FOR THE PROMPTLESS – LAPSUS LINGUAE AND BIG MISTER MALAPROP

Once upon a time when me and the whole world were a good deal younger, my father had a business partner. I don’t remember his name, but he was a big, bluff Russian who used to come over the house, visit, and make gallons of cabbage soup. He must have thought there were a lot more of us than there were because my mother couldn’t figure out how to store so much soup, even though we had a full size standing deep freezer in the basement and a huge fridge in the kitchen. He and my father would go into the kitchen and produce these gallons of soup. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.

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Bob (or whatever his name was) was accident prone and an enthusiastic teller of stories, most of them about his own misadventures.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting because he never said anything except very loud. “Very sunny. Blue sky. A nice day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. And she asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. I mean, she didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”

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We all nodded dutifully. Because he was my father’s partner and we were kids, so what else was there to do?

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.”

We nodded some more. Our job. To nod. Look very interested.

“I opened the umbrella and had to find the right place to put it because, you know, if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit until I found just the right place. Then I took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could and it went pretty deep. Seemed good and solid.”

We were still nodding. I must have been — maybe 10? — and had been taught to be polite, no matter what, to grown-ups. We did not call adults by their first name. I think my teeth would have cracked if I had tried or my tongue would have stuck to the roof of my mouth.

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“What with everything looking okay and my mother settling down in her chair with a book, she looked happy. So I figured it would be a good time to get something to eat and I told her I would go get us some hot dogs — and something to drink. She said that was good, tell them to leave the mustard off because — she’s always reminding me but I know, I know — she doesn’t like mustard.

I walked all the way over to Nathan’s — that’s a pretty long walk, all the way to the end of the boardwalk — because they have the best hot dogs” at which I was nodding with real enthusiasm because Nathan’s really does have the best hot dogs, “And I love those beef fries. I got five, two for her — with no mustard — and the other three for me because I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his large belly, “And I started walking back. I could see where to go because of the umbrella’s stripes. I could see it all the way from the boardwalk.”

Nod, nod, nod.Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather suddenly was changing … some clouds were coming in from the ocean. It was getting a windy — a bit — and this was happening all of a sudden while I had gone to get the dogs. Funny how the weather changes so fast along the water, you know? So now, I’m almost there. Up comes  a big puff of wind and that umbrella pulls right up out of the sand and flies at me and whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my whole head was going to come off.

I dropped all the food and fell right over. Like a rock I fell and just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was completely compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Completely compost!”

Be careful of flying umbrellas at the beach. They will turn you into compost. That’s not good, especially when your hands are full of hotdogs.

TOP OF THE WORLD – GARRY ARMSTRONG

From on a ledge high above the dam and the river, my bird's eye view of the dam on the Mumford.
From on a ledge high above the dam and the river, my bird’s-eye view of the dam on the Mumford.

BEWARE THE TREACHEROUS BLACK TRASH BAG

Long ago, when Garry and I were first married, before we owned a home, we rented a tiny, adorable and over-priced apartment on Beacon Hill. I had bought curtains and drapes — nice ones — for all the windows in the apartment. It was a building dating back to the early 1800s. The ceilings were high, the windows tall. That was the best part of the apartment … that and the fireplace in the living room and what was probably the nicest marble bathroom we’ve ever had. I could have lived without the other residents of the flat — the cockroaches who had apparently been there since Paul Revere made his ride. Quaintness comes at a price.

Parking is a real issue on Beacon Hill. So is trash.
Parking is a real issue on Beacon Hill. So is trash. We lived up the street on the left, ground floor.

I put all the new curtains in a black trash bag and warned Garry — or thought I warned Garry — this wasn’t trash. It was our new drapes. I either hadn’t actually warned him or he hadn’t heard me. We had just moved in and there was a lot of trash to go out, all in black trash bags. I’m sure you already know the punchline.

By the time I realized the drapes had been taken to the curb, the scavengers of Beacon Hill had snagged them. Everybody on Beacon Hill, rich and poor alike, scavenges. While we were still in the process of moving in, people kept coming by trying to take our stuff. I’m not talking about poor homeless people. I mean The Neighbors. Several times I had to remove lamps and other items of furniture from their clenched fists.

So, to no one’s surprise, the drapes were out there a nanosecond and then gone. Since they were all still in their original unopened wrappings with the price tags attached, whoever took them had to know they were not trash. In Roxbury, where we later lived — a poor, mostly black neighborhood — I’m sure they would have returned the drapes. They would have gone door to door until they found the right house. But that was Roxbury. Beacon Hillers have a different way of looking at things that reminds me of an old childhood chant “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Just saying.

I had to buy new drapes and the second set wasn’t as nice — or expensive — as the first. I’d used up the money and couldn’t spend it twice.

We lived on Grove Street. This looks a lot like it.
We lived on Grove Street. This looks a lot like it.

Over the years, my penchant for storing stuff in black trash bags has cost us dearly. Christmas presents, out of season clothing, household items intended for the attic — have all vanished. Who done it? Me? Garry? One of the kids? It could be anyone. I’m inclined to blame the terriers. They are always sneaking around, up to no good.

As a family, we have a knee-jerk reflexive response to black trash bags. We throw them out. It could have been anyone. (I still suspect Bonnie, the Scottie.)

Last night, I realized that our down comforter (yes, stored in a black trash bag), had vanished. This is not an item that you can easily overlook. A queen-sized down comforter is big and fluffy, even in a trash bag. It had considerable size, if not heft. This is not like looking for a piece of missing paper. This was something that would be easy to spot. It should have been in the bedroom — but wasn’t.

I checked the closets and the attic. Nothing. No black trash bags.

When finally the dust settled (I really liked that comforter) and I had ordered a replacement from Kohl’s, hopefully to be delivered before the cold weather closes in, I apologized to Garry for accusing him of perfidiously disposing of our bedding and said: “I have to stop storing things in black trash bags. This isn’t working out.”

He enthusiastically agreed.

Do they make big bags like that in clear plastic? Just wondering.

ANOTHER THEORY

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From Bizarro (Dan Piraro):

OLD BIZNESS: I’ve done quite a few Noah’s Ark cartoons, but this one from 2008 is my favorite by far. I get a huge kick out of how many “first world” citizens still believe the world was created a few thousand years ago, then try to squeeze dinosaurs into the mix somehow. This is meant to help those people with what must be some monstrously unwieldy cognitive dissonance

See a lot more of Bizarro on Bizarro Blog!