Can You Hear Me Now

21 Jul

I have to give props to Idaho Falls for at least one thing:  the weather.

All my friends are sweating their balls off back in New York, one of the worst summers ever, with temperatures rising to as high as 102 degrees.  But like the saying goes, it ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity, right?  No humidity at all here, because after all, it is the desert.  The air is so dry, I think that’s where the word ‘arid’ came from.  The gents downtown gave us a laundry list of things we should do when we got here.  Besides laying low, they kept telling us to drink lots and lots of water.  Now I can see why.

Idaho has lots of wind.  In fact, Chicago must have stolen the moniker “Windy City” from them because it’s much windier here than in Chicago.  Me and Harry have been to Chicago many times (my mouth waters for their steaks, just thinking about it), for both business and pleasure and let me tell you, it’s nowhere near the weather here. I think Chicago should have been known as the “Cold Locker City” since the amount of meat (dead and alive) found there (the good and the bad) far outweighs anything in New York.  And I don’t just mean steaks, if you get my drift.

So I guess the weather is another addition to the PRO column.

I’m still looking for some good T-bones, though.



The car they gave us is not anywhere near as nice as the Cadillac Harry used to drive.  I really missed my mustang convertible, too, and we try as we might we could not get the gents to let us bring the car with us.

No dice.  In fact, we don’t even have a car; we have a two door monster that drinks gas by the hour.  We drive around in a blue Dodge Truck, because they are the easiest to fix and the most likely to last for more than 300,000 miles.  At least it was this year’s model, so we would have a lot of time to put some miles on it.

God knows how long we’re gonna be in this place.

We had just come back from one of the many drives we take when I noticed there was a message on the answering machine.  The red light blinked on and off, reminding me of the warning signal you find on roads torn up with construction.    For some reason, it made us both nervous.  We were waiting to hear from our contact to let us know when to take the next steps, which was learning what kind of employment we would have.  We knew it would look strange to the neighbors if at least we didn’t get up and go to work.  At least one of us had to have a job, and we already decided it would be Harry, since he had more skills than me.  In the marketplace, anyway, haha.  We figured someone would be calling about an accountant job or something like that.  Harry was a numbers guy, after all.  It would be a good cover.

But it was unsettling.   Here it was,  a Sunday afternoon and we didn’t think a message would come through this early, and on the house phone to boot.  We both had cell phones and the only ones who knew the number were each other and whoever our contact would be.

“I don’t like this” Harry said, as we stood in front of the answering machine, watching the blinking light.

“Who would be calling us?” I asked, mostly to myself.  “No one has our phone number.  Do they?”

Harry quickly shook his head no.

“Nobody.   I didn’t give to anyone.”

We stood side by side, looking at the blinking red warning light for a few minutes more.

Without saying a word, Harry put his arm around me and gave me a kiss, tenderly, on the cheek.

I knew then, we weren’t going to answer this call.   Not today.


The cell phones they gave us were kinda cool, I must say.

I had an old blackberry I had used for years, and was fine with it.  I could check my email messages from my girlfriends and look at the latest stock prices online.   What, you didn’t think I followed the stock market?  Ha.  There’s still a lot you don’t know about me.

Harry had an even older phone, almost like one of the original ones.  Not as big as the ones in the early 90’s mind you, but old enough to not do much except be a regular phone.

That would never do, according to the gents downtown.  No, we had to have the best I-phones around, and I have to admit, after we learned about “apps”, it became a lot of fun.

Harry discovered texting.   I learned how to shop online, and was waiting for the go-ahead as to when I could start shipping the stuff I found here to the house. We were told to keep the phones on our person at all times because we never knew when they would be contacting us and to let us know what our next move would be.

The house they put us in is gigantic, much bigger than the two bedroom apartment we had in the city.  This place has five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a finished family room, a living room and a kitchen.

Holy hell, whose gonna clean this place?  I thought the first time we walked through it.     The house was just like all the rest of the ones around us, and we were right smack dab in the middle of the block.  I don’t think the people in the relocation unit thought this one through.  But then again, maybe we were hiding in plain sight.

It used to be that if Harry was in the bathroom (we only had one) and I was doing something in the kitchen, we could still talk to each other about whatever we were talking about.

Not so in this monstrosity.  If Harry was in the one of the rooms downstairs, and I was in the kitchen, there’s no way I could hear him, even if he was screaming – and let me tell you, Harry can scream pretty loud.

He would have to drop whatever it was he was doing, walk all the way upstairs and find me.   I ain’t always in the kitchen, by the way.   Sometimes I would go find him, when I needed the exercise.

“This place needs an intercom” I said off handedly one afternoon.  I had just finished putting the clothes away that I had folded right out of the dryer.   He came bounding up to me, and nearly ran me over.  Huffing and puffing, he had run up the stairs yet again to try to find me.

“Better yet!”  he said triumphantly, just as my jean pocket buzzed, my cell phone lighting up inside the fabric.   I put the empty clothes basket down and checked the message.

Text me back”  it said, and Harry laughed like a kid who had just found the golden ticket in that Willy Wanka movie.

Minga,  I wonder how long it will be before he discovers sexting?








Mail Call

20 Jul

Well, its been an interesting coupla days for me & Harry, I must say.

Its been so hard to try and get used to living in this place, Idaho Falls.  We are in the middle of no place and there ain’t nothing to do.

At all.

I can’t get a decent pedicure to save my life.   Although one woman cautioned me “…not to go to those Asians down the road, because they don’t change their water.”

Hold the phone, I thought.  That’s my people.  Well, no, I’m not Asian.  But some of the best mani/pedis  I ever got ( and an order of  Kung Pow Chicken to go) were from Asians.

I tried not to seem too anxious.  “Really?”  I asked, feigning being offended.  “Where are they, so I make sure not to go there!”

I was sitting in a hair salon, one that looked like it just might be able to get the coloring of my hair done the way I like it.

We were in the waiting room and I was waiting for the hairdresser to finish adding the final spritzes of hair spay to a young chick who had just gotten a feather attached to her head.  Yeah.  Feathers.  That’s all the rage here in Idaho Falls, different colored feathers.  Pink, yellow,  puke green. I don’t get it.  Why not go a step further and buy clown shoes?

The lady sitting next to me had her bare feet in a pink bucket of soapy water on the floor.   The manicurist sat on the floor in front of her, whistling and singing away.

That’s where they did their pedicures.

Good Lord, I thought to myself.  I hope she’s not washing my hair in the kitchen sink.

It turns out she did a terrific job and I was presently surprised.  I had to get used to being this reddish color again, but she made it look fashionable.    She washed my hair in a real live hairdresser sink, too.  It was an item to go on the positives column about this place.

Harry and me started keeping a PRO and CON list, although he got nervous when he first saw the big piece of paper taped to the kitchen wall, right next to the phone.  He thought I was abbreviating PROFESSIONALS and CONVICTS, something we know more than we cared to admit about.

There was no telling how long we were going to be stuck in this place, so we were trying to make the best of things.

Harry eyed me nervously from his place on the couch.  The 4 page newspaper he read every day was folded over and sitting across his lap.  The afternoon sun shone on the front page, highlighting the headline through the slats of the plastic blinds in the living room.  It was beginning to be the high point of his day.  We didn’t talk about it, but I think he kept looking for race track information, an OTB form or something to mysteriously show up.  He had taken the short pencil from behind his ear, a habit from the old days, and was rolling it between his fingers.  No gambling here, not even a friggin bingo game.  The Normans frowned upon that big time.

I secretly called them that now in my head, too,  after hearing Harry refer to them that way for so long.  Every now and then I’ll remind him, but it doesn’t seem to take.

But, even if there were ways to make a quick buck, we wouldn’t have been able to partake.  It was too dangerous.  Can you imagine us winning the lottery?  I’d have to wear a mask, or maybe fill my head up with those fugly feathers.   I can’t even take the chance of doing a scratch-off ticket.  Nah, I think we should just lay low and keep making our lists.   I’m sure we will be given a contact from the ‘outside’ soon enough.

“Relax, hun” I said as I added “good hairdresser” to the PRO side, the left column on the paper.   I added “no pedicures” to the CON side, right below the “no coffee” entry.    I smiled at him, but he still had that worried look on his face, whenever I headed towards the list.   I noticed he had written in his distinctive, neat cursive “no sports section in the paper” under the CON side.

My poor Harry.

Suddenly there was some movement at the front door.  We both looked at each other, frozen in our spots.  My hand still held the black magic marker, and Harry was in mid slide to return the pencil to his ear.   We didn’t move, and waited to see if the visitor would ring the door bell.


As we waited, a white envelope forcefully shot through the mail slot of the front door, landing on the floor.   It slid across the entry way, all the way to the bottom of the stairs.

Who ever was sending us a message wanted to make sure we saw it.

Minga.  I thought the postman was supposed to ring twice?

The Book of Norman

16 Jul

Man, its hot as friggin hell here in Idaho Falls.

Although, I’m sure my pals back in New York would offer up “Yeah, but its a dry heat.”

True.  90 degrees here is not like the sweltering 90 degree I-can’t-feel-my-eyeballs humidity experienced back in our stomping grounds  in the city.

I still miss it though.

I’ve been trying to find the positive, the good in this place, but its been a stretch.

I finally found a deli online back in New York that ships the kinds of meats and cheeses Harry and me have been accustomed to.  There’s nothing to be found in the way of t-bones or filets out this way.  I’m surprised too, with all the bull riding and cattle rustling, shouldn’t there be some kind of cattle ranch?  If there is, I ain’t found it yet.

Give me time, though.  I will.

I’m pretty good with the old googling, although Harry got upset when I first told him what I was doing.  He thought I had found a boyfriend.

“No, Harry.”  I told him with a smile.  “You’re mixing that up with canoodling. “

He just grunted and went back to reading the paper.    It don’t take long to read the local paper here; its only about 4 pages long.  What I wouldn’t give for a big old political sex scandal or a robbery.   The biggest upset this week was the increase in feed prices.

I’ve been reduced to reading the NY Post and Newsday on line, since I can’t have the paper shipped here.  Too dangerous, and the neighbors are always out and about, asking us if we know Jesus and all that stuff.  Harry gets annoyed pretty quick, but I told him he better mind his p’s & q’s because we don’t want to rise any one’s suspicions.   After all, we’re supposed to fit in.  We’re supposed to be one of them. 

“But they keep asking the same questions, every day, over and over!  Do I know Jesus?  Do I know Jesus?”

I nodded in agreement.  “I know, hun.”

“It’s like they find the new guy in the group and they send him.  They probably think he’ll get ‘em, he’s got the touch. “

“Or maybe he just drew the short straw.”

He thought about it for a few minutes.

“I tell ya, Marge, those Normans ain’t normal.”

“Mormons, hun.  Mormons.”


Knowing this day was going to come sooner or later, I made the suggestion the both of us had been dreading.

“You know the only way to get them to stop, don’t ya?”

Harry hung his head and covered his eyes.

“All my white shirts have sauce on them” he whined behind his hands.

I smiled.

“Looks like we’re going to church, Brother Harry” and I laughed a little too loud.

Lifting his head up, he finally laughed a little too.

The first full Sunday meeting schedule of a church service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is three hours so if it starts at 11:00 a.m., its looking like you won’t get done til 2:00 p.m.

Nobody told me and Harry that little fact.  Jesus, I was usually on my second cannelloni by that time.

Harry used to get antsy if the priest at Sunday Mass got wordy during the gospel.  He used to sit in the back of the church and make hand gestures similar to football signals.

“Stop it, Harry!” I whispered after he made the signal for “going long.”

But there was no way we could gracefully get up and leave, at least not during the “Sacrament meeting.”  I kept thinking we were in big trouble when I saw who the speaker was.

It just so happened that it was Markus the Doorman’s turn up at bat and was giving a talk about the Book of Mormon.

“Listen to that” Harry whispered to me from his seat.  “Norman’s got his own book. The things ya learn.”

I just shook my head and thought about the gabba gol that I knew was en route.

“Hey!” he whispered again.  “Did you know there was an angel named Macaroni?  Maybe these Normans ain’t too bad after all. Jeez, the things you learn.”

Minga, its gonna be a hot one.

Norman the Mormon

13 Jul

Idaho Falls was starting to get to me.

I could live without a coffee shop around the corner, or a bakery down the street.

I could handle not being able to jump in the car and go to Macy’s or Bloomingdales at a moments notice. It was part of the deal we made to get here and be safe. But we never bothered to read the fine print, and there was lots of things we forgot that we never knew we would miss.

But what I really had a problem with was the lack of restaurants that offered good food. And by good food, I mean Italian food.

It seems the things that sell here are not the same as what Harry & me ate back in our beloved New York. And believe you me, it was quickly becoming beloved.

The supermarkets didn’t sell eggplant or escarole, and the deli ‘section’ (since the only thing closest to a deli is a Subway) didn’t sell gabba gol or any other italian lunch meat. Worst of all? There’s no veal to be found anywhere this side of the Rockies. Mingia, how the hell am I supposed to make Veal Parmesan without some friggin veal?

Finding the one butcher in town, I was ecstatic that I might be able to at least get a good pot of sauce going. Butchers had to have beef and pork bones, right? I don’t know who was more excited, me or Harry, and I had to catch up with him as he pulled the car out of the driveway. He slowed down as I opened the passenger side door and jumped in.

As is everything else in this new place we called home, the only butcher in town was a Mormon. The butcher shop was called “A Cut From Above” so I was expecting some heavenly pieces of beef, to say the least. The Fourth of July holiday weekend was coming up and I expected the place to be jammed with Mormommies and their youngsters waiting to load up on hot dogs and hamburger meat. I could taste the t-bone steaks Harry and me had been missing, and couldn’t wait to get our order and stash them in the freezer. There’s nothing like a big hunk of meat with some mashed potatoes to bring a meal full circle, topped off with some hearty red wine.

One of the things that Harry liked about me (there are many others, by the way) is that I knew how to cook. What was really astonishing to him was that an Irish lassie knew how to cook Italian food. I could put my meatballs and tripe up against any other Italian girls in the city, and knew I would win them over. I learned early on that if you feed Italian food to an Italian man, and its spiked with Chianti while you serve it to them in a low cut blouse, they’ll eat anything.

Since every parking space was filled, I told Harry to scootch out and let me keep the car running while he went in and got our steaks.

“Go ahead, hun” I said. “I’ll be waitin’ right here.” I put the car in neutral and waited for him to get out.

Harry was nervous about doing things on his own without me being there to back him up. The one thing you gotta know about my Harry is that he hates to get things wrong. He’s a numbers man and doesn’t like when things don’t add up. He is nervous about blowing our cover and messing up things that would put us in danger. I told him ordering the steaks would be good practice. Besides, we couldn’t spend another day in the house. We both needed some air.

“Ok” he said warily. He looked at the piece of paper I had handed him that had a list of meat I wanted him to get. He read it out loud, just to be sure.

“Six t-bones, 8 filet mignons, and a bag of beef and pork bones.”

“You got it, hun.”


“Yeah.” He got out of the car, but not before looking sticking his head back in the passenger side window.

He looked at me for just a moment, then smiled and said “Ok.”

Several minutes went by and I could see through the window Harry reading off the list to the man at the counter. He was tall and his hair was slicked straight back, just like the rest of our neighbors. He had on the white shirt and black pants, but had the good sense to have a white apron tied around his waist, just like a regular butcher. He shook hands with Harry, who had most likely introduced himself and gotten it right. I could see him physically relax, and he began to read the items off the list.

After they had chatted a while, I saw another man come out to stand besides the butcher. He shook hands with Harry just like the other man did, and before you know it, the three of them had their heads together. Harry had pulled a pencil out of his pocket, a habit from the old days, and started to write some things down.

Just when I was about to get nervous, he came bounding through the glass doors. The two men stood behind him, each on either side of the doors, opening them wide.

“Bye Harry!” they said in unison.

Harry was empty handed.

Opening the car door, he slid in beside me, with a big smile on his face.

I looked at him.

“Harry, where’s the beef?”


“Harry, where’s the beef? The stuff on the list? The t-bones steaks and the filets?”

“Oh, that” he answered. “Norman said they don’t carry that.”

I looked at him.

“Norman said they don’t carry, wait, he said his name was Norman? “

“He said they don’t carry the good stuff. They only carried hamburgers and hot dogs, cos most of the families around here can’t afford to buy it.”

I thought about that for a minute. Norman the Mormon said they don’t carry the good stuff. And he said this out loud.

“Who was the other guy?” I asked him, resigned now to not ever having a good steak again.

“He’s Norman’s brother, Marckus. He likes to think of himself as the Doorman, because he likes to tell people about Jesus when they are on their way out.”

Norman the Mormon, and Markus the Doorman. And me still with no steaks.

Mingia, I need a drink.

Beauty School

12 Jul


I can’t go into the reasons right  now  why me & Harry are even part of the Witness Protection Program, but let me tell ya, I’m glad we are.

One of the things they tell you down at the department is that you have to assimilate.

Harry turned to me frantic and  asked me if he was gonna have to get a sex change, but was reassured once I told him what it meant.

Gotta love that man.    Strong as a bull, with a heart of gold.   It’s just that sometimes he don’t hear too good, or he doesn’t understand what someone is telling him.  Okay, most of the time he doesn’t understand what someone is telling him, but that’s because his brain is always two steps ahead of whose ever talking to him.   Either they have to speed up or he has to slow down, he hasn’t figured out that part yet.  It don’t make no diff to me, I love Harry with all my heart.  He’s my man.   We came out here together, didn’t  we?

Since we were born and raised New Yorkers, we were used to the fast pace life of the city.  Moving this far west was more of a shock than anything else.  We thought we’d at least get Cleveland as a temporary hiding place.  At least Cleveland has some music and dancing.   The closest thing to music here was the Norman Cracker Barrel Choir, as Harry put it.   I haven’t has the heart to correct him yet, but I know it will have to be soon.   He’s liable to think they are coming out to sing to him when we order our sweet potato fries.

But assimilate we must, so that meant fitting in.

Since I was also given a pair of size double D boobs in this transformation, I wanted to make sure that I stayed in shape.  I don’t know why they gave them to me, I didn’t ask for them.  I thought it might be some kind of a joke, but as I look around here, I see that most of the women have had some kind of landscaping work done, if you get my drift.   I try to change in a corner of the locker room of the health club I joined.  It was safer that way.  Everybody was always comparing and talking about the ‘adjustments’ they had made.   They kept eyeing  my recent adjustment, but I didn’t want to talk about them.

Actually, they’re kind of a pain in the neck, literally.   When I lay on my back I can’t see the t.v. and I have to make sure I strap ‘em down when I do jumping jacks, or I’m liable to give myself a black eye.  Ha ha.  Not really.  But it sure feels like it sometime.

Harry loved my new additions, but was disappointed they couldn’t make him taller.

“Maybe next year” I told him.  Ya never know.



Trying to fit in Idaho Falls meant dressing like everyone else, which meant following the dress code adapted by my female Mormon neighbors.

I already told you about the long skirt, flat shoes and cardigan ensemble, but there is one fashion statement that no upstanding religious woman would be without.

Falsies. Well, that’s what they called them when I was a kid.

False eyelashes.

Every female over the age of 14 wears them, it’s as if they are a rite of passage.   I can imagine what every proud mother says to her daughter when the time comes.

“Here honey, you’ve gotten your period, so start wearing your false eyelashes.”

It took me a while to learn how to get them on correctly.

The trick is to get them standing on top of your own lashes, right at the lash line.  They look more natural that way.

When I was still schooling myself, though, it was really a pain in the ass.  The glue would get soft so part of the eyelash would get stuck to place above my eye, but below my eyebrow.  Harry said I always looked like I was surprised.   He didn’t know it, but most of the time, I was.  Every now and then he’d give me a big ‘thumbs up’ from across the room, letting me know  they looked ok.  


I would be sweating and grunting along with the women at the health club, and come face to face with a face as red as mine.  It was always the same.

Sans makeup, sweating like a pig, but they had those friggin eyelashes on.    They must buy them by the case, I thought.

Harry, ever observant, constantly tried to pick out the most outrageous among the crowd.

“Holy Cow, will ya look at that one!” he’d scream in my ear as we waiting on line at Walmart. “Those Norman girls sure know how to glam it up.”

“Sshhh! Harry!”  I’d say, but I was laughing.  Couldn’t help it.  “Mormons, hun. Not Normans.”

“Uh huh.”

The young girl in question had about three pairs of them, one stacked on top of the other.  I was surprised she could see.

“Lemme see yours again” he said and I fluttered my eyes dainty like, until I saw one go flying off and landing on his cheek.

Minga.   At this rate, I’m thinking I better start buying them by the case too.




Welcome To The Neighborhood

12 Jul

We hadn’t been settled into our house 24 hours when it started.

We didn’t even know we had a door bell, but when it rang, all the blood drained from my husband’s face.

Eyes wide, he sat frozen across from me at the kitchen table.

We had found a coffee pot and some Maxwell House coffee, and were just about to begin our second pot when the little ‘bing, bong’ sound emanated from the hallway.

We didn’t move. We sat there, waiting to see if it would ring again.

It did.

‘Bing, bong, bing bong” it sang out, loud and clear.

“They found US” he whispered, although it was somewhat of a theatrical whisper. I’m sure if someone was here they would have heard him in the next room.

I put my finger to my lips and made a silent ‘shhhhshhhh” movement with my lips.

Hearing some mumbling sounds between a man and a woman, we waited patiently to see if they would try again.

They did. At the back door. Which was open.

“Hey, neighbor! Do you know Jesus?’ a tall, dark haired man with a white shirt sang happily through the screen door.

I turned around in my seat and saw who must have been the wife, a petite blonde woman with five boy children standing behind her smiled their biggest “Welcome to the Ward” smile. They all had on the same outfits; white shirts with black pants. Mom had on what I learned was the traditional ‘going to church clothes.’ A long skirt, flat shoes, a cardigan sweater over a white blouse, modestly buttoned at the top.

We looked at each other, and the color began to fill in the ashen cheeks of my husband, my poor “Harry.” This was going to take some getting used to. We weren’t used to people popping in, especially this early in the morning. It was only 10:30 for Christ’s sake.

Harry eventually got up from the table and went outside to meet the new neighbors. This was our first exposure to real Mormons and we had no idea what to expect.

After about an hour, Harry came back in the house, visibly relieved that this wasn’t some kind of a sting or a set up. He remember to introduce himself as Harry, and me as Marjorie.

Harry proceeded to give me a report.

“He seems like a pretty nice guy” he finished, after telling me about where he worked and how much he was in love with Jesus.

“And you know what? He’s in that famous group of singers, you know, the Norman Cracker Barrel Choir? Good man.”

I let that sink in for a minute. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

“And they invited us to go to church with them this Wednesday night.”

Minga. Time to go shopping at Mor Moms R Us.


11 Jul

“Why don’t the Normans drink friggin coffee???”

“Mormons, hun.  Mormons.”


He looked at me through bleary blood shot eyes.  I know I didn’t look much better.  We were both in a daze because we hadn’t had our daily dose of java, another tid bit of information the gents down at the office neglected to tell us.  We would have to get our own coffee pot and peruse the local Walmart.  Another adventure in itself, let me tell you, brutha.

We were used to drinking at least one pot -each- before we went off on our day.  It was going to be a long one today in Idaho Falls.

For some reason, the Mormons are forbidden to drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks.  They sure do like their Mountain Dew though.

Something about putting additives or  unnatural preservatives into their bodies, or something like that.  I have to read up on it more.   There ain’t that much to do here anyway, I might as well educate myself about where the hell we are living.

In any event, there’s nothing resembling any kind of a coffee shop, or diner or anything that would serve coffee in a paper cup.

Shit, at this point I would be happy with a big bottle of Jolt.

We were in the hallway, and I still couldn’t get over myself.  They made me dye my  hair dark red and let the natural curl come back into it.  I had been dying it black and straightening it for so many years, it was still a shock to notice it in the mirrors as we walked by.  Another little tidbit I learned about the Normans did to themselves.

Good God, now he’s got me doing it.  Man, I need a cup of coffee.  Maybe even with a shot of whiskey.

“Get dressed” I told him gently, and turned him back into the direction of the bedroom.  This house was gigantic and there was just the two of us.  Half the time either of us didn’t know where the other one was and we ended up talking to ourselves.

“We’ll go to Walmart and get a big coffee pot and try to find something that resembles a cannelloni.”

“OK” he sniffed, and starting walking towards the closet.

“We gotta get a dog” he said simply.  “I need someone to talk to.”

“Ok” I said.  “But first put your pants on.”

Minga, this is gonna be a long day.


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