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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.

     

    Friday
    May262017

    PASS THE SALT

    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


    Friday
    May192017

    FIT TO SERVE

    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

    Friday
    May122017

    TARGET PRACTICE

    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

     

    Friday
    May052017

    DELIVER ME

    A friend of mine recently bragged that his deceased dog was so smart, that, in only two days, he was able to teach him to run down the long driveway to fetch his daily newspaper (the man taught the dog—not the other way around). However he told me that the Sunday paper was too big for the dog’s mouth, so the dog decided to bring him his neighbor’s WALL STREET JOURNAL instead.

    For those of you who believe in re-incarnation, that dog is now my mailman. Of course, on Sundays, he doesn’t deliver, but the rest of the week it’s anyone’s guess whose mail will appear in my mailbox. My friend’s excuse for the WALL STREET JOURNAL delivery was that even though he could teach his dog to fetch, he couldn’t teach him to read. Now I know my mailman is re-incarnated.

    In all fairness, the letter carrier does deliver the mail. There’s always something in my mailbox—just not always the correct something. So here’s the conundrum: It’s downright stupid to piss off a postal worker. After all, your mailman knows all about you, because he can read your mail. And, if you aggravate him enough, he can conveniently drop your letter onto the floor of his mail  truck, and wipe his feet on your letters before putting them into your neighbor’s mailbox. And, somewhere, on that truck, all those promised checks might really be in the mail.

    My neighbor down the block had a problem with his newspaper delivery. Granted, half of it was delivered on time, but according to him, “Not the half I was looking for.” He is one of those crossword puzzle kind of guys. So, he called the delivery folks to complain. They informed him that someone would bring him another paper within 24 hours. “I don’t need 24-hour old news,” he replied, “Just deliver the page with the crossword puzzle.”Well,” said the delivery person, “I don’t think we can just deliver half a paper.”  “You did it this morning,” replied my friend. “How about if I only pay half of my bill this month?” He got his paper within an hour.

    It’s good that I’m an honest person, because yesterday  a box of beautiful “Happy Birthday” roses was delivered, and left at my front door. It was neither my birthday nor am I “Sweet Evelyn.” I called the florist and suggested that they pick up the flowers before they wilt, or, that “Sweet Evelyn"  would have  a hissy fit because no one remembered her birthday.
    The driver came back, rang my bell, and asked me if I knew where “Sweet Evelyn” lived.
    I looked down the street and saw the mail truck. “You are in luck,” I said. “There’s the mailman. Why don’t you just ask him.”  

    I hope that Evelyn didn’t give the flower guy a tip better than the one I gave him.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Apr282017

    COLD HARD FACTS

    COLD HARD FACTS

    As my young friend, Margaret and I left the pollen driven, dusty winds, and the 95-degree heat of the Tucson foothills, we began our 90-minute drive up to the summit of Mt. Lemmon, where we were to participate in the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center Observatory Night Program. When we signed up, we were sent instructions that, “Winter clothing is imperative.  We make Alaskans cold.” And, as we got closer to the 10,000 ft. elevation, I noticed snow on the ground.  Further instructions had stated, “For safety reasons, children must be seven years or older.”

    We arrived early, so we decided to share a piece of rhubarb pie at the Iron Door Cafe which is located near the ski lift. So far, the trip was exhilarating. It was cool outside due to the high elevation and the pie was delicious.  At 4:30 p.m. we parked in the area near the closed gate, where we were met by two astronomers who guided us up  the dirt road to the summit of the mountain, where we got our first look at seven of the largest public observatory telescopes in the West. We were told that we would be driven from telescope to telescope in vans. We were not told that the first step into the van was a very long, long way from the ground—-about the length of a 7 year old child.

    As I looked around, I noticed that I was obviously the oldest kid in the class. It reminded me very much of when I used to go to an amusement park and the children were measured before being allowed to go on a ferris wheel.  “Your head has to be above the line, or you can’t go!” It was then that I realized, I was in way over my head. So, I commandeered the seat next to the driver, because it had two straps I could use to pull myself into the seat. I was dressed in my winter jacket, hat, gloves and scarf, and  now, we were taken to watch the sun set.

    We were given little eye protectors and advised not to look into the sun until it was just about to meet the horizon, and then to look quickly and see the green flash as it disappeared. I did not see the green flash, but was acutely aware that when the sun sets, the rest of the mountain top turns pitch black—something like standing in a miner’s tunnel.  We had been given miniature red lights to avoid falling off the mountain and find our way back to the vans, where I once again hauled myself up and rode shotgun. The participants were broken into two groups to observe from two different telescopes. As my teeth began to chatter, I asked, “Which observatory is warmer?” “Neither of them is warm,” was the reply, “But the bigger one has a warm room.”
    “That’s the one I want!” I shouted.

    When we entered the dome, the other participants sat around the huge telescope on metal chairs, and the astronomer went to his computer to pinpoint the area in the sky that he wanted us to see. Then he rotated the telescope and opened the dome to expose the beautiful night sky and let in the frigid night air. As everyone exclaimed their appreciation, I said, “Where is the warm room?” The astronomer led me to a room as big as my bathroom. It had two chairs and a radiator. He left me saying, “Just don’t touch that switch.” With my frozen fingers, I wasn’t about to touch anything. As the evening wore on, I could feel the rotation of the telescope in the Dome and from time to time people would rush into the “warm room” to gather a bit of heat before rushing out again. And, I would tell them not to “touch the switch.”  They usually stayed in the room only long enough to let the cold air in. Finally, my friend, Martha came in to check on me and warm up a bit. She was the only one who asked, “What happens if you touch the switch?”  I said, “Your tuchas (an astronomical term) falls off.”

    The grand finale viewing through the telescope was of Saturn, and Martha urged me to take a look after everyone else had passed through the line. Saturn and her rings were a beautiful sight indeed, and I am glad I took a peek at her.

    Now, we were led to our cars in the pitch black, and ordered to, “Do not turn on your headlights until you leave the gated area.” It was then that I understood the release we signed when we came in. “If you drive off the mountain, it’s not our fault.”  After the gate was closed, Margaret turned on her headlights and drove carefully down the winding mountain road. After that harrowing drive down a mountain in the darkest of nights, I can say that, “The good hands of Allstate” are nothing compared to the good hands of my friend, Margaret. I would go anywhere with her. Except the next time I am challenged to an adventure, I will have to measure if—for that ride—my head is above the line.

    Esther Blumenfeld