Friday, January 30, 2009

You call that snow?



Just a normal Winter day in Albany, NY

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mother, English, Yiddish, being American

Both mother and uncle Moe were born in Russia and came to the US when they were small children. While Uncle Moe spoke of his Russian grandmother, Laya Fagel, Mother would never admit being born in Russia, even if cornered. Only by chance do I know where she was born; it says on my birth certificate: Pinsk, Russia.

I had to fill out a questionnaire in school which asked for parents' nationality. I asked mother what to write in this space and she said, "Put in American." Neither she nor Moe, her older brother, spoke with a hint of an accent. Mother, in particular, could have been employed by the BBC. She spoke full sentences in grammatically correct English. In fact, she said she decided to be a lawyer because everyone said she was "such a good talker."

She was also fluent in Yiddish, which she spoke to her parents. Bubbe and Zayde had heavy Yiddish accents, although Zayde did attend and successfully complete English classes in the Columbus public schools, according to a certificate I now have hanging on my wall. But Yiddish was what they spoke at home, which makes it even more remarkable how good an English speaker mother was.

I could speak Yiddish too, and used to read the Yiddish newspaper to bubbe occasionally, a skill which I have tragically lost. I can't read Hebrew very well either, which is another story.

Russian was the language of secrets in our house. When mother and bubbe didn't want me to understand what they were saying, they communicated in Russian. I found this frustrating, and so did my father, who was born in Youngstown OH and never spoke a word of Russian in his life. His parents came from Hungary, but they also spoke Yiddish. Dad didn't have an accent either, but then he grew up in the US in various places including Peoria and Denver.

Mother didn't make a show of patriotism, but she loved living in the USA, particularly in that most desirable spot in the world, Columbus, OH. When the whole family moved, in stages, to Bexley, OH, she liked that even better. When we drove her through posh neighborhoods in upstate New York or New Jersey, she conceded that they were almost as nice as Bexley. High praise, indeed.

grounded

 
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I did a recent painting based on a photograph of my younger daughter. At the time she was grounded, confined to quarters, incarcerated, made to stay home. She was always being grounded, because what else could you do? She was always violating her curfew; the grounding was meant to improve her behavior. It had the same effect as telling a stream to run uphill--none whatever.

While she was grounded she sulked, read Harlequin romances, and ate lots of Slurpees purchased by me at the local 7-11 because I was sorry for her.

I took a photo of her once when she was grounded. I liked the way she looked in the photo. The painting does not look much like her, except for the long legs and big feet.

She grew up to be a very sweet, nice, intelligent person, but the stubbornest person I've ever met, until she had a baby, who is now seven. In this child she has met her match. He has her beaten in the stubborn sweepstakes.

 
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Here is the original photograph.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mother as a young woman

 


Here she is, with a nice-looking young man whom I can't identify. I know she had lots of boyfriends and loved to go out dancing. I like the dress, the hairdo and the smile. She was very proud of her legs and her small, shapely feet.
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I inherited my love of shoes from her. She had dozens of pairs, in lots of colors. When I was a child I used to line the upstairs hall with them and play shoe store.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sic transit gloria mundi

 


Ruins, Agrigento, Sicily, May 2008
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Born too late



I wish I could wear something like this, but I am a couple of centuries too late. Apparently you can purchase Renaissance clothing from this website, but it doesn't exactly suit my present lifestyle--which features ye olde jeans and sweats. I am sorely tempted, though.

They sell everything you need to lead the Tudor lifestyle: clothing for men and women, shoes, chains of office, drinking implements, and last but not least, weapons. Isn't the Internet great?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unidentified

 


This nice-looking young man (who?), with a confident smile, was photographed on July 25, 1932 (where?)according to the information written on the back if the picture. He looks happy and cheerful, standing there in the sunshine getting his picture taken, before I was born. I wonder who he was and what became of him. Probably he perished in Hitler's war machine, but I hope not.

Again--label your photographs!

When bubbe died, my cousin and I tried to bring order to her possessions. Her dresses, shoes and coats were easily given away. Linens, dishes, and silver were divided among us. There were only a few photographs, but one in particular had us scratching our heads. It was a formal group portrait. We decided that they were relatives of my grandfather, probably. But when we showed it to mother, she said, "Oh, those were some people who worked for papa."

Let me reiterate: label your photographs. Some day you and I will be gone, and someone will be staring at our pictures and trying to trace a family connection.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Michelle's gown



It looks like she stole the bedspread from the Lincoln bedroom.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thingy

 



My decorator is called Will, as in Good Will, and it was there I got the above thingy, or whatchmacallit, or whatsit, for 2.00. Plus tax--my Good Will in in Pennsylvania. It's aboout 24 inches long.

I thought it might make a statement, or rather a Statement, if displayed in the right place. I haven't found the right place yet. Maybe there is no right place. I bought it because I like pictures of fruit, particularly grapes, because my family is in the wine business. They don't collect representations of grapes, but I do.

So call it ugly, if you will. But in the right place....
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

In memoriam

"Golden lads and lasses must, like chimney sweepers come to dust."

By happenstance, I found out that one of my old boyfriends had died. He was always a romantic figure to me, good-looking, smart and rebellious. He always did the unexpected. He wasn't exactly mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but close enough for southern Ohio. I broke up with him because I couldn't stand the ups and downs of a relationship with someone basically undependable. I don't even know if he realized I had broken up with him, because he kept coming in and out of my life. The last I saw of him was when we both graduated and he went hurtling into the world like a rocket. I heard of and from him once in a while afterwards, then I went off somewhere and lost touch with him. I always wondered what had become of him.

Well, he is dead, and has been for quite a while. That certainly answers the question of why he was not at our last reunion. But I was amazed to discover that this iconoclastic figure had ended up as a small-town school superintendent.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How I became a big reader

When I was four years old, it was determined that I had been hanging around the house too long, so my parents sent me to a pre-school run by two old ladies, Miss Louella and Miss Virgilia. They lived and did business in a formerly swanky neighborhood of Columbus, in a great old house with a turret that had a stained glass window on the landing. A pleasurable shiver of fear went through me when I went by this window. It was mysterious but exciting.

Miss L and Miss V taught me to set a table properly, to use napkin rings, to say "Yes please" instead of "yes," and "No thank you," instead of "no." They also taught me to read, a skill I learned rather quickly.

When my mother saw that I could read, she started me in school in the second grade, skipping first grade entirely. Mother believed that you shouldn't spend too much time in school, should get it out of the way, graduate from college and go to work as soon as possible. She herself had done this, never taking a summer off, zipping through high school at the age of 14 and graduating from law school before she was old enough to pass the bar exam. (You had to be 21.)

My father also got out of high school at the age of 15 and proceeded to Madison WI, where he went to college. His father was mad at him because they lived in Illinois and he could have attended the University of Illinois a lot cheaper.

I went to school which was very "progressive," which meant they didn't teach you much about anything except the triumphs of the Soviet Union, and let you do more or less what you wanted. Anything practical you wanted to know you taught yourself. For instance, I taught myself the alphabet because I wanted to look up things in the dictionary. Try looking up words if you don't know the alphabet. It's hard.

I emerged from this den of iniquity at the age of 11, when mother gave in and enrolled me in public school junior high. For some reason, perhaps a coin toss, I was placed in the eighth grade. The other kids were 13. Mother also made me wear braids and knee socks. Still, I had friends. I didn't mind junior high; I was in the glee club and practically the citywide spelling champion. I could have aced the spelling competition if I had not been dubious about the spelling of the word "acquaint." I knew there was a C in there but it didn't seem right somehow, so I left the C out. I've always felt bad about this, because within a nanosecond of spelling the word wrong I realized the C definitely belonged in the word.

After junior high came a new town, a new school, a departed father, and High School. When I tell you that I, at age 13, was the champion dork of Central Ohio, I am not exaggerating. I was 13 and a sophomore, alone and miserable and friendless.

So one day I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it from cover to cover. It was so good I re-read it immediately. Then I read all the tripe in the school library, much of it consisting of stories of young girls or women who became interested in a career in photography, dance, the theater, or interior decoration while at the same time falling in love with a cute guy. Then I read all the works of P G Wodehouse that the public library---which never discarded a book--had on their shelves.

Ever since then I have had to have two lives going, my real one and the one in the book I was reading. I like to take refuge in a book for a couple of hours a day. If I don't have a book to read, and a stack of other books waiting to be read, I start feeling panicky.

Television, talking books, even music--they don't do it for me. I like all those things, but I need a real book. Hard-covered, paperback, clean, dirty, old or new, trash or masterpiece, I need a book waiting for me to read.

Customer service

All my interactions with Hammacher Schlemmer have been courteous and helpful. Every time I buy something from them, it does not do the job it was purchased to do, and I have to send it back. They accept returns willingly. Their customer service is a pleasure--polite, helpful, timely. The staff also speaks excellent American English.

The only problem is with the merchandise. Everything they sell is over-priced, unnecessary, or too expensive. I worry that the polite, helpful customer service staff will shortly be unemployed. I mean, who would buy that stuff?

Dell ought to hire the whole bunch en masse. It would be so nice to speak to someone whose English is comprehensible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Will it ever be summer again?

 

A garden in Sicily
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mosaic seen in the ruins of a Roman villa, Sicily

 
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Now there's a mosaic. Or part of one.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A mural at the Charleston airport

 


Bessie Coleman, aviation pioneer.
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Friday, January 09, 2009

You've got to admire a guy like that

I mean Blago. I thought it was a smart move to appoint Burris. I also admire his spunk for sticking by his post. I seem to remember Bill Clinton responding to pressure to resign in the same way.

Suppose Blago is tried and found innocent. What then? I don't trust Fitzgerald, who made a big to-do about the Valerie Plame kerfuffle, spent tons of money, and put Scooter Libby in jail for, essentially, nothing. I don't trust the guy, and am surprised to see him still holding a government job. To me he seems like one of the pod people. Did anyone spot him disembarking from a spaceship lately? Or is he just a zombie?

I suspect he jumped the gun on Blago, and now needs extra time to figure out whether Blago used the office postage meter for personal business, or whatever other crime he can pin on the guy. Maybe he lied to somebody or other about Valerie Plame? Or Valerie Jarrett? Or Valerie Schmidlapp, queen of the cheerleading team at my old high school? Fitzgerald decides to prosecute someone and looks for a reason. He's creepy.

And now the Illinois Assembly in their purity and innocence are shocked--shocked! to find that corruption is taking place in Illinois politics! and recoil from Blago in dread that they will be tainted.

What a herd of independent minds!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My latest painting

 


This is the only one I ever finished to my satisfaction. Art class starts again next week.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New CIA boss stops inhumane practices

Waterboarding is a thing of the past.

The selection of Leon Panetta, who was Bill Clinton's chief of staff, was intended to tell Americans the era of waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary renditions and secret prisons was now over.


Don't worry, the miscreants will still suffer. Panetta will force them to listen to John Kerry's speeches.

Bits and pieces

Don't you feel a little depressed when you see a picture, say a wedding photo or a baby with a bow in her hair, for sale in a garage sale or thrift shop? I do. That's one reason I am scanning all the family pictures into my computer. To my future descendants: don't ever throw a cute picture of me away, or I'll put a hex on you. Ugly picture, okay, get rid of it. Always picture great-great-grandma (me) as a roaring, tearing beauty.

I saw a commercial warning the public to save energy by unplugging your cell phone charger. Boy, did that annoy me! The smug, smarmy self-righteousness of it. I felt like going out and burning a tire, just for spite. Take that, environment! Heat up, you stupid planet!

Every week I fill up another two bags of stuff and take it to the Good Will. But the stuff just keeps coming. You have to be vigilant or it will take over the house. My younger daughter confessed to me that she and her husband have two storage units. Their garage, where they parked their cars a couple of years ago, is now full of stuff which is threatening to invade their living quarters.

My basement is full of half-empty paint cans, left behind by the sellers of the house. Once upon a time, I would have carefreely (is there such a word?) thrown them away. Now I have to schedule a hazmat team to come and deal with them correctly.

The reason I don't have a dog is that I don't want to walk around the streets carrying a baggie full of doggy doo. That and the fact that Mr Charm won't let me get one.

Monday, January 05, 2009

One from my college days, long long ago:

 


That's me, second from the left.
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Scanning

A lot of things are going on now that are rather upsetting, so to distract myself I've been scanning old photos. This is a really nice one of my younger grandson, who's a big boy of seven now.

 
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

 


And good sledding!
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