Archives for category: humor column

Hello, my name is Neil and I’ll be your server this evening unless you want Bruce because he actually knows how to pronounce quinoa.

Although you’re still just trying to sit down and haven’t decided yet if you’re sitting boy-girl, boy-girl or some other more exotic configuration, would you like something to drink to begin the meal? Our drink menu includes a number of artisanal cocktails that combine ingredients you’ve never heard of in ways you can’t imagine. They also cost prices you won’t believe.

We have a number of specials on our menu tonight and I will now recite them all to you so quickly that you will undoubtedly ask me to repeat them at least two or three times. Then you probably will still forget most of them as soon as I move away and begin ignoring your frantic waving. Please don’t stop me in the middle of the recitation of my list because then I’ll have to go back to the beginning and start again, and who wants that?

Our soup special is a gingered cream of traditional rice balls with sashes of nori — and, no, we don’t know what that means either — with a dollop of shiitake mushroom extract. Traditionally, we use two iis in shiitake but our mushroom chef is considering using three iiis tonight to add some extra umami.

By the way, our umami is locally sourced and humanely harvested.

Tonight’s salad has been grown by local farmers who have never used chemically enhanced hand sanitizers. It includes baby bok choy, several adult boks who are chaperoning, heirloom tomatoes grown from organic looms, and caramelized caramels that have been taken out of their boxes and left to naturally dry and shrivel in the sun.

The special entree tonight is free-range pork belly, which is a boneless cut of fatty meat which five years ago you wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole but now you can’t touch without a couple of $20 bills. The pork belly is fennel-glazed, whipped to a froth, frothed to a whip, steamed, braised, sautéed and roasted for weeks on end over at Pig Sty Farm just down the road. The farmers will bring it directly to your table, as soon as they change out of their overalls.

The road they will take, by the way, is cage-free. The pork belly then was charred by two firemen who have, without GMOs, contained three wildfires in remote places in the state of Utah. Their credentials are available.

The pork belly is served over a pilaf of farro, a grain that no one had heard of three months ago, and accompanied by a relish made from peach compote and day-caught sea bass intestines that have been mixed with salted peanuts that we harvested only after the seventh inning.

For dessert, our pastry chef has concocted a special panna cotta sorbet tiramisu dulce de leche because we’ve run out of English words on the menu.

Would you like to see the regular menu now or are you ready to order? Or would you like a moment to make reservations elsewhere?

I can understand all the trouble the Republicans in Washington had coming up with a new healthcare bill.

Health insurance is so complicated many of us look forward to the day we can get Medicare, the government health insurance plan for those so old, like me, they can’t figure out how to change the greeting on their voice mail. That’s because being able to enroll in Medicare is one of the major benefits of getting older, right after being eligible for the Early Bird Special.

But enrolling in Medicare, which has many moving parts, isn’t that easy.

Medicare Part A, which is free, is essentially hospital insurance, which means you are insuring the hospital you won’t go there very often. But if you do appear too frequently, you get to buy one operation and get the second one 50 percent off.

Medicare Part B costs money, with your premium set each year by a group of secretive garden gnomes who know the year you were born and if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. If you enroll in the plan outside that time, you pay a higher premium and are forced to listen to remixed a capella versions of The Carpenters’ greatest hits.

Medicare Part B covers certain doctors’ services, but generally not the ones you will need. It also covers some outpatient care, mostly when you are an in-patient, and a few medical supplies, but not the Band-Aids you called for when you cut your finger slicing a bagel.

Then there’s Medicare Plan C, which is almost never called Medicare Plan C because that would be too easy. Offered by private insurers, these plans are designed to make up the difference between what Medicare pays and what the federal budget deficit is. They provide Part A and Part B benefits, and a free toaster.

Also, usually, they offer Medicare Part D benefits, which is actually prescription drug coverage because it would have been too simple to call it Medicare Plan Rx benefits.

Many different insurance companies offer these plans. Each company says its plan is better than all the other plans. Each company says it will cover more, will cover better, will cover 20 percent of this, 100 percent of that (after the first 35 percent) and 60 percent of the second 25 percent, minus the 18-percent co-pay.

If you’re still with us, then there’s a Medicare Supplement Plan, which is different from an Advantage Plan because it does not include Plan D prescription coverage and doesn’t make you pay co-pays after you meet your deductible, on a date set up by e-Harmony.

Your premium for an advantage plan or a supplement plan will depend on where you live, how old you are, whether you can remember the Lucky Strike cigarette jingle and if you have any previous conditions, such as breathing.

If you get a supplement plan, you then will have to get a separate Part D prescription plan, but there may be none left because you have taken so much time figuring out all the parts of the first part.

 

Watching Wonder Woman deflect artillery with her wrist bracelets, encircle all of Belgium with her magic lasso (fortunately, it’s a small country) and end World War I while never seeming out of breath got me, ahem, wondering.

It also got me jealous. I do not have magic artillery-deflecting bracelets. It’s hard to find them in the men’s department. I do not have an impermeable shield that’s probably machine washable or a special sword that can be either formal or business casual. Furthermore, I think I may have misplaced my magic lasso — it could be in the garage somewhere, maybe buried under the bag of cat litter we keep around as a cheap replacement for snow melt.

That is, I don’t have any superpowers and, to be frank, I would like some. Wouldn’t you? Which superpowers would you like? After somewhat careful consideration, these are the ones I figured out I would enjoy:

Flying. If I could fly on my own, I wouldn’t go through security control, not even TSA Pre-check. I’d refuse to put all my liquids in little baggies. And I definitely wouldn’t be flying economy or even premium economy. Also, I would most likely make sure I’d be in boarding priority Group 1, not 5.

Spamcontrol.  When my email spam filter doesn’t work and allows in messages that look like real emails but are, instead, solicitations from Nigerian princes or credit card companies, I gallantly refuse to forward any requests to share this offer with all my friends.

Decluttering muscle. As the need arises, and space diminishes, I am able to rid myself of tattered old T-shirts, supermarket bags and plastic ponchos from a 2007 visit to Florida’s Gator Land that have taken over the downstairs closet.

Technovision. With just the force of sheer concentration, this immediately enables me to understand how to transform a PDF file into a Word document. It also lets me upload to the cloud, although I would need the superpower premium version to discover where the cloud is.

Cocktail party command. I’ve just been introduced to someone I’ve never seen before at an intimate gathering. My new acquaintance wants to talk to me of his conspiracy theories about the connection between Russian meddling in the election and Beyonce’s twins. The person who introduced us has conveniently vanished. This superpower enables me to interrupt the tales of conspiracy and say I need to head over to the bar and get another drink and then to hide under the bar for the rest of the night.

Shapeshifting. This is, I realize, a very commonly desired superpower because just about everyone occasionally wants to change the shape of the body and look like someone else. This would be so much easier than abdominal crunches or bilateral arm curls. As someone who is severely flat-footed, I would really like to have arches.

Superspeed. Actually, this is not a superpower I want or really need. I am always early and get to the movies even before the first of the endless previews. But, not naming names here, if I could get this for my wife, when we’re getting ready to go out ….

 

It’s summertime, it’s vacation time. But before you can actually take a vacation and luxuriate in the fact that you’re on vacation and don’t have to plan taking a vacation, there are several things you need to do.

  • Put a vacation stop on your mail.

We are assuming here that posting to Instagram is not your only method of communication and that you still use the U.S. Postal Service on occasion. By putting on a vacation stop, when you return home your mailbox won’t be filled with 17 credit card solicitations, 14 mountain foreclosure sale advertisements, seven clothing catalogues, three cards telling you you’ve won a free trip to Cancun (if you will just call this number) and many coupons for Arby’s.

  • Tell your credit card companies that you are going on vacation and will be out of town and to keep an eye out for odd transactions from odd places.

This way, when the credit card company gets a transaction for thousands of dollars of jewelry bought in La Paz, Bolivia, you will realize you should have gone to La Paz where there are good buys on jewelry

  • Decide where you want to go.

For instance, I like the mountains. My wife likes the beach. So of course, we’ll be going to Poughkeepsie, which has neither, but is a great spelling bee word.

  • Decide how you’re going to get there.

Yes, you could fly. First, you’ll have to make your reservations before the price goes up.

Oops — the price just went up. But if you are willing to travel from a different airport on a different day to a different place and don’t mind that you’ll be sharing a seat with crying triplets, it’s a deal.

However, you also could spend three and a half hours in the airport before your delayed flight is canceled. Fortunately, the airline says they can get you there on Wednesday if you don’t mind standing during the flight, probably between seats 14A and B. And they definitely will ultimately get your bag to you, probably no later than Friday.

Instead, you could drive. This would allow you to take as much stuff as you want, and not pay for your first bag or take off your shoes in the security line when you are wearing very old socks.

But there could be traffic. There could be drivers in the left lane who are going 10 miles below the speed limit even though you are screaming at them to go faster. There could be drivers in the right lane that have had their turn signal on since Indiana. The only place on the road to stop for a bite will be Arby’s, and you left all the coupons at home.

  • Decide what you want to do when you get to your vacation spot.

Some people like to just relax on their vacations while others like to explore and discover. Still others like to argue with the airline about where their suitcases are.

Your flight is on time.

This includes the extra 47 minutes we’ve added to your 52-minute flight time so if we only arrive 26 minutes late we can say we were early.

We do not include in this estimation the 32 minutes it will take to move the plane to the gate, the nine minutes to open the gate door, the six minutes to wrench your carry-on out of the overhead bin, the two minutes to apologize to the woman you just hit with the carry-on as it was falling down and the five minutes to actually get off the plane without having to say “b’bye” to all members of the crew.

This also does not include the 48-minute walk from the gate (last one on the left) to the exit and the one-hour wait for a taxi.

Please continue to monitor your flight status to see if we’re going to stick with this absurd claim of being on time even though we have no idea if the flight that’s coming in, which will eventually become your flight going out, has even taken off from wherever or been built by Boeing.

Your flight has been delayed.

We’re telling you this now because we know you’ve already left the house and are heading to the airport and it really isn’t worth turning around at this point. Right now, we’re saying your flight’s delayed 15 minutes. But c’mon, even we don’t believe that.

In 15 minutes, we will say that your flight is delayed 25 minutes. At 25 minutes, we will say your flight is delayed 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, we will say 45 minutes. Then at 45 minutes, we will say that your flight is getting ready to leave from someplace else, where there has been a volcanic eruption, and you might as well go get some food or try to take a nap or finish your beach read.

At one hour and 30 minutes, we will say your flight never existed and you are at the wrong airport.

Your flight has been canceled.

This is because of anticipated bad weather. Or maybe it’s because of potential mechanical issues. It could be that the air traffic controllers need to go out to lunch. Or perhaps because it’s Tuesday. As we say in the airline business, whatever.

The next available flight to your destination is Thursday. At 5 a.m. Via Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We recommend that you book immediately, since this is high season in Bishkek.

If you wish to cancel your trip as a result of a flight cancellation or significant delay (17 hours or more in the terminal or at least three crying babies sitting immediately next to you), you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your ticket. However, you will have to pay the difference between the cost of your ticket and Warren Buffett’s after-tax income.

If you wish to reschedule your flight, your rescheduled travel must occur after Wednesday and before we merge with another airline. Additional fees may apply if the stockholders reject the takeover bid and we have to sweeten the pot.

Also, your rescheduled travel must be completed before the end of the year or our introduction of a new level of economy fare, to be called “Stockyard.” Additional fees may apply if you try to sit down.

If you want to know how much the additional fees will be, additional fees may apply.

How do you stay married for a long time? It’s not easy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of every two marriages ends in divorce. (The other one ends in Ohio.)

As someone who has been married forever — in fact, my wife and I recently celebrated what we think is our 332nd anniversary, and it’s really hard to get an appropriate card for that — we know a thing or two about marriage. As a public service, here are our marital secrets:

Secret No. 1: Have no secrets.

Admit that you were the one to finish the last chocolate chip cookie. Share the fact that for the last 17 years you have been an undercover North Korean spy. Tell your spouse that you really didn’t like La La Land no matter what you said immediately after.

Secret No. 2: Lower your expectations.

It’s important to remember that marriage isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there will be bumps along the road and the coffee will spill in your lap because someone forgot to put the cover on the travel mug correctly although I’m not naming names here. So when there are bumps, remember they are almost always your spouse’s fault.

Secret No. 3: Happily-ever-after doesn’t mean life together will be a fairy tale.

Instead of a fairy tale, sometimes married life will be a collection of short stories about people who have much more money than you do. Sometimes, it will be a limerick, usually one ending in a naughty word. Other times, it can be a crossword puzzle clue, like the three-letter ancient name for the city of Tokyo. Occasionally, married life will seem like a 19th-century Russian novel where everyone is named Goncharov or Carolnikov and you can’t tell what chapter you were in.

Secret No. 4: Don’t hold a grudge.

Unless, of course, someone asks you to do the dishes. Then you can say, sorry, I can’t, I’m holding a grudge from the last time you asked me and so my hands are full.

Secret No. 5: Never go to bed angry.

This may mean you have to avoid sleeping for several weeks. Drink a lot of coffee and pop some energy shots. If you get really tired, read a good Russian novel with characters named Goncharov or Carolnikov or watch what’s on Turner Classic Movies at 3 or 4 a.m. That’s when they have the really good ones that no one else sees because everyone else is sleeping.

Secret No. 6: Communication is important.

At breakfast, while sitting directly across the table from each other, be sure to send your partner a text. Check to make sure you’re both skimming similar Twitter feeds. Snapchat with him or her while in bed. Post to each other’s Instagram while you’re driving together to pick up the kids.

Secret No. 7: Show respect to your partner by paying attention.

Excuse me, what was that secret? Could you repeat that? Could you repeat the others, too?

Recently, I wrote about the importance of exercise and how if we want to both live longer and live better, we have to exercise even if it kills us. I noted that this is particularly true for anyone getting older, which research has shown appears to be most of us.

In fact, according to a new study published in either The Lancet or Teen People, aging patients who met the guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week found that they did not have to wear East Williamsburg hipster fedoras to appear to be younger and hipper.

But I failed to explain exactly what moderate exercise is.

Well, to begin with, we need to take 10,000 steps a day. To break that down into specifics, it means that every minute of the day we must take at least 6.95 steps, even if we are sleeping, eating or reading studies published in Teen People.

To get even healthier and fitter, we also should aim for 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity four or five days a week as well as 72 minutes of figuring out what aerobic means, 24 minutes determining how to spell it and 19 minutes of deciding whether feverish manipulating of the remote control qualifies.

Aerobic exercise, which is sometimes known as cardio and occasionally known as Bob, is technically exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Aerobic exercises, for example, would be jogging, swimming or screaming at the television set during a presidential press conference. In other words, it’s exercise that makes you gasp and unable to finish a sent … .

But to be truly fit, cardio isn’t enough. We also need strength training. We need to build up our muscle mass and get stronger so that when we are doing our cardio it doesn’t hurt as much. Also, weight-training helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism which is the little neurological system inside you that regulates your metabols.

The question is, how do you fit all this essential physical activity into an already busy day?  There are ways.

  • Set your alarm early. Get up at 1 a.m. You can do this if you go to bed at 3 in the afternoon while making believe you are sending out work emails.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits.
  • Exercise at work. Instead of sitting immobile staring at a monitor, every 15 minutes reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This will work your arms, your legs and your olde English.
  • Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.
  • Multitask. While exercising, think of stopping.

Now that you’ve finally jammed your 75-pound carry-on into the overhead bin and kept this flight’s other 132 passengers waiting in the aisle for 17 minutes while you were whacking that elderly lady in 14C in the face, please turn your attention to the front of the airplane for this safety briefing.

When the seat belt sign is on, you must fasten your seat belt. Otherwise we will use rope and glue to attach you directly to the seat and will not be able to guarantee that you will come unstuck after landing.

To fasten your seat belt, just in case you’ve never been in an automobile before and don’t know how to do it, take this piece here and stick it into this piece there. Wait for the click. Then pull the strap to tighten until you can barely breathe and you’ve left stretch marks on your hips.

We suggest you keep your seat belt fastened throughout the flight, as we might encounter rough air, which is the term we now use instead of turbulence, which is the term we used to use to indicate we’re about to plunge into the ocean.

There are several emergency exits on this aircraft. Please take a few moments now to locate them. If you find them all, you will receive 20 percent off your drink order on your next flight.

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, a book of appropriate prayers will automatically drop down and appear in front of you. To begin rhythmically chanting, pull the prayers toward you, place them firmly over your nose and mouth and scream as loud as you can. The screams will be muffled and thus not alarm your seatmates.

If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, say your prayers first, and then apologize directly to the child for your refusal to ever get her a pet.

A life vest is located under your seat or between the armrests. Or maybe it’s in the bins, squashed by your 75-pound carry-on. When instructed to do so, open the plastic pouch and remove the vest. Slip it over your head. No, not the plastic pouch, you ninny. Pass the straps around your waist and adjust at the front.

If it still doesn’t fit, perhaps you’re not a size medium after all.

To inflate the vest, pull firmly on the red cord. If there is no red cord, pull firmly on anything you can find until something works. This would include your seatmate’s ears or the flight attendant’s bow tie.

Your seat bottom cushion also can be used as a flotation device, particularly since it’s not very good as a seat cushion, especially if you are seated in regular economy.

At this time, all your portable electronic devices — including your mobile phone, your laptop, your iPad, your Kindle, your Apple watch and your Tickle Me Elmo must be set to airplane mode until further notice.

Please remember that this is a non-smoking flight. If you smell smoke, therefore, it’s probably one of our engines.

You will find all other safety information in the card located in the seat pocket in front of you. It’s the one with the chewing gum stuck to it.

As we get older, exercise becomes more important. That’s because, as we age, our muscle mass decreases. Each year, past 40, we lose 3.5 percent of our muscle mass and since our brains are also shriveling, we can’t remember where we lost it. Maybe it’s in the back seat of the car? Could be in the upstairs closet. Who knows?

But exercise can take your mind off the reality of decreased muscle mass and getting older and help you focus, instead, on that new throbbing in your chest. With exercise, just a few minutes a day can keep your body the finely tuned machine it never was. In fact, according to recent studies, for every minute of exercise during your lifetime, you will have one less minute to complain about exercising.

Exercise also will help you live longer, or maybe it will just feel like it. Among other benefits, it can ward off a multitude of diseases, most of which you can’t spell. Exercise makes you look better, feel better and can help you sleep, as long as you don’t try to nap while on the treadmill. By releasing endorphins into the central nervous system, exercise can produce the state of euphoria, which is near Kansas and renowned for its pushups.

It engages the mind as well, prompting you to come up with even more ingenious excuses for not exercising. “Look, it’s raining dinosaurs!” is a good excuse, even if you’re under covers in your bed imagining abdominal crunches. Or, “Hey, we’re out of Honey-Nut Cheerios!” sometimes can work, particularly if you’re really out of Honey-Nut Cheerios.

We know that exercise is good for us, and particularly good for those of us who are aging, because we keep reading all these articles telling us exercise is good for us, particularly for those of us who are aging. Get out there and walk! Run a marathon! Take up kick-boxing! Beat up your neighbor! Do squats with a kettle ball while swimming during a Zumba class!

Reading all these articles can be completely exhausting, but will get your heart rate up, maybe even to the target range. (By the way, to figure out your target heart rate range, take your resting heart rate — the rate you have when listening to someone sell insurance — multiply that by the number of medications you take on a regular basis, not including vitamins and chocolate, and then subtract how many times you want to nap before it’s even noon. Remember to always exercise at about 85 percent of your target heart rate or 73 percent more than you’d prefer to be doing.)

But while we all acknowledge that exercise is good for us, and becomes more important as we age, let’s admit it: as we age, there are more interesting things to do, like reading obituaries and noticing how many obituary subjects are younger than we are. So, yes, it’s difficult to get started on an exercise regimen.

Here, then, are a few common-sense suggestions to help launch your new fitness plan:

First, assess your fitness level. And don’t be discouraged when you find out you have no fitness level. At least you still have blood pressure.

Consider your fitness goals. It’s probably not realistic to think you can win an Olympic medal in Zumba. Instead, aim for something more achievable — like a participation trophy in 7-card stud.

Build exercise activity into your daily routine. For instance, try to work out every Flag Day or any morning when you intend to pay your utility bills.

Find a fitness buddy.  I recommend my friend Rob, who hates exercise as much as I do and also would prefer getting a beer and a couple of doughnuts.

And remember — before you start any exercise program, check with your medical providers. If you’re lucky, maybe they will stop you.

Welcome to your personal patient portal, created by your physician to give you digital access to all your medical records while scaring the bejeezus out of you.

On our home page, you will first find your health summary and a list of all your past medical conditions, even if you continue to insist that you never had chicken pox and it was just allergies. You will be able to discover that despite vowing to give up high fructose corn syrup 11 years ago, you’ve still got the profile of a pretty sick puppy.

You also will find on the home page all the diseases you are likely to contract over the next couple of weeks, particularly if you will be on an airplane sitting next to someone who is sneezing. And you will be sitting next to someone who is sneezing. (We are not counting as serious symptoms here that pain you sometimes feel just above your right hip or that sound in your chest you think you hear every time you swallow an avocado, assuming that both are just part of your excessive hypochondria. We are pretty sure neither pain is a sign of incipient mad cow disease.)

On the right side of the page are listed your current diagnoses, written in formal medicalese so you will be sure you actually have Ebola instead. These diagnoses include, but are not limited to:

Chiroptophobia

Fear of baseball bats

Pes planu

Hyperlepidoptera

When, in a panic, you look these conditions up, you will find out you have a fear of bats, a fear of baseball bats, fallen arches on both your feet and an excessive amount of butterflies.

Also on the home page will be your list of allergies. While you may not be allergic to all of the substances listed, frankly, why take a chance?

Now go to the page that lists your medications. In cases where it is applicable, we have used the incomprehensible generic name so you will have no idea if this is the medicine for your gout or for werewolf syndrome.

Continuing on, you will come to the results page, where you will find the results of all the tests you have taken, including the prostate exam, the cholesterol screening and the PSAT. The results of those exams are written in formulas like 2.3x10E3/uL, so good luck.

Next, click on the button that will take you to the page where you can ask your medical providers questions that they will not respond to. If the question is particularly urgent, make sure to get in touch with your friend Kim, the one who’s married to the cardiologist, before typing.

If you want to obtain a new prescription or refill an old prescription, go to the page that’s called “Prescriptions.” Do not go to the page that’s called “Treatments for Werewolf Syndrome.” You will note on this page that we do not do prescriptions through our patient portal.