Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Rose A. Valenta

Remember the good old days, when you could turn on the UHF channel and watch Bishop Sheen on a Sunday? I really miss him. Our culture has suffered his loss. He was a great teacher, then everything went downhill and they gave his chalk board to Glenn Beck, who started using it to teach fractured religion before he finally quit his day job.

In those days, we went to Church every Sunday, and every day during Holy Week. We had respect for our elders, obeyed authority figures; and didn’t even know what flipping the bird meant, let alone use it to signal a traffic cop on foot.

Children had respect for their parents and grandparents, didn’t cuss in mixed company, didn’t expose their butt cracks in public, and used terms like “sir” and “ma’am,” instead of “dude” and “WTF?”

As a family, we were closer on rainy days by playing interactive games like Candy Land, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Operation, poker, Scrabble, and Yahtzee; not sitting solo in front of the TV, wearing headphones connected to an Xbox and swearing loud enough to wake up the dead.

We encouraged the older children to take at least 20 minutes out of their day to play Fish with younger siblings, not sacrifice them to The Hunger Games.

Some frustrated parents began giving their kids biblical names like Joshua, Jacob, Rebecca, and Ruth; only to find out their little demon was flipping the bird to the teacher in kindergarten class and got a tear drop tattoo at recess.

Keep them away from drugs? Right! The teachers are screaming for Ritalin by second grade. So, you’re faced with two choices: zombie or a drop-out.

The entertainment industry is corrupting our kids. All of it: movies, radio, TV, and video games. You have a better shot at hitting Mega Millions, than teaching culture to our kids. We had to ban "Naked and Afraid" in our house during Holy Week.

They should have Toastmasters for kids. At least that would get the “duuude” and “bro” out of the vocabulary, right? The word "dude" for instance, can mean many different things depending on voice inflections.

We can't even teach our children good presentation skills as long as we have political candidates like Donald Trump running for POTUS, who cannot put two sentences together without first disparaging women, minorities, Obama, a federal judge, the Pope; and bullying his competition.

One teacher exposed two parents as being unfit. Their defense attorney proved they were not at fault because they both grew up watching Roadrunner cartoons. One of them got religion:

We’re screwed!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Monologue

by Rose A. Valenta

This has been an exciting week in politics. We have folks applying for the highest position in the country, who are inexperienced, obnoxious, under investigation by the FBI, have no definitive plans that address the issues; and some, who are outstanding. Sadly for us, many of the 16 more qualified candidates simply could not get out from under Trump’s che cazzo grandstanding, which is like an in vitro serving of unachievable bullshit.

Really, Donald, the office of the presidency isn’t a “fake it till you make it” kind of job.

To paraphrase Will Rogers, “If you want to go into politics, you should live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot as a senior companion to gossip columnist Liz Smith.”

The Skinny as follows:

Donald Trump ordered "Bible CliffsNotes" from Amazon, so he can answer next time an reporter asks for his favorite verse. Unless his campaign manager whacks them first for asking.

Iowans know that he lied, the hashtag #Trumpbible is still trending on Twitter. My favorite is “When Jesus said give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses he didn't mean at the expense of our capitalist infrastructure.”

Obama was so appalled by Trump's lack of knowledge during the debates, he sent him a copy of "The U.S. Constitution for Dummies."

Trump has been bashing Cruz for his "NY values" comment at one of the debates. The Naked Cowboy said "no worries," he ran for POTUS last time.

The Gallup Poll says 51% of women, who once hurled their knickers at Tom Jones when he sang "Sex Bomb," are hoping for a brokered convention so they can vote for Marco Rubio. Polls don't lie.

Both of the front-runners have over one million fake followers on Twitter; a good indication of what else they have been faking.

The latest Hillary scandal is "StartingGate." That's when a politician commits an impeachable offense even before the election. She says "What, me worry? Nah, Bill always remembers to hit the links with Obama. I can do what I want."

Hillary had trouble using the subway turnstile. Bill's latest NY hooker said she should "take a number."

Chris Christie wants to track illegal immigrants like FedEx packages. His mother wrote to Seton Hall University School of Law asking for a refund.

Flake on flake: Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called Trump’s campaign “offensive” and “laughable.” Don’t you just cringe at the thought of an uncouth braggart in the White House armed with “Top Secret” information and nukes? Me too.

Trump went after Anthony Weiner in his Massachusetts speech, calling him a "sleazebag." People close to him should remind him that "folks who live in glass houses..." after all, most of us still remember his infidelity hitting the front page of the National Enquirer from the slopes of Aspen in 1990, when he was a "very bad man" to his first wife.

Bernie Sanders said he believes the DNC party leaders have rigged the debate schedule in favor of front-runner Hillary Clinton. I’m glad he finally caught on.

My Uncle Harry belongs to Mensa, he says "We have the most embarrassing First Family of the '90s and a mentally disturbed billionaire still listed as front-runners in the polls. Ultimately, it means we’re screwed!"

I think for the 2016 general election what this country really needs is a good neurosurgeon.

© 2010-2016, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Monday, March 7, 2016

Grandma Hello Kitty Onesie and The Strangely Suffocating Snow Day

by Rose A. Valenta

School closings are being announced on the radio due to snow. Mother Nature is again proving to be my nemesis. Mother Nature and I haven’t been on speaking terms since my water broke in Philadelphia at 34th and Vine back in 1979, and our daughter was born; as the old love potion song goes: “I held my nose, I closed my eyes…” -- it didn’t help.

Yesterday, our daughter brought grandson, Abner, to our home kicking and screaming. She was not the one doing the kicking and screaming. It was Abner’s gut instinct regarding the state of his well-being during his next several days with us that made him angst-ridden. I attribute his trepidation to my mother-in-law, Surly Kate, who regrettably still lives here.

Abner and Kate wear on my nerves like tethered flags during a hurricane. No school means I am now trapped inside the house with both of them. Mercifully, I have some Scotch whiskey in a glass bottle, properly labeled, to break in case of an emergency.

By noontime, Kate is in the bathroom yelling expletives with the door locked; Abner is in the next room losing an X-box game, his vocabulary is exactly like Kate’s – vile and hereditary; and I, with no time to dress, am still in my onesie and bathrobe.

Soon, water commences to trickle from beneath the bathroom door, the encumbrance of having indoor plumbing. Now, I have to stop what I am doing -- disconnecting all the smoke detectors -- a task I always perform when making grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch; to get a bathroom key, two bars of soap for them to suck on and a mop.¬

It is beyond my comprehension why entrepreneurs can develop complicated video games, but can’t invent useful things like smoke detectors with artificial intelligence, so you can teach it personal cooking habits before piercing one’s ear drums at meal time; toilets equipped with smart garbage disposals, so you won’t have to call Roto-Rooter every time your mother-in-law eats nails for breakfast; and marshmallow eradicator for laptop keyboards.

Manufacturers should also affix the following warning label on computer flash drives: “Children: Do not use this product to stab marshmallows while creating s'mores on the indoor roaster.”

After lunch, I send the little rogue outdoors to play with the other neighborhood children, who are doing normal things: building snowmen, having snowball fights and making snow angels. Of course, Abner gets into the tool shed and finds the clothesline. He jury-rigs a dog-sled, dognaps all the canines within a five-block radius, amidst raucous protests from the dognapped, and organizes a neighborhood Iditarod.

Someone summons the police.

Since the chip off the old block is a mile away, I do the intelligent thing and have a martini.

Unfortunately, the police return him.

At the end of the day, I am still baffled by the underlying literary message in Abner’s “alleged” required reading: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers.

© 2010-2016, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Saturday, December 26, 2015

'A Christmas Carol' Junkie

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour." ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Okay, so I’m a Scrooge junkie. I have every film adaptation ever made of the 1843 Dickens Classic “A Christmas Carol.” I watch them during the holidays and sometimes in June. My children make fun of my habit and call me the Yuletide Grinch. They say the storyline scares my youngest grandchildren.

My marathon usually begins with the 1934 version starring Lionel Barrymore; a gift from my youngest daughter in a Christmas paint can that also includes popcorn and a straight jacket, the 1938 version with Reginald Owen; the 1951 version with Alistair Sim; the 1970 musical with Albert Finney; the 1984 version with George C. Scott; the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart; the Henry Winkler rendition; and the whole laundry list of spoofs. I don’t watch the cartoons.

I don’t have a favorite, I like them all. I also have the audio book by Gerald Charles Dickens.

I actually met Gerald Charles Dickens at the Byers’ Choice doll factory when he did his one-man tour during the holidays a few years ago, and I got a book autographed. The tour was a tribute to his Great-Great Grandfather, Charles Dickens, who did his one-man show every Christmas in London, near the end of his lifetime (1812-1870).

I also collect first edition Byers’ Choice Christmas Carol dolls and have the 1870 Memorial Edition of Dickens' works.

Hooked? You bet!

The other day, one of my daughters called me.

“Hey Mom, the digital 3D Disney film, “A Christmas Carol,” is playing at the theatre. I know you don't have that one. Would you like to see it tomorrow?”

“Absolutely!” I answered. I thought the child had lost her mind, since she is the one, who has been harassing me for years about my Dickens collection.

Wow, I can feed my habit in 3D! I was champing at the bit.

“Who stars in the film?” I asked.

“Jim Carrey” she said. “But, it is partially animated, so he doesn’t look like himself."

“No problem,” I said. “You wouldn’t recognize Hermione Braddley when she played Mrs. Cratchit in the 1951 film either. She’s the actress, who also played Mrs. Naugatuck in “Maude.”

“Mrs. Naugatuck? No, I wouldn’t, mom, that was way before my time.”

She had to rub that in, right?

“What time should I meet you there?” I asked.

“Come over for lunch and we’ll go to the early show.”

I had a feeling that she didn’t want her friends catching her going to the theatre to see Scrooge with her mother. I had that marathon reputation, after all. It was well-known throughout the entire Northeast Philadelphia area, most of the graduating classes at Archbishop Ryan High School and Penn State.

"Psst! They're having another Scrooge marathon at the Valenta's after the Capital One Bowl."

The theatre had about six different films showing, including "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" - a risk of getting caught after the 6:20 pm showing. So, I agreed and we went early.

We got our tickets, 3D glasses, and 5 pounds of theatre popcorn with extra butter. We were happening!

"Mom, I hate to tell you about all the bad chemicals that are in that popcorn, including beta-carotene," my daughter said. "Take an extra garlic capsule for your cholesterol and don't inhale directly over the container."

Do you see a role reversal evolving here? I ate most of the popcorn.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was true to Dickens’ original 1843 story, and had a unique quality as well. Jim Carrey had several different roles: Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. However, the credits were longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls. I always look at all the credits, to her, another one of my quirks. That took another 15 minutes.

We kept the stealth dark 3D glasses on, until we left the theatre parking lot.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Did the First Turducken Happen in Mid-Air?

by Rose A. Valenta

Bah! Humbug!" ~ Ebenezer Scrooge

How do you actually plan for a fiasco? I asked myself after planning to put a bicycle lock on the can of whipping cream in the refrigerator. The adults misbehave at Christmas worse than the kids. Uncles Harry and Dick have never quite grown up, thanks to the enablers, who keep inviting them over for dinner. I pondered their next move.

Last year, Christmas got off to a good start. Just before dinner, my son-in-law hit his head on an heirloom sconce in the dining room; it crashed, sending about a thousand tiny glass slivers all over the floor. This was even before beer and wine were served.

Plates and glasses were snatched off the set table and rewashed as a just-in-case maneuver. Luckily, the buffet was safely in the next room. Condiments were moved closer to the Infant of Prague statue and prayed over, while salt was thrown over about a dozen shoulders.

At prayer time, our 6-year-old pagan, Missy, was sucking her thumb and screaming expletives that she had learned from her older brother during an Xbox game. We used duct tape and said an Act of Contrition. We also threatened to blow up the NORAD Santa tracker before he got to our house.

We had ham and turkey, and a wide variety of side dishes. Since our family is diverse, the sides ranged from carrot raisin casserole to Arroz Rojo to pot stickers. Everybody avoided cousin Kim's Kung Pao gizzards and "Elf balls." At least that is what it sounded like she said (I always wondered what we did with The Elf on the Shelf, now I know).

After beer was served, Uncles Harry and Dick got into a heated argument over the White House Christmas tree. Harry swore that it was a Kwanzaa tree with seven branches, while Dick said that was unconstitutional, unless they also added a Menorah and Nativity scene. They also fought over whether or not the very first Turducken happened in mid-air. Every year, they pick something ridiculous to fight about.

By dessert time, Harry had already spritzed whipping cream on Dick’s nose, hoping the family dog, Spuds, would attack him. Spuds maintained his cool, drooled over the cheerleaders on the TV, then looked at Dick’s nostrils and groaned. In his youth, Dick used to look like Jimmy Durante; now that he is older, and certain body parts are succumbing to gravity, he closely resembles a Proboscis monkey.

I already had Harry’s sleeping bag out in the barn with the kerosene heater. I was leaving nothing to chance.

The men went into the family room to watch football, teenagers were champing at the bit to go to the mall the next day, little ones sat playing Penguins and Facebook games on several hi-tech iPods and notebook PCs, our Grandson was on his 25th rendition of "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" on the Nintendo guitar, the cat was chasing its eye-floaters, and the rest of us sat around the dining room table gossiping. We finally agreed that the first Turducken actually did happen in mid-air over Uncle Harry's house and dropped down the chimney while he was watching his signature film "Scrooge" for the 100th time.

My eyes were as glazed over as our left-over ham by 11:00 pm, so I excused myself and went upstairs; leaving my husband to entertain our overnight guests. About five minutes later, he snuck upstairs and accused me of abandoning ship.

“Football doesn’t turn me on,” I said. “Besides, look at the bright side, your mundane life would suck without overnight house guests trying to come up with a perfect bracket for the upcoming March Madness.”

I am so not looking forward to another family fiasco!

© 2010-2015, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Monday, November 30, 2015

Is Dayton the Boondocks of Ohio?

by Rose A. Valenta

Is it just me and logistics, or is Dayton the boondocks of Ohio?

Every other year, I go out to Ohio, to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop at the University of Dayton. So, just this morning, I was online checking rates and times for United Airlines and Amtrak to Dayton, OH. Registration for the Workshop opens tomorrow, December 1st.

I don't know why I checked airfare; no one has been able to get me on a plane since I took AirSick Flight 19 to St. Thomas several years ago, and those Northwest pilots in Chicago probably got caught playing Facebook games on their laptops overshooting the airport.

I prefer train travel, but Amtrak only goes to Cincinnati via Kentucky where you can hail a taxi, hop a bus, or rent a car for the last 56-green-miles to Dayton.

Coach or room, the train arrives there at 1:30 am. I considered how dangerous it might be to find myself alone in a train station at that hour. I did that once in NYC and was accosted by a street person, who wanted half of my potato skin. It was dripping with butter, sour cream, and bacon bits. Not willing to give up my bacon bits, I gave him a small bag of Nachos instead. I nixed the train ride idea. Plus, on the way back, the only train leaves Cincinnati at 3:29 am Sunday, April 3rd, or else you have to wait it out until the 7th; at which time the train leaves the station at 3:29 am. The trip takes about 16 hours by way of Kentucky and West Virginia whiskey and paw-paw stops. I tried entering Ashtabula as my destination, hoping that the Underground Railroad would be faster, but it wasn't.

The plane, Tattoo, goes all over the eastern seaboard, with layovers in Hoboken, DC, and Atlanta; taking 5 to 6 hours.

How in the hell did explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle manage in a dugout canoe during the 17th Century looking for a route to China via Ohio?

Since Dayton is only 545 miles away, I drew a straight line on a road map from Philadelphia to Dayton, and decided to check out Enterprise Rent-a-Car to drive. I've driven there in my own car before, getting it tuned up, tires checked, oil, brake fluid, window washer, and a fill-up; only to arrive at the same time as my friend, Joy, was leaving the Dayton Marriott bar in her bunny slippers and I looked as disheveled as she did, except I was sober!

It all started on Route 70 between Columbus and Dayton... you guessed it, flat as the world my Italian ancestor was told he lived in, right?

My Italian heritage stunted my growth, but I managed to get to be 5 feet tall. Consequently, I have to practically do a tarantella on the lug wrench to loosen the tire.

I detest lug nuts!

Do you remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," when Ralph utters an expletive while helping his father change a tire and ends up sucking on a bar of Lifebuoy?

That was me on Route 70. If there were any good Samaritans around, they all accelerated to get away from the crazy woman, who even looked like a deranged bunny out on the highway.

You have to know that the entire time I'm changing the tire, visions of Hervé Villechaize yelling "Mr. Rourke, the plane! the plane!" kept dancing in my head, while I'm berating myself with coulda shoulda woulda.

Try a little self-love, I thought, that always works. So, I priced the Enterprise leasing rate on a real classy Lincoln for a week. The cost is the same as airfare or room accommodations on Amtrak.

Oh yes! and a box of Godiva chocolates for the road. Whoo-Hoo!

Have audio books will travel.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

When Santa Had to See a Man About a Reindeer

by Rose A. Valenta

For as long as I can remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday never meant Jack Schitt in my house. Those are the days everyone in my family stays away from the shopping Malls, clogged traffic arteries, and shopping cart demolition derbys. The only exception being our teenagers, who like to hang out at the food courts, eating pizza, and watching all the viral shoppers knock each other over like yulefest Weebles to save a yuletide dollar.

Occasionally, the kids report back to the house with their iPods that someone took a header out in the parking lot; some sweet little old lady whacked a kid with a candy cane because she thought he was memorizing her PIN number, so he could treat himself to another beef jerky; someone was seen jumping around Starbucks like the police seargent at 13th and Chestnut Sts. in Philadelphia, who was denied the restroom facilities for not buying a red cup of coffee first; or somone just got pepper-sprayed in the long sale line by a frustrated shopper.

Additionally, nobody ever said that after hundreds of servings of milk and cookies, Kris Kringle wouldn’t have to tinkle. However, according to this Reuters photographer at a shopping mall in Hamburg, Germany, who wanted to preserve the moment for posterity, Santa had to see a man about a reindeer and he didn't appreciate the Tabloid paparazzi!

Santa was pissed!

No one knows if the photographer was shooting for a new line of American Greetings, a Coca-Cola commercial, or was developing a new and improved 'Twas the Beer Before Christmas clip for YouTube, but he made Santa’s naughty list and will not be getting that expensive Canon Super Telephoto Lens that he wants for Christmas.

Santa angrily ajusted his zipper and pointed out that his sleigh broke down during a pre-Black Friday holiday dry run and a Coca-Cola 18 wheeler rescued him and the reindeer over Hamburg, They drank a lot of Coke, and if the photographer was doing his homework he would have spotted Rudolph and Comet doing the same thing over by the old Elm tree just outside the Mall.

"That's not going to win you the Deeper Perspective Photographer of The Year Award, son," Santa said. Then, laying his finger aside of his nose, he added, “You don’t want to mess with Santa!”

© 2010-15, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here