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Dear Madrone,

The nutjob who lives upstairs is out of her frigging gourd, excuse my French. All she wants to do is play the bongos, and that she does all hours of the night.

I call the police but she insists it's me that's making the noise, not her and since her brother in law is on the job, this sticks. To make matters worse, my past record with my town's finest, well, is not really the most stellar, even though it does not by any means include disturbing the peace with any type of musical instrument whatsoever. This leaves me up, as they say, the creek, no paddles of any sort remotely in view. I am beginning to get very cranky due to lack of sleep and cranky is not good, where I am concerned. Can you give me any advice that will not result in me doing something that every one will be sorry for?

Sleepless in Battle Creek

Dear Sleepless,

This comes up all the time. Not about the bongos, that's definitely looney tunes, but about what to do when someone unrelated pins you with their family muscle. Here are your choices


  • Ignore
  • Negotiate
  • Retaliate

But Madrone, you whine, how do I know what to pick? Stop with the pig lips, it makes me want to pound a bongo or two myself . Instead, ask yourself:

Does this person have what you want?

If no ignore, end of story but in this case, it's yes, she has your good night's sleep. So story continues

Is this a battle you can win?

If no, you must also ignore, and live with your crankiness. Unless of course this is a ditch in which you wish to die. In that case proceed to yes.

If yes, invite her to coffee and explain in a nice voice that this is not going to do and if that doesn't work, take a hammer from your purse and smash her bongos to kingdom come. Twice. God bless, Donna

PS I know what your next question is. You are already asking yourself, how do I know if I can win this battle? You're a wuss, otherwise you would already have taken care of this, I don't know if it's worth it, but here goes, since you're not the only one who needs to have these things spelled out.

Dear Madrone,

How do I know if I can win this battle?

Amazed by your wisdom, Battle Creek

Dear Amazed,

Decide: Can your family take hers in a street fight? Numbers and physical strength are important of course, but smarts, mental toughness and no scruples about brandishing the jagged edge of a bottle of Bolla Valpolicello counts for a lot. Connections don't mean anything when you are looking someone in the eye and they see that their Uncle Vincent from Homicide is not going to get there fast enough to prevent serious brain damage. 99 times out of a hundred, you never have to fight, it's clear who will win, and who will have to be scraped off the sidewalk. God bless, Donna

Dear Madrone,

What about the other time?

Dubious, Battle Creek

Dear Dub,

You have to ask? In this case, I recommend my cousin Cookie who is in real estate down your way. Or if you are not interested in moving, request some Babalu. That Desi was a real dreamboat, he treated that Lucy like a princess. He is no Perry, I realize, but then who is?



Pamela Bongiorno Monk is a full time faculty member of Penn State University, where she teaches creative writing, both fiction and non fiction. She pursues freelance writing, authoring plays and feature articles. She has broken nearly as many rules of family as she has enforced.

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