Thanks, Alfred!

When you’re staying in a strange, rural area, and you pass an old, gabled farmhouse, and happen to look up and see the unmoving outline of a woman backlit against a third-floor window, what thought comes to mind?


Psycho, of course!  Even though there’s no Bates Motel sign to be seen, you’re subconsciously scanning the landscape for a knife-wielding Anthony Perkins clad in an old-fashioned full-length dress.  No steaming hot shower is ever completely comfortable when you are in the immediate vicinity of such a scene, is it?  And that slashing, stabbing Psycho soundtrack music helpfully starts playing in the back of your mind to add to the creepiness factor, too.

l’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why a woman would be up in the third floor of a house, framed against the window.  Maybe it’s her favorite place to watch TV, or maybe that precise spot is where cell phone reception is inexplicably the strongest.  Or maybe it’s just a rotting, maggot-infested corpse kept there by a deeply disturbed murderer with a Mommy complex.

Thanks, Mr. Hitchcock!

The Republican Hair Club For Men

Say what you will about the Republican candidates for President, but you have to concede one thing:  they are displaying a fantastically diverse set of hairstyles.  With 16 men ranging from 40s to nearly 70 in the field and not a chrome domer in the bunch, the GOP guys have beaten the odds.  In fact, it’s so statistically improbable that you have to wonder if it isn’t random chance and instead was the a plan of a shadowy, secret organization . . . .

Chairman TRUMP:  OK, I’m calling this meeting of the Republican Hair Club for Men to order.  Gentlemen, congratulations on a good first debate.  Governor Bush, do you have a report for us?

Gov. BUSH:  Yes, Mr. Chairman.  As you all know, our plan was to subconsciously appeal to the deep-seated hair fantasies and vanities of the American male by presenting candidates who cover the broadest possible range of different coiffures short of outright baldness  And I’m pleased to say it has worked beyond our wildest dreams.  Our studies show that not only did that first Fox debate achieve record ratings, but the vast majority of men who tuned in really were just checking out our different stylings.

Sen. CRUZ:  And I’m betting a number of those viewers saw the benefits of Brylcreem, didn’t they?  The success of Mad Men made American men recognize that “a little dab’ll do ya” is a darn good look.  In fact, you might even say it’s slick.  Get it?

Chairman TRUMP (sighing):  Senator — we get it, we just don’t want it.  I’m from the “wet head is dead” school myself.  And I know Governor Bush prefers his distracted professor look, Governor Walker has the “boyish front, bald spot in back” ‘do covered, Dr. Carson’s strongly representing the short hair contingent, Senator Rubio and Governor Huckabee are displaying the benefits of a razor cut at both ends of the age spectrum . . . .

Sen. PAUL (interrupting):  And don’t forget us Kentuckians who want a haircut that reminds everyone of Davy Crockett and his coonskin cap!

Chairman TRUMP:  Still having a bad day, eh?  Yes, Governor Kasich?

Gov. KASICH:  To add to Governor Bush’s report, I wanted to note that the polling data is showing that my little surge in New Hampshire is almost entirely attributable to my coiffure.  I was going for a rumpled, devil-may-care look, but in the North Country where they hibernate for most of the winter, it’s been interpreted as “bed head.”  It just shows the political value of an ambiguous, multi-purpose styling that covers a number of bases.

Sen. RUBIO:  That’s an excellent point, Governor.  And it reminds me:  the barbers, hair stylists, and product manufacturers that have been of our strongest supporters have identified a gaping hole in our coverage of the spectrum of men’s hairstyles.

Dr. CARSON:  It’s the mullet, isn’t it?

Sen. RUBIO:  Precisely.  How about it, Governor Christie?  As the representative of the Garden State, you’re the logical choice, aren’t you?  Of course, you’d have to get a tattoo and maybe a piercing, too.

Gov. CHRISTIE:  I think you’re confused there, Senator.  I could see it if you were asking me to adopt a greasy or spiky Jersey Shore-type cut, but a mullet really is more of an Appalachian look, so I’ll have to defer to Senator Paul to take his tousled ‘do to the obvious next level.

Gov. WALKER:  Speaking of the next level, Mr. Chairman, when are you going to share with us your secret about how you hold that extravagant mane of yours — whatever it is — in place?  Is it a gel or cream?  Is it some kind of top-secret spray?  Lacquer?

Chairman TRUMP:  Sorry, boys — but that information is more classified than the email found on Hillary Clinton’s private server.

Gov. HUCKABEE:  It’s about time that someone talked about the opposition!  I suggest that each of you stop this orgy of self-congratulation and think for a minute about the Democratic front-runner.  Let’s face it:  Secretary Clinton, alone, has covered more hairdos than our entire group.  She’s had short cuts, long looks, hair flipped up at the end, hair curled under — I’m sure if I did enough internet research I could find an ’80s big hair coiff and maybe even a beehive in her past, too.  It’s incredibly impressive.  She’s just one woman, yet she’s managed to span virtually the entire spectrum of women’s hairstyles!

Chairman TRUMP (suddenly somber):  He’s right, men — we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.  This meeting is now adjourned.  Senator Cruz, could you clean off the back of your chair before you go?

Office Dog

IMG_6533Today I did something I’ve never done before:  walk Kasey down to the office to keep me company while I got some work done.  I think she enjoyed herself, after first giving my office a thorough sniff test around the perimeter, and later finding just the right-sized patch of sunlight where she could stretch out and nap.  Her snores and snorts provided some funny background noise as I worked.

I think it’s also safe to say that Kasey thought the elevator was weird, magical, and a bit frightening.  She was glad when the doors slid open and she could get out.



Kish and I try to be environmentally sensitive people.  We recycle religiously, we walk rather than drive if possible, and we generally try to do whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint.  That includes buying products that purport to be protective of the environment.

Sometimes, though, the environmentally sensitive products have . . . issues.

IMG_6422Recently Kish picked up compressed hardwood firewood for our outdoor fire pit.  The product looks like a kind of blond, fibrous brick, so it’s not exactly as attractive as old-fashioned logs.  It’s considered “environmentally responsible” because it’s made from leftover wood, so it is a recycled product of a sort, there are no additives, and it purports to burn hotter and produce less smoke, ash, and creosote.   We’ve found that it’s perfectly serviceable in the burning department, although it lacks that natural wood snap and crackle.

So, what’s the problem?  The packaging for these wooden blocks says they should be stored in a dry place — which is perhaps the greatest commercial understatement since the Coca-Cola Company admitted that New Coke was off to a rocky start.  What the package should say, in huge letters, is:  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU STORE THIS PRODUCT OUTSIDE OR EVER LET IT GET WET!!!  Because, as we discovered to our chagrin, if you do expose the product to moisture, the “compression” element of the product goes poof, and you end up with split shrink-wrap packages from which mounds of sawdust, wood chips, and tiny splinters have erupted and spilled everywhere.  And good luck cleaning up the dust and miniature toothpicks that somehow immediately find their way into every nook and cranny!

I guess it’s a small price to pay for less creosote.

The Kasey Kough

Kasey likes her walks, but they come at a price.  Nine times out of ten, she ends up with what I call the Kasey Kough — a kind of weird, rasping, unnerving throat noise that makes everyone think that she’s got some kind of soon-to-be-fatal doggie disease.

IMG_6449The problem is this:  Kasey can’t wait to get outside for her walk, and she strains mightily against the leash to move ahead as quickly as possible.  Unless you sprint down the stairs and trot along as she moves from here to there, as unpredictably as the tail of a rattler, you’re going to apply some resistance to the leash . . . and therein lies the rub — literally.

Kasey apparently has the most delicate throat in the canine kingdom.  If you tug on the leash even slightly, it provokes an apparent throat muscle collapse that causes her to start making a kind of retching, throat-clearing sound, as if she’s trying to get rid of a hairball or is about to shoot a phlegm wad across the street.  It’s a disturbing noise that causes passersby to look at us with some suspicion, as if we’ve just come from the nightly dog-strangling session at our house.

When Kasey gives us the Kasey Kough, Kish will give her an on-street throat massage to try to restore whatever throat integrity Kasey once had.  Sometimes this technique works, but mostly it doesn’t, and Kasey keeps hacking away.  Often the wracking heaves don’t end until we’ve turned the last corner on the way home.

It’s always a relief to know that she’s survived another walk.

Modern Snooping

My grandmother had a relative — I’m not sure I was ever told who, exactly — who was an impossible, totally unreformed snoop.

Every time this woman went to someone’s house she would find an excuse to use the facilities and then surreptitiously wander through nearby parts of their home, opening desk drawers, rifling through the contents of wastebaskets, and checking out closets, hoping to find something of interest.  She viewed herself as a kind of community detective, and If she was ever found on her information-gathering jaunt she would just claim, however implausibly, to have gotten lost on her way back from the bathroom.

IMG_6417For this nosey busybody, the Holy Grail of her quest for confidential information was the medicine cabinet in the upstairs bathroom.  She viewed it as a kind of ultimate window to the soul that could reveal all kinds of inside scoop that might be worthy of a little gossip around town.  The pill bottles, patent medications, trusses, and other devices that might be found all were little clues that could help her to spin a well-weaved tale about whether Esther had a heart problem or Harry was hitting the bottle a little too hard.

The march of technology has closed some windows for the snoopers among us — the death of the party line phone probably caused this particular buttinsky to weep bitter tears — but of course new windows have been opened.  And I found myself wondering:  if my prying relative were around today, would the upstairs medicine cabinet still be her goal, or would she have concluded that other places would yield more of the kind of juicy tidbits that inveterate gossips crave?  No doubt she would have concluded that you could tell a lot about a person by seeing what’s in their freezer, or the programming they’ve DVR’d.

But I’m guessing the new dream destination of the scandalmonger, were she still among us, would be the home computer or the smart phone.  She’d have developed some rudimentary hacking skills in hopes of checking out what she could find under the history or bookmark tabs of the internet portal, what email messages had been sent, and whether there were any especially incriminating selfies kept in that iPhoto library.

These days, medicine cabinets are for pikers.