Saturday, December 31, 2011

" Message in a Bottle"

About twelve years ago, I found myself in a predictament. It was the last hours of the twientieth century and I hadn't written anything down. I was getting ready for a party with family, and dinner was waiting. I was in a panic and grabbed a book, a soft back book by my favorite author Ken Follett. I turned to the last three pages with advertising copy and copyright information and began to write some thoughts of the past and the future. Hence, the beginning of a tradition for me each New Year's Eve.

From time to time I will pick up an old soft bound book, only to find my end of the year commentary. Of course, I don't know where all the books are and I really don't care. I always imagine that someone finds the book at a yard sale or lying in the trash heap and gets to the last page to find my ramblings. I surely would be intrigued by this "message in a bottle" twist.

So, I urge you to try it too. Before the NOOK takes over our tactile paper fetish, grab a soft bound book from your dusty stack of old reads, and turn to the last two or three pages, the inside front and back cover is also a good choice. Write your name, date and time and begin. Make sure the last paragraph you list those wishes for 2012. Real wishes that apply to you! We all want world peace and more money, but those things are most likely out of our control.

If I had to make a wish right now, I would wish for a year of happenstance. A quirky year of happy little coincidences, like winning a scratch off lottery ticket, or finding out that handwritting is genetic. ( I have proof)
It is the little things that matter. The big things will come and go, it is the little nuances of a year that makes up happy to wake up each day.

Happy New Year, 2012

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


In 2004 I moved to Philadelphia to escape the high taxes of New Jersey, but I cross the bridge so often to visit my beloved New Jersey that it is probably a wash. Anyway, Philadelphia was not what I expected. In fact I had no expectations, same as when I got married, I figured it would end in 6 months, (my marriage, not my stay in Philadelphia) that was my expectation. Likewise, I never thought I would still be in Philadelphia in 2011. Nevertheless, I have grown personally and I want to share the six things that make me want to stay in the City of Brotherly Love.

Number One: My neighbor Minnie. I watched her beat a guy (a supposed stalker) with a club and get arrested the first week I was living in my new home. The stalker went to the hospital and eventually to jail. Minnie, on the other hand became an instant darling of the 26th Police Precinct. Now, that’s what I call a welcome wagon event; talk about the empowered woman. I might not have ever witnessed that in South Jersey. It made crossing over worth it.

Number 2: The Soy Café on 2nd Street. My neighborhood is notorious for bad service from an indifferent wait staff. However, the girls of the Soy Café are friendly and gracious, and they allow my dogs in the store. Often, they will serve my lunch with some fresh, cut up turkey bites for the chiwas. This place has awesome food! The soy smoothies,(my favorite, the chunky monkey) wraps, and miso soups are to die for. They also have a cute vintage shop in the back that is spare but interesting and an outside patio that is peaceful and allows the doggies to stretch. After a visit, I like to rest within the natural indentations of the big log in front of the store and contemplate the meaning of life.

Number 3: Café La Maud, recently opened, owned by a Lebanese family, they have the best cup of coffee in Philadelphia. The owner has a little Jack Russell named Gee that runs loose and greets everyone by smelling their pant bottoms; he is very charming. The counter girl is friendly and fast and their French inspired food and decor is gorgeous! Last week, I snagged a seat in the front open air window and ordered a bagel with crème cheese, onion and tomato and I received a bagel with crème cheese topped with olive oil infused bruchetta. It was a taste of HEAVEN!

Number 4: Penn Treaty Park. I found this park by accident; it is the place where the Lenape Indians signed over the area along the Delaware River to William Penn. This is an eclectic park in which neighborhood families fish on one end and drug addicts smoke crack at the other end. I know this because one day I let my dogs loose in the park and they weeded out the crack heads behind a tree. There is also a social club of middle aged guys that meet there in the afternoon with their dogs. The first time they approached me, they began to ask all these questions about my dogs. Are the chiwas not worthy? I ran to my car and left; I was totally weirded out. Anyway, I love the view of the Ben Franklin Bridge from the waters edge and the circle path that I ride my bike on until I get dizzy.

Number 5: The Gourd lady. She plants several gourds in Liberty Lands, early spring; then cracks them open for the birds to feast on in early fall. Every time we cross paths she invites me to her garden and clips a huge branch of fresh Rosemary for me and says "enjoy it". And, I do Gourd lady, one day I will ask your name, but not yet. I like the happenstance of our friendship.

Number 6: Pet Chic on Liberties Walk, takes in stray dogs and cats and finds them homes. Gordon the red pit and Magnella the cat are full time celebrity pets that bring in the customers. They just added a huge red tabby that slithers between your legs when you walk in. The strays are housed in large cages and sometimes if there is overflow in the bathroom. But, the bathroom door isn’t shut, instead a curtain is hung in the doorway, and you know I head there first for a peak. The girls in the store are wonderful examples of business owners that do what they can, with the resources they have to save animals that are found on the streets of Philadelphia. This week they have an old,old Yorkie that was found roaming the neighborhood. The vet said the dog was too old to neuter. The girls are confident that they will find him a home; and in the meantime set him up in a fancy bed with toys and treats in the shop. It was hard for me to look at this very old, beat up dog. Who could be so cruel? Who would be so kind? I guess it is the Ying and Yang of life.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's in Your DNA wallet?

In graduate school, I had to take a course called Emotional Systems, and I tried every trick I knew to get out of this class, because I had heard that people broke down emotionally and that a certified counselor was a co-teacher, to handle any instance of distress in the classroom. I was afraid someone would bring an UZI to class and I managed to find a seat near the door just in case. Now, no one wants to face their childhood demons, least of all me. But,the program manager wouldn't let me opt out of the course. Needlesstosay, I relented and registered; and my backup plan was to get drunk before class but that really never worked out.

The first assignment was to interview two relatives with a list of questions that would become the content of a presentation on Bowen theory. I selected my niece Dawn and we drove to New Hope one Sunday for brunch and I conducted the interview. Dawn's revelations were sweet and honest and emotional. It was a time that I shared with her, since we practically grew up together. There were some surprises and unknowns that I hope brought us closer together. Now, I needed another relative to interview and I thought long and hard and decided to ask my brother John. Since, we were raised seperately; this was a chance to get to know him more intimately. And, given we share a critical, self deprecating sense of humor; I was looking forward to his responses. My hope was that he would give me a glimpse into his life with our Mother and his father. Afterall, everyone knows that stories of my brother John are famous at parties and get togethers, he was let's say, "unique" as a child.

Moreover, I had just reconnected with my brother after many years and this would be an ice breaker opportunity to talk more and get together. I just hoped that John would agree to participate and that he would find the nostalgia of his life a meaningful experience. I knew that his responses would be funny and heartbreaking at the same time. I emailed John with a request and told him we could do this via email and he agreed immediately and I was delighted. The questions went out and a few days passed by and a few more and suddenly his attachment appeared in my email inbox.

That day, I was at work and I opened his email at my desk, in my cube and began to laugh out loud, alone. My co-workers remained silent, until my laughter went on for about 10 minutes and then they came up to ask me what I was reading, I picked one short benign story and read it to them and they too began to laugh, and asked for another and another, until I ran out of stories and the page went blank. So, I started all over again!

Up until that moment, I had thought that my writing ability was linked to my father's writing talent, since he could weave a story with words and imagery that was fascinating,and soulful at the same time. But, when I read John's words, his style, and tone were so near to my writing style that it could have been my words on the page. Because we share only our Mother, was it her talent that we shared? Wow, that was a revelation I might have never known, if I had not taken the class or my brother had declined to participate. Maybe, it was just a remnant of our Catholic school education. It's amazing how little we know about our DNA.

Now, I know you are anxiously awaiting a snipet of my brother's life, we could all use some comic relief after watching the world events of this week. Well, I will not make you wait any longer, and I hope my brother and his wife Nicole are okay with my sharing some of his life story.They are both my Facebook friends. Here goes...

Question 19. Who was your first girlfriend?

A red headed girl named Mary when I was 14. She was a year older than I was so my mother automatically thought she was a whore. Our relationship only lasted 2 short weeks because she could not tolerate my mother always saying don’t bring that red-headed whore in my house. One day I heard a knock on my door and it was Mary’s parents. They wanted to talk to my parents about the whore comments my mother made about their daughter. My face turned white. I called my mother to the door and then I proceeded to run out my back door, climbed my back fence and hide out in the park for 3 hours until they left. I secretly wanted to be a fly on the wall during what must have been an interesting conversation but I was too shocked and embarrassed to stick around.

Question 6. What did you do for fun, what did the family do for fun?

I liked playing in my backyard as a very young child.
On days when I really got on my mother’s nerves, she would send me to the backyard with a large kitchen-serving spoon and tell me not to come back in the house until I dug a hole to China. I never made it to China but I dig a hole deep enough to stand in up to my neck. I would then cover the hole with newspapers hoping to trick a friend or family member to walk across it so they would fall in.

Question 4. What are your early school memories did you like school? Your parent’s attitude toward school?

I did not like school as a child. I attended Catholic School and it was a very structured environment, which I was not raised with. Several times during my Grade School years my mother would be called down to school to discuss my conduct and behavior. I was very hyperactive and I would routinely disrupt class with my loud unruly behavior. It was suggested routinely by my teachers to my mother that I be placed on some-sort of medication to control my behavior. My mother’s answer to them would be “give him a good smack if he acts up”. When my mother got home from these meetings she would act mad and serious at first but shortly after we would be laughing at all the stories the teacher told her concerning my behavior. She shared with me all the anger and disgust the teachers would relay to her during her special visits with them. I think she enjoyed the fact that someone else was as tormented by me as she was.

I kind of fancied myself as the class clown and my mother seemed to be my biggest fan. It seemed my mother enjoyed hearing these stories as much as I enjoyed doing them.My father was a different case. My mother never fully told my father about my conduct issues at school. He knew I was not an angel but he did not know how disruptive I really was. He was very hot headed and I would surely have received a beating by his thick belt or thicker hands if my mother did not keep quite about this. My mother would always tell my teachers that my father did not speak English well enough to attend these special meetings. In reality she was just saving me from getting my ass beaten when he got home.

Question 11: Favorite ways to get into trouble?

Putting explosive cigarette loads in my Parents cigarettes that I used to buy at a magic store on the boardwalk down the shore. I laughed my ass off watching them explode in their face when they smoked. I received quite a few beatings for this but the joy it brought me watching the look of horror and surprise on their face when the cigarette exploded was well worth it. I also enjoyed putting fire crackers on the stove while my mother cooked and watched in delight as a pot of broccoli flew off the stove after the fire crackers exploded. Again well worth it.


Question #17 Any family mottos or rules frequently repeated by parents?

My father would quote the Grey Hound Bus motto while driving in the car. “ Leave the driving to us, Grey Hound Bus.” It was very funny since he had a thick Greek / broken English accent.

As I got older and started dating, my mother’s motto would be “ Don’t stir the pudding” Loosely translated = Don’t have sex with girls who are whores.

Well, I made it through the course without incidence but it was a bumpy ride for others. Looking back, the experience made me grateful for perhaps the greatest attribute of my DNA, a sense of humor. All in all, I think my brother would agree with that, and our decision NOT to pro-create! Thanks, John.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Worst Part Was Dropping my M&M's

One year for my girlfriend's birthday I thought I would appear smart and cultured and purchase tickets to the opera. Instead of a usual night out drinking and dancing we would dress up and act like refined young women. Of course, I would buy a large economy bag of M and M's and smuggle them in my purse to make the show more bareable. I couldn't pass up the opportunity for really cheap tickets to see the San Francisco Opera Company perform Don Giovanni at my colleges' newly built performing arts center; a world class opera company travelling to Pomona, New Jersey. I wanted to be there and participate in the magic.

My girlfriend and I drove from AC to Pomona in my little Honda Civic. We were like gadflys talking about the opera, what to expect, was it in English or Italian? Could we make it to the end? What is the story about? Who is Don Giovanni, a historical figure? What's his plight? Who composed the opera? We were clueless. My girlfriend studied Russian Literature in college, she had no idea, and I was in college, working on the ten year plan.

We arrived at the PAC, which was new and designed with stadium seating, a new concept at the time; the claim was that every seat was a good seat. We sat dead center. The stage was setup with scaffolding, elevated above the floor,connected one end to the other by planks of wood. When the show began, my large economy bag of M and M's was opened and securely snug between my knees. But, I began to feel anxious about sitting through a two hour show of high pitched warbling and low sultry baritones, could I stay awake? Another good reason to keep popping the M and M's. I looked at my girlfriend and we smiled as the lights dimmed.

A skinny and scrawny fellow took the stage. Could this be the powerful lead character Don Giovanni? all 130 pounds. It appears he has gained entrance to someone's house. Is this the home of the beautiful Donna Anna? all 350 pounds. Now, I am sitting forward, this is getting interesting. Look! she's chasing poor Giovanni, much to his detriment if she catches him. Whoever cast this opera has a sense of humor, I might like the opera after all. The physical disparity between Don Giovanni and this fat chick is priceless! How can I possibly focus on the music and my M and M's? Is this a love connection?

Well, In my lifetime, I have been thrown out of a McDonald's, yeah that's right, McDonalds, and the Margate police station. Now, I had a sinking feeling that this fat chick in a dimestore nightgown, bouncing from one plank to another would be my ticket out of the opera. Which is exactly what happened when my girlfriend and I broke into a fit of hysterical laughing and the usher asked us to leave. My knees separated, and hundreds of little candy coated chocolate morsals rolled toward the stage, like lemurs jumping to their death! What a waste! Seen any good opera's lately?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If YOU slap a fat chick, YOU might get a slap back!

In 1999, I had a gall bladder attack during the last 30 minutes of the movie Sixth Sense, (still don’t know how that movie ends) Anyway, the writing was on the wall,my gall bladder looked like an ashtray and it was time to come out. I made an appointment with the surgeon and off I went to his office in Burlington, New Jersey. And, since I am really bad with details, I can’t recall his name. I only know that he was a fat guy with thick glasses and there was no way he was going to remove my gall bladder! I had made my decision the second we met and there was only one thing to do, find another reason to dislike him. It’s not that as a fat chick, I think that fat people are incompetent, but let’s face it, between the largess of his gut and my gut; how is he going to find an organ as long and as thick as two index fingers? Not to mention he has to lasso the bad boy and pull it out an opening no larger than my belly button! No, I needed a slender surgeon with 20-20 vision.

Well, the exam did not go well and I had my ammunition, after he pushed on my stomach he asked about a mole on my stomach. I told him "it’s a mole", and he said, "No!, it’s a nipple". A NIPPLE, is this guy a doctor or Pablo Picasso? "A nipple", I repeated," down there?" "you must be kidding" "It’s a nipple and I can remove it." "No thanks doc, that would take a long goodbye and I need this gall bladder out ASAP." "Okay", he replied, and he slapped my gut! The gut slap sealed the deal, and it was a stinger. I thought this guy is a jerk. How dare he slap me like a cow and tell me I have an extra nipple. I looked at his business card one more time, HMMMM, he is a Diplomate of Surgery. Must be a misprint. I jumped up, pulled my top down and said, "thanks, but no thanks", and keep in mind, “ if you slap a fat chick, you might get a slap back, next time!
Needlesstosay, the Diplomate of Surgery did not remove my gall bladder, another surgeon did, and he was perfect, tall and slender, no eyeglasses and he told me my mole was a mole.

On the day of surgery, my sister bought me a silk ensemble to wear to the yanking of my gall bladder, doctor tall and slender with no eyeglasses escorted me to the table. I whispered to him on the way that I would like to play a little joke on the nurses, and he said he would play along. When I got comfy on the table, I asked loud enough for everyone to hear, "will you be giving me breast implants immediately following the removal of my gall bladder?" I looked at my doctor and he nodded,YES. All the nurses could be heard sucking in a wind of disbelief and one blurted out,
“ Doctor, you can do that?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, we had a good laugh. Now, that's what I call good customer service.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Marriage is Old Enough to Drink

On January 2, 2011, my marriage turned 21, old enough to drink; a milestone in anyones book, well, at least for the frequently inebriated.

We were supposed to be married in December of 1989, but when we arrived at the Justice of the Peace in Absecon, we were told, we needed to make an appointment. Atlantic City had a more liberal approach, any day Monday-Friday, between 12:30-1pm, when the Judge takes his lunch break. We were told he eats his sandwich at his desk and if anyone comes in, he marries them. HMMMMM, if his sandwich is a turkey and cheese with light mayo, I might become distracted and say "I do" and mean, "I do" want that sandwich.

I left work at 12 noon and instructed my husband to be to get me an outfit out of the closet for me to change into for the ceremony. He told me I had a choice between a black and white number with palazzo pants or a purple top and skirt. I said, "bring the purple number,I am saving the palazzo pants and tunic for my college graduation in February, don't want to get it dirty." What I was really thinking was," purple, the color of death, according to the Catholic Church, how appropriate."

My sister in law to be Ana Gren and her boyfriend, Buzz, were witnesses and in Ani fashion she amused the nervous couples waiting with a ruse that should have earned an academy award. She told the clerk that she was there to be married, then proceeded to start a fake fight with Buzz, and call off the wedding. She had everyone trying to console her and get her to change her mind.

Suddenly, our names were called and in we walked, up to the Judge's desk, I seached for the sandwich and there it was, half eaten on wax paper. I was anxious to get it over with, I was hungry. The Judge, I think his name was Matthew, did all the talking, we said I do, a quick kiss for good luck and out the door to the Northfield diner for lunch. The entire day cost us $13 bucks. Buzz picked up the check for lunch.

Twenty-one years later, my sister in law Ani, now lives in Israel with her husband and two sons. She earned her PhD at the University of Stockholm. Buzz, who's real name is Winfred Keough, is the Bureau Chief for the Atlantic City Press. He is married with children, last count he had two.

Recently, someone asked me if I had a photograph of that day and I laughed and said No, but I still have the dress and if you want, I can put it on and take a photo for you, I don't think anyone will notice that 21 years has passed. Oh, wait, there might be an issue with the fit! Afterall, this blog isn't called three piece bikini for nothing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Yesterday, I stopped in a diner to have a sandwich for lunch. I sat at the counter because it was empty and I needed some peace and quiet. But the guy behind me in a booth, was talking so loud on his phone that, I felt like turning around and asking him, "hey mister, you have ringing in your ears or are you just rude?" Are we so insecure that we can't sit alone and eat a sandwich. Will the world think we are losers with no friends. Perhaps, but who cares, the world don't pay my bills!

I stopped in Lane Bryant to buy a bra and was greeted by a short Hispanic man. I said," I'm here to buy a bra, can I get measured?" It was at that moment that I saw the measuring tape around his neck! "Sure, I can measure you.", he replied with a thick accent. "Are they on sale?" I asked, "No, not today" "Oh, I said with relief, I'll come back on a sale." Thinking to myself, nice try fella. Guess he isn't working at Lane Bryant for the discount.

I always have dreams that my teeth are falling out and it is disturbing. I also have dreams that my house is floating away. Or that my dogs got out and they are running down a busy highway, with me running after them. The worst dream of all is that I am in college with 4 classes scheduled and I can't find my locker with my books. Sometimes I have dreams that take place in a house that I once lived in long ago. I often wonder why we dream of those things so trivial? I know that dreams have a deeper meaning and we could delve into the psych of our dreams as deep dark fears realized. But, let's face it, teeth falling out and misplaced text books is hardly something to worry about. I often wonder what the President dreams about? Do you think he wakes up in a cold sweat, dreaming that he is sleeping beside Sarah Pallin or Joan Rivers? Or that his Mother is really Carrot Top and he is a ventriloquist in a Vegas act? If one day, I were to meet President Obama, that is the first question I would ask. What is your worst nightmare? And does your health care bill have a good dental plan?