Sunday, November 26, 2017

simply the best

In 1996, Wilco released their second album, Being There. On my lunch break from my job at a suburban Philadelphia legal publisher, I drove around the corner to a nearby Best Buy to purchase a copy of the album, as I had seen it advertised in their circular that came in Sunday's newspaper. Despite the poor reception their debut effort was afforded, I was a fan of Jeff Tweedy's new project. However, at the time, Wilco was nowhere close to the respected elder statesmen of alt-rock that they are today. They were a little band made up of the remnants of a dispute between Tweedy and band mate Jay Farrar in another little band called Uncle Tupleo. Nevertheless, I wanted to hear what Tweedy, an obviously talented and visionary songwriter, had up his sleeve for a sophomore release.

What's the World Got in Store
I parked and entered the cavernous Best Buy, headed for the sprawling CD department. I scanned the "W" section, flipping past dividers separating albums by the likes of The Who, Wham!, Stevie Wonder and Whitesnake. There was nothing by Wilco. I looked again — nothing. Now, I looked around the store, trying to locate a salesperson. It seemed as though I was the solitary person — employee or customer — in the building. I finally spotted a tall, lanky fellow in a signature blue Best Buy polo shirt and flagged him down. He slowly made his way to the aisle in which I was standing... and stood there, waiting for me to state my reason for needing his attention. "I was looking for the new Wilco album.," I asked. He tilted his head to one side. "Is that a band?," he asked. I frowned. "Yes. Their new album was in your Sunday ad circular.," I explained. "I never heard of 'em.," he replied dismissively. "So that means they don't exist?," I countered. He offered no reaction. Instead, he pointed to the racks of CDs. "Did you look under 'W'?," he asked, as though he solved my dilemma with his breakthrough suggestion. "Yes, of course," I said. "Then, I guess we don't have it.," he concluded, turned on his heels and lumbered away into the depths of the store.

And that's it. This happened over two decades ago and it's still my impression of Best Buy. Although I have bought items at Best Buy, I dread going there. Sure, over the years I have made sporadic purchases there. I bought a washer and dryer, a microwave, two computers and dozens of computer accessories and, of course, numerous CDs (when I was still buying CDs). The experiences were all very similar. I had to know exactly what I wanted to buy because the staff was less than informed about the products they stocked and even less than happy to share their limited knowledge. That is, of course, if you can find a member of their staff. Sure, they're there, but they all seem to be off somewhere just out of customer earshot.

Just last week, Mrs. P got an unsolicited email offer from our friends at Best Buy. The offer touted a  guaranteed gift certificate with a value between five dollars and five thousand dollars. We drove over to our nearest Best Buy and entered the store, the printed email clutched tightly in Mrs. Pincus's hand. As my wife had a cashier scan the bar code on the email to determine the dollar amount, I optimistically headed toward the colorful 75" flat-screen smart TVs. However, I was halted in my tracks when the scan revealed an award of five bucks.

We wandered up and down each aisle of Best Buy, trying to pick out something for five dollars, realizing, of course, the choices were slim. Suddenly two smiling employees approached with the obligatory opening line, "How're you folks doing tonight?," like a couple of textbook used car salesmen. We returned a forced "We're just fine" to the pair and tried our best not to engage them in conversation. One of the sales associates asked if we'd ever been to Best Buy before — my favorite question from retail employees, as though we were just dropped from a passing space craft as emissaries from a distant civilization sorely lacking in the "big box electronic store" department. Without waiting for our reply, he continued. "Well, Best Buy has changed a lot," he boasted, "The cool stuff is located in the center of the store and the..."

I interrupted. "Are you implying that the items around the perimeter of the store are not cool?"

He laughed nervously. "No," he stammered, "of course not. I mean the TVs and computers are in the center of the store and the..."

I interrupted again. "The washers and microwaves are over where the non-cool stuff is. Look, we bought a pretty cool microwave here a few months ago." The other salesman giggled.

Realizing he was getting nowhere, he changed the subject. He extracted a phone from his pocket. "You want to see a really cool app?," he asked, then inquired, "Do you folks have smartphones?" He asked his question the way you'd ask your great-grandmother if she has seen the remote control for the television. My wife and I frowned and displayed our phones for the salesman. I added, "Is this smart enough for you?," as I waved my Samsung Galaxy in the air like a Fourth of July sparkler.

He laughed nervously again, and continued. "Here's the app — watch!," he said. He tapped his phone a few times before announcing, "I just opened and closed my garage door." A smug smile spread across his face.

I shook my head disapprovingly. "If you want to really impress me, show me an app that can open and close your neighbor's garage door. That would be something!"

There was that nervous laugh again. Again, he changed back to his original topic of explaining how Best Buy has changed. He said if there was anything we needed, we should let him know. He smiled and wandered away with his silent colleague in tow.

Mrs. P and I exchanged confirming looks. Best Buy hadn't changed at all.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

I can't get next to you

My wife and I just returned from our sixth — count 'em sixth — cruise. Now, there's a sentence I never thought I'd see myself type. Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed each and every one, but, honestly, they all have been very similar experiences. First of all, we are on vacation, so the level of energy we exert is minimal... as it should be. Sure, there are people aboard the ship who jog or exercise or swim or workout in the large gym. Not me. I don't do those things at home, so I am certainly not doing them on vacation. What I do most often is eat, as does the majority of the passengers. After all, cruise lines are famous for their sumptuous and abundant buffets, most available 24 hours a day.

First prize
Our typical day on the ship would be to wake up around 8 a.m. We dress and head out the the first session of trivia of the day. That's what we like to do: play trivia games. It's fun. It's silly and requires little to no energy... except for thinking. Considering that the prizes are usually some sort of cruise line branded tchotchke, we don't try to be especially competitive. Well, hardly ever. After winning trivia (yeah, we usually win. Either we are really smart or the other passengers are hungover), my wife and I find our way to the breakfast buffet. Our days are leisurely, relaxing and effortless. They are punctuated by mindless activities and eating. That may not sound like much of a vacation, but to paraphrase ol' Doc Brown from Back to the Future III: "Your cruise is whatever you make it, so make it a good one."

Some folks, however, spend a ton of money on a trip such as a cruise and have no idea how to relax. Or even how to interact with other people. Over the years, Mrs. P and I met many fellow passengers who were travelling as a single. Even on this most recent cruise, we met several people who were vacationing by themselves. But, they were friendly, personable and outgoing. Richard, one of the members of a Facebook group my wife joined prior to our trip, was a great guy. Funny, interesting — a real character. He even wrote a book that he allowed his cruise comrades to download to their Kindle for free. Mrs. Pincus, a supporter of the arts... I guess, purchased an actual copy. Richard was flattered, adding there's a possibility she may have purchased the only copy. George was a hoot. Tall and quite noticeable, George bore a striking resemblance to beloved teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walter White from TV's Breaking Bad. He stuck to his story that it was merely a costume (as we sailed over Hallowe'en), but I was leery. Again, George was traveling alone, but every time we saw him, he was in the center of a crowd — smiling and laughing and making the most of his cruise. There are people, though, that board the ship with luggage in their hand and a chip on their shoulder. We met one.

Single copy
A few days into our cruise, after mingling with the fun group of people at a pre-arranged gathering of the aforementioned Facebook group, Mrs. P and I spotted Richard sitting at a small table in O'Sheehan's, the signature Irish pub that is featured on nine Norwegian Cruise Line ships. I quickly made my way back to our cabin — just three decks up — to grab our copy of Richard's book and a black Sharpie with which he could inscribe the title page. In a flash, I returned and handed the book over to my wife. She took over the charade from there. We strode up to Richard, seated at his small table-for-one (as the opposing chair had been removed) and, as we feigned excitement,  Mrs. P announced, "Oh my gosh! Richard! Richard is on this ship!" Richard laughed and tried, unsuccessfully, to hide under his baseball cap. A few patrons craned their necks in our direction, trying to figure out if Richard was someone they should know. Mrs. P laid it on thick. "I have your book, Richard. Could you please sign it for me?," she implored with faux adoration. Richard, who, of course, we had met earlier, played along, dramatically signing the book with an exaggerated flourish. We stood by Richard's table chatting briefly while he waited for his lunch order to arrive. We flanked Richard's table as we talked. A few minutes later, a waitress led a gentleman to the table across the narrow aisle from Richard. I could see, in my peripheral vision, the man was not sitting. Instead, he stood at attention alongside his chair. We continued our talk with Richard, but I could see that the man at the next table, still standing, was shifting his weight from one foot to the other. From his body language, he seemed to be quite annoyed. The waitress returned and asked if everything was okay. "I'm just waiting for someone.," he replied. He remained standing, when suddenly, he tapped my wife on the shoulder. Mrs. P turned to him. Through clenched teeth, he seethed, "You are making me very uncomfortable by hovering near my table! Could you move?" Mrs. P apologized. "I'm so sorry," she said, "I'm glad you said something." We sort of scooted over to the other side of Richard's table. By this time, his lunch had arrived. We told him we'd catch up with him later. As we left O'Sheehan's, my wife, once again, apologized to the "hover table" guy. He grumbled under his breath at Mrs. P's parting atonement.
Too close...

At first, we felt bad. But, the more we thought about it, the more we realized the absurdity of that guy's reaction and behavior. Here he is, on a ship by himself, with 4000 passengers — and he's angry because someone was standing near him?!? Hey dude, if you don't like people standing near you, a cruise ship is the last place you should be. At some point during the week, someone is gonna be near you.

The next morning, Mrs. Pincus and I were in the Garden Cafe, the ship's buffet, finishing up breakfast. Suddenly, I saw the "hover table" guy place a plate filled with breakfast foods at a table just a few feet from where we were sitting. He turned and headed toward the self-serve beverage area and grabbed a coffee mug from the rack. I jokingly said that I was going to stand next to his table when he returned. I watched the "hover table guy" reach to dispense himself some coffee by jutting his hand right in front of another passenger who was also getting coffee. Again, he reached right across this poor man's personal space to grab a few sugar packets. Then, he lumbered back to his table, a scowl across his face, and seated himself at his breakfast plate. Then, he bowed his head and crossed himself. My wife frowned and commented, loud enough for me to hear, but not so loud that the "hover table" guy could hear: "Did Jesus teach you how to be rude to your fellow man?"

... for comfort.
Now, I'm not one to knock anybody's religious beliefs.... well, actually, I am..... but I cannot be alone in the feeling of blatant contradiction between multiple instances of rude behavior and the pious act of bowing one's head in prayer and (I assume) gratitude towards a "higher being." Didn't I once hear something about: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself" (that one is right from Leviticus.... that's the Bible). I think that includes telling someone to move and reaching your arm across someone's personal space to get a cup of coffee for yourself.

I'll bet this guy's neighbor probably lives too close for his liking.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

break on through to the other side

When I created the "Josh Pincus is Crying" character over a decade ago, I did my very best to maintain the illusion of the outspoken, opinionated, little red-headed stepchild that lives inside of all of us. I decided that rascally persona would remain online and online only, presenting my twisted illustrations, my somewhat dark sense of humor and my cranky demeanor as a goofy magnified version of the real me. I was able to keep the online "Josh" separate from the real-life "Josh" for quite some time.

Between Twitter and Instagram and, more recently, Facebook, I gained followers from all across the country and even across the world. Soon, I started to let small bits of my real life trickle into the online version of me, I infrequently posted photos of myself (previously a big no-no), although I tried to obscure my face, only allowing my "trademark" red hair to identify me. Sure, there are plenty of people who knew me in my pre-Josh Pincus days, but the more personal information I let slip out on my blogs (the one you're reading and my illustration blog), the more my two lives were brought together, making me more recognizable to those who only know me as that red-haired smart-ass who complains about everything and draws dead people.

Still only a handful of people who know the online Josh have met the real Josh. The first was voice actress April Winchell. Among her many talents, April briefly ran a website called (now defunct), a hilarious dig at the artsy April relentlessly scanned the numerous entries on, seeking out (and making fun of) the cream of the crap. I was a frequent commentor on, regularly acknowledged by Miss Winchell. One year into the website's run, April published a book based on the Regretsy site, presenting the "best of the worst" that had to offer. She went on a limited book tour that brought the transplanted Californian back to her native New York. My family and I attended the book-signing event and when I approached the table to get my book inscribed, I sheepishly (well, actually boisterously) revealed myself as "Josh Pincus." April lit up and afforded me a warm hug. We have remained in touch, albeit infrequently.

Surviving my first real-life "Josh Pincus" encounter, I dove headfirst into my second one. Through my long-time association with Illustration Friday, an online weekly artistic challenge, I have interacted with fellow artists around the globe. One of those artists — Indigene — I discovered, lives near me in the Philadelphia suburbs. Indigene is a real artist (not like me and my silly little drawings), using all sorts of media to create unique pieces of striking beauty. I saw that she was participating in a small showing at a house/gallery not far from me, so I decided to surprise her. After a morning traipsing through a couple of cemeteries, I arrived at the location of Indigene's art exhibit. I entered the house. Towards the back of the cramped basement, I spotted Indigene's work displayed along a long wall. I surmised that the woman alongside the pieces was Indigene. She was speaking with some prospective buyers, so I waited patiently. When she turned her attention to me, I smiled and introduced myself, first by real name, then as Josh Pincus. She shrieked and threw her arms around me. I suppose this is the reaction I should have expected. From her perspective, it was like meeting an imaginary being — finding out they are, in fact, real. Suddenly, I'm like Santa Claus. Maybe a little closer to Freddy Krueger.

One evening at the end of last year, my son and I went to see local (but soon to bust out worldwide) rock and rollers Low Cut Connie at a hometown show at the grand old Trocadero, a one-time vaudeville theater - turned strip club - turned concert venue. Before the show began, my boy and I were standing in our usual "down in front of the stage" position chatting, when we were approached by a woman. She hesitantly spoke to me, asking the single syllable, "Josh?" I had never seen her before and, at first, I found it a little unnerving. My son E., a DJ on a Philadelphia radio station and a self-proclaimed "minor local celebrity," is used to getting recognized. But, me...? I'm just a regular guy... with bright red hair. She introduced herself as "Amy" and confessed to being a Twitter follower and a big fan of Josh Pincus. In the darkened lights of the venue, it must have been difficult to see that I was blushing. It was equally as difficult to see that E. was rolling his eyes. Amy jabbed her husband in the ribs and pointed in my direction. "This is Josh Pincus!," she excitedly explained. He appeared as disinterested as everyone else in the room. "Who's Josh Pincus?," he obligingly asked. "You know," she said sternly, "the artist from the internet!" He obviously didn't know, nor did he care. But, it was still pretty cool — and a little embarrassing — to get recognized. I have seen Amy at other concerts, as well as on Twitter. She says she proudly wears her official "Josh Pincus" buttons, but "proudly" is a relative word.

Mrs. Pincus and I just returned from our sixth cruise. That's right — sixth! I realize that I have become the person that I made fun of on our first cruise. We had a great time, but, to tell you the truth, all cruises are the same. Our experience has been nearly identical on each sailing. Sure, the faces change and the entertainment may be slightly different, but the overall experience is the same. That's not a bad thing. It's enjoyable, fun and relaxing, it's just the "cruise experience."

A few weeks prior to our departure date, Mrs. Pincus joined a Facebook group specifically for our cruise. She began interacting with various members of the group and soon, she was referring to "Marilyn this" and "Richard that" and "George said this." "Who are these people?," I asked. She explained that I would meet them all on our upcoming cruise. After a week or so, I felt like I was going on this cruise with my wife and a bunch of her friends. One evening, my wife was telling me about a member of the Facebook group who blogs about cruises and mentioned that she has a child with severe food allergies. I paused and, out of nowhere, I asked, "Does she live in Toronto?" Mrs. P shot me a look of confusion. "I don't know. I'll check.," she replied. A quick scan of Facebook yielded an affirmative answer. This woman did indeed reside in Toronto. It turns out that we have been following each other on Twitter for years! I write regularly about my past adventures in Disney theme parks. She contributes to a blog that asked to use one of my illustrations. Since our initial connection, I have been sending her links to my Disney-centric blog posts. Over the years, we discovered that, among other things, our children both saw their first baseball games at Toronto's SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre). And, of course, I have made playful fun of Canada at her expense... but I make fun of everything. I shot her a quick private Twitter message to let her know that — ta daa! — we would be on the same cruise. 

A meet and greet gathering was scheduled for the Facebook group for the first full day at sea. On that morning, Mrs. P and I headed to the ship's buffet, what would be the first of many, many visits during our week at sea. We called for an elevator and when the doors opened, there was already a passenger inside. The woman looked at Mrs. Pincus and exclaimed, "You're Susan!" By strange chance, it was Hiromi, my Twitter pal. We all laughed and embraced. An hour or so later, we formally met at the meet and greet, along with many other members of the Facebook group. I had to explain to Hiromi that "Josh Pincus" is a pseudonym, but she took to calling me by my real name almost instantly. Later in the week, we had a lovely dinner with her, her husband and son. (Hiromi has a teenage daughter that we met for a fleeting moment, as she spent the week off doing "teenager-y" things, sans parents.) Mrs. Pincus, the nicest person in the world, prepared little gift bags for Hiromi's children. We were sailing over Hallowe'en and she didn't want them to miss out.

On the evening of the day Mrs. P and I arrived home, I went to a concert with my son, my brother and a few friends. Before the show, I was telling my brother about the Twitter-Hiromi-Cruise internet triangle, and how my "online" life was slowly crossing paths with my "real" life. Our conversation was interrupted by a young woman who walked past me and cheerfully said, "Hi, Mr. Pincus!" I cocked my head and tried to place her. She said she follows me on Twitter and we had met earlier in the year at an outdoor music festival. My brother, surprisingly impressed, shook his head and laughed. "Boy," he observed, "you are quite the celebrity." 

After the show, singer Nicole Atkins was busily attending to her merchandise. Nicole, a stellar performer with a magnificent voice, is friends with my son. My pal Steve approached her merch table to purchase an album and he asked me if Nicole knew me. I said, while we have met, it was some time ago. I would probably have to explain who I am. As we drew nearer to the table, Nicole looked up, gave a little wave and, with a smile, said, "Hi, E.'s dad."

Okay, now, it's getting weird.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

honeymoon with B troop

I wrote this story nearly eight years ago and it appeared on my illustration blog. Since I am on vacation with my spouse of thirty-three years, I thought I'd share this tale of our honeymoon. It's one of my favorites.                                                            

Let's get something straight. Men are idiots. They are bumbling awkward misfits who should be eternally grateful that women take enough pity on them to disrupt their own self-fortitude and take them as their husbands. As my 27th wedding anniversary draws near, I am reminded of how my own dear wife ignored all of the idiotic warning signs I displayed on our honeymoon and stuck it out with me for over a quarter of a century.

In the early morning hours of July 15, 1984, while the USFL champion Philadelphia Stars were embarking on their celebratory march down Broad Street, the new Mrs. Pincus and I were readying ourselves for our first trip as husband and wife. We crammed our suitcases into the tiny hatchback of our Datsun 200SX and pulled out of the parking garage of Philadelphia's Hershey Hotel (now a DoubleTree), where we spent our wedding night. Being children at heart (some more than others), our destination was Walt Disney World, the perennial mecca of pretend, just outside of Orlando, Florida.

As we ate up the distance on our 990-mile journey, our conversation bounced about from our wedding the previous night to the plans for our vacation-at-hand. Playing the part of navigator, I deciphered the TripTik as my "better-half" helmed our automobile — music blasting out of the rolled-down windows. We made several stops along the way to quench my new bride's thirst for new shopping experiences. I believe we patronized every Stuckey's and Cracker Barrel between Philadelphia and North Carolina, checking out the tchotchkes  and souvenirs and stocking up on pecan log rolls and locally-distributed soft drinks along the way. Convinced we were making excellent time, we called it a day at a Quality Inn in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, just south of the Virginia border. We were given a room that faced the parking lot and offered an inviting view of an Aunt Sarah's Pancake House, which — based on the remoteness of our accommodations — would, no doubt, be our dining choice for the evening. We hurriedly stashed our luggage in our room. Our short walk across the gravel parking lot was quickly interrupted by a tiny kitten who was wandering around the walkway in front of our car. My wife, a sucker for a cute, pink-nosed, whiskered face — and cats, — immediately envisioned the feline as our traveling companion for the remainder of our trip. I explained how that idea was not a great one considering — well, considering everything — the drive, our reservations in Florida — everything!  A brief discussion yielded an amicable compromise. We decided to bring some small containers of coffee creamer to give to the cat when we returned after dinner.

Several stacks of pancakes later, we took the return stroll across the crushed-stone lot to our hotel. My wife remembered to grab a handful of pre-portioned cream containers, but as we approached the lighted area around our door, there was no sign of the little cat. I pulled back the foil lid on one of the small plastic cups and set it on the ground, allowing easy access to its pseudo-dairy contents. We patiently waited, craning our necks and scanning the surroundings for a glimpse of the cat. Our futile search lasted several more minutes until we finally retired to the confines of our evening's lodging.

An hour or so later, my wife became curious about our feline friend. She asked me to glance outside to see if the puss had come to investigate the processed cow juice we had left for him. Obediently, I parted the curtain and leaned toward the window. As I did, a face leaned in toward me, its head cocked at the same inquisitive angle as mine. Startled, I jumped and hastily threw the curtains back to their concealing position. My wife, shaken, asked what the matter was. I whipped around and said, "Someone was looking in our room at the same time I was looking out." I trailed off, realizing what had just transpired. Mrs. Pincus started blankly at me, her arms folded across her chest and that look  I would soon become very well-acquainted with across her face. Once my initial panic subsided, I realized that the guy I saw peering into our room had a certain familiarity to him. He wore the same glasses and the same shirt as me. He also had the same hair, though parted on the other side. It was at that moment the entire episode crystallized. The combination of the brightly-lit room and the darkness outside coupled with the opaque barrier created by the enshrouding curtains caused the window to take on the characteristics of a mirror. I sunk in the embarrassing affirmation that I had just been frightened by my own reflection. In front of my wife of thirty-six hours, no less.

The next morning, the incident was not subject to further discussion or analysis. I loaded our bags back into the car and we silently restarted our southbound course. However, within minutes, we were, once again, laughing and talking on the open road. Soon, we reached the sun-drenched expanses of central Florida. We plunged into a week's worth of fun and excitement, leaving my display of bonehead behavior a distant (but not forgotten) memory.

Our time in Disney World wound to a close and we began the long trek back to Philadelphia and to the new world of domestic marital bliss. Our trusty map from Triple A directed us to a more scenic homeward route. Veering off of I-95 just north of the Georgia border, we traveled through towns that could have doubled for the ramshackle settings of Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road.  At one point, we stopped for gas and, as I dispensed the fuel from the tall, glass-globe topped pump, Mrs. Pincus went to pay in the dilapidated shack that served as an office. She came out chuckling and told of two men playing checkers on a barrel top and how payment was accepted by a Jed Clampett look-alike who was leaning on huge jar proudly labeled "pickled pig's knuckles."

Our drive up Route 17 was long and tedious and, aside from several enormous tobacco fields, far from scenic. My watch ticked past midnight and the hotel offerings were separated by more and more emptiness. Finally, an ethereally-lit Ramada Inn shone like a beacon in the otherwise sleepy hamlet of New Bern, North Carolina. My wife navigated our vehicle just under the carport by the lobby entrance and I hopped out to check the availability of a room for the night. I pulled on the door and, despite obvious activity in the illuminated lobby, it was locked. I could see a burly man jogging from behind the reception desk and heading toward the door. Several other people inside glanced in my direction without changing their positions. As the man drew nearer, the gun jammed in his shoulder holster came into view. "Holy shit!," I thought, "I'm interrupting a robbery!" Frozen in my shoes, I quickly turned to Mrs. Pincus still seated behind the wheel of our idling car. I was about to mouth "Help!" to her, when the man unlocked the door and identified himself as a security officer, explaining that they keep the door locked at such a late hour. I inquired about a place to crash for the night and was informed that a lone room was available. I paid and was handed the keys (actual keys — this was 1984). I ran out to grab our suitcase. A minute later, Mrs. Pincus and I boarded the elevator.

Exiting at the proper floor, we located the room number corresponding to the oversized plastic fob to which the key was attached. I turned the key in the knob, reached inside the slightly opened door and flicked on a light switch. I swung the door fully open and, ahead of me, the television flickered with life. The bed was blocked from view by a wall, but I know an "on" TV when I see one. And an "on" TV usually means someone is watching it. I slowly closed the door and whispered to my wife, "I think there is someone in the room!  The TV  is on!"  Could the front desk have made an error? Did they lose track and book us into an occupied room? I opened the door again and called out "Hello?" No reply. I called again. "Is anyone here?" Again, there was no reply. I instructed my wife to wait in the hall. I entered the room. The TV blared. The bed was made and undisturbed. I cautiously swept my extended arm across the heavy, drawn curtains — in case a possible intruder had learned their lesson in camouflage from a 1940s detective movie. Satisfied that the curtains were not disguising any thugs, I dropped to my knees and checked under the bed. Coming up empty, I bounded into the small bathroom and gave the shower curtain a good shake. Echoing the words of Zelda Rubenstein in Poltergeist,  I announced to my spouse, "This room is clean" and welcomed her in. We were both exhausted but, although I had given the room a thorough once-over, we slept uneasily until morning.

I woke early. My wife awakened as I was dressing. I sat on the edge of the bed and while I pulled a sock onto my foot, the TV suddenly switched on. Then, it switched off. Then, on again. Rattled, I turned around to Mrs. Pincus and asked, "What's going on?" She answered, "I wanted to see what this controlled,"and pointed to an odd-looking light switch on the wall next to the bed. It differed from the other switches in the room, in that it was surrounded by a tarnished metal back plate and not the standard, cream-colored plastic. She flicked the switch several more times and the television screen brightened and darkened in the same sequence."Hey," I began my revelation, "there's a switch just like that next to the door." — I trailed off just like I did in another hotel room a little over a week ago. Again, my foolishness came to the forefront, as I slowly comprehended that I  had turned the TV on the previous night when I opened the door and reached for a light switch. Now, I was facing the big mirror over the dresser. I didn't need to turn around. Mrs. Pincus's reflection was giving me the look.

We silently finished our packing and headed to our car.

July 2011 marks 27 years of a marriage that has overcome the demonstrations of stupidity that book-ended our honeymoon. I know I am not alone in my struggle for consistent intelligent thinking. But, I am  in the minority of those who will admit to it.