life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, April 30, 2016

I love it....

So we've finally reached the end of Passover.  Tonight we can go back to our normal way of eating.

So yeah, I think I was just a bit obsessed with Passover this year.  It was an interesting holiday.

Remember when I posted about our  family's Passover heirloom?  A Seder plate bought by my grandparents, used at every Seder my father lead, as far back as I can remember.


The back of the plate bears the inscription:  BARDIGER, London, and TEPPER, London with a circular seal that says, Manufactured by Ridgway England

My sister found the same plate, but in blue, on eBay

Here's what it looks like:

They have it listed for $350. I saw another blue one listed for $175, don't remember which auction site that was.

So I did a little research.

This design was first registered by Ridgways, the Staffordshire manufacturer of the plate, in 1923.
 (I thought it was earlier than that, I thought the plate was made before WW I.)

"Bardiger" is a retailer mark for Solomon Bardiger's china shop, which was  at 180 Brick Lane, London. Solomon was a Ukrainian immigrant (just like my grandparents who bought the plate!).  He came to England in 1890 and traded in a wide variety of goods, but became most well known for his Judaica table wares. It was he who commissioned Ridgways to make the plate

I found it in black as well, listed for $72.

I even found another red one.   And they also made a separate plate to hold the matzo.

In fact, it's a museum piece.  Or rather, cousin to a museum piece.  One of the blue plates found its way into the Brooklyn Children's Museum.  Another made it into the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures in Illinois.

It's nice to know that our heirloom, too precious to sell, does have value to someone else as well.


Friday, April 29, 2016

NYC afternoon

I used to work in lower Manhattan, used to spend 40+ hours a week in the neighborhood.  And when you're there all the time, you can forget how special the neighborhood is, how tourists come from all over the world to see what's in your back yard. 

These days my office is on Long island, close to home.  But my client is in lower Manhattan, and occasionally I have meetings in the city.  And after one such meeting, about a week ago, I had some time to revisit some of the sites of the city. 

Wall Street, as seen from Broadway:

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The New York Stock Exchange:

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The Trump Building at 40 Wall Street:

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Federal Hall:

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President Washington:

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I visited an old friend in Liberty Street Park. He sits with his briefcase on the corner of Liberty Street and Church Street, across from the World Trade Center complex. He has a brother in Jersey City, at the Jercsey City 9/11 Memorial:

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The reflecting pool where the South Tower (Two World Trade Center) once stood:

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One World Trade Center:

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

songbird loves the 80's: I want my MTV

Prince's death last week brought back a lot of memories.

In the 1980's, MTV was synonymous with "music television".   Insstead of a DJ spinning records on a radio station, we had a new art form:  VJ's would present music videos.  By 194,watching MTV was like "watching" a Top 40 radio station.  Everyone knew the catchphrase:  "I want my MTV".

This was the heyday of the music video.  We could see Michael Jackson dance his way through "Thriller".  .  Madonna was decked out like Marilyn Monroe as she sang "Material Girl".  Billy Joel dressed as a mechanic while singing "uptown girl". Weird Al's parodies were funnier because of the visuals. To this day, when I hear Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", I see her bright red hair and partially shaven head..  The wonderful Claymation of Peter Gabriel's  "Sledge Hammer"...

And coming full circle:  The slogan was incorporated into a music video.  Props to Dire Straights...


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

another this and that

So I'm loving my workouts at Planet Fitness.    I don't have a workout buddy, which means I go at my own convenience, and work out at my own pace. 

But I was kind of looking forward to my work out date with Becca.  Becca usually works out in the gym at her apartment building, but she was coming home for Passover...

And then she ditched me.  Went to work out with David-who-is-not-her-boyfriend.  (Yes, sweetie, I believe you when you tell me you and David are "just friends", as if all those years of being boyfriend and girlfriend never happened.)  So she went to David's gym to work out.  And the next day, after considerable "girl drama", she took a yoga class with Angela.

Jen has been taking yoga every week.  she goes with one of her friends, I think.  I'm happy she found a class that gives her a good workout without risking injury.  She was so upset last summer, when she blew out her knee in an adult gymnastics class. 

I actually looked at the class schedules of a couple of local yoga studios.  I've tried yoga on my own, using DVD's.  I'm not sure I'm ready for an actual class, though. 

And then I found myself on the website for the JCC again.  I used to belong to the JCC, but let my membership lapse.  The fitness center offers all the same equipment as I'm using at Planet Fitness, but they also have an indoor track, an Olympic sized pool, and a hot tub.  In the  old days I'd walk on the track, do some recreational swimming, and relax in the hot tub.  What's drawing me back is the promise of free yoga classes, and aqua aerobic classes for a small additional fee.

 Planet Fitness has a location near my house and a location near Drew's house, but if I joined the JCC I'd be more or less restricted to my home location.  Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly

Anyone who knows me understands that I am very passionate about politics.  I've been  a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat since before I could vote.  And I've made no secret about which candidate I support this primary season.

Today being the primary in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland. Connecticut and Rhode Island, I thought I should talk about an event I attended at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, NY, just before the New York primary. It was an event sponsored by the Hillary Clinton campaign, so of course you will hear the speakers endorse her candidacy. 

But what made it was hosted by Congressman Steve Israel, it featured former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Captain Mark Kelly, and it was a forum about gun violence and gun control.

This country has a gun culture like no other civilized country.  Gun violence scares me.  the power of the NRA scares me.   Reasonable and sane safety measures, thing supported by the majority of gun owners, are routinely voted down in Congress because of the power of the NRA.

Steve Israel...well, I voted for the man every time he ran for office, so you know I'm a fan.  Mark Kelly is an eloquent speaker, and I really enjoyed listening to him.  The other speakers were women whose lives had been altered because of gun violence, one woman's story made me cry.

But the person who really impressed me is Giffords.  She is so much more fragile than she lets on.  In person you can see the full extent of the deficits caused by her traumatic brain injury. And yet, here she was, on the campaign trail, discussing her cause.

It's an issue that needs to be front and center, no matter who wins our party's nominatin, no matter who runs for office in the fall.

But you can skip the following film clips if you don't want to hear  Gabby and Mark endorsing a candidate...

Monday, April 25, 2016

The jogging trail

Last spring, when my health started to be not so good, when I had visions of a future dominated by words like "heart attack", "stroke" and "diabetes", I decided it was time to finally get my act together and get fit.

And I was so overweight and so out of shape that the only exercise I could manage was walking. 

That's when I started going to Jones Beach and Sunken Meadow, that's when I started taking long walks on the boardwalk. 

But there are days when I can't get to the beach, there are days when I have other commitments after work.  I'd have to do my walking at lunchtime.

When I worked in lower Manhattan, walking was never an issue.  It's the principle mode of transportation.  You get a significant amount of walking done just by getting yourself from one place to the next.

When I worked in Jersey City, my office was right next to the Hudson river.  Jersey City has a river walk, beautifully landscaped, with park benches.  I've walked as far south as the Colgate Clock and as far north as the Holland Tunnel, all the while enjoying a fabulous view of the NYC skyline.

But these days I work in a busy suburban office park.  I work in a building that sits in the middle of a parking lot, on a very busy street that connects to other very busy streets.  It's not particularly friendly to pedestrians.   I mean, I can get a walk in, but it's not particularly pleasant.  If I walk out of my building and take a walk "around the block", at the end of my walk I will have travelled about 1.3 miles.  Not bad for a lunch break, but, as I said before, not particularly pleasant either. 

So I checked out a couple of local parks, both within a five minute drive of my office, but neither suited my needs.  They're both very small parks, designed to cater to the baseball and soccer crowd, with no real walking/jogging trail.

And then I discovered a "fitness trail" in my office complex.  A dirt path, it started at the sidewalk in front of one of the office buildings, snaked down through a wooded area that separated the building's parking lot from the neighboring lot, ran around the back of the building, then through another wooded area back up to the sidewalk, forming a "U" around that building.  There were fitness stations along the trail, a bench where you could do sit-ups, a bar for pull-ups, etc.  The sign said the trail was maintained by "XYZ" gym.

Problem was, "XYZ" gym had gone out of business, and no one was maintaining the fitness trial.  The equipment was in disrepair.  And I almost killed myself tripping over an overgrown tree root.

So no, the trail wasn't going to be very useful to me. 

And then, a few months ago, the building came under new management.  And I saw lots of construction equipment near the fitness trail.

Today I decided to check it out.

The entire trail has been paved, making for a smooth walk or jog.  The fitness stations have been replaced with park benches. The wooded areas have been beautifully landscaped.

I did three laps around that trail.  Took just under 40 minutes.  It felt so good to be walking outside.

Such a small thing that can bring me so much happiness.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


His birthday is the day after mine, he's just a day younger than I am. His brother is a year younger, the same age as my sister.  We were an interesting foursome when we were children.  And then, when he and I were just 11 years old, his father died...

If you asked me who Don is, I would tell you "He's my cousin."  but that's not the whole story. 

Don's father married my Aunt Eileen in 1966.  My sister and I were flower girls at the wedding.  Don and his brother did not attend, they were with their mother and her husband.  Divorce was much more unusual in those days, and children of divorced parents did not attend the wedding of one of their parents to someone else.  In fact, Don and his brother were the only kids I knew whose parents were divorced. 

My aunt and uncle would pick up his kids every Sunday, and most of the time they'd head to my parents' house.  We'd hang out in the back yard or watch TV in the den.  Sometimes we'd go places -- Don vividly remembers going to see "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" with me and my sister. 

And then, a week or so after our 11th birthdays, Don's father died of pancreatic cancer.  the last time I saw Don and his brother was at Eileen's apartment, while they were sitting shiva.

As an adult, don has sought to reconnect with my aunt, and after she died, with us.  He needs to have that connection with his father, with the past.  I know I will hear from Don every year around my birthday.  He's one person who can't forget the date.

He was in town a couple of weeks ago, and I had lunch with him.  It's a unique experience to talk with someone who remembers the same things you do, but from a different perspective. 

He told me something that I had completely forgotten. 

My father once went to a NY Jets game at Shea Stadium.  It was December 1969, a playoff game.  the Jets had won the Superbowl the previous January, they had a great team that year as well.  My father, my uncle and the boys nearly froze to death in the stands, they drank a gallon of hot chocolate to keep warm.  They had a great time, even though the Jets lost the game.

I would never have remembered that my father went to the game.  But when Don talked about it, I had a vague memory of being home with my mother and my aunt while the guys were at the game, and not caring a bit  about football. 

Memories.  sweet, sweet memories.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Echoes of the past

Until dementia robbed him of his memories, each Passover, just before we would sit down to begin the Seder, my father would mention his mother. She died a few years before my parents married, I think it was 1955 or 1956. She died the day before Passover, and each year my father would say "She died, and we went home and made a Seder." My father would talk about that traumatic Passover until he was well into his 80's.

So this was our first Passover since my father died. The Haggadahs we use have a simplified service, all in English, with portions of the text designated to be read by the "leader", a "participant" or "assembled". We've been using this version since the 1960's, the books are falling apart, with generations of wine stains and matzo crumbs amid the pages.

So we designated my daughter Becca to lead us, but in my head I heard my father's voice. My father's voice, not as he was in the final years of his life, but clear and strong, the way he read those words all those years as a father and grandfather.

His voice, clear and strong, echoing in my head.

So Becca began the service, our new normal.

And when it came time for my sister Honey to read, she couldn't. She burst into tears.

And when she regained her composure, she said "I hear Daddy's voice in my head."

I guess we all did.

And then later ...

There's a psalm we read at the end of the Seder. Our translation reads "I am Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bands."

Every year, my father was tired by the time we read the psalm. And the portions to be read by the leader are printed in light blue ink, the distinguish the leader!s text from the rest.

One year, he misread that line as "Thou hast loosed my hands." And we all laughed.

He made the same error the next year. And the next. It became a running joke. Sometimes he said "bands", but with a special emphasis -- a smug "I got it right this time." So every year we'd be thinking: Would he say 'hands" or "bands"?

So Becca was leading, and we got to the psalm. And she read, without thinking, "Thou hast loosed my hands."

L'dor vador. From generation to generation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 22, 2016

simple phrase, deep meaning

"I have to go make yontif."

A simple phrase, spoken in my grandmother's heavily accented English, employing the Yiddish word for "holiday". 

"I have to go make yontif."  It meant all of the holiday preparations, which were quite extensive.  Especially at Passover.

"I have to go make yontif."  That meant grocery shopping, not just for the food for the two Seders, but also for the special Passover foods she fed her family all week.

"I have to go make yontif."  It meant cleaning the house from top to bottom, removing every crumb of leavened bread.  It meant packing up all the pots and pans, all the dishes and glasses and silverware, everything to be stored away for a week.  Instead, she would use the Passover kitchenware, cups and plates and pots delegated to be used solely during the holiday.

"I have to go make yontif."  It meant cooking.  Everything was made from scratch.  Chicken livers would be fried and ground up for chopped liver.  Whitefish and pike would be chopped for gefilte fish. Horseradish and beets would be grated.  Matzo balls would be shaped and cooked to accompany the chicken soup. Turkey would be stuffed with matzo farfel. 

"I have to go make yontif."  Set the table.  Get the wine glasses.  Made up the Seder plate. Find the Haggadahs.

And when everything was prepared for the Seder,  my father would call us all to the table and say:

 "Let's go make yontif."

Azizen Pesach.  Happy Passover.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

songbird loves the 80's: the doves are crying

I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

The 80's...when music and TV blended, when MTV was all about the music, all about the video.

And Prince was so much a part of that.   

Hits like "Purple Rain", "1999", "When Doves Cry".  Hits like "Kiss", "Raspberry Beret", "Little Red Corvette".

He was splashy, he was showy, he was larger than life.

And when he ran into some difficulty with his record company, he replaced his name with an unpronounceable symbol, but everyone just referred to him as "the artist formerly known as Prince."

2016 has not been a good year for our music icons.

But this one was a shocker.  He was only 57, would have turned 58 in June.  Way too young.

Rest in Peace, Prince.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dinner cruise

So...our dinner cruise...

Bateaux New York Cruises

Take in 180-degree skyline views from Bateaux’s curved glass ceiling and walls. Seduce your senses with delicious cuisine, live band entertainment and exceptional service.
  • Two climate-controlled dining rooms that can be adjoined or separated
  • Centrally-located hardwood dance floor and full service bar
  • Two outdoor decks offering wide-open views of Manhattan
  • Three-course plated menu featuring delicious, contemporary cuisine

Dinner first.  I had a very nice glass of chardonnay.  Drew ordered an amaretto Collins.  He received some sort of amaretto cocktail, not quite what he asked for, but it tasted good.  We enjoyed dipping our onion dinner rolls in the herb-infused olive oil.  Drew chose the duck pastrami appetizer -- small, tasty slices of cured duck meat.  The field greens in my goat cheese and beet salad would have benefitted from a vinaigrette dressing, but the candied pecans were very tasty.  Drew also enjoyed a shrimp cocktail -- large, fresh shrimp served with a sriracha cocktail sauce.  My maple and mustard glazed chicken breast was tender and tasty, and Drew really enjoyed the braised short ribs and mashed potatoes.  Desserts were decadent -- Drew had warm butter cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I had salted caramel cake with a chocolate ganache. 

We didn't get up to dance, but we did enjoy the live band.  we found ourselves singing along at times.

But of course, the most important part of the experience is the actual cruise.

The boat sails from Chelsea Piers, a sports and entertainment center on the West Side.

Yes, that's the Empire State Building:

We sailed at 7:00, just a short time before sunset.  I was able to capture the sun setting behind the Hoboken skyline.

The route takes you up the Hudson, as far north as the USS Intrepid. 

That's Jersey City -- my home away from home at my former place of employment:


The famous Colgate Clock:

The World Financial Center in the foreground, One World Trade Center in the background.  A phoenix rising from the ashes:

Then you sail south on the Hudson to the harbor.

Ellis Island:

The Statue of Liberty:

The Verrazano  Narrows Bridge:

Saw the Staten Island Ferry:

You sail  around the tip of Manhattan and into the East River.  You travel under the Brooklyn Bridge and then the Manhattan Bridge, but stop before reaching the Williamsburg Bridge.

Then turn around and sail into the harbor once more. 

The highlight of the cruise comes as you approach Liberty Island. The lights are dimmed, the band solemnly plays patriotic music, and the boat stops so that you can see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal.  I've lived here all my life, I've seen the statue many times, and yet it still inspires me.

And after a beautiful 3 hours on the water, you return to Chelsea Piers.  As you disembark you're offered a  warm chocolate chip cookie to sustain you on the trip home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Primary Day

I voted shortly at 6:00 AM, the very first person in my election district to do so.

Now I'm watching the results. So weird to see all the reporters here in NY, it's been so long since our primary mattered.

Reporters in Trump Tower. In Co-op City. Harlem. Brooklyn.

Wow, it's so exciting.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 18, 2016

The dress

It must have been sometime in 2007 that I bought it.  A black dress with a muted print, tea length, with long, sheer sleeves.  the kind of dress you wear for an evening out.  I'd just lost 70 pounds and wanted to celebrate.  It wasn't an expensive dress, but it was lovely, and I just knew I'd find a reason to wear it eventually.

But the right occasion never came along.  And after I gained back the weight, the dress got shoved into the back of my closet.

And then a few months ago, Drew said to me, "Let's plan a dinner cruise around Manhattan."  And I said, "It sounds like a lot of fun."

And then, a couple of weeks ago, he told me that the boat had a dress code:  Collared shirts for gentlemen (jackets requested).  For women, cocktail wear, a dress or dressy-casual attire.  Dark or dressy Jeans are acceptable. However, we strongly recommend no casual jeans, t-shirts, shorts, athletic shoes or flip flops at any time.

And I went shopping in my own closet.

Yes, it fit.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

the Mike Piazza Jersey

No, I didn't win the lottery and buy it.  I wish I had $365,000 for  to spend on such things.  Sigh. 

Three minority owners of the team pooled their resources and bought it.  They intend to have it rotated on display at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Piazza tweeted his thanks to the buyers, glad that the jersey is going where it belongs.

I'm glad, too.

Friday, April 15, 2016

a woman on a mission

Passover is a week away.

Since "kosher for Passover" products have very limited appeal after the holiday is over, the supermarkets order only a limited supply of such products.  You have to stock up on the nonperishables well in advance of the holiday, or you take the chance that you won't be able to find everything you need.

So Wednesday night I donned my combat gear and headed for my favorite supermarket.  This store has a huge Passover aisle, you can find almost anything you want.

The five pound package of Streit's matzos?  check.  Matzo farfel, matzo meal, potato starch?  Check.   Kosher for Passover ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard?  Check.  Gefilte fish (we like the frozen kind, you cook it yourself and it tastes freshly made)?  Check.  Macaroons?  Check.


Houston, we have a problem. 

There was a lot of candy available, but they were all sold out of  Barton's Seder Mints.

Barton's Seder Mints are Jen's favorite Passover candy.  The holiday wouldn't be the same without them.  The peppermint patties sitting next to the empty spot on the shelf would be a poor substitute for the real thing.

I bought the peppermint patties, but I was not happy. 

Do you know they sell Barton's Seder Mints on Amazon?  I didn't either, until I checked it out Wednesday night.  Unfortunately, the product was marked "currently unavailable."  Can't imagine why.

And then I realized...

There's another supermarket in my neighborhood.  I never do my Passover shopping there, they have a very small selection.   Maybe...?

Well, they are sold out of Barton's Seder Mints.  Now.

When I got there yesterday morning, they had four boxes of Seder Mints.

Now I have four boxes of Seder Mints.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

songbird loves the 80's: the revolution

In the 21st Century, taking your music with you is extremely easy.  You can download it from iTunes onto you phone, or your iPod, or your iPad.  You can stream it from Amazon or Pandora or Spotify.    Just choose a device, plug in your earbuds, and you are set. 

That wasn't always the case, though.

The Sony Walkman revolutionized how we listen to music. 

In the 60's and 70's, you  basically had one choice -- buy vinyl records and listen at home. Nothing portable about that at all.  Yes, there were car radios, and portable radios, so to some extent you could take you music with you -- if you could get reception. 

Introduced in Japan in 1979, and in the US the following year, the Walkman was a small cassette player that could easily be carried in pocket or purse, and came with headphones for your listening pleasure.  Audio cassettes had been in existence since the 60's, but were not widely used for recoding music until the development of equipment designed to play music from a cassette tape -- this was the era of tape decks, boom boxes and, of course, the Walkman.

The Walkman, that wonderful device that put you into your own musical world.  You could play whatever you purchased, or recorded off the radio. 

I must have bought my first Walkman in 1984 or 1985, when I was commuting on the long Island Railroad.  The Walkman, the headphones and 2-3 cassettes came to work with me every day.  A little bulky, but nevertheless...

That thing ate through batteries to the point where I thought I should buy stock in Duracell.   But I was happy to be able to spend my down time listening to Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and the like.

It's just not the same with an iPod. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Well, so much for that idea

Drew sent our money in awhile ago to buy our tickets for the Dark Shadows convention.

Yesterday he got a letter from the convention organizer and a refund, the convention is completely sold out.

Monday, April 11, 2016

patron of the arts

One of our favorite places is The Tilles Center, a performing arts venue on the campus of LIU/CW Post.  We found ourselves there last Saturday to see Michael Feinstein in concert.

Feinstein is a singer, pianist and musical revivalist.  Back in the 70's he worked for Ira Gershwin, cataloguing all of Gershwin's music. By the 80's he gained fame as a cabaret singer, focusing on The Great American Songbook.

The last time Feinstein was at the Tilles Center, he performed an entire evening of Gershwin music.  Great show.  this time around, he included a lot of music by Jerry Herman, Jerome Kern, Sondheim...there was a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr., and one to Frank Sinatra.  And he spoke about his celebrity friends, past and present:  Peter Allen, Liza Minelli, Rosemary Clooney.  

Wonderful show, great music that endures.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Passover is coming, part 2

Passover is, I think, the essential Jewish holiday. 

Just as the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are the core elements of Christian belief, the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai are the core of Jewish identity.  At Passover it is incumbent upon Jews to retell the story of the Exodus, to reenact it. Scripture tells us that if G-d had not redeemed our ancestors, surely we and our children and our children's children would still be slaves. 

And, unlike most Jewish holidays, Passover is centered on home rituals: holding  a Seder, reading the Haggadah, eating the prescribed foods and drinking the required four cups of wine.

The Haggadah my family uses was printed in the 1960's.  The booklets are falling apart, they are stained with wine, there are matzo crumbs caught between the pages.  And we will never replace them. 

The Seder plate is a family heirloom, inherited from my paternal grandparents.  I never met my paternal grandparents, they died before I was born, but their memory lives on in a piece of china they bought as recent immigrants to this country, probably about 100 years ago.  When I posted a picture of the plate on Facebook, my cousins were quick to share stories of long-ago Passover dinners at our grandparents' home, events that took place long before I was born, but part of the fabric of our family.

When I think of Passover, the first thought that comes to mind is my father leading the Seder.  The last few years have been difficult, because failing eyesight, and then dementia, robbed my father of his ability to read the Haggadah and lead the rest of us in prayer.  The role fell first to my mother, and then to my daughter Becca.   L'Dor Vador, from generation to generation, in accordance with the Biblical commandment:  "And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying, It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt." (Exodus 13:8)

Yet, even though he was compelled to relinquish the role of leader, my father was at the Seder every year, he played an integral role in our service and celebration.

And this will be the first year we hold a Seder without him.  It will be painful.  Bittersweet.  Emotional.

My paternal grandmother died in...I think it was 1955.  My father always said she died erev Pesach, the night before Passover.  He would say "And we came home and held a Seder."  He seldom talked about his mother, except around Passover, when the joy of the holiday mixed with the pain of the anniversary of her death. 

And now I understand his pain.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Passover is coming

The first Seder is April 22.

And it's bringing up a whole bunch of issues for me, both practical and emotional. 

Today I discuss the practical.

I am a modern Jew.  I belong to a synagogue and observe many of the rituals of my faith, but I also live in a secular world.  I don't keep kosher.  My mother kept a kosher house when I was growing up, but we ate non kosher foods outside of the home.  So it was never that important to me.

But on Passover, everything changes.  I guess the symbolism of keeping kosher and adhering to the additional food restrictions of Passover is a way to bring the practical and the spiritual together.  Once we were slaves, and we were forced to depart from Egypt in haste, before the dough for our bread had a chance to rise.  So we reenact the Exodus, we avoid leavened foods and eat only matzo.

Which leaves you scrambling to find substitutes for things you normally eat.

Being told "no" makes me feel deprived, even if I have a full plate of food in front of me. 

And a lot of my "go-to" foods, the things I have been eating while losing weight, are on the "Not for Passover" list.

but I am being smart this year.

I am already looking for recipes that meet the religious restrictions of Passover that are also tasty and low in calories.

And in any event, it' s only 8 days.

I think I can survive.

Friday, April 8, 2016

the youngest member of "the club"

So I go to the synagogue 2-3 mornings a week to say Kaddish for my father.  The official period of mourning for a parent is one year. I will be saying Kaddish until October, the anniversary of his death.

People who do not regularly attend synagogue services tend to become more observant during the period of mourning -- a year for a parent, 30 days for a spouse, sibling or child.  Lately I have been seeing a lot of familiar faces at services.  It seems I've reached an age where many of my contemporaries find themselves in the same situation as I do.  Even our Rabbi is saying Kaddish for his mother these days.    I guess we're all members of the same "club". 

But the other day I felt my heart break for the youngest member of our "club".

Lisa's husband has been coming to morning services since she died.  And the other day, he brought his daughter with him. 

Lisa's daughter is 25, the same age as Jen.  They were friends in Hebrew school.  They were friends, and later coworkers, at day camp.  They went to the same college.  And they shared a bat mitzvah date, back in November 2003. 

Seeing the young woman there, sitting beside her father...

I was 55 when my father died, and I felt it was too soon to lose him.  I can't imagine what it feels like at 25....

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Peter Pan Diner

Peter Pan Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

It was lunchtime, on a weekday, and we were a party of 7.  I guess that was a bit unusual, because the waitress was a bit frazzled.  Nothing went horribly wrong, but service was a bit "off".

But the food at this iconic diner lived up to expectations.  Most of us ordered fish.  No complaints.  My Hawaiin tilapia was moist and flavorful, served with a mild pineapple salsa.  Pistachio ice cream, with real pistachios, was a hit.  My rice pudding was sweet and creamy without being cloying.

I love a good diner, and this one qualifies.  We will be back.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

worried for a friend/life lessons

I've known her for about 5-6 years now.  She's a delightful woman, in her early 60's, well-traveled, smart, a bit flamboyant.  Passionate about the arts.  .  She's been known to literally squeal with joy at the thought of another Disney World vacation.  She lives for her daughter and her music

This larger-than-life personality is housed, unfortunately, in a larger-than-normal body.  She is not embarrassed to tell you she weighs more than 320 pounds.  She has mobility issues, she can walk for only a short time before she must sit down.  Her health has suffered.  She is a diabetic. 

You can see where this is leading.

A week ago she posted on Facebook that she was in the ER and would be admitted to the hospital.  Diabetics, unfortunately, are prone to serious foot problems, and she had developed a foot ulcer that required surgery. 

Of course I reached out to her, to see how she's doing.  She had the surgery, but she's still in the hospital.  Eventually she will be transferred to a rehab center.  The earliest she can expect to return to some degree of normal is the middle of May.  That's six weeks after her initial ER visit.

I am so worried about her.   I am hoping she gets through this, that she heals completely and is able to return to the activities she loves. 

But there is also a life lesson here.  Seeing what my friend is going though has clarified things for me.

A year ago I was starting down the path that my friend has followed.  Nothing terribly serious, but a lot of minor health issues.  Problems that were starting to interfere with the activities I wanted to enjoy.  Small things that would ultimately lead to larger things. 

It was a crossroad.  Do I accept these small problems, do I learn to live with health issues and physical limitations? 

Or do I make changes to my life?  Changes that wouldn't be easy, but changes that would make things so much better.

There are consequences for staying where I was.  There would be different consequences if I made a change.  My friend is living with the consequences of her decisions, of the choices she made. I can't wave a magic wand and fix this for her, but I can be supportive as she deals with this crisis. 

But I can change my direction.

I made the choice to change direction.  There are no guarantees, of course.  You can live a healthy lifestyle and still get sick.  You could get hit by a bus.  But you can make changes that minimize your risks.

I've been overweight most of my adult life.  Overweight?  No, let's be honest.   Clinically obese.    I've tried, on and off, to lose the weight, with limited success.  Ten years ago I lost about 70 pounds, and promptly gained it all back again. 

So why is this time different?

Losing weight is as much about what goes on in your head as it is about what goes onto your plate.

All the things that were happening to me in 2015, all the doctor visits, all the medical tests, were churning up unpleasant memories.

2005 was my year from hell.  In January of that year, I was diagnosed with cancer.  I endured surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  I endured, I fought through it, I'm a survivor.

I'm not going back to that, not if I can help it. 

In March 2015 I walked out of yet another doctor's office.  I rejoined Weight Watchers and I bought a Fitbit. 

As of today, I have lost 54 pounds.  I feel so much better.  My doctor is pleased with my progress.    I've got a lot more to lose, but I'm on track to lose it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

songbird loves the 80's: the 1986 Mets

So it's finally baseball season again.  We have secured tickets for 7 Long Island Ducks games.  We have tickets for at least one trip to Citi Field, and hopefully may add another visit later in the season.

It was painful to watch the Mets' opener.  They played at Kansas City.  the schedule was set before last year's playoffs, so no one could know that the Mets and Kansas City would play in the 2015 World Series.  It was a bit painful to watch the Royals raise the championship banner.  It will be a bit painful to see them receive their rings tonight.

All told, the Mets have played in 5 World Series -- 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000 and 2015.   And on the two occasions when they became world champs, it was positively magical.  I don't remember the '69 series very well.  But 1986....yes, that was wonderful.

Back then, the team still played in Shea Stadium, a bright blue and orange paradise.  Home to the Mets, it had also been home to the Jets before Giants' Stadium was built.  It was also the temporary home of the Yankees and Giants in 1975, while Yankee Stadium was under renovation.  And some of the best concerts took place at Shea -- the Beatles in 1964 comes to mind.

The team?  Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden,  Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez,  Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson...Davey Johnson as manager....Bud Harrelson, a hero from 1969, coaching...

They dominated the National League, beat the Houston Astros for the league championship. 

And then came the World Series, and the Red Sox. 

It was an exciting series.  The first two games, played at Shea, went to the Red Sox.  Then the Mets took the next two at Fenway.  The Red Sox took game 5, and the teams returned to NYC with the Red Sox leading the Mets 3-2. 

And then came game 6.  I remember it well.  It was a Saturday night.  Drew and I had gone out with his friend Marc (yes, that Marc), and we wound up at Drew's parents' house in time to watch the game.  The three of us were down in the basement, talking among ourselves...until the game got very interesting. 

The score was tied at the end of 9, but the Red Sox took a 2 run  lead in the top of the 10th.

And then, in the bottom of the 10th, the magic happened. Backman flied out.  Hernandez flied out.  they were getting ready to pop a cork in the Red Sox' clubhouse.  And then Carter singled.  Mitchell singled.  Knight singled. 

By now, the three of us were standing in front to the TV, yelling and screaming, hoping against hope that our boys could pull this off.

And then Mookie Wilson came to bat.  The count went to 3-2 on Wilson.  And he hit a blooper to first.   A very playable ball.  That rolled right between Bill Buckner's legs.

And the Mets won the game. 

Game 7, played the following Tuesday, was almost anticlimactic.  Almost. 

And I went to the ticker tape parade.  It was easy, all I had to do was step outside my office building and let the confetti fall.

Monday, April 4, 2016

songbird loves the 80's

I guess I'm not very good at solving puzzles that involve special relationships, because Rubik's cube was the bane of my existence.

Remember Rubik's cube?    It was one of the biggest fads of the 80's.

A cube with 9 tiles on each side.  Each tile was in one of six colors.   The idea was to move the tiles around until each side of the cube was a single color.

I'd twist, pivot and maneuver the cube, but never managed to get even one side uniform.  I'd spend a few minutes trying to work the puzzle, without success.

Props to anyone who can turn this:

Into this:

Death By Pollen

i don't need to look at the calendar.  I don't need to look at Weatherbug.

It is most definitely spring allergy season.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Today's weather report

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Brooklyn Diner

Brooklyn Diner USA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A stand-alone restaurant in the middle of West 57th Street, a huge red sign proclaims this place to be a  DINER.  Comfortably spaced tables and booths -- ask for a booth under the window if you need access to an electrical outlet to charge your phone. Small brass plaques salute the "celebrities" who have dined here.  (The only name I recognized on our booth was Storm Field, a NYC TV weatherman.) I love the mural salute to Ebbets Field.

The food is a bit pricy (we're in the Theater District, after all), tending towards burgers and sandwiches.  Portions tend to be rather large.

I was craving pastrami.  My sandwich was served on toasted rye bread, with almost as much meat as you might find at the Carnegie Deli down the street.  The meat was tender and flavorful.  The sandwich was accompanied by a kosher pickle and a carrot slaw (carrots and raisins in a sweet vinaigrette).

I could not resist the lure of their famed noodle kugel, a pudding made from egg noodles, cheese and raisins.  Sweet but not overpowering, it's a dish I look forward to the next time I'm here. 

Overall a very pleasant experience. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

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