Friday, October 4, 2019


        As you enjoy reading a book, a lightbulb is burning alive inside that reading lamp. You hear the doorbell; it sounds cheerful, but it’s actually being electrocuted to let you know someone’s at the door.

You put this book back in its shelf — where it will be unable to dust itself or defend its fragile pages against silverfish and termites — and let your guests in. They admire your art collection, but none of them pays any attention to the poor nails holding it to the walls.

That’s the plight of objects.

Debit cards produce money for you, but are dirt poor themselves. Scalpels and forceps help save lives every day, but surgeons get all the glory.

That pair of shoes feels tight on your feet? Imagine what the shoes are going through. Do you find it pleasant to step barefoot on the grass? The grass certainly doesn’t.

We are surrounded by suffering things and, unlike humans, things don’t have a chance to make changes in their lives, to join unions, to strike, or demonstrate on the streets. They can’t verbalize their frustrations, reward themselves with other things, or even have a break: personal belongings that go on vacation with you are just transferred from one dark closet to another.

This blog is a tribute to all the inanimate man-made and natural things that are constantly facing risk, discomfort, and boredom, to make our lives better.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

photo: Laurence Klinger


Some things are born to wait.

Burglar alarms, fire extinguishers, insurance policies. Waiting, for them, is an honorable profession.

Unless something bad happens, they’ll just sit and wait for their expiration dates. Most of them will go through life without seeing any action.

These things display extraordinary patience, but humans prefer to label it as laziness.

Call it as you wish, inertia is precisely the most desirable quality in this category of objects. Nobody wants over-motivated fire sprinklers or burglar alarms going off because they are bored, or in need to feel productive.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


What are the lovers of Pompeii doing here? the reader must be thinking. This is a book about things. 

And why the waste of i’s, when just one would be enough? And why is Chicken Vesuvio called that way, if it was created in Chicago where there are plenty of Italians, but no volcanoes?

One question at a time, please.

When Mount Vesuvius decided to throw the mother of all tantrums, the people of Pompeii were caught by surprise. Some were walking their dogs, some were on the toilet. And some were making amore. Those people were covered with molten rock and layers of volcanic ash before they could even move. The whole city remained buried for almost 2000 years, enough time to petrify even the softest of human beings.

So those people became things, and that’s why they belong in these pages. Do they miss the old times? You bet. Frozen at whatever they were doing when disaster struck, they sit in their museum platforms like living statues on Times Square, wondering if things can become people, too.

The other questions? There are no known answers to them.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


Fountains give.

As soon as they’re turned on, they start giving.

As long as there’s water, they keep giving.

They give shape and sound to water. They give us respite, bringing a splash of nature to busy city streets. They give birds free drinks of fresh water, and happiness to children on the hottest days.

In their absolute selflessness, even when they cry, fountains make sure to keep their tears to themselves.

Monday, July 22, 2019


They aren’t quite dead when they separate from their branches. Their chlorophyll blood will take a few more days to dry up completely. They will fall slowly to the ground, and join the others. Romantic and photogenic as it may seem, this is really the most tragic season in the life of plants; not even Flora, their goddess, can help.

A sidewalk lined with fallen leaves is not, as one may think, a nursing home for elderly leaves to gather and reminisce about the old times, and soften the path for kid’s bikes and old people’s walkers.

Let’s imagine life from the viewpoint of, say, a sycamore leaf. We’ll call it Sy. Fall has started one week ago, and Sy begins to turn yellow, then light orange. A few more days and now it hangs to the tree by a thread. Finally, a vigorous gust of wind sends it airborne. So it flies for a while and, horror of horrors, lands on a pile of dead, decomposing leaves. Sy remains there for three long days. When another gust of wind finally blows Sy away from that ghostly site, it also places it a long distance from its mother, the tree, which in turn feels lonely and exposed, as it becomes a skeleton.

At this moment, when the end is coming, being close to a loving mother would make a big difference. But as the days go by, Sly gets blown farther and farther away from the tree, to the other side of a hill, where it can no longer see its mother’s balding canopy.

This new knowledge should not keep you, reader, from enjoying the beautiful foliage of fall. It just goes to show that tragedy is, sometimes, painted with glorious colors.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


Letters rarely get lost, but those who do are in for a real odyssey.

What follows is a true story: a letter addressed to a Mr. Heck Golden Coriander was put in a mailbox on October 9, 1964. The sender was identified as Laura (no last name) from some place out of town.

As the letter fell into the mailbox, it apologized to a large brown envelope it had landed on, and greeted the remaining correspondence. Not a word, except for a shush here and there, as it was quite late at night.

Next morning someone unlocked the box to remove the mail, and the letter woke up with the sunshine coming in. Since it had been the last letter deposited in that box before collection, it was right at the top of the pile. So as it was being transported to the truck, it slid from the tray and landed on the sidewalk.

And there it stayed for days. It was stepped on a few times, sniffed by dogs, rained on, had its corners nibbled by rats, and finally noticed by another mailman, who picked it up and took it to be sorted and delivered.

However, after being exposed to the elements, the address on the envelope wasn’t too clear and it ended up in the wrong house. The family who lived there, the Olsons, was on vacation. The letter sat in their dark mailbox and waited. It wasn’t alone, though: a small spider had made the mailbox its home, and kept running back and forth over the letter who, up to that moment, hadn’t realized how ticklish it was.

The torture lasted two weeks, when the Olsons returned. Fortunately, Mr. Coriander was a neighbor and they knew where he lived.

That same day, Mr. Olson took the letter to Mr. Coriander’s house, where he learned that the man had passed away. Mr. Olson sent the letter back to Laura, with a note attached, explaining what had happened.

The letter never got there. Its fate is unknown. It may have gotten lost again, or thrown itself into a furnace in desperation. Nobody will ever know its contents, what the relationship was between Laura and Coriander, or if Laura even existed.

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Two cows moo.

They don’t know why.

Or maybe they do.

They heard about the slaughterhouse; the word came as tiny vibrations in the blades of grass.

The two cows stand side by side looking in the same direction, looking at the lighthouse on the edge of a cliff where the pasture ends.

Once, they heard, a cow fell down that cliff into the sea.

That cow, they heard, woke up hungry in the middle of a very dark night and grazed her way to death.

The two cows know their end is near. They can’t bribe the farmer; all they have is milk.

If they get greedy, they’ll plunge into the sea.

If they just stand on the grass like cows, it’s the slaughterhouse.

Salvation is above, but cows are too heavy with kindness to float like stars.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Most things are bought for their usefulness, or their beauty.

Sandbags are bought for their weight. Not exactly a flattering motive, and that’s just the beginning of their troubled lives.

Not too long ago, sandy beaches were roads for the free, the antithesis of inhospitable highways plagued with rules and limitations.

Now, the coasts are being looted by greedy merchants who imprison truckloads of sand in bags and sell them like slaves, with the promise that they’ll protect our homes from the destructive power of wind and water.

Sand, wind, and water always lived peacefully together in beaches. It took Man to put one against the other.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


They gather in diners and bars to reminisce about the old times, when they belonged in people’s mouths.

Floppy Disk is new to a group that includes old timers like Pulchritude, Icebox, and Xenotransplantation. He feels less lucky than his colleagues; britches, for example, still exist, but now they’re called pants. Dungarees became jeans, and with the new name came prestige and a higher price tag. Floppy Disks? Gone forever, both the word and the object.

Another group is formed by démodé slangs. After a couple of drinks, Bogart likes to tease Chill Pill and Talk-To-The-Hand by bragging that it was coined from a legendary actor’s on-screen chain smoking, and made immortal with the song “Don’t bogart that joint,” from the soundtrack of Easy Rider.

Truth tried to join one of the retired word groups. While claiming that it had been replaced by Alternative Facts, the word was unanimously rejected for still being relevant.

There are groups of girl words like California Widow, You Go Girl!, and Foxy. Skinny and Phat got tired of being made fun of, and left. They now belong to a group where they’re respected for what they mean, not what they sound like.

Once a year, all retired words flock to a convention at Verbatim Stadium in Dublin. There, one will find words as complicated as Omphaloskepsis and Hootenanny, and as ancient as the Victorian Benjo and Chuckaboo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


For sale, anthill recently vacated¹, in a great, flood-free location, with virtually no human interest for future real estate development, government projects, or agriculture². Plenty of parking and winter food storage space underground. Ramps and tunnels in great condition. Never been stepped or driven on. Anteater proof ³. Spacious workers’ quarters and luxurious queen suites. Will trade for bird’s nests, dens, caves, burrows, and spider webs of equal or lesser value. Also suitable for termites 4.

¹ Unless building presents a health hazard, disclosure of reason for abandonment is not required by law, but may be available upon request. 
² Limited guaranty, based on notorious human unpredictability. 
³ Applies only to pygmy southern anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla minoris.) 
4 Available by Formicidae family members invitation only.

Friday, June 7, 2019


About one billion people on earth have nothing to eat.

That’s because Man can only eat a very small percentage of what nature produces. Rocks, wood, metals, poisonous plants and animals, lava, soil — all out of Man’s menu. Magellan’s crew had to eat leather and sawdust when they ran out of food; nearly all died. To make things worse, whatever Man can eat has to be fresh. Man’s delicate little stomach can only stand soft, and toxin-free foods. Meanwhile, bacteria thrive on decayed fare, termites survive on wood, and vultures feast on rotten flesh.

Would that billion still be hungry if they could stretch their arms and reach for just about anything to give them sustenance? Wouldn’t things like obsolete computer parts, upholstery, fertilizers, old rubber tires, expired credit cards, wall paint, clothing, window treatments, be more useful feeding people rather than landfills?

Monday, June 3, 2019


We’ve all heard about agricultural, pharmaceutical, and food products banned after proven dangerous to human health. And we all know that the greedy companies responsible for these toxic substances don’t just quit making them; instead, they sell them to third world countries with laws and regulations less strict than ours.

This is such a scandal, in the human level, that it’s easy to forget what the chemicals themselves are going through. Individually, they are not evil. But when combined and manipulated by sellout scientists, they become dangerous. As if it weren’t enough being banned in their homeland, they are deported and forced to live in some of the poorest regions of the world.

Put yourself in the shoes of an all-American pesticide arriving in India without any knowledge of Hindi, and not a clue about that country’s culture. Or, imagine an injectable contraceptive, a native of Iowa, landing in the African savanna completely unprepared for the brutal climate of that region.

This is not fiction; it’s happened before, thousands of times, and it keeps happening today. Fungicides sent to Iraq in the middle of a war, fire-retardant materials shipped to the slums of Rio, unarmed and unprotected. Pain killers stranded in islands under military dictatorships.

Lonely and homesick, at least they find a little comfort knowing that they’ll be accepted in these places without any restrictions.