Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who Moved My Mascarpone?

by Rose A. Valenta

Yesterday, I took old Mrs. Russo shopping at the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. She was buying seafood. I had my goal list all ready:

• Olive oil, prosciutto, capicola and imported pasta from Claudio’s
• Olive salad and cheese from DiBruno’s
• Lamb, pork roasts and ground beef from Esposito’s
• Locatelli and fresh produce from Giordano’s
• Spices and coffee from the Spice Corner
• Some pastry from Isgro’s

I was looking forward to a refreshing walk, while enjoying the sights and smells of the South Philly marketplace and do some shopping.

I was asked to pick Teresa up at her sister’s house.

Teresa Russo has been a friend of our family for years. She went to school with one of my aunts. She was born and raised in South Philadelphia. Her temperament is a bit surly, but expected, as she grew up in a tough neighborhood. She doesn’t get around much by herself anymore, so taking her shopping was my idea and good deed for the day.

I decided to take her to Pat’s Steaks for lunch.

When I picked her up, I noticed that the jacket she was wearing was wrinkled and out of shape.

“What’s up with the jacket?” I asked, as she got into the car.

“Flak jacket underneath.” She answered. “I got it from Louie ‘The Nose.”

“Come on, Teresa, you’re 80 years old. Who’s going to mess with you?”

“Hey, they let that Gambino guy off. You know, John ‘junior’ Gatti. Now, they call him ‘Teflon John.’ He don’t have friends in South Philadelphia. Two guys came down from New York last week and started something near the Sports Complex. I smell trouble, like we got the malocchio or something. Maybe we shouldn’t go today.”

“Teresa, people don’t believe in the ‘evil eye’ anymore. You shouldn’t be so superstitious. Of course we should go shopping. Those guys all hang out in a different neighborhood.”

“Yeah? What are we gonna do if they decide they want to eat something at Mama Mia’s and start a fight?”

“Teresa, they don’t mess with old ladies. Besides, we're going to eat at Pat's.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m not old.” She said.

When we got to the Italian Market and parked the car at the three dollar lot on Washington Avenue, we were approached by some guy, who said he was from and was taking a poll. Teresa broke his pencil and told him to get lost.

“OK,” I said. “I take back what I said. They don’t mess with NICE old ladies.”

“Statazete! (Shutup)” she snapped. “We should have stayed home. That guy was a pickpocket. Check your wallet.”

“I have it” I said. “Nothing is missing. Will you just relax and enjoy yourself? Put on your happy face, that should confuse everybody.”

Everything went smoothly until Teresa spotted a black limousine driving up 9th Street. She dove under a vendor table and about 50 live blue crabs and two dozen oranges went scurrying and rolling in all directions. Crustaceans were everywhere. I saw one of them booking down Montrose Street. You could hear the screams for blocks.

“What, are you on somebody’s hit list, or just crazy - are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” She said.

“Yes, what? Yes, you’re crazy or yes, you’re OK?”

“Alright already - both!”

The guy, who rented the vendor table, was furious, cussing in Italian, and running around with tongs trying to gather up the runaway crustaceans before they pinched someone.

“Che cazzo...?” he shouted, “C'è un casino della Madonna qui.” (Meaning “What the hell…?” and his vocabulary went down-hill after that.)

After we paid him for the crabs that were still missing in action, I swore to myself that I would never do another good deed like this again. What started out as a fun shopping trip had turned into a total nightmare.

We never got to Isgro’s.

On the way home, Teresa apologized for her behavior all day. She told me she is into Ronny ‘The Rat’ for $100 to pay for the exterminator.

Apparently, while she was Spring cleaning two weeks ago, she found mice running around in her basement. Ronny had threatened her. She was supposed to pay him $125 by yesterday, or he would import a hundred mice and set them loose in her house. So, for the rest of the week, until she pays him on Friday, Teresa is spending nights with her sister.

“Ronny is a spostata (jerk).” She said.

“Teresa, the next time you need money, call me. I will lend it to you, no mice and no interest, capiche?”

I went home, poured myself a Chianti, and listened to a little Lou Monte.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Grandpa Tighty-Whities

by Rose A. Valenta

We were in the middle of a blizzard the other day. The meteorologists were predicting 18 inches of snow. I had to go to work the next day and my car looked like an igloo from Alaska. You could barely see anything but a mound that resembled a white Goodyear blimp. I just knew the locks would be frozen and I would have to set the alarm for 5 AM, in order to defrost the turkey by 10 AM, for the delayed opening. As luck would have it, I had the company PC with me, so I could work from home as a last resort if the ice pick and flame thrower failed.

My daughter and I juggle everything: cooking, work, school, shopping, laundry, cleaning… sending out for pizza. I thought about how we modern grandmothers have it a bit tougher than our own Grandma’s did in the 1950s, when most women didn’t work outside the home. We have evolved from performing a single role with a job description into professional jugglers. I can’t remember the last time I had time to bake cookies, other than Black Friday. That’s when I choose to make them, so I don’t have to travel to the Mall and get run over by one of Santa’s reindeer.

Modern conveniences like microwave ovens and deicer don’t help much during our daily routine. My Grandma would get up in the morning and cook breakfast in her robe. I’m lucky to complete that task, making pop-tarts, wearing only half my panty hose while a curling iron cooks the formica in the upstairs bathroom. I’m always buying batteries for the smoke detector, which gets a workout at breakfast and dinner during the week, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Sounds like a resume doesn’t it? “Alkaline Expert, Have Charger Will Travel – Available for contacts after 5:00 PM, Monday thru Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday.”

I do all my cooking on weekends, so we can zap dinner in the microwave during the week. We have the audacity to fight over that 15-minute task and whose turn it is to load the dishwasher.

My grandson noticed that I was looking out the window at my car like it had some sort of guppy disease and was about ready to cry. I was hoping that he would volunteer to do Grandma a favor and get the broom, shovel, and scraper and clean it off for the next day. We began to negotiate. I counted the change in my pocket. He settled for $5.00 and an I.O.U. for a DVD. So, now I’m a barterer too. The child is going places, like the Cayman Islands.

I’m working from home today. We use Microsoft Communicator on our PCs to keep in contact with our peers at the office. In between business meetings, writing documents, and updating spreadsheets; this Grandma is doing laundry, making hot chocolate, and listening to knock-knock jokes. Juggling feels like natural evolution and goes well with the gray hair. I should try out for Circus du Soleil.

Now any policeman will tell you that if 10 people witness an event you will get 10 different versions. I'm here to tell you that is true. Also, men and women perceive things much differently. Here is my husband's take on the same blizzard:

Grandpa Tighty-Whities and the Strangely Suffocating Snow Day

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 wife’s water broke in Philadelphia at 34th and Vine back in 1979, and our daughter was born; as the old 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 while my wife is at work.

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 tighty-whities 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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Curiosity Killed the Cat

by Rose A. Valenta

A few years ago, Homeland Security announced an incident in Atlanta, GA, where Amy Windom was victimized, but managed to send a life saving text message from her laptop using her toes. In an effort to mitigate the root cause, Homeland Security tried signing an agreement with Toshiba for alternative laptop keyboard designs allowing for hallux (toe muscle) deviation to make it easier for Amy or anyone else in this situation; but the Beta test failed.

It was the pork in last year's budget.

Read the original news article

After reading about the fail, I realized that it’s a good thing Amy is only 39 years old and has good eye sight. I set up my own simulation and couldn’t even find the keyboard with my toes. The first thing that happened was the mouse pad and external mouse hit the floor and joined the dust bunnies under the bed. When I tried to slide my big toe across the internal mouse to click on “Start,” to launch the IM software, I got a nervous twitch and hit the quick-scan on my virus protector, so I had to wait an hour.

Since I used my husband’s old police handcuffs to simulate Amy’s wrists tied to the bed post, I also had difficulty trying to grab the key with my other toes. It had taken a nose-dive with the mouse and was wedged between the night stand leg and the molding.

My cell phone was playing video games in the next room, indicating that family members had called about three times already.

I spit out my gum, mashed it into the wedged key with my left foot, and whistled for the dog, hoping that she would retrieve it for me. All she did was pick both up in her mouth and run out into the kitchen.

"Enjoy your Dentyne breakfast #$tch" I yelled.

I was stuck. It was only 11:00 am. I just laid there trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to whoever came home first.

I quickly thought of answers:

1. Some orangutan broke into our house and mistook me for Harry Callahan’s girlfriend.
2. I’m doing Top Secret research for Homeland Security?
3. I heard a somewhat religious domestic terrorist enter the house, so I figured I’d scare him off?

Mel Brooks’ “History of the World” was playing on the classic movie channel and my bladder finally gave out with Harvey Korman. I’m in the soup:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Of Parenting and Looney Tunes

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 down-hill 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 Yatzee; 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 “bra” out of the vocabulary, right? The word "dude" for instance, can mean many different things depending on voice inflections. Meh!

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!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Monday Monologue

by Rose A. Valenta

I've been suffering from writer's block lately, so to get my creative juices flowing, I pretended that I had my own late night comedy show with no budget and have to write my own monologue jokes. In my mind (desperation), I pictured myself as someone like John Belushi picking up the Sunday paper after midnight, and calling his sick friend, Dan Aykroyd, to give him the skinny.

No wait!

There are no female major network late night comedy hosts. The only one who came close was Joan Rivers. Chelsea Handler talked to her vodka on E!, not NBC, CBS or ABC. Something is terribly wrong with that.

Ever since my friend and filmmaker, Cathryn Michon, broke the Hollywood ice by making "Muffin Top: A Love Story" and started a movement, I've been making it my goal to do something different. Her husband, W. Bruce Cameron (8 Simple Rules), once told me in Dayton, OH, to set my goals high. He wasn't the only one. National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) member, Dallas Morning News columnist, author and friend, Dave Lieber, wrote a column that advised us "Go Big!" while setting your goals. I was in his class at the NSNC Conference in Hartford. Here is my chance! Ihink I got my mojo back.

Seth Meyers move over. Are you there, Sangria? It's me, Rosie! (drum roll):

Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein were spotted on “orgy island” with eight old Salvation Army ladies from the Bronx.

Ghostbusters tested and reported to TMZ that best-seller "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven" is all Malarkey.

Police arrested a drone from Mexico with six pounds of crystal meth after it crash landed under the weight. LA Fitness put up bail.

The Pope told the faithful in the Philippines that whatever brings about world peace will likely be illegal, immoral or fattening.

The BBC has announced that a new lamb gyro is taking off in the Philippines. It is called Pope in a Poncho.

My inbox is getting flooded with ads that promise Viagra can cure deflated balls. Did you know that?

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is in charge of the Doomsday Clock. Applewhite already tried that scare tactic. It’s only an asteroid, people!

One of my greatest scientific discoveries as a mother (the second oldest profession) was figuring out that utensils with peanut butter on them don't wash clean in the dishwasher.

Greeks vote in an election that could lead to a showdown over bailout. Well, I guess that beats playing leap-frog.

Mayor Bill de Blasio just made the Musher List for the New York rush hour Iditarod.

This actually happened:

My friend Jody Worsham, author of "The Medicare Mom" blog, said her Shih Tzu was running with a Maltese two houses down, about three months ago, and she just gave birth to six puppies in the back of her closet. Their papers were stamped “illegitimate.”

© 2010-2015, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year’s Resolution 2015 – Occupy Camp David

by Rose A. Valenta

"A fool and his money are soon elected." ~ Will Rogers

After all the years that I have made a list of New Year’s resolutions for the good of my family, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf. This year, I am making one for our POTUS:

" I will spend all my vacation and holiday time at Camp David"

Camp David

Pictured above is Camp David, the Presidential Retreat that I have been paying for every April 15th, since I joined the American work force. My parents paid for it from 1942 until they died. As you can see, it is a great place for our President to spend holidays and vacations. It is already paid for and its on-going maintenance is covered by 72 years-worth of taxpayer contributions.

The American people understand that being Commander in Chief is a tough job and requires some R&R, but as long as we are faced with a $18 trillion deficit that won’t get paid off until the Second Coming, it is only fair that the POTUS develop a frugal job description for himself and his successors, you know, one that falls under the fiscal cliff, which mandates spending vacation time at a resort designed for the purpose. After all, when a soldier takes liberty he pays for the entertainment out-of-pocket. This is not too much of a sacrifice considering that the President will only have to spend off-hours at Camp David for four years. After the POTUS is out of office, he/she can take the family on exotic personally funded vacations, instead of the extravagant vacations that are currently being taken, which are straining the American people’s budget.

Nobody gets a free ride in this economy, not even “Head of White Household.”

Just who is in charge of T&E Expense Management at the White House?

You can see where this is headed, right? I am not turning over a new leaf. I will continue to shop at places like Sam’s Club, WalMart, and Costco; as I am already doing a good job economically. My family vacation will remain frugal. My vehicles will continue to be certified pre-owned. My President better wise up.

I am more than a little surprised that BO didn't take advantage of the Charlie Hebdo terror attack and go on a spree in Paris, but then he would have to put words like "Radical Islam" in his vocabulary.

Or would he?

Seriously, why not call them what they are: murderers, the criminal element of the Middle East, and terrorists; on a mission to self-destruct. Why else would there be such a high turnover rate of suicide bombers in the terrorist training camps?

Their actions are disgusting enough to make people want to build a memorial to the great agnostic philosopher, Omar Khayyám, rather than the great Prophet Muhammad, whose mission was world peace.

In the famous words of Will Rogers “There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

This year's tab

Yeah, well, not on my dime, BO!

Happy New Year!
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© 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, December 8, 2014

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!

© 2010-2014, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

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