life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Not only are we going to Virginia in July, we are also about to book another Carribean cruise for February 2013.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So the trip is booked

We are headed to Virginia in mid July.

Bought a package -- unlimited admission to the Williamsburg historic area, Jamestown, Yorktown, Busch Gardens . . .

Let the planning begin.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ah, spring

It's come early this year.

Usually the weather is still cold and damp and windy at the end of March, and when the equinox arrives we joke about the "lovely spring weather".

But this year was the winter that wasn't.  After a freak snowstorm for Halloween the weather was relatively warm and mild all season.

As a result, everything bloomed 2-3 weeks early. 

I'm not complaining, of course.  I'm not terribly fond of ice and snow.

But I am on my guard -- I do remember 1982 -- the freaky April blizzard.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Left Behind

So the telecommuting has begun.  The first wave of e-workers packed up their desks on Thursday and headed home.  It felt like the last day of school.

And since then, it's like working in a library.  Or a morgue.


The "good news"?   Our operations department couldn't handle the transition.  So there's a "hold" on moving the rest of us until they work out the "bugs".

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The community I live in is labelled an "unincorporated area" within a township.    Every morning, when I drive to the train station, I take the two main roads through our community.  In the 10 minutes that I'm driving, I pass 6 churches (I think there are a total of 12 in the community, including a Greek Orthodox church, one with services in Chinese and one with services in Korean), two synagogues (including the one where I am a member), a Hindu temple and a mosque.
In other words, I live in a very diverse community.

Funny thing is . . . The mosque has been there since 1993, but I didn't know it existed until just a few weeks ago.

The mosque doesn't look like a house of worship.  The congregation has been using an old residence  located on the main road through the community.  Coincidentally, this house is right next door to the Hindu temple. 

They want to tear down the house and buikd a real mosque, one with a dome and all the features you'd expect in a religious edifice.

The other day I got an email from the "concerned citizens of [unincorporated area]" protesting the expansion of the mosque.  They complained about the noise level, size of the parking lot, height of the dome, etc.  We were urged to protest at the zoning board hearing.

I had to wonder, where did the concerned citizens get my email address?

And then I had to wonder, where were the concerned citizens last year, when my synagogue asked for permits and variances in order to expand our building?

Or when the other synagogue got permits and variances in order to double the size of their building?

Know how a lot of communities have an unofficial website, a place for local news and announcements?   There was a short article about the mosque and the "concerned citizens". 

One "concerned citizen" who was quoted in the article . . . spearheaded the fundraising for our synagogue expansion last year.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Becca will be moving off campus in September.

 She found an apartment with two other kids, in a safe neighborhood, for a reasonable rent. Move-in day is August 1.

 Kidlets grow up too fast!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


How a song can bring you back to another place and time. September 17, 2005. Becca's bat mitzvah. The last song the DJ played, it was so right for Becca. I was "the best mommy in the whole world" when I took her to see Green Day at Giants Stadium.

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day

So last night Drew and I found ourselves in a local Irish pub/ restaurant, Katie Daly's.  We used to ho there before the kids were born, but hadn't been back in ages.  Very crowded last night, we were lucky to get reservations and we were lucky to find a place to park. Very lively, too -- there was a guy with a guitar in the bar, singing Irish folk songs and pop hits.

The place had a special buffet dinner in the lower-level party room  - for $50 a person you could dine on corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, shepard's pie, bangers and mash, salmon and grilled chicken.  Later, for dessert, thete was a sheet cake -- yellow cake with chocolate pudding filling and green whipped cream frosting.   I ordered Bailey's on the rocks from the bar, haven't had that in ages!

There was a live band in the party room, Shannon Breeze.  They played a mixture of Irish and Irish-American songs, including things like "Whiskey in the Jar", "The Irish Rover" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and the inevitable "Danny Boy".

They also played pop- rock songs from the 60's, like "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Build Me Up, Buttercup", prompting Drew to make jokes about a "wedding band".  (Sure enough, I looked on the band's website, and they play weddings.)

We were also treated to a few songs by a pipe and drum corps.  You can't have St. Patrick's Day without bagpipes!

Overall, a lovely evening!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pub crawl!

No, not me.  Not my style.  Never really was.

It's how Jen is spending St. Patrick's Day.    She and some friends took the train into Manhattan for the big event.

Hard for me on many levels.

That I have a 21 year old daughter . . . I feel the gray hairs beginning to pop.

That she oh-so-nonchalantly orders a glass of wine or a cocktail from the bar when we go out to dinner . . .

That I can get used to.

It's pub crawls and frat parties and guys hitting on her when she's out having a drink with friends . . .

That's what worries me.

She's 21 and college educated and will soon have a degree and the rest of her life ahead of her.  And I think (hope) that she's being smart and sensible and responsible about alcohol and potentially risky situations.

She's an adult now, I can't tell her what to do.

But the mommy worry never stops, does it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

crazy, screwed up family (part 4)

So last Tuesday the drama erupted like a volcano. Sadly, it was not unexpected.I kind of got the feeling it would when I was on the phone with my other, and she told me H would need to move into the den because my mother couldn't afford to pay her rent anymore. So let's get this straight. My mother is paying H's rent, supporting F and A, and she's also crying poverty. It started when I came home from work, even before I had a chance to take off my coat. F & A weren't home. My parents were at the kitchen table, and H was cooking at the stove. She started in on me right away. How I was beating up on my parents to get my way, how my father didn't want me working in the house. That I was being "territorial", that I cared only about my "inheritance". That maybe my parents should sell the house (I'm all for it, if that's what they want!) How I should rent space outside of the house for my "home office" (not allowed) and that I was going to have gobs on money from all my anticipated tax deductions (an attorney should actually read the IRS regs before she shoots off her mouth, don't you think?) Or maybe I should go live with Drew. I got a few shots at her, too. How maybe I should take her apartment and she could have my room, because I was better able to pay the rent than she is. Then my father said he never agreed I could use the den, that I was a liar for even saying so. that I should be grateful to be living in his house, that I married Satan Incarnate and that neither of us were competent to raise our children, and that he rescued them from the horrible life they would have had. I told him "Yeah, you do for my children. but for me, no." Bottom line, I can't earn a living because my sisters want to play the piano in the afternoon. Later, I showed my mother that her plans were not workable -- there are on-line programs that let you map out a room and add furniture, and no matter how hard I tired, I couldn't set up a workable floor plan without removing some of the furniture from my room. Logic and the laws of physics do not apply in this house. So I had to tell my boss that there's a problem with my telecommuting. It was not an easy conversation. He said he'll look into other solutions for me. but this is not a good place for me, or any other employee in my department, to be right now. And where does that leave me with the family? Haven't spoken to my father in a week, don't intend to either. He's 85, old and sick, so I don't want to fight with him, but I have nothing good to say to him. My conversations with my mother have been limited as well. Yesterday she asked me if I ever plan to smile again, and I told her "when I move out of this house." My sisters are throwing me into Drew's arms, and my mother is deathly afraid that I'll actually move in with him. My daughters, home for spring break, are being neutral, staying out of the fight. I am bereft, I feel betrayed, hurt and disgusted, but sadly, not surprised.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

crazy, screwed up family (part 3)

So the crisis comes when I find out that telecommuting is imminent. Where the hell am I supposed to set up my workstation in this nightmare of a house? My mother suggests I use my bedroom. I am the only person in the house who does not share a bedroom. But it is the tiniest room in the house, there's not enough space for what I already have in here. In order to fit a desk in here, I'd have to move some of my other things out of the room -- and there's no place in the house (or garage) to put anything that I can't keep in my room. The last time I had a desk in here, I didn't have both a dresser and an armoire, I must have been about 18 at the time. My mother doesn't believe me. Even after I went on line and mapped it out for her, she doesn't think the laws of physics apply to my bedroom. Not to mention, the psychological effects of working in my bedroom. When you have a home office or telecommute, you're supposed to have a space in your house dedicated exclusively to your business pursuits. Since my sisters have virtually taken over the living room, I spend most of my time in my bedroom. And now you want me to spend even more time in that room? So I had long, logical discussions with my parents -- mostly my mother, but I did include my father. Logically, the only reasonable place to set up a workstation is in the den. I need to be able to plug in my equipment to the internet, can't use wi-fi, and the den is already wired. doesn't matter that the den doesn't have a door, I don't need to be able to close the door to keep out noise - I work in a cubicle, and any cube farm dweller knows you hear everyone else's conversations, phone calls, etc. all day long. Besides, except for my mother , no one in this house gets up before noon, and my workday would be 8 AM - 4 PM, so noise would only be a factor for a few hours in the afternoon. My sisters would have to move some of their things to make room for my desk and chair, but it would be very do-able. Initially my parents agreed. then my mother backtracked. "You can't have the den. I've been paying H's rent and I can't afford it anymore, so she has to move back home." H is a career prosecutor, got excessed out of her job 2 1/2 years ago and hasn't been able to find another. (If you have 4-5 years in the prosecutor's office you're in high demand in civil law firms, but once you've spent 17 years as a criminal attorney you're kind of pigeonholed). But I didn't realize my parents were paying her rent. No wonder my mother is crying poverty! "OK, then,I'll move my stuff into the den. It will be hard working and sleeping in the same room, but at least it won't be claustrophobic." The den is considerably larger than my bedroom. And then F and A started howling "She can't have the den!" and "We're going to play the piano all day long so you can't work!" (the piano is in the living room, right next to the door that leads from the living room into the den. and then on Tuesday night....

Monday, March 12, 2012

John Carter of Mars

Certainly not the best movie I've ever seen, but a fun fantasy and action movie. It's a little long, but we enjoyed it. I especially liked the 1881 "frame' with Edgar Rice Burroughs as a character...

crazy, screwed up family (part 2)

You have to see our house to believe it. When I was a kid and a teenager, our house was always clean and neat, well-furnished, a place to be proud of. My parents had people over frequently. My's wedding was in our back yard. My bat mitzvah and H's bat mitzvah ere held at the house. What happened to this house is a crime. To say that F and A are pack rats would be an understatement. They can never throw anything out! Truly, the house looks like an episode of Hoarders. the hoarding started even before my girls and I moved back into the house. Things got worse when H lost her apartment and moved into the den "temporarily". When she moved out years later, the den became nothing more than an over-sized closet. To make matters worse, my mother was so ashamed of how the house looked that she didn't want repair people to come in and see the mess. So the house has slowly deteriorated, and I'm surprised it hasn't fallen apart altogether. Years ago, my then-neighbors let their house fall into a terrible state of disrepair. They sold their house "as-is" for a lot less than the other houses in the neighborhood. The new owner, a contractor, turned the house into a showplace. One day, when my mother was talking with him, she bemoaned the fact that so many of the houses in our area were being torn down and replaced by McMansions. He told her that her land was more valuable than her house. She was insulted, but it's the truth. and that was several years ago, the house is worse now than it was. I moved here with my kids in 1994. It was supposed to be temporary, while I was going through a hellish divorce. I wanted the comfort of family, I wanted people I could trust to be taking care of my kids while I was at work making a living to support them. And the fact that we live in one of the best school districts on Long Island certainly didn't hurt. I got comfortable, I got complacent, I got lazy. I thought about moving out of here when the girls were in middle school, but never got my act together. And so I find myself living in a house that should be condemned, with a family that would have Dr. Phil rolling his eyes in disbelief.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring break

So both girls are home for spring break.  And as our family rituals change and evolve, tonight I found myself in Applebees with Drew and our children.

Once again I watch Jen nonchalantly order a drink from the bar - my child is all grown up, or so she thinks.

The conversation focuses on the girls, of course.  Jen tells me about midterms -- she's loving History of Jazz and thinks philosophy is gibberish.  Becca rattles off facts about Martin Luther and Franciscans and Domenicans and Jesuits -- she goes to a Catholic University.

Becca is moving off campus next year and has to buy furniture.

Jen has six different ideas about what she wants to do after graduation.  But we can't talk about graduation itself.  Jen doesn't like change.   She's excited but also scared.

Drew calls his sister and the girls wish their aunt a happy birthday.

Overall, a pleasant, stress-free evening.

Crazy, screwed up family (part 1)

And not in a good way.

So I have been telling you about the wonder twins.

Did I mention that the whole family is just as dysfunctional?

We are in the midst of a major family drama.  And it cannot have a good outcome.

It focuses on me, and my job.

I work for a large insurance company.  I handle complex environmental claims.  The company is going through major changed right now.  There is a new regime in upper management.  My department is about to merge with another department.  We are about to get a new senior vice president and no one knows who it is.  And people in both departments are doing a head count and wondering about a reduction in force.

And now we are a paperless office, and in the midst of a project that will make us all telecommuters.  The plan is to have 3 days at home and two in the office.  The first group from my department is starting telecommuting this week.  My turn is coming soon.  I haven't been given a date yet, but soon.  The company's lease is set to expire May 1 and they've renewed for only half the space -- you don't need as many cubicles when telecommuters share space.

I looked around, and what few jobs are out there . . . Telecommuting is the new trend in my industry.

So how does the crazy dysfunctional family fit in?

Not only am I not getting any support from them, they are throwing obstacles in my way.

You would think that since I am the only one gainfully employed, they would realize it's in everyone's best interest to see that I remain so.

But no . . .in this job market, where the corporate culture in my office has become unsettled, where being a problem employee of any sort has become extremely risky, I found myself in the embarassing situation of having to tell my boss I may have a problem with telecommuting.

Because I have never been destined to have peace and comfort in my home life.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Watch "Side Show 52nd Tony Awards - Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley" on YouTube

My sisters - identical twins - sing this sll the time.  I think they mean it as an affirmation of love, loyalty and the special bond between twins.

But the twins in "Sideshow" were cojoined.  They didn't have a choice, they had to spend all their lives together.  They had to come to terms with it.

Sadly, my sisters have chosen to act as if cojoined, one though they're two.  The irony of the song . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Today is day is Purim

Tomorrow no more

Give me a penny

And show me the door.

Definition of a Jewish holiday: They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.

An oversimplification, of course, but there's more than a grain of truth to it.

Purim is a minor holiday.  It's based on the story of Queen Esther and how she rescued the Jews of Persia from the evil Haman.

The holiday has sort of a Mardi Gras feel to it, with costumes and carnivals and lots of eating and drinking.  It is said you should drink enough so that you can't tell the difference between Haman (our villain) and Mordechai (the hero). Even the services in the synagogue are somewhat irreverant.

Happy Purim!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Love the license plate

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Songbird salutes the 70's

Another NYC evening

Thursday night.  Cold and raw, a reminder that despite all the mild weather it's still winter.

First stop, Ellen's Stardust Diner.  Last week we bypassed the place -- too crowded.  But on a non-matinee day we were seated without a wait.  We love the singing here.  This time around, our waitress actually sang to Drew while refilling his coffee cup.  Heard two incredible singers, the guy who sang "Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha and the guy who sang "O Solo Mio".

Then we walked over to the Musicbox Theater for Shatner's World.  That's William Shatner's one-man show.  He spends an hour and a half telling stories about his life.  Mostly funny, of course, but there are sad and poinant moments as well. 

Afterwards we stood at the stage door.  He didn't sign autographs, but I did get a picture of him up close.

Another enjoyable night.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

found the photo

Last week I showed you a vendor's sculpture. I found the photo it's supposed to represent:

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