* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your source for pickup lines that are absolutely, positively guaranteed to work every time. Michael Fowler knows, because they worked for him. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Surefire Lines


She was the kind of girl you meet at the planetarium. Soft-spoken, creased jeans, killer dimples. I told her that the asteroid that came by this year, the one the size of two football fields, had missed us by 359,000 miles, not even close. Sure, when it would come back around in 2059 it’d pass a lot closer, 135,000 miles, but that was still a football field or two of leeway so there was nothing to fear. I left her smiling and combing my mustache with her tongue.

She was the sort of woman you run into at the energy company payment window. Tight shorts, clean sneakers, heart-shaped calves. I told her I wasn’t afraid of high heating costs this winter, and that was because I heat my home with radon. This naturally occurring and cost-free radioactive emission provides the evenly distributed and comfortable energy of a hundred x-ray machines without even the need of a thermostat. I left her joyfully adding up the money saved and savoring the BTUs in my lips.

She was the type of tomato one bumps into at a chess tournament. Braless, homeschooled, atmospheric. I told her I was one of the fastest players in the world, not because of the quickness of my thought, but on account of the velocity I imparted to the pieces. In the opening, my king’s pawn had been clocked at 50 miles per hour, and in one game I moved my bishop along a diagonal so quickly my opponent briefly lost sight of it. Bowled over, she replied that she’d rather be knocked down and kicked by me than given expensive gifts by a lesser man.

She was the kind of babe you run into at the optician’s. Striped, bilingual, ambidextrous. She urged me to try contacts, and I said I would, provided that the optometrist put them in tiny frames that went over my ears and connected them with a curved piece that fit over my nose. A minute or two later she “got it” and laughed, then played footsie with me in the waiting area, and at the same time offered to clean my apartment for only $29.95 a month — a deal!

She was the kind of gal you spot at a shoe store. Palsied, breathless, street-smart. My last boyfriend made shoes, she said. Was he an elf? I asked. She slapped my back in instant camaraderie and promised me action.

She was the sort of bird you encounter in the Honey Baked ham line during the holidays. Cold, starving, dressed in rags. As two strangers, we entered the line at the front of the store, and by the time we spied hams in the distance, we were in a relationship. Later on in the day, when we arrived at the condiments, I saw it wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t just leave her. Try the honey-mustard sauce, I advised; it seemed the least I could do. She offered to lick the stuff out of my navel and drink my saliva through a straw. Coolio!

She was the sort of lady one sits beside at the library. Fishnets, sandalwood scent, hair in a bun. I told her I gave library books as holiday gifts, enclosing a note that said, I think you might appreciate this, and by the way, it’s due back in two weeks. At her place she “read” my testicles, saying they were as deep as Dostoevsky.

She was the sort of chick you find on the tour of Elvis’s home in Memphis, Petticoat Junction or whatever it’s called. Pallid, free-wheeling, altruistic. I told her Elvis had the same kitchen that my mother in Cincinnati had, built in the same year, 1957. I would have felt at home toasting cheese sandwiches with Elvis on his Hotpoint Range, stacking 45’s on his Magnavox hi-fi, or watching TV with the King on his 24-foot vanilla shag sofa. The chick asked me if my mom really had a 24-foot vanilla shag sofa, but not before inviting me over to her place for an afternoon of choke-play and twerking.

She was the kind of colleen you meet in the front seat of a Ford. Cornfed, shoeless, monotheistic. She got upset that I dozed off while driving, though she dozed off too. Once I was driving by a farm, and when I woke up, there were chicken feathers and bloody carcasses all over the windshield. I managed to pull into a rest stop before she woke up, and I was just removing the last feathers when I saw her looking at me with suspicion. I said, A flock of low-flying geese flew right into me, and I’m the sort of savvy navigator who steers away from hazardous fowl, protecting his lady’s sweetly put-together package. At that she tore open my shirt, said I love the stuffing out of you too, handsome, and sprayed my chest with soda, just to watch the lazy liquid crawl down my bod.

She was the kind of mama you might sidle up to while skydiving. Alert, shadowy, iron-deficient. As we steered our silk toward the ground, I told her the history of skywriting. It started by accident, I said. A man’s biplane caught on fire, he bailed out in the smoke and flames, and after he hit the ground he looked up and saw: Eat at Bob’s. Later on, as we folded up our chutes, she “got it” and started laughing. She came to my place that evening and hand-rubbed my brisket, then greased my griddle. As a finale she tweaked my circuits and rotated my distributor, for reals!

She was the kind of miss you approach at an animal rights meeting. Sensitive, long-fingered, fringed with cat hair. I told her my dog was a very perceptive and intelligent animal, able to tell my mood in a second, and if he had any doubts a few whacks across his spine with a broom handle clarified the matter. I also liked to run out my front door with my BB gun shouting Geronimo! and shooting squirrels and robins in the chest. You might think this would diminish me in her eyes, but after I broke down in tears and said I needed her guidance, I soon lay face down on the bed in her apartment as she whipped me to attention with pine nettles.

She was the kind of doll you greet in a shark cage. Bleached top, tattooed shanks, bleeding gums. I told her I was called, in that gracious Southern tradition, Beer Breath. Since we were underwater, I had to repeat myself several times before she understood. Later on deck our captain, a sailor from Croatia, said he could defend us from any shark, no matter how large. She and I soon spotted a great white sixty feet long, and I whispered to her, we’re going to need a bigger Croat. After sundown she “got it,” then took me below deck while tittering and scalped my kelp.

She was the sort of dame you see holding up a bank. Masked, borrowed clothes, armed. She wanted reassurance that the pocket umbrella sticking out of my jacket pocket wasn’t a gun. It looked a lot like a gun. It was metallic and had that tooled look and handle-like grip, so when I roll it up tight and stick it in my pocket, it could be a gun. What with all the violence going on these days, you couldn’t be sure. Smiling broadly, I replied, softly, It’s a 38-caliber London Fog. That’s all I said, just: It’s a 38-caliber London Fog automatic with a hair trigger, softly and distinctly. With that she ordered me into a corner and fed me a kiss that I felt down to my arches, then back up to my molars. She whispered that she admired my insouciance, and if she didn’t get caught or shot she was a lead-pipe cinch.

She was the kind of cookie you stumble across in an ancient civilization. Riddled with parasites, toned from plowing, mummified. I met her on Extinct.com, the interactive website for girls from Mesopotamia and other defunct spots. Did you know you were the last of your kind? I asked her. And if you did, why didn’t you have kids? She mumbled something about how her dad didn’t like her going out with the Etruscans or Phoenicians in her neighborhood; they didn’t mine enough silver and seldom bathed. Liking what I heard, I said maybe we two could get us a little house in the Fertile Crescent, revive the Mesopotamians. She said, I’m 4500 years old and dead; it would be a long shot. I told her not to put herself down like that, but then I logged off. Usually I chased anything in pantyhose, but maybe a Mesopotamian chick was too much of a stretch. How far could pantyhose stretch, anyway? Still, the next day I checked out some futuristic babes on Roommates@Mooncolony.org and found one who said she’d live in the Mare Tranquillitatis with me in 2050, if she liked the way I sounded. I’m still trying to come up with a line that long.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your online life coach. This week we teach you the gentle art of bullying, courtesy of a man who understands it better than the average schoolyard punk, Michael Fowler. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

School Bullies And How To Be One


It was in Miss Ankemon’s fourth grade class that I first decided to bully my classmates, mainly the weaker and weirder ones. How satisfying it would be to make them cringe in fear and burst into tears, of course without Miss Ankemon noticing. But how to go about it? To begin with I was physically preposterous. A shy, undersized boy with an undescended testicle and what my doctors called a “lazy spine,” I resembled a slender reed bent over by the wind, even when no wind was blowing. Then there was my hard stutter. As a fourth grader, I was still struggling to answer a question my first grade teacher had asked me. Top me off with a clunky pair of glasses the size of bicycle handlebars, and my intimidation factor shrank to zero.

And then did I even know what bullies did, what moves to attempt? Having never met an actual bully, I could only guess. For these reasons the imagined torments of my classmates, by which I hoped to gain their respect and admiration, remained abstractions in my mind, goals seemingly out of reach.

Then one afternoon I got a valuable and unforgettable lesson in bullying. School had let out and I had begun my half-mile walk home, companionless as usual, when I found that I had become an actual bully’s victim. You can bet I paid close attention to my tormentor, to see what I could learn. He, a lanky dullard who never shut his mouth and as a result drooled constantly, and who wore a long belt cinched so that one end draped down his leg (the belt must have been his father’s at one time), did not particularly impress me. My keen interest in his bullying technique outweighed any intimidation I felt. He demanded a nickel to refrain from unleashing all his powers against me in a wrestling match, a threat that struck me as comical since it seemed an admission that he couldn’t generate more than five cents’ worth of fear. However, I was prepared to pay this ransom, not because I was afraid to fight him, but I didn’t want to get his saliva all over me.

I was spared from forking over the coin when a girl from my class, Lawanda, came to my rescue. In the fourth grade any number of the girls were as big or bigger than the boys, and now all five feet eight inches and 165 pounds of the plus-sized Lawanda, who fancied me that year, weighed in and tossed my bully into a nearby bush, almost dislocating his arm in the process. I believe she was prepared to remove his belt and whip him with it if he persisted in his antisocial behavior.

Not only was I saved, but I learned my first important lesson in bullying: be a big girl in love. It’s formidable.

In high school my desires to bully, still unrealized, overpowered me. Unfortunately there weren’t many bullies around for me to emulate, since the kids at my school put academics above lowly physical pursuits. The most awesome guys had 4.0 grade point averages and college scholarships in the bag. Our feeble and uncoordinated football and basketball teams weren’t even in the running for coolness. Shut out year after year, our so-called athletes left the awards to our marching band and debate team. Anyone who tried to throw his weight around would simply be ignored, unless he had high SAT scores. Yes, there were a few bullies anyway, but they were academically inclined. I rode the bus with one of the most fearsome, an upperclassman named Calvin. One day Calvin told me, “I heard you said some things about Calculus Club. Bad move.” And he grabbed my copy of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars and tore out several chapters. “Now what will you tell your Latin teacher when you’re called on to translate?” he taunted me. I was speechless.

Another time on the bus this same Calvin, an academic rock star who took four advanced placement courses and who had been accepted early admission to Duke, came up to me and put his books in the empty seat beside me. I’ll never forget his words as I sat there looking up expectantly at him. This is what he said: “Watch my books, pal, and don’t mess with the protective plastic covers. I spent a lot of time getting them on straight.” When the bus arrived at school and I stood up to get off, Calvin tried to push me back down in my seat, but he lacked the upper body strength. I disembarked unharmed, but impressed.

Thanks largely to Calvin’s example, and that five-cent guy in the fourth grade, I was inspired anew to be a bully before I graduated or lost interest. Nothing could stop me, I decided, from pushing around most of the kids in my class. We were a diverse lot, but I detected a common thread of weakness for me to exploit: puny Asians with the biceps of Jack Soo, Jewish kids built like Woody Allen, beanpole blacks with the physique of Dave Chappelle, and I didn’t overlook the frail, super-pale whites like me who might have been first cousins to Johnny Winter. Regardless of race or creed, I’d have them all running scared, as soon as I figured out exactly how.

I learned the key move from a master bully in my gym class. A steadfast animal rights and vegan activist, this physically unprepossessing but slovenly and unwashed individual had taught himself to instill fear and even disgust in every male student, as well as to advance his causes, with a simple trick. By doing a barefoot handstand in gym class so that his rank feet went up by his victim’s nose, he gave a stark reminder of what a barnyard animal smelled like. One whiff brought to mind pigs and cows and their plight, and the need for a meat-free diet, as well as instilling disgust and fear. That was my second important lesson in bullying: don’t be afraid to be offensive, in fact go for it! And it didn’t hurt to have a gimmick, either.

As luck had it, I caught the measles soon after I was first treated to this miscreant’s foot odor. When I returned to school after two weeks, still spotted head to toe, I inflicted nude bear hugs on the guys in the gym shower. Asian, Jewish, black or white, I embraced their smooth, steaming bodies under the spray and cried, “You’ve got the measles now, Chang,” and “A pox on you, Schwarz,” and “Try some measles on for size, Odom,” and “Be glad I’m not giving you an STD, O’Malley.” Best of all, after all my spots faded, I discovered that bouncing my slick, sunken chest off dudes in the shower was revolting and terrifying all by itself.

True, I wasn’t advancing an agenda like the foot odor guy, and no fair maidens like Lawanda were smitten with me. But I was the scariest bully my school ever saw.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel's second and final week of Two Much Of Michael Fowler, a double dose of one of our favorite contributors. This time he shares his detailed knowledge of the afterlife. Just never ask us how he acquired it. Again, we urge you to check out links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Advice For The Dead


Dear Gabriel,

I died two years ago and I’m still inside my damned coffin. The only thing I have to make death bearable, aside from the silk lining and plush interior of my container (okay, it’s a nice coffin) is The Beyond Times, which appears daily beside my satin pillow as if by magic. I particularly enjoy your advice column and the fashion news from the “other side,” i.e., the land of the living. Other than that, all I have is a small hand-held mirror, and that brings me to my question. To my horror, my skin looks more cracked and decomposed every day. Do you know of any skin care products I can have delivered to me along with my paper? Maybe my “breakout” moment will never arrive and I’ll be stuck inside this box forever, but it will help me to pass eternity if I can eliminate any signs of decay, especially facial ones.

Rotten in Denmark

Dear Rotten,

I can’t be certain, since our computer system is down for retooling and I’d be hard pressed to put my finger on your Permanent Record in our hopelessly out-of-date card catalog, but it sounds to me like you’re being punished. Were you a bit of a narcissist when alive? If so, that might explain the nature of your penance. I know what you’re thinking: since when is looking one’s best a sin? But the rulebook lists personal vanity as a form of pride, and as such, definitely a transgression. So I hope you’ll understand when I tell you that skincare products are out of the question for you right now. But don’t despair: your situation will likely be reviewed in the next several millennia, and then everything could change. You might even get that “breakout” moment you desire and ascend from your tomb to the Isle of the Hot. Meanwhile keep your chin up, chafed and unattractive though it may be.

Dear Gabriel,

What can I do about noisy neighbors? I know the Beyond includes the damned and the saved alike, all jumbled together. I get that. But I just found out the hard way that the people in the apartment next to mine are damned. They dress up in black and blast death metal music all night, stuff like Styx and Megadeath. I’m blessed and have to get up at six each morning for work, and nothing I say to these souls makes any difference. I’ve spoken to the landlord, but he says the rental agreement I signed prohibits me from complaining about noise. Don’t the good have any rights here?

Sleepless Down Under

Dear Sleepless,

Sorry, but none of your rights override the sacred contract between landlord and tenant. But why not drop a hint your tormented neighbors will notice? Next time they’re asleep, crank up Heavenly Harp Hits, a truly mystical and soul-satisfying CD. That’ll grab their attention, and good things may result. Who knows, they may bring you some homemade cookies and place a memorial wreath on your mailbox, and even start meditating.

Dear Gabriel,

I’m traveling dead with my mother, who was ninety-three when she passed away, and we’re supposed to take a ferry next week from our house, where I left the oven on with my head in it, to some otherworldly destination. What I’d like to know is, is this like a cruise? Can we get special non-smoking accommodations, and how much will I need to tip?

Not-So-Accidental Tourist

Dear Not-So-Accidental,

It is just like a cruise, except that you and Mama may be asked to row a few miles and be whipped a little. That’s a joke, but seriously, there are cruise lines almost that bad. I recall one I took off the Ivory Coast in 550 BC that was attacked by pirates and there wasn’t even a masseuse on board. That said, if you and your mother are redeemed, you get to sit in lounge chairs the entire time and can visit the buffet and bar as often as you like. You can gamble, too. Do remember that the sprites and imps waiting on you count on your tips to support their families.

Dear Gabe,

I just got here after my car crash on prom night, in which I died while my date Jennie was miraculously spared. Yeah, I know, almost like in that driver’s ed flick. Anyway, I was wondering, where can I go to meet cool dead chicks? I need to get things moving up here.

Fast Lane Eddie

Dear Fast Lane,

There are regular mixers for deceased teens in the innermost circle of most major cities. Consult the high-speed rail schedule in your town if you don’t have wheels. Be aware that the music, disco from the 1970s, shuts off at midnight, since the city managers have determined that it’s just too nerve-wracking to the damned and blessed alike to have it blaring all night. And please, dude, it’s Gabriel, not Gabe.

Dear Gabriel,

I’d like to register a complaint about your paper, The Beyond Times. Every morning for the first ten years after my death, I would stroll out my front door, waft over the sparkling, gently rolling silvery plain where I have come to reside, walk past the smiling, two-headed dogs and luminous cats to my mailbox, and there find my Daily Heaven. Now I find The Beyond Times instead, and I prefer the Heaven. Somehow Heaven seemed written just for me and my angelic friends, whereas the Times could have been written for anyone, even devils. Is there any chance my favorite paper will return? I know you’ll put this down to the lunatic ravings of a corpse, but I want my Heaven back.

Goodie Two Shoes

Dear Goodie,

As I hope everyone knows by now, The Daily Heaven, and its sister publication Hell’s Beat, were recently merged into one newspaper, The Beyond Times. This change, made after much soul-searching, enables us to conserve much-needed resources and best utilize our reporting staff. It also allows us to avoid using terms like Heaven and Hell, which many find insensitive and objectionable, and simply refer to the Beyond, which indicates either or both of those afterworld alternatives. I know it can be confusing, but in general the Arts and Entertainment and Society sections of the Times continue to feature your favorite writers and photographers from the late Heaven, and for our less blessed readers who enjoyed Hell’s Beat, the Business and Politics and Sports sections retain the talented crew from that publication. With that as your guide, I know you’ll come to love the Times as much as you formerly did the Daily Heaven, which, alas, will not return until the start of our Apocalyptic Promotional Days.

Dear Gabriel,

Man, I’m having the time of my life here, or I guess I mean the time of my afterlife. I never thought the Beyond was a real place, but now I’m a believer since there are fireworks every night and the discount stores are open 24/7. My only complaint is, where are all the neat people I thought I’d find here? Where’re Christ and Gandhi and Einstein and Socrates and people like that? Most everyone I meet is someone I used to work with on the electrical grid in Chicago.

Missing Persons

Dear Missing,

All those great people are here, and having the time of their immortalities. The thing is, they’re super-busy on special projects, and so you’re not liable to run into them. But, for our faithful readers of The Beyond Times, this column will showcase a new format beginning next week. I, Gabriel, formerly your humble advice columnist, will be going one-on-one with some of Heaven’s most desirable citizens, asking them the question: are you in the right place? Their answers will astound you! First up: Whitney Houston! The following week: Andy Griffith!!

And for you residents of the place formerly known as Hell, don’t worry, I won’t neglect you. On alternate weeks I’ll be asking some of the best-known denizens of the lower realm the same question: are you in the right place? You won’t believe their responses! First up: Colonel Gaddafi! And the following week: Uday and Qusay Hussein in an exclusive double interview!!

Till next time,


* Welcome to The Big Jewel and the first week of what we like to call Two Much Of Michael Fowler, a double helping from our good friend. We believe there is much we can learn from the wise elders in our midst. And then there is Eddie Sharp. He doesn't have much to teach us, but in the hands of Mr. Fowler he can still entertain. Warning: this week's piece may be unsuitable for younger or more sensitive readers. Or anyone who doesn't enjoy hearing about the sexcapades of the ancient. We remind you that links to Mr. Fowler's two books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," can be found in our blogroll.

Eddie Sharp, Alert Nursing Home Resident


Name’s Eddie Sharp. Thank you for visiting with me today. Sit down and I’ll talk about my sex life for a couple of hours.

The first woman I made love to was a stage performer. Her name was Betsy and she had more sex appeal than you’ve had childhood diseases. It was 1934 or 35, I was all of thirteen. I met her in Chicago, where she was a contortionist on the Orpheum Circuit and I was an usher. I was supposed to be in school that day but none were built yet. This was before condoms were invented, and Betsy showed me how to protect her with a cornhusk. That’s how she did it back in Ohio, where she had a happy childhood with few abortions. I still remember how the corn silk felt cool inside my shorts, and the sweet taste of the kernels in butter that Betsy and I lunched on that day. Her table manners were exquisite. She did things with her toes and vegetables that I thought only arboreal apes could do. But that was her act.

I remember the first time I had sex it was with a silent screen actress. She wasn’t a major star but she had “it” all right. Crabs. This was back before there was radiation treatment, so the way you cured crabs was to jump off the roof of a three-story barn into a creek. It worked, but it didn’t lower your cholesterol one bit. One of the little-known facts about Mary Pickford is that she invented the telescope. She was also the first woman to see Io on a cloudy night. The actress I’m talking about predicted there was a tenth planet beyond Pluto, but I still think Galileo had it right when he said the Pope was biased.

I lost my virginity to a little bank teller in Cleveland. She had more charm than Wall Street had fifties. She was a big movie fan and I took her to see all the greats: Bow, Pickford, Chaplin, Chaney. I wasn’t the best-looking guy in the sea but I could do tricks with my face. Often the crowd wondered if there was more, but hopefully not until tomorrow. Sad to say this girl gave me the clap, and this was well before fluoride. We had to stand in a thunderstorm wearing copper bracelets and brush our teeth three times. I guess that worked because to this day I haven’t had irrepressible gas.

The first girl I ever made love to was a young nurse. She had just shaved me for an appendectomy. I stayed aroused all the time I was under the knife, the first time she’d seen that. Do you think you’d like to see that? Oh, to be young and a sanitation expert again! It was too bad she contracted paranoid schizophrenia before there was saltpeter to restore the roses in her cheeks. The good news? The hallucinations were all in her head. She was a commoner but I never held prehistoric goodness against her lowlife family or the rest of that clan. I can still see her bare feet and her head shaved from lice and the towel she shared with twelve others. She had more charisma than you’ve had dumb ideas. I’ve often thought that if she’d been a bit older, and me a bit wiser, it would have made no difference.

You may not think so to look at me but I was quite the ladies’ man in my day. I could do things then I can’t do now, like skin a mule and pilot a steamboat. I used to screw, forty, fifty, a hundred times a week. Sometimes ten women a day didn’t satisfy me, and I mean all kinds of women without number and in every position. This was before and after my hemorrhoid bypass surgery. The ladies used to call me Luscious. Ha, can you believe that? It was because in my running shorts I looked like breakfast. I wasn’t the handsomest guy in the gene pool but I had a trick knee. My rear end looked like two solid grapefruit, and my front like two boiled eggs with a side sausage link. That was but one of my winning ways! I still wear those shorts because they make a lot of mouths water after they’re washed.

Sitting beside me in the solarium today are Reverend Williams and the Widow Peyton. The rev’s working on a volume of his collected sermons but really he’s only thinking about mad sex. In a minute he’ll stagger off to that piano in the corner and play the first song he made love to, which is the first I ever made love to, “Love Potion Number Nine,” the original version by Walt Whitman. I have designs on the widow here, but don’t worry — she can’t hear a thing I say. She last had sex so long ago that she’s a virgin again. She grew a new maidenhead last night and blushes like anything. If I say nookie loudly she giggles and downplays her breasts that are leading her on into young womanhood. I have a lot of options here, since women outnumber men five to one, so I hit on whoever reminds me of Scarlett Johansson. I chose the widow for her fashion sense and her joy of living that I can only describe as orthopedic. Regrettably she has a bad heart and that was before there was aromatherapy for that. So nose drops and penicillin aren’t any help at all.

I have a reputation as a debonair ladies’ man, which may explain my cravat and smoking jacket. Like all real men I brush my teeth and shave in the toilet bowl. I never wear shorts since they constrict my tricky spine. Baby dolls come to me for a good time, in some cases their last before they croak of natural causes or malpractice. The head nurse — I call her The Great Unwashed but that’s not her real name — pulled the bed sheet up over the head of my last conquest just as I was making my entrance. I was too late by a minute. Still I don’t know why the nurse didn’t let me go in. The lights may have been out but the door was wide open. And I did knock.

I think that nurse has it in for me, sneaking up on me like that. I almost needed a defibrillator.

Name’s Eddie Sharp. Who did you say you are? I’m sure I never heard of you. Now talk about your sex life, and make it throb.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are still a little unclear about what happened last night. Or was it last week, at the New Year's Eve party? Anyway, please close the curtains and stop making so much noise. Our head hurts. Honestly, we feel as if we'd rather die. Perhaps this is the right time to bring in our old friend Michael Fowler to tell us how. Happy New Year!

How To Die


Most of us, not giving it much thought, would prefer to die with our boots on. That means dying with a sense of purpose and actively engaged in life — impossible for the millions of us who are fated to die by choking on a chicken fajita or contracting Ebola at summer camp. But if you decide to die with your boots on, it’s best to be embarked on a noble or at least not a laughable endeavor when your moment comes. For example, if you are a gardener, you may wish to pass on while lovingly pruning your rose bushes. But if this is your choice, make sure that irritable bees don’t align on your face in the shape of a beard, so that a passing state trooper mistakes you for an escaped convict and shoots you dead on the spot, or that you don’t do a home lobotomy trying to reshape your eyebrows with a hedge-trimmer. Dignity counts, and your relatives want to be able to hold their heads up at your funeral, especially if they’re paying to have it catered. Remember: if you can’t die with your boots on, then die with them off, since that completely removes dignity from the equation. No one expects your barefoot cadaver to show dignity, and to underscore casualness, arrange to have the toenails painted green.

Given the ever-worsening prospects of earning enough to retire on, many of us will opt to die at work. While this is a worthy goal, be sure your occupation warrants this choice. Bus drivers and jet pilots and brain surgeons who opt to die while on duty may risk the safety and even lives of others by doing so, and should have backups standing by to fill in. Waitresses and car mechanics and bank tellers may also seriously inconvenience others by an on-the-job demise. But if you’re a pollster or a tax collector or an artist, go on and break out your rigor mortis.

Most people, after thinking the matter through, decide they want a gradual death rather than a sudden one. Better, they think, to sign off as the result of a long illness than to abruptly cash in their chips while speeding through a red light or sunbathing in the path of a hurricane. This reflects two widely held beliefs: that a long life beats a short one, and that even intense pain is preferable to no sensation at all. People would rather lie around for years in a soiled hospital gown talking to their spouse’s family and receiving hourly injections than have the Reaper sneak up on them and surprise their pants off.

The fact is that most of us want all the life we can get, up to a point. Where that point occurs varies from person to person. For some, no longer being able to play five sets of tennis or climb K2 without oxygen support may bring on a death wish, unlikely as that may sound to the more sedentary among us. For others, life continues to hold meaning even when they must be tied down to a chair to keep them from boarding a bus wearing only pajama tops and they can’t remember to eat unless someone shouts “food!” in their ear and hands them a fork.

What’s key here is setting a “decent interval” for your life. None of us wants to hang onto a meaningless, unfulfilling life. To do so is deemed “indecent” by society, whoever they are. But what makes for a decent interval will naturally vary among individuals. If you invented Facebook and became a billionaire in your mid-twenties, you are unlikely to think that 25 years was a decent enough interval in which to be you, but it’s time to push off and not be you beginning year 26. We can probably all agree that a decent interval has ended when your shrunken spine curves like a question mark and you walk around helplessly staring at your feet. The cost of medical treatment is also a clue. When it turns out you need the equivalent of the Kennedy Space Center to monitor your breathing and your insurance premiums rise to 25 percent of GDP, it may be indecent to draw another breath. That your insurer refuses to cover your third donated heart is another sign that the miracle of life has lasted long enough.

When you have determined that your decent interval is over, naturally you are faced with the problem of dying. Few of us are so fortunate as to be carried off at the last decent second, and so you may need to facilitate the process. Since Dr. Kevorkian is no longer listed in the Yellow Pages, here’s a tip: have a glass or two of soothing wine. My preference would be Merlot, but I’m a red fancier. Any wine will do. Then take your medications, all of them, equal to a six months’ dose. Wait 15 minutes, then crawl into a warm tub and shave with a straight razor.

Alternatively, if you want to go out on a high note, plug in a Marshall amplifier and play “Purple Haze” on an electric guitar while soaking.

If you’re still alive after that, you really are indecent.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we prefer to view the history of science through imaginary dialogues between some of its greatest practitioners. This week Michael Fowler conjures up a conversation between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr about cars. Add in a few asides from Werner Heisenberg and suddenly there are too many variables to keep track of with any certainty. And that, dear friends, is the story of quantum physics!

Einstein v. Bohr


Lights come up on: the living room of Albert Einstein’s small clapboard house near the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study. It is the winter of 1937. For the last three hours Einstein and Niels Bohr have been sitting together in uncomfortable chairs and continuing their debate, begun at the 1927 Solvay Conference in even worse chairs, about whether objects exist when no one is around to observe them. Einstein, now and then giggling as he draws on an unlit pipe and sips from an empty coffee mug, has been maintaining that of course they do, or why pay to insure them? Meanwhile Bohr has grown increasingly exasperated, to the point of wishing he had bypassed Einstein’s and were frolicking in the indoor pool at the Holiday Inn Express down the road. Why wouldn’t the father of relativity admit that without an observer, there were no objects to speak of at all? Einstein, sensing his guest’s rising irritation, decides to change tacks.

EINSTEIN: I propose a little thought experiment, Niels, to clarify the situation.

BOHR: I smell a trap, Albert. I know your thought experiments can be very subtle. I will need to keep my wits about me so as not to be deceived. But I agree to listen.

EINSTEIN: Excellent. Then imagine my closed garage, right outside at the end of my drive. Now imagine it full of light. Now imagine a single photon escaping through the garage window and striking you in the eye. Now picture what you then see: a brand new Squire Drophead Coupe, yellow, with chromium wire wheels.

BOHR: Are you referring to the 1600 model that has a supercharged engine, a live rear axle, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, and reaches a top speed of 115 mph?

EINSTEIN: Nothing else. It’s out there in my garage. And you forgot to mention the custom dual-pipe exhaust. It’s a gas.

BOHR: A gas? You mean it obeys Boyle’s law of pressure and volume? But look here, Albert, are you licensed to drive in New Jersey?

EINSTEIN: I had my papers airmailed from Berlin. But Niels, you miss the point. The car actually exists in my garage, unobserved.

BOHR: Then let’s go for a spin!

EINSTEIN: Alas, I am too tired at the moment. Let’s share a couple of bowls of ice cream and then have a little nap. I’ll feel more rested then.

BOHR: Ice cream! We don’t serve that in Denmark anymore due to the cone shortage. Do you have sprinkles?

EINSTEIN: No, and no cones either. I have bowls and spoons only.

BOHR: In that unfortunate situation, let’s go on talking a while. I have a thought experiment for you to consider too, my dear Albert, while I continue to ponder your coupe.

EINSTEIN (helping himself to tobacco though his doctor has forbidden it): Shoot.

BOHR: Imagine this time there are two cars. One is your magnificent yellow roadster, sitting at rest in your garage, just as you propose. It really is there, of course?

EINSTEIN: Of course. I said it was, didn’t I?

BOHR: Fine. Now imagine that a second car, a sassy red Bugatti Type 57, approaches your car at half the speed of light.

EINSTEIN: Wait a moment. This Bugatti…does it have a horseshoe grille, thermostatically-controlled engine shutters, a twin-cam engine, and a five-year power-train warranty?

BOHR: It is loaded. It’s got all the bells and whistles and an excellent warranty. And now the astonishing thing…it is mine. I parked it not twenty yards from your door when I arrived this morning to visit you. I bought it as soon as I stepped off the boat today in New York, and drove it here in under an hour, tires smoking.

EINSTEIN: I never thought to inquire how you got here. To think there is a car finer than mine in Princeton, and you are its owner! How the hell much does the Institute pay visiting Danish lecturers, anyway?

BOHR: Easy, my friend. Did you really not anticipate my rejoinder?

EINSTEIN: I demand to see this automobile at once!

BOHR (withdraws a folded magazine from his jacket pocket and tosses it Einstein’s way): That’s the latest issue of American Auto, dated January 1937. You’ll find the car on page 31 just as I described it, except the part about its belonging to me and being parked outside. You’ll agree that in the abstract it’s just as much…a gas, as you say?

EINSTEIN (uses the magazine to swat a large fly that has alit on the wall beside him, then tosses it back to Bohr): Very clever, Niels. You had me going there for a moment. I should have realized that a thought experiment is only a thought experiment.

BOHR: I now claim a ride in that yellow coupe of yours. And if you are too tired to drive, I will take the wheel. (Produces a pair of aviator goggles.) I even brought some goggles with me so I can roll the window down. I always bring a pair when I travel in case I have a chance to fly in a biplane.

EINSTEIN: Um, about the coupe. I confess my garage is empty of all matter, even of light. You see, my friend, I actually did purchase that splendid coupe two days ago, but yesterday decided I couldn’t meet the monthly payments and returned it to the dealership, well within the three-day grace period following purchase. I’m sorry if this news comes as a disappointment. (Glances at his watch.) But if you’ll be patient another few seconds…until three o’clock to be precise…I should have a favorable update for you.

(At three precisely there comes a loud knock on the door. Einstein opens it to reveal Heisenberg, a young red-headed man who speaks in a heavy German accent.)

HEISENBERG (standing in the door):  Dr Einstein? I’m Heisenberg from the car dealership. We spoke the other day about finding you a preowned car after you returned the yellow coupe. Well, professor, I tried to compare the price of the car to the mileage on the odometer, as you requested, and I made an amazing discovery. I can’t specify the mileage without knowing the price you’ll pay, and I can’t specify the price without knowing the car’s mileage. In other words, I can’t give you both the price and the mileage at the same time.

EINSTEIN: I’m willing to pay up to eight hundred dollars for a car with less than a hundred thousand miles on it. What’s so hard about that, Heisenberg?

HEISENBERG: It depends on what’s on the lot, is all I’m saying. But I should have something for you in a day or two.

BOHR (to Einstein): The sole difficulty I detect would be if you insisted on paying only eight hundred dollars for a Drophead Coupe. Think what sorry shape the tranny would be in!

HEISENBERG (taking in the two men): What about a couple of mopeds for four hundred? I can bring them around tomorrow morning.

EINSTEIN and BOHR (together): Deal!

EINSTEIN: As long as they’re flex-fuel.

HEISENBERG: Flex-fuel? Was ist das?

EINSTEIN: Just a little proposal of mine to be published in next month’s Physics Today.

BOHR: It’ll never work.

(As the scientists move on to other topics and Heisenberg exits: blackout.) 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where winners rule. Michael Fowler is a winner. Not a big-time winner, but a small-time winner. Which can be complicated. But let him explain...

Mr. Eight Thousand


After I hit the Powerball jackpot for eight thousand, the change in my life is swift and profound. I get up in the morning, and it’s not merely me rising. It’s me and the upward buoyancy of eight thousand dollars. Oh, I know it isn’t all that much, eight thousand. Not even enough for a good used car, or to send my kid to college for more than a single semester, if I could afford to get married and have a kid. But it’s eight thousand I didn’t have before, and the difference is so great that I can hardly express it in hundreds, for example. Eight thousand is eighty hundred, a number so vast and cumbersome that no one says it. It is quite simply an enormous sum of money, especially looked at in the light of how many hundred dollar bills add up to it. Eighty of them! My mind boggles when I consider how many ten-spots that is. My wallet wouldn’t hold them all. It could be a number in the Medicare shortfall.

As I walk along the street, I sense that people notice the change in my bearing. There’s a new assurance to my stride, and an openness that admits life’s pleasures, costly as some of them are. Do I feel like breakfast at that corner bistro? I can afford it, even at $6.95 for a stinking couple of eggs and a glass of watery juice. A morning paper? Sure, I’ll treat myself instead of waiting for one to turn up in the men’s room at work. That beggar who I usually begrudge giving fifty cents to in the morning? Here you are my man, have a dollar! Life is good, is it not, and we fat cats like to keep the largess coming.

At work, as I leak the tale of my winnings, I begin to feel like Mr. Darcy or some entitled nobleman out of a Jane Austen book. “Do you hear he has a hundred thousand pounds a year and an estate in Cheshire?” I think I overhear the HR women whisper as I confront one of them about a form to increase my tax withholding. Of course her real words are, if she actually is talking about me, “Do you hear he has eight thousand and an apartment near the bus station?” Not quite so grand, but with eight thou, or eight large as some say, I can move anytime I want. With my kind of money, what can stop me? The answer is, nothing can.

At noon I walk over to City Hall and pay off all nineteen of my parking tickets. I also decide to have that oil leak in my car fixed, since I’m tired of taking the bus. The sum total of all this is fifteen hundred dollars — fifteen hundred! — but I realize that even so great and unwieldy a sum as that hardly dents my vast fortune. So it’s fifteen hundred! I snap my fingers and snort dismissively. That still leaves me thousands, and quite a few of them. I can still go on vacation this summer and drop another fifteen hundred on the beach. And after that, I’ll still have thousands. There is seemingly no end to my fortune.

At the end of the day I am insulted by a high school youth at the bus stop. Normally such a psychopath-in-the-making makes me defensive, and someday I will brain one of these scholars with my briefcase or sock him with my fist wrapped around the nickels and quarters of my bus fare. But now I only smirk. Does he think he can wound me now, the lout? Does he not realize that my thick personal finances shield me from slight? I look away, not even wondering why my clothing and hairstyle so excite his crude comments. What does he mean, I look like SpongeBob SquarePants? I ignore this, comfortable in the knowledge that I can buy and sell this high school kid many times over. What is he worth, lunch money? I try not to laugh in his face, especially since he might pull a knife.

At home I go online at once and ogle my bank balance. Yes, there it is, shrunken but still massive! Oh, I know that riches are fleeting. I know the bills are coming that will finally set me back to poverty level. With a sad smile, I recall how it was last year when, for a change, I was awarded a performance bonus at work, a sum of three hundred dollars. That made a difference in my life for a brief while, a week perhaps. I walked on air then, only to discover later that I had spent it all in such magnificent ways that I couldn’t account for a dime of it. This eight thousand, though a far grander sum, will likewise dissipate too quickly and leave barely a trace.

But why get depressed? Once a lotto winner, always a winner, that’s how it works. Now that the universe has lined up to pay me out, it will stay lined up. The stars are on my side. And my next winning ticket will be for more than eight thousand. Maybe eight million — I can feel it! The store clerk is waiting to sell it to me.

Seven Eleven, here I come.




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we champion the car of the future. Unfortunately, the sucker who owns the car of the future may well live in the past. His name might even be Michael Fowler.

I Drive A Chevy Clueless


My first car, bought with earnings from my stockboy job in a grocery store and help from my parents, was a Volkswagen Virgin. It wasn’t my first choice, but at $500 for a triply pre-owned one, I could afford it. It had no accessories worthy of the name and certainly nothing to help me out on dates. The car was as chaste as I was, with no cigarette lighter, no cup holder for side-by-side Miller Lites, and a spotty red Earl Scheib paintjob that resembled my horrific case of acne. Even the basics were missing: the contraption had no AC, heat that seeped out through the frame, and a defective AM radio that only played “Surfin’ Bird” and “American Pie” and not one note of romantic mood music.

The first girl I took out in the Virgin complained that she couldn’t turn the rearview mirror to adjust her makeup and hair, since the mirror was stuck in place with epoxy and came off in her hand. I didn’t even have a back seat to ask her to sit in, since I had reduced it to a lump of char with a carelessly flicked cigarette butt. There was also a funny smell that I discovered was caused by a decomposing pair of swim shorts in the trunk from what must have been a previous owner’s ill-fated dip in a badly polluted lake or septic tank.

My Virgin got me through college, always taking a wrong turn on the road to sexual conquest, and when I settled in on a fulltime job I graduated to a Kia Metrosexual. This was quite a step up for me and I had to get used to all the modern features. I had power everything, a blasting AC and heater, and bucket seats. The car had tinted windows and soft lighting, like the interior of a theater with the lights down. As soon as I opened the door, soothing preprogrammed music purred on the woofers like heavy breathing. A battery-operated odorizer (included in the sticker price) spritzed the air with notes of musk and rutting. The car was a deep, lustrous maroon that made you want to run your fingers through the finish. There was an extra interior mirror so I could watch myself drive, and the glove compartment came equipped with two dozen condoms, just in case. Right before the last drive-ins closed, I made use of the back seat with a girlfriend or two, and finally scored with Karen, my future wife. I celebrated by honking my horn right in the middle of King Kong.

With childbearing days upon us, Karen and I sprang for a Pontiac Ark. Roughly the size of the Exxon Valdez but somewhat easier on oil usage, the Ark had room for nine car seats, and later our daughter’s entire third-grade soccer team plus their water bottles. Plenty of space for the family animals in the Ark, too. We led our cats and dogs in two-by-two, and even three-by-three. The seats had thick, liquid-resistant covers, easy to wipe baby vomit and dog pee off of, and backseat cleanup was easy after Karen lost a pint of amniotic fluid during our rushed drive to the hospital to have our fifth child.

With the kids grown up and gone and Karen and I getting on towards mid-life and its feeling of lost youth, we looked at a Toyota Narcissus. But here technology got the better of us. A sign that I would have trouble figuring the car out was the terrifying 1,500-page owner’s manual that lay enshrined in the glove compartment like the President’s latest unreadable budget proposal. I couldn’t comprehend how to program the dashboard to answer phone calls or show how many miles before empty, let alone configure the GPS to talk to me, and I felt that the evening classes offered at the dealership would only brand me as an idiot, even though I could claim college credit for taking them. It rained during the test drive, and I couldn’t figure which of the 72 wiper blade speeds was most appropriate. The cost of a replacement electronic key was $700, more than I had paid for my entire VW Virgin, and I was not reassured when Clive, the tiny robot manservant who lived in the back seat, promised to hang it up for me. The car was so much more intelligent than I was, I felt that it should be driving me around.

So Karen and I opted for the Chevy Clueless. It’s very basic. Four wheels, two doors, a motor and a key. That’s about it. Any more stripped-down and it’d be what Fred Flintstone drives. That’s fine with Karen too, since she didn’t get the knack of strapping a child’s car seat into the Ark until our third child was born. We also test-drove the Ford Rivet, the Dodge Dropping and the Kia Gland, cars well known for being dumbed down for aging boomers, but they still had complicated gadgetry or some other feature we didn’t care to deal with. The Rivet’s power sunroof nearly beheaded me, and the Gland only got a laughable 75 miles to the gallon in the city. The tiny Dropping sat so close to the ground that I had to exit in the seated position, and ended up kneeling like a religious zealot on the dealer’s lot. Getting in, my legs buckled and I collapsed in the driver’s seat in a fetal position. At least I could climb in and out of the Clueless without collapsing, and Karen and I both loved that everything about it was unadorned and simple and that it came with an “endless refill” gas card.

With the Clueless I do have to tolerate a few jibes from my asstool neighbor next door, who drives a Chrysler Pompous. Loaded with chrome, computer navigated, powered by natural gas — but I’m describing my neighbor. The Pompous itself is only slightly less garish. When Stan, which is what I call my neighbor since his name is Bill, saw me pull my new and comparatively featureless Clueless into the drive, he asked me if I had joined the Amish, though nothing about the Clueless resembles a horse and buggy. If it did, I would lead it into Stan’s front yard twice a day to relieve itself.

Stan calls me “The Luddite” now and keeps asking how I like my Unabomber-mobile. Funny guy, my neighbor. Next time he talks smack about my Clueless, I’m parking it on his feet.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel. Normally Michael Fowler is a man who loves the smell of napalm in the morning, especially if that smell is emanating from him. This week, however, he wants to smell like something else.

Smelling Men Past And Present


Inhalable Man® proudly presents our new line of colognes that closely replicate the biological aura created by six exciting and odiferous male celebrities of yesterday and today. No, we don’t have these hunks’ full genomes and so we haven’t cloned their exact sweat gland effusions — not yet! — but our skilled perfumers have come satisfyingly close to duplicating their odors based on intensive and secretive interviews with women who actually rubbed noses and shared oftentimes damp sheets and unaired hotel rooms and broken down vans with them.

From the clandestinely recorded olfactory memories of “Cleopatra”-era Elizabeth Taylor comes “Richard Rampant” — exclusively for the woman who wants the man in her life to exude the almost palpable odor of actor Richard Burton in his prime. Mix one part pretty boy Mark Antony, one part pensive Hamlet, and one part unflossed, unmouthwashed, hard-drinking coal miner’s son. Now inhale deeply and Richard, dripping masculinity after a day under the hot camera lights or an evening in a smoke- and spittle-filled pub, invades your boudoir, grips you roughly by the shoulders, and sprays your face with the hot fricatives of unpronounceable Welsh poetry. $48 the ounce at fine stores everywhere.

“I Smell You, Babe,” blended to the exact specifications of Cher, recreates the manhood of Sony Bono in his most virile “I Got You, Babe” days. With hints of fringed leather vest, incense, funky commune mattress, tie-dye solution and Chianti-soaked mustache, one whiff’ll have you believing you’re locked in a sweltering box of a recording studio with the diminutive but heavy-breathing recording artist, as the two of you croon your greatest hits and dream up the Aquarian name you’ll give to your firstborn child. There has to be a groovier and less ironic name than Chastity, and you’ll think of it as soon as you inhale this far-out fragrance. $25 the two-ounce bottle at most Target stores.

Todd Palin’s biology, so redolent of the northern wilderness, has inspired our chemists to create “Yukon Storm” with overtones of freshwater salmon, husky pee, grizzly bear musk and snowmobile exhaust. This is the primal essence that keeps Sarah and many sled dogs coming back for more. Open your nose to “Yukon Storm” and suddenly you’re in a two-person tent with Todd during a hazardous blizzard with 12 overfriendly huskies crowded around to keep you warm and pliant throughout the forty-below night. $6 the three-ounce flask at Bass Pro Shops nationwide.

Panelists on TV networks from MSNBC to Fox, male and female alike, testify that reverend and civil rights activist Al Sharpton blows through the studio like an empowering waft of sunbaked inner city street, fresh dry cleaning, volatile hair straightener, and Slim-Fast. We’ve taken those ingredients and blended them together with other assertive accents to bring you “Civil Sizzle,” an edgy concoction that represents the civil rights crusader at his fiery and fragrant best. Close your eyes and no matter how white you are, no matter how white your man is, no matter how blindingly white the two of you together are, one sniff’ll put you on the march in Washington to counter Glen Beck’s pasty throng, or tramping down Wall Street to support the 99%. By evening you’ll change your marching shoes for bedroom slippers and follow your nose to bliss. $2 the four-ounce tube online only at ACLU.org.

Our unique and indomitable “Tea Party Coalescence” recreates Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul’s near-combustible personal aura of kerosene, lymph, earwax and flannel in sensual proportions. Spritz a little on your man and you’re present at the Iowa Caucuses where libertarian values and the breath of 100,000 corn eaters coalesce around you like insecticide raining down from a crop duster. Goldfingers and isolationists alike will vote for the aromatic accuracy of this heady brew. $10 the twelve-ounce mason jar exclusively at Cracker Barrel.

“Every woman adores a fascist,” wrote poetess Sylvia Plath in 1962, and what woman won’t melt in the arms of her unyielding generalissimo after he splashes on “Eau de Gaddafi,” an arid blend of coffee, camelhair, petroleum, lipstick and eyeliner that all but tyrannizes the nostrils? We took actual reminiscences of the Strongman of Libya’s harem of female Ukrainian body builders, added pungent notes revealed during a private interview and secluded smell tests with former US Secretary of State Condi Rice, who occupied a special place in the dictator’s heart and once almost shook his hand, and distilled this mad elixir. Rice states categorically that to smell him was to obey him, and that “Eau de Gaddafi” is almost as resolution-melting as the actual presence. Can you say, “Permission to fall in love, sir”? $3.79 the gallon at most Chevron stations. Bring your own container.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the average temperature of our contributors is about three degrees above absolute zero. This week our good friend Michael Fowler has taken this whole temperature thing to a new and very unpleasant extreme. Wrap yourself in a blanket and read on...

The Iceman Goeth


First let me clear up a few misconceptions. When I was found frozen in that Swedish glacier near Stockholm, I had only been encased in ice for seven years, 2005-2011, and modern years at that. Consequently I did not herd mastodons or keep a pet saber-tooth tiger before I froze, regardless of what you may have heard on CNN. Nor am I a Neanderthal or Sasquatch or some thought-to-be-extinct trial model of Homo sapiens, but the real up-to-date thing, born in the USA in 1983, no matter what you read in that supermarket tabloid that has aliens and werewolves and babies with eight limbs on the cover. I was skiing and listening to Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” on my earbuds when a snowstorm swallowed me up, so how much more modern can you get?

It is true that I was carefully thawed out by Swedish scientists, and that lab assistant Inga recognized my cologne when my face approached room temperature, and confessed to the local media that this was the beginning of her feelings for me, as she had long adored that fragrance. And it is also true, as I stated on that Scandinavian talk show, that nothing so speeded up my thawing and return to normalcy as Inga lying beside me and pressing her blonde Swedish body against mine, as she voluntarily did in the name of science and medicine, and perhaps unhinged by the fumes of my liquefying Brut in the small lab we occupied. Inga also sang to me, and brought my knowledge of pop music up to date. It was boogieing and shimmying to the tunes of Lady Gaga, even as I lay on a gurney, that restored suppleness to my stiff joints.

Still, not even warm Inga was enough, and there remained some icy blockage in my bloodstream, like an ice cube in my aorta. I couldn’t get enough steaming coffee and soup, and even my candy bars I liked microwaved and served hot, in a bowl with a spoon if necessary.

So I said farewell to the lab and Inga, who turned out to be married, and I was already engaged myself, or I had been before that snowstorm somehow landed me unconscious beside the glacier. I flew to Hawaii where I lay under the intense sun all day and soaked in hot tubs all night, still without feeling quite warm, but plotting my return to Susan in Philly, my fiancée of seven years ago, and still my fiancée for all I knew, having not heard from her in all that time. After a week on the broiling beach and a dozen sessions of hot-stone massage therapy from Amura, a tanned and warm-blooded wahine, I caught a plane back to wintry Pennsylvania and a hopefully still-warm Susan, dressed on my flight in multiple layers of clothing and a heavy parka and sucking heated broth through a straw.

Imagine my chagrin to find Susan now engaged to a hulk named Trunk or Chunk or some ridiculous syllable, an anthropologist at Philadelphia U. She stared at me and said, “I heard about them finding you and reviving you after all these years, and I thought, no, it isn’t possible. And your complexion seems off now, much more pimply and reddish, perhaps due to freezer burn.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Someone neglected to wrap me in safe storage bags. No doubt I would taste terrible if you made a prime rib out of me.” I didn’t mention that Susan looked different to me, too. Were those crow’s feet around her eyes? And her neck looked so papery I was tempted to write my new cell phone number on it. Here I had kept myself on ice and more or less perfectly preserved for her during my seven years’ absence — the paparazzi didn’t call me The Iceman for nothing — and what had she done for me? Not even applied a good moisturizer, from the looks of things.

When she told me of her engagement, I said, “What, you couldn’t wait seven short years? Seven years is nothing in romantic terms. Juliet waited longer than that for Romeo, didn’t she?”

“Juliet waited about seven minutes for Romeo, if you recall. She wasn’t one to moon about on her balcony breathing the night air and listening to owls until the Montagues and Capulets came to terms, which might have been never. They were the Israelis and Palestinians of their era, don’t forget.”

“OK,” I said, “but in those days a minute seemed like a year, easy. Time moved more slowly then. You gave up too soon. How long have you and Punk been engaged, anyway?”

“Only six years, eight months,” she tossed off airily. Then she introduced me to Lunk himself, who came rushing through her door as if he lived there, fresh from one of the courses he taught in anthropology over at the university. Looking delighted, he stepped up and shook my hand, towering over me by half a foot, and said, “If only you’d stayed frozen for a thousand years, what a find you’d be then!”

“Sorry to have burst in on you prematurely,” I replied, completely teed off, and stormed out of the apartment and into the Starbucks down the street, where I swilled two piping hot Colombian blends, a super-size latte and three espressos, and followed up with a hot oil massage and a steam sauna at the spa next door.

All that did nothing to cure my depression or ease my chill, though it did lubricate my medulla for a couple of hours, and the next thing I knew I was flying down a Tibetan mountainside in a jacket emblazoned with the face of the Dalai Lama, two ski-lengths ahead of a squad of Chinese soldiers, pinning my fate as always on the treacherous slopes. At the bottom I met a hot Sherpa chick named Dawa — literally hot, who hid me and then kissed me, warming me nose-to-toes for the first time since my deicing, while explaining that she routinely climbed Shisha Pangma in a bikini. She and I will ascend Everest before the winter storms start, staying cozy in our two-person tent, with or without her two-piece.

And if that’s not cozy enough, Dawa says she knows a Nepali nightclub near Everest Base Camp where, as in times past, the tribes gather, build a fire, and dance all night to Maroon 5’s “Wake Up Call.” I can already feel the heat.