Sunday, September 25, 2022

An important message from your insurance company

Dear Valued Policyholder: 

As you may be aware, Tropical Storm Ian is predicted to impact the Florida peninsula as a major hurricane sometime over the next few days. As your homeowner’s insurance provider, our first concern is the safety of our policyholders and their loved ones — the $20 billion or so we might have to pay out to cover damage claims is barely on our radar at this point. 

Accordingly, here are some tips to help you prepare for the storm:

  • Turn off Netflix, and switch to your local TV station. No, not the one that shows reruns of Gunsmoke and Murder She Wrote 24/7, choose one that has “live” news and weather forecasters. If you speak English, choose a station that broadcasts in English. Si hablas español, elige una estación que transmita en español. IF YOU ARE HARD OF HEARING, TURN ON THE CLOSED CAPTIONS. 
  • Secure your property. Bring in outside furniture, plastic flamingoes, your "Biden/Harris '24" and “Hate Has No Place Here” yard signs and anything else that could become a projectile in high winds. 
  • Top off your vehicle’s gasoline tank. While there are only two ways out of the Florida peninsula — I-95 on the east coast and I-75 on the west — and both will be parking lots packed with millions of hysterical residents trying to flee so you’re unlikely to be able to travel more than a few miles before you give up and return home, at least your last thought as the storm surge washes you out to sea will be that you tried to escape.
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged, so you can take videos of trees bending to the ground, your neighbor’s roof being blown away and the water that will flood into your home at the height of the storm and text them to your friends up north. (Tip: Do not stand in front of picture window to shoot video if wind is gusting at more than 100 mph.)
  • Because the power is sure to go out — it always goes out on your street, even for hurricanes that hit Texas 1,000 miles west of you — eat all the food in your freezer because it will spoil. Be sure to thaw and cook meat products before you eat them. 
  • Stock up with water, beer, Pop-Tarts, batteries and anything else you and your family will need to survive the coming days. (Note: Batteries are not intended for human consumption.)
  • Purchase enough baby formula to last a week. If, due to the current shortage, you can’t find any, feed your baby beer which will at least keep him/her/them hydrated and asleep. If you do not have a baby, feel free to ignore this tip.
  • Don’t forget to bring any pets inside before the storm hits. As a reminder, your homeowner’s policy does not cover the cost of replacing pets who blow away, drown or are eaten by hungry alligators displaced from their ponds due to the storm.

Tomorrow we will be sending you an email containing tips for surviving in what's left of your home during the weeks and months after the hurricane while you wait for your check from us which may be delayed due to the U.S. Post Office which no longer cares about delivering anything but Amazon and eBay packages. Provided, of course, your home withstands the winds and/or that giant tree hanging over your house doesn’t come crashing down to destroy it and you. 

Stay safe. Together, we will survive this storm. At least we will — this message is being sent from our headquarters in Illinois. 


Your insurance company

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Living on bread, mashed potatoes and Tootsie Roll Pops

Almost everyone I know has had COVID except for me and my wife and I haven't understood why. While COVID is nothing I've ever aspired to, I'd like to know if I'm one of those people who is apparently immune. I've read that folks with O-negative blood -- my type -- are less likely to get it. And that men with full heads of hair are more resistant than balding men. (Thank you, grandpa, for that gene.) This may sound weird but in ways I have been feeling left out, like the last kid picked for the dodgeball team. 

We were vaccinated in February and March, 2021, and received our first booster in November. My doctor told me to put off having the second booster, and I was glad I followed his advice after friends came down with COVID within weeks after receiving it.

Like most people, we stayed close to home during the early months of the pandemic. But by mid-summer 2020, we were venturing out, selectively, to restaurants and social events. Until a month after our second shot, we wore masks everywhere but as requirements eased, we stopped. I hadn’t worn a mask in months until week before last when I went to DC where Uber and Lyft passengers were required to mask up. (That requirement has since been lifted.)

This year almost everyone in our social circle — all of them vaccinated, many having had their second booster shots — has gotten COVID.  I haven’t understood how Judy and I somehow missed it.

Turns out I didn’t. 

Early this summer, I ran out of Irish Spring in the middle of a shower. I asked my wife to hand me a fresh bar. I love the scent of a brand new bar of soap but couldn’t smell it. To my amazement, I realized I couldn’t smell anything — her perfume, the dogs’ stinky breath, coffee, gasoline when I filled my tank, fresh bread baking in the oven. (Disclosure:  We’ve never made bread but if we had, I couldn’t have smelled it.) Cigars were the only scent I could detect and I smelled them everywhere — at home, at the gym, in the supermarket, at the dentist’s office. Neither I nor anybody I know smokes cigars. 

Around the same time, food began to taste odd. I made a pot of my famous beef vegetable soup and threw it out — it was disgusting. I hadn’t deviated from the recipe so I assumed I’d used spoiled ingredients. We ordered a pizza and I couldn’t finish the first piece. You name it — cheese, meat (especially bacon), eggs, milk, cereal, vegetables, ice cream, basically anything and everything — either tasted gross or had no taste at all. The one exception was fruit-flavored hard candy. Even chocolate tasted awful. 

In early July I visited an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) practice. Naturally, I didn’t get to see the doctor — apparently one gets to see a new doctor these days only if a major appendage has been sawed off and is spurting blood like Old Faithful —  I saw a Nurse Practitioner. She asked if I was aware my symptoms were consistent with COVID. I said of course I was but, to the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t had it. She asked if I had allergies. I said yes. She asked when I had last been tested for allergies. I said four or five years ago. She ordered a CAT scan of my sinuses. It revealed inflammation but nothing alarming. She then ordered new allergy tests. It took a month to get tested because the front office screwed up the preparation instructions. By this point, I was finding food repulsive and was subsisting on mashed potatoes, bread and Tootsie Roll Pops. I couldn’t taste the first two but they didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth like everything else did. The Tootsie Roll Pops tasted pretty much as they had back when they cost two cents each rather than a quarter. 

Once the allergy test results confirmed I wasn’t severely allergic to anything that could be causing my problem, the Nurse Practitioner ordered an MRI of my brain. She said my symptoms might be caused by brain cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Swell. But the front office screwed that up, too. I waited two weeks for the radiology center to call to schedule the MRI, as she said they would. I finally called them and learned they had never gotten the order. Nor had the pharmacy to which the nurse said she had sent my allergy prescriptions. 

Disgusted with the idiot ENT practice, I did what I should have done in the first place and went to my regular GP this past Friday. He drew blood for a COVID Antibody Test and sent it to a testing center. Yesterday I learned that I apparently had asymptomatic COVID. The doctor estimates that, based on the strength of my antibodies, I had it sometime between three and four months ago. Last week, I read in the WSJ that up to 40 percent of those who get COVID have no symptoms at all. I was one of the 40 percent, and was enormously relieved to learn my loss of taste and smell is likely the result of COVID rather than one of the insidious alternatives. Lucky me. The doctor said I should wait a month or more before I get my second booster shot since I still have a high degree of immunity.

A question for my readers who’ve read this far: If you had COVID and lost your smell/taste senses, how long did it take for them to return? Did they, in fact, return?  And if so, did you recover them fully or only partially? I would really appreciate hearing from you so I can manage my own expectations. I'm not complaining about my loss of smell and taste. I know too many people struggling with life-threatening illnesses to complain about something that picayune and I'm grateful I didn't know I had COVID at the time I had it, but I haven’t been able to find reliable statistics about the 20 percent or so of COVID patients who lose their taste/smell and how quickly they recover. If you’re reading this via a Facebook link, you can reply on Facebook. Otherwise, please email me at

While I’ll never get tired of good bread, I never much liked mashed potatoes. And my teeth are going to rot away if I keep eating a dozen Tootsie Roll Pops a day. 

Thanks, and have a good day. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

My disappointing year

Taken last week, in front of my next residence.


This has been a year of disappointments — my own anus horribilis. (Or is it annus horribilis? I only took one year of high school Latin, so I’ve never been quite sure.)

It started in early February, when I was stunned to learn I had been passed over to become CEO of CNN. Unlike me, Chris Licht, who got the job, didn’t go to the prestigious Missouri School of Journalism, he only went to Syracuse whose J-school, back when I graduated in 1973, was considered second-tier. Take a look at the slogan under my name at the top of this blog page -- America’s Only Objective Journalist. It has been there since my very first post in 2012, back when CNN still had a modicum of journalistic credibility. If you are one of my thousands of loyal readers, you know that I, unlike CNN, have never failed to report accurately and fairly. CNN needed me, but it wasn’t to be.

Later that month, I was gobsmacked when President Biden, without even as much as a courtesy call to tell me I was out of the running, announced that the new Supreme Court justice would be an African-American woman, something I am not and didn’t have time to become before Ketanji Brown’s confirmation hearings began. Having watched every episode of the original Perry Mason … read (nearly) every John Grisham and Scott Turow novel … and served on the board of my community association where I was instrumental in helping adjudicate important disputes among residents about roof colors, landscaping decisions and other life-and-death matters … I was more than qualified. Plus I live just a few miles from Judge Judy who, I’m sure, would have gladly made herself available for consultation when I needed advice.  I’m even the father, son-in-law, uncle and brother-in-law of attorneys.  

This week was, hands-down, the most disappointing of all, when I learned I will not be devoting the rest of the years God grants me to the service of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth. While I extend both condolences and congratulations to King Charles III, his new job should have been mine. I have more British blood coursing through my veins than he (though mine remains stubbornly red instead of blue). Every single one of my direct ancestors who came to America was born in England, Scotland or Ireland. More than half his direct ancestors are German. And I am younger than Charles III which means I would most likely have more years to dedicate to the service of the realm before passing the crown on to my eldest son who, like the King’s youngest son, has red hair but unlike Harry, wed someone likable.


My beloved wife, who would have become Judith I upon my ascension, is also bitterly disappointed. While I am fairly knowledgeable about British history — I subscribe to both the PBS/Masterpiece and BritBox streaming services— I’m a rank amateur compared to Judy, who can recite all the English monarchs, in order, beginning with William the Conqueror. Knowing the Queen was in failing health, she had already commissioned Lilly Pulitzer, whose clothes she wears almost exclusively, to create a gown for our coronation and it was near completion. I heard her on the phone, shortly after we got the news the Accession Council had named Charles the new monarch. She was choking back tears as she told the factory to stop work on her dress. As Queen Consort, Judith would have made sure the Crown Jewels were displayed in places where the world could see them — atop her head, around her neck and wrists, pinned to her bosom, and on her fingers — rather than behind shatterproof glass in the Tower of London where people have to wait in line to see them.

So yes, it has been a tough year. Frankly, I haven’t felt this discouraged since 2003 when I was passed over for superintendent of the Wilton (Conn.) public schools, a job I wanted despite the fact that, with rare exceptions, I don’t like children much, but was looking forward to writing a witty and engaging “Superintendent’s Corner” column for the local newspaper. 

That said, I remain optimistic because that’s the kind of guy I am. When life gives me a sucker-punch, I pick myself up and soldier on, looking forward to the next opportunity.  Speaking of which, the above photo was taken last week in front of the residence to which I hope to move on January 20, 2025. I’m planning my campaign as we speak. 

And for Judith, two words: Have faith. The gown you had intended to wear at our coronation will someday look great displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History next to dresses worn by Dolly Madison, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Melania Trump and other first ladies. 

Call Lilly Pulitzer and tell her to get back to work.