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.

Oh, The Places They Will Go

Danielle and Jennifer - Thanksgiving 1998

By Judy Berman

I never dreamed I’d see our youngest daughter become a nun – and a pregnant one at that. Or that our eldest daughter would be driven to madness and walking an invisible dog.

That’s not the worst of it.

Our youngest plotted with three friends to knock a woman off for her shoes. And our eldest? She was popping pills and hanging out with someone who was mad as a hatter.

I’m talking, of course, about roles our girls played in school and as adults.

Wherever there’s a kid involved in sports, drama, music or other activities, there’s a parent driving them to the event and cheering them on. That turn on the field or on the stage might lead to a thrilling hobby or to a professional career.

For me, it’s been fun to watch on the sidelines whether they were play acting in school or tapping into their creative side as adults.

We recently saw Jenn perform in The Dixie Swim Club. She was one of five cast members in this play at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park.

We knew she was a nun in the play. What we were unprepared for was her entrance. She really caught us off guard when she opened the door not far from our seats.

Jenn McGinnis - The Dixie Swim Club at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park - Sept. 2014

Jenn was eight months along and about to go into labor.

Years ago, when she was in elementary school, Jenn was the conniving girl (Dorothy) plotting with friends (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion), to keep the ruby-red slippers that the Wicked Witch of the West coveted in the “Wizard of Oz.” (I spun that story out just a bit.)

Danielle’s debut as a crazy lady walking an invisible dog was part of a Spanish version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Her Spanish high school class had a lot of fun with that, and added some improv to the skit.

The pill-popping was when Danielle played Alice, in “Alice in Wonderland.” Give the kid a break. Her character took the pills that made her very, very small … or super big … to escape the crazy Queen of Hearts and the even nuttier Mad Hatter so she could return home.


Nowadays, Danielle writes and directs plays for her children and others who are home-schooled. She’s already got me in stitches with dialogue she plans for “The Wizard of Oz.” Seems we can’t get away from that classic.

Jenn has directed a play as well. No matter which side of the stage she’s on, she’s having fun.

Looking back, I think of the times I drove them to be part of a drama class and encouraged their acting chops in school.

When that seed was planted, I had no idea what it would lead to

It’s been wonderful to see it come full circle.


What activities did you and/or your children do in school that continue to play a part in your life and in theirs?


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: Danielle and Jenn in 1998

2) Jenn McGinnis and cast members in The Dixie Swim Club at The Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park. (Jenn’s the one in the middle with the huge smile.)

3) Danielle Wallace honored for her writing and directing of “Alice In Wonderland” in a school play.

Still Crazy After All These Years


Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Aug. 18, 1984By Judy Berman

That short walk down the aisle is just the beginning for those who exchange wedding vows.

Our journey began 30 years ago this month and, like everyone else on this path, we navigated some very uncertain terrain.

Many times, we’d look back on the road not taken and wonder “what if?” Such as the decision to wait to trade in our car until it hobbled into the dealership on life support.

“This is my fault?” Dave asks, smiling, as we are out on a morning stroll.

“Someone’s got to take the fall for this, and it’s going to be you,” I inform him.

“OK. I’ll take the fall for it,” he says, laughing.

I have to thank the late Jerry Rosen, his former boss and co-worker, who gave Dave the best advice ever on marriage.

“There are two rules,” Jerry told him shortly after we married.

“Rule number one: The wife is always right. Rule number two: See rule number one.”

It was a win-win situation for me. I mean, for us.

Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Dave looking stunned - Aug. 18, 1984

Here are some other pearls of wisdom on marriage:

  1. Erma Bombeck: “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”
  2. Bill Cosby: “For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.”
  3. Barbra Streisand: “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”
  4. Nora Ephron: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (Harry, played by Billy Crystal, in the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.”)

Dave, thanks for your support, your love and for the laughter. Happy 30th Anniversary. For last year’s post about humorous tips on what makes a happy marriage, see story here.

 What’s your favorite memory? Wedding day? First day on your own? Parenthood?

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.


Movie clip: “When Harry Met Sally” 

Music Video: Silly Love Songs – Paul McCartney 

1. Main Photo – Ah! The traditional exchange of the wedding cake – Dave and Judy – our daughters, Jenn and Danielle – August 18, 1984

2. Photo – Dave, with the typical newly-wed man look, ‘What have I done?’ August 18, 1984