Our Trip to Philly

The six of us set out yesterday morning for the City of Brotherly Love:  POB (partner of blogger), TLP (our son, the little prince), SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB), DOB (Dad of Blogger and SOB) and me. Three generations. One car.  Four sets of directions.

DOB sat up front will me.  HOSOB and SOB took row two.  POB and TLP were in the third row, practically a full block away from me in the driver’s seat.  In fact, the car was so huge, that I entered New Jersey and Pennsylvania a solid two seconds before they did.  I was surprised the car didn’t take diesel and we didn’t have to park with the trucks at rest stops.

As soon as DOB got settled, he offered me some hard candy.  You know, the kind that old Jewish ladies carry in their pocketbooks for decades and old Jewish men have in every pocket of every jacket they own.  Those candies.  I make it a point not to eat anything that I think may be older than 9 year-old TLP.  I declined.  SOB, ever the intrepid one, said yes.  She took one for the rest of us, because she knew DOB wouldn’t stop offering until someone said yes.

DOB read every sign out loud from the Lincoln Tunnel to Elizabeth, New Jersey.  But he didn’t sing.  And SOB was counting on having him sing to see just how crazy I would get.  SOB finally asked DOB, “Dad, doesn’t that sign remind you of a song?  Like, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again?'”  SOB was soooooooo trying to win our bet about how quickly, how much and what DOB would sing.  Of course, that kind of cheating is only allowed when I do it.

Soon after Elizabeth, New Jersey, there was a multi-generational bathroom emergency.  So we stopped at a rest stop that was named for someone whom I am sure would be horrified if he/she were still alive.  As SOB and I walked into the women’s room, our faces already had the scared-and-disgusted-look in anticipation of what we might see in the stalls. We caught sight of each other and laughed but we didn’t have the camera to record.  Our looks were not in vain.  Nasty.  Nasty.  Nasty.  POB yelled out a helpful, “Use your hamstring muscles, girls!!!”

As I left the bathroom, I noticed the medical waste dispenser with a sign that said, “For your sharps”.  I made SOB go back in with a camera and take a picture.  When she sends it to me, I will post it.  SOB is a doctor and always optimistic: “it must be for insulin”.  Really, SOB?  You run an ICU in an urban hospital.  Are you kidding me?  If only the needles were for insulin . . . . We beat it out of there.

We were soon back on the road with traffic, narrow lanes and fellow travelers seeking to go 70 mph in work zones.  Of our four sets of directions, two were written, and two were saved on handheld electronic devices.  No GPS with the automated voice.  No map.  Still we had six or seven different opinions on the way forward.  TLP (the only child) offered constructive critical questions, like: “Emom, are both hands on the wheel?”  “Did you signal long enough to practice safe driving?”  “Are we there yet?”

Rules:  Always have a diversion for your child.  Always have a bona fide map.  iPhones and blackberry screens are tooooo small and, with two sets of directions, there is no agreement on the correct exit until after we have passed it.  In fact, even when we were within one block of the hotel, no one could make out the directions, and ended up back on the highway and in a traffic jam. One hour later, we got to the hotel.  And all the time TLP is asking, “did we get lost?”  AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargh.

When we arrived, I had to go to the gym, sit outside for a bit and then nap.  No sightseeing.  I knew I couldn’t sit outside the old Custom House anymore when men dressed in Revolutionary Era clothes tried to show kids how to hold fake bayonets and march like militiamen.  I met SOB and DOB as we were all on our way back to the hotel.  DOB couldn’t really handle that much sightseeing. His stamina and physical stature have declined markedly this last year.  Still, I think he enjoyed the trip.

DOB doesn’t hear very well and therefore can’t follow conversations so closely anymore.  And over dinner, the restaurant music included “The Girl from Ipanema”, and HOSOB and I were trying to remember the woman who sang the original with Jobim.  DOB didn’t remember the song, so he just started singing something else that he knew, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.  But The Girl from Ipanema was still playing overhead.  HOSOB started singing a combo of “When Johnny Comes Marching With the Girl From Ipanema . . .” .  Then TLP abandoned singing  the Louie Armstrong part of the duet with DOB, and chimed in with “La Cucharacha”.  (Not sure why.)

The rest of us started to lose our minds a little.  SOB and I took pictures of each other’s exasperated, disbelieving looks.  POB retreated to a happy place in her head where her family was not re-enacting a scene from a psychiatric ward.

As we were walking back to the hotel, everyone was amiable and quiet.  TLP was holding DOB’s handing, HOSOB was holding SOB’s hand and I was holding POB’s hand. Unwilling to let a wound heal, I started to sing the “Ants Go Marching Two by Two, Hurrah, Hurrah,” to see if I could get a rise out of SOB.  She was engaging in willful deafness.

This morning we went to the Franklin Institute, which is worth a return visit.  It took us a few tries to leave Philadelphia and at least one electronic device conked out after the second escape attempt.  We went a little too far on 295 North (or East, whatever), and had to stop for food and directions at the Frying Skillet, a real trucker stop in Bordentown, New Jersey.  Everyone looked at our posse of three women, a child, middle-aged guy and nonagenarian, who were tattoo-less and looked every bit like effete New York liberals that we are.  (What kind of lettuce is in your house salad?  Just what’s been out on the salad bar that looks like wilted spinach?  Hmmmm.  Pork, bacon and burgers are the house specialties? I guess I’ll have a grilled burger.  Oh, ok, pan-fried in a skillet is fine.)

On the way back, TLP and DOB had quite a sing-along.  I wanted to press an eject button but I was the driver.

We powered through and all were safely deposited at their doors, happy to have had an adventure and even happier to be home. Safe and sound and exhausted.


We will go, young and old . . . .

It is in fact biblical.  Tomorrow, three generations of the Bloggers are piling into a van, headed for the City of Brotherly Love, for a 36-hour frolic and detour. We usually travel to funerals, weddings, art openings and cemeteries.  This is the first excursion just for the sake of it.

The cast:  DOB (dad of blogger), SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB), POB (partner of blogger), TLP (our son, the little prince) and me.  We will be reprising our infamous roles from prior epic sagas:

  • The driver:  me.
  • The co-pilot:  DOB (G-d help us all; I will tweet if we end up in one or the other Carolina).
  • The back-seat drivers:  SOB and TLP.
  • Coffee and snack provider extraordinaire: POB.
  • Bird Talk: HOSOB and TLP.

No one bought tickets for me at any of the museums tomorrow, because everyone assumes (rightfully so) that I will take to my hotel bed upon arrival.  SOB kept emphasizing that there was a spa at the hotel.  I can take a cab to any number of spas in New York City.  So, the hotel spa isn’t so much a draw, as it is a consolation prize.

POB is getting the directions in case there is no GPS in the van/truck.  I wonder whether it is considered a car or a truck for parking areas at rest stops.

I am bringing breath fresheners and sedatives.  For a family excursion, these are travel necessities, right along with deodorant, a change of underwear and toothpaste.

More tomorrow.

Where do we go from here?

I have this terrible feeling that I, along with everyone else in this country, am being sacrificed at the altar of hubris and zealotry.

“Take no prisoners” is a way of waging war.  It is not a way of governing.  True believers and purists on both sides of the aisles are important counterbalances, but they cannot dictate the future of our nation.  Even Grover Norquist said letting the Bush tax cuts (which affect me) expire and closing tax loopholes are not “new” taxes (phew, because if repealing subsidies for corporate jets is so problematic in these times of George W. Bush deficits, then let’s all join hands and drown ourselves).  Shouldn’t the true believers be swayed?  I guess it is a new, virulent strain of true believer.  One that speaks to God directly.  It must be a local call because the long distance charges alone could bankrupt a person.

For those who invoke G-d and destiny in the argument surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling, I send this quote:

“Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with your God.”

This is the answer to two questions posed in Micah, Chap. 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you? What are you supposed to do to live faithfully with your God?”

Why am  quoting scripture?  Because I am that desperate for the extremists to take pity on us and our nation and make some hard and dare I say, PRACTICAL, decisions.

I understand taking a hard line in the abortion debate, in the capital punishment debate and in the war debates.  These are about potential life, actual life and the taking of life.  But, in the money debate?  I think you can tell what God thinks about money by who has the most.  So, let’s not bring God into this.  Let’s be honest.  It is about political gain and power. And that is about as un-God-like as you can get.

You know the world is tilted in the wrong direction when I am trying to “protect” God’s good name from God’s self-proclaimed followers.  As far as I can tell, they are frauds.


Mad Vow Descends on New York — And How Wonderful It Was!!!

It was overcast.  It was pedestrian.  It was a long line on Worth Street.  I bet a few wondered if they could get their driver’s licenses renewed while they waited.  It was spectacular.  It was thrilling.

It was a jumble of emotions.

It was, except for the lines (and that it was a Sunday),  so unremarkable in its normality, that I wanted to cry for joy.  Yet a whole community celebrated standing in line for a marriage license — something that everyone else, until now, took for granted and, frankly, groused about.  Young and old, of every nationality and race, same sex couples stood on that line.  Four couples with whom we are especially close took their vows yesterday.  We couldn’t find them.  G-d bless texting and emails because we all knew we were there somewhere standing as witnesses.

Even Samantha Bee and Jason Jones from the Daily Show were on hand to mock the events.  That is how you know you have arrived.

Some sang and danced around and under the rainbow chupah (wedding canopy) [see above shot, looking up].

There was a lone protester.  He said terrible things that TLP (our son, the little prince) asked about.  TLP also asked why I said, “Shame on you!!” to the protester.  I told him that the protester used bad words and is spewing hate in the name of Jesus who was a man of love.  “Well, E-Mom, maybe it is because you and Mommy won’t be married until June.”

G-d bless TLP.  He thinks the problem is that we are living in sin.  But all will be ok once we get married in June.  In fact, he told some people on the subway who got married, “don’t worry, WE are getting married in June!!!”  Yep, the whole family.

Sometimes it is ok to wish away a day

I know that each day is a gift, but some days, you wish you had the receipt so you could exchange it for a better day.  Today was one of those days.  Humbling, tender, sad, crazed, scary, and ultimately safe at home with my beloved family.  It was not about too much work, which is a blessing in this economy, but a lot of other things which, suffice it to say, sucked.

I went out with a colleague to commiserate over a glass of wine about mutually horrific days.  Afterwards, I was thinking about the blessing of coming home to my family.

And this Dan Fogelberg song started an endless loop in my head — “I have these moments all steady and strong, feeling so holy and humble.  The next thing I know I’m all worried and weak, feeling the world start to crumble. . . .”

Happiness is having loved ones who will abide you when you are all holy and self-righteous and shore up your foundations when you are feeling about to crumble.

It is a moment to be thankful for the spirituality gained from a day’s worth of testing one’s sanity.  It is also a moment to go to sleep, with rejuvenating cream slathered on, and promise yourself you will never have such a shitty day again.

Martin Buber meets Scarlett O’Hara.  I am feeling a cosmic shift toward the drain. . .

Take-Out Take-Away

From age 21 to 44, I lived on take-out food.

In the beginning, it was cool to order during a late-night at the office especially since I couldn’t afford to eat that way if I were actually paying for it.  Then I had dreams of eating tuna fish out of a can over my kitchen sink if only I could be at home at dinner time.  And then I realized that I never had time to be in my kitchen, much less clean my kitchen, so I really wouldn’t want to eat anything in there.  The dream remained, even though interrupted from time to time by reality.

At some point, I was living with someone who cooked (pre-POB (partner of blogger)) and the food was good but hard on my digestive track.  And before the days of blackberries and remote access, I had to go to the office with my intestines in a twist.  So, as a matter of honor and sacrifice to my colleagues, I was forced to stay late and eat Shun Lee and other take-out so that I didn’t smelled of garlic or other spices anymore than anyone else.  In typical blogger family fashion, it was, in fact, the least I could do.

When POB came along and beepers were available, we would work long hours, meet at the gym, have a little falafel and hummus with hot sauce that tested our abs of steel — in a slightly different way.  We learned that some days were more — how do you say? — microbial than others.  But these are the sacrifices we make to “have it all”.

Then came TLP (our son, the little prince) and there was no time for sleep, let alone cooking or even eating.  Exhaustion won over hunger every time, except when we absolutely, positively needed energy.  “Don’t talk with your mouth full” became “don’t-sleep-with-your-mouth-full-because-I-am-too-tired-to-do-the-Heimlich-and-I-can’t-stand-the-smell-of-whatever-you’re-eating.” As many of you will remember, love is an emotion that is felt but not expressed when you have a newborn.

Then, came the Great Recession.  Time for family and friends.  Time for hanging out.  Time to have our families over for Sunday night dinners.  POB decided after a while that she would rather cook than order another dinner from Saigon Grill (and we were supposed to be boycotting them anyway for labor violations).  So, she started cooking.  And she didn’t stop.

And the take-out stopped and the cook-in began.  POB cooked, I cleaned.  When she needed to prove a point, she dirtied every pot and utensil in the house.  Point taken and respect paid.  Harmony restored.  Paradise, momentarily lost, was regained.  A possible script for a Sunday night movie, although no one is dead or psychotic — yet.  (I’ll get back to you on this.)

Tonight, these many years later, we are companionably cobbling together dinner from the fridge — cold carrot soup with cumin and lime, quinoa with tomatoes, onions and black beans, a salad and some wine.  A perfect repast for a hot summer’s night.  And our kitchen is cozy (yet cool thanks to air-conditioning) and inviting.

Take-out was my food source for over 20 years.  I don’t miss it at all.  And now we have a kitchen in which I would eat tuna out of a can just to be home with my family.

And to think, she still wants to marry me next year.

The bet

DOB (dad of blogger) came over for dinner.  We were without reinforcements.  And SOB (sister of blogger) and I had the bet.  SOB said DOB would sing Sholom Aleichem within an hour of arrival and I bet that it would be well before then.

About one-half hour into the visit, DOB was in the bathroom for too long and, well since he is almost 91, I became concerned.  “Dad, are you all right?”  “No problem,” he shouted, “just a little [insert scatological issue].”  I had to call SOB at the hospital about intervening events that might either delay the bet or give me an automatic compassionate win (depending on the judges).

SOB was adamant that the bet was still on.  SOB is tough, but loving and caring.  So, the bet was still on.

With DOB back in the living room, we discussed certain issues relating to the pain, tightness and possibly a little blood relating to the unnamed scatological issue.   I think, “this is sooooo not what I bargained for.” But time was running out.  I thought, “how will I explain to POB (partner of blogger) that I literally bet the house on whether DOB would sing Sholom Aleichem within the first hour of his arrival?”  This would not go over well.  POB might even cancel the wedding and kick me out with a frying pan, like Felix Unger’s wife did to him. Determined not to be a divorcee on a 1960s TV sitcom, I became desperate.

Desperation propelled me into action, even though I know that the final accounting between SOB and me on these types of bets will be at the gates of Hell.  [As an aside, SOB claims that she engages in this kind of infantile behavior to make sure she goes to Hell with me because she would miss me too much if she were in Heaven.  Haven’t I a wonderful sister?]

With little time left, DOB starts singing “Happy Birthday” to TLP (our son, the little prince) to whom we have sung happy birthday ad nauseum.  However, DOB never tires of singing random songs like, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” or “Yes Sir, She’s My Baby”.  In what can only be described as a Hail Mary play, I say, “well, that is better than singing Sholom Aleichem!!”  And, G-d bless DOB, he starts singing at minute 58 and 45 seconds.  I call SOB at the hospital, “I won because even though I affirmatively coaxed him into singing it, there was a whole lot of information beforehand that was unnecessary for the non-doctor child to know!!”

SOB, a saint of a woman, wanted to come and save me.  I said, “no, but we will call this a draw, ok?”  She agreed.  What an awesome sister.

POB asked, “why did you have to call your sister twice?  She usually reads things on your blog and then you discuss.”  I didn’t want to tell POB how close we came to financial ruin at the gates of Hell (of course, she’ll be in Heaven, hanging out with our Moms).

A typical Sunday night chez nous.

Aleichem Sholom

A point of clarification on my last blog entry about SOB (sister of blogger) and DOB (dad of blogger) and the documentary they saw on Sholom Aleichem:

Sholom Aleichem was the great Yiddish writer/playwright’s nom de plume.  It is a Yiddish variant of the Hebrew “shalom aleichem,” meaning “peace be with you”.  The correct response, is “aleichem shalom.”

Shalom Aleichem is also a song for the Sabbath (check out this video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72wDlNi3fJs

(Translation: Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.  May your coming be in peace angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He. Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.  May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.)

It is relevant, in some miniscule way, to this blog entry.

Today, SOB took TLP (our son, the little prince) to have lunch with DOB and then see the movie, “Cars2.”  TLP was telling SOB and DOB about his favorite parts of camp and he mentioned that Shabbat services was a Friday high point.  Now, there is a totally irreligious reason for this:  TLP gets an extra snack of grape juice and challah.  SCORE!!!! 

Unfortunately, even though no one even mentioned Sholom Aleichem for almost 7 full days, DOB immediately launched into his off-key rendition of “Shalom Aleichem” in full voice for the, er, um, benefit (?) of all within earshot — other patrons of the diner and assorted vermin hiding to get away from the cacophony.

So, two irreconcilable desires derive from this episode:  One, we all agree never to mention anything about Shabbat ever again in DOB’s presence, even the innocent references made by TLP.  The other, is to see how quickly we can trigger the song in DOB at any time and all the time.  The first option would save our sanity but the second option has a slightly mischievous appeal even though it would be tantamount to mutual assured destruction.

SOB and I are dutiful and loving daughters.  Which do you think we chose?  The latter of course.  And, to make it even crazier, we bet on it.  With each other, we only bet in the millions of dollars so we are always going for broke.  It seems appropriate since we are betting on our sanity and that of DOB.

DOB is coming for dinner tomorrow night.  SOB has to work, so I have the advantage.  I might meet him downstairs so that I trigger it even before he crosses the threshold. I am the evil younger sibling.

But, SOB needn’t worry about transferring assets so quickly.  There will always be new bets, even more cynical and macabre bets, long before the Final Accounting is due.  (And, as I understand, Hell doesn’t take cash or credit cards.)

But until then, hum with me:  Sha-lom a-lei-chem, mal-a-chei ha-sha-reit, mal-a-chei el-yon, mi-me-lech ma-l’chei ha-m’la-chim, ha-ka-dosh ba-ruch hu. . . . ♫

Another Family Dinner

It is always so wonderful when family shares a meal.  The family gathers at 6pm for wine and hors-d’oeuvres (chaseri, or pig food, in Yiddish).  POB (partner of blogger) made a great lentil dish, roasted tomato soup accompanied by green salad and bread, all served cold for a great summer time meal.

Dad, of course, came early.  Not just a little early.  4pm.  A reminder to discuss whether the “Early-Bird Special” was an invention or just putting a name to a syndrome of old age.  But I digress.

Yesterday, Dad and SOB (sister of blogger) saw the movie about Sholom Aleichem, the great Yiddish writer.  So, Dad was waxing philosophic about his mamer loshen (mother tongue), repeating much of the Reform Jewish rationalism for stamping out a “ghetto language”.

My generation thinks very differently about Yiddish. We wish we knew it.  Many of us wish we could have spoken to our grandparents in Yiddish.  We could have had more than broken, basic conversations with them.  We could have learned about our history in one of the most expressive languages of our day.

TLP (our son, the little prince) was excited to learn how to respond to Dad, when he said “vus machster?” [what’s doing?]  TLP said, “Ich ikh bin leyenung” [I’m reading].   It was a great moment.

Still, Dad has to be at peace with the choices he and Mom made and I need to let him have that peace. But it was a grueling 1:45 hours until SOB and HOSOB (husband of SOB) showed up (they know that Dad comes early).  Dad continued to talk about Yiddish and Sholom Aleichem and then started singing “Sholom Aleichem”.  SOB shut that down in record time.  She came over to tell me that he kept singing that in full voice at lunch after seeing the movie.  Somethings should stay in synagogue.  That hallel is one of them.

By the time we exhausted ourselves and the topic, Cousin Gentle and CB (Cousin Birder) arrived.  The full complement.

As always, the conversation ranged in topics and sentiments.  Dad worried that we had chocolate-covered peanuts on the table — AS IF we would have anything on the table to which anyone is allergic, much less have them in the house if OUR SON, TLP, were allergic.  (Dad, do you know me?)  But I let that roll off me.  I counted backwards from ten multiple times.  We started talking about politics, always good for the heart rate.  Cousin Gentle worried that John Boehner was having a deleterious effect on my health.   Actually, I was still gobsmacked that my father would think I would put poison on my table.  Cousin Gentle tried to share some of his Buddhist enlightenment.  I tried to be receptive, all the while repeating, “Dad is almost 91 years old.  At least he still worries about other people, even if his comments suggest that his daughter could be the headline story of New York Post edition.”

Unfortunately, Cousin Gentle thought he might have offended me.  He called after dinner to make sure all was ok.  It seemed time to reiterate the rules of Sunday night dinner:


It is so wonderful when family gathers.

Sacred Rules:

  1. You can say anything at our table if said with a good heart.
  2. No holds barred.
  3. Everyone has to be able to kiss and say I love you at the end of the night.

Corollaries and Commentary:

  • You can be:
    •  critical (did HOSOB really say something critical about marriage when he married SOB?),
    • questioning (to wit, Dad’s thinking we would put peanuts on the table if someone were allergic),
    • fun-loving (CB’s teasing TLP), and/or
    • torturing (ok, that’s all me)

with impunity.

  • If you do any three out of four in the same sentence, we’ll give you a door-prize.

To review:

Come with your love, your opinions (except Dad) and your insights. Oh, and your appetite.


Sunday Morning in the City

I am drinking coffee, sitting on the window seat in my kitchen, looking out our neighbor’s backyard trees and listening to someone practicing the flute.  The flutist is very good and the music is soothing.  When the flutist takes a break, the birds call to each other.  A little bit of peace and tranquility in a bustling city.  POB (partner of blogger) is showering after the gym and TLP (our son, the little prince) is playing in his room after cuddling and rough-housing with me.

TLP is tired from yesterday’s adventure.  Cousin Gentle took him to a train museum in Connecticut.  They are both fascinated by trains (as only boys — young and old — can be) and they rode on an old coach, played inside an antique caboose, went round the turntable on an antique train car.  These were some of the many awesome things at the museum for train aficionados.  They had quite an adventure coming back — a missed bus, and hitchhiking (ok with the nice lady from the museum) to another town to get a different connection to another train that would bring them home.

I am glad that I didn’t know about the “lift from the kind lady from the museum” until after they were safely on the train bound for New York City.  Of course, I was mildly hysterical just having the knowledge that it happened.  Who am I kidding?  I was ready to send a helicopter and airlift them to safety.  POB talked me off the ledge.  All I know is that I kissed TLP at 10:30am and didn’t kiss him again until 8:00pm.  And at some point during that time, he was depending on the kindness of strangers.  (And we all know how that strategy worked out for Blanche DuBois (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanche_DuBois).)

TLP and Cousin Gentle arrived and we fed them.  They (and we) relaxed, luxuriating in the safety of their being home and having the freedom to give into the fatigue of a long, exciting, stressful and successful trip.

And, having my family back in one piece, under the same roof, makes the tranquility of this morning even more glorious.