Gators Are Just Misunderstood

alligator - ready to cross path in the Everglades - 2005

By Judy Berman

When our daughter, Danielle, went to Florida State University, I worried about gators.

No, not those Gators – FSU’s main rival, the University of Florida. But, alligators.

OK, I worried about many things with her being hundreds of miles away from home. But, gators were high on that list of concerns.

Danielle just joked that the landlord used the gators for speed bumps in their Tallahassee apartment complex’s parking lot.

Truth be told. She and her husband never saw an alligator UNTIL we moved to Florida. Then, those reptiles seemed to be everywhere.

alligator - knocks at door - Island Packet - 2006

I should have known when I spotted a photo of a gator ringing a doorbell at a home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, that they were quite intrusive.

This poor chap’s excuse, apparently, was that he was drawn to their home by the smell of teriyaki chicken that the homeowners were grilling on their back porch.

The homeowners wisely moved inside once they spotted the gator in a nearby lagoon.

So what brings these creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago to our neck of the woods?

alligator - marshmallow

“Oh,” they drawl with that big toothy grin, “the swimming hole is just fine, there’s plenty of wildlife to share a meal with, and we’d love to be invited in to chat with your guests and cats.”

Uh, no.

An adult alligator is about 13 feet long and weighs up to 800 pounds. The largest ever recorded was found in Louisiana and measured 19 feet, 2 inches, according to Animal Corner.

Dave and I can’t seem to get away from them. We went to the Everglades, and, of course, the gators were there – in abundance.

One came out of the pond and crossed a path that we had naively walked around just a few hours earlier.

Then, a tourist stepped off the platform we were on to get a closer – too close for my comfort – photo of the alligator.

I was camera-ready for the money-shot. The gator just nonchalantly walked on by.

alligator - Myakka Golf Course - Englewood, Florida

Just imagine that alligator acting like a boss on the golf course.

Not sure if golfers at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood decided to run in a straight line or to zigzag to avoid a confrontation with that huge beast. Either way works, or so they say.

I’d be on the first golf cart out of there. And, the song I’d be singing on my way to the 19th hole: “See ya’ later, alligator … ”


What wildlife is intriguing or too close for comfort in your neck of the woods? 


Music Video: Bill Haley sings “See You Later, Alligator” – that’s the tune I’ll be singing when I see one.  


Main Photo: Alligator ready to cross a path in the Everglades where a tourist is standing about 20 feet away and taking photos. Too close for comfort. Photo: Judy Berman, 2005

Photo: Alligator rings doorbell at home in Hilton Head, South Carolina –Taken by Richard Holinski/Special to the Island Packet – 2006

Photo: Alligator with marshmallow in its mouth.

Photo: Alligator on Golf Course – Photographed at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Florida –

Alligator facts – Animal Corner –

Link to ‘Living Among Alligators’ – provides an alligator safety guide – tips on how to avoid an attack by an alligator.

Unintended Consequences

unintended consequences

By Judy Berman

Sometimes, the solution is worse than the problem.

Politics aside, there are just too many examples to point to where someone should just have left well enough alone.

Where to begin?

* The desire to hide or keep something out of the public eye is so common that there’s even a name for it: The Streisand Effect.

In 2003, Barbra Streisand sought to have photos of her Malibu, California, home removed from the Internet.

An environmental activist, Kenneth Adelman, posted aerial photos of her home “on his website as part of an environmental survey.” Steisand sued him.

Her actions had the exact opposite effect of what she was aiming for. The lawsuit “brought more than a million visitors” to his website.

The case was dismissed and Adelman’s photo was widely distributed in the press, according to a May 2007 article by Andy Greenberg in

* Who hasn’t had a headache when moving?

If only all moving firms were as careful as these men are.

If only all moving firms were as careful as these men are.

Broken furniture, missing items or belongings delivered weeks after promised.

The latter happened when our eldest daughter moved to Florida to attend college. The van arrived weeks after she did. Until it did, all she had in her apartment were the few meager belongings she packed in her car.

It’s probably a good thing for the company that the website Yelp did not exist then. Yelp, a multinational company, publishes customer reviews about businesses.

One customer, upset with the terrible service provided to her parents, gave the moving company a low rating on Yelp. The moving company was not pleased and threatened to sue the woman if she did not take the review down.

What they got instead was a deluge of negative publicity and tons of unwanted attention from the media. The moving company withdrew its threat.

* What kids don’t complain about their school lunch? I recall a lunch revolt at my high school many years ago, when kids refused to buy their lunches until the school offered better selections.

This story does involve political intervention and fallout.

School lunch photo ban lifted in Scotland

School lunch photo ban lifted in Scotland

In Scotland, in 2012, a 9-year-old girl took her disgruntlement with her school lunches one step further. Martha Payne, from Argyll, posted photos of the lunch and rated them on her blog “NeverSeconds.”

“She gave each meal a ‘food-o-meter’ and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it. She had been using the blog to raise money for the Mary’s Meals charity,” according to a June 15, 2012, article in BBC News

Argyll and Bute Council decided to impose a ban on photos at the school’s canteen because the school catering staff feared for their jobs. The council cited a Daily Record newspaper that “published a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline “Time to fire the dinner ladies.”

After public furor over the ban, Martha Payne was again allowed to take photos of her school lunches. Hopefully, the menu choices improved as well.

* The last entry in the what were they thinking file is the “noble” experiment – the 18th Amendment which took effect in 1920 – that made it illegal to make, sell or consume alcohol.

It was deemed a failure – Richter-scale huge – and repealed in 1933. In Ken Burns’ “Prohibition” – a three-part series on PBS – he showed that, much like drugs, alcohol was brought in by planes, boats and over the border by cars. It also was illegally made and sold in the United States. You can read my story on this here.

Prohibition was intended to reduce crime, but it actually did the opposite. The “unintended consequences” of Prohibition was demand for the product increased, and crime – which became more organized – filled the void.

Sometimes, it’s better to shrug it off and let it go. Just ask Barbra.


Have you a story about unintended consequences that you’d like to share? Please share.


Music Video: The Pet Shop Boys – Twentieth Century – 


Photo: Unintended Consequences – illustration on blog. Curtis Ogden’s blog is a great read.

Photo: Moving company. If only every mover was as careful as these guys are. Source: Rharel1. Taken May 29, 2010.

Photo: School lunch – “NeverSeconds Blogger Martha Payne School Ban Photo Lifted”, June 15, 2012

Link: “The Streisand Effect” by Andy Greenberg

Link: “The Perils of the Streisand Effect” by Justin Parkinson, BBC News Magazine, July 30, 2014

Link: “Moving Company Picks the Wrong Person to Threaten to Sue Over a Bad Yelp Review:

Link: “NeverSeconds Blogger Martha Payne School Ban Photo Lifted”, June 15, 2012

Link to my story: “Scamming the Mob” which ran Oct. 7, 2011 –


Shake It Off

Shake it off - Golden Retriever shaking off water

By Judy Berman

Sometimes, any sliver of humor is fair game.

In a hardscrabble world, here’s a few who had a laugh in spite of being given a difficult time.

* A defense attorney I knew was assigned to a real tough character. His client had been convicted of murder, and his next stop was a federal drug trial.

I asked the attorney if I could talk to him about his client.

“Oh, I have to be careful what I say. He’s already sent me two letters in one envelope. One implied my mother and father weren’t married,” he laughed, dismissing the crude implications.

His client surprised everyone by pleading guilty at the start of the trial.

* Waiting on tables often has its own headaches. One such incident involved my Mom when she worked in a coffee shop at a Las Vegas casino.

A particularly ornery customer complained loudly about the service. She demanded that someone carry her tray to her table when she was capable of doing the same herself.

My Mom, who was in her 70s, could be a real pistol at times. She sweetly announced that she’d take the tray to the customer’s table. Then Mom proceeded to limp, lurching awkwardly toward the table. (I wish I could have been there. I’d have been rolling.)


* Speaking of restaurants, this is often where my family members and I torment each other – all in good fun, of course.

As I leave one restaurant, I dip into the candy bowl to take a few mints.

My son-in-law, Keith, pretending he doesn’t know me, says loudly: “Lady. Save some candies for other people.”

I slink out the door, laughing. But, payback is a bear, even if it does take me years to get even.

Recently, when celebrating our eldest daughter Danielle’s birthday at a restaurant, my jam came on. I started dancing out the door. I’m betting that same son-in-law was praying that no one he knew was there.

At another eatery, my youngest daughter, Jenn, noticed a black cloud in the huge fish tank. I told her: “I’ve got two words: fish flatulence.”

She lost it. Those words still make her laugh today.

* Sure, you’re overworked. But a little laughter lightens the load.

Happy Otter

When I was working as a reporter, my editor sent me an e-mail wondering when he was going to see my story so he could edit it.

“I don’t see you typing.”

Me: “That’s because I’m weak from hunger. It’s been 15 minutes since my last six-course meal.”

Editor: “You can eat on the way home.”

Well, it’s that kind of compassion and warped humor that keeps me from losing my sanity.

It’s times like these that I can appreciate the Dover Police Department’s video cam that shows an officer lip synching Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” (It was staged. But, so what?It’s great fun.)

Taking a skewered look at life is sometimes the best way to get thru to the other side of the rainbow.


Do you have a humorous story to share?


Video: Dover Police Officer lip-synching Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” – 

Video: K C and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Booty” 

Main Photo: shake it off –  Golden Retriever shaking off water – Photo taken by Googie man on June 2, 2008

Photo: minion

Photo: Happy otter – California sea otter bathing at Moss Landing, Calif. Photo taken by Sstasi on Sept. 23, 2007.

Bad Bosses and Wise Guys

Wise Guys - movie DVD - save

By Judy Berman

The smell of hazelnut coffee still makes me queasy. It is a reminder of an ice queen who once ruled where I worked years ago.

Clueless, out-of-touch, manipulative, narcissistic, sadistic and just plain bad bosses can be found anywhere.

Take the one where a man collapsed at work. His boss stepped over him as he lay on the floor, and she strolled to her office. One wag said that the boss’s only concern appeared to be whether the employee had turned in a report she was expecting.

Some bosses are human stress factories. One bragged that he loved to keep employees off-balance.

When he learned that one of his minions was applying elsewhere, he sabotaged that employee by passing on a bad job evaluation to the prospective employer.

Dilbert - Pointy-haired boss

These examples almost make Dilbert’s pointy-haired ignorant boss, and the harmlessly deluded and insensitive boss in “The Office” (Michael Scott, as played by Steve Carell), appear sympathetic and wise.

If these examples sound remotely like the situation you’re in at your workplace, take heart.

Things could be so much worse.

Be glad Dan Hedaya (as Anthony Castelo) is not your boss. He’s the low-rent mobster in Newark, New Jersey, that Danny DeVito (as Harry Valentini) and Joe Piscopo (as Moe Dickstein) work for in Brian De Palma’s movie, “Wise Guys.” (1986)

Their tasks are to go start the boss’s car while fellow goons inside take bets on how long it’ll take for a bomb to explode.

Frank “The Fixer” Acavano (played by professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano) drives Harry and Moe to the racetrack. He tells Moe to place a bet on a specific horse.

Harry knows that the boss has been losing money on the horses. He persuades Moe to gamble on another instead, and they can take the winnings for themselves. The boss’s pick comes in first, and they wind up losing $250,000 of the boss’s money.

Needless to say, Castelo is – to put it mildly – disappointed. Still, he rejects a remedy offered by “The Fixer,” the mob’s chief enforcer.

“Let me waste ‘em, Mr. Castelo!” Acavano urges.

“Do we really hurt them by killing them?” Castelo asks.

“It’s a good start,” sagely concludes Frank Vincent (as Louie Fontucci).

Castelo’s solution is to have Harry Valentini and Moe Dickstein “put to the test … by having them kill each other.”

“The Fixer,” Acavano, will whack whoever survives.

When the two guys are tipped off about the plan, they steal Acavano’s prize Cadillac and go on the lam to a casino in Atlantic City. There, they run up charges on Acavano’s stolen credit card.

Wise Guys - movie - Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo

Harry hopes to visit his Uncle Mike and persuade him to bail them out so they can repay Castelo. Things do not go according to plan, and the mob is hot on their trail.

Moe Dickstein writes a farewell letter to Castelo that stuns them all.

This screwball mobster comedy is a primer, a how-to on turning the tables to get a little justice.

Just have a plan in place before you head out the door. Then, you can mail out that “take this job and shove it’ letter with a smile on your face.

Have you had a bad boss experience you’d like to share? Keep the comments PG please.


Movie Trailer: “Wise Guys” (1986) stars Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo.  

Main Photo: Wise Guys – Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo and Cadillac

Photo – Dilbert – Pointy-haired boss in comic

Photo: Wise Guys (1986) – Screen shot – Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo on the lam, making a call to Uncle Mike


Oh, Bother … Relax


Winnie the pooh and piglet1

By Judy Berman

How could one lovable, somewhat-confused, philosophical bear get into so much hot water?

Usually, Winnie the Pooh’s downfall is linked to honey pots.

But there he was getting dissed in a small Polish town because of a scandalous lack of clothing on his lower extremities.

He did have his little red jacket on. But no pants. Come to think of it, many of my stuffed animals are also “sans” pants.

It’s not the first time Pooh has had a brush with the politically correct police. He and his friends have come under fire before.

Town councilors in Tuszyn opposed naming a playground after Pooh because he was half-naked, and that was “inappropriate” for children.

One town official said the author, A. A. Milne, was a disturbed man for creating a “hermaphroditic, nudist bear,” according to an article in “The Washington Post.” Milne’s “bear of very little brain” was introduced in a collection of stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, in 1926.

Later, the Polish official said he was just joking.

NPG x19574; Alan Alexander ('A.A.') Milne; Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear by Howard Coster

How could you ever be upset with a bear who says: “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Pooh can hardly be considered controversial. But some consider him and the characters in another beloved children’s book to be subversive

“The same parent group in Kansas that objected to Charlotte’s Web in 2006 also cited the talking animals of Winnie the Pooh as being an insult to God in public arguments during their quest to ban the novel by E.B. White,” according to “Banned Books Awareness.”

As Milne said, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

Winnie the Pooh, Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Snowman1

Even little Piglet has been targeted by groups that want to censor him.

“Several institutions in Turkey and the U.K. (United Kingdom) have also banned the book, claiming that the character of Piglet is offensive to Muslims,” according to BuzzFeed Books.

“The Muslim Council of Britain formally requested an end to the “well-intentioned, but misguided” policy, and for all titles to be returned to the classroom,” according to Banned Books Awareness.

There’s no shortage of conspiracy theories, including claims that Winnie the Pooh is linked to a radical political group.

This makes my puzzler sore just thinking about such things.


What are your thoughts about book banning?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Video: Hot List: Children’s Books You Won’t Believe Are Banned

Main Photo: Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, from A.A. Milne’s “The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh,” with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard (1994). Original copyright 1926 (from a book in our family’s library).

Photo: Rocky and Bullwinkle, Winnie the Pooh, and The Snowman. Some of the beloved PANTLESS characters in my stuffed animals’ collection.

Photo: Winnie the Pooh, author A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin, 1926

Link to source: “14 Classic Children’s Books That Have Been Banned in America.” (from 1900 to 2010)

Video: Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants, stars in a banned books week video. When one of my seventh-grade students tell me they want to do a report on this book, I groan and tell them to choose one with more challenging vocabulary. BUT I would NEVER tell them they can’t read it on their own time.

I’m Still Standing

Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's

By Judy Berman

It was September. The leaves were turning. It’s a time when the elements begin to make me feel hemmed in.

That feeling only intensified when I learned that I was being transferred to the newspaper’s Rome bureau – not the exotic city in Italy, but a small city in Upstate New York.

There were two women in the Rome bureau, a district circulation manager and a receptionist. Within two weeks, they were gone.

I dreaded working in an office all alone.

It hit me – much later – that I was looking at this situation all wrong.

This is where, if this was a music video, the phonograph needle would be scratched across the full surface of the album until your ears bled.

Elton John in 1980s

At times, I felt like the Maytag repairman at the Rome bureau. Few of the calls were for me. Most were from irate customers wondering where their papers were.

The good news? I didn’t have an editor hovering over my desk, pacing back and forth, waiting for me to “send my copy to rewrite, sweetheart.”

The transfer cut my 55-mile, one-way commute to the main office in Utica to 40 miles. Winning!

In winter, however, I might eat up that savings when I shadowed a snowplow at 10-miles-per-hour.

That beautiful white blanket is a deceptive and seductive enchantress. Amnesia sets in each winter, and you forget the misstep that can alter your skip across the highway into a careening, nerve-racking, steering-wheel-clutching, off-road tumble.

Still, I met fascinating people stranded by snowstorms just off the thruway on my way to work. For a reporter, hoping to score a weather quote, perfect!

Mask - Germany

With Christmas fast approaching, I didn’t bother to decorate the office, as I was the only one who would see them. So, time saved twice. I wouldn’t have to put away any decorations, either.

Unlike the residents of Cicely, Alaska, in the TV show, “Northern Exposure,” I wasn’t isolated or trapped in a remote location.

Any time I wanted, I could head down to the police station or city court. While I was gathering info for the police blotter or a story, we’d share a few laughs. There, I learned some things that proved valuable later.

Sometimes, it led to a bigger story. Others, to excellent contacts.

Six months after my transfer, a fellow reporter, Pat Corbett, joined me in the Rome office. We would bounce ideas off each other and joke about some happening that day.

At first, there was only one computer. So we took turns using it to file our stories from the bureau to the main office. Then, we commandeered a second computer from the main office – with permission, of course.

Elton John in 1980s - I'm Still Standing - video

A year after my transfer, I was back in the main office assigned to a job that I really wanted: night cops reporter. I’m grateful that what I learned in Rome paved the way for this beat.

It took a friend of mine at a competing paper in Syracuse to put my transfer into the proper perspective for me. A few years after my move, his paper opened more bureaus.

I asked how he felt about that. With a twinkle in his eye, the reporter joked that the main office was in a shambles. The move for them “is like when the royalty shipped their children to a safe haven during the war so they wouldn’t be hurt.”

Love that warped sense of humor.

Did looking at a situation thru a new lens ever alter your view?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John (1983)

1. Main Photo – Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – movie trailer screenshot.

2. Photo: Mask – Germany – Author: Gexon from Darmstadt, Germany. Photo taken June 12, 2011.

3. Photo: Elton John in 1980s – author –

4. Photo: Elton John by piano, video screen shot from “I’m Still Standing.”


Those Driveway Moments

Sorry Fugo

By Judy Berman

I’m sure it is an unsettling sight to passers-by when they see someone just sitting in a car and laughing.

The motor’s running. For 15 minutes, I am transfixed. I can’t turn off the ignition and leave to go into the store.

These are known as “driveway moments.”

Sometimes, it’s a song you want to hear all the way thru and maybe sing along. Other times, you’re spellbound by the story you hear and wait for the inevitable conclusion.

Still others, you just don’t want the story to end.

One of those stories was T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Sorry Fugo.”

Albert blames Willa Frank’s caustic review as the reason one of his friend’s businesses went under. The headline over her column read: “Udolpho’s: Troglodytic Cuisine in a Cavelike Atmosphere.”

He shuddered and knew it was only a matter of time before she “slipped like a spy, like a murderess,” into his restaurant, D’Angelo’s and skewered him as she had done to the others.

The night she shows up, the staff is in a tizzy. This night: it’s a disaster. But Albert knew Willa Frank would be back. “Twice more. And he would be ready for her.”

When she did return, “Albert put his soul into each dish, arranged and garnished the plates with all the patient care and shimmering inspiration of a Toulouse-Lautrec bent over a canvas, and watched, defeated, as each came back to the kitchen half-eaten.”

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Albert had a marvelous scheme cooked up for Willa Frank’s final visit.

To tell you how Albert turned the tables on Willa Frank would spoil the story. I will just say the ending was delicious.

Other stories expose us to places, people and things we’d never meet. Some are haunting, like the story about Lucy the chimpanzee who was raised as a human.

Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

Lucy was only two days old when she was adopted by psychologist Dr. Maurice K. Temerlin and his wife Jane. Lucy looked adorable in her little dresses as she drew in a coloring book and learned sign language.

But there came a day when it was necessary for Lucy to leave the family who raised her.

Janis Carter, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, accompanied Lucy and another chimpanzee to the wild in Gambia. They were being released in the coastal West African country.

Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging2

Lucy did not adjust easily. Janis Carter remained with the chimps longer than she intended to help them survive in the wild. For me, the final photo of Lucy hugging Janis Carter as Janis was leaving the area was heartbreaking. (The link to the podcast is below.)

Other stories are laugh-out-loud funny, and I’ve shared them with family and friends.

The tall tale, “The Beard,” by Fred Chappell is a classic example. It’s in his book, “I Am One of You Forever” and is worth picking up.

It centers on Uncle Gurton, who has a long, flowing beard of unknown length, and his visit to 10-year-old Jess and his family. Uncle Gurton’s main talent is eating voraciously.

When asked if he’d like more to eat, Uncle Gurton smiles. About the only thing he does say is: “No thank you. I’ve had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluity.” My students delight in that line, much more than the cut-to-the-chase comment: “No thanks. I’ve had enough. Any more and I might burst.”

Then, Uncle Gurton disappears whenever he’s needed to help out with chores.

One night, their curiosity about the beard got the best of Jess and his Dad with hilarious results.


The fast-paced life can wait. Sit back, relax. So what if you’re still in the driveway. Take the time to listen to a really great story. You’ll be glad you did.

Sept. 10th marked my third anniversary on WordPress. Thank you for all your thoughtful and funny comments, for the friendships I’ve found on WordPress, and for your support. I want to especially thank my husband, Dave Berman, who has edited my posts these past three years. Thanks, Honey.

Are there times when the world stands still until that special song or story ends? Please share some of your favorite driveway moments.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1. Main Photo: “Sorry Fugo” – from a play directed by John Fisher. Word for Word Performing Arts Company, San Francisco, Calif., in 2012.

2. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

3. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging. (radiolab slide show)

4. Photo: Happy

RadioLab story of “Lucy” – a chimp teaches the ups and downs of growing up human.