Tomato Sauce For Your Ass

This essay was originally published on August 4, 2010. 

I am embarrassed to say I actually own a copy of the above book. I think I purchased it when I was about to finish my undergraduate degree, or right before I started graduate school. I can’t remember. That just goes to show you how important a volume it is in my collection. I pitched lots of books in the moves I’ve made over the past couple of years, and somehow, this one survived. It’s a wonder it didn’t wind up in the Goodwill store, but I’ll just chalk it up to being one of those random mysteries of life. Like how my Uncle Matt’s Brooklyn bookmark has been with me for about 8 years now. It’s the only bookmark I use.


 As for the title of today’s post, please don’t be offended by my use of the word “ass”. It has a most distinguished pedigree in this context, and I’ll get to that later on.

Knowledge is important to me. It is an essential tool in the battle against ignorance, as is having an open mind and an empathetic heart. I came to my acquisition of serious knowledge a bit late in life; I went back to school at 32, and got my Masters degree at 40. I know this is far from extraordinary, but I acquired my knowledge during extraordinary times. I wasn’t exactly a model student in my younger days, and last week, I confessed how important the acquisition of money was, back in the Halcyon Days of my late teens/early 20s. I was merely responding to the times I lived in, and in the late 80s, “greed [was] good”, remember?

 Now, as I try to make my way in the world plying my talent as a writer, I feel so much better about myself than I did when I was a nondescript office worker, with my own ass spreading rapidly on a less than ergonomically correct chair. If I may place my revisionist historian hat atop my head once again, I will say I hated every minute of my time in the corporate world. I wasn’t ever cut out for that station in life. I disliked my superiors, my co-workers, and especially a select group of individuals who thought they had all the answers, while the rest of us were no more than nameless, faceless automatons who were nothing except a financial, but necessary, burden. That sounds harsh, but – boil it down – things haven’t gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. The Corporate American Kool Aid you must now drink tastes even more vile than it did when I landed in the workplace, a little over 20 years ago. Now, you work even harder, you get even less, and all you can do is bitch a hell of a lot more.


What I am trying to to with my life is not easy. However, it is honest. I don’t profess to being the best writer in the world; in fact, I know I’m far from it. I do think I have a pleasing style that’s straightforward and easy on the eyes. You’ll never go running for the dictionary when you read something I write, nor will you always like everything I have to say. What I’ve learned is, “subjective” makes the world go round. You’ll never get everyone to agree, simultaneously, that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and that you miraculously have more insight and talent than the editorial staff at the New Yorker. It’s OK to have lofty aspirations, but you need to remain realistic as well. I may not ever be published beyond the garden variety home services or pharmaceutical products web site, but you know what? I’m fine with that. When I go online and look at what I’ve done, I’m proud if it. If my writing prompts one person to call and schedule an appointment for air duct cleaning, or to buy the particular brand of hemorrhoid cream I wrote about, then my job is done. Task accomplished. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of The New York Times bestseller list, but honestly, I’d prefer to be a New York Times “Notable Book”. Those usually kick ass. I like to think of myself as a “Trade” paperback, rather than “Mass Market”. Much as I love chicken soup, it warms my tummy; it doesn’t “feed” my soul.

Now for an explanation of my title: In Season 1 of The Sopranos, Tony’s “goomah” or “goomar” (could a “Cujjin” or a “Guido” please step forward to help me out with that one?), Irina, reads a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul while they are in bed together. He tells her she should read “Tomato Sauce for Your Ass”, the Italian version, instead. I know he was being snarky, and it would take me hours to explain how brilliant I think that series is, but the sentiment is glaring (at least to me): Genuine self-help and inspiration comes from within; you’ll never, ever find it in a book.

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