Tuesday, September 30, 2008

oh, how we danced!

on a cold December day, right before Christmas.... we danced. We danced and danced and danced. I was building strong and big leg muscles! And when "A Chorus Line" opened on Broadway... my thoughts drifted back to three photos that might serve me well in an audition...

a dancer's gotta dream

I danced in the 60s, and dreamed of appearing in shows like "West Side Story." Years later, in the 70s, I fantasized about auditioning for "A Chorus Line." I should have waited, because it looks like "Hairspray" might have been a perfect fit.

a report card sent from a summer camp

It seems I was not very well-liked. My counselor, Gwen, wanted to put a firecracker under me? Uh, it was summer, Gwen. And July and August were supposed to be a fun and happy vacation. I can now understand why I was so depressed. I was not there to "help," and if I was "listless" why was it not addressed instead of being used as a point for criticism. If I was not "working hard" perhaps I was not motivated. I was surrounded by adults who were not great promoters of self-esteem. I can see now that what was acceptable from adults so many years ago would today be looked at with a jaundiced eye and not allowed.
Dr. Phil, can you weigh in here please?

Maybe it was the bermuda shorts? Ya think?

a letter written on a Sunday

I met KT at modern dance classes she taught in a Valley Stream basement. In 1959, I followed her to Saturday classes she gave in Manhattan from 10:00 to 1:00... at a studio on Sixth Avenue across from Radio City Music Hall. On Friday afternoons, I assisted with classes she still taught in Valley Stream. Every Saturday, after my class, I would go to have lunch at the same Schrafft's on the corner of 49th Street. I would have the same well-done hamburger and chocolate coke. I loved it so much there that when my family came to the city to see a show, they ate in a restaurant they chose and I left them to dine alone in Schrafft's. In the later years, KT moved the classes to her studio on 8th Avenue and 56th Street. The old building is still there today, unlike the first location which was torn down about 40 years ago. And the little space that housed my beloved Schrafft's vanished forever as well.
I never missed dance class and one Saturday I was absent because I had a terrible cramps. It is not surprising to me that KT concluded I had a "cold." I seemed to always have colds and to this day I get a few every year. So when I missed class, KT sent me this letter and it remains with me today. It was typed on blue stationary, which did not translate well in the scan.

"Joe's camp," 1956

I grew up in Valley Stream and summers were hot, long, and boring. The parents found a guy named Joe and paid him to supervise a day camp twice a week that met in the backyard of a family house. One summer, my mother volunteered our home because we had a large yard and patio. Joe organized creative games for the many campers and I always managed to put some mischief into everything. But, for my friends and me the highlight of those balmy days was "snack time" when the parents rolled out the juice and cookies. I was going for the laughs, and I had a great idea. I told my friends that when Joe poured the juice they should never say "when." Instead, I told them to just abruptly pull the cup away and let the juice spill all over the patio. (And it was my patio!) It was so much fun. And Joe never seemed to catch on because every day at juice time he carried over that full pitcher of pink juice and he repeated the same question. "Say when" he would innocently ask. And much like "Groundhog Day" we always pulled the cup quickly away when the cup was half full and the Hawaiian Punch would fall onto the patio and form a sticky puddle every time. We were gleefully delighted when we could finally say: "Oh, look ants!" Was Joe playing along and having his own brand of fun or was he a complete idiot? He must have been disgusted, because at the end of the summer my mother told me he refused to ever have a "Joe's camp" again. (I think in this photo I was telling Joe to "kiss my ass," much to the amusement of the other campers and to the delight of the counselor, Marie)

scenes from "Joe's camp"

These photos are incredible because they capture in the background the old house and barn that were torn down. Look closely. In front of the barn is a cross... and it appears that it was a burial site.


The Neighborhood Playhouse, Brooklyn 1952

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My "masked commenter's" identity revealed!

My friend Jackie called me and admitted posting that babyish and puerile comment pasted below. I sort of figured it was Jackie. She always loved calling me that "c" word. I knew it had to be that Queen, sitting and laughing hysterically at her computer... in full Marilyn drag. OMG, I love you Jackie and your mentality! You rocked it! I was thinking at first it was some infamous "banner," but I actually don't think any of them are that witty or clever! That had to come from the fingertips of a Queen! Well-played, darling, well-played! (she's so shy!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

news flash!

Hot off the presses: this comment just in from "Anonymous":
"You are an insufferable old c**t and everyone wishes you would die."
OUCH! (He spelled out the word; my ladylike fingers won't go there)
He does seem a wee bit angry! Did I rain on his power-party?
One question: Hey dude, why no capital 'c' ?
Here's a News Flash: we all die, so your wish shall one day be granted!
Now get busy banning 100 more people! Activity is a GOOD thing! By the way, did you type that comment using the same fingers with which you ban people? I am flattered and honored.
P.S. Did he say "insufferable?" I am chagrined!

I guess he thought that comment would be uber-shocking! My students said worse to me when I simply asked to see their homework.

This entry is a study in how people get their "kicks."
"I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?" -- Cole Porter
My commenter gets his "kicks" from sending me a charientism, and the above photo shows a sillier kind of old-fashioned "kick."
File it all under: wheeeeeeeeeee!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I just realized

I could allow all unmoderated comments and then enable the interactive banter. At the end of the year I could make the activity a tax deduction for my charity work... I provide activity for angry bored people. NYC teachers heard it all before. At this stage, it is better than a valium.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

run for cover, the end is near!

Hit the deck! This is from last week's NYDailyNews:
"Universe's start to be simulated with powerful particle accelerator"
"Mark your calendars: The end of the world may come around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday.":
and online:
"Most powerful atom-smasher ever made set to go online"
"It has been called an Alice in Wonderland investigation into the makeup of the universe - or dangerous tampering with nature that could spell doomsday.":

In the above photo, the second abduction was almost successful. But, they didn't get me this time. The first time they got me and planted a metal tracking device in the right part of the back of my head. They keep trying to find me, but I cleverly allude them. They have no idea who they are dealing with. Scram you losers! My flux capacitor will force your schemes to backfire and you all will disappear into the wormhole from which you came.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the little boat went round and round...

ahhhhhhhh, the cool water was so delightful to the touch!
Roses are red and violets are blue
Memories are so lovely and bittersweet
And waxing prosaic gives me something to do!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I blew it!

My audition for acting classes at Studio Dante.
My comedy relationship at Stand-up NY with Brian Koppleman.
My auditon with Robert Siegel for his new indie film. (He wrote "The Wrestler")

I may blow it all, but I still live in NYC and when I walk down these mean streets, the assholes on the crowded and congested streets who are in such a hurry all the time and walking at top speeds and yapping away on their cellphones part the waters for my big ass when I am on the move and the destination is Whole Foods. Life may be a snoozefest and I may have blown some great opportunities, but the cure just might be their Buck's tuna salad on a toasted onion bagel. It works every time.
Now Jeeves, draw my bath! The day awaits: "Moving Midway."

calling Dr. Kevorkian!

Larry David still works because he likes to have "a place to go."
Alec Baldwin says he works because he thinks his life could become "is the mail here yet?"
This is from "Once Upon A Time in America":
Fat Moe: What have you been doing all these years?
Noodles: I've been going to bed early.

I don't go to bed early. I stay up late to watch reruns of "What's My Line?"
And I stare at channel 93: "City Drive Live."

"Date My Ex?"

Oops, I have no ex! Or rather, no ex had me!
"you can't control me..."
It seems to be a show where "you look beautiful" is analagous to telling a theoretical physicist he found the "theory of everything." What a dopey show that is!
I do look here like I didn't shave my underarms... and plus, it was a lousy bra! Whatever.
I was way prettier than Julia Allison. And after I get Juvaderm and lipo... I will march my former fat ass into Intermix and buy out the store.

an homage to 2

"Old Time Photo Booth Pictures;" sister opts out...

an homage to 1

Queen Nefertiti: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lavanburg Houses, 1995

This photo shows the Lavanburg Houses in 1995. It is visible as the light grey building in the middle of the picture, directly behind the school. In the 1980s, the apartments became a shelter for homeless families and many of the children enrolled in PS 97. Princess Diana visited the shelter in 1986. PS 97 closed as an elementary school in 2002, and it is now a high school charter school.

"The Mangin Herald," 1925

"The Mangin Herald" was found in the library of PS 97 behind a bookcase and under an old pile of dusty books. This was a treasure! I quickly copied pages and returned the original to the librarian. It was difficult to photocopy because it was bound and in a very aged and delicate condition. Many of the pages copied poorly and in a dizzying lop-sided fashion. But, the text is clear and I enter it here so that those who love nostalgia can share in this joy. Please enlarge each page for clarity and again I apologize for the unbalanced appearance of the pages. Take a dramamine... and enjoy! You can read more about The Lavanburg Foundation here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Righteous Kill"

I saw the film "Righteous Kill" yesterday. It was just awful and preposterous. Here are my thoughts. If in the 1970s the young Al Pacino and the young Robert DeNiro could glimpse into the future and see their work as older actors at the ages of over 65, what would they think? I think they would be disgusted and humiliated. They were such fine and skilled actors and they chose their material so carefully. The young Robert DeNiro had an air of textured and layered mystery about him and the young Al Pacino seemed so intensely dedicated to his craft. If they could have looked into a crystal ball and seen this film, I think they would have thought they did indeed become singularly dimensional caricatures of themselves and they would be desperately unhappy. "Righteous Kill" is a farce and these actors should have aged into much better cinematic art. I left the theater shaking my head in disbelief and laughing. I felt sad in a way too... and almost personally disappointed. How could they do this to me? I am insulted. Abandon hope all ye who enter the theater...

there she is!

You go, girl! (Gladys? It should be Gladys's...)
E-mail for show details!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

knock knock, hello?

Barack Obama is talking now about retirees and how so many of us can go into the schools and offer our knowledge and teach. I would go back as a volunteer in a heartbeat (they would never offer me "F status"... I was a maverick and never a toches lekker and lemming, hence much disliked). But, if I went back I would want to do "teacher-directed" lessons: that is be allowed to stand at a chalkboard and teach math applications. Since that is no longer part of the learning model, there is no use for me and my experience. They would not want any part of my style and what I would have to offer, and trust me.... when I taught:
- 3 2/9
all students could compute 15 = 14 9/9, and find the answer to be:
11 7/9.
If I dared to become anything more than the "facilitator" in a classroom where students sit in groups to discuss strategies to solving math problems, I would be booted right out the door.
How can any presidential candidate talk about improving the schools when they are clueless about what is going on in the classrooms with "no child left behind?" Children are not learning to read... phonics, the building block of reading instruction, has been watered down to phonemic awareness and whole language does not teach children to be excellent readers. There is no basal reader and students no longer have textbooks in the subject areas.
Only a "back to basics" approach layered with enrichment and creative lessons in quiet classrooms will give all children the education they deserve. It's time to return to classrooms where you can hear a pin drop and end the idiotic concept of "productive noise." In "productive noise" all I ever heard my students talking about was their plans for Saturday!

on 9/11/01

On September 11, 2001 I was still teaching. I was at a school on East Broadway and Grand Street. I was in my classroom when the principal came on the loudspeaker and announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and she would be back soon with updates. At that time I was thinking it was a small plane, but I heard talk in the hallway so I stuck my head out the door and a few teachers had gathered and they told me it was a large plane. I went back into my classroom and soon after a teacher came in and told me that another plane had hit the other tower. The principal announced something over the loudspeaker (I don't really remember what she said, some of the day is hazy). The classes and students on the side of the school that faced west was emptied because it was that side of the school that had a clear and visible view (from the third floor) of the World Trade Center. We were not evacuating the school because we were on the other side of Manhattan, directly east of the WTC location. The WTC was on the Hudson River and our school was on the East River. When the second tower fell it was like an earthquake. Parents were coming in droves to pick up their children. When the teachers had a break, they were going over to the evacuated side of the building to view the WTC. The art teacher came and gave me her keys and told me to go her room. She was hysterical because she had a class in there and they saw everything. She kept screaming and telling me that they were watching from the window because the first tower was on fire and they all saw the second plane hit. I went over to look, and I just went into a daze when I saw the burning buildings from that empty classroom up on the third floor. I went back to my classroom and there were only a few children who had not yet been picked up. We went across the hall to be with another class. We stayed until all the students left and then we had to figure out how to get home because we didn't even know if subways and buses were running. As we left the building my friend Arnie said to me: we will always remember how blue this sky was and how this happened on such a beautiful day. I think we were all in a daze and I remember too that there was alot of paper all over the streets. A parent was running with her kid and screaming "it's a war, get out of here." We got a ride from another teacher and somehow I got home. Our school was closed longer than others because we were a designated school "below Canal Street," which put us in that zone. I live in Chelsea and the smell for days came right uptown and was terrible. Dazed.... that's the word that keeps coming up. And "surreal."

two "50s" neighborhood schools

the house

... this is the "50s" house in which I grew up

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

why am I not surprised?

I can so recall being filled with trepidation after every summer ended and I had to return to work. The nightmare would begin every September because principals who should be helpful and supportive were always "the enemy." They returned after their summer with newly learned techniques for "going after" teachers. And when they could find no good reasons, they manufactured charges and trumped up cases. I am not surprised Hannah Upp went AWOL. I can only imagine what awaited her when she returned to her school. I saw teachers who had nervous breakdowns leaving school on stretchers. I always expected to arrive at the TRS in an ambulance. The whole system is a mess. It's one big fight all day. A teacher fights with her students to try to motivate them to want to learn and irate parents visit and threaten teachers. I once had a posse waiting outside a school to beat me up with coat hangers. At least I thought it was to beat me up. Coat hangers were a new weapon. And students loved to spit on the bannister so when the teacher (who was mandated to walk at the end of the line) followed the class down the stairs she caught a handful of fresh saliva. We wrote on the chalkboard facing sideways so when wads of green gum were thrown at the back of our heads we didn't need to get a fresh haircut at 3:00. And on graduation day, we never partied in the outdoor yard... not after an 11 year old sniper hit three teachers with BBs. The most important element became bulletin boards. The teachers who were artistic and creative were adored because their bulletin boards looked like a super sweet 16 party. I had zip interest in being a classroom interior decorator, so when "store bought" materials were no longer allowed, I was ripe meat. And I always handled a class in a strong firm voice, so when yelling became corporal punishment... I almost was sent to the electric chair... er, "rubber room." Oh, how I longed for the days when a tack would be placed on my chair. Hannah darling, if you are reading this... just quit. It's not worth your mental health.
These photos were taken in 1971 during a rehearsal of our class play: "Farmer Gray."

a room with a view

This is a photo taken from the kitchen window of my apartment. Some view, huh? Please look at the wall that is being painted in the far right. I face the rear and soon I will have a psychedelic view. That's all I need! Well, it beats what the wall behind the tree used to say before it was recently painted a soft shade of beige: "Sol Shapiro, plumbing supplies." And, I do have a few trees. It's lovely in autumn. I even have a piece of sky. It's very quiet in the back.
And this explains it all!
""Diesel Wall is an international art contest that aims to bring intriguing/inspiring/insightful/inciting contemporary ideas to giant urban canvases in city centres around the world."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

oh, one more thing...

Hi, Dad!
Friends of Old-Time Radio 2008 Convention -- October 23-26, 2008, Holiday Inn-North, Newark, NJ
And for old-time radio fans, these are the best sites on the internet:

Brad Crandall, Long John Nebel, Candy Jones, Lee Leonard, Dick Summer, Pegeen Fitzgerald, Alan Burke, Joe Pyne, Barry Gray, Barry Farber, 1970's Bob Grant and Sally Jesse Raphael.... it just doesn't get any better. Well, Art Bell sometimes comes pretty close. We all have a death sentence. If you get the right tests and recommended procedures, you can get a stay of execution. It's all about holding onto every last minute. I want to hold on so I can attend those great yearly Old-Time Radio Conventions.

making sure the hair stays straight

This is the REAL ME! (taken on a family trip to Puerto Rico in 1965)
(P.S. I'll be damned, but doesn't that look like something Chernobyl is going on behind my head?)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

conquering a fear, first try

early part of May 1949: I was able to climb the long staircase to the top of the slide, but when I reached the top I was afraid to slide down. I contemplated my options... and I did an "about face" and walked backwards back down.

conquering a fear, next try

late May 1949: We went back to the park and this time I was determined to slide down. I climbed the long staircase and sat down. I thought about my options. I looked down the steep slide. I decided to be brave. And I flew down flat on my back. The event was documented in perfect stages by my father.