Dialogue Doodle

August 11, 2010

Dr. Phil Sez . . .

There’s a guy I see just about every day on my morning walk. I like to think of him as “Dr. Phil.” Phil usually says “good morning” and then lunches into an extended monologue about what ails him. Today, his spiel began thus:

Dr. Phil: Felt so bad this morning I almost didn’t come.

Me: But here you are, Phil.

Dr. Phil (ignoring my cheerful comment): Then I took a huge crap and felt better—easy two days worth. (Pause.) So that must have been what it was, that buildup of crap.

On another occasion Phil greeted me and then proceeded to relate a vivid story about his feet:

Dr. Phil: So I wake this morning and stand up and my feet are all swole up and blood-red. (Pause.) Then I touch ’em and they turn green.

This colorful anecdote was delivered without a trace of irony—Phil has no idea how funny he is—so all I could think to say was: “Damn, Phil.” Then I smiled and kept walking. I knew that if I asked him to explain he’d have my ear for at least ten minutes, and I was pretty sure he couldn’t top his opening lines.

Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Shock Jockeys

December 21, 2009

It’s rare for me to laugh out loud when reading e-mail messages, but last week I had one that broke me up, to put it mildly. After I wiped away the laugh tears I quickly asked the sender for permission to change the name of the little protagonist and write-up the tale as a blog post. The sender gave her consent and the story is herewith presented for your reading pleasure.

Recently the daughter of an old friend took her 3-year-old son—I’ll call him Freddie—to the doctor for a regular checkup. The doctor walked into the room and, after some small talk and the normal exam of the lad’s ears, throat, chest, etc., she slipped his pants off. The eyes of the mother and doctor widened when they noted a large bulge in the crotch of Freddie’s brief’s. “Could my little man be having an erection?” the mother wondered. As the doctor pulled Freddie’s briefs down, out sprang this large pink thing. Then another. And yet another—they popped out like those snakes-in-a-can novelties do when you take the lid off. When Freddie’s mom and the doctor recovered from their mild fright, they were surprised to find that he had hidden a selection of his mother’s pink sponge hair rollers in his pants. My friend’s e-mail about her grandson’s interesting horde ended this way: “We may never know why he did such a thing.”

As to why Freddie did what he did, I have a theory. It’s simple. That boy loves his mother. As Freud might have opined, what else could such delightfully funny-strange behavior symbolize?

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Lunch In Lyon

March 11, 2009

By Shirley Lupton

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My son, Robert, and I were having an argument on the train platform in Avignon. He wanted to stop in Lyon to have a look around and have lunch and I wanted to go straight back to Paris where we had rented an apartment for a few weeks. Robert is a travel writer and I do not see him much except the rare times we can travel together. “Mom,” he said, Lyon is the food capital of France. I guarantee that after two hours in Lyon you will not want to leave.” “You win,” I told him but I held in my head the impression that Lyon would be a city of damp unadorned buildings with menus that featured Lyonnaise potatoes.

So, after the warm October sun and the infinite yellows of southern France we stepped into a chilly plaza coated with light rain. As we walked along its streets even he agreed that Lyon’s buildings were stolid and Germanic. It will be better by the river, Robert said, and so it was. The River Saone flowed with a grand sweep under stone arched bridges and a seducing sun came out as we walked along. img_0284_3He was eying a white cathedral high on a hill on the opposite bank. I could imagine the thousand steps up to it and suggested it was time for lunch. Because part of Robert’s job is eating he has acquired a sixth sense about restaurants. He needs only to walk by the entrance, and sniff the air. “This is it, Mom.” His choice, Le Bistrot de Lyon, was no different from dozens of others along the cobblestones of Rue Merciere, which, with its beat and bustle, seemed to be the food heart of Lyon. It felt right to me too.

Le Bistrot opened itself to us. The maitre de was brisk but welcoming in that nuanced way the French have to be OK with Americans. We were seated at a small table with a white tablecloth and a pot of fresh flowers in the non-smoking section where smoking was still done without guilt or irony. Nearby a table of businessmen, six or eight of them in dark suits, were finishing up a platter of pork roast and sausages. A waiter poured from several bottles of wine set about and discussed their desserts. Good humor flowed between the waiter and the men in their rumble of conversation.

The décor was all polished brass and Persian carpets of faded reds, oranges and blues, The sconces on the walls were converted gaslights. In the mirror behind the men I could see our heads; Robert’s curling black hair, and mine, graying, had developed that “certain age” sway. Had I worn a cloche it could have been 1944. The waiter turned from the men and at once became our waiter as he placed a basket of bread on the table. When Robert spoke to him in fluent French his surprise showed in two dots of red on his cheeks. He wore a white shirt and a bold cerise tie and an apron with a casual hitch up the front. We ordered the specials and a half carafe of local red wine. The bread had deep crust and yielded dough that was thick and nutty, the color of caramel. Two small salads arrived –arugula with herbs and a garlic mustard dressing. The wine, hearty and fruity, tasted of grapes laced with primroses or cherries. And then the entrée, mine a slice of medium rare beef lightly covered with a sauce of orange cognac and butter and potatoes cut with edges crisped by caramelized onions. Another waiter joined up with ours, a dark skinned younger man, an apprentice perhaps. He observed our pleasure in the food and gave us two desserts instead of the one with the special. A small cheese plate, and an apple crisp that was so good I wanted to stand and scream. It crunched with the light, buttery shell and sugar and the freshness of the apples.

The check was modest and correct for such a simple lunch. But the confluence of care in the cooking, the colors, the way it was served by waiters who enjoyed the work, their reserved humanity and the happy hum of the businessmen, all this did something to us. It opened our feelings, which is a rare thing for a restaurant to do. In the past Robert and I had wounded each other after the divorce from his father. That day my faith in his judgment, his willingness to take me in hand and the mysterious magic of the Bistrot softened some of what had been hardened from all that. Outside the streets of Lyon looked entirely different. img_0283_2Robert went on to the white Cathedral and I walked about the shops and plazas in a daze. Later, on the train Robert wrote the following in his Journal.

The city had seemed sober and northern and monochromatic –completely without spark—when we arrived, hungry, into a gray noon, with apparently a fine mist between us and any color the city might have had. By the time we headed back to the train station at 4 PM, the invisible mist had lifted, my belly had been satisfied, I had sweated my way up to the city’s heights, my intellect, or rather my vision, had been braced by an extra post lunch coffee, the sun had grown stronger behind the clouds. So that now the martial rows of houses along the river revealed previously unseen blues, pinks, and yellows–still all very restrained. Gradually too, more direct rays had penetrated the weather and produced their shadows, and with them the facades and the very bend in the River Soane with its curving heights were revealing the nuance of a third dimension.

In Paris we had many fine meals but never one like the lunch in Lyon.

Copyright © 2009 Shirley Lupton.

I met Shirley Lupton in a writing class and was impressed by her cool, sardonic (is “sardonic” a combination of “sarcastic” and “ironic?”) Dorothy Parker-ish take on life, at least as expressed in her manuscripts. The first story by Shirley I read had the wonderful title “Nicole Kidman’s Bathrobe,” and was every bit as funny as the title suggests, but it also contained some very interesting insights into human relationships. Later, as I got to know her as a friend, I concluded that my initial impression held up. Shirley proved to be as witty and as insightful in real life as she was on the page.