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My friend Ron called from Savannah last week. It’s a ritual in which he reports from the Deep South where he lives with his partner Jason. Ron wanted to tell me about a new Web site he’s discovered, one which shows men and women masturbating live, all over the world. I can tell he’s excited by the discovery, perhaps not just from a sexual view point but from a sociological stance as well. Maybe.

“It’s amazing,” he tells me. “Everyone is beating it, all over the world! Czechs, Muslims, Koreans. Everyone’s doing it live, and on camera!”

I take a moment to drink this in. I’d been to enough porn shows in NYC to know that most of the people who take off their clothes do it because they need the money or they are the type that should leave them on. People who want to share this private moment with you are most likely the ones you don’t really want to view in their onanistic private ecstasies. It doesn’t really appeal to me, this cyber exhibitionism; some things should be left to the privacy of your own noir. But perhaps this is just me being a prude in my old age. I would certainly cause trauma to most viewers if I participated myself.

“But get this,” he continues, “do you know what the crazy thing about this site really is?”

I don’t. It seems like fairly cut and dried content. No subplots, no post-modern deconstruction or Marxist diatribes.

“I give up,” I say, “what is so crazy about your jack-off site?”

“Everybody beats it the same way,” he says. “Everybody.”

Again, I was taken aback. You mean I do it like you and you do it like me and we all do it the same way? Then I thought, Could this be it, could this be the one great thing, the common denominator that unites men and women all over the world? Men who believe in Allah, men who kill for a living, men who calculate taxes, women who live in nunneries, patients in mental hospitals, those who don’t believe in God? Could this be the one deep and running thread that stitches us all together regardless of whether we speak Swahili, Esperanto or Norwegian, the unity of keeping a common beat?

Believe it or not, this started out as my holiday blog, but I went astray somewhere. My intentions were good. I wanted to write about the great men and women, Lenny Bruce, Martin Luther King, Mother Jones, your mom and dad and mine and how they all sought to bring us together by celebrating our commonality rather than our differences. And once we accepted our common bonds, we could grow and learn to love our differences down to the minutest details, including whom we rooted for in the Super Bowl.

I live in a neighborhood populated by Somalians. I have tried to to take this theory of commonality to my streets. I have often wondered what mutual bond we share, the Somalians and I, what fat we might chew should we decide to sit down and share a brewski.  Or whatever native drink they might imbibe. Frequently, I encounter one of my Somalian neighbors in a line at UDF or Speedway and I try to see what they might be be buying so that I might relate and perhaps use as a way to slide a foot into their somewhat impenetrable door. A Red Bull maybe? Or some jalapeno Doritos? A quart of Millers?

No.

Try Lactaid. A gallon of distilled water. A jar of decaf. What do these people live on?

I stand behind them and compliment their colorful garb which is so vibrant as to send me into a brief spin of blotter acid flashback. Suddenly the walls are breathing and I’m inside a giant amoeba which is slowly digesting me. Just as quickly, I snap out of it.

“That’s a beautiful scarf,” I say with my friendly Midwestern howdy-bub smile.

“Nejezulblezookskalomboomyha!,” replies my fellow shopper in what seems to me a cross between a mild rebuff and a distant thank you. Somehow I have the feeling that my compliment  was returned to sender. I think to offer them a bottle of Yoohoo chocolate drink from my basket but think better of it. Such beverages might violate a deep cultural code. They may worship the cocoa bean and vow never to drink it, I don’t know.

They probably said something like it’s against my honor to talk to foreign dogs. Who knows? What would Lenny Bruce do? Mother Jones? I don’t think a bond of masturbation techniques is going to help us here. Common global denominators seems an elusive phantom.

Perhaps masturbation could be just a first step in dismantling our differences. No matter how we do it, online or off, we are just a planet of rabid self-abusers. While wallowing through another holiday season, it’s nice to think of the bonds that draw us together rather than those which separate us. There are bonds and we need to exercise them. Come on people! We share DNA, a love of beer and cable TV and watching Tiger Woods unravel. And now, with this news flash from my fried Ron, we seem to march to the same beat, at least on the Internet. With such common interests, can we overcome our differences? I believe we can. Get busy.

Happy holidays.

On February 2, 2009, the sentencing of reputed Mob boss Joey “the Clown” Lombardo was all over the Internet. I read about it while in the final stages of finishing a draft of a new novel, and the sensationalism of the trial felt far away and fake . . . which may be less a reflection on the nature of Mob trials and more on the nature of what seems real vs. surreal to writers finishing projects. I was, it is clear in retrospect, in a full-blown state of mania last February: the third or fourth in my lifetime, but probably the worst, the most disruptive and acute. Which is to say, the best, the most intoxicating. But the mania was just beginning at this point; it had not yet hit its peak, though already I had not slept in days or maybe weeks, not more than a couple of hours in the deep middle of the night, and already I was starting to drop weight (one of the more pleasant side-effects of mania.) Joe Lombardo was sentenced to life in prison, but it would be fair to say I didn’t give a shit about this; it was not on my radar. The legendary Mafioso, even now reputed to still be either Consigliore or Boss of the Outfit from behind bars, was reported as 80 years old at the time of the sentencing, and I remember, as I read the news off a computer screen in my home office, that being the only part of the story that really made an impression on me: his age.

It seemed crazy, because my father has always referred to Joe Lombardo as a “good kid.”

For the first time in my life, I googled Joe Lombardo. I was sure they’d gotten his age wrong in the news, but no, he was born in 1929. My father was born in the final weeks of 1921. When you grow up around somebody, I guess that window of time makes a great deal of difference.

Prior to the “Family Secrets” trial, Joe Lombardo was supposedly on the lam. He eluded the police for quite a long period, which would be curious enough considering he was already an elderly man and in no condition for life on the run, but was all the stranger considering that—during the time he was supposedly “in hiding”—people I knew from my old neighborhood, including my father, saw him frequently cavorting in plain sight. He continued to dine at my father’s favorite Italian restaurant, for example, where he was widely known and where he commonly bought drinks for other customers, including my parents. He did not, it would be fair to say, seem like a man trying to exist under the radar or full of anxiety about being apprehended. My parents never seemed to think it was particularly strange when they ran into him.

This makes sense when viewed from a certain angle. Once, many years ago when I was still a girl living on Race Street, across the street from Joe Lombardo, my father told me a story about him. In the story, my father asks Joe why he doesn’t move out of the old neighborhood. “You’ve got more money than god,” my father says. “What are you sticking around here for?” And Joe says simply, “This is the only place on earth where I never have to look over my shoulder.”

It was true. In our neighborhood, Joe Lombardo had the status of a President or a King. Though any powerful man has powerful rivals, such rivals did not dwell in our one step-above-a-ghetto near the intersection of Grand and Western. The men in our neighborhood were either average blue collar guys like my father—bartenders, truck-drivers, cops—or they were such small-timers in the Outfit that Joe was like a father to them, not a competitor. It would probably be fair to say that most men in the hood would have been thrilled to take a bullet for him. It would have been like the equivalent of becoming a war hero.

For a week now, I have been thinking and writing about my father, who turned 88 on December 14. Though one of my dad’s brothers was a Mob bookie, for the most part ours was a “civilian” family. Well, perhaps that would be an overstatement. My family, over the years, has included street-gang-founders, drug dealers, murdered gangbangers, and several criminals of the more “private” variety, whose crimes may in fact have been more devastating—or were to me. But ours was not a family that attracted media attention for lawbreaking, and in the neighborhood where I was raised, some amount of lawbreaking was par for the course, so what I mean is that we were “typical” for the milieu in which we lived. My father had worked in a factory, and later he owned a bar, and later still—after his back and leg and ulcer all deteriorated; after the death of his elder brother propelled him into a nervous breakdown that ended in his institutionalization—he sold his bar and worked at a friend’s until retiring early, in poor health, in his mid-50s, when I was only ten years old. He was a man who had claimed for years that he would never live to see 40, and with sound reason: he had had two-thirds of his stomach removed from his bleeding ulcer before I was even born, and throughout my youth he tended to be hospitalized and to hover at near-death almost yearly. Yet now he is an old man living on the first floor of my home, and in most ways his life has been an unremarkable one.

He was devoted to jazz, but he was never a musician. He was an Anglophile, but rarely traveled due to a lack of money and rabid fear of planes—the last time my father was airborne was 1961. Once or twice, our phone was rumored to be tapped due to my father’s relationship with people who might have relationships with organized crime; once he and his nephew believed they had been tailed by an unmarked car while they were driving to buy some doughnuts . . . but my father was, at the end of the day, an average guy whose relationships with the Infamous and Glamorous were casual and loose, and whose own life was certainly of no interest to the media. He was the sort of Italian man who lives below the popular radar, while Don Corleone, Tony Soprano and Joe Lombardo become American Icons. He was invisible, as most people are, and that has always been absolutely fine with him.

I have been struggling now for a week to find a way to define my father on paper, but of course anyone could have told me from the get-go that such a task was impossible. Like everyone, my father is defined by a complicated and paradoxical web of what he is and is not—by where he fits and has always failed to fit. The great paradox of Giovanni (“John”) Mario Frangello’s life may be the sentimental attachment he held until he was nearly 80 for his old neighborhood, where he had been born with a midwife in the apartment where I was raised. He refused to leave the neighborhood even after marrying a non-Italian girl who didn’t fit in there; he refused to leave even when, in the late 1980s, a rash of murders killed several people in one summer, including a teenage boy with no gang ties and was shot in a case of mistaken identity right across the street from our house, and well as an actual gang leader along with his pregnant girlfriend, an old friend of mine from elementary school. He not only refused to leave, but on the night I went away to college he wept to my mother, not so much because he was going to miss me (though I hope that was part of it) but because he felt betrayed. The way I was raised, family didn’t leave. Blood was thicker than water. Higher education was synonymous with putting on airs. My departure symbolized that I thought I was “too good.” When he told my mother that he predicted I would fail or drop out of school within the year, oddly this was probably wishful thinking on his part.

Though he adores me in the way the parents of only-children often do, I suspect I am still a bit of a disappointment to him in small but myriad ways. He does not like how much I work. He does not like my son, age 3, being in full-day preschool. He thinks I get angry too easily, though he is the only person in my entire life who has ever accused me of this. He doesn’t like that I straighten my curly hair. For most of my life he has chided me for my eating habits, mocking me for not eating more meat and—whenever I’ve been ill, which is admittedly often—saying there’s nothing wrong with me that a good cheeseburger wouldn’t cure. He doesn’t like that I don’t wear tweed, even though I am confident he has never met a woman in his entire life who did wear tweed. Still, it is something he aspired to in his daughter, and I failed to live up to it. The day I left to study abroad in England, which might have sounded like his lifelong fantasy given his Anglophile nature, he was hospitalized with a severe ulcer attack. He did not like me getting on airplanes, but probably he also considered my living outside the country as a form of high treason.

If it ended there, of course, it would be simple. How many stories seem to end there—with the ways fathers are never “satisfied;” with the ways they find fault.  Those stories hurt, but they are easy.

But the truth is, my father was also a role model in ways he never anticipated, simply by being himself. In a neighborhood where the heroes were Mobsters—reputed killers—as well as gang leaders and thieves who evaded capture and the occasional crooked politician who rose from our ranks, my father was a gentle man. Not a gentleman, perhaps, of the Cary Grant variety he aspired to just as he aspired to tweed for me, but a gentle man who rarely rose his voice. When I routinely watched the other kids around me get smacked around by their fathers—watched them come to school with bruises and heard their stories about “getting the belt,” my father never raised a hand to me, much less my mother. When I was in seventh and eighth grade and my friends were becoming prey to predatory older men—their divorced mothers’ pervy boyfriends or twenty year old guys who would give them coke in exchange for a blowjob—my father offered a silent protection by virtue of his status as a neighborhood patriarch: nobody fucked with me. When a former classmate of mine was gang-raped at fifteen by a group of neighborhood men who beat her with a coat hanger and threw her down a flight of stairs, and the men were never brought to trial because everyone—male, female, young and old—seemed to concur that the girl “deserved it” for being “a slut,” and many rushed to offer faux alibis for the rapists, I was forced to digest both the knowledge that this place, this neighborhood where such things happened under the radar everyday, was where my father had insisted on raising me, and yet also to digest in turn that my father was eons from those animals and would never hurt a woman. For that story—and for others much closer to home—I have often struggled with a kind of “survivor guilt” because I got out, relatively unscathed, of a place that, for young girls, could be a war zone, due in no small part to my father’s constant gentle protection. I had a safe haven, whereas most of my girlfriends did not.

And yet, when my best friend was raped by a man we’d gone to school with while she was asleep at his mother’s house, my father argued that it wasn’t “really rape” because she had gone there to sleep, and what did she expect?

This, the same friend of mine whom my father paid to bring on family vacations with us, whom he bought countless lunches and dinners and who practically lived at our apartment on the weekends when her mother, who was young and divorced, was out drinking and meeting men at bars. This girl he called his “second daughter.”

Can this be what he means when he says that I get angry so easily?

The truth is: the paradoxes of my father cannot be fit onto any page. They cannot be curtailed into one week of my mind. I will digest them, fight them, mull them over, contradict them, yearn for them, for the rest of my own life, in story and quietly, alone.

From my father, I learned or inherited a fear of planes. A propensity towards mental instability that, like him, I manage most of the time to keep at bay, occasionally succumbing to an undertow beyond my control. A cynical humor, a religious skepticism, a strange obsession with all things English even though as a kid I often said “I hate England!” just to spite him. A penchant for Valium and narcotic painkillers and old Woody Allen films and dark wood beams on ceilings and old dilapidated barns. A loyalty to family that borders—in the WASPy, middle-class America in which I now dwell—on the unseemly. And an abiding belief that “blood is thicker than water,” but—unlike the Italian blood lineage of which my father’s family spoke—a belief that I, with my Chinese daughters and surrogate gay, Latino “brother,” am the one who chooses what falls within the definition of “blood.”

This is longer than I planned.

I could go on.

Instead, one final story. Once upon a time, when I was maybe ten years old, I was given a bunch of M&Ms to sell for school. Whoever sold the most got some crummy satin jacket that nobody wanted anyway, even though we all wanted to win. I brought home my sales sheet from school, prepared to start humping it door to door like every kid who has ever had to sell some meaningless shit for some cause we can’t even remember anymore. My dad, however, said to me, “You know what, Flower, I was just at the club earlier today, and Joe Lombardo was saying he had a taste for chocolate. You should go over to his house first.”

“The club.” Yeah, that’s one for another post someday, not now.

Joe lived across the playground. Back then, the world in which I lived was so small that I remember being put out by the fact that my father wanted me to walk all the way across the playground instead of just going next door to troll my candy. But I did it. I was aware that Joey the Clown was “famous” and although his daughter babysat me sometimes, I don’t think I had ever been to his house before.

His wife came to the door. But when she saw it was John Frangello’s daughter, she fetched Joe.

I showed him my forms and told him about the M&Ms.

And he said, “I was just telling your dad I had a taste for chocolate.”

He bought every M&M I had. Though I may be embellishing this in my memory, I think he actually insisted on signing his name to every line, even though I explained it was unnecessary, and that under “quantity” I could just write “all.” Maybe things like this are what earned him his nickname.

I got the satin jacket. I never wore it, but for years this was a story I traded on in school, and the other kids liked the story, just as they enjoyed hearing about my mother’s grandfather who died by falling into a volcano while on vacation in Hawaii.

I realize now that Joe probably never told my father he had a “taste for chocolate.” I realize now that there was simply a kind of “Adult Group Think” going on that had to do with coming from the same place and having a similar sense of humor and code, and that it was somehow imperative to both men that I believe I was doing Joe a favor, instead of realizing that Joe was doing my dad one.

In defining my father, then, one small point on the scale–along with him not being a gang-rapist or abuser; along with him not being the kind of father who could help me with my homework or who was proud of me when I was accepted to college but who has come, over the years, to be proud of me for not dropping out after all, and for growing into the kind of mother who will be able to help my kids with the kinds of papers he didn’t understand–along with all of these things is this: my father is neither a criminal nor a glamorous public figure like Joe Lombardo.

He is an old man who refers to Joe Lombardo as “a good kid.”

TNB TV 
Jason Rice reads “Offender” at The Nervous Breakdown’s Literary Experience at Happy Ending Lounge in New York City on 11 December 2009.


TNB Hall of Fame
In an essay entitled “Say Uncle”, author Jim Simpson offers up a thousand magic words about his Uncle Billy. “In photos from his youth he looked like a porcelain doll,” he writes, “a severely myopic puppet. When I knew him, he was in constant motion, a coiled spring: knee bouncing, fingers grasping and lighting cigarettes, eyes darting, lips moving and always talking sports. I couldn’t keep up with him though I knew I was smarter. He was my mother’s only sibling, born when my grandmother was in her 40s, eventually becoming too much for her to care for. Back then my Uncle Billy had a sweeping range of unspecified mental issues (widely ignored by all around him), yet he possessed an eidetic memory for sports trivia.”


Table of Contents:

The Start of Something

Between

Dark Ages

Fedora

Fiction

Victor and I sent our grandchildren an early Christmas gift of a tank containing two bright green frogs, contrasting pink gravel, a year’s worth of frog food and other assorted frog-related paraphernalia. Our son-in-law was home alone when this package arrived.

He ate both of the frogs, basted with olive oil and fresh rosemary, and lightly grilled.

Now, do not be so quick to judge.

You would forgive him this momentary, seemingly inexplicable indiscretion if you knew all the facts in play here.

Victor and our son-in-law are both ardent carnivores. As a result of this, they exchange virtually identical gifts every birthday and Christmas: meat. Styrofoam containers bypass each other in the mail each holiday, containing, for example, steaks or varieties of salami. The surprise, naturally, is exactly which remarkable type of meat is included under the dry ice each time.

When our son-in-law opened the package, which was addressed to both him and my daughter, he made the assumption that he had received his meat gift. It was a misunderstanding that we should have foreseen.

You should also know that our son-in-law, due to medical restrictions, has been on a severe sodium restricted diet for almost two years. During this time his diet has consisted of the same exceedingly boring and tasteless foods, day after day after day, containing especially low levels of sodium. Serendipitously, these particular frogs happened to be appropriately low in sodium content.

This strict regimen has affected his culinary, parental and conventional judgment. The bright green frogs were irresistible. Who among you would begrudge him this soupçon of diversification in his tedious diet?

Fortunately, our grandchildren were gamboling in the park when this act of extraordinary, but erroneous impropriety took place. Their father, after swiftly despatching the two lightly grilled frogs, immediately realized his horrible misunderstanding. He went about putting right his blunder.

Their father is renowned for his ingenuity.

He drove to a near-by Dollar Store and purchased miniature Christmas ornaments, each water-resistant, and strung them on silver and gold threads in the tank of water with the bright pink gravel. He even found waterproof colored lights to light up the water. He always does a superb job with everything to which he sets his mind, so the frog-free tank was transformed into an elaborate and aesthetically pleasing Christmas decoration.

Our grandchildren are quite young and naïve, so they were easily convinced that their grandparents had sent them an extravagant Christmas decoration, which, though not actually animate, required monthly feedings for a year.

The night after each monthly feeding, when his children have gone to sleep, their father strains the adulterated water and replaces it with Perrier, which he has on hand since he formerly loved to drink it, but now cannot, due to its high sodium levels. This keeps the water pristine and lovely, even somewhat bubbly for a short time.

You might have thought that the impropriety of consuming your children’s pets would result in their psychological harm, but you forget! They never knew about the existence of the frogs to begin with.

In fact, this rejuvenated tank of inanimate, yet hungry, Christmas ornaments has turned out to be their favorite Christmas gift, a win-win, so to speak, (except for the frogs, of course.)

 

 

(Gentle reader, if you were truly appalled by this tale, I humbly beg your forgiveness. Most of this story is true. Occasionally, the total truth vexes me, when, with just a tweak, it becomes more palatable, if you will excuse the pun. I will, charitably, reassure you, gentle reader, that said frogs are in good health. One has been named “Hug” and the other “Kiss.” They live in their rather ordinary tank on an ordinary kitchen table in our grandchildren’s house.) (Ho hum, ho hum, ho hum.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I.

I ran into Owen Wilson on Cahuenga.
Owen Wilson, I said, stopping short.
Hey man, he said, how’s it going? Are there are a lot of cops around here?

Cops? I said.
I was kind of concerned.
Like, what do you mean? I said.
Cops, he said. You know, police. I don’t know if I can park my car here.

I turned and looked and Owen Wilson’s car was parked right in the middle of the sidewalk.
Oh, I said. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t do that.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome 


If you wake up and it looks like your fingers are stretching for a mile, or you peer out a window and the seagulls flying 100 meters away look like they’re about to land on you, then you might be one of the rare sufferers of Alice in Wonderland syndrome, a peculiar depth-perception ailment named after the popular book by Lewis Carroll.

Strangely, there’s nothing wrong with the sufferer’s actual eyes. People suffering from AIWS often experience distorted depth perceptions such as micropsia, where objects appear to shrink and seem farther away, or macropsia, where items appear larger than normal. “Everything shrinks. It’s like I’m looking through a telescope backwards. I don’t feel huge, though. I actually feel very small as well, which is strange since everything around me also feels small. It’s like I’ve been miniaturized along with everything else around me.” So wrote one man in January 2009 in a forum on an AIWS website run by Rik Hemsley, an actual sufferer of the ailment.

Some people experience the opposite reaction: not miniaturization but enlargement. They might be looking at someone whose extremities suddenly appear to balloon. Others claim they can induce the experience at any time and then shake their head, or shake their own weirdly transformed body part, to make the sensation stop. Some have said they feel as if their brain is being stretched like a rubber band.

Hemsley said to the U.K. Guardian in 2008: “When it first happened, I was a 21-year-old undergraduate. I had been up late the night before writing my dissertation and drinking a lot of coffee, but on that particular morning I was stone cold sober and hangover-free. I stood up, reached down to pick up the TV remote control from the floor, and felt my foot sink into the ground. Glancing down, I saw that my leg was plunging into the carpet. It was a disturbing sensation, but it lasted only a few seconds, so I put it down to overtiredness and forgot all about it.”

Since writing for the Guardian in early 2008, Hemsley said no medical researchers have offered to study his affliction. “None, though I have answered questions for an article in a Polish magazine named Medical Tribune,” he said.

Hemsley said he’s still dealing with the affliction. “I am still improving, yes. I had a couple of days over the [2008] Christmas holiday where I noticed it, as a result of typical migraine-inducing behavior. I hadn’t had anything for about three months before that.”

It’s hard to imagine that even if the affliction went away, as it usually does with AIWS, Hemsley could ever forget about a syndrome as puzzling as his. While he is married, has a job, and continues on with his life, many others in the world who suffer from this ailment rarely go outside, fearful of experiencing these surreally distorted perceptions. “The most bizarre thing I can think of, off the top of my head, is that often when I sit with my legs crossed, with my shin on the other leg’s thigh, I would perceive that the upper leg was partially sunk into the lower.

This seemed to be caused by a combination of odd sensation and imagination. Whatever it was, it was quite unpleasant and occurred often. I would expect it is related to the more commonly quoted perception of a ‘spongy’ floor,” said Hemsley.

Some of the possible causes cited are migraines, temporal lobe epilepsy, and Epstein-Barr virus.

Symptoms: The AIWS website describes the main symptom as that of altered body image. Those afflicted are usually confused as to the size and shape of parts of their own body. Heads and hands commonly undergo a metamorphosis, shrinking or growing. Visual perception of the surrounding world gets skewed. People, scenery, buildings, animals appear smaller or larger, while distances appear too close or too far away. Some of those afflicted experience distorted time, touch, and sound perception.


Foreign Accent Syndrome

A man I met once at a pizza parlor, who promoted music shows, was accused of having a fake accent. One woman in Michigan sounded like she was British though she was born in a small American town. Whether these people are faking it or not, most actual sufferers of foreign accent syndrome are accused of falsifying their speech.

The reality is, the 40 or so documented cases of FAS usually stem from a brain injury or stroke that may have caused damage to the speech centers of the brain. While the person’s speech sounds otherwise normal, there is a foreign-sounding accent that overlays syllables and sometimes sentences. Some people are more fluent with their accents than others. Some of those  afflicted are reported to have mysteriously recovered within just a few months time.

The BBC reported that one British woman, after a stroke, started speaking with an idiosyncratic accent that sounded alternately French Canadian, Slovakian, Italian, or Jamaican. “I didn’t realize what I sounded like, but then my speech therapist played a tape of me talking. I was just devastated,” Linda Walker said. She added, “I’ve lost my identity, because I never talked like this before. I’m a very different person and it’s strange and I don’t like it.”

The best-known case of foreign accent syndrome occurred in Oslo, Norway, after a British bombing raid on September 6, 1941. A 28-year-old Norwegian woman was seriously injured in the head by a bomb fragment. She lay unconscious for several days and was not expected to live. Two months later, she was discharged from the hospital—suddenly with a German-sounding accent. During the remainder of the war she was often mistaken for a German and suffered discrimination because of it.

Symptoms: Sudden strange foreign accent.

Twenty-Five Random Remedies

Aphrodisiac: If you’re looking to increase your libido and you don’t want all the nasty potential side effects of Viagra, find some horny goat weed. It has been helping the Chinese since the days of the ancients. In lab experiments it works just as well as the little blue pill.

Constipation: Laughter has a massaging effect on the intestines.

Nosebleed: Run something cold down the back of your neck. Sudden chills can cause blood vessels to contract.

Mouth Ulcers: Try a pinch of baking soda or dissolve some in a glass of warm water and use as a mouthwash for neutralizing acids in mouth ulcers.

Green Hair: For blondes in chlorine pools whose hair has turned green, just add ketchup and cover with cling wrap for 30 minutes.

Headache: Draw blood to your feet by soaking them in hot water. Add some mustard powder for exceptional thumpers.

Decongestant: The University of Nebraska found that traditional homemade chicken soup (not from a packet) contains the amino acid cysteine, which is a

PMS Bloating: The yeast extract Marmite can help fight PMS bloating. Fish eggs and brazil nuts can help too.

Bruises: Vinegar heals bruises. Soak cotton and apply.

Coughing: Try a nice bar of chocolate. Theobromine in cocoa suppresses sensory nerves.

PMS: Boil a cup of water and pour over a teaspoon of dried rosemary. Cover and let brew for 15 minutes, then drink a warm cup twice daily.

Insect Bites: Dab on toothpaste to fight itching
and swelling.

Obesity: Turmeric, which is found in curry, has many medicinal uses and helps prevent obesity in lab rats. So eat hearty.

Cancer: In 2008, it was announced that medical experts in the U.S. are now studying the ancient Chinese remedy of potentially deadly toad venom for cancer patients. Often cancer patients try a blend of Western and Chinese remedies to fight tumors.

Toxic Blood: Actress Demi Moore once had 45 leeches gorge on her blood— a creepy Austrian treatment for toxic blood. Apparently the little critters release a helpful enzyme as they chomp down.

Stroke: Consider acupuncture to help you in your recovery. Millions of patients each year do so in China. Could they all be wrong? Get in harmony with yourself.

Skin Disorders: A urine-mixture ointment can help clear up blotchy skin. Singer Amy Winehouse tried it. In another curious case of urine therapy, actress Sarah Miles drank her own urine for 30 years, claiming that it immunized her against allergies.

Cellulite: Mix a little olive oil with warm coffee grounds. Spread on thighs twice a week. Cover with cling wrap for several minutes. The caffeine helps circulation.

Icky Breath: Chomp on a raw coffee bean.

Sore Throat: Manuka honey from New Zealand can kill over 250 bacteria strains. It can help heal burns too. Add some lemon.

Beauty Treatment: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow once used a type of acutherapy for beauty called “cupping.” Heated glass cups applied to different areas of the body can supposedly relieve stress.

Stinky Toes: Soak your feet in two cups of hot tea diluted with extra water.

Dandruff: Three aspirin dissolved in shampoo can help with flaking scalp.

Sniffles: Warm feet in hot water. Soak pair of thin socks in cold water. Wring out and wear. Add thick, dry socks and put feet up (go to bed). Boosts circulation, which can help with the sniffles.

Stained Teeth: Rubbing strawberries on your teeth can rid you of superficial stains. woman said she had regained much of the control of her hand.



has nothing to do with Dante. You say
it with an accent: you say it Be-at-trice.

A dirt road lined with leafless trees.
Smokestacks. Some background.

A slight white kid in white kid shoes
& a dress with ruffles & three pearl

buttons. Structures skidded against
the flat flat plains, all rising vertical

sightlines man-grown or man-made.
The corn bursting. The First Presbyterian

Church. The Institution for Feeble-
Minded Youth. The football games

& the Buffalo Bill Street Parade
& Robinson acting in elementary

school plays: Sir Lancelot once,
& Pinocchio, obviously. A little man.

Robinson reading on the family porch.
Torchsongs wafting from the nighttime

radio—AM broadcasts lofting
like ghosts from real cities. This

& his mother’s artful research—her side
is descended from the Plantagenets,

maybe signed the Magna Carta—&
his suffragette Aunt Clara giving him

a French dictionary for high school
graduation chart it out for Robinson:

most of the world is not in Nebraska.
Robinson lacks patience for too much

prelude, rude though it is to be so
fidgety, ungrateful. This hateful small.

This hateful empty. Civic & dutiful.
Not not beautiful. These moldered.

These elderly. Soon-to-be outgrown.
He simply must. Or bust. A loner

ill-suited to being alone. In a double-
breasted suit. En route to elsewhere.