Thursday, January 26, 2012

Magic Pink über-stylish Onion-Chopping goggles

It has come to SQD's attention that we don't do enough for the economy, which is to say that we rarely pitch products. In fact, we have never pitched a product because we don't like any products unless they were grown in the ground, emitted by a chicken, dropped from a tree or miraculously created by a saint.
But that is about to change.
SQD hereby endorses the Magic Pink über-stylish Onion-Chopping goggles. I don't need to explain the paramount attractiveness of the goggles, because you see that plainly in the above picture. But what the picture doesn't show - because there are none - are the tears not wept on the occasion of chopping all those onions. For the first time in a lifetime of lacrimose onion-chopping, your blogger did not blubber and her eyes did not sting and still the onions were chopped.

And yes, I had hitherto tried all sorts of other putative tear-prevention techniques, such as burning a candle or chopping under water or naked, or standing on one foot while listening to Wagner. Nothing worked like the Magic Pink über-stylish Onion-Chopping goggles.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Downton Abbey and H.G.Wells

Did you, like 99% of the civilized world, and 100% of the uncivilized world, watch the latest installment of Downton Abbey last night? No? Is it possible that you, like CSB and one or two other misguided souls, watched football instead? Or perhaps you played mah-jongg with your mother-in-law, or practiced Estonian irregular verbs, or prepared for that super-fun colonoscopy? Or perhaps you shoveled out the chicken coop because your chickens do not like getting their feet cold in the snow? Or perhaps you counted the ballast stones in the basement, for historical purposes, and found ossuary remains?
But if you did watch Downton Abbey chances are very good you are wondering: what would H. G. Wells have thought about this? What exactly was H.G. doing while the Crawleys are trying to hang on to their estate while remaining ignorant about the machinations of the wicked O’Brien and Thomas downstairs? (How can Cora, the American heiress, be so clueless about the nasty intriguing of her lady’s maid? Are we meant to think that because she is an American, she is less likely to be a good judge of the downstairs character?)
To begin:
DOWNton Abbey is a squarish pile of bricks and stone that is said to reside in Yorkshire, but is really Highclere Castle, seat of the Earls of Carnarvon, which is in Hampshire.

UPpark, where H.G.’s mother was housekeeper and where he sometimes stayed as a child, is a similarly squarish pile in Sussex. It is still there.
The grounds of Highclere Castle were designed by Capability Brown
The grounds of Uppark were landscaped by Humphry Repton.
The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was a passionate Egyptologist and colleague of Howard Carter; together they discovered the tomb of King Tut in 1922, spawning the Boy-King mega franchise responsible for chicken-like dance moves, a spike in gold paint sales and Disney’s Vinylmation 9” King Tut with mouse ears. My grandmother did not know Howard Carter, but she frequently visited digs around Cairo and I have a picture of her jauntily holding a 4000 year-old vase beside a tomb, which gives you an idea of how lax security was in those halcyon days of archeology.
Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh (pronounced “fa-ha”), who inherited Uppark in 1760, was a Regency buck and gave all indications of being a lifelong bachelor. Until the age of 70 when he married his 20-year old dairymaid, Mary Ann Bullock. Sir Harry sent her to Paris to learn some graces and lose her Sussex accent. She taught him everything she knew about milking cows and making butter. They lived happily together for 22 years, with Mary Ann’s sister Fanny as companion. Sir Harry died at 96. His much younger wife, Lady Fetherstonhaugh, stayed on at Uppark with her sister, keeping everything exactly as it was in Sir Harry’s time. She survived him by 29 years; Fanny lived until 1895. Fanny Bullock first hired Sarah Neal, mother of the not yet world famous H.G. Wells, as her maid. They were the same age and of similar backgrounds. Then in 1880 Fanny asked Sarah Neal to return to Uppark as housekeeper. Just like Mrs. Hughes. And that is how H.G. Wells came spend part of his childhood, downstairs at Uppark.

But the comparisons do not stop there, not at all.
For instance, on August 4th, 1914, the Crawley family is hosting an elegant garden party on the grounds of Downton, when the Earl receives a telegram informing him that Britain has gone to war.
On that same day, H.G. Wells and his family and houseguests walked to the annual fete hosted by Lady Warwick. Also on that same day, H.G.’s son by Rebecca West (26 years younger* and not his wife) is born.
There is more.
At Downton Abbey Lady Mary’s lover, the Turkish attaché Mr. Pamuk, dies in her bed, and scandal hovers in the air.
In London, Hedwig Gatternigg, a past lover of H.G.’s, bursts into his flat, throws open her coat to reveal that she is naked beneath, and brandishes a knife. She threatens to kill herself if H.G. does not make love to her immediately. Scandal hovers in the air.
Both H.G. and Lady Mary are saved by quick-thinking servants.

The Earl of Grantham marries an American heiress in order to save his family’s estate.
H.G. Wells has an affair with Margaret Sanger, the American pioneer of birth control.

It is a crisis at Downton Abbey when, because of the war, there is not an available footman to serve at dinner. And we all know how tacky it is to have dinner served by a female of the species.
In his novel Kipps, H.G. Wells writes of the young Mr. and Mrs. Kipps who want to build a house that is efficient and servant-friendly, that is, in which the housemaid needn’t run up and down stairs all day long. Their good intentions are thwarted.

The driving force of Downton Abbey’s plot is the desire to retain ownership of the family pile despite the entail.
H.G. Wells was a member of the Fabians for many years, a friend of Maxim Gorky, and a lifelong Socialist.
So if the question is: How would H.G. Wells have liked "Downton Abbey"? The answer is: he would have loved it.

*Rebecca West was born in 1892, the same year my other grandmother was born, not the one holding 4000 year old vases, but the one who read H.G. Wells and only H.G. Wells over and over for the last three decades of her life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rollerskating in the cloisters

In the annals of unwanted gifts mothers give their sons, this is hardly the worst. My son would probably rank it several notches above the desktop croquet set or lifetime membership to the Hagiographers Club or the plaid vest with antler buttons. Still, it is disconcerting to read the inscription: To Phil, Christmas 1949, love Mother, on the flyleaf of this book, filled with vignettes of the paranormal, the weird, the impossible, and the miraculous. It is hard to imagine what would interest Phil, the man who was not yet my father, less than the paranormal, weird and miraculous tales contained therein, except perhaps his horoscope or membership in his local Theosophical Society. It speaks volumes of the gap between mother and son.
But ill-considered gifts are not the true topic of this particular screed. The true topic may well be the same old topic, which is: It is a Good Idea to Keep Books, no matter how weird and random and useless they appear. (And yes, there are always exceptions.) As in this book, which has probably been in the basement since that Christmas of 1949. This time it is Patrick Mahony’s Out of the Silence, (1948 edition, Storm Publishers). If the generic title does not intrigue you, continue on to the subtitle: A Book of Factual Fantasies.
Given my fondness for lives of the paranormal, weird, impossible and miraculous saints, it seems logical that I would be compelled. Equally compelling, the introduction was written by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), the Belgian writer who was also a beekeeper and wrote the exquisite The Life of the Bee, in which he goes into raptures about the sexual adventures of the queen bee. It is true that MM is probably better known for his plays, particularly, Pelléas and Mélisande, and receiving the Nobel Prize, but think it is The Life of the Bee that will endure. So I sat among the dusty pages and read Out of the Silence.*
I read about the Vennums of Watseka, Illinois and how their daughter Lurancy had a cataleptic fit and then turned into the dead daughter of a family across town, the Roffs. Her transformation was so absolute that all agreed she should move in with the Roffs. They were happy to have their dead daughter back. Then a year later Lurancy, now Mary Roff, had another cataleptic fit and turned back into Lurancy Vennum.
I read about the French teacher in Latvia whose astral projection picked flowers while she was teaching irregular verbs in the classroom.
I read about the brother-in-law’s ghost spelling the word F-O-R-E-V-E-R in the sand.
But this is where it all came together: Mahony relates how when Maeterlinck and his lover Georgette LeBlanc lived at the Abbey of St Wandrille, they encountered the ghost of a monk Bernard who had died in 1693, and how they discovered his bones inside a secret room. (That’s the “factual fantasy”.)
It so happens that I had read about Maeterlinck’s stay in that monastery when I was reading his Life of the Bee.
[Saints will now be mentioned, but very little.It is really just one saint, and more about architecture.] Saint Wandrille or Wandregisilus (d. 668) was born near Verdun and from his earliest years was determined to be a monk. However, to please his parents he married, but went to on to have a chaste marriage. (Depending on the version: it is also said that Wandrille and his bride were the parents of St Landrada, which implies they were not entirely chaste.) The bride is heard from no more, and Wandrille went into a monastery. Around 657 he built the Abbey and a basilica in the Carolingian style. The church burned to the ground in 756 but was later rebuilt in another style. In the 9th century the abbey was the frequent target of Viking raids, and was burned again. This time the monks grabbed St Wandrille’s bones and fled the flames. The church and abbey were restored in the 10th century and proceeded to have several good centuries; it was the heyday of monasteries. One of the many privileges afforded to the good monks was an exemption from river tolls on the Seine.
Then, in 1631, the central tower fell with no warning and crushed large sections of the abbey. During the Revolution the abbey was suppressed, and sold for auction in 1791. Several more bad years followed when it was used as a factory. But then George Stacpoole, a quirky Irishman hoping to ingratiate himself with the pope, bought the abbey and lived there until 1896. On his death, he gave the property to the French Benedictines, but they were expelled by the French government in 1901 and had to seek exile in Belgium. Then – and this is the time that especially concerns us – Maurice Maeterlinck rented the abbey from 1907 to 1914, and lived there with his lover Georgette LeBlanc.** According to Mahony they entertained lavishly and rehearsed many of his plays. This is Georgette when she is not dressed as a nun.
Mahony does not mention Maurice and Georgette dressing up as monks and nuns and roller-skating through the vast courtyards and cloisters and halls of St Wandrille. Nor does he mention Maeterlinck’s bees.
In 1931 the Benedictines got the monastery back and they are still there, praying in silence and being hospitable to visitors, but given the history of the abbey, we hope that the monks have a plan B.

This block of 1951 stamps of St Wandrille Abbey sold on eBay for $13.00 on the last day of last year.

*Not to be confused with Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time to Keep Silence, in which he describes his stay with the monks of St Wandrille Abbey.

**I can highly recommend Georgette’s memoir, Souvenirs: My Life with Maeterlinck, in which she recounts how she stalked and seduced and landed Maeterlinck as her lover.

Monday, January 9, 2012


This past Christmas two very dear friends – who perhaps have a rosier notion of my technical abilities than is warranted – gave me a breadmaker. Not a baker, as in a person who makes bread, but a squat stainless steel machine that makes bread. It would not exactly be true to say that I have always wanted a breadmaker, but I do love bread, and in particular, I think a French baguette is one of the most perfect foods on the planet. This breadmaker does not make baguettes, but we will not discuss that.
My first loaf – Artisan white – was perfectly fine. So fine that instead of recognizing it for beginners luck, I became cocky and decided to try for a rye bread, CSB’s favorite. The recipe called for Vital Wheat Gluten. I had never heard of Vital Wheat Gluten and had no idea what it was. But I had heard of Wheat Germ, and while I don’t know what wheat germ is either, I had some in my refrigerator. I have since learned that Vital Wheat Gluten and Wheat Germ are not the same thing. Which would explain why they are known by different names. The substitution of Wheat Germ for Vital Wheat Gluten in the rye bread recipe may not be the only reason for the pathetic failure of that bread. I say that because my attempted oatmeal bread also turned into a lumpy, messy, hardened and unmixed lump. And Vital Wheat Gluten was not called for in the oatmeal bread recipe. I did however substitute honey for maple syrup. You may think that my creative substitutions are the reason for my failures. But I used the exact ingredients listed for the rosemary bread, and still, it deflated like one of those hideous inflatable Christmas dwarfs in front yards.

Hagio-alert: saints will now be mentioned. It has occurred to me to consult with various of the patron saints of bakers. One of the more interesting of these patrons – though his patronage does seem unintelligible & random – is St Meingold. He was born in Huy, which is in Belgium now but was not then because Belgium did not exist then; it wasn’t even imagined back in 850 CE. Meingold was adopted by the childless Emperor Arnulf of (somewhere in) England, and so he crossed over to meet his new family. His first mistake was to marry Geyla, whose brother Albrecht was hostile, violent, and plagued with persistent shingles. Albrecht besieged the newlyweds and tried to set fire to their castle, but managed to drown in the moat instead. The emperor fished him out. Following that debacle, Meingold and Geyla gave up their estates and silken robes, dressed badly, and wandered for seven years from shrine to shrine, admiring finger bones and skulls and even some very special vials of saintly blood. Meingold was killed by some old enemies while he was praying, and there is nothing in the story about him ever having anything to do with bakers or baking or even ovens, though it seems safe to assume that he ate bread. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary is a far more obvious candidate for Patron Saint of Bakers, as the bread she was carrying to the poor turned into roses when she was rudely questioned.
The bread I tried to make just turned into an unappetizing lump, though the chickens were delighted with it.
As I read it, the subtext of his tale is that Honorius of Amiens was not a particularly saintly person. When she heard that he had been made a bishop, Honorius’ old nursemaid was baking bread and said, “That brat is no more likely to be a bishop than this peel (shovel/spatula) is about to turn back into a tree.” I don’t need to tell you what happened next. Her baker’s peel sprouted roots and instantly grew into a blackberry tree.Nine hundred years later gullible pilgrims were still visiting it, and Honorius got to be a patron of bakers. There is a chain of cake-shops in Hong Kong named for him.
If the above is possible, then it should be possible for me to produce an edible loaf of bread with a state-of-the-art breadmaker.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Life and Times of Paco Underhill, with apologies

Let’s start at the beginning. 1951.
What happened in 1951?
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, was published, and disaffected preppies were never the same again.
Maggie Roberts married Dennis Thatcher and turned over night into Magaret Thatcher.
But the big news came on December 23rd, when the last Belgian towns finally got electricity and Frances Stoneback Underhill was born to his delighted parents, Francis and Savi.

In 1952 the little Underhill family moved abroad to (Poland?) where the hairless & precocious one-year celebrated his first birthday. And though Christine Jorgenson became the 1st person to undergo a sex-change operation, Underhill Ma & Pa kept the disturbing news from your Paco.

On the occasion of his second birthday in 1953, Paco announced that he wanted to redesign the public space in the Warsaw playground. He said he did not care a fig when General Electric announced all Communist employees would be fired.

Paco had to share the limelight on his 3rd birthday in 1954, with the first human kidney transplant. He has had an ambivalent relationship with kidneys ever since.

I don’t know where Paco was living in 1955 but I feel sure it was another exotic country, where it probably was not featured on the evening news that the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York was opened to traffic. For his birthday, Paco requested a copy of “Blue Suede Shoes.”

On the very day before Paco’s 5th birthday, in 1956, Colo, the gorilla was born – he was the first gorilla bred in captivity. Paco sympathized.

1957: Paco celebrated his 6th birthday in the Philippines (Other country?) by organizing all his friends into a field team and following around shopper in the Manila Food Market. That same month, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown, while he was still married to his 1st wife.

In 1958 Paco sang along with the Number one hit: “The Chipmunk Song”, at his birthday party. The Embassy staff were amazed and suggested he look into a career in diplomacy. Meanwhile, French franc was devalued. His sister Lisa entered the world with great fanfare; Paco felt compelled to point that that she was “only” a baby sister.

Who knows where Paco & the Underhill clan found themselves in 1959? We can only hope that there was decent television reception so that he could watch the debut "Rocky & His Friends".

IN 1960 Paco was busy learning the multiplication tables & as was proper for a nine-year old, he kept a menagerie of crickets and stinkbugs in his pockets. He was delighted when. King Baudouin of Belgium married dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragon, because they would look so lovely on stamps.

1961: Unfortunately for the Museum of Modern Art, they hung Matisse's “Le Bateau” upside down for 47 days. At age 10, Paco was not yet active on their advisory committee.

In 1963 Paco turned 12, and Bell Telephone introduced push button telephone; Paco, the budding shopping guru immediately saw the possibilities for touch-tone dialing and keeping people waiting endlessly on the phone.

In 1964 entered that glorious time in one’s life known as teenager-hood, and Ringo Starr had his tonsils removed.

It is no coincidence that Paco entered high school in 1965, the very year in which the director Kenneth Tynan said the word "fuck" on BBC. The world has never been the same again.

Since the records have been sealed, we will gloss over Paco’s illustrious high school career at Milton Academy Boys School. Outside of academia, a few important world events did grab his attention: in 1966 LSD was declared illegal in the United States. The following year, Jimi Hendrix recorded “purple Haze”, and in 1968 Evel Knievel failed in his attempt to jump Caesar's Palace Fountain. That did not stop Julie Nixon from marrying David Eisenhower a mere one day before the first American case of motion sickness in space. In 1969, John Lennon's "2 Virgins" album was declared pornographic. Later that year, John Lennon was offered role of Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar. Woodstock took place in upstate New York, in the rain. Where was Paco Underhill, rock star?

And then came 1970, the year of Paco’s infamous valedictory address to the assembled throng at Milton Academy, and John Lennon’s historic release of an album containing the word "fuck". Milton Academy was never the same again.

Paco matriculated at Vassar College, yet another institution that will never be the same again. He majored in futuristics, a complex discipline combining the rigor of history with the creativity of origami with the lab work of gene-splicing with the vision of optometry. Much is shrouded in secrecy, but we do know that while Paco pursued higher education, Howard Hughes declared Clifford Irving's bio to be a fake, John Cleese's final episode on "Monty Python's Flying Circus," aired on BBC, and the timeless classic, "Young & Restless" premiered on network TV.
(Sometime in here Paco learns how to make kimchi while studying in Seoul, Korea where his father is the Deputy Ambassador.)

In 1974, Paco graduated from Vassar just in time for Richard Nixon to resign the presidency and John Lennon to report seeing a UFO over New York City. Paco immediately moved to New York City, which will never be the same again. He took up palatial quarters over Ear Inn on Spring Street, featuring rooftop access through a broken window.

In 1975, as Paco begins to pursue his lifelong ambition to change the way people use public space, the Kilauea Volcano erupts in Hawaii.

1976: Paco is still living on Spring Street when Playboy reveals that Jimmy Carter lusts for women in his heart. That same year, Paco acts as best man and chief vizier at the marriage of his friends Jeff and Christine.

In 1977 snow fell in Miami, Florida for the first and only time in that city’s history. Paco was busy founding the “first iteration” of Envirosell. If you don’t know what that iteration looked like, think: cheap cameras, seat-of-pants. Paco celebrates Thanksgiving with a bunch of friends at the soon-to-open EAR INN. No one gets ptomaine poisoning.

While babysitting in 1978, Paco removes Reine Wing Hewitt’s pink bootie. He hides it away for a future date when its reappearance will be appropriate. Under the leadership of Rip Hayman, Sari Dienes and the globe-trotting gourmet Paco Underhill, EAR INN becomes a hugely successful bar and eatery for hipsters, artist, bums, bootleggers and two-headed giraffes.

It is 1979, and as Pluto moves closer, making Neptune the outermost planet, Paco Underhill is observing shoppers and formulating the butt-brush factor that will soon take the world of retail by storm.

Paco became a godfather in 1981. Taking seriously his duty to behave so badly that he will make even the parents look good, Paco begins collecting tasteless tee shirts. Meanwhile, Vanuatu becomes a member of the United Nations.

In 1982 Paco spends many long and arduous hours making sure the barstools at EAR INN are solidly affixed to the floor. He is so busy that he doesn’t even look up when the world is stunned to learn that Urbe Blanca, a Cuban cow, cow produces a record 242.5 pounds of milk, in one day.

The 1980’s were so busy for Paco Underhill, supermarket spy, entrepreneur, retail psychologist, and restaurateur that it would be impossible to document his activities. Let us just say that he turned 33, then 34, then 35 and so on, while at Heathrow Airport $38.7 million worth of gold bars were stolen in the world’s biggest ever heist. Also, the Belgian princess Astrid married archduke Otto L van Austrian-Este. Playboy magazine announced the end of stapling centerfolds, and Coca-Cola introduced Cherry Coke to the world. An iceberg twice size of Rhode Island was sighted in Antarctic, but more significantly for Paco in his godfatherly role, the very first condom commercial was aired on BBC TV. Not long after that pivotal event, animal rights terrorists firebombed Harrod's dept. store in London. As the 1980’s drew to a close, the Bulgarian party president Todor Zjikov, resigned his post and moved to New York to start a restaurant called Kidney Kitchen, having heard that body-part-named bars did well with the American crowd. Just in time for Paco’s 38th birthday, Vice-President Quayle sent out 30,000 Xmas cards misspelling the word beacon.

Then came 1990 and the Greyhound Bus strike. Ted Turner & Jane Fonda announced their engagement and Paco started surreptitiously filming shoppers as they picked their collective noses.

In more godparental news, 1991 saw thousands of condoms being handed out free to thousands of NYC high school students. High school will never be the same again.

Only 359 years after the fact, the Catholic Church in 1992 reinstated Galileo Galilei. Paco Underhill. Age 41, advises the pope on Marketing to Sinners in the coming Millennium.

In 1993 Donald Trump wed Marla Maples, but Paco resisted the allure of matrimony. He continued to resist in 1994 when J Paul Getty Jr married Victoria Holdsworth on Barbados. In other news of the nineties, Charles and Diana divorce, Woody Allen marries Soon-Yi and President Clinton reassures the American public that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Betty Rubble finally becomes one of the Flintstone vitamins.
Yet amidst all that nuptial sturm und Drang, around 1994 Paco met the acclaimed flautist (or flutist) Sheryl Henze. She would henceforth be known to the reading public as “Dreamboat”, while she continued to be known to herself as Sheryl. He played her pipes and she stroked his solar sex-panel, otherwise known as a bald head. Love and cohabitation swiftly ensued.

In 1996, the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, in an article entitled The Science of Shopping, describes the ever-debonair Paco as goofy-looking. All over America, young men start to grow Paco’s trademark “goofy-beard”.
Then, in 1999, WHY WE BUY hits the bookstores, the airports, the boardrooms and the used book stalls along the Seine, to rave reviews. It is translated into 47 languages, including Serbo-Croatian, Esperanto and Inuit. The world of retail will never be the same again.

The world does not come to an end in 2000, even when Vermont's civil unions law goes into effect.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie get married in Scotland while Paco Underhill plays bagpipes.

IN 2001 Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000. It still leans. Why We Buy is turned into a mini-series staring Madonna as Mrs. American Shopper and Richard Gere as Paco, Shopping Guru.

Signs of large ice deposits are found on the planet Mars in 2002 and The Wall Street Journal asks Paco to write a column about the potential for discount outlets on other planets.

In 2003 New Hampshire's famous Old Man of the Mountain collapses. Mother Teresa is beatified by Pope John Paul II, and the movie version of Why We Buy grosses $14m in its first weekend. It features Meryl Streep as a K-Mart shopper and George Clooney as Paco.

Things are heating up. In 2004, because of a build-up of gas, a decomposing sperm whale explodes in Taiwan, and K-Mart buys Sears for $11 billion. Call of the Mall is published, in which the acclaimed author of Why We Buy tells us all about The Geography of Shopping. Chapters Include: Major rivers, Mountain Ranges, Climate patterns and Capital cities.

Eris, the largest known dwarf planet in the solar system, is discovered in 2005 and Simon & Schuster names its new wing after Paco Underhill.

In 2006 Western Union discontinues use of its telegram service, and Kazakhstan launches its first space satellite. But the news is not all bad. Paco’s keynote speech at the Caterpillar Convention, “Tractor Lust”, electrifies the world of farm machinery.

The tomb of Herod the Great is discovered in 2007 and Paco Underhill is asked to comment on the prevalence of butt-brush in Roman Empire cemeteries.

In a year in which the Eyak language in Alaska becomes extinct as its last native speaker dies, and gold prices hit $1000 an ounce, and yet another dwarf planet is discovered, the revised edition of Why We Buy is a welcome respite. And yes, the world will never be the same again.

We are almost there. It is 2009 and the gamma ray burst GRB 090423 is observed for 10 seconds and determined to be the most distant and oldest known object in the universe. A Texas mother is hit by lightning while standing at her kitchen sink inside her Texas home. And Tiger Woods announces an indefinite leave from golf to focus on his marriage. Paco is putting the finishing touches on What Woman Want. If he spends much time in drag, we don’t know about it.

An Icelandic Volcano with the unpronounceable name (Eyjafjallajökull) erupted in 2010 and disrupted traffic all over the world. But nothing could stop the appearance of Paco Underhill’s latest must-have book, What Woman Want, the book that is famously not a sex manual. And so while you may not learn new positions to keep your spouse entertained, you will learn the important of curved shower curtain rods in hotel rooms.

All of which brings us to 2011, a year replete with natural disasters, political faux-pas, embarrassing sexual entanglements by people who should know better, Law & Order reruns, snow before Halloween, the apotheosis of the color orange and finally, just as the year is winding down, Paco’s 60th birthday.
Happy Birthday dear Paco and may you have many many more.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and the author takes no responsibility for mistakes, offenses, egregious lies, calumnies, ludicrous statements or typos.