Over the last half-year, POB (partner of blogger) started exercising to handle the stress generated by her job.   (I wanted her to quit because she was working so hard at making a difficult situation workable that I didn’t think it was worth it.)

POB balances so much — she takes such fabulous care of TLP (our son, the little prince) and me — that I tell her often she can stop anytime and then eat bons bons and rest on her laurels for the rest of our lives.

Recently, POB’s job ended [more on that later].

All of a sudden, she had time to shop (she needed new clothes for the summer and for her slimmed-down body) and do things for her and the family that often went undone because of our schedules.

Then, one night, I came home and walked into the kitchen to see this tall, slim, blond woman in heels and form-fitting clothes, cooking dinner.

I was a bit surprised; who WAS this women?  Then, I remembered.  Before she could turn around, I asked, “Excuse me.  Are you the trophy wife I ordered from Amazon?

POB turned around and said, “Yes, yes, I am. Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Ah, all is the same.  POB is still POB and she is a gift.

Being 51

Being 51 isn’t as hard as I expected.  (Ok, I am really only 47, but you would understand this all from prior blog entries.)

I can do things that any 47 year-old can do, only I look GREAT at it.  I was doing some unassisted pull ups at the gym and one guy came up to me and said he was impressed and that he doesn’t even see young women do that.

What do you think gave it away?  The gray hair, some wrinkles, that way my body imperceptibly (at least to me) changed with time and gravity?

I asked him, “What tipped you off that I wasn’t young any more?”

He was embarrassed — poor guy — and took out his wallet and showed me his fat pictures.  I guess he felt he owed me.  Here is this young guy with a sculpted body who was a candidate for the “Biggest Loser” about 6 months ago.  Up close, I could see the faint stretch marks around his outrageously toned biceps and triceps.

I told the guy he could even call me old lady.  Of course, I didn’t say that I would smack him if he actually did.  Then again, with his new body, he wouldn’t feel it if I tried.


That was my family phone number for 50 years.

Not 212 753 9285. 


PL for PLAZA, meaning midtown east.

My dad’s office phone was JU2-1455.  JU meant Judson for midtown west.  There was MU for Murray Hill, etc. GR for Gramercy Park.  POB (partner of blogger)’s home phone was GR3-9119.

And it wasn’t just a series of numbers, but it located you in area of town.  Like old-fashioned GPS.  Your phone number made you less anonymous.  And you couldn’t take your home or business number with you if you moved across town. Wires and technology couldn’t handle that.  So, if you had a GR or MU or JU or PL number, you lived or worked in a geographically defined area.

And our zip code was 22, not 10022.  In the 1960s, you didn’t need five-digit zip codes, let alone the new nine digit ones.

Of course, some people (very few still alive) remember 6-digit phone numbers. They probably think I am late to the game of recognizing the lost nuances of day-to-day life in New York City.

But, today, I came across my birth announcement, among the memorabilia that I, as family archivist, need to preserve.  And it held more information than the fact of my birth (as a result of which my family was forever changed — some say for the better, others say “not so much”).  It captured a time and place in New York in the 1960s, where my family’s PL prefix in our phone number and our home address reflected upward mobility, into places where Jews mostly couldn’t find apartments.  It also suggest certain life that fashioned after JFK’s Camelot (at least until private school tuition kicked in).

The 60s gave way to the 70s and the urban decay.  Then came the late 70s, 80s and 90s and urban renewal and soaring population growth.  The end of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st gave rise to untold fortunes and a sea change in the socio-economic-racial-cultural urban landscape.

The nuances of numbers and two-digit zip codes were irrelevant and unworkable even in the late 70s.  Every now and again, I see a decades-old advertisement on a building that time forgot (until the lot next to it was demolished to build a high-rise) that has a six-digit phone number with a prefix that refers to a neighborhood.

And I think, I was born in a small town.  I was raised in small town.  It just got big and anonymous during my lifetime.  And these strangers don’t know the secrets of my small town.

And that’s good enough for me.


The Test: End of Day 2.

Ah, ’tis the Spring of my Content.  (Apologies to Willy Shakespeare.) Because the Test continues.

COB (colleague of blogger) felt bad that I thought he was stacking the deck against my being upbeat for one month (the Test), so he was in and out of my office all day saying cheery and pithy things.   He also wants to be known as THE COB, because there can be no other colleague who merits mention in the blog.  Well, he is right about that.

I am trying, really.

But there is so much static interference.

Yet, I didn’t curse the man who crushed my arm by swinging open a door and catching my arm. The EXCRUCIATING pain only lasted a few minutes and the bruise is not so bad.  So, I remain cheery and hopeful and am spreading that karma like a boomerang, I tell you.

I am waiting for POB (partner of blogger) for our Wednesday night date.  I arrive early and sit at the bar. The drunk man at the other end (who is talking too loud to be ignored) is pontificating to his poor date about 1888 Germany being an example of an evolved society. Funny, how it devolved into chaos and demagoguery in just a few, short decades. But I digress.

Ok, so I am being grateful for all that I have and now I hear the drunk man claiming that, although he is Caucasian, he is Indo-European because we all descended from that part of the world.  So, now he gets to go off on Indians and Europeans.  Whoa.  He needs to stop, because even I am offended and our family fled Germany and Central Europe.

But using his theory, he can rail on whomever because we all came from Adam and Eve.  He, on the other hand, definitely came from apes or, possibly, the ever-adaptive rodent family.

Ok, a history book is committing suicide every minute this guy speaks.

I am good with his being pedantic, insufferable, and patronizing because I am focusing on the good in the world notwithstanding the current chaos. So, THE COB, you haven’t won this bet yet.  I am in a good place.

But I am drawn again into his conversation because his date is countering his ramblings with a little fact checking. Mobile Google is awesome. She is in solid fighting form now that she decided there is no future in him.   So, if I could paraphrase, “Dumb@ss, you got your facts from reenactments on the History Channel”.

He realizes, too, that this date is going nowhere.  So, he says he is rich. Dude, you need the wealth of a Saudi prince to save this date and she sounds like she has too much pride for that anyway.  Good for her.  Tragic for you.

Now this is adding to my month of contentment and karmatic equanimity.  Boy meets girl, gets drunk and offends everyone within earshot.  Girl ditches boy with facts, fabulous diction and perfect grammar.  Boy tries to get girl back with money.  Girl gets the check.

In full disclosure, I negotiated a clause in the Test that I could think about the people, not only in Japan, but all over, whose lives have ended, or been upended, by natural and man-made disasters.  So, in the midst of my ramblings, I don’t forget about them and their suffering.  I hope that relief comes in time.


I hopped a cab tonight because I really, really, couldn’t deal with the humanity that crowds the subway.  Well, actually, it was late enough that the trains wouldn’t be crowded, but still.  There was a chill in the air (frigid, perhaps) and I needed to get home.  A long-ish day.  Not like the “old days” but then again I am not in my 20s or 30s any more (barely still in my 40s).

The cab driver was talking on the phone.  His driving skills were basic:  if your foot is not on the gas (accelerating in a way that gave a born-and-bred Manhattanite motion sickness), then your foot must be on the brake.

Ok, so I needed him off the phone and off the gas pedal.  Hmmm.  I struck up a conversation.

“Where are you from?”


“What do you think of the elections?”

“I don’t think it will change much.  There will be fighting.”

“Are you from the north or the South?”

“North.  Independence won’t change anything.  People will fight each other now in the South.  Many different peoples.”

“Same problem in the North?”

“Government there is strong.  So, no fighting in north.”

I offered “brutal” as a more apt description.

He said, “way of life there, not here.”

I had no response to that simple statement of relief and admiration for this country.  I asked him what he thought about Egypt.

“Now the world knows what has been happening there.”

I was silent.  Maybe I should have known before.  I just didn’t think about it.

He offered up, “no one speaks to police.  too much bribes and danger.  not here, government is less corrupt.”

I had never thought of our government in terms of lesser corruption.  Not the superlatives we were raised to expect of our government.  But he meant it as a true compliment.

My world view, turned on an incline — “less corrupt” as a compliment and an ideal.

Another lesson in life from a stranger.

Calm in between the Storms

New York, along with most of the rest of the country is under a siege of extreme weather conditions. (Can you sa-a-ay, “global warming”?  I knew you could.)

I think it is part of the human condition to look at events like sappy metaphors.  (Proof positive: the popularity of Made-For-Lifetime-Channel movies.)

So, I think about enjoying the respites between the real snow storms as a reminder that we must enjoy the respites between life’s storms.  There are more and more challenges and less and less easy answers.  There is so much uncertainty about jobs, about global threats, about economic, social and emotional recovery in this nation.  As we get older, we understand that good health is a gift and not a right, and that our days are numbered whether they be measured in days or decades.

Now, I look for the small moments, not the big triumphs.   My son was so excited that I picked him up from school today (his babysitter flaked out a little).  He hugged me and introduced me around.  In the cab (of course, I am such a princess), he said, “E-Mom, this is maybe the best part of today.” I wanted to bottle that (even with the “maybe” qualifier). I wanted to record it to play it back when he is a teenager and he hates me.  No such luck (or quick thinking).  But what a beautiful moment in the middle of the calamity we call the “new normal”.

My son has already forgotten those words, but for me, for me, it made me feel as if all was right with the world.

My mother’s words . . .

“My poor baby, if I could have it for you, I would!”

My Mom would say this in a soothing voice whenever one of her children was sick, be it mind, spirit or body.  I say that now to my son whenever appropriate.  And I mean it, for all loving and nurturing, yet practical, goal oriented reasons.

My son had an upset stomach last night (no fever or other symptoms).  He started feeling sick at 9pm when he was already in bed, at around the same time the Jets were a lost cause and Janet2 was cleaning her kitchen floor (because the Patriots WERE OUT OF CONTENTION — these digressions are getting worse).

POB (partner of blogger) and I dutifully took turns in the night soothing him when he woke up and giving him Children’s Tums.  Because I was just recovering from a thrown-out back at around the same time our son got sick, POB did more turns initially.  Each time he woke up and I went in (and freaked him out by yowling in pain), I would rub his head and back and say Mom’s magic words that always comforted me.  He would eventually drift off for 45 minutes or so. And I would roll out of his bed and crawl to my room so as not to scream in pain and wake him.  Of course, that woke POB, so I probably did more harm than good despite all loving intentions.

3am rolls around and he is up and really, really feeling bad.  I go in, because I know POB has to get up in 2.5 hours and I can stretch my alarm until 8am if necessary.  He is really feeling bad and I say Mom’s magic words and, lo and behold, like a miracle swept in from the sea, he vomits all over me and then runs to the bathroom for the other end of the story, so to speak.

Nothing makes you feel more mom-like than having your child yawn in technicolor all over you.  I cleaned up and started to strip the bed and hose everything down.  (At this point, POB was up and ready to crank up the washer/dryer.)

Our son has a strong stomach for all that to have stayed in for six hours.

I couldn’t help thinking that if he were able to give it to me at 9pm, my system would have expelled everything in 5, maybe 10, minutes and we all would have been happier and all have gotten a good night’s sleep.  Instead, today, our wiped-out son stayed home, I was essentially in traction and POB had to be nursemaid to two babies at once.

Do you think Mom ever had the same thoughts about wanting to be sick instead of us, or am I just a diluted (and deluded) version of her?

Early Bird Special

Today was a snow day of sorts in the City.  Schools were closed; offices weren’t.  Thank Goodness for telecommuting and play dates with children of similarly situated parents.

POB (partner of blogger) and I split the day being the adult in charge. Then our usual Wednesday babysitter came at 5pm so we could have an early version of our usual Wednesday night dinner date. (I say:  Spend a fortune on babysitters and eat pizza if necessary.  Better than spending a fortune on a couples counselor because you don’t spend enough time together.)

So we went to a neighborhood place that was eerily quiet (even for recessionary times) until we realized it was just before 6pm and that this was dinner time for kids and old people.  So we had the restaurant essentially all to us (except for a somewhat lively bar area in the front).  Shortly after we are seated, a mother and child walked into the restaurant.  The mother had that tone-deaf, high-pitched and loud voice (as in she whispers at the top of her lungs).  And, of course, of all the tables, in all the restaurants in all the places on the Upper West Side, the mother chose the table next to ours.

Really, there were 30 tables available in the restaurant.  And she decided to sit next to us.  I still hear her voice ringing in my ears and that caused ripples in the wine in my glass.  She was talking on her iPhone and reading aloud to her daughter every, EVERY, text she received.

They shared filet mignon and a side dish.  The mother had one glass of Malbec.  She forced me to have TWO.

Happily, they ate quickly and left.  Next time we hit the early bird hour, I am setting up a protective perimeter around our table.   WITH DUCT TAPE.  With some left over to muzzle others, if necessary.

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”.

The Day That Was and Is (Happily) Almost Over

Today was a bad day.  I think it is because we are so close to my mother’s yahrzeit.

Even SOB (sister of blogger), who is an uncommonly happy and cheerful person, had a hard day.  And I was too angst-ridden to lift her mood.  And that only added to my sadness.  So, we discussed whether to visit our mother’s grave THIS weekend or NEXT weekend.  [Don’t worry, no bringing in the Joni [Mitchell] until her actual yahrzeit.]  You get the mood.

Post-holiday blues set in and all the promises of deal flow in the new year now have to happen.  STRESS. The usual complement of day-to-day life.  But somehow today’s sturm und drang was harder.  And if you look at the paper, well, you start to believe that sect that thinks the world is ending on May 11, 2011.

I was surprisingly productive (angst and the fear of homelessness –inherited from your Depression-Era/children-of-immigrants parents — will do that), but I needed the stress-relief that either a bath-tub size martini or a good work-out would give.

In a fit of self-preservation, I chose the latter. When I got to the gym, I looked around at all these calm, self-absorbed people who obviously didn’t know that the end of the world is near (whether because of some religious group’s prophecy or based on today’s world news).  By the way, I reserved one of those huge airport limousines for the End of Days, in case anyone needs a comfy lift to Hell.  But there I go, on a digression, AGAIN.

So, I decided that I would see what it felt like if I acted like them and just let go of the angst and the fears (with some medicinal assistance).

Walk like they walk; do like they do” became my mantra.  I got a towel and stripped down.  As I noticed, the women don’t use the towels to cover their bodies, so I wrapped the towel around my dry hair and contemplated the cuticles on my toes.  Just like they did.  Then I stretched, making sure that my breasts got in the way of traffic flow in and out of the locker room, all the while yawning.  Just like they did.

I walked over to the mirror and patted my tummy as I sucked it in and the open my eyes wide to reduce the more obvious wrinkles.  I applied moisturizer, just like they did.  Then, I took off my towel, bent over at the waist and shook out my dry hair.  I lifted my the upper half of my body in a whoooooosh and sucked in my cheeks (facial cheeks) like a deranged model on the catwalk.  I guess you do that to see what you would look like if you had as much plastic surgery as Joan Rivers has had.

Then I moisturized my whole body and looked in various mirrors.  I used the mouthwash.  As I spat in the sink, still buck naked, I felt liberated.

If you believe anything I wrote after “[w]hen I got the gym,” then you don’t know me at all.  I worked out, lifting weights and successfully doing (ok, only two) unassisted military pull-ups, among other stress-reducing and pain-inducing exercises.  And afterward, I changed in the most unobtrusive way possible and did so quickly so I could get home to my family before my son went to sleep.

But every now and again, it would be fun to pretend . . . .