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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.



    Must The Show Go On?

    My friend, Jean enjoys avant-garde theatre and has dragged me to some rather strange productions. When she told me that she had tickets for a one-man show at a performance art studio, I agreed to join her, because I like her and figured how bad could one guy be? 

    The studio was located near some railroad tracks, and the small building looked as if it had been well shaken for many years. As we stepped inside, we were greeted with a view of assorted paraphernalia hanging from the walls and ceiling, that I assumed a performing artist might need from time to time. There were ropes, musical instruments, bicycles, whips, swords, balloons, masks, clown costumes, and a collection of extremely large paper Mache figures, which looked as if they had fallen off a Mardi gras parade float. Everything was extremely dusty. 

    Our seats were in the front row, because it was the only row, and I sat smack dab in the middle, facing a large, white enamel toilet that was plopped in the middle of the performance area. A recorded dirge began to play, but abruptly stopped, as the room became ablaze with light. The actor came forth, sat on the toilet and began to moan. At first I thought perhaps he was constipated, but then he began a conversation with an imaginary friend about his life. I wondered why he would be talking with a friend while sitting on the toilet. 

    On occasion, as his conversation became more animated, he would stomp his feet sending a cloud of dust my way. Consequently, my eyes began to water, and tears began to run down my face. Seeing my reaction, he surmised that I was inordinately taken by his performance. When I blew my nose, he, too, began to cry. That actor sat on that toilet for one hour, extremely moved by his own acting skills while delivering his lines directly to me. All I wanted to do was to jump up, flush that damned thing and get rid of him. 

    When the show mercifully ended, I tried to sneak out, but it was impossible, because the actor stood at the door gathering accolades. As I reached the blocked exit, he looked at me with a grateful smile. I blew my nose one more time, and blurted out, “Wow! That was really something,” as I escaped, gasping for air. 

    On the way home, Jean told me that she and her husband were going to take dance lessons. I called her a few days later and asked, “How did the lessons turn out?” “Not so good,” she replied. “My husband suffers from motion sickness, and the dancing made him nauseous, so we had to get our money back.” To know her is to love her. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (That’s show biz)




    Do It The Write Way

    There’s an old story about a man who approaches an artist and says, “I wish I had the talent to paint like you.” Then he approaches a musician and says, “I wish I had the gift to play like you. And, then, he approaches a writer and says, “If I only had the time-----.“ 

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said, “I have a book in me,” and for all those occasions I resisted replying, “Perhaps that’s a good place for it to stay.” 

    When I taught writing classes, I often encouraged students to write family histories or get their original poetry bound.  No one should diminish the value of these projects for those individuals and for the people they love.  However, I take umbrage when they call themselves “published authors.” 

    For once, I want to clarify what distinguishes a published author from a self-published author. A published author gets an advance of payment on royalties that are paid to the author by the publisher. The publisher absorbs all of the costs of publishing a book. This includes paying an editor, an illustrator (usually one of their choice), paying publication costs, distribution and (if you are lucky) a publicist. When a company publishes a book, the author does not pay the publisher. The publisher pays the author. If authors pay to get their books published, then they should call themselves “self-published.” There is an ethical and professional difference. Always ask, “Who published your book?” When the author starts coughing, be suspicious. 

    Although most people can carry a tune, few would think that qualifies them a spot in the Metropolitan Opera. And, although everyone has the capacity to doodle on a piece of paper, few would expect their doodles to show up at the Louvre. However, an inordinate number of people think they have the ability to kick an author like Stephen King to the curb, because how hard can it be to write scary stuff? After all, who wouldn’t want to read about the family who got ptomaine poisoning from Aunt Emily’s meatloaf? 

    Most professional writers will tell you that writing is hard work. My favorite book review for OH, LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA was the one where the reviewer wrote, “Many people will think they could have written this book, but it takes a lot of work to make it look so easy.” 

    I admit that book publishing is ever changing with new technologies. That’s okay. But, on the other hand, if you have lots of money and a matching ego, almost anyone can get published these days, and you don’t have to put up with rejection. For a hefty fee, you can hire people to produce your book. You can also pay people to distribute, advertise and even write computer reviews of your creation. It does help if you have a big empty garage, an extremely large family or many employees who are waiting for your book with baited breath as an inclusion in their holiday gift basket. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing dishonest about self-publishing, and a few people are successful going this route, but the successful ones are usually honest about the process that got them there. 

    If you really want to brag that you are an author and don’t think you have the “time,” you can even hire someone to write your book for you, and no one ever has to know that you never developed an idea, lifted a pencil or tapped a computer key. Of course, if you tried this with a violin, the audience would catch on right away, because being a professional musician requires some talent. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (practice, practice, practice)


    Not To Worry

    I come from a family of worriers. Sometimes when my phone rings, and I answer, “Hello,” my Aunt Ruth will say, “What’s wrong?” At that point, I didn’t know anything was wrong, but I start to worry that maybe something should be. 

    Recently, when I took a trip to Buffalo, New York to visit her, I said, “Aunt Ruth, you look remarkable at 96 years of age.” She put a finger to her lips, pointed heavenward and whispered, “Don’t remind him.” Aunt Ruth frets about everything. She worries that on one hand there isn’t enough food in the house for company, and on the other hand there’s too much food in the refrigerator for her to finish.  I worry that she is growing penicillin, when I discover a container of molding cranberries that are left over from Thanksgiving---and it’s the middle of June. 

    I once complimented her on the fact that I never sensed that she favored any one of her four children, and she replied, “That’s because I am mad at all of them equally.” She has a devoted family, and all of them are at her beck and call, and call she does---repeatedly---to remind them of what she reminded them of 10 minutes before. They take it with relatively good humor when she innocently claims, “I’m just a little old woman.” 

    She scoots around her house with a walker, but doesn’t drive anymore, so her grandchildren take her anywhere she wants to go. Friday is beauty parlor day and neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep her from that appointed round. As you might have heard, it occasionally snows in Buffalo. In the midst of a blizzard, Aunt Ruth needed to get her hair done. After all, it was Friday. So, one of her grandsons took her. When they returned home, a snowplow had cleared the street, creating a mountain of snow along the curb. “How, can I get out?” she wailed. “No problem,” said her buff grandson. He came around to her side of the car, opened the door and hoisted her over the snow bank. She arrived home, nary a hair out of place. Another grandson created the mantra, “Don’t worry Grandma.” Now when she champs at the bit, everyone chimes in with a chorus of “Don’t worry, Grandma.” 

    Aunt Ruth is a television news hound and faithfully follows all political happenings, and she isn’t shy about telling people what she thinks about everything. Her doctor was taking her blood pressure while she chatted on about the latest news reports. He listened, and then took out his prescription pad and began to write. “Is something wrong with me?” she fussed.“Your blood pressure is a bit high,” he replied.  “Here is your prescription.”  He had written, “You are no longer allowed to watch CNN.” 

    Fat chance! Did I mention that Aunt Ruth never follows orders. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (wouldn’t trade her for a million bucks)


    And Whose Little Girl Are You?

    When I reached my fourth birthday, my mother thought it would be safe to visit her parents for a few days and leave me with my absent-minded, scholarly father. As the train pulled away from the station, Father and I looked at each other and he said, “Ice cream?” I knew breakfast would be delicious. 

    After breakfast, we went to a department store. I had never seen an escalator before, and stood mesmerized at the bottom of the moving stairs, as I watched my father step on the escalator, ride to the top of the world and disappear. I promptly found the nearest sales lady and told her to look for a lost man with a worried look on his face. She found him. 

    When we returned home, he read me my favorite story; the fable of Medusa from Bulfinch’s Mythology. She was the creature with snakes in her hair that turned people to stone when they looked at her. Then Father suggested I go outside to play, since he needed to do some work in his study. On my way out, he told me that if I found a snake, I should not put it into my hair. 

    I ran around the yard, climbed the neighbor’s apple tree, killed several mosquitoes and swung on my wooden swing until I fell off and skinned my elbow. It started to rain, so I went inside and Father wrapped my arm with Mother’s best kitchen towel. Then I decided to give myself a haircut, so I could wear bangs on my forehead, but I ended up creating a bald spot. Father said it didn’t really look that bad and would make it much easier for outside knowledge to get in. “Have you learned anything?” he asked.  “Yes,” I answered, “No more haircuts.” He let me wear his fedora the rest of the day. 

    The morning Mother was due to return, I adjusted the kitchen towel, put on my best dress (backwards, because it looked so much better that way) and clamped Father’s hat snugly on my head. When we reached the station and I spied my mother disembarking the train, I ran down the platform shouting, “Mama, Mama, never leave us again.” Everyone within earshot glared at the monstrous woman who had abandoned her befuddled husband and her pitiful waif. 

    When we got home, Mother tossed the dishtowel into the trash and gingerly removed Father’s hat from my head. “What happened to your hair?” she gasped.“A snake ate it,” I replied. “Don’t look at my head. It can turn you into stone.” 

    One more time, she gave me the “weird child” look. Who could blame her? Other little girls sported pigtails. I thought I wore snakes. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (acting normal)


    Fill Her Up

    A man goes to his doctor and says, “Doctor I don’t feel so good, and everyone around me is extremely disagreeable.” The doctor gives him some medication and tells him to return in a month. A month later, the man returns, and the doctor asks him, ”How do you feel now?” The man replies, “I still don’t feel so good, but everyone around me is getting much nicer.” 

    Some people approach life with a half empty glass, while others have a glass that is half full.  I’m just glad to have a glass. 

    A woman who moved to my neighborhood from Australia told me that she didn’t like Australians.  I told her, “I have met several Australians and I like them very much.” She replied, “They have to behave when they aren’t in their own country.” Then I traveled to Australia and discovered that Australians are very pleasant people---even on their own turf.  I said to one man in Sydney, “Why are you Australians so friendly?” He replied, “Because we live so far away from everyone that we have to be nice when you come to visit.” 

    The same woman who didn’t like Australians moved to Florida when she first came up from “Down Under”, and she also didn’t like Floridians.  Then she moved to my neighborhood where she really hated everyone. People were glad when she moved away because she took herself with her. 

    I’ll admit it. I am a people person. I like most people. For a few years, my son lived in Wisconsin. I like people from Wisconsin. The ones I have met are upbeat kind and friendly. It must be that entire delicious cholesterol-producing dairy that makes them mellow.  I also like Canadians. They are sensible and calm and laugh a lot, because their banks managed to stay out of trouble while ours were emptying our glasses as well as our wallets. I even like New Yorkers. 

    My son used to live in New York City. He warned me about New Yorkers: “Look, Mom, this time when you come to New York and we ride the subway, please don’t talk to people. It’s New York. You get on the subway. You get off the subway. You don’t talk to people. People in New York don’t talk. Don’t even make eye contact! You think I’m kidding? There was an article in the Times about a corpse that rode the train at rush hour. The guy rode for 45 minutes and 20 stops before anyone told the police.”  I replied, “Obviously, no one made eye contact with him.”  

    Naturally, I didn’t take his advice. Some people along the way have put a few chips into my glass, but no one has broken it yet. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (optimist but no fool)