Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


USS Arizona

Oil still seeps from the grave of the USS Arizona.

Seventy-five years ago today was “the day which will live in infamy.”

A lot changes in seventy-five years. A lot changes in just a few decades, for that matter... a thought I had back in 1992 as I was eating sushi in Düsseldorf, Germany. Generations come and go, and hateful feelings become distant memories. And that is, perhaps, as it should be.

But always - always! - we should remember those we have lost. And, as George Santayana famously observed, we should remember history, lest we be condemned to repeat it.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Theatrical posters, Mexico City. Photographed in December, 1977.

Is it just me?

Thirty-nine years ago, my in-laws celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with a week-long trip to Mexico City... and we, being relative newlyweds at the time, were invited to join them.

For the most part, it was a delightful vacation, certain infamous parts of which I have described previously. It was on that trip that I discovered my father-in-law’s foolproof method for coping with exotic, unfamiliar Mexican cuisine: at all times, order the carne asada. Bill and I became veritabobble connoisseurs of grilled meat that week.

Back then, the Mexican peso and the US dollar were trading at a ratio of roughly 8:1. One dollar would buy about eight pesos, so prices in most places were expressed with numbers about eight times higher than the same prices back home.

It occurs to me that, with the gradual inflation that has taken place over that roughly four-decade span, that our prices today in US dollars look an awful lot like those peso-based prices did then.

Go to any white-tablecloth restaurant and an appetizer will set you back six to eight pesos - er, dollars - maybe more, even in the lowly suburbs. A mixed drink is now routinely more than a half-sawbuck, a tariff that until recently would be seen only in major urban centers like New York.

Concert tickets? They’ve gone up too, way more than even college tuition. Seeing the Grateful Dead in a gymnasium cost me all of three bucks back when I was in college. Now that Jerry Garcia actually is dead (and the rest of the band is fairly decrepit), you need to shell out $150 to see them at Lakewood Amphitheatre, where you need a set of binoculars to see the stage. That’s fifty times more expensive for a show that (nowadays) consists of a bunch of grandpas ’n’ guitars. Yeef!

Some of this is due to Starbuckization: our willingness to pay high prices for everyday items because they provide an artisanal touch that we value... or simply because they’re marketed effectively. The cup of Joe squirted out by a barista is so much nicer than the stuff the local luncheonette pours out of the Bunn carafe, and we are willing to pay for it. That nice bottle of water that costs two bucks at the gas station (or five bucks at the movie theatre) isn’t all that different from the stuff that comes out of the tap for almost nothing... but we buy it.

And some of it is due to the tendency of us Old Mature Folks to use the prices we became familiar with in our younger days as the measuring stick with which we assess everything around us. Of course I don’t expect to pay the same 25¢ for lunch that I did in grade school... but that memory stays with me anyway. The $20 that bought me a week’s worth of groceries in college now might cover a single meal’s worth of provender... and I remember that, too. I remember how much I paid for my first apartment... my first car... my first house. (I also remember how much my first annual salary was. It was, as you’d expect, proportionately minuscule.) Everything costs more now.

Look, price inflation is not surprising. Hell, when I visited Rio de Janeiro in 1988, prices in Brazil were inflating at the rate of one percent a day. That meant that every three years, the value of your money would drop to one-tenth of one percent of its earlier value. You would spend every paycheck immediately: Use it or lose it. And every three years, the government would lop three zeroes off its currency denominations and give it a new name. Cruzeiros. Cruzados. New Cruzados.

We haven’t had to do that here. Yet.

So when I go to the mall and gape, horrified, at every price tag, part of my horror is simply because those price tags look like something I might have seen in Mexico almost forty years ago. For those of us of a certain age, sticker shock is simply a way of life.

Now, get the hell off my lawn!


Mom, age 21 - her college graduation photograph from 1949.

Today is Mom’s eighty-ninth birthday. Too bad she’s not around to enjoy it with us.

On the first night of Chanukah, we will celebrate her special day the same way we’ve done for the last twenty-nine years - by eating potato latkes and Chinese food. But since the first night of Chanukah coincides with Christmas Eve this year, we have a few more weeks to wait.

On birthdays, most of us have cakes on our minds. While a potato latke is, technically, a sort of cake, it is not what we think of when we think “birthday cake.” We usually imagine some sweet production, often with icing or a glaze. And candles... because birthday.

Mom wasn’t much of a cake person... at least, not in my recollection. (The Other Elisson may remember things differently.) As far as I know, she baked one - one! - cake in the entire time I lived at home with her, a rather tasty spice cake. She bought enough coconut custard pies and blueberry tarts to keep the Dugan man in business, but her favorite treat was a bowl of ice cream, devoured in front of the teevee set in the late evening.

So I suppose it would be entirely appropriate to celebrate her Special Day by having a nice big bowl of ice cream, perhaps with a forest of candles crammed into it. Burnt Alaska.

A perfect Rob Roy - Mom’s favorite.
But no. Anyone can eat ice cream. Mom’s special pleasure, though, was a perfect Rob Roy, best described as a Manhattan made with blended Scotch in lieu of rye or bourbon. It was an occasional treat, something she would enjoy for the odd celebratory evening... such as her birthday. And that’s what I will use to toast her memory this evening.

Ut absente mater mia. I hope you’re enjoying a Rob Roy in the World to Come.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Father Succos flies his sleigh
To celebrate each festive day
He visits all the girls and boys
And brings etrogim ’stead of toys

When children see him, they cry, “Looka!
Will we get s’kach upon our sukkah?”
Both Easter Bunny and Santa Claus
Say, “Father Succos? He’s the boss!”

[Yes, I know I’m almost two months too late. Or maybe three weeks early. But inspiration strikes when inspiration strikes, if you can call it that.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Still more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives. For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

Our latest entry:

epoophany [eh-poo-fa-ni] (n) – A sudden intuitive perception in which one realizes that the horrifying red color of one’s stool is due to one’s having consumed beetroot the previous evening and is not, in fact, the result of a massive intestinal hemorrhage.

[This one occurred to me yesterday evening as I was consuming a beet salad. Really.]

Monday, November 28, 2016


Dead Mouse

Walter walked the studio grounds, lost in nervous concentration.

He needed a new character. Mickey had been packing theatres for years – not bad for a lousy cartoon short! – but rentals had begun to sag.

Face it: The Mouse was a victim of his own success. Originally a mischievous trickster, he was now good-natured and bland. Booooring. What he needed was a foil. A character with a rotten disposition, to create dramatic tension. But who?

He almost tripped on the duck’s carcass. It lay by the side of the pond, half-eaten. Hmmm...

Two months later, Morty Maggot opened to rave reviews.

[An earlier version of “The Cartoonist” was originally published at Laurence Simon’s The 100-Word Stories Podcast, where you can also hear an audio version.]

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Naw, you don’t have to waste your pamphlets on me. I’ll be voting the Green Lady, just like last time.

I’m old enough to remember having my first Starbucks coffee, on a chill winter’s day back in 1991. So I guess you could say I was a Party man from way back... a whole lifetime ago, seems like.

It was the Citizens United decision that changed everything. Once corporations were considered to be people for the sake of funneling money into the political process, it was only a matter of time before they were considered to be people who could actually hold political office. At least, so said the post-Trump SCOTUS, and nobody felt like arguing. Argumentative folks had a way of disappearing.

Hell, we didn't even need a Constitutional amendment to do it, according to SCOTUS... and they had the final say-so. As long as a corporation was founded in these United States and was at least thirty-five years old, it could hold political office. Well, it wasn't long after that we elected our first corporate President. ExxonMobil, it was.

It didn’t take too long for folks to figure out that the old parties had stopped making sense any more. The Dems were the first to shutter their offices, but the GOP followed suit just a few years after. No point having political parties in a corpocracy. The corps fed us our news, made sure we had food, allocated our medical care, and decided which wars we needed to fight. Good times.

No, really. It was good times. Anything would have been better than the mid-teens, when the Western-Islam wars started. Only good thing you could say about the Pence-Huckabee Crusades was that they helped take our minds off the world economic collapse. Seems that nobody in the Trump administration remembered Hawley-Smoot from 1930. Jacking up tariffs and starting trade wars is like throwing gasoline on a burning dumpster of an economy, and things had already gone south after the Haircut Act.

Everyone remembers the Haircut, I guess. The Cheeto Jesus boys must’ve thought it would be a great idea to renegotiate interest on our national debt. But a sovereign nation’s obligations are a touch more serious than corporate bonds. China practically shit their collective pants, on account of they held so much of our paper. When they eighty-sixed their dollar holdings, the whole damn thing tanked. It was like the world was a great big casino, and ol’ Don knew how to run those... right into the ground. When the Dow dropped below 2,700, there were a whole lot of unhappy people. Donnie Boy and his crew ended up getting it in the neck - the scene in the Trump Tower bunker was right outta May 1945, I hear.

Thank PopeCo the wars ended when we elected ExxonMobil. Peace with the Arabs (and the Iranians, and the Turks) was the only way they could keep the oil flowing. Ceding most of Europe to the Caliphate wasn’t too high a price to pay, and the economy started to come back.

And now that the Starbucks administration has been running things, we have plenty of coffee to drink and muffintops to eat. No, those aren’t raisins, do you think I’m a department head? Roach-nuggets. Lotsa protein, and they’re crunchy.

Now it’s election time. McDonald’s is running (again!), and Facebook is mounting yet another third-party campaign, but I think I’m gonna stick with the Mermaid. We’ve had it pretty good for the last few years... you would be amazed at how hard people can work when they’re jacked up on Flat Whites and mochaccinos.

So keep your literature for the next fellow: You don’t need to convince me. Yeah, I’m a Starby guy. Good times, right?

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Leonard Cohen, z''l (1934-2016). Barukh dayan emet.

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

 - Leonard Cohen, “Who by Fire”

Leonard Cohen has passed away at the age of 82.

His song “Who by Fire” (lyrics above) is a rough paraphrase of U-netaneh Tokef, a prayer from the Jewish High Holiday liturgy which enumerates any number of the fates that may await each of us in the coming year. This, alas, was the year when fate caught up with Cohen... as it has with so many other beloved names in the music business.

Cohen’s songs were often covered by others (for “Hallelujah” the total may run into the thousands), but his unique gravelly voice provided the definitive texture for so many of them.

Fare you well, Lenny. You will be missed... and may your family and fans be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


A few days ago, I saw something truly horrific in the local Food Emporium... loathsome enough for me to prop it up and photograph it. Feast your eyes:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Peeps. Yeef.

It is telling that I found these on the “We Are Desperately Trying To Get Rid Of These Items And So We Are Selling Them At A Steep Discount” table. But some things are so nasty, they have negative value: You can’t pay people to take them. These is they.

Peeps - the basic yellow, blue, or pink kind - are inconsequential enough. Marshmallows shaped to look like little birdies. I suppose that if you love either (1) marshmallows, or (2) little birdies, they are inoffensive. And you can amuse yourself with them if you are of a perverse frame of mind. Float one in your hot chocolate and imagine it peeping in horror as it realizes that its hindquarters are dissolving! Pop a flock of ’em in your microwave and watch ’em expand!

But now we have Peeps in various flavors, the classic shelf-space grab. Candy corn flavor. Red velvet cake flavor. And ((shiver)) pumpkin spice latte flavor. Feh. Even the peeps themselves hate it: Look at the disgusted expression on the little guy in the center, like an old man who has been given a bad diagnosis.

What happens when Peeps grow up.
Finding those Peeps made me wonder: What other confections are out there that inspire fear and loathing? For me, it’s things like Jujubes, Necco Wafers, and Circus Peanuts. “Heritage” treats - the kind that you find at the Crapper Cracker Barrel - are a mixed lot. The same Nik-L-Nips that I loved as a kid are vile to me now, perhaps because I’ve outgrown my taste for little wax bottles containing a few drops of tooth-shatteringly sweet fruit-flavored fluid.

Hard candies of any kind are, to me, difficult to love. Root beer barrels? Fuck’m. On the other hand, anything with chocolate - real chocolate, not that palm kernel oil shit - is eminently desirable.

What say you? What candies did you despise when you were a kid? And what candies do you hate today?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Darth Elisson

People sometimes ask me, “Elisson, what is up with you and those stupid fucking colanders that you are always putting on your empty noggin?”

My answer is severalfold.

First, my noggin is not - despite all evidence to the contrary - empty. Research has shown that there is an actual cauliflower in there.

Second (and this is the real answer to your question, by the bye), this is why.


He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.” - Jonathan Swift
“Oyster, schmoyster. He was a bold man that first eat an etrog.” - The Bard of Affliction

This time of year, after the whirlwind Red Sea Pedestrian Holiday Season is concluded, we inevitably face a decision: what to do with the leftover etrog.

The etrog (pronounced esrig in Ashkenazic Yiddish) is a citron, the “p’ri hadar” (beautiful fruit) mentioned in the Bible. It is used as a ritual object during the observance of Sukkot, the fall Feast of Tabernacles, a time when exceptionally lovely specimens command astonishing prices amongst  communities of observant Jews.

A sunny yellow etrog.

After the Sukkot festival concludes, though, the etrog’s utility as a ritual object drops to nil. It’s too beautiful (and usually, too costly) to merely toss in the trash, so the reasonable question is: What do we do with the damned thing it?

It turns out there are plenty of things you can do with it. (Whether any of ’em make sense is for you to decide.)

First and foremost, you can just simply let your etrog sit around until it is thoughly dry. Unlike the thin-skinned lemon that will eventually rot, the etrog has a tiny amount of flesh, an appalling number of seeds, and a thick hide. As a result, instead of getting nasty and moldy - like that stupid pumpkin you still have on your front porch - the etrog simply shrinks and becomes rock-hard. You can then use it to pitch at the neighborhood kids (“Get off my lawn!”) or simply put it in a suitable container. Eventually, you can have a collection like mine. (Keep in mind that, until recently, I also had collections of shoe horns, matchbooks, hotel shoe polishing cloths, and hotel soaps and shampoos.)

My slowly growing pile of dried-up etrogs.

I wonder whether there’s any flavor to these babies. A few minutes with a Microplane and I could be the next Yotam Ottolenghi, huh?

People with more patience than I will sometimes poke holes in their etrog and stud the fruit with cloves. When the whole affair dries, you’ve got a wonderful pomander with which you can scent the inside of your drawers. (The ones in which you park your clothes, not your butt - although the latter presents a simultaneously fascinating and loathsome possibility.) I tried this once, and all I ended up with was a rotten etrog and a lot of wasted cloves. Fail.

There’s also a nifty recipe for etrog-infused vodka floating about. I may try it sometime down the road... because vodka needs help.

Some folks will make marmalade from their etrogim (that’s the Hebrew plural, if you’re curious). But I chose to slice mine up and cook it down in a sugar syrup, much as I would do with a quince.

Etrog slices in syrup. All they need is a maraschino cherry.

These jewel-like babies had a fascinating sweet-sour flavor with a lingering bitter finish. The consensus amongst my taste-testers (thanks Dan and Erica!) was that they were an acquired taste... a polite way of saying “Feh.” But I think they may work well as a cocktail garnish. A sliver of candied etrog on a toothpick would be a fine enhancement for a Negroni!

Postscript: It’s official. I have now created and field-tested the Etrogroni... and it is amazing.


Our kitty is a sculptor,
A most creative beast:
Her new designs are mighty fine
Carved once a day, at least.

She puts them in a little box,
A present for her Dad -
She never, ever buries them,
For that would make her sad.

They’re parked upon a pedestal
Composed of kitty litter:
A veritable Cat-Rodin,
Her works, they almost glitter

Like golden idols, worshiped
By assorted pagan tribes.
They give forth aromatic fumes
Which some have called “good vibes.”

Our kitty’s sculpture garden,
It grows a bit each day.
As long as we keep feeding her,
She’ll ne’er run out of “clay.”

Monday, October 31, 2016


In studying the works of Alexander Hamilton recently, I found the most remarkable document:

It is clear from the above that this particular Founding Father was fully acquainted with the value of the Tapered Doody. I propose, therefore, that the Tapered Doody be given the cognomen “Hamilton.”

A properly executed Hamilton is a rare accomplishment of which one may take considerable pride... which explains my exceptionally happy - dare I say proud? - state of mind today.


October has wound down to its final hours, and in keeping with the American passion for Ridiculous Seasonal Obsessions, it’s time to celebrate Hallowe’en.

I used to love Hallowe’en as a kid. What was not to like? You walked around the neighborhood, collecting sugarrific swag. Then you went home, dumped out the contents of your sack, made a cursory check for hidden razor blades, and ate until you retched. Not to mention those great costumes...

I recall that there was one house at which children were invited inside for hot apple cider and donuts. An elderly couple lived there, a couple who evidently had not gotten the memo. Donuts? Cider? Pfaugh! Where the hell are the Zagnut bars?

Nowadays, anyone who invited kids into their home on Hallowe’en for cider and donuts would most likely be arrested. Or sued. Possibly murdered. Or all three. But as an adult, I miss those simpler times when that kind of hospitality wasn’t flat-out creepy.

Now, I look forward to Hallowe’en like most people look forward to a high colonic. [I mean normal people. I’m aware that there are plenty of people who enjoy that sort of thing. Perverts.] This is mainly because we live in a neighborhood that has plenty of little kids. And that means getting up and answering the Gawd-damned doorbell every 3.2 seconds. Gets in the way of my TV watching and general ass-sitting activities.

OK, some of the little rug-rats are cute, I’ll give ’em that much. But once they’re over (say) six years old, they shouldn’t need prodding as to the Basic Elements of the Ritual:

1. Ring doorbell.
2. Say “Trick or treat!” This part - the Announcement of Purpose - is important. Gratuitous comments about smelling one’s feet and/or giving one something good to eat are permissible but not required.
3. Hold out sack or other container.
4. Receive candy.
5. Say “Thank you.” This part is also important, lest you grow up to be a Big Honkin’ Ass-Hole™.

It ain’t complicated, folks.

Oh, yeah. One other rule at Chez Elisson: Do not ask for UNICEF money. A formerly worthy organization, UNICEF is part and parcel of The International Alliance of Thieving Whores ’n’ Hypocrites the UN, so I no longer give them my money. Ask for UNICEF money and I will tell you to peddle your papers elsewhere, and I may just shove that collection box up your snoot.

And after you turn thirteen, it’s time to knock off the trick-or-treating activities. Hordes of teenagers wandering the ’hood on Hallowe’en night make me a little nervous. That’s because I was once a teenager, and I remember the kind of hell we used to raise. Once your voice changes and you start to grow hair on your face (guys, this means you, too), you can go bag groceries at the local Publix to earn your candy.

With all this said, there’s really only one thing I miss about the H-days of old. Having grown up in the Northeast, I like the fall weather. Cold. Crisp. Leaves turning their fall colors. And Hallowe’en is just not the same down South when it’s like as not over 70 degrees. Here in Georgia, the evenings this time of the year usually are cool, but the blast-furnace summer of 2016 puts me in mind of Houston - Sweat City - our home in the 1990’s, where it conceivably could be over 80 degrees on Hallowe’en. To me, the combination of Hallowe’en and the Texas heat never really worked... and that’s what inspired me to write this poem, which I trot out like clockwork this time of year:
Hallowe’en in Houston
Yes, Climate Does Make a Difference

It’s Hallowe’en in Houston: the sweat is on the pumpkin
And children dress as monsters in the heat.
They stalk the stifling streets and visit every city bumpkin
Ringing doorbells, shouting “Trick or treat!”

The torrid Texas towns are filled with tiny ghouls and ghosts
With Fahrenheit approaching 93 -
They look much less like children, and more like little roasts
Extorting molten Hershey bars from me.

I remember in New England, where the temperatures were frigid,
A chilly Hallowe’en would mark the season.
You’d go collecting candy and come home all icy rigid -
It just ain’t spooky if you aren’t freezin’!
[Adapted from a post originally published in October 2004.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


The blessèd Product of that noble Bean
That waketh me to do my daily Task
Doth so invigorate my feeble Brain
(A Boon exceeding all that one may ask)

It causeth Thoughts to run at rapid Pace,
Removing Dust from Consciousness’s Vault:
A Smile doth appear upon mine Face
I’m ready, now, to face the Day’s Assault.

We must remark upon its other Use
More precious than a Prince’s costly Jewel:
The dark Elixir stimulates one’s Juice,
Thus helping drop the Kids off at the Pool.

Of Benisons this Nectar may accrue,
Thine Counting must include the Number Two!

Friday, October 21, 2016


I’m not sure what made me think of John Jones, AKA J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. But think of him I did as we were dining a few nights ago in the hamlet of Rosendale, New York.

The Martian Manhunter, a Silver Age superhero who made his debut in 1955, was capable of numerous Weird Feats of the sort one would expect from a green-skinned alien humanoid. If my memory serves - no assurance, given that a looooong time has elapsed since I actually read any comics that featured the character - my recollection is that he was telepathic. And able to solve crimes. And green. That’s about it.

Oh, he also had a nifty outfit: tight shorts, boots, cape, and a bizarre set of crossed suspenders. Good Gawd. Given that outfit, his ability to disguise himself as a mid-1950’s Average White Dude should also be counted as one of his superpowers.

J’onn J’onzz begins his crimefighting career on Earth, in Detective Comics (Vol. 1) #225 (1955). [Image credit: iFanboy.]

But here’s the thing that confounds me unto this day: In John Jones/J’onn J’onzz, you had a superhero whose secret identity consisted mainly of spelling his name differently. Switching from normal whitebread orthography John Jones to urban rapper-style J’onn J’onzz was, apparently, all that was necessary for him to reveal his phat Martian Manhunterly skill set.

It baffles science!

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Between the dark and the daylight,
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Facebook Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The soft sound of gentle clicks
On a smartphone or maybe a keyboard,
A cacophony of ticky-ticks.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Ensconced in a sofa or chair,
My children, with raptured attention,
Caressing their iPhones with care.

A grumbling and then a silence:
Thus I know that those merry eyes
Must be focused on some dopey videogame -
Well, color me unsurprised.

The Book now devours our attention
Until we can think of nought else
Than political memes that divide us
Until all Antarctica melts.

Do you think electronic graffiti
Inscribed on a pocket-sized wall,
Will keep us amused more than pills, dope, and booze
As we watch our society fall?

Alas, Facebook will be here forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till our civilization shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

[Apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


A few nights ago, as Dee and I were turning in for the evening, Edith joined us. She nestled in comfortably between us, and allowed us to give her a few skritches and ear rubs.

Edith is a sweet kitty, but she can be a bit “tetchy” - a common character trait of young cats. The slightest unexpected noise can startle her. Just how easy it is to startle her was promptly demonstrated when I released, quite without warning, a dramatic fart. Edith jumped two feet straight up in the air and proceeded to scamper under our bed at lightning speed. (I’ve observed the same result merely from scratching the bedclothes: It isn’t only farts with me, just so you know.)

I saw a similar, if not identical, reaction, from one of my fellow congregants the other day as we socialized prior to commencing our Rosh Hashanah services.

Just to interject a bit of explanation, Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year - is one of those rare days on which even the most casually observant Red Sea Pedestrians will appear in synagogue. There is generally a packed house, and people will show up well prior to the start of services in order to ensure that they get (1) a good seat, and (2) a decent parking space. The first ensures that one may enjoy the proceedings without needing binoculars; the second that one need not walk more than half a mile between car and synagogue. It is a local tradition that these early birds are provided with supplies of coffee and doughnuts, perhaps to help keep them awake through the lengthy sermon. As we drink our coffee, we exchange pleasantries with people who, in many cases, we may not have seen for a year.

Thus it was that, as I prepared to descend upon the coffee-urn, I received a New Year’s greeting from a fellow congregant who was, apparently, both happy and shocked to see me.

It seems that my name is unusually similar to that of a fellow congregant - so much so that we are frequently mistaken for one another by people who do not know us well. And, sad to report, my nomenclatural doppelgänger passed away a couple of weeks ago.

When my fellow congregant had seen the announcement of the death, he called a mutual friend immediately. What happened to Elisson? I never knew he was even sick!

Nope, was the response. That wasn’t Elisson. That was Ellisohn.

But it’s one thing to get reassurance over the phone, and quite another to get visual confirmation... which explains the surprised look I got.

To paraphrase an often misquoted line from Mark Twain, the reports of my death were not so much exaggerated as they were the result of confusion. And I - keyn ayin hara - am still here!

Now: off to go startle the cat. Where da beans at?