A Great Day to be a Geek Thank You Sir Richard

What a Great Day to be a Geek and Thank You Sir Richard 

The dictionary defines a Geek as… “A peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward….”I say what a great day to be a Geek. Say it loud and say it proud, this is Geek Day on planet earth.Sir Richard Branson’s trip to the edge of space today was one of the greatest advancements toward us regular folk strapping in and successfully achieving the dream of joining Kirk, Spock and Flash Gordon above the bounds of earth.

Yes, I happily admit I am one of those people; the ones who dreamed of escaping this planet and seeking adventures among the stars. My first story at the age of eight was about space travel so it started early in this Geek. Although no one has ever referred to me by that particular designation, I believe it’s because there is actually a bit of Geek in most of us. Oh sure we seek coolness in our manner and pretend to be aloof when someone talks about this or that particular episode of Twilight Zone. However is it a coincidence whenever you mention the episode To Serve Man, everyone is familiar and can tell you the end where we find out it’s a cookbook. Deny if you will, but no one was untouched or unexcited when Neil Armstrong hopped down that ladder and touched the moon. When John Glenn orbited the earth or now when Richard Branson unclasped his seat belt and flew weightless for four minutes to the edge of space.

Are we perhaps now a bit jaded by all these accomplishments? I imagine we are, after all we are living in the world of AI and robotics and everything has changed except for the contempt and disgust we feel for politicians, but I doubt that would be any different on any planet. So why am I so pumped about Branson’s flight, when at my age I wouldn’t even be a candidate for a quick ride myself? Simply put this is the culmination of a dream held since childhood. Going from watcher to doer. Actually being able to participate in space travel is as exciting to me as watching Babe Ruth hit that record breaking ball was to New York fans.

This is not the end, but the beginning and now that the barrier has been broken it will continue to move quickly toward ever more exciting new efforts and achievements. Oh yes, there is one small caveat of course. A seat on the Concorde was 12,000 dollars. A seat to fly to the edge of space is now $200,000. A bit out of the reach of most Geeks, unless of course you’re Bill Gates or Elon Musk or were lucky enough to sell your app to one of the big guys for a billion or so. Although I’d love to suit up for an adventure I’ve been dreaming of since my childhood I’m afraid it will probably be my grandchildren that are flying around, planet hopping and if I’m lucky they’ll be able to regale me with their stories of Mars and other such exciting destinations.

Sir Richard Branson was the first billionaire into space and won the race even beating Jeff Bezos who probably should have called Amazon to deliver him and might have gotten there quicker. I suppose for now it’s a rich man’s travel package, one that most of us earthlings can’t avail ourselves of at this time. But like all new discoveries and inventions, the price will come down. In the 1980s we paid upwards of 5000 dollars for a big screen television, now on Black Friday you can get one for a hundred if you’re willing to risk a few broken bones to get into the store.

So will we find space to be Lost in Space or Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Will it be filled with odd creatures that populate the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine? What is waiting for us up there in the star-filled blackness of space and will we be glad we ventured forth into this new frontier? I hope I’m able to get some of those answers in my lifetime. Although some may believe this is business as usual in space travel, I have to admit I’m a pretty happy Geek today and relatively certain there are a whole lot more of us today thanks to Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic .        

Masking the Pain

 

Years ago in Venice, Italy with my family, we had the misfortune of arriving in that iconic city during Carnival.

We found the city cold, unfriendly, shopkeepers evil and unwelcoming and the entire experience extraordinarily horrifying.

The hotel was filled with crowds of scary partiers in masks like a scene out of a Nicole Kidman horror movie. The hotel was filled with Freddy Krueger in ball gowns.

We got the hell out of dodge as soon as possible and caught the train for Rome to a safer and more inviting clime.

Now after a year relegated to a life confined to masks I find myself reliving too many unpleasant memories of the past.

Venice aside, I harbor unfortunate recollections of the early days of anesthetics when a small mask was placed over one’s nose and ether poured on slowly until unconsciousness ensued. Recollections of awaking after surgery to a mask-wearing doctor aren’t something I choose to dwell upon.

Neither of these mask memories fill me with a warm fuzzy feeling or a desire to spend the upcoming years in a face covering and yet, we are told we must.

We’re suddenly living in a mask-wearing-virus-filled existence and no one can predict how long this new normal will remain.

Faced with this new addition to my wardrobe I am trying valiantly to conjure up more pleasant mask memories and I must admit a few come with questions I’ve never before considered.

Why did the Lone Ranger wear a mask? Supposedly it was to hide his identity, which in my opinion it did very poorly. If one is doing good deeds why the need to hide? I imagine if you’re afraid of getting caught robbing a bank a mask would be an asset, but the Lone Ranger, I’m not seeing it.

Now Batman, that was a mask. If you’re going to go to the trouble of wearing a mask why not cover your entire face and add bat ears? Bruce Wayne always did things in a big way and that made Batman one of the coolest villains. I’m even willing to overlook the whole George Clooney nippled costume thing.

I don’t mind wearing a mask except for the obvious social setbacks.

How might one smile at anyone when walking down the street? One of my favorite habits has always been nodding and saying hello to everyone I pass as I move through my day. Without the smile it loses some of its cache and is far less friendly.

I see it as a civic duty to spread a bit of good cheer to the strangers I meet in my travels. How can I fulfill my promise to spread happiness like a Jewish Santa Claus minus the red suit and bag of goodies?

Oh sure the mask will come in handy for many things. Postponing a nose job or facelift, or the new double chin from the COVID 19 weight gain. Perhaps you can put off the teeth whitening a while longer and of course no need for lip plumpers anymore.

Still I’d rather see and be seen and the mask is a cover up of giant proportions.

You can be mad, glad, sad or blah and who’s to know. What could be better than a mask for masking our pain?

Your moods are covered up by a piece of cloth and unfathomable to others.

So because man is creative we now have all types of personality masks.

Designer initials and patterns, even some with smiling faces; happy masks or sad, heavy and light ones from all kinds of materials. There are masks with logos and ads or pictures of your favorite characters. Okay, so I admit I have a Baby Yoda mask. Get over it.

For evening there are pearls and sequins and some even dripping with fake diamonds.

From the looks of it masks are here to stay by virtue of the enormous investment we all seem to be making for a way to exhibit at least a modicum of personality in this new faceless world.

As optimistic as I’d like to be I find something reprehensible about masks.

Our world is plagued by a lack of social interaction with the advent of the Internet. A place where human beings hide behind a screen to chat, message and communicate. Unfortunately masks will become just one more way to prevent us from seeing one another and bonding with our fellow earthlings.

We must also consider that this covering will make it easy for space visitors to roam about freely where before one might have noticed their presence. Gee that gray guy with the mask has enormous eyes.

If you were beginning to understand how torn I am about protecting us from one another you’d be correct.

I know we need to wear them and I’m all for trying to do it in an attractive way, yet I’m really quite sad that this is yet one more layer between humans to separate us even further.

Nothing in this world is a better communicative tool than a smile. It shouts volumes to others whether friend or stranger. It says you matter to me enough that I am happy to see you. You’re important and worthy of a happy face.

It wishes the recipient a good day and sends positive vibes out into the universe.

Each smile drops a bit of joy onto the earth to attach itself to those passing by.

Where will these little bits of joy come from now without smiles to create them?

There is no doubt we will have to make more of an effort to reach out to others while our smiles are imprisoned in masks. More calls, more stopping to say hello, yes even more text messages with lots of smiley faces. It may not be the real thing but it’s the next best until the masks come off.

I imagine it’s my challenge to find happiness in my covered days. I can look back happily to that year I finished writing the book I’d been procrastinating for so long. I guess it’s true the best way to get a writer to write is to place them in captivity. Worked for me, but hopefully I’ll be able to discipline myself in the future since no one wants another year in lockdown.

We all need more smiles and a kind word never hurt anyone either.

 

World Peace for a Piece of Cheesecake

Sabbath dinner isn’t an accident. On Friday nights in the Jewish faith when families sit down to a stuff fest of meats, chicken soup, salads, starches and desserts there is a grand design afoot. When a group of relations is in one place long enough it will not be long before the temperature rises and old wounds like where Aunt Rose was forced to sit at the wedding and why Uncle Sol didn’t come to cousin Lilli’s funeral will surface. God looked down at the first Sabbath dinner and in his infinite wisdom figured out that the more carbs he stuffs into his people the less strength they will have for bloodshed. And so the tradition was born. Not just in Jewish homes, but all religions where food is a necessity at family gatherings. Granted the Jews and Italians have elevated over feeding to an art form, but it has definitely caught on in a big way. It has thus occurred to me at numerous times in my life the way world leaders look when they sit down to negotiate. Hungry and cranky like a small baby whose bottle is a few minutes late in arriving. Sitting in their high chair with cross little looks on their faces, lips quivering and pouting close to tears as they await feeding. Perhaps little Vladimir needs his borscht fix. Would a big boiled potato and some sour cream make it all better for little Vlad? If he is stuffing his face perhaps he will stop attacking other countries. I am never more aware that there is world hunger than when I see world leaders sit down to “talk.” Honestly Boris, I know the British are not big foodies, but maybe a good meal of fish and chips before chatting about terrorism? Of course the Chinese are a challenge. By the time they finish eating and walk to the bargaining table they are hungry again. No wonder Xi made such a deal about the chocolate cake. Angela Angela, maybe lay off so much sauerbraten at lunchtime. A nice green salad and fruit perhaps? If you look at some of these meetings you will see that of everyone, Bibi Netanyahu is usually the most smiley, which is truly ironic since not a day goes by that Israel is not condemned, maligned, attacked or threatened. So why should Bibi smile? Simply, because he is probably the most well fed of the bunch. I am sure the Mossad has a special detail to ensure that he is never without a hot meal, a snack and some of his grandmother’s mandal bread. If you look at Congress today you can tell in one minute who is not eating. Obviously no one from California as eating anything but micro greens is against state law. If Nancy Pelosi would spend as much time stuffing her face with chocolate as she does Botox the country would be a far better place. Chuck Chuck Chuckala. You’re a New York Jew. Stop with the crying and kvetching and EAT!!! Mitch you’re looking thin, how about a nice Filet Mignon with garlic-mashed potatoes and green beans? Elizabeth Warren, oh Lord where do I begin? Perhaps some corn chowder and Maine Lobster. Nope, I think a roll in the hay is required when someone is that damn sour. Marco before you vote try the flan, it’s to die for. Bernie Bernie Bernie. I know you’re not a Jew anymore, but maybe a taste of your mother’s chicken soup with kreplach will put a smile on that miserable puss. It is important to remember that when someone is hungry their blood sugar drops. If you don’t believe that physical circumstances can affect a person’s personality perhaps you’ve never met a woman PMSing and driving to a 7/11 at two in the morning for a Hershey bar. Oh that’s right, that was me. In order for the world to be a safer place we need better catering. I have seen pictures of leaders in discussion and when there is a plate of food on the table it’s usually only cookies or donuts. This is nourishment? I think not. Sugar rush, blood levels peak and fall. Not good for a long time peace process. Bust out a basket of bagels, lox, cream cheese and cut up veggies. A platter of cheeses and some scrambled eggs and then we’ll talk. Tough to say hostile things when you’re chewing an everything bagel wit a schmear. I guarantee the state of the world would alter immediately if the meals improved. There is no doubt in my mind that if President Biden invited Chuck and Mitch to the White House and they sat down to a big Sabbath dinner, unbuttoned their pants and had an extra piece of rugalach, much more would get done. Many believe the Jewish people have survived because of their senses of humor. Perhaps that’s a big part, but I claim it’s the food. The family that eats together grows together in more ways than one. If the world would only take my advice I guarantee the conversation would go like this: Biden and Vlad stuffed to the gills on brisket, borscht, bobka and cheesecake all catered by New York’s famous Katz’s Deli. Biden, unbuttoning his pants. “ Come on Vlad, I’m so over Assad. He is causing such problems in the Middle East. Do me a solid here and let’s find a new guy who’ll work with both of us, and dump the butcher.” Vlad, loosening the tie on his sweat pants “ But I need that port, you know I can’t be without such a strategic waterway. Joe, you know I love the power.” “Vlad Vlad Vlad, I’ve got a guy, a cousin of my baker says he knows a guy in Syria that will let you keep the port and also work with our partners in the Middle East. You give a little, we give a little; we can do this. More strawberries on your cheesecake?” “Just a spoonful. You think this guy knows what he’s talking about?” “You’ve had three pieces of his cheesecake, would he lie?” “No, this guy knows his stuff. Tell you what, I’ll meet with him, but I need this recipe?” “I can make that happen. Now lets talk about little rocket man.” “Please Joe, I’m eating, don’t ruin my meal here. We’ll discuss him tomorrow at brunch. Maybe you’ll serve those delicious cronuts?” Peace for our time so much better than Chamberlain. But of course the British have never gotten the whole food thing.

Feeding Seagulls

Seagulls are interesting creatures. I often believe they are merely the squirrels of the beach, yet they are lacking the adorable bushy tales that would endear one to love and feed them.

In all honesty the sound of a seagull is not relaxing or Zen. Unlike the chirping of a robin emitting an almost hypnotic morning song, seagulls loud cawing squawk is dare I say annoying at best. Their cries don’t exactly lull one to sleep on a sandy, sun-filled beach but announce their presence in a hawkish fashion.

So I must ask why my penchant for constantly feeding and nurturing such a discordant bird? Is it merely the fact they own the skies at the beach and their existence is some sort of proof we are at a place of calm and solitude?

Are they the landlords of the water’s edge and thus entitled to be cared for by us, mere interlopers on their terrain and is this some sort of pay off for allowing us to curl up on the sand and luxuriate in the sun’s healing rays?

Try as I might to understand my need to nurture them I remain simply stumped. My insane desire to feed squirrels is at least understandable by virtue of their adorable faces and precious puffy tales, but seagulls? I can’t even claim they are beautiful birds but a drab gray color that does nothing to inspire the senses as say the brilliant red of a cardinal or winged gymnastics of a hummingbird.

Yet there I am tearing off parts of a sandwich to feed them as they walk closer to me to ensure their place in the cafeteria line and chase off their brethren.

I can’t seem to help myself. Up close when they shoot me a cock of the head or an eyeball in my direction I find myself wishing I’d brought more food and wondering where to secure extra. I balk at the fact I’ll run out and suffer their scorn when I no longer possess any crusts of bread.

What is my problem? I’m certain I’m not the only one that falls under their spell when beachcombing. They seem to have a sense of those who will instantly succumb to their charms and begin throwing edibles. Is it written on my face…come here for food?

Of course they are cute in their way, but pandas they are not, yet I can’t seem to deny them.

After much self-reflection, I’ve come to believe it’s the sound of seagulls that endears them to me. If my eyes are closed and I feel a warm glow over my entire body and hear the sound of seagulls circling overhead, it is a certainty I am at the beach.

A place filled with happy childhood memories of floating in the Atlantic in an inner tube with a seat created by my grandfather. The times spent on the beach with him can never be erased although when I’m busy living life it leaves little time for those coveted childhood moments.

Thus my love for seagulls for they instantly return me to that time and place where I shared happy days by the ocean with my beloved grandfather. Despite a bite by a Man o’ War, a near drowning or any mishap the times at the beach were magical. Now as I reflect back on my life I see my grandfather’s face, feel the sand in my toes and hear the cawing of the seagulls above. It’s no wonder I seek them out and wish to have them near.

Too many scenes of our childhoods seem to get caught between the crevices of our minds and lost with time. A sound, taste or smell can suddenly reawaken those hidden moments and allow us to relive them instantly.

As I’ve entered a new phase of my life I seem to find a great deal of solace in those forgotten memories and fight to revive them as much as possible.

Times and experiences of childhood are now long gone and cannot be recaptured, so it’s more important then ever to retain their happiness and refuse to let them fade.

The sound of a seagull at the beach, the smell of burning leaves in autumn, the taste of your mother’s delicious soup you’ve tried in vain to recreate or the hot chocolate that warmed you through when ice skating with your father on a wintery Sunday afternoon.

One can never quite predict when a memory will resurface or what can spark its return. Whenever one does I force myself to hold onto to it as long as possible before allowing it to retreat back into an obscure corner of my mind.

Perhaps we underestimate the beauty of a memory because we have so many, and the number grows larger as we age.

I’ve decided to embrace every moment that adds happiness to my life; whether it be now or in the past it must be counted.

A new year will bring new memories, but I shall always be happy sitting on the beach, curling my toes in the sand, hearing the waves trickle onto the shore and feeding the seagulls. So they aren’t the most beautiful bird, but the recollections they conjure up are for me some of the best of my life.

Memories die with us and we will live on in those whose lives we’ve touched. They will also live on in those with whom we’ve shared them.

If you see me sitting on the beach surrounded by seagulls don’t think me eccentric, join me and we can relive some wonderful recollections together. I’ll even bring extra bread for you.

Goodbye Year of COVID and Please Let the Door Hit You in the Ass on the Way Out!

It’s a well known fact life moves faster than the speed of light and when wisdom arrives it’s already too old to outrun the past. Saying goodbye to the last year I’m shocked I could be so happy to see a year go by at my age. Seriously. I’m never happy to see time pass anymore.

Yet, this year is of course the exception and we are all optimistic and betting 2021 will be a winner and life will once again return to normal.

Reflecting on the last twelve months I’ve come to the conclusion it would be simpler if time moved backward ala Benjamin Button to acquire wisdom we can use throughout our lives.

So many talk about others as an old soul. I imagine they are alluding to knowledge beyond one’s years, but can one actually move beyond their own knowledge without actually living the lessons confronting each of us?

The most effective teacher is experience and there is a limit on the hours we possess each day.

So because I have so much time on my hands now, and it would be wise to use it for something besides opening the refrigerator, I’ve invented something that will revolutionize living.

Ladies and Germs I give you, wait for it…the wisdom clock.

Easy to use and I’m sure the price could be brought down to an affordable number for everyone. I should probably go on Shark Tank to get funding although I’m certain Mr. Wonderful (how misnamed is that guy?) would call me stupid and say it’ll never sell.

I am however equally as sure Lori Greiner would grab it up to promote on QVC and sell millions with very little effort.

So by now you’re wondering what this amazing invention would do for you.

Well step right up ladies and gents and give me a moment of your time to tell you about the greatest cure all since Uncle Billy’s Rheumatism Eraser and Housecleaning Oil.

Simple to operate as one has merely to set the clock ahead to any future time and it will transport you to a lesson you haven’t yet learned.

This goes so far beyond H.G. Wells and his rinky-dink time travel machine, he should be embarrassed.

You just set it and instantly you’re living in that moment and watching your future.

For example you have a date with someone new. You set the clock ahead for one year and it shows you what’s happening on that day.

Okay, I didn’t say it would always be pleasant, but just think how great it would be if you knew in advance someone was going to break your heart six months into the relationship?

You’d simply cancel the date and avoid the mistake.

Our operators are standing by to take your orders.

Or perhaps you’re torn by a decision of whether to take a new job or stay put.

Turn that dial; check out a year from now and voila. It’s all there and either you’ve moved onto a fabulous position or to a terrible state.

You could even check out that new hair color and save yourself the pain. Need I even mention buying Apple at $22.00 a share?

No wondering or stressing about choices now.

This is better than Dial a Psychic and you don’t have to pay by the minute.

Just imagine how much anguish you’d prevent had you known the future.

The wisdom clock, what a concept, step right up no waiting.

To acquire knowledge without enduring the pain that accompanies life lessons is an amazing feat. I’m surprised no one has thought of this before. Forget Facebook or Google schmoogle, the wisdom clock is the bomb.

To eliminate heartache and suffering by merely having the information we all need in advance is a gift.

However, since it may be a while before I get this thing to market what can we do in the meantime to avoid making mistakes?

Without the wisdom clock we’re on our own.

Yet, if we’re honest we’ve always had the power to make good choices had we only heeded the signs. Perhaps we should’ve listened to that little voice inside giving us a stomachache when we were about to embark on a foolish decision?

Thinking back on my life every bad choice I’ve ever made has been accompanied by a sign waving red flags I chose to ignore.

Watching The Crown the other night and it’s extraordinary, I was quite taken by the fact there were so many red flags and roadblocks thrown in Diana’s path before she married Charles. Not even small ones, but Whoopi Goldberg screaming, “Diana you in trouble girl, get the hell out of here!” Alas, perhaps owing to youth, lack of wisdom, some might say destiny, she forged ahead into a doomed marriage.

Yet we are all Diana many times, moving and choosing with sheer abandon situations we sense will not have a happy ending. Still, we talk ourselves into believing it’s okay because we simply want them to be.

Some more than others we are in some ways Cleopatra: Queen of Denial and ignoring that little voice inside screaming, “run like hell.”

So why do some people possess the ability to choose wisely and some just never get it right?

I’ve noticed those who make good choices have good lives, but many stumble into good fortune through no great insight or intelligence of their own.

So maybe the wisdom clock is no more effective than having good instincts and heeding our own warning voice.

Oftentimes the noise in our heads drowns out those better choices and we fall head first into chaos.

It’s so much easier to evoke the “it-was-meant-to-be excuse” than simply admit you screwed up.

I guess that’s how we all get through the day and perhaps that is a special kind of ingenuity in the end.

Realizing that no matter how certain we are we’ve made the right call, sometimes it just turns out the way it’s supposed to, bad or good.

Wisdom doesn’t simply appear with age for I would argue many people learn nothing as they grow older and remain unwise until the end.

In Vegas terms, life is a gamble and our choices are no more than a bet on the poker table and we all must ante up. The stakes can be grossly high or sometimes infinitesimal, but if you’re in the game remember, the house always wins.

May the house be yours in 2021 and all your bets pay off big! Happy New Year, everyone!

There’s a Disturbance in the Force

There’s a Disturbance in the Force

I imagine it’s inevitable and every writer faces a tragic truth one day. I’d always believed simply sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper or of course now a computer screen would ultimately produce the desired result and emit forth a wealth of plentiful prose. It was simply a matter of time I told myself and the words would flow like money from a drunken gambler at a Las Vegas craps table. Truthfully they always did, until now.

I must face the fact that after the captivity of COVID I’ve run out of things to say.

My mind is clouded by the numbness that grows out of boredom and despite my efforts I can’t find the words, or any words actually.

Yet, of course why would I? Cooped up like a veal my mind has glossed over from too much media and carbohydrates.

What a combo. Although of course this seems to be a teenager’s dream and I’m certain it once was mine, the lack of stimulus has become malignant.

Like everyone I strive to remain relevant and in tune with the universe.

Calls to friends whom like myself feel the need to escape their bonds of virus prison may for a moment lessen the lack of communication with my fellow beings, but this isn’t entirely about conversation.

Perhaps that’s what we’ve forgotten or probably never before knew.

Living is not predicated by simply interacting with others, but with the other.

So what is the other other?

The other is the mere act of living within the world.

COVID has forced us to retreat and that is harmful to what creates the energy we all absorb into our lives.

Of course there are many that still venture out to stores, teach, work over the Internet or meet with friends.

But what of those who choose to remain behind closed doors hopefully safe from COVID’s clutches?

Strangely enough the result is the same for both.

My friends that go out feel equally as stifled and imprisoned as those who hide away.

I couldn’t imagine why and it didn’t seem to make any sense at all.

Yet truly it does.

If we believe there is an energy that permeates the world and enters into each life than the virus has zapped that power whether you’re home or outside.

There is to put it quite simply a disturbance in the force, young Skywalker and everyone feels the interruption.

Of course I’m not the first to speak about life forces and energy and certain I can’t possibly explain it as well as Master Yoda, but I’m actually witnessing the effects with my own eyes. I’m guessing this is something none of us has noticed before.

How many times have you felt something uplifting while just walking down a street looking in windows, or how satisfying it was driving a new car on a gorgeous spring day, listening to music and simply enjoying your freedom? It could be that happy feeling holiday shopping in the mall when everyone is rushing from store to store intent on finding the perfect gift?

Perhaps it is when sitting by the ocean and wiggling your toes in the wet sand on a cool autumn day when the beach is quiet and the waves are your only company that you feel alive and at peace.

These small moments that don’t amount to anything earth shaking like creating world peace, cleansing the oceans or curing cancer seem at times all we need.

There is satisfaction in being part of a world that is in motion, absorbing the essence of life in those around you. The unique connection each human being creates by simply existing in the universe, feeling and contributing to the energy.

This is something else COVID has given us. The frustration and hopelessness humans feel when they are captive and lose their sense of community.

Going for a walk, taking a drive or visiting with friends seems to make things better, and perhaps for a time it works. Still it’s merely a band-aid on a massive wound and why despite how hard we try we can’t stop the bleeding.

We need to see a smile on the person walking toward us, we need to feel the hugs of our family and friends, to travel and absorb the energy of novel places, new sights and active people. There is something palpable about a busy street or airport filled with travelers. Our souls require more than the latest Netflix offering, we crave the other.

Human beings cannot survive behind masks, closed off from the life force that sustains us.

There’s a reason people are suspicious of loners, anti social behavior and shut ins. Most view it as an unnatural and foreign state.

Of course some people are quite content by themselves and most are happy to be alone some of the time. Only it’s in the knowing that life is outside our door for the taking we remain secure and sane.

In our DNA we are social animals and being blocked off from the other has consequences. During this pandemic for the first time we as a human race are seeing these results up close and personal.

So what can one do to create at least a bit of the energy? At this point I suppose it’s the band-aid effect upon which we must rely. Call a friend, social distance, go outside, walk or take a ride. Have a picnic or go to the beach, there is something quite calming about the ocean. It won’t restore all our energy but at least a portion until our tank is once again full.

Without putting a name to it we sense something is missing and the effect on our life force is stifling. So until we are free to experience others and the other as well, I wish you fulfilling days and may the force always be with you.

Life on Planet Looney Tunes

Life on Planet Looney Tunes

I can’t even believe that Father Time has turned out to be such an abusive bastard.

Is it not awful enough that he sucks the minutes from us like a tornado moving through Kansas? Now he has allowed a pandemic to steal a year from our ever-growing shorter lives.

Thanks Father Time, may the bird of paradise fly up your diaper.

As if it’s not enough we have to contend with living in captivity, the world has literally gone so mad I’m seriously convinced I left the planet and am now residing on Planet Looney Tunes in the That’s-all-Folks galaxy.

Recently, I was watching Bye Bye Birdie and suddenly I thought, hey, wait a minute. This was my life. What happened to innocence, civility, decency, respect and embracing the simple pleasures?

I must be living in a parallel universe where crazy is the law of the land and everything is upside down.

It’s as if we’re reliving the dream of our teenage years, spending our time sitting in front of the television, sleeping in and eating whatever and whenever we choose.

Well at least that was the dream then anyway.

It took years to achieve the freedom to live our lives as we wish and now we’re on a time out in our rooms for something we never did.  
The first clue I landed on Planet Looney Tunes was the masses paying thousands for Pelotons that covered the planet as far as the eye could see. People peddling for their life and sweating while some voice yelled at them from the great beyond. Isn’t relaxation supposed to be about quiet time?

I stopped riding bikes when my Schwinn rusted out and my tuchas lost all its fat, flattened out and the bicycle seat became my enemy.

On Looney Tunes, mobs rule, children disrespect their teachers and refuse to put down their cell phones, and anyone who attempts to change lanes while driving gets the universal middle finger signal.

When we were young we weren’t allowed to sit all day and watch television, we were castigated for overeating too many sweets, and were threatened with no television for not finishing our Brussel Sprouts. UGH! I hate those things to this day.

What has happened to our lives?

Every generation has been negatively impacted by the challenges of this craziness foisted upon us. Baby Boomers can’t cruise, tour countries they’ve never seen or play mah jong or canasta.

Children miss attending school with their friends. It’s sad they’re being deprived of their childhoods; attending class, playing outdoors, forming cliques and trying to survive high school.

I’m not saying childhood is perfect by any means, but how will our children cope with life if they’re never allowed to interact with the nice and not so nice?

Every generation faces difficulties, but I’m convinced it’s the way you emerge from challenges that matters. It is a plus that families are spending more time together. Well, for most families anyway.

I can’t even imagine how awful it was for our parents and grandparents during World War II when they endured four years of fears, rationing and the loss of loved ones without Netflix, Amazon or the Internet.

Can you imagine how much worse it would have been for everyone if they could’ve live streamed the Blitz or Pearl Harbor?

Sure this is awful, but four years of wondering if your sons, brothers, husbands, nephews or neighbors would ever return from Europe or the Pacific was bloody awful.

Perhaps our parents were tough because of the war. Perhaps we are powder puffs because aside from 9/11 we’ve had it relatively easy.

No, I’m not forgetting Viet Nam, the Cold War, John Kennedy’s assassination or Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, but unless you lost someone in Nam, aside from the sadness we felt for those who did, our lives went on.

Aside from all the unnecessary death caused by that war, the saddest memory for me was the way our returning soldiers were treated. They’d been sent to a war for no other reason than to satisfy the egos of powerful men and made to pay a terrible price.

So yes, Viet Nam was a sad, horrible time, but I’m not certain it impacted the world as we are now experiencing.

Now we face another world war and because it’s biological it’s frightening and frustrating. We can’t pick up a rifle and shoot it, we can’t spy on it or run it over with a tank or nuke it with atom bombs. We can’t even force it to watch reruns of Petticoat Junction.

This is a new enemy, more evil than any we’ve seen. It’s as if China bottled the DNA from the most evil Nazi’s, put it in a test tube and loosed it on the world.

We are forced to cower in our caves like our ancestors when a wild boar sought them out. They had no weapons except a club or a rock.

As Albert Einstein was purported to have said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

I guess somewhere along the way we luckily missed World War III because it seems we’re back to sticks and stones.

At the end of the day when, as all things do this pandemic passes, the better question is; into what kind of world will we return? Will our current struggles propel us forward as better people in a kinder, more civilized society or will we continue to be angry, bitter and volatile toward one another?

Have we learned as in the past after world wars that peace, love and sanity are the very building blocks of happiness or will we continue down a road of divisiveness and conflict?

I for one will be happy to be outside enjoying my life once again, spending my moments out of captivity doing as I wish. I just pray we can all celebrate being together again in a positive way right here on Planet Earth, and create a better world than ever before.

9/11: Is it Just Another Bad Memory?

9/11: Is it Just Another Bad Memory?

Life is about mixed messaging. Today, remembering the terrible attack in New York, The Pentagon and Flight 93, the visuals return with every bit of their gruesome horror. Then as we humans have been instructed, they fade once more and are filed away into the back of our minds. Only the loved ones of the victims hold the pain closely with no reprieve.

If there is one truth it’s that evil has no politics, color or creed. Oh, of course many try to equate them, but it’s impossible because evil is found in every political party and in every corner of the planet. It’s an entity onto itself and exists solely within the heart and mind of man. It’s true however that it can be spread like a black river of oil unto a fertile plain or in an ocean among the innocent sea life fatally exposed.

Yet, if we Americans are so affected by evil events like 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, is it productive to sweep them aside until they are marked on a calendar each year?

Can we learn if we’re encouraged to forget? Can evil ever be eradicated if we allow it to fester and thrive as part of history?

We’re taught to live in the present and see those who live in the past encumbering their ability to live a happy life. Yet, the message is startlingly ambiguous when it’s only by remembering the lessons we can forge ahead wiser.

So which is it, recall or move forward?

What is the proper amount of bad memories to dredge up and when does that number cross the line into mental instability?

Pearl Harbor hasn’t been forgotten, yet the enemy that attacked us is now our friend. We no longer cast aspersions on Japan or its people, nor should we, yet the lessons of World War II seem long forgotten. Because the Japanese people are now considered allies does that mean Nazis are as well and we should be electing them to Congress?

Today in the United States Congress Representative James Clayburn of North Carolina, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, demeaned Jewish Holocaust survivors to defend the hateful remarks of one of his America hating, anti-Semitic colleagues, Ilhan Omar.

So are we now to assume that every one who cast a vote for this horrible man or for her abhors Jewish people? I wouldn’t like to think that true, yet why is someone who castigates survivors serving in a country that fought a war to destroy a regime determined to kill all those whom their leaders deemed less worthy to breathe the same air?

Should hate spreaders be allowed to serve in our Congress among those that lost relatives at the hand of evil without censure or a day of reckoning? Their loathing has been exposed on numerous other occasions, yet they are not held accountable for their hate speech. America cannot condone such behavior and elect haters still we continue to do so.

Yes, free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy and without it there is fascism, but should we be electing evil spreaders to make our laws and lead our country? Intolerance is intolerable and yet we foster and nurture it in our own government.

So where do we live? In the past, present or future and which will allow us to improve life by learning from the lessons that cost us so dearly?

If it is healthier to evolve from the past is it also healthy to move on from the memory of foul deeds and events?

I’m mystified by the amount of maliciousness I witness on a daily basis and how perfectly acceptable it has become to overtly express these feelings, no matter how despicable.

The world accepts too easily what it hears and finds it easier to believe what they are told then to fight back. Because evil is proactive and good is reactive the scales are weighted in favor of the aggressor.

The simple truth is that we do indeed forget, because we are trained to do so. Live in the present is the chosen mantra.

Israel and many countries in the Middle East have just entered into a peace deal that will change that area if not the entire world.

Former enemies will now be friends and free to travel, trade and break bread together.

So what lesson must we learn from these shifting world dynamics?

I laugh at the simplicity of my own answer; to err is human to forgive divine.

Yet forgiveness does not mean forgetting. No, we cannot remember everything, but even if relegated to the past they must continue to strengthen our moral code.

If we forget the deaths and lessons of the wars we fought then we’ll be doomed to reelect politicians who espouse divisiveness. If we forget we must be vigilant when dealing with those who’ve proven to exercise evil deeds with no remorse, then we’re doomed to repeat mistakes and be vulnerable to malice.

If a government becomes so indifferent to the vindictive speech and deeds advocated by their leadership then unfortunately we have many examples of the outcome of such folly and its effect on humanity.

One comment should be enough to engage our outrage and battle against darkness. When someone shows you who they are, believe them or suffer the consequences. Can there ever be enough history to accomplish this end?

Yes, life is filled with mixed messages and from where I sit now I’m dubious. However, we must retain hope if we are all to survive and once again remember or even sadly, forget.

Yes, life is filled with mixed messages and from where I sit now I’m dubious. However, we must retain hope if we are all to survive and once again remember or even sadly, forget.

It’s Never Too Late? But For What?

It’s Never Too Late? But For What?

Its never too late is a phrase I’ve learned to hate. It’s a bigger lie than I’ll still respect you in the morning or read my lips no new taxes or no, your ass doesn’t look fat in those pants.

My entire life I bought into the belief that as long as you’re still breathing there is always tomorrow and another opportunity to get it right.

Wrong!

Of late I’ve come to understand there is a point at which when you knock, opportunity says, “sorry, no one’s home.”

The difficult fact to acknowledge is you actually do get to a place when you’re just too damn old to do some of the things you’ve dreamed of doing. Years of garnering wisdom cannot make up for physical prowess, but it can lead you to a different path.

Sure you can point to an Iris Apfel at 96 still hawking her wears on HSN, but she didn’t start that business in her nineties.

Starting over at a certain point is pointless.

The revelation that you’ve reached a time where certain of life’s choices are no longer available is heartbreaking and yet one must come to terms with the fact it’s a stark reality of aging.

There are many who reach the laugh, laugh golden years and are quite happy to hang up their spurs. After a lifetime of hard work and smart investing many seniors are happy to travel and play golf or tennis if health permits.

So you’re asking, what’s so bad about that, Norma? Must you always bitch about this whole getting-old-thing? Why can’t you just shut up and go to a driving range?

Sadly, I’m of the school that believes that there’s so much to do in life I selfishly want to experience more.

When younger I’d read stories about 60-year olds that went to law school or 50-year olds that lost their jobs and started their own businesses and I found it so inspiring.

Now of course I realize these people were not in their seventies. Oops, that smarts.

So what is someone standing at the doorway of old age supposed to do when their spirit and mind says start that business or get that job when opportunity slams the door in their crows-footed face?

Baby Boomers joke with one another constantly about forgetting what they’re saying from one minute to the next. Walking into a room and being unable to even remember why you did and the inability to recall names or familiar words. We all compare what body part needs replacing or aches that particular day and mourn the fact we can’t eat an entire corned beef sandwich without inhaling Tums.

My body is now calling the shots and literally rules my world. I feel like a mummy that walks forward while pieces of wrappings drop off with every step. “Ouch” now describes my athletic prowess.

I do recognize the fact many grow older without as much physical damage, but no one’s body totally seems to escape the ravages of time unless they’re one of the really lucky ones.

In the end of course the truly lucky ones are actually those still alive to complain about the aches and pains.

I had a doctor friend who used to say that if you’re over forty and you wake up in the morning and something doesn’t hurt, you’re dead.

Okay, I’ve kvetched enough, but isn’t there some truth to my bitching? Yep, humor aside, time often robs us of our dreams.

To be realistic most seniors cannot become a country music star at eighty, go back to school and become a doctor at seventy-eight or get an MBA at ninety. Life is what it is and time unfortunately is a cruel dictator. And yes, you can argue that becoming a country star at eighty is doable, but try to come up against the young people running the music and show businesses and see how far you’d get unless you’re a Maggie Smith or Judy Densch.

So what can one do as the years pile up? Plenty, if agenda matches ability. We can take on new goals and let the old pipe dreams fly away on that Spring breeze that carries old desires away to some youth-filled Neverland.

Is it sad to say goodbye to those aspirations so long a part of our soul? Of course, and one of the pains of aging is letting go of the dreams so long inside, much like old friends we’ll never seen again.

When I was sixty I applied for a job at a newspaper that was far below my abilities. The interview went well as the editor knew me by reputation and we’d even met socially on occasion. At the end he asked me, “Would you feel awkward working here among so many young people?”

“Where do you think I’d feel better working, at a nursing home?” I asked.

Needless to say he’d dropped the A Bomb (age bomb) and literally given his prejudices away.

Yes, sadly there seems to be a time when one outlives their usefulness in a youth-oriented culture. When it’s time to leave and despite how much you’d like to stay, the party’s pretty much over.

So as when we were younger and a goal didn’t materialize no matter how hard we tried, we must now bury many of our ambitions and seek new, realistic objectives.

Of course for some it’s easier as they are happy with a retirement filled with easily achievable goals. A hole in one, regular visits to the grandchildren, a riverboat cruise along the Danube, trip to Las Vegas or a Maj Jong tournament, and these are all great ways to spend one’s retirement.

Yet so many of even these aims are dependent on physical or financial health and many times when dream meets reality one falls short.

No, this isn’t intended to depress the hell out of you; it’s just a shout out to perhaps find a new project that inspires your passion.

Especially now when we’re relegated to our homes in hiding from the monster virus it’s easier to feel helpless and hopeless about the future. Now when each minute takes on new meaning and significance a year of our time has been stolen from our lives. For many it will be difficult to tear oneself away from our new berth in front of the big screen and our affair with Netflix and that’s okay, too.

I’m just kind of venting about getting back out into the world and creating a new existence.

Whether it’s resting on one’s laurels or realizing a long held dream, go for it and make it happen knowing what warriors we Baby Boomers truly are.

Accept what you can’t do with grace, create the life you desire and recognize how much you still have within you to achieve.

There’s a reason poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

So I’m schlepping myself away from this jigsaw puzzle and checking out my bucket list. For every item I can no longer achieve I’ll add another one I can.

Oy! I think the first one I’ll add is get up off the couch in under five minutes. Hmmm, do you think I can still hitchhike through Italy?

I’d be happy to do a cheer for your goals, but I’m not sure I could lift the pom poms over my head.

Scatter My Ashes Over Costco

Scatter My Ass Over Costco

I recently watched a documentary (what else do I have to do?) entitled Scatter My Ashes Over Bergdorf Goodman. It was late at night when I noticed it on Prime so at first I thought it read scatter my ass over Bergdorf Goodman, which really peaked my curiosity, but I digress.

The place has a fascinating history and supposedly a cartoonist from The New Yorker magazine had coined the phrase years ago.

I began to watch, and of course the store is amazing. Wall to wall materialism all wrapped up in the heady air of if-you-have-to-ask-the-price-you-shouldn’t-be-here.

Quality is king because apparently founder Herman Bergdorf was a tailor so he fixated on the workmanship of the garments allowed into the sacred halls of this palace of yummy, couture creations. The store sits atop the site of the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion on Fifth Avenue so perhaps wealth is already in the soil’s DNA.

BG buyers spoke of how they discovered and brought along designers until they were Bergdorf worthy and demanded exclusivity from those lucky enough to make the cut.

Personal shoppers spoke of anonymous clients too famous to mention, like we can’t guess, and of course since they work on commission it was revealed that someone working at Bergdorf could make as much as half a million dollars salary a year.

After seriously rethinking my career choices while inhaling two almond snickers bars, I continued my journey through this capital of couture. It wasn’t so much the fact the store was filled with beautiful and expensive merchandise; it was their method of display.

Even the windows had risen to an art form. I must admit I was more taken with many of the objects their artisans created for Bergdorf’s windows than the Marcel Duchamp’s Urinal Fountain sculpture, so there’s that.

Now begs the question, what qualifies something to be expensive? In real estate it’s of course location location location, but even that changes. Bet you could get a hellava deal right now on a New York condo.

Is it merely the way something is presented that catches the eye of the lover of all things expensive and exotic?

Does Bergdorf have the formula for success that proves entering a world so beautifully appointed it stands to reason everything within must be coveted and desired?

If that’s true we must closely examine Costco.

They as Bergdorf have created their own brand in Kirkland, and like BG have searched for only the best to bestow their own label upon and allow within their hallowed, concrete walls. However, if quality is also measured by design than Costco has quite a way to go.

The whole warehouse ambiance doesn’t quite do it for me. Although it does give one a feeling the bargains stretch on forever.

On the opposite side of the equation, walking into Bergdorf’s one is immediately taken by the rich woods, marble and glass surroundings providing a luxurious atmosphere of wealth and privilege. Although one might surmise this was designed to scare off those whom may recognize the aroma of luxury, but can certainly not afford such opulence, the desire to mingle with money is indeed seductive. It’s Newport on steroids and offers familiarity to coveted customers.

However one story amused me about Mr. Goodman told by his grandson.

It seems a bag lady walked into the fur department one day and admired a coat.

Of course Mr. Goodman was polite but evasive when asked the price, thinking she was unable to afford such luxury.

Now we all know the ending to this one, she reached into her paper bags paid cash and bought the coat, teaching him a valuable lesson about not judging a book by its cover.

I was surprised he had not learned this earlier in his life since I was well aware of its truth early on. My grandparents, who dressed like bag people, once drove from Detroit to Miami in their new Cadillac with 100,000 dollars in my grandmother’s pocketbook to buy an apartment building on the beach. They didn’t trust banks.

Could one have easily mistaken them for the janitor and housekeeper? Absolutely, so this lesson came to me young.

Mr. Goodman’s naïveté aside it’s the policy of BG to be polite to all who enter the perfectly appointed surroundings and even if you are there to simply drool over that six-thousand dollar Bottega Veneta handbag, courtesy will be extended.

This respect isn’t a bad thing; in fact it’s actually very good. Since I’ve noticed that of late many Neiman Marcus sales people treat even those who walk about the store sporting Gucci as though they were the dirt under their Louboutins. Not hard to figure out why the bottom line has reached rock bottom in that retail scenario.

So I must ask myself, is it in the fantasy that the reality of value exists? And do we all crave a small slice of that high-class challah?

BG can no longer demand exclusivity as in the past   when Halston was asked to leave when he aligned himself with, wait for it, J.C. Penney. Gasp and clutch the pearls.

If one claims to be the best, are they? Who should challenge a belief system backed up with such confidence? Not me I’ll tell you. Whatever gets you through the day, that’s my mantra.

Yes, if it’s true clothes make the man, it follows that ambiance makes the store.

When one declares, “Scatter my ashes over Bergdorf Goodman,” are they actually saying, “let me luxuriate forever in that air of refinement and sophistication?” I want to spend eternity with Fendi and Dior and can you throw a bit of Alexander McQueen and Prada into the mix? For many there is of course some stability and comfort in knowing that lavish world still exists.

Beats the hell out of a desire to spend one’s eternity fighting off the Christmas rush at Walmart.

Still, I’ve decided that if I’m going to be doing time in some sort of eternal afterlife Costco would be the best choice.

After all, they’ve achieved a great business model, despite their whole cheesy warehouse cache. But on the upside there’s a bakery with a damn good apple pie, samples to munch on while I laze about unnoticed watching those still breathing, and of course if needed they offer a wide variety of underwear, shoes and giant screen televisions from which to choose.

“Hey lady, where did you get those samples of chocolate popcorn?”

No matter where you opt to spend your next foray into some sort of existence one consideration remains apparent if not a bit ironic; your ashes will be swept up a lot faster at Bergdorf Goodman than at Costco where ashes would only enhance the ambiance. So be like Indiana Jones and choose carefully or your whole afterlife could be really, really short.

Gold Dust Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix

Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

2 containers chocolate frosting

1 tablespoon of edible gold luster dust

Heat oven to 350° F (325° F for dark or nonstick pans). Line 24 regular-size muffin cups with gold metallic paper baking cups. Make and bake cupcakes as directed on box. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.

Transfer frosting to large decorating bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Let cupcakes stand uncovered until frosting is set, about 2 hours. Gently touch-test frosting with fingertip-the outside should be dry to the touch. If frosting is still wet and smears, allow additional drying time.

When frosting is set, load small soft-bristle dry artist’s brush with gold luster dust. Gently brush over frosting portion of a cupcake until a gold sheen is achieved. Repeat with remaining cupcakes. A second coat of luster dust can be applied for intensified golden color.

Store cupcakes loosely covered with plastic wrap or in air-tight plastic cupcake-keeper.

Genius or Madness? You Be The Judge

Genius or Madness? You Be The Judge

How do you know when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your game?

How can anyone know when that next thing will be the one thing that takes you over the top and ends your struggle for success?

For a comic it may be the next gig, for an artist that next painting or sculpture, for a businessman that upcoming deal and for everyone just taking the next offer even after you’ve sworn you’re giving up.

So is it the ones that don’t give up that necessarily cross the finish line?

And of course the next question would have to be, how do you know when it’s over and time to throw in the towel? However, unlike others who strive can it ever be over for an artist?

Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime; Red Vineyard at Arles and the rest sat in a prison of anonymity until his death?

So why did that one painting not secure the future of one of the great masters whose paintings now sell in the millions of dollars?

Why couldn’t he cross over into elusive stardom and needlessly suffered pain and frustration until he died? By anyone’s standards Van Gogh wasn’t a failure and yet in his own lifetime he was.

As a student of human nature and life, I as so many others have often sought to explain the randomness of success. Simply put, there is no rhyme or reason for those who are propelled into the illusive land of stardom and those who are forever condemned to a life of unappreciated struggle.

So who decides someone’s fate? Is it some force of destiny sitting behind a desk in a corner of Macy’s New York store behind the Thanksgiving Day balloons? Or is it within oneself to choose the time and arrival of our achievements and no one else?

Too many are quick to say those that crave success enough will discover it, yet I’ve watched countless talented and gifted people struggle and fail for a lifetime. In retrospect I’ve also seen the mediocre rise to the top, receive accolades and praise truly unwarranted by their limited talent.

So where is the cut off between fate, talent and sheer moxie?

Is it no more than an uncanny ability to hear the word no as yes? Or stop as go? To never give up despite all signs pointing to the exit?

Van Gogh never stopped painting and since I’ve never spoken with him, I can’t speak to his true ambitions. Of course I know of his torment and the obvious pain in his soul that led him to cut off his own ear and ultimately commit suicide. Yet if he was so unfulfilled and angst ridden, why go on? Why continue doing what caused such unrelenting pain?

Was it lunacy that drove him? The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So was he mad? Or was he driven by some unknown force, even to him that shouted loudly paint, paint, paint even as the world shouted back, “we don’t want you?”

Is it insanity or optimism and are they the same?

I’m certain many optimists would take umbrage to that comparison, yet isn’t optimism simply seeing only a good result at the end of the day when reality continually proves otherwise?

Telling one to retain hope in a hopeless situation and keep on truckin on even after getting run over on your chosen path is considered good advice by many.

Why would Van Gogh suffer, but Picasso collect accolades and untold wealth for merely expressing their extraordinary gifts? Was one a higher form of genius or producer of masterpieces? The facts prove otherwise?

So asking the burning yet never before answered question, why, I can still offer no answer.

You might ask what is the point in the asking? After all greater scholars and thinkers than I have sought the answer to this ageless enigma…does hard work and perseverance always equal success?

I’m afraid that’s not an answer but merely a conclusion drawn from observing so many successful people.

Yet do we too quickly dismiss those who have adopted that same equation and attained the opposite result?

What separates the frustrated Van Gogh from a successful Picasso? Is it simply a matter of timing? Can some be lost in the trends or mores of their day and reemerge later after becoming the very trend itself, when others defining genius finally see fit to choose them?

Is it only the decision makers that call the shots for art and those with the most cache and clout decide the fate and definition of genius?

Even a Picasso whose brilliance is never doubted will inspire some to stand back and murmur, “I just don’t get it?”

Can anyone say Toulouse Lautrec, Claude Monet and numerous others never recognized during their life are more talented in death?

Franz Kafka, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats are all now immortal by today’s standards and yet struggled to achieve respect or fortune during their own lifetime.

So artists and even scientists must many times be satisfied with following their destiny alone and as Thoreau wrote, “live lives of quiet desperation.”

Despite the gift one has received from the universe, a talent they may feel compelled to exhibit, there is still that small part within us all that seeks to be part of the herd, to fit into society and find one’s place.

If we create an imbalance between those two needs, fitting in and the desperate drive to express our art and separate ourselves, we’ll fail to achieve the equilibrium that promotes stability and contentment.

So does it merely come down to luck and timing? 

Or having the right power broker smile down on you and your work to achieve success? Without an advocate is Claude Monet any less a genius?

I believe there is a force of destiny at work in the universe, and yet the sheer amount of luck at receiving approval from those with the power to say whom will live and die with their talent cannot be denied.

There must be an originator and an admirer working in tandem to achieve success. Yet there is also much to be said for one’s passion and resolve to express the art within, whether or not anyone ever understands or appreciates its greatness, except its own creator. It’s only this desperation to exorcise one’s gift that compels the artist and in the end that’s as much control as one may expect in a judgmental world.

Lox and Bagel Bites

2 cucumbers

1 tub whipped cream cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion

½ cup nova lox cut up

Bagel chips

1 hard boiled egg optional

Cut cucumbers in 1-inch circles

Hollow out seeds and pat dry and set aside don’t go all the way through the cucumber so filling stays inside.

Mix together lox onions and cream cheese and lighting salt and pepper. Remember lox can be salty so go slow with the seasoning

With a teaspoon or a pastry bag fill cucumber rounds with cream cheese mixture.

Garnish with pieces of bagel chips and if so desired grate some hardboiled egg on top.

Great appetizers for brunch or a snack

Nothin’ Says Lovin’

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Nothin’ Says Lovin’

I can’t claim to know much anymore, but one thing is for sure…after this damn COVID is over I’m done cooking. I feel like my children are young again and I’m spending all day in the kitchen playing chef du jour for my little angels and my husband.

As in the past once again it’s one bite for you one for the garbage disposal, (that was my nickname back in those days). Now I feel like I should have a t-shirt made for myself printed with Insinkerator.

Only problem is there are no kids here to split my food with so it’s all going into the garbage disposal, AKA me.

Last night I dreamed my oven was hiding behind my bedroom door waiting to attack me with a giant spatula. It tied me up and force-fed me zucchini chips while it screamed, “Do you have to make crummy veggies that spend all day in the oven drying out? Don’t I deserve a break? I can’t take anymore I’m a wreck.” Then it broke down and started to cry. It trudged out of the room after handing me a coupon for Dominos and a copy of Shakespeare with a quote about the quality of mercy being strained or something.

Guilt from my oven? What’s next, a letter from the Chinese requesting money for the sick scientists who brought us COVID? Much like the guy who murdered his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.

I can’t even think of a single food that appeals to me anymore. My taste buds are telling me, “No thanks man, I’m good,” and closing down.

I’ve baked, sautéed, fried, stewed, roasted, chopped, sliced and mooshed and nothing even appeals to me anymore. I’ve air-dried and French-fried and I’m fried, period. I’ve even sold my soul for Creole and I’m just plain done.

I’ve eaten every cuisine from here to Outer Mongolia and I’m wondering if the Astronauts have any suggestions.

If you see a flying saucer would you please flag it down and see what they’re serving on board for lunch.

The other day I’d swear I saw a feather growing out of my tuchas from all the chicken I’ve eaten.

No, Charlie Tuna I’m no threat anymore so rest easy.

No more Jiff in a Jiffy no more Burger Kings or Dairy Queens, and Jack can just close his box because I’m not interested.

No Chick Fil A or Chick Fil B for me cause I’m over this whole COVID food thing.

I know I should be grateful to be here in peace and quiet, eating, cooking, baking and answering to no one’s taste buds or food cravings but my own.

Sorry, not feeling it.

If someone else made me a taco would I bite? Maybe, but I won’t guarantee that would work.

I’m just tired and can’t get my taste buds excited about anything anymore.

Eating as a hobby is getting super old and I want to go back to my old life. Retail cardio, now that’s a hobby. I never realized what a thrill it would be to walk down the crowded aisles of a store and just stare at something until I decide to buy or not to buy.

Oh sure, Amazon may pretend to have aisles but they don’t.

When was the last time you stood weighing a buying decision until someone came by with their cart and barked, “Do you mind?” Oh to hear the sound of a rude customer annoyed because I’m blocking her way again.

Or to play Maj Jong and hear the clackity clack of the tiles on the table as I two bam four crack happily along while shoveling in handfuls of chocolate-coated gummy bears.

Lord, I’d even settle for hearing the words “blue light special aisle six,” over the loud speaker.

Cooking doesn’t cut it. Sure for the first few months it was fun to be in the kitchen, now I feel like I’m on the spinning teacups at Magic Mountain when my overwhelming nausea forced me to insist the guy stop the ride so I could get off. (My son doesn’t like me to repeat that story, apparently the embarrassment he suffered was traumatic).

Please let me out of the kitchen so I can get back to living my life, bitching about LA drivers, sitting and fuming in traffic, looking for a parking spot at the mall out of the sun, hanging up on and cursing at robocalls.

Oops, wait a minute those are stressful things that make me want to eat more.

Is there no way I can escape food? Must I be forever attached to my oven and chained to the stove top?

I totally envy those who can use this moment of quarantine for Peloton riding or speed walking about the neighborhood or even exercising in front of the flat screen with some anorexic zealot.

I’m just not one of them.

As a foodie my instincts are for food to fill time as I try to convince myself I’m not bored as hell. Meanwhile I’m chomping at the bit to get the heck out of this place like Seabiscuit at the starting line.

Some days I just want to scream “Help,” out the window as the fitness conscience walkers speed by. Full of themselves and their whole damn healthy outlook while I dip another double stuff Oreo into the milk and toss it into my mouth.

Now I’m in a real conundrum because the joy of shoveling in calories has waned and I’m feeling down, and when I’m down I habitually look toward food to lift me up.

This cannot be good.

So I’m forced to do the unthinkable…find something besides eating to make me happy and fill the hours.

Yes, I know there are millions of things besides consuming edibles, yet I’ve never considered them an appropriate substitute for good old chocolate.

So I shall wrack my brain compiling a list of productive pastimes. Hopefully after a few weeks of practicing a wholesome lifestyle, my taste buds will return to normal and welcome some fried cluck with biscuits or an oink lettuce and tomato sandwich or a fake whopper with real bacon and Burger King’s less than stellar French fries.

After all, one must keep hope alive and in the age of COVID, perhaps that’s the best we can hope for, besides curbside pick up of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How The Hell Did I Get This Old?

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How The Hell Did I Get This Old?

If I ever get my hands on Father Time he’ll pay big time for schlepping me kicking and screaming into the so-called Golden Years.

Did you ever notice that life is like a roll of toilet paper? The closer you get to the end the faster it goes. So you’re asking yourself if I’m comparing life to toilet paper, which would be the obvious conclusion and yet you’d be wrong. Life is far more complex than paper and the ability to explain or analyze it as a phenomenon is for wiser minds than mine.

However that said, life isn’t without its moments of perplexing and insufferable crap, but I shall choose the high road and say that as one nears the end of the journey we are left with a conundrum…if we were given the chance for a do over, would we?

So as we face the goldest part of our golden years filled with wisdom, experience and a sheer and flagrant who-gives-a-damn-anymore attitude are we truly prepared to jump back on for another ride on the scariest merry go round of all, youth?

Of course most agree that another shot at life would be counterproductive if we couldn’t do the do over with the information we’ve garnered from this ride, so I’d probably wonder if it were worth making that journey without benefit of what I’ve learned and even a few lifeline calls to a friend along the way.

Not sure I’d want to go through natural childbirth again, but I hope next time around I’d opt for an epidural from their conception until they finish high school.

Ah, but would I, you see that’s the rub, because who’s to say one wouldn’t make even worse decisions than before and find an even more challenging life waiting as we begin again?

And of course what a journey it is and the trite and misguided belief that we’d do things differently given the chance doesn’t hold much water for the simple reason most of us never do when we are given the chance every day.

That’s the catch of course. We wake up each morning more wise and experienced than the day before, at least that’s the theory, and yet most of us cling to the same paradigms and behaviors that have created our lives.

Larry David one of the most gifted and out-there comic minds of my generation took on this topic on Seinfeld in the fifth season. Entitled The Opposite, Jerry proposes the theory to George Costanza, “If every instinct you have is wrong than the opposite would have to be right.”

In simplicity there is genius. Of course when he enacts this new mindset his life changes for the better and all is well for George.

Yet, although this seems like a great solution done in a comic forum, we actually are faced with this choice each day. In the end it can work to a degree, but the problem may be that just doing the opposite is not always an option.

Not every choice in life is black and white, up or down, yes or no. So many of the decisions we make are sideways and complex, requiring so much more than a simplistic way of thinking.

Doing the opposite doesn’t mean choosing one thing over another because it can also pertain to behavior choices.

If you walk down the street with your head down, perhaps you might try lifting it up, saying hello and smiling at passersby. I’m not certain that would change your life, but because someone may have needed your smile that day to make a life changing decision of their own it was a good decision. May even garner you a few positive karma points.

So in the end often what we do doesn’t just affect us alone.

If we have the chance for a do over every day of our lives how many actually embrace the opportunity? Since I can’t find any study done on the issue I’ll surmise not many.

Every experience in our lives is the opportunity for change and growth. A lesson learned either to be embraced or discarded and we make that choice constantly.

The answer to whether or not you’d live your life over isn’t yes or no, it’s have you been doing that already.

I’m a firm believer in instinct. That little feeling or whisper in the pit of your stomach that tells you when something isn’t kosher. Of course so many of us just tell the voice saying, “don’t do it,” to shut up and go blindly ahead only to regret our decision later.

What in the world would ever make us think that simply coming back into the world starting anew would be different, whether or not we had prior knowledge?

I’ve heard people say, “so and so has great instincts.” So begs the question did they actually hone them or were they some sort of cosmic gift to allow them to make better choices. Perhaps it’s a bit of both in the end, but I do believe that it’s never too late to change.

I as many others have made some pretty pretty bad choices in my life and of course we all pay a price. Very few of us escape unscathed from our own bad decisions yet too many continue to act on instincts that have proven unwise in the past.

I needn’t list them because I have neither the time nor enough memory in my computer, but we all have our own little box of bad choices to rummage through.

Since I’m actually so much older than I ever thought possible I’ve decided to use my situation for the best. From now on I’m opposite Norma and I shall indulge myself in a bit of an experiment. When faced with a choice I’ll simply ask what would I usually do and create an option quite out of character. Will it work? Who knows, because in the end I believe some choices are made for us somewhere in some cosmic storehouse that contains the road map for our life. Yes we have free will, or do we? That’s a question neither old Norma nor opposite Norma would even attempt to answer.

So because getting old allows for a what-the-hell attitude toward life, I’m game for most things now. Although there’s tons of new scary stuff out there in this crazy world I have to remind myself it’s no different for any generation.

We are all born into one world and wind up leaving another.

So have fun and try something new or choose not to, your choice.

Getting old has many benefits, not the least of which is not giving a damn what anyone says and doing exactly as you choose. We fear no one and we ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Just don’t tell your children what you’re up to and have a ball.

 

 

 

 

I’m Speechless So I Guess Hell Froze Over

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I’m Speechless So I Guess Hell Froze Over

For those who know me and would never have fathomed I’d ever run out of things to say, I must announce that the day is finally here. Hell froze over and I’m speechless, dumbfounded and can’t even think of anything to write about.

This of course is no surprise because in order to find new and interesting things to say you need to live your life out in the world. Since that is something I can’t do right now thanks to COVID, what is new and exciting to report?

The world is an interesting place when you’re in it, but since we’re forbidden from venturing forth into the outside climes, well I have to admit it’s a bit boring.

Sure I could watch television and moan about the people going out sans mask, partying and spreading the virus to innocent people. Freedom schmeedom, because we’re free can we explode a bomb in a crowded theater? I think not.

Or perhaps I could bitch about the fact that the geniuses that run the states and cities are letting criminals out of jail so they can go on killing, raping and committing crimes in a safer environment. Should I sleep better at night knowing that someone who raped ten women is not in danger of catching the virus?

Maybe we can talk about the fact my hair looks awful, my nails are non-existent and my roots are growing faster than a politician’s lies.

We could talk about these things I suppose, but why? Life is depressing enough right now.

I’m well aware sitting home, watching television and eating isn’t a hardship, although most men would be far happier if their television schedule included sports. Sorry about that, guys. There are worse things than staying at home, sitting on the patio reading a book, feeding the squirrels and zooming with your grandchildren all day.

Yet, I’m afraid these activities don’t really make for very interesting conversation.

How many times can you ask a friend, “So what did you eat for lunch?” I sound like my father who felt monitoring his children’s caloric intake was akin to brushing your teeth each day.

I imagine one could ask, “So what did you buy online today?” Yet truly having Amazon deliver a box of Softsoap isn’t the most sparkling topic.

Besides who needs to shop when were all in our pajamas and sweats?

Okay, so here’s the deal…I’m making up a pretend life. After all I’m a writer and should have a vivid imagination so now’s my time to prove it. I’m going to tell you about the week I wish I’d had, but couldn’t because I can’t leave the damn house!

So in my imagination I’m in Roma. Italy, not Ohio. I didn’t need a plane to fly there because I took a magic carpet that I borrowed from a friend down the street who just returned from her pretend trip to Istanbul. Maybe I’ll fly there next week, no masks and lots of empty seats beside me on the rug.

Anyway we’re back in Rome and I’m walking toward the Spanish Steps. Boy, those are high and my feet are already complaining. I decide to sit for a moment observing all the thousands of people walking about in the square hurrying toward their next destination or favorite outdoor café for the world’s most delicious pasta.

Ahead of me is the Via del Corso, the premiere shopping area in Rome and women rush about carrying bags labeled Fendi, Gucci and Dior as their heels clackity clack on the cobblestone streets.

In the distance are the hills of Rome; magical and legendary like a painting by an old master.

Two kids walk by eating cones with gelato dripping down the sides, their mother wiping their hands as they struggle to keep licking their precious treat.

Four young men are standing at the base of the steps speaking Italian, smoking, laughing and checking out women as they pass. Italian men, gotta love ‘em. Some women pretend not to notice, but smile as they walk past flattered to be noticed and admired. I think how nice it would be to be young again as I pull out my phone and check Vatican tour times.

I grab a cab and head to St. Peter’s Basilica to see the impressive statue of St. Peter, his feet shiny and worn from all the pilgrims who’ve rubbed them in a desperate attempt to garner his blessings and help.

I stare up at the magnificent dome created by Michelangelo and I’m stunned by the way it catches the light filling the space with color.

To my left is a small alter containing two confessionals of dark, ancient wood. As I get closer I notice the worn steps at their entrances where so many have entered to ask forgiveness and a blessing.

I’m in line to enter the Sistine Chapel and look around at the unbelievable splendor of St. Peter’s Square filled with tourists, priests, nuns and worshippers from all over the world.

Some obese guy I’m guessing from New Jersey by his accent, in Bermudas and Adidas bumps into me and almost pushes me over as a bird poops on my shoulder. Damn, I just had this pashmina cleaned and I search for a Kleenex in my purse.

Ecstasy returns in the chapel as I’m instantly stunned by the sheer magnificence of the space. My eyes hardly know where to focus first. I sit on a bench and look up confused about what side to stare at and my eyes become glued to Adam and God nearly touching. I sit transfixed until I hear a loud clap accompanied by a loud shush. I return to earth and notice the room is still and wonder what’s happening. I continue to stare and in another twenty minutes the clap and shush once again.

I inquire about this strange incident to a nearby observer and I’m told it’s the Sistine Chapel shusher who regularly claps and shushes to reduce the noise level. I decide to apply for that plum job as soon as I leave and remain staring upward until my aching neck insists it’s had enough of all this magnificence.

I head out to an inviting restaurant in Rome’s ancient, Jewish ghetto to experience another Roman culinary masterpiece. My fat self is praying they have good stuffed squash blossoms as taxis and people whiz by me on the busy streets, overflowing with bougainvillea and the sound of clinking glasses and murmurs of “chin chin.”

I’ve left Rome and now I’m back from my adventure sitting on my couch, typing in my jammies and wondering if there are any of those yummy zucchini chips left over.

I’m wishing to see Rome again someday when all this craziness is only a horrible memory and life returns to whatever it will be. As long as Rome is still there, I’m good.

Happy travels on your own magic carpet, everyone.

 

Spinach Ricotta Balls

 

1 package 32 ounces of ricotta cheese.

1 package of spinach fresh or 2 boxes of frozen (if frozen squeezed out well)

Salt

½ cup of Parmesan Reggiano

A pinch of nutmeg

2 eggs

1 tablespoon flour

Spaghetti sauce (optional)

 

Drain the ricotta cheese in cheesecloth over a bowl until dry

Pour the ricotta into a bowl and add spinach.

Mix two eggs in a separate bowl. Add salt and at this point you may add a dash of your favorite Italian seasoning like basil or oregano to the eggs. This is your choice.

Add eggs to the ricotta and spinach and mix then add flour and mix until just incorporated.

Form into balls

At this point you may do a few things as you choose.

First add the balls to boiling water and cook until done and floating. Then serve them with sauce of your choice. May be tomato or make a sauce of brown butter and sage by melting butter in a pan with fresh sage leaves until the butter turns a golden color and smells nutty.

Second you may cook the balls in tomato sauce in the oven sprinkled with cheese. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Sinatra Gave Us “Cool”

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Sinatra Gave Us “Cool”

So we’ve all had lots of time to watch Netflix and all the rest of the streaming services that have little by little replaced network television in our hearts.

One of the things I love so much about this new entertainment chapter is the seemingly endless supply of new and interesting programming available any time night or day.

Last night at 9:30 as I crawled into bed, plumped my pillows and pulled the comfy quilt up underneath my chin, I began the flipping process hoping to land on something new and wonderful to capture my attention and escape the unpleasant reality of our COVID-covered world.

And there it was, right up front on Netflix, Sinatra, All or Nothing at all.

If there are two things my generation never seems to tire of it’s waxing nostalgic and Frank Sinatra.

So of course I began the journey of his life from birth to the end and although I had heard most of it thousands of times, I was transfixed once again.

After I’d finished watching the two-part series in tears of course, I wondered what it was about this man that so captivates and sustains our interest.

Oh yes of course we’ve had numerous superstar singers in our lifetimes, Elvis, John Lennon, Barbra, Mathis, Sammy Davis Jr. and they’ve all managed to attain legendary status.

But they just weren’t Sinatra, he was truly an original.

So why was he different? There are many reasons he’s been set apart, but one I think stands out for me…he bridges the gap between our childhoods, our rebellious teen years and our coming-of-age adulthood. His highly publicized ups and downs were out there to see and learn from.

Frank followed us through every stage of Baby Boomer life. It’s as if he arrived first to set the stage and then set the bar for cool.

Sinatra created cool. He was the very embodiment of the word and everything he touched absorbed the “coolness” from him. He and the Rat Pack even made a tacky place like Las Vegas cool. So much so that as a comedian playing Vegas for the first time I cried when I looked up and saw my name under Dean Martin’s on the marquis on the Strip.

Despite the fact he was our parents’ age, we still liked him, watched his movies and bought his records. Of course at the time we didn’t realize that one of the reasons we would not only embrace him as an artist and come to respect him as a person was that he had conquered life on his own terms.

He’d been repelled by racism and done something about it, he’d shown unbelievable loyalty to his friends, many of whom didn’t show up for him during the bad times, he’d been flawed and filled with faults, but compensated by possessing an incredible human side too endearing to ignore. He was simply his own man and no one owned or controlled him.

He didn’t worry about social norms, other’s insecurities or allowing anyone to set his limitations. He was in a word, Sinatra, and that word became a verb for our generation.

Despite mistakes he fought his way back to the top achieving even greater success and sang about high hopes and that little ant that could move a rubber tree plant. We believed him because why wouldn’t we, he was Sinatra? The man was a legend and yet just a regular Joe from Hoboken.

An ordinary guy who now hung with the 400 Newport set. He’d been at the forefront of Jack Kennedy’s election, a president we idolized. He could walk the streets of Harlem and relate to the people struggling to make it out and his humanity always shown through.

He was a strong force and didn’t need Facebook or Twitter to broadcast his message or retain fame. We didn’t have social media to point out all the shortcomings of our heroes and I’m thinking we were much the better for that.

He showed us another side of entertainers we loved like Sammy, Dean or Peter. If you hung with Sinatra and had his blessing, you had ours.

He lived the way so many wished they could. While most of us got up, went to work, raised our families, clipped coupons and wondered how actresses stayed so thin, he was Sinatraing his way through life. Dating beautiful women, hopping on planes to exciting destinations at a moment’s notice, hobnobbing with the most interesting and glamorous people in the world while doing the work he loved. He was living the Hefner dream, and men salivated while women found a strange, dreamy escape just hearing his voice.

Sinatra made no apologies, yet he acknowledged his mistakes and regrets, and like all of us he was incredibly human while creating the impression he wasn’t at all.

In the age of Superman who disguised as Clark Kent could leap tall buildings in a single bound, Sinatra leapt over convention and life’s obstacles to “do it his way.”

We never had any illusions about being Superman and those who attempted flying wound up in hospital emergency rooms with broken limbs. Yet somewhere deep inside we all believed we could be Sinatra. Cool, persistent, and able to leap over life’s insurmountable hurdles, while remaining hip and happening no matter what life threw our way. He wasn’t politically correct and shamelessly adored women and called them “dolls,” but that was a different era and he was a man of his times.

I was never lucky or perhaps unlucky enough to meet him, (that whole taboo about meeting our idols) but when I was the editor of the newspaper in Beverly Hills I attended a party after he was gone that Barbara Sinatra threw at his home in Palm Springs. I stood in the billiard room scanning the photos of the Rat Pack and others who’d held one of the pool cues lined up on the wall, glazed over like someone in a room filled with famous ghosts.

A final point, I was with friends in Miami when I was twenty-one years old. One night we went to Jilly’s hoping to catch a glimpse of Frank and his friends at one of their favorite haunts.

No we didn’t see The Voice or any members of the Rat Pack that night, but I had the best Egg Foo Young I’ve ever eaten. Yes, for those who know me, and how much I love food I reiterate, best anywhere anytime!

All I can say is leave it to Frank Sinatra to know where to get the best Egg Foo Young. But of course when you’re that cool, you would, right?

Crispy Chocolate Egg Foo Young

 

6 eggs

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1 cup almonds

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chocolate chips (may use semi sweet, milk, dark or white as you prefer)

Beat eggs and add all ingredients. Pour into ¼ inch canola oil mixed with 1 tablespoon butter. Fry until crispy on both sides.

Serve with melted chocolate sauce.

Melted chocolate sauce

1 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels

½ cup milk chocolate morsels or block form

1 cup cream

1 teaspoon of rum flavoring or champagne whatever you choose. This is optional if you want it family friendly.

Heat cream until hot, but not boiling and pour over chocolate then mix until melted. Add liquor of your choice, and mix.

Pour over chocolate Egg Foo Young or any dessert you wish.

 

 

 

 

 

Are We There Yet, Mommy? Are We There Yet, Daddy?

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Are We There Yet, Mommy?

Are We There Yet, Daddy?

As every parent knows, the most annoying question bar none is, “are we there yet?”

How many of us have had to sit in the car and listen to that question ad nauseum from their children?

Okay my turn…Are we there yet, is COVID gone?

I am sooo over this whole hanging-in-the-house thing. I’ve been patient, stayed put watching Netflix, ate healthy and took walks.

Now I’ve morphed into shoveling in chocolate chip cookies and popcorn and spend more time flipping channels than watching programs.

Although I know the vaccine will be here in October, what will that mean?

The older generation won’t be running out to get stuck until they watch to see if anyone drops dead.

We’re too old to be guinea pigs and we’d rather watch from the sidelines than jump into the game. Besides jumping isn’t an option when you need a walker or cane and are still doing physical therapy for your new knee or hip.

So how will we ever get back to normal?

Aha! That’s the rub because even when we get out of lockdown, captivity or self-imposed quarantine the world we once knew is no longer there.

I feel like Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode when after a nuclear war he finally had all the time in the world to read his books unencumbered and he broke his glasses.

The pre-COVID world was a different place and especially senior citizens will have to accept that the world they knew is gone.

So what will replace the old world?

Well, COVID is not the lynchpin that created the changes, it only intensified what was already transforming.

Ever since 9/11 we’ve had to face the fact that the freedom of movement we’ve always enjoyed since the advent of air travel has been severely restricted.

Terrorism impeded our ability to run amuck along with our own aging bodies.

Sure we figured out a way to get that new hip, but we haven’t figured out a way to see London Bridge without a lunatic running up and stabbing people. Or walking through a German Christmas market without crazies attacking, attending a concert or sightseeing in Madrid or Nice or any number of insane events we’ve witnessed.

I haven’t mentioned Israel because terrorism is a way of life for them and something one accepts when they head there for a visit.

Yet impediments aside we’ve grabbed our passports, packed our carry on and bitten the bullet. We’ve become the “oh-well-what-will-be-will-be” generation and decided that our priority was to live, travel and see the world despite the obvious risks.

So what’s changed? Plenty.

We once believed that after those trips to London, Rome, Vienna or Prague, visits to Singapore, China or Viet Nam we’d return home to our safe perch in America.

Sure, crime existed, but we felt safe and secure in front of our televisions watching baseball and munching on chips and guacamole while running outside to check the ribs on the grill.

Guess that’s over. America is not the same country now.

After COVID most assume we’ll just go back to business as usual, unscathed and unafraid.

Sorry, we need a reality check here. Cities are burning, law and order is in flux and familiar sights and sounds in our communities are gone.

Neighbors who once disagreed over which football team would prevail now refuse to talk to one another over politics.

Families have separated, friendships been destroyed, cities are in chaos, favorite businesses closed, entire sections of communities burned and boarded up.

It’s like walking out of your house after a nuclear holocaust and into a city in ruins.

Am I exaggerating? Actually I’m not sure, but I hope I am. I’m also from Detroit where it took 53 years to bring back a city torn to shreds and resembling London after the blitz, so there’s that.

So many people I know have said they are through traveling and will be staying closer to home.

Yes, cocooning is the new norm. People will entertain in their houses, man caves and she sheds will become palatial and so well appointed the Four Seasons will pale by comparison.

Media rooms will be enhanced and back yards will feature the same elements as the most fabulous five star resorts.

Lush landscaping, pools and recreational games will fill what once was a grass-filled area.

In case anyone doubts that things have changed just do an attitude check on your own friends.

Everybody is just a little bit crankier than they were four months ago. Oh sure everyone is trying to be so brave and double chins up (that would be as a result of the COVID 15 pound gain) but we all know we’re totally over this and ready to break out.

Actually, that’s the irony. After the initial run outside to our cars, faster than a racer at the Indy 500 I’m sure, and that visit or two to the mall, lunch with friends and dinner out on Saturday night, one news story about a rise in crime and we’ll all be hanging in the man cave watching football and sucking down beers like it’s Superbowl Sunday every weekend.

I’ve promised myself I’ll travel more and have my destinations all picked out, but will my will be diminished by a new terrorist attack or perhaps a few new cases of the virus popping up? Or maybe by China unleashing some new plague from some bat they’ve been harboring in a lab somewhere?

The world has changed dramatically and although we all want to believe that once we can hit the ground running we will, our habits have changed and we may not.

We now order Amazon and watch Netflix on that new 80-inch smart TV, we love that new patio furniture and those plans for an outdoor kitchen like our best friends just installed.

Whether we’ve realized it or not we’re now conditioned to staying close to home where we feel safe and secure against an onslaught of insanity that permeates the outside world.

When the virus is gone, that will be gone, but it won’t take with it the other tragic changes we’ve witnessed in our communities and that is what will ultimately define our new lifestyles.

Are we there yet? Perhaps soon, but where we’ll be when we get there, now that remains to be seen.

   Champagne Grape and Almond Chicken

4 chicken breasts or boneless thighs

flour for dusting

½ cup of champagne

½ cup seedless red grapes

½ cup seedless green grapes

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup of chopped celery or bok choy

1 ½ cups of heavy cream

½ teaspoon of tarragon

salt and pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour

Sauté chicken in a mix of butter and oil until done

Add celery or bok choy or both and sauté for a few minutes, but keep the crunch in the vegetables

Remove chicken and set aside

Add champagne and deglaze pan then add cream, grapes, tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.

Lower heat and simmer until cream coats back of a spoon. High heat will break the cream and ruin the dish. Always thicken cream sauces on a low heat and never boil.

Add back chicken and reheat then serve immediately with almonds on the top.

 

 

 

 

 

From Clarabell to COVID-19. Have Baby Boomers Come Full Circle?

spaghettipie

 

 

From Clarabell to COVID-19.

Have Baby Boomers Come Full Circle?

As a child, Wednesday was my favorite day. Why? Well as any Baby Boomer knows that was “Anything Could Happen Day.”

This piece of information means little to anyone under seventy of course, but to my generation not privy to the wonders of Alexa and Instagram, “Anything Can Happen Day” meant mystery, excitement and something unique was about to enter our unsophisticated worlds.

For those of you who don’t remember and I’m sure you’re few, “Anything Can Happen Day” was the weekday on the Mickey Mouse Club when we could be surprised by a guest, adventure or anything out of the ordinary.

The other days we pretty much knew what to expect. Monday was “Fun With Music” Tuesday was the guest star, Thursday was “Circus” and Friday was “Talent Round Up.” We were also treated to serials like Spin and Marty, Corky and White Shadow, Annette, The Hardy Boys, all shows we anticipated and watched faithfully? Okay, why?

Was it merely because we secretly longed to be Mouseketeers or Meesketeers like Cubby and Karen? Were the Mooseketeers, Roy and Jimmy with his “mouseguitar” so appealing? Beats me, but I’d love to hear some thoughts and opinions about why we were so dedicated to those mouse ears.

As you probably guessed I have some theories or I wouldn’t have brought this up in the first place.

I think it was partly the thrill of belonging to something that was not only featured on that great new innovation that possessed us called television, but also that these kids were our age.

Our worlds back in the fifties were very small and protected. Most families had one car and we walked to school. Our friends were in our own neighborhoods and within walking distance, which is why we socialized with kids on our block.

Suddenly there was this new great invention that took us to worlds far away with people outside our sphere.

We became interested in their lives and adventures and felt a part of some strange new unique planet we could reach by simply turning a knob.

The Mickey Mouse ears were a symbol of something beyond ourselves and outside our comfort zones that made us feel energized and curious.

We were joiners back then, Soupy Sales had his Birdbath Club with its membership card and we could also buy and wear our own mouse ears.

We were cub, brownies, girl and boy scouts and this belonging seemed to come natural to us.

The delight in the assurance the world was far larger than our small corner made us hunger for more.

After we outgrew the Mouse, and I’m not certain we ever really did because Disney has remained a big part of all our lives, it was all about American Bandstand.

We rushed home from school to watch ABC’s daily dose of teen addiction as all the regulars danced their way through the show. There was a guest singing and chatting with Dick Clark or as I refer to him, the Dorian Gray of our generation. That man never aged and although he was a nice man I’m sure he had a picture in the attic somewhere that was growing old while he stayed young.

Just like the Mickey Mouse years we reveled in the feeling of being a part of the Bandstand phenomenon and bought magazines to keep up with the lives of regulars like Pat Molittieri, Justine Carrelli, Bob Clayton, Arlene Sullivan, Kenny Rossi and Carole Scaldeferri.

Wow! I’m freaking out right now that I remembered those names without having to look them up. Please don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday but fifty years ago, no problem. Actually the sixties are much clearer to me now than when I lived them.

But I digress.

What does it say about our generation that we were so willing to leap on the bandwagon and embrace Howdy Doody, Soupy, Micky and Bandstand?

Can we judge it as negative or was it truly one of the most positive things we ever encountered?

Okay, I’m going with positive here and not just because all my readers know how I feel about Black Tooth and White Fang.

Those early shows actually shaped our characters more than we knew and the lessons were subliminally woven through the fabric of our lives.

First, we became eager participants in society. Our experiences with these shows or the clubs they offered were positive reinforcement for the importance of being a part of something greater that existed outside oneself.

Second, it provided a better sense of the vastness of the universe. Our worlds were small and contained, but we were suddenly able to travel to distant lands and observe places that offered us new adventures in addition to reading. Sure, we had the cardboard spaceship of Flash Gordon, but no one was buying that whole flying-through-space-on-that-primitive- paper-cutout were they?

Third, it taught us that knowledge could be obtained anywhere. Outside of the schoolroom we continued to learn and grow as individuals.

And perhaps one of the most hidden and obscure subliminal messages came from Clarabell, Howdy’s favorite clown. No, I haven’t lost what’s left of my mind. Although he could only honk his horn to converse we realized that speech isn’t the only path to understanding and communication, and often we need to listen with our ears, instincts and at times our hearts.

We also discovered that “Anything Can Happen Day” is not only a metaphor for life because each day is unknown, but something we should embrace and if we’re open to the unexpected many amazing journeys await us.

There was nothing overt about these lessons and they seeped into our souls without our awareness they’d found a home. Yet they colored our lives, helped create the people we became and still today remain part of whom we are.

So by now you’re wondering how COVID-19 enters into this discussion. Well sadly it seems to have brought us full circle.

All the lessons of our childhoods that propelled us out into the world to travel, socialize and absorb are now stifled by this horrible invader that has us locked down. Once again we are watchers in front of the television and sadly at a time when most of us are free and able to move about in the world.

Okay, so it’s a flat screen nowadays and a great deal larger than the twelve-inch RCA black and white, but we’ve returned to living vicariously once again.

We must be content with travelogues instead of that trip to Tuscany we planned. We watch that chef prepare his special lobster bisque instead of visiting his restaurant in New York to taste it first hand.

We watch the Disney channel to keep up with our grandchildren’s favorite new shows, talk about coming full circle that damn mouse never left.

Sure, we’re back in front of the television again and of course there are far more options than the couple of channels we had as kids, but we’re prohibited from socializing, traveling or seeking those adventures we were programmed to undertake and embrace.

So life has changed and I know I’m not the only one anxious to get back out and live.

So please Clarabell, honk your horn for a cure for COVID so we can hear, see, love, live and engage without the need for Netflix.

Spaghetti Pie

1 generous serving of spaghetti cooked

2 eggs

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup of spaghetti sauce

6 Meatballs broken up

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

1-8 ounce package of cream cheese

1 tablespoon of chives dried or fresh

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place your cooked spaghetti in a bowl and add Parmesan cheese and 2 eggs and mix together well. Spray a 10-inch pie pan and place spaghetti inside pushing it up the sides to form a piecrust.

Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for 10 minutes until partially set. Set aside

Mix together your cream cheese and chives.

Scatter meatballs in a layer over spaghetti crust. Cover with a layer of sauce. Dollop the cream cheese on top and sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top.

Roll out piecrust to fit over top of pie pan with enough to tuck edge of crust under rim.

Cut in pie slices and serve hot. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Must Tell Our Grandchildren

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We Must Tell Our Grandchildren

Embracing evil and negativity cannot lead to a positive outcome, but only weave a fabric of unhappiness. We as grandparents need to ensconce our grandchildren in a cloak of optimism and love woven from the memories of our childhoods.

We all really enjoy sharing happy times with one another, but in these turbulent times it seems imperative we leave a memoir behind with our grandchildren for safekeeping.

Words of those who seek to bring down America can’t provide the solutions we need at this moment to achieve that more “perfect union.” Our generation opened the door to freedom and justice and the next can finish what we began.

Now indeed answers are essential, but should be offered up on a platter of peaceful dissent and positive dialogue. Perhaps we can never be the same America, but we can be an improved one. Our grandchildren can build a more perfect union only by using past positives as a framework.

I believe this is an excellent time to be reminded that history is not always spread most effectively through books, but also by stories and memories handed down through generations. Tales told by parents and grandparents become an integral part of our values and color our lives.

Now more than ever I feel compelled to tell my grandsons about what it meant to grow up in 1950s and 60s post-war America.

With so much negative energy spewing about at this moment I’m horrified to think children are engulfed in an atmosphere of incivility and rage thereby believing this is the true measure of our nation.

Although so many young people today assume baby- boomer America can no longer exist as a feasible entity, I submit that without a clear understanding of the past, our grandchildren cannot imagine a blissful future. Is the vision of an America providing a peaceful, happy environment now a dinosaur or an impossible dream?

If you don’t understand history, you can’t relive the best of times or create new, improved ones.

Living in this moment when all that is spoken about this country is disparaging and critical, our real soul and DNA is being buried under a sea of resentment and despair.

I’m sad that our grandchildren are hearing appalling stories about who we are as a people when it’s simply not true. Incivility and injustice are a cancer, but one that can be cured.

I can only compare current times to a divorced couple where one parent assumes control and only espouses hateful and cruel things about the other. The children will eventually absorb only a dark portrait of a parent, who although flawed might also possess good qualities worth emulating. Perhaps a talent never unearthed under a barrage of angry ranting and hated. If those children had known about their inherited potential it may have enhanced their success and future happiness. Thus it is with America.

The accusations being shouted in no way reflect a country filled with good and charitable people who spend their lives working hard, caring for their families and neighbors, and feel fortunate to have been born or emigrated here.

Back when our grandparents or great grandparents came to this country the phrase one heard so often was “the streets of America are paved with gold.” Now they are paved with fury, exaggerations and too many seeking to harm this nation in irreparable ways.

Our grandchildren can only visualize and achieve a greater future if we inform them about the best of the past. To dispute the naysayers we can regale them with tales of a childhood filled with fun, laughter and innocence.

I’m well aware that innocence will be difficult to achieve with the Internet and non-stop television news constantly pointing out our faults and flaws, and yes, of course there are problems to fix. Yet far too many want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and ignore what is good. We have corrected our flaws before and can again. The information highway our grandchildren travel flows two ways and blame is not the vehicle to drive.

Am I being a bit idealistic in your eyes? Perhaps, but that is the result of growing up with access to idealism, something we are withholding from our children. How can one achieve greatness without witnessing and recognizing its true nature?

How can our grandchildren aspire without champions to emulate?

Can they believe all is achievable when only bombarded with allegations that America is no longer the land of opportunity?

Can they feel safe if we succumb to lawlessness and no longer possess respect or regard for authority or those who teach them?

This is not a political issue, but one of character and the ability to live one’s best life. This goal should be important to everyone no matter the politics, color or religion.

Growing up in Detroit I saw things from both sides. When young there was such a sense of safety and security fear was a stranger. Then came the new normal when crime became bigger than life, and trepidation was a constant companion.

I personally felt the impact when I lost a member of my family to street violence, so I know first hand the horror.

Negativity and condemnation won’t allow our children to build a kinder and gentler nation.

Nothing born in such fury can come to good and embracing hate is a recipe for disaster.

Of course out of chaos can come order, but who restores that order is now of major concern.

We lived in a positive and happy time despite discourse, why shouldn’t future generations?

Although our childhoods consisted of numerous negative events, we could learn, grow and move on. Today negativity has woven itself into the fabric of our reality and seems inescapable. I guess I’m calling for all of us who have been fortunate to rip away that cloth and reweave it with love and peace for our children and grandchildren.

When we leave our historical memories will be buried and never spoken again.

We cannot go gently into that good night and take all the good with us. Sharing our childhoods and swimming in the comfortable sea of nostalgia has been cathartic, but why stop with just us if these precious reminiscences inspire our loved ones to achieve wonderful lives?

Telling our stories to those little faces we love so dearly is the greatest inheritance we can pass on and one that will remain to always warm their hearts.

Caramel Make Me Happy Surprises

This easy treat will help cure those Pandemic Blues!

1 bag (approximately) of any flavor of Hershey’s kisses unwrapped

1 bag of Kraft caramels (you can make your own if you wish)

Melt caramels in the microwave or in a double boiler and pour caramel out on a sheet of parchment paper or a cookie sheet until slightly cooled and pliable. Cut the caramel into squares and place a kiss on each. Enfold the kiss inside the caramel and create a ball shape. Roll in chopped nuts or coconut and drizzle with melted white or dark chocolate.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Time Travel? Quick, Book Me a Ticket!

 

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Time Travel? Quick, Book Me a Ticket!

I watched a program last night, (yes I admit I watch a great deal more television now and my IQ is lower I’m sure) on the making of the movie Back to the Future. My family has always been huge Steven Spielberg fans and attended the opening day of every movie. Aside from the good memories, the program prompted the realization no one has been able to conquer time travel and that made me quite sad.

I’ve always believed that Napoleon Hill’s quote, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve,” is valid. Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Da Vinci, Tesla all dreamed dreams far ahead of their time and ultimately time caught up with and surpassed their visions.

Throughout time someone, somewhere sees the future and acts on its creation. Every new invention that ever arrived on the scene seemed to have the ability to be used for good or evil. Case in point Einstein splitting the atom or the Internet.

I guess I’m wondering if and when man ever masters time travel whether it will be too dangerous a genie to let out of the bottle.

At this moment in Bern, Switzerland the Hadron Collider, a humongous machine designed to smash particles and could conceivably create time travel is operating non-stop. Some critics have suggested it’s so powerful it could even destroy earth, (get in line).

What would happen if we could travel backward in time? Who would have the ability and what would it be used for?

Therein lies the conundrum.

If I could change time what would I do and where would I go?

Could I as one person truly affect history and prevent evil events like World War II from happening? When Hitler arose there were many powerful people who saw through him and his agenda. These were leaders with loud significant voices and yet did the world listen to the warnings? I think we all know the answer to that question.

If I personally through some crazy fluke woke up one morning and found a time travel machine in my living room, could I truly be the catalyst to prevent a world-shattering event?

So I’d put on my seat belt and check out the gears on the dashboard then realize I don’t have a clue how to work the damn thing and not even Alexa can talk to it. So I just start pushing buttons until something moves or starts to whir. If I get it started where would I go? I immediately decide to start with 1929 before the stock market crashes thinking that’s a no brainer. Off I go whirring through space and time and wondering if there was something a little sketchy in my last blood pressure prescription as the years fly by.

I land on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in Manhattan outside the New York Stock Exchange.

So there I am standing on the street as the sea of people pass me and I take a beat and

walk into the exchange. I’m greeted by a receptionist who asks me the usual questions and I answer I want to see the guy in charge. She is now eyeing my sweats with enormous suspicion, but directs me to the sixteenth floor.

I’m wondering what I’ll say to someone that doesn’t even have computers yet, who I’m about to tell I’m from the future. Good luck to me.

When I arrive at the president’s office, Edward Simmons, his receptionist does the grilling and I’m desperately trying to avoid stating my real cause for being there.

She picks up the phone to call security and I rush through the door of Simmons’ office where he sits behind a desk reading. He removes his glasses and looks me up and down skeptically.

The secretary rushes in and tells him security is on the way and I know I’m running out of time.

“I’m here from the future and I want to warn you that the stock market is about to crash and everyone will run on the banks and it’ will be chaos and there will be people jumping out of windows and the country will go into a terrible depression for years until World War II and…”

He is standing and looking at me with fear and pity in his eyes. Convinced I’m a nut and certain he needs to get me out quickly.

“You’ll have to leave…”

I’m pleading now. “You have to believe me, I’ve come from the future and I know what’s going to happen. It’s terrible and you can stop it if you just suspend reality and hear me. There weren’t airplanes once but now there are and soon we’ll be on the moon.”

Two guards are dragging me out as he smiles and thinks, Boy, wait till the guys at lunch hear this one. I’ll call her the crazy Moon Lady, yeah they’ll love it.

I head back to my time machine parked in the alley and find two policemen watching the guy load it on a truck. I run to it and they grab me, and now I’m stuck in New York City just before the stock market crash, on my own and possessing only a story that ensures I’ll wind up in Bellevue Psychiatric Ward.

I’d have been better off traveling back to the day Jeff Bezos took Amazon public then borrowed and used every nickel I could get my hands on to buy the stock.

Do we all wish we could go back and change time? Sure. I’d have gone back to before World War II to save my grandmother and aunt from the concentration camps. Pearl Harbor or to prevent Kennedy from driving down that street in Dallas, and all the bad stuff I could think of personal or public. Would anyone pay attention to or believe my rantings?

Of course not.

So what’s the point of time travel?

I imagine on an individual level it might be great; or would it?

I myself would want to go back to growing up in my old neighborhood and revisit the things I’m nostalgic for today. I guess changing anything is off the table because of the butterfly effect, where if you alter one little thing it can cause unforeseen consequences.

Still, I’d love to spend time in the corner drug store at the comic book rack that turned filled with Superman and Archie comics. The soda fountain where the cutest guy in school and the neighborhood heartthrob turned out the best cherry cokes.

The smell of leaves burning at the curb in Autumn or Friday night dances at school then pizza afterward.

Going to Northland Mall on Saturdays and eating a Maurice Salad at Hudson’s, or buying my first lipstick at Kresge’s. Fishing in the everglades with my grandfather, walking on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, or spending summers at camp in Northern Michigan.

Especially, I’d want to celebrate one more holiday with my parents and grandparents.

Yet, although I feel pulled by my heartstrings to go there, if I could how often would I?

And therein lies the rub because ultimately I may be spending more time in the past than in the present.

In today’s world the scary, sad events we witness make us want to escape into safer, easier times.

Think how much we’d use that time travel machine to transport back to those simpler days filled with innocence and hope for the future.

So I guess it’s a good thing no one has cracked that code in Switzerland or I’d sign up immediately. Bet I’d be meeting a whole lot of my friends on that highway heading backwards.

So for now I’ll have to be content to just share my thoughts on my blog and create all new happy memories I can hopefully look back on and want to return to in the future.

 

Marcy F’s Magic Quiche

 

1 egg

¾ cup flour

1 cup milk

1 cup grated cheese (muenster or jack)

¼ cup finely chopped onion

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all ingredients except ½ c milk and one cup of cheese. Beat until smooth and then blend in remaining ingredients.

Pour into well-greased muffin tins.

Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until set.

My friend Marcy made these all the time and everyone just gobbled them up. You can also add some broccoli, mushrooms or bacon to these to make these even more special and varied for a party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Get Off Howdy Doody’s Back

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Just Get Off Howdy Doody’s Back

I never dreamed I’d have to defend Howdy, but I find it beyond endurance to tolerate the smears and snarky comments leveled in the direction of my beloved friend Howdy Doody. Sure it’s easy to just cast aside these slights as ignorance, but that’s how these things get out of hand. So just “say kids, what time is it? It’s Howdy Doody time” and stand up to take a side.

It’s not just Howdy who has been so maligned but all puppets everywhere, and it must end right here and now for us citizens of Doodyville who’d have gladly given up our collections of Archie annuals for a chance to sit in the Peanut Gallery.

I’m not certain when the slight on puppets actually began, but gradually without noticing the word has taken on a negative connotation. It’s an insult to call anyone a puppet and infers someone without a mind or will of their own, dependent on a puppet master to pull the strings and do their thinking and talking for them.

Well, I never! Can you imagine that we are seeing this shift against our beloved puppet friends?

What did Farfel the Dog ever do to anyone besides tell us that Nestle’s makes the very best chocolate? And he wasn’t wrong. I can’t think of anyone I know who’d throw a Nestle’s Crunch Bar out of bed.

Puppet, yes, mindless, I think not.

Shall we even begin to think less of Lamb Chop because she enjoyed such a dependent relationship with Shari Lewis and was such a girly lamb? Don’t even get me started on Rootie Kazootie.

Puppets were a big part of our childhood and brought us enormous enjoyment. Okay, so I could see Howdy’s strings sometimes, but his show brought us hours of great fun characters to enjoy like Buffalo Bob, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, Clarabell or Mr. Bluster, also a puppet.

Would anyone like to say anything negative about Topo Gigio, Eddie Eddie Sullivan’s favorite Italian mouse? I dare you.

Shall we malign Kukla, Fran and Ollie or The Swedish Chef? In case you didn’t know, there was no script for the Kuklapolitans and they ad-libbed on every show. I’d like to see any of today’s human stars open their mouths and sound smart without a writer to tell them what to say. Charlie McCarthy dressed better and was smarter than a great many people tweeting today.

Lest we forget a certain puppet named Senor Wences and his puppet Johnny (actually his hand) that taught us that everything was “all right” and was one of our favorite parts of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Mr. Rogers used puppets, which he created and worked because of a low budget, to teach children about kindness and how to be good people.

Puppets have been entertainers and teachers for centuries, even Punch and Judy, which I guess wouldn’t be considered politically correct today.

No discussion of puppets would ever be complete without the Muppets. Of course Jim Henson’s crew were more my children’s generation, but we watched them as a family and adults got the “inside” jokes. The characters were brilliantly drawn and fleshed out so well they took on a truly human quality.

Miss Piggy taught girls not to underestimate their own strength and abilities, and never take a backseat to anyone.

Kermit was the ringmaster of the circus and as lovable a frog as there ever could be, although let’s face it, it isn’t easy being green.

Now people bandy about the phrase “he’s or she’s a puppet” as some type of universal insult implying a lack of intelligence, will or character.

So by now you’re probably thinking, “What’s your point, Norma?”

I think something needs to be done to protect the good names of our string-attached or hand-dependent friends.

A union would be a perfect solution. The Puppet Union of America or as it would say on our jackets, the PU of A. Being from Detroit, a big union town, my mind just went there immediately. I’m nominating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog as the president and Statler and Waldorf as the Board of Directors. The PU of A would file grievances against those who took the name of Howdy or Cookie Monster in vain and negotiate contracts, collective bargain, plus stage walkouts. Well, I guess walkouts would be a bit tricky but you get the point.

They need to be protected against the slanderous insults of those who have forgotten their glorious past, present and future.

How much less fun the world would be without the Kermies, Mr. Blusters or Kuklas. Without the Topo Gigios how would we ever know how adorable an Italian mouse could be or how strong and tough a woman could be without Piggy?

If the world wants to infer a lack of intelligence, will and character on anyone I suggest they use the word politician. Now that makes much more sense to me. Has a politician ever opened their mouth and said anything smart? Think about it.

And if you don’t believe a puppet can influence the entire world—ever hear of a Jedi Master named Yoda?

Apple Veal Chops in Cream Sauce

6 veal chop tenderloins or chops with bone in can also be used, but cooking time will increase.

2 apples (your choice) peeled, cored and sliced

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

1 ½ cups panko crumbs

1 ½ cups dried apple chips ground up well

1 tbsp butter

1 tablespoon of oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Season veal with salt and pepper and set aside

Put apple chips in the food processor and ground up well, but not too fine. Combine with panko crumbs.

Melt butter and oil in frying pan and dip veal into flour and pat off excess. Dip chops into beaten egg then into panko/apple mixture.

Add to frying pan and sear until golden brown. Remove from pan and place in oven at 350 degrees until internal temperature of 145 degrees is reached.

Add apples and cider to frying pan and sauté apples until fork tender and then add cream. Heat over low heat until cream reduces by one third. Taste sauce and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Add veal back into frying pan and cover with cream sauce and heat through two more minutes until all is combined and warm. Let dish rest for three minutes before serving.

Serve over any pasta, rice or with a mashed potato. Pork may be substituted for veal in this recipe as well.

 

 

 

 

What I Learned From Lunch With Soupy Sales

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What I Learned From Lunch With Soupy Sales

It wasn’t a fancy lunch at the Polo Lounge or Spago, but mostly peanut butter and jelly, lots of Jello that went boing, boing, boing or some tuna fish, but they were the best lunches I’ve ever had. The menu for the next day’s lunch was posted on the blackboard so we could entreat our mother to provide it as well.

I’ve been really fortunate in my life to meet and dine with some pretty incredible people, but I’ll take my memories with Soupy Sales, White Fang, Black Tooth, Willie da Worm, and Pookie over anything. The knowledge I gleaned from the words of wisdom written on the blackboard under the title Soupy Sez were invaluable. Such gems as; “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you,” “Over the teeth and through the gums, look out stomach here it comes,” “When a man writes a song in his automobile, it’s called a cartoon,” “You show me a man who puts his parakeet in the blender and I’ll show you a man who makes shredded tweet,” “Birds are really something to crow about, but a bird in the hand can be a mess,” “Show me a woman who has misplaced her handbag and I’ll show you a tote-all loss,” “Show me a novel caught in a wind storm and I’ll show you a book gone with the wind,” or “Show me a midget king and I’ll show you a twelve-inch ruler.”

Or such informational weather reports on his ancient radio as, “there will be a volcano eruption today so for your own safety learn the words to lava come back to me.”

Add to that learning to dance The Mouse and the Soupy Shuffle and our aerobics were included with lunch.

It wasn’t just learning the skill of taking a pie to the face or being made aware how careful you need to be before opening a door unless you knew the pointed finger or arm waiting on the other side, and in later years a celebrity waiting to get a pie in the face, but the interaction between friends that taught me so much. The pranks, including one infamous time Soupy opened the door to a naked woman we never saw as he fell apart, are still part of the show’s mystique.

Of course White Fang and Black Tooth were the experts at getting one’s point across without the use of intellectual phrases or complex sentences. Just a few shakes of the paw and a couple of familiar grunts were all I needed to get the message and laugh uncontrollably. To this day an imitation of the two extremely vocal hounds can send me into fits of laughter. Perhaps I can credit them with my editing abilities. Thanks guys for jump starting my journalism career.

Of course Willie da Worm as Soupy called him, was a great life lesson as well. Prone to sneezing fits and health issues and the moniker of the sickest worm in all of Detroit, he made me wonder how many other sick worms there were in Motown. The way Soupy delivered his sympathetic offerings to the poor little ailing creature taught me true compassion. It’s one thing to offer empathy to another human being, but the idea of opening my heart to a worm, I have to confess it opened my eyes.

Or constantly telling Black Tooth, the biggest sweetest doggy in the United States, “don’t kiss” as he attempted to untangle himself from her hugs or advising her to drink lots of milk because it gives the cows something to do.

I could double up in hysterics faster at a puppet hand that made noises than at people.

Now Pookie, that was one cute little lion. Always referring to Soupy as Boobie it’s no wonder I love cats so much. And that cat could scat or put on a wig and sing like Petula Clark, okay so sing really badly. I was actually grateful something existed with a voice worse than mine.

White Fang, the biggest, meanest dog in the United States was not only mean, but oh so clever and conniving he never failed to put one over on Soupy. Guess it should have taught me to beware of cute dogs or men with bad intentions.

The guys in the studio snickered at all the puns and bad jokes and sometimes you weren’t quite sure about what. So I also learned the meaning of an inside joke.

Between the insane news reports and future guest stars like Moshe Dyan Canon and Belly Savalas, it was non-stop insanity. Yet, more than anything from watching the interaction between Soupy and the gang, we noticed how Soupy, befuddled look on his face actually listened. Maybe that’s where we learned how.

Yes, the humor was bad shtick and craziness was the order of the day, but we laughed and loved every minute. Half the humor we got, half not so much, but we heard the guys in the studio chuckling so we smiled along. The point is we had a side order of giggles with our lunch. It wasn’t politically correct and it didn’t have the artful writing of a Neil Simon, but it lightened our day and sent us back to school with a full stomach, a full heart and Soupy throwing us a big kiss.

Rustic Onion Galette

6 medium onions sliced

¼ cup of sliced leeks

1½ cups of heavy cream

1 small package (4 oz.) cream cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

½ tea thyme

Pastry large enough for a tart shell puff or regular

½ stick of butter

Olive oil

Add olive oil and butter to frying pan and heat

Add onions, leeks and seasonings and sauté on medium heat until onions are just turning brown and beginning to caramelize. Add cream cheese and cream and continue cooking until cream reduces a little and cream cheese melts through well. Taste and add seasoning if necessary. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in microwave and add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix together and add to cream mixture until thickened.

When done place on pastry and fold sides up leaving a small opening at the top. There is no wrong way to fold a galette just as long as all the sides are folded around the filling. It’s a perfect recipe to be creative. Place it in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until pastry is cooked.

You may also use this recipe for tiny tarts for hors d’oeuvres or add mushrooms to onion sauté and extra half and half or milk and make a delicious soup. Also great with some goat cheese or Gruyere sprinkled on top when warm.

 

 

 

 

 

Is COVID a Scary Glimpse Into and Preparation For The Future?

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Is COVID a Scary Glimpse Into and Preparation For The Future?

Cocooning: staying inside one’s home insulated from perceived danger.

Faith Popcorn, the trends and futurist guru coined the term cocooning in 1981 predicting a trend toward staying at home in lieu of interacting with an increasingly uncertain world. I always thought her theories were fascinating and right on, this one has to be not merely predictive, but downright psychic.

So what does this mean to us as individuals if we prefer to stay inside and interact less with what transpires outside our domain? Will it create a world of hermits living in fur-lined, customized caves? How will it affect what we manufacture, purchase, create and invent? Especially the way we communicate with one another.

Or can we let go of others and forego human interaction for that great new series on Netflix?

According to Popcorn, the places we live will become more minimal with movable multi-use furniture. We won’t even need television screens any longer thanks to Microsoft’s Hololens and other new ways of delivering images directly to our brain. Sales of tiny houses in the US are up 67% already and designers are building new and more interactive homes every day.

The last phase Popcorn mentions is the regenerative phase of cocooning or living in a pod that is wired to anticipate our needs. It’s transportable and can be taken with us wherever we go. Mercedes has already envisioned a live/work space that takes us from location to location guided by a robot.

She predicts 50% of work will be freelance and your robotic kitchen will cater to your nutritional and dietary needs. Your bathroom fixtures and mirror will scan your health and transmit it to your medi-bot to make the required changes in your diet or meds. And what if I still want that Sander’s Hot Fudge? Will I have to battle my robot for a sundae?  Is Big Brother my doctor?

Alexa will be there to listen when you’ve had a rough day and provide a robotic shoulder to cry on. Houses will float on water or be underground as rising sea levels affect millions whose homes will be underwater in high tide. Does that mean ocean front property will be selling super cheap?

I could continue but I suggest you read Popcorn’s report at faithpopcorn.com as it is a fascinating, albeit sometimes scary peak into the not-to-distant future.

Yes, I believe these new technologies and inventions exist, but recent events seem to point otherwise. I may not be an expert on trends, but human nature I know something about. After my last blog I received so many responses from people saying how much they treasure their early memories and having others to share them.

So if human beings are so happy to share and interact with others, why are we going out of our way to create a world where we do neither? I’ve always been under the impression there are two kinds of people; those who love wide-open spaces and the second type that enjoys urban living. My generation, once married seemed to gravitate toward homes with large lots and spacious yards for playing, entertaining and creating a comfortable distance with one’s neighbors. Yet, not too far as there seemed to be a genuine need to have other children for playing and parents with whom to socialize.

It seems incredibly foreign to me after being locked in captivity the last three months that this would become a permanent way of life. I certainly don’t see anyone enjoying the solitude and whoever can is running outside faster than Coyote chasing Roadrunner toward that cliff.

Was Barbra wrong when she sang, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world?”

Or is this a world that will only exist in the memories of those still alive to remember the good old days, when people socialized and interacted with one another?

Recalling a time when we stood in line at crowded movie theaters and at restaurants to dine. When we watched a television show together as a family on that great new, big screen Dad brought home for himself for Mother’s Day?

When we look back it does seem that life has truly changed greatly in the last 75 years since World War II, but the changes to come that are really revolutionary are not that far away now. Tech is moving so quickly one day we’ll blink and that new “modern” kitchen will be as outdated as a Model T Ford.

So I have to ask myself, technology is evolving at warp speed but is mankind? Is there something in all those new gadgets that will alter a human’s need for love, caring and affection? Can we be satisfied with Alexa’s shoulder to lean on when a dream dies, a romance falls apart or we feel hopeless and vulnerable? Is this the way man will evolve, a creature controlled by artificial intelligence sitting in a tiny pod (guess they cure claustrophobia in the future) and having a movie programmed through his brain?

Yipes! I imagine humans will adapt to this new form of existence although I’m glad I won’t have to. I prefer sharing memories with friends, hugging my kids and grandchildren, walking in a beautiful garden and enjoying a meal I’ve prepared with someone special. The future seems awfully lonely and we’ve recently glimpsed into it Zooming, Skyping and Amazoning through today.

I for one will be glad to get out into that scary, unpredictable world once more, because as frightening as it may seem, it beats cocooning, seeking solace from a robot or hiding away forever.

The following is a recipe from a dear friend no longer here. It’s still one of the yummiest. ENJOY!

Malka B’s Strudel

Strudel dough

2 cups flour

½ pound of cream cheese

½ pound butter

½ cup of honey mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

Cream butter and cream cheese and add flour. Knead well

Chill several hours or overnight

Divide into six portions, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about half and hour before rolling out to 14 or 16 inches.

 

Fillings

1 18 oz jar of apricot preserves

1 small package of sweetened coconut

1 small package of walnuts

1 small package of raisins

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

 

You can also use fresh apple slices, raisins walnuts and cinnamon and sugar as a filling and for a new kick add some caramel to the mix.

 

Preheat oven to 350

 

Roll out one portion of dough and brush on a thin layer of honey and water mixture

Spread on a layer of preserves

Sprinkle on a light layer of graham cracker crumbs

Add coconut raisins and walnuts and begin rolling from the bottom up. Seal top together with honey water mixture.

 

Score the top into eight pieces and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet.

 

Bake about 45 minutes until lightly browned.

Cut into pieces and sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dueling Doctors; Who to Believe?

chicken

Dueling Doctors: Who to Believe?

My hands screamed up at me chapped and red from washing and cleaning and begged me to stop with the hand sanitizer already. Every day the story changes! Is it living on surfaces or isn’t it? One week no, next week, yes. What’s with these people and why not say we don’t know so just do everything? I am getting more mixed messages here than from the last guy I dated.

Not only do I wear a mask to get the mail in my own lobby, or to pick up a delivery outside my door, but nothing gets inside without being sprayed, wiped and left to sit for days to avoid any live virus germs from escaping and attacking me in my sleep.

I have even toyed with locking my bedroom door in case they can crawl over the floor into the hallway, slip inside and sneak up on me. Can it climb through windows, maybe open doors? How many powers does this thing have? Maybe it should be a new character in the next Avengers movie? It could play the villain with 19 super powers. Maybe the Hulk could take this thing out?

Paranoia gone wild? I think not! They should make a video and film the virus romping on a beach during spring break.

In case you think I’m the only one who is so germ phobic take a look in the mirror at your new designer mask and matching gloves. Now it’s a damn fashion statement. I hear Prada and Chanel are showing a line of masks on the runway and Alexander McQueen is designing plastic body covers next year.

So now that we have all been trained to wear hazmet suits in our homes and check for corona virus germs trying to climb in our windows or be delivered on a food delivery box, we are told maybe they are not as hardy as we were told. Oh, I’m sorry that was yesterday and today they took it back. Guess they’ve been eating their spinach.

Yesterday as I was wiping down every doorknob and light switch in my home I heard the CDC had determined the disease doesn’t live as long as they thought and it takes more than simply passing someone on the other side of street to catch it. Today the germs have recovered their superpowers and are alive and well on every surface of our homes.

So I must ask myself, what’s the truth and if we ease up on worrying and being paranoid will they change their minds again next week. Is it capable of living a hundred years or more and popping back up to say hello from time to time?

I can see it now, the virus laughing and dancing on those surfaces we now feel safe enough to leave unwiped. Sneaking across the floor while we unsuspectedly watch the second season of Shtisel, unaware that the germs are crawling up the sofa legs in pursuit of our unprotected immune system.

So what should we do while we wait for more contradictions?

I’m well aware that scientists and researchers don’t always agree and I know how many people ridiculed and contradicted Jonas Salk on his quest to create the polio vaccine?

He had naysayers and critics galore, yet his persistence paid off and the world was ultimately saved from a disease that scared me as a child even more than corona does now. Public swimming pools were closed to protect children and adults while parents feared taking their kids to crowded places.

I had nightmares about those scary iron lungs and remember the day I received the vaccine in school. We all lined up and one by one we were handed a sugar cube on a paper cupcake holder with pink medicine squirted over the cube, then the nightmares about the iron lungs disappeared.

When scientists are flummoxed it doesn’t help the confidence of the regular people that are afraid to touch their own refrigerator door. Isn’t it enough the calories are lurking out there to attack us as we are held in captivity with junk food calling our name?

So who and what do we believe? I guess since we don’t know, it’s best to proceed with caution. In the meantime I’m cleaning, spraying, masking and holding my breath when I’m not stuffing my face.

Which unfortunately seems to be most of the time lately.

 

Here is my recipe for Garlic Chicken Enjoy!

 

Easy 40 Clove Garlic Chicken

 

4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks

40 or so cloves of garlic

1 ½ cups whipping cream

½ stick of butter

1cup chicken bouillon

½ cup white wine

Onion powder

Thyme (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken and garlic cloves in a roasting pan and season. Add liquids except whipping cream and melt butter and pour over chicken and garlic. Roast it in a 325-degree oven for an hour or until chicken is fully cooked through.

When done, remove chicken from the pan and scoop out pan juices and then add whipping cream and mix together. Taste and if it needs salt you may add more at this point. You may strain sauce if you wish or enjoy the garlic whole.

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

1 large Yam

1 Large Sweet Potato

Salt

3 tablespoons of butter

Peal and cut up potatoes and boil in salted water until fork tender.

Remove from water and add butter and salt to potatoes.

Using a fork mash them gently until smooth but still chunky.

Enjoy with the chicken and sauce.

 

 

 

 

Two Great Reasons to Hate American Politics

salute.jpg

Two Great Reasons to Hate American Politics

I find it difficult to narrow down my distaste for American politics in so few reasons. I am certain if I let myself I’d find hundreds more. Case in point, Congress, there’s 535 damn good reasons right there. But I’ve promised two and I shall stick to that number. After recent threatening remarks by Senator Charles Schumer on the steps of the Supreme Court I realized that Dorothy was in Kansas no longer. No one would have ever dared disrespect and threaten the court when I was young; it was simply unacceptable let alone ever considered. I have watched as politics in this country have devolved into the evilest and most horrifying experience since the shower scene in Psycho. Make no mistake it is on both sides of the aisle.

The first and probably most offensive reason to me is the plain old-fashioned meanness of the whole process. The political arena has the aura of the wicked witch’s candy-coated house in Hansel and Gretel. Oh sure there’s candy in freedom, but inside awaits the horrible oven where she cooked children. I say this with true regret as I relate the tale of what was a true disappointment in my youth the first time I cast my vote.

I was over-the-moon excited. As a Baby Boomer I had lived through tumultuous times, the 1968 Democratic Convention, Martin Luther King, John, and Robert Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Seven, Watergate, Elvis going into the army, two Darrens on Bewitched, mini skirts and the sheer unattainable skinniness of Twiggy. I was patriotic and excited to become a true member of the club, a voting American about to make my voice heard. I considered it a privilege and an honor, and still do.

I waited in line at the firehouse on my corner and signed my paper to receive my ballot. Back then in primitive times there was paper. I wasn’t certain about how to do it correctly so I asked the woman who’d handed me my ballot for help. She smiled and I pointed to Hubert Humphrey and said, “Do I mark here to vote for him?”

Her face soured immediately and with a chill in her voice that would put an instant end to global warming answered, “If that’s what you want, than I suppose.”

The air immediately left the patriotic balloon I was riding and I fell to earth with a thud. Her tone and look changed the moment from exuberance into ugly and my joy at voting was now colored with negativity.

Oh sure you may say, you were too sensitive. Yes perhaps, but at that time in America I was still foolish enough to believe that we had a right to free speech, free thought and to vote for whomever we pleased without suffering the malice of others. I think that’s why we have the first amendment because our forefathers understood without this freedom there could be no freedom.

Sadly that experience is a Sunday school picnic by today’s standards. A look, a snide remark pale by comparison to what one may suffer today. One may get beaten or worse for their political views now and it seems to be getting worse each day.

Friends and family members have become alienated and people are afraid to exercise free speech. On our college campuses students believe they have the right to silence those with whom they disagree and tragically some turn to violence to exercise that pitiful point of view.

The meanness is palpable and has turned what once was a country where people left their doors unlocked into one where neighbors lock out those with whom they politically disagree. We may not have shared the same points of view, but it never escalated into hatred and violence.

I always thought a healthy discourse between Americans what was made this country so great. We were allowed to argue about what candidate was best, why we thought so and why we believed they deserved our vote. I felt incredibly grateful to be able to speak out when I looked at the Berlin Wall and how oppressive and frightening it was to live under a totalitarianism regime.

The negativity and sheer disrespect for others displayed not only by Americans, but also by our elected representatives has shifted the karma of this country from one where the streets are paved with gold to the old west where shooting someone for interfering with your enjoyment of a beer was acceptable.

Have we become that egocentric that we believe our intellect so far exceeds those with whom we share the common bond of citizenship?

Reason number two deals with something quite different, the right to like or dislike whom we please. I know it may sound a bit simplistic at first, but in reality it truly is not. Human beings are emotional creatures and until the robots take over and the world becomes solely intellectual we will continue to allow our subjective experiences to guide us.

Hence when we vote our emotions play a part. What one finds reprehensible in one politician may seem endearing to another.

It’s how we’re built and we could no longer change this part of ourselves than find a gas station charging twenty cents a gallon.

We bring our biases into every decision we make. We decide what we like, whom we like and how we will live our life based on previous life experience accumulated through years of living. It’s who and what we are.

If we had a friend we liked and she always wore a certain color red sweater perhaps we’ll be receptive to that shade of red our entire life. Happy memories color our decisions as well as bad ones.

It’s for this reason we may choose to shun someone or take an instant dislike or embrace someone at first meeting. It happens all the time. I am certain this is also true of politicians. Why we may like or dislike them.

Does one perhaps remind you of a teacher you hated in school, a favorite uncle that always showered you with great gifts, or maybe even a neighbor that passed out the best Halloween candy. We have long forgotten the why of our bias, but it has become so engrained in us, it’s unconscious.

If someone chooses to vote or not vote for a politician we like they may have good reason for their decision. The choice may even be an emotionally driven one of which they aren’t even aware. On an emotional level it’s pointless to argue and that level so many times is far more powerful than intellect.

Hating someone for their feelings or bias based on their experience is foolish. It’s like saying I hate you because you’re too educated. That is so un-American. The diversity of this country is what makes it so unique and special. Remember the whole melting pot analogy?

We are all special, and as Americans entitled to think and speak as we please, unless of course that speech may bring harm to others. We are a charitable country that always reaches out to those in times of need.

During Katrina did anyone say I want my donations to go only to a democrat or republican?

When Kennedy died did anyone care about party affiliation as we sobbed shamelessly on one another’s shoulder?

I guess I’ll sum up this blog with a wonderful story from World War I about what is now referred to as the Christmas Truce of 1914. In his book, Silent Night, by Stanley Weintraub, he recounts the story and the following are excerpts.

“All was jarringly quiet on the Western Front when a British sentry suddenly spied a glistening light on the German parapet, less than 100 yards away. Warned that it might be a trap, Brewer slowly raised his head over the soaked sandbags protecting his position and through the maze of barbed wire saw a sparkling Christmas tree. As the lieutenant gazed down the line of the German trenches, a whole string of small conifers glimmered like beads on a necklace.

“Brewer then noticed the rising of a faint sound that he had never before heard on the battlefield—a Christmas carol. The German words to “Stille Nacht” were not familiar, but the tune—“Silent Night”—certainly was. When the German soldiers finished singing, their foes broke out in cheers. Used to returning fire, the British now replied in song with the English version of the carol.

When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.

“Not every fighting man, particularly those who had just seen comrades killed in action, felt moved by the Christmas spirit. Gunfire continued to be exchanged in certain locations along the front, and in some unfortunate cases soldiers were killed by enemy fire as they emerged from the trenches in the hope for a day of peace. The unsanctioned truce concerned high-ranking officials, afraid that their men might lose the will to fight, and outraged others, including one young German corporal who would launch the next world war. “Such a thing should not happen in wartime,” Adolf Hitler scolded his fellow soldiers. “Have you no German sense of honor left?”

“As the sun set on Christmas, the fighters retreated to their respective trenches. A few ceasefires held until New Year’s Day. In most locations, however, the war resumed on December 26. At 8:30 a.m. in Houplines, Captain Charles Stockwell of the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers fired three shots into the air and raised a flag that read “Merry Christmas.” His German counterpart raised a flag that read “Thank you.” The two men then mounted the parapets, saluted each other and returned to their sodden trenches. Stockwell wrote that his counterpart then “fired two shots in the air—and the war was on again.”

“The guns of World War I did not fall silent again until the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. The Christmas Truce, however, provided an unforgettable memory for many such as the British soldier who confessed in a letter the following day, “I wouldn’t have missed the experience of yesterday for the most gorgeous Christmas dinner in England.”

Regrettably, this is a story that probably couldn’t happen in today’s world. The heartfelt yearning for love, home and family these soldiers exhibited exceeded politics and penetrated the very soul and essence of humanity.

How tragic that we, citizens of the greatest country in the world cannot put aside our hate and intolerance to respect the political opinions of others.

I know what my Christmas wish would be this year; that we all find a way back to love and brotherhood in the purest form and stop the ceaseless hate and anger. As Americans we share too much good to turn it all so bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Great Reasons to Hate American Politics

 

I find it difficult to narrow down my distaste for American politics in so few reasons. I am certain if I let myself I’d find hundreds more. Case in point, Congress, there’s 535 damn good reasons right there. But I’ve promised two and I shall stick to that number. After recent threatening remarks by Senator Charles Schumer on the steps of the Supreme Court I realized that Dorothy was in Kansas no longer. No one would have ever dared disrespect and threaten the court when I was young; it was simply unacceptable let alone ever considered. I have watched as politics in this country have devolved into the evilest and most horrifying experience since the shower scene in Psycho. Make no mistake it is on both sides of the aisle.

The first and probably most offensive reason to me is the plain old-fashioned meanness of the whole process. The political arena has the aura of the wicked witch’s candy-coated house in Hansel and Gretel. Oh sure there’s candy in freedom, but inside awaits the horrible oven where she cooked children. I say this with true regret as I relate the tale of what was a true disappointment in my youth the first time I cast my vote.

I was over-the-moon excited. As a Baby Boomer I had lived through tumultuous times, the 1968 Democratic Convention, Martin Luther King, John, and Robert Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Seven, Watergate, Elvis going into the army, two Darrens on Bewitched, mini skirts and the sheer unattainable skinniness of Twiggy. I was patriotic and excited to become a true member of the club, a voting American about to make my voice heard. I considered it a privilege and an honor, and still do.

I waited in line at the firehouse on my corner and signed my paper to receive my ballot. Back then in primitive times there was paper. I wasn’t certain about how to do it correctly so I asked the woman who’d handed me my ballot for help. She smiled and I pointed to Hubert Humphrey and said, “Do I mark here to vote for him?”

Her face soured immediately and with a chill in her voice that would put an instant end to global warming answered, “If that’s what you want, than I suppose.”

The air immediately left the patriotic balloon I was riding and I fell to earth with a thud. Her tone and look changed the moment from exuberance into ugly and my joy at voting was now colored with negativity.

Oh sure you may say, you were too sensitive. Yes perhaps, but at that time in America I was still foolish enough to believe that we had a right to free speech, free thought and to vote for whomever we pleased without suffering the malice of others. I think that’s why we have the first amendment because our forefathers understood without this freedom there could be no freedom.

Sadly that experience is a Sunday school picnic by today’s standards. A look, a snide remark pale by comparison to what one may suffer today. One may get beaten or worse for their political views now and it seems to be getting worse each day.

Friends and family members have become alienated and people are afraid to exercise free speech. On our college campuses students believe they have the right to silence those with whom they disagree and tragically some turn to violence to exercise that pitiful point of view.

The meanness is palpable and has turned what once was a country where people left their doors unlocked into one where neighbors lock out those with whom they politically disagree. We may not have shared the same points of view, but it never escalated into hatred and violence.

I always thought a healthy discourse between Americans what was made this country so great. We were allowed to argue about what candidate was best, why we thought so and why we believed they deserved our vote. I felt incredibly grateful to be able to speak out when I looked at the Berlin Wall and how oppressive and frightening it was to live under a totalitarianism regime.

The negativity and sheer disrespect for others displayed not only by Americans, but also by our elected representatives has shifted the karma of this country from one where the streets are paved with gold to the old west where shooting someone for interfering with your enjoyment of a beer was acceptable.

Have we become that egocentric that we believe our intellect so far exceeds those with whom we share the common bond of citizenship?

Reason number two deals with something quite different, the right to like or dislike whom we please. I know it may sound a bit simplistic at first, but in reality it truly is not. Human beings are emotional creatures and until the robots take over and the world becomes solely intellectual we will continue to allow our subjective experiences to guide us.

Hence when we vote our emotions play a part. What one finds reprehensible in one politician may seem endearing to another.

It’s how we’re built and we could no longer change this part of ourselves than find a gas station charging twenty cents a gallon.

We bring our biases into every decision we make. We decide what we like, whom we like and how we will live our life based on previous life experience accumulated through years of living. It’s who and what we are.

If we had a friend we liked and she always wore a certain color red sweater perhaps we’ll be receptive to that shade of red our entire life. Happy memories color our decisions as well as bad ones.

It’s for this reason we may choose to shun someone or take an instant dislike or embrace someone at first meeting. It happens all the time. I am certain this is also true of politicians. Why we may like or dislike them.

Does one perhaps remind you of a teacher you hated in school, a favorite uncle that always showered you with great gifts, or maybe even a neighbor that passed out the best Halloween candy. We have long forgotten the why of our bias, but it has become so engrained in us, it’s unconscious.

If someone chooses to vote or not vote for a politician we like they may have good reason for their decision. The choice may even be an emotionally driven one of which they aren’t even aware. On an emotional level it’s pointless to argue and that level so many times is far more powerful than intellect.

Hating someone for their feelings or bias based on their experience is foolish. It’s like saying I hate you because you’re too educated. That is so un-American. The diversity of this country is what makes it so unique and special. Remember the whole melting pot analogy?

We are all special, and as Americans entitled to think and speak as we please, unless of course that speech may bring harm to others. We are a charitable country that always reaches out to those in times of need.

During Katrina did anyone say I want my donations to go only to a democrat or republican?

When Kennedy died did anyone care about party affiliation as we sobbed shamelessly on one another’s shoulder?

I guess I’ll sum up this blog with a wonderful story from World War I about what is now referred to as the Christmas Truce of 1914. In his book, Silent Night, by Stanley Weintraub, he recounts the story and the following are excerpts.

“All was jarringly quiet on the Western Front when a British sentry suddenly spied a glistening light on the German parapet, less than 100 yards away. Warned that it might be a trap, Brewer slowly raised his head over the soaked sandbags protecting his position and through the maze of barbed wire saw a sparkling Christmas tree. As the lieutenant gazed down the line of the German trenches, a whole string of small conifers glimmered like beads on a necklace.

“Brewer then noticed the rising of a faint sound that he had never before heard on the battlefield—a Christmas carol. The German words to “Stille Nacht” were not familiar, but the tune—“Silent Night”—certainly was. When the German soldiers finished singing, their foes broke out in cheers. Used to returning fire, the British now replied in song with the English version of the carol.

When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.

“Not every fighting man, particularly those who had just seen comrades killed in action, felt moved by the Christmas spirit. Gunfire continued to be exchanged in certain locations along the front, and in some unfortunate cases soldiers were killed by enemy fire as they emerged from the trenches in the hope for a day of peace. The unsanctioned truce concerned high-ranking officials, afraid that their men might lose the will to fight, and outraged others, including one young German corporal who would launch the next world war. “Such a thing should not happen in wartime,” Adolf Hitler scolded his fellow soldiers. “Have you no German sense of honor left?”

“As the sun set on Christmas, the fighters retreated to their respective trenches. A few ceasefires held until New Year’s Day. In most locations, however, the war resumed on December 26. At 8:30 a.m. in Houplines, Captain Charles Stockwell of the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers fired three shots into the air and raised a flag that read “Merry Christmas.” His German counterpart raised a flag that read “Thank you.” The two men then mounted the parapets, saluted each other and returned to their sodden trenches. Stockwell wrote that his counterpart then “fired two shots in the air—and the war was on again.”

“The guns of World War I did not fall silent again until the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. The Christmas Truce, however, provided an unforgettable memory for many such as the British soldier who confessed in a letter the following day, “I wouldn’t have missed the experience of yesterday for the most gorgeous Christmas dinner in England.”

Regrettably, this is a story that probably couldn’t happen in today’s world. The heartfelt yearning for love, home and family these soldiers exhibited exceeded politics and penetrated the very soul and essence of humanity.

How tragic that we, citizens of the greatest country in the world cannot put aside our hate and intolerance to respect the political opinions of others.

I know what my Christmas wish would be this year; that we all find a way back to love and brotherhood in the purest form and stop the ceaseless hate and anger. As Americans we share too much good to turn it all so bad.