Closing in on 47

I know that 47 isn’t a “big” birthday.

However, when I was 43, two people told me on separate occasions that I looked great for 47.

Adding the corresponding years, I must look great for 51.  And 51, I shall be.

That means I am one year overdue for that introspective, moribund deconstruction of my life.   [Cue:  music from triste French films of the 60s and scenes of deep, deep contemplative monosyllabic conversations with long pauses and spectacular sensual exhalation of cigarette smoke.]

Our discussion at Seder this year about free will made me think about choices I have made and wonder about whether they were in fact choices or dictated by my learned responses.  Does free will always have the caveat, “to the extent that your upbringing and life experience haven’t made the choice for you”?

That is a big question that I cannot answer tonight.

All I know is that my skin is not as radiant as it was last week.  But then again I was 46 last week and this week I will be 51.  I think that I just now understand the difference between accrual- and cash-based accounting.

Georgia, long time passing

Dear Georgia:

It has been five years since you gave POB (partner of blogger) your blessing and then left this world shortly thereafter.

It was characteristically non-dramatic and understated: you pronounced yourself satisfied with our first Passover and with the matzo balls that floated.

I was keeping an eye on you (for signs of approval) at that Seder and you looked like you enjoyed the ritual, the discussion and the food.  You looked comfortable and relieved that the traditions would continue for another generation.  Dare I say proud of POB?  I have told POB my observations over and over again so she could imagine it and derive solace from it.

Yesterday, POB and I recited Kaddish on this fifth anniversary of your death.  How is it possible that time speeds by?

I don’t know how close your final resting place is to us and whether you need a telescope.  So, I will catch you up a bit on life after you left.

POB ultimately found her bearings.  For a while it was too much for her gentle heart.  And, she and I, we have different ways of mourning.  I mourn out loud and POB mourns quietly, in a more dignified way.  But that also means so much was bottled up for too long.  I watched, unable to help.  With time, POB re-emerged, stronger than ever.  (We are now more able to navigate our times of stress and unhappiness in a way that brings us together.)

TLP (our son, the little prince) is a marvel.  Sometimes, he speaks like a character in a British novel.  I have to laugh; that is you in him.  I can draw a direct line in the family tree — no dilution in that gene.  He just put on some Persian rock music for me to hear.  He said he really thought the melodies and rhythms were cool.  Need I say more?

TLP and SOSOPOB (son of sister of POB) are deeply bonded and both are growing up to be sweet, smart boys.  That makes us all happy; two kids without siblings reaching out to each other as more than cousins — perhaps, brothers.

FOPOB (your husband and father of POB) is, as you used to say, “more so”.  His personality is getting distilled and some of it is too sharp to let roll off.  Of course, you aren’t here to soften his edges.  He tells other people how proud he is of POB.  POB would like to hear it directly, but I emphasize that the point is that the message gets delivered.

He dotes (to the extent he has that gene) on SOSOPOB and SOPOB (sister of POB).  I don’t think it is always easy for us because while we don’t need FOPOB’s generosity (to the extent that is a noun applicable to him), we would like him to be in TLP’s life.  Nevertheless, we are grateful for his interest in SOSOPOB.  And, the Blogger family is incredibly fond of SOSOPOB.

Your daughters are finding their grooves.  POB gets more fabulous each day.  And, she even looks more and more like you.

Georgia, your line continues, strong and resilient, older (and maybe a little sadder) but infused with your memory.  Please try to visit POB in her dreams.  I know she would like to see and hear you again.

~~ Blogger


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]


I am always nervous ahead of our family Seder.

I do some preparation ahead of time, including copying pages of the text (in English and Hebrew) with a theme in mind.  This year’s theme was: how is our ancient story relevant to Arab Spring?  Dad came up with that.  Pretty awesome for a near-91 year-old.

Even though I plan it out and “run it”, I lose control of the Seder almost immediately.  Our family’s idea of exercise is a rigorous argument, and it always starts with, “We are told . . . ” and every response starts with a silent “oh, yeah?”.

Almost immediately in the readings (think, “we are told”) G-d says he will stiffen Pharaoh’s heart again and again.  (Listen for the “oh, yeah”s.)  Ok, let the exercise begin:  Don’t Jews believe in free will?  If Pharaoh doesn’t have free will, then do any of us?  Or does G-d sometimes intercede and constrain free will?  And isn’t the concept illusory because how we act in any situation is dictated by our past and learned responses?  And can we cast off that prior learning and should we?

I’m telling you, our brains hurt even if our guts were growing from the fantastic meal made by POB (partner of blogger).

(The brisket was delicious.  Of course, my Dad couldn’t help criticizing my less-than-uniform carving.  But his critique is a necessary part of our family tradition.  If he didn’t, I would rush him to the hospital.)

On the Seder table is a Seder plate.  The Seder plate contains the symbols of the holiday for all Jews — egg (rebirth and renewal), parsley (springtime), charoset (chopped up apple concoction for the bricks and mortar but sweet because of deliverance), bitter herbs (for the bitterness of slavery), salt water (for the tears of slavery) and the shankbone (representing the blood that was spread over the doorposts of the Israelites so the Angel of death would pass over).


For us, I would add a few more symbols of our family’s festive rejoicing:

זול יין — a bottle of the cheap wine my Dad brings because he can no longer taste the difference (for the record, I wouldn’t even cook with it);

משה בובה–our Moses action figure, complete with staff and detachable Ten Commandments (for the obligatory smashing episode);

שעון עצר — a stop watch because SOB (sister of blogger) gives me exactly one hour and then she shuts down the service, in favor of eating; and

הגדה — the second part of the Haggadah to remind us that we don’t persecute our family by making everyone continue the service after the meal.


Happy holidays to all.

Twas the day before Passover, and all through the house. . .

It is really the day before the eve of the holiday (because we celebrate holidays from sunset to sunset) but every creature was stirring. Heck, 15 people are coming over.

POB (partner of blogger) made a vat of chicken soup.  She rendered chicken fat which, if you’ve done it, you know that is a disgusting necessity for light, floating matzo balls.  The whole house smells like a barn.  And while we are talking about matzo balls, I need to note for the record that the Blogger family tradition is that matzo balls sink, not float.  Their intended purpose — so say those in my tribe — is to line your stomach for the coming week of no bread and also give you a reason to complain about intestinal issues, e.g., (in a Yiddish accent) “I ate such a heavy matzo ball that it is cement in my stomach, and boy-oh-boy, have I got troubles getting anything out!!”.  However unpleasant, it is my inheritance.

But MOPOB (mother of POB), may she rest in peace, made floating matzo balls.  And since Passover is all about MOPOB (my mother’s memory is invoked on Thanksgiving), we “sinkers” just sigh and “boing” the matzo balls with our figures, wondering if, with a little push, they might sink.  No such luck these past few years.  So part of our Passover narrative (“and you shall tell your children on that day . . . “) also includes the sinker-floater dichotomy, because as surely as there were Israelites on the shore of the Red Sea, they were also arguing about whose matzo was better.  So, it is just in keeping with the tradition.  So I shall tell my child that “on that day” there were no floaters in the land of Egypt.  Ok, that isn’t fair because there weren’t sinkers either.  There wasn’t matzo ball soup.  But history is written by the conquerors and vanquished loud-mouths.  I can live with being in the latter category on the matzo ball issue.

Those of you who aren’t Jewish may not appreciate that importance of this.  This is a divide that can splinter families.  We are talking about our grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’ recipes.  We are talking about the overbearing, tyrannical beings that, upon death, miraculously turned into angels in everyone’s memories.  We are talking about tradition.  [Start singing from Fiddler on the Roof.]  This is big.

But MOPOB’s traditions must prevail.  She was terminally ill at our first Seder in our home in 2006.  She pronounced herself satisfied with the celebration — a high compliment and tantamount to a blessing on our home and us — and then, within 36 hours was hospitalized and soon died.  You can’t mess with that heavy trip.

I needed chairs and an extra table from my Dad.   We had lunch and then went down to the storage bins in his apartment building.  Dad is looking great these days, although slower since his fall two weeks ago.  Still he grabbed the hand truck at the entrance to this scary storage room in the bowels of his apartment building.  Only one light worked.  He and I were feeling around in the dark for his folding table and chairs.  We found them and managed not to fall or otherwise hurt either of us.  Every year we go through this ritual and I make a note to self to remind the doorman about the lighting.  Every year, Dad and I forget.  Every year, we grope in the dark until we find what we need.  So far, it has worked for us.  Tradition.




The Test: 42 days later

Remember the challenge posed by The COB (colleague of blogger):

Can I be wildly cheerful and hopeful for a month?

(subtitled, “can I arrange for DNA dialysis for a month long infusion of Mary Poppins’ genes?”)

Let’s review how I did:

  • I started singing show tunes; The COB kept correcting my rendition of the verses and made some snarky comments about my ability to carry a tune.
  • I tried to twirl and toss my hat like Mary Tyler Moore; there is no room to twirl in the streets of NYC.
  • I ran around the secretarial bay near my office because I believed the kids’ song, “happiness runs in a circular motion”; I got dizzy.

I don’t think I got the point of the exercise. But I did loosen up a little (okay, a teensy bit).

Remembrances of things past

TLP (the little prince, my son) checked out a library book on fishing.  We had to read about each fish, length, weight, best bait and whether the species would put up a fight.  Also we had to go through the various baits (it WAS a how-to book, after all) and the only thing I could add was when we got to fly fishing.  I told him we could go on the Orville’s Fly Fishing School website (I silently prayed it had not gone into Chapter 11 or dissolved).

When it came time for me to read about a fish that was a pesky fighter, I recounted my family’s trip to San Francisco, circa 1968.  Mom and Dad took us to eat at the Fisherman’s Wharf, which — at that time — was an exotic dining destination.  My parents were dressed in evening wear, so I presume that after dinner we were being dropped off at the hotel with a sitter, but I can’t remember.  I do remember fishing for our dinner and Dad’s having caught a pesky, fighting fish that flailed in and out of his tuxedo jacket.  Mom and Dad must have eaten that fish (I think we kids stayed with hamburgers).

That was the first and last time we went fishing with Dad or anyone.  Too traumatic.  If TLP wants to go fishing, Uncle HOSOB (husband of sister of blogger) or Cousin Gentle will have to take him.  Thinking back 43 years ago, I am still traumatized.


Even more tales from the 60s

I mentioned to POB (partner of blogger) that if I don’t write down these memories, soon they will be lost because my brain is maxing out.

The 60s were not all days of wine and roses.  Some of it was very confusing to a little kid.

I remember when our Jamaican-born baby nurse was not allowed to go into a Sutton Place apartment building to speak to the mother of a boy who hit my sister. Even in our own building, she had to stare down the landlord who told her she had to take the service elevator. She took the main passenger elevator. I was wide-eyed and only later understood what happened.

And yet, for years after his assassination, our baby nurse reminisced about that day that then Senator Bobby Kennedy held the door open for her on his way to the tennis club in our building.   People born after those times don’t see how big that was.

Mom used to tell us that her secretary told her not to marry Dad because he was a Jew.  Mom had to break the news to her secretary that Mom was also Jewish.  To Mom’s credit, she continued to work with that secretary.

I look at it more practically:  Mom was dropping an intimidating Polish last name for a generic Jewish one.  In those days, it was also a question of: “pick your poison”.


Dear IFOB (Italian friend of blogger):

First, let me say that I do like your critiques of my views and my blog.  You challenge me to define and refine my positions.  And you are right, recently I conflated three issues: the deficit, taxes and entitlements.

I believe in social programs and safety nets.  Ideologically and emotionally, I am all-in on these.  But we can’t go into debt to provide them. 

If everyone paid taxes even at Bush tax levels with no deductions or loopholes and, excluding war costs, we couldn’t pay for the social programs and safety nets, then we have to re-prioritize and cut.

Unencumbered by facts or education in this matter, I just don’t believe that we would go into debt to provide these programs if people paid their taxes and we didn’t go warring in quagmires.

Separately, we have a huge debt right now.  We spent on credit and now we have to pay the bill.  Forget about the reasons for now.  The bill is big and we owe it.  I think that means higher taxes, at least for a while. 

And just for icing on the cake, President Obama is pissing me off a lot lately.

Oh, and IFOB, I think you still owe me lunch.  We can just eat tuna fish sandwiches — nothing fancy. 


~~ Blogger

Dear Paul

Dear Paul:

I am not a Ryan, but I know members of your extended family. 

I know you come from such a good family, with strong community values based in religious precepts, like the one about taking care of the poor and the stranger.  Or the other one about not putting a stone in the way of a blind person.  And even though Rabbi Hillel said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” that is totally in sync with the Christian Bible.

Here’s the big problem with your budget:

No amount of spending cuts is going to get us out of the hole caused by waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Libya. 

Paying for these requires tax increases.   (Remember when the GOP just put the Iraq and Afghanistan tabs on the credit card and, oops, forgot to put these line items in the budget??????) 

Cut all you want from social programs, etc.  Go on.  

But one year from now, when the deficit is still essentially as large as it now, there will need to be a tax increase on all Americans. 

All you will have done is gutted the social compact that each generation has with another:  we will not leave those vulnerable in our society — the young and the old — to fend for themselves.   The very social compact that makes America great.

What are you thinking?