MAJOR ASHPOLE                                    


   When I wear neckties, it makes me feel like there’s a gallows somewhere with my name on it. 

   I’ve been wearing them for half a century and I still can’t stop twisting my neck back and forth as soon as I tie one in place.

   That’s different from tying one on, which I really don’t do any more.  I have a martini or two before dinner and a touch of single malt after dinner if I eat a sweet or two like a hot fudge-butterscotch-praline sundae, just to cut the sugar and ward off chocolate-induced canker sores. 

   But I haven’t had a hangover in decades and, generally speaking, I try to avoid anything associated with hanging.

   I won’t even play “hangman” unless there’s a well defined appeals process.

   Neckties have always been a silly affectation, and they’re even sillier when women wear them. 

   It’s not quite penis envy but it’s not exactly “I enjoy being a girl,” either.

   Girls at the malt shop used to wear scarves around their necks and they looked great eating banana splits (with no little abandon).

   I love banana splits and I always end up wearing them on my tie, which makes me wonder why I ever wear a tie when I eat.

   There’s a magnetic attraction between food and neckties and no physicist worth his slide rule--remember slide rules?--will deny it.

   If you wrap wire around an iron coil and run electricity through it, it creates a strong magnetic field.

   If you wrap a necktie around a banana and two scoops of ice cream, pour chocolate syrup over it and preserve it in a red freezer with glass windows on four sides, you can sell it to MoMA as an installation and retire from the proceeds.

   We tend to trust someone who’s wearing a tie, as if you need to be honest and smart to wear one.

   Politicians wear ties and they lie all the time.

   My father never wore a tie and I always trusted him.

   My mother said you could always trust my father to do something stupid at the worst possible moment, but I think that’s a different kind of trust.

   Some people wear bow ties, and a lot of those people buy the ones that are already tied for you.

   That’s like buying a cake at the store and telling your guests you baked it yourself, or taking Viagra before having sex with your secretary and telling her that she arouses you like no other woman.

   If you can’t tie it, don’t wear it. 

   If you don’t really intend to marry your secretary, keep your Viagra at home and think of the money you’ll save at the prescription counter, not to mention court costs and alimony.

   When I was in grade school and high school all of the male teachers wore ties.

   Today, teachers wear pretty much anything, and I don’t think the kids learn any less than they used to.

   I don’t think it’s possible to learn any less than I learned in school.

   I wasn’t expected to learn much beyond the three R’s, and I fully lived up to expectations.

   My Aunt Lilly used to say “expectation is the mother of disappointment.”

   People who set their sites low generally achieve at a higher level than they expect, and then they’re happy.

   Aunt Lilly expected her husband to be faithful and she was disappointed. 

   Imagine his disappointment when his secretary announced that she was a mother-to-be, and that she really hadn’t been on the pill after all.

   Students are expected to learn all kinds of things in school today, and I think that’s as it should be.

   But the added expense for all of the extra teachers and computers and science equipment that’s required makes it harder to pass school budgets.

   The old folks say it’s all unnecessary, that they didn’t have all of that in school and they did fine.

   They didn’t have Chinese and Indian and Japanese and other highly educated kids all over the globe to compete with, and by “fine” they mean they’ve been retired since the age of 65 and living on pensions that don’t meet their expectations.

   If the teachers and kids all wore neckties to school, the budgets would pass all the time, because the old farts who always come out to vote “no” would think that everything was just okey-dokey as long as all the men and boys were wearing those silly ties.

   Back in the days of gallows, no one got to vote on their local school budget, no one wore ties, and no one had to strain their necks to get comfortable unless they were playing “hangman” with a real one.

   I’m tempted to call those “the good old days” but there can’t be much good in any era that didn’t have banana splits (and teenage girls in scarves eating them with abandon) although any era that lets a man keep his collar unbuttoned can’t be all bad.


Dear Major Ashpole,

   I often wear a scarf when I eat a banana split, and I don’t see what the big deal is.

Sir Elton John

CEO, Gay Mafia

Dear Major Ashpole,

   In answer to your question: I don’t remember slide rules.

   In fact, other than only one person at a time climbing the stairs for a slide, I didn’t know there were any rules.  I thought you just slid down and waited in line for your next turn.

   I think people make too much about memory these days anyway.

Sen. John McCain (R, Arizona, best as I can recollect)

Dear Major Ashpole,

   When I put Annie Hall in a necktie it had nothing to do with penis envy, it was just a way to dress a character to emphasize her unique outlook and quirkiness.

   I have penis envy because mine seems to have a much better time than I do, but I don’t wear neckties, either.

Woody Allen

On Location, Always

Dear Major Ashpole,

   I say “vote no to school taxes.”

Martin Vebler

Lake Ubercrank, Georgia

Dear Martin,

   Perhaps you should direct more of your attention to all of the taxes you don’t get to vote on, instead of focusing only on the one tax you do get to vote on.

   When was the last time you actually wrote to a town, county, state or federal official about your taxes?

   I’ll tell you when: never. 

   Speaking of never: never write to me again.

   By the way: Do you like paved roads?  Because if your town taxes were the same as they were 30 years ago, you’d be driving on dirt. 

   Or maybe you still are.

Dear Nephew,

   I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t use my failed marriage as an easy illustration for your columns.

   Although, as long as you raised the subject, alimony is indeed a real drag on a divorced man’s finances, and I suggest to any married man reading this letter that whether or not he wears a tie, he really oughta keep his pants on at the workplace.

Aunt Lilly

Majorca, Spain

Southampton, NY

Palm Beach, FL


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