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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.




    Recently, I read an article in Mother Jones Magazine written by E.J. Graff, that began: “On a dreary, cold Saturday in April.” Then I looked at my thermostat, and it informed me that, on this hot day in June, in Tucson, Arizona, the outside temperature had just peaked at 115 degrees, setting some kind of record that only a meteorologist can love.

    There’s an old saying, “It’s hot enough to fry and egg on the sidewalk.” Well, that day, it was hot enough to roast a pig! I spotted a Great Horned Owl huddling the shade, on the ground near a tall wall. Upon seeing me, he flew away. That let me know, that while it was too hot for airplanes to take off in the 119 degrees in  Phoenix, a person can always hitch a ride on the back of a really big owl.

    So what! It’s hot! That’s the price we desert rats pay for 8 1/2 glorious months of temperate weather, while our cousins in the North suffer icy winds, blizzards and snow (The other 1/2 is a bow to temperamental September.) But, this article is not totally about summer heat. As Will Ferrell so aptly said, “Summer is real cute until every type of insect comes out of the 8th circle of Hell.”

    Consequently, until the monsoon rains arrive, and bring the tarantulas out of their burrows, it’s time for the noisy Cicadas to come out of the ground, from their 2-5 year lethargy, and begin to play their extremely loud, buzzing sounds. Only the males play these songs, and I guess the females accommodate them to shut them up. It seems to work, because after two or three weeks the Cicadas die off. These insects live a sad but noisy and active sex life. Cicadas are big and loud but harmless to humans. They don’t sting—-They sing!

    There is a legend about Cicadas. The legend claims that; “These insects are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” The only loud poets I ever encountered wrote Rap Poetry, and entertained in underground clubs.

    Perhaps there’s some truth to the legend, but I think it’s more feasible that Cicadas are the souls of people who wished that their kids, who played the violin, had practiced when they were out of the house.

     I will let you ponder that possibility while I take a teabag out to my car. The bottle of water in there is probably boiling by now. A cup of hot car tea, and a Cicada concert really does let me know that summer has arrived.

    Esther Blumenfeld (“What is so rare as a day in June?”) James Russell Lowell



    Citizens! at our last meeting concerning our house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, several taxpayers suggested that our White House rental application form needs revision. Therefore, we, the three hundred million landlords of the property, formed a Distant Relatives of Dead U.S. Presidents Committee to help us update the screening process.

    It is most appropriate that we now hear from the woman who arrived first at our meeting, who was first in line for coffee and doughnuts and who has been first in the hearts of more than a few of our Country men, our own Vernonata Washington.

    “Mr. Chairman, as you all know, back in 1790, my several-greats-ago cousin, George Washington, looked around the marshlands of Washington, D.C. and saw seven shacks and two pigsties that gave him a nostalgic twinge for Congress. ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What a perfect place to build the President’s House.’ First, he hired a French fellow named L’Enfant, but it took two years and 730 bottles of Beaujolais for him to dig the foundation. George fired him and turned to James Hobson, the Irishman for an architectural plan. However, the Country was only 20 years old and no one knew how to build the thing. After all, most of their former leaders had lived in castles.  Consequently, in 1794 laborers, African slaves, and six stone-cutters from Scotland, were imported from overseas.”’

    “What’s your point, Vernonata?” “I think we need to ask a prospective White House tenant if he (or she) can, in good conscience live in a house that was built by a bunch of foreigners.” At this a shout was heard from the back of the room. “Well, I think we need to ask if our boarder is going to throw wild parties. My ancestors never did.”

    “Chip Adams,” snapped Felicity Jefferson. “My long-dead, 12-times removed cousin,Thomas Jefferson was your forefather’s Vice President. When Adams was President, half of the 36 rooms in the White House weren’t even plastered. Water had to be carried by hand from half-a-mile away, and the only john around was John Adams. The privy was a three-holer in the backyard. No wonder your relatives didn’t entertain much. When cousin Thomas moved in, the roof leaked and the grounds were in such bad shape that, on dark nights, several visitors  stumbled into pits before limping their way to the House.That’s how Cousin Thomas replaced bowing with handshakes, because he had to pull so many visitors out of holes in the front yard.
    ‘Considering some of the recent White House guests,’ Felicity added, ‘I’d vote for any applicant who’d want to bring the holes back!”’

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” the chairman shouted,”We are getting away from the point. We need some good questions to ask in the residency screening process. You have a suggestion, Vernonata?” “I want to know if future residents will hang up that tacky painting of Cousin George that Dolly Madison picked up at a fire sale. None of the other pictures smell of smoke.” “Veronata! The British burned down the House in 1812. That was one of the few things Dolly Madison saved.” “No wonder Nancy Reagan had to buy new dishes,” she replied.

    “It took 10 years to rebuild the White House, and our fifth President, James Monroe sold his own belongings to furnish it. So quit your carping. What now, Vernonata?” “Wasn’t Monroe the guy who stuck us with that dreadful swampland?” “Yes,” we call it Florida.”

    “Hickory Jackson, you may have the floor.” “I think Chip Adams made a good point about wild parties. My far-removed uncle, Andrew Jackson, opened the house to anybody off the street, so when Congress gave him $9,000 to furnish the East Room, the first thing he bought was 20 spittoons.” “So, we agree that lifestyle should be one of the things we should scrutinize. What else? Yes, Lady Feather Johnson.” “I don’t think that any of our tenants should swim naked in the Potomac River like Teddy Roosevelt did!”

    “Yes, Bully Roosevelt you have something to add?” “You know they didn’t have many bathrooms in the President’s living quarters when my Cousin Teddy was President, and he had six children. Mother Nature drove that old Rough Rider right into the Potomac. And, that shabby old house was so shaky, that every time he gave a dinner party, the State Dining Room floor had to be propped up.”

    “What do all of you think about asking for a damage deposit?” “Yes,” Bossy Truman?” “Are you talking about the House or the Country? If you mean the House, I’m against it.  It’s lucky that my forebears, Harry and Bess didn’t hanker for a water bed, or they probably would have crash landed—kerplunk!—on some tourists from Tombstone. That house was such a dump, by the time my poor relatives moved there from Missouri in 1947, I don’t know how anyone could have lived there. Their daughter’s piano leg sank into the floor, and her sitting room broke in half. By 1948 most of the place was held up by scaffolds because those old timbers were beginning to buckle. The White House was gutted and renovations cost $5,761, because the Korean War bumped up prices.  Say, let’s go get the Koreans to pay for some of those renovations.”

    “I don’t think that would work, Bossy, unless the British also pay us for burning it down during the War of 1812. We are getting off the subject again. So far, here are the questions we’ve come up with to weed out prospective tenants:”  1. Can you live in a house without a ‘Made by American’s label?’ 2. Would you consider some politically effective holes in the front yard to discourage irksome visitors? 3. Will you pay a damage deposit—not for the House—but for the Country?”

    “Okay, what else should we add?” “Yes,” Bully, you have something to say?” “When my other ancestor, Franklin Roosevelt, was President during WWII, the army wanted to paint the White House black, but he refused. Let’s paint it green, so our President could show his love for the environment by staying home and tending to the Green House.”

    “We will bring that up at our next meeting, when we will discuss, ‘Zoning Violations:Terminating a Tenant for Running a Business Out of His Home.’ Meanwhile, consider Calvin Coolidge’s words when he returned from an evening stroll with a friend.

    The friend looked at the White House and joked, ‘I wonder who lives there?’  ‘Nobody, Coolidge replied. They just come and go.’”

    And leave the key under the mat.

    reprinted from: Blumenfeld/Alpern humor column in ACCENT ON HOMES AND LIVING MAGAZINE ( Atlanta, Ga, 1994 c. Blumenfeld) and DESERT LEAF PUBLICATIONS (Tucson, AZ, 2008 c. Blumenfeld)



    “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