Tall Tales of Two Cities

I found out recently that my brother Kevin has been writing an article in the San Francisco Chronicle every Wednesday for a long time now. I’m impressed. Mark Twain wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle. I just write an occasional story on my Lancaster web page. I feel like a slacker. Actually, I am a slacker. So, it doesn’t bother me. I have no intention to try to be as prolific as Kevin. Besides, Kevin has two very active teenage-ish boys who practically write the stories for him because they feed him so much material. The great number of cocktails I would need to consume to come up with a new idea every week could destroy my liver. There is one thing about our writing style that Kevin and I do have in common, though. Like Mark Twain, we both believe that the truth shouldn’t get in the way of a good story.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who wrote a lot of riverboat stories like Huckleberry Finn, chose Mark Twain as his pen name. It is a riverboat term meaning 2 fathoms of water (12 feet), water deep enough to be safe for a riverboat not to run aground. Kevin and I aren’t that deep. We write shallow rowboat stories – just enough to get your feet wet.

We both use the same fact checker, too, Brother X. He always lets us know whenever our stories aren’t accurate. Last week I said that my Cousin Charlie was one of those who broke the family curse by not dying at 67. He informed me that Charlie passed 20 years ago. I guess that explains why I haven’t seen Charlie in decades. Curses. Foiled again. Of course, my stories are usually harder to fact check since most of them take place here in Lancaster. Kevin, on the other hand, frequently tells stories from when we were kids. Those are easy for both X and myself to fact check. We grew up in the same house. When confronted with discrepancies, though, Kevin just says, “Well, that’s the way I remember it.” I think he stole that line from a half-dozen recent Presidents.

Kevin, who is gay, also has a treasure-trove of stories from all the gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender citizens of San Francisco. I only have Crazy Debbie, but she does provide quite a lot of material. She was telling me the other day that her Mom traces her roots back to General/President Ulysses S. Grant. So, she was trying to impress me with her knowledge about the Civil War. “I know a lot about the Civil War,” she said. “Things like the Boston Tea Party…”

I gasped audibly.

“I made you laugh, didn’t I?” she said. “I saw you smile.”

“No,” I said, “You didn’t make me laugh. You made my eyeballs roll so far up into my head that they pulled the corners of my lips up.”

“That’s the same as a laugh,” she smiled. I did laugh about it afterwards, though, so I guess she might have been right.


I have one big advantage over Kevin, though. Writing for a widely-read San Francisco newspaper puts a lot of pressure on him. One over-the-top comment might produce a volume of angry letters to the editor. My audience, which I estimate to be about 6 people (including the fact checker), puts absolutely no pressure at all on me. If Patrice and Barbara comment favorably, I consider that column a winner. If I get three or more good comments I start wondering if they give out Pulitzers for webpages.

Write On, Brother. Write On. I’ll do what I can, whenever the muse strikes.

Peace & Love, and all of the Above.




Going…Going…Not Gone

In a weird coincidence, all the male Paulsons in my family died at 67. A couple died earlier in accidents, but the rest all died when they were 67 years old. Then my Dad came along. He was so sure he was going to die at 67 that he retired at 62 so that he could have 5 years of leisure. He made it to 94. Then my older cousins, Charles, Harold and Francis all broke the curse, too. So, it looks like our family has finally beaten the curse of 67, but we still talk about it. When I turned 66, Brother X sent me a birthday card that said, “Happy Penultimate Birthday.” On my 67th birthday he sent a card that said, “Happy Last Birthday.” I am now 69, so I broke the curse, too. However, Brother X is currently 67. His 68th birthday is in July, so he still has to last 18 more days if he is going to break the curse, too.

I went to see him this past weekend, to wish him a Happy LAST Father’s Day. Ball busting doesn’t run in our family. It walks, to make sure it doesn’t skip anybody. In Kevin’s book, “A Song for Lost Angels” my little brother stated that as a child Brother X was the Devil Incarnate. I found that funny, but X didn’t. In our private e-mails I stopped calling him Brother X and switched his nickname to a more devilish sounding Beelzebro. He actually thought that was funny. Inaccurate, but funny.

He forbids me to use his real name or picture in any of my blogs, but I have disregarded his edict on several occasions. Actually, since Kevin’s book was published, I have wanted to use this picture as an avatar for Brother X. I did put it on my cell phone. I’m still trying to figure out how to get “Sympathy for the Devil” to play as his ringtone.


This past weekend I snapped a picture of him and said, “I wanted to get one last picture of him before he lays down for the dirt nap.” I caught him with the light streaming on him, like he was being called to the light. He thought that was funny, too, so he’s letting me post the picture here.


Well, actually, he didn’t think it was so funny, and he didn’t really say that I could put his picture on my blog, but what can he do to me in just 18 days or less?

Here’s hoping he can break the 67 curse, too, so I can continue busting his balls for many years to come. Live long and prosper, Beelzebro.

And a happy FIRST Father’s Day to his son DJ and grandson Cooper.

DJ and Cooper at the

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Hogwarts vs Hogwash

“Whatcha doing?” Debbie said into the phone.

“I’m finally watching the last Harry Potter movie. I went to the library and got all of them. I’m watching the last one now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.”

“My cousin’s church told them not to watch those movies.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

When we finished talking, I Googled it. I had to.  I found out that some churches really are trying to get the Harry Potter books out of public school libraries because “they promote witchcraft.” The kicker is that they’re claiming that it violates the laws against separation of Church and State, as Witchcraft can be called a religion. I think it sounds like they’re just trying to get even because the Supreme Court banned prayer in schools. [Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962)]. If we can’t display our Ten Commandments in school, then you can’t have your Harry Potter books and movies. Zombie Apocalypse, okay. Walking Dead, okay. Frankenstein, Dracula, werewolves and vampires all okay, but we draw the line at teenage witchcraft schools.

The funny thing is I see their point. Up to a point. The word Religion comes from the Latin religare, which means to bind. This later evolved into religio, which is to honor and hold in reverence. After watching more than 10 hours of Harry Potter movies in the past week, it does sound possible that it could have been a witchy spell that Hermione Granger might use, “Abra Religio,” and the victims instantly fall to their knees and start praying.

There’s only one big difference between the Witchcraft as religion and the Harry Potter witchcraft. Every single one of the Harry Potter books and movies comes with a disclaimer, something like, “The persons and events in this motion picture are purely fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons or events is unintentional.” I wouldn’t have any objection to Bible study in public schools if they would just begin with that same disclaimer. After all, the Bible is an interesting book with some pretty wild stories. It would have to be at least more fun than reading Beowulf.

Besides, I don’t think that attempting to ban her books and movies will hurt J.K. Rowling too much. She’s already made a few hundred million pounds on them. Remember when they were burning Beatle records over something John said about Jesus? I think the Beatles still managed to make a buck or two despite those religious protests.

What I find funny, though, is that the handful of zealots who want the Harry Potter books banned, think it is wrong to tell children that some very old white man with a long grey beard can just wave his hand and do magical things. How ridiculous is that? LOL. They complained about Harry Potter talking to snakes in Parseltongue.  Witchcraft?  Sounds more like plagiarism to me. If I owned the copyright on the Bible, I would claim copyright infringement on both of those ideas, if only I could get God to appear in court.

professor dumbledoreGodNaginiSerpent in Tree

Another funny thing is that the Harry Potter movies are rated PG-13. You’re not even supposed to read them or watch the movies until you’re old enough to understand that it’s all make believe. Whereas, religious indoctrination starts just a few months after you’re born with Baptism. They line you up for confession and First Holy Communion at 7.  Heck, by the time you’re 13, the Bishop slaps you and you’re confirmed as a soldier in God’s army.

I think that the Bible should be rated at least PG-13. The fratricide of Cain and Abel, Abraham almost killing his son at God’s command, the perverted sex acts and the destruction of whole cities like Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of the entire world with a flood, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, God getting the 13-year-old virgin Mary pregnant, and the gruesome Crucifixion of their lovechild. I think it probably deserves an R rating. I wonder what the Supreme Court would say.

Probably something like, Abra Riddikulus. Obliviate.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a 1908 Tin Pan Alley song by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer which has become the unofficial anthem of North American baseball, although neither of its authors had attended a game prior to writing the song.”


When we go to a sporting event, most of us root, root, root for the home team. After all, if they don’t win it’s a shame. Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby is a little different. I want the Dutchland Rollers to win, but, knowing how much hard work each skater puts into it, I sometimes root for both teams. Especially, last Saturday. As usual, it was a doubleheader with the Dutchland skaters taking on Jersey’s Shore Points in the first game and the Delaware’s Diamonds in the second game.

Dutchland has a couple dozen skaters on their roster, and each team is allowed 14 skaters in a game, so half of them skate the first game, and the rest skate in the second game. Occasionally, if they’re a little shorthanded, some of the women skate in both games. Nobody skates all the time, though. Five skaters from each team go at a time, three blockers, one pivot skater, and the all-important point-scoring jammer. After each jam, the five skaters are replaced by five fresh skaters for the next jam. The action is almost continuous, but the skaters get to rest for half the game. The jammers have to do the most skating, so Dutchland usually rotates three jammers. That way, they each skate one-third of the jams, and each jammer gets sufficient rest before their turn comes again.

Shore Points only had 8 skaters. So, they didn’t have the luxury of sitting out every other jam. They were in trouble. There are two 30-minute periods in a game. I knew that they would be exhausted by the second period. They would be in big, big trouble then. They did have one thing going for them, though. One of their blockers, “Choo Choo Trainwreck” was a big girl capable of derailing any skater on the track. Early in the game, Choo Choo blocked a Dutchland jammer and sent her flying halfway across the arena. The woman next to me cheered like crazy. I turned to look at her and she beamed, “That’s my daughter.”


Choo Choo chugging along on the outside

“She’s quite a blocker,” was all I could say. Then we started a conversation and I learned the background on some of the Shore Points players. One of their skaters just had a baby 4 months ago, and had only been back skating for a month. The team has trouble recruiting good skaters because they’re so close to Philadelphia, and Philly has one of the best teams in the country. I remembered that Vanessa Sites, who was one of the best skaters in the world, used to play for Philly.

I found myself cheering for both teams. As the Shore Points team became exhausted, one of their skaters fouled out, so they were now down to just 7 skaters. It was obvious that Dutchland would win, but I rooted for Shore Points to keep it close. They did. Well, fairly close. At least they could make the long ride back home with their heads held high.

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The Start of the Second Game Vs The Delaware Diamonds

My good feelings carried into the second game, in which both teams were at full strength with 14 skaters each. I rooted for everyone. It was a closer game, but, when the smoke cleared, the Dutchland team again emerged the winner in a hard-fought battle.

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Syntax Terror (404) has a bigger problem than grammar.

There is an old expression, “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s how you play the game.” I finally get it.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Much Ado


This past month has been filled with drama and stress. It started when my landlord informed me that he was selling the house. It’s a two-family house and I felt sure that any new owner would keep the upstairs tenants and move into the first-floor apartment, my apartment, which has access to the backyard. That meant that I would have to move. I hate moving. I started to throw out all the things that weren’t “move-worthy.” Several garbage bags later, I realized that I was shoveling the tide. Half the stuff in my apartment wasn’t worth moving, but that still left a ton of stuff I would have to move.

First things first, I thought. I have to know where I’m going, and so I started looking for a new place to live. I love my location, and I know that’s the number one thing about real estate, location. So I didn’t want to move far away. I started walking the neighborhood looking for apartments to rent. I only found one. It was one block away on Duke Street. Duke Street. It’s an omen, I thought. I’ve often thought that if I lived on Duke Street, I could call myself the Earl of Duke, a play on the Gene Chandler song, The Duke of Earl. Awesome. I wasn’t dreading the move anymore. I had something to look forward to, so I made an appointment to look at the place.

The outside was cool, with an all brick sidewalk, like something from a hundred years ago, like something from The Wizard of Oz. I started singing “Follow the yellow brick road,” while I waited for the real estate agent to show up. Then Kendra showed up and gave me a tour of the apartment. It didn’t take long.  It looked like one of those Manhattan apartments where they had sub-divided a closet to make two apartments. It was really tiny, but it had a balcony facing east. So, it had a few things going for it – It was on Duke Street, at the end of a yellow brick road, and it had a balcony. It also had a tub instead of just a shower. Now I could soak my arthritic hip in Epson salts instead of just spraying WD-40 on it. So, it was small, but it had four things going for it. I told the real-estate agent I would take it.

Not so fast. Would they take me? They wanted a tenant who earned 2.5 times the monthly rent. I don’t even have a job and I haven’t worked in years. “I am collecting Social Security, though,” I blurted out, hopefully.

“How much?”

Not enough. I have money in the bank, though, I pleaded. Now I really wanted the apartment.

“Okay, but you’ll have to fill out some forms and we’ll do a credit check, blah, blah, blah.”

I filled out the forms. Then I went back to my apartment. It looked like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, without the helium balloons. There was a steady stream of prospective buyers and real-estate agents walking through the house. I just went numb. Almost every one of the prospective buyers were young married couples, and they all looked like they would love to become landlords and have the upstairs tenants pay the bulk of their mortgage. I didn’t stand a chance of being able to stay in my apartment.

Even though I didn’t officially have the new apartment yet, I told my landlord that I was moving to Duke Street and I would live out my security deposit in the month of June. He tried to talk me into just paying the June rent and collecting the security deposit when I left. I figured he would then pull some crap and find a way to say that I left the place a mess and he was keeping the security deposit. I was sure this was a possibility, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get rid of all my junk in just one month. I had accumulated a lot in five years. Odds were that I really was going to leave the place a mess. I also had a bunch of furniture that I bought over the years that wouldn’t fit in the new apartment, and I couldn’t even lift it to throw it out. So, to make sure I didn’t lose my security deposit, I insisted on using my security deposit for the last month’s rent, and he reluctantly agreed.

Then I got a brain flash. I called my old friend Joe Becker, who sold me all the furniture before his second-hand furniture store went out of business. He said he still had contacts. He would take any furniture I didn’t want to move, sell it, and split the money with me. Awesome sauce.

I still hadn’t heard back from the Duke Street apartment, but I was pretty sure that nobody else was interested in the apartment because it was so tiny. And I was feeling much better about the place because I now knew I didn’t have to worry about my excess furniture. I could just move clothes and household items in, and then buy smaller furniture with the money I would get from selling my big furniture.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally looking forward to moving. So, I e-mailed the rental agent to see if they came to a final decision yet. No, not yet. They were still considering my application.

My phone buzzed. I had a message. It was my landlord. The house sold to someone who wants it as investment property and he wants all the tenants to stay. Did I want to stay?

Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course, I wanted to stay. I had tried to convince myself that moving would be okay, but I knew deep down inside that I really didn’t want to move, and I certainly didn’t want to downsize so drastically. I love my big roomy apartment and the private backyard, which I’ve nicknamed, The Social Butterfly Saloon.

I hustled over to his house and gave him a check for the June rent.

So, the bad news is, I’m not going to be the Earl of Duke. There’ll be no yellow brick road, no balcony facing the rising sun, or Epson soaks in the tub. But the good news is I’m staying right where I am, in a location I love, and I don’t have to try and get my proverbial 100 pounds of stuff into a 3-pound bag.

“Oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.”

There’s no place like home.

There’s no place like home.

Ruby Slippers

Peace & Love, and all of the above,