My morning with Bessie and other things in a random day

I am sick (with the flu) and have been home almost all week.  The problem with being home (besides cabin fever) is that you notice every imperfection in your house, every age spot on your legs and those barely perceptible (to the naked eye) and asymmetrical droops in your breasts.

I was feeling pretty ok this morning.  And I needed to get out of the house.  And I was despondent over missing a Soeur reunion in Cancun.  And my bras didn’t provide the necessary level of support.  So, off I schlepped to the local mecca for women’s undergarments.  This is the place where, for decades (until her death), the Dowager Countess of Ladies’ Undergarments would cup your breasts in her hands and yell out a size and style and point you to one of the dressing rooms.  And if she determined that your current bra was ill-fitting, she would pitch a loud fit.  You had to have self-esteem or you needed to be high to deal with her.  I never went while the Dowager was alive.

POB and I went to here to get our undergarments of steel for our wedding dresses.  Bessie, an older Southern woman, helped us.  She noted that day that I was wearing “some kinda ratty bra.”

Today, I walked in and saw Bessie and strode straight for her and said, “you helped me with my wedding undergarments and I promised I would be back and here I am.”

“I remember you.  You was with a friend and you was both gettin’ married.”

“To each other,” I  responded, gently.

“You had a ratty bra that day, I’ll tell yoooooo.”

Sidebar:  OKOKOKOKOKOKOKOKOK, really?  She remembered?  And I was here to rectify that.  I was thinking that I wasn’t feeling better; I was just delirious.  And why do you think I don’t go bra (other than sports bra) shopping often, huh?  A little humiliation every other decade or so lasts a looooooong time.

I spent 90 minutes topless in a dressing room that others had no problem entering at will.  I must have tried on 30 bras.

Bessie commented on each:  “Now that one make you almost look perky!” “You don’t fill that up anymaw.  Betcha you did once!”  “Now, that is a beautiful cup on you!!

“But, Bessie, it is electric blue!!!”

“It don’t matter what color it is.  A good fittin’ bra is a good fittin’ bra.  You don’t turn your nose at a good fittin’ bra.  Not when we’s our age!!”

Pause.  We are NOT the same age.  I may be going on 50 but she is 70.  Wow, I really was delirious.

“I’ll jest put this in the buy pile.”  She walked away.  Ten bras (of varying colors; some electrically so, some not) later, she went to find matching bottoms.  I prevailed on nixing the dull blue and brown striped one that was almost like a bikini top.

“You a full-cut or a thong type?” She yelled for everyone to hear.  Of course, the entire conversation was for everyone to hear.

“How about we look at the matching bottoms and then I will decide.”

Bessie packed up all the things she decided I needed, less the bra that I would not, could not, buy.  “Now, send your friend on in here, hear?”

Wow, I needed a long snooze.

POB and SOS were doing G-d’s work, by having lunch with my Dad, so I could rest.  Or be delirious, whatever.

We arrived home at the same time and had a little rest hour.  And then POB and SOS set about making a cheesecake for SOS’s friend who is recovering from serious back surgery.  Our hearts were on standby to be broken if anything went wrong.  An 11 year-old’s undergoing serious back surgery is a parent’s every nightmare.  He came through like the champion he is.   And he wanted cheesecake.  “Then, give the boy a cheesecake,” said (and did) POB and SOS.

So we all hovered in the kitchen while POB did most of the heavy-lifting, SOS helped a little and I helped not at all.

SIDERBAR:  Hey, there needs to be a slacker in every family.  I proudly claim that mantel.  In fact, I “gold-medal” in it, without the need for performance enhancement drugs.  (It is a non-performing sport.)

Then SOS remembered that Cousin Gentle and he are going to visit a Sikh enclave in Queens tomorrow and he needed to learn, “hello”, “good bye” and “thank you” in Punjabi by tomorrow.  Cousin Gentle sent a link to a primer on Punjabi.

So, now, I sit in a warm kitchen with wonderful smells wafting through the air, blogging about my day and over-hearing my son practice words in Punjabi.

Yes, yes, I must be delirious.


Just Give Us Something To Talk About

A friend who is slightly paranoid about being known as a friend of blogger (and ergo, SPOBFOB) and I were discussing (and, might I add, solving) the world’s ills over lunch.  It is so frustrating when two people make major breakthroughs in world peace, economic policy, and moderate reformist politics and no one will let us see the President.  We wouldn’t have made him take notes (he is the President); we know enough about protocol (we could write the book) to bring a short-form and long-form memoranda setting out the action points for achieving these huge global steps forward.

Not only did SPOBFOB and I have important problem solving breakthroughs, but we also took stock of the freak show that comprises the leaders of our nation.  Let’s face it:  Men like the game — thrust and parry, if you must — of negotiations.  Women want to get the damn thing accomplished in the least amount of time with the most impact. Sure there are women who are impossible to deal with in these situations (Michelle Bachmann, par exemple) but by and large, you don’t hear women say, “let’s say this and see what they come back with” when you know full well that “saying this” will only lead to vengeful behavior and reverse any constructive negotiations up to that point.  We rarely make grand pronouncements that make compromise impossible because our egos are in the way.  Just sayin’.

Maybe President Obama would not like to think that he is pretty much in the same camp as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell when it comes to purposeful and constructive negotiations.  Ok, so the answer is that the White House would slam the door on our advance team.

I was despondent because here we had answers and no one who would listen.  I mentioned having a cable talk show and SPOBFOB came up with the brilliant idea of naming it the “Alternate View” because we look at the world quizzically and with our heads tilted, as if we were trying to understand really edgy art.

[So, this is where I go off on one of my tangents and SPOBFOB has no responsibility for anything that follows:]

We can invite our friends and family to come on the show.  They represent a varied and seasoned cross-section of America.  Ok, the liberal, urban/suburban, well-heeled and over-educated America.  So, there would be wide national appeal.  (Ok, that would be in the sovereign nation of No-Where-istan, a state of my mind (see prior blogs).  But, I digress.)

Everything would be fair game, from:

  • did anyone really think Justin and Selena were anything but a media creation?
  • to: should you home school your children in places where the gay liberal communist agenda has not fully infiltrated main stream public school education?
  • to: should fertility treatments and surrogacy be tax deductible for same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal?
  • to: who is the sanest person in the Tea Party asylum? and is that like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  • to: whether quinoa is subversive grain that could reduce America’s dependence on hamburgers?
  • to: how to keep skin from sagging without surgery?

And everything else anyone wants to cover.



I love POB (partner of blogger).  She is the better half of my soul.  She is extraordinary.

She is also “at liberty” these days, since losing her job in a corporate restructuring.  To my mind, she can rest on her laurels and eat bon-bons for the rest of her life. I want her to be happy.  But recently, I think she needs to have a job for her sanity and well, frankly, for mine.

A few weeks ago, I learned from POB all about the scam of recycling plastic bottles.  The bottles are shipped to China (add to carbon footprint) where the process of recycling those bottles causes noxious gases to be released into the atmosphere (EPA would not allow such recycling in our country) and then the recycled product is shipped back to us (add to carbon footprint). All this, over dinner, after a long day trying to woo clients and bring in business.

Last night, we were at dinner at a restaurant with friends and POB had questions about the fish special.  Was it farmed? Was it certified as “happy fish” before it was fooled by bait and impaled on a hook?  Where was it fished? (as in, was it fished in a place that is overfished?)  I had an extra glass of wine that had a huge carbon footprint.  I felt bad but the wine felt good.

But it was really the other week that I decided that POB needs a job, ANY job, with or without pay.  POB announced over a gluten-free, nut-free and (dare I say) taste-free dinner that we should get one of those apartment-size composting kits so that we can create fertilizer and then drop it off at compost-receiving stations in Central Park.  That way, the parks will be greener and we will be, too.  Ok, ok, ok, ok, at age 47, I am composting nicely, thank you.  I will disintegrate enough just in time for the worms, etc. to break down the rest of my cells at my death.  POB is not mollified by the knowledge that I am in slow-burn compost mode.

What, am I not compost enough for POB????  At long last, has it come to this?


From wikipedia:

pel·lu·cid — adjective /pəˈlo͞osid/

  1. Translucently clear
    • – mountains reflected in the pellucid waters
  2. Lucid in style or meaning; easily understood
    • – he writes, as always, in pellucid prose
  3. (of music or other sound) Clear and pure in tone
    • – a smooth legato and pellucid singing tone are his calling cards.

 I had to look up this word because I couldn’t understand it in the context of a lawyer describing his verbiage.  Yes, you heard me. A lawyer referred to his own drafting as pellucid.

Ok, transactional lawyers have to carve out any number of hypothetical and theoretical scenarios — from probable to impossible — that would absolve a client from an obligation or a liability.  So, the contracts or documents are exhausting to read (even by fellow attorneys) and invariably torture the native language and contort its rules of grammar beyond recognition.

In our defense, we have complicated clients with complicated deals.  Accordingly, we write complicated documents.

So don’t give me that PELLUCID shit.  Are you on drugs? Or just being gratuitously condescending?  I am no rocket scientist (my mother would have liked one in the family, but that is another back story for a different blog entry) and so if I don’t get it, it is not PELLUCID.

Maybe the lawyer thought that his verbose and somewhat confusing prose was mellifluous and therefore possibly satisfying the “pure in tone” definition, albeit in an intellectually scrambled manner.

As someone who drafts documents for a living, I try to use an economy of words.  Certainly we aspire to clarity of ideas in a minimum of words.

But let’s be honest:  most legal writing is as PELLUCID as . . . as . . . as . . .


[as in dense, murky, turbidity or opaqueness, courtesy of Oxford English Dictionary]

Elements of Life

POB (partner of blogger) and SOPOBAB (son of POB and blogger) went to the Natural History Museum today, while I stayed home, still on the “injured list” nursing my still aching back and trying not to feel useless and a slacker (it is ok to be a slacker when you’re not sick or hurt).

They returned in the mid-afternoon and SOPOBAB was so excited.  Not only did POB tell him that we got him the Clone Wars movie, so he would have something special to do while POB and I entertained some out-of-town guests tonight, but he got a new place mat of the Periodic Table in all these cool colors with all these things that were new to him.  “E-Mom, I never even HEARD of some of these things!!”

So we looked at the Periodic Table (click on it) together.

Apparently, when POB and SOPOBAB were purchasing it, SOPOBAB asked about hydrogen and helium, the first two elements, and why they were listed.  POB said that the table represented things that are not made of anything else, like a prime number.  And these were the basic building blocks of everything.  And, that two hydrogen molecules together with an oxygen molecule make water.  And that sodium chloride together make salt.

SOPOBAB got excited. Where are the french fries on the chart?

One person’s element of life is another person’s arterial occlusion.

Later, when we were going over the table together, he said, “E-Mom, I have bad news for you.  French fries are not an element, YET.”

A Quiet Morning

I can’t wait until our son becomes a sleep-until-noon teenager.  Until then, as part of our Saturday ritual, he comes barreling in at the crack of 9am to watch cartoons.

POB (partner of blogger) gives him the paper to bring in, and she follows with coffee (and yes, I am spoiled and I am grateful every day).  Our son does remember to give me a kiss before he says “controls” with his hand held out expectantly, like a Grey’s Anatomy surgeon says “Metzenbaum scissors”.

Every other Saturday, POB and our son trek off to Hebrew School downtown and leave me to putter or go to the gym or read the paper with more leisure than usual.

As much as I love my family, I am reveling in the quiet.  I am focused on not letting the political mayhem, global suffering and warring intrude on these moments of personal calm.

I wish everyone, everywhere, could have a moment of calm and recalibration of priorities.  It won’t turn Ahmadinejad or other tyrant into a dove, but it might ratchet down the fervor of his followers. It might even act like a balm over the “Progressives” (on my side of the political spectrum) whose high-pitched whining is indistinguishable from their counterparts on the right.

Ok, maybe those people — the mean, the evil, the obstructionists, the liars and the screamers of every nation and political viewpoint — need a month-long medically-induced coma.   Then everyone else could spring into action:  air-lift food and medicine and doctors and teachers to areas in need.  And, we can show them that we achieved more for humanity while they were asleep than in all the years they were awake.

A month is not long enough.  Maybe the calm of this morning is sending my brain into “kumbaya” mode with psychedelic rhythms.

Still, everything good starts with a dream and ends with a “kumbaya”.


For my 40th birthday (just about 7 years ago), POB (partner of blogger) gave me an iPod.  There is new, souped of version of this dinosaur called “iPod Classic”.  Just like those “classic” Chryslers with all the conveniences of modern technology but with the fins and the chrome edges.  It was amazing in its time and, just seven years later, its limitations are quaint — in that way that a lop-sided homemade cake is really so, so, so, “homey”.

Then, it wore out  as iThings are designed to do after 360 charges. So, it stays planted in its iPlayer for music when we are in the house.

Then, we got something for the gym.

And this doesn’t really hold a charge anymore.  And so I get iRate at the gym when the battery idies on me and all I have to watch is the 24-hour-news-recycle to pass the tortuous 30 minutes on a constant-sweat machine of choice that day.

Ok, so then we got one that had more “juice” for the family.  But we didn’t know about the iDeath that happens after 360 charges (don’t leave an iPod in a charger or re-charge willy-nilly).  So this iDevice splits its time between two places: the kitchen, and, after hours, in SOPOBAB’s (son of POB and blogger’s) room so he can listen to audio books and then go to sleep to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (yes, SOPOBAB is an old soul).  This requires TWO iBose systems for its two iHomes.

Ok, that was not enough, so we got two, TWO, iTouches.  Two iTouches. SOPOBAB has dinosaur, bird, football, baseball and hockey apps so he can play, too. (Our child cannot conceive of a world with typewriters, dial-up connections, Basic 8 computer languages.  Thank G-d, he loves real, honest-to-goodness books.)

The batteries are draining too quickly.  So we are probably going to get another one.  Oy.

Then we got an iMac.  [picture not included because of iMalfunction] [imagine iPicture here].

THEN, a MacBook Pro.

Now, an iPhone.  Not for me.  For POB.  Cool and groovy.

But I am a little iParanoid that our dependence on Steve Jobs is getting addictive.  But I really hate PCs since Microsoft Vista came out and ground our PC to a halt even for simple tasks, like say, logging on.

There was a time when there was no “I” in “team” (but there IS an I in family, which stinks for the metaphor).  Apple will get rid of that problem by creating the iTeam (who knows if that is true, but one has to believe that something like that has to come out in order to continue the mind control and advance the global domination).

In life, you pick your battles.  Steve Jobs, you win. iLove you and so does this iFamily.

Mi Cherie Amour

On Thursday afternoon, I slipped into the bathroom of my office and transformed into a girlie-girl.  I traded my clogs for pantyhose and heels and my turtleneck and blazer for a sleeveless black number that swirls when I walk, along with some serious bling and a full face of make-up.  POB (partner of blogger) insisted on the serious bling (she wanted anyone who might flirt with me to know I was expensive).  G-d bless her to think that someone at this outrageously hetero event (for which I was dressing up) would even look twice at me.

Of course, I ripped the hose as I put them on and — uh oh — this was not my pair of hose.  POB and I are different sizes, so I felt the sli-i-i-i-ide down below my waist happening almost immediately.  Ripped and sliding.  Dressing up is always epic.

The event was a fundraiser for one of the most worthwhile organizations (outside of refugee relief) — The Hole in the Wall Gang camps for kids with life threatening illnesses.

I left my office to meet a colleague who was flying in for the event.  We were going to the pre-party that started at 5pm.  Nothing like alcohol at 5pm for pickling your brain.  And goyishe hors- d’oeuvres — meat and cheese or pork.  Not even mixed nuts for the Jews.  I realize this is going to be a long night featuring a liquid buffet.  And that is so not my cultural upbringing — run out of booze, ok.  Run out of food? Change your name and leave town because you’ll never live it down.

We attended the main event — a concert at Avery Fisher Hall, featuring Meryl Streep (looking fab without plastic surgery), Emmy Lou Harris, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bill Cosby, Lyle Lovett (I kept thinking, Julia Roberts, really?), Bette Midler (who got middle-aged), Renee Zellwegger (she looked so much better before all the plastic surgery) and Stevie Wonder.

More important than these luminaries were the campers who helped emcee the show, and the video of Paul Newman, who together with Joanne Woodward, founded these camps.  One of the campers belted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.  I think everyone was crying.  Here is a terminally ill tweenager singing THAT song.  A song of the downtrodden, the sad, the defenseless, those with hopes and dreams that seem destined not to be realized.  THAT song.  My heart ached and my mascara ran all over my face.

Paul Newman (may he rest in peace) was so eloquent — in the video made some years ago — about why he started these camps.  (I am paraphrasing, but I recollect it this way:)  “I have been lucky all my life and I wanted to help people who only knew the other side of luck.” He is a good man but I hate his salad dressings.

He looked at luck as a zero-sum game.   And if luck is a zero-sum game, then our luck means someone else has less (or no) luck.  Contrast that with people who say today, “I make my own luck.”  As if to impart that those who are “unlucky” don’t deserve success.  Ok, let’s super-impose this paradigm on children.  Can anyone with a sense of humanity say to a terminally ill child, “you could’ve made your own luck”?

Surely, we can share our good fortune — our luck — with the children.  The children.

Of course the evening got lighter when Stevie started playing Cherie Amour and a few other standards.  My colleague and I were standing and singing in Avery Fisher Hall while everyone else politely sat.  After an evening of ill children with fight in their hearts, it was good to be on our feet and singing.  It was life-affirming.

There was an after-party.  Cheeseburger sliders were served.  Really?  Goyishe v’hetzi (150% non-Jewish).  Still with the vodka drinks.

There was a Motown band and singers who were awesome.  I dragged my colleague out on the dance floor.  I told her, it’s New York, no one cares if two women dance.   We totally rocked out.  Of course, at that point my hose were dangling dangerously low like the pants on some young men and I was scared that they would just drop.  And it was getting late and really I wanted to get home, get in bed and feel the serenity of having my family safe and asleep around me.  We were waiting for Stevie Wonder to show up at the after-party so my colleague could meet her idol.

Finally he showed up and she was star struck and frozen in place.  The batteries in her camera ran out.  I had to elbow my way to spend a few minutes talking to Mr. Wonder while I motioned for her to get next to me.  Mr. Wonder’s bodyguards were concerned that I was doing something dangerous and were ready to drop me.  Finally she got near enough to put her hand on his shoulder and I snapped the photo using my blackberry.  I thanked Mr. Wonder for his patience (and holding on to my hand for what seemed an eternity as my colleague got close) and the conversation and I receded into the crowd.

My colleague is on Cloud Nine.  We have bonded.  I can call her “friend” now.  Without a hard-headed New Yorker, she would not have even gotten close to Mr. Wonder.  As a friend, I tell her, “I have been in heels for seven hours, my pantyhose are almost falling off, and I need to go home now that we have a picture with you and Stevie Wonder.”  I am walking you to your hotel and I am throwing myself in a cab.  The alternative is to put a sign on you that says ‘return after 3 days to . . . .’  I would get to sleep but I would get fired.  So you decide:  How is this evening turning out?”

Having gotten a picture of Stevie Wonder, she didn’t put up a fight.  Thank G-d.  I got her back to her hotel and in 15 minutes I was in my comfy apple-green jammies in my comfy bed and ready to sleep.

I laughed, I cried, I danced, I shook hands with a celebrity, I was moved to help others.  A great day.

Play dates

Yesterday, my son had a friend over in the afternoon.  The ground rules were no electronics — no computer, no video, no TV.  His parents are rather concerned about the amount of time he spends on Wii and on the computer generally.  So, low-tech play date.  No problem, right?  Now, remember it is 2010 and we are taking about an 8 year-old and a 10 year-old.  BOYS.

First my son refused to stop what he was doing when his friend arrived.  His friend was kneeling in front of the Wii remotes.  Ok, ok, ok.  POB (partner of blogger) took out all of this cool building sets, some even have circuitry (electric ok, but electronic, no).  No one tried anything.  Variably mournful and angry eyes were watching us.  I started helping the friend put some circuit boards together and we made lights flash on and alarms ring.  Just like those awesome kits that you could do at camp if you brought an extra $5 dollars which in 1972, was a lot for an 8 year-old.  We were having an awesome time although my son was still pouting by reading train books, hoping that I would cave and let them watch a train video.  Nooooo. Then his friend got up and knelt by the Wii again.  I said no, and we had a tense moment when he kicked something over angrily.  We walked back into my son’s room.  At that point, the friend tried to make conversation with my son, but my son, who figured he was punishing me by being rude to his friend, was unresponsive.  So I sat down with this friend and played scrabble and asked my son to help me.  Finally, finally, my son decided that fun was a good thing to have and they started to play together.  Phew.  All is good, right?  Ten minutes later, “we’re booooored.”  Really?  Really?  With all of the toys in this house, you kids can be bored?

Then I remember what withdrawal was like when I quit cigarettes.  And, I realized that neither of them bargained for a non-electronic play date, although we did tell our son the ground rules.  So, in a lapse of parental judgment, I started a pillow fight in the living room with the couch pillows — some cushions, some just decorative.  All fair game.  POB looked on in horror and amusement as there were many near-misses with the lamps, etc.  But the humans were each in one piece.

They were able to amuse themselves for a little while.  But the electronic-free play date was running a little too long for anyone’s patience, let alone those of pre-tween boys.  Recently, I bought a Star Wars light saber to match our son’s (Mom, please forgive me, for buying something that is a weapon, but your grandson is a boy.)  My son didn’t want to play but his friend did.  So, I handed him a pair a protective glasses (see, Mom, you did raise me right) because I cannot live in a world where a child is blinded while playing while fencing with light sabers in my house.  Ok, I never, ever, imagined that I would be condoning, much less partaking, this behavior, but, sometimes, one has to stand less on principle in order to survive your child’s play date.  Then the boy’s father came to pick him up just as he was striking me in the gut with his light saber.  Score one for Luke Skywalker.

Luckily, POB and I had a dinner date with our machertunim (the parents of the girl that our son is intent on marrying).  Machertunim is the Yiddish word that describes the parents’ relationship when your children are married to each other.  This play date also did not have electronics.  We coped very well with these parameters, since we have great fun talking and laughing, and there was wine and great food.  Did I mention the wine?

Both play dates were fun.  But I suspect that they won’t need my facilitating non-electronic play dates after a while.  And to tell you the truth, the second play date was awesome.


So I have been hearing about upcycling, rather than recycling.  Upcycling is putting an about to be discarded article to a different use, like melding metal scraps into a chair.

I was on the subway, studying the human condition, and I saw this awesome display of upcycling:  a men’s blazer re-worked at a satchel!!

(I took it with my blackberry camera so the resolution is not so great.) 

What a relief to know that upcycling has nothing to do with a spin class at the gym.