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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
    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

    Friday
    Apr212017

    UPS AND DOWNS

    UPS AND DOWNS

    When we first moved to Tucson twenty-two years ago, my husband, Warren and I were invited to a July wedding held at a fancy resort. Wine and hors d’oeuvres were served in a beautifully well-appointed parlor. We felt mellow and satisfied, until it was announced that the ceremony was to be held out-of-doors. Did I mention that it was July? I failed to mention that the outdoor temperature was a toasty 110 degrees.

    When escorted to our seats, the usher whispered, “Bride’s side? Or Groom’s side?” Whereupon, Warren removed his tie and said, “Shady side!” It was definitely a “Piranha day.” That’s what I call a day that starts out with a lot of promise, and ends up with an aggravation that can, like the small voracious fish, attack and devour what might have been a good day.

    When we lived in Chicago, one of the neighbors in our building saw a couple of men carrying oriental rugs. She said, “Oh, if you are taking those rugs to be cleaned, could you take ours too?” “Sure,” said one of the men. “We’d be glad to.” He gave her a receipt and they loaded the valuable rugs onto a truck---never to be seen again. The robbers had a movable feast. The rug owner suffered a Piranha day.

    My father-in-law was a dentist. One of his patients came to have her teeth cleaned. As he was examining her mouth, he congratulated her on her pregnancy. I’m not sure if that counts as a Piranha day or not, because it was the first inkling she had that she was pregnant. Her gums had given the secret away.

    We all experience ups and downs, but it’s good to know just how upset to become when a Piranha day attacks. When a couple came to our house all dressed up and ready to party, I greeted them at the door wearing my bathrobe. No, it wasn’t a pajama party. They had just arrived a day early. I invited them in. We ordered pizza and drank their bottle of wine. They told me that they were going to bring another bottle tomorrow, so I wasn’t even aggravated. It was very good wine!

    Last night, my automatic garage door went up, but when I returned home (and it was very late and very dark outside) the door refused to go back down. I called a kind friend and neighbor who lowered the heavy metal door manually. He gave me a consoling hug and chased the Piranha away. The next day the “Always Open and Shut” garage door company came to fix the door (one more time.) They informed me “Your sensor has to be replaced.” It could have been worse. After all, it was a sensor in the door’s brain and not mine---just one of those ups and mechanical downs in the Piranha fish tank of life.

    Esther Blumenfeld (Have a good day!)

    Friday
    Apr142017

    OUT OF THIS WORLD

    In the March 13th issue of TIME MAGAZINE, there were two articles, back-to-back, that caught my attention. The first was about the new technology, Snapchat, which was built for the generation that wants to oxymoronically use technology to improve “its anti-social social life.”

    In a nutshell, it’s an application where images are sent with the purpose that they will immediately disappear after one viewing. For instance, Snapchat makes it possible for a teenager to show a friend how self-aware he is while trimming his toenails, and then, his privacy will no longer be invaded because the image goes—-Poof!  Although, as I understand it, an advertiser for foot powder could conceivably slide a 10-second commercial between his toes before the image disappears.

    So, that’s it. Snapchat is a way to share many stupid ideas before they disappear.

    The second article in TIME MAGAZINE involves the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets that could offer “signs of life.” Of course, there’s life and then there’s life. I find the whole idea pretty funny, since I am still trying to find signs of life in people who Snapchat.

    I read that these planets orbit around a star named after what I thought was a  monk called “Trappist-1,” who doesn’t talk very much and makes good beer.  Anyway, that’s what I thought until I realized that “Trappist-1” is really named after a small telescope that lives in Chile, and is stuck with an acronym for; “Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope.” I liked the name Pluto better until the scientists informed us that Pluto wasn’t even a planet.

    This little telescope, “Trappist-1” has discovered that the star “Trappist-1” and its orbiting planets are 39 light years away from us.  That’s light years, not heavy years, but I don’t know the difference except that it is far, far away—-a worse commute than my son has to  drive from Virginia to Maryland where he works for NASA. Now when he calls me, and complains while he is sitting in traffic, I can say, “At least you don’t have to drive 39 light years to get to work.

    But back to the idea of life on these planets so far away. If there’s life—there’s life—but as far as I am concerned, cockroaches don’ t count, and before we get all exercised about life on other planets, maybe it would be a good idea to start making life work on the planet we are all stuck on together. After all, the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. Heck, in this case, there might not even be any grass.

    So, what’s the relationship between these two TIME MAGAZINE articles? Both of them are wrapped up in the future. With Snapchat, the image of today is here and then gone on to the next one without looking back. The planets are far, far away. They are of scientific significance, but of probably little practical application today, tomorrow or who knows when.

    The point is that sometimes people need to stop and look back, because if you don’t know where you’ve been—-you’ll never really figure out where you are going, and humanity, here on Earth, better figure that out—- before some fool Snapchats us all.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Apr072017

    ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

    BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. So, when I read the excellent reviews of the new movie, I decided to treat myself to a morning of enchantment. Wanting to avoid crowds of children, I decided to attend the first showing of the movie on a Thursday morning when the kids were still in school.

    The early show started at 9:45 a.m., so I got there at 9:15, when the gate to the lobby was supposed to open. Not only was I the first person in line (or for you New Yorkers: ”on line”) I was the only person lined up. Consequently, the ushers (who never usher anywhere) ignored me and spent the next 15 minutes moving rope posts into different configurations to form aisles leading to the ticket takers. Ironically, I didn’t need a roped off aisle, because I was still the only customer when the gate to the theatre lobby was finally opened.

    Ignoring the disapproval of the post movers, I ducked under the rope that led immediately to the ticket seller. Pointing to a large map, the seller said, “Pick your seat.” “What do you mean?” I asked. He said, “This show is in the Extreme Digital Cinema, so you have to pick a seat.” I said, 
“What if I don’t want to pick a seat until I get into the theatre?” “Pick one!” he ordered. So, I picked a seat and paid the extra money for extreme viewing.

    The up escalator was out of order, so I said to an usher, “Why don’t you reverse the down escalator to up?” He replied, “Because it would throw everything off.”  That is why he is an usher and not a brain surgeon.  So, I walked up the 3 flights of steps from the lobby to the Cinema Section. The good thing was that they didn’t charge extra for the heart stress test.  Huffing and puffing, I went to the concession area, and asked for a courtesy cup of water with ice.

    Walking into the Extreme Digital Cinema Theatre was my second breath-taking experience. It was huge with hundreds of seats. I found my seat #14 in row H in the upper level. When I sat down, the rear part of my seat swooped back into an extreme reclining position, and  I yelled, “Whoops!” as the ice from my drink spilled down the front of my blouse.

    Since my seat was now all wet, and the ticket seller and his freaking seat map were downstairs in the lobby, I went up to seat #14 in row J. Finally, settling down, I looked around and realized that I was the only person in the whole theatre. However, I did turn off my phone when the voice coming from the screen boomed out that I should do so. The sound is also extremely extreme in that Digital Cinema. Then, I removed my hearing aids just in time for the coming attractions which posed no attraction  for me at all.

    Finally, the beautiful film commenced, and I was treated to a private showing of the magical Disney version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It was an uplifting experience, until I stood up and my seat ( #14 in upper level row J) sprang forward and spilled the rest of my ice water into my purse.

    The down escalator worked just fine.  I love a happy ending.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Mar312017

    AH, YES, I KNEW THEM WELL

    I don’t think it’s my fault, but it seems as if at least once every few weeks, one of my favorite restaurants simply vanishes. I don’t know where they go, but they are here today and then gone tomorrow. And, in their place, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a large chain restaurant is bound to appear.

    For awhile now, the big guys have pushed  little establishments out of business, and it hasn’t happened to just the food industry. However, for those of you who believe in Karma, it seems as if, in some cases, what goes around, comes around—-unless you are a dictator in exile living in the lap of luxury in Paris—-but I digress.

    When I lived in Atlanta, the department store, Rich’s was an institution that began in 1867. They had a loyal customer base and their employees happily stayed on until retirement, or the undertaker carried them out feet first.  Marshall Field’s in Chicago had very much the same reputation until the behemoth, Macy’s swallowed them both. However, there have always been bigger fish in the mercantile sea with voracious appetites, and armed with cheap Chinese goods, they seem to have taken a major bite out of Macy’s.

    So, now, Macy’s is having “Going Out Of Business” sales, and is cutting 10,000 jobs. The good news is that their sales staff won’t even notice until they look up from their cell phones and realize that there aren’t any customers around to interrupt them.  Rumor has it that Marshall Field’s is also on the Macy hit list.

    A generation ago, Macy’s competitor, Gimbell’s Department Store closed after 76 years in Manhattan (N.Y. not Kansas). With a creative move, they introduced the first bargain basement. Now, in the next two years, Macy’s plans to open approximately  50 “Macy’s Backstage off-price locations” in existing Macy’s stores. Wow! What a good idea!  “Would Macy’s tell Gimbel’s?”

    Some of the blame for failing stores can be attributed to on-line shoppers, but I have another, albeit unscientific, theory. Granted, many people do prefer to shop on-line, but there are still plenty of people—-especially women, who do the majority of shopping—- who still enjoy getting out of the house. As Erma Bombeck said, “Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football.Women enjoy the scrimmages, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.” However, merchants got lazy and took them for granted.

    The one thing that an upscale store can offer is EXCELLENT SERVICE, which has gone the way of the Dodo Bird. Whatever happened to well-trained, cheerful sales staff, who acted as personal shoppers? Where’s the beautiful complimentary gift wrapping at holiday time? Who was the bright guy who decided that clothes had to be clumped into designer areas, so a person has to jog all over the store looking for a blouse. Must have been a guy. As Cynthia Nelms reminds us, “If men liked shopping, they’d call it research.”

    And, where is that beautiful restaurant that used to be a stop-off destination before more shopping?  A person didn’t even have to leave the store.

    If all free-standing stores close, and people think that they can save time by shopping on-line, forget that! I can promise you that lots of merchandise will have to be sent back because it won’t look as good on you, or in your house, as it did in the catalog. Order those shoes and you will have to send them back because you didn’t try them on before they arrived. After all, you will discover that the left shoe was made in Sri Lanka, the right shoe in Bangladesh, and the short shoelaces came from China. “Anyone can buy.  It takes an artist to shop.” (Boylan J. Finney).

    Esther Blumenfeld

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