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“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On Nephews & Little Brothers

Little’s therapist delves into relationships.

TP: Good to see you, Little. How was Thanksgiving?

LM: Hmm—kind of a good news/bad news deal, doc. Good news: I was able to hustle some pretty fine turkey scraps from mom. You gotta love those leftovers. Bad news: The “kid with the plaid pajamas” was there.

TP: Kid with the plaid pajamas?

LM: Yeh, the oldest grandson. When he was younger and his family lived far away, they’d stay overnight. (Not any more, thank God.) He always wore these crazy-looking plaid pj’s, so we dubbed him accordingly.

TP: What? The plaid pj’s bothered you?

LM: Nah. The kid bothered me.  He just LOVED getting me riled up, thinking I’d chase him around the house. You know me, doc…the only things I’m chasing have four short legs and make a nice snack.

TP: But the kid’s grown up now, right?

LM: I’ll say. Kid’s growin’ like a weed. He’s almost as tall as dad…but he’s still a dweeb. I’m telling you, doc, the kid’s not in the house five minutes before you hear, “where’s Uncle Little?”

TP: Uncle Little?

LM: Yeh, you believe that? Where’d this kid learn anatomy? Anyway, he likes to play with fire, I guess. He comes over, all uncle little coochie-cooing, then tries petting my belly (NOT HAPPENING!) and seeing how narrowly he can avoid getting his arm ripped off. I don’t know…maybe the kid wants to be a snake charmer when he grows up, so he’s trying to perfect the art of the narrow escape. Good thing dad loves him so much or I’d consider introducing him to the art of “Oops! Better get some band-aids.”

TP: Does it bother you that your dad loves the kid so much?

LM: No, of course not! Dad’s crazy about all the grandkids. I understand that. Heck, a bunch of them were here before me. I don’t mind sharing him with them.

TP: Unlike Curly?

LM: Boy, you’re just dying to get into that Curly thing, aren’t you, doc?

TP: Well, from what I heard…

LM: Exactly what did you hear, doc? »Read More

“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On Being Homeless

Another week, another therapy session for the not-so-little man.

TP: So, Little, I thought this week we might talk about your early days.

LM: You mean, like when I was adopted?

TP: Well yes, but even before. I know you were out on your own for a while. What was that like?

LM: Duh. Whaddya think it was like, doc? It stunk. Everybody picks on you, no telling when you’ll eat next, have to sleep with one eye open. Yeh, it was swell.

TP: You get beat up a lot?

LM: A little, doc. I ain’t no creampuff. »Read More

“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On Visiting The Vet

A peek inside this week’s session between our cat, Little Man, and his therapist. 

TP: So how did it go this week?

LM: Ahh, it was ok, I guess. Didn’t exactly start great though. Had to get in the damn pet carrier (traveling prison cell would be more accurate) to go to the vet.

TP: What was so terrible about it?

LM: Well, first of all, dad always telegraphs his game plan with some over-the-top comment about how we’re going to go outside and have BIG FUN together. The last time I had “big fun” outside was when I was really young and climbed a tree. Dad thought I was stuck up there, so he climbs up too. Thing is, in his pathetic effort to reach me, he loses his balance, falls onto a lower branch, and cracks a rib. He limps into the house to whine to mom and I saunter down off the tree, no prob. That was big fun.

TP: Stay on topic, Little. The trip to the vet.

LM: Right. So anyway, he carries me downstairs mumbling about “big fun” and I can see he’s got the prison cell all set up down there—door open, ready to deposit me inside.  So, of course, I go into high resistance mode so he knows I know what’s up. Then it’s head first into the little sweatbox. I mean, look at me. I’m thirty pounds of mansome being stuffed into a kitty carrier? Please!

TP: OK. So you get to the vet and…

LM: Not so fast. First, we have the ride over. I, of course, immediately go into woe-is-me-whining-mode. He starts babbling back at me about how we’ll only be at the doctor’s for a few minutes, it’s no big deal, and then the clincher…“Maybe your girlfriend will be there.” »Read More

“PLAYHOUSE 25”

The shot rang out within seconds of a blur running up the alley.

“Did you see that son of a bitch move?”

George had barely said move when the pop-pop sound reverberated. Maybe there were two shots.

It was 9:30 on a steamy July night in ’60s Baltimore. We had just parked the car and George was cutting the engine when a white T-shirt and jeans tore ass up the alley in front of us.

The alley ran behind Playhouse 25, an art cinema that showed Bergman films and other innocently erotic, mostly foreign stuff. We were going to catch a 10 o’clock screening, but live action proved a stronger lure.

We jumped from the car and ran to the alley’s entrance…excitement trumping fear. Hell, we were teenagers. They live forever, right? »Read More

“TOUCHSTONE”

“A Neighborhood” : An admittedly pedestrian poem, written at an intensely emotional time…

Like a town unto itself,

But only part of something else,

It was my life for little kid years;

A place of growing, laughter, and tears.

The day I met my first real friend,

We said hello, but it would end.

His name was Bob; I shook his hand.

We were little guys who’d form a band.

We all had names that you would hear

When mothers yelled, “Time for supper. Come here!”

Names like Skip and Wayne and Lee,

Bev and Paul, even Donna Marie.

I cannot try to write them all.

It makes me sad when I recall.

‘Cause here I speak of long-past days,

Since we’ve all gone our separate ways.

Life brings us close, almost as one,

Then pulls us apart and ends the fun.

Where could all the memories be?

Do they live in others as they do in me?

I remember dodgeball and “Mother, may I?”

S-P-U-D…let the ball fly!

Games of pitch on hot summer nights,

Under the glow of city streetlights.

Hide-and-seek was fun for all.

The girls played hopscotch; the boys, step-ball.

Redline and wire-ball and so many others,

Played with passion by sisters and brothers.

Our whole play world was so very small,

Just two rows of houses and an alley, that’s all.

Now we’re all gone; other people live there.

I wonder what they think when I drive by and stare.

It’s been sixty years since I grew up in that West Baltimore neighborhood; thirty-five since I wrote this poem while resident in the high-security ward of a New England psychiatric hospital; and about a week since I last drove by and stared. Maybe I’m just the sentimental type, trying to go home again when, indeed, “you can’t.” Or maybe I’m still trying to make sense of how it came so terribly undone in the turbulent ‘60s. »Read More

“ONE HUNDRED YARDS OF MEMORIES”

Read an article in the newspaper the other day about Baltimore’s City College High School, one of America’s oldest high schools, getting a new artificial turf football field. Predictably, the article referenced several current and former players recalling the trials and tribulations of playing on the old field, more accurately, the old dirt patch—a hundred yards of “rocks and dirt” where “grass never seemed to take hold,” where the line markers “just blew away with the dust,” and you were never “sure you were in the end zone” until you ran past the goal posts. »Read More

“ON BEING CATEGORIZED”

We were on Kevin Road in West Baltimore, probably 1957, Mike and I walking home after a tough day in 6th Grade at St. Bernardine’s parochial school. Mike, just six months my senior but always seeming years older and wiser, suddenly declared, “We’re democrats.” I have no recollection what preceded that statement, or why two 11-year olds would be discussing anything even remotely hinged to political dialogue in the Leave It To Beaver world of the 1950s, but I very clearly recall the conviction with which Mike spoke. Not a comment; rather, a declaration of fact; the “we” not a reference to Mike’s family but rather our entire neighborhood.

We are? I wondered. I hardly knew the difference between a democrat and a Phillips head screwdriver but, curiously, I then found myself thinking, Says who?

For the past fifty-odd years, I’ve been doing my best to avoid facile, submissive categorization—and not just politically. Yet, today’s world is so categorically splintered as to call to question how it remains whole.

We take sides and brutally demonize one another on a conceptual level. Yet, we somehow manage to care for and support one another on a personal level. We all have friends and family who hold views in total contrast to our own–views we vilify from afar and literally want to defeat. Yet, up close and personal, vilification gets a sense of humor. It’s softened by good-natured ribbing, if somewhat snarky debate.

Today’s politicians could do with a dose of that. Perhaps that’s why I hear certain commentators wistfully recall the days when Ronald Reagan was President and Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House. Two men with sharply different views on how best to serve the nation; they could respectfully arm-wrestle all day and still hoist a beer together at its end.

We could use those guys right now.

 

THINGS I LEARNED IN ADVERTISING

#4. Sell it before you show it.

#5. It sure beats plumbing.

#11. Successful business relationships are as much about the relationship as the business.

#3.  Great ideas are rarely killed outright; they’re nibbled to death.

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SIX-WORD STORIES

1.   Freedom. Temptation. Gratification. Addiction. Withdrawal. Reality.

2.   Discovered truth. Confronted prejudice. Stood firm.

3.   Mad man. Two meanings. One man.

4.   But it worked for Jerry Maguire.
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“THE QUEENS OF SNARK”

“You have the pulse of a runner and the heart of a lion,” my doctor enthusiastically reported, following a recent physical. To which my wife quickly added, ”And the pain threshold of a five-year-old girl.”

What is it that makes women think they are so much tougher than men?

Sure, women are capable of squeezing seven-to-ten pounds of humanity out of their bodies on occasion, but that’s hardly an everyday occurrence.

It’s not bad enough that my wife thinks I translate every ache and pain into high drama, but she and her friends love to compare notes about what weenies their husbands can be, thus baring my idiosyncratic behavior (over-stated in my wife’s telling for maximum comedic effect) for others to comment on. And the Snarky Comment Award definitely goes to my self-described “long-lost baby sister.”
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