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Category: You’re not gonna believe this but….

My Dinner at Virgilio’s

I’ve had some interesting dates in my life, but none was as scary and weirdly funny as my dinner at a place called Virgilio’s in Philadelphia. It was owned by a mobster named Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa, who was immortalized in a Bruce Springsteen song.

Virgilio’s was a small Italian restaurant tucked away on a small side street in the city. The guy I was dating was not Italian, and he was totally fascinated with the Mafia. Yep, lucky me. It was the kind of place where you were asked to check your guns at the door by the two behemoths who let you in.

So we get seated in the middle of the room. Now, if you don’t know anything about the Mob, sitting in the middle of the room is the LAST place you want to sit. You want a table by the wall, and every man in the place was facing the door. You see where I’m going with this?
Our lovely waitress, Nancy, comes by to take our order. Date was so thrilled, he ordered a bottle of champagne. As the cork is being removed, it popped with such force, it made a loud noise – I mean LOUD.
Men dove under tables, behemoths came charging in, guns drawn, and out of the back room comes Chicken Man himself, with what looked like a Thompson submachine gun. I froze, Nancy burst into tears, and Date looked like he was enjoying this a little too much.
“What the fuck is going on?” Chicken Man bellows. Nancy tearfully holds up the bottle of champagne. “I’m sorry, Mr. Testa. It just exploded.” He looked, nodded, and returned to his meeting in the back.

Have I mentioned at this point I’ve lost my appetite and couldn’t wait to get out of there? But nooooo….Date was grinning from ear to ear, like the kid who got the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka.
Men climb out from under tables, tuck their napkins back in, and go back to their meals, while the wives looked on nonplussed. Was I the only person in this place who just about wet her pants?

Needless to say, it was the last time I went out with him….and two weeks later, Chicken Man was blown up by a bomb placed in his front door.

Please Don’t Sit On The Body Bags

Looking back on it, I’ve had an interesting job history. Ad agencies, clothing manufacturers, hospital, hair salons, marketing firms…and that’s not counting the jobs when I was in high school and college. Today, I’ll revisit The Hospital. (disclosure: it’s no longer in existence)

The Hospital was an inner-city hospital that after two weeks of working there, I made all those near and dear to me promise not to take me there unless I was already dead. It wasn’t the greatest job, but it was a paycheck. I worked in Corporate Purchasing, which meant I was responsible for procuring everything from radioactive isotopes for the Nuclear Medicine Department to rental cars for executives. Every purchase order had to be signed by the head of the department requesting the purchase, so this entailed a lot of running around. Including the Morgue.

Now I’m not a squeamish kind of person (except for eyes, but that’s another story) so I had no problem going to the lower level of the hospital to find Dr. Jones and have him sign off; and occasionally I had to hunt him down. I mean, the man needed his bone blades, right?

One day being in a hurry, I banged on the door where the autopsies took place and upon hearing a bellowed, “Come in!” I went in….to a man on the table, flayed open like a butterflied shrimp. Three medical students were there, and by the looks of things, one was either going to pass out or puke, whichever came first.

Me: “Dr. Jones, I need you to sign these PO’s if you want your supplies by Monday.”
Him: “Come here. Do you have a pen?”
Now I know this breaks about 87 laws, but it was in the days before HIPA, and I couldn’t see the guy’s face anyway, because his scalp had been cut and pulled down over it. Lucky, right?
At this point, one of the medical students starts doing the pass-out weave, and I shoved a chair under his ass so he wouldn’t hit the floor.
Bloody gloves were snapped off, papers signed, and I went on my merry way.
The following week the head of HR asked to see me. I didn’t think I was in trouble, but with me, who knows? Turns out that Dr. Jones was impressed by my lack of squeamishness; to the point that he put in a request to see if I wanted to work in the Morgue.

It’s nice to be wanted, but I declined.
Work with those stiffs?
Hell no.

A Mother’s Love

On #2 son’s 15th birthday I was working 60+ hours a week and had no time to bake, so I went to the grocery store and bought a nice sheet cake with no sentiment.  I thought I’d just get one of those funky cake decorating thingies in a can and write Happy Birthday on it.

The temptation was too great. I just couldn’t help myself. I tried to hold myself back, but somehow just having Happy Birthday on that beautiful cake wasn’t enough.

Once the candles were in place and lighted, I presented the cake to him. His face was all aglow in anticipation of his annual chocolate cake with the sickeningly sweet icing. Just imagine the expression he wore when he saw “Bon Voyage from Ray & Jolene.”

I explained to him that it was the only cake left in the bakery department, and that I’d got it at a bargain. He quickly pointed out to me that this was far worse than his 5th birthday, when I’d used candles that wouldn’t blow out.

Now he’s 37, and for his last birthday I baked his usual chocolate cake; with the loving hands of a Mother.

The sentiment? “Your Daddy’s Really The UPS Guy”.

Beer and A Bonfire

We were much younger, and poor as church mice; so any invite we got for free food and beer was always met with much glee and gratitude.
Some long-time good friends invited us over for a kegger and burgers. It was a starry full-mooned October night; we were hungry and had maybe five bucks between us, so burgers and beer sounded like a banquet to us.
Off we went then…

When we arrived, the party was in full swing, we were handed red Solo cups brimming with some cheap-ass beer; that at the time, tasted like manna.
We milled around with a bunch of our friends from room to room; because that’s how it was back then… a different party in every room.

For October, it was still a warmish night, but there was the obligatory huge bonfire out back. After having shared my first and only hit of blotter acid in my life with the huzbund, we adjourned to the back yard; where I sat down on a log near the fire.
I’m basking in the warmth, marveling over the full moon that was rippling 62 ways from Sunday, when WHOOOOOOSH!  A blast of hot air knocked me backward; flat on my back, and I never felt a thing. Next thing I know, people are helping me to my feet, carrying me to the bathroom; inspecting me from head to toe. I had no idea what the hell was happening, and I’m yelling at them, “I’m fine… I’m fine!”
“ you don’t look fine,” they chimed in unison. That was when someone faced me toward the mirror over the sink.
I had no eyebrows, my hair was singed, and the only place on my face that wasn’t black was behind my glasses. I looked like a raccoon from the pits of Hell.

Upon further investigation by some of the more pissed off members of that particular soiree’, it was revealed some rocket scientist had tossed a full can of beer into the fire.

Trust me.. they never let me forget years later…. “Hey! Remember the night Sparky got blowed up?”

Bra Shopping Madness


We’ve covered such random subjects, like putting on Spanx and the trials of bathing suit shopping…so let’s cut to the chase and get to the one that every woman experiences: bra shopping. Now some women are lucky, nay, BLESSED enough to go to a rack, grab one in their size and go on their merry way. For others, it’s more complicated….much more complicated.

There are tee shirt bras, sports bras, push up bras, minimizer bras, plain ones, embellished ones, 2 hook vs 3 hooks, foam/lace/soft cups…it’s enough to make you sit on the floor and decide to go back to undershirts (now called camisoles.)

Enter The Fitter. A bra fitter is an employee of the store who has received her degree in boobology; that’s to say she can take one look at you and immediately know what size you are without measuring. She’s part witch, part lecturer, as she will scold you for wearing the wrong bra size!
What?! I’ve always worn a 34B. “You should be wearing a 36B, that’s why they hurt!” (and you just know she’s mentally saying “stupid cow.”)
The Fitter returns with an armload of bras for you to try on. Dear Lord, I just need a nude color bra for every day wear.
Next, you are told HOW to put a bra on…seriously. You are supposed to lean over slightly so your breasts “settle” into the cups, then once in place, you gently “adjust.”
After you find one and learn how to lean and place, you look at the price tag….and hit the floor again. Sixty-five dollars??? For my boobs???
Now this sounds all fine and good, but when you’re racing around in the morning, making coffee; feeding children, husbands, pets; making lunches; getting dressed, applying makeup, etc., having time to let your boobs fall into place isn’t something many women have time for.
More proof that God is male.

And Now, A Word About Bar Fights

At least once in their life, everyone has been involved in a bar brawl…even if all you did was duck to avoid a flying beer bottle. You haven’t lived unless you’ve been witness (or an active participant) in a bar fight. It’s a rite of passage that should be done in your 20s, not your 40s or 50s, and should bring a faint smile to your face when you think about it years later.
My bar brawl took place when I was 26. I was a regular at a Philadelphia bar called Chaucers, a fine literary name for a fine dive bar…it was my Cheers. It was the kind of place you could lay a $20 on the bar, drink all night, and leave the bartender a $20 tip…basically, I drank for free many a night, but I gave great tips to the guys.
Anyway, somehow Chaucers became the bar of choice for visiting foreign sailors or merchant marines. They came in, played shuffleboard, and drank like, well, sailors. Never had a problem.
Until one night…when Jimmy Kealing, a wee fella, picked a fight with the wrong Hungarian sailor. I watched in horror as a small tornado of bodies, beer mugs, bottles, plates of food came rolling in slow motion towards me. I felt myself get picked up and thrown behind the bar to get out of the way of the mayhem and looked up to see Jimmy getting the ever-lovin’ snot beat out of him.
So I did what any good Philadelphia girl would do – I picked up a beer bottle and broke it over the head of the Hungarian sailor…yes, there was blood. Lots of it.
Everything stopped…my heart was pounding and I suddenly realized what I had done just as the police arrived. I got hauled off for questioning, along with a number of others.
After sitting around for a few hours, I was released, as it was determined I acted in self defense. Also the fact that I knew most of the police officers was helpful, just sayin’..
I left the station and returned to the scene of the crime, watched the staff pick food off the walls and ceiling, and had a drink…what, you thought I was going to go home?
**Leave your bar fight story in the comments section, because I KNOW I’m not the only one!!