Black Friday? Cyber Monday?

We are a nation of unrepentant shopaholics, egged on by big business.  There is no other nation that designates two shopping days as the bellwethers for a strong economy. 

Black Friday follows Thankful Thursday, the day we humbly give thanks for the important things in life — health, happiness, love, family and friends.  Now that we are thankful for all these people, we get to stampede over them for the best bargains that are only available on Black Friday.

Then came Cyber Monday.  The day after the long weekend that started with Thankful Thursday, roared on into Black Friday and culminated in Remorseful Saturday and Sunday.  Why remorseful?  Well, after getting bruised kicking and pushing other people out of the way for the bargains on Black Friday, we realize that we could maybe get better bargains if only we waited until Cyber Monday to shop from the comfort of our homes. 

Why do we engage in this frenzy?  Oh, yeah, it is for the gift-giving that has overtaken a religious holiday where those who believe in Jesus mark his birth and his message of peace on earth, good will to all.  And the fat guy in the red suit with all the gifts for a society that wants everything immediately.  The holiday is about him, too.


I hope that part of being a good parent is knowing that I need to step away and that POB (partner of blogger) needs to do the heavy-lifting.

My son is a fabulous kid and still a typical child.  He views the world only through his needs and in a disturbing development has been given to tantrums.  We thought we had skated by that particularly taxing aspect of childhood emotional growth but, no, I was maybe too smug too quickly and the karma boomerang provides a painful kick in the head.  (Come on, with all the issues we’ve had, the boomerang hurt too much for my little display of self-satisfaction.)

Our son, SOPOBLO (son of partner of blogger/blogger), pushed everyone of my buttons this weekend.   He usually displays appropriate manners and sensitivity to those around him but recently he has been harder to handle and intentionally testing every limit while simultaneously demanding every “reward”.  I can tell from the side glances that he is testing our (or maybe just my) reactions.  He also wants to exclude me from things as punishment for working longer hours, etc., even though I have less to show for those hours.

I feel my father’s anger at the sense of entitlement and my inner hurt at being excluded.  I remember all the books I read about guiding a child through these periods.  I cannot reconcile the books with my emotions.  I am ready to move out of the city of conspicuous consumption and raise SOPOBLO in a less affluent environment where POB and I have 9-6 jobs.

Maybe he is touching a nerve because the economic downturn has smacked us a bit and I feel the hurt pride of earning less and needing to save more.  But we were never so cavalier about money and toys and the rest.  We are careful about those things.  But, he leads a pretty privileged life, let’s be honest.

I love SOPOBLO so much but I was an emotionally distant parent Sunday.  It was the best I could do.  POB did the heavy lifting for the day.  That is a luxury — having another parent to take the lead.  I don’t know how single parents do it.  I am grateful every day for POB.

Thanksgiving 2009 — The event

I started the day thankful for many things. But the day is always tinged with profound sadness — it was my mother’s favorite holiday and she has been gone for 7 years. She loved having everyone around the table at a holiday where she didn’t have to say any blessings. So, Passover always lost to Thanksgiving in my mother’s mind. I try not to focus on my loss, but on her legacy. It is hard.

Ok, back to being thankful:

I was thankful for a fun time with my son early Thursday (the rest of the weekend turned out to be one long tantrum interspersed with breaks of humanity). I was especially thankful that my son had no interest in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I was thankful for the ability to go to the gym and then pick up last minute items as well as fruit and wine.

I was not thankful that my father-in-law came by 3 hours early. I think that since my sister-in-law was coming over to spend time with our son (and she was staying with my father-in-law), he couldn’t bear the thought of paying two cab fares from the east side to the west side of Manhattan. Luckily, he didn’t expect to be entertained.

I was grateful that POB (partner of blogger) made everything. (I plated the food, arranged the table, seating, etc., and I do a lot of clean-up, lest you think that I am a total parasite.)

I was grateful that I bought good wine, knowing my father would bring $3.50 bottles from Trader Joe’s. He lost his sense of taste a while ago and thinks no one else can tell the difference.

Note the similarities in the underlying behaviors of my father and father-in-law, two men who are, as far as we know, genetically unrelated. Some unknown cross-pollination some generations back in the old country? Nah, old men and their wallets. Crow bars are often necessary to pry them open.

I am grateful that my father was able to make the event.  He didn’t look so good and he had some tightness in his chest.  Still, he felt good enough to push my every emotional button, so the new heart medication must be working.  I wonder if my sister has spoken to my brother about Dad’s heart disease.  Dad didn’t want to tell him because he lives so far away.  “Why worry him?”  (Maybe because you are 89 and have heart disease and he should come for a visit?)  I could write a dissertation on this.

My aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother and wife) never respond to invitations. They just show up. And, they are usually up to an hour late. As they’ve gotten older, I worry after an hour, so I called. It seems that I used the wrong email addresses for them and they never received the emails about Thanksgiving. Of course, after spending the holiday together in my parents’ home or ours for over 40 years, you might expect that they would call or email if they received no information about the holiday. No, not even to make sure we were alive.

I of course was mortified and thought my mother would send a lightening bolt from Heaven that would singe the tips of my loafers, as if to say, “Tootsie, you know how they are. It IS your responsibility to carry them, if necessary, to a holiday event.” I was miserable with sadness and the knowledge that somewhere in the firmament, my mother was disappointed.  Excuse me while I consider dignified ways to throw myself in front of a bus (it should be a new bus; not one that looks like it ran over another person already).

(Subsequently, my sister sent them emails to explain again what happen and to tell them I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. I think that made the peace. Rule No. 6 of Jewish Family Dysfunction: As long as you are inconsolable about the lapse, any hard feelings are assuaged.)  Another time, I will go through Rules 1-5.

We had brisket instead of turkey (see the dissertation in my prior blog entry). It is part of our new movement, carnivoretarians (we eat what we like, without regard to people’s feelings and fervently-held beliefs). Carnivoretarians have a motto, “Save a Turkey, Eat a Brisket.”

True to our credo, we ate brisket, and, true to our American heritage, we ate all of the fixings that go along with a turkey dinner. The brisket was delicious.

We had lots of food which, as we know more and more about world hunger, made me a little sad and self-conscious. We sent things home with guests in faux Tupperware (that is, our stock of high-end take-out plastics). We brought food to our friends in Sag Harbor whom we visited Friday through Saturday night. Still we have so much.

I ended the day thankful that my family came and left, that we don’t celebrate Christmas so we have no cultural imperative to shop the next day for sales.

Thanksgiving has that way of starting out with unbounding hope and gratitude for the gifts in one’s life and ends in the narrow gratitude of an empty house, a running dishwasher and a comfy bed.

I was also thankful that this is not the first Thanksgiving without my mother. For a friend, this is her first Thanksgiving since burying her mother. The firsts of everything are so miserable that one has to stay so busy so as not to notice the holidays are happening. But memories creep in and the heart gets tight with sadness. Our mothers raised strong daughters, so we soldier on.  May her mom rest in peace and her memory continue to be a blessing her life and the lives of her family.

In our Tribe

My hairdresser, a woman raised Catholic, was cutting my hair and we were just chit-chatting about things. She had watched a segment on circumcision and AIDS. She was wondering where the practice originated.

I mentioned that, under Jewish tradition, it is a sign of (and cost to join) the covenant between Abraham and G-d. After I said that, I wondered aloud about a man who believes in an omnipotent G-d, invisible to humans and who, after looking into the Heavens, looks down and sees not his toes but the foreskin on his penis and decides that he should cut that. Imagine how different life would be if he saw his toe or maybe if he just pierced his eyelid. Would Jerry Springer even let Abraham on his show?

Then Abraham hears G-d telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham is willing to do that. Greeeeaaaat. After that episode is over, Isaac nevertheless goes home with him. Oprah would have an intervention. Judge Judy would have a coronary.

Isaac lets Jacob, his second son, steal his birthright from his firstborn, Esau. Corleone?

Jacob sees Rachel in a field, rips his clothes and falls down weeping. She marries him. Whaaaat? Before she can marry him, her sister, the bleary-eyed one (who knows) marries him. Two sisters, same man. Hugh Hefner-esque. EEEEEEEeeeeewwwwwwww.

G-d rewards Jacob and promises that he will give rise to a great and mighty people.

Yep, this is the heritage that the fundamentalist Jews and Christians are trying so hard to inculcate in our children. Some family values.

Thanksgiving 2009 — prologue

We’re having brisket instead of turkey  as a way to meld Jewish and American traditions (mostly, I am tired of having three people compete for only two turkey legs).  And besides the turkey legs, no one in our family really likes turkey.

Then what, you ask, will we eat for days after?  You mean, what will we do without having dried out turkey between two slices of bread to eat for a week?  hmmm.  A puzzlement.  How are we going to honor that post-Thanksgiving tradition?  A friend suggested turkey pastrami.  Brilliant. 

So, the Jewish descendants of pilgrims (the ones that came in through Ellis Island) will celebrate with brisket and turkey pastrami.  Culturally and gastronomically sensitive and sensible solution.  Some good things do come out of committee.

Lest you think that cooking a brisket is easy, let me share what happened prior to Passover, when POB (partner of blogger) was testing out her brisket recipe on our fathers at our usual Sunday night dinners.  SOB (sister of blogger) was unavailable that night, just when we needed her to referee the melee that ensued.  POB bought an uber-kosher piece of brisket with just the right “marble” enough fat to keep it from drying out.  First, let me say, it was a delicious brisket, notwithstanding what happened next.

Her father started to spit it out because it was too chewy and voiced his displeasure (what ever happened to if you don’t like it, don’t eat it and keep quiet?) and my father, trying to help, said, “[POB] dear, if you slice off the fat . . .. ” as POB’s face was getting red and her eyes are rolling back.  I tried to whisper to my dad that he should stop instructing on the finer points of brisket, but so sure was he that he was bridging the gap between POB and her father so that we could share a kumbaya moment that he continued.  It was a train crash that I could not stop.

Also, it is important to note that while my father thinks he has perfect hearing, it is only because he can’t hear the doctor tell him to get a hearing aid.  So, when I am “whispering to my dad” that is code for screaming at the top of my lungs.  Of course there were only the four of us at the table, because our son has excused himself and gone off to play.  So, everyone could hear everything.

Each day before that Passover seder, POB’s dad called to see if we had reconsidered the brisket.  For Passover, we bought two briskets, one really lean (and tasteless for the Grandpas) and a tender, marbled one for everyone else.  Everyone was happy and there were no plagues befalling anyone.

So, while Thanksgiving isn’t like being in Fallujah, we all wear body armor.

Dinner Chez Obama

Does one need to be a huge important nation, like India, to get a dinner at the White House?

No-Where-istan is a tiny country (still in my head) but we would like to be recognized on the international stage.  We have a national anthem, a flag, a motto and stamp.  I bet Sealandia doesn’t have those.

Here are the pluses:  

  1. We wouldn’t require any fuss about the menu.  We could bring deli food.  We’ll order lean corned beef and pastrami but NO knishes, so it will be heart-healthy (healthy-ish). 
  2. We’ll use paper plates instead of the fancy china.  Net-net, I believe that it is greener to have paper plates than have people wasting all that water hand-washing that fine china.  (Also, less germs.
  3. Also, I have a great dance shuffle on my iPod, so we don’t need the orchestra.  Still, I would like for the musicians to have paying gigs.  So, I am a little torn.
  4. We can have a cultural exchange:  We can teach the Obamas to talk with food in their mouths.  They can teach us how to eat arugula salad without spilling (we love arugula, but not as much as rugelach).
  5. We don’t have a big entourage and we can take Metro-North there and back, so we don’t need to stay in the guest bedrooms at the White House (we are a small country and we can’t afford the donations required to do that).
  6. The ministers and family and friends have no idea about protocol, so we can throw out the rule book and have some fun. 
  7. Look at the cost savings, which is important given that the nation is at its credit card limit. 

Here is the minus:

We don’t have sovereign territory outside my head so this idea will have to stay on the agenda of the Ministry of Dreams and Aspirations for a little while longer.


That is the buzz word that Republicans are using to describe the Democrats’ attempting to reform health care in this country. 

Arrogant is how the Republicans have behaved.  “No” is not a reform plan.  What is arrogant (and unconscionable) is that Republicans dare to use the word “arrogant” when referring to the Democrats. 

The Democrats are struggling to reform a broken system and keep costs down (or at least tax those who can best afford it).  The Republicans (save two senators and one representative) have done nothing.

Mitch McConnell, you should be ashamed.

New York Stories – – Funny and Scary


I hopped a cab on my way home from my dad’s house (he looks good).  Judging by his name, accent, etc., he is Pakistani.  He kept turning his head to talk and I kept saying, “what?”  (More likely, “whaaaattttt?”).  It turns out that I didn’t notice (when I got into the cab) there was a woman in the front passenger seat.  Very diminutive woman, in fact.  They seemed to be having a great time.  She answered a cell phone on speaker, so I could tell it was a middle-aged woman (same age as cab driver).  Was it his wife driving with him so they could spend “quality time” together?  Was it a girlfriend?  Hmmmmmm.

Postscript:  I have thought about this further in the context of my job.  Here’s a guy who brought his wife/girlfriend to work.  I, the client, was the interloper.  Imagine if I brought my partner to a deal closing and giggled throughout.  But, then again, the cabbie probably has overheard the craziest things as his passengers chatter on cell phones, so why should he think it improper.  All I can say is, eeww.  EEEEwwww. EEEEEEwwwwwww.


Diffusion of responsibility is alive and well, 40 years after the Kitty Genovese killing (for those of you born in the 70s and later, people looked on doing nothing as the victim was being killed, believing that others would call the police).

There was a fight on the subway platform this morning and most people kept going along their ways.  One man tried to break it up and, when he couldn’t, he called out to people to call the police.  I ran upstairs where I could get cell phone reception and made the call.

I had a 911 operator on the line, describing the scene of two men fighting on the platform — actually one guy fighting; the other avoiding the fight.  But there is no way to tell who instigated the altercation.

The 911 operator asked me to identify the races of the men.  “White and black,” I said, wondering in my head if I should have said, “African-American”.  But, then, should I have said, “Caucasian”?  All this going on while I am trying to report something.  Weird, where the mind goes.  And, really, did my political correctness score really matter?  No.

An MTA guard appeared and broke it up and one guy left and disappeared into a crowd.  I told the 911 operator that the incident was over and the matter seemed to be under control.

Other people seemed to think someone else would do something.  That was more frightening than the fight itself.

Postscript:  Tonight, I told my son that I had to call 911 because people couldn’t settle a dispute with “words” and I also told him that “words” can cause fights.  Not that he should be timid; just that he needs to understand the power of words, for example, to unite a country in hope, divide a country in despair or cause a fight in New York City on a subway platform.

Democrats are imploding

The GOP can just buy popcorn, sit back and reeeeeelax.  The Democrats are snatching defeat out of the mouth of victory.

We have Democrats who won’t let the health bill out of committee for a debate.  Not a vote.  A debate.  Joe Lieberman, Mr. GOP in an IND’s clothes is also squelching debate.  And to think he was almost a DEMOCRATIC Vice President. 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH DEBATE??  Yes, if it goes to debate and most people vote on party lines, it will pass, so those opposed definitely want to kill it in committee where it takes a super-majority to open debate (a little ODD if you ask me) but that is the risk with democratically elected representatives.

Also, will the Democrats PUH-LEEEEEEZE stop spending TARP money.  Everyone wants to claim a couple billion here and there to fund projects. 

Before we spend more, let’s see if it is necessary.  In the meantime, reduce our daily interest costs by paying down the deficit.  Do you like paying half a billion a day to service our enormous debt?If my father thought that I ever carried a balance on my credit cards, he would wonder if he raised me right.  (For a year or so in law school, I did.) 

All this does is make it impossible for our President to succeed.  And, if he fails, America fails.  We cannot stand still and survive as a prosperous nation and a superpower. 

(As much as I disagreed with George Bush, I always hoped he was right because he was (at least once) the democratically elected President of the United States.)


My dad is 89 years old.  He is active and self-sufficient.  What a difference a day makes at that age.

Today he had persistent shortness of breath and tightness in his chest.  Apparently, this has been going on for some weeks, especially when he walks.   These are the same streets and hills he has walked his adult life.

The doctor thinks it is his heart.  He is fine now.  He sounds fine over the phone.  We’ll see.  Some tests in the coming days.

I am still under the weather with the flu, so I have to wait to see him until the weekend.

I know I have joked in my blog about my father’s low threshold for discomfort and how much I know about his intestinal fortitude or lack thereof.  This is different. 

Dad is not panicked or kvetching.  And, he plans to think carefully about what, if any, procedures he would undergo.

My father’s heart pumps so strong with love, generosity and kindness.  Yet, it may also be a weakening muscle. 

Just keep it beating, Dad.