Archive for the ‘Beth Quinn’ Category

An Open Letter to 38 Dumbheads

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

Dear 38 Members of the New York Senate Who Voted Against Gay Marriage:

I wrote the following column nearly six years ago, when the Religious Right had a stranglehold on this country and wanted us to Just Say No to Everything.

Alas, it is as pertinent today as it was during the Bush Dark Ages, as you illustrated with your vote last week to prevent gay marriage in New York – a state that, by contrast to places like Tennessee and Alabama, was once considered progressive and grown up.

For those of you backward senators who voted poorly, this column is for you.

Hey, Self-Righteous Prigs,  Quit Meddling

I was going to leave the gay marriage issue alone just to save myself some grief.

But then I thought, what fun would that be? Somebody’s got to irritate the self-righteous folks who tell the rest of us how to live, and it might as well be me. You know who you are, so get your Bibles ready because you’ll want to damn me to hell by the time we’re done here.

For me, there is one central question in the whole gay marriage controversy: What do you care?

What difference does it make in your own life if two gays or lesbians get married? It simply mystifies me that you feel threatened by this. What possible harm could it do in your personal, little life whether the two guys living at the end of your block say “I do”?

I keep hearing the same pat answer from your prophets of doom – that allowing homosexuals to marry will “destroy the institution of marriage.”

Well I gotta’ tell you, a lot of gays and lesbians have been getting married in San Francisco lately, and so far my own institution of marriage is doing just fine. I checked. When I heard they were lining up for licenses, I asked my husband if he felt our marriage was going downhill on account of it. He just ignored the question and wanted to know what kind of perennials I thought we should put in this spring.

I took that as a good sign. Perennials are an investment in the future, so I figure he’s sticking around despite what those homosexuals are doing.

So, self-righteous folks, I guess I’m wondering what’s wrong with your own marriages that you feel so threatened by another couple’s happiness. Are you unable to sustain a good sexual relationship knowing that two gay guys are sleeping together in wedded bliss? Are you unable to have an intimate conversation with your spouse because you’re distracted by the notion of two women going off on a honeymoon?

Because if your marriage is that unstable, you should stop worrying about what others are doing and tend to your own problems before your divorce contributes to the decline of the institution of marriage.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve completely failed to come up with ways that gay marriage will have an impact on your life. It won’t raise your taxes. It won’t cause the kid who shovels your driveway to quit. It won’t make your laundry dingy. It won’t alter the weather. It won’t cause your dog to start passing gas. It won’t affect your relationship with God. It won’t cause you to develop a tumor on your head.

Those of you who would talk about grand concepts like society and institutions and pillars and guideposts and moral fibers and whatnot, I say this is just your excuse for meddling. And history has shown us that nothing good ever comes of meddling in other people’s affairs. Every time Christians showed up to mess with heathens, for example, we just ended up with a lot of unhappy heathens with syphilis and smallpox.

Those of you who would point out that the dictionary definition of the word “marriage” involves a man and a woman, let me point out that the dictionary is a living, breathing document that changes as word usage changes. If you doubt it, look up the word “dot” in a current edition.

We the people get to decide what’s in the dictionary. The dictionary doesn’t get to dictate our societal conventions. Your hair isn’t going to catch on fire if the definition of marriage is eventually changed to read, “two consenting adults” instead of “man and woman.”

As for the Bible, which is always the last refuge for those of you who want to impose your will on us savages, we’re not all reading out of the same book.

More fundamentally, the Bible is not a legal document. If it were, those who fail to love one another would be rounded up and thrown in jail. The prison budget would go through the roof what with all the new cells we’d be needing for the neighbor haters.

I have only this advice to offer those of you who oppose gay marriage: Don’t marry a homosexual.

If you’re a man and you don’t want to marry another man, for crying out loud, stick to your guns! That would be a terrible idea. You’d be miserable! Same for women. Marry someone of the opposite sex if that’s your personal preference.

After all, no one’s got the right to meddle in your private affairs.

Note to Readers: Many of you have inquired as to my whereabouts these past few weeks. First of all, thanks for noticing my absence – and for asking. I’ve had to pull back from Zest a bit because my attention is needed elsewhere just now. I plan to make occasional contributions to Zest as the spirit and time move me. Meanwhile, have a great holiday season, a merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous New Year. – Beth

Beth can be reached at

If It Walks Like a Pig …

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

If you’re confused about what swine flu is, what the symptoms are, how serious it is, whether or not you should get a shot, whether or not a shot is available, whether or not the shot will kill you faster than the flu, well … I’m here to help.

The following is informational information about swine flu of which I’ve been informed.

Regular flu is more dangerous than swine flu.
Swine flu is more dangerous than regular flu.

A sore throat is the first sign of swine flu.
Puking is the first sign of swine flu.
You never puke with swine flu. If you’re puking, you’ve got regular flu.
Or food poisoning.

Only pregnant women die from swine flu.
The unborn preborns are completely protected from swine flu even if their soon-to-be mothers have died.

The elderly and children should get the swine flu shot.
Swine flu is more dangerous for middle-aged people and doesn’t hurt the elderly or children.

The swine flu shot is only available to health-care workers.

Pig, also known as Swine Flu

Pig, also known as Swine Flu

Health-care workers are required to get the swine flu shot.
It would be unconstitutional to require health-care workers to get the swine flu shot.
The swine flu shot isn’t really a shot at all. It’s a squirty thing up the nose.
The squirty thing up the nose is for the regular flu shot.

Swine flu causes autism.
The swine flu shot causes autism.
Kids with autism should definitely get the swine flu shot.
All kids should get the autism shot.

Muscle ache is the first sign of swine flu.
If you have muscle ache, that means you have regular flu.

Swine flu isn’t as contagious as regular flu.
Swine flu is totally contagious and is spread by hand-to-mouth contact.
To avoid swine flu, wash your hands obsessively, until they are raw and bleeding.
Swine flu is an airborne virus, so all that hand washing is senseless if someone just sneezed at you.



Regular flu is an avian flu and is carried by birds.
Chickens, mainly.
Pigs started the swine flu but it swiftly spread to chickens and then to flying birds, who carried it around the globe.
You can catch swine flu if you eat undercooked pork.

Never eat a chicken.

A bad headache is an early sign of swine flu.
Or maybe you have a brain tumor.

The swine flu shot is more likely to kill women.
Men are more likely to act like big babies if they get swine flu.

It takes 14 days to recover from swine flu.
It take 2 days to recover from swine flu.
The cough associated with swine flu lasts 6 weeks.
There is no cough associated with swine flu. If you’re coughing, you have regular flu.

When a case of swine flu is reported in a school, the district will shut down for 5 days.
Schools are rarely open anyway, so what difference does it make.

When pigs fly, we're toast.

When pigs fly, we're toast.

So there you have it. The final word on swine flu.

Beth can be reached a

A Punctuation Pot Purée

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
By Beth Quinn

The Apostrophe Posse has branched out. This week’s edition includes, not only apostrophe catostrophes (I know, I know! It’s on purpose!), but some fabulous, off-the-mark quotation  marks, someone in an apparent comma coma, an interesting spelling error and some terrible confusion about meat vs fish.

Therefore, without further ado …

Those Happy Meal Chimes are Ranging

The top portion of the receipt from McDonald’s in Hancock, N.Y., reads:

WELCOME TO HANCOCK MC DONALD’S Our value meals and happy meals are rang up with the drinks separate, so we can adjust for different drinks”

I know, I know. The BIG question is, what was I doing at a McDonald’s????

– Pam Guess

I’ve been to the Hancock McDonald’s myself, loathe as I am to admit it, and was struck by its apparent shortage of periods to put at the end of sentences. – Beth

Are There no Periods in Vermont, Either?

In the July/August issue of AT Journeys (the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conference), the cover is a picture of the Rutland County Farmers Market in Vermont. The description of the photo on page 2:

On the Cover: The Rutland County Farmers Market in downtown Rutland, Vermont’s Depot Park is open rain or shine, Saturday’s and Tuesday’s, spring through fall.

I sent an e-mail asking them why the apostrophes, especially since they didn’t call it the Farmers’ Market.

– Joan James

Is it Maneur or Shti?

Several years ago, whenever I approached the intersection of Route 208 and Sarah Wells Trail, I enjoyed my daily chuckle when I saw the Manuer for Sale sign. Unfortunately, the sign was removed some time ago and replaced with a corrected version.

– Helen G. Ullrich

In the Category of Confused About Food

It’s not punctuation but surely worth mentioning. The following invitation appears on the Web site of Australian chef Curtis Stone:

Learn the best way to safely defrost meats like shrimp.

You want to tell them, or should I?

– Carol Montana

“Unnecessary Quotation Marks”

Here are a few awesome examples that recently ran on the Huffington Post Web site.

And then poor Jim Bob had only two fingers and one eye left.

And then poor Jim Bob had only two fingers and one eye left.


Is this meant to keep the atheists happy?

Is this meant to keep the atheists happy?


Hard to imagine, but whatever it means, it seems to apply to one gun only.

Hard to imagine, but whatever it means, it seems to apply to one gun only.

Finally, Some Semi-Good News

A properly placed semicolon was found in, of all places, the New York City subway system. It was nearly hidden on a public service placard exhorting riders not to leave their newspapers behind when they get off the train:

Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.

Semicolon sightings are unusual, period, much less those found in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants, as this one was. In fact, proper semicolon use is such a rarity that, when this one was spotted, the New York Times deemed it worthy of an article. As a bonus, the placard contains a properly used apostrophe as well.

Former Goshen resident Bess Jankowski, who lives in the city, was so taken by the semicolon that she deemed it worth passing on.

“This renews my faith in humanity,” wrote Bess.

– Bess Jankowski

Beth can be reached at

Free-Range Croutons, Random Thoughts

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

I have a package of croutons in my bread drawer labeled “free-range croutons.”

I confess I have no idea what that means. I can only envision millions of croutons  roaming the Badlands of South Dakota, occasionally being knocked for a loop by some aggressive free-range tumbleweeds.

I supposed they’re in search of  some free-range water, perhaps some organically certified, lite or light, fat-free or reduced fat, low sodium, naturally flavored water.

That kind of water is hard to come by and very expensive. Just ask the free-range croutons.

I feel virtuous about having the free-range croutons in my drawer, just as I feel virtuous about the organic mac and cheese I have in the cabinet for my grandkids. But I have no idea what the point is except to please their parents, who are big fans of organic things.

I bring this up because I’ve spent the past couple of days painting my husband’s office. I have a lot of free time for thinking when I paint, and random thoughts entertain me as I  stare at the growing swaths of non-organic grey paint I’m putting on the walls.

Here are some more free-ranging thoughts that have gone tumbling through my head these past couple of days:

Why did they – whoever they are – change the “use by” date to a “buy by” date on food at the grocery store? Knowing when it will go bad was far more useful than knowing when the store should have pulled it from their shelves.

This is the Year of the Single Mother, and I’m glad they’re finally hitting the big time. Obama’s mom, Sonia Sotomayor’s mom – they deserve a lot of credit. When I was a single mother, my singleness was blamed for every small infraction my kids committed. (“Well, that explains it! He colored the sky yellow and the sun blue because you’re a single mother!”) Of course, Bristol Palin whining about how hard it is to be a single mother isn’t doing the cause any good.

The clothing catalogs are changing color names again. For years, “tan” was good enough. Then the marketing people decided “oatmeal” would be an improvement. I want to puke when I see a bowl of oatmeal, so I never buy oatmeal-colored sweaters. I’m happy to report, though, that oatmeal is finally being ousted. Now it’s called “dirt.” I’d buy a dirt sweater before an oatmeal one any day.

You can never have too many tubbies.

My hairdresser Liz has a number of rules she lives by, but my favorite is this: Cowlicks must be respected. This picture of me as a kid shows

Cowlicks should be respected.

Cowlicks should be respected.

what happens when your uncle the barber fails to respect a cowlick and, instead, smooshes your bangs flat to trim them. The cowlick jumps back into position as soon as he lets go.

The Great Squirrel Uprising of 2007 is continuing. The squirrels are sacrificing themselves for their cause, which I think is to get rid of the people. They’re hurling themselves in front of cars and, each morning on my walk, they race down their tree trunks to stand chattering in front of me and block my progress. I don’t know what to do about it.

Sanity needs to speak louder. We’ve got a lot of crazy people in this country shouting about DEATH PANELS and and how GUNS BELONG IN CHURCH!!!! I think the sane people among us need to speak louder instead of assuming that people couldn’t possibly be listening to crackpots. You know who’s listening to the crackpots? Congress. Speak up, sane people! Call your congressperson and your senator and say something sane and encouraging.

Why isn’t there a light in the freezer? My freezer is in the basement, and if there’s anyplace you need a lighted freezer, it’s in the basement. I have to take down a flashlight to find the ground chuck.

I was following a dump truck the other day when I noticed that sign on the back: “Construction Vehicle – Do Not Follow.” What does that mean? I don’t know what’s expected of me. Should I turn off into a nearby parking lot?

I went off yogurt this morning. I’ve had a yogurt every morning for at least three years now, but this morning I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore. I don’t know why. That happened to me once before when I stopped drinking V8 after 10 years.

I don’t know why, but the more expensive your bike is, the less likely you are to have a kickstand. It seems to be a rule among bicyclists, but I don’t understand it. I like a good kickstand.

So there you have it. Free-range thoughts. If you have any of your own, you’re welcome to add them to this list. I’m running out of random thoughts and wouldn’t mind thinking yours for a while.

Beth can be reached at

The Case of the Canine Head Cases

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

My dog Tom is scared of the hamper.

It’s one of those round hampers on wheels. I keep it in a closet until it’s time to do laundry. Then I roll it to the top of the basement stairs and throw the clothes down.

I generally forget about Tom’s fear of the hamper and rarely think to warn him that it’s laundry day and I’m about to take it out of the closet. If I leave the hamper near a doorway, Tom’s trapped. He can’t bring himself to pass it. He’d stay stuck in one spot all day if I didn’t eventually put the hamper back in the closet.

Tom is a very kind dog as most yellow Labs tend to be, but he should probably be in treatment for panic attacks. It’s not just the hamper. A lot of things give him a case of nerves, such as the wind chimes and the swing set in the back yard. If a bit of a breeze comes up and the chimes start chiming and the swings start swinging of their own volition, Tom comes flying into the house so fast he’s probably got a permanent concussion from slamming head-first into his dog door flap so often.

You can imagine what today’s wind is doing to him. Right now, he’s sitting in the bathtub where, presumably, he’s safe.

I don’t mean to pick on him, though. It’s true that Tom is perhaps the most cowardly of the many dogs I have known, but Riley, our dead-and-gone German shepherd, could have given him a run for his money in the sissy department.

Riley had a phobia about thunder, which is not so unusual for a dog, but Riley developed extreme safety measures to protect himself. One night, he climbed right into the clothes dryer, which was no easy trick considering he weighed 100 pounds. Another time, he squeezed himself behind the toilet and got stuck. We nearly had to get the plumber over to remove the toilet after the storm passed, but Riley eventually worked himself free.

Actually, all my dogs have had their own particular psychological quirks. In some cases, they’ve handled it themselves. In others, we’ve tried to work with them on their issues.

Take Mike, for example. When I was a kid, we had a Dalmatian named Mike who suffered from poor self-esteem, especially when he compared himself to a dog down the street named Boots Jones. Mike’s solution was to stalk Boots as though he were going to beat him up. I think it made him feel like a hot shot, but it was always a case of false bravado.

Boots generally ignored the stalking until Mike was nearly on Gramps Jones’ property. (Boots belonged to Gramps, or perhaps it was the other way around, I’m not sure. I never actually saw Gramps, so Boots might have owned the house himself.) In any case, Boots would wait until Mike was within biting distance, then he’d slowly stand up, flex his muscles, crack his knuckles, narrow his eyes, and then … he’d yawn.

Utter indifference was what I read in Boots’ demeanor, but Mike was always certain his time had come. That yawn was enough to send Mike hightailing it back home, where he’d claw frantically at the door to be let in. Then he’d stand inside the storm door and bark at Boots, who had already gone back to sleep. Still, Mike’s self-esteem improved after giving Boots a stern scolding from the relative safety of our house.

One by-product of Mike’s feud with Boots was a nervous stomach, and he passed a lot of gas. This affected everyone in the family because Mike slept in front of the hot-air vent in the kitchen. When the furnace came on, everyone’s eyes started watering what with the acrid, noxious odor that wafted all the way up into the second-floor bedrooms.

I don’t know why we put up with it. At the very least, it seems my parents should have made different sleeping arrangements for Mike.

Come to think of it, perhaps it’s not the dogs in our family who are the head cases.

Beth can be reached at

Here Lies a Healthy Corpse

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

I know how I’m going to die. A woman driver on a cell phone is going to kill me.

I feel like a traitor to my own kind for saying that, and I may be asked to turn in my Feminist Union Card, but it is true.

I walk a couple miles every morning, largely on the theory that if I exercise, I will live forever provided no one runs me down. (I also do Zumba twice a week, but that is another story altogether because it seems that I’ve actually joined a cult in my quest for immortality. I am a follower of Damola, the Zumba teacher, and I can’t tell you how willing I am to mindlessly do everything he tells me.)

Anyway, back to my imminent demise at the hands of a woman driver on a cell phone. I can always tell at some distance whether a car coming at me is being driven by a man or a woman. The moment a man sees me, he begins a very ostentatious display of moving toward the center of the road, thereby giving me a wide berth and a clear message that he’s seen the little lady (me!) and I must not worry!

It is almost courtly, the way men elaborately avoid plowing into me.

Beyond that, men are less likely to be talking on a cell phone and distracted by whatever news his caller might be delivering into his ear at 8:30 a.m. By nature, men are more laconic than women, so there seems little reason to talk and drive at the same time.

In fact, most men barely sit in a recliner and talk at the same time. Whenever I call my aunt and uncle in Florida, my uncle often answers the phone because it’s right next to his Barcalounger. Then we have the following conversation:

“Hi, Uncle Charlie, how ya doin’?”

“Oh hi, Beth. Fine. Here, let me put your Aunt Fedela on the line.”

“OK, thanks! Good talking to you!”

But women. The cell phone has given women a whole slew of new places to have a conversation, not the least of which are the bathroom and the car.

When I’m out for a morning walk, women not only don’t give me a wide berth, they don’t appear to notice me at all. So immersed are they in their phone conversation that it is just as likely they will swerve toward me as to keep driving straight. Believe me when I tell you I’ve had to dive into the bushes at the side of the road more than once.

Here’s the thing that keeps me out of the clique of female drivers/talkers. I have no idea who I’d even call at 8:30 in the morning. And what is there to say? Chances are good these women are talking to someone they just saw back at the house – a husband or boyfriend or girlfriend or child or roommate – or someone they’ll soon see at work. What could possibly be new?

As far as I’m concerned, the only worthwhile news they might have to report is that they just ran me over and I’m lying deader than a doornail under their manifold.

This is too bad because, in many ways, women are far better than men at multi-tasking. And a good woman driver is truly a beautiful thing. Remember that woman who got arrested a few months ago for breastfeeding her baby while driving and talking on her cell? I think she probably knew exactly what she was doing, not that I’d like to see her heading my way while I’m out for a walk.

It was the breastfeeding part that put everyone in tsk tsk mode, but I must confess I did the same thing myself back in the ’70s (without the cell phone, of course, which had not yet been invented). I nursed my second baby while driving a pick-up truck across the Rockies, hauling a 35-foot camper behind me. (That is a true fact, and it might suggest that I had an unusual early adulthood, which is also a true fact.)

But good multi-tasking women drivers are the exception, I’m sorry to say. And a good woman parker is even more of a rarity. I live on a narrow residential street, and I watched a woman (on a cell phone) “park” in front of my neighbor’s house last week.

I was thoroughly mesmerized. I’ve rarely seen anyone make so many bad decisions in such a short space of time.

First, she parked heading in the wrong direction. Parking is generally done in the same direction as driving. Not in her case. She swerved across the street to park toward oncoming traffic, which was a strange decision because it meant going out of her way to park in front of a fire hydrant.

She also chose to park (And I am using the word so very loosely here) pretty close to the center of the road – maybe just a couple feet left of center. Basically, she just stopped driving mid-stream, turned off her car and got out, almost as though she were abandoning it.

And apparently she failed to see the enormous flat-bed trailer parked opposite her chosen spot. The trailer had hauled some heavy equipment into our neighborhood for a blacktopping job earlier that morning. It was so wide and stuck so far into the street that the driver (a man, I am certain) had surrounded it with orange traffic cones to improve the chances that it would be noticed.

Not our gal. This entertaining woman had parked in the wrong direction, in front of a fire hydrant, in the middle of the street, only a few feet from an enormous construction vehicle. And then she wandered off, still talking on her cell phone, oblivious to the fact that she’d left the entire street blocked off.

I went for my morning walk, grateful that she wouldn’t be driving my way. At least not that day, anyway.

Beth can be reached at

Leave Smokers Alone, For Cryin’ Out Loud

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

By Beth Quinn

I recall with some nostalgia the days when I could shop at the Grand Union while smoking; when I could sit at my desk and smoke, even as my asthmatic co-worker retreated to the ladies room to take a few hits off her nebulizer; when I could light up on an airplane, the fresh-air crowd be damned.

As regulations and public opinion turned against me, I railed against my employer for shoving me outside to stand in the cold on the loading dock, breathing in the stench of garbage even as I sucked in the stench of burning tobacco.

I bitterly complained about pharmaceutical companies that developed half-assed, don’t-work quit-smoking products and then charged as much for them as I paid for cigarettes. I wasn’t going to get sucked into THAT scam, I vowed.

I decried a government that taxed my habit to fill its coffers on the back of my addiction.  I don’t for a moment believe the state of New York or the feds had my best interests at heart when they began to systematically make it both more expensive and less convenient for me to smoke. No one who stands to profit by a person’s bad habits sincerely wants that person to quit.

Still, the cumulative effect of it all was to … make me quit smoking. And I confess that I’m most grateful for that. After 40 years of smoking, I quit 3 years, 11 months ago – on Oct. 24, 2005 at 11 p.m.

It now seems preposterous that I smoked. What a crazy habit. It seems bizarre that it was tolerated indoors and that it is even now tolerated near building entrances where people have to make their way through the unhealthy haze to get inside.

Yes, yes, fine. Smoking is bad. The healthy people got to me. I’m done. I walk two miles a day, and I go to Zumba twice a week where I do a lot of vigorous aerobic dancing. Great, fine, wonderful. I am woman, hear me breathe. I will never smoke again.


The City of New York is about to go too far. The health commissioner, Thomas Farley, announced a couple of weeks ago that he’s considering a ban on smoking in city parks and on beaches.

Don’t do it, Tommy. This isn’t about people’s health anymore. This is now punitive. It is too much in loco parentis. Smokers aren’t your kids, and it’s not your job to make them stop jumping on the bed even though they might fall down and break their necks.

It’s a big sky out there. A smoker in the park isn’t going to give the guy on the next bench a heart attack. Really.

As for the beach, I must confess that one of my greatest pleasures in life was to walk across the warm sand carrying my beach chair, a towel, a cold drink and a book. I’d settle myself close to the breaking waves, my face to the sun. I’d open my book and then … I’d light a cigarette.

Even as I write these words, I breathe deeply and pretend it is cigarette smoke I’m inhaling. It is the only scene in my imagination where smoking still seems like a wonderful idea.

They say that, when you quit smoking, you must quit in all the trigger situations – when your feet first hit the floor in the morning, after a meal, with a drink, while driving, in the shower. (Yes, I confess it. I smoked in the shower.) Perhaps I still enjoy the smell of other people’s cigarettes on a beach because I quit in October and never fully became a non-smoker in the summer sun.

I know a woman who quit smoking while living in Manhattan. She’d sold her car because who needs a car in the city, really? So she never quit smoking as a driver. About 20 years later – 20 years as a non-smoker! – she bought a home in Jeffersonville, then bought a car so she could get there on weekends.

The first thing she did when she got behind the wheel? She asked her son for a cigarette. She didn’t smoke it. In fact, she was shocked to find herself holding it in her hand. But she realized she was still a smoking driver.

That’s how I feel on the beach, but I suppose my personal pleasure in the smell of cigarettes at the ocean is beside the point. It really is a big sky. A smoker a few blankets down is not going to cause anyone to have an asthma attack or develop lung cancer or grow a second head.

Tommy, leave the smokers alone in the open air. If you feel you really must be a do-gooder and meddle in people’s lives, I have two other suggestions.

That tax on soda that Obama suggested? Go for it. Obesity kills far more people than cigarettes and, frankly, I think every fat kid has a criminal for a parent. The same parent who’s screaming about a smoker harming his kid in the park is the one who’s filling that kid’s gut with soda pop and potato chips.

And if you really want to ban something at the beach, how about boom boxes? I’d wager that, for most of us, noise pollution has ruined far more peaceful days at the beach than a bit of smoke rising on the breeze.

Beth can be reached at

Those Wild and Wacky Dutch People

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

I thought I’d start with a little Dutch humor today as we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson crossing the Delaware.

Or something involving some river in the New World.

There you go. A little Dutch humor.

Or at least it’s my humor, and as I am from Holland on my father’s side, I’ll call it Dutch. (My mother’s people are Italian, another humorous ethnic group, especially after a bottle or two of grappa.)

I’m bringing up the Dutch, though, because we are currently being overrun with Dutch revelers, who have come to New Amsterdam to celebrate their American heritage.

They’re also celebrating the fact that so many of their forebears left Holland in Henry Hudson’s footsteps, thereby decreasing the aggregate weight on the Dutch land and preventing their country from sinking even further below sea level.

While I admit there are very few Dutch stand-up comedians, I’m proud to say my people  are very pragmatic. “Go, go!” the Dutch townspeople told my grandparents and several of their friends. “You weigh too much and we’re sinking! Don’t forget to take those heavy wooden shoes with you, too!”

And so they came by the – I don’t know, tens? Hundreds? There really aren’t all that many of us here – to Governor’s Island and then fanned out across the land to do what the Dutch do best.

Be sensible.

My grandfather somehow acquired a herd of cows while living in Clifton, N.J., which his sensible side told him was no place to keep cows. And so he walked the cows up to Orange County, N.Y, which still had open land and was not over-run with sidewalks, as Clifton was. Then he set the herd loose on some empty land and called it a farm.

See? Sensible.

And my grandmother offered me the following sensible Dutch advice as I was growing up:
Eat kale.
Use a dust pan and whisk broom to clean up small messes.
If you no longer have use for an item, no matter what it is, plant flowers in it. Hence, she had flowers growing in an old iron, in a salt shaker without its mate, and in a cradle.

But to truly understand how sensible the Dutch people are, you have to return to Holland and learn something about their Land and People.

I tell you this because you probably don’t follow news of Holland too closely, which is a shame because the Dutch follow our news really closely. My cousin Henk tells me they laughed and laughed and laughed at what simpel toonloos dummköpfe idioots we were when we elected George Bush not once, but TWICE!

See? The Dutch are very full of humor.

Anyway, since you probably don’t read the Holland Sentinel or the Windmill Herald, they have what’s called socialized medicine in Holland. And they don’t think “socialized” is a bad word. In fact, they LOVE it! Everyone has health care!

Plus, my cousin Henk assures me that there are no death panels in Holland as Sarah Palin says there will be here in America. “That would not be sensible,” my cousin Henk tells me, “because people wouldn’t want this form of health care, then.”

He has a valid point.

Holland health care is even good if you no longer live there. When my grandmother needed a new set of false teeth, she planned a trip back to Holland for them because paying air fare to get free teeth would have cost her far less than buying the teeth here in  America.

Alas, she died before getting the new Dutch dentures, but I think it was a very sensible plan.

Also, those dikes. A few decades ago, the Dutch noticed they were wearing out and the little Dutch boys were no longer willing to plug them with their thumbs to keep the North Sea from killing everyone.

After a bad experience with the sea in 1953, they rebuilt the dikes, making them extra good and strong and very, very expensive. Billions of guilders were spent, but the Dutch considered it money well spent (an ons of preventie against verdrinken and all that).

Now, if they have a disaster like Hurricane Katrina (or Hurricane Beatrix, if you will), they are well protected.

Seems sort of sensible to me.

My cousin Henk tells me that Hollanders didn’t laugh about New Orleans getting wiped out because that would have been unkind. But they did shake their Dutch heads when, not only did the American government fail to prevent that calamity in the first place, but nothing has been done to fix it.

I will leave you now with one last bit of Holland humor. This is a real joke from some Dutch guy with a Web site:

Question: Why are there still so many windmills in Holland?

Answer: Because the Spanish lunatic Don Quichote and his companion Sancho never came so far up North to fight them!

Well, OK, he’s no Seinfeld. But who cares. After all, as they say in Holland, “God created the world, but The Netherlands was created by the Dutch.”

What a very sensible religion they have, wouldn’t you agree?

Beth can be reached at

The Obama Speech Freak-Out

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

By Beth Quinn

For the American Far Right, being nuts is clearly a pre-existing condition (and one that’s apparently not covered under the current health-insurance system).

I was reminded of this Tuesday when the nuts came completely unglued and kept their kids home from school rather than allow them to hear Barack Obama’s speech on the importance of … going to school.

The speech was broadcast in our nation’s schools, directly to the American children. As it was optional (this being America and all), some entire school districts in the more addled sectors of the country chose not to show it.

Good Lord, we wouldn’t want THAT (black) guy – what’s his title? oh, the (black) president – speaking directly to our kids. Heaven forbid some (black) guy who went to Harvard and has accomplished a thing or two in his lifetime be allowed to influence young minds. Yikes! He might encourage them to study hard and respect their teachers or something.

In fact, this is just Obama’s tricky way of passing on his socialist agenda to our kids, or so sayeth the nuts. What gall that (black) president guy has! And it’s not because he’s (black) that we hate him, of course; it’s just that he’s a socialist. Whatever that is.

These nuts have somehow managed to get a stranglehold on the entire Republican Party. (Motto: Just Say No To Everything The President Suggests!) A lot of people are actually listening to the nuts and their Crazy Like A Fox News commentators, who have hijacked common sense and replaced it with fear-mongering lies.

Among the Fox News Nutwork and other Far Right comments about Obama’s education speech:

“Just when you think this administration can’t get any more surreal and Orwellian, here they come to indoctrinate our kids … This is what Chairman Mao did.” – Monica Crowley, Fox News commentator

 “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” – Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell, a – surprise! – Republican

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.” – Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida

“Hitler came after the YOUTH too. Coincidence?? Maybe not.” – Some guy named TexasFred, a blogger on a pro-gun site called Traction Control

As you all know, stupidity has gone viral.

So, with such a brain trust taking issue with a president urging kids to work hard in school, I thought I’d take a look at Obama’s anti-American speech to see if I could find evidence of indoctrination and evil-doing.

And I found it! You betcha! Below are direct quotes from Obama’s education speech with me explaining how he’s clearly trying to steal the youth of America for his own purposes:

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. (Yikes! Straight from the socialism handbook – From each all that he can give.)

Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team. (Holy cow! He wants to turn the student governments in our schools socialist, too!)

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math … to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. (See that! He wants to turn our children against oil companies and into tree huggers.)

If you quit on school you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country. (Good grief! He thinks kids belong to the government!)

I was raised by a single mother. (He’s so TOTALLY against fathers! He hates normal, American two-parent families!)

My wife’s family didn’t have much, but they worked hard, and she worked hard so that she could go to the best schools in this country. (Straight out of an Orwellian nightmare! That horse Boxer in Animal Farm was ALWAYS vowing to work harder.)

I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot. (Jeez Louise! Now he’s telling kids that their parents don’t even keep them clean enough.)

Find an adult you trust … and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals. (That’s it! Now he’s completely undermining parental authority.)

If you’d like to read Obama’s entire rant to our school children, go to You’ll be shocked and outraged, I tell you.

Listen. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I know that people who read ZestofOrange aren’t the nuts. (Our readers even understand sarcasm.) I’d love to be able to reach the crowd that isn’t attracted to common sense, but I don’t know how, do you? I just can’t imagine how to successfully fight ignorance of that magnitude.

But maybe … just maybe … President Obama reached a few of the nuts’ children on Tuesday, the ones who actually showed up for school despite the terrible (black) president’s speech. Maybe Obama DID manage to spread a little propaganda – the kind that inspires kids to think clearly despite how dumb their parents are.

I know from personal experience that a charismatic president can have a direct influence on a kid. I was in junior high school when President Kennedy, who was white (but Catholic), spoke directly to me and millions of other American school kids about the importance of exercise.

He gave us the President’s Challenge on Physical Fitness, and he seemed to personally care whether I could walk the balance beam, do a sit-up, climb a rope and run fast. I loved it. I felt so important, and I wanted to do well for him.

And I did. I didn’t quite reach the stars but, because of Kennedy, I eventually managed to climb a rope all the way to the gym ceiling. A small part of me believed that our president read my physical fitness scores when they were sent to the White House. I can’t tell you how good that felt.

So maybe … just maybe … some kid wants to climb a rope to the stars today to please his president. Or hers. Let’s cross our fingers and hope.

Beth can be reached at

Spelling Counts (and Listen to Miss Borg)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

By Beth Quinn

Apparently school is starting up again. I know this because I see mothers arguing with their teenagers at the mall about the relative merits of exposing their belly buttons (in the case of the girls) or their butt cracks (boys).

I also know this because I’m teaching a couple of night classes at OCCC, something I’ve done for the past quarter century or so. I love teaching college freshmen, but I find that I often must repeat the same rules every semester, such as, “You need paper.”

I suspect every teacher in the land has a litany of back-to-school rules that they’ve been repeating since the Ice Age. So do parents. And, speaking on behalf of taxpayers and the general citizenry, there are also a few rules we’d like to suggest.

To that end, I hereby offer a brief course that I call “Back To School 101: A Primer on How to Reduce Everyone’s Irritation With You.”

The highlights are as follows:

The fact that it is your birthday does NOT mean you don’t have to go to school.

When you get off the bus, yes, look both ways twice before crossing. But then could you move your rear end a little faster to get to the other side? I’ve been stuck behind your bus for an hour now.

Better yet, walk to school. If you’re old enough to cross the street by yourself and you live within three miles, walk. It’s good for you, it will help you lose weight, and it gives you times to switch from home-brain to school-brain.

You’re weird, too. Really. So don’t make fun of the weird kids.

If you’re assigned to write a 500-word essay, the length is a requirement, not a suggestion. Don’t write 300 words, don’t write 1,000. Just follow directions.

In fact, following directions is the secret to life, really. Most directions aren’t complicated, and they aren’t meant to trick you. Following them doesn’t mean you’re part of the herd, even though you are. (Just look at how you’re dressed and compare that to how everyone else your age is dressed.)

Speaking of clothes, buy off the sales rack. Your parents are broker than they were last year.

While you’re at it, buy clothes that are a) comfortable and b) won’t get you sent home to change into something decent.

Spelling counts.

So do apostrophes.

Piercing your tongue interferes with diction. If you don’t know what diction is, look it up. You can find the word diction in the diction-ary.

Don’t crack your gum, don’t roll your eyes at your teacher, bring a pen, take notes, pick up your feet when you walk, don’t blame someone else, smile, sit up straight, raise your hand before you talk, don’t run in the hall, consider the carrot sticks instead of the chips.


OK, that’s almost it. This is a short list because you’re still in your summer torpor (look it up), and I don’t want to give you brain shock.

But there is one further bit of advice I’d like to pass on. It’s something that my old health/gym teacher, Harriet Borg, instructed my health class when I was in 9th grade at Washingtonville High School. I must confess it stunned me when I heard her say these words out loud:

Leave yourself plenty of time in the morning for a bowel movement.

It’s true that I failed to appreciate Miss Borg’s wisdom when I was 14. But now, at the age of 60, I consider it among the most sensible and sound pieces of advice I’ve ever been offered.

I realize that today’s teenagers might well be inclined to ignore me just as I ignored Miss Borg, but I suspect it would vastly improve the atmosphere in the building if everyone took a crap before going to school in the morning.

Beth can be reached at