* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we agree with The Chalmers Academy that the well-being of your child is easily one of our six or seven highest priorities. Just ask Sheila M. Anthony.

And In This Corner…Values


You don’t need to tell The Chalmers Academy that core values are in crisis. Leaders can’t keep their pants on, pornography has groped its way into family entertainment, and someone keeps ignoring the clearly worded, multilingual sign we posted and urinating on our HVAC unit. But look who we’re preaching to — a rube who’s been stabbed in the back so many times his shirt looks like a pub dartboard. Fine. You can take care of yourself, but what about that nice kid of yours? How will he survive this roiling cesspool of a world? With a values-based education, that’s how. Here at Chalmers your child will discover transparency of information, self-respect, and how to say what he means and mean what he says. He’ll learn to do the right thing surrounded by a supportive community: fellow saps desperate to shore up collapsing standards.

What are values anyway?

Let’s say you’re walking by a lake and you see a man drowning. You pretend to be blind, so you don’t have to deal with it. Then he cries out for help. Great. Now you have to be blind and deaf, which is difficult because at least with the blind thing you can employ props like dark glasses and a Braille newspaper. Clearly you have no values or the wrong kind.

At Chalmers we cultivate only positive values like respect, tolerance, and personal responsibility. For instance, in the above example you might be encouraged to toss the struggling man a life preserver, call in the help of a trained professional like a lifeguard, or mime an appropriate swim stroke so the victim can save himself.

Shouldn’t I just jump in?

You always want to arrive at the best possible solution before taking any action. This requires reflection. First, choose a comfortable location like your favorite chair or Europe. Then ask yourself a series of questions: What is your attitude toward the situation? What choices can you make? You’ve tolerated his screaming, isn’t that enough?

But he’s drowning!

So, is that your fault? No one told him to scarf down a steak burrito then go swimming. Now, because of him, you’ll never be able to go near a body of water again. You’ll have to vacation in places you hate, like the desert.

I don’t know…I want my kid to learn clear-cut values like “The Golden Rule” and “turn the other cheek.”

Teach your child to turn the other cheek, and he’ll have his first cheek handed back to him in a sandwich. Trust us, our nurse’s office used to look like a delicatessen.

Maybe I should just get on the ball and teach him values at home.

Oh, is that why you downloaded this brochure? Besides, if you teach them at home then you’re on the hook if he torches your town’s 400-year-old chestnut tree or saws the neighbor’s garage in half. But by paying someone else to teach him values, you get to blame them if things don’t work out. And $40,000 a year buys a lot of blame.

Eesh. Forty grand a year? For a day school? That’s pretty steep, isn’t it?

Listen, cheapskate, we don’t just teach values, we live them. Half our staff is in hiding for doing the right thing. Do you know what decent lawyers and PR representation cost? Plenty. And don’t think that at forty thousand a year all we do is attract snobby rich kids. You’re also paying through the nose so your child can study alongside those who haven’t had it so easy.

Gee, maybe my kid’ll finally be grateful for what he has. And it’s time he learned to empathize with the less fortunate.

Unless the “less fortunate” grow to despise him because they’re on the fast track to “more fortunate.” No self-respecting poor kid wants to wind up a pansy-ass bleeding heart willing to slide over for anyone on the bus.

You make it sound like my kid’s going to be hung out like a sheet.

Not without consequences, he isn’t. Consider this: an overly empathetic child is pummeled in dodge ball by the very kids whose friendship he thought he’d won. Obviously relational trust has broken down. But don’t worry. At Chalmers we bring all involved parties together, and in a safe, caring environment, the child will express how he felt about being mercilessly picked on. That is, if he can speak at all. Sometimes a student can spit out what’s left of his teeth and mumble a few words as he’s being lifted onto a stretcher. Sometimes not. It all depends on how bad he’s hemorrhaging.

My kid’s gonna get beaten up?!

Relax. It was just a hypothetical situation. On the other hand, nothing prepares a child for the real world like the bitter taste of betrayal and a spine held together with steel pins. Yes, sticks and stones do break bones. And if you think words can never hurt you, then you’ve never faced a propaganda campaign.

Okay, but how does all this “values” stuff work with a regular education? My kid’ll learn how to graph a parabola and do a Google search, right?

Your child will learn positive values as he receives a sterling education because they’re seamlessly incorporated into the curriculum. Along with challenging academics, students are confronted with morally ambivalent situations. Large amounts of cash are often left lying around, usually next to weapons and drugs. Gym classes include pole dancing and stripping options just to see who goes for it. As students progress, they face increasingly nuanced dilemmas. After all, out in the real world your child won’t be deciding between right and wrong, he’ll be grappling with the lesser of two evils. Discerning between good and bad is fairly straightforward. Weighing bad against worse is trickier, and one usually needs an experienced guide. Someone who’s managed to avoid a prison sentence, for instance.

But that’s who I want my kid to stand up to, not learn from.

Good luck with that. The smarter a person is, the greater the range of corruption he can justify. Besides, society loves intelligent, charismatic criminals. They’re “winners” and the kinds of people companies and governments really want to hire because they make things happen. Not only do nice guys finish last, they usually do it wearing t-shirts that say “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Okay, wise guy, do your kids go to this school?

All you need to know is that at Chalmers we offer a values-based education that teaches students to ask tough questions of themselves, their community, and the world at large. But if they start asking The Chalmers Academy tough questions, they’re out of here. No one likes a critic.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we sometimes revisit the classics with disturbing results. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mark K. Metzger.

Aesop’s Fables


The Boy Who Cried Wolf

A Shepherd-Boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, kept trying to call his dog by crying, “Woof! Woof!” But the Villagers thought he was yelling “Wolf! Wolf!” and the Shepherd-Boy would laugh when they came running to help him. When the Wolf really did come at last and the Shepherd-Boy shouted “Wolf! Wolf!” none of the Villagers paid any attention. They thought he was crying “Woof! Woof!” So the Wolf ate all the sheep and most of the Villagers starved to death a couple months later. The Shepherd-Boy is still in therapy.

Moral: Learn to enunciate, particularly the soft consonants.


Androcles and the Lion

An escaped slave named Androcles came upon a Lion moaning and wailing with a huge thorn in his paw. Maybe it was a nail. Or maybe it was one of those old-style beer can pop-tops that actually came off the can. It could be. It’s an old story. Anyway, he got some damn thing in his foot. So Androcles pulled out the thorn (or the nail or the pop-top) (it doesn’t really matter). The Lion got up and licked Androcles’s hand like a dog. But then Androcles and the Lion both got captured, and the slave was sentenced to be thrown to the Lion. Instead of attacking, the Lion went over and licked Androcles’s hand. Again. So the emperor freed Androcles and let the Lion loose. Then Androcles got enormously sick on some really, really bad Chinese food and died throwing up. I’m guessing it was the kung pao. The emperor had the moo shu pork and he lived to be, like, 90. The Lion wound up as a rug.

Moral: Don’t even think about the kung pao.


The Ant and the Grasshopper

One summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping to its heart’s content, when an Ant passed by, hauling an ear of corn. “Why not stay and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of killing yourself like that?” “I am helping lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant. “Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper. “There’s plenty of food.” But when the winter came, the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the Ants eating the corn they had collected in the summer.

Moral: Where’s the Raid?


The Fox and the Goat

A Fox fell into a deep well from which he could not get out. A Goat passed by shortly afterwards, and asked the Fox what he was doing down there. “Oh,” said the Fox; “there is going to be a great drought, so I jumped down here to be sure to have water. Why don’t you come down too?” The Goat thought and then jumped down into the well. Goats, sheesh. But the Fox immediately jumped on her back and managed to jump up to the edge of the well. “Good-bye, friend,” said the Fox, “remember next time.” Well, the Goat called a seismic geologist he knew and they discovered vast untapped reserves of natural gas beneath the well. The Goat got stinking rich and hired a bunch of rednecks to go beat the snot out of the Fox.

Moral: Always seek the advice of a reputable seismic geologist.


The Wind and the Sun

The Wind and the Sun were arguing over which was the stronger when they saw a Traveler coming down the road. The Sun said, “Whichever of us can cause that Traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger.” The Sun hid behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as he could. But the harder he blew the more closely did the Traveler wrap his cloak around him. At last the Wind gave up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone upon the Traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. So he took it off. But it turns out he was buck naked underneath, so he got arrested for indecent exposure. Plus he got a sunburn all over, if you know what I mean.

Moral: Wear layered clothing.


The Horse and the Ass

A Horse and an Ass were traveling together, the Horse prancing along in its fine trappings, the Ass carrying with difficulty a heavy load of barley. “I wish I were you,” sighed the Ass, “nothing to do and well fed, and all those fine trappings upon you.” Next day, however, there was a great battle, and the Horse was mortally wounded. His friend the Ass happened to pass by shortly afterwards and found him lingering at the point of demise. “Tough beans, horsey,” said the Ass. “By the way, I’m gonna take your fine trappings, once you’re finished with the death spasms.”

Moral: Get a will, even if it’s one of those boilerplate jobs off the Internet.


The Farmer and the Stork

A Farmer placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. Along with them he trapped a Stork, who beseeched the Farmer to spare his life. “Pray save me, Master,” he said, “I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character.” The Farmer laughed aloud and said, “It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company.” Then he capped him.

Moral: Beats me. Probably some annoying nonsense about not eating seeds.


The Dog and the Shadow

It happened that a Dog had got a piece of meat and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat it. On his way home he had to cross a bridge over a brook. As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own shadow reflected in the water beneath. Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he snapped at the shadow in the water, but as he opened his mouth the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water, and was never seen again.

Moral: Get a cat. Dogs are dumber than a bag of hammers. And they drool, for Chrissakes. Or get a ferret. Yeah, a ferret! They’re a lot cleaner than you think, even though they smell.


The Fox and the Crow

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of kung pao chicken in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. “That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard. “Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today! How glossy your feathers, how bright your eye! I feel sure your voice, too, must surpass that of other birds! Let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds!” The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the kung pao fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox, who went off to his lair to devour the prize. But he got enormously sick and died throwing up. The Crow got a bit part in The Birds and parlayed it into a film career as a creepy extra in slasher flicks. She’s in a home for retired actors out in the Valley.

Moral: Were you not paying attention before? 


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we like to celebrate every kind of love there is, even the love between two punctuation signs. Enjoy this offering from Tierney Acott, her first for us.

A Letter From The Semicolon To His Wife


My dearest Colon,

I imagine you have known for some time now that things are not great. I’ve had trouble sleeping and I’ve lost weight, shrinking in font size. It has been difficult for me to find a job and our computer keys receive no love, sans the hovering pinky fingers that never press me, unless in error. If either of us, they favor you.

As they should. You are far more beautiful and versatile. That’s what made me fall for you in the first place. Your supple spheres, paired directly on top of one another. You were no match for my weak heart. I felt, immediately upon seeing you, my comma growing. I loved, and still love you. Which is why I must leave.

There is no work for me and I cannot support our family; you deserve better. Next year we will have two children in college, learning the rules of their trade. Our daughter, Period, is strong and I’m confident that she will make a significant impact on society in the future. Our son, Comma, is unlike any of his peers. He is versatile and athletic, and loves to be used in new and sometimes unconventional ways. It is not the younger two that make me anxious, but rather our eldest child, Oxford Comma. He is most like me. Once a staple of the literary world, he is now vanishing. After generations of punctuation royalty, I am devastated that it is I who brings a useless son into this world. I foresee that I will have to support him for the rest of my days on what little income I have. He is doomed for life as a freelancer and I fear he will be as destitute as I, if not worse.

I plan on venturing far and wide, perhaps to London, for work. I hope to find a niche wherein the semicolon is frequently used. I’ve heard rumors around the Semicolons Gentlemen’s Club that medicine has proven a fruitful endeavor. Further speculation renders bountiful job positions in law. ‘Tis a shame that novelists are only allowed two per lifetime. And here at Sandford High School, I’m less than useless.

I will write you daily, my love, and send home all my earnings. Together we will rebuild the trust fund of my ancestors. Those noble Semicolons, who were an elite clan. They were paid respectably for joining independent clauses with dignity and integrity. But times change and shortly after we married, my reign was taken by that dash — an unqualified mutant of the hyphen with its long and erect ways. But there are things I can do that the dash, with all his flair and panache, doesn’t even know exist. Things that they cannot teach at Dashery University with their modern theories. Things that will blow your mind. It’s time I take back what is ours.

Yours truly forever and always,

The Semicolon




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always ready to encourage those in the thespian arts. Thespian. If you can say that word without a lisp, you're a better thespian than we are. And if you follow the clever advice of Graham Techler, you'll be even better.

Tips For Becoming A Better Actor


Being a professional actor is a difficult journey requiring luck, skill, talent, and hard work. However, there are many things young actors can do to set themselves apart and succeed artistically as well as professionally.

Onstage, it’s important to “cheat out” so the audience can see you. Face the audience at a perfect perpendicular angle and stay absolutely still. Pick one person in the crowd and direct the entire performance towards them. Make them afraid for their life.

Being an actor is an academic practice as well, and there are many classic acting texts that you should be sure to buy, stick Post-Its in randomly, rough up a bit, and feature prominently on your bookshelf.

Think of your body as a physical instrument. Polish it with lacquer oils. Check it in a hard case at airports.

Do tongue twisters in the morning as a quick and easy vocal warm up. Do tongue twisters in the afternoon when you’re on the bus. Do tongue twisters when a friend confronts you about not paying back the money you owe them. Do tongue twisters in order to find out if a darkened room is occupied. Do a tongue twister at your sister’s wedding reception to roars of applause. Do a tongue twister as a litany against fear before your council with the Great Xuradossa. Do a tongue twister or else.

Memorizing lines is always easier if you run them with a partner! Make this partner your spouse. Then you will have the attention you’ve been craving the whole time.

Make a playlist of songs you think your character would listen to or identify with. Populate this playlist only with Pinkerton B-Sides, in the chronological order in which they were released. Force your character to conform to the emotional arc of this playlist.

Sometimes, becoming a better actor is as easy as observing older, more experienced actors and seeing how they work. Kill them with a moon dagger and suck their manna from the open wound in order to gain both their abilities and their memories.

If you don’t find you’re getting the opportunities you want, make some for yourself! Write the play Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon and perform it on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre with your friends.

Make sure you know your “type.” Most actors are a leading man, leading lady, ingénue, character actor, villain, femme fatale, animal actor, young person who plays old people, old person who plays admirals, fatso uncle, Christ figure, Mr. Glenberry from next door, the virtuous whore, the middle-of-the-road whore, the Scottish whore, the non-whore, Beatle, cryptid or John Hawkes. Once you’ve found your type, stick with it for ten years and then play against it for awards season. (Awards Hint: Mr. Glenberry is the opposite of all the other types.)

Being an actor is all about having a wide range of skills and life experiences to draw on. Take a stats class at school! Take another. Enroll in undergrad as a general studies major but switch to statistics sophomore year. Graduate in the middle of your class but with great connections. Intern at an analytics firm before joining a high-powered office supplies company. Work your way up the ladder while earning your graduate degree, then your PhD. Marry your co-worker Celia and have two beautiful children. Move to Piscataway, New Jersey to teach at Rutgers. Publish the occasional paper. See King Crimson in concert like two or three times. Take up woodworking in your garage. Have a brief affair with an adjunct professor that you never admit to and will regret for the rest of your life. God, Sarah, this will ruin us. Watch your Johnny win first place at the boy’s regional track and field meet. Die at age 72 loved by your family and respected by your colleagues.

Before a performance, go find a dark, quiet space where you can relax, be alone with your thoughts and focus. Never come out. Don’t go onstage. Never volunteer yourself for public humiliation ever again.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are always trying to make international relations better, one date at a time. When you're through perusing David Martin's newest piece, click on the link below or on our blogroll to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.



With the explosive growth in on-line dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com, it should come as no surprise that there is now a new site for countries in the market for love called PlentyOfStates.com. Check out these recently added profiles:


“JState” a.k.a. “Hebrewnation”

I’m a 67-year-old state looking to make some new connections in the Middle East. I’ve been separated from my Palestinian partner for many decades now and I feel it’s time to open myself up to possible new relationships in the region. Some time ago, I did try hooking up with my neighbor to the west, Egypt, but that relationship has definitely cooled in recent years.

BODY TYPE: Small but very powerful.

LIKES: American foreign aid, my Iron Dome rock protection system, long walks on the beach so long as I’m not pushed into the sea.

DISLIKES: Things starting with the letter “h” (think ham, Hamas and Hezbollah).

HOBBIES: Carpentry, masonry, opening new settlements.

TURN-ONS: Large countries who give lots of aid and don’t ask for much in return.

TURN-OFFS: Dates who say they’ll call and then instead launch rockets.



If you go out with me, you get fifty states in one. With no false modesty, I’m the biggest, richest, best-looking country you’re ever likely to see. A lot of countries think I’m mean and arrogant but, you know what, I think they’re just jealous. If you’re open to it, I can show you a really good time. In fact, right now, I’m looking for a few more coalition partners to shake things up in Syria if you know what I mean.

BODY TYPE: Big, bold and beautiful.

LIKES: Armaments, high-tech jet fighters and lots and lots of nuclear weapons.

DISLIKES: A weak dollar and big trade deficits.

HOBBIES: Spreading democracy around the world, cleaning up democracy-spreading messes.

TURN-ONS: Smaller countries who do just what I tell them to.

TURN-OFFS: China and Russia.



If you like bad boys, I’m the country for you. Some say I’m crazy but what’s life without a little craziness? If you’ve got some fissionable materials then I want to connect with you. Chances are we’ll hit it off and sparks will fly, if not gigantic explosions.

BODY TYPE: Squat, powerful but somewhat emaciated.

LIKES: Boy dictators and NBA basketball.

DISLIKES: Anything south, including South America, South Park and especially South Korea.

HOBBIES: Feeding my leader and starving my people.

TURN-ONS: American payoffs to make me stop my latest craziness.

TURN-OFFS: Other countries ignoring my craziness.


“Mess-O-Potamia” formerly known as “Saddamsstate”

I used to have a longstanding, serious relationship with a very big state who shall remain nameless. Needless to say, it ended badly. Sure, he paid lots of support and agreed to be there if needed but now it’s like I never existed. Given my past history, I tend to like my partners big and rough. So if somebody like China or Russia is looking for some extra oil, give me a call.

BODY TYPE: Artificial and fragile.

LIKES: Foreign armies who fight my battles for me.

DISLIKES: Foreign armies who invade me.

HOBBIES: Extracting oil from the ground, extracting aid money from the U.S.

TURN-ONS: Oil revenues, support payments.

TURN-OFFS: ISIS, Kurds and Sunnis.


“GaulGuy” a.k.a. “Frenchie”

I am, how you say, a lover and not a fighter. Contact me if you are in the mood for romance. Whether you are married or single, I will ensure that you will not forget our time together. Plus, if you’re in the market for some military weapons or jet fighters, I think we might be able to make beautiful music together.

BODY TYPE: Sleek, sophisticated and dressed just right.

LIKES: Fine wine, delicious cheeses and fabulous meals.

DISLIKES: Brits, Germans and Americans except for Jerry Lewis.

HOBBIES: Creating new ways to surrender.

TURN-ONS: Philosophy, bureaucracy and the philosophy of bureaucracy.

TURN-OFFS: Anything not French.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we prefer to celebrate the birth of Jesus by looking at unfamiliar versions of the world's most familiar Bible verse. Note: The Big Jewel is taking New Year's Week off. See you in 2016!

Lesser-Known Translations Of John 3:16


The Bible is easily the most translated work in the history of mankind. Versions of the Holy Book are available in 531 languages and, according to historian William J. Chamberlain, the estimated number of variants in the English language alone is nearly 900. However, despite this breadth of English translations, only a handful enjoy enduring popularity. Most are completely unknown to the general public, an unfortunate reality given their unique and often surprising takes on the Word of God. The list below serves to highlight just a few of them. Please note that in each excerpt the same verse has been used (John 3:16) to allow for comparison.

For a supposed deity may have given his only begotten son, who may or may not have been a man named Jesus, who could have possibly been divine, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Or they might just perish and then nothing happens. It’s really anybody’s guess. — United Agnostic Version (UAV)

For God so “loved” the world, or whatever, that he gave his only begotten “Son,” that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have, like, “eternal life.” — The Sarcastic Air Quotes Bible (SAQB)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall change color depending on the sleep stage of the kayak factory. — International Avant-Garde Translation (IAGT)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, who descended from Heaven and proceeded to completely dominate the game of basketball. — The King James Bible (KJB)

For God so loved the world that he gave all these ungrateful morons you: an infallible, endlessly gifted, unfailingly perfect miracle of a human being. Feel the power course through your veins. — The Standard Megalomaniac Version (SMV)

For God gave his only Son, a.k.a. the Divine Guy, the greatest of them all, the Boy Who Made Everyone the Great Fish Dinner. — The Weird Twitter Bible (WTB)

For God so loved the world that he gave us the Supreme Leader, whose birth was foretold by a beautiful double rainbow! Who lifts tanks over his head and throws them across the world at the American Dogs! Who dunks on Comrade Dennis Rodman but still lets him win because he is a kind man! All hail the Great Sun of the Nation! All hail the Peerless Ruler! — Gugga Gong-In Seong-Gyeong (“The State-Sanctioned Bible”)

For God gave

His only begotten, never downtrodden, forgiving-often Son!


Jehovah, he’s the one!

Whoever believes in him will die

But then they’ll find that life’s not done! Yee-haw! — The Rodgers and Hammerstein Translation (RHT)

God was like, “Hey, world. I love you guys. Can I interest you in my Son? He’s, like, my only begotten.” And everybody was like, “Dude, yes!” And so Big J cruised on down here, probably jamming some cool rock songs along the way, right? He’s so chill! So he did his thing, and now, if you follow what he said and stuff, you get to go to Heaven, which sounds dope as heck to me, you guys. — The Youth Pastor Translation (YPT)

Hodor. — The George R.R. Martin Edition (GRRME)

God’s in the basement, wonderin’ where the rake went.

I’m on the pavement, thinkin’ bout the son he sent. — The Bob Dylan Translation (BDT)

Do you really think a man came down from heaven and performed miracles? I mean actual, laws-of-physics-defying miracles? Come on, Candice, you’re smarter than that. — The Condescending Atheist Version (CAV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his onlrrrgghh–

Oh, no.

For God so loved the world that he gaarrgghh–

Please, no! Not now!

For God so loved the WORRAAHHRRGH! Everyone g-get out fast! RAAAHHHGH! This place is n-no longer safe! GRAAARRHH! For the love of God, run to your h-homes and lock your ROOOAAAAHHH! ARRRGGGHHHH! GRROOAARRGGHH! — The Revised Werewolf Translation (RWT)




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we support the efforts of all good people everywhere to communicate compassionately with their fellow citizens in the hope of avoiding a bloodbath. Yes, this even includes the owner of the barbershop upstairs.

Emails To The Owner Of The Barbershop Upstairs


To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

Dear Upstairs Neighbor,

Welcome to the Orange Grove shopping plaza! The businesses here have a long and storied history that stretches back to the 50s when my father, Frank Gabler, Sr., first opened Gabler’s Sweets and Treats for business. And though we’ve been through a lot since that time, I’m proud to say that “S ‘n’ T” has very much become a local institution, and the first stop for anyone with a sweet tooth in the tri-county area.

We’re definitely glad to have you join the Orange Grove community. I know I don’t have a lot of hair these days, but I could definitely use a trim!


— Frank Gabler, Jr.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

Dear Upstairs Neighbor,

Hello again! This is Frank Gabler, Jr., owner of Gabler’s Sweets and Treats downstairs. I hate to be a bother right when you’ve just settled in, but as I was opening the store this morning, I found a pound of hair on my countertop. I know it was a pound of hair because it landed on one of the scales. It appears to have come through a trapdoor in the ceiling, the existence of which I have only just now noticed. (Silly, right? I’ve worked here for over forty years, and when was the last time I really looked at the ceiling?)

I am a candy man born and raised, and admittedly know very little about the barbershop business, but I suspect that disposing of hair in this manner violates some health code (I am very stringent when it comes to following health codes and consider myself an expert on them).

Would it be possible for you to sweep your hair into a bag or a bin, instead of through a hole in your floor?

Thanks again,

— Frank Gabler, Jr.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

To the owner of A Cut Above,

Last evening, while I was selling a bag of assorted jelly beans, a blanket of hair covered both myself and my customer, Timmy Dunn, a straight-A student in sixth grade whom I have come to know very well. My ceiling fan was running at the time, which evenly distributed the hair throughout the store. Where the hair didn’t touch exposed candy, it found its way into the drawers and scoops. My taffy is beyond saving.

Please do not sweep hair into the floor again.

— Frank Gabler, Jr.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

I ran upstairs to your shop today. The lights were on, and I knocked on the door for a minute before I discovered it was open. However, there was no one at the counter or in the chairs.

I looked around for the trapdoor, but I couldn’t find anything resembling a hatch in the floor. I was in your barbershop for 20 minutes before I went downstairs again.

I’m calling the management.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

Arthur, the plaza manager, says he’s never seen anyone go upstairs for a haircut. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen anyone come downstairs either. Where is all this hair coming from? And these short, orange hairs — they don’t look human. What are you doing up there?

I can’t tell if my fudge is compromised, but I can’t afford to throw it away.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

Some of this hair is very wet. WHY IS IT SO WET???

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

Have I done something to deserve this? Have I done something to upset you? I called Arthur again, but he sounded strained. Irritated even, like he didn’t believe me. But I see the hair wafting down, thick as locusts. I hear its soft patter as it settles on every inch of my store. God, how old have I become?

The hair’s piling up too fast for me to clean up. Customers can see it before they walk in; all the lollipops in the display window have a five o’clock shadow. It looks like I’m selling assorted rodents. I saw Timmy outside a few days ago, for the last time I’m sure. I could see the disgust in his eyes before he turned away.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

When I go home, there’s hair in my pockets. There’s hair in my shoes. My wife doesn’t care about any of that hair, though. All she notices is the one long, red hair stuck to my collar.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

The hair’s just a slow, steady waterfall oozing out of the ceiling now. I ran upstairs and pounded on your door until my fist was raw, but no one answered, of course. So now I’ve closed early, pulled down the blinds. Now I’m just watching the hair pool into a barrel I’ve put underneath. These strands must be hundreds of feet long. They remind me of licorice. Of caramel.

It’s so silky.

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

the hair is waist-deep and i’ve had time to reflect on my life

* * * * * * *

To: aCutAbove@yahoo.com

I understand now. My father opened this store years ago, but he was a conservative man, never straying far from the conventions of the day. But this hair — it’s a call to action, to change the world of confections. A gift, to incorporate into my sweets. I’ll weave it into taffy, spin it with cotton candy. I’ll bind it with chocolate, streaked with blonde and brunette. Thank you. Thank you.

This hair was meant for the world to enjoy.

* * * * * * *

To: all@orangegrove.net

Dear Orange Grove tenants,

Unfortunately, we’ve made the decision to evict Gabler’s Sweets and Treats from the plaza, effective immediately. Sweets and Treats has been an important part of our community for nearly 60 years, but the store’s recent — and flagrant — health code violations have forced us to take this course of action. Furthermore, Mr. Gabler has been instructed not to return to the plaza, so please call the police if you see him on the premises, whether he is covered in hair or not.

Please welcome Donna Witzak, whose daycare center will be moving into the space at the end of the month.

— Orange Grove Management


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, a highbrow outlet if ever there was one, and there was. How the hell did Kathryn Higgins get in here?



I think I’ll go to Starbucks and read Dante’s Inferno again (I did read it before…didn’t I?). Wait, it can’t be Starbucks, because I can’t tolerate a paper coffee cup. I’ll head to Cognoscenti Coffee, even though it’s really far away, because the name sounds smart. I’ll insist on Esmeralda coffee from Panama, made hot, but not boiled, and poured into the perfect coffee glass. And the Inferno — I can’t read it on my Kindle, because for all anyone knows, I’ll be reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ll have to find a hard copy somewhere. Maybe the library. I’ll hold the book aloft, occasionally looking over the top to examine the other coffee connoisseurs. And I’ll assign each one of them to a circle of hell. That woman over there reading Fifty Shades of Grey, for example…probably a pervert. She belongs in the second circle, buffeted about by her lust. And that fat fuck over there — he’ll go in the gluttony circle. And the guy with the BMW key ring? Down there in the greed circle, lugging his moneybags around.

I’ll have some people over to talk about my accomplishments, and of course I’ll have to mention my latest foray into literature, and explain how the Inferno is an epic poem, not a novel. (I’ve actually encountered people who think Dante is a biblical writer, like Matthew or Mark, and who think the Inferno is nonfiction — and that’s pretty funny because they think both the Bible and the Inferno are real — so I’ll be sure to correct them on that.) And then I’ll throw in some real history: Herodotus and Thucydides — The History of the Peloponnesian War. I’ll relate that to the film (not movie) 300, since that story comes from Herodotus. “The Battle of Thermopylae” — love to say that over and over (I’ll have to explain that it’s iambic tetrameter). And then I’ll segue to Barbara Tuchman, perhaps Stillwell and the American Experience in China, and maybe throw in some David McCullough, since he’s won some Pulitzers I think.

When people seem tired of hearing how much I know about historical stuff, I’ll be a sport and turn on South Park. But I’ll make sure it’s episode 156 — in which a beleaguered louse finds a new homeland. I’ll point out, over and over, that just as the louse is rescued, by a fly, the nineteenth century choral masterpiece “Pie Jesu” from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48 plays dramatically. Perhaps the South Park people meant that to be funny, or ironic, but regardless it gives me the opportunity to talk about 19th-century choral music and how they used choirboys (rather than women) to get that high piping tone. I’ll explain, to anyone who will listen, that they no longer neuter boys so they can keep singing that way as adults. I’ll then gratuitously bring up the 17th-century choral masterpiece Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri, and I’ll insist that the South Park people should have used that, because it has even higher notes than the Fauré. And all that’ll give me a chance to drop the fact that the teenaged Mozart was the first one to write down the Miserere (from memory) because the Vatican forbade copies, being the stingy bastards they are.

Next I’ll have to go to the Opera, because that’s very highbrow, I’m told. I’ll buy a swank dress and make sure I get a good seat, which I deserve, being the sort of discriminating and voluble person I am. I’ll bring my headphones in case the opera becomes insufferable. I’m not really into that vibrato stuff. And all the heavy makeup and the tedious length of some of those things. But I’ll make it fun by having a burrito and some beer beforehand. When I’m not stumbling over other operagoers to get to the bathroom (in my gown?), I’ll be ripping a fart in my seat (no need to be sneaky — opera’s loud, I hear) and observing those around me for reactions. That’s empirical research, by the way.

Being an art aficionado, I’ll have to attend the Whitney Biennial. The art there is so experimental! So freeing! But wait, what’s that over there? It’s a pile of yarn — reaching to the ceiling. And, in that little room in the corner, there are some abortions on sticks. A soundtrack of lamenting women. Such a provocative statement! And I’ll be sure to check out the Cindy Sherman works, because she’s so super-famous — yep, that’s a big old vagina over there.

For my next diversion, I’ll expose my friends to experimental theatre. I’ll throw in some references to Tadeusz Cantor, the Polish dramatist, and prove my knowledge of his work by mentioning The Dead Class, performed in 1975, in which his obsession with circles is overshadowed by the shocking image of a childbirth machine, and dead characters walking around. Plus some mannequins. Cool! People will think I’m really artsy. Then perhaps I will organize an impromptu improv theatre event in my apartment. Each participant will be permitted five gestures. Examples: writhing, keening, crawling, barking, and hailing a cab. When I call “Action,” the actors will engage in their five gestures, while riffing on other actors’ gestures. It will represent a primitive sort of communication. I’m hoping that the initially meaningless gestures will ultimately illuminate something deeply human about us — more human than, say, brushing your teeth or commuting to work. As the finale, I’m hoping we will all end up lumped together, moaning and writhing on the floor. Then, later, when they write about my brilliant experimental theatre piece in The New York Times, I’ll make sure that they don’t spell it “theater.” Because that’s so déclassé, and I’m a very classé sort of person.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy nothing more than a doomed 12th-century romance updated for modern times. Say hello to the strange, twisted mind of Mark K. Metzger.

Another Tuesday Night With Abélard & Héloïse


“Dearest Héloïse, cherished glory of my life, I have returned to this blessed domicile where God has anointed us to dwell!”

“Dearest Abélard, most precious jewel of my diadem, alas that the gloam long since has begun to cast its spectering shadow upon this earth. Mayhap it was in error that you vowed you would return ere this dark hour.”

“Dearest Héloïse, sweet nightingale of my spirit, there dare be naught that keeps this piteous soul from the side of his beloved in timely fashion, save the toil that daily cleaves me from your sublime presence.”

“Dearest Abélard, lofty parapet of my castle keep, would it not that he who governs your labor required such protracted exertions from my beloved each day that you travail!”

“Dearest Héloïse, noblest flower of all Christendom, that selfsame governor of whom you speak has verily opined that the accounts payable will not tender themselves.”

“Dearest Abélard, glowing sun of my firmament, might it not be that you have tarried to share of ardent spirits? Again.”

“Dearest Héloïse, cooing pigeon of my dovecote, pray vanquish such conceits as you may harbor in so distasteful a regard! Prithee let not such sordid utterances befoul your lips! Dearest Héloïse, treasure beyond counting, what repast have you readied in fond anticipation of my return?”

“Dearest Abélard, rapture of my bliss, it was my delight lately to secure a quantity of bâtonnets de poisson from Madame Paul.”

“Dearest Héloïse, archangel of my mortal heaven, my heart would leap like a hart at the very whisper of such a banquet had not we partaken of such fare lo these last several eventides. Would that the blessed Lord had bestowed upon us viands of such variety as would bring glory to His name.”

“Dearest Abélard, pincushion of my seamstery, had I but time enough to fashion such a panoply of earthly sustenance as would suit your pleasure! The privation you evince wounds me to the quick of my being.  Let us even so commence forthwith the evening’s refreshment.”

“Dearest Héloïse, nonpareil in female form, vouchsafe unto me yon ketchup. I am passing vexed that the hours of this day did not admit of your transit to the market square, where such an abundance of God’s plenty presents itself.”

“Dearest Abélard, baronet of my fief, I was engaged in absolving this hallowed abode of the sins of its squalor as I tenderly contemplated the arrival of my dear mater this Sabbath’s eve.”

“Dearest Héloïse, winsomest of God’s creations, it falls yet freshly upon these unready ears that such a tarriance would betide us.”

“Dearest Abélard, sounding brass to my tinkling cymbal, the sainted matriarch did convey such intention by her epistle this fortnight past. Perchance you failed to hearken to my communication of this advice, as the archery tourney was in that instant at play.”

“Dearest Héloïse, comeliest doe in the forest of my heart, my soul leaps like a frog in the slough that the materfamilias will bless us with her presence. Albeit she blessed us with such a sojourn this Whitsuntide last and, ere that, Maundy Thursday. Dearest Héloïse, most luscious grape of the vintner’s harvest, does it not befit us that we make merry forthwith, in prescience of her advent? Mayhap such gaiety might countenance our corporeal beings conjoined in the ultimate embrace?”

“Dearest Abélard, ferret of my bosom, would it not that my brow were yet again afflicted with noisome pain! I lament I must repair to the bedchamber for solace.”

“Dearest Héloïse, thistle of my heath, I shall repair thither anon. I yet seek news of this day’s jousts. Good night, Weezie.”

“Good night, Lardo. And prithee fail not to remove the detritus of our quotidian existence!  Recycling is on the morrow ”


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we have often been accused of having no manners at all. If only we had followed David Jaggard's advice and asked Miss Manners for advice. When you're done reading this excellent new piece, click on the Amazon link below, which leads to the Kindle version of his humor collection Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011. Many of the pieces originally appeared right here. We also invite you to check out David Jaggard on Paris Update. The link is in our blogroll on the right-hand side of this page.

Questions Miss Manners Is Never Going To Answer


Dear Miss Manners,

My wife and I pee in front of each other. We’re both used to it, so that’s not the problem. The reason I’m writing you is this: while seated on the toilet, she often picks her nose.

I say it’s rude to engage in such a disgusting, although common, activity when anyone else can see you, no matter what the circumstances. She says that since she’s already attending to one private bodily function it’s perfectly acceptable to engage in another.

I also think that she’s exploiting an unfair advantage. I can’t reciprocate to balance things out because it pretty much takes both hands to urinate standing up.

So please settle a bet: who’s right? Should she or should she not be permitted to pick her nose? There’s a meal in this for me.

Dear Miss Manners,

I’m in the Mafia. As you probably know, protocol requires those of us who have been formally inducted to introduce non-members to other inductees as “a friend of mine” and to introduce members as “a friend of ours.”

My etiquette question concerns those occasions when I cross paths with a “made” gentleman whom I have not previously met. This happens a lot at funerals. What is the proper way to introduce myself? I have tried saying, “You don’t know me, but I’m a friend of yours,” or just “Hello, we’re friends,” but they usually think I’m talking about Facebook. This makes it awkward to steer the conversation away from, say, lolcats to the topic that I actually have in mind, such as moving a truckload of, ah, salvaged goods.

Please advise. Sometimes it’s urgent, like with frozen shrimp.

Dear Miss Manners,

I never have sex with a guy until the third date. This is the way I was raised.

But there’s one thing that Mom and Dad never told me: how many times must I have “run-of-the-mill” sex before moving on to oral activity? Also, is it proper to measure this milestone in nights spent together or in individual sex acts? And if the latter, should I be counting the sex acts themselves or total orgasms? Mine, his or both? It’s not always an even number, if you know what I mean.

As you can see, this is quite a sticky mess. I hope you can clear it up. I’m sure many of your readers often find themselves in the same position as me.

Dear Miss Manners,

Don’t ask how, but I recently happened across some very explicit photos of my former fiancée on a pornographic website called “Coeds Galore.” I feel that it’s my duty to inform her about this but I’m not sure how to go about it, especially since she has repeatedly said (in fact screamed) that she never wants to hear from me again.

If I tell her directly, not only will it violate the terms of the restraining order, but she will probably think I’m the one who submitted the photos, which might not actually be true. So I need you to tell me the proper way to contact her anonymously and share this important information that she has the right to know.

And there¹s something else that bothers me even more: she is not a coed. She never even graduated from high school. As a matter of form, shouldn’t she now be required to enroll in night school or something?

Dear Miss Manners,

Why do so many people seem to be just naturally rude? This baffles me. It literally took me years of near-constant reminding to get my children, husband, siblings, cousins, in-laws, co-workers, neighbors and former classmates to remember to buy me gifts for Mother’s Day, and later, as soon as my son’s girlfriend missed her period, Grandparents Day.

Well that was bad enough, but I doubt that you have ever heard anything as horrendous as what I had to suffer through last week: my cleaning lady didn’t get me a gift for Secretary’s Day! And I assure you it wasn’t out of ignorance: I had “casually mentioned” to her a whole month prior (out of politeness, to give her ample time to find just the right thing) that I once had a summer job as a secretary when I was in college.

Of course I fired her. Isn’t it astonishing how some people only ever think of themselves?