Archive for the ‘IRWIN’S TALES’ Category




During my travels, like many who go on vacation, I like to send to close and not too close friends emails (today’s postcards) regaling them of my good fortune in traveling the world and their ill-luck at being forced, for whatever reason, to remain at home. Not too long ago, I settled for a while in Jomtien Beach, Thailand and began to send out an incessant stream or emails regarding my new life. During a particularly frustrating period of trying to adjust to life there, I received a few emails from some of my correspondents commenting that my recent emails dwelled too much on the difficulties of my ex-pat life and were becoming a bit of a downer.


Although I thought I was just providing a humorous take on the foibles of my current situation, I took the criticism seriously and I realize that perhaps I may have fallen into a rut. So one morning when I awoke I decided to do something different. A quick check of the internet turned up the report of an algorithm that measured how many times Pun Day was mentioned on social media. The leading date turned out to be May 15 which also happened to fall a few days after my search. Further research turned up that in the UK, P:un Day falls on February 8. Other days also have been proposed. Austin Texas held an O’Henry Pun-Off World Championship on May 16. So, armed with this copious research, I declared May 15, Pun Day and communicated that to my correspondents. My announcement was met with a resounding Meh by all that took the time to notice it.



I got the idea for Pun Gay, as I usually get most of my ideas, from one of my favorite authors, in this case, William Kotzwinkle. As with Henry David Thoreau, he is a favorite of mine, not necessarily because of his literary output (Although he did write the screenplay for “ET the Extraterrestrial” and the stories for the “Walter the Farting Dog” series), but for the audacity of attempting a literary career with a name like Kotzwinkle.


Anyway, in his novel “The Fan Man,” about an archetypical New Yorker who, during the hot sticky days of the New York City summer, travelled about the City holding in front of him one of those little battery operated fans to cool himself off (Hence “The Fan Man” in case you have not already guessed). In one of the chapters of the book our Fan Man wakes up and declares that day to be “Dorky Day” in which he would only speak the word Dorky throughout the day [By the way for those with interest is such things Dork is a common and respected name for boys in Armenia, Also, July 15 is “National Dork Day.” so mark it on your calendar].


The remainder of the chapter, for about 10 to 12 pages, consists exclusively of the word Dorky repeated endlessly (Dorky,Dorky, Dorky… for those who may need help visualizing) broken only by the variously perplexed or angry responses of the other citizens of the City whose paths may have crossed that of our hero on that day.


Shakespeare must have eaten his heart out. Can you imagine what the world of the theater would have been had Hamlet instead of “The play’s the thing, in which we’ll catch the conscience of the King,” announced, “Today is Dorky Day?”


Anyway, the idea for Pun Day comes also from one of my other literary mentors, Cuzin Irwin (to whom I beg forgiveness) who sent me the following:


it’s Snow White’s birthday.
 The dwarves buy her a camera as a present.
 She is ecstatic and takes pictures of every thing she sees.
She takes the film in to be developed.
 She goes back the next day to pick the pictures up.
 The man behind the counter shakes his head as if to say, “No”.
Snow White cries.
 the man behind the counter says
 “Don’t worry Snow White, someday your prints will come.”


Alas, with the coming of the smartphone, poor Snow White’s prints never arrived so she went home with an Android.


And for all you Snow Whites out there, may you prints come soon, but please always use protection or you may end up with a Kotzwinkle.

Have Pun



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The following a tribute to my good friend Irwin Schatzman. It is his last blog regarding his unsuccessful battle with cancer. We miss you cuz!


SAY WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD BRAIN OF MINE? I don’t suppose you could refer to it as a “long-lost pal” or the former owner of “a saber-sharp wit”, but there was something there. It got me through quite a few years making things up so I could impress my colleagues and bring home a few farthings. But, I never really won any awards of note with it. In fact, now that I think about it, something seemed to hold back its promise of a larger potential. I just always assumed that greater things were not meant to be, but I suspect it was laziness and trying to enjoy the good life which stifled my growth as a person of some uniqueness.

The Glowing Man got his start in 2009 with the advent of a radiation program consisting of some thirty-three sessions intended to irradiate a tumor that had grown on the left Parotid Gland of yours truly. Actually the bugger had been inside my neck for over thirty years but I had never taken steps to have it removed owing to vanity and it was only when the pain set in that I decided it was time to go and maybe after the operation I might not be uglier than I have always been; One wag suggested that I could claim the scar as being the result of a bad duck in a fencing master’s class.

Being “cancer free” has had its appealing aspects (although that meant I had no spooky condition to talk about and while away the hours with my drunken friends). So I went back to a life of boredom, which included no drinking at all and with no drinking comes thinking.

Last month I was shoved into one of those scanning machines for a test or two and guess what?! I was no longer alone in my skull. The picture of my brain which developed suggested to me that it was almost to be considered as hiding. so ( music roll please) now I glow once more.

Every Monday through Friday morning at 8:15 AM I hop a shuttle bus in Garden Grove and am carried out to Ontario, California where I proceed to get zapped. Only this time it’s a different course and only ten sessions are imposed, at least initially. You see unlike cancer cells not normally visible to the naked eye, the cancerous growths are most visible to the scanning equipment. One large tumor on the back of my brain and smaller ones on the sides of my brain. Not to be outdone, the rest of my body decided to add-on a tumor and installed it in my right lung. There goes any chance I will be able to sneak that cigar after thirty-five years of not smoking (cough cough). On the shuttle bus, each cancer patient tells their story and my telling has resulted in the appellation which I am currently being referred to by my fellow passengers as, “Mr. Tumor Head” – I don’t know how much that beats being called “Mr. Potato Head” but it’s a start.

From 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM we are in treatment flirting with the lady radiation technicians who have to move my stiff tired old body about and grasp me to help me up (i caught on quick)and then it’s back on the bus for the return trip arrival at the starting point about 11:30AM. Not bad timing and while maybe the activity does suck, the time spent doesn’t seem to be enough to consider as having ruined the whole day except for the concept of having to find myself in lovely Garden Grove, and twice in one day.

The radiation is intended to shrink the tumors. Once that is over if it works, it looks like a morning cup of chemo for as long as I want to try to hold the growth of cancer in check so that it doesn’t spread including to other parts of my body aside from my brain and lung. I should still be able to brush my teeth and walk around the block (a final indignity for an aging male – the doctors fearing seizures and lawsuits took away my car keys, so no more driving). If the radiation doesn’t work, well then right now it looks like the party is over; however accomplished, the imbibing of chemo does not sound very appetizing to be sure but I guess it’s something to do in the interest of living better through chemistry, or just living.

Lifespan, shmife span. Don’t know for sure how long I will be around, although soon some ongoing investigation and reports by doctors will be finished and we may have a better idea. Maybe just months. Though 2011? Maybe not. My suspicions are on the short side. But If the chemo doesn’t do the job then the coming months will definitely bring on some changes. But don’t be concerned for me even if your name isn’t “Argentina”. Owing to how I have lived my life, and observations I have made about my existence, even with the threat of cancer hanging over my nose mean that I now strangely find myself content I do not worry. And if the inevitable should appear to be but a few steps or hours away, based upon my experience I am firmly convinced I can make the best of my last days if I want to. After all, I know by now, kid, that dying is easy, it’s living that’s hard.

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treatment planning

MON, JUNE 01, 2009
3:00 PM

[Note: I have my first visit with a doctor since the end of radiation treatments.]

Doctor:… How ya’ doing Sir?


Doctor:… You are Mr. Schatzman?

Me:……….Yes. I be he.

Doctor:… You finished treatment about a month ago.


Doctor:… Any problems since we saw you last?

Me:……….Uh, problems. Let’s see. I still haven’t recovered my sense of taste but then again people use to say I really didn’t have any anyway, I can’t pay this month’s bills, and how come you don’t validate parking for appointments with a doctor?

Doctor:… Dunno’ about the parking. It’s gonna’ take, I’d say, maybe three months before your taste buds are back to normal.

Me:……….How exciting! Hope I last that long.

Doctor:… It should get better gradually.

Me:……….And the other physical “problem” is my left ear. It feels as if there is something in there. Maybe a Zenomorph. Feels clogged and sometimes wet. I was losing my hearing before and the radiation seems to have made my condition worse.

Doctor:… Lets take a look into your good ear first. Now let’s check the bad one. By the way, are you able to eat alright? Hmmn. Your left ear drum doesn’t look as good as the other ear, maybe swollen, but it should get better with some time.

Me:……….Well I eat, but not through my ear. I force myself to eat. I lost about eleven pounds. I thought I was gaining it back but according to the scale in the exam room, where the nurse took my blood pressure but didn’t give it back, I haven’t gained any weight yet.

Doctor:… Did you have much peeling of the skin?

Me:……….Yes. Quite a lot. It was the darkest tan I ever had, maybe even darker than George Hamilton. The dead skin finally all came off and I looked like a baby’s butt. Pink and smooth.

Doctor:… Some hair loss here behind your ear.

Me:……….As long as it’s not my ear that I lose. By the way, my beard hasn’t grown back.

Doctor:… No. It may not.

Me:……….It won’t? No more beard huh? That is emasculating news.

Doctor:… Probably a 50/50 chance your beard will grow. You weren’t planning on growing a beard were you?

Me:……….Sure I was. I had one for decades until I had to shave it off for the surgery. Say, if I rub the left side of my face with Viagra will that help my beard grow?

Doctor:… Open up. Did you have much mucousitis inside the cheek?

Me:……….Uh uh.

Doctor:… Let me have your tongue.

Me:………. O.K. But give it back. Sometimes I get little bumps in my mouth but they go away.

Doctor:… On the side where you received the radiation?


Me:……….What happens now?

Doctor:… We just see you every few months.

Me:……… Every two months?

Doctor:… Maybe three months.

Doctor:… Do you also see another doctor?

Me:……….Someone else? Yes. I understand that I will be seeing the chief of head and neck surgery in Orange County on a regular basis. In fact I have an appointment to see him in a little over a week. I think he is to monitor me for the rest of my life to see if tests show any spread of the cancer and whether to schedule me for more surgery if another tumor shows up on what is left of my parotid gland. You know it’s taken me longer to get over the radiation side effects than it took me to get over the surgery.

Me:……….You just check to see the effects of the radiation?

Doctor:… Yes. You know there are some side effects which can happen later on.

Me:………. Like what?

Doctor:… A fibrosis…a toughening of the tissues on your face and/or neck.

Doctor:… Why don’t you come back and see us in about four months?

Me:……….Send me an invitation and I’ll be here.

Doctor:… Let’s go out to the nurse’s station and she will take care of it. Come.

Doctor:… Schedule him for four months.

Doctor:… That’s a nice ring.


Doctor:… Your wedding ring. It’s nice. What does it say?

Me:……….It say’s “I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me” or if you are a Hebrew language freak it can also mean “I am to my uncle as my uncle is to me”. However, all of my uncles are dead and my wife is alive so the first interpretation is the most fitting.

Doctor:… How long have you been married?

Me:……….45 years. What’s your prognosis? Will it last?

Doctor:… Well you must be doing something right. Take care.

Me:……….O.k. Thanks Doc. Happy radiating. Bye Bye.

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Walk into the light

This post originally was written to be by my friend Irwin. I include it here in memory of a brave and amusing man, a Mensch.


Joseph,my lack of email does not harbor a sudden turn in taste regarding affectionate Italians. I am about to break silence by way of a new page in the glowing man’s journal, as soon as I get a new keyboard, this one seems to contain too many loose letters and caps which are not intended for use by the author.

In the interim, I can tell you than I have had my hands full of strange pain for several weeks and attempted to be soothed by consuming copious quantities of narcotic pain killers which resulted in a plugged irrigation system (i.e. massive constipation).  Finally at 5:00 pm last Sunday, I telephoned a friend who lives nearby.  He picked me up and rather unceremoniously delivered me in short order to the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Irvine. I checked out at 11:00pm. bought some suppositories and have led a trail of recovery ever since.

I may have mentioned this episode in the life of an aging hypochondriac before but I feel more adept at covering it up at this time. The fierce pain, that felt like I imagine it would be if one swallowed a xenomorph, is now gone and I am left with only periodic discomfort and no spell check.

My new doctor, who is I believe is of Philippine extraction with a city in Brazil named after his family merely shrugged his shoulders when I told him about the possibility of an alien monster in my innards. Perhaps he would have liked it more if the monster were pickled like those octopussies devoured by Filipinos which at one time if one had actually been inside me would have been most pickled in vodka.

I go now to meet the day. Be well, stay strong and doo-wop/some golden oldies. They survive because they have qualities not far removed from the songs by the Beetles, Beach Boys and Jewish popular music composers of the 20s-40s, rhyme, beat; tasty musical innovation and lyrics one can remember and associate with in their own historical life and that of their people (‘hey mambo, mambo ItaIiano).

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Sometimes poetry can bubble up from the depths of despair. This tale was sent to me by Irwin. I include it here in memory of a fine man and a good friend:

“Friday I came out of the bank. there was a man who came into the lobby and then went outside. I don’t know how to describe him except to say he looked scruffily dressed and reminded me of a former city councilperson who was one of the last white faces in Santa Ana government; outside of the long-time city manager who lives in Coto de Caza as does the former mayor who now is the right hand man at the Irvine Company. I got the distinct feeling this fellow was either going to rob Citibank or was waiting for me so when I got into the oyonemobile I locked the doors started the car and drove away.

Yesterday morning I went to the market and was waiting at the fish counter (Dover sole $9.99 a pound) when the guy came in and peered into the red meat display. When he left, I breathed a sigh of relief. When I checked out of the market and got to my car I could see him at the end of the parking lot next to the small free-standing building which houses “Drs. r us.” Who is this guy and am I really seeing him again and again? I quickly drove away.

Today I thought about it a lot. I was thinking that maybe it was “death” following me around and checking me out. What I had to keep death away I don’t know but I suspect it was those adolescent tendencies of mine that when confronted I have just a few choices, to whine, freeze and/or make it to the closest door. What kept death at arms reach? Surely death could appreciate and have a real taste for a coward. Did he just decide that it wasn’t my time or that I was the wrong person?

At 2:30 am, I couldn’t sleep so I checked my email. I received an email from a former county CEO. In it, he explained that he didn’t know what day or time it was; that his three-year-old romance ended when the woman died in their bed at the age of 37. I guess Mr. Death found somebody; hopefully, it wasn’t in place of me by mistake. I have enough bad karma on my conscience.”

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