Tag archive for "dear norman"

Shades of Gray

A New Dear Norman!

No Comments 13 February 2013

Dear Norman

What do you say to a widow whose late husband used to be your lover? I am at a total loss. I lived with the man for two years, then he married someone else (so did I, for that matter), and then he died….leaving me nothing by the way.

I know this widow, and don’t much care for her, not because she married my ex, but because she’s a total bitch – and still has the pearls that Randolph reneged on when ‘we’ went south.

But my former lover died pretty young (45), and we have a lot of friends in common, and I know we’re going to meet again sooner rather than later, and I don’t want to say something like, “I’m sure he would have lived to a ripe old age if only he hadn’t married your bitchy boney ass.” Although that’s probably a fair remark.

Brimming with resentment in Raleigh


Dear Brimming,


A body in mourning requires a different set of rules compared to what applies day-to-day. Do you want to leave the vile taste of resentment in the ether? No. But the need to express righteousness to the wicked is incumbent – as you suggest.

Experience provides nothing if not to sharpen perspective through the blurry refraction of hindsight. If your widow personifies the ugliness you put forward then the results she so badly needs will come to her a thousand times over without your sacrificing grace.

So be compassionate. Empathize with the pain and suggest hope. And if you can get those pearls back be ruthless – I haven’t seen a good pearl since ‘51 in Havana.


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!



A New Dear Norman!

No Comments 06 July 2012

Dear Norm,

For starters – first time, long time.

OK, I think my hearing is increasing to super-human levels. Sometimes I lie in bed and hear the ‘psssshhh’ of a can opening and when I go out on my deck to feed the cats I see the person across the street drinking a root beer.

Other times I can hear washing machines on the spin cycle. Perhaps miles away?

Recently I’ve been able to hear my blood circulating through my body. I know its my blood because I can hear the pulsing ubiquitousness long after the Guy Lombardo record has reached the end of side one.

My question(s) are thus:

1. Is this normal?
2. What if I hear something I don’t want to?
3. Is there anything I can be looking for?
4. Do you hate velcro too?


Afflicted Eardrums in Anaheim


Dear Afflicted,

Thanks, always nice to hear from a fan.

Hearing – along with many other senses – can heighten with age. It could be due to the deterioration of other senses or it could be due to an accumulation of excessive amounts of beta carotene. Either way you should cherish the present and accept everything with generosity.

The sentiment brings to mind 1956 in New York City. I was eating crepes with Studs Terkel and he made me painfully aware of the sound of the American Dream deteriorating at an exponential rate. It was a balance between an infant fart and an inflated balloon being let go across a room.

I walked around with that sound in my mind until the Notre Dame/Michigan State football game the following season. It was a sad outing for the Irish and I lost big that day. But in the height of misery and looming despair I realized the sound of the American Dream had left. Later that day I shared a Manhattan with a transsexual at Melvin’s.

The point is we’re not here forever and any stimulation should be put to good use if you’re worth a shit.

So to answer your questions in order:

1. Yes and no
2. Embrace it and create
3. The next thing to be done with
4. I’m not familiar


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