Help me, Heloise

Help me, Heloise

Dear Heloise:

I’m out of options.  I’ve tried hot water, cold water, baking soda, toothpaste, mayonnaise, Ajax, Pine Sol,  You are my only hope.

You told me to put a dab of lavender on a light bulb to clear insects out of my living room.  It worked.  You told me to put a drop of clove oil on a cotton ball, jam that sucker into plastic wrap, and put it in my shoes to wipe out foot funk.  It worked.  You told me to grab the tablecloth covered with melted wax and shove it in the freezer before scraping with a dull knife.  It worked.  You reminded me that cleaning a dvd with a circular motion could damage data, and you jumped into the 21st Century when the chemical composition of hairspray changed, making it useless for removing ink stains.  I know, I know.  Rubbing alcohol but don’t rub.  Just dab.

Yes!  Fabulous!

Do I soak my feet in vinegar?  I do.  Do I use a hair dryer to blow crumbs out of the slots in the knife block.  I do.  Have I put ice cubes on the dents in my carpets left by furniture I have moved?  I have.

When company comes to call, I put a pan on the front burner, sprinkle a little cinnamon around, and, La, Voila, the house smells like I’ve been baking up a storm. Who knew?  Time to scrape the Kerry/Edwards stickers off my Subaru? Duct tape?  Genius.   

I’ve gone to any lengths,  any lengths to try to live the life you so obviously have mastered.  When you told me you had recycled your old pillows by making a bed for your schnauzer, I got a schnauzer and recycled my pillows.

But I am at the end of my rope.  It’s all my fault; I should have known.  I saw the lamp advertised in a magazine, saw the picture of the genie, and thought, what the heck, I could use a couple of wishes, this could be my chance to take care of retirement, and maybe Alice at Safeway could find me sort of attractive.  Not hunky, not going there.  Just ok enough.

The lamp arrives, I unpack the crate.  The instructions are in Japanese which threw me off.  I copied the sheet into Google translate and find out I have a Seirei, which is a genie but more of a ghost genie.  I probably should have found a real translator because I now know that the command for the Seirei to grant wishes is just a tone from the command to transport a person to a parallel world, which is where I think Alice is since I haven’t seen her at Safeway for more than a week.

When I finally did find a djinn master online (that’s a search I’d rather not do again), I was advised that the next wish, intentional or not, could release thousand of ghost snakes into the water supply, an outcome I would like to avoid.  And then, this thing has an appetite you wouldn’t believe, a distinctive odor (sulphur and peppermint), and an attitude I find really offensive.  Instead of referring to me as “Master”, the title I would think appropriate to my station, he/she/it calls me Kasatta Niku, Rotting Meat.  

I tried to wish it away.  No luck; apparently that’s not in the wish drawer for Seirei.  I tried putting the lamp in the freezer, figuring that might slow the thing down, but it and the lamp reappeared within minutes.  Put it in the microwave, lots of sparks but no change in basic profile.

The djinn master suggested burning sandalwood and sage, which I tried, but only made my place smell like the Health and Beauty aisles at Shop’n Kart.  

I’m out of options and about to drop thousands of ghost snakes in the water system.  Help me please, Heloise.

                                                                Wishless in Ashland

Dear Wishless –

I’m so pleased soaking your feet in vinegar and using the clove soaked cotton balls in your shoes has worked so well for you.  Did you know you can put used cotton balls in your rubber gloves to prevent your nails from tearing the rubber?  If you are fond of the smell of cloves, you can drop your used cotton balls in your vacuum cleaner bag for a refreshing pick-me-up.  Or, dip new cotton balls in vanilla and place them at the back of your shelves in the fridge.  You’ll be delighted with the fresh aroma each time you open that door.  Spring is about to roll around, so fill the hollow stems of daffodils with water and plug them with those cotton balls to extend the life of your cut flowers.  Finally, if you have a camping trip in mind, remember that cotton balls and a dab of petroleum jelly are all you need to start a roaring fire.

As for the genie issue,rest easy.  You are so close to finding your way free of that pesky demon.  Put the lamp in the fridge, not the freezer, then, when the lamp is cold to the touch, put it in the oven.  Leave it for about an hour at 350 degrees, plug the spout with a cotton ball soaked in sandalwood and sage and chuck your lamp out a car window on the side of a country road.

Hope these tips help,


Escaping Norway

Escaping Norway

A bright blue Volvo FH750 stands on the side of the road only miles from Sor Vanger, last town on the Norwegian side of the border with Russia.  The temperature has fallen quickly, and the road, already thickly covered with snow, is increasingly dangerous.  Two heavily muffled men reluctantly leave the relative warmth of the truck’s cab in order to meet twelve men, women, and children, blindfolded so they might never identify Steinar and Oddvar, “praerieulvs” or “coyotes”, who hide fleeing Norwegians in the large sand boxes located under the truck’s chassis, above the wheels.  On nights such as this, only sand dropped from the truck’s entrails will keep the wheels on the icy road into Russia.  Steinar and Oddvar know the roads and know just how much space they have, putting the heavier border busters over the rear wheels where weight is as important as sand.

Steinar, the praerieulv in charge, is a wiry man of about fifty, dressed in conventional Norwegian casual clothing under his winter gear, slacks, blue shirt with open collar, brightly patterned sweater presenting reindeer bowling.  This is not his first rodeo, but the current flood of Norwegians fleeing Trondheim has crested in the past few weeks, leaving him exhausted and his resources worn thin.  He is resigned in describing the work ahead.

“Ever since President Trump opened the floodgates, I have more business than I can handle.  I see twenty or thirty families a day, all trying to bust out of Norway.  I’m not sure I can keep up.”

Oddvar, the younger and more excitable guide chimes in.  “Me too.  I’ll go when I can.  People don’t know what it’s like here.  Medical care for everyone, high salaries.  We got almost no crime here in Trondheim.  A guy got trapped under his van last week.  Big news.”  Steiner nods.  “You think you know dull, but you don’t even begin to know dull.”  Oddvar spits with contempt.  “I get excited, you know, when I hear the president wants us to come.  He didn’t even mention Sweden.  Maybe too many Swedes already.”

Einar Pen, an engineer with Norsk Hydro has waited for weeks for this opportunity and has arrived with his wife and three sons in tow.  Steinar explains the ground rules as Pen shrugs into the jumpsuit he will wear hiding in the truck, as his family will as well. He  grumbles a bit as he is to be  wedged into the few square feet of space above the truck’s right rear wheel.  He is six foot and seven inches of university trained metallurgist with a head the size of a watermelon.  Groaning, his labored breath turning to frozen mist as he labors, Pedersen assures his wife that all will be well once they get to Russia where an easy train ride gets them to Pulkovo airport in Saint Petersburg.

“Yes, sure.  Hardship now, but in only a few months, it will be beautiful.  Just like the Wild West.”  Pedersen coughs broadly, scattering chunks of frozen phlegm onto the dark night.  “Right now, we have it so good, you know?  Good for everyone.  No excitement.  Everybody has a good life.  Money.  You know.”

“Now, Eidar…”  Pedersen’s wife interrupts.  “We do this for the kids.”

The three Pedersen boys stand quietly.

“Sure.”  Pedersen grins widely.  “But we live in Alaska in a few months, hunt bears, have guns.”

Berit Pederson shuffles uneasily; the Pedersen boys fist bump.

Nerves are on edge as the praerieulv hands out parkas and backpacks.. With practiced certainty he separates the Vikings from the victims, the younger from the elders.

Do not fall behind, I will have to leave you, we MUST leave you, there are going to be casualties, but we have to keep going.

Berit slumps anxiously as she is seated in the cab of the truck.  The boys have been placed inside sacks of turnips which will be delivered to grocers in the small towns on the Russian border.    “We thought about El Salvador or Mexico, exciting too, and warm, but Eidar, he wants to be a cowboy, like John Wayne, and he says US is just as dangerous but clean.”

In the wake of the president’s encouragement of Norwegian immigration and the flood of emigrants deserting the Norwegian economy, the Storting resorted to draconian measures, placing guards at the airports and monitoring the highways.  Only commercial vehicles have been allowed to travel into Russia.  In December, Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister, spoke with grave concern before the Parliament.

“Americans have taken so much from Norway, stolen some of our greatest human treasures.  Yes, certainly, it was hard to see Sonja Henie skate off to Hollywood, but since then, look at who could have been honoring Norway:  Marilyn Monroe, the Olsen twins, Eliot Ness, Knute Rockne, Paris Hilton, Rene Zellweger, Adam Lambert, Kristen Wiig, Roald Dahl.  The American entertainment industry has been built in the broad shoulders of Norse immigrants.

No more.  We keep our people now.  Did I mention Mary Kate and Ashley?”

Then, we are insulted.  This Prairie Companion mocks the Norwegian bachelor farmers in Minnesota.  “Ya, sure” and so forth.  From Garrison Keillor who is not even Danish much less Norwegian.  Canadian and Scottish.  Maybe never even has been to Norway.  Maybe some jokes about Canadian bachelor farmers would be a good thing.  Maybe he jokes not so much this day.

A brittle snowfall continues to cover the highway as the truck rumbles from the dark bypass.  The Pedersens, like countless thousands, will soon land in Anchorage, secure in the knowledge that there, at least, they are wanted.





On Broadway

On Broadway

New Yorkers have long known that the current generation of Broadway production is all about revivals and musical adaptations of successful films.  Rogers, Hammerstein, Hart, Porter, Coward, Berlin – the hills are alive with the sound of recycling.  Yes, an original production appears from time to time, but for every Hamilton there are three Hello Dollys and a pair of Showboats.  Need something more current? Tap those toes to Groundhog Day The Musical, Legally Blonde The Musical, Shrek The Musical, Waitress The Musical, Sunset Boulevard The Musical, and Amelie The Musical.

Really?  Amelie?

An unusual opportunity has come my way as my wife went to school with a producer constantly on the lookout for the next bright Broadway bound idea.  I see every production here in Southern Oregon; she’s asked me to pass on any new work that might do well in the Big Apple.  She has said she needs gripping contemporary dramas, new voices, fresh ideas; I beg to differ.

I’ve sent her my slate of hot prospects, any one of which could be bouncing its way as the centerpiece of next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a once-proud celebration of music and spectacle culminating with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, now devolved into Broadway’s version of product placement.

Mr. Ed The Musical

The Great White Way has long hoped for a bit of equine humor with a dry twist.   Mr. Ed, the astounding American Pharoah, displays a shaky baritone warbling the familiar “A Horse Is A Horse Of Course, Of Course” but who cares?   Ed’s manipulation of his ostensible owner,  Wilbur Post (“Hay, Wilbur”), darkens the show with Gone Girl gaslighting,  setting Louis Black as Wilbur up as an ineffectual and psychologically disordered stooge (“What’s The Matter, Wilbur?”).

The Bachelor The Musical

Roses for everyone!  Twenty high-strung, conniving, emotionally wounded women provide an unmatched chorus of voices on the show’s title song.  Lyricist Chuck Palahniuk’s deft patter ( Total Heartbreak Never Ends/  No Skank Here Was Making Friends.  Although Corinne Opened Up To You/  You Didn’t Need To Bonk The Shrew.) elevates the pedestrian script.  Daniel Baldwin’s off-handed portrayal of the show’s host is completely incomprehensible.  Lindsay Lohan’s desperate also-ran Bachelorette is both compelling and truly disturbing.

Talent Round Up Day The Musical

This clumsy pandering to nostalgia-bound Boomers plumps an ersatz Annette, Darlene, and Clubmaster, Jimmy, in a noxious triangle set against a ripped-off Chorus Line musical confession.  Fresh faced Eric Von Detten (Brink) almost saves the last act as Cubby, the driven drummer whose frantic timpani solo brings this mess to life for a fleeting moment.

The Newlywed Game The Musical

From the signature game show anthem to the disturbing “Where’s The Strangest Place You’ve Made Whoopie”, this challenging and thoughtful examination of the early years of marriage raises questions perhaps better left unanswered, particularly in the awkward duet, “I Thought You Liked That”.  Johnny Depp is miscast as provocateur Bob Eubanks, but the rest of the cast carries the day.  Dakota Fanning as the wrong girl married to the wrong guy breaks hearts nightly at the Orpheum.


The Rifleman The Musical

Sensing a shift as older generations take their leave, the NRA commissioned this faux-western musical in the hope of bringing an iconic and well armed figure back from TVLand obscurity.  Against all odds it works.  Lin-Manuel Miranda holds the audience hostage with the stirring “I’ve Got My Sights On You”.  Bernadette Peters as the Rifleman’s nemesis, Shotgun Polly, rocks. “My Cold Dead Hands” in a delightful dream sequence set in the Arlington Cemetery.

Hogan’s Heroes The Musical

Never has a prisoner-of-war camp been more lively!   Matthew Broderick is the wily Hogan routinely outsmarting Neil Patrick Harris’  rigidly obtuse Colonel Wilhelm Klink.  Harris’ dimwitted Junker Kommandant does most of the musical heavy lifting, leaving to Broderick fast paced-bamboozling with Seth Rogan’s Sergeant Hans Schultz (“I Know Nussing!”).  Hyper-hormoned French detainee, Louis LeBeau (Zak Efron channelling Maurice Chevalier) and zaftig camp follower Megan Hilty romp through the raucous “What’s A Latrine For If Not For Love?”

Leave It To Beaver The Musical

Hugh Jackman is Ward, Kristin Chenoweth, June, and delightfully miscast Martin Short the Beaver.  This airy farce is reminiscent of the most artfully choreographed French comedies as indiscrete couples in flagrante delicto narrowly escape exposure.   Wally (Taylor Lautner) stolidly juggles his three girlfriends while keeping the aroused Eddie Haskell (Jesse Eisenberg) on a short leash and away from June.  Short’s Beaver whines charmingly, particularly in his rendition of “Miss Landers, You Are So Hot”.  Chenoweth is one of Broadway’s signature voices, never better when chiding her distracted husband, “Ward, You Have To Talk To The Beaver”.