life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Carvahlos revisited

Loved this place the first time we tried it, so of course we had to go back.
Once again we had the rodizio.  Loved every juicy bite of the meat, enjoyed the sides.

But what really impressed me:  dessert

I seldom eat dessert, but since others at the table chose to order . . .

I tried something called natas-do-ceu, which the menu translates as "Heavenly Whites" but is more commonly known as "heavenly cream".  And aptly named.  This incredible concoction was served in a parfait glass.  The scrumptious white cream --the waiter said it was heavy cream whipped with egg whites -- was layered with cookie crumbs and I think there may have been a touch of cinnamon.  Light and sweet but not cloying, a perfect ending after such a robust meat meal.

Churrasqueira Carvalhos Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Full employment for the chickadees

Last week Drew's sister  invited us to her union's annual holiday party.  Drew knows a lot of his sister's friends, so the conversation was relaxed and comfortable.

We were talking about Social Security, and how those of us working now are paying the benefits of current recipients, and how our benefits will be paid for by our children,

And one of the women said something about "the kids today don't really work."

How lucky I am to be able to brag on my kids, who want to work hard and who are lucky enough to find appropriate jobs.

Jen, of course, has always known she wants to work with children.  She has always worked with kids -- day camp jobs, volunteering with Jump Start, work study as a teaching assistant in an elementary school, then a full time job as a teaching assistant in a nursery school, and now a paraprofessional in an elementary school. When she finally finishes her Master's and gets her teaching credentials, she will have logged many hours in a classroom.

Jen had a job in retail once.  Christmas help at a clothing store in the mall.  She HATED it.

Becca, on the other hand, hated her job at day camp.  She loved being a camper and thought working at the camp would be fun.  But it wasn't.  Working at retail clothing stores, now . . .well, she always had an eye for fashion.  And the ability to sell snow-cones at the North Pole.  She's worked at one store or another whenever she's home from college, and she loves it.

Becca still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up -- she graduates in May.  But she's had some interesting experiences that will look fantastic on a resume.  She's a political science major.  She interned for a Senator, in an auction house and at a public relations firm.  And in the spring she'll be at the sales department/corporate headquarters of a fashion designer.  Considering her retail experience, it sounds like a job she will enjoy.

I don't know where Becca is going, but I know she will be successful at whatever she chooses to do.

Friday, November 29, 2013

JFK and the TV news

So last week, during the observation of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, I loved seeing the newspaper reprints.  The Daily News, Newsday, everyone did a reprint of their 11/23/63 editions.

And I found something interesting on the CBS News website.

Two interesting items, actually.

First was the website's coverage of Kennedy's death.  They live-streamed the 1963 broadcast in real time.

In this post-CNN world, we are used to 24 hour coverage of the news.  And when something horrible happens, like 9/11 or Dandy Hook, we know that our TV networks will drop everything and stay with the story.  And they know how to cover such a story.

Watching parts of the CBS broadcast from 50 years ago...they knew they had to be on the air, but it looked like they were inventing the media as they went along.  Cronkite in the news room instead of at his anchor desk so that he could receive and read printed bulletins as they came off the wire.  Telephones ringing in the background. Reporters telling what they'd seen on the streets of New York...And everyone so formal -- "The President's mother, Mrs. Rose Kennedy....the President's ailing father, Mr. Joseph Kennedy..." 


And during the funeral procession, they just ran the cameras, with no commentary.  today the anchor would have blathered on and on...

And in the Cathedral, they did have comentary -- because the mass was in Latin.  Pre-Vatican II.

(And if you go to YouTube you can find the complete NBC broadcast, with Frank McGee announcing the President's death by repeating information he was hearing on the telephone.)

And the other interesting item?  CBS News' Twitter feed, of course.  They were tweeting the assassination news in real time, as if it were 50 years ago.  It looked so real, even had links to stories on the website.  ...in the 21st century we get our news from the internet and the media.  We don't have to wait for the newspaper to arrive.

Can you honestly believe this?

  1. SHOCK in the streets: "I just can't believe it. I feel like someone in my own family has died. I just can't believe it."
  2. *Bulletin from Dallas* Gov Connally is in very serious but not critical condition after shooting
  3. "This man, I think, wanted to save America. His spirit lives," one mourner says:
  4. Rather, reporting from Dallas: Mrs. Kennedy maintained her composure until she saw her husband's body

    Of course, as the weekend progressed, the real news took over the Twitter feed, but they continued to tweet about JFK as well.

    As a student of history I found this all so very fascinating.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Liebster Award

Nora  has nominated me for a Liebster Award. 


 Liebster-Award

As I understand it, I am now supposed to answer a few personal questions, then choose other blogs I wish to honor, and give them a set of questions to answer. 

here are the questions Nora posed, and my answers.

1) If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Hard to answer.  I'm from Long Island, I'd love to live in Manhattan.  But I can also see myself in Florida.  I've never been to Israel, but I think living in Tel Aviv would be interesting.  London could be fun.  Lots of places ...





2) What is one think you miss about being a kid?

The feeling that no matter what happened, my parents could make everything all right again.



3) Who is your favorite actor or actress?

 Tom Hanks.



4) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Not to worry about what other people think, just do what makes you happy.



4) Are there any foods you’ve never had but would like to?

 I think I'd like to try a turducken.  The idea of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey sounds weirdly fascinating.


5) What is one possession or object that make you happy?

 My tablet.  It's both practical and fun.  Keeps my calendar and other data.  Holds my music, my nook books, games, etc.



6) Do you believe in soul mates?

 I don't know.  It seems that some people are just meant to be together.  Drew and I have a weird history that kind of proves it.  We've broken up and gotten back together over and over again.


7) What countries have you traveled to?

Canada, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cayman Islands, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Turks and Caicos.  I've also been to two US overseas territories -- the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


8) What are you scared of?

Lots of things, really.  If you want me to name just one, well, that something awful happens to one of my daughters.


9) What is your favorite meal of the day?

Dinner.  It's the most social meal of the day.




10) Are you a dog person or cat person?

Both, I guess.  though lately there haven't been any canines in my life.  And I really find cats interesting.


11) Do you believe in luck?

Hard to say.   I wish I could just brew some "liquid luck" like they did in Harry Potter, but I think for the most part you have to make your own luck by creating opportunity.


So now I get to choose my own nominees:

Compost Happens

Scoobyclue

Suzanne Calling 

If change is good I'm fantastic

Little bits of Pixie Dust

The view from my fishbowl

Ranting and Raving



And here are your questions, nominees:

1.  If you could do any job  in the world, what job would you choose?
2.  What was your favorite TV show as a child?
3.  Why do you blog?
4.  What is your favorite holiday?
5.  Is there a country you haven't visited but would like to?
6.  Are you a dog person or a cat person?
7.  What's your favorite food?
8.  What's one food everyone likes that you hate?
9.  Who is your favorite singer or band?
10.  Invite three people, living or dead, to dinner -- who would they be?
11.  Do you believe in True Love?

"Oils" - A Thanksgivukkah Miracle (Royals song parody)

Thanksgivukkah!!!!

Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday.  The fourth Thursday of November.  A day of parades, football, family gatherings and turkey.    Pilgrims and Indians.  The unofficial start of the holiday season.

Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday, a festival of freedom (Definition of a Jewish holiday:  they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.)  Candles in the menorah, latkes, dreidels, jelly donuts, presents, family gatherings.  Judah Maccabee and the miracle of the oil.

Hanukkah is an 8 day holiday beginning on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar.  Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, Hanukkah can begin as early as the last week of November or as late  as the end of December, or any time in between.

In 2013, on November 28, the first day of Hanukkah and the American holiday of Thanksgiving will coincide for only the second time since Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. The last time was 1888, and the next time will be in the year 79,043. Though according to Chabad, in the year 2070, we wil light the first Hannukah candle on Thanksgiving  eve -- the Jewish holiday will begin as the American holiday ends.

So how will we celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime convergence of the holidays?

With a menurkey, of course.  A menorah shaped like a turkey.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More than just a cultural icon

I heard a familiar voice on the radio the other day, one I had not heard in a long time, promoting a new off-Broadway play . .

It was the 1980's, and talk radio was becoming popular. And on Sunday nights  -- late, late on Sunday nights -- there was a show.  Sexually Speaking with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.  A little old lady, a Jewish mother with a hauntingly familiar accent,  was dispensing sexual advice.  Well, of course we sniggered.  But then, we listened.  And we learned.

We heard her on the radio, we saw her on tv.  Only 4'7", she was warm, friendly, humorous, willing to poke fun at her own image.  A very recognizable personality throughout the 80's and 90's.

But it wasn't until later, when she was promoting her book on grandparenting, and I heard her being interviewed on the radio . . .I heard her talking about her grandchildren with the delight any Jewish grandmother has, and then she said something chilling:  "Hitler didn't want me to have grandchildren."

Dr.  Ruth is a Holocaust survivor. She was born in Germany, at age 10 she was sent to a Swiss orphanage in the aftermath of Kristalnacht. And she is a veteran of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, she fought in the Haganah.  Married more than once, she was a single mother when she emigrated to the United States.

From such a background came the hope and optimism, the love of humanity, that seeped into every radio broadcast.

So why was Dr. Ruth on the radio?  She's 85 years old now, long since retired.

It's to promote Becoming Dr. Ruth.

It's a play about her life.  But not about her life as a sex therapist and radio personality.  It's about what went on before . . .

I think I may to have to buy tickets . . .

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's never good news

When the phone rings in the wee hours of the morning, it's never good news.  We think, "Who on earth is calling me at this hour?  It better be important!"
We think, somewhat facetiously, "who died?"
And then comes the realization that someone did, in actuality, pass away.
Drew's father died Monday night.
It was not unexpected.  Emil was 90 years old and in very poor health.  Monday evening Drew told me: "The nursing home says my father has a bad fever.  I think this time it may be the end. They wanted to know whether I want a DNR. . . "
So when my phone rang in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, it wasn't really a surprise. 
Drew sounded shaken nonetheless. 
He felt lost.  Should he go to work or stay home?
I told him, "Stay home.  You have to tell your sister, you have to tell your uncles, you have to make final arrangements."
What I was thinking:  "You need to process this loss, you have to deal with your feelings, you will be totally worthless at school because your mind will be elsewhere."
Yes, I went for the practical, not the emotional. 
I don't know what arrangements Drew will make.  Emil was culturally Jewish, not religious.  He professed to be an athiest, and planned to be cremated. 
I'm flashing back to 1994.  Drew's parents were living in Florida when his mother Grace passed away.  Drew flew down to Ft. Myers that day, and I followed him down after making arrangements for my family to take care of the girls -- Jen was 3 1/2 and Becca was almost 2 -- and our pets.  Drew's sister came down a day or so after I did.
I know everyone deals with grief in their own way.  But what happened when Grace died . . .
There was no funeral.  No ritual leavetaking.  neither Emil nor his children wanted that. The body was transferred from the hospital to the crenatory, and then we waited for a phone call to come pick up the urn and the ashes.  The only outward sign of mourning was the American flag on Emil's lawn, lowered to half staff.
I felt adrift.  The rituals of mourning,  they're not for the deceased.  The rituals are for those who are left behind.  I take comfort in the rituals of my faith -- the funeral, sitting shiva, reciting Kaddish.    I find beauty in the rituals of other faiths as well. 
Drew has no connection to faith and felt he had no need for ritual.  Yet he needed comfort.  When we returned to Long Island, I told all our friends and family that we'd be "at home" on a Sunday afternoon.  And everyone came.  Yes, it was that important.
So I know, this time around, that Drew will not want any religious ritual.  But I hope we can plan something, a secular gathering to memorialize Emil's life and to offer comfort to the bereaved.  Emil deserves as much.

Speaker phones -- a rant

Hate, hate, hate speaker phones.

The most over-used, obnoxious gadget in the office.

I never used to have a problem with them.

I mean, if you're driving in the car and you need to carry on a conversation, a speaker phone is a useful device.  Eyes on the road.  Both hands on the wheel.  It's great.

In your own home, no problem at all.  Let's say there are two of you at home, and the landline  phone rings. And both of you want to talk to the caller.  Using the speaker phone might be a better option than one of you picking up the extension in the next room.

Not to mention, picking up the extension in the next room isn't an option if you're using a cell phone.

Speaking of cell phones . . . I don't run into this frequently,  but if you're in Starbucks or at a restaurant or on the train --or any public place where your cell phone conversation should be soft, hushed, so that you don't disturb the people around you -- using the speaker phone is not an option.

But what threw me over the edge was the speaker phone epidemic at my office.

I work in a cubicle farm.  The walls between desks afford some visual privacy but do little to dampen sound.  Consequently we hear each other's conversations all day long.  I've long since learned that if I have private business that I do not care to share with the entire floor, I need to make my call from a conference room, or anyplace where I can shut the door.

I mean, the office joke is about two women we refer to as "Loud" and "Louder".  These two will speak in normal conversational tones when speaking to you in person.  But when they pick up that phone receiver, it's as if each woman has transformed into a Broadway actress who must project her voice to the back of the house in order to be heard.  Yes, it's that loud.  Honestly, though, I don't think either is aware she's doing that.

But speaker phones in cubicle land . . .one of my coworkers used to turn on the speaker during conference calls so that she could continue to use her computer during the call.  That stopped when someone anonymously bought headphones and left them at her desk.

But now I sit near Really Important Man.  He is high enough in the food chain to warrant an office.  Not a cube like us peons.  An office with real walls, and a door that closes.

And he just loves his speaker phone.  He uses it every time he makes or receives a call.    Every.  Single.  Time.  Of course he closes his office door.  He closes it AFTER the call is connected.  Not that it really matters, sometimes he's got the volume up so loud I can hear it through the door.

I am so sick of hearing "Welcome to the conference center. .  . Please enter your passcode. .  .You are now joining the call as the fifth participant. .  ."

But what really put it over the top . . .

There's a special project going on at the office.  Contract employees associated with the project have taken over all the empty cubes on our floor. Really Important Man is coordinating with the contract employees, so there are many calls, many meetings.

And then Very Important Woman arrived, and moved into the office next to Really Important Man.  She has the same penchant for speaker phones; someone had to remind her to SHUT THE DOOR!.  And she's working on the same project as Really Important Man.

So one afternoon they are on the same conference call.  He is at his desk, speaker phone engaged.  She is at her desk, just a few feet away, also of speaker.  I can hear every word.

And then Really Important Man began to speak . . .

The echo was simply incredible.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Smokin' Al's

Every now and then, you just want to spend a Saturday night playing board games and catching up with the stuff you DVR'd.  That's the kind of night for take-out.

Smokin' Al's, to be precise.

For us, this restaurant is strictly a take-out place.  The restaurant is very small, the wait for a table intolerably long.  But the food. . .we have other BBQ restaurants closer to home, but we drive 20 minutes to Al's and 20 minutes home, with the car smelling like BBQ . . .

We place our dinner orders on line.  Makes it very convenient.

They offer choices, lots of choices.    Different types of ribs, different barbecue sauces, from sweet to spicy.  Pulled pork, brisket, chicken.

We both ordered babyback ribs with Al's original sauce.  Sauce was tangy but not spicy hot.  Meat was tender but not "fall off the bone".  Heaven.

Sides dishes -- we both ordered garlic mashed potatoes.  A little heavy on the garlic, and a bit too thick, they need more cream, which I will add when I reheat the leftovers.  Macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob were pretty standard.  Corn bread is very moist and flavorful.

Fried pickle appetizer was easily the best on Long Island.  Instead of pickle chips, they slice the pickles lengthwise and coat them in a very thick batter.  Served with Russian dressing.

So we watched Vincent Price in the campy horror classic "Dr. Fibes".  And I won the backgammon tournament 4 games to 2.

Smokin Al's Famous BBQ Joint on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Songbird Salutes the 70's

If it seems like I've been lost in let's remember . . .

Yeah, I know, I've been focusing on the 70's a lot lately.

But I am trying to figure out how the dark-haired rebel whose music enchanted me has become the bearded, distinguished, professorial gentleman whose music still delights me.

Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone . . .
 
The music, the cover art. I can see the album covers in my head.   I played the vinyl on the stereo in my basement.  The cassette tapes and my portable cassette player found a home in my dorm room.  I listened late at night, through headphones. . .

I've got the old man's car, I've got a jazz guitar, I've got a tab at Zanzibar . . . 

Funny, I never fell in love with him, never put a picture of him on my wall, never imagined myself married to him.  Didn't scream when he was on TV.   He was no teen idol.

He was better.

When you look into my eyes and you see the crazy gypsy in my soul. . .

He was brash, he was rebellious, he was cool.

There's a place in the world for the angry young man, with his working class ties and his radical plan . . .

And he was one of us.    A suburban kid and not afraid to tell us so.  But one who loved NYC.

I've seen the lights go out on Broadway, I saw the ruins at my feet.  You know we almost didn't notice it.  We'd seen it all the time on 42nd Street . . .

And there was that song.  His signature song.  He still closes every concert with it, all these years later.

Sing us a song, you're the Piano Man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feeling alright.

And on January 27, at Madison Square Garden, I will get to hear that song live and in person.






Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games:Catching Fire

I never read any of the books, but I loved the first Hunger Games movie.  And really looked forward to this second installment.
And was satisfied with the results.  It's not as good as the first movie, but does set up the third movie quite nicely -- interesting cliffhanger ending (No, I won't spoil it for you).
All the elements are there -- dystopian society, huge gap between the haves and have-nots, sick competition, the seeds of rebellion.
Makes for an interesting movie.

Sigh

I used to really like holidays.

Now they leave me stressed.

When Drew and I were married and the girls were little, we'd spend all of the holidays with my parents.  Drew's parents lived in Florida, so we had no need to juggle, to split our time between his family and mine.

When we divorced, the children split their holidays, spending some with me and some with him.  And it was ALWAYS contentious.
 
And now?  Now it's a delicate negotiation.

And right now I am ready to scream.  Because no one talks to me, no one tells me what's going on.
My assumption was that Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house would be in the evening, as it has been every year.  So when Drew said he wanted ti make Thanksgiving at his house at 2:00 in the afternoon,  I thought: "Great.  The girls and I can lunch at Drew's and dine at my parents'.  Works out nicely."

After all, that's what we did two years ago.  (Last year Drew was recovering from surgery to repair a hiatal hernia, so he didn't have Thanksgiving.)

(Don't suggest we have both families share dinner, too acrimonious.)

When my mother asked me, a week ago, what my plans are, that's what I told her.

Then, on Thursday night, my sister H told me:  "We're eating at 4:00 on Thanksgiving."

WHAT?

Yes, my sister decided that it would be better to eat earlier because my mother has trouble staying up past 8 or 9 these days.  And H lives here now, so she can start cooking earlier in the day since she doesn't have to drive here first.

Logical reasons.  Yet it feels like sabotage.  And yes, I know all about that kind of sabotage...

And knowing my family, despite everyone's best intentions, dinner won't be on the table at 4.  Probably closer to 6 is my guess.

Apparently this has been planned for awhile, but no one bothered to tell me.  Just call me the mushroom, kept in the dark.

And then H told me that Jen had a phone conversation with Drew two weeks ago and told him all of this.  And that he suggested dinner on Friday instead.  H heard most of the conversation because it took place in H's car -- she and Jen carpool to grad school every Wednesday.

I've barely seen Jen these past few weeks.  She's rarely home, and lately I am getting the "sullen teen" routine from my 23 year old daughter.  So all of this was news to me.


But Drew hasn't said anything either.  And that surprises me.  He tells me everything, sometimes more than I really want to know.


Especially because we have plans Friday.  Plans that he initiated.


I'm good at juggling, really I am.  But you have to give me lead time, so that I can arrange things . . .


Sigh. 


I hate holidays.

Friday, November 22, 2013

11/22/1963

My mother tells me that I was watching TV when it happened, that I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.


I have no memory of the shooting, or, for that matter, of anything to do with the assassination of JFK.  At least, no contemporaneous memories of the weekend it actually happened.  I was only three years old at the time, and the significance of what I'd witnessed was so far over my head as to be invisible.


(I have some vague recollections of Bobby Kennedy's funeral, some 5 years later, but that's for another day.)



For years everyone would ask each other, "Where were you when Kennedy was killed?"  People just a few years older than I would tell stories of tearful teachers at school.  No crying teachers for me, I was home playing with my dolls.


The most significant news story of the early 1960's, and I have no memory of it.  But yet, I know all the details.  I've seen the TV news clips, I've read about that day in Dallas in fact and in fiction.

It was 50 years ago.  A lifetime ago.  And yet it's a story that is dominating the newscasts for these last few weeks.

This clip of Walter Cronkite always makes me cry.






And Oswald being shot:


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grocery shopping!

With all the restaurant reviews I have published of late, you would think I never eat at home anymore.
You'd be wrong.

I don't do much cooking anymore -- my sister F seems to have taken over my mother's kitchen -- but it has become my job to do the grocery shopping.  Yes, somehow it has become my responsibility to feed 8 people and two cats.  Ostensibly I was just shoping for nyself and my daughters, but . . .

Well, not all the shopping.  My mom buys a number of things in Costco, and my sister H picks up a few items in Trader Joe's, Target or CVS. But the bulk of our food supply comes from Shoprite.

H usually makes up the list and emails it to me.  I shop with my tablet in my hand, checking the list as I make my way through the store.

My first stop is the deli kiosk.  The kiosk is really just a computer screen.  You place an order from the items offered, and when you come back to the deli counter your order is waiting for you in the refrigerator.  Very helpful if you don't want to wait in a long line at the deli counter, but totally useless if you're the type who likes to watch them slice your cold cuts.

Next is the produce department.  The "standing order" is to buy containers of fresh fruit that have been cut up by the store personnel.  My dad likes to have fruit at the end of his meal, and these days we cater to those desires.  I buy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Russet potatoes, salad greens and bananas seem to make frequent appearances on my list.

I'll stop at the gourmet cheese display for some pecorino romano -- we always grate our own -- before heading to the bakery section.  I usualy buy some freshly baked Italian bread, some sandwich rolls, muffins. . .but never bagels.  Bagels aren't authentic unless purchased from a store with the word "bagel" in its name (and our bagel store gives wonderful discounts on Wednesdays, so we stock up then.)

I generally skip the fresh fish section, we're not big on fish. And unless there's an emergency I'd rather buy my health and beauty aids at CVS or Walgreen's.  So next up is the butcher/meat department.  Usual purchases include chicken breast tenders and lean ground turkey, occasionally some Angus beef hamburger patties.  I might buy a steak if Becca is home, or maybe some lamb chops for my dad.
The bulk of my time is spent in the main section of the store.  Long aisles, each with a few items I may need.  Pasta, lots of pasta.  Canned tomatoes/tomato sauce/tomato paste.  Canned beans.  Breakfast cereal.  Soda, Snapple, bottled water. Pretzels, crackers, popcorn. Cooking oil, mustard, mayo.  

Mallomars!

The frozen food and dairy sections of the store are last.  Milk, yogurt (Jen eats a ton of Oikos strawberry banana), butter, cream cheese.    Frozen veggies, Haagen Daz ice cream.  A few Lean Cuisine meals in case of an emergency.

And then I push my very full shopping cart to the checkout counter.  I show my card to get the store discounts -- you have to see how much I "save".

And that's not the end of it . . .I also shop in the King Kullen near Drew's house -- I go there because my bank has a branch inside the store, and I always wind up buying a few items for myself . . .

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pastrami Plus

As I've mentioned before, I am genetically programmed to crave Jewish deli.  It is the soul food of my people.

So when Drew suggested we grab a bite at Pastrami Plus, I was out the door and in the car before he finished buttoning his coat.

Pastrami Plus is a very unpretentious place.  As in, it's a hole in the wall.  A deli counter, a handful of tables and a few ancient posters on the walls.  To be honest, most folks order take-out. We usually do take out, too, but on this particular night we chose to dine in.
Service here is . .  . well, the young lady who was serving customers at the counter also waits tables, so don't expect white glove service, but she was pleasant and got the job done.

Be advised, the restaurant is "kosher style", not strictly kosher, but you'd never know the difference unless you saw the occasional cheeseburger leave the grill.  (Yes, that was the sound of a dozen generations of Jewish bubbies rolling over in their graves.)

Our meal began with crispy cole slaw and pickles - both sour and half-sour.

I was craving a square, fried Coney Island knish.  But alas, since the fire at the Gabila factory a few weeks ago, there are none to be found.  Truly it's frustrating.  And their home made baked knishes (like my grandma used to make) just didn't capture ny attention.

Drew orderd the chicken noodle soup, a flavorful broth full of thin noodles. Very satisfying.

Sandwiches are served on seedless rye.    Drew ordered tongue and I ordered pastrami.  Both were excellent -- meat neither too lean nor too fatty, sliced thin and served hot.  The sandwiches are not as overstuffed as you might find elsewhere, but they do satisfy.

In previous visits I've ordered the egg barley with mushroom and the kasha varnishkes; bith are excellent.  The potato pancakes look oh so tempting.

A soul-satisfying meal.  An authentic Jewish deli experience.  We will be back.


Pastrami Plus on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Bright Lights of Broadway

So last Sunday we took the train into the city for an afternoon/evening of theater and dining.

From the abundance of pedestrians wheeling suitcases in the vicinity of Penn Station, it's clear that tourist season has begun.  It only gets more crowded from now until the end of December.

We walked up 7th Avenue towards our destination, the Cort Theater.  Along the way we stopped at a couple of food carts -- I wanted a pretzel and Drew wanted a hot dog.  Lots of business on the street these days -- food carts, guys selling t-shirts, scarves and hats, handbags, lithographs of the city, caricatures drawn while you wait...In Times Square you also see costumed characters.  All sorts of cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, and today we even saw Minions!  Also saw the Statute of Liberty, "Elvis" and the famed "Naked Cowboy".  Even saw a couple of mean-looking aliens ready to take over the galaxy.

Our destination, as I said, was the Cort Theater.  We had tickets for  Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot.  Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McClellan star in this production, which they are doing in repetoire with Harold Pinter's No Man's Land.

Waiting for Godot  is one of those Great Works of Literature I read back in college.  And you know what?  I didn't like it when I read it.  For that matter I didn't like Camus, Ionesco, Sartre ... guess I'm not into Existentialism.  All that angst and despair over the meaninglessness of life just doesn't sit well with me.    But Drew wanted to see the play, and  I could watch Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan recite the phone book and be satisfied.

Guess what?  I still don't like the play.  But the cast is excellent.  Stewart and McClellan are amazing.   There is humor, passion, despair...all the range of human emotion. 

Afterwards, we waited at the stage door so that Drew could have the cast autograph the poster he bought.  Yes, he got all the autographs he came for.  And who should show up but LeVar Burton, one of Stewart's co-stars in Star Trek:The Next Generation.  Made my night.  Unfortunately we didn't get his autograph, but it was great to see him nonetheless.  (Drew tells me he met Michael Dorn a few years ago; Brent Spiner was starring in 1776 on Broadway, Dorn was in the audience, and Drew was the only one to recognize him without the Klingon make up.)

Dinner was at Sardi's, a Broadway institution.  I've walked past Sardi's a thousand times, but never went inside to dine before.  Downstairs are the rooms open to the public, the walls lined with caricatures of the famous and infamous of Broadway past and present.    Upstairs are the Actor's Equity rooms, with their special menu. 

Our table was located under pictures of Anne Meara and Neil Sedaka, among others.   We ordered two appetizers, the Sardi's shrimp in garlic sauce and the tomato mozarella salad.  Both were excellent.  Drew ordered the steak, which was served with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  (Yes, I think he could eat steak every day...)  I had a chicken marsala with risotto, serve with green beans.   We broke with tradition and actually ordered dessert and coffee -- he had the cheesecake (yum!) and I had some incredibly decadent dessert called   Boccone Dolce  -- fresh strawberries, whipped cream, meringue and a touch of chocolate.  Heaven on a plate.

An incredible meal,  why did I wait so long to go?








Sardi's on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teppanyaki redux: Gasho of Japan

I used to come here often, and loved it.  But I hadn't been back in years.  Then a friend suggested a get-together at Gasho, and we were on our way.


If you've been reading this blog awhile, you know I really enjoy Benihana.  Teppanyaki cooking appeals to me.  Throughout our evening at Gasho, I could not help but compare the two restaurants -- and Benihana won easily.


Let's start with the physical surroundings.  Small, cramped parking lot.  Unlit walkways from the parking lot to the restaurant's front door.   Cramped, overcrowded dining room.  And despite all the teppanyaki grills in use, the room was cold!


At Benihana, all of the grill tables seat 12, so unless you are a very large party, you will be sharing with others.  I like that Gasho has some smaller tables available, as a party of six we had a table to ourselves.
That, unfortunately, was the highlight of the evening.


I won't say anything was truly awful, just that it wasn't very good and didn't live up to my expectations.


The server took our drink orders, then brought us soup while we were still  perusing the menu.  Try to eat soup while holding a menu, it isn't pretty....

Salads arrived just a moment later; I do not like ginger dressing, but I was not given an opportunity to ask for oil and vinegar before my salad was served.  It felt very rushed.  Drinks arrived while we were eating our salads, and then our dinner orders were taken.  And there was a very long gap between salad and the appearance of our chef.


What I really like about Benihana is the "show", how the chef entertains while he is cooking.  The corny but fun onion volcano.  Tossing the shrimp tails into his hat.  Shaping the fried rice into a heart. 
You don't really get that at Gasho.  The chef came to the table, sang a few bars of a pop song, twirled his knives a bit (that was impressive!), tossed some rice that we were supposed to catch with our mouths. . .and then got down to the serious business of cooking, and never interacted with us again.


Well, ok, then.


But how was the food?


Disappointing.


Let's start with the "shrimp appetizer".  As in, there was none.  At Benihana, at the very beginning of the process, the chef will cook some shrimp and serve it to everyone at the table, and then he will proceed to cook the entrees.  At Gasho, the chef never prepared a separate shrimp course.  Instead, he cooked the shrimp at the same time he was doing the steaks and chicken.  Those of us who ordered shrimp entrees were simply given more shrimp than those who did not.  Shrimp was a tad bit overdone, too.


Hibachi rice was merely ok.  Also a bit scorched.  And adding too much of the peas and corn mixture does take away from the dish.


Steak was ok.  Good, actually.  And accompanied by a wider variety of grilled vegetables than I am used to seeing.  Not bad at all.


Which leads me to the bean sprouts.  At the very end of the cooking session, the chef tossed some sprouts onto the grill, cooked them quickly, then topped each plate with sprouts.


I like bean sprouts.  Really, I do.  But not so many that I feel I have to dig through a mound of them to get to the rest of my dinner.


Green tea at the end of this meal was warm and cozy.


One other thing that irked us.  Soft drinks are treated the same as bar drinks -- no free refills.  An unfortunate restaurant trend.


No, I didn't go screaming into the night after this meal.  But on the other hand, I am not likely to go back to Gasho for a very long time.


Gasho of Japan on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Applebees for dinner

Applebees is one of the better chains, I usually enjoy my meal here.

Went there a few weeks ago, and as always, a nice dinner.  We started with house salad.  A nice mixture of greens and grape tomatoes, topped with croutons and shredded cheese.  Drew had bleu cheese dressing, I had honey mustard.  They have a variety of dressings.  But strangely no Russian or Thousand Island.

Drew ordered a steak -- no surprise there.  This time he chose "marsala" -- the steak was topped with mushrooms in a wine sauce.  It was served with a side of rice.  When he ordered, the waitress told him the steak was served with mashed potatoes, but since he liked the rice . . .

I ordered a very decadent dish, four cheese macaroni and cheese topped with honey pepper chicken tenders.  The chicken tenders were excellent, juicy chicken in a sweet and savory batter. The mac and cheese -- curly pasta in a smooth, mild cheese sauce.   The dish is finished with crisp bacon.  I like bacon, but it doesn't add anything to the dish.

Pasta dishes are supposed to be served with a garlic bread stick.  Mine was not.  I didn't ask for it, either.

I need to say one more thing about this place.  Tables in the bar area have bar stools instead of regular chairs.  I have a bad back and other mobility issues, and I find it very uncomfortable to climb up onto a barstool and sit in a position where my feet don't touch the floor.  We were initially shown to a table in the bar area, but were immediately relocated when I said the table was unacceptable.  I told the host that he probably should ask before sending folks to sit in that location.

Overall a nice meal despite the glitches.

 Applebee's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thor:The Dark World (spoiler alert)

Yes, we love movies.  Big Important Movies vying for an Oscar.  Classic movies we've seen 1,000 times.  Blockbusters that are mindless and fun.  Musicals.  Cartoons.  Movies.

And so after seeing the very serious "12 Years A Slave",   the next film to entertain us was "Thor: The Dark World", yet another Marvel Comics production.  another slice of Stan Lee's genius.

Stop here if you don't want to read any spoilers.





I'm even going to discuss the "Easter Eggs".




Yes, there are TWO Easter Eggs.  Considering that's been Marvel's habit of late, you can't really say you're surprised.

So the movie alternates between the grandiose, Shakespearean world of  Asgard and modern London.  In Thor's realm, the evil Malekith and the Dark Elves seek to destroy Asgard and all of the other realms, including Earth.  Somehow Jane Foster of Earth literally gets sucked into this situation and must be rescued by Thor.  Thor must eventually reunite with Loki to defeat the Dark Elves and rescue the universe from darkness.

The humor comes from the juxtaposition of the two worlds, ours and Thor's.  Loki teasing Thor about his companions at SHIELD suddenly morphs into Captain America.  In the middle of the final battle with Malekith, Thor finds himself taking the London Underground three stops back to Greenwich .

Easter Egg number one sets us up for another movie...I'm thinking Guardians of the Galaxy.

Easter Egg number two...throughout the movie you can see the Jane/Thor romance developing.  But they never kiss.  In the Easter Egg....

Well, it was very satisfying.

Before the movies we saw previews of the next Hobbit installment, X-Men and Captain America.  Looks like we have a lot of fun movies to see in the coming months!

I should mention....we saw the movie at the Regal United Artists Westbury Stadium 12.  We see a lot of  blockbusters at that theater, usually in IMAX 3d.  But we saw this movie in Regal's newest format, RPX.  The technology is new to Long Island, the theater had that "new car" smell.  I liked the new format.  Screen was larger than the IMAX screen, the real 3D picture was sharper and clearer.  The sound was incredible.  Seats were comfortable.  And the ticket price is slightly less than IMAX, at least for now. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

John's Pizza

Easily one of the most famous pizza restaurants in the city, John's sits in the heart of the Theater District.  It's located in a beautiful building that once housed a church.  Make sure to look up at the domed ceiling.


The place caters to a theater-going crowd, and tends to be crowded just before and after shows.  We went on a Thursday evening around 8:30.  We were a large party but were seated almost immediately.


The menu offers a variety of Italian dishes.  Garlic bread served as an appetizer was very pungent and topped with gooey mozarella.  A salad "for two" was easily shared by four.  I've always liked the pizza rolls, but was disappointed that this appetizer was not served until the entrees were on the table.  Chicken parm was adequate but not outstanding -- the cheese on top were overly-browned, almost to the point of being burnt.

The specialty here is pizza.  Thin crust, brick oven pizza.  Served hot, crispy and delicious.  They don't sell by the slice.  You must buy the whole pie.  Trust me, this is not a hardship.  The waitstaff proudly wear tee shirts proclaiming: "No Slices".

This has been one of our "go-to" places for a long time.  It never disappoints.


John's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Songbird Salutes the 70's: Double Daylight Saving Time

Spring forward, fall back.

We all know the saying.  It's how we implement Daylight Saving Time. Every spring we move the clock ahead one hour so that we have an "extra" hour of daylight in the evening.  In the fall we return to standard time.

We're on standard time now.  I've spent the better part of the last two weeks trying to get used to the time change.  Instead of going to work in the dark, I'm now leaving the office by moonlight.  

So I got to thinking about it...

Daylight Saving Time has been in use in some parts of the world since WW I.  It was used effectively during WW II.  It's been a common practice in most of the United States since the 1950's and 1960's.  Traditionally we moved ahead during the last weekend in April, and moved back to standard time at the end of October.  In 1986 that was changed to the first weekend in April.  In 2007 it was changed again -- we observe Daylight Saving Time from the second weekend in March through the first weekend in November.  That's roughly 2/3 of the year that we're not on standard time.

Before you know it, we'll be on Daylight Saving Time year-round.

Oh, wait, we've done that before!

Do you remember the energy crisis of the 1970's?  The oil embargo?    Gas rationing?  People dumping their American-made "gas guzzlers" for more fuel-efficient Japanese imports (referred to in un-PC terms as "rice burners").

During the oil crisis of 1973, President Nixon signed into law an energy-saving measure. The Emergency Daylight Saving Conservation Act,  popularly known as "double daylight saving time".  For 15 months commencing in January 1974, the country remained on Daylight Saving Time for the entire year.

I was in junior high school at the time.  Our classes started very early in the morning -- I think around 7:00 or 7:30.  I remember, in the dead of winter, walking to the bus stop in the dark, arriving to a school that was all lit up, and thinking to myself " How is this saving energy?"

I read somewhere that Congress studied the issue while it was in force, and concluded the measure was very effective, saving thousands of barrels of oil each day.   Maybe it did make a difference.  but yet, we didn't continue the practice beyond 1975.

But I will never forget the eerie feeling of attending classes in what felt like the dead of night. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan

Scary new from the Philippines.  A typhoon the likes of which had never been seen before.  Over 10,000 dead.  3million homeless. I heard one of the newscasters say "This is a thousand times worse than anything we saw during Hurricane Sandy."  I cannot imagine such devastation and destruction.    Sandy was enough to boggle the mind...something much larger than Sandy must have felt like the end of the world.

New York being rich in diversity, in the past I have had friends of Philippine descent, though we've lost touch...My company has a major center of operations in Manila, and I feel for my colleagues on the other side of the globe.  That's as close as I come to having someone in the Philippines these days.  Still, my heart goes out to the people whose lives have been turned upside down.

In the overall scheme of things, what my family went through during Sandy was merely uncomfortable and inconvenient.  Downed trees, no electricity for several days, hunting for an open diner so we could get cooked food, waiting on line for gas.  The failure of our public transportation system. Dislocated office workers from the company's NYC office invading our space in Jersey City.

But things got back to normal fairly quickly. For most of us, that is. Many people were out of their homes for months. Some are still trying to rebuild a year later.

I heard that 10,000 people died in the typhoon. Trying to wrap myself around that number makes my head ache.And they say climate change is a myth.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sad

It's raining today. It rained on this day 45 years ago, too.

November 12, 1968.  It was a Tuesday.  My very first day in a new school.  We had moved into our new home the previous Friday, November 8.  The school was just a short walk from our home.   I was in third grade, and used to the rhythms of the school in our old neighborhood.  That school had been very traditional, but my new school (I would learn) was more progressive and innovative.  It very quickly became my home.

I remember all my teachers.  My favorite was Mrs. L, who brought lots of small animals to class for us to take care of. I remember being in the play in 3rd grade.  Singing in the chorus.  Taking viola lessons. Field Day on the athletic field at the top of the hill.  The Halloween parade.  Riding on the bus to the high school to visit the planetarium.  Square dancing in the gym.

I graduated from elementary school at the end of sixth grade, and went on to junior high and high school in the same district.  My sisters followed me through all the schools.

Fast forward to the spring of 1995.  I am in the middle of a divorce, and my daughters and I have moved back into my parents' house.  Jen is 4 1/2 years old, and it's time to register for kindergarten.  And I am going to enroll her in the same elementary school that I attended.

So Jen, my sister A and I drove over to the school.  It was weird walking into that building as a parent, that very first time.  The building was the same as I remembered, and yet not the same.  A place you knew as a child looks oh so very different through adult eyes.

The very first person we encountered as we came into the school was Mr. D.  I remembered him from my days as a student, and A was in his class when she was in sixth grade.  Of course he remembered us.

And then we met Mrs. I.  She was in charge of the school cafeteria.  She started working at the school the year after I graduated, but my sisters all had fond memories of her.

Ultimately both of my daughters attended that elementary school, and the same middle school and high school that I attended.  And I had many moments as a parent meeting my former teachers. . .

Time, of course, does not stand still.  When we moved to this town in 1968, the community was experiencing a construction boom.  New houses everywhere!  Families with 3 or more children were the norm.  And that meant a construction boom for the schools as well -- expanding existing schools and building new schools.  At our peak in the mid 1970's the district had 2 high schools, 3 junior high schools and 10 elementary schools.

And then, in the 1980's, as the population shifted, one junior high and 4 elementary schools were closed -- though one of the elementary schools subsequently reopened.

Fast forward again to September 2013.  Jen is hired as a paraprofessional at one of the elementary schools in the district, though not the one she attended as a student.  She's also coaching cheer-leading at the high school.

Last year the school board announced that one of the cost-cutting measures under consideration was to close one or more school buildings.  By September of this year the rumors are circulating as to which school(s) will be closed.

Two weeks ago, the board of education announced its decision.  Two elementary schools will close.  Including the school I attended. The school my sisters attended.  The school where my children spent so much of their childhood.

Jen was shaken when she came home from the board meeting.  She'd seen several of her former teachers at the meeting, and they were crying.

I want to cry, too.

I'm not among the staff or students whose lives will be disrupted when the school closes next year.  I don't have that turmoil.  My connection to the school is tenuous at best,  based mostly on nostalgia and sentimentality (though I do have a practical concern -- what will become of the building and grounds?)

But yes, I want to cry.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year

Once again it is Veteran's Day.

Today I salute the men and women who served in Vietnam.  

The Vietnam War dominated the news when I was growing up.  So did the anti-war movement.  The soldiers returning from that ill-advised war were treated like pariahs, ignored, hidden away. 

Until 1985, so many years after the war ended, when the Vietnam vets were given a ticker tape parade on Broadway, down the Canyon of Heroes.  It was one of the first ticker tape parades I saw up close and personal.

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial opened in Washington DC in 1996.  I've seen the Wall a few times.  So stark in its beauty, so moving.  Two small statutes accompany the display, one of the soldiers, another of the nurses who served in the field hospitals.  Here are some of my photos:









Sunday, November 10, 2013

If you had to be trapped inside a movie for 5 days, which movie would you pick?

Now, that's a hard question. I love a lot of movies, from a variety of genres. I even took a film class in high school, which gave me the opportunity to earn class credit for watching movies. Can you believe how lucky I was?


I'm not nearly as much of an expert as Drew is -- he makes it his business to buy DVD's of so many current movies every Tuesday, and he's got several editions of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide If you hold a trivia contest based on movies, past and present, odds are that Drew can win the contest.


So which would I choose? The Wizard of Oz? It would be fun to live in Munchkinland or the Emerald City, not nearly as much fun in the dark forests ("Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" or encounter the Wicked Witch of the West. Another favorite is Casablanca. Exotic locale, stylish clothes, intrigue and mystery. Maybe one of the Star Trek movies? Exploring the galaxy with Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? Or maybe I could be singing in an old-fashioned musical comedy, like Singin' In The Rain?


 I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous of Becca. She's enrolled in a class for spring semester, it's a legitimate philosophy class but sounds like it's loads of fun. It's called "Harry Potter and Philosophy", and it uses the Harry Potter novels, along with texts by Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche, to engage in discussion about serious philosophical topics. the professor decorates her classroom like it's Hogwarts, the students use quill pens to take notes, and the professor sorts the class into 4 houses who vie for the "house cup" while working on a group project. I suspect it's a more real experience than you'd get at the Harry Potter section of Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park (and yes, I've been to that park, as you know, and loved the experience.)

Yes, it would be just like being in the movie. Sounds like Becca will have a great experience this spring!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Birth story, part 2

How could I tell you the birth story of my older daughter but not share my younger daughter's story as well?

Three people in a one bedroom apartment, even when one of those people is an infant, is not exactly the most comfortable situation.  So when Jen was a few months old, we started looking for a larger place.  We wanted to stay in the neighborhood, because my aunts were providing us with childcare.

Eventually we found a two bedroom apartment, four blocks away from our current apartment.  Closer to the subway but a tad bit further from my aunts and grandmother.

I remember when we looked at the apartment, I was impressed with the size of the second bedroom.  I told Drew "We could easily fit two children in here."   How prophetic those words turned out to be.

(I interrupt myself here to talk about the weekend we moved.  It was May and Jen was 6 months old.  We planned to move out of the old apartment on a Friday.  The realtor was hoping to be able to show the apartment during the weekend.  Against my better judgment, Drew insisted we could do the move ourselves.  We rented a truck and got a group of friends together, left Jen with my aunts.  It was an unmitigated disaster, and when we eventually moved out of that apartment we hired a professional moving company.  We did not completely vacate the apartment until Sunday, and it took weeks to unpack.

Ironically, two factors in deciding on an apartment were my job situation and our child care arrangements, but by the end of that weekend . . .

That was the weekend I accepted a job offer from an insurance company, where I would handle legal malpractice claims.  Challenging work, more money and best of all, better hours.  there would never have been a second child if I had not left the law firm and its insane hours.

It was also the weekend Eileen died.  Forgive me, but I won't share those details right now.

So not only were our possessions scattered, our lives were in disarray as well.)

I found out I was pregnant again just before Jen's first birthday.  My children would be born 20 months apart.  (My mother rolled her eyes.  "Two in diapers at the same time?  Didn't you learn from my experiences?")

My due date was July 4.  Hence the baby's nickname, Yankee Doodle Dandy.

If you think your second pregnancy will be just like your first, think again.  Morning sickness was more intense, back pain was worse... started my maternity leave in early June, and yes, I needed to do that.  I'd put Jen down for an afternoon nap and then I would take a nap in my recliner.

So July 4 finally came, and there we were, standing on our balcony, watching fireworks all over Queens...and no sign of our baby! 

Wednesday, July 8.  Drew and Jen and I drove to Dr. S's office for my weekly appointment.  I was absolutely miserable.  I was ready to ask him to induce me.

That is, until Dr. S told me I was already in labor.  I wasn't feeling any contractions, but all the other signs were there.  "You're going to have the baby tonight!"  I was given instructions to come back at 7 PM, or earlier if my labor progressed.

Ran to the pay phone and called my mother.  "Drew and I are on our way, we have to drop Jen off with you because I'm in labor."

The contractions began while we were in the car.  Dropped Jen off and turned around to go right back to the doctor's office.   We were in the hospital by 8 PM, and I was in a labor room by 8:15.

She's probably never seen a single episode, but Becca  knows all about Quantum Leap, the time travel show  that starred Scott Bakula.  The show came on the air at 10 PM that night, and Drew and I thought we could watch one of our favorite shows while waiting for the baby to be born.  Only problem was, my epidural was wearing off, and I needed more medication.

"Sorry," Dr. S said, "I can't give you more medication, you're about to have the baby."

"No, I can't do this without drugs!"

But I did.  She was born at 10:17.  And then the anesthesiologist gave me some demerol to take the edge off.  If I had been able to move, I would have sat up and kissed him.

Once again I was supposed to have a semi-private room,.  And this time I thought it would happen, since the hospital had added a new maternity wing right after Jen was born.

No such luck.  There wasn't a single bed available in the new wing.  I wound up in a room with three other ladies, in the part of the hospital that had been maternity before the new wing was built.

Whatever.  It was only for a couple of days.  And Dr. G said I had another perfect baby. 

Another child who delighted me.  Another young woman who is smart and funny and wonderful and makes me so proud.

Friday, November 8, 2013

birth story

Jen is still celebrating her "birth month" -- one day of partying on the anniversary of her birth wasn't sufficient, I guess.

The day she was born is a day I will treasure in my memory forever. Though I've wished her a "happy birthday" many times in this blog, I don't think I've ever told her birth story.

I guess now, while I'm still waxing nostalgic for my little girl, is a good time to tell that story.

Drew and I were living in a one bedroom apartment in Queens at the time. It was a neighborhood I knew well, because my grandmother and my Aunt Eileen and Aunt Bernice had been living in that neighborhood for decades. We had recently moved to Queens from our first apartment together, in Brooklyn -- me, Drew, our beagle Molly and a black cat I named Magical Mr. Mistofeles (hey, it was the 80's, after all, and Cats looked like it would run on Broadway forever) but who we usually called "Misty" ("there's the name that the family use daily").

I was working for a law firm at the time -- you should have seen me in court back then, in maternity clothes -- I remember a judge's law secretary, a woman who'd gone to law school with my mother, joking with me that "if the judge keeps you waiting much longer, you're going to give birth right here in this courtroom."

My due date was November 8, a Thursday, and I worked right up until the Friday before my due date.

The 6th was Election Day, and Drew, a teacher, was home because schools were closed. We spent the day getting things ready, packing my Lamaze bag and placing it in the trunk of our car, making sure we had a supply of diapers, onesies, etc. for our daughter (yes, we knew her gender before she was born.) I think we had steak for dinner that night, and then we settled down in the living room to watch a Madonna special on HBO. And that's when I started to feel contractions.   Two days before my due date.  I thought first babies always came late!

By 10:00 the doctor had instructed us to come to the hospital. We stopped at my grandmother's to drop off our house keys, so that Eileen could take care of the animals. And we asked Eileen to call my parents -- for some reason I was not able to reach them on the phone.

When we got to the hospital, the resident gave me an exam, and told me I had not progressed enough to be admitted. He suggested we walk around the hospital for a few hours to get things moving. So we walked...and walked...and walked...until I had memorized every painting on the walls of the lobby.
Back upstairs, the resident told me that I still had not progressed, and that I should probably go home, get some sleep and come back in the morning. That did not sit well with me. I was admitted to the hospital.

There were a lot of maternity patients that night, and there was no labor room available. The staff found me a bed in the recovery room. That meant Drew had to change into surgical scrubs. After I had the epidural and whatever other medications my obstetrician (Dr. S) gave me, I was able to sleep. Poor Drew, he had to make do with catnapping in the chair beside my bed.

Around 5:00 or so, a labor room opened up, and we were able to move out of the recovery room.
Drew always gets teased about what happened next. Around 6:00 Dr. S suggested that Drew go downstairs to the cafeteria and get a bite to eat. The cafeteria served cold foods at that hour, and didn't serve hot food until 6:30. Drew really wanted eggs, so he waited for the hot food. Consequently it was close to 7:00 by the time he returned to the labor room ...

....just as I was being moved to the delivery room. Yeah, Drew came thisclose to missing Jen's entrance into the world. Jen was born at 7:30 in the morning.   11/7.  A lucky combination. 

I felt absolutely terrific in the recovery room. Starved, in fact -- that corn muffin and coffee were the most delicious foods I'd ever eaten. And I couldn't imagine why all the other new moms were moaning and groaning -- until the adreneline high wore off, that is.

And did I mention we were part of a huge crowd that night? I was supposed to have a semi-private room, with just one other new mom, but the only bed they could find for me was in a room designed for four patients. I was there from Wednesday morning until Friday afternoon, and at one point we even had two portable beds in the room with us.

We hadn't gotten around to choosing a pediatrician, so Dr. S had the staff call Dr. G. I remember my first meeting with Dr. G, how I told him I had the most perfect baby in the world. Dr. G was our pediatrician until Jen was in college -- that's when he closed his practice.

And after two days, they sent us home. We got back to the apartment, and I looked at Drew, then looked at Jen, still in her car seat/carrier, and I started to cry. What had I gotten myself into?

Twenty three years later, I still want to cry when I look at my beautiful first born. She's given me aggravation and heartaches, but also much pleasure and pride. I cannot imagine what my life would have been without her.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy birthday!!

Today is Jen's 23rd birthday.

Please pardon my nostalgia, I am missing my little girl, and wondering how she got to be a grown up so soon.  I am proud of the woman she has become, but ...

Jen's 4th birthday, 1994.  We asked her what she wanted, and the answer was always the same:  Dr. Barbie, a Barbie doll in a blue dress and a lab coat, with a stethoscope around her neck.  On her birthday, she got exactly what she wanted.  She was so happy!!!

And then she said..."I want...something else."

And yes, she did get other presents.

Happy birthday to my firstborn.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

12 Years A Slave

Definitely an Oscar contender.

It's a very intense movie, based on a true story.

Solomon is a "free black", a gentleman living in Saratoga, NY in the 1840's, with his wife and children.    His ordinary life is disrupted when he is kidnapped, sold into slavery and sent to the Deep South.  The dignity of his ordinary life is contrasted with the degradation of slavery.  The slaves are treated as something less than human, even by "good" masters.  Solomon winds up on a plantation where the owner is an alcoholic and his wife is bitter and disillusioned, and their slaves are used as part of their family  psychodrama.

The violence is raw and disturbing. There is an ever-present sense of despair and hopelessness.

There were moments when the story line dragged a bit, but overall the movie is captivating and compelling.  Definitely a "must see".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Songbird salutes the 70's: Wishniks





I do!  I do!

I had several of these beauties when I was a kid.

The full sized version was 3 inches tall, but I also remember winning a bunch of mini trolls, maybe 1/2 inch tall,  at school carnivals.

I loved their colorful hair. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Welcome to my world

As this is the second straight month I have participated in NaBloPoMo, I (hopefully) have pulled in a few more readers.

Welcome to my soap opera life!

I am known around the internet as "songbird".  I am a woman "of a certain age" (as people would have said in more genteel times).  In my life I have played many roles.  these days I am playing the roles of career woman, mother,  girlfriend, daughter, sister...

I've been blogging since October 2008.  Occasionally I go back and read old posts, and see how my life has changed over these last five years.

My career does not define me...or does it?  When I graduated from law school 30 years ago, I had visions in my head of becoming a hot-shot trial attorney.  That didn't happen, and I'm glad.  Because I like having a real life beyond my office.  I work for an insurance company these days.  The work is interesting and challenging, but when I walk out the door at 5:00 I leave the caseload behind me.

My older daughter Jen will celebrate her 23rd birthday in just a few days.  Jen is a very busy woman these days, with a full time job, a second part time job and a load of grad school classes.  We live in the same house, and yet there are weeks where I barely see her.

My younger daughter Becca, 21,  is away at school.  (NYC qualifying as "away" even though we live on Long Island.)  She's in her senior year, and will graduate in May.  She also has an internship in public relations this semester.  Don't know what she plans  to do after graduation, but Becca is smart and pragmatic, and she'll figure it out.

The man in my life is Drew.  My ex husband.  Yes, you read that right.  Drew and I were divorced in 1994, had a very bitter divorce.  When the girls got older, and we had less to fight about, we rediscovered each other.  We're older now, more mature, and a lot of the things that drove us apart aren't as much of an issue now.

The girls and I live in my parents' house, with my parents and my three younger sisters.  My parents are in their 80's .  My father is in poor health, needs 24 hour nursing care due to cognitive and mobility issues.  My mother has health issues, too, but she's still capable of taking care of herself -- at least to some degree.  We haven't taken her driver's license away from her, but as a practical matter she no longer drives a car.

My sisters...how can I explain my sisters?   First let me introduce you to the wonder twins, known here by their initials, F and A.  Identical twins, they might as well have been conjoined because they act as if they are permanently attached to each other. In their 40's now,  they never learned to separate from the parental home, never learned to get a job.  Until recently it was like having two perpetual teenagers in the house, living through my children.  These days  the wonder twins have their hands full, providing most of my father's "hands on" nursing care.  Part of me feels sorry that they're the ones bearing the brunt of my father's care, but part of me ... well, they've lived off my parents for their entire lives, it's time to "give back".  I barely talk to the twins.  Lots of issues, we haven't been good to each other ... but I never told either of them that "you're dead to me, you're no longer my sister."

My other sister, H, is going through a difficult time.  She recently had to give up her apartment and move back home to the family  looney bin.  After she lost her job and her unemployment ran out, she struggled on for awhile, but now she's given up trying to find employment in her field and has enrolled in a grad school program in another field.  When she finishes this degree program she will be very employable.

Rounding out the cast of characters are three felines, two in the parental loony bin and one at Drew's house.

Mr. Kitty is a self-rescued cat.  There is a pond/nature preserve about half a mile from the house, which has served as a "dumping ground" for unwanted cats.    We think Mr. Kitty was dumped there, and in fact I have seen other cats that look just like him in the woods.  He showed up on our back deck one day in September 2001, when he was about 4 months old.  At the time we had three other cats (all of whom have crossed the rainbow bridge).  When we first saw him on the deck we mistook him for our cat Daisy, who had marking similar to Mr. Kitty's.  My mother didn't want a fourth cat...but 13 years later, he's definitely ours.

Redford was a fully grown tom when he showed up at our door a few winters ago.  He's a ginger cat, and I think he's a Manx -- very powerful hind legs, and a bobbed tail.  Hence the name, "Bob" Redford.  Very sweet cat, even before he was neutered.

And then there's is Drew's cat, Duchess.  She was born at an animal shelter in June of this year, and adopted by Drew in September.  She's a cute gray kitten, rapidly growing into an adorable cat.  Becca named her Duchess, after one of the cats in that Disney movie, "The Aristocats".  She is definitely feline royalty.

So, as I said, welcome to my crazy, insane, weird, soap opera life.

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