* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the literary humor site that brings lonely people together with people they should probably avoid as if their life depended on it. At least that seems to be what Dan Fiorella thinks we do.

Missed Connection


I would never normally try posting on Craigslist Missed Connections, but what the heck — here goes!

I saw you on the 1 Train. You were wearing a red woolen coat and a multi-colored wool hat. I noticed surgical leggings. You were reading your iPhone. You wore those fancy gloves that let you swipe on your phone. Our eyes met a few times and I smiled at you. You had deep, dark eyes. Twin pools of India ink. Is that even politically correct to say anymore? You tilted your head in such a way that your shock of black hair, which contrasted against your light porcelain skin, cascaded over your left eye, brushing up against your classic Grecian nose. You evoked the spirit of a Mediterranean goddess. After a moment, you gathered up your things and got off at the next stop, even though it was obviously not your stop. I returned to my seat.

It would be four or five days before I’d see you on the train again. Fortunately I have the unlimited MetroCard pass. This time I didn’t try to catch your eye or approach you, so you would be more comfortable and get off at your proper station.

Soho. I know it well. It’s a neighborhood in flux. I noticed you in that little vegetable shop on Broome. Then in the Duane Reade buying that laxative. It pains me to think of you in discomfort like that. But I was just too shy to come over and say so! But maybe you should cut back on all that cheese you bought. Just sayin’!

Anyway, after the drug store and the grocer, the hardware store, and the dress shop that apparently has a back entrance, I lost you in the crowd. But luck was with me: I stood across the street from that very same grocer until our paths crossed once again a scant week later! Kismet!

Your doorman seems like the suspicious type and treated me like I had no business coming into your building. First, what’s his problem? And, really, a doorman in Soho? Cheapen the bohemian atmosphere much? Later, much to my surprise, I learned that locksmiths will not simply make keys based on a description of the lock and the address. I cannot believe the ways in which the laws actively court “restraint of trade” lawsuits.

But I haven’t told you anything about myself. I enjoy cooking, deep sea fishing and spelunking, and people tend to forget how much climbing is actually involved in cave exploring, so, really, getting on the roof of your building was no big deal. I will note here that your building security is very impressive and the locks on the rooftop entrances are top notch! It puts my mind at ease to know that you can afford such stellar security. Also, I like a challenge. But I have since decided that a lighter, defter touch may be called for.

Anyway, it appears I’m reaching Craigslist maximum word limit. So, FYI, I’m standing outside your apartment now. Email me. Tell me what color hat I’m wearing so I know it’s really you.


The Guy Outside Your Building


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where correcting the omissions of history is one of our passions. That and reading anything new from Candy Schulman.



Revisiting 167 years of New York Times history to provide obituaries for female pets who never got them.



This Rough Collie could play with equal ease a farm dog saving members of the human race and a loving master to orphaned children. Lassie’s loyalty inspired the term “woman’s best friend.” When she co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor in Lassie Come Home, she “accidentally” knocked over Liz’s cocktails, a futile effort to keep her mentor from addiction. The first feminist canine thespian barked incessantly, demanding equal pay for female Collies. Only after her death was it revealed that Lassie was played mostly by male dogs because their coats were plusher. She and multiple he’s died peacefully in their masters’ beds in 1953, 1962, 1971 and well into the ’80s.



Born as Terry, she was abandoned by a childless couple who grew impatient with her rug wetting. Adopted by a show business dog trainer, this Cairn Terrier made 13 films, retiring as the wealthiest dog in history. In her twilight years, she founded SAGD, the Screen Actors Guild for Dogs. She suffered from PTSD after her trauma watching Dorothy kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Halloween trick-or-treaters made her freak out in spite of her cocktail of meds. Relentlessly, she entered rehab, attempting to cure her addiction to Milk Bones and recover from her fear of water. Living to 64 in human years, she died by her own paw in 1945, spared from facing humiliating replacement by the Beethovens and Benjis of Hollywood. Her will stipulated that she be buried on a farm, as far as possible from tornadoes and the grave of Margaret Hamilton.



This stray never imagined she’d be rescued from homelessness on the Paramount lot by Francis Ford Coppola, catapulted into fame in one of the most iconic movies of all time. Coppola wrote her into the script at the last minute, but Tabby hissed when Brando improvised his way back into the spotlight. During filming her raucous purring stifled Brando’s words. He kept reprimanding her, “Quiet down, you stupid slut!” Her ancestors from 15 litters posthumously filed a harassment claim, but it was beyond the statute of limitations. Tabby succumbed to nonstop postpartum depression. Coppola bought a $10,000 Cirpriano urn from Venice to store her ashes. He is determined to leave it to Sofia in his will — even though she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want her old man’s stuff.



Disney created a cat with three lives, beginning as Thomas in 1912. She was renamed Thomasina when her family realized she was a girl. Thomasina was the first transgender feline, which she confessed to Bastet, the Egyptian goddess, on her first trip to the afterlife. The novel from which this overlooked film was inspired, The Cat Who Thought She Was God, had a sequel called The Cat Who Thought He Was A Woman. Unsurprisingly, Thomasina died after her nine lives expired. Her family never accepted her gender identity, but pounced back after her death when they contested her will, cat-fighting for a piece of the royalty pie.



She was probably born on a coral reef across the Indo-Pacific, fertilized among 40,000 spawned eggs. Her parents immediately swam off, and she was raised by a school of surgeonfish. The first blue tang to star in a billion-dollar-grossing animated movie, Dory couldn’t recall being abandoned. Nor when she was born. Therefore it’s unclear how old she was when she died in 2012 of Alzheimer’s. Fishy theories abound that she was replaced by a lookalike from Petco in her custom-built tank in the Pixar studio. Thanks to Ellen DeGeneres, Dory’s strong belief that the ocean is half full rather than half empty will live on, enduring eternally in multiple sequels. Asked once to describe herself, Dory said, “I already forgot your question.”



President Lincoln’s pet goat was a feisty piece of chêvre, pulling Lincoln’s sons through the Oval Office on kitchen chairs. Nanny and sibling Nanko gnawed everything from the furniture in the Lincoln Bedroom to priceless Civil War maps adorning the President’s office. Her antics caused such friction between Abraham and Mary Ann Todd that the couple had a brief, but highly secret, stint in marriage counseling — abruptly halted due to his assassination in 1865. Mrs. Lincoln got rid of the goats before she even donated her husband’s clothes to Goodwill, according to their head cook Cornelia Mitchell. No one really knows what became of the whimsical duo, and for all we know they ended up braised and stewed. Thank goodness the Emancipation Proclamation was unscathed.



The Taco Bell spokesdog stroked out in 2009 at the age of 15 after a lucrative career pushing unhealthy fake-Mexican fast food to inner city teenagers. The talented Chihuahua spent her free time sun worshipping in Cancun. Her career rebounded when she partnered with Gecko, Geico’s advertising icon, who is still alive, wealthy, and feasting on freshly fried crickets. Gecko is currently spearheading the movement opposing the construction of the Border Wall, creating a Go-Fund-Me in Gidget’s honor. At the funeral, the pastor, decked out in a serape and sombrero, opined, “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!,” insisting that Gidget was not a cultural stereotype.



Barbra Streisand defended cloning her euthanized Coton de Tulear Sammie, née Samantha, into Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet. People — especially with $50,000 to burn — are truly the luckiest pee-pull in the world! Streisand’s DNA is currently being stored in an undisclosed location in Flatbush to eventually clone the next Funny Girl. Sammie lives on perpetually and digitally, with a whopping three Instagram followers. Show your love! #samanthastreisand.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every week is a reenactment of our love for you, the reader. This week it's deja vu all over again, thanks to R.D. Ronstad.

The Reenactor


I am a reenactor. Not a Revolutionary War or Civil War or World War I or II reenactor. Not a Colonial America or American frontier reenactor. Not a medieval times or ancient Greece or Roman times reenactor. Just a reenactor — not limiting myself to any time, any place, or any person. Everything that happens is history, right? (Remember the butterfly effect?) It’s sheer arrogance to say only a miniscule number of events and times and people are historical reenactment-worthy.

Taking this approach, I must admit, does lead to some difficulties. For example, when I follow some guy off a bus, am I just another guy getting off a bus, or am I reenacting the guy in front of me getting off a bus? I’m never quite sure myself. Also, by reenacting things that normally don’t get reenacted, could I be messing with the timeline? Doubtful, but who knows? I consider these types of questions only minor annoyances though. I refuse to let them bog me down. The real problem is dealing with people who willfully or in their ignorance fail to recognize my reenactor status.

* * * * * * *

Take what happened during the last baseball season when one fall day I traveled from my home in Chicago to Appleton, WI hoping to reenact a home run (his first of the season) hit by a nondescript Wisconsin Timber Rattlers player the day before. (The Rattlers were having a rough year and I figured they and their fans could use the pick-me-up.) I took carefully considered precautions to avoid trouble. I would not interrupt play, but would perform my reenactment at the sixth inning, while the grounds crew did their stamping and raking and dragging. I wore a Rattlers jersey with the nondescript player’s number on it but with REENACTOR stitched on it* where the players name would normally go. I brought along a yellow plastic wiffle-ball bat of my nephew’s instead of a wooden bat (so no one would feel threatened as I trotted towards home plate carrying it), which I stuffed in my sweatpants so no one, including security, would ask questions. (I wanted my reenactment to be a surprise for everyone.). And when the moment came and I hopped the fence and headed toward the plate while removing the wiffle-ball bat from my pants, I kept shouting: “Living history! Living history! Living history!” so that anyone within earshot would know my intentions were commendable.

Well, just as I was digging in at home plate, I noticed a couple of angry-faced security guys racing toward me from the third base dugout area. I didn’t even have time to raise the bat over my shoulders. So I dropped it immediately and hightailed it toward first base (which further distorted the reenactment, because no real baseball player hightails it after hitting a home run), at which time I noticed two more security guys starting to take off after me from the first base dugout. I did manage to round first base, all the while continuing to shout over my shoulder: “Living history! Living history! Living history!” But all for naught. Apparently the first base security guys had no qualms about tackling living history.

* * * * * * *

Then a couple of weeks after that, one afternoon after watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the third or fourth time that day, I decided to walk through my neighborhood reenacting the medieval practice of pushing a cart around collecting dead bodies during a plague epidemic.

I figured my neighbors would play along, because most of them by then would have been clued in to my reenactor status, since I had already made numerous reenactment forays into local business establishments (coffee houses, bars, bakeries, laundromats, etc.) and public buildings (library, senior center), and in addition, there had been scurrilous local media accounts** of the unfortunate incident at the Rattlers game.

So I dragged a wheelbarrow out of my tool shed to substitute for a dead-body cart (good enough, since I didn’t anticipate collecting any actual dead bodies), outfitted myself with a drab sweatsuit I picked up on the cheap at Goodwill and then promptly shredded, fashioned a buff-colored kerchief into limp headgear, smeared dirt on my clothes and all my visible body parts, and started off around the neighborhood chanting: “Bring out your dead!” “Bring out your dead!” “Bring out your dead!”

Everything went as planned for about a half hour. People played along, as I had anticipated. No rude remarks. Some sly smiles. Even some faux weeping and moaning. And a number of “dead bodies” were deposited into my wheelbarrow in the form of cracked portable radios, smashed remote controls, and waterlogged cell phones.

Then I came upon the McJerk*** residence. As I walked wearily and morosely past the McJerks, chanting my dead-body chant, they hauled out their perpetually drunken uncle, whose animate status, I must admit, has always been in question, and insisted I haul him away on my “cart” with all the electronic corpses. I didn’t want to point out the obvious, which I’m sure they knew anyway — that I was, in fact, not a dead-body collector, but a dead-body collector reenactor. I didn’t want to break character. Instead, I got into a heated dispute with them as to whether Uncle McJerk was, in fact, dead (yes, just like in the Python movie!). Well, I don’t want to go into all the sordid details, but I just want to point this out for the record: No matter what the McJerks might claim in the upcoming court proceedings, I DID NOT at any time — I repeat, DID NOT — hit any McJerk on the head with my cudgel****.

* * * * * * *

As I mentioned, I frequently do my reenacting at neighborhood establishments. This is, in fact, my favored form of reenacting — on the spot, “you are there,” spontaneous reenacting in honor of “ordinary” people.

This might involve stealthily following some random subject at the supermarket, mentally noting down all his/her movements and selections, and repeating them as precisely as possible once they’ve left the premises. (Resulting, unfortunately, in frequent unnecessary purchases, since half the items I check out — dog food, baby diapers, radishes, Cap’n Crunch’s OOPS! and so forth — I have no use for.) Or listening attentively to cell phone conversations at my local Starbucks and repeating the half of the conversation I heard into my phone word-for-word (short conversations only, obviously) once the person has left. (Sometimes, although this, strictly speaking, does not qualify as reenactment, I even make up imagined responses on the other end, which can be quite entertaining.) Or, at the library, repeating questions to the reference librarian I just heard someone else ask. (Once, a librarian repeated the question word for word back to me. I high-fived him — twice!)

During these pursuits, I usually meet with little resistance, outside of the occasional quizzical look or icy glare. Partly because I always remain as unobtrusive as possible, and partly, I think, because I always take care to wear my REENACTOR baseball cap and t-shirt — hand-embroidered by yours truly.

But something untoward did happen once on a visit to my favorite watering hole–The Shot and A Tear Lounge. I was sitting at the bar, wearing my REENACTOR gear, having just finished my first attempt at street reenacting, which went quite smoothly, if I do say so myself, except for a minor flare-up with the driver of a beat-up Buick LeSabre. Anyway, I had just finished my second rum and coke when I got it in my head to attempt a reenactment of Ricardo the regular bartender’s bottle-flipping routine.

So, when Ricardo was safely down at the far end, I hopped the bar, grabbed a bottle of Seagram’s in my left hand, and proceeded to flip it over my right shoulder from behind my back. Unfortunately, as I tried to grasp the spinning, airborne bottle with my right hand, I closed my fingers too quickly and knocked the Seagram’s into a row of liquor bottles lining the shelf in front of a large mirror facing the bar, shattering several of them (but, thankfully, not the mirror) in the process.

As he hustled me out of the bar and into the street, I kept protesting to Gerald the bouncer that I had not had “way too much,” as he claimed, but that I was simply a reenactor doing what reenactor’s do. And when I finally stood up and regained some dignity after being deposited like a sack of unwanted diapers on the sidewalk, I looked Gerald in the eye, pointed at the lettering on my t-shirt, and said: “Can’t you tell the difference between a reenactor and someone who has had ‘way too much’?” “No!” said Gerald. “And if you ever show up around here again, I’m gonna reenact the bombing of Dresden all over your face!”

* * * * * * *

You might think that two impending court cases (the Rattlers have me up for criminal trespass) and a lifetime ban from The Shot and A Tear would dissuade me from carrying on with my reenacting activities. But you would be wrong. History is constantly happening — every day, every minute, everywhere. And wherever history is, it is calling out to be reenacted. I will be there to answer that call. Even in jail, if it comes to that. Because that’s what I am. The reenactor.

*$15.95 ($5 overnight shipping) at notripoffs.com

**The media proved to be totally unsympathetic to my cause also. But what can you expect from a crowd of ink-stained troglodytes?

***Not their real name. Not Scots, either

****Meat tenderizing mallet










* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we proudly join our good friend David Martin in trying to eliminate all writers from the world. Starting with your own household. Once you've finished reading his newest piece of absurdity, click on the link below to check out his humor blog.

How To Eliminate Writers From Your Home


Any time of year is a good time to pest-proof your home. Whether you’ve got ants, mice or squirrels, it’s best to take action to keep these critters at bay.


There are plenty of websites to help you identify common rodents and varmints and take the necessary steps to bid them good riddance. Despite several Google searches and minutes of offline research, however, I was unable to find any advice on spotting and eliminating a very common household irritant: the writer.


But fear not — I have taken it upon myself to fill this void and present you with everything you need to know to identify and eliminate this most persistent of pests from your abode.


First of all, you need to determine if there are, in fact, any writers in your house. You may already suspect that you have been infested with one or more of these creatures by such telltale signs as frequent keyboarding clicks and clacks, late night scribbling beneath bedside lamps or the repeated sound of a head banging against the wall.


To be sure if writers are about, however, you have to do some simple sleuthing. If, for example, many of the coats and jackets in your closets have two or more pens in their inside pockets together with numerous pieces of scrap paper, you can be pretty sure you have an infestation of at least one writer.


Another sign that an unwanted scribbler may be about is the placement of notebooks and notepads next to every phone, desk, bed and toilet. Open them and look for outlines, reminders and half-written articles, which are sure signs that a writer is nearby.


Half-read books piled up on nightstands and tables may signal a writer about. But be careful, since such evidence may simply point to the presence of an obsessive yet inefficient and generally harmless creature known as a reader.


Similarly, magazines strewn about the house may mean that a writer has invaded your space. Check, though, for the type of magazines to ensure that you’re not simply on the trail of an inoffensive periodical enthusiast. However, if many of the magazines have the words “Writer,” “Writing” or “Publishing” in the title, there’s definitely cause for concern.


Once you’ve established that you have a writer, the next step is to trap him. In line with today’s more modern and sensitive approach to pest control, we strongly advise against using any deadly traps. Instead, we suggest you opt for a live capture and release method.


Any one of a number of humane cages will serve the purpose. The key element in using such traps is the proper selection of bait. Many folks opt for traditional items like pens, paper or a keyboard. Still others choose old standbys like writers’ books and magazines.


The trouble with using such bait is that if your writer falls for it and still manages to avoid the trap, he will be wise to your ways and likely then to avoid the cage. If that happens, you have to resort to more sophisticated items to lure the crafty wordsmith.


In my experience, such things as faux reviews and articles featuring the writer’s name (assuming you’ve discovered his name in his various leavings around the house) make excellent enticements. If all else fails, however, the one tried, true and no-fail bait is a phony letter of acceptance from any major publication. No writer can resist such a tempting trap.


Now that you’ve caught your nuisance writer, what do you do with him? Some people have made the mistake of attempting to talk the critter out of writing, but that seldom works. Others have tried driving the writer to the country and releasing him into the wild. Although he will sometimes take refuge in a cabin or a lakeside writers’ retreat for a few weeks, he will almost always return to your home.


After years of experimentation, I’ve found what I think is the best solution to this difficult problem: give your writer his own room and insist that he do his writing there. You’ll get more peace and quiet and, who knows, with any luck your writer may even start producing an income.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your number one source for finding a great apartment in the big city! Eric Feurer has your back.

Big City Apartment Hunting



Hi! Looking for a 7th roommate in our 2 bedroom, half bath war-torn industrial goblin workshop. Exposed brick!

ME — A 19-year-old who knits beer koozies part-time and suffers from “night wailing.”

YOU — a dumb bag of cash with a nine-to-nine job and a dust buster for a mouth.

Room comes fully furnished with three quarters of a bed and the hand monster from Pan’s Labyrinth.

Looking for first month, last month, security, and all between months up front. Plenty of light though a window that shows you what your life would have looked like if you hadn’t moved to New York.

Pets okay! We have a 30 ft. ball python named “Chub” and he mostly sleeps with his eyes open.

* * * * *



Looking for someone to take over the last 33 months of my lease, as I met a girl last night and we are getting married.

Location, location, location! This apartment is in a location. It’s just off the M80 exploding bus line, and a quick ten-minute walk to anything that’s about ten minutes away. There’s a laundromat on the corner, if the sinkhole hasn’t taken it yet.

Your room is the crevice under the refrigerator. It’s cozy, but trust me it fits a full-sized bed if you first burn it to ash.

My current roommates are two young professional Australian Goliath Bird-eating Tarantulas disguised as people. They love a quiet night in just as much as heading to the club and snatching up a pigeon on the way home.

Serious inquiries only! Looking for someone who’s clean, respectful, and preferably not a spider-eating snake or a New Zealander.

Credit check and fight to the death required, guarantors and vassal champions accepted.

* * * * *



Prorating the southwest corner of my living room for the remainder of the month. Comes furnished with a tapestry that smells like a dead tapestry and two walls that meet at a 90-degree angle — perfect for escaping the city and resting your forehead!

Again, this is just for the corner of my living room. Be respectful! You MUST face the wall no matter what noises you hear behind you.

Landlord lives on the second floor. She is a cocktail of unstable chemicals poured into a shook-up bottle of cooking sherry, so don’t bring the party home.

You’ll be sharing your bathroom with me and an unexploded WW2 naval mine. The bathtub is big! A horse gave birth in it last week no problem.

$500 security deposit, as the last renter left a stain on the wall from his skin oil.

* * * * *



Hello! Looking for a 3rd roommate in our three-room, three-bath presidential penthouse suite!

We are both hardworking but fun-loving 20-somethings made of David Bowie’s laughter and miscellaneous starstuff! We’re gone most of the day, as my current roommate is a keg of delicious beer that never runs dry and I work full-time absorbing the sun’s light and turning it into chill vibes.

The room is spacious, bright, and gives you huge orgasms whenever you clap your hands. The windows face all of the cute parts of Paddington Bear 2.

Comes with:

*Central air

*Marble countertops

*A washing machine

*A wishing machine

*A doorman

*All-you-can-eat pancakes

*The COOL members of The Black Eyed Peas

*A successful kickstarter campaign

*A magic closet that’s bigger on the inside than the outside

*Back yard access

*Too many bitcoins

*Reclaimed wood floors

Sound good? If you’re 420-friendly, can provide proof of income, and are a fellow hardcore Nazi sympathizer, msg me for details!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is a little like Lake Wobegon in the sense that all of our children are above average. Or so we'd like to believe. Just ask Sally Miller.

What To Do When You Learn That Your Gifted Child Did Not Test As Gifted: FAQs


First let us offer you our sincerest sympathies in these difficult times. We here at the Testing Center of Gifted and Talented Children are well aware of the emotional distress caused upon discovering that your child, while of course very special (to you — and that’s why you told everyone about it at birthday parties), is not in fact gifted, highly gifted, talented, highly talented, highly proficient, visionary, extraordinary, quite clever, exceptional, 6 going on 30, or your “little philosopher.”

Below we answer some commonly asked questions parents have upon receiving their child’s test results.

How did we get here? How is this possible?

Often well-meaning parents will misidentify their child as gifted by misreading common signs. When your child seemed bored in class it was actually because (s)he was daydreaming about his/her lunchables and not because (s)he was mulling over how to restore damage caused by the current Trump administration, composing a sequel to Hamilton, or wondering when the producers of This American Life will greenlight his/her new podcast.

But his grandparents said it, too!

Yes, of course they did.

What will I talk about at the PTA bake sales, book club, birthday parties, or in the Whole Foods checkout line?

While it will be tricky to find other topics of conversation, we offer some talking points to deflect from questions about your child’s average intelligence and test result scores. For instance, “Does this have gluten?” is always a good conversation starter. It can be used in all aforementioned scenarios. Once you have mentioned your gluten allergies, you will be able to discuss a myriad of gluten-related subjects. If there are no snacks at the book club, ponder over a character’s food allergies.

Perhaps it’s Einstein Syndrome?

Clutch onto this idea like your child did to your breast at age four.

But what about those monogrammed preschool alphabet block letters from DwellStudio that (s)he put in order?

A parent should ask her/himself just how much they “adjusted” a “couple” of blocks for an Instagram and/or facebook #momslittlegenius post.

What does this mean for my marriage?

Sometimes this new information can lead to more questions, blame, and eventually divorce. Who is responsible for the child’s average intelligence? Maybe you should have married someone with a PhD? Why did you let her have wine at the baby shower? Was his recreational marijuana use really recreational? To understand what it means for YOUR marriage, we recommend that you take the couples’ test “I just learned that my child is not gifted, what does this mean for my marriage?”

Will my child now be in classes with the same children I pointed out as average?

It is not uncommon for your child to remain in classes with other ordinary, mundane, unexceptional children. The curriculum will be the same for your child as all the others. However, take solace in the fact that your first-grader may still remain in extracurricular activities such as SAT, GRE and STaR test preps, weekend trips to tour Ivy League colleges, auditing classes at your nearest private university, and working with a tutor on perfecting his/her college personal statement essay.

Does this mean that I am not gifted?

You are also probably of average intelligence. However, we recommend that you take the parent test offered by our Testing Center of Gifted and Talented Children’s Parents to confirm.

Were all those Facebook Quiz results not accurate?

No. They were not.

Who do I contact to sue the testing center for giving us the wrong test results?

We suggest consulting LegalZoom.

While we cannot guarantee lifelong success for your child, you may be comforted with the idea that your child could overcome intellectual adversities. It is possible that (s)he may go on to write a memoir (turned film) about a young child who was deemed average, but then with lots of hard work, determination, and the removal of sugar, screen time and childhood joy, became a genius MIT math professor with crippling mental illness brought on by overbearing parents. Sundance will call it a “tour de force.”

For more questions, please call our 24-hour emergency crisis hotline.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where even such an innocent pastime as the New York Times Crossword Puzzle can be fraught with otherworldly paranoia. Enjoy the stressed-out psyche of Dan Caprera!

Unfortunately, We Will Be Unable To Publish Your Crossword Puzzle: “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of”


Dear Sir,

Thank you for your submission to the New York Times daily crossword. Every week we receive hundreds of outstanding puzzle submissions and we wish that we could publish them all. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that, at this time, we will be unable to publish your most recent submission, a crossword puzzle that you’ve titled “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of.”

This decision was based on several key factors:

First off, although the NYT crossword is known for the exacting difficulty of its clues, we here at the Times were worried that some of your answers were both inordinately difficult and extraordinarily subjective. Usually, the solution to a crossword clue should be something in the public vernacular, something like “TACO” or “BOOMERANG.”

Meanwhile, in your puzzle you had clues such as:

  • 2 down — An emotion I’m currently experiencing.
  • 30 across — My greatest fear.
  • 74 across — The place I dare not go.

According to your submission, the answers to these clues should be, respectively, “FEAR,” “THE SHADOW MAN” and “MY DREAMS.” However, at the risk of being overly blunt, I believe that these answers would be exceedingly difficult for any one person to solve on their own.

Another quibble I had with your submission is that, preferably, you should not repeat any of your answers. For example, if a crossword used the word “OREO” as a solution, it would (hopefully) only use that answer once.

Sadly, you have used the same exact answer an unprecedented four different times. Consider for a moment your puzzle’s following clues:

  • 3 down — His name.
  • 15 across — The name of my fear.
  • 50 down — The shadow-man who found me in my dreams and compelled me to make this crossword puzzle so that the world would, at long last, know his name and fear it.
  • 57 across — His NAME!

Sir, in an ideal world, these clues would each have four different, discrete answers. However, in your puzzle, the solution to all four of these clues is, confoundingly, the same exact phrase — more specifically, the name “Harrison Chafitz.”

Now, I personally have never heard of a man called “Harrison Chafitz” before. And neither have any of my extraordinarily qualified colleagues here at the Times, but either way it would still undoubtedly benefit you not to repeat this solution (i.e. “Harrison Chafitz”) with such regularity.

Indeed, dear sir, who is Harrison Chafitz? Why is he so important? And why (why?) have you dedicated an entire crossword puzzle to a quote-unquote “Shadow Man” — a fictitious dream-walker who does not (and, it should be noted, cannot) exist?

As a reader, these were just a few of the many questions your puzzle caused me to ask.

Finally (and this is a very small complaint), while looking over your submission, one of your clues struck me as particularly problematic. Obviously, we here at the Times are unopposed to including, how shall we say, non-traditional answers within our puzzles. For example, the clue “ABC, easy as ___” would have the non-alphabetic answer “123.”

But with that in mind, I would now like you to consider one of the clues you wrote in your puzzle. You wrote:

  • 62 down — Draw his face. Draw his face. Draw the face of Harrison Chafitz. Draw it. Draw it now.

This clue is clearly problematic for several key reasons. Not only does it explicitly reveal the answer to your puzzle’s four longest clues (as mentioned above, the name “Harrison Chafitz” appears four times). But, more importantly, this specific clue relies on your audience’s ability to, ostensibly, draw a scale model of a man’s face within a single crossword square — a feat that most would consider to be difficult, nigh impossible.

In addition (and again, this is very small complaint), but this particular clue does not seem to be related in the slightest to the rest of your puzzle. Especially given that it is enclosed within its own, individual border (see below):

For reference, here is the clue in question:

Making a crossword puzzle is no small feat. And we here at the Times commend your ingenuity and unconventional élan. But regrettably, for all these reasons (and many, many more), we will be unable to run your puzzle within the pages of our lauded publication.

All the best,

Will Shortz, Puzzle Editor of the New York Times 

P.S. If you’re still looking for a publisher, please do try sending your puzzle off to the good folks at the L.A. Times. Those guys’ll publish anything.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which would be sort of like a second home to Michael Fowler, if he had a first home. Anyway, we are always glad to hear from Mike, even if that usually happens through the intervention of a hostage negotiator. When you finish his latest bit of whimsy, check out the link below to purchase his new humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Bad Head Days


It’s a heartbreaker for an old codger like me, who for years had looked forward to baldness to bring an end to his bad hair days, only to find that with baldness come bad head days.

The last few bad hair years were bad enough. During that dreary time my head began to resemble a moldy basketball or a rugged moon surrounded by wispy white clouds. I was the man who grew a crop of anthrax atop his scalp. From the front or rear I formed a Clarabelle the Clown silhouette, or that of a volleyball wearing earmuffs, since most of my remaining hair was on the sides. The few hairs that clung to the top of my crinkled pate often stood straight up as if electrified, having lost their natural resilience and flexibility when in my forties and fifties my essential oils dried up. Nature has a good reason for covering body parts such as my head with hair, I decided, and that is because without concealment the part is hideous. And my covering thinned out and then vanished a while ago, like a herd of mastodon.

It probably didn’t help that for years I washed my hair with harsh hand soap and then combed it with a toothbrush handle. The best thing was to shave off those upright stragglers, but that still left a pockmarked, spotty skull that no cream could restore to a youthful bloom, or even the luster of a cheap wallet. That’s what I face today: a chafed, dented-looking protuberance that nudity has not improved one iota. Perhaps only applications of wood-filler from the home remodeling store would improve its appearance, and so far I’ve refused to try those.

Not being able to enhance my head’s looks, and in despair over having to carry the unsightly orb into public on a daily basis, I do what I call “sweetening the head,” and improve its fragrance. Though it does little to fill in the cracks and fissures, I rub in a couple of drops of my wife’s vanilla bean-scented after-shower lotion when I feel particularly stippled and craggy, so that those who came in close proximity to the head at least don’t need to hold their breath.

My family members, but especially my wife, who must repeatedly spend time in close proximity to the head, sometimes remaining stuck in the car or living room with it for hours on end, have never once had cause to complain about its odor. Others who must approach the head and share a confined space with the nude, flaky entity, such as my dentist, my oral hygienist, my audiologist, my primary care physician, my optometrist, my podiatrist and my sleep apnea specialist, have none of them recoiled from the head, as they might well do if it was odorless or gave off a rank smell in addition to being unsightly. I like to think, though none has commented on the fact, that some of them even enjoy my fragrant knob, and of course I mean the fragrance alone, not the knob itself, which will always be hideous.

Perhaps some of my medical care providers in their closet-size workspaces wonder where the nice aroma is coming from. They may decide it’s me, because no one else happens to be around, but I’m not saying, and certainly I’m not pointing to my head. I’m not much given to such dandified behavior. I haven’t even told my wife that I sweeten myself with her vanilla concoction, fearing she might take it as a sign that next I’ll start wearing her dresses before changing my name to Vanessa.

Since I’m the only one in the know, my health providers would have to guess that it’s my head that smells so good. My dental hygienist, for instance, who practically rubs foreheads with me as she closes in during her probing and scraping chores, perhaps has figured out that it’s my head she has to thank for the whiff of freshness in her workspace. But she hasn’t said anything, and none of my medical attendants, all of them women, has said anything. Perhaps none wants to say, “Egad, your head smells good,” because it would sound odd, or forward.

Or perhaps they are distracted by my strange behavior: being older and subject to confusion, I tend to open wide for the optometrist and look straight ahead for the hygienist. I sometimes announce that my goal in life is to keep food over my head and a roof on my table. But how refreshing it would be if one of my caretakers were to blurt out, “Damn but your noggin smells nice. The last chrome dome we had in here stank so bad we had to throw open a window.”

Whether anyone sniffing around the head ever comments on it doesn’t really matter, though. By sweetening the head, I’ve done what I can to improve the environment, and anyone is free to enjoy or suffer my knob in silence. If there are people who want to disdain a man who goes about with the top of his head smelling like an elderly woman who has just stepped out of the shower, they are free to do so.

I only hope that no one is so disgusted as to lash out at the head, physically or verbally, perhaps in alarm that a mass grave for desiccated hair follicles as unsightly as mine is symptomatic for some awful disease. If anyone calls the first responders or curses me over the head, I’ll pull on a knit cap, tugging it down tight over my ears, and leave it on. I won’t even take it off for my medical appointments.

I end with a heads-up to those young men who can’t wait to experience this disaster, and bald themselves with a razor to be fashionable: for the sake of sufferers like me, don’t.




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of fake news about fake news about fake news. Not to get too meta on you, but check out this example from first-time contributor R. D. Ronstad. On another note, please check out our blog roll on the right-hand side of this page for some new material from Big Jewel copy editor David Jaggard, recorded especially for YouTube. For a preview, you can also check out the link below to his newest comic song, "The Pragmatist's Lament."

I Am Interviewed By The New York Times Book Review For Their By The Book Page


What books are on your night stand now?

I don’t have any books on my night stand. There’s no room, because that’s where I keep my 8×10 framed glossy of Adlai Stevenson. I’m not a big fan or anything. It just helps me nod off. There is an entire Great Books collection in a bookcase behind him in the picture, I think, if that counts. You may be interested to know that I’m contemplating writing a book about my night stand, which I’m quite proud of — the night stand, that is. It would be in the vein of Henry Petroski’s books about such things as pencils and toothpicks, or that book I once saw about the making of a Steinway concert grand. I already have the perfect title: One Night Stand. Actually, I have a lot of good titles in mind, but no books yet.


You’re having a literary dinner party. What three writers are invited?

Amanda McKittrick Ros, William Topaz McGonagall, and Roger Bloomfield, who won first prize in our school’s sixth grade fire safety essay contest even though he didn’t deserve it. I’d invite them because that would make me the smart one in the room. I might have to keep Suzanne Somers warmed up in the bullpen though, just in case — and, yes, I do have a bullpen, out behind the greenhouse. It was there when I bought the place. Weird, huh? Anyway, if this dinner party ever did come to pass, I can guarantee you one thing — Roger Bloomfield is going down!


If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

Essential CPR and First Aid. Not only because it’s important for everyone to be informed about CPR and first aid, but also because, if he’s lucky, it could earn him hundreds of thousands of votes somewhere down the line, if you catch my drift.


What books might we be surprised to find in your library?

A book on DIY plumbing in the Malayalam language. I have no idea how it got there, so it still surprises even me.


What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite childhood books?

Oh, I was a voracious reader as a child! I couldn’t ever read without stuffing my face at the same time–licorice, Milk Duds, Jujubes, anything. I was a big Stephen King fan, but my parents wouldn’t let me read The Stand because they were afraid they’d end up having to push me about in a wheelbarrow. My favorite childhood books were a series of baseball books by Duane Decker about a perennial championship baseball team called the Blue Sox. I started reading them hoping there was going to be a lot of dirty talk. But I guess he chose to name them the Blue Sox because Red, White and Black were already taken, and Green Sox sounds like a Rookie League team.


What is the worst book you ever read?

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Anyone who knows anything knows that ducks are more suited to lead a rebellion than pigs, sheep are more pranksters than rebels, and cats, while they may be schemers, are notoriously inept ones. How could an indisputably intelligent man like Orwell have gotten so many things wrong?


What book are you embarrassed not to have read? 

In college, I didn’t read The Education of Henry Adams for my American Literature class because I didn’t think we were going to be tested on it. As you can imagine, I was mightily embarrassed, to say the least, when I found out I was wrong. And still am, sort of.


Last book that made you cry?

War and Peace. About a year ago, I accidentally knocked it off my desk and it landed on my big toe while I was in my stocking feet. I cried like a baby.


Last book that made you laugh?

Also War and Peace, when the same thing happened to my brother. Which just goes to show that Mel Brooks was right about the difference between comedy and tragedy, apparently. My brother thinks I knocked it off my desk on purpose that time, but he’s dead wrong. At any rate, I’m not using War and Peace as a paperweight anymore.




* Welcome to The Big Jewel. We're glad you made it! Various studies, which I am making up as I go along, conclusively prove that this site can help wean you off of YouTube, if YouTube is a problem for you. Heed the questionable wisdom of Luke Roloff.

I Went To YouTube Tonight And Didn’t Come Back


What led me down this path? Where did I lose my way? Where did my legs go?

I can’t see my legs.

One minute I’m minding my own business watching other people’s lives unfold on social media, and the next I’m neck deep in a paralyzing cage of wonder.

From what I can remember, I went to YouTube real quick to watch this one video, but before I could even type it in the search bar, I was ensnared by the trappings of a sweet temptress known as Recommended.

I believe it was at this junction that I went down a bit of a rabbit hole, a splendid hole where cat and chicken are best friends. Yes, a cat, and a chicken — buddies! I simply couldn’t look away.

Eight minutes deep into watching two animals flop around in the dirt, I lost peripheral vision and basic motor skills. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was a mere puppet dancing in the hands of my penchant for pretty much anything.

You’re probably asking yourself by now, once a digital paradigm has been crossed, isn’t there an instructional video on YouTube explaining how to return? No, there isn’t. I checked.

But you know what is on YouTube? Back episodes of Xena Warrior Princess!

Despite losing all control and sense of physical self, I eventually felt a soothing warmness come over me. Accompanied by a wetness. Then later, a coolness. Followed by a smelliness.

Make no mistake, my soul has officially crossed the Rubicon of online content. My body, morphed into a cushion for my laptop. And my mind, it’s totally engrossed in this home video about a guy who designed a solar-powered chocolate skateboard.

Before I lost my hearing, I would periodically get wind of what sounded like my wife. I believe she was trying to send me a message from the physical world. Something like, “Will you take out the garbage?” She kept repeating it, over and over. And while the code meant nothing to me at the time, now it really means nothing because I’m in the middle of watching upside-down rainbows from New Zealand!

Okay, I’ll admit, some of the videos are a little silly, but others are actually quite moving. I can feel them drawing me in, almost dragging me, really, gnawing at my feet, and growling like a hungry and neglected dog.

Sometimes, I can even see things in 3D. Like the hands of little children frantically waving to get my attention. Or moths. It’s so lifelike!

After about another dozen or hundred videos, I was watching a tutorial on how to watch every celebrity interview ever, when suddenly, virtual reality musta kicked in, because it was like I was surrounded by celebrities, yeah, and they were acting out this elaborate intervention scene about video-watching addiction, and all the actors looked identical to my friends and family. The resolution was astounding!

At one point I even had this weird feeling that my house was being robbed, and then I got the impression someone was reaching into my pocket and snatching my wallet, and then I felt this zinging sensation as if someone punched my nose and gagged me and tied me up, then I found my favorite music video from 1994!

Lately, my favorite video is the one with all the really best things I like! LOL! Though my favorite favorite video is every video!

Once I added my iPad to the mix, then I taped my iPhone to my face!

From time to time my brain comes on, and I have to wonder, Good grief, what’s that smell? But you know what they say, time flies when you have no clue how much of it has passed!

And now look at this smoke! WOW, those flames are so hot it’s as if they’re burning my flesh off. I can’t even breathe — so lifelike!