- Classic Column: You Say Tomato October 1, 2023
by Lisa Scottoline
Did you hear about this?
I read in the newspaper that somebody noticed that red tomatoes sell better than greenish ones, so food engineers started changing the genetic makeup of tomatoes to make them redder, except that it also took out the taste.
I learned so much from this that I don’t know where to begin.
Number one, food has engineers?
I thought trains had engineers, and food had cooks.
I just went from choo-choo to chew-chew.
In fact, I thought you had to have an engine to have an engineer, but no.
If you ask me, this opens new job opportunities for engineers. For example, I see a lot of trees that could use a good engineer. They aren’t green enough, especially in fall, when they turn a lot of crazy colors that don’t match.
I mean, let’s be real. Yellow and red? Nobody looks good in yellow and red, except Ronald MacDonald.
He’s single for a reason.
Worse, in winter, the leaves on the trees actually fall off. That’s definitely an engineering problem. I feel pretty sure a tree engineer would fix that, no sweat.
Also, the sun.
Don’t get me started on the sun. It’s supposed to be yellow, but it’s too bright to tell the color. In fact, it’s so bright that we have to buy dark glasses to even be around it.
Also, the sun is hot, which can be a bummer. It makes us feel listless and uncomfortable, then we have to turn on the air conditioning, or at least decide whether or not to, which can be a problematic choice for certain people, involving money and self-esteem, oddly intertwined.
Not that I know anyone like that.
And also in winter, the sky could use a good engineer. There are times when it changes from blue to a very boring whitish-gray, then actually breaks up and falls to the ground in tiny, cold pieces that we all have to clean up.
Sky engineers should get on it. It’s like the sky doesn’t even stay up, which is a major engineering defect. Cantilevers, buttressing, and scaffolding may be required, and lots of it.
Or worse, sometimes the sky loses its blue color, turns gray, but doesn’t break up and fall to the ground, right after I spent hundreds of dollars on a green machine to help me clean up the pieces.
That’s a lot of green, even for a green machine.
Who knew that colors required so much engineering? If you ask me, green is the color most in need of engineering. I wish those engineers who were trying to fix the tomatoes would fix the economy, but never mind, what do I know?
Let’s move on to my second point.
Having been astounded to learn that tomatoes have engineers, I was also amazed to learn that they had genes, too.
Who knew tomatoes were so busy?
I grow tomatoes, and I haven’t given them the credit they deserve for their rich inner lives.
To be honest, I had no idea that food had genes, at all. Just like I thought you needed an engine to have an engineer, I thought you needed, like, blood and a heart to have genes.
It’s hard enough for me to remember that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, but now I’m expected to know it has DNA, as well?
Bottom line, I’m bad at biology. Anyone who’s slept with me will tell you that.
But now we know that tomatoes have genes, this opens up new job opportunities, namely for actors. Think of all the new TV shows this could create, like CSI: Tomatoes, where they collect tomato DNA to catch the killer tomato.
In fact, we could have murders for every fruit, then spin it off to vegetables, too.
To Catch A Salad Shooter.
© Copyright Lisa Scottoline
- Column Classic: Mother Mary Flunks Time Magazine September 24, 2023
By Lisa Scottoline
You may have read the article in Time magazine, entitled “The Five Things Your Kids Will Remember About You.” It was predictably sweetness and light, but none of it reminded me of Mother Mary, who was anything but sweetness and light. She’s been gone almost two years now, and she was more olive oil and vinegar.
In fact, I considered the five things that Time set forth and compared them to Mother Mary, to see how she measured up, magazine-wise.
You can play along, with your mother.
Or if you’ve read the previous books in this series, you could probably fill in the same blanks with Mother Mary stories.
But no spoilers.
So don’t tell anyone about the time Mother Mary refused to use the discount Batman bedsheets because she didn’t want a life-size Batman laying on top of her.
Or the time she took to wearing a lab coat because it gave her an air of authority, plus pockets for her cell phone and back scratcher.
Or the time she grabbed her doctor’s butt to prove that she was ready for cardiac rehab.
Nobody would believe those stories, anyway.
So, to stay on point about the Time magazine article, the first thing that your children are alleged to remember about you is “the times you made them feel safe.”
Except that with Mother Mary, what I remember are the times she made me feel unsafe.
Because those were truly memorable.
And my general safety was a given, if less dramatic.
For example, when Brother Frank and I were little, we used to fight, which drove my mother crazy. I remember, one day, she yelled at us to stop fighting and we ignored her, so that she took off her shoe and threw it at us.
She missed, but that didn’t stop her.
Because she had another foot with another shoe.
So she took that shoe off and threw it at us, but she missed with that one, too.
We stopped fighting.
You’re probably thinking that she missed us intentionally, and I’ll let you think that, but you didn’t know Mother Mary. She loved us in a fiercely Italian-American sort of way, which meant that motherhood and minor personal injury weren’t mutually exclusive.
So lighten up, Time.
The second thing in the article was that your children will supposedly remember “the times you gave them your undivided attention,” and the magazine advised parents to “stop what you’re doing to have a tea party” with your kids.
Again, growing up, I had no doubt that I had my mother’s attention, but it was never undivided and she wasn’t into tea parties.
But she chain-smoked.
Does that count?
Mother Mary was a real mom, busy doing laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house, and though she was always available, she wasn’t staring deeply into our blue eyes. But every night, the Flying Scottolines would sit on the couch and watch TV, giving it our undivided attention.
We all loved TV, so by the property of association, we all loved each other.
Good enough for me.
The third thing was, your kids will remember “the way you interacted with your children’s spouse.”
This doesn’t apply to The Flying Scottolines, since the statement assumes that the parents interacted.
You can’t win them all.
My parents barely talked to each other, but at least they never fought and nobody was surprised when they divorced. But happily, they both loved us to the marrow, and my brother and I knew that.
What I learned from growing up in a house with an unhappy marriage is that divorce is better.
And so I’m divorced twice.
Which I think is the good news, considering the alternative.
If I can’t have a happy marriage, I’ll have a happy house.
The fourth factor was, you kids will remember “your words of affirmation and your words of criticism.”
I don’t know if Italian-American families have things that can be characterized as words of affirmation, except “I love you.”
And as a child, I heard that at least ten times a day.
But I also heard, “Don’t be so fresh.”
So I grew up thinking that I was lovable and fresh, which might be true.
The last thing in the article was that children would remember “family traditions,” like vacation spots and/or game nights.
The Scottolines weren’t the kind to have “game nights,” but every summer, we did go on vacation to the same brick rowhouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All day long, we played on the beach while my parents smoked, and at night we sat on the front porch while assorted relatives dropped by and the adults talked, drank beer, and smoked into the night. When the mosquitoes got too bad, we all trundled inside the house, where the adults played pinochle until my brother and I fell asleep on the couch, to the sound of their gossiping and laughter, breathing in the smoke from their Pall Malls and unfiltered Camels.
We had no oxygen, but a lot of love.
And it wasn’t Norman Rockwell.
But it was perfect.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a moment.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.
I love you.
And I’m still fresh.
Copyright Lisa Scottoline
- Manhunt September 17, 2023
by Lisa Scottoline
I live in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the location of a recent manhunt.
I’m not referring to my social life.
Me, I stopped manhunting.
I hung up my push-ups.
Now everything is falling down.
But I think of it as falling into place.
Anyway, the manhunt I‘m referring to is for Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County Prison, which is not far from me. He’s been captured, but it’s been an interesting two weeks for a woman who lives in a wooded area.
It’s a suburban horror story, like parallel parking.
As soon as Cavalcante escaped, the manhunt was on.
And so were the critics.
“How could the prison let that happen?”“Quick, who can we blame?”
Coincidentally, I’ve been at Chester County Prison to research a novel I wrote. Its title was Daddy‘s Girl, and it was about a law professor from Penn who happened to be at the prison when there was an escape.
Frankly, it didn’t look easy to me.
I staged a fictional escape by having the convict dig a tunnel.
I didn’t think anybody could crabwalk up a wall, like Cavalcante.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
At least my fiction.
I’d get fired if I wrote something that crazy, so who could imagine it?
Bottom line, everybody’s job is harder than it looks.
And everything’s easier said than done.
The same goes with the manhunt.
After Cavalcante escaped, state and federal law enforcement searched for him around the clock, but after the first few days, it was the critics who came out of hiding.
“Why haven’t they caught him yet?” “What’s taking so long?”
Allow me to explain.
I moved here because Chester County is beautifully rural. I live on a farm among open pastures, vast cornfields, and a slew of outbuildings.
This is a perfect locale for writers.
And by the way, the manhunt took place during the worst weather, with pouring rain.
I can’t see in rain. Can you?
That’s why they have windshield wipers.
Anyway, as the search wore on, I hoped they would find Cavalcante, but I understood why they hadn’t yet.
I’m sure plenty of critics can find a needle in a haystack.
But guess what, Chester County even has haystacks.
I myself have haystacks.
In fact, ten years ago, somebody set fire to a whole bunch of haystacks in the pasture next to me.
They never caught the guy.
You know why?
He hid in Chester County.
Plus it’s easy for a guy to hide when he’s five feet tall.
I’m about five feet tall.
The first thing I thought when I read Cavalcante’s description is that he’s my goal weight.
And I’m not.
Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena….”
While some manhunt, others blame-hunt.
I’m not against free speech, but I’m acutely aware that people put their lives on the line to protect me.
And in the end, amazingly, they found the needle in the haystack!
They caught Cavalcante without harm to any resident, law enforcement, or even the felon himself, which makes me happy.
I believe in law, and he’ll go back to jail where he belongs.
So I won’t throw stones, especially after such a happy ending.
What I’m throwing is flowers.
Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023
- Everything New is New Again September 10, 2023
By Lisa Scottoline
You’re not getting older, you’re getting golder.
At least, according to ABC-TV.
I’m talking, of course, about The Golden Bachelor, which is the latest entry in this insanely successful TV series in which people meet and get married after three dates, a large helping of projection, and a scary helicopter ride.
This is yet another description of my second marriage.
Only we never got anywhere near a helicopter.
It just felt that way, pitching and yawing high up in the air, with too much noise.
Ain’t love grand?
Actually, it is, provided that you get it right, and that’s what people are trying to do in these TV shows, to meet a guy or a gal in real time and get married with a ring that somebody bought for them.
Honestly, maybe that’s where I went wrong.
I should’ve married Neil Lane.
If you watch the show, you know that he’s the jeweler to the wannabe stars.
If you don’t watch the show, congratulations.
You have better judgment than I do.
In any event, ABC is just launching the golden bachelor and the pitch is that a 72-year-old man is looking for love among a beautiful array of women, all of whom are in their sixties and seventies.
So right there, you know it’s fiction.
Most seventy-year-olds think thirty-year-olds are a good start.
Hats off to ABC-TV for the whole concept, but for starters, I’m wondering where the golden part comes in.
You may remember a TV show called Golden Girls, in which one of the women was in her eighties and the others were in their fifties.
Back then, the fifties were considered your golden years.
That’s changed, thank God, and for a scientific reason.
People who write television shows are getting older.
They think they’re aging like fine wine rather than avocados.
I do, too, so let the fiction begin.
That’s why these days the sequel to Sex & The City, entitled And Just Like that, features a bunch of fifty-year-olds who are the same age as the Golden Girls used to be, but those crazy kids are having the time of their lives, back-sliding with boyfriends, wearing statement jewelry, and looking better-dressed that any sixty-something I know.
But then again, who wants a TV show about a lady in a T-shirt and Patagonia shorts.
And those are my dress shorts.
You don’t even wanna know my normal shorts.
Anyway, I can’t wait for the Golden Batchelor show, which brought me to wonder, would I want to be on the show?
After all, I’m golden.
In fact, I’ve been golden all my life, and so have you.
Joni Mitchell said so.
We are stardust, we are golden, and that’s the story I’m going with.
In any event, I’m famously celibate, I mean, single, but I don’t know if I’m single enough to go on television and wait to be picked by some guy.
Frankly it’s not the TV-part that bothers me. And I wouldn’t be embarrassed because I’m hardly ever embarrassed anymore, by anything.
If you ask me, that’s a gift of old age.
We stop worrying about what people think of us, which leads to normal shorts.
But I don’t think I would like the wait-to-be-picked part.
When I look back at my life, I think my problem was that I waited to be picked rather than doing the picking.
It was like being asked to dance only it ended up in a post-nup.
Another term we had back then was wallflower, and that was the girl who stood along the wall because nobody was picking her.
I’m hoping that term will become as obsolete as bachelorette.
Oh, wait a minute.
In my day, girls had to wait to be asked for a date or to the prom, and in fact, at my high school, there was a Sadie Hawkins Day, in which the girls were supposed to ask the boys to the dance.
So one day of the year you had agency.
The other 364 were up for grabs.
I’m not the type of woman who sits in a chair and ways to be handed a rose anymore.
I would think, just one?
And in the words of the immortal Miley Cyrus, I can buy my own flowers.
Obviously the rules of romance are changing, and the great thing is there’s no rules. You can make them go up as you go along, and you probably should. The only thing I’ve learned is that they should be your rules, not somebody else’s.
Love is not one size fits all.
If this Golden Bachelor continues, next will be a show starring Platinum Bachelors, who are age eighty and over.
I personally have no problem with any of this.
I’ll take experience over youth any day, in any situation.
And as a logical matter, it means the marriages that will last the longest are the ones made on the Golden Bachelor.
But those of the exact people who have the least time.
That’s not something that even science can fix.
copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023
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