life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, April 27, 2013

another bubba meister

I was a young woman in my 20's when a group of us decided to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  I'd been to the Statue of Liberty before, it's hard to avoid it if you live in the NYC metropolitan area, but not to Ellis Island.    The Statue of Liberty is an icon, standing in the middle of New York Harbor, acting as a beacon...but you have to know where Ellis Island is...

I stood in the immigration museum, and my grandmother's voice was in my head...

She'd always begin her immigration story in Rotterdam.  She did not speak about leaving her home or her village, or her mother and youngest sister.  Her father was in America several years when he sent for my grandmother and her sister Shirley. Two other siblings, Florence and Al, came later.  But her mother had a limp and was afraid she'd be turned back, so never attempted to immigrate to America, and the youngest daughter stayed behind with their mother.

So Dora and Shirley found themselves on their way to America, with their aunt and uncle.  It was Rosh Hashanah, and the girls wanted to buy candy for the holiday.  The aunt and uncle said "no", and by the time the girls convinced them to change their minds, all the stores were closed.

Dora was extremely seasick for most of the trip. She blamed it on the sardines that the sailor gave her.  She was ill and weak when they arrived at Ellis Island, and was afraid she'd be sent back to Europe.  she failed the physical the first time, and was sent to the Ellis Island hospital.  Ultimately she recovered and was allowed entry into NYC.  I can still hear her tell me how the doctor made her walk back and forth, to see if she could walk a straight line.  

It was also her first meeting with an African-American.  He was a worker in the kitchen I think, assigned to serve food.  She must have been staring at him, because he told her "don't be afraid, touching me won't make you dirty."    The world was a different place in 1920, wasn't it?

And record keeping?  Apparently when they arrived at Ellis Island, the uncle made a mistake -- he said he had Shirley and Florence with him.  So immigration had Florence entering the country twice, and Dora not at all. 

As a result Dora had difficulty when she tried to become a naturalized citizen.  In fact , that didn't happen until my mother was grown up and able to figure out the problems with the paperwork.

The day she became a citizen, the judge tested her on American history.  "He asked me, 'Who was Abraham Lincoln?' and I said 'He was the President.'  the judge asked 'And what did he do for the people?' And I said 'He freed the slaves.' And I became a citizen."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baseball memories

My parents saw "42" the other night.  seeing the movie really got my dad talking.

It brought back memories for my dad.  He grew up in Brooklyn and spent much of his youth in the shadow of Ebbett's Field.  Last night he told us how it used to cost $.55 on Wednesday afternoons to see a ball game.  How on the weekends the men would gather around the radio to listen to the game.  He saw the 1947 Dodgers play, more than once.  He remembers how the players would put their arms around Robinson in a show of solidarity. 

Back the, NYC was the baseball capital of the world.

My mom is a Bronx girl.  She remembers going to Yankee Stadium with her Uncle Al, and also to the Polo Grounds.

My parents' first real date . . .he took her to the Stadium to see DiMaggio play.   

Monday, April 22, 2013


number 42 -- Jackie Robinson's number photo S5032859.jpg

That's me in the rotunda of Cit Field a couple of years ago.

42 is revered in baseball (though geeks will also think of life, the universe and everything....)

We all know the story.  How in 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers integrated baseball. How Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first National League Rookie of the Year.

We had to see the new movie, "42" .    There are no real surprises in the movie, just solid storytelling.  No sanitizing the story, the ugliness of racism in the 40's is clear and present. It's hard to hear such casual use of the "n" word, but the dialogue is realistic.  And it doesn't attempt to turn Robinson into a superman or an angel -- he reacts to the circumstances as a man.  Harrison Ford turned in an Oscar-caliber performance as Branch Rickey.   Loved Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher.  Max gail got so old, though, that I hardly recognized him.  Definitely a movie worth seeing.

Dinner...well, we wanted to grab something quick before the movie, so we wound up at T. G. I. Friday's.    Kitschy pop culture on the walls including a full size model of Yoda near a "JFK for President" poster. Spotted a lithograph of Warhol's Marilyn Monroe.  Cute.

The food...well, it's what  you'd expect.  We started with chips and salsa -- the chips were warm, the salsa mild.  Pretzels with a cheese dip -- the pretzels were soft and chewy, the cheese dip was so thick it was more like a spread.  I had very basic chicken fingers and fires, which came with honey mustard.  A little bland, but ok.  He had the Jack Daniels steak, probably one of the best things on the menu. 

Nice, but nothing special.  Good value for the money. Just what you'd expect from a popular chain.

T.G.I. Friday's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The healing powers

Sports and music.

You saw it today at the Boston Garden.  Just as they did on Tuesday night, the Bruins fans gathered together for a game, joining together to sing our national anthem.

And you saw it today at Fenway. You saw it in David Ortiz's comment, "This is our [expletive] city.  And nobody going to dictate our freedom."  (And the FCC has chosen to forgive the expletive.)  And you saw it when Neil Diamond showed up in the middle of the 8th inning to sing "Sweet Caroline".

This lifelong New Yorker says:   Boston Strong.

How Does This Happen?

He's 19 years old.  A good student at a prestigious high school, he won a scholarship and headed to college. He's a wrestler.  Plays soccer.  He tweets rap lyrics.  Hangs out with friends.  Became an American citizen on 9/11/12.  Everyone who knew him in high school said he was a nice guy.  His college friends said he was a typical student, that he liked to hang out with friends.

How does someone like that fill a pressure cooker full of nails and explosives, and plant it at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?

They caught him last night, cowering under a tarp in a boat in someone's back yard, bloodied and exhausted from the gun battle that killed his older brother/co-conspirator.  They took him alive, and I am glad.

Because all I want to know is --  WHY????

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kinky Boots and Gibson Guitars

Last night Drew and I went to see Kinky Boots, the new Broadway musical written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper.  Amazing musical, exciting, exuberant. Based on a movie, it's about Charlie Price (played by Stark Sands) ,a guy who inherits his father's failing shoe factory.  He decides to go for a niche market, making boots for drag queens.  He teams up with Lola, nee Simon, to create the boots.    Billy Porter is absolutely fabulous as Lola.   Just loved him  singing "The Sex Is In the Heel".  Annaleigh Ashford plays Lauren, whose shining moment is the song "The History of Wrong Guys" -- sounds like a song Cyndi might have written for herself.

Flashy costumes, upbeat dance numbers, lots of fun.  But at the end of the day, it's also a touching story about accepting yourself and accepting someone else for who they are.  I can't wait for the cast album to be released.

Next it was time for dinner.  We had a gift certificate for the Hard Rock Cafe.  I'd been there before, Drew had not.  I love the atmosphere, the memorabilia.  The Gibson Guitar wall is amazing.  We were seated right near a glass case that had four suits, circa 1964, and four red TWA flight bags imprinted with the "Beatles" logo.  Here's the view from our table:

Great, right?  Real atmosphere.  Exactly what you expect at the Hard Rock. 

We weren't the only ones who wanted a picture.  I was very annoyed at the young woman who stood just inches from my table to take the picture -- seriously, I could have taken the camera out of her hand while still seated at the table.

Nice menu, lots of choices, nothing esoteric.  On my previous visit I'd ordered a burger, which was wonderful.  This time around we ordered steaks.  Overall not a bad meal, but...the steaks could have been a bit more tender, and the broccoli was seriously undercooked.  the mashed potatoes were very garlicky, as expected.    Next time I'll probably go for a burger, or maybe the mac and cheese.

 Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

West, Texas

A small town.  Not very far from Waco.

A fertilizer factory.  An accident.  A fire.  An explosion.

A devastated town.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michael Nesmith

Drew and I are both Monkees fans.  A few months ago we saw the Monkees reunion at the Beacon -- Mickey, Peter and Mike. Wonderful show.  Especially since Mike doesn't often tour with the Monkees.  It was a poignant tribute to Davy.

Drew is a big Mike Nesmith fan. I liked Mike as a member of the Monkees, but never followed his solo career.  But when Drew found out Mike was planning a short tour...well, we had to get tickets.

Last night at Town Hall.... Mike performed for two hours.  His entire repertoire was songs he'd written.  I recognized only two, "Papa Gene's Blues" (a Monkees hit) and "Different Drum" (which was a big hit for Linda Ronstadt).

His performing technique is a bit different.  He'll tell you a short story, which places the song in context. It's just him and the band on the stage, no special effects or videos playing in the background (kind of surprised me, considering he's a pioneer of the music video...)  Early in the evening the songs were all sort of country-western, but the second half of the show leaned more towards rock.  I like him, he's pleasant to listen to, I enjoyed.

 As always, I managed a few pictures with my cell phone:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Patriot's Day in Boston

and the streets are running with blood.

Explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two confirmed dead, many people injured.

Patriot's Day is a holiday in Boston...

My heart goes out to the victims.

another bubba meister

My grandmother's reputation among friends and family...she was an excellent cook.   In fact, she was employed as a cook at the age of 12.  Her father had emigrated to America and was sending home money when he could, but D'vera, as the eldest child, had to drop out of school to help support the family.

She loved to tell the story about the girl  who was employed at a neighboring  farm.  The girl didn't know how to make a lot of different foods, but was too proud to say so.  Back then there was no Food Network, so if you needed to learn how to make a particular dish you'd have to ask someone to tell yu what to do.  She should have just asked D'vera for help, but instead she engaged in a bit of subterfuge.  She'd ask D'vera, "How do I make (whatever)", then after D'vera would explain, she'd say "That's what I do, too."  Then she'd go into her employer's kitchen and follow D'vera's instructions.  Eventually D'vera got a little tired of this routine.  So she deliberately sabotaged the other girl's recipe.  Completely ruined the dish.  After that, when the girl would ask D'vera for a recipe, she wouldn't pretend that she knew what she was doing, so D'vera got credit for the recipe when it was successful.

Then there was the story about cooking as psychotherapy.  D'vera always claimed she cured a young woman of depression.  Her employer's daughter had gone to the city to study at the university, she wanted to be a psychiatrist.   Apparently her studies were not a success.  She came home and locked herself in her room and wouldn't come out.  The employees were all told to leave the young woman alone, not to bother her.  But somehow D'vera got the young woman out of her room.  she told the woman to throw away all the books if they were making her so miserable.  And then they went into the kitchen, where they started baking all sorts of pastries and cookies.  The young woman's parents were amazed and impressed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot on Urbanspoon

 Do you fondue?

The Melting Pot is one of our favorites. We're not here very often, but whenever we go we really enjoy the experience.

 If I feel especially self-indulgent I'll start my meal with the yin-yang martini -- vodka, white chocolate liqueur, ice cream, chocolate shavings. Like a grown up milkshake, only smoother.

You don't have to order the whole meal, you can just order a cheese fondue or a chocolate fondue. But we go for the whole experience. We started with a Swiss cheese fondue. It's served with simple dippers -- raw veggies, bread, granny smith apples. Next was salad -- the house salad is a tossed salad, the house dressing tangy, like Catalina french, only not as heavy.

For the main course we had a combination of steak, shrimp, chicken and lobster tail. We chose to cook it in broth -- several options are offered. The waiter will bring the broth to your table and you will cook it yourself. Entrees are served with potatoes and vegetables, which are also cooked at the table. A variety of dipping sauces are served as well. Instead of a typical chocolate fondue we chose one based on white chocolate and bananas foster, which the waiter flambeed at our table. Dippers include marshmallows, pound cake, strawberries and rice Krispy treats.

As usual I brought half of my meal home . . .

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Songbird salutes the 70's

Charles Chips.
Remember them?
Delivered to your home in big yellow cans, they were crispy, crunchy, scrumptious potato chips.
The brown can held pretzels.
Home delivery  is a thing of the past. Times changed, and eventually this company just faded away.
They're ba-ack.
Saw the familiar cans in Shoprite a few weeks ago.  Seems that the family that started the business bought back the name and re-launched the brand using the original recipe.
I bought a 2 ounce bag in 7-11 today.  It's a thick-cut chip, less salty and more potato flavor than most supermarket chips.
Sigh.   Contented sigh.

Jersey Boy!

Yes, that's Frankie Valli.

Saw him last night at Westbury Music Fair. 

I've wanted to see the real deal ever since we saw Jersey Boys on Broadway.

Great show, Frankie still has the charm and the voice to entertain a crowd.  One of the few to have top 40 hits in the 60's, the 70's and the 80's.  And he sang them all.

And I had to laugh when I realized that the current "Four Seasons", the young men singing backup, I don't think any of them had been born the last time Frankie hit the charts.  But they sing and they dance and they keep the show lively. 

Loved the opening act, an old-fashioned Borscht Belt comedian named Stewie Stone.  Definitely a PG-13 act, risque and not politically correct, but very funny!

The only damper on the evening was the group sitting behind us.  Very drunk and more than a bit unruly.  At one point Frankie was alone on the stage giving a quiet, heartfelt speech, but the folks in our section barely heard it because of those idiots. I really expected better from a mature audience.  Especially in an intimate setting like Westbury.  I know Frankie heard the commotion.

Overall, though, it was another wonderful evening of music and comedy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring has sprung

The forsythia are in bloom

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

a bubba meister

If you think "girl drama" is a recent invention, think again.

When my grandmother was a young girl growing up in Poland...she was known as D'vera then (she'd anglicize it to Dora when she came to America) ...she had a story about girl drama and revenge.

It seems that one Sabbath afternoon she had a fight with a group of girls.  She pushed the ringleader down into the dirt near the outhouse.

The resulting howl woke her father, who liked to nap on the Sabbath.  So of course D'vera was in trouble.

D'vera got her revenge on the other kid...she invited the other girl to go out onto the lake in a rowboat...when they got to the deepest water, D'vera jumped out of the boat and swam to shore, stranding the other girl in the boat with no oars, and knowing the other girl was unable to swim.

One of the men from the town saw what D'vera did, and told her father.  So she was punished again.

But she always felt the revenge was worth the punishment.

Monday, April 8, 2013

South of the Border

So tonight I had dinner with a good friend.  She suggested we meet at South of the Border.

It's a small, cosy Tex-Mex restaurant, a bit pricey for a neighborhood eatery but well worth the cost.  your meal begins with the typical chips and salsa.  Their version is a mild, smooth sauce.

The menu has the expected -- tacos, enchiladas, fajitas -- but also has a few different, interesting and delicious choices.

I ordered pollo a la margarita, a chicken cutlet in a rich sauce, with rice, black beans and a medley of vegetables. And did I mention there were four shrimp topping this dish?  Yummy!  Brought half of it home, of course.

I seldom order dessert, but when I heard they had flan . . .it turned out to be a light, airy custard, not overly sweet, topped with a smooth caramel sauce. I think it was garnished with Reddi-whip. I would have preferred real whipped cream, but I did enjoy the flan and would order it again.

My friend skipped dessert, preferring to walk up the block for ices from Ralph's.

Looking forward to a return visit, the entrees all look so interesting.

South of the Border on Urbanspoon

An icon of American comedy

Jerry Lewis.

"The Nutty Professor".  The Labor Day Telethon.  The partnership with Dean Martin.

We all know Jerry.  We've seen him on tv or in the movies.  He's been entertaining us for decades.

Some think he is the god of comedy.  Drew worships at that altar.

I like Jerry Lewis , too, but probably would not have gone to this show if it wasn't on Drew's bucket list.

So Saturday night we ventured to Westbury Music Fair to see Jerry's one-man show.

It's a simple format.  He walks out onto the stage, tells a few jokes, settles into the director's chair, shows a film clip, tells a few more jokes, another film clip, etc.  Kind of heavy on the clips, but what do you expect, he's 87 years old.

Then he moves on to the question and answer session.  Audience members line up at the microphones to ask a question and he answers.

And he ends the show with one last film clip.

I think the best clip of the evening was from 1957.  I hadn't realized  that Jerry's parents were performers too, but there was Jerry doing a song/ comedy bit with his father. A few minutes later Jerry's son Gary, then age 10 (and long before his career as a rock star), came out to the stage.  Jerry and Gary did the same song, this time with Jerry singing the father's role and Gary doing the part Jerry had done earlier.  (We'll be seeing Gary and his band at Westbury in June.)

Incidentally Richard Belzer was at tonight's performance.  He wasn't part of the show.  The audience recognized him as he made his way down the aisle, beer in one hand, pretzel in the other, and took a seat.  Later, during tge Q & A, he went to the mike and sang Jerry's praises.

It wasn't until later that I remembered they had worked together, that there was an episode of "Law &Order SVU" where Jerry played a mentally ill homeless man who turned out to be Belzer's character's uncle.

Overall a fun evening, I found myself laughing along with the rest of the audience.  Definitely worth it.
And looking forward to seeing Gary Lewis in two months.

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