Monthly Archives: January 2015

Friskies, Peas and Bacon Bits – Pets Surviving Human Responsibility

Dexter 48bit 800 dpi 167Pet Dental Health Month is coming in February.

I know. You didn’t know there was one.

I certainly didn’t know when I was a kid. There again, there were a lot of things I didn’t know about pet responsibility then. Because I had two very courageous cats – beloved Dexter and Spanky – I learned on the fly how to take care of my prized kitties. They survived in spite of me.

     Sure enough, Mom brought home a beautiful, sleek, royal-looking, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I immediately named Dexter. She told me my role was to feed and take care of Dexter. So, Number One for me was eliminating foul cat box odors. Not only would Dexter be annoyed by them, but horrific cat stench could wake Dad up to the fact we had a cat, potentially sending Dexter back to the shelter. In time, however, it was Mom who noticed the cat box, always fresh and feces-free.
     “Michael, I’m worried Dexter has a constipation problem. He may need more roughage than we’re giving him.”    
     The following day, Mom mixed a large spoonful of fiber-filled peas into the bowl of Friskies I gave him. These canned peas were the same ones reserved for our Sunday dinners.    
     Sensing a spoonful wasn’t enough, she took charge and switched him over to peas exclusively, justifying the move as a cost savings since our tins of peas were cheaper than pet food (making me wonder what our dinners were worth). Wasn’t Mom being cavalier about our needs? What kind of responsibility was she showing?
     With such high levels of fiber in his system, I had to scoop Dexter’s litter box three times a day. Re-establishing control of the situation, I switched him over to smaller food – Bacon Bits (a risky thing to do since Bacon Bits were the most expensive thing served in our house when weighed by the pound).
     Mom noticed and, without consulting me, overcompensated by feeding Dexter far too rich a combination of peas, Friskies, and Bacon Bits sprinkled on top. As a result, he shat everywhere. Then Dad discovered long, blue, curly strands of wool in Dexter’s droppings on the living room floor and had a conniption fit. How was I to know Dexter would resort to eating Dad’s favorite blue socks, let alone be such a special needs cat? 

Eventually Dexter died (from too much sand grit in Friskies that clogged his urinary tract!). I cried. And cried. Mom took care of the situation from there.

     And so, a few days later, Mom brought home another beautiful, sleek, royal-looking, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I promptly named Spanky.
     I frolicked with my new friend everywhere. Our play included quiet, simple activities like hiding under the dining room table and batting a ball of yarn until it was no more.
     But the third evening of our silent undercover gathering was interrupted when I heard loud words batted back and forth between Mom and Dad from adjoining rooms down the hall.
     “What? It died? When? That’s impossible. I just heard it last night …”
     “Eric …”
     “Seventy-nine dollars?!”
     “Eric, calm down. It’s Dexter’s vet bill.”
     “What? You mean the one that’s out there now isn’t him?”
     “No. That’s Spanky.”
     “Spanky. The one that died is Dexter.”
     I couldn’t blame Dad completely. Spanky was all of Dexter’s Siamese twin in appearance. But what made Spanky different was his aloofness.
     Later that night, still steamed, Dad retreated to the living room. To block out the world, just as he did every evening, he embedded himself in his easy chair, then disappeared behind a propped newspaper.
     Hiding in the adjoining dining room, I watched Spanky smell out the detachment in Dad.
     Lining Dad up as an easy mark, Spanky jumped onto his lap. Dad, not one for cats, swiped Spanky away. Spanky, not one for being swiped, jumped back. Go, Spanky, go!
     Dad’s next swipe had more oomph to it, punctuated by “Goddam cat.”
     After the third round of cat and mouse ballet, Dad’s swift arm sweep was so smooth the newspaper didn’t move an inch. Not an inch. What control Dad had! Since he didn’t want to be seen as aligned with a cat in any way, I sensed Dad placed great pressure on himself to act out in this manner. But no way he was going to miss out on his daily allotment of aloof time. After all, that period of detachment was the fix he needed to survive in a world so chockfull of unpredictable animals and kids running around all over the place. (Perhaps it was from Dad I saw the world as unpredictable adults and events spinning about in chaotic, threatening space, ones I feared I’d never be able to handle.)

This is an excerpt in Chapter Six, “Responsibility,” from my memoir Maybe Boomer.

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The Silent Fire of Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and GarfunkelI have no idea what I did to celebrate my birthday as a young teen in 1967. It doesn’t matter. I’m celebrating now. Or will this Thursday. It marks not only my birthday but a special anniversary date.

On the evening of January 22, 1967, Simon and Garfunkel played in Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City. Growing up in the DC area, I was unaware the concert was happening.

However, by that year of my life, I’d already learned to play the guitar, mostly from figuring out – all by ear – the chords and finger pickings of most Simon and Garfunkel songs. Their compositions inspired me to caress music, to play it with my own two hands, even harmonize vocals with other musicians. By the time I turned twenty-one, I not only knew all the songs from their five studio albums, but recognized myself as a committed musician.

How great it must have been to see and hear Simon and Garfunkel perform live, especially that night. They’d just completed their third album and were honing their folk/rock oeuvre at a time when performers, audience and excitement truly harmonized.

As I listen to the CD of that concert now (released in 2002), the banter between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel was sparse but sincere, often humorous.  During songs, the audience remained deadly silent, that is, until culminating every song with lively applause. The stage was lined with seats in front and behind the singers (I learned later), creating a sort of intimate theater in the round effect. So many people, such close proximity, yet still so silent: one could hear the slightest off note from Art Garfunkel, or drop of a guitar pick by Simon at any moment, neither of which occurred during a full two hour performance. From this concert and hundreds like it to follow, along with two more extremely successful albums, Simon and Garfunkel were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Not too long ago, just before they received their 2012 Grammy award, I attended an Arcade Fire concert. Like the Simon and Garfunkel event, their music performance had roughly the same size audience. And, as Simon and Garfunkel have been known for, Arcade Fire relies on ensemble singing and harmony. But times have-a-changed.

The audience I was with stood the entire night. They looked up at a six-foot high stage for hours. The speaker towers blew away any semblance of nuance. To me, the concert was one long loud note with interchangeable beats in the background as the only element to provide variety.

One raving Arcade Fire fan introduced himself to me not face to face, but butt to face, from behind, that is, from overhead, as he was passed to the front row by scores of outstretched arms of frenzied fans. Suddenly finding myself in the center of a mosh pit, it was a concert I’ll never forget! But, as a musical event, it’s one I’d like to mostly leave behind from memory.

Simon and Garfunkel vs. Arcade Fire – an unfair comparison of concerts for sure. All I can say is one blew me away; the other seduced me in.

On June 1, 1967, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Later that month, the Monterey Pop Festival occurred. In December, The Graduate was released, complete with Simon and Garfunkel’s signature song and smash hit, “Mrs. Robinson.” And with Woodstock two years later, pop music was evolving very quickly, and the Folk Revival of the Sixties was pretty much dead. Perhaps with it, innocence.

Even Paul Simon knew it was inevitable. In many ways, he speaks for me, too, in his words from “Leaves That Are Green:”

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
I’m twenty-three now but I won’t be for long.
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl.
I held her close, but she faded in the night,
Like a poem I meant to write.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

I threw a pebble in a brook
And watched the ripples run away.
And they never made a sound.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.
Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye.
That’s all there is.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

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Remember This? Geritol TV Ads (and a very special “mystery person” – or two)

Hey, wait a minute.

Although the old black and white Geritol ads have long since left the airwaves (an ad highlighted below), this month’s “mystery person” is still very much around television. From the clues below, try to name this iconic television performer who:

*  became the oldest person to guest-host Saturday Night Live, a performance which was critically acclaimed and a major ratings success
*  has hosted an NBC practical-joke show that resulted in three consecutive Emmy nominations
*  has received three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Golden Globes nominations, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and 23 Emmy nominations with six wins
* has a Guinness World Record for the longest television career for a female entertainer
*  is regarded as a pioneer of American television for being one of the first women to have creative control in front of and behind the camera
* holds the record for longest span between Emmy nominations for performances—her first was in 1951 and her most recent was in 2011, a span of 60 years—and has become the oldest nominee overall as of 2014
* is the oldest winner of a competitive Grammy Award, which she won at age 90 for her seventh book If You ASK Me (And of Course You Won’t)
* has been awarded American Comedy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild, the Television Critics Association and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for her lifetime achievement awards, recognizing her contribution to television

By now you know who it is – Betty White, perhaps best known for her role as Rose on The Golden Girls sitcom. At 92 years young, she’s one of the world’s most amazing and vibrant entertainers, and is still active today.

So, what’s been Betty’s secret to success and longevity all these years?



That was Betty White in 1954. Somehow I doubt Betty White ever had iron poor blood.

But wait. “Feeling tired, run down…” “Just a tablespoon…” “And it’s good tasting…” Hm-m-m.

Is it possible Betty inspired another female performer to create this timeless skit?



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Writers Writing and Their Online Parade


Gee, look at me.

I’m a writer – fresh off finishing a memoir – who’s also on several social media platforms. And, thanks to WordPress, my website looks slick. Digital cameras produce top-notch images for all my blogs and various online platforms. These tools of the trade (practically unheard of only fifteen years ago) can often make me – or anyone – look spectacular. It seems just about every writer these days has a professional-looking website, large following on some social media, or book in print or online. In fact, after Googling Mike Andberg, people may even think I’m fantastically successful.

Hm-m-m. Roll back the curtain. Let’s study this closer.

What do writers look like when they’re writing? I’ve always wanted to know. What’s the image of them as they write?

A second winter cold wave has just hit Santa Fe. I’m writing today in the nicest piece of furniture I own, an easy chair inherited from my mother’s estate nine years ago. If it wasn’t for the space heater beneath my feet (a thrift store bargain), I’d be freezing. There’s a blanket over my legs. I’m writing through fancy horn-rimmed glasses I bought many years ago, then lost, then miraculously found a year later in the dirt near my parking space. They are no longer fancy. I continue to dress in yesterday’s sloppy clothes, which, for me, are everyday attire on weekends – sweat pants and fleece top. I’m also wearing a stocking cap. My quaint condo is cute but has lousy heat, forcing me to do things like wear stocking caps. A small desk lamp (another thrift store bargain) illuminates my surroundings enough that I’m comfortable writing. The room is quiet – I hate any background noise. I prefer that all window blinds be closed – brightness is too distracting. Eating is a chore – stopping for it could mean I’ll lose writing flow (assuming I’m actually flowing, a phenomenon that coincides with hunger without fail).

After a long period in which flow has been achieved – but quickly turned to trickle status – I take a break and walk outside to the mailbox. Once there, I realize I’m wearing skuzzy sweat pants and fleece top festooned with an unfathomable amount of pills, an image of me neighbors weren’t prepared to see. Still enough in the writing zone, I don’t realize what crap I’m wearing.

Writing is not relegated to the freezer that is my condo. Because I absolutely cannot – cannot – waste time, I write wherever I go. Waiting in the Discount Tire lobby for new tires to be installed on my 2000 Prizm yesterday, people picked up whatever they could get their hands on to keep their bored minds occupied – Auto Trader, Muscle Car magazine, etc. I couldn’t bear to think of the time I’d have wasted if I hadn’t brought my laptop. I felt good and, in case you’re wondering,  was better dressed.

There was me at work a few days ago, sitting in my car with laptop, trying to scrunch twenty-two minutes of creativity into my half hour lunch break. Avocado fell on the keyboard and I went ballistic, the clean up process diminishing my writing time to seventeen minutes.

But my work ethic is paying off. Reading today’s Sunday Albuquerque Journal, I discover the humor piece I submitted has been published. There I am in print, taking up 500 words of space. Surrounding the big gray block of type is a color image I took for the article, not to mention a bio photo I sent of me sporting hip clothes and a handsome smile, both qualities rarely – if ever – seen together in one shot. Hm-m-m…. Roll up the blinds. Shine light on man’s fervent inclination to always put his best foot forward.

Now I wonder this: Were I a writer who suddenly became known all around the world and had money to burn, would I do or look any different from the Mike Andberg who writes now?

Probably not. Those fuzzy clothes brought me good luck!


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