Two days ago, my wife and I found a woman’s purse left behind in a Yellow Cab. I wanted to turn it over to the driver, but the wife didn’t think that cab drivers were trustworthy. We decided to take it home, try to locate the owner and mail it to her.

It was a small change purse with lots of cards and penciled notes, but very little in cash––less than $30.00. [The money is still there. I never steal anything less than a million.] There were, however two Barclays Bank Visa cards and another Visa card from an English company called Egg. Unfortunately, while the owner’s name was on the credit cards, nowhere in the purse could we find her address or telephone number. The purse indicated that its owner was English, since all the credit cards and addresses (other than hers) were from the London area. However a New York City Metro Card seemed to indicate that the owner was either a tourist of temporarily living in New York.

This was the start of a senseless, time consuming, highly frustrating Good Samaritan journey. I started with the Metro Card. It had an identification number on the back, as well as a Customer Service phone number. I thought that the number might possibly lead to an address or phone number of the purchaser, since many card buyers use credit cards to make purchases using card renewal machines in subway stations. Bad thinking. After waiting nearly twenty minutes on the phone before reaching an agent, I was informed that the MTA only keeps records of discounted cards purchased by senior citizens. I then phoned the Lost and Found department of the Taxi and Limousine service, hoping that the purse owner had phoned them to report her loss. She hadn’t.

Next try: Barclays Bank in London. [Fortunately, I use a phone service which doesn’t charge extra for England and a few other European countries.] This should have been duck soup. The cards had the cardholder’s name, the card number and a contact phone number for Barclays. Boy was I naive. It took even longer to speak to an Agent than it had with the Metro Card. When I finally found a real live voice, I was told that the lady had already canceled the cards, so I should destroy them. “Fine,” I told the voice at the other end. “Now, can you give me her address or phone number, since I wish to mail her the purse?” Hesitation at the other end. “Sir, we do not give out that information.” I explained that I understood the policy. “In that case, would you please phone her, explain the situation and have her phone me?” I then left my phone number. To no avail. “Sorry, Sir, but we can’t do that.” Ah, the perils of excessive security!

I argued. After all, she was a client or customer of theirs. Losing credit cards, cash and other papers is a deeply troubling experience. [It had once happened to me, and I would have blessed any one who took the time and trouble to return my property] .It was like talking to a wall. I finally elicited a supposedly pertinent reason. The Agent I was talking to was in India. He suggested that I might take the purse to a local Barclays Bank Ah, the perils of outsourcing! By the way, I tried to locate a commercial Barclays Bank in New York with no success. Incidentally a similar phone call to the Egg Visa card people resulted in the same merry-go round.

What next? There were several slips with names and London phone numbers. I tried four of these. Three numbers were no longer in use. The fourth rang and rang and rang. I later found that this was a shop which was closed on Sunday. On Monday, I reached the shop, but the party whose name I had would not be back until the following day. I shall try again. Several of the calling cards in the purse were for shops or services. I have just sent out five E-mails, and I hope that at least one recognizes the name of my purse owner and has her address or phone number in their files. Believe me, I won’t be surprised if they refuse to give me the information FOR SECURITY REASONS.

I wasted well over half a day of frustration trying to be a responsible citizen. I still have the purse, and I’m angry at my wife She should have let me turn it over to our taxi driver. No good deed goes unpunished.

P.S. If JLH, the owner of the lost purse, reads this, please E-mail me at
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I have long been intrigued by our attitudes towards “dirty words,” For starters, I am not quite sure what makes a word “dirty.” Why is it socially acceptable to speak of one’s behind,buttocks, derriere or gluteus maximus, but to hesitate to refer to one’s ass. I know, I know. Ass has found acceptable use in recent years, but was taboo not so long ago.

Some time ago, I was interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC radio. Since I was discussing a book of mine on the subject of words, I asked what terms would be taboo during our conversation The answer amuses me and annoys me to this day. I could say “ass,” for example, but “ass h*le” was forbidden. Fortunately, the word “Damn!” has recently come out of the closet. One no longer has to say, “Darn.”

When dealing with politically incorrect words, the use of the symbols (*), (_) or (-) instead of vowels is a silly deception. Everyone knows what the disguised word means. For those who feel that this device protects children, you are being naive. Almost every child over five who hasbeen exposed to movies and TV knows these forbidden words and recognizes them immediately

What the heck (h*ll) is going on here? What kind of blue-nosed bowdlerizers are servingas our word police? Don’t they know that all of us, kids included, have had contact with numerous”ass h*les” and know what the word means? Why must we be limited to synonyms such as idiot or incompetent? (Is schmuck allowed?) Just because one replaces a vowel with an asterisk, breve or dash does not make the word less understandable.

These ramblings set me off in search or other words and phrases which have been sanitized by word police. It’s O.K. to say. “Oh shoot!” but not “Oh sh*t.” Someone recently wrote a best- selling book entitled . “Bullsh*t.” He spelled the word out in the title but,when reviewed on the air, all they could say was, “Bull.” This for a book fully exposed in any popular bookstore. Of course, one could say “B.S.” a favorite term of Chris Mathews. The same rule goes for ”horsesh*t.” “Horsepucky” is apparently allowed, since few recognize the term. “Chickensh*t” provides a great example of the restrictions these stupid rules put on our language. The dictionary meaning is “dictatorial insistence on rules, details and discipline.” So, we must now voice this mouthful, when the terse, distinct term “chickensh*t” says it all.

While still on the subject of bodily functions, “pee” is now in, but “p*ss” is out. This P*sses me off (makes me furious), since it deprives me of the use of vivid expressions such as p*ss poor (extremely poor); full of p*ss and vinegar (very lively or vivacious); or not having a pot to piss in (dirt poor). “Fart” has recently gained acceptance, probably because, when used as a noun, there is really no polite alternative. Even as a verb, “to pass gas” is weak-kneed

“C*nt” and pr*ck” are of course totally taboo. This presents obvious problems.Describing body parts, one can always say”vagina” or “penis.” Even those two words were taboo in polite conversation for many years. Moreover, if you want to use these terms as derogatorypejoratives, calling a woman ” a filthy vagina” or a man ” a stupid penis’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

There are hundreds of other highly descriptive , pithy terms in the English language. —terms which add vitality and spirit to both conversation and writing — which you will not see in our newspapers or hear on prime time TV or radio, strictly because some assh*le finds them offensive.

If we can’t say sh*t,, circumlocutions are required for such pungent and highly descriptive termsbrains (stupid idiot); sh*tfaced (drunk)); sh*tlist (people one strongly disapproves of); in deep sh*t (in real trouble); etc. Our former President, George H.W. Bush frequently used “in deep doodoo”; everyone of course knew that he meant in deep sh*t.

The list goes on: the sh*t hit the fan (something catastrophic happened); sh*t or get off the pot (do something about it or forget it); to get one’s sh*t together (to get organized); to sh*t bricks (to becomeextremely worried or frightened); happy as a pig in sh*t (self explanatory); a crock of sh*t (a bunch of lies or nonsense); etc. All os these are in common use and can be found in any decent dictionary.

Even more restricted are terms dealing with sexual intercourse . You can use a scientific substitute such as copulate, a prissy expression like make love, or a silly euphemism such as frig or flog. But, don’t you dare say f*ck. This of course forbids the use of all f*cked up (completely confused and in trouble); what the f*ck!? (what the Hell is going on?); I’m f*cked (I’m completely undone); f*ck face (derogatory term for someone totally disgusting); f*ck’n job (it stinks, but I cannot afford to quit); f*ck up ((an incompetent bungler); f*ck over (to treat unfairly or take advantage of); take a flying*f_ck (get the Hell out of here).,… Need I go on?

All these colorful expressions — and many more — tossed into the dustbin for no damnedgood reason.Come to think of it, my Mom and Pop would probably never have even spelled these terms.

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In a fit of megalomania, I strongly recommend to you my personal ten commandments, an 87 year successful formula for living the good life. [And boy, have I done just that.]

 1. Laugh at least once every hour (preferably every ten minutes ifpossible).

 2. Eat and drink very well. When possible, be a gourmet: at other    times, a gourmand.

 3. Read at least a book a week (or equivalent magazine or newspaper    coverage).

 4. Make love at least once a week (if possible). [Oh, where are the    snows of yesteryear?]

 5. Express your opinions vociferously.

 6. Make sure those opinions are based on at least a modicum of    knowledge and a plethora of logic.

 7. Don’t try to force others to live your way (except your spouse and    children, who won’t listen anyway). In other words, mind your own   business.

 8. Work hard, but avoid physical exercise.

 9. Travel extensively, so as to broaden your outlook.

 10. Rarely (if ever) vote Republican.

       By sticking to these rules, the Curmudgeon has led a

life which, 100 years ago, a king would have envied.


The Islamic mosque to be located two blocks from Ground Zero has been much in the news during the last couple of weeks. While our Constitution guarantees the right to practice one’s religion (which unquestionably must include the right to decide where my church, synagogue or mosque is located), strident voices have been raised all over the Country claiming that a mosque so close to Hallowed Ground is insensitive to the feelings of those who lost family or loved ones on 9/11. 

One should of course be sensitive to the feelings of our fellow human beings but, in a diverse Democracy such as ours, with millions pf people whose feelings are easily bruised, too much empathy can lead to censorship and  other undesirable “democratic” practices. A typical example is book banning in the libraries and in our English classes in many  public schools all over the country  because of sensitivity, not necessarily to the majority, but to a minority who complain.

A recent article in the AARP Bulletin highlights this practice. Over 50 banned books are listed, though there are undoubtedly many more. Included in this list are Classics, some of our most famous and popular books, books valuable to the education of our children but banned because something in them offends a number of bluenoses.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Doctor Zhivago; For Whom the Bell Tolls and 1984 are excluded because some people consider them “Too political.” Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is banned as “Irreligious.” Apparently, it is dangerous to expose our children to real science, such as evolutionary theory. For the same reason, the Harry Potter series is eliminated on the claim that it encourages “Witchcraft.” This, in the 21st Century!

Banned as being “Too sexual” are Ulysses  Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; Jaws; and Peyton Place. And then there is the catch all category “ Socially Offensive.” Believe it or not, this list includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was unquestionably a ladies’ man, and had the nerve to write about it. The Diary of Anne Frank; ; Catch-22; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Brave New World are unavailable under this category.  And, oh yes, so is Gone with the Wind. Ridiculous, isn’t it? What are our children supposed to read, Little Red Riding Hood?

Res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself.  Oversensitivity to people’s sensitivity can lead to dangerous and self-defeating results.

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Dear Blog readers.
I owe you all an apology. New blogs should be written at least two or three times a week, and I have been sadly negligent. What’s more, this is not the first time I have failed you, I promised to write more regularly, and failed again.

I shall try to do better –º–– beginning immediately.

The Affable Curmudgeon

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