Friday, October 31, 2008

my mother and Max Reger

My mother shows how to handle insulting commentary in her bawdy and irreverent homage to the great Max Reger. This was Mr. Reger's response to a savage reviewer: "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me." We should all, at various times, take a page from his book.

wired for a main course and dessert

The above picture is of my friend David, in full Bette Midler drag. He taught me how to:
"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt, sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth" --- Mark Twain. That's a great mantra for experiencing life's main course.
And this is from my "Dr. Phil" moment: build your own lives instead of "dining on the drama of other people's lives."* Learn the art of self-involvement. And if you cannot break the habit of dining on the drama of other people's lives... have some dessert: dine on a body part, in the vernacular of course. *from "Mad Men"
This photo shows how two of David's dear friends reacted to several bad reviews.

Max Reger was a bit more literary in his reply to a savage review: "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me." And that's great advice for handling comments sent with the clear intent to hurt. Cheers!

Friday, October 24, 2008

that room, still "somewhere in time"

where men in the Army, stationed on the Aleutian Islands during WW II, would sit... alone, with a friend, or with friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

from a sixth grade autograph book, 1958

my prolific parents

and the above, my photo when I was graduated from elementary school

Dear Diary, 1958

I did not seem to have too great an attention span. There are only a few entries, and much of the blue "Ponytail" diary remains blank. I do remember how much I loved "American Bandstand." I can still recall the regulars: Arlene, Kenny, Justine, Bob... We did go one Saturday to The Dick Clark Show, which was telecast from NYC's Little Theater. We wore "IFIC" buttons to advertise that a chewing gum was "flavorific." I entered a contest to name a handpuppet that appeared on that show. I named the puppet: "Retsmar," after a cousin's cat. I won. I got to attend The Dick Clark Show again, especially exciting because Fabian was the guest and he sang "Like a Tiger." I was in heaven!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a student goes to Washington

The year was 1973, and I was teaching grade 6 in a public school in the theater district of Manhattan. I entered my class in an essay contest sponsored by Bella Abzug and one of my students won. She went to Washington, DC to read her essay. I found this photo: Charity goes to Washington. And I also found the (now very wrinkled and faded) letter I received informing us that she won. That was over 35 years ago. It seems like so long ago. I guess it was.

Monday, October 20, 2008

in the shadows

top photo: my father with buddy in the Army during WW II
under that: October 1948
bottom photos: May 1962
These are my contributions to phoundfotographs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kiddie Rides

I sat in the microforms reading room in the Genealology Division of the New York Public Library. My obsession was old Brooklyn telephone directories. I surrounded myself with hordes of microfilm and I was determined to put myself in touch with the past. The year under my analysis was 1952. I noted with childish glee that Barbra Streisand had indeed lived on Newkirk Avenue. I moved on to discover the exact location of the old Garfield Cafeteria, and then I verified the addresses of my deceased grandparents.
The woman sitting next to me did not hesitate to reveal that she was adopted as a child and she was looking through material that might help identify her birth mother. Another lady searched through a roll of film that contained a list of the surviving soldiers of the Civil War. She was tracing history in order to compile a family tree. A man, who looked like Fyvush Finkel, was somberly looking through the Census records of 1920. All the visitors to the library were turning the wheels of the microfilm machines in complete unison! Oh, the fellowship of spirit! I felt we should all stand, hold hands, and sing a song!
Memories of summers filled with kiddie rides came flooding back to me. I remembered the miniature boat rides, the little car rides, and the small pony rides near the boardwalk. When I left the library, I longed with desperation to return to Brooklyn.
I wanted to walk down Flatbush Avenue in 1948, to go to old Steeplechase, to have lunch at the Famous on 86th Street... and most of all I wished I could visit my long deceased grandparents. But instead, I exited the library and found myself drenched in bright hot sunlight and walking down a long staircase covered in pigeon shit. I limped down Fifth Avenue because my heel spur was killing me and all the way home I disgustedly dodged the rushed Manhattan congestion.
I entered my apartment and immediately took a short nap. When I awakened, I did not know if it was evening or morning. It was still light at dusk, and I got into my car. I drove south on the West Side Highway and the pink sun soon sizzled and set to my right over the Hudson River. I was numb, and I headed for Coney Island. By 9:00 PM, I realized that the cure for my nostalgia will always be the smell of sea air, the sight of the Parachute Jump in the distance, and... Nathan's. ® WGAE 2004

Monday, October 13, 2008

leaving the building

On a hazy sunless Sunday, on a far-away boardwalk... a soon to be mother's walk away was captured in shades of mysterious gray.

the ride can take you

Spinning until dusk... or dawn
On a forgotten Ferris wheel
Left behind by the carnival
After roadsters skidded home
Along slippery highways. ® WGAE 2004

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ghost Story

I was down in the basement doing laundry tonight. As I was loading the machine, a young woman named Darlene (who lives on the second floor) came down. She just moved in and we started talking. I have lived here for decades, and she asked me about the building. I told her rumor has it the building is haunted. She laughed: "Shut up."
I told her that in 1969, a man who lived next door to me commited suicide. He jumped out of the window and the next day his body was found in the back in a pile of wet snow. Since then, many residents who have lived in that apartment say they sometimes see a man behind their shoulder when they are looking into the bathroom mirror.
In the 70s on Sunday mornings, the gay guys used to dance in the back courtyard to the soundtracks of different Broadway shows. "West Side Story" was their favorite. Every so often, we hear music back there, and nobody knows from where it is coming.
I told Darlene that tomorrow when she tells people that the night before she spoke in the laundry room to a woman named Marjorie who lives in apartment 8S, they are going to tell her that Marjorie died five years ago. She screamed while laughing: "Now THAT is not funny!"


my "Love with the Proper Stranger" coat

... and my Jackie Kennedy sunglasses.

family trip to Puerto Rico, 1965

I took the photo. My sister opted in this time. It shows she copied my daytime hairstyle: rollers to prepare the hair for the fancy San Juan nights in the La Concha Hotel. What a family we were!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

1940: my mother

the seductress of Bensonhurst...

in the Brooklyn park

I loved to play around the Monkey Bars.

those cold toes

This was taken after a blizzard. We lived in Brooklyn and my father bundled me up and took me for a sleigh ride along Shore Parkway. I can recall how cold my toes got in the snow and soon after we moved to another apartment, not so close to the cold ocean. I liked our new home because I could still hear the sound of the fog horns as the ships pulled out to sea.

when the leaves began to fall

We moved to Long Island in 1952, and when autumn arrived the chilly weather turned the days grey and the views were bleak. These photos show a cold rain and empty vistas. The neighborhood seemed covered in a despondency that was trapped in an endless maze of mirrors.

a photo that was always a mystery

This photo has been with me forever. My father is on the left. It appears that he was on some radio show. Who was the woman? And could the host in the shadows be.... Bert Parks?
I enlarged the photo and lo and behold, my father was on "Stop the Music!"
Well, I'll be damned!

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Project Runway?"

This photo shows the felt skirts my 4-H group, "The Lucky Clover Girls," designed and made in 1958. I think we won a red ribbon for those skirts. We were so happy. So many years have passed since that sewing show, and if I close my eyes I can still smell the freshly baked cupcakes that sat on a nearby table.


a snowy Christmas day, somewhere...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

two old NYC hotels

They are both on the West Side Highway along the Hudson River. The first is abandoned, the next is still open and it was where the survivors of the Titanic were taken when they reached NYC.

when the sled stops

"the dogs look back"... that is what I remember my father said. And who is the young girl on ice skates? Perhaps a cousin.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

sitting watching paint dry on a "kook watch"

In last week's episode of "Mad Men," Sal, Kinsey, Ken, and Harry are ridiculing Freddy. They called him a "real whiz" in advertising because he had a "wet" accident in the office. Don replies: "you dine on the drama of other people's lives like a bunch of teenage girls."
I heard that line and I was reminded of a forum's never-ending fixation with "Robert Blue." They pull apart every entry at his blog like my Aunt Sadie ripped into the chopped liver on the schmorgasboard at my cousin Melvin's Bar Mitzvah. And when they rolled out the Viennese table, she fressed on that three-tiered chocolate cake till the family turned out the hall lights.
Yes... the members of the RobertBlue/TrentSketch fan club are indeed the internet version of my Aunt Sadie.
When I obsess, it is about an issue somewhat related to me. I am self-involved that way. I don't waste my time commenting about the activities of others. I just don't care.
And ladies and gentleman, I sure do obsess. In retirement, one must hold tightly to the wheel. In the 9/8/08 issue of The New Yorker Alec Baldwin says: " I always think, What if you just took your hand off the wheel, and slowly, over time, it all went away, and your life became about, you know, 'Is the mail here yet?' I always think about that."
But my life sort of always has been about, "Is the mail here yet?" My doorman can confirm this. When I retired from teaching, in 2002, I took a line from Noodles's book in, "Once Upon a Time in America." When he was asked by Fat Moe what he had been doing all those (lost) years he replied, "I've been going to bed early."
I am a night owl. So I go to bed at 4 AM and arise at noon. But it is the same concept. You deteriorate into unscheduled time when you have no place to go. But I will be damned if I will spend one second of that time dining on the drama of the life of a total stranger.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"My Nephew Could Paint That"

In 1995, my nephew did a portrait of me. He was nine years old. It was his homage to Matisse's portrait of Nono Lebasque. Coming soon: "My Nephew Could Paint That."

True Love

My parents seemed to be happily married.

The True Story

But, this photo proves what I always knew! My mother really hated my father and when nobody was looking, she tried to kill him!