Monday, July 31, 2006

I'm Putting On My Thinking Cap


Apparently, Ezzie Goldish seems to think that I'm pretty knowledgeable when it comes to children's books. He included me in a meme he was tagged to do:

List 5 bloggers and in what subjects (or fields) you think they're especially knowledgeable.

As you can tell from the photo, I'm such a dummy, but I've just put on my stylish thinking cap to complete this meme, which was tossed my way. Here goes:

1. Life of Rubin -- Chaim knows EVERYTHING and more you'd ever want to know about Jewish music. You don't have to tune in to the radio...tune in to Chaim's blog!

2. Jew Eat Yet? -- Danny Miller is a walking encyclopedia of Hollywood: its motion picture industry, its celebrities, its historical value. A treasure trove of information, Danny takes the time to often write detailed and wonderful posts that relate to the world of motion picture and theatrical entertainment.

3. A Simple Jew -- My buddy over at this wonderful blog is knowledgeable in the field of Jewish genealogy: he has tracked personal family history as well as Rabbinical history. His resources are widespread across continents, and he knows whom to approach for information, and how to approach for information. Both Rabbinical history and the paths that the history has taken, as well as his own family, help shape his life, his identity...giving his readers introspection to what A Simple Jew is all about.

4. Sara, Elie, Robert, Alan & Glen -- Unfortunately, and we shouldn't know personally, these fine people, each one of them parents, know about grief: the loss of a child. Of course, not one of them wanted to become knowledgeable in this delicate and heart-heavy area, but they are now all in the know. And they share. And even amidst the sadness, they manage to make us smile. And we "listen" and learn...

5. Jake, Randi, Neil, Mark, Ralphie -- These people know about humor, making us laugh or grimace as we read about their world, their foibles, and the world in general that is magnified for us and for our funny bone to be tickled (and Neil, maybe you "magnify" some other things for us, too!).

***

I will not pass this meme on to anyone. As Ezzie says, "...whoever feels like doing it, should. Let's all heap praise upon one another (except on me - my expertise is football). It would be interesting to see what talents people think one another have, wouldn't it?"


Model Behavior

This "glam girl" and photo setup is the type we can see in magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and countless other North American and European high-fashion magazines.

This is a pretty "sedate" photo: purely classy and elegant.

But other editorial photo spreads or ad campaigns can feature models who look like they just rolled out of bed, with bed head or Bride of Frankenstein big hair, and dark rings around their eyes reminiscent of raccoons but really just kohl-rimming accents. Half the time the models are ugly -- or actually they might be pretty in real life, but with the way they're "made up" they are suddenly ugly; the clothing -- which costs in the hundreds and thousands -- looks highly unwearable and I wonder why a designer bothered to lose sleep or swear in Italian or French while putting together the collection that this garb is part of.

I myself prefer the classic, timeless look. A look that a company like Talbots offers.

Huey Lewis & the News had the song "Hip To Be Square." I think subconsciously -- and consciously -- I've always made that my motto. As the song lyrics say:


"...Don't tell me that I'm crazy
Don't tell me I'm nowhere
Take it from me
It's hip to be square."

Now, not everything in a classic-clothing company catalog is perfectly nice, perfectly beautiful. Sometimes I look at the offerings, supposedly timeless, and wonder: What time period are these from? They're gross, they're dated, they're yukky, they just miss the mark! I guess it is possible to be too timeless!

And then there are catalogs like Sears (Sears-Roebuck to you Americans) and newspaper inserts/flyers like Wal-Mart.

Okay, let's take Sears, for example. The models might be plainly pretty, but some of the clothing...? I think I'm looking at a catalog from the late sixties, early seventies! Which models have the "good fortune" to be featured in the winter jacket/coat spread, or the fall footwear spread, or the eveningwear pages? Do they say to themselves, "Phew...thank G-d they didn't have me doing the sportswear and casual dresses. Those designs are enough to make me puke up my breakfast."

I don't know about Wal-Mart in the States, but here our newspaper inserts feature employees and their extended family members as the models. So Carol from Consumer Relations (a nice name for Customer Service) might be modeling jeans, while Timmy, "nephew of Carol from Consumer Relations" might be modeling infant wear. What about Betty, a "Greeter," who is showing off this week's underthings selection, and LaTicia, "neighbor of Alice, who is a daughter-in-law to LaTicia, a greeter." WHAT?! Couldn't they get someone to model, someone who's a little bit closer to home? Um, I mean Wal-Mart?)

As you look through catalogs and photo spreads featuring models or just everyday people, as is the Wal-Mart way, do wonder what they're thinking about what they're modeling in that shot. Is it something you'd wear? Is it something you think THEY'D wear? It would be nice to do a Model Survey after the photo shoot...

1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best, how would you rate this outfit you just wore?
2. Would you willingly pick up something like that to wear?
3. Would you be more likely to use it as an article of clothing for yourself, or would you use it as a rag to polish your car?
4. Would you be model for us again?
5. Would you be a little likely to model for us again?
6. Would you be willing to model for us again?
7. What incentives would we have to offer to have someone wear this outfit?

Okay, I must go now and do something with my bed head and raccoon eyes. You can look for me on page 114 of the Sears Fall catalog, where I'm modeling a La-Z-Boy chair... leaning back in one, eyes closed!

(How many of you are actually going now to check out the catalog!?)



Sunday, July 30, 2006

Too Blond To See?

Check out Our Kids Speak to read the latest "pearly of wisdom" from my youngest son.

Staying Safe

Tonight, well after Shabbos was over, I went into my email account and found this message:


In response to an attack by a gunman at the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday evening, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario are urging members of Toronto’s Jewish community to be vigilant, but assure them that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure their safety.

Immediately following the attack the following measures were taken as per existing security plans:
Consultations with Toronto and York Regional Police took place immediately
The Lipa Green Building, the Bathurst JCC, Nadal JCC and Wolfond Centres were shut down and evacuated.
Toronto Police and private security guards and vehicles were positioned in front of the institutions mentioned above.
A security plan has been put into place which will result in an increased police and security presence at the above mentioned Jewish institutions and facilities around the GTA so those that regularly open on Saturday and Sunday can do so as per their normal schedule.
Synagogues and Communal agencies have been informed of developments and alerted to the situation to the best of our ability given that Shabbat had just begun.


We regret sending this message during Shabbat but felt it was necessary to inform the community as to what security measures have taken place.

I read my emails after I'd already seen a news bit on the Internet about that Seattle shooting at the Federation offices. That sickened me.

To get this message is disturbing, especially because of the last sentence about sending the message during Shabbat. Disturbing that there's a NEED to send such a message during Shabbat.

Shabbos is a time for rest, but I find it so hard sometimes not to be in the know about matters for 24 hours. Nobody talked about this story at shul; no announcements were made about it. It took a small header in a news site and a personal email for me to learn about it tonight. Sad, isn't it.

Let us all hope and pray for our personal safety the world over and that of our IDF men and women fighting on all our behalf in Eretz HaKodesh.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sand and Stone

Two friends were walking through the desert.

During some point of the journey they had an argument and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: Today my best friend slapped me in the face.

They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath.

The one who had been slapped, got stuck in the mire and started drowning. The friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: Today my best friend saved my life.

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you write on a stone. Why?"

The other friend replied, "Where someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chazak, Chazak

In case you haven't seen this video, nor heard this song, please link to
http://www.voicesforisrael.org/video.html.

You'll be glad you did.

AM YISROEL CHAI!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ode to a Jelly Belly (TM) Giver

On Friday I retrieved my mail
From our mailbox down the street
And when I put my hand in the box
I found something real neat.

A padded manila envelope
That was addressed to me
I saw the name of the sender
And smiled with childish glee

I squeezed that padded package
Trying to guess what might be inside
I managed to get inside my house
Before tearing the envelope open wide

My first guess had been correct
It was candies galore
But in fact not simple candies
Rather, enough Jelly Bellies (tm) to open a store!

A two-pound bag of that sweet delight
Had come to me from the West Coast
From a fabulous and fun gal pal of mine
Who is also quite a talented blog host.

She had held a contest on a post --
Her readers had to find the movie source for a quote
"I'll send the winner a bag of Jelly Bellies"
Is what that California gal wrote.

I knew which movie, I could picture the speaker
But as for the title I could not remember its name
So I had to do the next best thing
And use Google to help stake my claim.

But I'd forgotten about the contest
I thought this gift referred to a different post
But it really makes no difference
'Cause this package was the most...

Sweetest treat she could send me
All the official flavors, so fun to explore
Enough for me and the hubby
And for the kids, JBs galore.

So I thank you, Jelly Belly (tm) giver
It was really a sweet prize
But what made it extra-special
Was that it was a wonderful surprise.

You told me not to share them
But my family I can't deny
As for friends? Well, they're another story
So don't any of you even try...

To ask me for an offering
Of a Jelly Belly (tm) or two
I'll hide the pack behind my back
And this is what I'll say to you:

"Yes, I'm all for sharing
But I'm sorry, you've got to get your own
I know JBs are expensive
So I'm offering you a loan.

To track them down and buy some
Then you can be like me
And indulge yourself in that package of flavors
And not share with anyone, see?"

You know I'm just being silly
Of course I'll share my JBs with you all
But note that's for just this once
Next time it'll be like talking to a wall.

So you'd better hurry and ask me
If you want these delectable delights
'Cause sooner than later the bag will be empty
You'll be disappointed with that truly sad sight.

Are You Being Served?




Ahh...Shabbos. Ahh...Yom Tov. A time for eating, and eating, and eating; a time to be with family and friends.

Now, my husband and I don't do anything in a small way -- we are generous with others. We treat company like kings and queens, preparing a royal banquet for guests, whether they be family or friends.

Perhaps the deterrent by us is often that: 1} I try new recipes out on guests; thus, they become my guinea pigs, so to speak, and 2} I am a poor judge of quantity.

I've never been a good judge of proportions, so I always say to my husband when he or I plan menus: "Do you think that will be enough? Maybe we should make more!" He always looks at me like I'm crazy, and says that the quantity we've planned for is more than enough and if we make even more, we'll be dealing with leftovers galore.

You know what? Usually he's right...like always.

Let me tell you how we do things for a typical Shabbos lunch meal when there are guests...just because most of you will probably never have the privilege of having a meal at our table, although you ARE invited to do so.

Let me say, though, that we're not preparing gourmet-type dishes that need a lot of "patchke-ing"; we are preparing simple dishes, but a variety.

First there's fish -- one or two kinds; there's eggplant and chumus; pickles and olives and maybe marinated peppers; there is a standard Caesar salad we make that's a big hit, and maybe two other salads; there's rice or potatoes or kugel, or sometimes two or all three; there's a chicken dish or two, a meat dish, perhaps meatballs or roast beef; there's maybe a veggie side dish. Dessert is usually a fresh fruit platter, a cake, smaller nosh, and tea/coffee.

A lot of work, yes, but seeing guests enjoy the meal and having them feel relaxed as guests of ours is the reward. We know that we are not doing anything special in order to impress guests; we are just being ourselves.

Part of the food preparation is the presentation -- something I LOVE to do. I pull out several of the glass and serving dishes and trays and serving utensils I received for hostess or shower or engagement gifts; I arrange the food in a lovely way; I dress up the table with the simplest white napkins (paper) and cobalt-blue glasses and our plates that pick up those colors. It is simple, but elegant. Certainly nothing for the pages of Epicure or Gourmet magazines.

Yes, I love to host, and I also enjoy going as a guest to other homes -- it's interesting to observe how people do things in their homes. Some exceed what we do, both in quantity and presentation; others come nowhere close to us, and could stand to take classes in Culinary Class 101. The spectrum is wide and varied.

Based on observation, I learn things too -- what to do, what not to do. I get ideas for recipes, I get ideas for display, I get ideas for what conversation topics work well and don't work well at a table.

Of course we're not all cut from the same cloth -- or in culinary terms, perhaps I should say, we don't all wear the same style apron -- so it can make a meal memorable for a good reason or for a bad one. But I have learned at least one important thing:

"A meal always tastes better in the company of family and friends" IS A FALLACY!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Judgement Day

This 80 year old woman was arrested for shop lifting. When she went before the judge in Cincinnati he asked her, "What did you steal?"

She replied, "A can of peaches."

The judge then asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches and she replied that she was hungry. The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can. She replied 6. The judge then said, "I will then give you 6 days in jail."

Before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, the woman's husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something.

The judge said, "What is it?"

The husband said, "She also stole a can of peas."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Musical Chairs...for Dogs

Max has been a member of our household since mid January. He really is the fourth child; he is not yet one year old, but is experiencing the terrible two's at times.

He chews on everything, including my fingers. It's as if he sucks MY thumb instead of his.

I bought a very durable, nylon dog toy yesterday, spending a pretty penny on it. Within an hour, he'd already destroyed it. There went that brilliant idea of mine...!

In any case, Max is a sweetie; lively and likeable and just darn cute. Unfortunately, because he's black, he doesn't show up in photos too well, and he always ends up with "red-eye" although he's got gorgeous brown eyes.

Being that I've been home since early April, I can see this dog's habits during the day. One of those habits is that he doesn't stay in one place very long. I see him settled on the white sofa; next time I look, he's on the pale green carpet. Fifteen minutes later, he's on the white love seat. Another quarter hour later, he's in his doggie bed in the central hall. Next time I look he's not there...and I don't see him. I call his name... No answer.

Finally I find him in his favorite spot: a leather chair and ottoman that faces a window to the front of the house and the street. That is not only Max's favorite chair, but also my mother-in-law's. She, however, doesn't get camouflaged against the black background of the seat as the dog does.

Is Max settled with us? Or, as he continues to play musical chairs, is he just "finding his place"?

Sadie & Yetta


( These people are Yetta & Morris, or how I imagine them to look...)

Sadie and Yetta, two widows, are talking:

Sadie: "That nice Morris Finkleman asked me out for a date. I know you went out with him last week, and I wanted to talk with you about him before an answer I give him."

Yetta: "Vell.... I'll tell you. He shows up at my apartment punctual like a clock. And like such a mensch he is dressed. Fine suit, vonderful lining. And he brings me such beautiful flowers you could die from. Den he takes me downstairs and what's there but such a beautiful car you should never know.... a limousine even, uniformed chauffeur and all. Den he takes me out for a dinner....marvellous dinner. Kosher even. Den ve go see a show... let me tell you Sadie, I enjoyed it so much I could just plotz!



So den ve are coming back to my apartment and into an ANIMAL he turns...... so completely crazy that he tears off my expensive new dress and has his way with me!"

Sadie: "Oy vey... so you are telling me I shouldn't go out with him den?"

Yetta: "No... I'm just saying that if you go, wear a shmatta."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Into Every Generation

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Please check out this 1-minute film put together by Aish HaTorah.

It only takes a minute...

http://www.aish.com/movies/everygeneration.asp

Summer Schedule

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Remember watching TV (I rarely do anymore, so I pose the question to you) and over the summer, series would go on hiatus and they'd bring you repeat episodes or "the best of," just to keep you in touch with the show until the fall?

I'm not on hiatus, but I've decided that I'm going to go through "THE BLOG FILES" and every now and again will randomly pull something up and reprint it for you.

Doing so is certainly not a new and novel concept for others; it is for me.

It's like the infomercial, late-night shows that try to sell you "The Best of..." musical compilations. "The Best of Bread," "The Best of Chicago," "The Best of Joni Mitchell," "The Best of the Seventies" -- the offscreen announcer or the onscreen MC says, "Do you remember this one?"

So, folks, do you remember this one?

http://wwwpearliesofwisdom.blogspot.com/2006/02/with-microphone-in-hand.html

Any newish readers have a song to call their own?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I've Been Searching So Long...

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Recently, some of you may have found me by typing:

* Zayde made us laugh

* Jewish actors name changer

* Cleopatra being carried by slaves

* Information on aerial acrobatic tricks

* Who sang take the load off Granny

Wouldn't it just have been easier to type http://wwwpearliesofwisdom.blogspot.com ? I think so...

Wishing You Enough

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I just dug up an old email in my files; it had been forwarded to me and then I'd sent it to a few people. Now I'm sharing it with you all.

Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, "I love you and I wish you enough." The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom." They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking but why is this a forever good-bye?"

"I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral," she said.

"When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?"

She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more.

"When we said 'I wish you enough' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them." Then turning toward me she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory:

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."

She then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.

TAKE TIME TO LIVE.....

To all my friends and loved ones,

I WISH YOU ENOUGH!!!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just Jokin'


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You know how in this world you meet people who are always "on" -- always talking (often about themselves); always wanting to be heard; always trying to top another person's story. Always assuming that they are funny and that people will laugh at their jokes.

I'm sometimes "on," not always, and yes, my jokes often miss the mark, so I've seen both sides of the coin. But I know several people who actually get on my nerves when they try to outtalk, outjoke, outdo other people, and the best thing is either to just nod my head to them, and not encourage them by asking questions or making comments, if I have to be in their company.

Recently I spent a Shabbos meal with such a person. That person makes it sound as if he/she is the best, knows the most, tries the hardest, all the while looking for the audience reaction to his/her comments and stories, no doubt hoping they'll laugh.

After listening to this person go on and hog the conversation a lot of the time, in spite of there being several guests around the table, and overshadowing both his/her spouse and others, there was a momentary lull after a string of one-liner type bits.

Suddenly my 8 1/2 -year-old daughter fills the silence: "Are these jokes?" (implying very discreetly: "Are we supposed to be laughing?")

Cross-posted on Our Kids Speak

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Knowing When To Say "Thank You"

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I received this email from our Jewish Federation today:

Dear Pearl,

Please note this urgent message from CJPAC – Canada’s grassroots Jewish advocacy organization - about the importance of expressing our gratitude to Prime Minister Harper for his strong stand in Israel’s favour during the current conflict.

We wrote to you a few days ago with a request to help support Israel in these difficult times. Since then, the situation has intensified. Rockets launched by the Hezbollah terror organization killed eight people today in Haifa and yesterday struck Tiberias. Here in Canada, anti-Israel groups are stepping up their mobilization to undermine the Canadian Government's support for Israel. It is more essential than ever that we make our voices heard.

If you have not already done so, please contact the Prime Minister's Office at 613-992-4211 to express your gratitude for Canada's principled position and support for Israel. You can also e-mail Prime Minister Harper at pm@pm.gc.ca
This will take less than a minute and is extremely important. You may want to read the Government's
most recent statement and the Prime Minister's comments on the situation.

We also urge you to support the UJA Federation Israel Crisis Relief Fund, which is helping to send children under rocket attack to camps that are removed from confrontation regions and purchasing equipment such as toys and games for use in bomb shelters. To make a donation, please click here.

May the days ahead bring peace and security to Israel.


So I immediately typed an email without much thought:


We, the Jewish people of Canada, and the world, thank you for your stance regarding Israel.

It is not easy to sit on the sidelines and watch entire communities live in fear for their lives; it is not easy to sit and watch history continually repeat itself; it is not easy to sit and watch people who are against you, time and time again, try to beat you down.

But it is easy to say thank you. So once again, thank you.

May the resolutions be quick and positive.

Pearl XXX & family,

Toronto, Canada

Roll/Role Call

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I'm very sorry. I know chaos is reigning over in the Middle East, wildfires are burning in California, and the world is full of daily ugliness, but I have to write lighter posts at a time like this. I read all these "heavy" posts elsewhere -- they both inform me and leave me heavy-hearted. I can't write like that right now. I'll leave it for others...

Growing up as the youngest child and the only daughter, I figured it was clear that I was a girl, especially since I had a girl's name to prove it. So why then did my mother often call me by my brothers' names or my father's name? I couldn't understand when she stumbled on her words in trying to get out the right name. Wasn't it plain to see? Pearl was standing beside her. Pearl and ONLY Pearl. So why was I suddenly being referred to as Jacob (my father's name)?

Well, Mom, I apologize for all those times that I personally wondered, "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, MOM? CAN"T YOU TELL WHO I AM BY NOW?"

Why do I apologize? Because I've noticed that I do the same damn thing!

I want to talk to my daughter who is beside me. I know it's my daughter. I know she's the only one in the room with me. I know she was given a beautiful feminine Hebrew name at birth. So what on earth possesses me to call her by one of her brothers' names? Better yet, why do I often do a roll call when I'm calling for her, and only her. I will somehow yell out all three kids names, one after the other, stumbling over each as I realize my mistake and try to get the RIGHT name for the right kid.

Why is it that when my oldest brother is in town, or if I talk to him on the phone, I will call him by my husband's name and I'll call my husband by my brother's name? This only happens with this particular brother.

But the best/worst scenario of all: since we became dog owners some 3 1/2 years ago, why is it that I would mix up the dogs' names with my youngest son's? Why did I call both Tyson, and now Max, by child #3's name? Worse, why do I call my child by the dog's name?

Why does this phenomenon only happen with my youngest child's name? Something to make you get in Rodin's "The Thinker" pose and say "Hmmm...."

I thought it bizarre, and I truly feel guilty each time it has happened to me over the years. This past Friday night after dinner and when everyone had gone to sleep, I walked Max, and saw a friend, a fellow dog owner. I asked her very cautiously, "Do you ever make the mistake of calling Jasper (a white Westie) by one of your kids' names, or call one of your kids by the dog's name?"

When I heard "I do it all the time -- and only with my youngest child," I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Guess I'm not the only freak out there!

Any dog owners out there willing to admit they've done, or do, the same?

Friday, July 14, 2006

We've Got the Green Light!

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(cross-posted on Our Kids Speak)

Scenario: dinner table.

Conversation: talk of Shabbos and shuls.

Specific conversation: 6 1/2 year old N. asks, "Abba [Dad], can we go to the BAYT (one of the two shuls we belong to; a 30 minute walk from our house; acronym stands for Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation of Toronto) next Shabbos?"

Abba: "Im yirtzeh Hashem."

N.: "What?"

Abba repeats: "Im yirtzeh Hashem."

N.: "What does THAT mean?"

Abba: "If Hashem wants us to, [we'll go there]."

30 second pause...

N.: "He does."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sweet Home Alabama


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I noticed in my stats that someone linked to Pearlies of Wisdom from Hatchechubbee, Alabama. Is that, in fact, a real place?

They didn't seek me out intentionally; they were Googling "sexy hoarse voice".

Try saying "I come from Hatchechubbee, Alabama," in a sexy hoarse voice. But first one has to know how to pronounce that town name!

THE CHINMUSCLESTONIFIER





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Bet you think my title was a typo, that somehow I strung the words together by mistake. Nuh-uh. That was written in one breath, so imagine it being said in one breath.

I was just in our en-suite "library" reading one of those free health magazines you pick up when you're hurrying through the mall, and passing a health-food store. "Healthy Directions" -- hmm, let me pick this up and see where it leads me...

This magazine is filled with more ads than articles, most of which deal with topics that have absolutely no connection to my life. Anyhow, one of these ads stood out for me, because of the accompanying photo. (see above)

What the heck is that!? I couldn't help but wonder. And I read on:

"A face-lift without surgery.

The chinmusclestonifier (edit. note: there's that "said-in-all-one-breath" word again!) prevents or eliminates a double chin, tone neck and jaw muscles, soften the appearance of wrinkles and increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to give your skin a healthier glow.

Tone & strengthen chin and facial muscles with just 3 minutes of exercise each day!"

So I have a few issues with this products AND the copywriter...

1) Where did the copywriter learn English, and learn to write in English? As it reads now, this product prevents/eliminates a double chin, a tone neck and jaw muscles! Go back to school, person. Write right! It s/b "tones", "softens", "increases".

Phew, now that I got that editorial critique out of the way, I can move on to my next complaints:

2) As for using this product for just 3 minutes a day of exercise, and getting results? I'd rather work my jaw, talking for 3 minutes to friends about this ridiculous-looking product. Guess what? I'd be laughing hysterically, as well. Guess what? My stomach muscles would then have a 3-minute workout too. Guess what? My face and tummy would both benefit from my type of exercise.

3) Is this something I should be wearing in public? "Honey, I'm gonna run to the supermarket for some milk. Ya think I should wear my chinmusclestonifier at Sobey's? You know what -- actually I'll go to No Frills. There I'm more likely to see some neighborhood ladies and men wearing them."

4) Who designed this monstrosity? Someone who was fired from the costume department at MGM? Or rather, from the props department at Universal Studios?

"Hmmm...let me see what I can make with these plastic-and-rubber fat suits I stole from my department just after they showed me the door."

I was on the company's website and read this little summary:

The Main Benefits of the Chin Muscles Tonifier (Edit. note: they can't even get their OWN trademark straight; here it's three words!)

The Chin Muscles Tonifier is a revolutionary and very effective device for face lifting without surgery. With just 3 minutes of exercises a day it:

*prevents or eliminates a double chin and droopy jowls
*tones up the muscles of the chin, jaw, neck and face
*firms up the face and slows down the apparition of wrinkles
*softens the appearance of wrinkles and the puffiness of the face
*increases blood circulation and oxygen flow to facial muscles and skin
*improves facial skin elasticity and appearance, and
*makes you look and feel more relaxed

So 5) Can you truly imagine looking and feeling more relaxed...especially while wearing this contraption?

"Is anyone looking at me now? Can I cross the room without anyone staring? My face feels tight...I feel tense...I think I'm starting to hyperventilate. HONEY, GET A PAPER BAG!"

I think I should stop now, 'cause in truth I have more I could write about his product, and who knows how far that could get me. But I truly would like to know "Who has bought this trademarked THING? Did it in fact help them...or just help fill the company's coffers?"

So, a face-lift without surgery... What's next? A nose job without surgery?

"Buy this new product of ours: The NOSECRACKER! Brilliantly designed by a team of "nose it alls" the NOSECRACKER does the job -- without surgery. Just wrap it around your nose, give a few cracks, a twist...and voila! You've got yourself a new nose.

Don't put your nose to the grindstone...put it to the NOSECRACKER!"

Today's products have been brought to you by the Cynical Corporation...



Wednesday, July 12, 2006

For the Literati

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Yesterday an email was forwarded to me from a publishing contact in NYC.


You may want to check this out: http://www.worldebookfair.com/

The World eBook Library Consortia and Project Gutenberg are offering free access to and downloads from their online archives for the next few weeks. Besides e-books, they have audio books, movies, government documents, scholarly texts in over 100 languages...something for every lover of literature. Have fun, and pass it on!


I just checked out the children's book collection and began reading an old storybook I'd never heard of. I want to go back and read some more...

There is something for just about everyone in these collections. Check them out for yourself -- and happy e-reading!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

OPI Revisited

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After I posted about OPI colors and paint colors and the fact that I'd like to have the honor of naming fashion shades, I began to search for more information about the OPI company. Here is an article that holds some verrrry interrrrresting information -- at least to me!

Local color
OPI gives its nail polishes eccentric names with regional ties. Could Boston be next?
By Kate M. Jackson, Globe Correspondent August 4, 2005


Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves; others wear their attitudes on their toes.

Whether you're throwing confetti or throwing a tantrum, OPI has probably assigned your mindset a color and bottled it. Since 1989, the nail lacquer company has captured all moods whimsical and wily with shades like ''Not So Bora Bora Pink" and ''My Auntie Drinks Chianti."

For Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, nail color is as much about creating an experience as it is about making a statement. Each season Weiss-Fischmann, OPI's executive vice president and artistic director, assembles a creative team to name new lacquer colors based on different locations worldwide.

''Six or seven of us get together in a room for about five to six hours. We take out the map, and then things get really goofy," said Weiss-Fischmann, who's drawn inspiration for past collections from such places as Canada, Greece, and Italy.

During naming sessions, the goal is to capture the colors of the landscape and the eccentricities of each location -- and then tie them into the season's fashion trends, she said.

OPI's most popular color to date is a feisty red shade titled ''I'm Not Really a Waitress." ''That was part of our Hollywood collection," Weiss-Fischmann explained, ''because everyone in LA says they're not really a waitress."

For the Canadian collection, OPI gave local colloquialism a shout-out with a shade titled ''Nice Color, Eh?" ''Aphrodite's Pink Nightie" was the goddess of the Greek collection. For the Italian collection, Weiss-Fischmann said the lacquers mirrored the hues of a Tuscan vineyard, and also paid tribute to some beloved mechanics from New Jersey with the color ''Hey Vito, Is My Car Red-y."

The creativity and humor pasted across the tiny name tags on the bottom of each OPI bottle have secured a worldwide following of customers who are not only fans, but devotees.


Kelley Cyr of Milton almost switched nail salons when her regular manicurist suggested she try a similar color from another brand. ''I insisted on my 'Coney Island Cotton Candy,' " Cyr said.

''Home on the O-Range" is an OPI color that Kathleen Norton of Hingham calls ''the perfect summer shade."

''It's a bright coral that really complements your tan," said Norton, who found the color had a hidden bonus: ''It makes my wedding and engagement rings look bigger."

At Neet Nails in Norwell, owner Anita Asci said an OPI-inspired venting session once erupted among the manicures and pedicures.

''Everyone seemed to be annoyed with their husbands or life in general, and we started making up colors based on our feelings and thought about submitting them to OPI," she said.

Some of the names they came up with that day included ''Push Me Over the Edge Red" and ''Can't Find the Vicodin Violet," said Asci.

Yesterday OPI unveiled its latest creation, the Chicago Collection. ''The 12 new shades feature a lot of creamy browns and rich reds, which are the hottest colors for this fall," said Weiss-Fischmann.

New shades include ''That's an 'EL' of a Color!" a brick-red polish named after Chicago's elevated transit system, and a shimmery nude hue called ''Skinny Dip'n in Lake Michg'n."

Whether or not OPI plans a Boston-based collection ''is top secret," said Weiss-Fischmann, ''but you never know."

Somewhere out there ''Red Sox Red" or ''Pahk the Cah-rimson" are just begging to be bottled.

Notice the section I highlighted in "Mauvelous Mauve" (you like that shade name I just came up with, Cruisin' Mom?). And think back to the scene I imagined at OPI, the round-table tactics to come up with names for new collection.

See... I wasn't so far off the mark, was I? Maybe there is a place for me at that corporation, after all. Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, hope you're reading this and not just contemplating your next manicure...

The Man in the Moon

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Last night, between 9:20 and 9:50 I walked the dog. And as I walked through a neighborhood park, I noticed the HUGE, beautiful moon suspended in the sky, a beacon for all to see and admire. It was as if the moon was saying, "Hey, look me over!"

And as I looked at the moon, I smiled, for not only was it majestic-looking, full and beautiful, holding court in the astral plains, it looked a tad different. And I was inspired to write a poem.

The Man in the Moon

Tonight as I walked
through the darkening streets
I looked up to the sky
And saw you.
A beacon of light.
An orb all aglow.

A disc suspended high, high above
the greening of the earth,
the people and animals down below
shutting down for the night.

I looked at you
and saw that burnt amber face powder you wore
atop the natural ivory
and I wondered at the color you chose to wear tonight.
Your finest? I asked myself. Is that maquillage necessary?

And your jovial self continued
to look down at me and smile,
knowing that the man in the moon was playing his role,
was lighting up the sky brighter than usual,
was causing people to look, point and smile.

For you wore an accessory.
The thin wispy, thready clouds around you
had designed an accessory just for you -- for tonight's performance.
A handlebar mustache.
The man in the moon was seen wearing
a handlebar mustache.

"Encore, encore," I silently called.
"Encore, encore," I silently clapped.

Silence.

***************************

I went home and before I sat down to write this post and create the poem, I checked out information about the moon on July 10, 2006, and this is what I found:

July 10, 11:02 p.m. EDT: The Full Buck Moon, when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes also called the Full Hay Moon.

Color Me OPI





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On my walk with the dog Monday evening, I was looking at the full moon and felt inspired enough to write a poem (for another post). It came about because I was looking at the color of the moon, trying to determine the exact shade. And as I thought of that, I thought of names of paint colors, and nail polish shades, and wondered "Who comes up with them?"

And not for the first time I decided that I want to become an official name-caller.... I want to be one of those people who thinks up these illustrious and innovative names for up-and-coming shades of paints and cosmetics.

"Color naming in fashion and paint exploits the subjectiveness and emotional context of words and their associations. This is particularly seen in the naming of paint chips (samples) where paint is sold. This may in fact be an aid to moving a customer through the store more rapidly, as closely similar shades may be equally vailid in a specific application, with selection being determined by individual preference, colors of furnishings and artwork, and the quality and character of light, both artificial and natural. The attachment of an emotional context to a color sample by choice of name may enhance the rapidity of selection.

In fashion and automotive colors the objective of naming is to enhance the perception of color through apropriate naming to fit the emotional context desired. Thus the same "poppy yellow" can become either the hot blooded and active "amber rage", the cozy and peaceful "late afternoon sunshine", or the wealth evoking "sierra gold".

I discovered a list of 1970s Behr Paint palette names and wondered at many of them. Although creative, the names don't always even give a hint as to what color family the shade is part of.


1970s Color Palette
Cinnamon Cherry
Burley Wood
Sugar Berry
Almond Cream
Licorice Stick
Ocean Pearl
Chamois Cloth
Ryegrass
Maple Leaf
Tate Olive
Pumpkin Patch
Jungle Trail
Firebrick
Celtic Gray
Chesnut Stallion
Teal Bayou
Navajo White
Peacock Feather
Honey Tone
Creek Bend
Dry Sea Grass
Dark Caven
Golden Chalice
Bear Rug


It's amazing to think that people get paid to sit and think, and think, and think and come up with these names. And I have to tell you, throughout time, there have been many households having domestic disputes about paint shades, paint names and what they represent, and lots of "Don't you dare put that mustard color on the walls!" or "Cotton candy pink? This ain't a baby's nursery, this is a dining room!" or "If you paint this bedroom that shade of regal purple, so help me, I won't be sharing this bed with you any more!" (the wife grins broadly at her husband's outburst, happily plotting to reclaim the queen-size bed now that he's made his announcement)

I am especially impressed with OPI cosmetics, and their use of color names, specifically their nail polish collections. An example is above; it's their Italy collection. I've been equally impressed with the NY collection and the Chicago collection. But can you just imagine the scenario as a brainstorming meeting gets underway at OPI...

A boardroom has a large table with several people sitting around it. On the table are English and foreign-language dictionaries, a thesaurus, an atlas, lots of scribble pads and pens, random color photos, and the Internet is hooked up at several computer stations, just waiting to be used if necessary.

"Okay, people. There's lots of work to do. We need a new collection for Winter 2008, and we need ideas, names, big concepts. Sandra, this time it's you. Cover your eyes with one hand and with the other open up that atlas, flip through the pages and pick one. That country you pick will be the new collection."

Sandra happily does as Derek says, and comes up with SWTZERLAND.

"Perfect, Sandra...seeing as it is a winter collection we're working on. Okay, people, start thinking..."

And they come up with: (maybe I should TM these ideas of mine)

Bern, Baby, Bern (deep red shade)
Fondue 4 Fun (brown shade)
Swiss Miss Magic (cream shade)
Come Blow Your Alphorn (yellow shade)
Zany Zurich (silver shade)
Bahnhofstrasse Boogie (copper shade)

So, OPI, if you happen to stumble across this little blog of mine, consider my offer to become a "name-caller" for you. I love wordplay, I have creative ideas and I'm a colorful character. And if that's not enough for you, I've just designed your new Winter 2008 collection: Switzerland: It's a Matter of the Matterhorn.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Things That Made Me Smile Today...


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...the image above

...seeing a rabbit run out of my neighbor's bushes and hop across the street

...receiving and reading a thank-you letter from my mother and father regarding their 50th wedding anniversary celebration dinner, and the poem that I wrote and the donations that we made in their honor

...hearing a Barry White song on the radio, turning up the volume and dancing across the kitchen floor with only Max, the dog, for an audience

...seeing my children leave this morning, happiness on their faces at another day in camp, another day of adventures

...watching my husband interact with my kids this evening, listening how nicely he talks to them, seeing how much patience he has with them, and just watching the warmth that exudes from him towards his offspring

...the humorous writing style of a particular author, whose romance novel I'm copy editing

...watching Max the dog run outside in the rain and head straight for protection under the patio table

...finding out that the adoption of a baby went through for a couple that I know

...seeing a glorious full moon about 25 minutes ago when I walked the dog

...reading Cruisin Mom's "Jelly Belly" post

...reading the human emotion behind Neil Kramer's latest post about his late father and his collectibles

...feeling inspired to write posts and poetry

Realization


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Last week I wrote a post in a humorous vein about lack of comments; it's not the first time I've written about that topic, and I doubt it will be the last time.

But this week, while panning through my fave blogs, I suddenly realized that I, too, am guilty of the same thing that I'm pointing out about others. I often read these posts of favorite bloggers, but if I have nothing to add to the "conversation" I will move on without leaving a comment.

Can they tell that I've visited? Can they tell if I read their recent post in detail or skimmed over it? Can they tell that I sometimes feel inadequate just because I have nothing to add to a thread of comments, that I don't know enough about what is being talked about to be able to add my two shekels?

So, slap my wrist for writing that "Are You Being Served?" post. I guess I just somehow associated lack of comments with lack of readers. But I realize that lack of comments might also just represent "a comfortable silence."

A Poem-in-Progress

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I was recently given a gift of an informative, coffee-table-style tome of Holocaust chronicles -- a pictorial, journalistic timeline of the Jews, as their decline began to be marked as soon as Hitler came to power.

It is a powerful book, both in its detailed information and in its photos, and one can sit for hours with it. But there is a dilemma similar to a "push me, pull me" one. One wants to read the book, one wants to lay it down because it is so graphic, one picks it up again, cautiously turning the pages in fear of what one will read or see.

But I did pick up the book, sat with it a long while, slowly turning the pages and reading bits and pieces here and there. In a sidebar, I read about "Canada/Kanada."

Kanada, the storehouse where confiscated belongings from prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau were kept and meticulously catalogued — clothing, toys, shoes, eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, gold teeth, wristwatches, jewelry, pots and pans, books, shorn hair — anything that might allow a dehumanized slave to feel human, anything that could be used by the German people, craving both luxuries and essentials. Prisoners working in Kanada were lucky; they could sell confiscated items to the S.S. for special favors or food.

The Nazis nicknamed the storehouse "Kanada" because they considered Canada to be a land of limitless bounty and wealth.

I could not shake off the thought or image of this other "Canada" and was inspired to begin a poem. This is my poem-in-progress:

KANADA

There were heaps and heaps
of discarded goods,
discarded lives,
discarded souls
tossed upon each other.

Nestled in a storehouse
amidst the bloated bellies,
the hollow cheeks
of human mankind.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Soul of a Poet


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The soul of a poet = poetry of the soul.

For years I've been referred to as "a writer" but I don't believe it's an accurate title. I usually correct people and say, "I write." If I'm told, "You write well," I WILL accept that, but I deny anything that resembles an identifier of "writer."

However, I've also been referred to as "a poet." And for some reason, I've accepted that title all these years and worn it proudly. Partially because it truly defines who I am, what I am about.

My thoughts flow better in short sentences...in word trails that conjure up images and feelings, sounds and scents. I take a simple thought and design it as a poem -- laying it out in such a way that words are grouped together, making a reader understand that the visuals have as much an impact as the words themselves. Is this called "poetic license"?

Yes, I've been known to write cutesie limerick poems for years, especially for a celebration or special event. But that is not the mainstay of my poetry, and I don't deem myself a poet when I write those or read them aloud. Regarding those, I prefer to accept the compliment "You're clever."

The heart of my poetry lies deep within me -- in my teen years, it was the teen angst surfacing, (similar to Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" lyrics) and as the years went on, the poems dealt with my identity, my roots, the important people in my life...and people I never knew personally but read about. For some reason, I truly absorb someone else's life and what they represent, when I read about them. Is it sensitivity, is it compassion, is it a transference of putting myself in their shoes...or simply all of the above?

The Holocaust has figured greatly in my poems, my parents -- especially my father -- has figured greatly in my poems, often tied in to those Holocaust poems, people who've left this world are given a life once again in my poems, people whom I may have met briefly, but who have left a lasting impression on me, appear in my poems.

Sure, I studied poetry in school -- primary, junior, high and university -- and I know that one can learn to write poetry. One can take courses to learn how to write poetry. One can do afternoon or evening workshops to learn how to write poetry. Or one can simply write...without learning the craft...without learning about timing and an audience. Without worrying about whether one should write free-form verse or rhyming poetry. Without worrying whether a poem will be published or not.

Yes, one can simple write....

TABULA RASA

Read Between the Lines


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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Are You Being Served?


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Imagine some dusty, godforsaken town in the Old West. Main Street is empty of foot traffic, but there are horses hitched here and there, waiting for their riders to return.

In front of the Know-It-All Saloon stands a gunslinger. A stranger. Dressed in black from head to toe. And he's wearing the pointiest cowboy boots ever been seen 'round these parts of the county. The gunslinger calls them his "cockroach killers"...

Music and raucous laughter flow out of the saloon, the sound of bottles being smashed, high-pitched squealing feminine voices of the dancin' girls, and the music and laughter of men continue.

The gunslinger spits out his plug of chewin' tobacco, pushes through the swinging doors and looks over the room. The laughter stops, the music stops, the talking stops.

"Whaddaya gotta do to get a drink 'round here?" says the gunslinger in his twang.

"Comin' right up," says the handlebar-mustached bartender, already polishing a glass and pouring a finger of whiskey. He slides it across the bar to the stranger...

Now imagine me. Not a gunslinger. And certainly not a stranger 'round these parts. I don't use chewin' tobacco, I don't wear cowboy boots, and I don't even ride horses!

But almost each time I open my blog to see my previous post, I (with a slight swagger and Queens, NY-like twang) have to say, "WHADDAYA GOTTA DO TO GET A COMMENT 'ROUND HERE?"

And I'm waitin' for y'all to say, "Comin' right up!"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

TROTSKY?*




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*For the sake of this post, names have been changed to protect the identity of a local Toronto fellow...

Many of you who are married or are involved in relationships might have a "buzzword" or a "secret signal" that you and your beloved share to help get you out of awkward or uncomfortable positions, or just to have as a common denominator.

My parents, for example, are represented by : "Okay, Mrs. Lilli..." That's my father's cue to my mother for them to take their leave wherever they are. I guess it's worked for 50 years!

As for my husband and I? Our buzzword is "TROTSKY?"* I will tell you the origins of that word, and let you understand when and how we use it.

Back in January 1994, about 6 weeks after we married, my husband and I took our honeymoon in St. Martin in the Dutch Caribbean. It is a jewel of an island that is half-Dutch, half-French, and small enough to drive across in a couple of short hours.

We would spend the day at the pool and beach or sightseeing, and the evenings at the casinos and walking through town, on the Dutch side, where there was a more vibrant night life.

One night, we were in the center of town when I heard my name being called. I turned around to find, Barry Trotsky*, an acquaintance from Toronto, who, although a couple years younger than me, shared some mutual friends with me. I hadn't seen him in a few years, and so we briefly caught up. Of course, I introduced him to my new husband, and he introduced me to his friend with whom he was traveling.

Now this guy is very friendly, rather animated, and talks a mile a minute. But he wasn't talking too fast for me to notice that he had some vegetable -- spinach or parsley -- stuck in his front teeth. It was so difficult for me to keep my eyes off that piece of green and listen attentively to his words. I couldn't understand why his traveling companion had not pointed out the obvious to his friend.

As Barry* went on and on about the fabulous dinner he and his buddy had just come from, I couldn't help but think "Yeah, and I can see some of that dinner even still."

If I'd have been closer friends with him, I wonder if I might've said something in a nice way, but as it stood, it was a rather awkward encounter all around, making small talk, catching up, and at the same time wanting to run away from the SPINACH MONSTER.

Finally we parted company, and after several steps my husband and I turned to each other and just burst out laughing and talking at once, "What's with that guy? Didn't his friend think to tell him about the green? How awkward was that!"

We deliberated if I should've said something, too, and to this day I sort of wonder about that -- 'cause the situation was and would've been somewhat awkward no matter how you sliced it.

But since that day, whenever TorontoPearl's husband and I finish a meal, and especially if we're in a public place, we turn to each other with big toothy smiles and simultaneously ask, "TROTSKY?" (ie. anything stuck in my teeth?)

A Feel-Good Story*

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* I was advised to post this on my blog. When Hollywood talks, you listen!

The Shabbos Goy by Joe Velarde

Snow came early in the winter of 1933 when our extended Cuban family moved into the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I was ten years old. We were the first Spanish speakers to arrive, yet we fit more or less easily into that crowded, multicultural neighborhood. Soon we began learning a little Italian, a few Greek and Polish words, lots of Yiddish and some heavily accented English.

I first heard the expression Shabbos is falling when Mr. Rosenthal refused to open the door of his dry goods store on Bedford Avenue. My mother had sent me with a dime to buy a pair of black socks for my father. In those days, men wore mostly black and Navy blue. Brown and gray were somehow special and cost more. Mr. Rosenthal stood inside the locked door, arms folded, glaring at me through the thick glass while a heavy snow and darkness began to fall on a Friday evening. "We're closed already," Mr. Rosenthal had said, shaking his head. "Can't you see that Shabbos is falling? Don't be a nudnik! Go home." I could feel the cold wetness covering my head and thought that Shabbos was the Jewish word for snow.

My misperception of Shabbos didn't last long, however, as the area's dominant culture soon became apparent; Gentiles were the minority. From then on, as Shabbos fell with its mutable regularity and Jewish lore took over the life of the neighborhood, I came to realize that so many human activities, ordinarily mundane at any other time, ceased, and a palpable silence, a pleasant tranquillity, fell over all of us. It was then that a family with an urgent need would dispatch a youngster to "Get the Spanish boy, and hurry!"

That was me. In time, I stopped being nameless and became Yussel, sometimes Yuss or Yusseleh. And so began my life as a Shabbos Goy, voluntarily doing chores for my neighbors on Friday nights and Saturdays: lighting stoves, running errands, getting a prescription for an old tante, stoking coal furnaces, putting lights on or out, clearing snow and ice from slippery sidewalks and stoops. Doing just about anything that was forbidden to the devout by their religious code.

Friday afternoons were special. I'd walk home from school assailed by the rich aroma emanating from Jewish kitchens preparing that evening's special menu. By now, I had developed a list of steady clients, Jewish families who depended on me. Furnaces, in particular, demanded frequent tending during Brooklyn's many freezing winters. I shudder remembering brutally cold winds blowing off the East River. Anticipation ran high as I thought of the warm home-baked treats I'd bring home that night after my Shabbos rounds were over. Thanks to me, my entire family had become Jewish pastry junkies. Moi? I'm still addicted to checkerboard cake, halvah and Egg Creams (made only with Fox's Ubet chocolate syrup).

I remember as if it were yesterday how I discovered that Jews were the smartest people in the world. You see, in our Cuban household we all loved the ends of bread loaves and, to keep peace, my father always decided who would get them. One harsh winter night I was rewarded for my Shabbos ministrations with a loaf of warm challah (we pronounced it "holly") and I knew I was witnessing genius! Who else could have invented a bread that had wonderfully crusted ends all over it -- enough for everyone in a large family?

There was an "International" aspect to my teen years in Williamsburg. The Sternberg family had two sons who had fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain. Whenever we kids could get their attention, they'd spellbind us with tales of hazardous adventures in the Spanish Civil War. These twenty-something war veterans also introduced us to a novel way of thinking, one that embraced such humane ideas as From each according to his means and to each according to his needs. In retrospect, this innocent exposure to a different philosophy was the starting point of a journey that would also incorporate the concept of Tzedakah in my personal guide to the world.

In what historians would later call The Great Depression, a nickel was a lot of mazuma and its economic power could buy a brand new Spaldeen,our local name for the pink-colored rubber ball then produced by the Spalding Company. The famous Spaldeen was central to our endless street games: stick ball and punchball or the simpler stoopball. On balmy summer evenings our youthful fantasies converted South Tenth Street into Ebbets Field with the Dodgers' Dolph Camilli swinging a broom handle at a viciously curving Spaldeen thrown by the Giant's great lefty, Carl Hubbell. We really thought it curved, I swear.

Our neighbors, magically transformed into spectators kibitzing from their brownstone stoops and windows, were treated to a unique version of major league baseball. My tenure as the resident Shabbos Goy came to an abrupt end after Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. I withdrew from Brooklyn College the following day and joined the U.S. Army. In June of 1944, the Army Air Corps shipped me home after flying sixty combat missions over Italy and the Balkans. I was overwhelmed to find that several of my Jewish friends and neighbors had set a place for me at their supper tables every Shabbos throughout my absence, including me in their prayers. What mitzvoth! My homecoming was highlighted by wonderful invitations to dinner. Can you imagine the effect after twenty-two months of Army field rations?

As my post-World War II life developed, the nature of the association I'd had with Jewish families during my formative years became clearer. I had learned the meaning of friendship, of loyalty, and of honor and respect. I discovered obedience without subservience. And caring about all living things had become as natural as breathing. The worth of a strong work ethic and of purposeful dedication was manifest. Love of learning blossomed and I began to set higher standards for my developing skills, and loftier goals for future activities and dreams. Mind, none of this was the result of any sort of formal instruction; my yeshiva had been the neighborhood. I learned these things,absorbed them actually says it better, by association and role modeling, by pursuing curious inquiry, and by what educators called "incidental learning" in the crucible that was pre-World War II Williamsburg. It seems many of life's most elemental lessons are learned this way.

While my parents' Cuban home sheltered me with warm, intimate affection and provided for my well-being and self esteem, the group of Jewish families I came to know and help in the Williamsburg of the 1930s was a surrogate tribe that abetted my teenage rite of passage to adulthood. One might even say we had experienced a special kind of Bar Mitzvah. I couldn't explain then the concept of tikkun olam, but I realized as I matured how well I had been oriented by the Jewish experience to live it and to apply it. What a truly uplifting outlook on life it is to be genuinely motivated "to repair the world."

In these twilight years when my good wife is occasionally told "Your husband is a funny man," I'm aware that my humor has its roots in the shticks of Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, entertainers at Catskill summer resorts, and their many imitators. And, when I argue issues of human or civil rights and am cautioned about showing too much zeal, I recall how chutzpah first flourished on Williamsburg sidewalks, competing for filberts (hazelnuts) with tough kids wearing payess and yarmulkes. Along the way I played chess and one-wall handball, learned to fence, listened to Rimsky-Korsakov, ate roasted chestnuts, read Maimonides and studied Saul Alinsky. I am ever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a Shabbos Goy.

Aleichem sholom

Monday, July 03, 2006

JULY 4


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Tomorrow is America's birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!

Tomorrow is my dear father's birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD.

There are not enough stars in the sky, enough fireworks being lit across America's landscape, to reflect my love for you. Endless and evermore...

Meme's the Word...Again

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I spotted this cool -- I thought! -- meme on another blog, so I borrowed it for myself:

Instructions:
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. In the Search box, type your birth month and day (but not year).
3. List three events that happened on your birthday.
4. List two important birthdays and one interesting death.
5. One holiday or observance (if any).


Re. September 23

EVENTS:
1941 - The first gas experiments are conducted at Auschwitz
1962 - The Jetsons aired for the first time.
1980 - Bob Marley's last concert.

BIRTHDAYS:
1926 - John Coltrane, American saxophonist and composer
1930 - Ray Charles, American musician and singer

DEATH:
1939 - Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist

HOLIDAY/OBSERVANCE: (This particular one makes me say "Hmmm..." as I imagine Sigmund Freud would!)

September 23rd of every year is designated as Celebrate Bisexuality Day and celebrated by members of the bisexual community and their allies worldwide. Observed annually since 1999.



"Summertime...and the Livin' Is Easy"**


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** contrary to Randi/Cruisin' Mom's belief!

The other day I read a wonderful post written by Cruisin' Mom, as she reminisced about summer. It was picturesque, conjuring up mental images of my own. So I'm carrying the torch that Randi unwittingly passed on to me with that post, and I will proceed to share a few of my own summertime images...

--sitting on the front porch, watching the sky darken, heavy clouds floating by, the onset of rain, first some fat drops, then a light drizzle, then a torrential downpour heightened by the sound-and-light show in the sky...and if we were lucky: a rainbow to follow the summer storm

--sitting with my older brothers and watching as they used magnifying glasses and the sun's hot rays to perform "science experiments"

-- not just running through sprinklers, as Randi and her friends did, but I'd try to walk slowly through them, head held high, with a little swish of the derriere, as I mimicked a fashion model walking down a runway

--family picnics in a lovely park or at a lake

--outdoor concerts at Ontario Place, listening to the Toronto Symphony, or seeing the National Ballet of Canada in performance

--lying on a chaise in the backyard with a stack of old SEVENTEEN magazines, reading and rereading...over and over and over...the articles and checking out the (now-outdated) fashions

--going to the drive-in theater...when they were still around in my area

--going to the Canadian National Exhibition every summer with my mother and my brothers

--sticky watermelon juice dripping off my chin

--ripe, plump peaches, and deep-red cherries eaten in abundance

--visits to the country; exploring barns and discovering cats and kittens

--bicycling around familiar and not-so-familiar neighborhoods

--seeking out a breeze amidst the sticky, hot and humid air of our house (pre-air conditioner days)


Perhaps some of you have a summer image of your own that you've captured and would like to share...?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Oh, Lord, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood..."

Blogroll Me!

How many of you have been singing songs for years, perhaps having learned them at a young age and just routinely singing them: anthems, school songs, patriotic songs, family favorites, Hebrew songs, Yiddish songs, Top 40 songs...?

Did you ever stop to actually read the printed words to a particular song that you're supposedly so familiar with, and then been shocked to see that what you've been singing is contrary to what you SHOULD have been singing?

Canada celebrated its national holiday on Saturday, July 1, and somewhere I caught a printed snippet of "Oh, Canada," our anthem. I read "...true patriot love" and was just jarred a bit -- I always sang, "true patret love"! I never stopped to think if what I was singing made any sense, but since I was a kid, learning the anthem, that's how it sounded to me, and I don't recall ever verifying the words in print.

Every now and again, a local radio station plays snippets of contemporary or older songs; the deejays tell the listening audience what "is heard" when these songs are played, and what the lyrics really say.

I've discovered a great Web site to illustrate the "art of being misunderstood" musically.

http://www.kissthisguy.com/

So I guess it's time to make the time to listen a little closer to songs being sung or to take the time to seek out the lyrics of a song.

You know what? Scratch that last bit of advice. Sometimes the lyrics we sing, the lyrics we imagine to be correct, are more fun than the actual published ones.

I'll get you started with a misinterpreted lyric I used to sing; the song was by Hot Chocolate.

"I believe in Malcom
Where you from, you sexy thing..."

The correct lyrics are "I believe in miracles..." but every time I heard the song or sang the song, I always wondered who "Malcom" is!

Do any of you have song lyrics that you misheard...and mis-sang for years. How did you discover the true lyrics, and when you discovered what they REALLY should be, how stupid did you feel!?