Tag archive for "ask norman"

Ask Norman

Dear Norman: Shenanigans vs. Rough-Housing

No Comments 21 July 2015

Dear Norm,

I recently had my ears boxed by an old pal. It was the first time for me and, boy, did it hurt! Now, I’m a fun-loving guy. I like to ‘mix it up’ with my pals. But, to me, this seemed to cross the line and THAT got me thinking. What’s the difference between potentially dangerous rough-housing and good-natured shenanigans?

Bruised and not at all amused in Amherst


Dear Bruised,

The answer to your question can be summed up in one word – intent. But since I’ve already written 20 words (including contractions) allow me to go on.

It’s not always the case, but typically when shenanigans include hand-to-hand contact it’s mostly open fists. Obvious exceptions to this rule (to name a few) include a simple bop on the head and, of course, a rib rub. Some people would argue a noogie, but I wouldn’t. Noogies are no joke and should be handled as such.

Conversely, hand-to-hand contact when rough-housing almost always includes closed fists. And most definitely includes a sneer when one thinks no one is watching. Again, a base layer of malevolence is evident.

If you find yourself questioning if something is either rough-housing or shenanigans chances are it’s rough-housing.

Not at all worried about your safety,


reins, Ask Norman

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,



Ask Norman

Dear Norman – Junk Drawers & Time Gone Past

No Comments 13 June 2013

Dear Norman,

I recently discovered that I had a junk drawer. I recall trying to find the glue sticks for a crafting project I had found on Pinterest. The project required adhesive of any kind and I had recently purchased a 3-pack of sticks for some holiday glitter fun. I checked in all of the usual places: the basket on the coffee table, the fabric bin where the scissors usually end up, and then it hit me. Check the drawer by the cat food! I scurried over and rifled through. The rifling went on for longer than it should take to rifle and that’s when I knew. I had a junk drawer! Forgotten screws, rubber bands, do-dads and what-cha-ma-callits galore. All of life’s sticky situation fixer-uppers were left here in this drawer in the breezeway for myself to breeze on past without a thought. Those glue sticks got me thinking. How do junk drawers come to be so full of stuff? Does this mean I am a small-scale hoarder or just a clever crafter who knows she’ll need a stick of glue someday? Help!

Sticky from Mississippi


Dear Sticky,

You touch on 2 subjects near and dear to yours truly:

1. Daily manifestations of tedium in the realm of senses
2. Cats

I’ll take the latter first.

Cats have a wistful elegance about them that can placate the hottest temper. My first year in Manhattan, 1947, my 70 sq. ft apartment on West 80th was stifling and devoid of inspiration in that July of record heat. That is, until I found Bubbles at the ASCPA in Tribeca. Bubbles was a short hair Chartreux with zest of which Helen of Troy would kill for. Her strut and manner of planned ignoring tickled me like the plume of Zoroaster’s peacock.

In a way we’re all junk draws slowly accumulating ghosts & tedium. That rubber ball you found under the stove. Or the long, thin screw you found when you moved the armoire. Surely you have acquaintances that could be described similarly?

The thought of one day needing these things and not having them would drive us mad. To throw them away would be sacrilege. So we keep them, store them and press on hoping for that one day where justification manifests itself.

How do junk drawers come to be so full of stuff? you ask. Because we live Sticky and are terrified to go without that which we once had in our grasp. Much of the same can be said of our social circles. And as we navigate unfocused groupings we pick up these ‘do-dads and what-cha-ma-callits’ as reminders of what once was, could have been or might be.



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,


Features, Ask Norman

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.


Features, Ask Norman

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,


Features, Ask Norman

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,


Features, Ask Norman

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,


Features, Ask Norman

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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