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A driving force

Lisa MarlinFor 20 years I have driven my four children crazy, and to school. The early morning commutes to educational institutions all began when my oldest started kindergarten and it has continued to this day with my youngest in the sixth grade. That’s a lot of drop-offs behind me with several hundred more still on the horizon.

I have the responsibility — meaning, of course, the privilege — to do this at least until Grace is 16, so we’ve got four more glorious, bonding years ahead. That’s a lot of time to keep following along behind minivans and SUVs. That’s a lot of opportunity to impart words of wisdom to a member of the younger generation just before she leaps out hoping no one has noticed her mother is in the car and has a voice.

We usually listen to the radio on the 10-minute drive to Grace’s school, continually adjusting the volume — she turns it up on the console knob and I click it down on the conveniently placed steering wheel button. I raise my eyebrows. She lowers hers. Most days we chatter over the music — most days. Occasionally, though, if one of us has not slept well the night before, the only noise inside the car is from the overly caffeinated DJs playing today’s top hits.

But we do have sound…right up until the moment I steer into the school’s circular drive. She always turns the radio off as we pull alongside teachers who wave cars forward before drivers stop and spill out kids toting backpacks half their size.

This past Friday was a DJ-day. Entering the drive, Grace stared straight ahead and spoke, “Don’t embarrass me today.”

Surely she was not talking to me.

“Don’t shout that you love me when I get out like you did yesterday.”

I guess she was talking to me.

“I didn’t shout,” I claimed.

“Yes, you did and everyone looked at me.”

I scanned the sidewalk where kids trudged along like zombies toward the school’s front door. I doubted any of them were awake enough to notice anything happening outside of their own heads before the first bell.

“That’s not true,” I refuted.

“It is,” she said, “when I’m the victim.” She abruptly opened the door and swung her legs out.

I laughed. Loud. She turned and scowled.

The door closed and off she went in a blur, away from the car and my noise, a victim of her mother’s love.

— Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin is the mother of four children ranging in age from 27-14. “Don’t embarrass me!” is a common plea of her kids and yet, surprisingly, when their antics make print, they’re the first to ask for additional copies! Her work has been featured in The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning NewsDallas Child Magazine and Writer’s Digest Magazine; the latter was as a contest winner for an essay she penned on her lifelong addiction to words. She blogs at www.lisamarlin.com. Find her on Twitter at lisa_marlin.

The skin game

Jerry ZezimaFor the past 40 years, which is how long I have been in journalism, I have had a nose for news. So I guess it was not surprising that the news I received recently involved my nose.

Who knows what news you will receive about your nose until you go to the dermatologist, which is what I did and was told I had skin cancer on — you guessed it — my ear.

No, actually, it was on my nose, which is my most prominent feature with the notable exception of my mouth, a cavelike aperture made even larger because it frequently contains my size 11 foot.

But back to my nose, which is nothing to sneeze at.

“I think I know what this is,” said my dermatologist, Dr. Adam Korzenko, who has a practice in Port Jefferson Station, New York.

“Yes,” I replied helpfully, “it’s my nose. Believe it or not, it was this size when I was born. I couldn’t lift my head until I was 3 years old.”

“No,” the good doctor told his patient patiently, “I mean this little red spot.”

“In my case,” I countered, “the red spot isn’t so little. If I stood on a street corner, cars might actually stop.”

“I am going to do a biopsy,” Dr. Korzenko said, “but I am 99 percent sure this is a basal cell carcinoma. It’s not life-threatening, but you should have it removed.”

“My nose?” I exclaimed. “That would involve dynamite and jackhammers. You’d have to hire a construction crew.”

“You can keep your nose,” Dr. Korzenko said reassuringly.

“Good,” I responded, “because nobody else would want it. But I have to ask a question: How could I have skin cancer? I am not a sun worshipper. And if I go out on a sunny day, I always slather myself with sunscreen.”

“This probably goes back to when you were a kid,” Dr. Korzenko said. “It’s very common. I see 800 cases a year. And it’s really nothing to worry about. But you should have it taken care of.”

The skin, Dr. Korzenko said, is the body’s largest organ (sorry, guys), which is why it is important to have it checked regularly.

A few days later, the biopsy came back positive.

“Are you positive?” I asked the nice person who called with the news.

“Yes,” she said. “We’ll book you with a surgeon.”

Not long afterward, I went to East Setauket, New York, and sat in the office of Dr. Evan Jones, who was ready to do a Mohs procedure.

“Mohs?” I inquired. “Please tell me Larry and Curly won’t be assisting.”

“They’re on vacation,” said Dr. Jones, adding that he would numb my nose with a local anesthetic.

“I don’t care where it comes from,” I said. “You could even use something imported, like beer. I could go for one.”

“Then,” he explained, “I’ll take off a thin layer and run a test on it. If I need to take off another layer, I will until there are no more cancer cells.”

The procedure lasted about an hour, most of it spent waiting for the results to come back. Dr. Jones took off one layer and a tiny bit more before saying, “OK, you’re all done.”

The next day, I went to see Dr. Gregory Diehl, a plastic surgeon in Port Jefferson Station.

“I don’t want to end up with a third nostril,” I told him.

“You can breathe easy with two nostrils,” he said.

“Maybe you can use spackle,” I suggested. “Of course, then you’d have to throw in the trowel.”

“I have a better way,” said Dr. Diehl, who explained how he would take skin from the upper right side of my nose and use it to seamlessly cover the cancerous area that was removed during the Mohs procedure.

It was ingenious. And artistic. And swell, even though my nose didn’t swell any more than it did before.

Now I am cancer-free, on the mend and looking as lovely as ever. And I owe it to Drs. Korzenko, Jones and Diehl, all of whom are credits to their profession and good guys to boot.

I may not be a doctor myself, but I am going to give everyone a prescription: Go to the dermatologist regularly and wear sunscreen.

The nose knows.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best,  Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

New Forty-Niners coach cuts best players,
moves team to LA

Sammy SportfaceSeconds after the San Francisco Forty-Niners named him their new head coach yesterday, Chip Kelly announced he will immediately move the team to Los Angeles and rename them the Los Angeles Chippers.

The move will make his new team the third or fourth in the NFL to compete in the Los Angeles market next season and beyond.

Chip’s move to move tracks with an NFL trend. Earlier this week the St. Louis Rams, who used to be the Los Angeles Rams when Warren Beatty quarterbacked the team in the mediocre movie, “Heaven Can Wait,” announced they were moving back to Los Angeles. The reason is so the owners can make more money.

Los Angeles has suddenly become a magnet for NFL teams. It’s because that beautiful movie star babes live there and NFL players and owners are attracted to them.

While the Rams and Clippers have made public they will set up shop in Tinsel Town, word is the San Diego Chargers could also move to Los Angeles.

Kelly said he is moving the Niners to Los Angeles so he can gain control of all football functions — general manager, president and head coach — of the three NFL franchises now based there. These are his team, to be renamed the Forty-Chippers; the Los Angeles Raiders that will now be called Chipster’s Raiders; and the St. Louis Chippers.

“I failed in Philadelphia because I didn’t have enough responsibilities,” he said. “The job was too easy and I got bored.”

He was also pretty widely disliked. But bored people can have that effect on people, none more so than Philadelphia Eagles fans who boo everyone, including Santa Claus.

Chip said his first move as leader of the three teams will be to cut each squad’s best five players, including the starting quarterbacks.

“We need to get rid of the best players on each team and start all over again with players who aren’t as talented,” he said. “I know this strategy didn’t work in Philly, but those fans didn’t have enough patience. Had they waited a few years, they would have learned that trading away your best five players is an innovative way to create a great football team.”

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

Things to stop giving a sh*t about in 2016

Laura FahrentholdIt’s only half way through the month and already my New Year’s resolutions are looking as sugar-coated as the now empty box of truffles sitting on my desk washed down with a gorgeous glass of Malbec. That’s precisely the moment that I decided to give it up and started making a list of un-resolutions.

Here goes:

1. Going to the gym to work off the truffles. The times that I’ve actually made it there by 6:30 a.m. are way too few and far between to justify holding onto the membership, 350 truffle calories or not. This will make the dog much happier, too, since he will now actually get walked around the neighborhood, not just raced down the street by my teenagers before school.

2. Going on a diet in the first place. Hard pass on that now that women are celebrating their curves. What’s it called? Body Shaming?

3. Having plans on a Friday night. After a 60-plus hour work week, I will completely surrender to the happiness that I now feel taking a hot shower, slipping into my fuzzy pink pajamas, watching Netflix and ordering take out.

4. “Putting myself out there” the rest of the time: Yes, putting yourself out there (wherever there is) is probably a great way to make new friends and open yourself up to new romantic connections, but I already have great friends, most of whom I’ve known for at least 14, if not 35, years, and I’m pretty sure that meeting people online is just that — meeting people online. Rarely does anyone report it turning out to be anything more than an awkward parting after meeting for a coffee or glass of wine anyway, so I’d rather do the things I enjoy doing like taking a hot shower, slipping into my fuzzy pink pajamas, watching Netflix and ordering take out on a Friday night

5. On that note, catching up with people out of obligation: Who’s got time for that? No one. That’s what Christmas cards are for

6. Wearing high heels to work: I officially give that one up.

7. My kids’ attitudes: I’ve come to accept that they will not miraculously do an about face in the middle of sniping at me to say, “Oh Mom. You are right. I was being completely selfish, demanding and unappreciative of everything we have and everything you do for us. I know that’s what Moms are for, to support and encourage us to become better, more respectful, reasonable and responsible young ladies. Thank you for reining us in to reflect upon our connection to humanity.”

8. Taking the kids out of school for vacation: Some committee came up the brilliant idea to cut our school vacation calendar into two small breaks (a few days off in March and a few days off in April) as opposed to one big break whereby a family could actually spend some “quality time” together. Maybe I got such a great deal on airfare to the cute, little island because I said, “I don’t give a sh*t if they miss a few days of school or not. We’re going!”

9. Finishing every book I start: Except for my own, which is coming out in April!!!

10. How my life compares to others on Facebook: Ahhh… if we could only stop ourselves from comparing and despairing, the world would be a happier place. But then, we’d have to live without Facebook and how can you possibly do that? The answer is, you can’t, so keep it in perspective, people.

11. Cleaning before friends come over: Why do double duty?

12. People who don’t give a sh*t about you: #BYE

— Laura Fahrenthold

Laura Fahrenthold is a former New York Daily News crime reporter about to publish her first book about spreading her husband’s ashes on cross-country RV trips with her eyeball-rolling teenage daughters and the pink steering wheel acting as her spiritual guide.

Avalanche of voters didn’t materialize

Claudette SandeckiOver the weeks since Coast Mountains school board called the Jan. 9 Thornhill byelection made necessary because of the death of the incumbent  last October, I had been holding my breath, worrying over how the vote that Saturday might come off.

With democracy at stake and possible slip-ups so wide ranging, I felt compelled to get a head start to fit in all my anxieties.

Right from the start, I fretted. Suppose only one candidate applied. Acclamation is no way to fill a post; even the candidate is cheated of the satisfaction of being chosen.

Alternatively so many candidates might contest the single seat the printed ballot might fold like an accordion; the polling station might not offer ample parking forcing some voters to park on either side of a frontage road as happens during the Skeena Valley Fall Fair.

Or what if a blizzard blew in and clogged roads?

Regular school trustee elections for the seven school board seats are normally held each November. Now the term is four years. Even those seven seats are sometimes filled by acclamation.

But a mid-winter byelection! In January! The competition for a lone seat could be unpredictable, to say the least.

Not satisfied conjuring possible voting snafus, I searched afield. Are poll staff medically screened before they are hired, especially for narcolepsy? What if a scrutineer nodded off and  broke a knitting needle? Can their heart and blood pressure be expected to withstand the excitement, the unrelenting pressure of voters as impatient to stuff their ballot into the box as Black Friday customers to load a 58-inch flat screen TV into their SUV? Recalling a time I served as scrutineer in an unheated school gym, do they own a thermos and ski duds to keep them warm for 12 hours?”

The morning of the vote I woke early with a knot in my stomach, as if I had preprogrammed it along with the coffeemaker the night before.

I scanned the horizon for weather signs, and was relieved no snow had fallen overnight necessitating shoveling to drive out of my driveway. The street was as clear as before.

Fortified by a breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries and two cups of coffee, I drove off at 10:15 aiming to arrive following the tsunami of early voters, but before the noontime rush, mindful when I voted near lunchtime in the advance poll for the October federal election a polling station attendant had to herd us into straggly alphabetical lines, each line extending well back into the tiny room. Suppose the queues of waiting voters this time turned out to be equally long and cramped?

Driving into the polling station parking lot, I was relieved to count only 15 vehicles all precisely parked between white lines to squeeze in a maximum number of motorists. Four cars no doubt belonged to the election workers.

I crossed the deserted lot and entered the former junior high school where a small cardboard sign declared “Polling Place.”

Inside, in a warm room almost the size of YVR Arrivals lined by student lockers, all was quiet. Four ladies sat expectantly behind two tables, welcoming my intrusion. One lady was crocheting a purple toque. Another was knitting a toque of the softest pastel wool on a round needle.

The same crew had manned the advance poll held at the school board office when eight voters cast their ballot in the 12-hour period.

My signature was fourth on the sign-in register.

Some 1,000 electors were eligible to cast a ballot. Only 73 did. The winner received 33 votes, the runner up 27, and the third candidate 13.

Average of three votes per hour polls were open.

—  Claudette Sandecki

Claudette Sandecki, 81, began as a writer by penning letters to the editor of various newspapers. In 1988, she was invited to write a weekly column, “Through Bifocals,” for The Terrace Standard in Terrace, British Columbia. She aspires “to write funny like David Sedaris or Dave Barry.”

Write like Erma — and win!

Erma Bombeck Writing CompetitionWriters around the world are encouraged to capture the spirit of famed Dayton writer Erma Bombeck by submitting an online entry in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, sponsored by Washington-Centerville Public Library in conjunction with the University of Dayton. The contest runs through 8 a.m. (EST), Monday, Feb. 15.

The competition, held every two years, pays tribute to hometown writer Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of the 20th century and arguably the University of Dayton’s most famous graduate.

Entries should be 450 words or fewer. Essays submitted may not have been previously published (either print or online).

One Dayton, Ohio-area winner and one global winner will be awarded a $500 prize in each of two categories — humor and human interest — for a total of four prizes. These winners also will receive a free registration ($425 value) to the sold-out March 31-April 2 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton.

One entry per person will be accepted. All winning essays will be published on the library’s website, as well as in the Dayton Daily News and in the workshop’s printed program. Those receiving honorable mentions will receive certificates.

The entries will be blind judged by a panel of authors, syndicated columnists and experienced writers. Winners will be announced in mid-March with a celebration event set for 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 30, at the Centerville Library featuring Gina Barreca, author, humorist, syndicated columnist and professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut. The awards ceremony is free and open to the public.

“Although it may have seemed effortless, Erma worked very hard as a writer,” said Debe Dockins, Erma Bombeck Writing Competition coordinator. “She practiced every day, and she just got better and better. She stuck to her tried and true formula: ‘Hook ‘em with the lead, hold ‘em with laughter. Exit with a quip they won’t forget!’ And that’s exactly the essence we ask entrants to the Erma Bombeck Writing competition to capture in their essays.”

In 2014, 853 writers from 48 states and 13 countries entered the contest, spilling out roughly 382,500 words. Nancy Cartwright — the voice of Bart Simpson — and a slate of accomplished writers from around the country and Canada judged the entries.

Previous contest winners are encouraged to apply.  The contest is not open to children under 13, Washington-Centerville Public Library employees and board members, contest judges and their families, and Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop faculty and speakers for the current year.

For complete writing competition guidelines, access an online entry form, or more information, click here. To read the 2014 winning entries, click here.

The breakdown that nearly caused my breakdown

Kim AveryThere is really no good explanation as to how I ended up barreling down Interstate 285, smashed against a tow truck driver and deeply regretting my decision to leave home last Friday afternoon.

I blame my husband. I had mentioned to him that “Big Bertha,” our only occasionally trusty Suburban with 170 thousand miles, seemed to me to be barely hanging on.

“Perhaps you are a little paranoid,” he said dismissively.

“Perhaps I have good reason to be paranoid,” I snapped. “You do remember that our children are still scarred from the Bertha incident last fall that left us stranded on the side of the highway while I was driving them to school?”

He laughed, “You know it wasn’t the car breaking down that scarred them. It was your curlers, slippers and robe combined with an unfortunately strong wind from passing cars that they are still working through with a counselor.”

He had a point. After that, at the insistence of my children, a new policy that I must be wearing pants and a bra before leaving the house to drive them to school was implemented.

Still, I could point to the many other times that Bertha had let us down. Each time when we picked her up from the mechanic my husband would pat her hood and say “Now that we have fixed all the major things that could go wrong, Bertha is good as new.” That was as ridiculous as saying my 82-year-old great aunt who has had breast implants, liposuction, knee surgery, hip replacement and an angioplasty was now ready for the Boston Marathon or the cover of Vogue.

With my appeals falling on deaf, or at least very wax-filled, ears and having no other means of transportation, Bertha, Ashley and I headed down GA 400 to her cross country track meet on the other side of Atlanta. Things took a turn for the worst about 25 miles later. A young man in a shiny corvette convertible pulled up next to me on the freeway and motioned for me to roll down my window. I could tell he was visibly annoyed by having to hold his car steady next to mine as I manually rolled the handle, stretched out the cramp in my arm, caught my breath and rolled some more.

Finally he yelled out, “Hey, lady, there is black smoke coming out of the back of your car!” I nodded thanks, but in my head I was thinking, “Look smart guy. I just manually rolled down my window, the ceiling of my car resembles a circus tent and my bumper is held together with bumper stickers. These things alone should signify to you that you were not born when this car was made. Do you think it should have the same emissions as a Prius?”

About that time Ashley choked out “something smells like a paper mill in our car!”

“Great!! That’s new.”

I pulled off at the next exit and managed to coast into a tiny Georgia service station. Explaining my dilemma to the mechanic, I asked if he would mind taking a look.

“No problem,” he said. It wasn’t long before he returned with his brilliant analysis. “Yep! She’s got black smoke coming out her back side.”

“Is it drivable?” I asked.

“Well, here’s the thing,” he said. “White smoke? You can drive her. Gray smoke. You can drive her. But black smoke means it’s burning really hot and she may catch on fire while you are driving her.”

I must admit that for just a moment I pondered the words catch on fire. I pictured Bertha on the side of the road burning like the Hindenburg and calculated that if I lived, that should guarantee me a new car. However, realizing I had Ashley with me, I came to my senses.

“I can call you a tow truck and get a rental car to pick you up,” he offered. After 20 minutes a rental car driver named Bubba arrived in a car that wreaked of cigarette smoke and body odor. Gasping for breath, Ashley and I both rolled down our windows and hung our heads out like golden retrievers going for a ride.

Arriving, still dizzy from lack of oxogen, I fumbled in my purse searching for a tip. All I had was a 20. Well, I’m certainly not tipping $20 for a five-mile ride in a car that smelled like an armpit, I reasoned. Instead I quickly hopped out and headed inside, trying not to make eye contact with the driver, but I could feel his disapproving stare in my back.

Inside a perky agent greeted me with, “I will be with you in just a moment.” Fifty-one minutes later I was called up to the counter. “Obviously the word ‘moment’ has a very broad definition here,” I commented.

“Credit card and driver’s license?” she motioned. I wearily produced both.

“I could put you in that brand-new SUV.” She pointed out the window. “Perfect. I’ll take it,” I sighed.

“But I can only rent to licensed drivers, and your license expired seven days ago.”

“What!?”

I grabbed my license in disbelief. Yep, the thing had been good for 10 years but today it said expired. “I still know how to drive!” I said sarcastically. “That may be true, but according to this, you’re no longer able to,” she quipped just as sarcastically.

“Thats just great!” I snapped. I tried calling my husband, but being unable to reach him, I turned back to the agent.

“We are closing momentarily, but our driver could give you a ride back to your car,” she suggested. “Is that momentarily like in a minute or momentarily in rental car world 51 minutes from now?” I asked. Her face, no longer perky, said she was not amused.

I peered through the glass door into the parking lot and saw Bubba still glaring at me from behind the wheel. “Yeah, ok,” I said, defeated. Taking a deep breath, I tried to act nonchalant walking out and sliding into the back of his car again. This time I handed him the 20 and asked sweetly, “Could you take us back to our car please?”

He snatched the money out of my hand and laughed. At this point I was growing exhausted and irritated. “Couldn’t get a car?” he snickered. I looked at Ashley and raised my eyebrows as if to say buckle up, I’m about to lose it. I answered Bubba with the straightest face I could muster. “No, apparently that stretch I served back in San Quinton for an act of rage disqualified me. Who knew?”

When the color returned to Bubba’s face, he quickly handed me my 20 saying, “It’s on me,” and even more quickly returned us to our car, which was in the process of being towed.

“Do you need a ride?” the tow truck driver asked me. I thought of waiting for my husband or a friend to pick us up, but it was five o’clock, traffic was awful, and everything here in ‘Mayberry’ was closing, so I said, “Why not? Sure. What else could happen?”

So two Valium and two moments….I mean two hours later, Ashley and I arrived home. Obviously we never made it to the meet. All and all, it was an extremely memorable experience that we have spent the last week trying to forget. It gave us a new appreciation for the nuances of hitchhiking and a strong desire in the future to just take the bus.

— Kim Avery

Kim Avery is an author, photographer, wife and mother of four children ranging in age from 21 to 11. Her take on life is often hilarious. She describes the ordinary in a way we can all relate while adding a twist that you cannot help but laugh.

My dad’s in women’s clothes

Con ChapmanWhen a boy considers his dad, and compares him to the fathers of other boys, an element of emulation unavoidably creeps into his thinking. A song by The Smothers Brothers, who had the same father, expresses this sentiment nicely.

“My old man’s a sailor — what do you think about that!” the Brothers Smother sang, and then ran through a list of occupations ending in “refrigerator repairman” that would represent a good day’s work at the Department of Labor.

When the time came for me to engage in this sort of filial one-upsmanship, I was at a distinct disadvantage. “My dad’s a mailman!” one boy would say. “My dad owns a gas station!” another would crow. “My dad’s a telephone lineman!” a third would exclaim.

When my turn came, I would exhale, look at my shoes and then mumble “My dad’s in women’s clothes.” Not the sort of thing that gets you picked first when the guys choose up sides for football.

When I first became conscious of what my dad did for a living, I understood that he was somehow involved in the manufacture of women’s shoes. When I was in third grade he changed course and opened up a women’s clothing store, which he grandiosely described in advertisements as “Mid-Missouri’s Finest Women’s Specialty Shop.” As if there were a lot of competition.

The son of a farmer can ride on the back of a tractor and learn to milk cows at his father’s side. The son of a carpenter can play with a hammer until he’s ready to pound a nail into a 2 x 4 all by himself. What does the son of a ladies’ clothing retailer get to do when he goes to the store with his dad?

Well, you put together the gift boxes into which all the nice sweaters and blouses are placed when they’re sold. You help assemble complicated hat displays, if you lived in the twilight of the day when women still wore hats. And you clean the female torso mannequins that are used to display the wares of Olga and Bali, which are two foundation undergarment manufacturers, not Russian ladies who want to date you!

Given the number of plastic mammaries that I handled before I reached puberty, it is a wonder I didn’t end up working in the adult entertainment industry. But like someone who works at a candy factory, you can get sick of . . . uh . . . busts if you’re surrounded by them all day, no matter how much other men may crave them.

In economic terms, the principle that I follow as a result of my depraved boyhood has been best expressed by Frank Zappa, the brilliant rock composer whose works were too complicated to ever attract much of an audience. “Anything more than a mouthful,” he said at a concert I once attended, “is wasted.”

I’m somewhat proud of the fact that I’ve never purchased a copy of Playboy, the mammary-obsessed rag that was once the hallmark of sophistication among wild and crazy guys, but which now seems to be identified primarily with air fresheners hung on the rear view mirrors of cars driven by men who may or may not have green cards. I used to read the copies my friend’s dad bought, but that was for the Saul Bellow short stories — just like everybody else.

As I reach the age when the body begins to lose its battle with gravity, I am often amazed at the persistent youthfulness of some women I know, whose upper decks, shall we say, seem to have undergone major renovations. They look like something out of science fiction, not National Geographic. Isn’t there a happy medium?

So to paraphrase Emma Lazarus: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free beneath your sweater. Not some giant-sized monstrosity filled with saline solution.

Anything more would be wasted.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Reflections of Erma