Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Times Square

Every weekday morning, I take the commuter bus from New Jersey to Manhattan. It stops at Port Authority and then proceeds down 42nd Street to Madison Avenue and up Madison to 59th. Most mornings, passing by Times Square is my cue to put my book away and get my coat. On this last day of 2008, even at 8:30 in the morning, Times Square was getting ready for the big party. I looked up to see the crystal ball which will drop at midnight. The sawhorses and the metal barriers are out, and the police department is starting to get organized.

The last time I spent New Years' Eve in Times Square was 1972. Some friends of mine used to rent a suite in a cheap hotel in Times Square (Times Square still had cheap hotels in 1972), buy a lot of food and liquor, and charge everyone they knew $3 to attend. It was great - you could either go down to be in the crowd (after leaving your watch and wallet upstairs) or look out the window, or keep partying and ignore the whole thing.

My New Years' Eves are a lot calmer now and I know that this year I will turn on the TV at ten minutes to midnight--if I make it to midnight--to see the place I passed by in my bus this morning packed wall to wall with people. May all of us--the stay at homes, the partygoers, the revelers in Times Square--look towards a 2009 with hope for a new era, a time for peace and abundance for all humanity.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gone Postal

There were errands to run and noon seemed like a good time to get them done. The glory of the plan was that I could do everything in a central place, get a nice shawerma sandwich to go at Saca's and be back at my desk in no time at all.
The first errand was easy. I dropped my library book in the book return slot. And on its due date. Think of that.
Wow! Things were going really well. Now across the street to mail two small packages.
How was I to know that a local Brownie Scout Troupe was using the Post Office as a staging area for its field trip to City Hall. At least twenty-five screaming prepubescent girls and three or four way too early in the day to be at the ends of their wits scout leaders clearly at their wits' ends shouting in that please God don't let me kill them tone of voice all the time trying to sound patient and empathic and knowing they were failing miserably filled most of the small customer area. I was sixth in line from the service window. Three people in front of me in the line was an overly dressed for going to the post office woman. She had two small, out fitted dogs on separate leashes. The dogs wore matching sweaters and matching beaded collars. Totally embracing their gender identity issues, they took turns trying to mount each other. When they became too frustrated with that, they took turns trying to mount table legs and twice human legs. Just as they actually succeeded in one mounting the other, the woman was called to a service window. While trying and failing to discretely untangle her dogs and take them with her she dropped her packages. Those of us in line were only too happy to help her and get her and the dogs to the window away from us. Of course, in post office tradition, each of her packages was going to a different third world country and each package required insurance and proof of delivery. The dogs resumed their coitus and were not unnoticed by the Brownies who shrieked even louder and laughed those shrill laughs of the morally outraged and incredibly thrilled. Their field trip began prematurely as their now completely hysterical leaders rushed them out of the building.
Finally at a window, I paid for my mailings and was given a receipt. The postal clerk warned me to not lose the receipt until I was certain the packages were delivered.
I stumbled form the Post Office not daring to look back at the dogs. From the sounds they made, things were going pretty well.
At Saca's I ordered the shawerma I'd been visualizing all the time I'd been in the Post Office. When I opened my wallet to pay, my postal receipt fell into the tip container. Taking anything out of a tip container is like making change in the church collection plate. But the postal clerk had warned me to not lose that receipt. Hoping no one in the busy little restaurant would notice, I looked into the container. It was full of pieces of paper tossed in with bills and change. The only way to find my receipt was to look at every piece of paper. I took the container to a table and began riffling through it. People stared at me and gave me baleful looks. I fully expected that someone would call the police. Nevertheless, I continued my furtive search. The stares at Saca's seemed far easier to endure than the disapproval of the woman at the Post Office. She'd been through so much already.
I finally found my receipt and was returning the tip container to the counter when a woman cut in front of me and demanded ketchup for her lamb shawerma. Silence fell on Saca's. No one cared anymore about that sneaky woman pawing around in the tip container. They were too shocked by the request for ketchup.
Finally, the owner of Saca's tearfully gasped, "Wait," and disappeared. Several minutes later he returned holding an unopened bottle at arm's length.
I'm thinking he had gone to the nearest grocery story and bought it. Even after he gave her the ketchup, no one in Saca's spoke. All eyes were on her as she poured ketchup onto the pita.
The Post Office will recover from this morning's carrying on.
I'm not so sure the staff at Saca's will ever speak again.
At least the public library got its book back on time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not Necessarily Rhetorical

Does human blood really become thinner in warmer climates?
Southern California has experienced a stretch of cold weather. The temperature some nights has dropped into the low thirties. During some days it has not topped fifty-five. People here have been in shock. They stare at windshields and wonder what to do about the ice covering them.
They wear gloves and watch caps. They run to ski shops to purchase parkas. Such behavior is understandable if a person has never lived outside Los Angeles County. Those people have no knowledge or experience with winter.
However, I know a guy who moved here several years ago because he hated the weather in his home town.
"Brooklyn," he said, "was too cold."
Then he clapped his gloved hands together to reclaim blood flow into his fingers.
I stared at him in disbelief. The temperature was almost sixty degrees. He saw my expression and explained that since moving to Southern California his blood had become thin.
I think people here just like to wear nifty winter clothing and seize any opportunity to do so.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
No. I mean it. It's so cold here in Southern California my fingers are stuck to my keyboard.
Really.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Still King of the Road

On January 1, in California, it will become illegal to receive, read, compose, or send a text message on your cell phone while driving your vehicle.
I'm not going to repeat that but I suggest you reread it right now. I'll wait for you.
Ready?
Good.
Common sense is no longer common. This law proves it. Therefore, we need to enact and enforce thousands of other laws that would seem on paper to be as absurd as the law against texting while driving.
Here are a few laws that should be immediately approved for enforcement.
1. No longer is it legal to give yourself a manicure while driving a vehicle.
2. No longer is it legal to turn around to face the back seat and yell at your children while driving a vehicle.
3. No longer is it legal to shave while driving a vehicle.
4. No longer is it legal to read the morning paper while driving a vehicle.
5. No longer is it legal to google directions on your laptop while driving a vehicle.
Those proposed laws would be pretty funny if I hadn't seen all of these activities and more during my daily commutes.
Legislating and enforcing common sense is an expensive way to bring us to our senses.
On the other hand, something happens to our brains when we get behind the wheel of a car. Only there can we return to adolescence -- at least until we run out of gas.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Could This Be Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Today the FDA approved a medication designed to increase the length, texture, and color of eyelashes. The drug will be available by prescription in early 2009.
There are, of course, possible side effects. The color of the eyelid can change and the color of the eye can change. Hmmm. Also, if the stuff applied directly to the edge of the eyelid where you want the lash to grow touches any other skin, hair is apt to grow there, too. So the warning urges people to use cotton or some such and dab the skin on their eyelid after they've applied the medication. Rubbing your eyes with your hands after application could be interesting. Rubbing your eyes with your hands and then shaking the hands of another person could be even more interesting.
I get it that people receiving chemotherapy and people who have suffered burns may be able to obtain enormous benefit from this drug. The way things generally go, though, it probably won't be available to anyone who could actually benefit from it. The main requirement for receiving it will be that you have first tattooed permanent mascara around your eyes.
I mean, there are so many medical crisis needing our attention and so much essential research that won't happen because of funding. But next year we can at least grow really long eyelashes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Perks of Two

In the center of Hanukkah this year we'll leave the latkes and applesauce, gelt and chanukiah and drive  the three miles to her house.  Past the Santa wind sock and the poinsettias awaits a condo filled with the sent of evergreen, twinkling lights and cinnamon scented candles.  It always feels a bit awkward moving from my space to hers when the celebrations collide.   I'll sit on her couch watching.   After all these years I still feel like I'm in a foreign land.   My boys have no trouble.  They have grown up with the perks of the two and have no trouble switching gears.   She'll crown one boy with the Santa hat (the one who doles out the gifts) and the frenzy begins.  The giving is generous, big, loving and exhausting.   In recent years she has let go of the traditional meal and agreed to come to my house for dinner.  After a few hours she'll drive the three miles to my home with her visiting sons.    We'll make our new ritual meal of Paella, drink champagne, eat whatever gelt is left,  look at each other through the kindled lights and  observe the great miracle of family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"A Visit From St. Nicholas"

Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" was written on a Christmas eve for his children and was published on December 23, 1823 by a New York newspaper, The Sentinel.

Clement Clarke Moore was born in 1779 to a well-known Rev. Benjamin Moore who was President of Columbia University and participated in George Washington's first inauguration. He gave last rites to Alexander Hamilton after Hamilton was mortally wounded in 1804 after a duel with Adam Burr.

Some believe the poem was written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. since Moore called this poem "a mere trifle" and it wasn't a well known fact that he authored it.

Nonetheless, it has become known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and is known as a Christmas favorite.

These days, the poem carries a magical atmosphere for little ones to let their imaginations go wild and imagine Santa in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer on their roof, bounding down the chimney with just the gift they wanted.

The legend of Santa Claus lives on through this poem.

Merry Christmas

This year the eight days of Hanukkah enfold Christmas. May these winter celebrations of light and miracle bring us closer to one another and closer to peace for all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most Barn Doors Should Stay Closed

This Medical Conscience Rule for health workers recently approved by the Bush administration has me worried.
Under the rule, which takes effect in January, anyone from the neurosurgeon to the pharmacy cashier can choose to not participate in the medical care of any individual because of a religious or moral objection.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt describes this rule as protecting the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience. That's the conscience of the health care provider, of course.
The Family Research Council, doubtless dancing in the street shouting yippee and slurping champagne, calls this ruling a gift to pro-lifers because health care providers now have a right to make professional judgments based on moral convictions. So much, apparently, for the Hippocratic Oath.
Abortion is the obvious moral issue here. According to this ruling, a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription for post abortion antibiotics if the reason for the antibiotics is known and the pharmacist objects to abortion.
I'm always willing to take things to the most far fetched scenario. So, what if someone suffering from AIDS seeks emergency room treatment for say, a broken leg. That treatment, despite EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) federal legislation can be denied if a nurse or doctor feels that people suffering from AIDS are sinners.
And what about people openly gay or lesbian? If the dentist feels homosexuality is wrong, screw the cavities.
Let's take this even further. Anyone believe that mental illness is a direct result of masturbation and that masturbation is a sin? How about body piercings? Those among us still bogged down in Leviticus might refuse medical treatment to anyone wearing an ear ring. Forget all of the other places we pierce.
You see where I'm going with this.
I know a thing or two about barn doors. They are rarely open just wide enough to accommodate field mice. Once opened a little bit, it doesn't take long for every horse on the ranch to gallop with wild abandon through the hills. If enough barn doors open, what we wind up with is a stampede.
Let's hope human nature has a door stop.

Monday, December 22, 2008

His Mother's Tree

After driving miles along Foothill Boulevard,  he finally spotted  a man tossing rejected pine trees into a pile.  It was December 24th and he had waited too long.  When he approached the man I saw him motion to Tom to help himself to anything of value he could find in the discarded heap of dried needles.  It was one of those times when I knew it was best to say nothing.  At some point we would joke about this but it wouldn't be that day.  He loaded the fire hazard into the back of the Tahoe and said, "Well, it's only for one night."  He carefully set the tree up in the designated spot and then quickly pulled out the vacuum to whisk away the evidence.  He gently placed a few decorations the kids had made at school on the branches, scattered the presents underneath and called it a day.   His mother said the same thing she says every year, "I think that's the prettiest tree we ever had."  This year he went early and had the tree cut fresh from a farm.  

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Family Menorah

When I moved to California in December 1979, my mother asked me if I had a Chanukah menorah to take with me. I did not, as I had recently given my childhood menorah (it held birthday candles) to my young niece. My mother gave me the family menorah, the one that we had lit together all my life. I was deeply touched.

I went home the next Chanukah and was horrified to see my parents lighting an electric menorah. Oh, no, I thought, they gave me their menorah and now they don't have another. For their anniversary that year, I went to a Judaica shop in San Francisco and bought them a really nice menorah, one that cost a little more than I could afford. When I sent it, they oohed and aahed over how lovely it was, then stashed it in the china cabinet with all their pretty things, and kept lighting their electric menorah every Chanukah. I gave up.

This year, I realized that Sunday, the first night of Chanukah, would find me living in New Jersey while most of my possessions still reside in California, including the family menorah. I went to my parents house for dinner Friday night. I looked in the china cabinet and there it was, still as unused as the day it was bought. I took it home with me, and tonight, about twenty five years after it was purchased, I lit it for the first time. I said the shechechiyanu prayer over it, blessing God for sustaining me long enough to reach this moment.

Happy Hanukkah
















Even during the darkest times we are obligated to rejoice and to never let our individual or our collective lights go out. Together our candles light up the entire universe.
Peace to you, to your families, and to the world.
Together we can make it happen.
Happy Hanukkah.

I Hope This Really Happened

Here's to Baby Hippos



Thanks to witsend blogger ravaj for this video.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dueling Sandwiches

In my temporary home here in Monroe Township, New Jersey, there is a problem that has always puzzled me. In a strip mall on Applegarth Road, right next to one another, are two businesses called "Dee's Bagel Cafe" and "Sandwich King". They both serve breakfast and lunch and then close in mid-afternoon. They both advertise, "New Jersey Star Ledger sold here". They both boast, "We Serve Boar's Head Meats". Their signs are identically lettered. This morning, when I was there, the same truck was making deliveries to both of them. How do both of them thrive?

Well, they do. And there are factions. My father and his pals will only eat at Sandwich King. He says that Dee's runs out of bagels by lunchtime which, if true, is pretty irresponsible for a place that bears the word "bagel" in its name. However, I lean to Dee's. I always used to go there with my Aunt Ruth and they recognize me when I come in. I don't care whether the calumny about the bagels is true because I always get my kosher salami sandwich (lettuce, tomato and mustard, pickle on the side) on a Kaiser roll (poppyseed). On the occasions when I bring a sandwich to my parents house, my father invariably says, "Where did you get that? Dee's? Why don't you go to Sandwich King? It's much better."

This morning, though, I just wanted a newspaper to take home and read with my coffee. I figured that if they didn't carry the New York Times, I would read the Star-Ledger. True to form, both Dee's and Sandwich King were out of newspapers. I went across the road to WaWa, where I had my choice of all the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia papers. Don't get a sandwich there, though; they're terrible.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm Thinking Nobel Peace Prize

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8, arguing that the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Brown, the state's chief law enforcer, said in his filing this afternoon that the proposition "deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution."

“Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," he wrote in responses to challenges filed by gay-right supporters.

Apparently the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles have filed suits seeking to overturn the ban.

I have always admired Jerry Brown for his unflinching sense of social justice. I am thankful that he remains at the front of California political life.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wheels For Humanity

Last Sunday night The Gaslight Anthem performed at The Key Club on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. Naturally, I was there. They just get better all the time.
This concert raised money for a cause new to me -- UCP Wheels for Humanity based in North Hollywood. The UCP stands for United Cerebral Palsy.
In this part of the world we sometimes forget that not every place has curb cuts for people for whom mobility is a challenge. We are used to guide dogs and electric wheel chairs and handicapped parking. We are so accustomed to these devices that sometimes we forget about the people who use them. And certainly I had developed a blissful unawareness of what it means to be immobile in a mobile world.
UCP Wheels for Humanity has, since 1996, offered increased mobility and dignity to people with disabilities -- providing wheelchairs and education in underdeveloped and emerging countries of the world including Mexico, Mongolia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, the Ukraine, and many other places where there is such a need.
Here's what the organization does. It takes junk -- old parts of old wheelchairs, discarded stuff, and all sorts of ambulatory aids, and refurbishes them. Once fixed up, the organization delivers them and individually fits them to economically disadvantaged children and adults in developing countries. They do this without regard to political affiliation, religious belief or ethnic identity.
Without a wheelchair or other ambulatory device, adults and children are often forced to crawl from place to place unless someone is willing to carry them. It is estimated that over one hundred million people worldwide need the assistance of this organization.
Each year UCP Wheels for Humanity recycles about 226,000 pounds of discarded wheelchairs and other ambulatory devices and turns them into mobility.
The Gaslight Anthem was wonderful and the nephew terrific.
The cause for which they played was bigger than any performer on the stage or any person in the audience.

UCP Wheels for Humanity
12750 Raymer Street, Unit 4
North Hollywood CA 91605
818.255.0100
www.ucpwft.org

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey, It's Raining!

I reflected on the post a week ago about the bundled up golfers as I watched my boy prepare for a high school soccer game tonight. However, unlike the golfers the soccer uniform consists of a thin nylon shirt and matching shorts that affords no protection from the elements.  You see,  its raining and as cold as I ever remember it in my 25 years of living in sunny southern California.  "Why aren't you coming? Tom asked.  I shake my head in disbelief why the entire day of outside sports wasn't cancelled.  What are they thinking? Tom calls me from his car parked as close as he could get to the field.  He opens the window for a clearer vision to give me an update and then closes it between plays to gather back the warmth that had escaped.  I have no interest in the play by play.  I question the sanity of the powers that be. All I can think about is the cold and wet boy with zero percent body fat that will return in the next hour shivering.   

Testing, Testing

It was that time again. I received a Driver's License Renewal Notice from DMV requiring me to take a written exam. I promptly obtained the "California Handbook". I read through it page by page using it as a refresher course. I felt smug when I got behind the wheel knowing all the rules of the road once again. "So", I thought to myself, "How many drivers follow the rules?" Not that I was surprised, but most drivers don't obey traffic rules as they are written in the Handbook. The freeway onramps are for vehicles to accelerate to freeway speed - not for stopping. Stop signs are for complete stops (tires not moving) - not for slowing and proceeding depending upon traffic. The #1 lane is for vehicles going freeway speed - not for slower vehicles. It's not a game of dodge ball with pedestrians. Sirens are sounded for traffic to pull over to the right - not for trying to outrun emergency vehicles.

With all this (and more) in mind, I took and passed the written exam. Through all this, my testing reaffirmed that good drivers will remain good and bad drivers will never change.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Won't Argue

I looked at the bill for my land line telephone. It's always about the same amount and I always feel irritated by the amount because I don't use it all that much. Yesterday I called my phone company and actually spoke to a living person.
"This bill seems too high," I said to her.
"It sure does, doesn't it?" she responded.
"Is there anyway I can pay less a month for the same service?"
"Sure is," she enthusiastically replied. "How about we cut that bill in half?"
"Each month?"
"Sure thing!"
And so she did. It was that easy. I added nothing to my service and nothing was removed. The only change is that my bill will be half of what I've been paying for well over a year.
Now here's my question.
If I had been paying the fair price to begin with, why would it be so easy to lower the bill? The woman with whom I spoke seemed quite thrilled that I had finally come to my senses and asked for a lower monthly fee.
Mind you, I'm not going to argue but this strikes me as just a little odd.
While I ponder this, you might pick up the phone and ask your phone person for free service. You never know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Lipstick Building


The epicenter of what may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history was the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building, an oval red-granite building rising 34 floors above Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
--New York Times front page, 12/15/08


I didn't know they called it that when I moved to New York. I only knew that it was tall and very unusual in appearance and that it was two blocks south of my building on Third Avenue, and I needed a visual orientation object and that was it. When today's New York Times referred to it "The Lipstick Building" I knew immediately which building they meant.

In this building, Bernard Madoff perpetrated a multi-billion dollar scam that fooled some very prominent and fabulously wealthy people. Many of them were major donors to charities. Some of those charities were Jewish philanthropies, whose budgets had already been shredded by the financial crisis. Madoff himself was treasurer of the board of Yeshiva University. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Some of these organizations will have to close their doors and others will be forced to make drastic cutbacks.

This morning when I passed the Lipstick Building, there was a sign on the sidewalk in front of it that said "Danger". It was making reference to the window washers up thirty stories or so, but it might well have been referring to the shenanigans taking place on the 17th floor. Danger, indeed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm The Reason It Didn't Rain

The predictions began Thursday evening. By Friday evening, we were told, the rains would be heavy. Cold and heavy rain the weather people predicted. They promised us the biggest storm in recent years.
Southern California needs the rain. Maybe not rain in the form of the biggest storm in recent years because with heavy rains will come the inevitable mud slides especially in the areas ravaged recently by fire. However, a good, slow rain would be great.
As of this moment, the rains have not arrived.
I know why.
It's my fault.
Friday morning I had new windshield wipers put on my Jeep. Before Friday morning I wiped my windshield with what for all intents and purposes was two metal rods which at one time held something made of rubber.
In a radical departure from my normal hap hazard approach to getting ready for things like major storms, I bought new windshield wipers and had a guy at a service station in Pomona even put them on my Jeep. I was all set.
Except that those badly needed rains didn't come.
Tomorrow morning during rush hour, it will rain. I know this because this evening I took the new windshield wipers off of my Jeep and replaced them with the old ones. You see, there is wisdom in not quickly throwing broken, useless stuff away.
To guarantee the rains, I washed my car.
Drought be gone. I'm ready for the rains.
But just in case, I parked my Jeep outside and left all the windows rolled down.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Lucky Day

I didn't bring in the daily paper this morning. There it was in the driveway but instead of picking it up before I left the house for my day, I ran over it.
I parked in the lot of a large chain sort of health food organic type store. When I came out with my purchases, someone had let loose their shopping cart and it had run into the side of my Jeep. I wheeled the cart to the boldly signed cart place then returned to look at my Jeep. A few more scratches had been added to its door and its story.
"I'm so lucky," I thought, "to have a car years and miles beyond its first scratch."
A car with over two hundred thousand miles to its credit is a wonder to behold and to own.
My outing continued to a popular area of town where none of the stores in which I had previously shopped existed. They were gone -- replaced by stores in whose inventories I had no interest.
"What a fine opportunity to avoid unnecessary purchases," I thought and felt good about the money I had saved.
In a bookstore, I noticed a calendar. It was an amazing calendar. You may recall my this time of year fixation with calendars. I was about to buy it when I looked at it more closely. It was for the year 2008. I put it back on the shelf and thought how incredibly lucky that I took the time to check out the year of that almost perfect calendar. Really, I've already got enough 2009 calendars and yet I was so close to buying another.
My errands run, only what I needed purchased, I returned home and again ran over the newspaper still in my driveway. Before I closed the garage door, I picked up the newspaper.
In the plastic bag with the paper was a sample box of granola. Of course, because I had twice run over it, the sample was in no shape to eat.
Again, I considered myself lucky. You see, several years ago I read a book in which a plague was spread by food samples delivered either in newspapers or through the mail. Since reading that book I have avoided all such samples. However, today as I drove into my garage I was thinking how great a bowl of granola would taste right about then.
Because I had twice run over the newspaper and its free sample thus rendering it inedible, I doubtless avoided becoming both a victim and a carrier of perhaps the deadliest plague ever.
Today was not only my lucky day, it was yours, too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Sync

The first steps in a relationship can be the most crucial. Ever notice when couples are freshly in love they walk in sync? When the relationship gets a little older, there are times the couples walk somewhat out of sync. As couples' relationships mature, those truly in love still walk in sync and those who are really not made for one another no longer walk in sync but are very much out of step with one another - never to walk in sync again.

The Moment

He called just as I was settling in to watch Jon Stewart on the daily show.  I leaped when my cell phone displayed his name and quickly pushed the button.  "Mom, after working twelve hours, the chef tapped me on the shoulder and said I got the job.  Six days a week from 11am to 11pm." Thoughts of the logistics of this began racing through my head.  Twelve hours?  Are they crazy?  How could he maintain a schedule like?  I realized it was one in the morning in NY and he had just gotten off at his subway stop.   He continued to speak a mile a minute revealing his excitement about the details and possibilities of his new position.  I listened attentively trying my best not to ask any questions that would take away from the moment.   It was his moment of glory and beyond anything else it erased all the doubt from yesterday.  While many are struggling to find work, a passionate young man found an open door and the job of his dreams...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For Shame

The governor of Illinois should be ashamed of himself. Did he really think he could get away with selling the Senate seat? Was he trying to sell it to Jesse Jackson, Jr.? Was Obama involved in this even though he says he wasn't? I hope not - he is supposed to get the American citizens out of this mess. When will the corruption stop? Who will be next? Only the media knows.

New Jersey Humor

Driving in New Jersey requires a willingness to be constantly taken by surprise not by other drivers, necessarily, but by the signs informing distance and exits. Go along following the exit signs to, for example, Newark Airport. Those signs will tell you which divide in the road is yours and so you take it. They will even tell you in which lane you should position yourself and so you maneuver into that lane. Those signs effectively lull you into a trust. You begin to rely on them. And then, just at the last second when they've got you positioned in the far left lane, the sign says exit immediately from the far right lane. It never fails.
Imagine my relief, then, when I arrived at the Newark Airport thinking I was then free of that particular brand of New Jersey humor.
Ha.
I got suckered.
All of the postings told me that my 4:30 PM flight left from a gate at the far end of the Continental terminal. I believed them. I got to the gate with enough time to begin reading the novel I'd been lugging around with me for two weeks. Even the display above the gate assured me that I was where I needed to be.
And then it happened. Twenty minutes before my flight was to begin boarding, the display above my gate -- my promised gate, my guaranteed gate -- changed. No longer was the flight leaving from that gate going to Los Angeles. It was going to Argentina. Curious though I am, I did not want to go to Argentina on that particular evening.
I ran to a video display and was slapped in the face by the fact that my flight was going to board and depart from a gate at the opposite end of the Continental Airlines Terminal.
If I ran on the moving walkways and knocked down the elderly, I just might make the flight. And so I did. Walkers and three pronged canes flew in my wake. Children screamed in terror. Each time I passed a video arrival and departure display I checked my gate just to make sure I did not become the brunt of yet another bit of New Jersey humor.
When I arrived at the gate out of breath and drenched in sweat I couldn't help but wonder how all of the other passengers knew to be at that gate all along.
That's New Jersey humor for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Gaslight Anthem

You may recall these guys. We've mentioned them before. Even if the drummer wasn't the nephew, we'd think they were terrific. Last night The Gaslight Anthem appeared on Conan O'Brien. We are very proud.

The Curse and the Blessing

For the first time in four days after her partner of twenty years said, "I don't," she didn't cry when she woke to find herself alone in the big brass bed.  "It's strange," she reported through a text message, "I somehow feel lighter."   After staring at my phone and then erasing three attempts at a response, I finally settled on, "That's nice."   It was her next text that made me laugh for the first time since hearing the news, "Hey,"  she wrote, "I can get a cat now." 

Good Morning

This morning, I could have used the extra minute to which MaryWalkerBaron made reference in her last post. I am temporarily living in the house which belonged to my deceased Aunt Ruth in New Jersey and commuting to my job in Manhattan. The subway doesn't adhere to a schedule, or if it does, commuters aren't told what it is. Commuter buses, however, leave at specific times.

I calculated my first morning perfectly, performing my morning tasks and leaving the house on time. Then, halfway during the five-minute walk to the bus, I realized that I had changed outerwear and left my Metrocard and building pass in the pocket of yesterday's coat. I ran back and retrieved it, and was running hell-for-leather down the main street of this quiet retirement community when a car pulled over. Two women, obviously mother and adult daughter, sat in the front seat and a baby, the grandson, occupied a carseat in the rear. "Are you going to the commuter bus?" asked the woman in the passenger seat, "Get in." She directed her daughter down the block and around the corner to the bus shelter, and I was there in plenty of time. In response to my profuse thanks, the mother replied, "God gives us blessings all the time. This is one of them". "Well, then, you are God's messengers today" I said, as I got out of their car. I smiled all the way to Manhattan.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time Doesn't Always Fly, Apparently

I'm pretty sure this is what the guy said. I was driving home this evening. Traffic was heavy. I was listening to someone interview someone else on some radio program or the other. However, I'm almost certain this is what he said.
In one million years we will have added a full minute to our day. This is because the earth is slowing in its orbit. Not a whole lot, apparently, but enough to pick up that minute every million or so years.
It doesn't seem like this would be a big problem but apparently it is. The computers and other sensitive electronic stuff are no longer as accurate as one would think. The situation must be addressed.
At some point, and I have to confess I didn't catch the exact point at which this will happen, we will make time stand still to allow our clocks and stuff to again match the earth's rotation. This point not caught by me is not thousands of years off. It's around the bend. The date and the moment, I think the guy said, have already been set. On that day at that moment time will stand still. Either that or the earth will stand still.
I think I saw that movie.

Monday, December 8, 2008

An African Proverb

If you want to go fast,
Go alone.
If you want to go far,
Go together.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Road Trip - Sunday - Back Home

Today I retraced the route taken across country -- two weeks after the journey began it ended on the day and at the location of its beginning. Except today Continental Airlines made short work of the road trip which lasted a week. Tracing almost our exact route, I covered the ground in six and a half hours. There was no sense of the incredible vastness of this country. Today's trip was all about expedience -- getting to the destination.
There was no early morning fog in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, to sit out with other travelers. I have no idea if that curve in the road somewhere in Texas got itself straightened out. Today I crossed the Mississippi River and never knew it and so gave the genius of Mark Twain no thought at all. I suppose those two tired women running that little store in Carlisle, Arkansas, are still keeping Moon Pies in stock but I couldn't check their inventory today. The Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway have gotten along without me for centuries but it was good to feel a part of them for awhile -- to breathe in the icy air and glory at the beauty. They were somewhere under the 737 today but I didn't notice.
I think everyone should drive across this country at least once. It's really big and it's really beautiful. Every state is different in personality and landscape. The interstate highway system is astonishing in its design. Getting lost is pretty hard to do, even though, of course, we did at least a couple of times.
I miss the road. Of course, tomorrow morning I'll be back on a familiar set of roads, the Los Angeles freeways. They're pretty amazing, too.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Golf -- A Special Type of Insanity

The temperature was in the low thirties. The grass was stiff with frost. Yet there they were -- the golfers.
Their heavy, bulky winter coats seemed to immobilize their arms. Hats pulled low over their eyes both shielded them from the bitter cold air and, unfortunately, blinded them. Hands encased in heavy gloves made gripping their clubs unlikely.
Actually swinging their clubs was indeed a precarious undertaking. Should one of them fall the chances were slim that they would be able to stand again without help because of the sheer bulk of their clothing.
Like elderly, crazed warriors -- their armor glistening with freshly fallen snow -- they gathered for another daily round.
As long as they can see the ball, it seems, they will continue these early morning gatherings always the same time tomorrow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lure Coursing In New Jersey

All the way across the country we called ahead to verify if the motel or hotel accepted dogs. Even with the verification, we were shy about the visibility of The Family Dog. He is, after all, not a tiny little thing. In fact, he has been known to take the breath away from people unfamiliar with the spectre of a huge, one hundred twelve pound dog grinning at eye level.
So tonight, on our final hotel stay, we again called ahead and again were told that dogs were accepted and again snuck The Family Dog in the back entrance just in case.
So intent were we on the 'sneak in' that we didn't notice the van parked at the far end of the lot. Had we been a little less absorbed in subterfuge, we might have wondered about the Rhodesian Ridgeback pictures decorating the outside of the van.
Tonight the Holiday Inn at Somerset, New Jersey, is hosting participants in the North Branch Park Lure Coursing. Lure coursing is a bunch of dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit across a field. According to Wikipedia, lure coursing is usually limited to purebred dogs of sight hound breeds. The Family Dog is not even close to being a purebred, but the breed he most closely resembles, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, is a sight hound. Never mind that The Family Dog usually can't even find a crumb that's dropped off the table, he's feeling pretty happy about the whole thing.
"It's just a great feeling," he says, 'to for once not have to worry about being caught or being too big for the room." Or at least that's what we think he's saying.
Who knows. Once he's more comfortable, he may take up Lure Coursing himself. I think I saw him make a note of it in his Paw Pilot.

We Remember Them

When my Grandmother passed away about twenty years ago I remember my mother telling me that she didn't understand cremation.  "You need a place for your children to visit, a place where they can come and talk to you."  I was pregnant at the time and thought that her words made sense.  She had lost her mother and if she found comfort in visiting her grave, I was happy for her.  
When my mother passed her wishes were to be cremated.  I never did get a chance to talk to her about when and why she changed her mind.  The day after her shiva was over and we took our walk around the block, one of my sisters suggested we visit the cemeteries of both sets of grandparents located in Brooklyn.  This was a harder task than anyone imagined.  Where were the cemeteries?  When was the last time anyone in the family had been there?  What were the plot numbers and did we really want to do this on the coldest day of the year? With a bottle of whiskey and some hard boiled eggs we bundled up and piled in the car.   The first cemetery was well maintained and my father's parents had a dual stone.  Her side of the stone was filled in fifteen years after his.  My dad toasted his parents with the whiskey, ate his egg,  sang a sefardic song and we said Kaddish.  The cold quickly pushed us back in the car and with the help of mapquest, we made it to the my mother's parents cemetery in ten minutes.  After we got directions to the plots, and drove around searching for the numbers to make sense, we gave up and parked.  After what seemed like an eternity, I saw a sign containing the numbers where the plots should have been and so I called for my sisters.  So many of the foot stones were covered in dirt.  They were sunken and the grass had grown over parts of them.  I knelled down with my bottle of water and started to rub and loosen the dirt with my scarf.  My hand was frozen but I didn't care.  There she was and there he was right next door.  I looked up and saw my dad shaking his head.   "I'm glad your mother isn't here to see this.  She never did come here, I guess she was happy with her memories."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Here's To Bumps In The Road

I once watched a movie with a plot even more outlandish than many of the movies I enjoy. This story involved the transporting across country of the most dangerous criminal in recorded history. Of course, he was being transported on a commercial airline and of course everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
I was asked by someone just walking through the room why the the world's most dangerous criminal was being transported on a commercial airline. I was stunned that such a question would even be considered much less verbalized.
"Because," I answered, "if the most dangerous criminal in the world was shackled and strapped into a plane designed only for the transporting of the world's most dangerous criminals nothing would happen and no one would watch the movie."
I was thinking of that movie today and considering bumps in the roads we travel. Journeys with bumps in the road are called adventures. Without the bumps those journeys are just called going from one place to another.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dog Days

There is something about a sign reading "Keep Dogs On Leash" that compels certain people to let their dogs run free. We are currently encamped in a lovely, peaceful apartment with the luxury of a designated dog area. It's a nice area with benches and grass and wood chips and flowers. And boxers and pit bulls running free and easy.
"Please leash your dog," I said to the woman who was talking on her cell phone while her really big, grey pit bull, drool pooling on the ground behind his paws, raced toward the family dog.
The woman continued to chat as her beast drew nearer, steam rising from his nostrils.
"Put your dog on a leash!" I shouted.
She looked at me as though I spoke an ancient language unknown to most of the civilized world and continued her conversation.
"There will be a terrible fight here in a couple of seconds," I said through clinched jaws, "And it won't be between these two dogs."
"I'll get back to you," said she to her celled companion and flipped closed her phone.
As three sets of teeth bared, mine being the third, she leashed her dog and began the arduous task of dragging him away from the family dog, whose lip was still curled ready for the melee. As she left the pet area, the pit bull human glanced over her shoulder perhaps to make certain that she had really been asked to obey the fifty or so signs posted in the pet area not requesting but demanding that dogs be kept on leashes.
Escaping from that potential disaster, I started to lead the family dog out of the pet area when the gate opened and three more dogs were let off of their leashes.
We found another exit and left before teeth were bared and before fur flew.
Apparently it really is a dog eat dog world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sand

It came out of nowhere.  Her e mail and his leaving.  two week after their 18th anniversary and two day before their children's birthdays, he made an announcement on their way home from a funeral.  "I'm not happy", he said.  "Funny", she responded, "I thought we were."  This kind of news travels through family and friends with a disbelief that leaves everyone speechless and frightened.  What you thought was solid ground was nothing more than sand.  "He's already got a place in town", she relayed with little emotion.  The shock that her best friend had betrayed her was too painful to permit herself to feel.  I talked to people who had been with them on the holiday and they saw nothing to suggest that there was discontent.  It was all hidden, even from her.  We all thought that if anyone would outgrow the other it would be her.  His mother cried through the festive meal...now we know why.

Landmarks

Jersey City is an easy place to get lost. At least Jersey City is an easy place for me to get lost. I generally have the same destination from trip to trip. The route to that destination either changes or my ability to follow directions changes. Either way I frequently get lost in Jersey City. One possible explanation for that on going difficulty emerged yesterday when I discovered that in a very close area there are two intersections of Grove and Newark Streets. I wasn't lost, really, I was just at the wrong intersection. Amazing how two streets could intersect twice. Some cities are like that. It seems as though the original city planners conspired against visitors. Take Rock Springs, Texas, for example. The Rock Springs in my childhood was a really small town. To me, though, it was huge. I walked out of some store or other and became completely disoriented. It took me a forever of wandering and asking and weeping before I found the home of my Great Aunt Vera. She explained to me the importance of landmarks. "Always find something that stands out," she said. "The tallest mountain or building or a water tower or something interesting. The important thing is to always know where you are in relationship to your landmark."
Jersey City has never gotten the best of me. I always wander around until I stumble into my destination.
Lately, though, I've been thinking a lot about my Great Aunt Vera's advice and the value of landmarks.
They not only help us find our way. They help us to remember who we are.
I'm going to be thinking a lot about my soul's landmarks and about the wisdom of a Texas pioneer who throughout her life never lost track of who she was.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Destination - Monday

Hotels or motels along the highway have an astonishing similarity. Members of various chains, they became interchangeable including the water under the shower tray which left a kind of soft feeling under the feet. The dog must have wondered why we rode around in a car for long days and then always wound up in the same place.
Sometimes I wonder that myself about other life events. On this trip we knew we were moving along.
That's one advantage of road trips over everyday living.
On road trips we have maps to guide us and warn us of hazards or delights along the way.