Sunday, October 4, 2015

What I Did For Love

When my daughter was born, the paternal instincts kicked in. I feared for her safety. It became my responsibility to protect her and to provide for her and see that she was happy. About a year and a half ago she got married and I turned those responsibilities over to her husband. That's a tough, emotional transition for a dad.

 But I kept one heavy burden to myself. It was up to me to make sure she had mince pie every year on her birthday. Don't question our choice of pie filling, it's a family tradition that we both love. And it brings me great joy to bake it for her.

Then, in June this year she and her husband moved 7 hours away. A few weeks ago I realized that I would not be able to be there to bake her pie. So I did the only thing I could do. I turned over to her husband the charge of serving my little girl pie for breakfast on her birthday. I emailed him the recipe and let go of my last responsibility so that she could have happiness on this day.

That's what a great dad I am.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

good Opening For My Novel?

As Liz pressed the clutch firmly to the floor and put the car in gear, musing about how like making love with Richard this was, the way he would ignite an internal combustion within her, clutch her tightly, setting her passion into gear and sending her blood racing as she shifted under him, cruise control off, until she hit a wall of rapture and Richard collapsed against her like an air bag, little did she realize that Richard was siphoning the fuel of their romance into another vehicle at that very moment.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It was a nice apartment but not the Ritz

Ritz crackers are comfort food. Perhaps only my sister will understand this. Yesterday I had Gouda cheese, Ritz crackers, and Thompson seedless grapes for lunch. It incited a Proustian bout of nostalgia. I was taken back to the Hyde Park apartments in Inglewood, California. (Whether it was actually named the Hyde Park apartments is open to question. I think I was called that and was on Hyde Park Blvd., around the corner from the house we eventually moved into on Beach Avenue; but I could be misremembering this and everything that follows.). My mother was at work and my sister and I were home alone. We had been latchkey kids from way back and way before that term was coined. Sue was going into 6th grade and I was going into 4th, so we weren't so young anymore to be on our own. I picture us sitting on the floor in the living room area of the sparsely furnished apartment. We were eating Gouda cheese and Ritz Crackers; there was surely some Bob's Big Boy brand blue cheese dressing for dipping the crackers into. I remember there being green grapes, but, again, maybe I'm mixing memories. This was a great meal for us. We were also capable of fixing ourselves some hot meals: minute steaks, frozen vegetables, Kraft macaroni and cheese. (All on the stove - there were no microwaves. It was primitive times.) Even though we were mostly on our own, we did sometimes go to a neighbor's apartment. I'm going to say it was a young couple who lived there and the wife "babysat" us and introduced us to twilight Zone on TV and Peter Paul and Mary on records. We also met Pam Plumbeck who lived downstairs and would be in my class at school; I promptly fell in love. But this post is all about Ritz crackers; that was the brand my mother always bought. When I grew up, I was persuaded to buy whole grain crackers, lower fat crackers, and fancy crackers. Recently I decided that I can buy whatever the hell crackers I want and I wanted some Ritz. The memories are better when they sit on a Ritz.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wax On, Wax Off

Hanukkah candles that burn for one hour leave wax Residue on a menorah that takes eight hours to get off. The easiest way to get wax off your menorah is to use oil instead. After all, the miracle of Hanukkah is about oil, not wax. We eat potatoes and doughnuts fried in oil, we don't eat wax fruit to celebrate the miracle. Why do most American Jews burn candles. How did the candle industry push out Big Oil in America? That's the Hanukkah miracle I would like to know more about.

Friday, April 11, 2014


By John Lennonstein

Imagine there's no leaven
No yeast to make bread rise
No rolls or doughnuts,
Absence of the pizza pie
Imagine eating only
Matzah for 8 days...

Imagine there's no chametz
For Ashkenazis, no legumes
(But at least there’s matzah brie or
Matzo balls in chicken soup)
Imagine all the bowels
Backed up for a week...

You may say you like matzah
But passing it is pretty tough
I hope this Metamucil’s kosher

                                                    And it will let my people go

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Breaking Chabad

The series follows Walter Weiss, a Talmudic scholar who discovers he has cancer.  To pay for his treatments he begins secretly making bacon in a mobile home and selling it on the black Hasidic market (the cure for the cure).  He especially has to conceal it from his brother in law, a rabbi who certifies food as kashrut in the local restaurants.  Walter works with Jesse Pinkus, a former student who dropped out and became a hog slaughterer in defiance of his Jewish roots.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


The first day of Hanukkah this year begins at sundown, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but ultimately overlaps Thanksgiving Day.  Black Friday now begins at sundown on Thanksgiving, so the Thanksgiving meal starts earlier every year.  Thus there's no reason not to combine your Hanukkah and Thanksgiving meals, even as early as Wednesday night.

There are numerous recipes for Thanksgiving Hanukkah fusion foods circulating the internet.  Click here for the least appealing recipes I found. Sweet potato butternut squash latkes seems the perfect way to disquise the fact you are celebrating Hanukkah.

So, go ahead and combine your meals and extend Thanksgiving for eight days while you're at it.  And if you don't deep fry your turkey in oil, you don't understand the true meaning of THanukkahsGiving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

GOP Campaign Songs

Mitt Romney today:
"Hey, girls, remember the words to that old Willie Nelson song? It's one of my favorites:

Maybe I didn't pay you
Quite as equal as I should have
And maybe I will not grant your
Lady parts health care I could have

If I made you feel second rate
Now my spin is: I was kinder
You were always in my binder
You were always in my binder

Remember I didn't hold your
Schedule between five and nine
Made flex hours so you’re
In your kitchen right on time

I’ll save you from that planned parenthood
Take control of your vagina
You are always in my binder
You are always in my binder

Tell me,
Tell me who treats bitches finer
Give me, give me
One more chance to keep you in a binder

Paul Ryan's song: Folks, remember Bobby Darrin and that old song "Splish,splosh"? It goies like this:
Splish splosh, I was washin' clean pots
Long about a Saturday night
A rub-a-dub, just pretendin' as I scrubbed
Thinkin' everything was alright
Well, I had intended to, pretend to feed the poor
Found a locked up, closed soup kitchen
Then forced in the door, and then, uh,
Splish, splosh... I took my photo op
What does it really matter if the homeless folks were gone?

I was a-splishin' and a'sploshin'
Simulating washin', draped in a white apron
Shameless photo fakin', ooh yeah!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip With My Dead Mother

another rewrite:

Mom had been dead for a while, and we were driving to New York with her in the back of the van.

In the rear view mirror I saw 9-year-old Allie thrust her head forward, face flushed.   “Why does Grandma Margaret have to be right behind me!?”

My wife just showed me her eyes that said, “Your mother.  You explain.”

“Allie, settle down,” I said.  “She’s in the storage area, under ALL the luggage.  At least after this she won’t be on the shelf in the closet any more.  And you can move up closer to us, you know.”

When I was little, riding in the station wagon, I liked sitting in “the way back”, the third bench seat that faced out the rear window - still in the car with my mom, but far enough away to be alone in my bizarre thoughts, narrating my life to some imaginary friend.

My daughter chose the very back seat of the van, and even her discomfort at being so close to her deceased grandmother did not overcome her desire to maintain independence from her parents.

We had picked up
 Mom from my sister in Las Vegas.  Mom didn’t want a regular funeral – or, at least, hadn’t mentioned it recently - so we had a private memorial service around the coffee table at my sister’s house.  My mother’s last years had been in this house where she helped raise my niece.  Mom was then handed off to me and my wife and daughter.  We were assigned to return her remains to her hometown of Niagara Falls to be buried.

First we had flown her to Cincinnati, which would have pleased her only because she loved airplanes and flying.  We packed her in the big suitcase, because (even pre-9/11) we weren’t sure about the rules for putting a heavy, sealed, wooden box of ashes in the overhead.

But we didn’t take her immediately to Niagara Falls. I was gainfully employed so I couldn’t take time all at once to vacation in Las Vegas with my mother’s remains and then run off to New York with her; that’s why we left
 Mom in the closet of our house in Cincinnati for a year.   Now we were driving her to her grave as the first leg of our tour around the state of New York.

Allie never had a sibling and wasn’t used to competing or sharing. I hadn’t wanted her to start distracting me from driving by yelling from the back of the van, “Grandma’s looking at me!” or, “Grandma’s touching me!” or “Why does grandma Margaret have to be right behind me?”  I wished she felt more affection for my mother.

One evening, eight years earlier, when my niece was 9, she and my sister and my mother had gone out to dinner.  My mother had wondered aloud if the bathroom in this kid-oriented pizza joint were clean. 

“Sure, Grandma, you’ve been in there before.”

“I have not,” mom said with arms folded and mouth set firm.

An argument ensued until my niece said, “Okay grandma, you always say that sometimes you forget things.  You probably just forgot being in these bathrooms.”

Mom had glared back, “I may forget the things I’ve done, but I never forget the things I haven’t done.”

That was one of the first clues - a few years before Mom was diagnosed with dementia.  Allie had never gotten to spend much time with her because of the distance between Las Vegas and Cincinnati. As Mom spiraled down, she still knew who Allie was, but Allie didn’t know who Grandma really was.

Until she got sick, she was the grandma that, when visiting, fell asleep in our living room while reading and snored really loudly. She was the grandma that revealed to Allie where Dad had learned to make those horrible puns. But she was also the grandma that taught Dad to make delicious mince pie.

When I was little,
 Mom told stories about growing up in Niagara Falls during the Depression and about her dad who worked on the railroad and her brother who became a big deal at G.E. in Syracuse, NY.

She told us, “When I was 16, my mother walked into my bedroom, said, ‘Margaret?’ and then died from a stroke.  Mom told us that then, anxious to go into the world, she was resigned to taking over housekeeping for her dad and brother. She told us how her dad liked mince pie. She told us about her best friend, Helen, whom she still kept in touch with “back home”. Mom told us she had bought a plot to be buried in there.

So Allie sat in the back of the van with her dead grandma behind her, traveling to Niagara Falls, New York. This was the US side, not the touristy, honeymoon destination in Canada and it looked like it had not changed since the 1930s. Best Friend Helen was still living in the house she was born and grew up in. Some of Mom’s other friends also still lived in town.

We bought a grave marker and buried Mom while everyone told a few stories of the old days. “Margee always made us laugh.  She was smart but had to work to help send her goof-off c-student brother to college because he was a man.  She got stuck in this town an extra couple of years – kind of like she got stuck in Cincinnati this past year.  Margee was adventurous and eventually traveled around Europe after WWII while we all stayed safe here.” They told us Mom was a good friend and beloved.

When I was little, I knew some of that, but mostly
 Mom was just Mom, going to work after my dad left and stuck driving the station wagon, making pies, telling me to eat my vegetables.

Literally and figuratively our family members have not been all that close.   I’ve tried to stay close to my sister and secure Allie’s relationship with her aunt as well as her one cousin on that side.  As we drove away from Nagara Falls, I vowed I would pass on these new stories of Mom to Allie so that Grandma is more than that box of ashes haunting her from the back of the van.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Street Accounting

The first week that I did street accounting down by Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, it did not go well.  The problem was my location, or, really, the location of the juggler who deposited himself beside me. 

I arrived just after dawn on a Monday morning when the chill of the fog enveloped the wharf and when the seafood and sourdough vendors were just setting up.

In a sunny spot I set up a black metal card table and folding chair.  I put a solar powered calculator on the table and laid a fedora, gray with a black band, upside down next to it.

A Chinese man, setting out trays of ice, which would later hold rows of crab, came over and said, “You are too early.  No tourists come by now.”

“I need time to warm up,” I said, spreading my payments and flexing my annuities.  Before, when I did office accounting, I was always early.  Street accounting deserves the same dedication.

I sat and listened to the gulls cry and the water lap against the piers and the fog horns bleat.  I smelled the ocean salt and seaweed.  I watched the fish being laid on ice, their scales shimmering and balanced.

An hour later the other performers started to show up: a few mimes, a human jukebox, a magician, a contortion attorney.  I don’t know if the juggler picked the spot right next to me as a challenge or because he always set up there or because it was shady.

The juggler set up an eye-catching red table.  I took this as a negative sign.  I extended some friendly terms and he ignored me.

The tourists got out of bed, had breakfasts and began to tour around; some bundled against the chill air, some went about in shirtsleeves.  I felt comfortable in my charcoal suit with a starched white shirt and gray tie with black stripes.

The juggler wore seersucker slacks and a loud purple shirt. 

Families, couples, and groups stopped and surveyed the clam chowder, crab salad, grilled fillets being offered.  Some bought snacks, some bought loaves of sourdough, some pondered what they would come back for later.

People stopped and watched the entertainment.  They threw money in guitar cases, hats or cardboard boxes for the ones they enjoyed.  The juggler had put out an antique cash register that was filling up with bills.

My fedora remained empty.

I did not let it stop me.   I balanced books and ledgers left and right, debit and credit, asset and liability.  I gracefully cascaded numbers from the gross receipts to the bottom line.  No one looked. 

Everyone is drawn to the juggler because juggling books is illusion and fantasy.  The juggler took 10 liabilities and 1 asset and made them appear to balance.  He produced impossibly large and heavy bottom lines that were unsupported by sub ledgers.

People applauded and filled the juggler’s till.  It went on like that the whole first week.  On the third day, when I showed up at dawn with my folding table, chair, calculator and fedora, the Chinese man walked over once more.

“Why do you stay?  You don’t get money.”

I took a string of numbers and fashioned a pair of loopholes, trapping my index fingers as in Chinese handcuffs.  “Karma brings equity,” I said.

Saturday and Sunday were busier and the people covered the wharf.  There was such a crowd watching the juggler that some people were forced to the margin and could see only my ordinary street accounting. 

I amortized a loan and made balloon payment animals.  A child begged her mother to give me a dollar and the women did with a scowl as she edged toward the juggler.  The child’s eyes glowed; her mother’s were vacant.  The juggler made some debts seem to disappear.

On Monday the police came; they cuffed and arrested the juggler for fraud.  They asked if I would make a statement and I produced a quarterly report. 

The Chinese man came over and shouted to the tourists, “This is a true street accountant.”  A woman looked over and then brought me her checkbook.  I balanced it effortlessly.  Her face shone as she settled a dollar in my fedora.  More tourists followed. 

There was equity.