Festivus for the Rest of Us


by Karen Topakian

Festivus, a secular holiday celebration that exploded after its introduction in a 1996 Seinfeld episode, includes airing grievances and performing feats of strength. For the past several years, Peg and I have celebrated this event in Belmont, MA with her lefty college friends and their teen-age and adult children. This year, some participants responded to “What’s your grievance?” by uttering only one-word while others posed a question. Here are the highlights:

Trump and the Election

Bernie or Bust people – Fuck You

110,000 people voted for Harambe, the dead gorilla, for president (PunditFact says this claim is a hoax)

Why is the voting age 18? (A college junior questioned whether his peers would know enough make the right choice.).


The Media

TV ads for pharmaceuticals (I’d rather take my chances on the disease than the medications’ side effects.)

Realistic video games. I don’t want my video games to look realistic.

Emotional tearjerker commercials. It’s just fucking shampoo.


 Parking and Traffic

Uber drivers. They drop people off where ever they want.

Boston drivers (do you really need an explanation?)

Self-driving cars

Road rage

Pedestrians surging into traffic

A lack of consistent placement of bike lanes

Belmont, MA roads. Requires the patience of a saint.

The Wilson Farm parking lot traffic pattern. It’s one way for a reason!


Tennis is boring when Serena doesn’t play

Football games are boring

The Cleveland Browns – ugh

Philadelphia sports fans: drunk, sad, angry


Why does every kitchen appliance beep whenever it completes a task? What am I supposed to do, applaud?

My dishwasher treats me like a moron

My new phone doesn’t know my swear words

Google is run by an evil genius


I HATE HAMILTON!!!!!!! (A high school junior rap fan resents the false belief that the musical invented the genre)

Private colleges are a rip-off (said by a private college student)

Pharmacies should designate a colonoscopy preparation aisle that includes Jello, clear liquids and citric acid. Like the wound and incontinence aisle.

Small pockets on women’s clothes

Lifesavers – why are they so hard to find?





Ask a stranger

by Karen Topakian According to a study about the usage of holiday gifts, by Jeffrey Vietri, instructor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa, a stranger is a better predictor of our usage than we are.

This soon to be released behavioral study, “Actor-Observer Differences in Frequency-of-Use Estimates: Sometimes Strangers Know Us Better Than Ourselves,” demonstrates that we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.

“People make optimistic predictions about themselves,” he says. “They expect relationships to last longer, tasks to take less time and things to turn out generally better than they will.” And when they ask for a waffle-maker for Christmas, they think, “I’ll use this all the time!”

Vietri’s 164-person study determined that an informed stranger, one who didn’t know the participant personally, but who is told how often the participant predicts they will use a much-desired Christmas gift assessed the participant’s actual usage with greater reliability than the participant’s own prediction.

Before you send your Christmas list to Santa, ask a stranger to review it to see if you really will use that ovulation cell phone as often as you think or wear that those squirrel foot earrings as often as you promised.

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift, almost

by Karen Topakian


I found the perfect Father’s Day gift,images months before the big day. This never happens.


The gift is a book titled, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. My father’s name is written all over it. He never met a good joke he didn’t like to tell and re-tell. And he told them well.


Many a time I would pick up the phone and hear his voice from 3,000 miles away say, “A rabbi and a priest walk into a bar…” I would say Hi Dad. And he would keep going. Hitting the punch line perfectly. We would both laugh. Long and hard. Then he would say, “That’s all. How’s everything? I think your mother wants to talk to you.”


I had struck gold with this present idea. Except for one small hitch – my father died seven years ago.


This isn’t the first time I’ve come up with a brilliant gift idea for my dad since he passed away. One Christmas, I discovered a compilation CD of oud music played by some of the world’s best musicians. He learned to play this fretless Middle Eastern stringed instrument when I was in high school. While my sister and I toiled at our desks conjugating French verbs and proving geometric theories, he sat in the living room “serenading” us. Listening and playing the oud brought him great pleasure and opened my ears to a musical genre other than rock n’roll.


So I bought the CD for myself. Play it on occasion. Think of him and cry.


I bought the book, too. When I read it I thought of him and laughed. Long and hard.