A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words: Caption Contest

Hiya, Folks! In the spirit of thanks and giving and also because it made me laugh to think about it, Of Cabbages and Kings is running its first ever caption contest. When the Gods of Funny Photos align themselves in one's favor like with the photo above from my travels yesterday, one does not question-- one shops for TWO tacky Florida souvenirs to be awarded to the two best captions.

That's right, between now and midnight Monday, just post your funny captions for the photo above and the Cabbages team of expert judges (myself and the Jane Austen bobblehead on my desk-- and no, she's not as picky as you might think) will choose two winners, each of whom will receive a tacky Florida souvenir of my choice.

Here is the full pic, just so you can get the entire effect.

I will announce the lucky winners along with Wednesday's post. Cheers!!


The Annual Whatsit Christmas Volley

I can still see it: Mom kneeling by the Christmas tree... her life-giving coffee sitting as a caffeine crutch next to her. She sliced open the narrow, flat package from our family friend, with a delicately painted fingernail. And it was then she withdrew... a...


It was a....


She held it aloft. It was.... a...

Wow. Um...

"What is it?" Mom asked finally.

Darned if Dad and I knew.

It was flat and crocheted in silver thread. On each end, it came to a point and from that point was a crocheted silver loop. That object had a conjoined twin, and these two flat pointed looped objects were secured together firmly by a shiny gold thread.

It looked like a poorly conceived bikini top for a Cabbage Patch Kid. Or two bookmarks tied together. Or really low-level nunchucks. Or the world's most uniquely non-functional Christmas ornament.

I recall my mother initially trying some clever reconnaissance techniques with the gifter during a holiday phone call, but it was simply no good. There was just no way to politely approach the subject of the handmade silver thingy without openly admitting we had absolutely no idea what it was-- and my mother was nothing if not polite.

The thing sent my mom on an investigative mission.

So she showed it to the ladies she worked with at the library. And she showed it to my friends' moms for their analysis. She shared it with the neighbors over afternoon coffee. And she sent it with me to Show and Tell. (It was heavy on "Show" that day, I recall: "Here's this thing. We don't know what it is..." And then me, shuffling back to my desk).

Yup, Mom even brought it with her to my grandparents' house 300 miles away, just to see if they had any additional insights.

My Aunt Lydia in particular was mystified, turning it over in her hands and laughing. Lydia was a creative soul with an eye for design herself-- but even she'd never seen the likes of this.... this Whatsit. She made all sorts of suggestions for its purpose, our Lydia did. But somehow none of them quite felt right.

Yet, the item made a lasting impression on my aunt. Because each time she'd talk to Mom on the phone during the course of the year, Lydia would ask if we'd ever learned what the thing was.

No, the Whatsit still defied explanation, we would tell her. Looks like we'd have to get Leonard Nimoy or Rod Serling on the case.

So next Christmas, my mom-- who had a bit of an ornery streak underneath that June Cleaver exterior-- well, she chucklingly wrapped that Whatsit up in colorful foil paper and a large tempting bow... and gave it to Lydia.

We got a call from Lydia that Christmas morn, talking of regifting and pledging revenge.

Christmas came around the next year... And we were braced for the silver visitor. But we got down to the very last gift from my aunt and uncle and... no Whatsit. I think it lulled us into a certain amount of complacency.

Two years later, the prodigal Whatsit returned home, wrapped cleverly with an equally flat pair of slipper socks. Lydia was hooting with laughter 300 miles away.

Mom determined the best time for the Whatsit to make its encore appearance was when no one would suspect it. So, in August, Lydia's birthday was celebrated with a nice birthstone jewelry set...

And the Whatsit.

So there the Whatsit stayed. I don't know if Lydia will find the Whatsit someday in some dusty back cupboard. If the Annual Whatsit Christmas Volley passed along with the passing of my mom. I suspect, however, the Whatsit is just lying there somewhere dormant, waiting for just the perfect time to begin its comeback career.

I wonder a bit whenever the UPS man leaves a package at my door. I mean, I get enough things for Christmas that I don't know what they are. A little closure sometimes... well... it's a nice thing.

As I'll be away for Thanksgiving, I will be attempting to post Friday's post from Florida.

They tell me there's wireless at the hotel, but travel isn't travel unless the unexpected hits you upside the head with a wet fish a few times.

So if you don't hear from me, it's not because I'm dissing all my Friends of Cabbages. I'm just drinking pina coladas and... er, no, I'm suffering... suffering without Internet access.



Things I Learned from Watching Television

Ah, television-- putting the "pow" and "bif" into mind-numbing entertainment options for over half a century! And me, well, I've spent my share of time plunked down in front of the old boob tube.

But for folks who say television has nothing to teach us, I say they're WRONG!

In fact, I think they're SO wrong, I've pulled together just a few absolutely indispensable things (read: useless mind-clutter pushing out the really important stuff in my brain), all of which I've learned over the years from watching TV:
  • Only good-looking people find themselves stuck on deserted islands, as members of any elite team, survivors from a plague, or in the medical profession. If you're in one of these situations and you are not terribly attractive? Brace yourself for a poignant death three episodes into the season. Unless you are funny.
  • The cooler and edgier you are, the more frequently your world will break into unexpected slo-mo, particularly when you're just walking purposefully from here to there. When you feel the slo-mo coming, make sure you've got a long coat handy that can billow in the breeze.
  • When you have experienced the loss of a loved one, sad music in a two-minute montage will begin, interspersed with flashbacks. This is a perfectly acceptable replacement for actual feelings, discussion or facial expressions.
  • No one ever really needs to go to the restroom-- thinking we do is a misconception. Jack Bauer, for instance, has been holding it for at least five seasons. The only acceptable reason for entering a restroom is if the serial killer, who's been stalking you, is hiding in there.
  • You can be a renowned scientist, important professor or highly decorated supercop by age 25. None of your less-alert and middle-aged team members will call you things like "Kid" or "Skippy." And no one will be surprised that you're the one with all the authority at the crime scene. The exception to this is if you are a Rookie Cop who Doesn't Play by the Rules. Then your superiors are obligated to condescend to you. Don't worry; you will humiliate them all later.
  • If you are a female scientist, you are beautiful, but have bad eyesight and haven't heard of contact lenses. Also, no one will notice how beautiful you are until you remove your glasses during casual discussion. Glasses are the number one protective barrier to anyone noticing you are a supermodel.
  • When in a tense forensic situation where a body is being examined, and specialized knowledge is critical-- it's important to make a bad pun each time you leave the scene. That shows how hip, savvy and in-control you are. If you aren't currently good at punning, there are classes to help you hone your skills.
  • If you are a female in a horror situation, and turn to the dark side your hair will look better than it ever has. Being possessed or going evil means suddenly you have your own personal stylist. Yes, the key to ending bad hair days is to get overtaken by a demon and try to destroy the world. End of Life as We Know It? Yes. But super -do!
  • On any level road, two cars experiencing a simple rear-end collision can defy all laws of physics and the back car will run up over the lead car. The back car will then flip, roll down an embankment, and explode. It’s a little-known fact that in the '70s and early '80s, car airbags were filled with rocket fuel for our safety. This is why our insurance rates are so high today.
  • It is impossible to build your own armored car or gun arsenal until 15 to 20 minutes before the show concludes. Don't worry. At the appropriate time, you will find yourself in an abandoned warehouse with scraps of metal and a blowtorch. If no scraps of metal are available, one of your teammates will have to offer up his extensive collection of gold chains, to melt down into appropriate bulletproof protection.
  • All metal is bulletproof. Hide behind any dumpster or self-made tank during a shoot-out, and you will remain unscathed.
  • If you're a bad guy in a chase scene, there is a high probability you will survive a car crash. If you're an '80s bad guy, you will feel compelled to ask your evil cohorts if they're okay. Hardened criminals are always concerned about each other’s safety.
  • Also, if you're considering getting into the Bad Guy career field, never stop for cops, no matter what your driving violation. It doesn't matter if you've got a broken tail light, you blew through a stop sign, or you've jaywalked. You are automatically obligated to become the lead car in a high-speed chase.
Well, those are the main things I've learned over the years from watching TV. What invaluable knowledge has television taught you folks? I'd love to hear about it.

PS- Thanks to those of you who already voted for me for "Humor Blogger of the Year." Much appreciated-- I will be able to show my face around the Humorblogger's forum without my compadres spitting in my drink and, um, trying to give me wedgies.


The Home Stalking Network

Stalking. It was roughly seven years ago to this day that I was well into a brand new hobby-- stalking what was my soon-to-be-new house.

About once a week, I would drive out of my way to cruise by it.... slow down... and goggle.

I would take in its gigantic spindled porch.... its cheerful bay window... its happy porch swing... its gently sloping yard. (The yard was "gently sloping" then. Ah, silly ignorant me-- unaware of how many times I, Future Jenn, would tumble down that "gentle slope" with flailing limbs and half-pulled weeds in my fists.)

I found myself daydreaming about the house in quiet times during the day. I'd wonder how it was... whether the current owners were treating it kindly. I'd wonder what it looked like with the fall daylight spilling across its roof. I'd ponder the glow of its stained glass window. I'd diagram its rooms and position my stuff there. I'd write its address in the margins of my notebook with hearts and flowers doodled around it.

Obsession. There was simply no other word for it. If my house had been a person, charges would have been filed.

Worse, I had the urge to buy it presents. Little tokens of affection like this great area rug I'd found on the Internet. One day, I recall, had been all about carpeting. Where could I get this carpet? How much was it here or there? Was it the right shade of red? How soon could I get it? And what size would look best in the living room that was not yet mine?

I knew I needed an intervention, but I was too deeply sick to care.

Coworkers would ask me about the house and I'd be unable hold back the goofy smile. I spoke of the place lovingly, and too often. I recall wishing I had a boyfriend I cared about as much as that darling domicile. But figured the boyfriend would probably want to live inside the house. And I doubted he could love it as much as I did. There’d be a conflict, and then one of them would have to go.

I figured I could convert his closet into some bookshelves.

And then my flatmate’s family came to town, and I even ended up taking them to stalk my new house. But with the current homeowner’s car sitting sentinel in the driveway, it became clear that my acute fear of public humiliation was still somehow stronger than my house lust.

Ah, in two cars we pulled up outside my object of obsession. And thinking back, we probably looked a lot like a targeted, ungraceful bank heist.

"Okay, you can step out of your car," I instructed my friend's family in low tones, "but keep the engine running!"

"Oh, but we want a picture of you in front of the house," said my friend's mom, wide-eyed.

"No time, no time! They're home, someone will see!"

"Pleeeease...?" She looked so excited and sweet there in her plastic rainbonnet, what could I do? Mom-type-people have a way of manipulating the improperly armed.

So "click, click, click" went the camera. And thus went two blurry photos of the house, and one with me pausing hesitantly in front of the "Sold" sign.

"Wooow," cooed my friend’s mom, pointing and starting to go up the front steps, "is that a porch swing?"

I saw a flicker in the window. Was that a curtain moving?

Abort, abort, abort!! Whoop, whoop, whoop, dive, dive!

"No time for that," I said quickly, shepherding her in a fleet-footed U-turn back to the vehicle. "I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions on the way to the apartment. Everyone, back in the cars," and vrrroom!

Of course, I was sure the owners saw me. Saw me for the umpteenth time since I found the place.

"Hey-- that red-haired girl’s out there again. You know, the one that keeps driving really slowly by the house?... Do you think we should have installed a more elaborate security system? I mean, this time it seems she’s brought a gang."

"I don’t know, they look pretty harmless. Fer Pete's sake, look at that plastic rain bonnet. Besides, we’ll be out of here in a few weeks and the new owner will have to deal with her."

I figured the closing was going to be pretty interesting.

Then, two months later, at the moment of truth, I finally met the owners. We made small talk... you know, light chit-chat the way people involved in getting gigantic lumps sums of money, or signing away their first born child, do. I told them how pleased I was to have won the bid, and how I'd always wanted to live in a Victorian.

And one of the owners chuckled and said, "Actually, we were surprised we didn't meet you sooner. I mean, we thought you'd at least stop by to see the place a couple of times. I don't know how you resisted."

Erm, yeah. I smiled, nodded, chuckled noncommitally and I turned my attention quickly to signing away that first born child.

Never get cocky when it comes to home stalking. And always, always keep your triumphs to yourself.

PS- If anyone cares to vote for me for Humor Blogger of the Year over at Humorbloggers, I'd be mighty beholden if you clicked on the red box in the right sidebar and voted for Of Cabbages and Kings under Personal Blogs. Many graciases!

Growing Up Personist

Sujatha over at Fluff-n-Stuff had tagged me for a meme. And unlike most memes, this one was so straightforward that-- instead of piddling around with six facts, or five lies, or 100 things, or seven dwarfs or three stooges or whatnot-- it just stormed right on to one big ol' loaded question:

Are you a feminist?

Now, Sujatha, knowing my deeply philosophical work-- (ahem)-- recognized instantly that this question might need a bit of Cabbagization to fit well here...

That hot-button topics that get folks sniping at each other and throwing chairs and burning their bras, are things that we here at Cabbages try to steer clear of.

Mainly because I believe in reupholstering chairs, not flinging them... And one of my blogging friends is, oddly enough, a bra, so that fire thing is right out... And also, I simply prefer Cabbages to be a snipe-free zone.

So Sujatha had suggested that I might want to do an LOLCats treatment on the topic or something. Of course, I would never do anything like that.

It's so overdone these days. Everybody's doing it, and see, I believe in taking the road less traveled.

So what was I talking about? Oh yes. Feminism. Am I a feminist?

Well, let's take a look at the dictionary definition of "Feminism."

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as:

"The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."

And hey, Equal is good! I mean, when I pour myself a cup of coffee, the first thing I do is reach for Equal.

Wait, is that the one that comes in the little pink packets? No?


Well, bugger.

But the thing about feminism these days is, most of us females born in the U.S. in the 70s have not had to actively battle for rights, to enjoy a reasonable amount of equality in our lives.

I mean, yes, growing up, my dad pretty well refused to even look for anything for himself in the refrigerator. Oh, this man-- who is clever enough to have built his own underwater sound recording equipment-- would stand helplessly in front of the fridge searching for the ketchup right in front of him, seemingly unable to recognize the famous Heinz bottle unless it was placed directly in his hand.

Which my frustrated mother would eventually do, just to get the room temperature back to normal.

But in 70s America, things they were a-changing. Girls enjoyed Barbies and dress-up, but playing in the mud and with cars was okay, too. We had role models like Wonder Woman, but we still watched Leave it to Beaver reruns. And if we chose to wear make-up and heels? It was because we wanted to wear them... rarely because the dress code said we should.

In the 80s, we could sport a tie and trousers á la Annie Hall... Or a gown to the prom á la Carrie-- er, sorry-- Molly Ringwald.... Molly Ringwald. It was a time some of our moms started to have jobs outside the home, some of our dads helped pick up the slack.

And going to college? For many of the girls in my class, college was a given. Although, of course, if everyone followed through with their high school plans, that
also meant we graduated a whopping 75 veterinarians...

Yep, if a dog ate a sock anywhere in Northern New Jersey, one of my classmates would be there to remove it.

As for me-- I can, and have, changed my own flat tire. But still appreciate that guys would offer to help. I like it when a door is held, but am just as willing to hold doors for my fellow humans, too-- male or female. I mean, a certain amount of civility to other folks really shouldn't be too much to expect....

Unless, apparently, you're at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Then, it seems it's everyone for themselves.

So when that question, "Are you a feminist?" comes up, I have to think about it. Feminism conjures images of speeches and demonstrations.... power struggles and pepper spray.

If anything, I'm just some lazy-butt gal who's had the good fortune of growing up in a place and time where I reaped the benefits of the shake-up before me. I seem to have reached it just when Girl Power first started really digging its heels in-- whether they're sensible shoes or four inch stilettos. I had the luxury of growing up more, er, personist.

I believe in personism for everybody.

There's still some room for improvement, of course. Only-- I don't know-- now we've got LOLCats pushing their own agenda, we've seen that pro-cat propaganda take off like wildfire...

Some movements simply can't be stopped.

Beauty and De-Nile

I pasted my head yesterday. And no, that's not some euphemism that would make your granny blush, or anything. I was trying to color my hair using henna for the first time, and I can only effectively describe the process to you as follows:

  • You decide to bake cookies. So first you add the flour and sugar. Then you add the egg and butter. Then you stir and stir and stir.
  • Then you go away and forget about the batter for about eight hours.
  • But then, when you're confronted with the batter in the bowl the next morning, you think, "Ya know, I wasn't so excited about making cookies in the first place."
  • So you mush it all through your hair.
  • Top off your new look with a Saran Wrap turban, a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry!

That's pretty much what it was like.

Sundae toppings optional.

But we do strange things for beauty, don't we?-- among them pasting our heads. I mean, the efforts themselves look so ridiculous, it's a wonder we even bother. We rip out hair by the roots here but plant new ones there. We buff and peel and polish. And highlights-- we pull teeny strands of hair through a plastic cap so we look like some sort of dish scrubber.

This is fashion.

Still, the henna promises to keep my hair a non-mouse-brown while simultaneously not turning it the consistency of an overused Brillo pad. So it seems worth the effort. Plus, you know, ancient Egyptians supposedly used it to go glam for their big pyramid openings and barge-rides and stuff.

I mean, if Cleopatra could hang out on the boat, head covered in a neck-straining 10 pounds of paste and whatever ye olde Saran there was back then-- ("Use PapyrWrap-- seals extracted organs and keeps 'em fresh for the Afterlife!")-- I suppose I'm certainly not above it.

Anyway, it's not like I've got Mark Antony watching the whole thing and saying:

"Blechius, Cleo! Pro plurrimi decorus mulier en Egypt, vos certus es grotesqueus en solarius!"

(Translation: "Damn, Cleo! For the most beautiful woman in Egypt, you sure are ugly in the morning.")

Of course, Cleo would also have been likely to respond:

(Loosely translated: "Talk to the hand, you backside of a horse.")

I like to look on the bright side of these things.

So, folks, I've shared my hair-dough tale-- tell this noggin-paster-- what have you done for the sake of looks or fashion that you find yourself chuckling at?


War with My Poor Confused Brain

Okay, so for my dear feed folks who I've undoubtedly confused terribly, the post that was originally here-- "The U.S. War Bonds with Popular Photography"-- has been moved to my thrifting blog here.

I hadn't actually meant to publish it on Cabbages, though there's certainly plenty of humor to be found in the post's 1940s World War II propaganda posters. So, for those inclined, I hope you'll go ahead and check it out.

And for those wondering what's the dealio with the hokey-pokey of post-shifting today, I guess my intentions were simply at war with my poor confused brain.

Thanks fer putting up with me in my less than shining moment of intellect.

Somewhere Over the Giant Eagle Supermarket Salad Bar

It was a gray day. My coworkers were gray. My supervisors, gray. My clients were well into charcoal gray. My joy of life-- gray with a touch of blue. I paused in the middle of my workday to sing a song about how somewhere, over the optical illusion of the spectrum presented when sunlight refracts through moisture in the Earth's atmosphere, Sialia Currucoides flew.

My coworkers-- the unappreciative gray wretches-- hollered for me to "shaddyap already." So any therapy from the singing vanished.

And then, I dropped into the Giant Eagle supermarket to get some lunch, like always. A part of a gray routine. And as I stepped through into the Prepared Foods area, suddenly....

The sun shone through the building rafters (okay, that was just brighter overhead lighting, but still...)

And color appeared before my eyes in a zillion vibrant MGM Technicolor shades.

A small terrier ran to my feet-- how the heck did he get into the store, is that sanitary?-- and yellow floor tiles had sprung up. And from behind stacked boxes of fruit punch and souvenir Steelers' merchandise, very short employees stepped out to share, in song, their enthusiastic affiliations with various Food Guilds...

And that's when I saw it:

The Giant Eagle folks had installed an all-new salad bar!

Oh, it was beautiful... Magical! Wonderful! (Yes, I do need to get out more. I do, I do, I do, I do!)

But instead of dipping into semi-frozen vats in the dark forest of mystery veg, now, under the new golden lights, we could actually see whether we were getting pickled beets or spiced apples.

And a whole rainbow bounty awaited! Bright red tomatoes, deep orange carrots, Greek salads, fresh fruit, and different kinds of lettuces and-- sugar snap peas! Me, the queen of French fries and gravy, got excited about sugar snap peas. Then I spied the chilled asparagus and-- oh, I just had to try some of that, too.

My heart soared! In pulling together a conveniently-located to-go box without having to trudge back and forth in an unnatural flow, I poured out my joy of fresh food and user-friendly organizational structure into an impromptu musical number:

"Boxes here... lettuce there....
And a couple of tra-la-lars!
That's how we dine the day away
With the merry new salad bar!"

But then-- a booming voice over the PA system shouted: "You there, in Aisle One! Who goes there?"

I looked around, frightened. Me?

I called out, "Why, I'm a lowly office employee, sir, insignificant and meek-- looking for an artichoke heart, a little brain food, and some cabbage. Just to tide me over until I can get home, of course."

The voice echoed, "Well, will you PLEASE. STOP. SINGING?! It seems to be interfering with the UPC scanning system."

"Oh," I muttered. "Sorry."

Still, I can't wait to go back there today. The sequel's never quite as good as the original, mind you. But the scallions and 'taters and pears-- oh my!


Miss Manzetti and the Swamp Thing

Miss Manzetti had been wearing the neckbrace as long as we knew her.

She was our high school gym teacher, and rumor 'round the locker room was, she sported that thing because she was the plaintiff in a big personal injury lawsuit.

We were 15 or 16, at the time-- just old enough to be jaded, and just young enough not to be deterred by a complete and utter lack of facts. So the story went that the injury itself had healed a long time ago-- but Miss Manzetti just never knew when the defense investigators would be checking her out.

The neckbrace, we suspected, was for show.

This, of course, meant that we kids spent a lot of time in gym class:

  1. Looking for mysterious people who might be private detectives lurking around the sports areas and...
  2. Trying to get Miss Manzetti to turn her head. Making loud noises, startling movements, things like that.

By junior year, though, we were not quite as rigorous in those two particular points as we had been.

Probably because Miss Manzetti seemed to have nerves of steel. And also there were other things to focus on in gym class. Like actually getting to choose our own activities.

Yes, gone were the days of mandatory group fun like square-dancing, gymnastics and the Jane Fonda workout. So with freedom of choice came a newfound love of exercise. Double-dutch, basketball, floor hockey and volleyball entertained us in the winter. And then, as the spring buds popped and the Canada Geese returned to poop on the marching band field-- there was football, and tennis, archery and the eternal favorite, canoeing around on the swampy pond out behind the tennis courts.

And so, I joined with a rag-tag team (because what story is fun if the team is neither rag, nor tag?) of classmates, all of us unusually low in the gym class pecking order. The little group consisted of myself, my friends Raoul and Josette, Jan McNeely of my old Gin Rummy days, and three kids I knew from my lunchtable.

The lunchtable kids were kind to include me at their table. But the overall dining atmosphere most days was not exactly candlelight and roses. They knew each other well-- too well, maybe. So a whole lunch hour could examine the philosophical aspects of who-did-what-to-whom-when, and how much more stupider this one was than that one, and who stunk more.

Usually this last honor was laid at the feet of a girl dubbed, "Smelly Kelly."

So, in lunch and in gym, it was a lot like hanging out with a trio of bickering fishwives. Or possibly the Three Stooges if all of them were Moe. Or if Tweedledee and -Dum had had a long-lost sister, -Duh--- to add into the mix.

Slapping and kicking were used liberally in between verbal assaults.

You may see now why we were not exactly welcomed with opened arms to join teams.

So, tennis was the sport of choice for us one particular semester. And we discovered fairly quickly that, unlike the games of John McEnroe or Chris Everett at the time, tennis need not necessarily be a fast-paced sport.

You see, there was that pond.

Since none of us were actually any good at tennis, a typical set would go...

Volley, volley, volley...

Bang! Hit too hard. Up and over the fence and...

Sploink! Into the swampy pond.

Then after a thorough filleting of the person who hit the ball out, that person would be made to leave the courts, and arrange for whatever kid who was rowing around in Canoeing, to go and fetch the ball.

See, we all knew that was the whole unspoken purpose of Canoeing, anyway-- to recover all of the archery arrows and tennis balls and other equipment and Jimmy Hoffa, that inevitably ended up in the pond.

Then our player would amble back to the court, and we'd begin the process all over again. One set could easily take a full gym period.

Well, this went on day after day. And the inner rage of the lunchtable kids was building. I don't know precisely what the controversy was anymore. I never really wanted to know. I'd had to proclaim myself Switzerland on more than one occasion. It was not mine to fix.

But "Smelly Kelly" was getting very tired of being -Duh in this family of Tweedles. And after a particularly heated back-and-forth between herself and -Dee and -Dum, Kelly finally... inevitably... exploded.

The ball bounced to her. And snatching it from the air in this middle of this argument, she flung it up, swung her racquet and with the shrieking scream of a Valkyrie... Kelly hit that thing using the power of a hundred-thousand men.

The sound of it echoed over the cement courts sending a chill down our collective spines. It sounded like an eagle screeching, going in for the kill.

Other teams stopped what they were doing to see this ball, this poor defenseless yellow-green sphere, vault skyward with blaring, breath-taking speed---

And go whizzing right over Miss Manzetti's head!

Miss Manzetti, who mostly occupied herself with the contents of a clipboard eight hours a day, saw the shadow of doom pass over her.

Perhaps she thought it was meteor coming in to crash. Or a low-flying secret jet. Or The Greatest American Hero. Or nuclear bombs. But it was loud and it was fast and perhaps it was through fear and reflex alone that... well...

She jumped and turned her head upward.

Students gasped and nudged each other. Kelly gaped and dropped her racquet.

Well, from then on, Miss Manzetti's credibility was lost, the reign of her phys ed monarchy over. If she suffered undue pain because of wrenching her neck from Kelly's rocket? Well, we didn't want to know about it. Because Kelly had made her turn her head...

And that was good enough for us.

The Tweedles didn't even make Kelly go and get the ball, so happy were we all with this minor triumph of Kiddom. They volunteered themselves, directing the current canoe-driver to the far, far back of the swamp. And returning with a ball coated with murk and moss and goo, a slick and slimy trophy for Kelly's efforts. We weren't winners, oh no... but still we had won.

For that day, that was just enough.


An Open Letter to PENNDOT

Dear Pennsylvania Department of Transit:

I must have been hallucinating on Saturday.

Because it was... oh... two or three weeks ago already now that the evening news told us how you were done with roadwork on the Parkway East for the year.

Done until next spring, when you would once again regularly close one of the major highways that connect we East side folks to the rest of the city.

Or to Monroeville Mall.

Or to, say, the Turnpike.

So I know I must have been hallucinating over the weekend. Because I could have sworn I saw roadcrews all along the in-bound Parkway on Saturday. I saw road cones taking up two lanes of the three lane highway. I was so positive I saw cars backed up almost to Penn Hills by late afternoon.

I must have been imagining the men under the bridges, then. And the cranes. And the giant piles of freshly dug up dirt. And the worktrucks and machinery here and there looking anything but done for the season.

Because they couldn't possibly have been there. You were finished for the year, you see. We all knew that.

But it was very life-like.

When you originally decided to work on almost every major road in the city at the same time this spring, I can't say I was happy about it, but I understood.

Yes, the work would close us off weekend after weekend, evening after evening, from our popular shopping destinations, and the biggest route across our state. But I knew it had to be done. I had empathy in my heart for you. I held the image of a beautiful, smooth-riding future.

I am stupid that way.

And so I heeded your warnings and made workaround plans. Which isn't exactly easy when you decide to rip up the Parkway East, West, North, Saw Mill Run Boulevard, Route 28, Fifth Avenue, Forbes Avenue, and partially close the Birmingham Bridge, all at the same time.

My empathy waned a little once or twice there, I admit. I might have even said a few not-so-ladylike words.

But I kept out of your way, weekend after weekend, night after night. The way you seem to like it. The way your PR reps on the news tell us, "Avoid this area. And if you have to be somewhere, leave extra time."

Only it's hard to estimate an extra two hours for what's normally a ten minute drive. I had that happen once.

Never again.

So, you can imagine my horror over what had to be just a very vivid figment of my imagination. As I dared peek my head out from my home on Saturday and journey East, thinking my path was free--only to see my return trip might very well hold hours of gridlock and gritted teeth.

Fortunately, it was only a hallucination.

So I am now looking for a good psychiatrist. I will tell this doc about the vivid images that have been appearing before my eyes. Perhaps it was caused by stress. Perhaps brought on from spending too many weekends shut in. But whatever the reason, I am hopeful that with patience and analysis, I will have a cure.

I am stupid that way, too.

The tricky part, of course, will be to ensure I get a shrink on the proper side of the Parkway. Because if the doc's in Monroeville or off the Turnpike, well... I might just not be able to make my appointment.

Due to the hallucination delays, dontchaknow.


Jenn Thorson


Pop Takes on The Time Change

The recent time change means lighter mornings, darker nights... and that once again I would need to take on the daunting task of setting the clock in my car radio.

What was a simple, intuitive two-second act in my last car, has in my new one become a complex endeavor rivaling Super-String Theory in Theoretical Physics. And about as tangible.

Which is why, last year, it was December and I was still driving around with the clock the wrong time. I figured I could just mentally add one hour to the time for a few months, and then eventually we'd be back to daylight savings time again, anyway.

Yes, this is how I roll.

But my dad was visiting at the Christmas holiday. And we were doing a lot of driving around. And inevitably, he got tired of seeing the wrong time blinking at him every time he looked at the clock. And felt, with his Ultra-Super-Mega-Technological Skillz, he could easily correct this bit of simple consumer tech piffle.

It was the moment that almost broke him.

Picture it. I'm driving. He's sitting in the passenger seat with the instruction book. We were on our way on a sunny winter day to an indoor flea market.

It took ten minutes, first, for him to find info on setting the time. Because did the book list it under "C" for "Clocks"? Or "T" for "Time?"

Nope. It was listed in the index under "S."

For "Setting the Time."


Now, here I should explain... The Pop, he's one of those people who firmly believes he's really calm, and procedural, and laid back, and this go-with-the-flow sorta guy. Pretty much Gandhi in the body of Chevy Chase.

And while he can be easy-going at times, in fact, mostly... er... he isn't. One little thing can set him off, and he doesn't forgive a lack of logic easily. So the "S"-- I knew it was only the beginning.

Pop: "S? S?!! What is wrong with these people?"

I could hear his blood starting to bubble. I could see him questioning the thought processes of every single person who works at Saturn. I could hear him wondering what kind of person -- me-- was silly enough to buy a car with a clock with instructions under "S'. "

The day could be ruined by "S." I'd be hearing about "S" clear through New Year's. Next New Year's.

I tried to head it off.

Me: "Pop, it's okay. You found it. What do the instructions say?" (subtext: look, shiny object!)

Pop: (grumble) "Fine... 'Setting the Time'... Well, are we 'Setting the Time for Radios without Radio Data Systems' ? Or 'Setting the Time for Radios with Radio Data Systems'?"

Me: "What's a Radio Data System?"

Pop: "Don't you know?"

Me: "I just drive it."

One point more down for me. First I drive a car with the instructions under "S". Then I don't know my stereo system.

After ten minutes we discovered that the radio had a button that said "RDS."

We still don't know what that button does exactly-- although we did learn that the "Radio Data System" seeks stations that put out... er... Radio Data. (Translation: You can read the station's call letters and sometimes song information in the little screen in the middle.)

So, okay. We determined I had RDS. So...

Pop: "'Setting the Time for Radios with Radio Data Systems (RDS)...'

'Press and hold the RCL button and at the same time press the HR (AUTO EQ left) or MN (AUTO EQ right) arrows...

'You will hear a beep indicating that you can change the time.'


Pop: "There are no HR and no MN buttons."

Now, remember, I'm driving here. So I'm trying to keep one eye on the road, and the other on Dad-- who was once a director of biomedical engineering and an adjunct professor of electronics at a local university-- but is now just randomly pushing buttons on the car stereo.

Me (peering, pointing): "There's an 'AUTO EQ' button there."

So Dad pushed the "RCL" button while pushing the "AUTO EQ" button. And nothing beeped.

RCL... AUTO EQ....



By now, my father has forgotten all about our nice drive into the country to the indoor flea market. He has forgotten all about it being Christmas Eve, a time of togetherness and family and goodwill and peace and joy and...

He is in a full-out war with my clock-radio.

Pop: "Rassnfrassnshassn, how long do I have to hold this blasted bugger down?"


My father sighs a sigh of relief. So do I.

Pop: "'Release the RCL button'-- it's about time-- 'and press HR until the correct hour appears on the display.'"

Of course, there was no HR button. There was only AUTO EQ.

Pop: "So HR is..."

Me, swerving on the road to look: "The left arrow."

Pop: "Why don't they just SAY the left arrow?"

Me: "Because it's HR."

The Pop, his blood-pressure now barely being controlled by his morning medicine, he overshoots the correct hour three times and keeps having to go back.

I was concerned I would be the only driver on Christmas Eve that had to explain to the local police the total human spontaneous combustion which occurred within my car interior.

Pop: "There! Finally!... 'Press MN until the correct minute appears on the display."

Me: "The RIGHT arrow."

It was about this time I realized that "HR" stood for "Hour" and "MN" stood for minute and I figured I better not mention that to my dad, or his brain really might have exploded right there in the car, and I'd just had it detailed.

So the Pop spent a certain amount of time pushing the right arrow, and then the minutes were set, too.

I thought of this as I reread the instructions this morning.

You see, the Pop will be visiting again over the Christmas holiday, and I figured it might just be a smart move to already have the time set.

I noticed, this morning, at the bottom of the instructions was this alternate time-setting suggestion.

"To synchronize the time with an FM station broadcasting Radio Data System information, press and hold the RCL and RDS buttons at the same time for two seconds until SET RDS Time appears on the display."

Cool! I thought, the easy way out. My favorite station, WYEP, does indeed broadcast RDS information!

So I held down the RCL. Then the RDS.

One second... two seconds...


"If the time is not available from the station, NO RDS TIME SET will appear on the display."

Of course, nothing at ALL appeared on the display. Um, did I mention I'm on blood pressure medicine, too?

I'd love to hear about YOUR high tech frustrations if you'd care to share 'em!


How to Not Annoy Airport Security

With the holiday travel season coming upon us, we at
Of Cabbages and Kings want to make your trips to visit family and friends as easy as possible. And--

No, we're not going to send you Valium to drop into the family punch bowl at Thanksgiving...

no, we are not creating an Private Impersonations business, where someone poses as an exact likeness of you for holiday gatherings so that way you, meanwhile, can go off to sunny Puerto Vallarta, to enjoy surf, sand and coladas...

Nope, the way we plan to make your life easier, is by giving you some
helpful tips for getting through airport security without annoying them-- and molesting you.

As you know, tighter security restrictions at airports all over the world have made us safer, more secure, and less likely to put plastic explosives in our shoes.

But with those restrictions, come new processes. And by knowing and understanding them in advance,
you can help keep the line moving...

Get to your destination quickly and safely...

And avoid any embarrassing body cavity searches by large men with small flashlights.

Based on my own personal airport travel experiences, I offer you the following tips:

When dressing to travel by air, it's helpful to think of yourself as a mental patient. How would someone in a dangerous psych ward have to dress? That's right-- no sharp objects, no metal, no sense of personal style. To be more specific...

Don't wear a belt. Belts can beep in the metal detectors and thus require you to be patted down and scanned by large men named Mongo. It is better to lose your trousers and moon citizens of 19 different countries, than it is to meet Mongo, who is in a bad mood because his own family is sitting down without him to a giant turkey feast as we speak, and his obnoxious cousin Ray is getting the drumstick. As alternatives to your traditional wardrobe, consider wearing:
  • Sweats
  • Draw string lounge pants
  • Homer Simpson pajamas
All of these are appropriate airport wear, and will only cause people to giggle and point once you reach your final destination. In fact, just roll out of bed and go to the airport. Jeans and dress slacks have rivets and may need belts. So remember: they = Mongo

Don't wear a metal watch. You think you need to know the time regularly in order to make your connections. But this is really just a rumor. The metal wristwatch is the single largest reason metal detectors beep and passengers are taken into small backrooms by people dressed in black suits and sunglasses and then seen again 12 days later bruised and amnesic. So, does being able to track every little iddy bitty moment of your trip seem that necessary now? Somehow I bet it doesn't.

Forgo jewelry and metal hair accessories. "It's gold," you say, indicating your bling, and insisting the detectors will ignore it. Or "I need to see where I'm going," you reply, touching the barrette securing the bangs from your eyes.

Ah, but a single forgotten barrette going through security can mean the difference between making your destination, or spending quality time in a small glass booth in the airport. Sure, people may admire your name written in giant fourteen carat gold lettering under normal circumstances. But no one will be noticing it when you're pressing your nose against that glass booth , steaming up the window with your screams, wondering when someone, anyone, is going to scan you so you can make your plane.


Packing smartly for your trip can make things easier for yourself as you go through airport security.

Regarding bringing fluids with you. New airport regulations do not allow fluids in carry-on luggage over 3 ounce bottles in a quart sized Ziploc bag.

This means you must drain your entire body of blood and urine before passing through security. Every person walking through the secure area must be a dry husk by law, so they cannot possibly use their bodily fluids to build any sort of detonation device.

See, what you may not be aware of is, urine contains ammonia. And under the proper conditions, ammonia can be a very noxious gas. Dehydration is the only way to absolutely ensure everyone remains safe.

Remember to cut off all fluids two days before any air travel plans. Three ounce cup-sized beverages will be served on the plane.

NOTE: You will now be charged $10 for all three ounce cup-sized beverages.

Regarding Carry-on Luggage. Each passenger is allowed two pieces of carry-on luggage. One must fit under the seat in front of you. The other must be stowed in the overhead compartments.

Due to recent cutbacks, the size of the overhead compartments is now the size of a child's lunchbox. So remember-- your case must now be no larger than a nine inch by nine inch square.

Also, because recent flights may be overbooked, the seat width now comfortably fits actor Verne Troyer (AKA "Mini-Me"). You will want to slim down accordingly.


The process of getting through airport security is an important one, and it is as much about having the proper attitude as anything else.

The best overall advice I can give you is to approach all security agents as if you were approaching the Soup Nazi. Polite, forward-moving, quiet, and no unnecessary greetings to startle them...

Specifically, we recommend the following:

Don't wait for that elderly lady who tries to merge in front of you. You will "hold up the line." And security will yell at you for this. Politeness does not matter in our secure world of today. Run the elderly lady over.

Don't get too eager about going through the metal detector, even if you're the next in line. Stay next to your own items on the conveyor belt and walk with them until they are scanned. Or else, security will yell at you. Remember, you could inadvertently stand next to the belongings of a person who has the nerve to carry 6 ounces of shampoo instead of 3. And that is a threat to our nation.


And by following these helpful tips, we at Of Cabbages and Kings hope you will experience the exciting, smooth and probe-free holiday vacation experience you deserve.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is in no way accurate or represents anything even remotely related to current airport security guidelines. Please contact your local airport for real and for true guidelines, or to speak to the security officer named Mongo.

Thank you.


The US Goodwill Ambassador to Shmertz

As I was making reservations to visit the Pop in the Florida Keys this Thanksgiving, I had a flashback to my, er, travel challenges of last year.

I had used a rental car company-- let's call it Shmertz-- to get from Miami Airport to my hotel, and from my hotel to the Pop's domicile. And as a result, I had one of the more surreal travel experiences I can recall.

It was the day before Thanksgiving. My plane had gotten in a bit early, and everything had been smooth up until this point. So like those moments where Indiana Jones smiles cockily because he's just blown up, like, twelve Nazis and escaped, I was pleased with myself. And should have known things would go awry from here.

My rental reservation information indicated that the Shmertz rental desk was inside the airport. So I headed down to baggage claim to where the rental desks were.

Only that entire area was gone. And by gone, I mean, the rental desks were gone. The signs were gone. Even the floor tiles were missing.

I went off to find an airport map.

A thorough analysis of the map showed every rest room, lounge, hot dog stand and souvenir shop... except for baggage claim level.

So after losing a half-hour, I finally asked someone in Missing Baggage. I figured missing the rental car desk was close enough.

"Oh," said the Missing Baggage Dude, "those desks are gone."

"Um, yes."

"You need to go outside and stand and wait for a shuttle to Shmertz."

So dragging my suitcase, I went into the oppressive Miami heat and exhaust fumes.

Ten minutes later, I found a sign on a concrete median which read "Shmertz." So I parked my luggage and I waited.

Shmelamo went by.... And Shminterprise... And Shmarvis.... And Shmarry's SuperCheapo GoCart Rental...

No Shmertz.

I noticed next to me, two tall German men with poofy hair-- one blonde, one brunette-- were watching the various shuttles come through like a particularly intense tennis match. "Is it....? Yes? Yes?.... AWWWWWW.... It isn't."

"Are you waiting for Shmertz, too?" I asked.

Siegfried and Roy looked at me with surprise. "Why, yes, vee are," said Roy. Or was it Siegfried?

"How long have you been waiting?"

"Tventy minutes," said Siegfried wearily. Or maybe it was Roy. "Ze Shmertz shuttles, I see zem come around zat corner, but zen they go zat vay." He pointed to a median three down from ours, and then the exit from the airport.

Siegfried, Roy and I gathered up our stuff and move to the other median.

Well, such went another half hour. Shuttle after shuttle headed to the median-- and then passed us by and took the exit, filled to capacity.

We waited so long, Siegfried and Roy decided to take a cab. They'd pick up the white tigers later, I guess. And me, after forty minutes I managed to climb onto the roof-rack of a passing bus and get a lift.

(Okay, so maybe I just squeezed on to one bus because I wasn't a family of 37. But still. Same diff.)

So at Shmertz, once again, optimism was in my heart, because I am stupid like that. Even with the delays, and the hour-and-a-half drive ahead of me, I figured I'd get down to the Keys in decent time.

I used the automated check-in machine that said there would be a compact car waiting for me in the parking lot. I could just take whatever car I liked in that particular size, and that seemed so fun... so marvelous... I couldn't wait to try it.

It was like legalized car theft. Or being really, really rich. So I hurried to the parking lot, luggage trailing behind me and....

There was not a single car in the lot.

I looked at the Compacts sign. I looked at the empty spaces.

I looked at the Sub-Compact sign. I looked at the empty spaces.

Things didn't bode well.

A different set of German tourists were now with me, wandering around the Compact/SubCompact area in the intense heat and glare of the sun.

"Zer is no cars. Ver are ze cars? Is zis how zey do sings in America?"

"Er, no. This is an anomaly," I told them. And then I spent a few minutes trying really hard to build morale and act as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.S...

Kinda like Angelina Jolie, you know, but without ten kids and Brad Pitt following me around.

But I don't think the tourists bought it.

Finally, as self-assigned Ambassador to Shmertz, I went to talk to one of the guys milling around in the Shmertz vests. He was speaking rapid Spanish to another guy in a Shmertz vest and ignoring all the lost customers wandering the parking lot.

"Um, hi. We..." And here I motioned to myself and a growing group of Germans, "we don't know what to do next. The paperwork says take any car in your size, but there aren't any cars there."

The Shmertz employee looked at me blankly. Just about the time I was wondering if I could cobble the same phrase together in Spanish, he scowled and said, "They're coming, they're coming. Go wait by your sign. You can't stand here. Go wait."

So I went back to the Compact/Sub-compact area, and relayed the information to Germany.

Naturally, the Germans weren't thrilled. Having not been in the States for more than two hours, their first impression of the place had already been fairly tainted by poor planning and pulsing heat.

More time passed. The sun was dipping in the sky. The crowd in the Sub-Compact area was huge by this time-- now including France, England and Newark, New Jersey. And I was now a solitary figure across the aisle in Compacts. I had pulled out a book and was using my suitcase as a lumpy chair.

Suddenly, someone started yelling at me in Spanish, then switched to English. "You! You move! You can't sit there. They're coming. They're coming."

And he had me move out of one of the empty Compact car spots as a wet Chevy HHR came swinging around.

More Compact cars were being pulled in, one by one. All wet, all narrowly mowing down the folks waiting for the Sub-Compacts that had yet to come.

The Sub-Compact people looked on sadly, as I guiltily grabbed the HHR. I saw their drawn, sunburnt faces in my rearview mirror as I pulled away.

But while I might have seemed the lucky one, the Travel fates weren't done with me yet. As I left the Shmertz rental behind, none of us knew what would happen next.

None of us imagined that the sign at the end of the Shmertz rental car drive, pointing toward the very highway I needed in giant letters?

Due to recent road construction, it pointed the exact opposite direction from the actual road. I would find this out as I drove lost and confused in the middle of Miami on unfamiliar streets in the increasing darkness, squinting in the dim light to read my Rand McNally directions.

I am trying Shmollar Rent-a-car this year. And I'm trying to keep the optimism at bay.


Medley of Vintage Funny

What you see here is a mirage. A figment of your imagination. No, I am not posting on Sunday. Because as I'd said last week, I am only posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But see, this is not a post. These are not the droids you're looking for. Go about your business...

Or, okay, well, maybe before you go about your business, check out these couple of links I'm going to share. Which are so not a part of a post.

See, these are just a couple of links I'm sharing because I think some of you folks might get a good laugh from them, yet probably not have made it over to my thrifting blog, figuring there wasn't anything of interest to you there.

See, the thing is, so many of my Thrift Shop Romantic posts are not thrifting really, in that they're just weird, funny old stuff and are mostly actually humor and...

And okay, right. I'll just shut up now and get to the links:

  • International Tour de Force with Breast o'Chicken. Did you know that Chinese cuisine traditionally used canned tuna? Or that the best French chefs use tuna for all their finest "o' Souffles" ? Or that Mexican dishes in the U.S., such as tacos, have been suppressing tuna advancement? Well, okay, they haven't really. But the Breast o' Chicken tuna people, from the 40s, sure have a unique take on the "aristocratic, fighting tuna." Get a laugh from these crazed and creative old recipes.
  • Guts and Glory from The Workbasket. Strap yourself into the Sacro-belt, go wrinkle-free with Hormonex and learn how to order your own personal monkey out of a catalog-- all through these funny vintage ads.

Thank you for your time. This was not an actual post you were reading.