Monday, June 30, 2014

too much pressure

I took a day off from work for a dentist appointment. I was scheduled for Phase 2, Part 1 of a multi-part reconstruction of the inner workings of my mouth. After receiving a top partial bridge, I would now begin the procedure for being fitted for a matching bottom partial — all because I ate several thousand Snickers Bars between 1966 and.... last week.

So, my day off was all planned. Get to the dentist nice and early. Out by 10 AM and home to the TV for a full day of Love Boat, Green Acres, The Patty Duke Show and Dennis the Menace. I was seated in the dentist chair and a technician began wrapping a Velcro cuff around my arm to take my blood pressure. After the cuff tighened and released the pumped air, he asked, "Are you nervous?"

"No.," I replied. I wasn't. A dentist visit doesn't really bother me.

He pressed on. "Did you drink any coffee this morning?"

"Yes.," I answered.

"Are you on high blood pressure medication?," he continued, as though he was reading a checklist.

"No, I'm not."

"Well, relax," he said, "and I'll be back in  a few minutes. Maybe it'll go down."

My dentist, Tandläkare, entered the room perusing the results of the sphygmomanometer. and shaking her head. She, too, told me to relax. A few minutes later, the technician returned to cuff-and-pump me once again. The reading was the same — 190 over 119. You read that correctly. 

Tandläkare was not comfortable extracting teeth with the possibility of the incisions spouting blood like the Trevi Fountain. We settled on an overdue cleaning instead. As she scraped and scaled what few teeth I have left, she instructed me to contact a doctor and "have this taken care of" before any further dental work could take place. I promised I would.

With my plans for an afternoon of black & white, poorly-written comedy temporarily shelved, I got home and called a number in our household phone book who I believed was our family doctor. It turns out I had not visited his office since 2008. I asked for and was able to secure an appointment for later in the day. Well, there goes my day off of classic television. I dozed off during McHale's Navy but woke up in time to head out for my appointment.

"Forever and ever
and ever."
The doctor asked my reason for the visit and I explained the series of events and my dentist's concern for my blood pressure. He asked me a bunch of general medical history question, as it had been so long since my last visit that my records had been moved to an offsite archive. He busily typed into a laptop as he asked about my diet, my physical condition, my parents and their health. He looked in my ears, tapped on my chest and pressed on my abdomen. Then he wrapped his own Velcro cuff around my arm and, as we discussed the sorry state of the 2014 Phillies, he pumped the little rubber bulb. Discussing the Phils was probably a bad idea, because the needle registered a whopping 210 over 121. The doctor scratched his head — wondering, I suppose, how I was still able to walk upright. A technician ran a EKG and another drew a vial of blood from my right arm. (Let me tell you, none of this remotely figured into my day-off plans.) A prescription was called to my local pharmacy for something called amlodipine besylate. I was instructed to take one pill as soon as I got home, one tomorrow morning, and one every morning until he says stop. I was told side effects could be swelling of the legs and possible erratic behavior (but, with me, that will be difficult to determine). I was given diet guidelines and told to watch my sodium intake. How much salt could there possibly be in a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby?

All I wanted was to watch a couple of fucking sitcoms on a day off from work. Instead, I end up facing the realities of growing old.

And so it begins...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

waist deep in the big muddy

When we signed up to be a part of MuckFest 2014, I made it very clear that I don't like to get dirty. Let me tell you, MuckFest is no place for someone who does not like to get dirty.

Mrs. P and I accompanied our neighbors, Rae and O., as they (they, not me!) participated in the 5K run to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Now, I am all for supporting a worthy charity, especially one that benefits from 100% of the funds that are raised (sorry, Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure"), but, a 5K run is a particularly daunting event for me. Actually, a 5 foot run is pretty fearsome. And 5K (a little over 3 miles to those of us who have not yet adopted the metric system) through rivers of mud is something I don't even wish to think about. The mental image itself has me running for a bar of soap.

We assembled for a pre-run breakfast on my neighbor's back porch, then set out for the site in separate cars. We lost them within seconds of leaving our neighborhood, but met up again at the parking facility in Newtown Square in the southwestern Philadelphia suburbs. We walked as a group — Mrs. P and me, along with Rae and O., their three children and their assorted friends — toward their dirt-clotted fate, passing earlier participants who were coated and caked with the remnants of wet earth — the bulk of which still clung fast despite a thorough hosing down. I gingerly sidestepped the clumps of sludge that trailed behind the filthy and weary runners.

The actual race site was a friggin' pigsty. There was mud everywhere, on everything and on everybody. While my neighbors went to register for their start time, I marveled at the amount of mud surrounding me. I stood by the course's finish line as wave after wave of muck-soaked runners stumbled and slid to completion, some enveloped in so much mud, it was difficult to determine their sex. 

Soon, O.'s family joined the queue for their pre-selected one o'clock start. The crowd teetered anxiously in their muddy shoes until an official ordered the participants down on their asses, as this particular leg of the race would begin with runners inching out of the starting gate butt first — muddy butt first. To add to the "ooziness" of the situation, a shower of water drenched the group as they made their way uphill to the first obstacle. Oh, did I mention there were obstacles? Well, there were.

I stepped back, so not to get splashed. The knot of runners slogged up the muddy incline towards a mass of bungee cords stretched and tangled above a thick pool of chocolate-brown slop. After negotiating a clear path through the mire, they collectively hung a left and disappeared into a wooded area.

They were gone from sight for a long time. A very long time.

Just under an hour after they were last seen, the members of the teenage contingency emerged from the brush — a little sweatier and a little dirtier (okay, a lot dirtier), but still filled with frenetic energy. I was there to snap a few pictures and cheer the youths on as they raced to the last few obstacles and, eventually, the finish line. It would be another hour until I saw their parents.

O. finally appeared, a little winded. He was helping Rae, who looked as though she had had enough of this about thirty minutes ago. But, they soldiered on, pushing their weakened, muck-swathed bodies to the end. Still ahead of them was a mud-filled tunnel, a mud-filled ditch and a mud-covered swing over a trench filled with... you'll never guess... mud.

O. and Rae dragged themselves across the finish line. They caught their breath and headed over to the communal rinsing-off station, taking advantage of some of the free products offered by event sponsor Redken. As we walked to the picnic area for some post-muck refreshments, I noticed that I got a small splash of mud on the bottom of my jeans. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

while strolling through the park one day

(Click on any of the photos for a larger view.)

We woke up to a beautiful late-June morning. The sun shone brightly. Birds were chirping. A slight breeze cooled the air to a deliciously comfortable level. What better way to take advantage of such terrific weather than to spend the day in Trenton, New Jersey — one-time proud honoree of the title "Fourth Most Dangerous City in America."

"One art, please."
Mrs. P and I drove north on US Route 1 and a mere fifty minutes later we arrived at our destination. At the end of a narrow stretch of crumbling blacktop that bisects a nondescript industrial park sits a quiet oasis of whimsical culture called Grounds for Sculpture. Founded in 1992 by artist Seward Johnson, the 42-acre facility boasts lazily winding paths, lush greenery and 270 large-scale contemporary sculptures, an overwhelming majority created by Mr. Johnson himself. Johnson is the great-grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, the multinational medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturer. Seward Johnson worked in the family business until he was fired by his Uncle Bob in 1962. Seward Johnson is also a first cousin to actor Michael Douglas, but his actual "claim to fame" is his art. He began sculpting in 1968 and his work has gained international praise. His medium of choice is cast bronze and he has created hundreds of figures and vignettes depicting people in everyday situations — a man digging in a garden, two bikini clad women sunbathing, a young girl signing a modest young man's cast, two elderly women chatting in the park and a variety of businessmen reading newspapers or biding time on a bench. One of his most recognizable pieces is entitled "Allow Me." the 6-foot, 10-inch, 460 pound, nattily-dressed figure is the epitome of chivalry, as it presents a gracious gentleman hailing a cab for an unseen person (perhaps the viewer), while he offers a protective umbrella. There are seven casts of "Allow Me," three in private collections and four on public display in choice cities across the country. The one in Philadelphia, that stands outside the entrance of the Prince Theater on Chestnut Street, was toppled and suffered severe damage in 2008 at the hands of overzealous celebrants rejoicing in the Phillies' World Series win. And you thought we just booed Santa Claus.

1. "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby"       2. "FAKE!"
Grounds for Sculpture is currently hosting a retrospective of Johnson's career and the grounds are liberally peppered with beautiful examples of his work, including the somewhat controversial "Forever Marilyn." This 26-foot tall, 17-ton steel and aluminum tribute to the iconic scene in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, in which the silver screen siren gets her skirt blown aloft by a passing subway (a scene that then-husband Joe DiMaggio despised), resided in Palm Springs, California for two years. When it was disassembled and moved to New Jersey for this exhibit, Palm Springs residents were outraged. Recently, a unauthorized copy was spotted face down in a landfill in China. An unfounded Internet rumor has the city council of Palm Springs negotiating for the forgery to take the place of the original. 

"We win!"
Several versions of the "Unconditional Surrender" series also grace the Jersey sculpture gardens. Created in various sizes, this one, a 26-foot tall Styrofoam version, is a three-dimensional recreation of the famous photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day in 1945. Johnson was sued by the photographer for copyright infringement after a life-size cast bronze version was installed in Times Square for the event's 60th anniversary.

One of Johnson's earliest pieces, "The Awakening," is also on display in the remote "meadow" section. The 70-foot figure is actually five separate pieces strategically embedded in the ground to create the illusion of a prone giant working to free himself from the earth. The sculpture was on display in Washington, DC for 28 years and then briefly at National Harbor, Maryland before moving to Trenton.

"Get me out of Trenton!
I have a little confession to make. I dislike art museums and I really don't like to look at art. I know, I know — Philadelphia is home to one of  the country's largest and well-respected art museums (and then there's that whole Rocky thing that I will not elaborate upon). I'm sorry. With very few exceptions*, I just don't like to look at other people's art. And from the looks of the other Grounds for Sculpture visitors, I was not alone. There were little kids running around, darting in and out of hedges and swinging from tree trunks, expressing no interest in their surroundings. One young lady was lounging listlessly in the crook of the 17-foot extended arm of "The Awakening" giant. Several groups of elderly men and women wandered aimlessly along the paths, squinting to identify Marilyn Monroe's familiar, but massive, figure and reminiscing about "The Big War" when confronted by the mammoth sailor and nurse. I heard one girl point non-nonchalantly at the immense take on Grant Wood's "American Gothic," and say "Oh, yeah... the farm people." People just couldn't be bothered with enlightenment or culture or anything that isn't The Bachelor or Candy Crush. For most of the day's patrons, this was just a nice stroll on a nice day. But maybe a little culture rubbed off.

I know some did for me.

* Those exceptions are Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, George Segal (the artist, not the actor), Mark Ryden and, now, Seward Johnson.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

a word in your ear from father to son

Mrs. P pulled the car into the gravel parking lot and I hopped out and ran into the corner store of the shopping center to get a pizza. Biding her time during the brief wait, Mrs. P played with her phone.

A car pulled up in the space next to my wife's car. The windows were rolled down because of the sudden rise in temperature, allowing for a clear declaration of the conversation inside.

Man (in a very loud and angered tone): "You go in and get the fucking pizza. I got a few things to say to this fucking shithead!"

An expressionless woman got out of the passenger-side front seat and slowly walked up to the pizza place.

Man (yelling): "You're home all fucking day! You gotta clean your fucking room before you fucking go out and do anything! And don't leave the fucking bottles and the fucking cans either! You gotta fucking clean every fucking thing outta your room! I want you to clean your fucking room during the fucking day when everyone is at fucking work!"

He flailed his arms wildly and flicked a cigarette lighter absentmindedly as he hollered. My wife scooted up in her seat to get a better look at the object of this man's rage.

Turns out the "shithead" was a little boy about six years old.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

they’re selling postcards of the hanging

On this date, 94 years ago, The John Robinson Circus was setting up for a one-day stop in Duluth, Minnesota. Two teenagers, Irene Tusken and James Sullivan, attended the 8 o'clock performance. At 9:45, after an evening of entertainment, Sullivan and his date went home. Tusken briefly talked with her parents, then bid them "good night" and went off to bed. At midnight, Sullivan reported for his night-shift duty at the ore docks. Around 3 AM, more than five hours after the circus performance, Sullivan told his father, a dock supervisor, that he and Tusken had been accosted at gunpoint by several black circus workers. He went on to say that they raped Tusken while he was held at bay. Astonished and angered, Sullivan's father called the Duluth Police to report the incident.

At 4:30 AM, workers at the circus grounds had just finished packing up the rigging and equipment and loaded it all on a train. That train was stopped by police. One hundred and forty black laborers were awakened and lined up alongside the train tracks. When Sullivan and Tusken arrived, they hesitated and expressed difficulty in identifying the men who attacked them. They randomly chose six men who, in their assessment, fit the approximate description and body size. Police questioned other workers and, eventually arrested the six.

"Smile everyone. Everyone that can, that is"
The story of the rape swept through town. A crowd — swelling to nearly 10,000 — gathered at the police station. They threw bricks and screamed for justice. The city's public safety commissioner, acting as leader in the absence of the Chief of Police, ordered officers not to draw their guns. Without the benefit of proper crowd control, the police were helpless. The rabid throng broke into the police station and began to saw through the bars on the small cells inside. The terrified prisoners began praying. After gaining access, the mob pulled Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson and Elias Clayton out of their cells and out into the street. The men beat them. The women kicked and stomped them with high-heeled shoes. The crowd dragged the three men — each barely 20 years old — for several blocks and hanged them, one-by-one, from a lamp post at the corner of Second Avenue and First Street. Then the people jockeyed for prime position to pose with the dead men for a photograph. Elias Clayton was cut down, his half-naked body tossed on the sidewalk so he would fit in the photo. The smiles and laughter cast an eerie dichotomy with the lifeless and twisted figures at the photograph's center.

Subsequent questioning and further investigation suggests that no rape or attack had taken place. No one was ever charged with the murders of McGhie, Jackson and Clayton. Max Mason, a fourth black circus worker, served four years in prison for his involvement in a crime that never happened.

We should never forget incidents like this. We should talk about them and not sweep them under the rug, pretending they didn't happen. And we, as a society, should be ashamed of ourselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I'll never be anybody's hero now

Steven Morrissey, one-time frontman for the popular 80s band The Smiths, has either postponed or canceled dates on every one of his solo tours beginning in 1991, when the final Australian dates and eleven dates in the United States were canceled on his Kill Uncle tour. Since then, eleven subsequent tours have either been interrupted, totally canceled or aborted before the first show, including hanging David Bowie out to dry. (Tumblr user Torr chronicles the adventures of Morrissey's tours here.) Being the tour manager for Morrissey is a tough, thankless job.

Just last week, Morrissey rescheduled a date in Atlantic City, New Jersey, only to cancel the entire tour several days later. I can only imagine that, after all this time, the planning stages of a Morrissey tour go something like this...

Morrissey: I think I'd like to go on tour, y'know, to promote the new album.

Morrissey's Tour Manager: Uh, sure, Steve, I'll get on that right away.

Morrissey: I want the whole deal. Spare no expense. Full band, lighting, rigging... the works!

Morrissey's Tour Manager: You got it, Moz. I'll get on it straight away. (He does not move.)

Morrissey: Hey, shouldn't you be making phone calls or something?

Morrissey's Tour Manager: Uh, oh yeah, sure, sure. Phone calls. Right. (He picks up his desk phone and pretends to dial.) Hi, yeah. I wanna book... um, yeah.... right, right the big room with the big stage. Yeah, the one with lots of seats! Great! Thanks. (He hangs up the phone.) Alright, Moz! We're all set for the, um ...Palladium in South... I mean, West Texarkana! Two nights! June fifth... fifteen... eighteenth! Yeah, the eighteenth and the nineteenth! (He pretends to scribble on a legal pad using a drinking straw.)

Morrissey: Smashing! Um, shouldn't you be calling some musicians?

Morrissey's Tour Manager: Yeah! Musicians! Of course! Look, Moz, I'll take care of everything. Why don't you go out and protect a cat or something. I have everything under control.

(Morrissey leaves. The tour manager puts his head down on his desk and falls asleep.)

Three days later.

Morrissey: Y'know, I just sneezed twice in the last hour. We better cancel the tour.

Morrissey's Tour Manager: Yeah, sure, whatever.

Morrissey: Don't you have to make some calls to some venues?

Morrissey's Tour Manager (laying his head down on his desk): All taken care of, Moz, all taken care of.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

come on, Virginia, show me a sign

Our destination was a family wedding in Virginia Beach, a seaside resort town with a population of just under 450,000, making it the 39th largest city in the United States. (If a few more people vacate Mesa, Arizona, VB, as it is affectionately known to locals, will move into the coveted 38th spot.)

My wife has family in Virginia Beach and she takes the six-hour drive south several times a year. During the planning stages of these trips, she obligingly asks if I'd like to accompany her. My usual answer is, "They want to see you. They don't want to see me." That is the true consensus, although on the surface, that feeling is vehemently denied. This time, however, I thought I'd take the trip, after hearing that so many people Mrs. P met over the course of these visits were a bit skeptical that there even is a "Mr. Pincus." I'd show them!

The wedding itself presented an interesting situation. The groom (my wife's cousin) is a field reporter for the local NBC affiliate in Virginia Beach. The bride is the weekend news anchor for the competing CBS affiliate. They are a terrific — and extremely photogenic — couple, who swear their union is based on love and not at all on "out-scooping" the competition. (I would add that he's Jewish, she's Roman Catholic and they were married by a Methodist minister, but you'd probably think I was making the whole thing up. So, in order to keep what little credibility I have — I'll skip that part.) The ceremony was lovely. I was introduced to several of those who doubted my existence. Though they gave me the ol' narrow-eyed once-over, some were still not convinced — despite my insistence that we've been married for almost 30 years. Meanwhile, the newlyweds and their friends partied hard into the night, eventually ending up at a bar in the lobby of our hotel. The next morning, a few of the groomsmen showed up for breakfast in the same clothes they wore when they escorted wedding guests to their seats. They either each rented several of the exact same suits or they had a really, really good time.

Ariel needs constant
On Saturday morning, we were afforded some free time before the wedding. My wife was determined to take in some of the famous Virginia Beach sunshine. I was determined not to set foot on sand of any kind.  I shun the beach in any form. I don't like the water, especially when other people are in it. I don't even own a bathing suit. As an alternate activity, I trekked up the "Boardwalk" to see what this resort town had to offer. When I heard "Boardwalk," my head was immediately filled with memories of the Atlantic City Boardwalk of my youth, its perimeter lined with cotton candy, balloons and ferris wheels, its splinter-filled planks daring bathers to tread barefoot. The Virginia Beach "Boardwalk," however, is actually a three-mile stretch of concrete, totally uncontaminated by boards. The jewel in the crown of the cement promenade is a 31-foot tall bronze statue of King Neptune, a shirtless, gray-green behemoth that looms malevolently over the gawking tourists, keeping close watch on adjacent Neptune Park and the awkward teenage cover band that was rocking its small bandstand. The figure is both stunning and frightening. There are other assorted memorials and sculptures that dot Virginia Beach's Boardwalk, lending just enough reverence and history to the otherwise jubilant atmosphere. There's the Norwegian Lady, a nine-foot, forlorn-looking patinated lass erected to commemorate the wreck of the Dictator in 1891. (A duplicate statue stands in Østfold, Norway.) Nearby is the recently-installed Naval Aviation Monument Park, featuring a quartet of statues honoring the history of ... you guessed it ... naval aviation. (This particular weekend hosted a massive "sand soccer" gathering, with scores of colorfully-clad youngsters kicking up the sand and clamoring for a beach's worth of pizza and lemonade. "Learning" didn't rank high on their list of priorities.)

On my walk back to my hotel, I discovered the real draw of Virginia Beach. If you like beer, pancakes and henna tattoos, this is the place for you! For nearly thirty blocks, I passed enticements in varying sizes and establishments offering endless brands of barley brew, unlimited buffets of flapjacks and modestly priced, hand-applied temporary body art. This place is a one-stop shop for the beer-drinkin', hotcake consumin' disciple of self-expression. As long as your self-expression does not include foul language. In the 1990s, a "No Swearing" law was passed in Virginia Beach. The Boardwalk and the beach block of Atlantic Avenue are punctuated by these humorous-looking, yet no-nonsense, signs reminding revelers to "keep it clean."  So, please, drink to your heart's content, but drop an F-bomb and you're subject to a $250 fine and 10 days community service. I shit you not!

Virginia Beach is not unlike any one of a hundred little resort towns that dapple the length of the Eastern seaboard. Though some are big and some are small, Virginia Beach has something that those other municipalities lack.


Oh, and grass beach mats - 2 for 5 bucks.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

walk this way

For the better part of the last year, I've been walking. To work, to concerts, to dinner, and so on. It began as a way to become more active without actually becoming more active. Truth be told, it takes the same amount of time for me to walk from my house to my office as it did to take any combination of public transportation options (although that's less a reflection of my physical prowess as it is an indication of just how badly fucked SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, is these days). What started as a half-assed way to work off my morning Franken-Berry has become more than just a regular part of my day, it's become an ever-unfolding adventure.

Though I mostly stick to the same 30 minute route to and from work each day, the very nature of living in a city as large and bustling as Philadelphia has meant that no two days' walks are ever the same. Or boring. I see sleekly designed houses spring up from long vacant lots. I see the sad, well-dressed masses of Philadelphia's businessfolk emerge silently from cramped subway staircases. I see whimsical set-pieces for a touring revival of The Wizard Of Oz unloaded from semi-trucks like common crates. I see women dressed head-to-toe in anachronistic glamor that even Norma Desmond would find tacky. I see a city hum faintly with activity in the after-hours. I see where a young man lost his life one bright morning.

In this most recent winter, I braved several snowstorms just to walk. Not out of pride or spite, but out of habit. When it came time to renew my SEPTA pass for the spring months, I opted out. The money I had previously put toward a guaranteed, slow, late, inconvenient ride found better use elsewhere. Like getting the soles of my boots replaced.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

choo-choo ch-boogie

(click to enlarge)
At 4:55, I found myself in my usual weekday spot. I watched my homebound train pull along the platform of Suburban Station. Once the train stopped, I filed in right along with the rest of my fellow commuters. I grabbed an aisle seat and sighed, letting the day wash away. Other passengers were doing passenger things - talking on cellphones, manipulating iPads and Kindles, while others were reading actual books. Just ahead of me, next to the exit, two blond women in facing seats were having a very animated chat. The doors swooshed shut and, once again, the train was moving.

The train made its usual stop at Market East station. In the crowd of commuters, a guy got on and plopped himself in the empty seat next to the blond woman that was facing me. (I will call him "Dick." 'cause that's what he was.) She frowned and sort of scooted closer to the wall, allowing more room for Dick to spread out his briefcase, Kindle, elbows and knees. The two ladies continued their conversation, when, suddenly, Dick interrupted. The blond facing me winced and gave him an uncomfortable look. He cocked a smile under his porn-star mustache and waved his hands as he forced his way into their conversation. With the smuggest of looks on his face, he narrowed his eyes behind his circa 1973 wire-framed glasses and gestured dramatically, the hinged case of his Kindle flapping with each point he made. I couldn't hear everything they were saying, but from the looks of things and the few words I picked up, the discussion surrounded the purchase of a laptop computer. I heard Dick say "Mac Book" and "three thousand dollars." I saw the blond snicker, shake her head and say "no way!" Then she raised her voice, as though announcing to the entire train, and said, "I'll look it up right now. Dude, you got ripped off!" She turned her attention to her iPhone. Dick was not fazed at all. As a matter of fact, he was making "kissy lips" at the blond with her back to me.

Dick must pull this shit every night on his way home.... the slick bastard.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

jack, you're dead

In hindsight, it was pretty funny.

I had a particularly busy day at work. While I do like to keep busy, today was especially relentless. It was a day filled with one close deadline after another. Although the time flew by, I was quite happy to see my desk clock approach five o'clock. I shut down my computer and headed to the elevators. I dragged myself to the train station and when my train arrived, I quickly found a seat and conked out. When we lurched into the Elkins Park station, I stomped down to the platform and took the short walk to my house. Once inside, I scrambled upstairs, kicked off my shoes, plopped down on the sofa and, once again, I was out like a light. I was tired. Dead tired.

While I was at work, Mrs. Pincus made a point to go and close our safe deposit box. We have maintained a safe deposit box for over twenty-five years and, frankly, I have no clue what "treasures" are in it. I think I've seen it once and my swipe card, allowing me access, snapped in half in the late 90s. Mrs. P was subjected to a lengthy ordeal involving paperwork, signatures, identification, checks and double-checks. Finally, she was granted permission to empty the 5" x 21" metal fortress of its contents, including birth certificates, insurance policies and the title to our house. It also secured an expired passport, a canceled bank book and a yellowed newspaper clipping of our engagement announcement. She gathered our precious belongings and drove home.

As per usual, our home security system chirped when Mrs. P unlocked and opened the front door. However, it was unusual that I did not greet her in the living room as she deposited her purse on a chair and shuffled through the day's mail.

"Josh?," she called.

No reply.

"Josh?," she called again, this time a bit louder.

Again, no reply.

Figuring that I was sequestered away on the third floor, probably hunched over my computer's keyboard, entering another rant into one of my silly blogs, Mrs. P slowly ascended the stairs. She took each step gently, almost tip-toeing.


Then, she thought I must have come home from work with a headache. Sure, I've done that many times and the best remedy is to stretch out on the bed and grab a quick, before-dinner nap. At the top of the stairs, Mrs. P craned her neck in the direction of our bedroom. Nothing. The bed was still crisply made and just as she had left it this morning. She took one more step, bringing her into the hallway. She saw me lying on the sofa. Quiet. Motionless.


No answer. I did not stir in the least.

"Josh? Josh?" The tiniest bit of panic tinged her words. She crept closer. She created the only movement in our otherwise quiet house. 

For a brief moment, Mrs. P thought I was dead.

"Josh?" She was now standing over me, looking for any sign of life.

My eyes fluttered open.

"Hi.," I sputtered.

Mrs. P exhaled in relief. "Are you okay?," she asked.

"Yeah," I smiled, adjusting eyes to the world of the awake, "I'm fine."

"I thought you were dead.," Mrs. P said, very matter-of-factly.

"Well, I'm not.," I assured her.

"And, ironically," she reported, "I emptied out the safe deposit box today."

"Better now than later, I guess. What's for dinner?," I said, as I got up and kissed my wife's forehead, once again proving that I was not dead.