Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This is it: the weekend of B's Bar Mitzvah.  I'll be returning to NY with my son's family for my 'mitzvah month' obligation.  Not so bad: a decent place to stay and grandchildren who sometimes write on the cards they make 'Pa's the best.'  Still, they might get tired of my whining and indolence before the month is up.  I have some anxiety but it should be an 'interesting' experience.....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life's ironies

On our way back from Thanksgiving at my son's family's house, we stopped at my wife's brother's family house in the Berkshires.  (Got that?)  Firstly, we could talk about how the navigation system had screwed us up.  If that had worked properly (or maybe it did and we were distracted by trying to get our 'friggin' 'smart'phone to work and missed a crucial turn) there would have been nothing to discuss there.  Secondly, we described how various people weren't talking to each other at different points in the visit and that made everyone feel more relaxed, as if we were sharing a common experience.  Because both of these happenings had made my wife and I rather depressed it gave the others an opportunity to try and make us feel better.  So the visit ended on a kind of high note as we hit the road for home.  Just think if the evening news were all about things that had gone well...after a few days people would probably stop watching.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Morning phone call...

Big D is my granddaughter and Little D my grandson.

Little D:  I like Gwamma,  n', n', n'Bobbie, n', n', (Big D), n',n' Mommie n', n',.....

(Long  pause )

Big D (in her harse voice early in the morning):  Do you jus' like girls (Little D)?

Little D:  n', n',....but I don' like you Pa!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The itty bitty spider....

Alittle spider lives in the corner of my kitchen between the baseboard heater and a 2"x2" side unit that has my TV on top.  Every once in a while I reach down to pick up what looks to me like some lint or a grain of some food, but it turns out to be the spider.  And if I try to catch one of the legs with my fingers,  the spider nimbly escapes into the darkness between the heater and the side unit.  I first started noticing the spider about a month ago.  It seemed to me that it was larger then, or more substantial.  It's body had a little shape to it - now it is just a simple tiny dot.  And its legs are so thin and spindly now that they can hardly be seen.  I wonder  if the thing is getting enough to eat - or if it's getting anything at all.  If I could catch it I wouldn't hurt it.  I'd just put it outside.  But it will probably expire, alone, in the dark corner.  It's funny: when I saw how frail it had become I felt sorry for it.  It seems ridiculous, but I guess every creature, human or otherwise, has a need to feel something for another being.  I remember how my granddaughter S. used to do the 'itsy bitsy spider routine....'

Thursday, September 27, 2012

About death....

I just returned from a brisk walk on a stunningly beautiful blue sky day filled with sunlight.  I was in the shower enjoying the warm water when, all of a sudden, I thought of what it will be like to leave all the people I love and never see them again and I felt so sad it was almost like a punch in the stomach.  The mistake I made, of course, is that I will never know what it's like never to be able to see the people I love again, because I'll be dead.  And that means I won't know anything...I won't have the pleasure...but I won't have the any of the pain either.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

what can you say?

It must have been about 9:30 in the morning in New Delhi because it was 10:30 p.m. here.  The person speaking with the crisp, ultra-polite Indian accent had just guided me through what to him must have seemed like the absurdly simple task of changing my user name for my credit card website.  He was thanking me for everything: for holding on while he checked my account, for allowing him to proceed
to check with a 'specialist' sine I didn't have a 'security word,' for giving him my credit card number.  It was uncomfortable trying to cope with the undue respect he was offering me.  Shortly, the process was complete and I was relieved that he didn't ask me to 'participate in a brief online survey' to indicate how pleased I was with the experience.  His voice suddenly sounded a little weary.  "Take care, Mr. Star," he said.  "Thank you, you too," I replied.  And then I thought:  "How should I take care?'  Take care for what?  Aren't we all waiting for the same thing, when, free at last, we don't have to 'take care' any more?  It was as if we formed a universal brotherhood where the fate of all beings formed a common bond...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Romney/Ryan: ewwwww!

I love Barack and loathe Mitt.  It's hard for me to understand why the president is only ahead by three points.  Everything about Romney's facial expressions looks insincere: his phony eye contact trained by years of knocking on doors for the Mormons;; his slicked back, probably colored, hair; his tense grin which is really a rictus of condescension.  Who could believe anything he says?  Like he 'knows' how to create jobs.  Hah!  Bad news won't be coming back for a long time.  Romney's false promise emends me of Nixon's 'secret' plan to end the Vietnam War in 1968.  After he was elected the war went on for another eight years and thousands more died before Saigon finally fell...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

why do I have the same dream?

At least half a dozen times a year I have the same dream: I'm in the same office building, closely, where I worked for almost 13 years from age 27 to 39.5.  I'm frantically going up and down the halls looking for a toilet.  Finally I find one and, naturally, the floor has a huge puddle of water.  I can't sit on the toilet in time so I go all over myself.  While looking for toilet paper (there is usually none) I notice that someone has left the water running in the sink and the drain is disconnected.  I wake up shaking.  Why do I have to keep going through this ordeal?  Does anyone out there experience anything similar?  Help!....

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I stayed up until 11:30 p.m. last night watching Bill Clinton give his talk at the Democratic convention. I feel so comfortable with these people.  The Republicans may be physically fit, perfectly coiffed and the right color but they aren't honest, open, transparent and free from ulterior motives the way the Democrats are.  Bill Clinton was terrific in exposing the Republicans for the liars they are:  we ARE better off than we were four years ago!  I hope Obama wins big in November!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The value of Jewish education

My son's two daughters were visiting us in late August.  The parents had left for a few days to travel to Montreal and Quebec so we were alone with them.  They both love to color and draw so when I moaned about not feeling well - not being able to stop coughing - a 'Refuah Shlama' card from Saydee, the oldest, was not long in appearing.  There were many bright colors and hearts and the full lyrics to their 'refuah shlama' song (It means get better quick in Hebrew.)  Then they both came into the kitchen and sang 'refuah shlama' to gather for me.  It was great!...and, sure enough, the next day I was feeling better.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

'Faux' you Mom...

My daughter-in-law might be on to something. With Mother's Day looming on the near horizon I'm sure plenty of male spouses and children are anguishing over what to gift Mom without seeming to cliched (like a bouquet of flowers) or profligate (a cruise?) Feh! The other day my D-I-L blogged that she was at that moment on the computer ordering Mother's Day presents for herself from her husband. Brilliant! Who better to know what they really want or need but the principal herself and what spouse or offspring wouldn't agree to the idea and be relieved of the angst of 'trying to do the right thing.' It seems to me this 'faux' gift giving would make everyone happy...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Clogged up...

After the guests left yesterday afternoon I did what I always do: check the toilet. (I look for stains or any sign of malfunction in the mechanics.) Big mistake. The flushing mechanism was sluggish and I had to flush a couple of times to get it working smoothly again. My wife, of course, called me weird for having 'issues' with this sort of thing. So wouldn't you know it-I had one of my classic 'toilet' dreams toward the end of last night complete with the odors, the cramped quarters with other people milling about and the inability to produce in a reasonable amount of time without pissing off the people who were waiting. At least it didn't include, as it usually does, overflowing toilets. I hate these dreams because you wake up in such a humiliated mood. Thankfully, I don't have them more than once every four or five months - but why do they keep recurring at all?...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keeping it simple....

I just discovered an amazingly simple to make, tasty and healthful desert: pour some Corn Flakes into a bowl. Dribble some pure Vermont maple syrup over the top and fill the bowl with fresh skim milk. This tastes so good it's hard to believe. Does anyone have the guts to serve it in place of, say, a carrot cake? I'd enjoy it even more....(you could also cut a few thin slices of fresh banana over the top.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Designer " genes....

I looked in the window on the door of my granddaughter's preschool class and I saw her sitting at the head of the table with another girl wgho is also her friend. Her skin tone is similar to mine and her personality is too: a little shy, a lirttle introverted. Then I thought her hair is kind of like mine, too, though not as curly. I thought: there I am, sitting there, 65 years ago. My 'genes' will live on beyond me! Then I thought about my daughter's son, B, and that he bears a resemblance to pictures I saw of my mother's brother, Oscar, at his age. How the genes become blended and passed forward through the ages! What a miracle it all is....and what hope it gives us.

In other words....

I just returned from a weeklong visit with my son and daughter-in-law and their two children.

High points: my granddaughter S expresses her love for me by smiling up at me, grabbing my forearms and hopping up as high as she can on my thighs, like a little hoptoad, smiling in my eyes the whole time. At another time, she was down on her knees grabbing my leg and pretending to take a bite out of it,

My son went out of his way to change the defective windshield wiper on my car and when I expressed pleasure using his bread knife he told me to take it. The next morning I noticed he had wrapped it in brown paper and tied it with an elastic band so it would be safe to pack away.

My daughter-in-law cooked a deliciuous meal and provided me with a couple of very funny and insightful blogs.

My wife baked delicious hamantaschen (Haman's hat) with my granddaughter.

I told my son that I would always love him until my last day.

We all have different ways of expressing our love, sometimes in other than words.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thank you Costco

Sometimes I think Costco was created just for me: an impulse buyer. It's in my nature to want to buy something that seems 'just right' - either in the way it's packaged or displayed or whatever, it just seems to have 'me' written on it. The trouble is, since I'm buying stuff I don't really need but to satisfy some other emotional need, I very often have buyers remorse and wish that I hadn't been so impulsive. This is where Costco comes in: their return policy is so liberal as to be almost utopian. In the last six months, for varying reasons, I've returned two LCD TV's, a Playstation 3 and, just today, an HP Netbook. Every return experience was friendly or indifferent and several times I chatted about the product with the customer rep. For me, it's like tightrope walking with a safety net. Yes, the Costco stores may look plain and boxy on the outside but they're the best shopping experience you can get on the inside.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Worth it....

Nobody's making any comments on my blog so I guess I'm in an 'unknown zone' as the computer sometimes likes to say. We just got back from a six-day trip to Scarsdale and, even though I got sick with flu-like symptoms (chills and congestion), it was worth it. My grandchildren are very funny! At a tot shabbat as soon as the 'rabbi' started talking about shabbat candles my 1 1/2 tear old granddaughter held up the index fingers on her right and left hands. She's had no training yet but it was funny to see how fast she's catching on. After a 'playdate' with one of her friends the 3 1/2 year old was driven home by me as both she and my granddaughter of the same age sat in car seats behind me. I looked in the curved rear-view mirror and saw that they were holding hands! I was in awe at the 'beauty' of the moment and these memory images are still with me.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Past 'tense'

I just finished reading Philip Roth's latest book Indignation. It's a wonderfully revealing book about, who else?, Philip Roth aka Marcus Messner, the son of a Newark kosher butcher breaking away from 'old world' ethnic Jewry into the new world of waspish private college during the Korean War. Not only is the book full and frank about the sexual mores of the early fifties, it is pitch perfect in describing first love and the inabiltiy of an ethical Jewish boy to adapt to the ways of the broader world: get along by going along. The plot is thrilling, the dialogue rivetting and, even though the book ends in tragedy, deeply satisfying. It got me to thinking about my own college experience and what I regard as the single most significant cultural event of my time: the sexual revolution which began with the advent of the birth control pill in 1965. This changed everything - even the way movies would be made from then on. I wonder what it would have been like to live in a coed dormitory...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How sweet it is!

On a phone call from New York my year and a half old granddaughter wishes me 'Ha-pee Noo-ga' (Happy Hanukkah). She says it so sweetly and carefully I break out in a big smile on the other end of the line. She speaks more clearly with each passing week. My mother was right...she told me I would see how enjoyable the grandparent/grandchild relationship would be. I remember when we took my other granddaughter (now three and a half) around the village center in Scarsdale and she would point and exclaim "..n'orah!" (menorah) whenever she would see one in a store window or in the park. Charming. And I have to hand it to my son's mother-in-law who lives with them and tends the children and has done a great job in being with the oldest child in furthering her Jewish education. She's quite a person!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Close call

I had such a close call this morning. I'm still trembling in my hands a little bit from pulling so hard on the emergency brake.
Last night, rainy and warmish for this time of year, a raccoon took up residence in an opening in the roof between the garage and the house - as it has done may times in the past. I went out about 8 am to have a look which meant setting up an 8 ft stepladder. To do this I had to meve our 11 year old Volvo out of the garage so I'd have enough room to look into the opening from a little dustance in case the animal tried to jump at me.
It was hard to start the car as the battery was weak but I backed it out and decided to drive around the street to recharge it a little. Just as I was turning down one street the accelerator stuck to the floor and the vehicle started hurtling ahead faster. I pressed on the foot brake and pulled on the emergency brake with all my strength but the car wouldn't stop and everytime we hit a slushy section I could hear the tires spinning at high speed. So frightened I had stopped breathing I finally realized that all I had to do was turn the key off. Which I did and the car came to an almost immediate stop. Somehow I got the car back home gingerly, realizing that I could have injured or even killed someone walking in the road. At one point in my confused thinking I thought I would have to crash into a house in order to stop!
Back in my house (my wife was out for her morning walk at the time) I made myself an espresso and thought 'maybe the raccoon was trying to tell me it was useless to try and dislodge it and that I'd better leave well enough alone.' So now I'll just try to live with the noise if it happens. After all, my house stands in the coon's native habitat.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My newest love

Nothing beats the thrill of being able to complete a challenging crossword puzzle. That's right: I said crossword puzzle. Monday through Saturday our local paper, the Burlington Free Press features a crossword puzzle that grows increasingly challenging as the week goes on. A little over a tear ago I was satisfied to be able to do Monday...then a few weeks later Tuesday. Finally, I can now do EVERY day of the week. It gives me something to look forward to every morning! Sometimes they take six hours, or more, to complete even with the smart input of my wife. I'd say it's our most enjoyable together activity of all time. You can actually observe how your brain works to associate and recall and it's fun to have a PC nearby to aid in the research of facts. Oh the feeling is satisfying when the letters fall into place to form the correct word or phrase. Sometimes I even raise my fists in the air and pump like when an NFLer catches a pass and scores a touchdown!
Now my next challenge is to learn how to do the Sudokus...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our latest visit...

My daughter-in-law (DIL) is a very candid (i.e. shockingly blunt) person and I just have to share this latest gem with the rest of you:

I went shopping at Whole Foods with my DIL to get some bread and at the same time pick up a mirror she had ordered at Fortunoff. Then, in a brazen act of defiance toward her skinflint husband, she said she wanted to go to some furniture stores to look for a new sofa. Enjoying the thrill of being out with another profligate shopper (me) she went in a couple of stores and tried out all the easy chairs and sofas as though she could buy anything she wanted. On the way home I asked her why she didn't want to get something used on Craigslist (as she had already done with some of their other furniture.) "Because I don't want everybody else's farts in my sofa before I buy it, I just want mine!"

Take that! (I don't think she and her spouse got on that well after he tried to humor her out of the purchase.) It remains to be seen what happens.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Moving along...

I went jogging (slowly: about 13 min. per mile) in the drizzle this morning. For five miles only two other people passed me. They were both wearing red shells and white bike helmets so I assumed they were together. I zoned out thinking only about taking the next few strides without irritating my knee. I felt great when I got back: wet but warmed all over and I made myself an espresso with a small head of buttered broccoli and a little pasta for lunch. What else can matter? Tomorrow we leave for New York and I'll be able to be with my grandchildren. They're so much fun the way they imitate us. And I'll be able to watch my son sit at his computer screen as the room grows darker and I rock gently in the nursing chair...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Recovering from loss(es)

Almost 18 years ago, when my son left for Harverd, there remained some items stashed in the corners of his closet and under his bed. The item under his bed was a fearsome-looking assault knife with a serrated edge. It took me six years, after he had graduated, to finally get rid of it. The items in the closet were bags of pennies that he had collected during his high school years from local banks. He would go through them looking for important dates hoping to come upon a lucky find. The problem was that the bags weighed so much that we (my wife and I) could hardly lift them. So they stayed in the closet - until this past summer when our daughter's grandchildren put nine dollars worth in 'penny sleeves' and we took them to the bank. Now, while licking my wounds from the recent financial tumult, we are sleeving more. We just did $12 worth in the last couple of days. The task is dulll and repetitive but it makes you feel as though you are making a little money - no fees or strings attached. And it's just right for this time in the economy. It's helping us get over losing tens of thousands of dollars. As they say, every little bit...and we're glad to get the stuff out of the house.

Recovering from loss(es)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Enough is enough!

I am outraged that my tax money is being used to "bail out" these Corporations that have become fat and bloated from years of chicanery, deception and dishonesty in heir financial businesses. These executives voted themselves lavish bonuses year after year while their companies floundered and their balance sheets contained more and more imaginary figures. "Oh our company is worth a hundred billion dollars.- Yeah? How do you figure that?- Oh take my word for it. It's too complicated for you to understand!" Let's cut this stuff out. Let's have watchdogs and transparency so there's some accountability and some resistance to the sly "derivatives" managers that have brought our "free" market to the brink of collapse.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sweet, sweet, the memories....

This is just a little one...but about big feeling: I love You Tube so much for all the old songs and videos availabe free and instantly. I just listened to Jo Stafford singing The Trolley Song which turned a gray overcast Sunday morning into a nostalgic delight...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And so it goes...

When I get up around 6:30 after an unrestful night's sleep I put on my socks, slip into the same polyester travel pants I've worn for six months now, and find either a cotton sweater or some long-sleeved shirt summer or winter. (I'm always cold.) Then I make my way to the front door and look for the "paper" which now looks and feels like a computerized advertising supplement with some "news" thrown in to give credence to it's status as a "newspaper." The crossword puzzle is what gives a start to my day: we (my spouse and I) can usually do Monday through Thursday but Friday is a challenge and Saturday impossible. After the puzzle I wait until 10 to go for my walk - unless something else comes along. Today I moved paving bricks around to help someone who was putting in a walkway for us. That's why I'm aching now and can hardly bend down to pick something up. After lunch I tried to screw in permanently a window molding that had come loose outside my foundation - but I only made it worse and took the whole thing off. (I'll have to ask for help tomorrow.) While outside I missed very important call: from my granddaughter who sang, and whispered, "Twinkle, Twinkle" in a very cute song style. I thought 'she must be brilliant.' I wish I had been there for the call - but then maybe it wouldn't have been as cute. Then I listen to 'All Things Considered' and then we have supper watching 'The Newshour'. After supper I think how I like to sit in the room where my son works on his computer (I sit in a very comfortable 'nursing rocker.') It's after 8:30 now as I write this and I realize how boring it sounds but there is actually a lot of feeling in my day for my family members past and present and others. I especially miss S and D. I remember the sound of her bare feet running on the tiles in the basement until she gets to our bed and throws herself over me to land snugly in the middle of us. "Pa, can you talk?" she says... As Bob Hope used to say: "Thanks for the memories..." But you probably never heard of Bob Hope...and now I try to stay up until 10:30 and hopefully to sleep without having to get up too many times to p...


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Time for reading...

Every week I look forward to another issue of the New Yorker which I consider part of my "continuing education." This week (the September 8 issue) there is a short story by Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer. It is just great. It has a wonderful beginning, development and end that provides the spiritual catharsis of a great symphony. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


For anyone who wants to be instantly transported back to the "innocent" days of crooning (i.e. Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney or Frankie Laine) I strongly recommend one of the best videos on You Tube I've ever seen: a vintage early fifties film clip of The Chordettes singing "Lollipop." The Chordettes (according to a commentary on the post) were a four girl singing group with four-part harmony that delights the ears and fills the soul with happiness. And don't just take my word for it: ask Saydee my three-year old granddaughter. The piano chords and deep bass rhythms send her into a joyful zone of appreciation as she looks at the video of the four women with their wavy hair styles of the fifties and their modestly strapless evening gowns and high heels. "I want to dance like that," she says bending her knees slightly up and down in time to the music. Josh has a great sound system with the computer screen so all the bouncy bass of the original fifties comes through just as it did on a jukebox 55 years ago in many a college student lounge.
But the best thing of all is the way the music can be used to restore immediate harmony in the house should things start to spin out of control between Saydee and her younger (15 mos.) sister who also loves the song. It's as though a magic wand is waved to erase the discord and create good will and cooperation. (It can also be used for bribery.) It is a kind of salvation to help us all though the day. In fact, we all love dancing to LOLLIPOP!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

As the world turns...

So much of life occurs gradually, instead of all at once; and it's real significance may be little noted at the time.  For years I went to a hardware store in our shopping center that was reminiscent of an old-time general store:  There was no organization to the aisles and things were sometimes piled at random making passage a little difficult.  The light was low, the spirit subdued, but people always found what they needed.  An aging woman sat at the register with a small dog poking its head out of a carry-all bag on the floor.  Her name was Irene.  Her face was as wrinkled as a prune, she wore rimless glasses and I never could tell if she had been married.  Sometimes she talked about buying gifts for nieces or relatives.  She also took care of her mother and I remember when I was going through the final stages with my own mother we sometimes exchanged stories.  Irene retired about three years ago and a new hardware chain took over the store and modernized it - brightened the light level and managed to hire a couple of smiling, polite girls at the register to replace the likes of Irene.  I ever thought I would like it as much but when I went there to buy a couple of small screws on this, now overcast, Sunday morning I enjoyed their smiling faces and the slight embarrassment of one when she couldn't quite remember my last name.  I found what I needed right away.  I didn't think of Irene until I got home.  I wonder how she's doing now.  I don't really miss her because "a pretty girl is like a melody."  But I  thought about her and I hope she is well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two reunions within the past week have nearly done me in. The first, in the Berkshires at my brother-in-law's home was a family reunion. I was miserable: the older generation (mine) was consigned to a finished, but damp, basement and we "slept" on a wooden pallet covered with a thin mattress that was called a "futon." The others were put in four upstairs bedrooms and one main floor bedroom. I was lonelier than ever. None of my reference points when I was a kid or how my life developed would have been of any interest to the younger generation. Only at one point, between the search for an activity that the two youngest generations could do together and the excessive evening wine drinking, did some area of commonality form: when my sister-in-law and I started humming show tunes from the past. (Her voice sounded high and quavery like an elderly female churchgoer singing a hymn.) I left after about 40 hours feeling very stressed.
We stopped to see some old friends who had moved to the southwestern part of the state seven years ago to be closer to their children who live in NYC. They have become very "new-agey" with "maze/meditation" paths cut around their property and lush produce planting beds. It was quite attractive - especially their gazebo screenhouse built by Amish still, I couldn't wait to return home which we did after a couple of hours.
A day after getting home my wife's brother arrived to attend his/my 50th high school reunion. I didn't want to attend the dinner/dance the first night but I did agree to go to a "picnic" the next day at a nearby American Legion post. There were only about 30 very old looking people there many of whom I had no idea who they were. There were two types: old and fat or old and sickly thin. (I guess I would fall into the old and sickly thin category except for some odd reason my hair is still mostly the same color as in h.s.) Some people sat around and drank beer and my brother-in-law pretended it was great to see people he would have had nothing to do with in h.s. and who would have had nothing to do with him. Couldn't wait to go...
I haven't been exercising regularly after these events and feel diminished. Maybe, in the end, it's just better to follow your intuition, accept the sadness and loneliness, and stay home.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's the little things...

The two high points of my weekend "reunion" in the Berkshires: 1) Being an offered a perfectly ripe peach slice by my daughter-in-law in the midst of chaos and as she was offering the same to her own kids, and 2) Having my lovely spouse say to me on our final tiring leg home as she turned to me with a smile "Can you just taste the coffee!?" That made it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What it's worth...

In an environment where we are shocked by revelations of torture on a daily basis I thought it would be worthwhile to muse on behavior control methods closer to home: my grandson has been staying with us for the past two weeks and I have to say that the effectiveness of bribery in behavior control should not be underestimated. I don't mean "if you don't eat that vegetable you can't look up Pokemon cards on the computer" kind of threat/reward, I mean out and out bribery by being nice! This includes sugar cones with three different flavors of ice cream AND sprinkles, never being forced to bathe and never demanding that specific bedtime hour be observed. This overwhelming "niceness" pays off. My grandson has limited his sassy responses and slams his bedroom door only in the throes of exasperation or pain. And he has never missed a swimming lesson.
So why can't our "interrogators" at Gitmo have the imagination to use this counter-intuitive method of obtaining information from terror suspects? They might find that it works better than torture and also makes them feel better about themselves. So the next time they're thinking about waterboarding someone why don't they bring him a nice Mai Tai in the middle of the afternoon with some chips and guacamole? Sometimes the easiest way is the best!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The shining path

"The world's in a mess...there is no happiness! "- or so the song goes from George Gershwin's musical "Crazy for You." What is that elusive quality that we all strive for even though it almost always remains hidden under the outer layers of daily living? Let me venture an answer: what we want is confirmation that the way we live and think is the BEST way. In a world where we no longer automatically accept the guideposts given to us by education, religion and family for a signal we long for a signal, if not divine then at least psychic, that the how we live and what we think is the RIGHT PATH. The problem is that we cannot see this path - but we can sense it from our experiences.
For instance, I'm worried about an upcoming "family reunion" in the Berkshires. Will I be able to sleep? Or breathe? Will I have to use the bathroom 8-9 times a night? Will it be miserable? Then I think that many of the things in life I've dreaded at first turn out to be great in the end. For example when I met my son's future wife at first glance I didn't think she had much of a chance of winning the Miss World competition. But it turned out she had a sparkling sense of humor, an amazing vocabulary and (later) a fab blog! And this is how I use "guideposts" to go into the future without too much anxiety. I fret about the reunion but it will probably work out just fine. The same goes with my financial investments: the greater the worry the better the reward! I fear death - but if I use my"guidepost" strategy, I need not.
This morning I discussed a simple environmental plan to conserve energy with my son: why don't we all move to a warmer climate (like Costa Rica or even southern Florida) in the cold months and then move back north in the warmer months. We would have small places, of course, that would be easy to maintain and we would walk to most places. That in itself would solve most of the "energy" problems. But who's going to do it? Practically no one because what about jobs and schools? But retired people like me could do it. Or we could just live in smaller places that could collect solar or geothermal energy and have neighborhood "cafeterias" where we could go to eat. I know it sounds laughable. But don't forget human nature is the only thing standing in our way to solve our problems. And I don't believe in coercing anyone to do anything except people who break the law.
Hope my readers find this a little thought provoking. Remember, patterns repeat. Have an intellectually satisfying day. Listen to some of Gershwin's music!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I like box stores...

A really bad thing happened to me this afternoon: my esprresso machine came apart (I took it apart for cleaning) and I couldn't put it back together again. Naturally I tried to fix it myself and when I couldn't my breathing got tight and I began to rapidly dehydrate. (I can't cope for long without it.) I had purchased it at Bed,Bath and Beyond last December and they told me if anything happens to it "just bring it back and they would give me another." So this was a good time to see if they meant it. I drove right out, got a cart and wheeled in my machine to Customer Service. NO PROBLEM. "Just go get another one" the young woman with attractive eye shadow said. And I did, even though I noticed that the price had gone up $100 since I bought it due to revaluing of the euro (it's made in Italy.) The exchange was processed and I made my happy way home. They lived up to their guarantee. Previously, purchasing machines online, I had had no recourse except to send it back and wait - or try to get it repaired when the warranty expired....Love those box stores!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Is anything worth it? I used to live just by doing. If I wanted to watch "The Price Is Right" on TV I just did it without questioning whether it was "a good use of my time." Now I start to think about how boring a game show is. If I wanted an egg salad sandwich I'd just boil up an egg and mash it with a little celery and mayo. Now I start thinking about the saturated fat in the yoke and do I really want to use mayo that doesn't have any fiber. I've been thinking a lot lately about some of the things I used to enjoy: Yellow Checker cabs with a black and white checked detail running down its sides and two jump seats in its cavernous back, double-decker buses on Fifth Avenue spewing fumes into the air as you pushed a dime into the conductors little chrome collector; dirty, filthy Broadway with its upstairs 'dance' studios and porno 'lingerie' shops and big movie palaces sending gusts of cool foul air into the hot, sweaty street scene. Gone. And what about Saks and DePina's? Does anyone go to Macy's anymore? Try the Nieman-Marcus at the Westchester for a real thrill. I'm so glad it isn't all gone. And the trains still run to Grand Central. Why can't we work from home? Because then the trains might not run anymore....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Way to go...

Just got back from Westchester where we stayed with my two granddaughters for five days. I loved feeding the one year old her bottle (she drains 7 0z. in about seven minutes flat.) It feels so secure and comfortable when she nestles into the crook of your arm. Then she starts to wriggle out and is off like a Roomba in every direction. She wants to eat all the time and waits under her older sister's chair for "drops." (We both had fun sprinkling some Cheerios on the floor and watching her go for them.) The older one bursts into songs from her preschool spontaneously in a spasm of cuteness. Putting her in to sleep was ineffably touching as she babbled on in a stream of remembrance from the day's disconnected events.
The Westchester with its upscale stores and dazzling interior architecture is exhilarating - even if hardly anyone is in the stores. Such abundance - and for the first time I've seen anywhere you can go in the garage and pay with a credit card! Talk about convenience!
It felt so good to be away AND then be home again. That must be the best part about travel: it feels so good to be back in your own house!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Past tense...

I often think about my first love. If not every day then certainly every week. I was a senior in high school and she was two years younger. This was in 1958 - 50 years ago! We would kiss and pet until the early hours of the morning. I was in paradise when we were together. She was popular. I was a loner.
Here's the thing: I used to imagine us married because I wanted to be with her all the time. But I hardly ever had the courage to call her because it would be so easy to hurt me if she started to see someone else. I used to have asthma a lot. I couldn't have survived the wound. So I pretended that I didn't care by not calling. The following year I went to Middlebury and she went to private school. (Her family was of the local elite.) I felt like nothing exposed to worldly and wealthy kids from private school. I soon returned home and went to state school, spiralling down.
I wonder how my life would have been different had I not fallen in love with her. Maybe I wouldn't have become as depressed.
We met up ten years later in Burlington and had a brief (six weeks) affair but I didn't have the same feelings of tenderness and destiny. Yet, I still wanted her to love me. But when I mentioned marriage she said she wasn't excited at the prospect (of bacon and eggs) and other mundanities and, besides, she would want to be a Catholic. I guess this meant she didn't care that much about me. Maybe she had become a little crazy by then, too. And I think I wanted to marry a Jewish person.
You'd think that would have been the end of it. A few weeks later I read in the paper that she had become engaged to someone else (a doctor.) I didn't see her again until 1994 - 26 years later. She had two kids. It was at a very unlikely place that we ran into each other: a Bar Mitzvah reception where I had been hired as a photographer and she as a guest. I didn't recognize her when she said my name. I was turned in the other direction and my wife said "Frank, someone is talking to you." I turned and saw a very thin older woman with curly graying hair.. I felt no attraction at all for her and actually felt as if I wanted to avoid her. I asked her if she ever dreamt about me (as I did about her) and she said 'no.' I blinked.
She called a couple of days later but I didn't want to start up with anything so I was off putting. We've never spoken again nor run into each other even though we both still live in the same town.
I think the unresolved past all gets back to my dual Gentile/Jewish heritage. Until I consciously made the choice to identify as Jewish after I graduated from college I was never sure of who or what I was. I don't know if I am even now. In fact, it's not the ethnic heritage; it's the difference between maturity and immaturity.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Beauty more than skin deep

She was sitting there with her legs crossed and her cleavage slightly exposed. Her toenails were painted a little too brightly red and she wore discreet small silver hoop earrings. And I didn't care about any of this even though I noticed it! She was about 42 years old, a mother of two, with lovely brown eyes and her light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was here as friends of my wife's good friend to celebrate the latters' 65th birthday. But she was so animate! And listen to this: a graduate of Harvard Law School. But, most important of all, she's a commentator for VPR on legal and civic issues. And all this made me realize how are society tries to fool us all the time by making us think that what matters are movie star good looks are what matters. Nothing could be further from the truth - and I think in my psyche I always knew this. It's PERSONALITY and INTELLIGENCE that makes someone attractive. Looks hardly matter at all. She speaks out! She speaks out...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Breaking through...

What a day: a sleepless night, dehydrating slowly in bed while aching too much to turn over, much less to go pee. The morning news on NPR , damp and dismal house on the inside, unable to get more than two words on the crossword puzzle...Then, in the afternoon, the oil price jumps more than $10 and the stock market swoons and war with Iran looks more likely and how would poor Obama cope with that? Is there no hope? Then the phone rings and the Caller ID says "Josh Home" and I know it's my granddaughter Saydee calling but I don't answer because I talked with her this morning when 'Baba' wasn't here and I know she probably wants to talk to her now but she isn't here again, having gone to the garden, but then the answering machine goes on and I get the best event of the day: Saydee sings "My ABC's" and then "Twinkle, twinkle" and it is so cute that I can feel my whole being breaking out in a smile and turning around in circles as her WONDERful little voice fills my space. Worth continuing just for that.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's how you play the game...

What's going on with Hillary? By not congratulating Obama on his victory she's looking more and more like a sore loser. What an embarrassment! She kept talking about how the Democratic Party was going to be so "united", but apparently she just can't bring herself to accept that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And she's looking like a real loser!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My new toy

Recently my son gave me a new laptop with the ability to receive TV signals - as I said I was planning to get to replace my small TV set which I keep in the kitchen. I had visions of a TV display with bright, hi-def images that I could also use to browse the Internet when I wanted to. He said that he would find me one and not to worry about it. So I let him as I thought it would please him to see me happy and he is proud of his shopping expertise.
Alas, the computer does not function as a TV very well. It's very finicky and sometimes the TV function can't be connected until the show is almost over - if then. At other times the image and sound tend to freeze up for a second or so, making watching a show more of an ordeal than a pleasure. The image, when you can get it, is also hard to focus on unless you are at the exact right angle to the screen. Otherwise, it tends to fad into mud.
I pleaded with him at least to buy it at Costco, because of their return policy, in case I didn't like it; but, apparently, he had other ideas and must have bought it at the cheapest place he could find. I appreciate his generosity but now I don't know what to do. It will probably work as a great computer...but I didn't need one. It's one of those things that you just don't know what to do. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Out in the

My daughter-in-law (DIL) has started blogging about periods - not the grammatical kind, the menstrual kind. Apparently there are various devices for dealing with the bleeding, like tampons, and now something new called "cupping" - a device that looks kind of like a dreidl without the Hebrew lettering. I don't feel right in making a comment because of the warning included at the beginning of the blog that it is intended for "ladies only." It just seems so sexist, though, to exclude half the human race from this discussion. It seems entirely repulsive to me that someone would even consider using a "used" one - or did I misunderstand? Anyway I admire the courage of someone to blog about this semi-taboo subject and hope that it can be brought out of the shadows and into the mainstream of human sexuality.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sherry and Farnk head for the garden

"Watch it!....What're you trying to do get me killed? Cheeeez!" my wife yelled as I was driving down North Avenue at 22 mph on our way to our community garden last Saturday.
"Whaddya mean," I said. "That guy just kept coming at me without stopping at all. Is he crazy?" A 20-year old SUV had just pulled out of a service station slowly but without stopping and had forced me to swerve into the oncoming lane. Fortunately, nothing was coming.
"I could've been killed! That guy was coming right into my side! Why didn't you blow you're horn?
"Look, I couldn't believe what was happening. How could he not have seen me?"
"The way you drive makes me wonder," she said. "You should have blown your horn."
"I just can't believe he didn't stop." (I'd left my taser gun at home so I didn't want a confrontation with the other driver.) "Why are you complaining about me? He's the one at fault. How come you never support me?"
"You have to drive defensively." (I now lowered my speed to 18 mph...and the offending vehicle was right behind me.
But why are you always blaming me?
"Look, I could've been killed." Long silence.
"I don't like to blow my horn. Besides there wasn't any time."
I can't drive with you..."
"Do you think it looks like rain?...."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Time e-motion studies

How quickly a week fast a life begins and ends. Looking at the twilight sky I think of how a life can disappear in the blink of an eye. All our feelings of love...and shame...and gratitude. Our remembrance of loving parents who stood by us in joy or despair. The innocent sounds of our children and the loving tenderness of a grandchild.

The feelings are ineffable. When we connect with each other it feels so good. We always think what can we say that will make the bond even stronger...but we can only carry the interchange to a certain point before interest begins to subside. We wish it were different but we realize that we must go on for if we remain fully complete in each other's presence we will go to sleep...perhaps forever.

In the end all any of us really for others to love us...just the way are.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Killing me with kindness

I send her out of bed if her breathing annoys me, I criticize the way she keeps the dining room table (which is her office), I make fun of the way she walks with the same person every morning. Yet she always thinks of me: comes up with cool pants out of organic material with lots of pockets (she won't tell me where they came from), leaves the largest banana bread loaf for me and takes two smaller ones to the grandkids and, yesterday, when workmen were here putting in a new driveway I looked out and there she was hauling fill into the backyard in wheelbarrow with a flat tire. Flat because I wouldn't let her ask a neighbor for a pump because I like to be self-sufficient. The workmen knew I was in the house, hiding, so I went out to pretend to help her but by that time she was moving heavy rocks - trying to make me look bad.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Call me irresponsible...

In a previous blog I said I would stick with Hillary until; the bitter end. Not true. After her debate in Philadelphia last week with Obama I changed my mind. She didn't have to keep jumping on him for his remark about "small town..." blah, blah. She's just waiting to pounce on any slip of his rather than being able to offer something positive of her own. And now she sounds like a shrill harridan claiming that more people have voted for her than him - which of course is a half-truth and worse than an outright lie. Bye Hillary...but it's OK. I still like you.
I confess I've been cheating every day during Passover week by eating various kinds of chometz when my wife isn't looking. Being a freethinker it goes against my grain to have to abide by man-made religious fatwas. When she goes to volunteer duty today I'm going to make pasta.
Since making my own bread I hardly ever go to City anymore which pains me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On being Jewish

One of the hallmarks of being a Jew is that you question everything. If you just accept everything you're told by your parents or rabbis you violate one of the most important precepts of Judaism: ask questions. For instance, my daughter-in-law (DIL) told me the other day that they found out God has a secret name that only ordained rabbis know and they are sworn not to tell anyone. Give me a break...if there were such a thing someone would have leaked it in three thousand years!

Passover is another time to ask questions. When I studied for my Bar Mitzvah in 1982 at the age of 42 (I was a little late) I got carried away by the stirring melodies of Adon Olam but did I really believe the Red Sea parted just to let Moses and the Jews cross? No. Do I even believe in God? No, again. (In fact I just read an article in this week's New Yorker by Jill Lepore, a Harvard history professor, who says that most of the "Founding Fathers" didn't believe in God either and the word "God" doesn't even appear in the U.S. Consitiution. So how should I conduct myself at the Seder? I'm actually looking forward to it as our Haggadahs this year have been modified by my S and DIL to more accurately reflect contemporary culture. Way to go!

Still, I question everything. This made me unpopular in school with my teachers as they used to have to squirm at some of my questions. And in college I found that it was much easier (if not intellectually dishonest) to just spew back at the professors what they wanted to hear. People don't generally like someone who questions - unless you are talking to another Jew. Then we recognize our solidarity in skepticism. We are sometimes referred to as "Pharisees" in the bible questioning everything from the morality of divorce to how many shekels you should tip in a sushi joint. Quesstions, questions...that's the glory of our secularism.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Where have Hillary and Obama gone?

Like a parade that has passed by, Hillary and Obama seem to be fading into the past. Let's face it: the Democrats strong suit was providing an exit from our occupation of Iraq. That's what created the excitement in their campaigns. And then two things happened: first, the primaries were held so early in the year that there's no sense of building up to a real climax. The campaigns should have continued until June, say, and then all the states should have had their primaries together instead of this pointless game of who's first. Second: the focus shifted to the economy in March with the sub-prime crisis and as an issue this mostly produces yawns among people that realize you shouldn't buy something you can't afford.
For me, the real issue is still our occupation in Iraq. Many of you are too young to remember the Vietnam War where, toward the end we were losing upward of 300 soldiers - per week - and the administration kept saying we can't leave in "the face of Communist aggression from the North." As it turned out we could and we did and the same holds tru for this Iraq thing. Enough families and lives have already been wrecked on both sides. We should start to leave, now, and let Arabs deal with Arabs. It sounds scary but it's the only alternative to being there indefinitely.
The Democratic candidates should get back to where they stand on the occupation. This should be the true debate - the economy will take care of itself. That is too complex for anyione to understand.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Live and let live...

All of a sudden my life has changed: we (my wife and I) have gone to New York to stay with my (S)son and DIL (daughter-in-law) for four days. I've gone from snow and ice and being afraid to walk down my driveway to a temperate clime with not a trace of snow. My S and DIL are a lot of fun for me to be with because they live more or less detached - the same way I do. By that I mean they don't fall into the conventional roles of husband/wife, mother/child or earner/spender or any other kind of stereotype: instead they are able to operate in a freestyle mode which allows for all possibilities and is quite relaxing. For instance, if you don't like something you can just say it and no one is going to feel hurt because no one takes things that seriously. My S made a dinner of spaghetti and beef meatballs even though he knows I don't eat beef. A few minutes later my DIL came down from putting the kids to bed and asked:
"Did you like the meal?" in a quiet voice . My S was watching a rerun of "The Simpsons" in another part of the room while consuming his food by himself which is, he told me, the way rget all like to eat. Are you getting the picture?
So in response to mny DIL's question about the meal I shook my head no. This would have caused consternation in a more conventional situation but here she just smiled at my bluntness as my spouse (SP) looked on.
"I didn't like those meatballs either," she said. "I don't like beef but between my mother and my SP I live in a meat-centric environment." That's how it goes: nobody is upset and no one makes a big deal out of it. Try that with some other people and see what happens. Later, my DIL says to me "Maybe the next time you should bring all your own food so you can have what you like," and I think to myself that is not a bad idea.
This idea of "no fault" extends to other areas too. For instance we are trying to develop plans for a seder here in a month. My SP is traditional and would probably like doing it in the traditional way of reading the Exodus story. My DIL feels there is too much violence in the traditional story and does not approve. Instead of coming to blows over this clash of feelings I'm sure it will be settled in favor of something we could all enjoy and still preserve the symbolic glory of the occasion. It's great.
One day my DIL, who is a world-class blogger, interviewed me, her SP and her younger sister (SI) who is dating about how soon you should start having sex with someone after dating. This segued into the Eliot Spitzer thing and then the David Paterson thing and we finally ended up talking about Indian toilets. (My SP was kind of dismayed and left the area.) You might ask why a thirty plus something mother of two would be interested in talking about these things but it actually stimulated all of us to participate in conversation relying on our own experiences for examples. We discussed whether boob-size meant much as sexual attractors and the opinions were mixed. (Then I heard my SP go downstairs.)
This is how it goes. Almost anything goes and my two grandchildren are cute as can be. It's like therapy all the time but I still can't sleep decently. But we all don't just accept the way things are supposed to be but rather think how we can maneuver around to make the day more endurable.
We talk about random things until late and it sure beats the ambience in some households where noone says anything. We end the evening by looking at photos and videos of their family vacation in Hawaii. One of the best is of my S's mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter in a rented in the front seat, the other in a car seat...out cold from exhaustion. And that's the way it is...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ice- cycles

My street has been devastated by the weather: crusted, rutted ice layers the whole strip so that people walking have to take quick little pigeon-toed steps like the elderly in order to walk their dogs. My wife is supposedly out chopping ice at the front of our druveway but I haven'ts een her in the last hour or so. Maybe she decided to go to Florida after all. Even if we could get out of the driveway, the car wheels are frozen in ice in my downhill garage. Inside, me and the dog are slowly going crazy. Once in a while she barks at me. Does this mean that she has to go outside? I've already had her out for a wlak in the park and I'm too tired to go again. My new issue of the New Yorker came last week and it seemed like 30 pages of ads and 12 pages of writing and the articles weren't very good. I'm trying not to eat too much of my bread as I don't know when I will be able to get to City again. I guess the last part of winter is always the worst.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Who's right?

I went to City today because I needed bread and the racks are stacked with beautiful baguettes, loaves and rolls on Friday. While there I also bought a package of Dr. Kracker cracker-flatbreads (seeded) that I love with "guac" even though they are a little expensive. When I got home:
She: (waving package in air) "I coulda got you these for a dollar!"
Me: "I don't believe it. Show me the coupon."
She: Goes to her office (dining room table) and comes back with a Shaw's coupon book.
Me: "This says $3 off $10 worth of Wild Harvest products."
She: "I know. They're in that section"
Me: "But you have to buy $10 worth."
She: "So? I can buy from anywhere in the store. They don't seem to care."
Me: "But it' s not ethical. It's not what the coupon says, and what if I don't want to buy
$10 worth of their products?"
She: (Staring incredulously) (Sigh) "Some people just don't know how to shop."
Am I wrong? There was no coupon for Dr. Krackers only a store coupon for $3 off IF you buy $10 worth. That might be $7 worth of stuff you wouldn't otherwise want to buy there so there's a gimmick unless you try to float the coupon for other stuff which might result in an awkward rejection. Who wants to put themselves through this? I'd rather eat less and enjoy the shopping experience more. What do you think?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Tableau

Sometimes I think of my whole family slowly rolling through town on a big float. Tethered to the float are gigantic balloons of Darth Maul and Dora. Sherry sits at a round table tearing coupons out of a Sunday paper while Frank walks alone around a perimeter "bike path". Bailee peels a mangoe while Ben tries to show her his latest drawing of a new kind of helicopter. Talia is on a raised platform in front of a full-length mirror trying on earrings and lipstick. Josh sits across from Sherry at the round table counting dollar bills. Every once in a while he rises and chops garlic on a chopping board. Kasama is in a swim suit with "water wings" and a scuba snorkel, dancing with an animated sea turtle. Saydee rides a tricycle around a large box of animal crackers as Daisy crawls speedily after her. Dan sits motionless in front of a flat screen TV which is showing a rerun of "The Simpsons." Stereo speakers at the front of the float blare out the latest Tom Jones hit: "As Good As It gets." Every so often one of the family members gives a wave to the sidelines of cheering children and their parents.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Two wishes

I have two wishes about my life and they both relate to experience with my mother.

First, I wish I had not been afflicted with asthma as a child. The agony of not being able to breathe is enough to have to endure without the additional consequences, both physical and mental, of being confined to the home, alone in trying to keep breathing, for longish periods of time. And the humiliation of feeling you were the only one in your school class experiencing this kind of suffering. There were no support groups then. My mother told me once, as consolation, that at least it kept me out of the military and perhaps serving and dying in Vietnam and this is true but, if given the choice again, I would take my chances with military service or look for a way to avoid it.

Second I would wish that I could have been a musician in the mode of say, Isaac Stern: a serious musician yet a showman who could also appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not someone who functioned only in the elite world of classical music, but a kind of Everyman performer who could bridge the gap between the sublime and the ordinary, between the concert hall and the music hall. I wish I could have appreciated all classical music, the slow movements, the atonal and opera as well as the swirling symphonies of triumph and celebration: Mahler as well as Mozart. Yes...I would have wanted to be a more mature person.

But we have to live with the personality we are given and make the best of it. Sometimes, thinking back, I can't believe how callow I was in youth. I can only hope I'm a little better now and that those I hurt or disappointed forgive me.

Music relates so much to life and expresses the ineffable more convincingly than words as anyone who has ever experienced the rush of exuberance from the overture to a Broadway musical (like Fiddler, like the Lion King) knows. And there are almost countless others, too, with each individual having their favorite.

Monday, February 25, 2008

When I'm feelin' kinda low and nothing seems to be going my way, either at home or in the world, I know it's time to climb into my Prius and head toward City Market. Something about the place relaxes me the moment I walk under the huge, rounded metallic canopy over the entrance. The signage which is artistically hand-lettered in a now "City" distinctive style always says things in a courteous, welcoming way. The checkers seem like real people displaying a little more individuality than what you'd find in other stores whether in their fashion styles or the jewelry they wear. And most of them remember my name and enter it into the checkout register so I can receive my five percent senior discount. But, most of all, I know I'm going to find a fresh display of my most important food item: bread. These are the finest artisan breads produced anywhere and they are all made with natural starters (wild yeasts) and are allowed to rise more slowly to develop flavor. You can feel the loaves: their crusty outer shells and imagine the chewy, elastic insides. There are many different varieties but my favorite is the sesame wheat loaf from O'Bread. It has sesame seeds embedded in the crust and the bread stays moist and delicious for a full three days. When you cut into the loaf you see irregular holes where the bread has fermented, as opposed to the uniform blandness of a commercial loaf texture. Driving home with my bread I think of how my first slice will be one of two kreichiks (Yiddish for the heel of the bread) and how good it will taste with some cold butter. And maybe an espresso. In a way City is like a haven for me. I feel as though I'm in a safe zone when I'm there away from the travails of the world and my own shortcomings. Some people only shop for the best price, but I like the best experience even if it means paying a little extra.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The radiant city...

Everyone has a place in their imagination that fills them with awe and excitement as well as a nostalgia for "home." For me this place is New York City. To this day the car trip to the City quickens my pulse and renews the hope of fulfilling one's dreams. Even the trip down the Thruway with its high-tech rest rooms every thirty miles or so, the way you can feel the traffic start to pick up south of Poughkeepsie, and the long downhill to the sight of the broad Hudson at the Tappan Zee bridge is a pleasureful experience. Although I was born in the City (the Bronx) I only lived there for the first five years of my life, one year in Astoria, Queens, in 1949 and one and one half years in 1966-67 at the 92nd Street Y but I can always hear the roar of the subway train on the express tracks, my neck remembers the stiffness from looking up at the tall buildings and I can see the flags fluttering at Rockefeller Center behind the gigantic statue of Atlas holding up the world at the Fifth Avenue entrance. The City exudes the radiance of a culture bursting with energy. At least, this is the way I like to think of it in my imagination. So many things are gone now that I remember with affection: the Automat where you could get a sliced egg sandwich with a bit of lettuce and tomato for five nickels, the thick wooden turnstile in a subway station that you would snap free when your nickel went in the slot, the red trolley cars with the lower center doors on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx and the varnished caned seats inside, the movie palaces along Broadway - even double-decker buses along Fifth Avenue! The rest of America, out West, was something you could only dream about visiting one day or glimpse through a "Viewmaster." Every civilization in history has had a beginning, a greatest era and a decline. New York is just one of many great cities now and the people trodding the ramps at Grand Central are different but the memory and the hope still linger over the City like the haze from the East River on a steamy summer day. I was not fortunate enough to be able to live and work in the radiant City but I know but, in a way, that makes it all the more stimulating to me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good things from bad...

My day didn't get off to such a good start yesterday. My daughter called and was upset with a blog I had written that had some negative comments on her family. This made me feel very guilty about blogging but her point was well-taken. I felt so bad I had resolved to stop blogging, but she called layer in the day and we had one of the best heart-to-heart talks we've had in years. It made me feel so much better when she said that one of her friends had enjoyed a couple of my blogs. I felt worthy again and was resolved to continue blogging with a new energy and discretion. A cloud of hurt had been lined with silver after all.
By coincidence another event that at first I thought very bad happened yesterday. I fell while I was out for my morning exercise just as I was turning from the road into a driveway to get to the sidewalk. I went down fast but since that part of the driveway goes up from the road I didn't fall as far as I could have. I landed on my side, my arm tucked in and I felt something twist a little in my knee. It was the same knee that had been giving me trouble for the past few months. And lo, as I picked myself up and began walking the knee felt much better as though it had been twisted back to where it should be. Maybe the aphorism: "There is a silver lining to every cloud" is true after all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love for sale?...

Valentine's Day is coming and once again I'll come up short. I've never sent my wife a valentine because all the cards seem to expensive compared to their shallow or mawkish thoughts. The last time I sent a valentine was about 1951 and I paid a dollar to send one that had a big padded silk heart to a girl two years younger than me. Of course, I never heard from her and it must have been a big joke with her parents. But then, to me, the world was full of promise. I know my wife would like to get a valentine in the mail with a tender thought but it just wouldn't be me. Her friends tell her their husbands do all these sappy, superficial things like flowers or candy and that makes me mad. Marriage takes a lot of resolve and if you've been married for a long time, as I have, love has morphed into many other things that cannot be expressed so easily. Remember when you learned in high school English that Shakespeare left his wife his "second best bed?" I always thought that was a low blow...
Plus, my wife is a wonderful person!

You Pay for This?

Last night I got a phone call from my son and daughter-in-law who are travelling in Maui with their two children and nanny (who is also my daughter-in-law's mother.) They had just been to view a sunrise from the top of a volcanoe which meant they all had to get up at 4 a.m. and drive 40 miles to an altitude of 10K feet. Apparently it sucked and she had a "massive headache and nausea." After raging at my son for having pressured them all to go at this hour the next thing they did was go for a frightening drive on a sometimes one-lane road along the cliffs by the ocean. It was beautiful but also terrifying. At the end of the drive they saw a rock with a natural-made hole in it where the ocean pressure sent a spume 50 ft. high! Is it worth it? Well, if you believe in "no pain, no gain" it certainly is. It seems, in life, there has to be some element of danger or hardship to make an experience worth mentioning. For instance, blogging, for married bloggers. It would be safer just to e-mail and not be afraid of exposing yourself but that wouldn't be as enjoyable as the vague fear that you might get scalded in letting off steam. And so it goes with vacations: I remember a trip to Disney World in 1984 with my daughter and son. We were on one of the "adventures": I think it was Exxon's "Wonderful World of Energy" and we were sitting in a huge dark hall on a moving bench which took you through the era of the dinosaurs and eons of time. All of a sudden the power was lost, the lights came on and we all had to walk dejectedly out an emergency exit. No fear, no pain; just the blahs. So, yes, I guess you can't have beauty and fear without paying for it. Besides, it really gives you a priceless talking point.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Costco Experience

I love/hate Costco. You have to buy a lot of everything you buy in order to get a bargain. But the quality is tops! And it's easy to return anything. It just seems more energized being in Costco versus a regular grocery store. But the people running the samples carts look so dispirited and bored - almost zombie-like. The electronics are all about to be replaced with new technology - so they're offered at reasonable prices. But the ambience doesn't begin to compare to a Sony or an Apple boutique. In fact, the ambience is decidedly chic blue-collar and egalitarian, but I notice many of the establishment elite (doctors, professors) shopping there too. It makes me feel as though I'm being sucked in to the mainstream default of everyday life when I consider myself "a cut above." I have to keep fighting the temptation to walk out clutching a 52" flat screen TV...but the food I buy looks perfect. But as I'm walking out to my Prius with a shopping basket full of glorious fruit and produce I have to think of those in Haiti eating mudcakes because they cannot afford anything else. Wouldn't it be ironic if they discovered there was some ingredient in the mudcakes that made them even more nutritious than what I had bought? Maybe they're even happier eating their mudcakes than I am biting into a ripe mango....

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ridin' the range...

I've always thought the purpose of life - once we're beyond the biological imperative to reproduce - is to discover as much about how life works as you can. If there's anything I've learned it's not to be prey to your emotions. This is much easier said than done for if we were to eliminate all emotion from our lives we would be zombies and who cannot help but sigh when listening to the Moonlight Sonata or feel a rush of exhilaration at a great Broadway musical like My Fair Lady or Fiddler. But there are other areas where we can defend against becoming victims of our impulses such as investing. We all know the "market" has to go up and down in order to be a market. And right now you hear a lot of grumbling about people losing money in their retirement portfolios. (They hardly ever say anything when the market is up) Yet, this is a good time for real investors unless you think that after the sun sets it won't come up again in the morning. Believe me, it'll come back stronger than ever. Can you believe it, or would you rather just go with your depression about not having granite countertops, central air or a minivan with a mobile kiddie theater? What's that? You have those things already? Yeah, I know, it's a tough world, but hang in there!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The sounds of expectation...

Because we still get old-fashioned mail delivery (right to our door) I listen as the mail carrier places our stuff in the mailbox. I can always tell by the sound (much louder and the top flap doesn't clank closed) when my new issue of the New Yorker is delivered. If my wife is home this creates a brief moment of panic because she won't wait until the carrier is at a safe distance down the street to collect the mail. I wait because I don't want him (or her) to think that I have nothing better to do with my day than wait for the mail. But since my wife has no such compunctions she barges right out, noisily pulls the mail out letting the top flap clank closed so the whole street knows, and comes slowly back up the stairs making me wait the extra few seconds of artery narrowing anticipation before coming over to me where I sit and saying, reluctantly, "Here's your New Yorker." (I think she gets a vicarious thrill by walking slowly and making me wait those extra few seconds.)
Sometimes, if she hasn't heard the delivery, she will notice the mail sticking out of the box and if the mail carrier has had sufficient time to withdraw down the street we will both race each other to get to the box first. It's her 123 lbs. to my 132 lbs. so it is not much of a jostling contest and one usually ends up holding the door for the other. If she reaches into the box first she usually just hands me the New Yorker with a disdainful "Here."
This all my seem trite to you but it is important to me to be the first to see the magazine - to take note of its cover art and peruse the table of contents to arouse my anticipation. I like to be first because this gives me an informational advantage over my wife and as we all know information is power! I also feel that I should be the first to possess it since I'm the one that so looks forward to it. My grandson, Ben, knows this and once, when we got fortune cookies for a dessert he said "I know what you want yours to say, Pa: that you"ll get a new New Yorker every day for a year!"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Library of hysterica...

I've just reviewed my daughter-in-law's entire blog works since the end of October '06 and i have to say that I agree with BL in judging them to be inappropriate for a 30 year-old mother of two with an advanced business degree. They cover the entire spectrum from farting to bra size to post-partum depression and I find them among the most candid, incredibly funny and entertaining admissions I have ever read. (Philip Roth eat your heart out) Her relationship with her Jewish husband is incisively explored with loving humor and touching detail. I only wish that something like this were a column in the local paper instead of the routinely insipid "Dear Abby" stuff. Bravo!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Other women in my life

One of the reasons I like to go to City Market, a downtown healthy/local food coop, is that it gives me a chance to have some contact with other people. Since I stay home most of the time and am not in school, don't go to work or frequent bars, my contact is limited. But at least when I go to get my sourdough bread or pasta I know I will have to make some eye contact and maybe exchange a word or so at the checkout. Most of the checkers there are young women and many have something unappealing about them: they are obese, they have hair in the wrong places, their clothes either cover too much or too little or they just seem too well educated for the job. The young men are also different - one wears lipstick and it actually looks quite good with his ear ring. Once in a while an attractive young female takes the job but they never seem to last long: I suppose they go on to more challenging positions quickly or, being adventurous, just move to a different state. They never engage me at the checkout - and that is understandable. But the others sre grateful if you exchange a thought with them. They might ask how I use the dehydrated refried bean mix that I sometimes buy (ans: in my pasta sauce) or they might drop a remark that it's the kind of day that they'd like to be at home reading or drinking tea. It's almost as if their looks (or lack thereof) has freed them from the vanity of thinking of sexual attraction all the time and enabled them to see what's going on around them. These other women are not significant interests my life, but, still, if I see them in another setting or just on the street I take note. And it's surprising how conversant some of them are and how their personality seems to brighten if someone takes an interest. They are way younger than I am but that doesn't seem to matter. This is one of the reasons I like going to City.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Day in the Life of....

For those few of you who may be interested here is a brief overview of my day:

6am: Out of bed to pee
6:40am: Same as above then to kitchen.
6:43am: Turn up heat, open door, get paper and prepare crossword page.
6:47am: Start hot cereal, soft boiled egg, rustic artisan roll in toaster oven (if available) make
coffee in my super-automatic.
6:52am: Spouse appears. We greet each other with coughs.
7:37am: Same as 6:40am.
7:49am: Granddaughter calls. I hope she will sing "Mocking Bird" song on speakerphone.
7:58am: Spouse leaves to walk with friend.
8-10am: Waiting period
10am: Leave for 6-7 mile walk. (This week I am dog-sitting)
12:01pm: Return and lunch
1-3pm: Waiting period and same as 6:40 am.
3pm: See if Terri Gross sounds interesting.
3:48pm: Same as 6:40am.
4-6pm: All Things Considered. Spouse appears. More coughs.
6pm: Supper (either a salad with spinach leaves, lasagna or sometimes fish or chicken.
Also watch Newshour.
6:40pm: Same as 6:40 am and more
7pm: A little of Katie Couric. Floss teeth.
7:20-10:40pm: Sit and/or pace. Check to see for comments on blog. Read New Yorker.
10;45pm: Into bed. Hope for sleep.

I know this is incomplete but I just thought I would include the high points.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Can anyone believe how much hype there is about the Superbowl? In fact, it's all hype designed to temporarily distract you from your woes while being entertained bymen playing bumper bodies or balls flying through the air. The only thing halfway exciting is watching a player sit on the bench after being taken out of play looking like a Kabuki actor with black smudges under his eyes and steam gusting out of his mouth. The camera cuts away after he spits. Is this what football fans look forward to all year? What a letdown after it's over (but I suppose it's the human condition to feel sad after excitement.) Actually I get more pleasure fro listening to a small child sing Mocking Bird than from viewing this spectacle. But I guess this is what sells HDTVs. Just think, in the HDTV ads would it be better to show football players or soemone being interviewed on the Newshour. I'll get my thrill from not watchibng and convincing myself that I've outgrown such ephemera.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our Game...

My spouse says all the right things - I say all the wrong things (or inappropriate things). I don't agree with people when I think they are wrong. For instance, insurance. If we are with other people my spouse is always in favor of being insured for everything you could think of. For someone (like me) to question the value of insurance is shocking. So everyone piles on with worse and worse stories of what can befall an individual and I make more and more provocative comments until silence ensues and we distract to another subject. But, in private, she is a different story as I point out the cost of insurance balanced by the risk. And when it comes to money she is torn by her fear of risk and her aversion to spending. So why can't she admit that I might be right? Is she afraid "to tempt fate?" Is there such a thing as fate?
But this is the way it goes. If I say we don't need snow tires she'll say "I think we should have them" even though our roads are thoroughly plowed and salted. Better safe than sorry. It's like a dialectic we have (yes and no) like a piece of music with fast and slow movements. Maybe we feel sub-consciously that that is what makes us entertaining (sort of like Alice and Ralph Kramden ((for those old enough to remember)) ). And couples that agree with each other are kind of monotonous, aren't they? You have to guess who is trying to gain points with the other.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Can I Buy Next?

In case you're not aware you're due to get some money back from the government before the end of summer - it's supposed to be an economic stimulus. So now you've got something else to worry about (unless you're good for more than $75K as a single or $150K as a family, in which case you get $0) which is what to buy with the money. Buying more goods made in China probably won't do much good for our economy but will boost pollution by encouraging Chinese manufacture. So why don't we try to make ourselves happier, instead (legally, of course) and buy super doses of Omega 3's? I'm thinking of trying this myself because I've heard some good things about them. And if we make ourselves a little happier we won't feel the pain of inflation and declining portfolios as much. In addition we won't be adding to the clutter of our residences either. (I have to go now as I'm going to check out the latest flat screen TV's at Best Buy.) Have a good day!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Like Hillary

Two things standout in my mind when thinking about Hillary Clinton: first, I like the way she handled herself when she as First Lady was called down to the special prosecutor's courthouse to testify in the Whitewater case. Everyone knew it was a trumped up political vendetta initiated by the Republican congress. But I'll never forget how she presented herself at the courthouse where a crowd of photographers and reporters was waiting: she was attired in a black dress with a cape that had an inner red lining as I recall. And she stood like a fashion model in front of the photographers with complete self confidence and ease, smiling. That was a great presence, and, of course, the charges came to nothing. But she had copmpletely upstaged her enemies.

The second was when she was grilled by Matt Lauer on the Today show after the Lewinsky scandal. She did everything she could to support her husband. That's loyalty!

That's why she would have my vote. Obama is a good man but I've yet to see how he would handle himself in a moment of crisis and I think this is important when considreing someone for the Presidency.

Friday, January 25, 2008

To Be or Not to Be (Jewish)

My dual heritage, Jewish and Gentile, was always problematic for me. I wasn't a 'pure' Jew but I was technically Jewish enough because my mother was. I think that gave me the right to make "aliyah" to Israel if I wanted, whereas someone with only a Jewish father would not be accepted as easily.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? (Hardly anyone wants to be called "a Jew") No one wants to be judged on the basis of ethnicity alone since this could be comically offensive, and it would lead to stereotyping which leads to much worse things.

So if ethnicity and genealogy are out what is left to "Jewishness?"

Tradition, as symbolized by one or more of the Jewish holidays would be one thing. For example, Passover, which can be celebrated as a kind of yearning for freedom by all people. You could make some modifications to the Haggadah (namely references to the "chosen people") that would make it more inclusive in spirit. And the food is great! Learn about matzo ball soup, egg soup and haroseth.

Or you could just associate with Jewish people and cultivate some Jewish friends. Call this Jewishness by association.

Also if you are a member of a synagogue it shows...that you belong to a synagogue. (You may be completely secular and that's OK too.)

And even just saying "I want to be Jewish" is enough of a signal without having to go through all the motions. Most people would probably accept your desire. Especially if you were a nice person with even just a little sense of humor.

Of course you shouldn't feel you need to change your personality to adapt to the image of Jewishness you have in your mind. Some people will always be a little more or a little less Jewish than others. Basically I feel that if you practice the golden rule you will be as Jewish as you need to be.

My visitor today was our rabbi. We discussed many topics: sex, marriage, Jewishness, God, films and our past histories. Whatever may happen to ethnicity or genealogy as a component of Jewishness, its practice as a discipline and code of conduct will endure...

Shabbat Shalom,...Hey!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ghosts of the dead

I just read Adam Gopnik's piece in the latest New Yorker about mourning the Civil War dead. Three different books. One, by the new Harvard president, describes the ghastly way these men died at close range, left on the battlefield to rot. All the deaths from war, disease, tsunami, earthquake and murder are on my mind on an almost daily basis - and makes it impossible for me to believe in a benevolent God. I recommend this article.

Monday, January 21, 2008

weekend visit

Saydee say "Shabbat Shalom Heyyyy!" Daisy smile and wave her arms. Kasama show me how to blog. Josh and I take a walk, notice the full moon, and he say Saydee spotted it in the car on the way up. We have good lasagna dinner with wine. We all hug and they wave from car...go back. Which better: hello or good-bye? So great...soul medicine to be with people you like to be with. "How are you today?" says the woman the checkout. So many days I say fine, but today I really mean it.