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    Esther Blumenfeld  

    The purpose of this web site is to entertain.  My humor columns died along with the magazines where they were printed, although I cannot claim responsibility for their demise.  I still have something to say, and if I can bring a laugh or two to your day, my mission will be fulfilled.

    Everyone I know thinks he has a sense of humor.  Here is my unsolicited advice. If you try to be funny and no one laughs, don’t worry about it.  However, if you try to be funny and no one EVER laughs, you might have a little problem.




    “When all else fails, there is music. When that fails you, there is beer.”
    (James Hauenstein.)

    After landing in Seattle, my friend Paula and I tried to find where the airline folks had hidden our luggage. The airport directions were a mystery, and the only sign we understood was, “escalator out of order.” Then began the adventure of riding several elevators up and down until we discovered our luggage. Schlepping four suitcases across a bridge, we took another elevator up and then one more down until we finally found the taxi stand. We arrived at our hotel just in time to enjoy dinner in their obscenely expensive but delicious French restaurant.

    The next day, we took a tour of the Emerald City with a stop at Pike’s Place Market, where we watched the famous fish mongers toss fish over the heads of tourists. Then it was time to go from shore to ship for our cruise to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. I could go on and on about how pleased we were with the cabin, the food, the tours, the service and most of our eighty fellow passengers, but it is always more fun to write about the less than perfect part of a trip—-which in this case was marketed as “evening entertainment.”

    In all fairness, a small ship sailing to little historical villages has a choice of local musicians, and some have little ear appeal. For instance, the first night, after a welcoming cocktail party and delicious dinner, we were submitted to a barbershop quartet. The only time I ever enjoyed a barbershop quartet was when I saw, THE MUSIC MAN, and the quartet sang, “Lida Rose.” And, as far as I know, “quartet,” means “four.” This group had 20 enthusiastic men, who I assume had 20 enthusiastic wives who were overjoyed to get them out of the house. They were followed by a “swing group” who started playing together, ended up together, but managed to get lost somewhere in between.

    Paula and I learned to sit in the back of the room in order to sneak out inconspicuously. The next night we were led in “Geographical Trivia.” It is an indisputable fact that Americans know little about the geography of our own Country let alone the geography of lower Mongolia, so the affable host of the game had to give us all of the answers as well as tossing prizes to those sitting closest to the front of the room.

    Then, after a beautiful day in the seaside town of Friday Harbor, and a visit to an alpaca farm, where we were greeted by fifty very sweet alpaca females (two, that the owner claimed had become pregnant through immaculate conception.) We then returned to the ship, and were once again treated to cocktails and a delicious meal followed by brain numbing BINGO!

    On the fourth night, after a visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Olympic National Park, we were treated to a “night full of music and laughter.” The taped music was good, but when the old guy with the ponytail started to impersonate the greatest singers of the past, the laughter unfortunately began. It reminded me of what Andy Rooney said, “We don’t need a lot of bad musicians filling the air with unnecessary sounds. Some of the professionals are bad enough.
    The singer was quite taken with his performance, and as he jumped about (microphone in hand) he did not notice that when he had last zipped his fly, his long Donald Trump tie had gotten caught. So every time he jumped Starboard, his tie waved at the Port side audience.
    When he rolled up his sleeves and whipped off his tie, I said to Paula, “Let’s get out of here before he opens his shirt!”

    The next two nights offered a pleasant respite from bad entertainment which is an oxymoron. A highly pregnant professional band singer from Seattle had come home to Port Angeles to deliver her baby, and we were the last gig on her schedule. Her voice was beautiful, but her repartee left something to be desired, when she held her protruding belly, and said, “There’s a diaphragm in there somewhere.  I have no idea where it went.” The Captain of our vessel was thrilled that her water did not break while she was singing the blues. The next night we were treated to a trio who played Zydeco (Cajun) music, and they were really good!

    The last night we left when the lady playing the washboard  handed more washboards out to the audience to accompany both her and the winded tuba player. Paula thought that packing our suitcases would be much more enjoyable.

    Don’t get me wrong!  Other than the entertainment, we really did have fun on our cruise. On my departing questionnaire, I rated everything as excellent, and I never did approach a performer to ask,”So, are you trying to be a musician?”

    Esther Blumenfeld (Sometimes the pause between the notes is the best part of the song) E.B.




    When I was in grade school art class, the teacher ordered us to draw a dragon. I finished drawing—what I thought was— a pretty good looking dragon, and took out a book to read until the rest of my classmates were finished. After we handed in our assignment, the teacher asked me to stay after class. When the last child had left, she held up my dragon and said, “This is the worst piece of art I have ever seen!” She was probably right, but then she added, “And, no one reads in my class.”

    Consequently, I was stuck drawing stick figures for many years, until, on a whim, as an adult, I took a class called, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” It was taught by a gentle woman who specialized in working with children with special needs. Perfect! In a nutshell, I was taught to look at objects in a different way and kind of draw them upside down. Finally, I was able to draw something that resembled what I was looking at. I still doodle for fun. So many times, we have hidden desires to be able to excel in a craft where we have absolutely no proficiency.

    My Grandfather could have been a professional concert pianist had his father allowed it. My Mother sang like an angel, and my Father played the violin. Unfortunately, the musical gene skipped both me and my brother. Since my family was steeped in music, my parents insisted that I learn to play the piano. Unfortunately, I went through three teachers before they discovered it was me.  My little brother did bang on a bass drum for awhile, until he marched in a school parade behind the flatulent horses. That was the end of his musical career.

    My maternal grandmother was a wonderful seamstress and milliner. As a matter of fact, there is a family legend that she made a hat for Archduchess Sophie of Austria before she and Archduke Ferdinand were shot, and it set off WWI. I really don’t think that the assassin did it because he hated Sophie’s hat.  Unfortunately, Grandma’s sewing talent seems to have drowned in the gene pool, because even though my Mother could sing, she couldn’t sew. As a matter of fact, she made me two dresses when I was in second grade. I refused to wear them. She then donated them to a rummage sale. The good news was that the sale was a huge success.The bad news was that no one bought the two dresses. Mother said, “I couldn’t even give them away.”

    My Father thought himself a reasonably good photographer until he and Mom took a trip and his thumb appeared on every historical landmark in Europe. My Father-in-law was a successful dentist. Since he could fix teeth, he was convinced that he was also an excellent handyman. He was so inept that when he glued a broken vase together—not only did it leak—but something in the glue killed the flowers.

    So here’s the moral of this tale: Very few of us can be good at everything, but many of us are extremely good at something. Certainly, it’s commendable to try new things, but it’s also worthwhile to be realistic about our talents and abilities. Many times in my life, I have been approached by someone who says, “I have a book in me.” And, all those times, I have wanted to say, “Perhaps, that’s where it should stay.”

    I promise, I won’t play you a tune, I won’t draw you a dragon, and I won’t darn your socks. Mother taught me all she knew about sewing.  However, I will write you a story that will make you laugh, and I will  do it with the right side of my brain.

    Esther Blumenfeld



    In the olden days, pioneer families used to drag a washtub into the kitchen, fill it with water (heated on the stove) and take turns bathing in that water. The family patriarch would get the warmest bath, and then the rest of the family would take turns—-from oldest to youngest. By the time the littlest child was dipped into the now cold water, the only therapy applied was a scrub down with a homemade bar of soap. No soaking around to relax.

    Now, Yippee! in 2017, the Isolation Sensory Deprivation Tank is back. Developed in 1954, these tanks became popular until the rise of AIDS in the 1980’s, and the fear of shared water. Filled with a foot of body-temperature water, containing approximately 800 pounds of Epsom Salt, people can, once again, float around in a totally dark, soundproof tank, which is supposed to make them feel better from whatever ails them. The only problem is that cellphones don’t float. And, if you get salt water into a paper cut or into your eyes, the floating turns from Ahh! to Ouch!

    To experience sensory deprivation is to delve into one’s psyche, and you are alone with your thoughts. One article I read said, “Your mind begins to run rampant.” I think that lying naked in an enclosed salt water tank, with the lights off, would make my rampant mind say, “Are you nuts? Let’s get out of here! This is even less fun than having an MRI!”

    I once had an MRI. My motorized bed was shoved into an enclosed cylinder tank. This enclosure was dry, but rather cramped, and my senses were all working. Since my view was the ceiling a few inches from my face, I asked for a cloth to put over my eyes, so I wouldn’t have to look at it. Maybe if the ceiling had a mirror, I could have had the pleasure of my own company, but it didn’t.  I was given the choice of music to be pumped into my cylinder.  I chose classical, because although an MRI is painless (until you get the bill) I felt it should be as classy an experience as I could make it.

    Unfortunately, being in a magnetic field with radio waves bouncing off of you does involve a rude thumping noise. So, my rampant mind imagined that I was in New York City on garbage collection day.

    The MRI machine has a scientific, diagnostic purpose, while the Sensory Deprivation Tank presents no thoroughly tested scientific evidence, that shutting down some of my favorite
    things—-seeing, hearing, listening, thinking, and making the most of my reality, is harmful. And that floating around in salt water is any more helpful than the homemade bar of soap used on that pioneer kid.

    As Ryan Lilly said, “The irony of Sensory Deprivation Tanks is that in order to think outside the box, you must first go inside one.”

    Esther Blumenfeld



    A recent letter to the editor of the NEW YORK TIMES, signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers addressed the behavior of the U.S. President. They stated that; ”The grave emotional instability of Mr.Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as President.” As far as I know, none of these professionals have examined him, and it would be unethical and unprofessional to give a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. However, they could point out common narcissistic character traits such as intolerance of criticism and feelings of grandiosity.

    As far as I am concerned, a person probably needs to be at least a little bonkers to want the job of President in the first place. If not a bit sick in the head, at least a world leader, when confronted with some of the world’s problems, might probably want a stiff drink.  That’s one thing that President Trump does not do. He makes all of his judgments perfectly sober—which gives one pause.

    According to a study by Jonathan Davidson and his colleagues of the Duke Medical Center, the first 37 U.S. Presidents (1776-1974) were afflicted by a form of mental illness, and 27% met these criteria while in office. Of course, a person can be psychiatrically ill, and be perfectly capable, just like another person can be mentally healthy but totally unfit. You don’t have to be crazy to be incompetent.

    Some Roman Emperors were famous for their off-the-wall behavior. Caligula (37-41 AD) thought he was a god and that the god of the sea was out to get him. Maybe that’s why he appointed a horse to be a senator. Nero (54-68 AD) a nephew of Caligula had a bad “personality disorder” and persecuted the minority called Christians. He also declared himself a god. And Commodus (180-192 AD) believed himself to be the reincarnation of Hercules. He liked the reincarnation so much that he named lots of streets after himself. Then there were the European monarchs.

    King Eric XIV of Sweden (1560-1568) had a bad temper, went into rages and alternating moods and walked the corridors looking for someone to blame for whatever. King George III (1760-1820) had panic attacks, delusions and hallucinations, and he lost the colonies we so happily call home. Then there was “Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1864-1886) who was known for building extravagant palaces  where he could retreat and hide from the demands of the outside world. But back to our own Presidents.

    Mark Will-Weber wrote about two centuries of drinking patterns in the White House and uncovered several drunks. Franklin Pierce fell off the wagon after trying to quit and died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 65. Ulysses S. Grant fell off his horse while intoxicated at a military parade in New Orleans, and Richard Nixon was once unable to take a call from the British Prime Minister concerning the Suez crisis because he was “loaded.”

    Several Presidents including Lincoln, Madison and Coolidge suffered from depression. That’s not surprising, it really is a depressing job. Supposedly, Woodrow Wilson had “anxiety disorder,” and Thomas Jefferson a “social phobia.” I know that he didn’t really want to socialize with John Adams all that much. The scientists at Duke pointed out that Teddy Roosevelt may have had a bi-polar disorder, and that Taft had sleep apnea which can affect cognitive functions. And, it’s no secret that some scholars now believe that Ronald Reagan showed signs of early Alzheimers while in office.
    Okay, so history has shown us that some world leaders have been able to function quite well despite their mental disorders, while others have brought ruin to their kingdoms and people. Perhaps, the bottom line should be that despite a degree of narcissism (which seems to come with the job) and hypersensitivity to criticism, it is vital that the President of the United States can distinguish between fantasy and reality, because if his fantasy becomes our reality, we may all be led up the creek without a paddle.

    In order to know if someone is mentally ill, clinical data is necessary. We don’t have that! In the meantime, citizens need to measure Trump on his judgment, his words, and his actions. That will let us know if he is fit to serve.

    Esther Blumenfeld (“There is a difference between a simpleton and a madman”) Goethe



    Many years ago, one of my favorite people, Ray Goldstein, attended a Catholic religious service with his best friend, Dr. Donahue. Since Ray was Jewish, and had never attended a Catholic service, his friend insisted that he sit at the end of the pew in order not to miss any of the beautiful religious ritual. As the altar boy came down the aisle, carrying the holy water, he stumbled, lost control of the water, and spilled it all over Ray Goldstein.  Dr. Donahue looked at his startled friend and said, “I’ve been coming to this church for thirty years, and all I ever get is a sprinkle. You come once and get the whole thing. That’s not fair!”

    Sometimes life is like that!

    My husband was invited by an associate to speak at The University of Mexico. Even though Warren spoke no Spanish, she assured him that an interpreter would be provided, and I was invited to accompany him to Mexico City. Worried that no students would attend his scientific talk, he titled it, “There’s a Dead Horse in My Bedroom.” Attendees were lined up all around the block.

    Since he was the visiting “Celebrity,” the Dean of the College invited us to dinner at his home, which was a lovely gesture.  However, other than the Dean, no one else spoke a word of English at that party. So, I entertained everyone with my two years of high school Spanish. At one point, I said something about my son. The conversation stopped, everyone gasped, stared at me, and then broke into hysterical laughter. To this day, I still have no idea what I said. The Dean’s wife was a handsome woman. I tried to talk to her, but she had an expression on her face that said, “I will drop to my knees and beg you not to speak my language, if you don’t shut up!”

    Finally, it was time for dessert.The hostess carried a beautiful homemade flan that was floating in a sticky sweet sauce. As she came toward me, the flan began to quiver and slide. As it slid toward me, she overcompensated, saving the flan, but not the sauce which was now running down the front of my dress. I smiled and kept saying, “Es Nada!” (nothing), but of course it was not “Nada.” The poor woman escaped into the kitchen never to return. All these years later, she’s probably still in there.  Warren thought that my sticky situation was very funny, but I got the last laugh when he accepted a drink which contained ice cubes made with Mexican water.

    When we lived in Atlanta, people hosted many elegant parties. I didn’t have an abundance of fancy dresses, but one of my favorites was made of jade green silk. The first time I wore it, a woman chewing on an appetizer backed me against a wall, and talking animatedly  about nothing, she spit appetizer on the front of my dress. The next time I wore that dress someone spilled a cocktail on one sleeve.

    You know you are not paranoid when people are really out to get you.

    When traveling to Provence, some friends and I had lunch on the patio of a  quaint old restaurant. I admired all of the stylishly dressed French women and thought, “If only I could look as good as they do.” I was inconspicuous in my white blouse and white linen slacks until the waiter spilled a glass of red wine into my lap. He gave me an apologetic shrug and went merrily on his way.  I never saw him again.  Maybe he escaped into a kitchen too.  Anyway, not wanting to look as if I’d been in a knife fight, I went to the nearest shop and purchased some French slacks. Better to look funky than bloody.

    Up to this point, I had  been spilled on in two foreign countries and in Atlanta, where they were still fighting the “War of Yankee Aggression.” If you think that Tucson, AZ is any safer—think again!

    Recently, I went to a Vietnamese restaurant with a group of friends. The waiter poured water in all of the glasses on the table, except mine. Instead, he got a fresh pitcher of water and promptly  spilled it into my lap. The owner of the restaurant rushed over and handed me some paper napkins and scolded the waiter in Vietnamese.  As I wrung out my seat cushion, I kept saying—“Cancel the soup order, Cancel the soup order—PLEASE!”

    Sometimes life is just like that.

    Esther Blumenfeld