There She is, Miss Amerigone

She takes off her swim suit and drops it because it no longer fits. She hasn’t gained weight. It hasn’t shrunk. She’s matured. Her name is Miss America.

Times change. Priorities change. Values change. Rules change. Therefore, Gretchen Carlson, Chairman of the Miss America Board of Directors, announced on June 5, 2018 that the annual beauty pageant turned scholarship program would be undergoing major changes this year. “Miss America will be a competition, not a pageant,” Carlson declared. “There will be no swim suit competition. Evening gowns won’t be required.” There will be more room for individuality and self-expression, she implied. Carlson added perfect figures will not be a priority and there will be other changes, too.

But, I wondered, what are these other changes? So I went directly to the source. “Ms. Carlson?” I asked, but was stopped before I could continue.

“You will refer to me as ‘Ms. Carlson, Miss America 1989.’ And you will make no reference to my years on FOX News. Now, what is your question?”

“I am curious,” I said, “about the other changes in the Miss America program.”

“First,” the former Fox News co-host said, “contestants will not be expected to ‘love all the other girls’ in the competition or ‘consider them sisters forever’ as have generations of contestants before them. They are, in fact, being given permission to dislike other competitors. But they may not refer to them as bitches,’ unless, of course, they are.”

I was told about another change by a reliable source, a former Miss America official, as he was being released from prison. The age of eligibility has been raised. Contestants now may be as old as 50. But those between 25 and 50 must make certain their walkers are in perfect working order and pose no threat to the safety of the other contestants. In addition, walkers may not display political paraphernalia. Religious icons, however, are permissible.

My research left me with mixed feelings. I felt as conflicted as Miss Iowa 1974 who could both tap dance and yodel, but was limited to one for the talent competition. She unfortunately chose the wrong one as she was asked to leave the pageant during the preliminaries after she apparently yodeled a Swiss expletive.

I am glad to see the elimination of the bathing suit competition because it made me feel fat and decrepit. And I know I am not fat. But I am saddened to see that evening gowns have become optional. Contestants, instead, are given the choice to wear what they feel best represents them as an individual and as Miss America, were they to win. The reason for this change is that organizers have acknowledged that Miss America winners, when traveling the country or world, rarely make appearances in evening gowns. For me, however, the evening gown competition demonstrates each girl’s taste and style. Was the dress too sexy, too garish, or too ordinary? Did her hairstyle conflict with the dress’s neckline? Was the jewelry too Joan Rivers and not enough Tiffany? Were any of the items worn purchased with coupons? Therefore, I for one, hope some of the contestants opt to wear gowns. In fact, I have several elegant ones they could borrow. If they like gingham or plaid.

I worry, however, that the new changes, particularly those emphasizing individuality, may impact the event negatively. To see how this may occur, I suggest we follow the journey of my imagined next Miss America, the first under the new rules, as she progresses through and wins the pageant…I mean competition.

My imagined winner, who will represent a state I will call East Oklahorado, will make her first appearance on stage with all 50 competitors when they introduce themselves and proudly name their state. She will be wearing skinny jeans tucked into red, white, and blue cowboy boots, and a bold, Greek-letter adorned sorority sweatshirt. It will be at this time we learn, through voice-over, that this contestant’s cause, the issue with which she is most concerned, and the project to which she will dedicate her reign is the struggle for diversity in college sororities. “My house,” she will boast, “at North Central East Oklahorado State College, where I am majoring in Emojis, not only has two African-American members, but a Cambodian refugee, a Guatemalan Dreamer, a homeless drug-addict, an obese girl with acne, and a Jewess. But we will not feel complete until we have a member who is a struggling C-student who both lisps and stutters.”

For her “individual style” look, formerly the evening gown competition, her best opportunity to express her uniqueness, Miss East Oklahorado will wear a simple little black dress with a pearl necklace, as will 37 of the other contestants. For the talent competition, which accounts for 62.389% of the score, the next Miss America will perform Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” which she will insist is not sexist because it does not refer to the object of desire as a ho, bitch, or the “C” word. You know the word…chick. She won’t sing the song, but will play “P.Y.T.” on a tuba while clog dancing—yes, one may now multi-talent, provided the talents do not involve cherry stems or stripper poles. During this portion of the competition, Miss East Oklahorado will be wearing a form-fitting sleeveless red-sequin evening gown, which will accentuate her 5’ 4”, 165 pound frame and will expose her forearm tattoos of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Popping out of the tuba’s horn at the end of the performance will be an American Eagle, wearing Michael Jackson’s white sequined glove on one talon.

At this point, while the judges are tallying scores to determine the five semi-finalists, buxom Miss America 2015, wearing a brief white two-piece swim suit, will introduce viewers to the judges. They are Kevin Spacey, Martina Navratilova, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels, and one of the Kardashians—I think the one whose name starts with a “K.”

As one of the five semi-finalists, Miss East Oklahorado will participate in the important question-and-answer portion of the competition. She will have chosen to wear the army uniform, including the patrol cap, her mother wore when she fought in the second Iraq War. The camera will then pan to her mother in the audience who will be wearing an American flag-patterned dress purchased at K-Mart.

Miss East Oklahorado then will be asked by judge Kevin Spacey, “If you could be a female character in any film, who would that be and why?”

“Oh, I’d be Scarlett O’Hara,” she will answer with confidence, “because Janet Leigh has always been my favorite actress. Did you know she was once married to Tony…Tony…Romo of the Dallas Cowboys? It was right after she filmed Streetcar Named Retire.” That answer will assure her a spot in the Final Three.

As the Final Three huddle on stage congratulating one another and thinking How the hell did those two bitches get this far?, the host, Jason Mason, who was the least talented member of the ‘90s boy band One of Us is Gay, will say, “Look at our Final Three. Aren’t they beautiful? They look like The Supremes or Destiny’s Child. Except they’re all White.” He will then explain that since the final questions are difficult and complex each contestant will be given 20 minutes to answer. Coffee is served to the judges.

Miss East Oklahorado will go first, guaranteeing her some semblance of attention by the judges, audience, TV viewers, and Donald Trump. Her question will be, “If you could serve as any elected official in the United States, which would it be, why, and what would you do?”

“I would proudly serve,” she will say without hesitation, “as national president of my sorority, Delta Upsilon Mu.”

A sudden outbreak of chanting from the right side of the audience will interrupt the answer. “DUM! DUM! DUM!” Miss East Oklahorado’s sorority sisters will cheer.

“Yes, I am a proud Dummie,” she will continue, “but I will work with the national presidents of all the other sororities, including the really pitiful houses. I would strive to include all college girls in sorority life, whether they are unattractive, overweight, stupid, or come from a home without a swimming pool.  You see sororities should be a microcosm of the world. They should be an example of a better America. A better North Korea. A better Russia. Sororities even should be an example of a better Vatican City.” Miss East Oklahorado will pause and look at the emcee. “How much more time do I have?” she will ask.

“Eighteen minutes.”

She will repeat her statement 5 times. “Well, that should fill my 20 minutes,” she will say.

“No,” the host will argue. “Two times five is 10.  You still have 10 minutes if you want them.”

Miss East Oklahorado will look at him with skepticism, take out her cell phone, activate the calculator, and look up with surprise. “Oh, you’re right.” And she will repeat her statement five more times.

She will be named Miss America, and the previous title holder will struggle to balance the tiara atop the military patrol cap. The new Miss America will be handed 50 red roses and then will walk the runway, waving as she goes. When she reaches the end, she will salute her mother, step off the runway and present the flowers to her. She will carefully remove her tiara, then her mother’s military cap, place the hat on her mother’s head, replace the tiara on her own, climb onto the runway and rush to the 49 other contestants who embrace her, shrieking their congratulations, but thinking, How did this bitch win this travesty?

It won’t be until the press conference the next day that we will learn the new Miss America intends to use her scholarship winnings to earn her Master’s Degree in Emojis and finance her gender reassignment surgery.

A Semi-Adios

Last week’s post presented a conundrum. Horrible People consisted of a long list of names ending with the word “sinned.” I asked what had these people done. Well, obviously, they’d sinned. But that wasn’t the more important question, the real reason I included “Horrible People” in my blog. My purpose was to ask why the list was special. So, drum roll please, here is the answer, why I felt the list was worthy of publication. It is because it is a palindrome; it reads the same forward and backward.  It is among the longest in the English language.

But why did I really post it? I stated I had not written it and until then everything on my blog had been original.The answer is simple. I’ve been writing weekly blog posts for two years now. It is becoming more and more challenging to come up with with new, creative, original ideas and subject matter.

Therefore, I am making a major change in the blog. Instead of weekly posts, I am switching to to monthly ones. They will appear on the last Monday of each month.

To those of you who have read my babbles regularly, I thank you. Your supportive comments have been appreciated. I will “see” you all again on Monday June 25.

Horrible People


What did these horrible people do? But more important, what is special about this list ? If you don’t know, the answer will be included in next week’s post. And, if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t create this. I discovered it perhaps 40 years ago and just like challenging others with it.

Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned.

Idiotic Idioms

Carlos Ignacio Julio Rodriguez de Soto ambled toward the popular Ajijic coffee shop. A cautious, self-consciousness permeated his gait. He spotted an unoccupied table amidst several tables of English-speaking customers and sat. In a smooth continuous move, he slung his backpack off his shoulder and onto the table. He unzipped it, reached in and pulled out a dog-eared, disintegrating Spanish-English dictionary. Then he tweezed from the back pocket of his skinny jeans his cellphone and readied its translation app. He scanned the jabbering Yanks, Canucks, and Brits around him.

Oh, I don’t stand out, he thought. No. Not at all. I’m not just the only teenager sitting here, but I’m the only Mexican, too.  He chuckled to himself. These people are older than my mama and papa. Hell, they’re older than Mexico. But I’ve gotta do th…

His thoughts were interrupted by a voice speaking Spanish near his left ear. “What are you doing here, Carlos?” He turned to see a former schoolmate, Diego Sanchez, holding two dirty coffee cups with spoons protruding from them.

Carlos jumped up and hugged his friend. “I have to practice listening to English. Seňora Losada said we need to listen to gringos speak.” Carlos tilted his head. “You had Seňora Losada for English before you graduated, right?”

“Of course. And she’s right. You have to listen to other people besides her,” Diego explained. “You know she has never been to el norte. She learned English in school, like us.”

“I know.”

“Dude, I was shocked how poor my English comprehension was when I started working here.” Diego peeked over his shoulder at the barista. “My boss is watching, Carlos. Can I get you anything?”

Carlos looked at Diego. A mix of lack of confidence and terror screamed from his eyes. “Yes.” He paused, mentally forming the rest of his answer. “I will have normal coffee,” the teen replied in deliberate English. “No. I mean regular coffee. Thank you.” Diego nodded like a teacher commending a student for a job well-done and stepped away. Carlos smiled with satisfaction.

A man in a polo shirt sidled up to a table near Carlos. The two men and one woman occupying it looked up. “Where’s Debbie?” the woman asked.

“She’s a bit under the weather.”

Carlos looked at the sky. Hazy filtered clouds looked back. Under the weather? This Debbie, Carlos thought, is sitting below the clouds? But why she cannot be here?

Voices caught Carlos’ attention from his other side. He turned. Three women were talking with animation as they smoked. One of the women was looking at Carlos. She smiled and looked away. Another woman said, “You know that girl from California who moved into the casita behind me? Well, she’s not playing with a full deck.”

Fool deck? Carlos repeated to himself. What does that mean?

The woman continued. “She asked me to drive her to Guadalajara so she could go to Starbucks for some coffee. I told her we have coffee shops here. And if you insist on Starbucks, take the bus or Uber. Well, she looked at me like I had flipped my lid. ‘Madison,’ I told her, ‘if you think I’m going to drive you to Guadalajara for coffee, you’re barking up the wrong tree.’”

Carlos typed “fool deck” into his phone. “Cubierto tanto” the translation app typed back. This California Madison girl is not playing with a cubierto tanto ? Well, then what is she playing with? he asked himself.  And what is ‘flipped her lid?’ He typed. His cell phone told him the woman had volteó su tapa. She has a tapa? Like my abuela’s Tupperware?

“The wrong tree,” the woman repeated emphasizing “wrong.” Can you imagine me doing that? Driving in Guadalajara? For coffee? Oh, hell, no.”

“Barking,” Carlos typed. Oh, ladrido. I know that. Like the dogs. He typed “wrong.” I know ‘wrong’ means incorrecto. But that does not make the sense. “Incorrecto” appeared on his screen. OK. It is incorrecto. But what tree is the correct tree to bark on? Why would people bark on a tree anyway? People climb trees.

“I don’t think that Madison girl is going to last long,” one of the woman’s companions said. “She’s not gonna cut the mustard.”

               What? Carlos thought. How do you cut mustard? And did Madison actually say, “No. I will not cut your mustard?”

As Diego brought Carlos’ coffee, the woman at the table who had looked at Carlos studied the server. “That new waiter is really good. He’s fast. He notices details. He’s on the ball.”

Carlos peeked at Diego’s feet. “He is not on a ball. How could he work if he on is on a ball?” He looked up and noticed the woman looking at him again. Her gaze darted past him, an obvious ploy. Does that woman know me? Carlos thought. Or does she think she recognizes me? Why else would she be looking at me? Does she think I am someone famous?

The voice of under-the-weather Debbie’s husband lured Carlos’ attention back to the previous conversation. “You know, Gary and Janet bought that place they were looking at.”

“Really?” one of his companions asked. “What’s it like?”

“Well, it has a pool, tennis court, and two casitas. It’s got the whole nine yards.”

               Nine yards? Carlos thought. Why do they need nine yards? Do they have horses? Are they farmers? Do they have many children? Nine yards? Isn’t one enough?

“How did they swing that deal?” the woman at the table asked.

“According to Bill Nelson,” the man answered, “and I take everything Bill says with a grain of salt, they inherited a good chunk of change from Janet’s brother. I don’t think I’m letting the cat out of the bag by telling you he was a land developer and made some shady investments.”

Carlos looked confused. This Bill Nelson gives salt when he talks? Carlos grabbed his dictionary and looked up “chunk.” Oh, pedazo. So American coins melt and become chunk. He looked up as if he were thinking. A chunk for each of the coins? Or one big chunk for all of them together? Carlos looked at the feet of the man speaking. He saw a clear plastic bag containing fruit and vegetables. There is a cat in his bag? I do not see a cat.

Women’s laughter from Carlos’ other side grabbed his attention. He turned as one of the women lit another cigarette. “Did I tell you, she asked her tablemates. “Carolyn quit smoking? That’s why she won’t join us anymore.”

“How’d she do it?”

“Cold turkey.”

Carlos sat back. Their friend stopped smoking cigarettes and eats cold turkeys now instead? he thought. That is strange. A conversation from a third table interrupted his contemplation.

“So last night,” a deep male voice said,” I was about to hit the hay, when CNN ran an interview with some White House aide who began to cry in the middle of the interview.”

“Well, they’re all flying by the seat of their pants,” another voice commented.

               I know ‘hit,’ but not ‘hit the hay,’ Carlos said to himself as he typed. Oh, he continued when the translation appeared, why would people hit hay? He laughed. Gringos are very violent. Why don’t they just shoot the hay with their guns? And what is this flying by the chairs of their pants?

“So,” the man went on, “I’m watching this middle-aged man break down on TV and it really upset me. I couldn’t handle it and went to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. I just couldn’t get over it.”

Carlos took his dictionary and thumbed to the “D” section. Oh, I didn’t know that. Down also means feathers. But how do you break feathers? And why could the man not get over his bed? How tall are American beds?

Confused by all he had heard, Carlos finished his coffee and packed his belongings. As he stood, the cell phone of the woman with the young Californian neighbor rang. “Hi, Honey,” she answered it. She paused, smiled, and said, “I knew it. Thanks for making my day. I’ll be home soon.”

“What happened?” another lady at the table asked.

“That crazy Madison is already moving out. Going back home. Jim says she hadn’t even completely unpacked. I’m so glad she’s gone.”

As Carlos stepped around the women’s table, the woman who had been peeking at him added with a laugh, “Well, Jeannie, you predicted a short stay. You were right. Elvis has left the building.”

Carlos stopped, a look of understanding washing over his face. He looked at the woman he had caught studying him. “Oh, no. I am not Elvis. My name is Carlos. And we are not in the building. We are outside under the weather,” he said as he turned and walked away.

The ’70s Again

It was January 1, 1970. I was six months from graduating from college. Six months from the real world. I was wearing bell-bottom pants and a tie-dye T-shirt, standing in a closet with the door ajar.  I was listening to the last of the music produced together by four blokes called The Beatles.

I was unable to run or climb stairs quickly because I had recently suffered a herniated disc and was dealing with constant sciatic pain down my right leg. X-rays couldn’t show the damage and doctors couldn’t verify it. I had a horrible draft lottery number and was certain, even though I was incapacitated, I would be headed to Vietnam within months of my graduation. I was freaking out. Luckily, I received an eleventh hour reprieve and was declared ineligible for military service.

Therefore, January 1, 1970 was the first day of my favorite decade. I loved the ‘70s and I don’t know how many times I’ve told people younger than myself that the ‘70s were a great time, an exciting time. Except for one thing

The War in Vietnam.

Even though we spent the first half of the decade in the midst of a senseless war in which several of my schoolmates and thousands of my generation died, we had hope. We thought we could change things, improve the US, its government and policies, and better the world. We marched. We wrote letters. We voted. We had hope.

After all, we were seeing changes, positive steps in the Civil Rights Movement. We were seeing a developing Woman’s Movement. And, unexpectedly, there also was even a glimmer of a Gay Rights Movement. Things were looking better. The sexual revolution had been born. Marijuana use was common and, in certain circles, acceptable.

But, for me, while there were many contributing factors, what made the 1970s special was the music. Certainly, I loved the music from the late ’50s through the ‘60s, especially that which was created by Black musicians or influenced by them. While I enjoyed The Beatles and so many other musicians who were part of the British Invasion, Motown, Phil Specter’s Solid Wall of Sound, and R&B got my juices flowing. Therefore, I was primed for the signature music of the ‘70s…


I remember my first disco experience as if it were yesterday: The City in San Francisco. We’re not talking John Travolta/white suit disco here. We’re talking gay disco, with hundreds of dancing men in T-shirts, tanks, and polos that were shed as sweat poured from their pores. I was overwhelmed with the sound system, the fullness of the music, its layers, and its joy. I was pulled in to the unfamiliar lyrics of the one-hit wonder Everyday People’s gay-lib anthem I Like What I Like (Because I like It), Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra’s Love’s Theme segueing ( Segueing? Who ever heard of segueing before that?) into Under the Influence of Love, and I’ll Always Love My Mama by The Intruders. The Disco Era continued beyond that night, into the 1980s, and I could list countless other records and artists from those years that I loved, that impacted me on numerous levels. But I won’t. Let it just be said that disco was not merely Saturday Night Fever and The Bee Gees for me.

I’m turning 70 this week. It’s like January 1, 1970 all over again. I’ve got that whole decade ahead of me. The ‘70s. Only this time it is my 70s, not the ‘70s. I’m not as hopeful or excited about this 70s. Perhaps it is because life and US politics has left me jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. Perhaps it is because I no longer have hope. It isn’t that I don’t care about the US anymore; it’s that I don’t have the energy or stamina after 50+ years to keep fighting the hypocrisy and bullshit. I don’t have the energy and stamina to maintain the façade of hope. That is the primary reason I left the US. While I may have loved the 1970s, I realize, now, decades later, I wouldn’t want to live them again, not with all their false promise. Not after all we have endured since then. Not while we are dealing with today’s shit. Not now since I know how it all turned out. No. I wouldn’t want to live those ‘70s again.

Except for the music.

Give the Boot to Reboots

When the original version of the sitcom Roseanne ended, Dan Connor was dead. His wife, Roseanne, revealed in the finale that what viewers had been watching on the program, which ran from 1988 to 1997, was actually based on a book about her family she had been writing. While the characters in the book were real, writer Roseanne admitted she had taken many liberties with events and incidents that had occurred. For example, the Connors had not won the lottery. Nor had Roseanne and Jackie’s mother come out as a lesbian; instead, it was Jackie who was a lesbian, which made more sense. On the other hand, Dan’s heart attack death was true. But the reveal that the program was derived from Rosanne’s writing should not have been a surprise to dedicated fans of the show as references to her desire to write had been made throughout the show’s 200+ episodes. Dan even had intended, perhaps begun, to create a small work space for her in the basement.

When the original version of Will & Grace ended, we had jumped into the future. Will Truman and Grace Adler had endured an 18-year estrangement, the result of their marriages interfering with their relationship. But they are older and wiser now. Will and Vince’s son and Grace and Leo’s daughter meet at their college’s “move-in” weekend where they develop a healthier relationship than that of Will and Grace. Meanwhile, once-wealthy Karen is broke and, in a surprise twist, Jack inherits the late Beverley Leslie’s wealth. The two perennial best frenemies are living together. When Will’s son Ben and Grace’s daughter Laila marry, Will and Grace realize that perhaps the purpose of their entire rocky relationship had always been to get their offspring together to share the relationship Will and Grace could never have.

I, personally, was satisfied with the conclusions of both Roseanne and Will & Grace.

I, however, discover years later, we had been lied to by Roseanne and Will & Grace’s producers and networks; reboots of these classic comedies were announced in which their original conclusions would be disregarded. Dan Connor miraculously would be alive. Will and Grace still would be living in their childless, tempestuous, immature fag-fag hag relationship.

I loved Roseanne. I loved Will & Grace. Loved. Past tense. But I don’t need to be played the fool by network executives and producers who prioritize cashing in on an unhappy America wanting “the good old days.” I don’t enjoy being manipulated by these same broadcast big shots who hope to make a lot of money off America’s stupidity.  I am disappointed that these same lazy, unimaginative media morons cannot create new, original, worthwhile comedy programs. And I don’t respect their lack of respect for these sacred cows of comedy. I am not happy and I am not watching these reboots of former favorite sitcoms.

A reboot of Murphy Brown, another favorite from the past, is in the pipeline. I won’t be watching it either.  A running joke on that show was Murphy’s inability to retain receptionists. I long list of celebrities appeared in cameo roles as her frustrated, frightened, incompetent, belittled assistants. I can’t imagine producers dropping that gimmick in the reboot. I wonder how the powers that be will bastardize that entertaining idea. But I won’t be watching to find out. I won’t see which deceased stars of film, TV, music, politics, and sports appear as Murphy’s temporary receptionists as holograms.  It would be ratings gold; in the first episode of the reboot, Nat “King Cole and daughter Natalie could sing Unforgettable as they fight over a receptionist desk stapler. I can see the promos touting the appearances of other dead celebrities now: “Guest starring this week on Murphy Brown, Whitney Houston.” Or Mohammed Ali. Or Mary Tyler Moore. Or Prince. Or Princess Di. Or Barbra Bush. Or Robin Williams. Or Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher together. Or Dan Conner.

I won’t be watching. I’ll be doing something else, something more important. Maybe washing my hair. Perhaps watching original, innovative programming on Netflix or Amazon. Or possibly writing my own sitcom.

Train Now Leaving For . . .

In last week’s post, I explained how the domino game Mexican Train is played. I took my role as Mexican Train Professor Emeritus seriously and tried to treat the subject with respect and dignity. This week I invite you to observe a game played with my Ajijic neighbors. When we began playing, we met once a week. But now we, in order to assuage our anger, play on days following a stupid Trump tweet or statement. Therefore, we have played for nearly 600 consecutive days.

The neighbors who meet at 10:00 include 64-year-old Geoffrey (pronounced Joffrey. Do not call him Jeffrey or Jeff. Two former neighbors mysteriously disappeared after doing so.) Walls, a British banker whose Chauvinistic, dismissive treatment of female employees forced an early retirement, and his timid, skittish, Scottish-born, 51-year-old wife Jessie. Donna Forrester is a Floridian, usually drunk but not so tipsy to reveal her age. She is never seen without make-up, coiffed hair, and bold, colorful, often-sequined, expensive clothing. She appears to be in her mid-50s, but probably is in her early 70s. She always arrives carrying a family-size Bloody Mary. Marv Rosen is 67. He is slender and in shape. His face is still handsome. Originally from Scarsdale, New York, he has lived in San Francisco and Palm Springs. He may be gay, but has never acknowledged that. White-haired Wyatt Paderewski is nearing 80. He’s loud and boorish. These qualities, however, did not prevent him from becoming a successful and wealthy sports agent. Nor did they prevent him from being a “chick magnet.” His fifth wife, Zina, is half his age and a Mexican-American spitfire. They are from the Los Angeles area. Wyatt, however, is dealing with onset dementia.

And me. As you know, I am a former male-exotic dancer, having performed as such until my retirement at 65. For the last 15 years of my career, I performed at Gerry’s Geriatric Attic in Jersey which isn’t an attic at all. It actually is on the first floor of a building because most of its clientele could no longer navigate stairs or remember which elevator button to press. I also am, as you have learned by now, a humorless person who takes life seriously and never lies, exaggerates, or makes fun of or mocks the truth.

Wyatt is always the first to arrive, usually five minutes early, and accuses the others, including his wife Zina, with coming late on purpose to irritate him. When Donna, generally the last to arrive, joins the group on the poolside patio, the game begins.

“I don’t know why everyone always gets here late,” Wyatt snipes.

“You always get here too early,” Geoffrey corrects. “I told you that yesterday and the day before that and the day…”

“Did we play yesterday?”

“Yes, Mi Corazon,” Zina says in a soothing voice. “Remember how Marv…”

“Let’s get started,” Donna interrupts. “I have a hair appointment at one.” She puts down her drink and swirls the face-down dominoes around the table with the palms of her hands in an effort to mix them up. The dominoes are white with bold black numerals instead of dots, making it easier for vision-challenged retirees. “Take ten,” she says, “and we’re looking for the double…”

“Twelve!” everyone snaps in unison.

“Donna, do you have to say that every day? We know how this works,” Marv says.

Donna reaches for her Bloody Mary and takes a sip. “Yes, in fact, I do. Some unnamed players seem to forget the procedure.” She looks at Wyatt who is staring at the assortment of plastic trains clustered near the oblong train station.

“Which color is mine?” he asks.

“Black, Mi Amor,” Zina answers. “You always pick the black one.”

“I do?”

“And you picked 12 dominoes. You need to put two back.”

“You all said to pick 12.”

“No, we said pick ten. We are looking for twelves.”

“That’s not how we played it in L.A. We picked 12. And we always found the double beforehand and just put it in the station.”

“We didn’t play Mexican Train in L.A., Mi Amor.” Zina’s patient voice sounded like that of a veteran kindergarten teacher.

“We didn’t?” Wyatt said with confusion. Sudden clarity returned. “No. That was the way I was taught on my first visit here in 1985.”

As the players pick their colorful tiny train and 10 dominoes and turn the tiles over, Jessie, the quietest member of the group, murmurs, “I’ve got it.” But not everyone hears her. She places the double-twelve in the center of the plastic train station.

“Does anyone have the double-twelve?” Wyatt blares.

“I do. Did. I already put it…”

“Well, why didn’t ya say so?”

“She did,” Geoffrey says. “Shit, Jess. Why can’t you speak up? You can be such a pain in the arse. Now hurry up and play. You had the damn domino so you go first.” The others at the table seemingly ignore Geoffrey’s rudeness and focus on their dominoes, forming trains and developing their strategies.

Jessie places a twelve-tile in a slot on the station with caution. Her eyes reflect fear. She places a second one in the slot designated the public train. Geoffrey, to her left, puts a twelve-tile in his slot, followed by Marv, me, Wyatt, and Zina. Only Donna fails to have a twelve. She draws another tile, hoping for a twelve. “Crap!” she spews as she places her lavender plastic train at the head of her track-to-be.

“Sorry, Donna,” Jessie mumbles as she adds a tile to her train, “I don’t have one for you.”

“I do,” Geoffrey says. “Right out of the middle of my train, dammit.” He looks up. “Hey, did you hear that Harold and Carleen are moving back to Vancouver?”

“Really?” Donna says with surprise. “I think she misses her grandkids. Not sure they miss her though. She’s such a…”

“Are they gonna sell their place?” Marv interrupts. “I know some people in San Francisco that might be interested.”

“Your turn, Marv,” Jessie whispers.

“A couple,” Marv continues. “In real estate. They’d fit in here. Jack’s been here before. Years ago. Don’t know about Dani. They’re fun people. You all would like them.” Everyone wonders if Marv said “Dani” or “Danny.”

“It’s your turn, Marv,” Wyatt repeats Jessie’s reminder. “Who are Harold and Carmen?”

“Jim went to USC. Didn’t you go there, Wyatt?”



“It’s your move!”

“OK. OK. Don’t get so upset. I didn’t know. Why didn’t somebody tell me?” Marv places a tile on the public train.

I match a double-five to the five sharing the twelve-tile in my slot.

“You better have a mate to that,” Wyatt threatens. “Cuz I don’t…”

“Don’t you worry your charming self, Mr. Paderewski, because I do.” I place the tile on the end of the double-five.

“Didn’t you have an extra twelve for me?” Donna asks. I shook my head.

“Shit!” exclaims Wyatt. “I got your damn twelve. And giving it to you is gonna really screw me up.” He places the twelve-two combination tile in Donna’s train slot.

Zina adds a domino to her track. Donna smiles and places the double-two and a two-five on her track and removes her lavender train. “Thanks, Wyatt. You gave me the perfect tile.”

“Did I give you a tile?”

As Jessie reaches to place a domino on the end of the public train, Geoffrey says, “Jess and I went to that new restaurant last night. Marta’s. It was pretty damn good.”

“Martina’s,” Jessie corrects under her breath.

“Yeah. Marta’s,” Geoffrey continues. “I had chicken fajitas and Jess had—What did you have, Jess? Oh, pasta of some kind—and the servings were big and it was cheap.”

“Shrimp tacos. I had shrimp tacos. But, dear, it’s your turn.”

“Yeah. I’d recommend it. We should go as a group sometime. What are you all doing Friday?”

“It’s your turn, Geoffrey,” Zina says. Like the others, she ignored his question.

“Oh. It is? My turn? I thought it was Marv’s turn. But he was talking about those people in San Francisco who are moving into Harold and Christine’s place.”

“No, dear,” Jessie says with timidity, avoiding eye contact with anyone. “I think we’re waiting for you.”

“Oh. Well, I have to draw.” Geoffrey draws a tile, looks disappointed, and places his navy blue train at the head of his track.

Marv chuckles. “Perfect,” he says as he places the double-one and a mate on Geoffrey’s track.

I move a tile to the end of the public train.

Wyatt adds to it. “We ate at Casa de Rosa last night,” he says. “Her new waitress is cute. I’d do her.”

“Oh, my God,” Donna gasps.” Your wife is right there, Wyatt.”

Zina places a tile on her own track and responds. “Don’t worry, Donna. I’d do the bartender Rico.”

“I already have,” snaps Wyatt. He starts laughing. Marv pretends he didn’t hear Wyatt’s comment.

Rattled by the exchange, Donna reaches to place a domino on Geoffrey’s track, but knocks over her Bloody Mary spilling its sanguine redness over the table and coating both Zina and her own white dominoes.

“Oh, dear,” Jessie cries uncharacteristically. “Why are you always so drunk, Donna?”

Zina grabs an abandoned beach towel on a nearby chair and tries to dry the dominoes. But it is too late; they already are stained by the tomato juice. “Oh shit!” she says.

Donna looks at Jessie. “And why are you always such a spineless cipher of a wife?”

Marv leaps up faster than a jack-in-the-box and blares, “No. No. Not again. I’m not gonna put up with these dramatics. I’m out of here.” He walks away.

“Yeah. We’re leaving, too,” Geoffrey announces with anger. “My wife is not a spineless cyber wife, you drunk! What the hell is a cyber wife, anyway?”

“Well, I am not going to sit here and be called a drunk. I didn’t move to Mexico to be insulted,” Donna responds. “Besides, I have to get ready for my hair appointment.”

“And you’ll need all 2 ½ hours to do that,” Zina chimes in as Donna turns and walks away.

“Hey, Mi Corazon,” Wyatt says to Zina, “want to go back to Casa de Rosa for lunch? We can hit on that waitress and the barten…”

“I’ll beat you there, Mi Amor.” As Wyatt and Zina began walking toward their casita, I hear Zina say, “I need to change into something sexier.”

I put the stained dominoes and the other paraphernalia in their box and toss it in the garbage as I exit the grounds. I head to the store to buy a new, clean Mexican Train set for tomorrow’s game.