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A New Dear Norman! Religion & Sneezing

Comments Off on A New Dear Norman! Religion & Sneezing 11 April 2017

dear Norm,

 i was shopping at the grocer when a man picking out pickles (kosher dill) turned to me and sneezed in my cart. 1 other man in the aisle turned and said “bless you” whilst a 2nd man said “blesh you”. I frowned at the new found germs I’d be paying for and walked away. Can we please do away with this public sentiment of filth and religion?
Shopping in Shirley,

Dear Shop,

Thanks for writing – always nice to hear from a lifelong fan. It’s an honor, truly.

From what I can tell in reading your missive your challenges are two-fold – a public health concern and an ecclesiastical affront. I’ll take them in that order.

I’m with you. I don’t consider picking up a nasty illness during my weekly grocery a ‘bargain’ deal. In fact, if I were running things, that pervert would be drawn and quartered in the town square for spewing his venom in such an egregious way. I’ve long been a fan of public shaming and violence and feel both of which send a clearer message than the passive aggressive harrumphing that has come into vogue with the advent of millennials. This quack threatens the livelihood of you and yours it should be well within your bounds to smack his ass. This is why we shove a pup’s face in his poo while training. It works.

On to the ecclesiastical matter.

I’ve long been a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state – and certainly public health for that matter. Moreover I think the church should be separated from everything and be made to sit by itself. It’s been misbehaving for far too long. Nor do I see any reason to associate any type of heavenly body with snot and/or phlegm. If one were being helpful in such situations they’d shout instructions on how to not spread germs while promptly running in the other direction as to not worsen the situation.


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 – 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.


The Written Word, Ask Norman

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,


Features, Ask Norman

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,

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,


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