December 25, 2002

The Capozzolas Rejoice as the Royals Return to Italy

It is truly a very happy time for the Capozzola family.

“After a half-century of exile, Italy’s former royals returned yesterday, ending the shame of banishment imposed for the monarchy’s support of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini during World War II,” the Associated Press reported today.

Victor Emmanuel, the son of the last installed king, and, if I must say, a most unworthy pretender to the throne, earlier this week made a brief visit to Italy and the Vatican City before returning to his home in exile in Switzerland.

“The former prince, exiled since age 9,” according to the A.P., “promised in February [he would return] to live out a dream of traveling around the nation like a tourist.”

That, apparently, in lieu of finding a real job, like the paper route the very little prince abandoned in 1948.

Victor Emmanuel’s 30-year-old son, Emmanuel Filiberto, who, unlike several of the Capozzola brothers, had never stepped foot in Italy before this week, described his visit to Italy in Disneyfied terms as, “something magical.”

(I understand Filiberto’s reaction had something to do with his having collected the funds due to his accounts at the newspaper, which, after accounting for inflation, took the 7,828.94 billion lire otherwise due down to something on the order of 12 dollars, for which the diminutive princeling was very grateful, lift ticket prices at Cortina having skyrocketed and all, don’t you know.)

The A.P. reports that Victor Emmanuel and his family, including wife, Marina Doria, who is of questionable heritage to say the least, exchanged Christmas greetings and gifts with the Pope. “Victor Emmanuel presented the Pope with two books about the Savoy family, descendants of the last king, and a print of a family member. The Pope gave them a rosary.”


I’m not going to tell you what the Capozzola family gave Il Papa for Christmas, but damn, it sure as hell wasn’t books, and I can assure the faithful that as a result of the Capozzola family’s gift, Christ’s vicar on earth will be sticking around for quite a while longer, thank you very much.

And a rosary in return? One rosary? Puh-leeze. I have at least 20 papal rosaries in my top desk drawer. Are we supposed to forget they give those away to the poor at the door of St. Peter’s by the boatload-as-if-on-the-shores-of-Galilee? I am, to say the least, unimpressed. I can’t tell you what Il Papa gave the family, but let’s just say it was a priceless work of an artist whose name begins M-I-C-H-E-L-A-N- . . . (I’d better stop there. Lawyers, you know.)

No doubt the Victor Emmanuels, whose primary source of income I have been told is a funeral home on South Broad St. in Philadelphia (of which there are legion, by the way), along with a few scattered vending machines in South Jersey, is beaming with pride given the patriarch’s recent meeting with the Pope. “John Paul offered his blessing, wished them Merry Christmas, and added, ‘Until next time,’ Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said,” according to A.P.’s report.

Sounds lovely, but reading between the lines, what I see in Il Papa’s words are: “Merry Christmas, get the hell out of here, you goombas, and I’ll see you next year . . . maybe. Next!”

That’s just got to hurt.

Even Italy’s loyal monarchists, each of whom I love dearly -- no great chore since their names fill but a small portion of my otherwise bulging address book -- are unimpressed with the most recent of royal wannabees.

“Retired Lt. Col. Francesco Silvestri, 83, said he was loyal to the royal family -- even if he did not think much of the current crop,” A.P. reports. “‘Poor things,’ he said. ‘These three are really nothing special compared to [sic] their ancestors.’”

I couldn’t agree more: Compared with those of us ready to assume our God-given right to govern the Papal States and their neighboring regions, these clowns have nothing to offer.

December 16, 2002

From the good people at Johnson & Johnson: The BAND-AID® Brand Timeline.

A few milestones:

1921: BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive bandages make their first appearance on the market. They are made by hand and not a big hit. They were three inches wide and eighteen inches long. Only $3,000 worth are sold the first year.

1940: The little red string used to open BAND-AID® Brand wrappers makes its first appearance.

And the phrase “Damn it!” takes on a whole new meaning for millions of caring mothers across America.

1963: Adhesive bandages go into space with the Mercury astronauts.

Within the hushed confines of Houston Control, Alan Shepard is overheard muttering into his mouthpiece, “Damn it! We can put a man in space and they can’t get this little red string to work?!”

1988: Perestroika arrives in Eastern Europe and so does the BAND-AID® brand.

And the phrase “Damn it!” enters the lexicon of millions of caring mothers from Warsaw to Sofia.

December 15, 2002

I wonder who thought this was a good idea.

December 09, 2002

One day, before I die, I swear to you I will create a product or service perceived as so essential that 95 percent or more of the people on this planet will say they need it, require it, and cannot live or function without it.

And I will be so obnoxious, so arrogant, and so conceited that the product or service that I create will nonetheless be trash, garbage, junk, unreliable, woefully defective, wholly deficient, and indeed, a veritable piece of crap.

And despite the fact that the product or service that I have created is trash, garbage, junk, unreliable, woefully defective, wholly deficient, and indeed, a veritable piece of crap, I will be laughing all the way to the bank as I sit at my desk, counting my millions, mocking legislators and regulators from across the globe, all the while rocking to and fro on my seat like some kind of lunatic.

And yet you, the collective you, will worship me as some kind of genius.

[Note: This article was published earlier today at, and transferred from, The Rittenhouse Review.]

December 04, 2002

By way of Molly Zero’s MollyBlog I was directed to the Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad, a resource that is sure to be a godsend to anyone who actually has food and related items in the house.

The Table of Condiments was produced by the Foundation for Neo-cognitive & Ontologoical Research and Development, or FNORD. I had never heard of this organization before today and I know little about it except that the logo kind of gives me the creeps and the group’s inconsistent use of the ampersand sort of wigs me out.

Among the valuable information I gleaned from the table: a jar of green olives will last nine months, taco sauce can be kept on hand for two years, and Cheez Whiz endures indefinitely, which, of course, we all knew already.

I demand, however, to see the research supporting FNORD’s contention that a jar of marmalade is only good for two months.

I plan to take Molly’s advice and print a copy of the table and display it prominently in my kitchen for future reference. But only after I have stocked at least three of the condiments listed in the table and in packaging other than the miniatures provided with a regular order of take out.

December 03, 2002

They’ve been drinking -- legally, now -- for eight days.

In response, the Secret Service no doubt has doubled its presence in the Lone Star State. Local law enforcement officials and journalists have been reminded where their priorities appropriately lie during this, our war on terror.

And the The First Twins Countdown, which previously marked the time until Jenna and Barbara Bush could -- in full compliance with state law -- slurp schnapps off the backside of the nearest frat boy, has been reset so that it counts the days until the nation’s premier party girls are, like their father, arrested for driving while intoxicated.

No reason to watch the clock, folks. It shouldn’t be long now.


Today: The Bush Twins

The quips that would be circling the web and repeated by every short-sleeved goon at Friday evening happy hours nationwide if there really were such a thing as “the liberal media” and Rush Limbaugh were a Democrat and not a right-wing Republican:

Why is Jenna Bush so ugly?

Because Ann Coulter is her real father and Senator-elect Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is her real mother.

Why is Barbara Bush (the younger) so ugly?

Because Norah Vincent is her real father and George H.W. Bush is her real mother.

Which I guess means they’re not really twins after all.

[Note: Tweaked post-publication for clarity and tone.]

December 02, 2002

Here’s a new twist on a recent bloggers’ favorite and something I haven’t seen anywhere else on the web. I call it “100 Things I’ve Never Done.” If you didn’t think I was weird before reading this, you will now. I encourage you to try to create your own list. It’s not as easy as it looks.

I have never . . .

1. Been inside a Wal-Mart.

2. Joined a union.

3. Worked as an intern.

4. Been fired.

5. Eaten escargot.

6. Eaten truffles.

7. Eaten frogs’ legs.

8. Eaten a full serving of grits.

9. Been to Hooters.

10. Eaten at The Cheesecake Factory.

11. Stepped inside Dave & Buster’s.

12. Stayed at The Plaza.

13. Snowboarded.

14. Sky jumped.

15. Bungee jumped.

16. Climbed rocks.

17. Been spelunking.

18. Tried any of the martial arts.

19. Driven a motorcycle.

20. Attended a professional wrestling match.

21. Attended a boxing match.

22. Been to a dog track.

23. Played Dungeons & Dragons.

24. Played shuffleboard.

25. Played paintball.

26. Played squash.

27. Played golf.

28. Run a marathon.

29. Been picked first for any team.

30. Performed at Carnegie Hall.

31. Sung karaoke.

32. Appeared in a movie.

33. Had a tattoo.

34. Shaved my head (completely).

35. Hired an accountant.

36. Hired a financial planner.

37. Used heroin.

38. Swum with the dolphins.

39. Swum in the Pacific Ocean.

40. Taken an aerobics class.

41. Tried yoga.

42. Been treated with acupuncture.

43. Been treated by a chiropractor.

44. Seen a podiatrist.

45. Tried an established diet, fad or otherwise.

46. Colored my hair.

47. Worn an earring.

48. Cooked a turkey.

49. Made soup from scratch.

50. Gone bird watching.

51. Owned a gun.

52. Killed an animal with a gun.

53. Driven a pick-up truck.

54. Blown glass.

55. Knitted, crocheted, or cross-stitched.

56. Spun or weaved.

57. Churned butter.

58. Made soap, candles, or paper.

59. Exhibited or shown an animal.

60. Attended a Renaissance fair.

61. Reenacted anything from history.

62. Played second fiddle.

63. Bought a jazz album or CD.

64. Joined a book club.

65. Kept a journal.

66. Finished even one Virginia Woolf novel.

67. Required crutches.

68. Worn a cast.

69. Had a girlfriend.

70. Been engaged.

71. Been married.

72. Been a best man.

73. Thrown a bachelor party.

74. Hired a stripper.

75. Thrown a shower.

76. Had children.

77. Been given a birthday party, as an adult.

78. Committed a felony in a state where it was a felony.

79. Served on a jury.

80. Run for public office.

81. Met a president while he was president.

82. Seen a UFO.

83. Consulted an astrologist.

84. Spoken with a psychic.

85. Thrown the I-Ching.

86. Joined a cult.

87. Had my ears flushed.

88. Delivered a eulogy.

89. Been inside a synagogue or temple.

90. Seen an episode of “thirtysomething.”

91. Seen an episode of “L.A. Law.”

92. Seen an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

93. Seen an episode of “Queer as Folk.”

94. Seen Suzanne Somers’s Thigh-Master infomercial.

95. Seen a Star Trek movie.

96. Seen a James Bond movie.

97. Been to a rock concert.

98. Used pay-per-view.

99. Rented a DVD.

100. Been to the movies alone. (Except for one documentary, and it was in German, without subtitles, so that doesn’t really count.)


The Best and Worst of the City of Brotherly Love

Arranged in Thoroughly Random and Unrelated Pairings

PHILADELPHIA - LOVE IT: Longwood Gardens. Before you start writing an e-mail, let me say that I realize Longwood Gardens is not in Philadelphia, but rather in Kennett Square, Pa., just beyond Chadds Ford, some 45 miles west of the city. However, it is the largest botanical garden in the region, one of the best in the world, and it’s a quick, easy, and pleasant trip from downtown. It counts.

I first visited Longwood six or seven years ago. At the time I was living in Washington, D.C., and was spending the weekend with a friend in Philadelphia. It was her suggestion to visit Longwood, which was not really a surprise since she is an avid, I might even say a rapacious, gardener. (This is a woman who, after buying her first home, planned no fewer than four separate gardens for the property and purchased 1,000 bulbs for just her first round of planting.)

I was wary. “Not my kind of thing,” I thought, and it was summertime, it was hot, and it was muggy. I agonized over the prospect of spending hour after hour looking at obscure roses, new varieties of flowering broccoli, and oh-so-adorable peeing fountains, surrounded all the while by the cooing matrons of garden clubs from up and down the East Coast. My only hope, as I saw it then, was that we were heading to Kennett Square in the morning. The worst-case scenario, I thought, was that I could bear it until lunch, after which I might suggest we move on, planning to blame the weather, a headache, fatigue, or something similar.

My experience that day was quite the opposite; dramatically so, in fact, and so much so that the day remains indelibly etched in my memory.



Kennett Square, Pa.

Longwood Gardens must be seen to be believed. Acre upon acre of gardens, groves, and greenhouses, meticulously tended, painstakingly maintained, all of the facilities clearly first rate, with the added benefit of informative brochures, signage, and staff. I can’t imagine there are but a handful of plant species not represented at Longwood, the Conservatory housing many not suited to the region’s climate. And while the Gardens attract large crowds daily, especially from late spring to early fall, the grounds are so large that my friend and I often found ourselves enjoying time sitting near a small pond or in a quiet miniature forest thinking we were the only people there.

My friend’s passion for things botanical was an enormous addition to the experience. I heard and learned more about her particular favorites, but beyond that she explained many unknown uses, purposes, and traits of various plants, which were best suited for household growing (in other words, which I would be most likely to kill at some point in my life), why certain plants were growing near others, and various arcane facts that in this perfect pastoral setting were among the most fascinating things I had ever heard in my life.

We toured the grounds for three hours and then had lunch in Longwood’s café, after which my friend, whom I had first met nearly 15 years earlier, revealed she knew me better than I imagined. “Do you want to keep looking around or have you had enough?”, she asked, offering me a way out. I passed. We left the café and spent another four or five hours exploring, and seven years later I can honestly say, one can never get enough of Longwood Gardens.

PHILADELPHIA - HATE IT: The subway system. Hate is probably too strong a word. Maybe disappointed is more accurate. The subway system isn’t horrible, it’s just not great.

Many people are surprised to learn that Philadelphia even has a subway system. Granted, it’s not a particularly expansive system, but it’s not one of those fake mini systems that some cities use as municipal showpieces, and it serves its purpose. The cars are clean, the trains run with sufficient frequency, it seems safe enough, and the fare is reasonable. And the subways move a great number of people through the city’s main corridors, meshed efficiently as they are within the lay-out of the Philadelphia area’s enormous regional rail system and the city’s trolley routes, which share the subway tracks on some lines.

It’s just that it doesn’t go everywhere, or even almost everywhere. I know that’s a lot to ask, too much really, and I probably wouldn’t even say it -- the thought probably wouldn’t even have crossed my mind -- were it not for my experience with the subways in New York and Washington, both of which have their own faults and problems, but both of which go nearly everywhere you want to go. (I know, the Washington subway doesn’t go to Georgetown. Who cares?)

I’ll get used to it. After all, everything else is falling into place.


McDonald’s yesterday closed all of its restaurants in Bolivia, just one of several foreign countries from which the fast-food chain has decided to withdraw.

The despair was palpable, as thousands descended upon their nearest McDonald’s for one last Big Mac.

“I guess Bolivia will never be a fully globalized and capitalized country like the United States,” said Alberto Bermudes. “I grew up with McDonald’s, I celebrated my birthdays in McDonald’s, I even wanted to work at McDonald’s. I feel deceived, and most of all sad.”

But Bolivians, with their proud and often troubled history, are a wise people. Angelica Carrasco, a teacher, knows cultural imperialism when she sees it. No, not in the invasion of Bolivia by McDonald’s, but in its departure.

“McDonald’s threw us out like a third world country in search of greener pastures,” she fumed. “I don’t think McDonald’s was ever that serious about us anyway.”

I feel your pain, Señorina Carrasco. Diss’ed by McDonald’s. That’s gotta’ hurt.

It could not be confirmed whether, in a gesture of good will, the restaurants’ managers abandoned the day’s up-selling message, “Would you like a delicious McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie to go with that?”

December 01, 2002

In some segments of our society, “completely natural” apparently is code for “smells really, really bad”:

This is how “vintage” jeans happen: Troy Pierce buys a pair of new Levi’s and wears them six days a week for more than a year. He rides his motorcycle in them, commuting from his place in Williamsburg to work in SoHo. He eats his Subway lunch on them. He works in them, loafs in them, D.J.'s in them. And he washes them, in cold water by hand, but only twice. “They are really gross,” he says. “But that is the whole idea -- I wanted them to be completely natural.” He knows the biography of every tear, from the tattered hem of the leg (“that’s from slipping off the kick-start of my bike”) to the shredded back pocket (where the zipper of his wallet cut it up) to the imprint of his favorite pen.

(“Not Fade Away,” the New York Times Magazine, December 1.)

He washes them twice a year? Knock yourself out, Troy.