Ask Norman, reins

Dear Norman – Reins & Norm Explore

No Comments 15 April 2015

Dear Norm,

I found myself at the bad end of a bender and somehow ended up in a church.  There was singing, an organ playing, shaking hands and then near the end they let you take some money out of a basket.

Since that day I’ve been doing some reconnaissance to choose which religion is right for me.  At a Jewish church I spun a top and heard tall tales of finding change in the street.  At a Catholic church I was able to chew on some dried out cardboard and wash it down with a reddish liquid.  I don’t remember the 16 hours that followed and managed to lose my pants.  With a Rastafarian group I smoked ganja, kicked a soccer ball and listened to Bob Marley.  That could have been my friend Dave’s house; I don’t really remember.

While these and others have all been pleasurable experiences the Church of Scientology really intrigued me.  There is quite a bit going on there with all the different thetan levels to look out for.  Being Clear, E-meters and the evil Lord Xenu from the Galactic Confederacy. I mean let’s face it he’s probably best known for “Incident 2″.

Most religions have detractors or negativalists but Scientology doesn’t seem to.  It’s probably because the theory which started it’s ideology has science to back it up and the numbers just make sense. I can picture myself aboard Freewinds with the Sea Org obtaining the highest levels of Operating Thetan training.

I personally believe all of Mr. Hubbard’s writing is connected.  It’s like Countess Krak said in Mission Earth 5, “I’ll bet his spinbrush is all worn out…Maybe his nerve ends have gotten dull…Maybe he has grown a mustache and wants it speeded up…”  That’s got to be how you feel right before Clear.

I know I’m ready.

Thanks for listening,



Dear Reins,

I can’t tell you how good it is to hear from you. Having not seen you since the Mid Winter Field Day, Rayburn and I were growing concerned. Just last week we were pondering the age old question “How much time do Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak spend together, if any?” and hit the existential ‘brick wall’. At such moments your absence is felt most. We feared you fell into one of your infamous Dorito Shembalas.

You’ve been busy eh? I’m glad you’ve tracked down your pants (presuming you have). I know how hard you worked on that hem.

On to more pressing matters.

It’s no surprise your quest is on-going. You’re a swashbuckler with miles to walk each night before you sleep. However, tread carefully in Hubbard’s realm.

Back in the mid 60s I was doing a stint at Warner Bros. fixing up lackluster scripts and got to know Hubbard a bit on the ‘writer’s circuit’. We met intermittently at Greenblatt’s on Sunset before Zagat entered the equation.

He often spoke of ‘thetans’ and nifty cowboy boots. He went on longingly about the depth’s of one’s soul and the difference between truth and a falsehood weighing no more than a feather. Most of the time he creeped me out but he had a car so I indulged him.

Things culminated when we were drinking nips one morning at Greenblatt’s. Hubbard was wont to take long, thoughtful swallows of his drink before talking. He could always bring a cliche to life. At that time he took it for granted that the real and true spirits were entering him with the fire of the liquor. He inhaled the animation around him then said:

“Emotion must never be wasted. Norm, keep clear on such things! When you’re older you may have the bad luck to have an affair with an ugly woman who may enjoy what you offer and has never been on daily terms with a man. She’s too ugly. You’re going to have trouble on your hands. Before long, she’s insatiable. You’ve given the taste of the forbidden to her. Remember I said that.”

He strode off through the door and left me to pay the bill. Presumably as payment for the session?

Take what you will from that advice. What concerned me more about Hubbard was that he longed to be both Alpha and Omega and when your best and worst motives agree on the same action, beware.

I apologize for being forward, but I think the best thing for you is to come home to the welcoming nook of The Shade’s office. We’ve taken to buying that ciabatta bread you like.

Adequately, but not overly concerned,


Ask Norman

A New Dear Norman – Where do the hubbies go?

No Comments 20 February 2015

Dear Norm,

Where do hubcaps go when they are lost? I lost mine today somewhere between here and there. All this snow has just been too much!

Is there a warehouse with forgotten hubbies? Do the homeless pick them up and use them as shields? Do cops take them and sell them on ebay?

I’m willing to do anything to get it back. Anything!

Wondering in Watertown


Dear Wondering,

While today’s plastic discs are are a far cry from the nickel-plated Houks I enjoyed on my ‘46 Studebaker, believe me I am empathetic to your plight. I ‘misplaced’ a ham sandwich last week that I’m still thinking about. I turned to get a glass of milk and when I came back to the counter it was gone. It’s absence spooked me.

But your question has been considered by some of the greatest minds we’ve had. Where do lost things go? Is a thing ever really lost? Was it for a purpose?

Such questions are beyond my sphere of influence. I suspect they’re beyond Robert Mitchum’s as well. That said, I’ll offer this for inspiration: “Forget everything, and focus on what’s in front of you

If none of this is applicable I suggest checking the culvert at the intersection of Belmont St. and Orchard. That’s where I always find my lost goods. If you do venture down there and run into Ramon please tell him to kindly ‘fuck off’.

With on-going resentment,



Features, Shades of Gray, The Written Word

Could Channing Tatum be the next Patrick Swayze?

No Comments 10 September 2014

Here at The Shade we ask the hard questions. How are the film careers of Channing Tatum and Patrick Swayze similar? How are they different? To the career trajectories mirror each other at all. If I was Tatum’s agent how could I advise him? Where are my Sour Patch Kids?

I think the Swayze/Tatum comparison really holds a lot of value, and a movie-by-movie breakdown would show many similarities between the two. Lets compare the following movies:

  • Swayze – Outsiders, Red Dawn, Youngblood, Dirty Dancing, Steel Dawn, Next of Kin, Roadhouse, Ghost, Point Break, Father Hood, Donnie Darko
  • Tatum – Stop-Loss, Fighting, GI-Joe, The Eagle, The Vow, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, Side Effects, Step up.

Both actors were in brat pack type movies with Outsiders/Red Dawn and Stop-Loss. Both were great dancers…which, let’s face it, people LOVE a great dancer. Look at Sir Lawrence Olivier and, later, Pee Wee Herman.

The difference is that Outsiders and Red Dawn established Swayze as a leading man, Tatum hasn’t strung together roles that have done this. Stop-Loss, a small release MTV Films movie, only introduced Tatum (great movie, and great cast though).

Both actors can throw fists, and have legit action chops. Swayze’s Roadhouse is an eternal classic, Next of Kin, and Point Break are fantastic – practically immortal. While Fighting can never be put on the same level, Tatum was a very passable brawler-with-a-heart-of-gold in it. GI-Joe was a summer blockbuster failure, but Tatum was good as Duke.

Both actors took chances in crappy movies that were outside their usual genres. Swayze had Steel Dawn, a post apocalyptic shitfest. Tatum had The Eagle, a piss-poor historical fiction piece in which he plays a Roman legionnaire. Laughable.

Both actors were in crappy rom-coms: Father Hood for Swayze. The Vow for Tatum. Let’s face it, sadly at this point rom coms are a right of passage for any leading man in Hollywood that has his sights on something bigger. I don’t like it. You don’t like it, but it’s a reality. Lets acknowledge and move on.

Both actors refused to get cast as rom-com guys, and took serious roles: Donnie Darko for Swayze. Side Effects for Tatum.

Both actors played a stripper: Swayze on SNL with Chris Farley, Tatum in Magic Mike (okay, that was a stretch) but still conjures up good memories. And stop it, I know what you’re thinking.

But that’s about where the similarities end. Swayze had more transcendent movies that captured the attention of the public, old and young alike. His movies practically defined that generation. Iconic. Ghost and Dirty Dancing particularly made Swayze a cultural phenomenon. Tatum isn’t there yet, and may never be. I’m not sure that’s due to the quality of the movies he’s appeared in, or whether he doesn’t have the same acting chops as Swayze, but that remains to be seen. We are evaluating Swayze’s entire career which is unfair to Tatum. Swayze didn’t do Dirty Dancing until he was 35, Road House at 37 and Point Break at 39. Tatum is currently 34. So while Tatum has a few years to play with, any actor worth a damn would sell his/her soul to the devil to have a run of films as epic as Swayze had from 35-40.

Tatum may forever be looked at as a meathead because he was, at one point, an Abercrombie model. And a stripper. He may never shake that stigma. But Jonah Hill seems to have shaken his fat kid in a comedy stigma with a few Oscar nods no? Listen, I don’t like Jonah Hill any more than you do but facts are facts. Unless their not. In which case who cares.

Back on track.

Tatum seems like a guy who walked out of a frat and into the movies, whereas Swayze always had an intelligent gleam in his eye. However, Tatum is underrated and young. His performances are much more nuanced than people give him credit for, and he has a lot more emotional range than you’d like to think (see Magic Mike). Also, he is much funnier than Swayze (21 Jump Street was funnier than anything Swayze ever did).

Tatum could stand to get a sports movie under his belt, a la Youngblood for Swayze. But mostly what he needs is that movie that makes the world fall in love with him the way it fell in love with Swayze. When that happens, we’ll revisit this conversation again in a whole new light.

Questions, comments/concerns please let us know at We’d love to not hear from you.

Ask Norman

Dear Norman – A Remembrance: Lauren Bacall

No Comments 20 August 2014

Ladies & Gentlemen,

A bit of my heart died recently. We all have it. That lingering memory that lurks in the ether. The love, lust, longing for….the one that got away. For yours truly, it was Lauren Bacall. My life could have been completely augmented was it not for a somewhat cold roast beef sandwich and a wrinkled pair of pants.

Bacall was ‘it’. Born from immigrants but fortunate enough to have uncles sitting on gold mines my sweet Bessie (as I called her) went to the most pristine of finishing schools here in Manhattan. She could entertain sheiks with ease but was always at home amongst the underbelly. That was part of the reason I loved her. ⅓ parts to be exact. Another ⅓ was her lips and the final ⅓ was the way she ironed my trousers.

Take all of them – the models I mean. Klum, Brinkley, the field. Take my word, they wouldn’t exist if my Bessie didn’t knock the socks of Herb Schtenkel winning her the cover of Harpers in ‘43. We were waiting at Schnitzers for roast beef sandwiches when Herb walked by. Bessie was leaning over the counter, deciding on a potato salad, when Herb honed in. He was fortunate enough to get a look at her derriere from ten feet and was immediately drawn.

He approached, she turned and the deal was done. The 1-2 bunch of her caboose and that mug is enough to drive Attila the Hun to get a throw rug.

Nancy Hawk, that devil, did me in. Once she got the cover an idol was made.

It wasn’t until March of ‘45 until I’d see her again. Back in New York. She was in Hollywood and a man has needs so I shacked up with the closest Marcia I could find. Who wouldn’t?

Stupidly I was back at Schnitzers ordering my usual – Roast beef on rye….dry. I had spent the night at ‘Marcia’s’ and had thrown my trousers in the corner of the room as a product of my raging libido. When I awoke they were in a ball but I needed a sandwich.

Bessie knew I would never leave the house with wrinkled trousers if I had my head about me. Which I clearly didn’t. Our eyes caught when I was grabbing napkins from the counter and she was drinking her coke. She was on a chance trip to NYC on a PR campaign.

She looked at me and me at her. We’d never sorted things out. I saw her eyes look at my trousers as the look of disgust crept across her face. I was caught.

Clearly her ascension was paramount. I was a speed bump on the road to glory. But her seeing me in my wrinkled (see: soiled) trousers was the confirmation she was looking for. I had moved on in her mind. Her regret about leaving me high and dry drifted. I gave her an out.

But Bessie, and you will always be my Bessie, along with America – and the world – you taught me how to whistle. And, for that, I will forever be in your debt.


Ask Norman, The Written Word

Dear Norman – Sitting is Hard

No Comments 12 June 2014

Dear Norman,

I’ve been experiencing something awfully weird lately.  I’m having trouble sitting down, more so at the office than anywhere else.  Every time I attempt to sit in my office chair I hit my hamstrings or pockets on one of the arms.  As a result the backs of my legs are quite bruised and I have ruined many pairs of pants.  I have been blaming my recent problems solely on the chair arms and have been considering asking maintenance to take them off the chair.  I used to be so good at sitting.  Do you have any advice that may help me sit like I used to?

Fearful in Fresno


Dear Fearful,

This reminds me of a struggle I had from ’82-’85.  For over 3 years I would only stand and lay on the floor.  I eventually hired a personal trainer that could get your ass through the eye of a needle.  To start get your old spandex out of the bottom drawer or go pantsless (helpful hint- if you’re going pantsless make sure to tape your boys good and high.  You don’t want to turn your grapes into wine) and try some no look couch sitting.  Once you feel comfortable with the couch move on to smaller targets: recliner, rocker, kitchen chair.  Try this for a couple weeks with the aforementioned attire.  Then start getting used to sitting in regular pants again.  After about 3-6 months, depending on personal progress, you should be ready to tackle your office chair.  For the first month or two make sure you look over a shoulder of your choice to accurately locate the chair before each sit.  Something that will also help ease your backside; place your hands on each arm of the chair during your descent.  That gives you a target area right between your own arms and you have remastered the art of sitting.  This rigorous program isn’t for the faint of heart so if you are still in need of having the arms removed I can send our maintenance guy Bruno to pay you a visit.  He just got a new high powered Stihl chainsaw and has been itching to remove some limbs.


Ask Norman

A New Dear Norman, What A Day!

No Comments 20 May 2014

Dear Norm,

I’m important.  I run the recreational volleyball league for my office.  According to the league’s power index I am currently ranked 2nd overall in bumping, setting and spiking with a #1 overall ranking in rotating (following side-outs).

Last week I organized a pick up scrimmage for the league’s participants to dust off the winter cobwebs and prepare for the grueling season ahead.  I’m not sure if we woke them up by playing or if they were just out looking for trouble but a large swarm of gnats began swarming around the court as we played.  It’s not clear if they came from inside the sand or just the general area around the court.

Many players were getting bit, including myself, which turned out to be a real nuisance to all players especially during gameplay.  Once the official league games start I’m concerned that if these gnats can’t be controlled or contained they will really start to hurt my statistical performance with all of the biting and general nuisancing.  I’m really hoping to impress Mary from the IT department this season and if my power rankings start dropping I’m not sure she’ll find me as attractive.  Do you think I should call in a gnat specialist to check the area to see if it can be sprayed with a gnat repellant??

Beleaguered near Boston


Dear Beleaguered,

I know the rigors of trying to impress the fairer sex with sport.  During last years Toothbrushing Championships I was so nervous trying to win the heart of my tournament crush that I missed a bicuspid and didn’t even earn a spot on the podium.

For your issue I will provide a couple of possible solutions and maybe you could bring them to Mary and get her opinion?  This way not only are you resolving the gnat problem but also showing her that you value her opinion in resolving matters that are as complicated as this.

Here are a couple of things you might want to try: 1) relocate the court.  Pick up the nets and sand and move them to a nearby area controlled by a less hostile swarm. 2)  Screw it!  Drop volleyball and join the local marionette theatre.  3) Turn off the music.  I know you like it and it is an inspiring song, especially for sport but a recent study out of Harvard’s School of Entomology confirms that gnats are drawn to Chumbawumba.  If you keep playing “Tubthumping” your going to keep having gnats.  Subsequently, a study of gnats related to Techno was conducted by Andover EDMologist Justin Stoltz who said, “The colors melt me like chocolate.  I have extra glow sticks if you need them.  We’re good friends, right?  We should totally start doing stuff together.”  4) Grow a pair.  You have a volleyball court at your work and are complaining about bugs being outside. I think Mary’s already made her decision.

Fuck off,


Winston Churchill Misquotes

Winston Churchill Misquotes

No Comments 13 May 2014

“You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war. Now get out of the way you knucklehead so I can take a crap and sort out your mess”

…minutes after Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in 1938

Ask Norman, Features

A New Dear Norman – Things we should know!

No Comments 17 April 2014

Dear Norman,

First time, long time. I’ve got a serious issue. I like to sleep on my side. I need to actually. Due to some phlegmy issues I picked up over the past decade. My partner and I live together and, hence, sleep together. And she loves to spoon. I mean she LOVES to spoon. So, the nice guy I am…I let it happen.

Here’s the rub – I scoot over, throw my arm over the woman then my other arm is left squished under my frame. I’ve tried other things but just end up at the same place – nowhere to go.

While she’s all nestled in the cozy love cave of my making I’ve got about 5 minutes until my entire side goes all numb with shooting pain. Its brutal. I spend half my nights staring at the ceiling waiting for the pain to go away. I’ve tried everything, what’s a guy to do?

Pins and needles in Poughkeepsie



First of all, thanks for the support…always great to hear from a fan.

Your current problem is an eternal one that has vexed many a great mind. Pythagoras for one. Pythagoras, the father of geometrical study, wizard of symmetry and one of the meanest bookies this side of the Aegean.  Ancient texts have revealed he suffered long nights with little sleep due to the ‘clingyness’ of his mate. And this was before tempurpedic technology, oy!

Conservative estimates gauge that between 561B.C and 540 B.C. Pythy slept less than 2 hours a night. In his restlessness Pythy roamed the early morning streets of Samos. Which is where he stumbled across the early morning rhythmic tones of a blacksmith’s shop. The beautifully harmonious clasping of the hammers was the aphrodisiac that inspired him to discover that musical notes could be transcribed to mathematical equations. Fast forward about 2000 years and you’ve got Miles Davis…thank YOU very much Pythy (and his selfish lover).

A contemporary of Pythagoras – Keith Richards – also faced a similar issue. In his 2011 biography he said that he only slept for about 2 nights a week. Which meant that he was conscious for 3 lifetimes over the course of that span. And look what he accomplished!

So, Pins, don’t see your current lack of sleeping space as a detriment. Look at it as an opportunity to achieve new things.

Eternally searching,

Winston Churchill Misquotes

Winston Churchill Misquotes

No Comments 24 January 2014

Winston Churchill Misquotes.....he could have said anything

“Jesus Clementine, I’m a bit busy at the moment. Can’t your sister pick up the goddam dog?”



Features, Top Ten

The Shade’s Top 10 Answers to the question “What have you been up to?”

No Comments 11 October 2013


Aren’t people the worst? 99.2 percent of everybody is awful. They go slow when you want to go fast. They’re ugly, and quite a few smell bad.  But worst of all, people are BORING. Be honest, how many conversations do you have throughout the day where you catch yourself dreaming of your cat and wondering when you can stop talking to this person? If you’re like me it’s every single one.

The worst is the question “What have you been up to?”. Ugh, I don’t even care what I’ve been doing let alone having to explain it to some jerk. So, we got together and came up with some great responses you can try that will really knock the peripheral people in your life for a loop when they bore you with that question.

The Shade’s Top 10 List of Answers to the Question “What have you been up to?”

10. Working on the stink in my tennis shoes. What do you think so far?

9. Avoiding people

8. Trying to invent a new soup

7. Working on a good lather

6. Just got my tarsals and metatarsals structured to point forward finally

5. Preparing for my second round interview at The Gap. Boy do they take folding seriously!

4. Exploring the option of selling myself for money. What do you think?

3. Grouse hoarding

2. Finally met my pen pal

1. Watching reruns of my last appearance on Sally Jessie Raphael


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