Today’s Author

Bait and switch

“He never expected to find that at the hardware store.” Have you ever noticed that there are all sorts of circumstances and environments where one often can count on finding things he shouldn’t  expect to find there, or not finding things that should be there.

A perfect example is M.T.V. which,  during my youth, was a groundbreaking music video channel. Now it no longer has any connection whatsoever to music, though it still covers pop culture of other kinds.


I’ve always had quite a significant interest in the Catholic Church’s intellectual world. Although I no longer watch television~not counting reruns on Youtube~I’d always enjoyed, in the past, watching Catholic shows on television. When I lived in Lindenhurst, I tried watching Telicare, the Rockville Centre Diocese’s official Catholic network. To my chagrin, they never showed any Catholic shows. All I could find were panel discussions with psychotherapists, case workers, and social workers; old movies; local high school sports; and telethons.


To this very day I can still remember an incident, when I was growing up, when my parents, my younger sister, and I were on our  way to northeastern Pennsylvania to visit relatives. Somewhere during the course of the trip we stopped at a diner in which, the very name of the place advertised prominently that they sold chicken. When we asked for chicken, a dumbfounded employee explained that their menu included everything except chicken.


In yet another northeastern Pennsylvania moment, one day several years ago, I was trying to get home (which then was the Borough of Wyoming) from someplace in Wilkes~Barre. Because of my having been quite unfamiliar with my location, and lacking a G.P.S., I took it for granted that a sign I noticed, which said that Pittston, my mother’s hometown, was seven miles north of there, by way of that road, I attempted to follow the road.  Within only a few hundred feet, I was confronted with a dead end.


If ever I chance to find things like bubble  gum, livestock, and animal balloons, instead of hardware, at a hardware store, I’ll know very much better than to be even so much as the least bit surprised.Today’s Author


the fensterblau dilemma

Mabel went away for the weekend. Ralph was used to these occasional excursions of hers. She was in the habit of  visiting her family and friends for a few days at a time. He got up very early on Saturday morning, hoping to relax and to take advantage of all the welcome peace and quiet for a while. At around 8:00 a.m., however, there was quite an ominous knock upon his front door.

                                                       “Good morning, Mr. Fensterblau,” said the tall, ominous looking stranger.

Ralph didn’t know what to think. The anonymous man walked into the Fensterblau house without an invitation.  He proceeded to demand that Ralph sit down, and that he, without question or comment, obey all instructions.  All the doors of the house spontaneously locked.

“Mr. Fensterblau,” his visitor proceeded to explain, “I should like to talk with you for a few moments, please, my good man. My associates and I have been keeping very close track of you.”

Ralph, eager to put a stop to all the trouble, attempted to call the local policemen. When he went to call for help, he found that none of the phones was working. Understandably he was starting to get exceptionally anxious and frustrated.

“Mr. Fensterblau,” the stranger went on, “I shall have, unfortunately, to take you away with me permanently. I cannot, however, explain to you the exact circumstances that make your abduction unavoidably mandatory. Pack up your things at once and follow me very quietly please. I assure you it’s quite futile even so much as to try to disobey.”

When Mabel arrived home on Monday afternoon she was confronted by an ominously empty house.  Ralph never got a chance to clean up before he left. All was left carelessly thrown around in disarray. None of the neighbors could account for his whereabouts.  She spent the next few months trying to explain to their local police precinct, and Ralph’s workplace, the Acme Corporation, about all the trouble.

who stole all the desks from st. gabriel’s?

St. Gabriel’s, on 97th Street in East Elmhurst, was such an exceptionally good parish, including a school. The Sisters of Charity, De La Salle Christian Brothers, and lay faculty members ran quite a tight ship but they were entirely likable and fair too.  One would think, logically, that nothing of any significance could possibly go wrong there. There was one incident when I was a kid, though, that boggles people’s minds to this very day. Sister Rose Eugene, my first grade teacher, was quite a tall, imposing looking lady. Back then the Sisters of Charity wore old fashioned black habits and bonnets, and Rosary beads as belts. To this very day I still remember my very first day at St. Gabriel’s, as a student of hers. We youngsters all got the shock of our lives when we first showed up on that otherwise fine September morning so long ago. My neighborhood friends and I all got off the Q 19 B, the local utility bus, and walked through the schoolyard in order to enter our new school.  Uncontrollable shock and chaos set in the instant we first walked through the school’s doors. The children arrived for the first day of school to find that there were no desks in any of the classrooms. Being six years old at the time, we youngest kids didn’t know what to think.  “Maybe Martians took them,” said Dale.  Upon hearing such a claim, Jo Anne whined, “Oh shut up! Everybody knows Martians don’t even have butts so they can’t even sit anyway!” After the shock had all somewhat subsided, the principals, Sister Dolorita and Brother Andrew, got us all together for an assembly, so they could explain how to deal with our most unprecedented problem. They ended up deciding that they couldn’t let us stay unfortunately. Being kids, we were all so very happy to be allowed to go home. Our very first day at our new school ended up having to come a week late because of all the problems that were involved with finding new desks. To this very day no one has any idea what could possibly have happened. It wasn’t a result of anyone’s negligence and there was no criminal activity involved. It was just a weird quirk of fate.  Even now my oldest friends and I still always talk about it, often wondering which of us may have perhaps been the guilty party.


mr. wiedermeyer’s secret world

Julius and Ethel Weidermeyer were trying to get ready to deal with the news about his father’s death.    The eighty year old grandfather had been ill with cancer for most of the past five years.    When the inevitable finally came to pass, they made the one hundred and eighty five mile drive to his house in northeastern Pennsylvania in order to make the arrangements for his funeral, as well as to sort through all his belongings.   When they arrived they were confronted with quite an adventure.   They’d always known he  was a notoriously sentimental character as well as a bit of a pack rat but their discovery was absolutely amazing.  Going through his dad’s basement was like having a time machine.   They found a bottomless pit of boxes, bags and cases of artifacts from literally the very beginning of his lifetime.    He’d even saved souvenirs of people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.    His parents must have gotten all these things for him before he was even old enough to walk.    As they went along they found clothes and memorabilia with all his old schools’ insignias on them.    It appeared as if the old fellow had felt somehow unrelentingly compelled to save all sorts of relics of each successive era throughout his entire lifetime.    The more they found the more awe smitten they were.   “I just don’t get it!”  gasped Ethel.   “It’s not exactly as if there’s anything exceptionally valuable here.  They’re all just very old pictures, records, clothes and things like that.”  Eventually, though, they wised up to the fact that it was quite an interesting discovery.   The more they thought it through, the more they recognized that there was quite an entire lifetime’s supply of profound history here.   Besides its being a miniature lecture on all the history and pop culture of most of the twentieth century, it was also an indirect source of insight into all sorts of background about Mr. Weidermeyer, things they could never have otherwise found out.    Over the course of his very long lifetime he’d told a lot of stories and seemed to have been quite knowledgeable about all sorts of offbeat things.    It turns out, though, that he must truly have been quite devoted to all those long ago milestones.  “I can imagine how Mom must have felt,” complained Julius.   “He must have driven her out of her mind, nice though all this stuff is.”     Anyone who wanted a lesson on things like the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam could have the time of his life in such an environment.    They could rake in an absolute mint, they thought, by charging admission for a guided tour.   Soon they started having the time of their lives enjoying all the silliness of their adventure.  Understandably they were sorry to have lost him.  They would have really enjoyed talking to him about all these things.    At his wake, they mentioned his treasure trove to all their family and his friends.   It added quite a dimension of joy and relief to the otherwise somber occasion.

coffee clash

Over the course of the past quite a few months I’ve always been in the entirely non negotiable habit of making at least one trip each day to the Coffee Nut Cafe on Park Avenue in Long Beach in order to get my requisite medium sized cup of coffee.     By now I’ve become so predictable a fixture there that the ladies who work there recognize me quite well.    One Saturday morning a few months ago,  I was subjected to quite a bitter disappointment.    On that day the unthinkable happened:  the coffee shop  ran out of coffee.     “Sir,” the owner exclaimed in exasperation, “the trucks that are supposed to bring us our supplies regularly broke down last night and haven’t yet been fixed.”     She, the other ladies working there, all the other regulars and I stared at each other in total disbelief and frustration.     I didn’t know what to do.   After having walked a half mile, with my bad feet, all the way over to Park Avenue for nothing, especially disappointed due to my having been begrudged the single most unavoidably mandatory ritual of my day, all I could do was to sulk in self pity on my way out the door.    They still had lots of gelato and pastries available so I could easily gotten something just for the sake of being able to make the trip somewhat worthwhile.     It wouldn’t have been the same though.     Because of my always having somewhat prone toward being a sore loser, unfortunately, I spent the rest of the day obsessing over it.    I found myself snapping at anyone who presumed to mispronounce a syllable within earshot of me.      Having never before been subjected to anything so frustrating I even got a migraine that lasted until Sunday morning.     Somehow, since then, I’ve managed to overcome my bitter resentment of such a horrible thing.   Every once in a while, though, I remind the ladies that if they ever even so much as let something like that happen even one more time, I shall start going regularly to Gentle Brew.

day becomes night

Gwendolyn and Cecily have worked at the Acme Corporation, on Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst, for fifteen years.    By now it’s quite a significant part of their lives and legends.   They’ve always quite seriously enjoyed their lunch hour there.   Each day, during this most important break, the inseparable friends are in the habit of taking a brief walk, only a few hundred yards, down Wellwood Avenue, to Fireman’s Park, so they can enjoy all the colorful characters who go back and forth between there and the Long Island Railroad Station on Hoffman Avenue.     Last Monday, though, was quite an exceptionally distinctive change of pace for the friends.    After an otherwise entirely typical morning, with all its droll mundane responsibilities, the pair punched out and got ready to go outside for a while.   They took the brief walk down the corridor that leads to the main entrance, and got quite a jolt upon peering through the glass doors.     It was as dark as night when they headed out on their lunch break.    Neither of them could quite even so much as try to comprehend what was going on.     What made it even weirder and scarier was that no one else seemed to mind, or even to notice.    It was as if the whole thing had been planned in advance, and they must have been the only ones never to have read the memo.    They asked a few passers by about it but all seemed genuinely dumbfounded that anyone could possibly, for one second, have suspected that anything was other than perfectly normal.     All throughout the time they spent outside they felt mind bogglingly uncomfortable and self conscious but attempted to maintain their composure for fear that any further distinctive comments or body language would inevitably attract unwelcome attention and trouble.     Resigned eventually to the strange fantasyland they appeared to have wandered into, they simply accepted their lot and made the best of it.     After their lunch hour was over they simply wandered back to their office and never even bothered to bring it up with anyone else, occasionally giving each other winks and nudges in acknowledgement of the fact that they were the only ones who had any idea that anything had even happened in the first place.

vacation time for gwendolyn and cecily

Gwendolyn and Cecily were old friends, having grown up together in Lindenhurst, New York.    Each year since their teens, according to their lifelong agreement, they were to take a week-long vacation.   Each one saved up quite scrupulously from her pittance of a paycheck.   Over the course of the past three decades, thanks to their arrangement, they got a chance to see both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as all sorts of other places throughout the country.      Each year they both got all their available funds together, picked precisely the best available weeks, made hotel reservations and bent over backwards to make all sorts of other arrangements that left them quite overwhelmed and frustrated.    Going on vacation was usually so much work, but this year it was going to be different.    Cecily came up with quite the perfect brainstorm.    Just because it was vacation time, that didn’t necessarily mean, by definition, that they’d have to be bothered with traveling a significant distance.     She told Gwendolyn that she’d like to go on a fishing trip at Captree State Park and then hang around on Robert Moses Beach the rest of the time.     The only clothes they’d need were bathing suits and towels.    With all the money they’d inevitably end up saving they could go over to the Fifty Six Fighter Group, or some other local bar or restaurant, and have a really nice relaxing meal.      All worked out quite well.   By spending the same amount of money as any other year, they got a lot more enjoyment out of it to show for it.   Never again would they feel the need to be extravagant.

mitt and keef

Mitt and Keef are the oldest and very best of friends.   They’ve known each other since they were little kids in Lindenhurst, even before they were old enough to be in school.     Over the course of their virtually lifelong friendship, they’ve had all sorts of adventures together, both good and bad.    They’re now middle aged husbands,  and fathers of teenagers.     One Friday night their wives, Mabel and Harriet, nagged them into going to bed extra early so they could  get up before sunrise  the next morning to weed their gardens.     Bright and early on Saturday they went outside to get started on their assigned chore.     A couple of hours had passed quietly without any notable incident in Keef’s yard.    Eventually they got to Mitt’s yard.     After about fifteen minutes Keef stumbled upon quite a find.    It was an obviously old key, made in some obscure anachronistic style.     Eventually they went inside Mitt’s house and casually mentioned it to their dumbfounded wives.    Mabel’s jaw dropped in amazement.   Little did they know how truly distinctive a find this was.    She was quite knowledgeable about antiques, having grown up with them.   The key he found while weeding in the garden was clearly an antique.    They all knew quite well that neither couple could possibly afford such an obscenely expensive luxury.   They assumed that someone must have somehow dropped it there.    Perhaps a visiting friend or neighbor was the victim of some mistake.    After quite a lot of entirely harmless daydreaming,  the dumbfounded foursome came to a decision.    They understood quite well that they couldn’t keep it.     They asked friends about it and were quite careful to put ads into the South Bay and Penny Saver, the local newspapers, trying to find its lawful owner.    Of course they all whined incessantly, ruing the ultimate moment of truth when they would have to part permanently with this mysteriously enchanting artifact .   It seemed somehow to have possessed quite an overwhelming charm for them.   If nothing else it was a major change of pace for the quartet, considering how uneventful their circumstances usually were.    Every time a phone rang, they cringed, knowing that it was only a matter of time before their distinctive adventure would inevitably have to pass.    Eventually the key’s rightful owner showed up.   He was a friend who had absent mindedly dropped it at a recent party one night a few weeks before.     At least now that the suspense was all over, they could all calm down and relax.     For a short time they lived vicariously in a world of adventure and luxury.     Once it all ended, though, it would be time for yet another succession of dull ordinary mundane chores.

a most colorful fellow

Guadalupe (Lupita) Martinez was a young, lovely resident of Lindenhurst, N.Y., and an employee of the Acme Corporation on Wellwood Avenue in the middle of her Long Island village.    With all her beauty, elegance, grace, intelligence, sophistication and education though, she thought it quite difficult to find a decent man.   One day, her two best friends, Jenny Randy and Sharon Ferdinand, sick and tired of her non stop whining about her supposed impending spinsterhood,  presumed to take it upon themselves to fix her up with a real gentleman.    After having asked several other friends for help, they managed to end up with Sharon’s cousin Reginald who, they’d hoped, would strike her as at least an interesting decent guy.    As it turns out, though, Reginald was a bit of a character, to put it as politely as possible.    Having just broken up with his girlfriend, Rachel, he was more than somewhat prone toward irrational tendencies.   His emotions overtook him so that he soon fancied himself a long-lost member of ancient Irish royalty.      Lupita, though, having known nothing of his weird ways, never suspected anything when she took her friends up on their offer.     At 8:00 on Friday night, she showed up, as agreed, at Katie Daly’s on Merrick Road in Massapequa, politely awaiting the arrival of her suitor.    She thought it was going to be a typical blind date until she noticed his bodyguards.     It turns out that he had really started to go entirely overboard with his latest fantasy.    There he stood, all prim and proper, before her, in what he assumed was traditional ancient Irish garb.     The poor fellow spent the entire night regaling her with stories of the spurious adventures of long-ago druids and other mythological characters, each of whom existed only in his hyperactive imagination.   He drove Lupita crazy but she didn’t have the nerve to risk hurting his feelings.     She felt awfully bad about how nasty a time she was having.       After it was all over she went home, relieved to be free of him.   The next day, when she got in touch with her friends, Sharon told her: “At least it’s only a once in a lifetime occurrence”.    “You can count on an absolute guarantee of that!”, snapped Guadalupe.      



the ballad of mark and andy

Ann (Andy) Klose was an exceptionally lovely young lady, about five feet, six inches tall, with very dark long hair and blue eyes, in her early thirties.    Originally from Lindenhurst, New York, she had recently taken a job in the payroll and personnel department of the Susquehanna Hat Company in Manhattan.     Early one Monday morning she finished her daily breakfast and coffee, and left her apartment at around eight o’clock so she could take her predictable walk over to the local bus stop on Mott Street.   She fully expected nothing more eventful than the typical brief trip to work with its inevitable annoyances.    That, however, was not to be.    As she prepared to board the bus, she was frozen in her tracks when she recognized the man getting off it with a copy of the New York Times under his right arm.   He was Mark Otter, her former fiance.   After a very brief, polite hello, he explained to her the he was now a policeman, working for the New York Police Department.    Although there wasn’t, she thought, any real love between them anymore, at least the former couple were quite willing tactfully to humor each other, briefly engaging in respectful small talk.    Flashbacks and anxiety attacks haunted Andy.    She knew he had always been such  a good person and a perfect gentleman, ever since their days as undergraduates at S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale.    They simply weren’t right for each other unfortunately.     As long as he wasn’t around, she was quite happily getting along with her new life.    Now that he was living and working nearby, though, all sorts of problems plagued her.   Would she have to face him regularly?   Did they travel in the same social circles?       On her lunch break she explained her problem to her best friends, Linda Brown and Margret Simo Narcy.    Even if they couldn’t help her, she thought, at least by listening to her troubles, they could try to lessen the emotional strain.      They worked so hard in order to try to convince each other that Andy’s and Mark’s dealings with each other were in another time and place entirely.    Immediately after work they all went out to a local bar and grill to have some drinks and to talk it over much more seriously.