Black Friday Frenzy

Tramplings and fist fights and screaming galore
That's Black Friday we've come to adore. 

The Year of the Pop-Up Timer

My dad was not known as a cook. He must have made dinner for himself after my parents divorced, but that’s hard to believe based on the Thanksgivings he put together. He insisted on hosting, and he did his best, but let's just say we didn't go to his place for the food.

Finally, one year he agreed to let me cook. I'd been bragging about my culinary prowess, and he gave in and accepted my claim that I could whip up something more gourmet than what we'd been used to. Now I realize that my baking experience didn't translate into any real dinner-making ability, but at the time I thought I could do it all. How hard could it be?

I'd never made a turkey, so to be safe, I bought one of those with the pop-up timers. All I had to do was check occasionally and when it popped up, we would eat. I put the turkey in the oven while we played Scrabble. After an hour or so I looked into the oven. Nope, not ready. More looking, more not ready, more Scrabble.

After what seemed like twice the length of time it should have taken, I pulled the pan out and examined what was turning into withered jerky. No timer was popped up. It must be defective. What a rip-off! Those Butterball people would be hearing from me!

But wait. When I took the mummified bird out of the pan and flipped it onto a platter, it turned out that I’d had it in there upside down. That poor little timer never stood a chance: it had been pressed into the pan and couldn’t pop up. Who knows how long ago it started to try.

That year, we dined on rolls, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and plenty of pie to the soundtrack of bitching. "Why didn't you put marshmallows in the sweet potatoes?" "I really wanted some turkey." And you’d better believe that, like "The Fruitcake Story," that tale gets re-told more often than it should.

Originally published November 24, 2011

How to Avoid Turkey Disasters

Thanksgiving brings the potential for turkey disasters, not just dry breast meat but call-the-fire-department disasters.

Hellish Holidays Hot Sauce!

From the fiery depths of Thanksgiving comes Hellish Holidays Hot Sauce from Howling Mad. Excellent with turkey.

Buy this seasonal sauce now - supplies are limited!

We Gather Together - With Atheists

One week until Thanksgiving and I thought I would share this. It's from a new musical I'm working on. 

Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, but all the songs are essentially hymns. This one's for the atheists. And because I live in Los Angeles, it's about that too.

We All Arrived Here
(sung to the tune of "We Gather Together")

We all arrived here without any Hosannas
With our basted, test-tasted Thanksgiving fare
The wicked winds blowing, they’re called the Santa Anas
But we are all safe, and with nary a prayer.

Beside us to guide us, was Waze at our service
Through bad LA traffic it found the right way
The SIG alert gridlock, it sure made us nervous
Thanks to Waze, though we’re here drinking good chardonnay

Now all praise the potluck – it’s made without dairy
The gluten-free stuffing is sure to be grand.
A village it takes, not friends imaginary
We all deserve credit, cause nothing was canned.


© 2019 by Laura Foti Cohen

Is Your Family Dysfunctional? A Holiday Quiz

Do you dread holidays? Have to gird yourself to face the relatives? Most likely your anxiety relates to sharing a room with a dysfunctional family. To see where yours falls along the spectrum, take this insightful quiz.


Which of the following describes members of your family? Note: One person can qualify in multiple categories. Step-relatives count! And don’t forget to include yourself!

1. Racists
2. Ageists
3. Prejudiced against a certain religion, ethnicity or sexual identity (extra point for each)
4. Weapon-loving “loners”
5. Woman haters or abusers
6. Man haters or abusers
7. Dog-haters
8. Extreme Dog- and/or Cat-lovers (caring for more than five animals)
9. Suspected pedophiles
10. Registered sex offenders
11. Drug addicts
12. Alcoholics
13. Gambling addicts
14. Sex addicts
15. Food addicts or those whose food issues mar the Thanksgiving experience

Cheesy Knock-Offs:

You say money's tight and you can't go all out this Halloween? Don't cheap out with a cheesy knock-off costume, like a red-and-white striped shirt sold in a package called "Where's the Stripey Dude?"

Way to rip off the Prince estate, Smiffys (if that's really your name...)
Check out other sad and desperate attempts to cash in off of the trademarks of others at Buzzfeed. Oh, and get some ripped fishnets and your mom's bathing suit and go as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Christmas Is Getting Older

Christmas comes faster but means less. The holiday's increasing commercialism is a trope time-tested, measurably accurate and increasingly depressing.

In 2018, retailers jump-started holiday ads in early November. For ye olde brick-and-mortars, it feels like a desperate attempt to convince us they're still viable. Amazon's Hurricane Florence-level flooding of the airwaves has a sadistic air of triumph. 

Charlie Brown is looking like an optimist these days. The message of Christmas has been diluted, perverted, squashed and left for dead by the side of the information superhighway.

Or maybe it's me.

Ugly Undertones to Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Twitter posts call out the nastiness underlying a perennial Christmas animated special; Huffington Post aggregates the observations to create a damning portrait.

And another cherished memory is spoiled. 
Image result for rankin bass rudolph 

This follows the revelation that 1970's Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, also from cheesy animation studio Rankin-Bass, has some negative undertones of its own.

In Sombertown, the evil ruler Burgermeister Meisterburger orders toys burned and children into forced labor. Ho ho ho! Try to sleep well now, woke kiddies.

The House from Hell

For nine years I lived in a freak house. I'm not talking about my family, necessarily, but about the house itself. I lived in one of the most upscale suburbs and school districts in the country--but our house was a falling-down rental at the end of a long, rutted driveway. It wasn't exactly The Glass Castle, more like Grey Gardens without the money.
My brother in our creepy driveway
Today that driveway is a smoothly paved road through a development of multimillion-dollar houses in Westchester County. But in my memory it lives on as a hellish byway of broken asphalt, ancient patch jobs and loose gravel that scared away parents and children, and ruined Halloween (and many an undercarriage).

Holidays in Hell

This site examines holidays as defined in American English: Thanksgiving, Independence Day, etc. But in British English, the word "holiday" means vacation. So, a hellish holiday can mean a really awful vacation - as described in this somewhat horrifying article.

Seriously? Who would choose any of these places over the South of France?

The Phantom Anniversary

This week was and wasn't my thirtieth wedding anniversary. It was, because I got married in 1988. And it wasn't, because we split up 11 years ago. 

I think of this date as my phantom anniversary. Most years it passes with minimal notice - and it's noticed mostly because it's the week of July 4th, so forever wedded in my mind to that holiday. But I took more substantial notice at the 20 mark (we actually had a mediation appointment that day), at 25 and again, this week, at 30. 

I loved my wedding. Heck, I loved my husband. I loved celebrating anniversaries, except toward the end, which should have given me a hint that it was toward the end. Love is something to celebrate, especially when it results in a child I love more than anything.

But a big phantom anniversary is bound to induce some retrospective thoughts. What used to be, what might have been, what went wrong, but also what went right.&

New York, Mon Amour Perdu

My New York was studded with cramped record and bookstores, unique boutiques, grungy abandoned buildings, out-of-the-way clubs. Today, abandoned and out-of-the-way have been taken over and jam packed by chain purveyors of brows, Brazilians and boba. Cupping, computers and craft beers. Smoothies, cycles and cell phones.

None of these retail categories existed when I left New York 30 years ago. Over the decades, my dozens of return visits have presented an ever-growing litany of change. I wasn't surprised when Anthony Dapolito died and his family's Vesuvio Bakery closed, or that CBGBs finally bit the dust. Those and others held out longer than most could have expected.

Less predictable were the hideous sliver buildings that cast creepy shadows and prick the skyline like a ravenous addict's syringes. The Twin Towers - much-derided almost-slivers themselves, have been elevated to a metaphor for a dangerous world where America no longer holds moral or actual authority. Time-Warner Center's replacement of Columbus Circle's admittedly funky convention center. The Trump desecration of the Upper West Side.

Halloween Date From Hell

It just seems wrong to complain about a Hellish Halloween. After all, isn't that the whole point? Yes, there are parades and parties and dressing up. But the holiday's very nature is to be creepy. It's about scaring small children, TPing and egging, eating too much candy, getting separated from your hard-to-recognize friends...there are so many ways this gruesome holiday can go bad. Here's one you may not have thought of before.

One October in my twenties I was single and going through a dry spell. OK, large chunks of my twenties were dry, but that's another (hellish) story. I went out to dinner with a couple of girlfriends, and one of them brought her brother, Andrew. Andrew was, like me, a writer, but unlike me he actually had published several books.

Andrew and I hit it off. Sure, he was short, pudgy and bald, but at least he was funny. Ask my friend Peter--my main dating credo is "As long as he's funny." I believe the way he put it was, "Well, no one could accuse you of having a physical 'type.'" Frankly, Peter was always unable to differentiate between laughing with my dates and laughing at them. But I digress.

Christmas Is Always Coming

No, you're not imagining things. Christmas consumerism comes earlier every year. And this year may set the record: Dollar Tree has just released its 2017 "Holiday Book."