Online Media Marketing Misfires Again

“We are so excited to let you know that today is the day …” sucked me in. A poster child for “easily distracted,” I am easy prey for publicists on fishing expeditions.

My keyboard began to pulsate, the keys rising and falling in anticipation.

“Yoomi Bottle Hits Shelves Today in U.S.”

I read on. “Yoomi Bottle is a feeding system that warms expressed breast milk …” Well, there’s good news! For some women, perhaps. For this grandmother, the news is decades late. I lost interest in babies, breast milk, pumps and self-warming mammary-produced nourishment when Tricky (“I am not a crook”) Dick was in the White House.

Gagging on the breast-pump hype, I spit up. And, still smarting from my annual mammogram a month ago, I declined the offer for images. It pains me to even think about it.

I considered ignoring the messenger (or shooting her). Instead, I replied.

Dear Publicist Trying to Make Your Quota:
I haven’t breastfed recently. My son is 40, my daughter 42. Fortunately, they outgrew their fondness for it well before college.

Believe me, I wish I could produce milk. I’d be on the cover of the Guinness Book of Records, have money in the bank, and star in my own (un)reality show.

Please don’t send me messages pertaining to: breast milk (warm, cold or room temperature), infantile seborrheoic eczema, educational nursery décor, inoculation schedules, projectile vomiting, holistic cures for prickly heat, stuffed animals, nasal aspirators, poopy diapers, toys with moving parts, pediatricians, infant carriers, children’s photographers, colic, lead paint, traveling with kids, ear infections, Ralph Lauren onesies for 3-month-olds, teething, and undescended testicles.

I want no further communiqués from your company, unless your clients sell: adult diapers, gas busters, energy elevaters, memory enhancers, varicose vein concealer, facial hair remover, cellulite zappers, mood menders, discount vodka, or all-expenses-paid trips to Maui.

Thank you.


Invitation to Paradise

Dear Your Holiness:

First, let me congratulate you on your retirement.

After eight years in the Holy Office, thirty-nine tweets, and your final ride in the Popemobile, I understand you are kicking back at Castel Gandolfo.  It ain’t chopped liver but, let’s face it, Benny (okay if I call you Benny?), the Vatican must be a tough act to follow.

Like that mighty fortress, Gandolfo is also surrounded by guards and high walls. So you’re still a prisoner, in a manner of speaking. You may feel claustrophobic, develop cabin fever and want to break out. Escape to somewhere away from prying eyes. Pad about in your skivvies and bare feet (or red velvet slippers) without attracting the paparazzi. 

Which is why I’m extending an invitation to visit us in the Florida Keys. The guestroom (queen-size bed, large windows, ceiling fan, walk-in closet) and en suite bath are clean and comfortable. (Feel free to bring your own monogrammed sheets, if you wish.)  In the drawer of the bedside table are a Gideon’s Bible, left years ago by a previous guest, and a box of coconut patties. Have at them. For $10 at the local flea market (Saturday and Sunday, 8am-3pm) you can pick up a rosary of cowries and candy-striped snail shells.

The small porch off the bedroom may remind you of St. Peter’s Balcony. But on a smaller scale, of course.  Instead of delivering messages to thousands of your flock in the piazza, you can address the flocks of pelicans, egrets and herons worshipping in the sanctuary across the street. We’ll even toss in field glasses and an Audubon guidebook.

In the living room you’ll find an honor library to help you pass the time when you’re not praying or snorkeling. As long as you replace the books when you’re done, mi libre, tui libre.  Among the authors filling our shelves are John D. MacDonald, Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen.  Give us an hour or two and we’ll translate them into German or Latin; explain the humor.

Meals here are simple. We grill fish most evenings, heat a loaf or two which you can dunk in sacramental wine—or oil and chopped garlic. After supper we cast the bread crumbs into the canal behind the house, attracting mangrove snappers and the occasional barracuda and blotto sinner.

No need for you to be concerned about drawing attention to your holy self. Trust me, nobody will recognize you in shorts and a Key West wife-beater shirt.  You’ll blend right in with the local fashionistas on their tricycles and mopeds. Hell, most of the citizenry left the church when they dropped out in the ‘60s. They don’t know what day it is or (meaning no disrespect) who shares their sleeping bag.  So they’ll accept you at face value─buy you a beer, flash a gold tooth and blow smoke in your face at the local tiki bars. To them, you’ll be just another white-haired hippie who tired of the rat race. 

A word to the wise:  Be yourself.  Keep it simple.  Try, “Hi, I’m Joe from Bavaria. Got any ganja?”

We hope you’ll take us up on our invitation to get outta Gandolfo and experience Paradise, Keys style.




Where’s Buddy?

On a recent morning I arrived at a New Jersey nursing home to visit my dad’s elder brother. I’d been told that soon after he moved in, a nurse asked, “Who are you here to see?” That he was upright, dressed immaculately and walking, fooled the staff at first. But that was before he began asking for his ex-wife every 12 seconds.

Truth is, he’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Or, in geriatric jargon, “in and out.”

Why would anyone expect more? He recently celebrated his 97th birthday. Hell, he walks, talks, and takes nothing stronger than baby aspirin. Golda Meier used to be my role model. Now it’s Uncle Buddy.

We had last seen each other several years ago in his stylish Scottsdale condo.  Back then, I had dark hair and a waistline. Back then, he knew what day of the week it was and performed a short ballet d’occasion in his long johns.

I knew he’d lost some cognitive abilities before moving East last summer and—take your pick—had Alzheimer’s or senile dementia. I fretted. What if he doesn’t know me?

I queried my cousin. “Should I call before visiting?”

Her reply was terse. “Just show up. He’s going nowhere.”

I’ll admit to being a tad nervous. It didn’t ease my anxiety when I couldn’t get into the building through what looked like the one-and-only entrance. In frustration, I rang the emergency bell. Over the intercom, a high-pitched voice instructed me to “go to the next door.”  I looked around and wondered, Where?

“Turn around so your back is to the building and walk to the right.” She enunciated every syllable as if I were the village idiot. God on my side, I found the door and let myself in. Holding my breath because relatives had described graphically the snake pit’s urine stench, I was pleasantly surprised to inhale without losing my breakfast.

A middle-aged woman sat hunched over a newspaper. “Ahem, I’m looking for my Uncle Buddy.”

“Buddy is in 209. Just take the elevator,” she said without looking up.

Imagine entering the Pentagon for the first time and receiving the same sketchy information.

After 10 minutes of dead ends, I returned to the welcome(?) desk. “How do you get to the elevator?”

“Just take a right.” She gestured toward the ceiling. “Then two lefts. You can’t miss it.”

I did as I was told and landed in a day room with a minion of wheelchair-bound seniors. “Have you seen Buddy?” Gazes glued to the floor, they tongued spittle sliding from the corners of their mouths.

“Thanks, y’all. Merry Chri … , I mean, Happy Chanukah,” I said on my way out.

I returned to the front desk. “Um, I can’t find the elevator. Do you have a map?”

This time she stood up to deliver the directions. I listened intently.

Eureka! I found his room. Perhaps I had a few good months before checking myself in.

The door was closed. Not wishing to catch my uncle in bed with an obese dietician with a nose ring, I knocked softly while calling his name. Nada. I cracked the door, stepped into the room and landed in the lap of an African American. He wore a windbreaker with the Harvard emblem. Two things I knew: 1) My uncle had Irish-white skin, and 2) he went to Penn.  Nobody had mentioned a roommate. Harvard suggested trying the room next door.

“But his name is on this door,” I wailed. He looked at me blankly.

Roaming the halls, I called, “Buddy, Buddy … ”

Then I began to worry. My uncle might be in danger. Or lost. Maybe he’d escaped in a laundry cart then caught a bus for Rockefeller Center. Or thumbed a ride to the Jersey Shore for a hot dog at Max’s.

I scampered back to the cheery receptionist. In a futile attempt to reassure me, she said my uncle “could be anywhere.” Picturing him in a dumpster under a pile of damp Depends and half-eaten latkes, I asked if he might be at lunch.

We’d reached the tipping point. “He doesn’t eat now. He eats later” [you nincompoop]. She commandeered a muscle-bound attendant with abstract forearm tattoos.  Or maybe they were knife wounds. “Take this woman around until you find Buddy.”

Tweedledum and Tweedledee entered a room where a symposium on Judaism for Dummies was in full swing. “Nope, I haven’t seen Buddy,” said the leader.

We got the same response at Elementary Origami and How to Eat With a Plastic Fork And Not Put Out Your Eye. The attendant’s sorrowful expression said he was running on empty.

At that very moment, we rounded a corner. There, looking spiffy in pressed khakis, an oxford shirt and tasseled loafers, sat my Uncle Buddy in a club chair.

“It’s your little niece, Beth,” I squealed as I approached.

I might as well have declared myself Lady Gaga.  Or Vladimir Putin. I pointed to my silver hair. “It used to be brown.”

His face lit up. He stood and shuffled toward me. “Oh, Beth! How are you, sweetie?”

We hugged and moved to a green sofa to chat side by side.

“I’m so happy to see you, Uncle Buddy.”

“And I’m thrilled to see you. What did you say your name was?”


Dear Santa:
I’ve been a bad girl.
I woke up realizing that I had not had an eye exam in 4 years.  I know, I know–I need to take better care of my eyes. And teeth. And varicose veins. And thinning hair.  And a few other things that qualify as TMI.
Wishing to correct my oversight (and add new glasses to my 2012 tax deductions), I flew into an eyeglass box store this morning.
Boy, was I shortsighted! I did not anticipate killing  3 (THREE) hours at the  business for which I had coupons totaling  $7.
First I spent half an hour trying on 400 pairs of frames, aided by a softspoken woman with infinite patience (or, maybe she was on something). Delicately,  and with great tact, she explained why 398 of  the frames were unsuitable, because they clashed with my hair, were too large for my face, didn’t sit right on the thick bridge of my nose, or wouldn’t go with my wardrobe (of black jeans).  Together we narrowed down the choices to 2 frames–one for the everyday trifocals that would  prevent me from walking into walls and confusing my neighbor’s golden retriever with a marmoset; the other, for the many outdoor activities I enjoy, like slurping ice cream, taking out the trash, and picking dog doo from my shoes.
Frames in hand, I waited for a  pre-exam with a pre-doctor. The highlight, as always, was “the little puff of air” he blew onto my fully exposed eyes.
I then waited half an hour for the optician who, during the interview portion of the appointment,  thought it fascinating that I’m a writer and editor. “Not so fascinating,” I said, “when it’s time to pay bills.”
He shared with me his tastes in reading, his desire to write, and the names of several authors who write the old-fashioned way–by putting pen to paper.  I feigned interest for a spell.
I felt like saying: “Take me out for dinner and I’ll tell you everything  you want to know. Toss in dessert–and who knows where this will lead!”
Next, he asked me to identify the circles on a piece of paper he held half an inch from my face.
“Huh?” I saw smudge marks.
He told me not to worry (about my blindness) and finished the exam.
The exam completed, I returned to the glasses lady who measured me, marked my eyeballs with a black marker on dummy glasses, asked me if  I wanted plastic or glass ( middle or top of the line), glare or non-glare, diamonds or emeralds ….
After close to 3 hours (2 of them occurring well past my lunchtime), she went to the laboratory, returned a fortnight later and delivered the coup d’grace: “We don’t have THOSE lenses in stock.”
“Don’t you have some empty Coke bottles lying around?” I asked.
No, says she. “We’ll have to order them FROM OUR HEADQUARTERS IN TEXAS.”
“But what if they secede this week?  How many days will that take?”
Without missing a beat, she replied, “2 weeks!”
“This is a Hannukah joke, right? You ran out of oil?”
Well, Santa. I can pick up my new glasses on Dec. 24. After 3pm.
Right across the street from the mall and all those nutsy last-minute shoppers.
I guess that’s my punishment for misbehaving.
So, I may not make it home in time for your visit. If the cookies are stale, please understand. I’ll be better next year.

Look who’s speaking at the ASJA Conference…

Lucy hates winter.

Small dog, big snow.

Lucy leads crusade to ban winter.

Ban Winter: It’s Unconstitutional!

It’s official—There’s snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states.

With this bellwether, we can swiftly ban winter.

Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate Christmas in hot pants and know your mother-in-law wouldn’t be stuck at your house an extra week?  

If we follow our legislators’ lead—find words in the Constitution to support our cause—we can delete December through March for eternity.

This goal in mind, I began scrutinizing the Constitution for the right words, already scripted by the Founding Fathers.

 Eureka! There it was, smack dab, in the Preamble:

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

“Welfare” jumped off the page and hit me upside the head.

          Welfare (according to the American Heritage Dictionary): n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being.

Only a moron would think that weeks of subfreezing temperatures, blizzards, ice and sleet storms promote health, happiness, prosperity and well-being.

Haven’t we had enough global cooling? 

Constituents in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest will storm Congress to legislate for a revised calendar sans winter. 

Most of the South will surely follow suit. Crackers are always caught with their overalls down when storms strike.

With a little effort, we can gain support from non-skiing Westerners. 

Granted, we may have trouble appealing to Florida, the lone state without snow. But when was Florida ever part of the U.S.? Everybody knows it’s a suburb of New Jersey.

We can do this! Before the first crocus breaks through the slush, we can build grassroots support that will make the 2008 election look like a day at the beach.

Are you with me?


This is a vacation?

Sunday’s Washington Post devoted too many tape-measured inches to a fitness boot camp vacation. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Imagine spending three precious vacation days at Camp Lejeune. Gee, where do I sign up?

An hour from Tampa you can pay $1,475 recession dollars for 3 days of punishing activities such as a 4-mile beach run before breakfast. If that doesn’t float your avoirdupois, step on a scale at 6am (A splendid way to start the day.) Schlep a 5-gallon water bottle tipping the scales at 45 pounds around a gym. Scuttle crablike across a basketball court. Meet with a nutritionist. Gloriosky!

 Gee, where have I been all my life? 

But wait, for all the self-inflicted corporal punishment there are mealtime rewards: Yogurt and berries! Turkey burgers! Brown rice and broccoli!

 Istanbul is so last year. I want to suffer!

 I don’t know about you, but I favor strolling, climbing museum stairs and bending my elbow (sometimes both) when I leave home. Travel for me is a chance to exercise my eyes and ears and mind. And dining options. I don’t want to compete with—or look like—Isabelle Caro.

 Forget jogging suits, working out in sweaty gyms, watercress and tofu. 

Bring on comfy jeans, walking outdoors, meat and potatoes. And dessert.

Spam Sandwich

Littering my Inbox is more spam than I ingested during three summers at Girl Scout camp. If I had a big jar of yellow mustard and some Wonder bread I could throw a picnic for the Mid-Atlantic.  

I don’t need a physics lesson to know that nature abhors a vacuum. Every time I hit “unsubscribe” to a teaser for something I can live without (such as cheese-filled brats with a pound of bacon tossed in if I order before Easter), a dozen or so new messages pop up to fill the void.

Today I  scanned ads about breast and penis enlargers (No thanks, I like ‘em all  just the way they are), congressional representatives seeking donations, teeth whiteners, personalized calendars, domestic partnerships (I’ll pass), wrinkle removers and fillers (Not if there are needles involved), books I should buy, belly fat minimizers (20 years too late), a bracelet that will “increase strength, flexibility and balance” (Will it increase my  IQ?); gluten-free recipes (hey, I like gluten!), reverse mortgages, yoga retreats, silk underwear (It’s  97° on my deck), a virtual tour of Miss Ollie’s in Jackson, Tennessee, a retirement community in Tierra del Fuego (My kids would never forgive me), Christian Singles/J Date/ Singles, bladder control, and a rodeo in Kalispell. Some smartski marketer asks, “Want to make your book a bestseller?” (Hell, yes. How stupid do I look?).

 I’ve entertained ads for erectile dysfunction, a trip to Antarctica (only $12k), tango lessons, Vocus, to “monitor my brand on social media in near-real time” (is Bill Maher involved?), and cancer/heart disease/MS/diabetes/cerebral palsy/overeaters anonymous/Red Cross/short people organizations.

An airline invited me to fly to Columbus for $49 (Sorry, $49 too much). I’ve dodged pitches for premium business cards “for only $5,” the First Ever Colorado Virtual Beer Tasting (What fun is that?), and the premiere of “Death and Cremation” at Fox Studios. (Go ahead, look it up if you don’t believe me.)

Of the 100 or more announcements clogging my pc’s arteries daily like nasty LDLs, six or seven are work-related, a few are from friends and family, and one is from a Nigerian gentleman with a pile of dough he’s dying to gift me—if only I’ll send him a check because his aunt is ill and, while I’m at it, include my Social Security number.

Brightening my day is the occasional flirtation from a balding blast from the past who thinks we should give it another shot (after 48 years).

If  I had the discipline to delete messages without first inspecting them, I’d conserve  precious hours each day. I could take up cross-stitching! Bake a soufflé. Finish my memoir, Tales of a Fallen Pork Roll Queen. But I’m weak. And, my luck, I would miss the one message sure to bring me riches and fame.

Every time I double-click on Outlook, I see my life passing before my eyes. And that’s something I can ill afford. So, please, stop e-mailing me. Unless you’re in Nigeria and have a lot of money.

Something Special in the Air

Images of pueblos, azure skies and fry bread quickly receded on a recent trip home from New Mexico. 

Grudgingly, I rose at 3am for the first leg of my journey, from Albuquerque to Dallas. (Debbie and her friends may have done Dallas, but this cheerleader avoids Big D like a full-blown case of herpes.) Lucky me, I had a long layover before my connecting flight. 

Around noon I ordered a beer in the airport cantina. “You have to eat something,” the bartender said. Have to?

“It’s Sunday. You have to eat something. It’s an old Texas blue law.” I added this to my life list of dislikes about the Cowboys’ home and ordered a teensy bag of $2 potato chips. Thank God, nobody asked me to praise the Lord for the bounty I had received.

We pushed back from the gate a few minutes late. I took it as another omen that all was not right deep in the heart of Texas.  

With everyone buckled and electronic devices stowed, the (un)American Airlines pilot announced: “Bad weather ahead, outside of Baltimore. We’ll have to wait for further instructions.”  What? I’d just spoken with a friend who said it was sunny and dry at home. Where did the pilot go for the forecast? Pee-wee’s Playhouse?

We taxied and queued up for takeoff. Sky King returned with an update. “Someone on the plane is ill. We have to return to the gate.”

After reattaching to the jetway via retractable umbilicus, a washed-out-looking woman deplaned. My diagnosis, mild heat stroke. Show of hands, please, who will be next?

Inside the pressure cooker, broasting under the blazing Texas sun, my 24-hour deodorant went down in flames. Passengers groused. Babies wailed. The aroma of doody diapers wafted through the cabin.

I recognized the phlegmy sound of throat-clearing. “According to FAA rules, we need to refuel before we can depart.” Of course. We’d burned more than an hour’s worth on our round-trip excursion to the runway and back. “We’re trying to locate the fuel truck.” Hellooo … At the world’s eighth busiest airport, they don’t know where a fuel truck is?  

By now I’m approaching homicidal. It’s hotter than hell. NO ac. NO fuel. NO food. NO freaking flight. And I’m still stuck in Dallas. But, if I can hang on another few hours, I muse, I’ll be able to order a beer without food.  

In his smoothest Peter Graves voice, Captain Clarence Oveur updates the hostages. “Sorry, folks. This is an old TWA plane. We can’t get air-conditioning until we’re airborne. Thanks for your patience.” Patience? I’m poised to storm the cockpit with a coffee stirrer.  

Flight attendants hand out water and apologetic (and apoplectic) looks.  

Meanwhile—as if this were not entertainment enough—I am seated next to a woman who alternately hums and talks to herself.  “How ‘bout this heat?” I offer weakly to interrupt her monologue. She glares.

I worry that the security scanner missed the butterfly knife wedged in her thong. I’d better not nod off. She may have a vendetta against writers. Or grandmothers. Or my turquoise tank top.  

A multitasker, she continues to hum and mutter while reading a book: Women, Food, and God. Wasn’t Eat, Pray, Love more than enough fluff for one decade? From the corner of my eye I watch as she highlights passages. I check Amazon. The book exists.     

I’m having a meltdown. I want out of: this seat, this plane, this world where a bull-goose looney highlights in Neon yellow narrative connecting females, fressing and the Almighty.  

More than two hours after boarding, we taxi to the runway again. Crossing my fingers, I half expect the pilot to announce we’re returning to the gate because his hemorrhoids have flared up.  

By some miracle, we lift off.  My seatmate maintains her solo conversation for the duration of the flight. On landing at BWI, I feel deep gratitude that she hasn’t stabbed me with her highlighter, and we didn’t crash or return to Dallas. 

I crawl into my house more than 12 hours after beginning the 1,600-mile journey. Hell, I could have flown from the East Coast to Honolulu, had a Mai Tai, and surfed the Pipeline.

I start to unpack. The TSA has left me a “Notice of Baggage Inspection.” The caps of my weekly pill organizer are open, the contents commingled with socks covered in red New Mexico clay. I’ll bet the agent was disappointed that the large capsules held Glucosamine Chondroitin, not hashish.    

The coup de grace occurs when I discover my jar of award-winning salsa from El Pinto restaurant has gone missing. Janet Napolitano will hear from me. A lousy flight is one thing. But nobody messes with my salsa.