464. Attachments

Image result for computer screen image of attachmentsIn computer speak an attachment is a document added to an email. It’s an add on, and very helpful at that. However, there are other definitions of the word. John Bowlby pioneered a special definition as follows.

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Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).

Attachment does not have to be reciprocal.  One person may have an attachment to an individual which is not shared.  Attachment is characterized by specific behaviors in children, such as seeking proximity with the attachment figure when upset or threatened (Bowlby, 1969). Image result for postpartum depression mother infant pictures

Attachment behavior in adults towards the child includes responding sensitively and appropriately to the child’s needs.  Such behavior appears universal across cultures. Attachment theory provides an explanation of how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development.

Attachment theory in psychology originates with the seminal work of John
Bowlby (1958).  In the 1930’s John Bowlby worked as a psychiatrist in a Child
Guidance Clinic in London, where he treated many emotionally disturbed
children. 

 

This experience led Bowlby to consider the importance of the child’s relationship with their mother in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development.  Specifically, it shaped his belief about the link between early infant separations with the mother and later maladjustment, and led Bowlby to formulate his attachment theory.”  (McLeod, 2009 Simply Psychology)

Image result for micro filament picturesWe all have varying degrees of attachment that are less robust than parent/child connectedness. Think of that annoying kid who sat behind you in middle school who poked you with his eraser relentlessly. (Whoops. That was me. Sorry, Marsha Humphries.) Um, in any event you have a lasting memory or attachment across time and space with this person, no matter how microscopically thin. Thank God you are not connected today beyond the neural pathway that harbors his voice or face or smell and welds it finitely to your early adolescent girl’s discomfort.

Image result for steel cable picturesThen think of your Grandmother or your Mother. For better or worse, if you had a close relationship with either, that attachment might resemble a bridge cable, thick with reinforced neural wire networks. Each wire contains hundreds and thousands of words and smells and smiles and winks and touches. Countless lessons course through these fibers. Values and attitudes oxidize like some mildly corrosive patina on the cable, etching atmospheric style on your essence. Whatever that means mingles with the faint scent of closeted mothballs mixed with wafts of chocolate cake.Image result for chocolate cake images

When you hear that the kid from middle school died, you might feel a tiny twinge that a face from childhood no longer exists, like a play house on your childhood street burned. However, when Grandma passes on, look out!! Paul Simon’s lyric comes to mind, “This is the powerful pulsing of love in the veins….” A fire hose volume of tears may gush uncontrollably from your lacrimal canaliculus. Gasps of grief. Convulsions of agony echo the ripping of that attachment. Like Carol King sang, you might “feel the earth move under your feet and the sky tumbling down”.

Related imageDetaching is the unwanted but necessary task of grief. In your unconscious mind a blue plumber mime with no torso hands you a hack saw and gestures for you to cut ties: the billions of ties that make up the fibers, that make up the million wires, that make up the massive cable of your attachment to Grandma. Related image You keep dropping the saw in your convulsed state. After hours alone you pick it up and hate the tool, curse its function while knowing what must be done. Like sawing the legs off the deer you shot and gutted. Then peel off  its fur. It must be done. Survival depends on such cruelties.Image result for hacksaw pictures

Part of you dissociates in this trauma, watching your hands saw back and forth at the suspension cable from the top of the bridge tower. The bridge of interpersonal connection back into Grandma’s lap. The distance allows for quiet objectivity. No emotional engagement. You wonder why the guy doesn’t just use a cutting torch. Wouldn’t that be more efficient?Image result for bridge welder pictures

The guy is you, you remember, and now feel his exhaustion. Grief rages through your marrow like chemotherapy, killing to cleanse and give life back to you. Existential wrestling erupts in your belly: is the vermilion pain of this present reduction worth the mint green joy of the earlier construction? Then a meteor of guilt hits from outer space– “Of course it is, you block of marble!! Love is carving you into David, grinding away the burrs and imperfections; sanding your integrity till it gleams.”  This is the powerful pulsing of love in your living veins. Blood smells like wet iron rust, right? Stop whining!

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Grief is the exit tax on love. In Honduras the government is so poor that they do all they can to attract visitors or investors, but they charge an exit fee for you to leave. It’s maybe thirty bucks, or a five gallon bucket of lempiras. Fifty five other countries either charge you to enter or leave (mostly via airline tickets), like they are huge amusement parks. But you get the point, right? You had a good time and now it has to hurt to leave the Tunnel of Love. Otherwise everyone would stay there and no new folks could snuggle and kiss and fall in love on a swan boat. The human parade would end if no one ever vacated space.Image result for tunnel of love swan boats pictures

Origin of attach

Middle English (in the sense ‘seize by legal authority’): from Old French atachier or estachier ‘fasten, fix’, based on an element of Germanic origin related to stake; compare with attack.

If you follow the word back to its origins, there is often a story that resonates with the ringing bell of truth. Our loved ones are hearts we have staked, laid claim to, fastened and fixated upon, whether they agree to the legal authority of love or not. The stake is driven in our own hearts by eager little hands.Related image

So there you go. Attach at your own risk.

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463. Three Sues/ Three Tuxedos

Image result for bridal shower picturesThe recent bridal shower for my youngest daughter was the occasion for extraordinary generosity by friends of ours. You may have stumbled across these folks in previous blog posts such as The Christmas Party or Croquet Anyone? or Navel Dancing Tonight, 7 to 9.  I wrote facetiously then. Psychedelically maybe, anyone? Yes, the shoeless man in the box in the back row, sir? A big Amen to you too.  I know this will shock some of you that I might gild the truth with spray paint and glitter, cherry bombs and bombast, hot glue and confectioner’s sugar. However, it’s not lying if the goal is entertainment and no laws are broken in the process.

Lying is an untruth told in an attempt to avoid negative consequences or gain advantage. By this definition Burritospecial is truth of an alternative kind. Like a zebra is not a horse or a donkey or giraffe, but it’s like them in that they all share four legs. Write that down or at least cut and paste it for future reference. It’s a fact, sort of.Image result for zebra next to a horse pictures

Some background is necessary, I think, to fully appreciate the gift of the Sues.

Image result for female triplet picturesThe three Sues are Susan M., Sue B., and Suzanne P. They are stars from our Sunday School class, called Feet to Faith by those in the know. Along with my bride they have bonded over the last few years in a weekly prayer and Bible study small group with delicious snacks and shared intimacies. They rotate among their houses on Tuesday nights. Often my youngest daughter Jess joins them in their spiritual explorations. (I work Tuesday nights, otherwise I would be much holier, believe me.)

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Once Jess’s engagement was set and fluttered over like a new blue egg in a robin’s nest, Suzanne announced her intention: “Y’all know how I love to entertain. How about if I host Jess’s bridal shower at my house? It’ll be fun! We can all get involved in the party.” Well, what are you to say to these statements but yes, yes, yes and yes? She is a great hostess. Of course she can host it. Of course it will be fun. If Suzanne says it, by golly, it will be done. Just ask Gary her husband. She is the Norman Schwarzkopf of entertaining, a force of cultural nature, a diva of delivery systems, a dervish of deviled eggs, a… wonderful woman who may hurt me if I continue this list.

Image result for scarlett ohara pictures“Sara, bless your heart, you don’t need to do a thing. Let us Sues do it for you. You’ll have enough on your plate with all the wedding planning.” (Suzanne is from Charleston, and “Bless your heart” is an expression that sounds deeply sincere and connective, but when parsed means something like “you are the village idiot”. )

With more relief than reluctance, my girl sort of complied. “Okay, but let me know what I can do…”

“Nope! We got this. You have a dress, a cake, a ceremony, a d.j., invitations, photographer, menu, music playlist…”

“Okay. But let me…”

“Now, what did I just say?”Image result for scarlett o'hara pictures

Stung with tough love, my girl put on the little sister saddle shoes and agreed, let go, and surrendered the shower burden to these loving ladies. Good move. Opposing Stormin’ Norman never worked out in the past. Just ask Saddam Hussein.

Image result for a s tring of honeybees picturesNo words, texts, phone calls needed to be exchanged on the business of the shower. The Sues swarmed like honeybees to flowers, flowers to nectar, and from nectar to honey back at the hive, i.e. Suzanne’s lovely home. See, bees have to chew nectar for a while before it turns into honey. And isn’t that a nice analogy for lovely women processing beauty and sweetness into a perfected product? After all, honey and love are both labor intensive products.

Now these ladies have a sense of humor. Over time they came up with the idea of having their available men be the butler wait staff at the shower. It was agreed that we– Gary, Dan and I — would be the un-jacketed tuxedo crew  to wait on the whims and cares of the assembled females. Without a lot of planning we decided not to wait in wrestling singlets or biker shorts (Gary’s first two ideas) or tear away Chippendale dancer outfits (his third). Instead we planned on starched white shirts and black pants, preferably tuxedo attire, along with swanky bow ties and linen tea towels held aloft by sharply angled left forearms. And we killed it. Bulls eye. A spectacle. Bingo. Holy Schnikes. The swagger in our pantalones alone was worth all the Jagger in the Rolling Stones.Image result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for butler images

(Number four is gratuitous eye candy and did not attend.)

We reacted as professionals. “Martin. Where did you go to Butler School?

“Quincy, sir.”

“Isn’t that near Yardley?”

“Why yes it is, sir.”

“Did you attend the front yardley or back yardley portion, Martin?”

“Alas, the back yardley, sir.”

“I thought so.”

“Piper!! Is that a singlet tan I see under your crisply starched white shirt?”

“Yes, sir. I wore the singlet proudly at West Chester.”

“Go wash it off or finish the spray tan before gentle company arrives. Bloody pugilist!”

Image result for party platters table picturesWe were ready to take the Sues’ marching orders to the mat if need be, but since our women were supremely prepared, it was not necessary. Like great athletes, they made it all look easy– the fresh lemonade and tea; the hor d’oeuvres; the cheeses and wines; the confections and lovely sandwiches. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Pictures were snapped. Presents gathered up and recorded. And then the bonding activity of weaving a bridal head dress out of toilet paper, something so Pinteresting, came later. Three teams of ladies competed for the best head dress made with toilet paper and any other available materials. After twenty or thirty minutes it was left to the three butlers to judge the finest head dress. After several rounds of paper, scissors, rock, we reached a conclusion, announcing it to great fan fare.Image result for head dresses made from toilet paper pictures The first was the finest by a sheet or two, nipping out the competition by a whisker.

Altogether it was a fine time enjoyed by anyone capable of joy. Even the butler washing up was a good  time as Dan nearly wiped out a freshly washed stack of china as he rushed to answer his duty bell.

“Martin, steady as you go, son. A good butler must be seen and never heard. Like a good mime barber.”

Good Show, All of you.

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462. The Unpublished

So, Blog grits, you get to see my finished or somewhat finished blog posts at this site. But what about the unpublished ones that could not stand the light of day? You know, like who else was at that meeting with the Russians?  Or the posts that were squelched by some counterintelligence agent’s bullet just as Burrito Special was about to press PUBLISH? I don’t actually know. I sometimes accidentally delete a few; others just die on the vine, unpicked and rotting, covered in confused, coppery Japanese beetles.Image result for japanese beetles covering a fruit pictures Perhaps there is beauty in such decadence; perhaps not. Maybe, like creepy tattoos, it becomes the next big thing.

There was the post about the variety of belly buttons, the ins and outs and squamous ones. Then there was this one, which looks like an African elephant coming up from a putty pipe. What is a belly button but scar tissue? A whale’s eye? A lamprey eel’s mouth? The beauty of a navel is in the eye of the beholder, right? If Kahlil Gibran is correct, “Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in the mirror”, then what are we to do with a perfect belly button?Image result for navels pictures

Let’s see, gold plate it– if it’s an outy.

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Then there is the artsy commercialization of navels as demonstrated below. In Mumbai an awesome navel is a money maker, umbilically speaking. Mesmerizing and hypnotic.

And delving deeper into the meaning of umbilical, we come to umbilicus, a hole at the center of a shell whorl of some gastropod mollusks. Sometimes it is confused with the word imbecile, which has to do with another body part.

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STOP ogling that umbilicus, you imbecilicus!

Shell whorl  umbilicus:

 Image result for imbecile picturesImbecilus.

I believe this clears up a lot of the mystery of navel history. You see, on a very tenuous thread of connectivity, only microfibers thick, these belly button details hang, without meaning or purpose or relevance, like wet Washington Senator baseball cards on grandma’s clothesline in 1969. That’s why this post should never see the light of day. I just wanted you outsiders who gasp at the final blog sausages to see the inner workings of how said sausage is made. It is not pretty or elegant. Blogging is often about getting past the gag reflex inflicted by dead pork products oozing through a meat grinder.  Yep, it’s like that. Just throw a bunch of anything cubes in the funnel end and turn the handle till you get tired.

Sausage Maker 10 Stainless Steel Manual Meat Grinder, Model# 61210

So you see, my friends, I have been kind in my editing, leaving the mangled messes pretty much on the floor when I can override my id…. but then, some urgent force overwhelms me and a song comes to mind… God, forgive me.

I knew a man Go ManglesImage result for trump behind bars picture

And he’d lie to you   In Italian shoes

Orange hair, silky shirt, and lizard tongue tie

He did the old tongue foo

He piled it high

Maniacally high

Then he’d lightly touch down…Image result for trump dancing pictures

I met him in a cell in New York City, He was

Bankrupt, no doubt

He looked to me to be a ball of sleaze

As he spoke right out

He talked of lies to the FBI, laughed and slapped my back…

Ouch

Said his name, Go Mangles, and he danced a lickImage result for trump dancing pictures

Across the cell

Grabbed his pants for a better stance  Then he jumped so high

He clicked his heels

let go a laugh,  let go some gas and shook back his hair all around

Mr. Go Mangles, Mr. Go Mangles, Mr. Go Mangles,

DaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnccccccceImage result for trump dancing pictures

He lied to those at handgun shows and county fairs

throughout the South

He spoke with tears of fifteen years

How his college and him grifted about

His school up and died, it up and diedImage result for trump defending his university pictures

After many lawsuits he still grieves

He said,  “I dance now at every chance In the White House for winks and tits

But most the time I spend inside my broken mind

Cuz I lies a bits”

He shook his head, and as he shook his headRelated image

I heard Bob Mueller ask him, “Please, please…

Mr. Go Mangles, You bad hombre punk

You orange Russian skunk

Daaaaaannnnnnnccccccce.”Image result for trump dancing pictures   You see?  This stuff should never see the light of day. Just too hideous. Sad.

Even if I could somehow fuse the umbilicus with the Trumpilicus, I could not unleash that on the unwitting public. Too terrible. Bad. I, I, well, okay, I found an image, but I’m pretty sure it’s fake news.

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And there you have it, folks. The twisted contours of the Burrito’s mind without any editing.

 

461. The RE-ONION

Image result for peeling an onion picturesWe’ve all heard the expression, “Peeling back the onion” in reference to many-layered stories or investigations.  The concept involves working from the dessicated outer layers of a given onion, peeling back those weathered layers and getting to the juicy, tasty innards. “Oh, peel that onion, that ON Yun,  Have some fun, son. Pa- Peel that onion.” Okay, these lyrics will only make you cry, just like fresh onion vapors or Led Zepellin’s the lemon song lyrics. Toxic to sensitive membranes… eyes, ears, nose, and lips. But how do you peel an onion you can’t see? One that may not even exist?

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Enter DNA and the internet revolution. What had been science fiction among science fiction minded folks in the 1950’s came to pass in the 1990’s like a speeding bullet and has continued to flood into the present day. Uh, curiosity stirred for various reasons, and the ticklish “What if…” nagged at that unconscious hair ball in her psyche. Life’s bell tower clock was running faster and nearing its final gongs. Urgency broke through latent consciousness like a 17 year locust digs out of its burrow, eager to live fully and fly, and do that ga-ga-ga thing they do.

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[Okay, focus, BS. This is the critical meeting of fate and faith.] You see, my wife’s fate was given to her. Her life was mysteriously determined by others; and yet, somewhere deep in her consciousness, faith kept moving upward to complete the mystery, to come to completion. As you have read in the last two installments, the reunion of siblings was coming. Magically via texts and emails and Facebook, ten days ago she met up with her half sister and full brother on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a span of 4.3 miles that my bride has always feared crossing.

 

Burgeoning industry: Aside from Kent Island Express, two other companies ferry drivers across the nightmare bridge, pictured

There we were, a bit anxious about meeting folks who were strangers about to become permanent family members in a sort of reverse adoption process. I drove as she navigated the simple directions to her new sister’s home. Strangely it was as simple as sticking a stamp on a letter. They hugged and welcomed one another exuberantly and then eyeballed each other thoroughly. ( I would have done the opposite and checked for weapons first, but that’s just me. At no time did anyone suspect this was an elaborate Nigerian financial scam, however.)

Image result for rottweiler black lab mix pictures full grownBefore the screen door settled back in its latch, we were sitting down with Uncle B and Aunt M. Uncle B had grown up in the same household with my wife’s new siblings. He was only 8 years older than the oldest sibling, so he functioned like a big brother more than an uncle. Photos, stories, family news like a hot nail gun began to ooze and fill up the space and time until the little bro J and his long time girl K showed up. (Thank God they all have different initials.) The intensity kicked up a notch or two as each moment brought a new connection that merely cemented the known information. Everyone present seemed intent on gently excavating this archaelogical dig. No shovels or picks were used, just fine brushes and baby breath. No politics or religion crept into the room. No surprise since Sweetie, the 130 pound rottweiler/black lab mix, stood guard. She looks like a whiskey barrel with legs, head, and a tail.

Being the outlaw in-law, I did not want to distract from my wife’s new family interactions, so I suppressed my charm and humor as best I could. I did not want her people to love or hate us because of me. (Not sure why I don’t do this all the time, do  you?) Anyway, we comfortably continued the chat fest through dinner and into the dark of Friday night, laughing at the pranks and jokes of young J, who like most teenaged boys prank-called pizza shops to order a pizza with no sauce and one with no crust. Unlike other grown teen boys,  J still had the 40 year old tape recording of his prank calls on his phone, which he played for us. Hysterical. Then there were the homemade videos of his girl’s cooking show/ weather channel outtakes:  marvels of culinary and meteorological delights. K is a hoot, born for the stage.Image result for funny weather girl imagesWhen we stopped laughing it was time to sleep. Fortunately for all of us, we had another full day together, filled with improbable stories about imperfect parents.

I don’t know about you, my Blog stars, but if life is a huge jig saw puzzle, then most of my wife’s life has been about creating her own pieces, hoping to find a picture, a place where they all fit together harmoniously. There have been many forced fits and snaps that did not feel quite right. Awkward comes to mind. Antiphonal does also, like your own voice coming back up the empty well as you shout down, “Are you my mother? My mother? My mother?”

I recalled a favorite book we read to our children. Are You My Mother? Image result for are you my mother cover

“Remember reading that to the girls?”

“Yup.”

“The little bird goes searching for its mother, and it asks a steam shovel and a car and a dog and a cat… to no avail. Nope, you’re not my mother.”

“I do remember just squeezing our girls. They knew who their mother was. I loved tucking them in at night.”

“And you’ve been a fine mother all around.”

“I hope so.”

“Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Now the circle is complete. The onion is peeled. The bridge traversed.”

“I wasn’t so scared on this trip across the bridge, did you notice?”

“Yep. You are riding on the backs of angels, my dear.”

“Yeah, that’s what it feels like. I can’t fall. I can’t fail. I’m home.”

The next day at S’s living room, as we admired the siblings photos on the wall beside the big television screen, sister S said to my bride, “I’ve decided to add your photo right here in the middle.”

“For an orphan, then an only child, then the oldest of four,” my girl whispered, “being cozily in the middle of my siblings feels so snug and so right.”

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Welcome home.

460. You Don’t Say?

[This post is a continuation of the last post about my bride’s sojourn into self, her immeccable hajj to wholeness, a circumnavigation into her psychic navel beneath the shade of her umbilical umbrella.] {If you understand this intro/transition, print a copy and report to your closest crisis center immediately.}

Image result for lancaster pa picturesI left off when we met up with Aunt B, which was just great and safe and comfortable. Two weeks later we drove to my children’s unknown grandfather’s hometown in mid state PA.  How weird is it that the baby who was orphaned in Washington, D.C. in the 1950’s wound up residing in her biological father’s home state in the 1980’s?  That all her children, his only grandkids, were born in the same state? Three hours due south. Weird. Ironic. Divine intervention. [Pick one. Convert each letter to a number, and play that combo for the Powerball lottery. If you win, I mean when you win, send me half of the post-taxable payout, Bro.]

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We drove three hours north, up into the lower Allegheny Mountains to meet Uncle P and his lovely wife D, lifetime residents of a little river town of 6,000 souls plus or minus a drifter or two. Time seemed to turn back to the fifties as we drove along stretches of heavily wooded highways and small farms. Little towns featured freshly scrubbed brick and glass faces, looking like puppies that wanted to be adopted at the shelter. We could not stay for more than a coffee or a bathroom break. Sorry, puppies. Sorry Huntingdon, Tyrone, Port Matilda, Bellefonte. Someone else will come home to you soon.

Image result for clearfield pa picturesFinally we rolled into the quaint old town that had more people in 1920 than it does now. But that’s the story of the coal seam and rust belt communities of central PA. Towns built around a quarry, a brick factory, lumber mills, or a coal mine. Time and technology left them behind like water logged wooden moccasins.

Image result for clearfield pa river mansions picturesPutt- putting down the river front avenue, we were checking addresses for our bed and breakfast which had no website or pictures, when we came to these big honking mansions built in the 1920’s by the local coal baron and his sister. Well, what a nice surprise. Unbelievable accommodations celebrating the Civil War and “Gone with the Wind” were the decorative themes. Our hosts could not have been nicer or more accommodating. The B & B alone was worth the trip. Hot dang!!

Image result for 1940's brick duplex house picturesOff we went to meet the next branch in my bride’s new family tree. P and D, in the same house where they’d lived for 60 plus years. The wall paper and furnishings shouted Eisenhower! Maybe even FDR. Family photos littered the walls; every open surface had a smiling face or two. Effortlessly Uncle P directed us to my bride’s family members– “That’s your dad. Your mom and dad. Let’s see that would have been 1955, I think.”  “Here he is as a kid in one of the bands he played with. He’d play out till 2:00 a.m. when he was in high school. You know he played trombone to get through college and law school? Yeah, our parents had no money to give him. He went to school on academic scholarship and played clubs whenever he could.”

Photo of Moena Restaurant - Clearfield, PA, United States. Great atmosphere! Very nice and clean. Will be back for sure.Slowly, magically I could see Uncle P fall in love with my wife, his long lost niece. We agreed to freshen up and go out to dinner. This fallen on hard times town had a superb Italian restaurant right on Main Street, not far from re-purposed old stores like Five and Dimes or Sears that closed when the youth left decades earlier. Now they are roomy coffee shops, antique stores, and vaperies.

“We eat here once a week”, P said. “We’re regulars.” And it was very apparent as their waitress served us. Then the owner walked by with his new grandson in his arms. Uncle P introduced us with the Readers Digest condensed version of THE STORY. The jovial owner smiled and congratulated my girl on her homecoming. “I did the Ancestry. Com for giggles. Found out I was Italian. Well, duh!”

Related imageSomehow this town hangs on economically, not because of the brick factory or the fallow farms nearby, but tourism and its natural beauty keep it afloat. It survives not because of what can be taken from it any longer, but from natural resources that do not expire, and have little to do with modern technology– a vigorous river, a sleepy railroad, indomitable human spirit, and crisp summer air.

Image result for gone with the wind still shots with rhett and scarlett

We went back to the mansion B&B, along with P & D. They were vaguely familiar with our gracious hosts. We sat in rocking chairs on the veranda at the back of their beautiful home, chatting easily about the story, the town’s history, and overlapping familiar townspeople. Good nights were said,and we slept in the “Gone with the Wind” bedroom upstairs, Scarlett and Rhett. (I played Rhett, just in case you were wondering. “Great balls of fire. Don’t bother me anymore, and don’t call me sugar!”)

Image result for psychedelic smoke imagesSilently, invisibly, I sensed my bride’s umbilical cord was somehow regrowing, sucking in the available psychic nutrients from her parents’ almost palpable ghosts. Attaching to the landscape, the atmospherics. I knew we’d be back. Next morning after a lovely breakfast we visited Uncle P and Aunt D again. They hang near 90 years old but you can’t tell. Uncle P is especially sharp with facts and details. “You are our kind of people,” he gushed. Hugs and goodbyes for now followed.

It reminded me of our only disagreement. We had hoped to take P and D out to dinner on our dime. P insisted that he had done quite well with investing along with D’s faithful saving. They were honored to treat us.

Image result for lost sheep parable picturesThen Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

I’m not calling my wife a sinner, mind you. Nope, she’s the lamb. I am celebrating her foundness. How does the single lost sheep know her flock? She knows the shepherd’s voice and follows. I truly believe that is what my bride has done. I know the Good Shepherd is indeed rejoicing over her reunion.Related image

459. The long and winding road…

Image result for winding road picturesA while back my bride cast her DNA bait into 23 and Me and Ancestry. Com to fish around for her biological roots. See, she was adopted long ago, six decades to be precise. Expectations were set appropriately low. After all, how many relatives in her tribe would also get onto connective DNA data bases? And why would they?  They weren’t missing anyone. Right? What were the odds of connecting with a first degree relative, like 13,000,000 to 11? (I know, you can  reduce that figure, but it looks more impressive with lots of zeroes and odd numbers.)  Still, she went for it. The drive to know where you come from is strong, I suppose. I have the opposite issue:  I often long not to know some of my family. (I’m partially joking, I think. Well, no. If you read some of my earliest posts, you know what I mean.)

Related imageIt’s not just about knowing the names on the other branches of one’s family tree. There are all the stories that connect tissue to tissue, bone to bone, joint to joint. Family history and scuttlebutt, personalities, traits and trades, talents and professions that flow across generations whether you know your relatives or not. Dimples, freckles and eye shapes silently loiter across time in various other faces captured in yellowing photos.

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A year went by without much to get excited about. There were third cousins in Georgia and a fourth in Sicily. We figured there had to be Italians in the family, since we had it on unofficial hearsay that her bio dad was Italian and had been an attorney. Dribs and drabs pinged in email messages sporadically, like spores finding open petri dishes to feed upon. Nothing of significance until one night, pa pong!!! A lady named B. showed up as a full paternal side aunt. My wife’s biological father’s biological sister. Wow! What a moment that was. Very quickly empathic, joyous, and welcoming emails flew back and forth and then up to a living uncle on her dad’s side. Uncle P. was just as open and accepting as Aunt B. These new Facebook friends provided a lot of peripheral information to help my bride piece together her ancestry. A whirlwind of family seedlings blew into our wi-fied ranch house. The air nearly crackled with the marrow rich data.

Related imageAs the story unfolded, we concluded that my wife’s parents actually got married after her adoption. It was not clear that anyone except her mother knew of the pregnancy. But wait– there is more. Two older half sibs from the mom’s first husband, who died after the Korean War. But wait even longer, wait, wait– a full younger brother within the bonds of marriage. Strange symmetry here; my wife is also one of four adoptive kids. Her adopted dad had two sisters and a brother. Her biological father also had two sisters and one brother. Ah, the patterns, the predestination of genetics or just crazy mo jo.

Image result for black and white stills of jazz trombone playerThe world began to spin in a new direction, backwards, as historical deserts bloomed and family members jumped up out of the somnolent Sicilian soil. Her biological parents, you ask?  Both dead for 15 years or so. He was an attorney and a jazz musician. The mom was the woman for whom my wife was named. Her middle name now. Through the miracle of the internet she found pictures of her parents, seeing their faces for the first time. Think about that for a minute:  you have seen your mom and dad’s faces since birth if you are in your natural biological family environment. You did not wonder what they looked like, never longed to see the faces that together made your face… It is a simple but profound truth– We all want what we do not have. At age 60, my wife got what she wanted– an early birthday present of immeasurable value– her biological identity.

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So the day came in late May to meet this Aunt B and her husband… in all places to connect, we met half way in Lancaster, Amish country. It was all familiar somehow, as if we’d known each other for ages. Familiar and family come from the same Latin root word, household, so naturally these themes were intertwined in our meeting. There was no stranger, no widow or orphan present, just family. Which is how I imagine heaven will be– very familiar and cozy, innocent and true, with free buggy rides across the River Jordan.

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B. wore a fedora.  She likes hats and has over 100. It’s her statement accessory. Confidently extroverted. Spunky and warm. We exchanged photos and stories, questions and answers. Then a dinner where an old character played piano and sang along to computerized soundtracks. The steam boat-themed restaurant felt like a small cruise ship for two hours as we moved along the deep channels of history and tragedy. The old guy at the piano could have winked and magically turned into a young Tony Bennett as time turned fluid, flowing backwards and uphill to its source.Image result for taormina sicily pictures

“Sicily is where our people come from. Near Taormina.” Nothing seemed to shock or surprise our ears.  ‘Of course, it all seemed to make sense’, we thought quietly. “The PA town we grew up in was full of Sicilian brick workers who had been brought over to work in a factory near there. Everyone knew everyone.”

“Your dad was so smart. He never had to study. He milked cows twice a day before and after school. Always busy, so he was.”

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“He was a character, you know”, chimed in W., Bea’s husband of 33 years. “Oh yeah, he called me up one night and tried to speak German. He’d been drinking, you know. He didn’t speak it so well.”

“Oh, he could play the trombone. Sure.”

“And J., my sister, loved to dance. She would just have loved to have met you. That’s her in this picture. She was just lovely.”

“Here’s your dad and mom on their wedding day.”

“And later on.”

That’s how the words and feelings flickered on through dinner and again over breakfast the next day, my wife and her new aunt and uncle, pressing down the grounds of family beans; distilling an enchanting liqueur. Oh so sweet;  pungent as mother’s milk.

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What better lyric to finish with than Paul McCartney’s Long and Winding Road…

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door

That road is comforting, rolling forward and down easy now. My bride is home, home, home.

458. Dancing with the Stars

Image result for dance with me stillsSeveral years ago, maybe ten, my wife signed us up for ballroom dance classes on Friday nights in the next town north of our little hamlet. I’d be lying if I said I was excited or thrilled at the prospect of trying to learn dance steps on a Friday night, on any night for that matter. We had never danced during the disco era or done much beyond the basic grope dance. Yet, she kept insisting we learn formal, touch dances.

“C’mon. It’ll be fun.”

“Fun like chemotherapy,” was all I could retort.

“Fun like drinking battery acid.”Image result for man swarmed by bees pictures

“Fun like jellyfish stings, killer bee attacks, vultures pecking out my eyes in the desert wastelands….”

“We’ll meet other folks and have a date night. Stop whining.”

Image result for man being swallowed by anaconda pictures“Fun like being crushed breathlessly by an anaconda….” Okay, I was overly dramatic trying to reinforce my resistance to being a foolish spectacle. All I could imagine was Seinfeld’s Elaine Marie Benes groping SNL’s Steve Martin Wild and Crazy Czechoslovakian Guy on a dance floor. Nausea inducing ugly.

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We did indeed meet new folks and had our date night over the next six or eight weeks in a hot and tiny, mirror-lined studio. However, we did not learn to dance a bit. The instruction was a bit too dainty and pedantic for non dance history majors. We did have some fun frustrating our instructor, Madame Butterfly.

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(Comedy does briefly take the attention off one’s incompetence, after all.) Like my experiences in high school math classes, less instruction and more drill time was needed. Otherwise desperate jokes arise from the challenged inmates. Being a good mathematician does not make one a good math teacher, anymore than being a good dancer makes one a good dance instructor. You get my drift, right? Is it possible that good dancers are also good at math? Both categories certainly know how to count.

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I hoped that we would not have to endure another series of forgettable lessons. But no. The local boy wonder offered swing dance classes at our rec center on Thursday nights. We were the oldest folks in the class. Most were twenty somethings with more energy and less self consciousness than we brought. He modeled basic swing steps, featuring the rock step, triple step. Like Madame Butterfly, he wanted to move on to the next phase before mastery was achieved by the hapless pupils. His enthusiasm did not make up for our deficiencies. We stumbled and fumbled our way through this dance debacle in hopes of having some ability to swing dance at our daughter’s wedding or a later cruise. We wound up with just enough knowledge to be embarrassing.Image result for clumsy swing dancers pictures

(The wife pile driving me into the floor.)

I was completely cool at that point with writing my dance epitaph in granite, “He tried to dance but failed.” Unfortunately my wife was still searching for the Wizard of Dance who would magically teach us to dance together. In my mind such a person was equivalent to a unicorn, a leprechaun, or a chimera: merely a myth. But gol dang it, the third time was the charm.Image result for gravestone epitaphs pictures

Once again my indefatigable faithful wife signed us up for ballroom dance classes with the legendary Colonel Frank, a retired West Point grad who claims to have taught over 11,000 folks to dance.  Well, at session 1 we noticed he was indisputably different from our two previous instructors. Frank yelled out his orders as if we were his foot soldiers. He kept it simple, cutting down on the fru-fru aspects of the dances in order to get to the drills of muscle memory. He called out the steps and we marched accordingly. His voice’s cadence got stuck in our heads, and we carried on with just the memory of it.Image result for colonel frank U.S. Army hancock pictures

At the end of six weeks I no longer prayed for the clock to speed up. Instead I realized that some measurable progress had been reached. First the basic cha-cha became comfortable, followed by the simplified swing. We had the base down. All the rest of the moves were riffs on top of the basic rhythm. A stripped down tango came along, five steps, T-A-N-G-O, left, right, tan-go, close. Foxtrot and waltz rounded out the big six, if you count rumba.

Over time our ears came to recognize what songs were cha-chas and which were swings. We grew more comfortable in our steps and in our own skin. Slowly, the foxtrot made sense, and the dreaded waltz fit like a glove. We went to a New Year’s Eve dance where the original Play that Funky Music Whiteboy routine was unveiled for the world to witness. Image result for ballroom dance pictures

(These are not us. We are not them. They are not we’ins.)

Against my whimpy whining, we joined a monthly dance club. It was on. My bride had found her stride and was dragging me along behind her like a child’s toy on a string, Lil Tramp. She wanted to tilt and whirl and smile and be swept off her feet, and I tried to accommodate her wishes as best I could.Image result for little girl pulling a toy pictures

We took more classes with Frank and a workshop with Madame Butterfly. Ambitious, we pranced up the hillsides of Dance Valley, going to formal dances and outdoor opportunities at nearby PenMar Park.Image result for Penmar pavilion dance pictures

All of it rolled comfortably together and became our habit, even our lifestyle. We attended another year’s dances all over the place. The menu kept expanding.Related image

Out of this dance universe came the meeting, engagement and soon to be wedding of our youngest daughter with the only son of new found dance friends. In fact, our Jess and their Zach have taken ballroom classes with us and Frank. In further fact, Frank is teaching the wedding party more refined moves for the big day. He will be in attendance for group dance instruction. It will be “a hoot in Hell” as he likes to say.

I’d like to take credit for all the happy endings here, but in truth I was pulled kicking and screaming into the world of dance.  No matter, it’s all good.Related image

 

457. White Rabbit

Image result for white rabbit in a field pictures“So, Dad, you should blog about the white bunny in the neighborhood. It’s so unique and sort of symbolic.”

“Sell it to me. This is Doctor Frazier Crane, Seattle. I am listening.”

Image result for dogs chasing a rabbit pictures“Well, we’re all white bunnies just trying to survive, you know?” Grace explained her angle for my next blog post. “So there is this constant suspense of life versus dogs and foxes, garbage trucks and cars. Most readers are gonna root for the bunny, and you could have various installments like you do with Joel.”

“Sounds like you need to start you own blog, Gracie. I don’t write about domesticated wildlife that return to the wild in the suburbs of a small south central PA town. Not my style. You could probably make it pop, but I can’t imagine it.”

Image result for hawk circling a rabbit picture“Oh, come on! It hops around against all odds of survival. Stu and I see it as a classic struggle for survival. I mean she’s a hawk’s delight the way she bounces as she hops. Her buddy the wild brownie zips and sprints in zig zags. White bunny sort of bobs along like easy pickins… like…”

“Like a Super Wal Mart in an open field: kinda hard to miss.”

Image result for pictures of super walmart“Yeah, like a Wal Mart. You can work it out. You’ve written crazier stuff.”

“No. I have standards, believe it or not. I’ve got to feel something before I go off on an irrational tangent. I need a certain amount of solid rocket fuel to break through the torpid forces of ennui and gravity.”

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“Okay, but if TacoSpecial.Com writes the saga of the White Bunny, don’t be surprised.”

“Taco, what? That is copyright infringement!!”

“No it’s not even close, Burritospecial. Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You write about broken men in a coffee shop, but you don’t own those stories. They belong to the world. Anyone can write about anything, if they have a good lawyer.”

Image result for sock puppet pictures“I can’t believe you are going to steal from me again. This is like Judy and Jalene stealing Carl and Paul’s sock puppet thunder with Leah. If it’s not illegal, then it’s at least immoral.  (Lifting up each leg in turn. Socked feet make snarling sounds.) No Paul, down boy. Carl, not now. Get down.”

Nervous laughter.

“It’s a good thing my boys are well trained or you’d be missing a big sock bite out of your neck right now.”Image result for vampire sock puppet pictures

“Oh, I’m scared. I guess Judy and Jalene will have to post their own blog story in Tacospecial. com.”

“Actually, Grazel, this is just the kind of crazy schnizzel I do write about. Let me get on the laptop keys before I forget the details. You could wind up as the white bunny after all as Carl and Paul chase you under the bushes and across the street.  Argghh. Woof, woof.”Image result for attacking sock puppet pictures

 

456. Understatements

Image result for phone call imagesWe were chatting at the Nation’s round table the other day, al fresco, and the non linear narrative jumped to odd phone calls, perhaps because someone’s phone pinged or ponged and a sales person was ice cold calling to sell storm window replacements. That might have been me. I mistakenly called a company two or three years ago about adding storm windows to my existing Pella double-paned babies. Well, I’ve had calls from Philadelphia and Reading and Harrisburg on my cell phone since then, trying to entice me to buy those damn windows I wish I’d never told anyone about to begin with. I’m pretty sure that some of my blogoysters have had similar experiences.

Image result for rabbi on a telephone call picturesSteve offered his weird phone interaction. His wife answered the phone one night and handed it to him, “It must be for you, Steve, cuz it’s not for me.”

“I said hello and the woman on the other end began to tell me about a personal problem she was experiencing with her husband.”

“He’s been drinking again and running after strange women. I can’t take it. I just can’t do this anymore”, she complained.Image result for hysterical woman on a phone pictures

Steve asked her, “What would you like me to do about it?”

That’s when she gave critical information away. “Well, Pastor Steve, what is your position on divorce?”

Rather than relinquish his newfound authority, Steve hung on the phone with this hap less woman. “I think it depends on the circumstances. Certainly you have a case for adultery here.”

The desperately confused woman, whose name Steve never obtained, thanked him and told him she’d see him in church Sunday.

Steve said good bye and handed the phone back to his wife. “Who was that?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It was a woman who thought I was her pastor.”

“And you didn’t tell her you weren’t? Oh my gosh, what did you tell her?”

“She never gave me the chance. She needed advice on divorce, so I told her what I thought.”

“But she thought you were her pastor!”Image result for confused woman on telephone pictures

“She never asked for proof. You get what you pay for.”

What you don’t know may not hurt you, I guess. Oh the cruel obscurity of truisms.

Image result for old lady on telephone imagesI recall when my oldest child was our only one. She would have been two or three years old. We dialed, yes I typed dialed, what we thought was my mother’s phone number, but at least one digit was incorrect. We put baby Erin directly on the phone without confirming that the voice we believed was Grandma’s actually was Grandma.  After a couple of partial toddler comments, my wife got on and discovered that the voice on the other end was not my mother’s but belonged to someone else’s mother. My wife began to apologize, but the elderly lady on the other end would have none of it. “Your little girl made my day. She is so sweet. Thank you. She can call me any time.”

Oh well, serendipity, I guess.

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There was another time when a collections agent kept calling my house looking for someone by the same name. Imagine that– another Burrito K. Special!! He had even graduated from the same university. However, he lived in Erie, PA from what I could cobble together. When I finally got that through the idiot collector’s head, he finally stopped calling and demanding that I pay for something I knew nothing about. No apology for the tough talk and claims that I was treating him like an idiot, which he was. No, instead he said something like, “I thought it was a weird phone number for Erie.” This was before cell phones, mind you, when you were tied to your kitchen phone with the twisty cord while kids were talking and the wife was making dinner noises. Map of Erie, PA

Then there was Leroy from Detroit. He had my number somehow confused with one of his homey buddies from GM, I think. I’d check my answering machine back in the day, and it would be Leroy telling me something I could not comprehend. He was friendly and half drunk each time. Then one day I picked up the phone and Leroy was on the line. He started to say “I’m sorry, man, I must have the wrong number…”, when I said, “Is this Leroy?”

“Yeah, how’d you know my name.”

“You’ve been leaving me wrong messages on my answering machine for the past two months, so I feel like I know you.”

“Oh, man, I’m sorry. I was wondering why you weren’t calling me back.”

“Well, two reasons Leroy. First, you didn’t leave your number. Second, I don’t know who you are.”

We had a good laugh and parted ways.Image result for black man laughing on phone

Of course old technology was helpful back when we were bored kids and it was too hot outside to do much playing. We’d pick up the phone in the kitchen, all phones were installed in kitchens then, and call up the drug store.

“Ring, ring, ring.”

“Hello, this is Drug Fair. How can I help you?”

Muffled deep voice, “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”Image result for pharmacist pictures

“Yes, sir, we do.”

Unmuffled, “Well, you’d better let him out.”

“You stupid kids better stop this….”  Click.

Simple tricks for simple minds in simpler times.

“Ring, ring, ring.”

“Hello.”

“Yes Ma’am. Bob Jones from Pepco. Is your refrigerator running?”

“Uh, give me second… yes it is.”

“Well, you’d better go catch it.”

Image result for angry 1950's housewife pictures“Darn kids. Where are your parents?”

“They’re tied to the kitchen chairs, Momma.”

Accomplice’s high pitched voice, “Help, I’m tied up to the kitchen chair. Heelllp!!”

“Well you oughta be ashamed of yourselves. Hoodlums!!”

We laughed guiltlessly.

Fast forward decades to today… a prank call comes  in on my cell phone. It’s one of the guys from the coffee shop– 717. 532. 2771 plus his name and middle initial.

“Harrow, you got Prince Albert in can?”

“Doug, Mr. Gray Water, the whole point of a prank call is the element of surprise, which is lost when caller I.D. tags your incoming smart phone.”

“Wow! I just wanted to know if you’d like to purchase storm windows.”

“Hey, this is not my first phone rodeo.”

 

455. Part 2: The Block of Ice

Image result for block of ice delivery picturesWe set about hooking up Sheila with Joel’s funereal ice block using old fashioned block and tackle, fully realizing that we had a diminishing product on the runway. As jets buzzed overhead, Joel was literally melting away in front of us. We had to get him to a freezer, a grave or a marble slab pronto or be left with, ugh, it’s just too terrible to think of the thawing corpsth that we might stthheee. As we finished the attachment process, a strangely familiar voice was heard uttering partial words, “Et me out ah ere”. I thought of my old Latin classes or Shakespeare’s “Et tu Brute?” Funny what heat and stress and jet noise can do to a guy’s mind. Related image

Then we all heard a distinctive “Ahhhchooo”. Each of us said, “Bless you” in a circle until it came back to me. “I didn’t sneeze”, I said. The other Nationalistas said the same thing. “I didn’t. Did you?”  “No. It wasn’t me.” “Steve?” “No, need a tissue?” “That’s weird.”

Image result for wet u.s. flag picturesJust then the stars end of the flag began to move as if a baby possum had wedged itself between the flag and the ice. At once we all called out, “Joel!”

“Of course it’s me, you damn fools. I’m stuck in this cube and can’t move. I feel like a horizontal bobble head doll. Get some boiling water, just get me out of here.”

We were all so pumped up at this Lazarian moment that we had to celebrate. Josh shot his 9 mm again. Gary whipped his favorite singlet over his head like he was at a Queen concert. Doug started a pun. Steve put him in a full nelson. I applauded but felt hurt by the impending loss of the Spyder. And then Verushka snapped her whip.

Image result for runaway horse wi th wagon picturesAway charged the confused and terrified Sheila across the runway, still attached to Joel’s ice cube. She zigged and zagged as jets landed and took off around her, leaving a water trail behind her, Joel’s icy tomb melting quickly with him screaming like a man frozen in ice with just his gray bobble head bobbling at one end. The Marshalls came charging out of Gate G 21 again, firing warning shots into the air. The scene moved from bizarre to total chaos. Everyone chased the ice coffin on foot, as Sheila chased safety and sanity, and the Marshalls chased us. Lance and Gary joined arms to make a human shield to stop Sheila. She plowed through them like a train going through a wall of diet whipped cream.

Image result for people running across an airport runway picturessMany voices shouted out cacophonously (see Rob Kearns for pronunciation). “Stop. Whoa. Look out. Fuel tanker. Plane. Baggage cart. Septic truck. Pigeons.”

Meanwhile Sheila cut a figure 8, then a figure 23, then a figure Pi to infinity. Tragedy was seconds away when Sheila finally broke loose from what little remained of the ice block and galloped west toward Middleburg, Virginia. Our eyes trained back from Sheila’s dust  trail to Joel’s dripping visage, literally wrapped in the soggy U.S. flag like a patriotic burrito. Image result for patriotic burrito pictures

We rushed as one to greet him and shake his hand, inspect his crampons and parka, and try to unpack this trans-Atlantic mystery. Sputtering wildly, everyone spouted at the same time….

“Joel, it’s unbelievable.”

“A miracle.”

“Defies science and logic.”

“Better than the Human Fly and Houdini wrapped into one.”

“What?”

“How?”

“Why?”

Elated but dumbfounded and found to be dumb, we experienced magic.

“Give me some room, fellas. Let me stretch. Whew! Oh, that didn’t quite go as I expected.”

“You mean you planned this debacle?”

Image result for motel 6 images“I can explain. I found myself without a return ticket on Saturday morning Reykjavik time. You see, I’d been so excited about Iceland that I’d forgotten to book the return ticket during the half off discount window of opportunity period. I’d flown over on points I’d accumulated on other free trips I’d been on with the Foundation and the Bank Board, so it slipped my mind until the last day while I was packing to come home. ‘I don’t have a cheap return ticket!’  Now I’ve never paid full price in my life, mind you. It’s something I gleaned from my father who would drive fifty miles from a Motel 6 in order to save a buck and stay at a Motel 5. In those days we stayed at hotels with pay toilets and no towels. You had to rent them at the front desk. Heat and air conditioning were coin operated, as was the shower.”

Image result for poisoned romeo pictures“Anyway my keen lawyer’s mind began to hatch a plan. I knew if I appeared as a corpse, I’d be shipped home for practically nothing by the authorities, according to international law. I toyed with using a temporary paralyzing toxin that had a short half life, but they had sold the last bottle at the Apothecary when I arrived. Then it hit me: the answer was right under my feet. I could stage a fatal hiking accident and get a free ride home. I knew the Nation’s Supreme Leader would figure it out somehow and come meet my ice coffin, and you did. Bless you, Burrito. I did not expect Sheila and Verushka to be here, however. They are an added bonus.”

“How did you pull it off, Joel? This may be the greatest escape artist trick ever– no handcuff key or black screen. This was awesome, man.”

Image result for iceland glacier pictures“Well, it was ingenious if I must say so myself. I took the complimentary hair dryer from my hotel room out on the glacier and melted a bathtub size pool that I knew would refreeze in hours. I hopped into the freezing water and tossed the hair dryer aside while it was still running hot. It broke apart and shorted out, throwing the hotel into blackness. I figured the staff would look for a short circuit cause, and when they did, they would find my extension cord, then the hair dryer, then my frozen body. Worked like a charm.”Related image

“It was like a locked door murder mystery. Only who would ever figure out this non murder caper?  Only the Burrito Man.”

“Really, it was nothing, Joel. De nada.”Image result for sherlock holmes pictures