« Archives in August, 2013

“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On A Trip To The Emergency Room

You’d be grumpy, too.

TP: Great to see you, Little Man. Heard you were sick.

LM: Thanks, doc. Yeh, I had a rough time last week. Couldn’t even eat! That freaked everybody out.

TP: I bet.

LM: Three straight days of no appetite and even my vet, Dr. Evan, was worried. Apparently, he told dad that when big, rakishly handsome cats like myself stop eating for even a short period, our internal organs can shut down and, well, next stop—the big litterbox in the sky.

TP: Scary. So even your vet thinks you’re “rakishly handsome,” does he?

LM: Just paraphrasing, doc, okay? Anyhow, by late Wednesday night, mom and dad were pretty worried and, no kidding, I was hurtin’. Giving dad the old do something eyeball and my most pathetic woe is me cry.

TP: That’s when you went to the Pet ER?

LM: Right. Dad checked with Dr. Evan first to see if we should wait until morning to see him, but Evan said, No way. Get that little stud to the ER, pronto.

TP: Were you worried?

LM: I have to be honest, doc. I was. Mom couldn’t get over my total silence on the drive over. I was busy with that whole life flashing before your eyes deal. It’s true, you know. Thinking about all the things you did, shoulda done, coulda done, would do if you were allowed just one more bite of the apple. Maybe I shoulda been more of a lap cat for mom, a better (slimmer) hunter for dad. Perhaps I coulda been nicer to that dweeb, Curly, or less aggressive toward the annoying kid in the plaid pajamas. Probably shouldn’t have laughed when dad fell out of the tree and fractured his rib trying to “save me” when I was little. Stuff like that.

TP: Hmm. So what happened at the ER? »Read More


A typical Sunday morning, roughly 8:15, a long time ago. My father stands in the doorway to my room, extends his thumb to his lips, curls his fingers as if holding a bugle, and sounds out the military wake-up call of Reveille. God, that was annoying!

I was eight, and it was time to get up and get ready for church. All the kids who attended St. Bernardine’s parochial school were “encouraged” to attend the nine o’clock Mass on Sunday. While not a strict requirement, my fellow third-graders and I were well aware that any absence would be duly noted by the eagle-eyed Sister Mary Eustacius and met with a syrupy snippet on Monday morning on the order of: I don’t believe we had the pleasure of Mr. Riesett’s company yesterday at the 9. It never bode well for an eight-year old to be called out as a “mister,” especially in the regimented obedience of the 1950s.

Fortunately, thanks to my dad’s faux bugle call, I was a regular at “the 9,” virtually always officiated by Monsignor Louie Vaeth, a great character of a man with a crusty exterior and a unique talent for memory. Standing in the pulpit from which he would deliver his sermon, he would first read that day’s Gospel selection…except he never actually read it. Rather, he would open the Bible to the appropriate page, hold it out in front of him in his left hand, and recite it word-for-word without ever glancing at the page.

In those days, the Monsignor of a Catholic parish was essentially a benevolent dictator, and Louie Vaeth played his part to the hilt. Once an amateur boxing champion, now a gruff old shepherd of one of the city’s fastest growing congregations, he loved to play poker and smoke cigars with the faithful on Friday nights, attend the local fights on Saturday, and shepherd his flock to higher heights of holiness on Sunday. The story was told about the night that Monsignor Louie, at that point well into his 60s, attended a local fight card and was invited into the ring to offer a blessing. Suddenly, a voice called out from the well-lubricated crowd, Go back to your church, you penguin-suited bum. A hush fell hard over the arena. Glaring out from the ring, Louie Vaeth immediately removed the white clerical collar at the throat of his otherwise black priestly garb and called out to the faceless voice: “Forget this Roman collar. Come down here and say that to me as a man.” That no one moved (or probably breathed for the next minute) undoubtedly deprived the crowd of a Main Event they would have never forgotten. »Read More