) But when I demanded the magazine's return at the end of term, Mr. Roberts claimed he couldn't find it. Yeah, right. 

Incidentally, despite starring La Welch, One Million Years B.C. was a British remake of an 1940 American movie called One Million B.C., starring Victor Mature and Lon Chaney, Jr., neither of them in the Raquel role, although Victor had the chest for it. The insistent title is notable for being a date when neither dinosaurs nor homo sapiens were doing any roaming.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ikea'd you not.

Mem-sahib has taken the boys to see their grandparents in Virginia for the long weekend, so I selflessly use the time to fix her bed.*

Here's the problem. She has a mattress base that's 59 inches wide. She has a bed frame from a well-known budget furniture store that has a 59-and-a-half- inch gap between its supporting flanges. Result: collapse of not-at-all-stout party and slope sleeping.

My brilliant solution -- bolt some lengths of 1 x 2 to the flanges to extend the supporting surface and thus reduce the gap by bringing the sides closer together. They should use me in the Mid-East peace talks. Elegant and effective. But enough about me, so too is the workaround. And I get to go to Home Depot and squint critically along lengths of lumber, which is good for my testosterone. Not that I have any use for it.

Of course, this shouldn't have happened in the first place. Nor should the simple act of tipping the frame on its side to tighten the nuts cause the whole thing to fall apart because of a bagful of cheapo, ill-conceived, ad hoc fastenings, developed by the same Scandinavian sadists who called the montrosity "Fljrt" or "Bjork" or "Grimble" or some equally ludicrous name that looks like the detritus of an unlucky Scrabble draw.

So my question is, when the air is blue because -- in the absence of my children and the presence of my dog -- I'm screaming about the "stupid f***ing useless piece-of-s*** bed," does it make me a racist if I throw the adjective "Swedish" into the phrase?

*Her bed? How can you claim to be so "selfless" when it's surely your bed, too, you slimy limey? Well, I've believed for ages that the secret of happiness is having your own bathroom, and for one brief shining Manhattan moment, I had that. After marrying someone whose cure for insomnia was to reach for the remote and turn on the television at three o'clock in the morning, I extended that to separate bedrooms, and I'm now up to residences. Long story, don't ask. Oh, wait, you didn't -- that was me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wilting, but willing.

Stepping out of Grand Central into the mid-morning heat. The Newsweek readout high above Madison already shows 99 degrees, and I have to walk to Sixth in a wool suit. Yes, it's the annual opportunity for my corporate clients to see me face-to-face, to clamp on the button-down cotton shirt, silk tie, Italian suit, and Oxfords instead of my usual summer business attire of shorts and t-shirt. But why today of all days?

Still, I take consolation that, cleaned up, I'm the hottest pentagenarian in Midtown, and I'm not just talking temperature.

A little humor with your breakfast.

There's been a thread on Rhys Bowen's blog about the use of the serial comma -- that punctuation before the last "and" in a series of three or more. (See the link to RB's "Rhys's Pieces" blog down in the right column.)

I came up with quite a good whimsy. If you punctuate the phrase "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" just so, is that using a "cereal" comma?

Get it? See what I did there? Cereal comma. How we roared! No, no, stop . . . I'm killing you, I know, I know, he guffawed, slapping his thigh and clutching his sides lest they split with mirth.

("Cereal" comma. Heh, heh, heh.)