Ask Norman

A New Ask Norman….Wow!

No Comments 03 May 2013

Dear Norman,

On my latest travels I was able to see the care that is taken in different aspects around The Shade headquarters and was hoping you would be able to shed some light on a couple of bugaboos I’ve been having in my personal life.  Let’s start off with socks; I have slightly pronated feet which causes the socks to wear out on the balls of the feet rather quickly.  To try and compensate you’ll sometimes see me walking only on my heels, which can cause wearing on the heels.  Next let’s tackle boxers.  The problem is related but not the same.  There isn’t as much of a wearing down of the material as the elastic band stretching out.  To avoid spending the astronomical amounts of money replacing these items as frequently as I do I was hoping you could offer some insight on how to maintain them a little better and perhaps advice on when the correct time is to replace the aforementioned items.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness,

Wore Down in Wichita


Dear Wore Down,

Thanks for reaching out.

Your foibles, while unfortunate, are not insurmountable. First things first – lets talk feet. I’m like you in that I have terrible issues with my feet. However, my problem is with my body’s seemingly relentless ability to produce foot odor that can (and has) cleared the deli at Schnitzers at rush hour and compelled homeless people to not accept my pittance. Therefore, I dispose of socks long before their durability becomes an issue. As such, I decided to consult my friend Lamont Cranston whom is a podiatrist of sorts. His response is below (transcribed word-for-word)

This motherfucker has what? Pronated feet? I ain’t never heard of that shit but it sounds bad. Tell him to check out Dr. Scholls. I heard he’s done some great work. But if its as bad as it sounds I’d advise that boy to just stay home. Maybe get some popsicles and hooch.

I found it good advice. I hope you do too.

Now on to your undergarments issue. Might I suggest wearing none? Such a bold move does have it’s drawbacks. There’s chafing –  no laughing matter. There’s also the indignity of reaction when biology overcomes rational thought and you sprout an erection. This could or could not be a problem depending on office politics. Either way powder is a must.

If the proposed approach is too sassy and forthcoming for you I have one final suggestion. While attending last month’s underpants convention in Tuscaloosa as a guest speaker I took note of a new line from clothier Champion which seemed to be rugged and robust. Perhaps start there?

Yours in comfort,


Ask Norman, Features

Achtung! A New Dear Norman

No Comments 21 March 2013

Dear Norm,

First time, long time. Here’s the thing – with spring just around the corner I went to my local men’s clothing store to get some new threads for the nice weather. I’ve skipped a wardrobe upgrade for the past couple of years for a number of reasons and was in need of something new.

After I walked around for 20 minutes I was shocked at how atrocious the men’s selection was. I went to another store and was again disappointed. Every shirt had a sillly graphic or some type of shoulder strap. I was ensconced in neons and pastels. I couldn’t even find an adequate pair of slacks. For a minute I thought I was hyperventilating.

Norm whatever happened to a T-shirt with a breast pocket and a pair of dungarees? Please help me find something that won’t make me look like a complete jerk!

Style Starved in Stamford.


Dear Style,

Thanks – always great to hear from a fan.

Ah, fashion. So easily mastered yet muddled by the bored, powerful and insecure. What you describe is just a new juke on a different dance floor. I recall bell bottoms, leisure suits, shoulder pads. You name it, I never bit.

Your instincts for simplicity are right on. I remember Anopopei, 1941, the heat of the campaign in the South Pacific. The platoon was bivouacked on the south shore unloading a new shipment for officer’s mess. The heat was oppressive as the early morning fog had burnt off. In the midst of unloading crates I took a break on account of kidneys being shot.

As I caught my wind and watched the enlisted men work I realized how stylish the fatigues were. Elegant, yet simple. Not too showy but had something to say. At that moment I realized fashion wasn’t about the clothes at all. It was about the man. In fact, the less the clothes had to say the more than man could do the talking. I liked that.

After the war I brought the idea of minimalist simplicity to Kornheiser’s Clothiers on West 57th and 2nd Avenue.  For myriad reasons a business relationship never blossomed between Roy and me. But come the following winter he ransacked the local army/navy, did some minor alterations, and made a killing the following spring. Thus creating our modern army/navy store fashion illumination.

As for your question I have two responses. Number one, don’t focus on the ‘where’ or the ‘what’ but concentrate on the ‘how’. Number two, keep it simple.


Ask Norman

Dear Norman – A Remembrance

No Comments 17 January 2013

Good riddance. I never like them….those Friedman sisters. I, for one, never bought into their sleezy midwestern panache nor did I care for their holier than thou attitude. I stood for pragmatic advice a body could use. I was never in it for the money like those chippies. I was in it for mankind. John Donne’s theme in Meditations captures my approach and philosophy:

“any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee”

In case you haven’t guessed Pauline Friedman Phillips, who under the name of Abigail Van Buren, wrote the long-running “Dear Abby” advice column has passed on to the all-you-can-eat-buffet in the sky today. She was 94.

She and her sister Esther “blow hard” Lederer thought they had a lock on the advice column business for over half a century. Esther being responsible for the Ann Landers column.

The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Which I could never stomach.  Abby’s replies were often flippant one-liners – which were mildly amusing at best but never at all helpful to the poor soul on the receiving end. But make no mistake about it – neither one provided one iota of significance to mankind.

I’ll never forget a chance run-in I had with Esther on Michigan Ave. November 7th 1956. I saw her sashay by the cafe I was sitting in…enjoying a coffee. I ran out and yelled “goddam you blowhard, you know I started the advice column business last year with the Village Voice. Why do you deny this? Why do you forsake me?”.

Which was true, I did and she did.

She looked back at me with her pert nose and a stench of self worth that made me choke down remnants of an old fashion doughnut I had just eaten. The strumpet would not even dignify my claim with a response.

I stood there, in the unforgiving Chicago winter, without my coat and watched her spin around – skirt raise up an inch and a half – and head south on Michigan. I was filled with rage but satisfied with the glimpse of leg I was afforded. I never liked her but the woman had healthy stems. Nevertheless, if I had to choose one to share martinis with it would have always been Pauline. Mind you at that time I would have had martinis with Dick Nixon, as long as someone else was buying.

At least Pauline willingly expressed views that she realized would bring protests. In a 1998 interview she remarked: “Whenever I say a kind word about gays, I hear from people, and some of them are damn mad. People throw Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other parts of the Bible to me. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been compassionate toward gay people.”

But in her compassion always lurked a sense of doubt balanced with a desire to match her sister’s accomplishments. Although she always denied it, that doubt and desire is why she took that job at the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a way its an end of an era. A false era however. At times like this I think of Studs Terkel. Oh, how I wish we were sharing cognac at The Attic with a Charlie Mingus record screaming from the kitchen. Its moments like those where the best advice is always born.

Ask Norman, Shades of Gray

Dear Norman – Love, Regret & Death

No Comments 08 November 2012

Dear Norman,

About 10 times a year, my mother starts talking about dying and death. She is 75 and in good health, but ever since my uncle died she’s been worrying about the afterlife an awful lot. What will happen to her, what she’s done wrong in her life, her “sins” (I have yet to figure out what these were because she doesn’t elaborate, but I’m dying to know, no pun intended), etc.

Then she starts in on my “sins.” Unfortunately, she knows a lot about those puppies. The booze, the drugs, the sex, the sugar after hours. I used to have a pretty great sex life, and I’m afraid I flaunted the details in happier days. My mother believes I am not headed, when I die, to Heaven to party with angels.

I find these “discussions” really painful and humiliating. It makes me sad Norm. I don’t especially want to talk about the Afterlife (I don’t believe in one, to be honest) and I really don’t want her dredging up my former love life, which is basically down to nothing these days, unfortunately, and also embarrassing to have aired in front of my brothers and their wives.

What can I do to stop this?

Unsettled in Ulster

We’re all human and, as such, all have our carnal desires. These “sins” your mother speaks of are savage. They’re unseemly. And they’re inexplicable. If they weren’t we wouldn’t engage in them. As for the airing of your exploits around your kin….well, I suggest embracing it. If you are/were the vixen you claim then perhaps it would be educational and, therefore, much appreciated. We all need a little kick in that area from time to time…particularly when you’re on the wrong side of 50.

And as for knowing your mother’s exploits – leave what’s in the past, in the past. Just know this – I’ve found that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So…

This business about not partying with angels on a cloud in the kingdom of heaven is ludacris. Get a grip Unsettled.The only angels worth a damn are the Hell’s Angels. And even they were only worth a damn from 1963-74(ish).

Be well, be free and leave death for the dead and the living for the young, fertile bodies that rattle the cages of human desire.


Ask Norman, Features

A Brand New Dear Norman!

No Comments 19 October 2012

Dear Norm,

What is it with you? I’ve been scouring your old columns, and there’s almost nothing about a person’s grief when an animal dies!

Our poodle – Rudi – died in July. He was 14, and I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt this distressed. I couldn’t eat and hardly slept. And if you think my BMs were normal, think again.

My partner feels much the same, even though Rudi was my dog initially and I essentially brought him into the “marriage.”

For eight years, before I met the man I now live with, that dog was my best friend, my confidant, my pal. There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for me. He woke me in the morning so I wouldn’t be late for work. He waited for me — sometimes all night if I was having a real good time — patiently by the door. And you know what else? He never judged. Not once.

I will never find anyone as faithful and good as Rudi was. I think you should acknowledge the relationship between pets and their so-called “owners” in your nice program that I enjoy so much.

Still Suffering in Sacramento



While I try to touch on many different things in my missives I will, of course, not hit on everything. If you’re expecting an apology you’d be better served finding some fiber to address your aforementioned BM concerns. But on to your problem.

I myself am an animal lover. When I was a boy I was awarded a baby ferret as a first place prize in an amatuer boxing competition. I won’t soon forget the hours we spent on the chaise. He laying on my chest, staring longingly in my eyes, coo’ing the way he did in the upper register of his larynx.

But that was ages ago. Since then I’ve had many different moments with many different creatures. And I’m the better for it. Diversity in the generation of love will only serve to deepen your understanding of the primordial.

Now get on with it boy. Get on with it!


Ask Norman, Features

Ask Norman – A New Submission!

No Comments 15 August 2012

Dear Norman,

Loved your appearance at Kasper Hauser’s House of Books last week.

Here’s the rub:

My girlfriend has really been hassling me about my snack choices when we go to the movies. She always says she doesn’t want anything and then….bam! Half of my box of jujubees are gone :( .,,,,and she complains about them the whole time. I’ve tried to get things I know she doesn’t like but she eats them anyways. Then complains….how should I handle this?

Left wanting in Waukesha


Dear Wanting,

As you may have guessed this is far from the first time that cinema unbalance has reared its ugly head. I once did a picture of C. Everett Happenstance in the deserts of Tunisia. August – 1959. I was promised assistance and an ample repository to suffice my constitution. I received neither, and persevered.

My point is this: You must understand the source of your frustration. In my case…I was hotter than an inner thigh in the middle of a heat wave. So I cooled off with iced quinine with gin and grapes.

My friend, if you’re hungry the answer is easy. You smuggle in snacks of your choice and replenish on trips to the men’s room at slow points in the film. They all have them, believe me.

If you fear the notion of sharing you must weigh all options and determine if prudence is the right course of action. And it normally is.

Weighing my options,


Ask Norman

Due to Massive Demand – More Ask Normans!

No Comments 03 May 2012

Dear Norm,

There is something that has happened in the past and although it spurred some thinking at the time after dissipation I paid it no mind.  However, this past weekend there was an episode that left me unconscious for approximately 20 minutes with a good knot on my melon.  Norm, why is it that “shower farts” seem exponentially worse than any kind of other fart?

I appreciate your insight,

Waning in Walla Walla


Dear Waning,

It is a conundrum no doubt. But condensation is sticky, dense and the nastiest thing you know. The fog makes darkness deeper and the sunshine murkier and somehow meekly sparse. If you enter fart scents into the oblivion it doesn’t stand a chance. It grows, multiplies, transmogrifies and attacks the nostril. In my completely expert amateur opinion I feel like the moist, sticky heat takes ‘the stank’ and amplifies it.

But fear not!

I recommend embracing it and here’s how. Follow these steps:

When its time release, release – its healthy

  • If it gets to be too much hang your bum outside the shower and release
  • Turn the water off and inhale
  • Brace yourself and accept
  • This is your scent
  • This is how it should be

Very similar to when you started drinking alcohol it may sting at first but you’ll come to yearn for it. Your confidence will draw the female kind to it. When that happens you’ll win. And win big.

Here’s to being you,


Ask Norman, Features

Exclusive Ask Norman!

No Comments 29 March 2012

Dear Norman,

I desperately need some advice! I had the strangest thing happen to me earlier this week. I was out walking –  enjoying the weather – on my way to purchase an oreo milkshake when I saw it. It was a pile of human crumpled up on the sidewalk like a misplaced pair of starched khakis. And let me tell you norm, as you can probably imagine…he did not look well.

I can’t say for sure but he might have been dead. But if he wasn’t dead the vultures weren’t far off. Anywho, my question is two part.

1.)    this gentleman had a sign draped over him. It said “Life is ugly but art is beautiful so keep passing by open windows”. I don’t know why but this phrase is very unsettling to me and I’m losing sleep. What does it mean?! I have venetian blinds in my house. Is that a bad thing?
2.)    This man had a box of kittens by his side. After a few nudges with my boot he didn’t move so I took one kitten home. I’ve named him Juan Carlos. Is that ok?

Looking for guidance,

A Little Uncomfortable In Louisville


Dear Little,

First of all, YES. Wholeheartedly. Take that kitten and run! I saw a kitten this morning. I took him. Now he’s sitting in a shoebox under my desk having a BALL with an old stick of Big League chew. This is easily the best Thursday I’ve had in late March in awhile.

Enough about the goings-on of my affairs. As for your homeless man conundrum. He was an artist and had seen too much. Some of us are particularly receptive to the downward flow of dung in this world. Your khaki wearing martyr sipped the curdled milk of disappointment one too many and decided to go to the all-you-can-eat buffet in the sky.

I don’t blame him.

As for the blinds – they’re fine. Any respectable 21st centurion has blinds. Shades are for perverts and mormons, draperies are for Victorians, and no window dressings at all is for school boys.

Awaiting Further Instruction,


Ask Norman, Features

Ask Normans Back – Due to Popular Demand!

No Comments 01 March 2012

Dear Norman,

I recently moved to Huntsville Alabama and, boy, do I have some question! Well let me back up. I guess I should start with My Cousin Vinny. I love that movie! I used to watch it all the time and growing up in a sheltered northern town it was really my first exposure to many southern aspects.

Enter grits.

Surely you remember that scene where Vincent Gambino (played by Joe Pesci) duped that country bumpkin by comparing the time to prepare regular grits vs. instant grips. What cinema!

But anyways…I’ve always been interested in grits. What were they? How did they taste? What was their consistency? And many more.

You can only imagine my excitement when my construction job took me to a 6 month stint in Huntsville.

Well, its been two weeks and 14 diners later I’m yet to find grits. What gives?

Why is it so hard to find grits being served?

Not Whole in Huntsville

Dearly Whole,

There are a couple of theories floating around kitchens’ inner circles.

The first is more basic.  The process of making grits can be quite extensive and exhausting.  The staff may not want to expand all of the energy necessary for a breakfast dish that most people look at and make a face like they just smelled a pile of hot garbage.

The second is much more likely.  You see, grits are known worldwide to sponsor the Liberal Party of Canada.  In an effort to keep politics out of the kitchen grits have been banned all over the globe from places like Finland to El Salvador.  During a recent speech El Salvadorian Prime Minister Jose Fuentes Barrera came right out and said, “While I am the head of this country no food shall sponsor a political party and no food that sponsors a political party will be endorsed by me or my people.”. Of course this was in Spanish.

This bold statement received a standing ovation and grits from all over the country were brought to the Revolution Monument in San Salvador and burned.

With continued outrage over political support and the growing popularity of “hating on grits” it stands to reason that kitchens in the US have all but stopped serving them.   The economy is in steady decline and not knowing where the next bailout will come from has Americans far and wide abandoning the notion that grits are “worth it.”  The risk of offending foreign nations is much greater than the satisfaction that one gets from a hearty bowl of grits, hominy or otherwise.

What will you be eating for breakfast tomorrow?

Thanks for writing,


Ask Norman, Features

Still More Ask Normans!

No Comments 16 February 2012

Dear Norman,

There is a mysterious phenomenon that has plagued me over the years.  I know deep down I’m not the only one that has this problem but I was hoping you would be able to give me a helping hand or foot…cover, so to speak.

Since I started doing laundry I’ve noticed that once and awhile, seemingly for no reason, one of my socks will go missing.  Sometimes I find them under the bed a few days later.  Perhaps I should check before the load starts?  Sometimes I find them under the dryer a couple weeks later.  Perhaps I should check more frequently than when my bouncy ball gets away from me?  Sometimes they are lost never to be seen again.

The lost ones have become quite frightening of late.  That typically happens from the mid life of a sock onward.  Well, the last time I did laundry I lost one after its first use.  I checked all the usually “lost” places and came up empty.  So my question is – can/do socks disintegrate into the lint trap, kind of like a self cleaning oven.


Mismatched Foot Covers (Wanblee, South Dakota)



Dear Mismatched.

I’ve given it a good think and I believe your question can be addressed on two levels – the practical and the existential.

I’ll take the first part first.

Now, the small sample of your usual “lost” places is telling. Finding your lost socks under the bed is a quick fix. If you’re anything like me you like to go to bed as ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ SO you most likely keep your socks on to feel toasty. Then, you get too warm throughout the night and involuntarily maneuver your socks off to release body temperature. It happens.

Like most people, when you toss off your covers to perform your morning calisthenics your recently disposed of socks get caught in the wave of exercise enthusiasm….not to be seen for several weeks.

As for the occasional lost sock soul found under the dryer…that is easily explained too! While you’re performing the switch from washer to dryer your energetic mind probably wanders to think of more exciting pursuits. Dangling participles, Warren Zevon, and the best way to prepare a scallop etc. Pay attention! As a general rule of thumb you should approach everything you do in life with the same amount of precision and attention that you do for rectal cleanliness.

Now for the existential approach:

I find your analogy apt. A person disintegrating into the lint trap of life, always searching for their ‘lost sock’. Where did it go? How do I find it? What does it all mean? Well I say this:

Reconsider the contrast of semblance vs. resemblance.

Thanks for writing,


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