Ode to COB

Dear COB (colleague of blogger) took care of almost everything while I was away on vacation.  He tried to hard to let me rest, refraining from telling me — how shall I say — “human interest tidbits” so I could really disconnect (as much as one can) from the office. 

Occasionally, he would catch me on Facebook with an off-line sidebar on the trials and tribulations of being both of us for one week.  I get that.  Being one person is hard enough.  Talking like me while wearing my clothes is really close to impossible for such a big guy.  His poor back.

In these days of shifting allegiances and loyalties in every area of life, it is good to know someone has your back at work, so you can focus on your family.

COB, you rock.  And I got yours, too.

Home, Sweet Home

It is good to be home after a trip.  The usual routine seems less rut-like and more welcoming.  G-d is in the details.

I started uploading our pictures.  I had to laugh at the fake gladiator resting against the wall of the Colosseum talking on a cell phone.  Now that is time-warp whiplash.  Or the picture of TLP (our son, the little prince) under pictures of John Paul II and Benedict — I asked TLP to stand there, because as Jewish mothers, he is the closest we come to G-d’s representative on earth.  Of course, we stumbled upon the Italian national headquarters of the Hare Krishna and so we had to take a picture.  My favorite is the picture of the priestly vestments store.  Very pricey.  Who knew that poor priests had such style and flair.  Must be an Italian thing.

Speaking of which, there are 4 times the number of men’s clothing stores than women’s clothing stores.  Or so it seemed.  The men are beautifully dressed, except for the shoes.  Surprising, but true.  Also, the saleswomen in shops insisted that I try sizes 8 or 10 even though I am at most a 4 or 6.  What was that about?? I know I was dressed for comfort and looked dressed-down, but really??  Were they punishing me for being a fashion disaster in the country that makes fashion?  I guess so.  I think they were telling me that even a potato sack (which is how the clothes fit me) would look better than my outfit (it really wasn’t so bad — jeans, suede jacket, sneakers).

Anyway, Sunday night family dinner chez nous and it was wonderful to have everyone over.  A recently re-discovered cousin now joins us periodically.  He is a bird nerd, like TLP and HOSOB (husband of sister of blogger).  Everyone else’s eyes glaze over when they talk about rose-ringed something and a hooded other-thing.  But it is great to expand the family table.  Everyone talked with Italian accents for the first hour in honor of our homecoming.

Anyway, it is good to be home.  I need to plan the next trip.

The Travel Gods Must be Crazy

The travel gods are mercurial sorts.  I should have made a few sacrifices at the Pantheon before we left.

So we arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare, which came in handy because the security people needed to go through all of our luggage and examine POB’s (partner’s of blogger) cosmetics.   We looked like terrorists, indeed.

We arrived at the gate with an hour to spare, because we really wanted to get home and because TLP (our son, the little prince) loves watching planes take off and land.  At the gate, we found out that the flight was delayed for 2 hours.  No explanation.  Really?  Really?  Wasn’t the ride to Rome punishment enough?  No, apparently.  It was two hours delayed but we weren’t boarding for FOUR hours.  La dolce vita it seems to apply to airports and air traffic.  Everyone takes a midday break.

Still it is too early to call DOB (Dad of blogger) to let him know we are late.  He worries until we call that we have touched down safely.  We always thought that it was Mom who obsessed about our safety.  It turns out, Dad was right there with her, worrying. (I called him as soon as we were on the cab line at the airport and he was so happy.)

There were 65 Catholic school girls on our flight.  Hazard of going to Rome, I guess.  They all had to board together and have all of their documents together.  Ok that would have been comical if we weren’t tired of waiting to get home.  Also seeing Brother Joseph, in his robe and rope tie regalia, lose his temper a little.  I did notice his saying the rosary a lot — although, being Jewish, I really have no idea what he was doing but I can venture a guess.

As we passed through the gate attendant, a woman said to me, “I have to check your bag.”

I responded, “It is carry-on.”

“I don’t understand what you say, but I MUST check your bag.”

We are NOT checking luggage!” I say.  I am pissed.  We have been waiting too long and I am going to throw on the floor anyone’s stuff that is in our overhead bins.

After this Abbott and Costello stand-off, someone comes over and says “for security reasons, she must check.  random check.”

OOOoooooooooooooooh.  I was pleasant and accommodating after that, but she really gave me a thorough pat-down, although as I am told not as enhanced as in the US.  Although she did really get high up on the inside of my legs.  About the only thing she didn’t do was feel my breasts.

We had the seats at the back of the plane.  Row 42.  (Damn, this recession.)  Any further back, we would be sitting in the flight attendants’ laps.  At least, TLP had easy access to the bathrooms.  AND, we were not in the middle of the 65 school girls, although I had to tell one to stop taking pictures of another passenger as he slept.  She kept trying to talk to him and he kept in his ear phones.  She didn’t take a hint.  A future stalker.  The whole experience felt like high school recess.

After 10 hours on the plane (way too long) we winded our way to immigration.  We came to the officer together.  I said we are coming together, because we are a family.

You are a family?”  He asked.


Who are the parents?”  So much for the laws of certain states recognizing gay unions and adoption.

“We are,” POB and I said together.

Who is the child?”

We both point to TLP. (The only one it could be.)

The officer says, “Are these your parents?”

TLP nodded.   He looked at us again.  Seconds seemed like minutes.

“Welcome home.”

Phew.  We were so tired that I feared that neither POB or I would have the coping mechanisms to deal with this situation had it gone differently.

We got up at 7am (Rome time) and it was 2am the next day (Rome time) by the time we got home. Fresh Direct was waiting because POB placed the order from Rome so we would have food.  For once I wish she weren’t so efficient and forward-looking.

TLP was fabulous but he did say more than once that he is never flying again.

Life is good when you go to sleep in your own bed.

The trip was fabulous.  Click this link for the travel company.  I just hope you all have better air travel karma.

Last Day (and Last Supper)

You would think that I had enough self-respect not to make a reference to the Last Supper.  But I don’t.

Before I start on today’s adventures, I must mention that during the visit to the Jewish Ghetto, we stopped at the Piazza del 13th (?) del Ottobre. (Sorry, IFOB, that I butchered the name of the plaza.)  It is the place where the Nazis rounded up the Jews and took them to Auschwitz on October 13th (?), 1943.  We were standing in the piazza and, as if on cue, a police car passes nearby, blaring Anne Frank noise (eeeeee-awwwwwww eeeeee-awwwwwww).  It is the sound that makes every Jew shutter.  The ambulances have a different noise, I noticed (eeeee-eeeee  eeeee-eeeee).  Now I have completed the tale of devastation and triumph of world Jewry.  Phew.

Today, our only aim was to shop.  Shop for things that are made here in Rome and not in Milan or elsewhere.  And of course look in the churches and walk in the piazzas along the way.  That is one thing about Rome, a church on every corner and lovely piazzas.  There is even an Episcopal Church that had Irish dancers and a bagpipe outside, trying to get worshippers to come inside.  Now that is a tough sell in the seat of Roman Catholicism.

So not a lot of things made in Rome.  We had to search out artsy areas, a hard thing for foreigners because it is so easy to get lost in Rome.  And, I get bored of shopping in less than an hour.  POB (partner of blogger) wanted to shop and so TLP (our son, the little prince) and I had to schlep along.  Mind-numbing and exhausting.  Some things but nothing really.  Milan would be the city for shopping.

So, nothing really absurd or crazy happened today.  We found some groovy areas that we would love to visit next time.

TLP had a great time in spite of his pre-trip whinings.  POB relaxed by mid-week despite her stress about traveling.  I got stressed as the week went on, because I was almost totally out of touch with everything in the US.  I did check in with the office daily and my secretary and colleague texted me as necessary.  I heard snippets of news — Dow tumbled on oil supply fears and not because of a massacre in Tripoli, Berlusconi’s Bill Clinton problems, Obama’s not defending DOMA anymore.  Other than the massacre, I really don’t care.  Monday I will care.

I think this means I actually had a vacation.  A real vacation.  But wait, the journey home is tomorrow.  So, I shouldn’t jinx it.

Roma, Thursday

Today we wandered a bit en route to the Jewish Ghetto.  We walked on meandering streets to the Tiber River and found our way to the Ghetto. We walked up to Capitoline Hill. We were a little lost until TLP (our son, the little prince) said, “this is Capitoline Hill.  I recognize it from our tour the other day and the map.”  POB (partner of blogger) and I looked at each other and sighed.  I guess we don’t have to worry about our child’s intellectual development.

IFOB (Italian friend of blogger) calls it the Jewish Quarter.  Euphemistic.  If an area was walled off with only day passes to the City, it was a ghetto.  A ghetto is a ghetto.  It was long ago and now the Jews of Rome thrive, with 15 synagogues.  We saw the two old synagogues and plaques from Roman times. But being Jews, we have to pick at the scabs of the past.  We have to wallow in the persecution.  All in, it took about 4 hours to recite the indignities since the 2nd century.  That was exhausting.

We had a kosher lunch.  That just means it is even more expensive than Rome generally and everything is overcooked.  IFOB gave us a suggestion for an eatery, but after the recitation of our people’s trials and tribulations we barely crawled to the first place we saw.  There was a sink and the blessing and men in yarmulkes.  All in Italian.  Very cool. A man came over to us and complimented us on how well behaved TLP was.  We were beaming, as in beatification beaming.  TLP got extra gelato.

We saw the four lesbians from the Jewish museum at the restaurant.  They were hard to miss in either place.  The particularly masculine one was flirting with a beautiful woman who worked at the museum.  The woman was clearly flirting back.  I was intrigued but my job as a Jew was to relive the painful past, so I didn’t have time for interesting side stories.  (IFOB: I am being my usual over-the-top self, so don’t be alarmed.  We really don’t going into excruciating details about the past.  We usually conflate a few centuries to save time.)

Then, we walked through various piazzas and along side streets where open doors showed courtyards and beautiful buildings.  Truly magical, as long as no one runs you over.

We took a bus to the Sistine Chapel and TLP survived, barely.  He is not a Raphaelite or a fan of Michelangelo or Titian.  I told him that I am not either, but one has to appreciate the art and the extraordinary talent and skill that is evident.  We took the subway back.  TLP was in transportation Heaven.

We napped and went shopping.  Then off to dinner, in a quiet restaurant. That is, until the LARGE, LARGE group of American adults and children came in.  Three huge tables.  And one of the adults thought it was appropriate in a public place to give a LOUD, VERY LOUD toast to the group’s leaders.  All the English speaking people in the restaurant looked on, stunned and gobsmacked.  The Italians also were talking, and I am sure not in the most glowing terms about the Americans.  One group of kids was being loud and I turned around and said, “Really? Really?  You think this is appropriate?”  They were silent.  Phew.  It could have backfired.

There was one family from the UK also in the restaurant.  They looked similarly distressed at the large (did I mention, LARGE), loud group. As we passed their table on the way out, I looked at the mother and said simply, “Oy.”  She held up her hand and we high-five’d.  Now, THAT’S international communication.

Another great day in Rome.

More on Rome

Last night, we had gelato and coffee in the bar of the hotel after dinner out.  I was talking with two retired travel agents from Detroit, Michigan.  It must be a good business because everyone I have ever met has wanted to get out of Detroit.  These older women were on a two-week tour of Rome and the surrounding areas.  Not bad.

Our conversation continued after POB (partner of blogger) and our son, TLP (fka SOPOBAB, and nka the little prince), went upstairs.  They were curious about how TLP was dealing with the violence depicted in the murals and other art.  The Renaissance Masters loved blood and gore.  As I mentioned in my last entry, kids figure it out, so I said that I think he’d be ok but it was a good thing to keep in mind.

I watched as TLP looked at the greatest collections of Renaissance and Roman art over the course of hours at museums and galleries.  He really didn’t focus on the blood and gore but he did like all the naked ladies.  He was disappointed that there was not full-frontal nudity and that the females were not prettier and more voluptuous.  So, my son reduced 2000 years of art into: “the girls look too much like boys”.  I responded that, for a long time, it was not ok for females to be artist’s models and, so, young boys were the substitute models.  TLP thought that was silly.

Out of the mouth of babes. . . .

Roma, the next day

My Italian friend (IFOB) reads my blog and thought I was being harsh on Italians in my prior blog entry.  Actually I was being harsh on Americans of Italian descent and self-satisfied religious people.  But I didn’t intend to be offensive to IFOB or others.

Today, Villa Borghese.  It is like Central Park, grander because it was formerly an estate of the Borghese family.  We couldn’t get tickets to the museum so we went with our son to the Zoo. We spent hours at the zoo and in the park.  Our son can identify animals to an excruciating detail, so when we go to the zoo, he says things like, “oh, look, an Egyptian diamond eyed swan!” or “see, a blue footed booby!”.  There is a kind of bird called a “tit”.  So, when he started saying, look at the beautiful [insert ornithological name] tit!” I had to muzzle him.  He didn’t quite get why I sternly told him not to yell names of birds, since most are not necessarily offensive sounding to a female passerby who might think he is remarking about her cleavage.  But I didn’t necessarily want to introduce a crass slang for breast if he didn’t already know it.  Ah, the joys of parenthood.

Walking in Rome is not quite the death challenge of being on the floor of the Colosseum in the old days, when at least one death was assured, but it is harrowing even to a New Yorker.  Even if you think you are walking on a pedestrian path, a Smart car will try to mow you down.  Mopeds and motorcycles are everywhere and will try to park on your feet if you are standing at a curb, waiting to cross.  People, cars, mopeds all use the same thoroughfares in a perpetual dance that is fluid and dangerous.  Traffic lights and rules are merely suggestions.

So, I was relieved to go to Ancient Rome sites via bus.  Let someone else do the drive and just sit in your seat oblivious to the potential mayhem in the streets.  We went to the Colosseum and the Fora.  Even our son said, “this is spectacular!”  It was hard to explain to him that people and animals were killed for sport, since that is a scary concept.  He was happy that it was long ago and not done today.  Sometimes we as parents over-think the issues and kids figure out their way to get comfortable with the facts on the ground.

The tour was arranged by 206 Tours.  It was awesome.

After so many hours walking and walking, we all collapsed. The hotel was in the middle of everything and truly old world Rome with updated amenities.  Great choice for people who don’t want to lounge about and really want an active visits.  Also arranged by 206 Tours.

Partner of blogger (POB) rallied us for dinner out.  Actually, she dragged us kicking and screaming because we were sooooo happy just lying around. Sometimes, vacation should not involve self-propulsion.  A little entropy should be allowed.

Our son’s gelato cravings is reaching heroin proportions.  Rehab once we get back to NYC.  For now, we are on a gelato spree.

Roma, Day 1

Day 1 in Rome and we woke up earlier than I ever get up usually.

We had a 8am guided tour of the religious sites.  We decided that we really needed someone to schlep us around Vatican City because, other than going to the Sistine Chapel, we weren’t so wild about the Holy See.

I am so glad we did.  The Basilica was spectacular.  Ok, the sarcophagi were a little eerie and the slightly decomposed body of Pope John the twenty-something lying in state was not a highlight.  The mosaics that look like paintings were unbelievably beautiful and we were in awe of the art and craftsmanship.  And it was fun to have a tour guide holding up a red umbrella because it was sooooo kitsch.  The Vatican gift shop is a trip — the Popes, Jesus and Mary in every pose, on every precious metal and for every occasion.  I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and art of the Holy See that I had to hold myself back from buying a cross (of course, one without a Jesus).  And I am Jewish, as in Jewish-from-New-York Jewish, as in two-generations-from-the-boat-to-Ellis-Island Jewish.  Luckily, I quickly re-morphed into Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were.

This tour was great and arranged through the travel agency, 206 Tours.

We had lunch and then a little nap.  (When in Rome . . . .)

Then we walked around and found the Spanish Steps and walked more and found the obelisks which were plundered when Rome was the seat of an empire.

The mix of people in Rome rivals that of New York.  Asian and Mediterranean people speaking Italian.  Of course, it shouldn’t be a shock.  Still, in a place where there are more churches than anything else, it is wild.  We saw a Muslim mother and daughter on the street, speaking Italian.  The mother wore a head scarf and jeans.  The daughter wore a mini-skirt with spandex leggings.  The big take-away from this for me was that older women wear sensible shoes in Rome and younger women wear high heels on cobblestone streets.  (Wait, was there another message in this?)

Rome is a beautiful, ancient and yet modern city.  You can’t walk two blocks without being astonished and awed by the beautiful antiquity that lives side-by-side with bustling modernity.

Tomorrow, Villa Borghese and Colosseum/Forum.  By Wednesday, I am going to need to see the Jewish Ghetto because I know that there will be no crucifixion scenes, no murals depicting the tragic deaths of martyrs and saints and no arenas where people fought to the death for amusement.  I love the history and walking where ancients walked.  However, we are on vacation and there is a limit to the suffering I can handle, whether ancient or modern.  I know it isn’t politic, but it is the truth.

And of course our son had gelato.  And so the day was a success.

Are we there yet?

Since we are going to Rome, the city where the Holy See is resident, I figured there would be pilgrims because a former Pope is being beatified next month.  I didn’t realize that the choir of the Bridgeport Diocese would be going – 23 people strong.  All are glowing in the reflective glory of the Lord.  “Padre” said “Amen, Brother” twice and we haven’t taken off yet.

We had to wait until the entire group arrived which held up our departure time.  So now we are over an hour delayed.  And they seem oblivious to that, or unconcerned about the inconvenience.

They are quite a boisterous group.  You can tell them by their matching crosses.  Big, scary, pilgrim crosses.  Padre likes to talk loud and be the center of attention, so much so that he was quite un-Padre-like when another passenger asked if they all would stop talking loudly across the aisles.  They all felt put upon and gave each other annoyed glances.  Padre said to the passenger, “we are on vacation,” to which she responded, “so are we.  And we have all paid a lot to be on this plane.”  I backed her up even though I had an altercation with her earlier.

This group thinks that we all want to watch their interactions and think that their various pithy commentaries are bon mots for all to appreciate.

POB (partner of blogger) is sitting stunned and gobsmacked by the ill manners.  Perhaps she is still shell-shocked by the profound underarm hair of the women trip leader.  The length suggests a lifetime achievement.

There is an obviously gay man in this choir (trust me on this).  They were talking about church classes and he said he has taken 5 courses on blasphemy.  In the law business, we call that forum shopping,  Is he looking for a (gay) friendly judge who will issue a different ruling on those pesky verses of Leviticus?

Ok, so the passenger who was flipped out by all the hoopla and Christian comraderie, is a first-time flyer.  She brought her pillow from home, black-out eye patches, 2 meals from Burger King, fluffy slippers and earplugs.  Still, she was unsettled by the din.  That’s air travel these days.  The turbulence was hell-ish (50 mph winds), but that didn’t bother her.  The 2+ hour delay and the jocularity in Christ (they were comparing prayers for wind – I think they should have specified unscary, non-wrath-of-G-d type wind).  She whipped out her smartphone while we were waiting on the tarmac, and I said, “you give up the higher moral ground if you don’t obey the rules.” “I know, but I need to tell my family I will be two hours late to arrive at a family event.”  “I am sure they’ll check the planes,’ I said, trying to be helpful.  “You don’t know my family.”  I looked at her, and thought, that is true but based on the hair, the outfit, and the accent, I bet I could get a sense if I watched Snooki et al on The Jersey  Shore.

Our son was a trooper on a terrible flight in terrible weather with terrible people.  So, was POB who caught his projectile vomiting in her hands and I was a rocker for cleaning everyone up.

We got into a cab and the driver had two phones and was reading from a clipboard as he was driving on the autostrada.  When in Rome . . . put on your seatbelt.  We tipped him extra for not killing us.

Now we are so exhausted that our son doesn’t even want to stay awake for gelato.  We arrive at the hotel and collapse in our beds.

I can’t even read this over to see if it makes sense.  We are going to bed.  Today, purgatory.  Tomorrow, glorious Roma.

But we are, finally, here.

Freckles or Age Spots?

I need to stay out of the sun. 

I am freckling. 

On my hands. 

In the middle of winter. 

Through winter gloves and while in my office. 

Wow, the sun is REALLY strong. 

We really need to worry about the ozone layer and climate change because if this is happening to me, babies are in trouble.


Those aren’t freckles, are they?  They are age spots, aka liver spots.

Say that with me, li-i-i-i-i-i-ver-r-r-r-r spots. 

Let me hear it. 

And look at your hands, too. 

And if you have them, too, say it louder


That’s better.  I feel better.  You?

Two months ago, I was suckered into paying $600 for an ounce of mystery fountain of youth emollient.  Which we all know is the same as Duane Reade’s generic skin lotion only packaged in faux gold leaf. 

POB (partner of blogger) told me return it.  I was feeling buyer’s remorse, so I was glad that POB said that.  Although when face-to-face with the salesperson who sold it to me the day before, I had to blame stingy POB.  Because I am a wusssssss and I couldn’t say, “you know, this is too damn much for fancy packaging and we know there is no elixir of youth!!” 

Now, those who know me, know that I rarely shy away from giving my opinion and I am a bull-in-a-china-shop even when I try to be smooth.  So, this was aberrant behavior.  In truth I was embarrassed that a salesperson — a stranger — could play so well to my vanity, so much so that I would throw money away on that.

Now, though, I am looking at my li-i-i-i-i-i-ver-r-r-r-r spots, which could have been just freckles if I had used the elixir.  Hmmm.

Is this what they call, early-onset dementia???