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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
    May062011

    Meet Me At The Office

    Computers are an excellent way to communicate factual information, but when exchanging creative ideas, I have found that face-to-face conversation (which involves eye contact, laughter and an inordinate amount of flailing of arms) is the most productive way to work with a writing partner. 

    When my friend, Lynne Alpern and I decided to collaborate on OH, LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA, we encountered a major problem. Our sons were in nursery school and that only gave us 4 hours of meeting time. We didn’t live close to each other, and working at home involved too many interruptions. One writer we knew was blessed with 4 children. She worked in a closet in her home, but no closet was big enough for the two of us. Consequently, we had to find a workspace. McDonalds was the perfect solution. The coffee was cheap, the music was soft and the restroom was clean. So, for a year, we worked on our book, sitting at the same little corner table at our McDonald’s office. If someone had the nerve to take our space before we arrived, we’d glare at him until he left. 

    I knew we had it made the day the phone rang and the manager shouted, “Writers, there’s a call for you!” Then one day when we arrived at the office, we noticed a big change. The old manager was gone. If the new manager said, “Good Morning,” we didn’t hear him, because the place rocked with music so loud that it made our table jump. The next day, we dressed up in fancy clothes and moved to our new office---a remote corner in the lobby of the elegant JW Marriott Hotel. 

    The coffee bar was more expensive, but the restroom had linen towels. Since we dressed properly and carried brief cases, people assumed that we were guests at the hotel, and no one bothered us. Unfortunately, our cover was blown the day that Atlanta Magazine ran an article and a photo of us at the office. 

    Happily, the boys were promoted to full-day kindergarten, and our book was far enough along that we could finally work at home. Of course, there was the day that we had to compare notes in order to meet a deadline. Surreptitiously, we moved a toilet paper display at Kroger’s in order to sit on their shelf, but that’s another story. 

    Esther Blumenfeld  (knock before entering the closet)

     

    Friday
    Apr292011

    Iconic, Ironic and All That Stuff

    Every state in The Union has symbols chosen as meaningful by their citizens. For instance, some state flowers have been honored for their beauty, fragrance, and forthcoming crops, such as the apple blossoms of Michigan or the peach blossoms of Delaware. People can pick bouquets of bluebonnets in Texas, sunflowers in Kansas or peonies in Indiana.

    I live in Arizona where we honor the beautiful but impossible to reach white flower that blooms at the top of the 43-foot-tall-2000-pounds-full-of-water-covered-with-sharp-spines saguaro cactus. There are other beautiful flowers in Arizona, but characteristically those Arizonans who made the decision wanted something out of touch.

    We also have a state fossil. It is not the Arizona State Legislature, but it is petrified wood, which is similar in makeup. The Arizona green tree frog is the state amphibian elected by school children in 1985. Kermit declined the honor, and the green tree frog (usually found in the mountains) won out over 3 toads. The children knew that if you kiss a frog, you might get a prince, but if you kiss a toad you’ll likely end up with warts. Those children are now registered voters. Our state bird is the cactus wren, which has a white stripe behind each eye. It is the largest wren in the United States.

    The Fossil State Legislature decided that Arizona should have an official firearm, and passed a bill declaring the Colt single-action Army revolver to be the state gun. Now that the Governor has signed this legislation, Arizona is the first state with a symbolic gun, so Sierra Club members are applying black eye makeup on cactus wrens. Utah is considering following suite. I don’t know why those clean-cut missionaries need a state gun, but when they ring your doorbell, it will give new meaning to the term, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” 

    Arizona’s official neckwear is the bola tie that is really not a tie, but a noose. The palo verde is the official tree. Palo verde means “green stick,” so Arizona has a green stick as it’s official tree. Arizona’s mammal is the ringtail, an animal no one has ever seen. It has 5 toes on each foot, equipped with sharp curved, non-retractile claws. Bigfoot was not available. 

    And finally, the state reptile is the Arizona ridge-nosed rattlesnake. I don’t know why they couldn’t have picked one with a regular nose, but this one is a coward who slithers away from people, emits weak venom, and has never had a reported human death on record. I’ll bet the state gun will do better than that! 

    Esther Blumenfeld (humming the official Arizona March Song)

     

     

    Friday
    Apr222011

    Soothsaying

    Fortune tellers in Romania are not only being taxed, but authorities are now proposing a new bill that threatens fines or prison if their predictions don’t come true. In this economy there’s even a hex on witchcraft. 

    Recently, I declined an invitation to a philanthropic event that featured a psychic as entertainment. The woman who answered my telephone call said, “This man can tell you the name of any song you have playing in your head.”  I replied, “If he’s that good, he already knows I’m not coming. Besides, why do I want someone to tell me what tune is in my head when I already know?”

     Obviously, I’m not big on mumbo jumbo. Some people swear by divination. I can wait 24 hours for tomorrow to arrive with all of its surprises, but there are those Nostradamus folks who want to predict the future in order to avoid the pratfalls in their path, or to be able to say, “See, I told you so.” 

    I admit that on occasion I have a taste for a fortune cookie, because the message is always cheery and I can eat the messenger, but I don’t take these little messages to heart. 

    For those who yearn to delve into the spooky, here are some specialties that might appeal to you, if you can find these folks: 

    1. Onychmancy:  Reading the future from reflections in a Virgin’s oiled fingernails. In the 21st Century, this may prove difficult. Never met a woman with oily fingernails.
    2. Haruspex: Reader of entrails. You might want to ask your broker about this one.
    3. Kephalonomancy: Tell the future from listening to the crackling made by burning a donkey’s head. PETA would object.
    4. Hydromancy: It has to do with swirling waves and other wet activities, but the practitioners are a “reclusive lot.” This is probably because they have their heads under water.
    5. Rumpology: This involves predictions by reading the lines on buttocks.  Certainly, there are some of those around.
    6. Uromancy: Divination by reading bubbles made by urinating into a pot. This might work for toddlers. 

    Truth is absolutely stranger than fiction. Here is my advice: If you don’t like what your Horoscope tells you, pick another month. Enjoy the tea, and throw out the leaves, and if anyone reads your palm, use a hand sanitizer. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (Chinese Fire Rat)

     

    Thursday
    Apr142011

    What Time Is It, Anyway?

    Time stands still in Arizona.  Our clocks don’t fall back or spring forward. They just stay the same, which only makes sense to Arizonans and confuses the rest of the Country.  In the summer, when my telephone rings at 4 a.m., I know it’s a call from the East Coast. 

    However the three-hour time difference is a bonus when flying to New York City. People marvel that I can party until 1 a.m., but only I know that it’s just 10 p.m. back home. Of course the trip in reverse exacts nature’s revenge when I wake up at 3 a.m. after going to bed at 7 p.m. 

    Energy conservation is the rationale for daylight savings time, but when it’s 110 degrees in Arizona no one has any energy anyway, so we got an exemption. The desert does cool off at 9 p.m., and early morning is the time for hiking, biking and not complaining. Late sleepers just avoid getting out of bed until October, which gives new meaning to “killing time. 

    It is true that the Navajo Nation does follow daylight savings, because it is easier to keep the whole reservation on one system, since their territory stretches across 4 States (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah) and 3 out of 4 are good odds for not going completely loco.

    The Hopi Reservation is totally surrounded by the Navajos, but they have joined Arizona in not enacting daylight savings time. My rationale for this decision is that perhaps an enterprising Hopi brave got a gross of digital clocks at a good price. How DO you change the time on those things anyway? 

    Sometimes religion makes people hesitate to fool around with time. “If God wanted us in an earlier time zone, God would have put us in an earlier time zone.” Surely, Moslems wouldn’t welcome having to fast later into the evening at Ramadan. The shopkeepers were already cranky in the late afternoon when I entered a marketplace in Israel. Their scowls weren’t very welcoming, which I thought wasn’t good for business, but I caught on when I heard in unison the sounds of stomach rumblings. No, another hour of fasting just wouldn’t do during Ramadan. 

    My Latino friends have a totally different concept of time. I learned early on that manana does not mean tomorrow. It really means, “just not today.” 

    Esther Blumenfeld (hasta luego) 

     

    Friday
    Apr082011

    Tell It Like It Is

    When a new book hits the market, publishers encourage their authors to schedule book signings because of the publicity they generate. An ego driven author soon discovers that a book signing is not always a pleasant experience. If he dedicates a book: “For Mary, with heartfelt appreciation,” and the recipient coldly remarks, “You spelled my name wrong. It is spelled Merry,” the author cannot cross off the name. He can only say something such as, “Sorry, Mother.” 

    At one of my book signings, I asked the woman, who thrust my book into my face, “And, to whom would you like this book dedicated?” She looked askance and growled, “Just sign your name. It’s worth more that way when you are dead.” Some people tell it like it is! 

    Yesterday, I called a friend, and her gentle voice on the answering machine cooed, “Leave a message, and I’ll get back to you. However, I’m making some changes in my life and you may be one of them.” She called me back. Whew! Some people tell it like it is! 

    Honesty can be brutal. My Proctologist proclaimed, “You have a good looking colon,” and my Periodontist said, “You have a beautiful jaw bone.” I’m considering using those photos in my next holiday newsletter. The last time I read about an impressive jawbone was when Samson smote 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. I guess those compliments covered both ends. Some people tell it like it is! 

    Things are not always what they seem. Hummingbirds don’t hum. They click. Road Runners aren’t cute cartoon creatures. They are carnivorous birds. The first time I saw one; he was smashing a lizard to death on my sidewalk. Not pleasant facts but honest. 

    However, some people don’t tell it like it is. They fudge the truth or they simply lie. There are harmless untruths that people accept. Forever stamps are only Forever until the Postal Service raises the price, and beauty parlor permanents are really only temporaries until your hair grows out. 

    I like to think of myself as an honest person, but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. When I was afflicted with a child’s violin recital, I gritted my teeth, and told his mother, “I’m sure you are very proud of him.” 

    Some liars are cruel or use a lie to serve their own purposes. A woman once called to tell me that a good friend had said something nasty about me. I replied, “That is hard to understand, I’m going to call and ask her why she said that.” Heavy breathing ensued on the other end of the phone line. I don’t like malicious liars, but I think that people who eagerly accept a lie, without questioning it---are worse. 

    All of us are confronted with THE BIG LIE.  You only have to dial a business phone number---any business phone number. Be fortified with a good book, because soon you will hear these words: “Your call is important to us. Someone will be with you shortly.” It never fails. My name’s not Shortly! 

    Esther Blumenfeld (Pinocchio move over)