A Drop In The Ocean

By Lisa Scottoline

You probably heard the big news story.

No, not that news story.

I never discuss news that will make you frown.

I discuss only news that will make you laugh.

Which leaves us with one story:

The news that Vigo, a city in Spain, is making it illegal to pee in the ocean.

So I’m not going.

I regard this as a breach of my civil liberties.

I have precious few left.

I have the right to an elastic waistband.

I have the right to never remain silent.

I have the right to skip the recap.

Not to mention the right to ignore email and say no when I want to.

To be honest, I’m still working on that last one.

I don’t say no enough. This is because I said yes all my life, thinking I didn’t have the right to say no.

Now I’m on fire.

No.

But I believe there can be constitutional limits on our individual freedoms.

I used to be a lawyer, so you can take that to the bank.

That’s why someone can make you register your car.

But they can’t make you wear a bra.

Everyone’s talking my body, my rights.

That’s why I can pee in the ocean.

I remember the first time I peed in the ocean.

It was the Atlantic, so if you’re prissy, go in the Pacific.

In fact, I was in Atlantic City, with my parents on the beach. We drank sodas and ate water ice.

By eleven o’clock, my bladder was full.

And I was only six years old.

Imagine what it is now.

I’m turning sixty-seven, and my bladder is turning eighty-five.

Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.

To return to point, I needed to pee, but there were no bathrooms around on the beach. I told my father, who said simply:

“You’re allowed to pee in the ocean.”

Truer words were never spoken.

It hadn’t occurred to me.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.

First, I can’t swim. So anytime I’m going in the ocean, I’m nervous. Plus it was hard to walk on the sharp shells, then something would scrape your ankle, which was definitely a shark.

Meanwhile all the kids around you are laughing, swimming, and playing on floats.

Their bladder is empty.

Your first task when you’re going to pee in the ocean is to do it away from other people.

That’s how you keep it classy.

The standard is low.

So you walk over where people aren’t, but if you take too long, they start coming around you.

Hold it in.

Then, when you finally find open water, you have to convince yourself it’s okay to pee in the ocean.

Not an easy task.

Especially if you’re me, a little girl who follows the rules.

Your father gave you permission, but tell that to your urethra.

You finally decide to let it go, and you stand in water to your waist, thinking you’re getting away with it.

You begin to notice everyone is standing in water to their waist, thinking they’re getting away with it.

After you’ve peed in the ocean, you have to leave.

Fast.

You will swear you made a yellow spot, but that’s only your conscience.

What a bitch.

Even if you can’t see the spot, you can feel it’s warm.

Later, as an adult, you will go in the water, feel cold spots and warm spots, and realize nobody had a bathroom.

I don’t know why anyone is outlawing peeing in the ocean.

Corporations pour trash, filth, garbage, toxic waste, and crude oil into the ocean.

The cleanest thing going into the ocean is my pee.

It’s not like I dumped in the ocean.

That would give ocean dumping a bad name.

I don’t know how we would enforce a no-peeing-in-the-ocean rule.

We can’t enforce a subpoena, the law, or the Constitution.

In fact, right now people are peeing on all of those things.

But I’m not mentioning that.

Because it wouldn’t be funny.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022

Classic Column: Cover Me

By Lisa Scottoline

I don’t know who invented duvet covers, but judging from the spelling, it was the French, and I’m guessing they did it in retaliation for Pepe Le Pew. 

Oo-la-la, mon cheri.

I don’t know when I got sucked into the duvet-cover scam, but I think it was in the eighties, a time before I had dogs, which is relevant here.  Because back then, the duvet cover never needed washing, and everything was fine.  But now I have to wash it all the time, as a result of sleeping with various and sundry critters, which means that I have to put it back on the bed again.

And it’s just impossible to put a duvet cover back on a duvet, or if we stop being pretentious, a comforter.

I don’t know how to do it in less than an hour.  And last time, I got so disgusted that I gave up and just placed the duvet cover on top of the comforter, making my bed like a cheese sandwich. 

I mean, what’s the difference?  The cover was covering the duvet, after all, and who’s coming after me?  The gendarmerie?

I simply can’t do it.

Here’s my procedure: I stuff the corner of the comforter in one corner of the duvet cover, then jump up on the bed and shake the comforter down the sides and into the other corners, which is when I realize I have the comforter twisted like a double helix inside the cover.  So then I have to dump the comforter out and start all over again while profanity commences, and I forget about bothering with whether the comforter is lengthwise or not, because I pretend it’s a square.  Bottom line, I struggle and struggle until the comforter is shoved back inside the cover, like a baby stuffed back into its amniotic sac, in a process that’s only slightly less painful than giving birth in reverse.

If you follow.

I’m over it.  I’m done with duvet covers and the other impossible things around my house, like halogen bulbs.  I have them under my kitchen cabinets, and the contractor swore to me they would be beautiful, and they are.  But he never told me that it would be impossible to change the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, twenty-watt, double-pronged bulb.

And by the way, you’re not allowed to touch it with your fingers.

I’m not kidding. 

He told me that the oil from my fingertips will somehow rub off on the glass of the halogen bulb and cause it to spontaneously combust or perhaps cause World War III, and that I’m supposed to take a paper towel or piece of toilet paper, wrap it around the halogen bulb, then hold the wrapped bulb between my thumb and index finger and stick that assembly in the pinpoint holes in the fixture.

Try this at home. 

The bulb will pop like a cork from the paper towel, sail through the air, land on the counter, and shatter into lethal shards.  It will take four bulbs to get one inside. 

You’ll see.

Or, if you manage to keep your grip on the paper-and-bulb combo, try sticking the bulb’s two prongs, which are the gauge of sewing needles and just as pointy, into the tiny holes in the fixture, which are the size of a needle’s eye.

Good luck with that.  You could attach a spaceship to a docking station with greater ease.

And the kicker is that since my fixture is under the cabinet, I have to bend backwards in order to change the bulb, so that the back of my head is resting on the counter.  Then I try to stick the bulb in the fixture, like a mechanic under a car, only doing the limbo.  The last time I changed a bulb, I felt like I ripped my stomach muscles.  It gave new meaning to shredded abs.

So I tried a new way, climbing onto my counter and lying down under the cabinets like I was going to sleep.  I went through two bulbs and gave up, and now I’m cursing the halogen bulb and the duvet cover.

And Pepe Le Pew.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

A Woman of an Uncertain Age

By Lisa Scottoline

Let’s play a game.

Fun for all ages!

I’ll explain the rules later.

First, some background.

I love the movie The Godfather.

I’m actually a Godfather freak.

I’ve seen The Godfather 84 million times. I watch it whenever it’s on TV, and I rent it over and over.

I never buy it because that would make sense.

I don’t buy movies because it’s expensive, and also, if I click Buy, I don’t know where the movie goes in the TV.

I don’t know if I could get it out again.

It’s hard to find anything in your TV these days.

To return to point, there’s a character in The Godfather II named Hyman Roth. He’s a gangster in Miami who’s wrinkled and almost bald, with wispy tufts of gray hair and a skinny little body. Hyman Roth talks all the time about being sick and vaguely near death.

In fact, Michael Corleone says Hyman Roth “has been dying of the same heart attack for twenty years,” which is the only joke in the movie.

You get the idea.

Hyman Roth is old.

So the other day I was watching The Godfather II, and the scene comes on with Hyman Roth’s birthday party, and they’re having vanilla cake.

Before I move on, let me mention that every time they have that cake, I want that cake.

If I see food on TV, I want it.

Sometimes I just have to hear about it to want it.

For example, in an earlier scene, Hyman Roth’s wife asks Michael if he wants a “tunafish sandwich,” and every time she says that, I think:

I want a tunafish sandwich.

With cake for dessert.

In any event, I was watching the birthday party scene, and they brought out the cake, and Hyman Roth wants everybody to see his cake, then they show the cake, which has Hyman Roth’s age written in icing.

And I noticed something in the movie I never noticed before.

It says sixty-seven on the cake.

That means Hyman Roth is sixty-six, turning sixty-seven.

Wait, what?

I’m sixty-six.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I replayed the scene over and over, then freeze-framed the cake.

Some people free-frame porn.

I freeze-frame carbs.

I even took a picture of the cake.

Still I couldn’t believe it.

I’m Hyman Roth-years-old.

What?

I’m not looking great these days, but I look better than Hyman Roth.

I’m way hotter than Hyman Roth.

By the way, Hyman Roth was played by Lee Strasberg, a famous acting coach who was sixty-three in 1975, when The Godfather II was made.

Look at me, doing math for you!

So actually I’m older than the real Hyman Roth.

Which got me thinking.

And it gets worse.

If you’re of a certain age, you might’ve watched The Andy Griffith Show, which was in black-and-white.

Half of you don’t even know what I’m talking about. TV used to be only in black-and-white. This was before Netflix.

Somehow my life is a history lesson.

Bear with me, young’uns.

Because this will happen to you.

Anyway Sheriff Andy Taylor was the main character in the TV show, and his widowed aunt was named Aunt Bee. She was the first character I looked at and thought, that’s what old looks like.

Aunt Bee had a pile of gray hair, pearls, and always wore a flowered dress, sometimes with a frumpy hat. She was played by actress Frances Bavier, who won an Emmy for the role in 1967.

So I just checked her age.

She was sixty-seven.

My birthday is in two weeks.

I’m turning Aunt Bee.

It doesn’t seem possible.

Truly, I’m stuck between Hyman Roth and Aunt Bee.

Aunt Bee’s favorite curse word was “Flibbertigibbet!”

Flibbertigibbet is not my favorite curse word.

It’s not even my favorite F word.

Food is.

You can play this game at home.

Think of a character on TV or in a movie you thought was really old, when you were younger.

Then look up their age.

What?

I hope you enjoy the game.

I said before I’d explain the rules.

This is a surprise ending.

The good news about this game is it has no rules.

Neither does aging.

You can be Hyman Roth or Aunt Bea, you can have gray hair or not, you can wear pearls in the kitchen, and you can say whichever F-word is your favorite.

It’s your life.

And someday it will be somebody else’s history lesson.

Happy Birthday to me!

I’m totally eating the cake.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022

Yeti Betty

By Lisa Scottoline

I’m in a bad romance.

With my dishwasher.

It was great in the beginning, when everything was shiny and new.

At least, he was.

But now he pushes my buttons.

And I push his.

It all started with the drinking glasses.

I noticed my glasses started getting foggy.

Of course I blamed myself.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I changed my detergent, then I started using Jet Dry, then LemiShine, since I know I have hard water.

Basically I moisturize my dishes.

Inanimate objects have better skin care than I do.

Still, the glasses got cloudier.

I tried to live with it, but I don’t ask much in life.

I want a clean glass.

So I bought another set of glasses.

One month later, they were cloudy again.

I called the dishwasher guy, who came over and said the dishwasher works fine.

I said, you try living with him.

The dishwasher guy thought it was the glasses, so I ordered a different type of glasses, but when they came, they were too small. I didn’t notice they were only ten ounces, so during dinner, I had to get up and refill the glass three times.

Don’t make me get up.

I never want to get up.

That might actually be a stage of life:

Youth, and I’m-not-getting-up.

So now I’m going to order a bigger set of the same different glasses.

If you follow.

But I’m thinking my dishwasher has too much to say about my life in general.

Then this week, it did something I cannot forgive.

It ate my Yeti.

I’m deeply in love with my Yeti.

I got one as a gift from my bestie Nan, because I have hot coffee every day from Dunkin’ Donuts, and I love my Yeti so much that I bought two more, so I’m never without a Yeti.

They’re not cheap, but they come in hot pink, which is always worth the money.

Plus I think of my Yeti like a weight I carry around all day, so it’s cheaper than a gym.

I’m not pimping for Yeti here.

The only product I want you to buy after reading this is my books.

But if you get one of my books and a Yeti, you might be in heaven.

Especially if you put wine in the Yeti.

It’s summer!

I still remember the day I fell in love with my Yeti. It was when I learned that the little black thing on the lid, which slides back and forth, is actually a magnet that comes off, so you can clean underneath.

Did you know that?

Hints from Heloise, right here.

What an invention!

There’s fire, the wheel, and the Yeti magnet.

Meanwhile I started thinking about why I love my Yeti so much, since it’s only a Thermos that comes in menopausal colors.

And I realized it has nothing to do with the Yeti, at all.

Congress lets us down, politicians lie, and institutions fail us.

Yeti keeps in promise.

Yet.

If you put hot coffee inside, it’s stays hot. If you put iced coffee inside, it stays cold.

That’s called integrity.

The only problem is I lose the lids, but that’s not Yeti’s fault, and it turns out

you can buy extra lids. I lose the magnets, too, but you can buy those, too. Some of the lids come with straws, but I lost mine.

I lose a lot of things.

And then I realized where.

You guessed it.

In the dishwasher.

I put my Yeti in the dishwasher because I’m lazy.

I put everything in the dishwasher.

If you can’t put something in the dishwasher, I don’t want it.

But after I put my Yeti in the dishwasher, I discovered a lid on the bottom.

Then a magnet.

I noticed the inside of my Yeti turning brown.

And I realized my dishwasher was trying to kill my Yeti.

Out of jealousy.

The next thing I know, the garbage disposal stopped working, and when the garbage-disposal guy came over, he found a Yeti magnet inside.

So you know what happened.

The dishwasher put the Yeti magnet in the garbage disposal.

Ladies and gentlemen, I still got it.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022

Classic Column: Everything’s Coming Up Roses

By Lisa Scottoline

It’s that time of year again.

When my garden blooms, despite my best efforts to the contrary.

I can’t take any credit.

The answer is perennials. 

Every Spring, they come back all by themselves, and I don’t have to do anything.

Even flowers that I thought I killed came back, which is my kind of plant. 

They’re not only dummyproof, they’re bulletproof.

Anyway, blooming in my garden right now are peonies, primrose, and a purple flower that I forget the name of.

Welcome to gardening for the middle-aged, where you can’t remember what you planted.

I did make a map of the garden, but I can’t remember where I put it.

So now, every day there’s a new flower that blooms, utterly to my surprise.  It’s like I wrote a book that I don’t remember the ending to, which also happens.

Impressed yet?

But the big news is that I’m about to expand the garden, because of course, it turns out that gardening is just like every other form of home improvement – if you paint one wall, you end up building an addition.

Wait, what?

Let me explain.

The garden is in front of my house, but I couldn’t see it from the kitchen because there was a wall in the way, so then I opened the kitchen and added a little room that overlooks the garden, and it’s finally finished and it’s glorious. 

I’m spending my retirement savings, but if you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

Until 2084.

Also, I put in a white picket fence around the front yard so I could work in the garden with the dogs, instead of having to lock them in the house.  Which is where our story begins, because I started taking a second look at the white picket fence and picturing it with some beautiful flowers in front, or maybe flowers that would climb the fence, which actually has a trellis over the gate.

You know where this is going if you’ve read fairy tales, watched Downton Abbey, or have estrogen.

A trellis begs for some kind of climbing vine or flower, so I read a bunch of books on flowers and tried to pick something that could grow on the fence and trellis.

But I kept coming back to the same flower.

Roses.

I love roses.  They smell incredible and they’re beautiful.

Plus, I’ve never grown them successfully before.  I have two rosebushes now, but one gets black spot, the other gets white spot, and they both get Japanese beetles.

So I struck out twice, but that’s never stopped me before.

Maybe they’re just the Thing One and Thing Two of roses.

You don’t give up on marriage just because you got the wrong rosebush.

If you follow.

And the more rose books I read, the more I learned that there were hundreds of varieties with fancy names like Lady Sylvia, Madame Gregoire Staechelin, and Reine Marie Henriette, which felt girlpowery and pretentious.

Me, in a nutshell.

And roses come in so many different colors like crimson reds, creamy whites, buttery yellows, and the palest of pinks, but then I found a rose that was my favorite color:

Hot Pink.

Or at my age, Hot Flash Pink.

The name of the rose was Zephirine Drouhin, which is supposed to be very fragrant and completely thornless, which also describes me in a nutshell.

So I settled on the Zephirine Drouhin, measured the fence line, and counted that I need twenty-five rosebushes to cover the fence and the trellis.

Um, that’s a lot.

I’m going all in on something I’ve never grown before.

And I’m spending money.

But did that stop me?

Are you new around here?

I just ordered the rosebushes.

You know what this means.

Everything’s coming up Retirement Fund.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline

Top Gun

By Lisa Scottoline

I like to think that I can do something if I put my mind to it.

But I learned the truth this week.

When I read the news story about the passenger in a private airplane, who, after the pilot collapsed, landed the plane himself.

No.

Just no.

There are so many things I couldn’t have done I don’t even know where to begin.

Start with the fact that after the pilot passes out, the passenger radios for help.

My first reaction would be to panic, then scream.

My second reaction would be to scream, then panic.

This would be me: AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH NOOO PLEASE GOD!!!!!!!

But I would use profanity.

I kept it clean for your benefit.

And I’d run out of capitals.

I would use every capital.

Then I would run out of profanity.

No way am I reaching for the radio.

I couldn’t even begin to use that radio.

I’m still trying to figure out the dashboard in my car.

I never use my navigation system because it’s too complicated. I managed to set Home as a Favorite Location, but plugged in the wrong house number and couldn’t change it, so my Home is my neighbor’s house.

Luckily, I know my house, so when the navigation system directs me to my neighbor’s house, I just drive next-door all by myself.

What a big girl!

I even have trouble with the presets on Sirius. Sometimes they’re there and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they make me listen to Preview, which is an endless commercial for Sirius, to which I already subscribe.

I can’t explain any of this.

I don’t even try.

I just do without Classic Rewind.

Those are my kind of stakes.

Save-your-life-at-30,000 feet are not.

How much do I like Steely Dan?

A lot.

Enough to press the Forward button 85 times?

No.

I just sing Steely Dan.

I know all the words.

Big girl!

To return to point, according to the newspaper story, the passenger radioed the air traffic controller for help, and the air traffic controller told the passenger how to use the transponder so the aircraft could be found on radar.

Wait, what?

Transponders are real?

The only thing I know about transponders that is Ashton Kutcher was looking for one in Dude, Where’s My Car?

I love that movie.

Is this, Dude, Where’s My Plane?

Reportedly the air traffic controller then told the passenger to descend 5000 feet.

Can you imagine hearing that?

I can’t.

I don’t want to be 5000 feet above anything.

I don’t even want to stand on a ladder.

I pay somebody to clean my gutters.

A footstool, I can handle.

I’m all over footstools.

Then the air traffic controller told the passenger, “Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound.”

How do you keep your wings level?

I can’t even walk across the room with a cup of tea and not spill some.

Truly, I do not allow myself to drink tea in my family room because the rug has so many tea stains.

At this point, I’d rather tell people it’s dog pee.

It’s less embarrassing.

And how about follow-the-coast for directions?

Wow.

When I stop for directions, I never remember what they said.

“Follow the coastline,” I might remember.

But it’s one thing to follow a map, and another to follow a globe.

By the way, the report clarified that the passenger had no prior flight experience.

To me, that’s a given.

I can’t imagine being cool enough to have prior flight experience.

My only prior flight experience is divorce.

Anyway I’m thinking about the hero passenger-turned-pilot and the hero air traffic controller because the new Top Gun is coming.

I can’t wait.

I loved that movie, too.

I love all stories about flying.

And I watch from my chair.

On the ground. Without tea.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022

In Praise of Dillon Helbig

By Lisa Scottoline

Do you know who Dillon Helbig is?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Because I’m betting that one day his will be a household name.

Dillon is a second-grader in Idaho who loves to make up stories. One day he wrote one down and titled it The Adventures of Dylan Helbig’s Crismis. It was eighty-one pages, and he made a cover and illustrated it himself. Underneath the title he wrote, By Dillon His Self.

I love this kid.

But it gets better.

So then, on his next trip to the library with his grandmother, unbeknownst to anyone, Dillon slipped his book onto the shelf in the children’s section. What happened next is that the librarians discovered the book, read it, decided it meets their selection criteria, and added it to the library’s collection. Everybody who reads it loves it, and now there’s a long wait list to check it out. Not only that, the library awarded Dillon its first-ever Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist.

I love everything about this story. I love that Dillon loves books, loves the library, and doesn’t always follow the rules. I love librarians for myriad reasons, and this story illustrates all of them, but mainly because they love books, love the library, and don’t always follow the rules.

Dylan is reportedly working on a sequel to his book, which will involve his dog Rusty.

This kid is a genius.

His marketing instincts are unerring.

Dogs always work in books.

If I didn’t have a dog named Rusty, I would say I did.

Rusty!

Dillon’s next book idea is reportedly about a closet that eats clothes.

Honestly, that’s the best book idea ever.

This kid is the master.

I mean, he wrote a book and put it on the library shelf.

He wanted his book in the library.

Who doesn’t?

I lived in the library when I was younger, and I used to dream of having my books in the library.

I should add that this story about Dillon appeared in The Washington Post, to which I digitally subscribe, and the piece was written by Kellie B. Gormly. If you want to know more details, you should read it there because it will make you feel really good.

The story is all the more remarkable when you realize it happened in the same week that books are being taken off library shelves.

Because you may have read that a school district in Tennessee banned the graphic novel Maus, effectively taking it off its school library shelves, even though the book won a Pulitzer. Maus is about the Holocaust and is written by Art Spiegelman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, and is based on his father’s stories. In the novel, the victims are mice and the Nazis are cats.

The Tennessee school board gave some reason for banning the book, but I’m not going to repeat them because there’s no good reason to take Maus off the shelf in any library.

Especially at a time when people are waving Nazi flags from overpasses in Orlando.

The United States Holocaust Museum said that Maus played “a vital role” in Holocaust education. And by the way, the Tennessee school district took this action the same week as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I’m guessing they forgot.

It’s ironic that a child’s instinct is to put a book on the shelf, but at the same time adults who lack his wisdom take books off.

It hit home for me because my novel Eternal comes out in paperback this week, and it’s about many things, among them the Holocaust in Italy. I wrote the book for many reasons, among them that I want people to know what happened during Fascism and Nazism, in the very heart of Rome. I’m proud I wrote the book, proud it’s been so well-received, and proud it’s on a library shelf, where it belongs.

And it better stay there, or I’m going to get very South Philly on somebody’s tushie.

What we need in this country is more books, not fewer.

What we need in this country is more education, not less.

What we need in this country is great big thinkers like a little kid.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022