You Can Bring Your Dog to the City, but he’ll Still Pee on Your Rug

Tony Baloney

Tony Baloney

It’s been almost a year since I sold my house on Long Island and moved into Manhattan. Besides rescuing my Morkie, Tony Baloney, about eight years ago, it was the best decision I’ve made since my husband passed in 2006.

Everything is new and bright and clean ~ that’s inside my apartment. Outside is hectic, noisy and gritty. What’s not to love?

Tony had a little bit of an adjustment period. Okay…it’s ongoing. I don’t take him for walks. I take him for pulls. The concept of lifting his leg on concrete is usually met with, “Mom, you may not have noticed, but I already did it on the rug. Where’s my treat?”

In the chilling frost of last winter I happily discovered a three foot rectangular patch of ‘sort of grass’ surrounded by a twelve-inch high wrought iron fence. A park! And, right around the corner from our building!   I placed Tony inside this area and bingo ~ we were both relieved!

Before you could say, “Good boy, let me scoop that up” I was harshly reprimanded by a lovely gentleman wearing a snorkel, Dick Tracy like trench coat, shorts (or no pants – hard to say) and one red sock and one yellow sock.

It was unclear what he held in his hand until he put the bullhorn to his mouth to yell, “ATTENTION STUPID LADY!  THAT FENCE IS TO KEEP DOGS OUT!”

‘Oh’ I thought. That actually makes sense. Maybe I am a stupid ladyStill, I was smart enough to grab Tony, tuck him under my arm and walk quickly away before he sniffed this guys red sock and used his crazy bony leg as a fire hydrant.

Our park!

Our park!

At This Stage of the Game

Two years ago I bought the washer and dryer pictured above.  Of course,  they weren’t sold with the laundry in them.

I announced to friends, “This is probably the last washer and dryer I will ever buy!” I didn’t say it to be morbid.  I read the warranty and I did the math.

Those younger than me scoffed at that, but anyone my age or older, paused – probably to watch the highlights of their life pass before them and then they made a few cheery statements of their own.

“If I buy my next car and keep it until it conks – that may be my final car – maybe one more.  If I lease for 36 months that works out to four more cars.  That feels better – although, before I know it my kids or the cops will probably take away my license and tell me it’s for my own good.

“I no longer check off ‘3 years’ for subscriptions.  It’s not a bargain if you’re dead.”

“Last house.  It’s condo living for us. And, of course, no steps. This means I will never again say “Let’s go upstairs.”  Oh, no…

When I ‘celebrated’ turning sssixty I realized something startling.  I may be too old for certain things but there is nothing that I’m too young for.  Oh, my…

Have a nice day, fellow baby boomers.


Magic Number Six

Son-granddaughter-daughter and some stranger’s back

It came as a real surprise to me that so many of you wrote to ask about our family trip to Puerto Rico.  I was touched as I read your e-mails, but I stopped at 674. I have better things to do with my time, you know!

Below are a some questions/answers that I hand picked to share here.  While I appreciate your interest, I chose not to print the ones – that frankly – looked like they were written by a chimpanzee.  One was actually signed, Love, Zippy.

No offense, but now that I’m aware of the reading level of the people attracted to this blog I will attempt to dumb down my entries.  I honestly didn’t think that was possible.

Q & A  (Questions and Answers)

“On your trip to Puerto Rico did you end up going zip ling?”
NO – but we did go to a classy restaurant that zip lines the orders…

“I read that you hate to get wet, but did you go in the water, anyway?”
YES – and I left my spray tan in the pool – Walked in bronzed – came out white – a victim of chlorine poisoning…beware!

“Any provocative photos of you in a bathing suit you can post?
YES, very sexy…please check in daily– will post them sooooon…

“Did you bring home any souvenirs?”
YES – Cigars for my nephew – they had beetles in them.  He smoked them, anyway.  Now he’s addicted to beetles.

“Did you win in the casino?”
What is your definition of ‘win?’

Well, that’s all on the trip folks.  In all seriousness, along with discovering that San Juan has some steep hills and it’s a bad idea to wear sandals to town, year six for my family and me turned out to be the magic number for being comfortable on vacation together without expecting Jimmy to be around each corner.

I guess you could say we turned a corner.  It feels good – more than good – it feels great!   Wishing you the same on your journey…


Some may say having a puppet show with your toes is a waste of time.

I leaned closer to the mirror and smiled.  My teeth are so big.  Is that chocolate?  When did I have chocolate? I’d better brush again… That will keep me from eating. It will also keep me from writing. Why do I keep stopping like this?

I got up from my computer and brought the 7X mirror back into my bathroom.  I hate writing. No I don’t – yes I do, not really…It’s just right now I can’t concentrate thinking I should floss.  No one would argue against flossing.  It’s healthy and not very strenuous.  Gum disease could kill me… Being dead won’t get me anywhere.

Some writers get lost in thought.  I get lost in a stray eyebrow hair. What the f&*# is wrong with me?  I know I left my tweezers right here.  Is that something a cleaning lady would steal? I think my hands are dry.  Oh, now the hand cream is making my fingers slip off the keyboard.  I’d better wait for it to soak in.  Maybe I’ll take Tony for a walk. Forget it. It’s raining. 

But, I can’t sit all day. I’ll get secretaries spread. Wow.  I wonder if the kids would know that old expression.  The other day they forgot George when I asked them if they could name all four Beatles. I’m sorry I asked. 

I’m going to Google ‘secretaries spread’ and send it to them. Why would I do that? They won’t care. I don’t even care. 

Okay…I’d better get back to this piece – It’s been rolling around in my head for a while.  Time to write it… What’s the point of having an idea if I don’t write it?  I need a deadline.  I need an incentive…like the house will burn down if I don’t have this finished by Friday.  That’s a good one.  Unless I’m giving myself a whammy. 

Uh-oh. I’d better check the batteries in the smoke detectors.  This has to be the reason I thought of that for a deadline consequence.  What a horrible way to go.  If there was a fire I wouldn’t be worrying about chocolate on my teeth. That’s for sure.

How do you test fire alarms?  How do I know they’ll go off?  Tony would smell the smoke and wake me up, like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin…wow…haven’t thought of Rin-Tin-Tin in years.  I like German Shepards.  Wouldn’t want one though.  We used to call them gas station doggies.

Oh…I wonder if I’ll have time to stop for gas later…maybe I should go now while I have the time.  What am I talking about?  I don’t have the time.  I’m procrastinating again.  I don’t deserve to be successful.  It’s five after two and I wrote four sentences.  Why did I bother waking up early? 

I’d better check my e-mail.  And, just a quick zip into Facebook. Oh, no.  Davy Jones died!  I loved him.  He was so adorable. Weird that I was just thinking about the Beatles.  Only 66.  He still lived 10 years more than Jimmy. If I knew I was going to die at 66 what would I do differently? Oh..that’s a good blog.  But I just don’t seem to have time to write it. 

How do people finish book after book?  I’ll bet they never floss. 

Adventure Kills Grandmother

Why isn't she screaming?

My grown son, daughter and eight-year-old granddaughter and me are off to Puerto Rico tomorrow.  We’re going this week because it’s President’s week. My daughter felt it was necessary to travel on the most expensive and ridiculously crowded week so that Skylar doesn’t miss four freakin’ days of 2nd grade.

I raised my hand once, just once to object but quickly put it down to say, “You’re teaching your daughter good values, honey. Way to go!” I choked on my lie and made the reservation.

Choosing my battles is my battle plan.  Better still, there will be no battles.  My motto for this trip is just the opposite of Nancy Reagan’s … Just say YES!’  Spa treatments? Why not?  Life back home is a war zone – please check off that little box that explains how rocks lined up on your back relieves your unbearable stress, kids.

We absolutely need to reserve a pool pavilion and a beach cabana so no one stubs a toe racing down to get four chaises together. YES!  Are we spoiled? YES!

Their father always did things abbondanza (Italian for abundance) and who am I to break with tradition?  Enough has been broken in this family.  We simply cannot carry on without room service!

I’m not a beach and sand and pool and lounge type person.  I’m more of a “Let’s go into town for ice-cream” and hopefully stumble on to a street performer to cheer on and throw some sheckles into his hat.  Later we can look at the photos we took with him and have no clue who he was or where we were.

Isn’t that more fun than laying on a outside couch in a bathing suit that shows off publicly what I’ve been in recent times even covering up privately? It also beats going in the water.  Still, because her face makes me melt I promised my granddaughter that I would splash around in the pool with her and do relay races.  And, if she tilts her head and twinkles at me in the way that only she can, I may even venture into ocean with her.

I will abandon my fear of getting my hair wet. YES!  Love conquers trepidation! (note to self: make blow-out appts in advance)

But, the same family that needs to make top shelf dinner reservations also apparently craves adventure!  I am not talking about me…the rest of ‘those people” My idea of an adventure is forcing myself to double down at a blackjack table when I have worked hard to bring my pile of chips to a height that hurts.

My daughter has investigated an off site excursion that she is convinced “Afterwards, you’ll be so glad you did it!”  No I won’t.  I already know that I do not need a van to pick me up at sunrise to take me to a remote area where I must sign a waver promising not to sue if my leg falls off while jogging through the jungle. I do not need to hike across a rickety bridge a million miles up – closer to God than I hope to be for a while to a series of 5 (FIVE!) zip lines – ending with ‘a pleasant box lunch.’

Jacki, my daughter, my first-born and the reason my hair is not a little thicker has decided that we need this experience.  She must have forgotten the vacation in Chitiniza, Mexico years ago when we climbed a pyramid, a small pyramid and as I watched in awe young children skip down it I was convinced I would have to be rescued by helicopter because I was petrified to shimmy down.

“The brochure says it’s for ages 6-68, See, Mom…You’re not too old!”  Yup, she forgot.

I am not declaring this an official foreshadowing – all I’m saying is that it has…

a. ‘What was I thinking?’ all over it.
b.“Oh, my, Mrs. Scibelli, in the 25 years we’ve been in business this has never happened!” feel to it.
c. And, I can easily imagine in a tearfully delivered eulogy,  “Mom was a good sport.”

The best I can hope for is when Jacki calls for a reservation they will tell her “Sorry, it’s all sold out. It’s President’s Week you know!” Check this out if you think I am a wuss and exaggerating!  Would YOU do this?


Valentine’s Day from Another Dimension

Jamaica High School Prom 1968

It would have been nice to write about a new valentine here, but just ‘nice’…not necessary – not for 2012, anyway.  Who knows who and what next year will bring and I’m looking forward to the surprise of it all.

 So by posting the article below that was published years ago I’m not dwelling in the past. Not at all.  This is a mix of being a little sentimental and a lot lazy.  It’s here – it’s written – obviously timely and it was good enough to be published by Newsday.   I know all the commas are in the right place because a professional editor there made sure of it.  Bloggers don’t have that luxury.  

The date it appeared in Newsday is Saturday, February 11, 1995.  Valentine’s Day also  fell on a Tuesday that year – just like today.   In those days I wrote about Jimmy as Frankie.

 The headline Newsday chose was lame – so here it begins…

By the eighth grade, I still hadn’t received one single valentine and I was beginning to feel unattractive.  I blamed my mother because Dr. Joyce Brothers said I could.  I also blamed Miss Trevor, my gym teacher.  She wouldn’t let me roll up the baggy legs of my gym suit when we ran around the track in front of the boys. Miss Trevor wouldn’t let the other girls, either, but, I felt I needed an edge. She could have worked with me.

By ninth grade, my love life picked up. I got two valentines. One was from Steven Markowitz.  He made me nervous.  During fire drills, we’d all line up in the hall laughing, joking and saying  fun stuff  like, “I smell smoke.” Steven would stand alone, facing the wall.  He seemed to be having a conversation.

I told him I couldn’t date him because I was against the war.  He nodded like that made sense and went back to talking to the wall.

My other valentine was from someone I’ll call Linda.  I took it to mean a best friend thing and we were friends for years. Then in our senior year in high school, she asked me to the prom. I took it to mean she wanted to double with me and my date.

After she went away to college, Linda wrote to say she had found Sylvia, the love of her life and she never wanted to see me again. She told me I was “homophobic.”  I took it to mean she thought I was a wimp, because I was afraid to leave home and go away to college.

So, between, Steven, the wall watcher, and Linda, I hadn’t had much luck with valentines.  That is, until I met Frankie…

We weren’t even 18, but, I knew I would marry him the second I saw him playing “My Girl” on the kazoo for Maryanne.  (Maryanne was his nine year old cousin)

He noticed me too and tried to impress me. He told me that the kazoo was “documented” to be the most difficult of all the  instruments.  He demonstrated how to improvise with a comb and a tissue in case you forgot your kazoo. Maryanne was in love with Frankie, too, but, luckily, she outgrew it.

Besides his musical talent, I knew Frankie was for me because he said the most ridiculous things in a matter of fact way.  Once, when I lost my class ring, he told me not to bother looking for it, because it had obviously gone into another dimension. He said to give it 24 hours and it would turn up. It did.

When our first Valentine’s Day rolled around, he bought me a giant Hershey’s kiss. After we were married a few years, he bought me that same kiss – and ate the entire thing himself.

After the kids came along, the romance of Valentine’s Day was reduced to helping them make their lopsided valentines.  Dollies stuck to red construction paper by wads of Elmers, stayed on the refrigerator until July when they disintegrated.

For a few years in a row, my specialty for Valentine’s dinner was a heart-shaped meatloaf.  My family finally vetoed it, along with my regular-shaped meatloaf.

Last year, Frankie told me it was too snowy to go out and get me a card or flowers, so he filled a vase with water and left it on the kitchen table with a note, “Isn’t it the thought that counts?”

This year our daughter, Jacki, is 18 and has her own valentine. Frankie offered to teach Doug, our 14-year-old son to play the kazoo. He told him a kazoo player always gets the girl.

We talk about the future.  According to Frankie, future Valentine Days might be spent in another dimension and we’ll be able to step right into it. Could be, we’d see a real Cupid target practicing with a laser bow and arrow.  Hey, who knows…maybe, that’s what Steven Markowitz was staring at.

As Jimmy Durante would say –

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…” 




Book Report: “Going Solo” by Eric Klinenberg

I learned in Mr. Klinenberg’s latest book Going Solo:The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone hot off The Penguin Press presses, that in 1950, the year I was born, only 22% of American adults were single.

Today, that percentage is 50% and in real numbers, it translates to 31 million people.  I wondered if they’re lonely, but who has the time to interview 31 million people?  The author conducted 300 interviews which is far less ambitious but the publisher probably gave him a deadline.

Eric Klinenberg also tells us that approximately one out of every seven adults live alone.  This statistic does not include many of my married friends who envy me and wish they lived alone.

For the right price, I will name names.  Wait, so sorry about that. I’m not here to blackmail anyone or talk about the advantages and disadvantages of sharing a house with no one.  I just want to let you know about this fascinating book so that maybe people will stop giving me that “poor widow you” look when I tell them I live by myself with my dog.

According to Going Solo, I am part of a fast growing trend like shoulder pads was in the ‘80’s.  Living alone takes some getting used to, but it is a Godsend for those who only have one bathroom.

I brought up God here because for those who live by themselves and believe that God is always with them – I’m thinking they do in fact, have a roommate.  Unfortunately, you can’t split the rent with God or ask him/her to take out the garbage.

The same could be said for lots of deadbeats, not that I’m calling God a deadbeat, although, he/she has let us down these past few hundred years what with the wars and starving children and incurable diseases and all.

On the other hand, we must give him/her kudos for his/her discovery of the Brazilian Hair Straightening treatment.  There you go. It all evens out in the wash.

Please take a moment from your busy day, zip over to Amazon, and check out Going Solo.  I was able to read the entire book in two sittings mainly because I live alone and had no one yelling to me,

“Can you get me a glass of ice water?”

“I’m looking at the bill from Bloomingdales.  You’re kidding me, right?”

“I noticed a little dent on the car.  Do you know anything about that?”

“Ouch. I think I got a splinter. Is this a splinter? Owwwww!”

“I can’t find my glasses.  Let me borrow yours for a sec…”

“What happened to my nail clipper?”

“After dinner let’s take a ride to visit my mother, okay?”

“When are you coming to bed?”




My Smart Phone is Smarter than Me

There I was in my beauty salon where I spend so much time I should not only look a whole lot better, but they ought to name a sink after me when I realized I forgot to make a dinner reservation for later that evening.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my young hairdresser Danielle, was stunned to see me dial 411 for the restaurant’s number.

If she wasn’t concerned about smearing my fresh manicure she might have roughly swiped my phone from my highly polished fingers.  Instead, she just stared at me in disbelief, shook her head and scolded me.

“You have a smart phone, Carol.  No one calls 411 anymore!”

Apparently, a 20-something cannot compute that I am a woman of a certain age who to remember how to reboot my computer I have to sing-song


I now understand why my grandmother continually hummed.  She was attempting to secure a place in her head for her shopping list:  BUTTER-EGGS AND BREAD, BUTTER-EGGS AND BREAD.  I guess we were too poor to afford a pencil.

A month ago, I traded up for the latest phone, the iphone 4S and I tell everyone I just got it.  Danielle knew better, though, just like my kids who say, “Mom, we know why you put on a foreign accent when you ask for directions in the neighborhood.”

Okay, so after I back out of my driveway I get confused.  Is that a crime?

Back to my phone ~ My friend Bob told me that the 4S stands for “For Steve” (Jobs) I retold this to many people and it seems I am the only one who fell for that. Bob’s version was sweeter, though, so I chose to continue to disregard the truth, as I often do when my shrink forces me to recreate my childhood.  Then I read Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography about Steve Jobs and discovered that he was anything, but sweet.

Sweet or sour, there’s no denying that he changed the world and and just to prove that he changed me too and I was not totally smart phone stupid, I sent a text to Danielle who was standing next to me.

“Hey, watch this.  It may not be second nature to me yet to google a restaurant, but Siri, the new 4S feature is my new best friend.”

“Really?” she said out loud. (how old fashioned can you be!)  “Let me hear you ask it a question. Do you want to know where the closest Starbucks is?”

“I can do better than that,” I said.  “If I say ‘Good-night’ she will say good-night back.’  (This was also from Bob whose credibility was already shaky at best) Was he pulling my leg, again?  I tried it out the night before without anyone around to poke fun at me.  I pressed the little button on the phone to reveal a small microphone and up popped ‘What can I help you with?’

Yes, I felt ridiculous, but I said “Good-night” to her and sure enough, Siri, my little robot friend inside the phone answered “Good-Night.”  Now, I was hooked and I wished her Good-Night over and over again.  Once she actually answered “Good-Night to you too” and I somehow felt a little closer to her.  Why not? I take her with me wherever I go, don’t I?

“Here goes,” I said to Danielle.  Her arms were crossed.

I pressed the button. The microphone appeared and with confidence I said,


Siri responded, “It is 2:14 in the afternoon.”


Hey, Mom – It Snowed Last Night!

I love waking up to snow. It’s like a big event occurred while I was in a coma.  Now, I’m conscious and perhaps I’ve missed a season. Maybe, I’d better check the date on that newspaper that’s wrapped in orange plastic half buried in the driveway.

Trudging out to retrieve it is invigorating and as I shake the icy dandruff off the paper and look down at my footsteps making a fresh impression, I feel patriotic, like I’m walking on the moon about to plant a flag.

That image falls away fast as I notice Tony, my Morkie, a breed with very short legs up to wherever a dog’s knees are in white stuff that will soon be yellow stuff.  The romance of this morning is fading even before I’ve had my coffee. Thanks a lot Tony!

In the short time it takes to reach my front door again it’s starting to rain and it’s a warm rain that will melt everything by noon.  What a wimpy storm this is!

I think about how crowded it was yesterday in the supermarket, people swarming to stock up because surely they’ll starve without ‘supplies’ while they’re stuck in the house for 4 hours.

Most of these neighbors could walk to the stores, if necessary.  Reaching civilization is only a matter of being in decent shape and owning a coat.

But, wait…My refrigerator is looking pretty barren. I turned away from those long lines of panic yesterday, superior, refusing to join them.

Now, they are all enjoying their lazy Sunday and I have nothing in the house for lunch.




Couple Chemistry

The following is one of the articles I wrote for The New York Times a million years ago, or actually more recently than that – on Sunday, August 12, 1990.

Maybe, you haven’t read yesterday’s blog, Report Card of My Marriage - it explains the reason for this reprint….I, like so many widows and divorcees review my marriage with today’s head and heart and I see how I’ve come up short here and there.

My insistence that my husband and I continue to meet and go out with new couples is one of those wishful do-overs.  I’m not going to jump in the bay over it, but it’s much more than just a shrug.

Oh, in those days, in everything I wrote I refer to Jimmy as Frankie. 

My best friend hates my husband.  Her husband hates me and I’m not too crazy about him.  We’re all going out on Saturday night.  Single women moan and cry and search desperately for “the right one.”  Finally, they meet, they mesh, they wed.  Now they have to do it all over again – as couples, with couples.

Romeo and Juliet had the good sense to kill themselves before they officially became a couple.  No one approved of them.  Whom would they go out with?

Throughout fairy tale history, Prince Charming whisks away the princess, they ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after, and we read – the end.  But you and I know that it’s just the beginning.  A month later, they arrive at the castle (A horse can only so go fast.)  Here Prince Charmings’s choice must be approved by his princely peers and his circle of friends at the round table.

The movie “When Harry Met Sally” ended happily, but I have a hunch that after a few Saturday nights alone together, Sally got tired of going to the ladies’ room by herself , and Harry needed another guy there to talk about how “women always go in pairs.”

In real life, too, there is a need for couple chemistry. What makes me such an expert?  After 18 years of marriage, Frankie and I have dumped and been dumped plenty.  Sometimes it seems we’ve done more double dumping than double dating.

Changing couple friends is kind of like cleaning out your closet.  If my sweater – I’ll call it Janet – and it’s matching pants – let’s call them Steve – have not called us in more than two seasons, the chances are they won’t, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t fit us anymore.

Now, maybe the Janet and Steve were a great outfit but we simply got into the habit of putting on the Linda and Bob jumpsuit or the trendy Jennifer and Jared silk walking shorts.  Possibly we didn’t have an occasion for the Janet and Steve, but it would have been a shame to throw them out or give them to Goodwill.  As my mother used to say, “A good classic outfit always lasts and withstands the fads.”

That almost makes me want to call Janet and Steve.  As predictable and boring as old friends are, there’s comfort in knowing we can fall asleep at their table, break their favorite coffee mug and still be confident that they’ll sing the loudest at our 25th anniversary party.

But I also like to meet new couples.  Frankie has a different attitude.  “We have enough friends,” he says. “Don’t bring anymore home.”

I don’t pay attention to him.  I meet a woman.  We like each other.  We have lunch at the diner.  Between decaf coffee and counter mints, one of us says, “Do you think the guys will get along?”  I lie.  “Oh, Frankie gets along with everyone.”  I leave out, “As long as he doesn’t have to meet them.”

But of course he does have to meet them.  My new friend and I compare calendars and make a date for the next Saturday night we are both available.  “Both available” can be tricky.  Couples, like singles, want to seem popular.  So we fill our calendars with our children’s soccer schedule and mark up Saturday nights with plans to go to a party that we overheard may be happening and that we might be invited to.  If we are not, each spouse blames the other.  For many of us this rerouting-of-fault clause is reason enough to marry.

If we are invited, Frankie barrages me with questions the day of the party. “Who are Joyce and Lenny again? What does he do? Why are we going?” Fifteen minutes before the doorbell rings, Frankie breaks out in a cold sweat.

“Why are you making me do this?  What are we going to talk to them about?”

“Whatever we talk about with Janet and Steve.”

“But I like them.”

“You hate them.”

“Yeah, but at least I know them.”

“Before you met them you didn’t know them.”

“I’m comfortable with them. I could break their favorite coffee mug and they’d still sing the loudest at our 25th anniversary party.”

“I read that somewhere…”


Frankie steps out of his puddle of perspiration and becomes Mr. Charm.  I look closely.  It’s not an act. He likes Lenny. He shows him his electric trains. He lets him wear his conductor’s hat.

There was no discussion of power tools, but it was truly an evening of male bonding.  I look at Joyce.  She smiles at me.  We feel satisfied.  Mission accomplished.

There will many Sunday afternoon barbecues, Friday night card games, shared vacations.   They’ll dance at our daughters’ wedding and everyone will say, “Joyce and Lenny?  They’re just like family.”

There’s only two things wrong. They probably won’t get along with Janet and Steve – and I wish I liked Joyce more.


Back to the present:  I’m sorry, Frankie…