Archive for February 2013

A Slap-Happy Solution   5 comments

If you see me slapping myself this Spring, don’t be alarmed. I haven’t gone crazy. In fact I’m doing it to keep my sanity. It means I have probably had a recent rendezvous with my arch-enemy, Ivy – her first name is Poison. We all know rule #1 is do not scratch. We also know that the un-met desire to scratch can be torture.

A good friend of mine turned me on to the slapping thing. After the tip she rose to the rank of  very good friend because it really works. I know scratching the poison ivy rash can lead to infection or make it spread further but that’s not why I refrain.  I don’t scratch because once I start, I cannot stop.

But slapping really does work. It just goes to show you can stand pain more than prurience. No, that isn’t something dirty. It means being itchy. , lotAt least I think so, hold on and let me check the internet.

Oops I’m wrong. According to the Merriam Webster,it means being prurient and prurient means marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome desire, especially appealing to sexual desire.

That’s not it. What is the word I want?

Hold on….

OK. I’m back again.

The word I want is pruritus : itch, or an unpleasant sensation that provokes the desire to scratch.

That’s it. As I was saying it just goes to show you can stand pain more than pruritis.

Sigh, this isn’t turning out to be the smoothest of blog posts. You see,  now I have a dilemma…..

I was planning to show you my itch aids but after my verbal faux pas with prurience, you might think they’re sex aids But what the heck……They’re not. Let’s get on with the show.

As I was saying…….

Even though it’s  much too early for poison ivy, I’m still in itch agony.  I have the next worst thing – winter dry skin itch.

My shins and  back are the areas I yearn to scratch. I can’t reach my back, so it’s safe. But I really have to watch it with my shins. I started scratching once on my bowling league night and stopped only because they kept telling me I had to bowl. By the time the night was over, my legs looked like they’d gone through  a shredder.

So it was either cut my nails to the quick or co me up with a solution. And I did:


My legs are so greased after a shower that my socks won’t stay up. Slathering up also works on my back – the areas I can reach.

For the areas I can’t reach:


This works and doesn’t shred my skin. But I keep losing it. Can’t remember which room I left it in.

And then there’s my daily morning fix:


In the interest of full disclosure: the full force of water on an extremely itchy patch of skin produces explosive satisfaction ,  almost akin to … never mind, try it next time you have an  itch. You’ll see!

And in case you’re interested….while I was on line I looked up just why we itch. I mean I can understand pain, it prevents us from harming ourselves with fire or sharp objects and warns of illness. Hunger? It  keeps us from starving; likewise thirst, from dehydration. They are all protective in nature but why the sensation of itching?

Well I found a nice short easily understandable mini-article in Esquire that explains itch is actually a perception that comes  from the brain. When poison ivy touches skin, skin releases a chemical factor that causes inflammation. Then itch receptors or some such thing pass the information to the spinal cord, and the spinal cord passes it to the brain and the brain responds with “okay this is an itch” and instructs the body to respond. And the response? To scratch.

Now why would my brain tell me to scratch? I thought it had more sense than that.

I read on, and find that “all animals have evolved some kind of mechanism to get rid of anything attached to their skin. That’s why the itchy sensation is such an ancient one. We are trying to remove the irritant from our skin.


And the article ends with:

Dr. Scott Moses, a physician who specializes in the treatment of chronic itching, notes, “There are a lot of adverse effects of itching and scratching. The itch is completely harmless when you don’t scratch, but when you scratch, it causes all these different secondary effects that can spiral into more scratching. If you have to respond, don’t scratch — rub.”

No.  Slap!
If you’d like to read the Esquire article for yourself, here it is

Or if you prefer something more scientific than Esquire, there’s this.

Posted February 26, 2013 by virginiafair in humor, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , , ,

The Amazing Adaptibility of Animals   3 comments

First of all thank you to everyone who expressed sympathy at the passing of Marcos. Here at The House of Mars, life goes on, as it should. I am undergoing the long process of un-adapting:

  • The first day without Marcos, I came out of the gym to discover it was beginning to rain. I found myself stepping up the pace, the thought I have to get home and let Marcos out before it gets worse, prompting me.  Then reality hit – No you don’t.
  • Saturday afternoon I was preparing my usual bagel and Muenster cheese lunch. As I removed the cheese from its wrapping, I readied myself for the clicking nails that would signal I had to cut a few extra slices for cheese-moocher Marcos. Reality check – just slice enough for yourself.  The Cat Brothers don’t know the pleasure of cheese (nor will I introduce them).

Marcel and Marceau, on the other hand are adapting to Marcos’ bedroom, and his bed on a bed.


Of course, animals cannot express whether it’s easy or hard to adapt to changing circumstances but it amazes me that somehow they do.  On this note we, the remaining Martians,  Marcel,  Marceau and I, V Margaret would like to give a shout out to some of our furry friends and “relatives “ who have adapted.

The Car Brothers’ cousins, Pinky and  Dudley

Pinky and Dudley’s original owner, unfortunately fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease and the considerable upkeep of this glamor gal and glamor guy became too much for the daughter who was caring for her.  Enter my sister-in-law and brother who adopted them. Not every cat gets ultimate adaptation, a living room to match their color scheme.





But alas Pinky and Dudley were not finished adapting. Enter


My niece noticed the bedraggled little kitten hanging out in front of their apartment building. Fellow residents were feeding her, but my niece felt she could do better, so after some first-rate persuasion of her mom and dad, Zelda became part of the family. And so Zelda adapted to being and indoor cat, and to sharing that indoors with Pinky and Dudley. So far, Pinky has adapted better than Dudley (or maybe it’s the other way around).



The Cat Brothers also have a cousin-in-law, once removed and that is ….


Noche lives with my sister-in-law’s sister and her family in a house that serves as the gathering place for various holidays. This means not only does the human presence multiply on these occasions, but often the canine, as well. Sometimes it’s three tiny designer dogs dashing through the house and getting into his favorite places. At other times, it’s a huge chocolate lab throwing his weight about, weight that amounts to about five times Noche’s. But Noche grins and bears it all, the ultimate host.



Then, there’s Charlie.

If you’ve ever watched a dog show you’ve heard of Working Breeds – big guys like St Bernards and Bernese mountain dogs. Charlie is not one of these.  Charlie is a working dog – a nine to fiver in the city, in Manhattan, to be precise, in Soho, to be pinpoint precise. Charlie accompanies my hairstylist Mario Diab to work each day and as soon as he enters the salon, he adapts from family pet to Office Manager.




I’m not just being cute here, Charlie really is the Office Manager.  If you don’t believe me, check out his web-page.

And last but not least, there’s Marcos best friend, Harley.

Harley  brightened Marcos life for his last six months. Harley lives across the street from The House of Mars and would bark and yap each morning when he heard Marcos and I set out on our morning walk; so much so that his owner would have to let him out. The door would open and Harley would leap and bound across the yard. Our walk would have to wait until I’d unleashed Marcos and they’d race about like pups.

I don’t see much of Harley but when I do, he’s adapting to a bomber jacket that matches one worn by his owner.



Meanwhile back home, Marcel and  Marceau branch out in their process of taking over, er adapting to the beds-on a bed.


Peace to all beings – furry and not.

The House of Mars Minus One Mar   6 comments

The population of The House of Mars has decreased by one. Marcos departed this world on February 7, leaving Marcel and Marceau,


and yours truly V. Margaret to return to life as it was before he came to live with us.

He had a brain tumor, or so his veterinarian said. I thought it was canine dementia but whatever it was, it left him disoriented and wandering around to get lost in corners.



If he was truly sixteen when I adopted him, he would be 21. (In case you missed that post, here it is.)

If he was 8 or 9, as the vet suggested at his first check-up, that would make him 13 or 14, which is more likely.

This afternoon he was buried at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.



It wasn’t a new experience for me but it never gets easier. It does give me comfort, though, to know he joins all the pets who came before him.

The first to be buried there was Duke, also known as Dukie-Dog and The Duke. Dukie was actually my brother’s dog, and lived to the ripe old age of 14. My outstanding memory regarding living with The Duke is coming home from school and being greeted by “Shush, the dog is eating.” This meant having to stand statue-still until he finished. You see Dukie was an extremely finicky eater and if he was distracted, the meal was over. My mother wasn’t taking any chances.




O.B. Brat, the O.B. standing for Old Baby was also known as The Obadoodle and Badude. She was my first cat and shared my first apartment in Yonkers.  I adopted her from Bide-a-wee Pet Shelter in Manhattan; a six week old bundle of white who fit my hand. Even at that size, she had a hiss and growl befitting a Bengal tiger.

When I got her home she ran under the bed. That evening I coaxed her out and picked her up, intending to introduce her to her dish in the kitchen. I got all of two steps when she hissed and twisted out of my grip.   “Ooh, you’re such a brat,” I hissed back. Thus, the name.



I became so obsessed with my little Obadoodle that I actually almost stayed home on Friday nights lest she be alone. You notice I said almost. I didn’t but it ruined my fun, knowing she was home alone. What she needed was a friend to hang out with.

I went to the Yonkers Animal Shelter in search of a dainty female kitten and came home with a strapping six month old muscular male. I was passing a cage when a paw reached out and grabbed my sleeve. Imploring me from the cage were the most beautiful green eyes rivaled only by the beautiful black fur surrounding them, shinier than the black patent leather shoes I wore to church when I was so little.

Job E Cat, also known as Joby Cat, Jobinski, Binsk, and Joby Cat the Wonder Dog was a man‘s cat, as in a man’s man. He was rough and ready and loved to wrestle and play soccer, both taught to him by an old boyfriend from England. Soccer consisted of the Englishman soccer kicking a ball of aluminum foil with that odd ankle twist soccer player’s use, and Joby returning it with his own version of a soccer kick, which, now that I think of it, was probably more of a hockey stick move. Back and forth the foil ball would go with the two of them scrambling the entire length of the long living room – until I’d have to put an end to the game.  Dogs pant. Cats shouldn’t.

His full name was Job E Cat and that stems from the patience he showed upon meeting her, for she didn’t tone down her obnoxiousness in the least, even though he was twice her size.  She hissed and growled and left the room, then came back and hissed and growled some more.

I commented “He has the patience of Job.”

 The patience was short-lived however. When it wore off he tried to beat the you-know-what out of her whenever he could. My plan worked – Brat may have hated Joby but she was never lonely.

Joby loved everybody but Brat never let anyone near her …until one evening when I was getting ready to go out. My date had arrived and I went into my bedroom to get something or other and returned to find him leaning over a chair, talking to someone. This was a chair on which Brat had been sitting.
“What are you doing?” I asked, incredulously.

“Petting your cat.” He said. And there she was purring and craning her neck for more.

That was the best character recommendation anyone could give. I married that young man and we all  moved to California.

In California Brat abd Joby devised a sharing scheme – divvying up the rooms in the house and agreeing  to share the yard.

Brat lived to be 14 years, 3 months and Joby died the one year later.  He was one month shy of 15.

Do you think it was mean of me to sentence them to eternity togetherness?                     


Fremont, my California Cat, also known as Huge Biggie. What can I say about Fremont – my 23 pound guardian, the cat for whom I bought The House of Mars before it was The House of Mars? That would have to wait for Marcel and Marceau, the original Martians. But then you’ve read all about Fremont in earlier posts, and if you haven’t I invite you to. Fremont lived to be eleven

And I’ve also written about Niles, sweet gentle Niles. The black and white kitten who grew to be a slightly smaller version of Fremont, a gentler version of Fremont. Fremont recognized his gentleness and took it upon himself to watch over his little Niles. Niles survived life without Fremont for only a year. succumbing to the same cancer as Fremont.

Only the good die young.




And so Marcos joins the beloved crew. When his headstone is ready, it will say “Marcos, Handsome Hunk of Dog.  He was, don’t you think?


Food Fight   7 comments

Have you heard about the latest war? No, it’s not being fought in Afghanistan. No, not Syria either. North Korea? Iraq? No and no. The latest war is being fought on the streets of NY. And the combatants are trucks, food trucks. Lest you think I mean some sort of Battle of the Monster Trucks, let me explain.

Food trucks are a big thing in Manhattan,“gourmet” trucks that draw lunchtime crowds in midtown and lower Manhattan.

one truck

They are owned independently and each specializes in its own particular genre. Whether you’re in the mood for a  taco, vegetarian or vegan, Jamaican  jerk chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls , Korean barbecue, or an exorbitantly overpriced grilled cheese sandwich there’s a truck parked somewhere offering just that.

Gourmet Food Trucks

I stood on line to get a taco once in Soho but changed my mind after I looked around and asked myself “Where am I going to eat it? Sitting on a doorstep? On-the-go? There have been times I’ve walked along munching on a hot dog or a bagel or wrap. But a burrito? I even make a mess eating a burrito while sitting at a table.

But back to the war. Truck owners have to go through various permitting processes – health permit, business license, parking permit, etc. I believe that somewhere in all this, there is a way of determining who gets to park where and on which days.

line of t rucks

Unfortunately, as in all business arenas, not everyone is as scrupulous as they should be.  So when one truck moves in on another’s territory sparks fly. CSI NY had an episode where a murder was committed and it was found to have centered around a food truck feud.

I have to laugh with all this talk of food trucks. They’re nothing new. Way back in ancient times, also known as my childhood in the Fifties, trucks showed up on the streets of Manhattan every day, and the faithful flocked to get the best of what they offered.  These trucks didn’t line the streets for periods of time like the trendy ones do. They came and went, and the housewives who depended on them had to be on the lookout for their arrival since they stayed only as long as there were customers before moving on to the next street.

Back when I was very young, before I’d started school I’d have a ringside seat each morning. Our dining room looked out on 149 St and  there I was, stuck at the table until I finished my cereal, or forever, whichever came first. I’d sit, spoon in hand, arranging and re-arranging clumps of used-to-be-hot cereal, staring out the window.

Soon a truck loaded with fruit and vegetables would come into my second floor frame of view, and stop in front of a stoop across the street.

vegetable truck

Before long women would come down from their apartments, “pocketbooks” hanging from their elbows.They would wait their turn while the customer of the moment  pointed out what she wanted – maybe four or five tomatoes,  two pounds of potatoes, a pound of onions,  a bunch of bananas. The peddler would weigh her purchases on the scale hanging from the back of the truck. He’d jot each on a paper bag and calculate the total before depositing it all into the same paper bag. No paper or plastic in those days and the bag served as the receipt.

On other mornings, usually Fridays, I enjoyed a whole different spectacle. One I’d hear before seeing.  A man’s voice, preternaturally loud and as nasal as I’d ever heard would shatter the morning silence, proclaiming in an odd chant “I’ve got fish today,” That was just the prelude. “I’ve got fresh flounder. I’ve got fresh butterfish. I’ve got fresh mackerel.” The words of his sing-song might vary from season to season but the key word was fresh.

fish in truck

Again the women would gather, and like the produce peddler he’d serve one at a time, weigh it on the swaying scale, and having attended the same school of accounting, jot and calculate the total on a paper bag. The only added task was that he’d first wrap the fish in newspaper, yes newspaper!

There was another truck that visited but not nearly so regularly. And while it didn’t sell food, it offered a food-related service. It was the knife grinder and as unpleasant as I found the fish monger’s voice, I’d take it anytime over the grating noise that set my teeth on edge as women brought their knives to him and he ran them against the giant grindstone wheel.

knife sharpening


Then there was the truck that came in the afternoon – after I’d been reprieved from breakfast prison, and finished lunch – the truck us kids flocked to; hearing its bells before it even turned into 150th Street.

good humor man


And of course, everyone knows this truck.

milk  truck


And my former husband’s father drove one of these, delivering fresh bread directly to the doors of customers in Westchester.

Dugan's truck

But uh oh, stop the presses! Look what I just came upon.

pushcar war

Maybe things weren’t quite as copacetic as I remember