Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Not Feelin' Funny...The after election depression

Growing up as a Jewish girl in Greensboro, North Carolina, I was taught to be fearful.
Always taught that there's danger even behind a seemingly kind smile. From the time I could listen or think I was told that people hated us.
   When I was too young to understand anything, I was told the stories of Anne Frank.I was shown the photographs of a little girl who looked just like m, and learned that she hid from people who hated her, and captured by them. I was told that Anne died and was put into an oven. Not the fairy tale oven of Hansel and Gretel, but a real oven. Ovens where six million of my people and six million more were killed.
People's capacity to follow the wrong person, a charismatic leader who offers simple solutions to difficult questions makes people capable of unimaginable hate.
 The stories, both biblical and historical, of persecution were drummed into my psyche. I would go to sleep at night and cry when the lights would go out, so fearful of being alone with my thoughts and no capacity to understand them. My parents thought I was a faker who didn't want to go to sleep and that i just wanted to stay up all night... but I was afraid of what happens in the dark, of who might come, wearing heavy boots, into our house and takes us away. I was afraid of the end of the world....or at the very least, MY world. I never got over my fear of turning out the light at night, I can't go to sleep in the dark, I can't go to sleep in the quiet ,my mind is too loud.
   Over the years I was bullied and picked on. Elementary school children who are too young to even understand what they were saying would ostracize me, call me names and not invite me. Try as I might to blend in, there was always the teacher who would separate me and say, "Ruth you don't have to sing the songs that we are all singing at Christmas. The pretty songs about drummer boys and snowmen. It always made me feel like i was being singled out and separated for be being Jewish. 
   Then there was junior high. Children from multiple elementary schools fed into a large junior high school. There were children from other neighborhoods. Children who had never met a Jew....children who had only heard stories from their parents. They zeroed in on me, and I became a target. By the time they had entered junior high school, these children had been fed stories of long bearded Jews with horns, the tales of how we killed Christ their Savior, and that Jews are all rich dirty money lenders.
   I would sit on the school bus in the morning, a group of boys would write the word "JEW" in the condensation on the cold windows...they would throw wadded paper at my head. A few of them would spit or chew up paper and make spitballs and blow them at me. I would walk the halls of my school, and those same boys would whip out pennies and throw them at my bare legs so hard that I would have welts on them. As stinging as a copper missile was, the sting hurt even more as they chanted "Jew , Jew Jew!!" Then they passed me, howling with uncontrollable laughter. I was told by my parents just to ignore them, that I was above all this and they were "nothing!" They said , and one day they would "get theirs" and I would find my place. ( in one, and ONLY one instance, a seismic explosion of karma happened ....the summer after high school, a pallet holding a ton of brinks fell from above onto one of the boys from the bus....)
   In the late 1960's, we would watch the news....the times were allegedly changing....people in the streets were marching for Love and Peace and Equality. The "love generation" came in while I was in junior high. It was a time when America had open its eyes, and had suddenly become aware. People believed that they had evolved.  This was America, the land that welcomed people with a Statue of Liberty's torch, and her and her words of "give me your tired your poor..  I lift my lamp beside this golden shore."The movement that happened in the 60s, seems to have been a warm blanket covering the cold hearts of most of America. But now in retrospect, the blanket didn't change or warm, it just covered their ugliness like a tarp. Now, in 2016, the blanket has been thrown off the bed and it is cold in America once again.
   Every summer my parents sent me to a Jewish sleep away camp. It was a beautiful place in the mountains with other Jewish children from all over America. Most of the campers were from areas that have large Jewish communities like Miami Beach. They didn't grow up as one of the 15 Jewish students in a large school. Saturday mornings at camp, we had services in the chapel. There was always a reference to the cry, "Never Forget".  I never did, that fear was always sitting in my pocket, ready to come out at a moment's notice. But for many children of the 60s, they lived in places where it was so hard to be Jewish. They didn't know what it was, that they weren't supposed to forget.
    One night, as a top secret activity to teach all of us, the privileged campers from comfortable homes,  the message went too far. (This certainly could never occurs in our bubble wrapped, politically correct society now....and it shouldn't) We were awakened by blaring sirens on the PA system, they were loud and they didn't stop. It was three in the morning, and all of our counselors and all of the staff were standing and screaming at us. They were throwing things on the floor, clamoring pots and pans, telling us to get out of bed immediately! "No no no!!!You may not grab your sneakers...No, you may not put on your sweatshirt!!!' In our nightgowns and pajamas, we were rounded up and taken to the big black top where the buses were usually parked. Crying confused children herded like animals. Yelled at as we were crying... scared and we didn't understand what was going on. They kept us standing there on the blacktop in the middle of the night  in our bare feet. Then the sirens stopped and we were told to march up the mountain to the chapel . At daybreak, the entire camp sat in the chapel and were given lecture about the Holocaust. We were told how lucky we were and how we should never forget.
    That night still gives me nightmares, and yet there was no real threat involved.  But I felt it, and so did the other children. It was a fire alarm. And I feel now, the fire burning... and  I feel my fears that I had as a little girl  coming to pass. I fear for people who can't blend in as I can with my nondescript looks and my English last name, I can blend.... I can walk undetected.
   Thursday after the election, I went shopping at Costco, here in Charlotte, NC.  I walked up and down the aisles, and as each person passed or approached me I sized them up as either friend or foe. I felt safe as I passed people of color, thinking they couldn't possibly be part of this hate revolution but I wondered what they thought when they passed me? Did they think I voted to  Make America Great? I had visions of movies about Germany in the late 30s, when Jewish families walked on the street and looked suspiciously at all of their neighbors. Wondering if that was going to be the one to rat them out. Is that the person who will alert the authorities and have them rounded up?
     I know you can be sympathetic, but if you have never lived in fear, if it hasn't been ingrained for your entire life,then you can't fully understand the despair that so many feel right now. You can see things going wrong. You can shake your fist and say how horrible it is, but you cannot feel the sickness in the gut that has been growing, stewing, brewing, sitting not so quietly in the deepest part of me. You really can't if you grew up without that fear. I envy people, not for being who they are, but for not knowing what I know, I envy the people who are able to say,  "OK let's move on from here--- let's take a deep breath and hold hands and make this work". I cannot hold hands, I am afraid to hold hands with the people next to me. I don't know who they are and I don't trust them. This election has taken away my entire sense of security, all of it is gone.... that warm blanket, now removed, unveiled the ugly monsters that have been under the bed all along. There's nothing to protect us.
   Many people will think this is just the ramblings of a depressed woman,
and you would be partially right, but mostly these are the words of a woman whose eyes are wide open now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My Short Life of Crime

   Confession is good for the soul. Today i am confessing to you all of my brush with crime. 
   I grew up in a bubble and only associated with children in my neighborhood. It was a nice upper middle class development with fathers that went to work everyday and stay-home mothers. there was no "criminal element" lurking in the shadows on my block, but I was about to change everything!
   When I was 12, I met a girl named Margaret at school. She was immediately fascinating. It wasn't because she was taller than the other girls, or because she wore a bra that she actually needed. It wasn't because she wore tight plaid Villager pencil skirts. She was interesting because she was from outside of my bubble. She went to our school, but she lived in an area that I had never been to before, although we passed it everyday. She lived in an apartment building. My bubble had NO apartments. She lived in a rundown garden apartment with her mother. There was no father and never any mention of him. Apparently, her parents were divorced....but there were all sorts of stories that swirled around this Mother-Daughter duo. Most were probably myth, but in her tight skirt and pointy bra, Margaret only encouraged the rumors. Her mother worked as a nurse and was never home. And...if that was't enough to prove what kind of woman she was, she drove a Mustang convertible! 

   Margaret walked to school all alone each day. Her mother left in the morning too early to drive her. Margaret went home to an empty apartment. As I write this, it sounds sad, but to my 12 year old self, this was the coolest thing i had ever heard of. Because her mother wasn't home, she could do whatever she wanted to do after school. The apartments were not just within easy walking distance of the school but also the shopping center. I jumped at making friends with this girl...i had to...it was as if she was in the fast-lane to adulthood and I wanted to go with her.
   After school, Margaret and i would walk from school to the Friendly Shopping Center. When i made these plans, my mother always assumed that Margaret's mother was driving us. She didn't know we were walking on the busy road from the school to the stores. Margaret seemed to always have spending money. I didn't. I only had change left from lunch money.  I usually had just enough change for an ice cream cone at the Guilford Dairy. (not to prove how very old I am, but ice cream was a nickel a scoop at that time) We would usually go there first, then meander up and down, looking in all the shops.
   Our favorite store was Eckerd's Drugstore on the corner. It had everything ...magazines, records, hair sprays and make-up.
The make-up counter had displays with samples and we would try on all the lipsticks and blushes and then we splashed Canoe cologne all over each other.
   After dowsing each other in cologne,
we would sit on the floor and grab the can of Frost and Tip hair spray and while sticking our heads deep into the shelves, we would spray silver streaks on the front of our bangs. Margaret and i would finally leave Eckerds, looking like clowns, thinking we looked so glamorous with a thick cloud of cheap men's cologne trailing after us.
   My mother would always pick me up at the dairy and she assumed Margaret was being picked up by her mother. It never crossed my mother's mind that she would be walking home on Benjamin Parkway. I certainly never told my mother where Margaret lived or her racy circumstances.

   One day after school, Margaret and I were on our first lap around the shopping center. I had exhausted my funds and thought she had too. We crossed through the parking lot, away from Eckard's and went into Woolworth's. There was a makeup display selling a rectangular compact of tri-color blush by Yardley. I stood in front of the display staring at the blush like the "Little Matchgirl" stared in at the diners at the banquet. I wasnt even allowed to wear makeup yet, but i knew these 3 pink circles of powder could alter the trajectory of my life. George Harrison would probably call me and invite me to go on tour with the Beatles if my cheeks had Yardley blush and Slicker lipstick on them. As i stared a hot beam of desire, i noticed Margaret palm a few of the blushes and slip them into her small bag from Eckerd's. I couldn't believe what i was seeing and when she gestured for us to leave. I left quickly. I felt like there was a neon sign with a finger pointing at me, signalling my guilt. 

   I might need to confess at this juncture, that I was not a "theft virgin", but up til this point, I had only stolen from people that I knew and loved....never from a store. Odds and ends around our house that were technically owned by other family members may have found their way into my room. Once in my room, it was easy to hide under the jumble. My mother had long given up trying to make me clean my room and found, simply closing the door was the best way to deal with my mess. So, there, under layers of clothes and debris, were many of the missing items my brothers has wrongly accused my mother of throwing away, all of the tiny Avon lipstick samples that my mother accused my sister of "borrowing", and my sister's Charles of the Ritz eye-shadow that she was sure that I had taken, but couldn't prove.
   All of my "in home" petty crime had not fully prepared me for Margaret and real life malfeasance. My heart was racing as we sat on a bench in front of the Guilford Dairy. It was getting dark early, and in the dusky light, Margaret opened her bag and she showed me her haul. She didn't just have an item or two, she had a bag full. My mother would be there to pick me up at any moment, but before she did, Margaret handed me the rectangular box with the blush, then she left to walk home. I slipped the box into my pocketbook and felt like i was smuggling weapon grade plutonium. 
   A few days later my mother walked into my bathroom and caught me sitting on the counter with my feet in the sink. I was busy applying layers of blush in large circles on my cheeks, removing and then reapplying. She asked me where i had gotten the makeup. I told her it was a gift from Margaret and promised it was just for play.... i knew i wasn't allowed to leave the bathroom with it on. She didn't press me, and it may have only been my guilt, but i was sure she didn't believe the "gift" story.....although, technically it had been.
   Once I saw how easy it was for Margaret to slip the makeup in her bags and not get caught, it wasn't long before I joined her in our "discount shopping sprees". My first "bargain was the 45 "Sunday Will Never be the Same" by Spanky and Our Gang,
then "Monday Monday" by the Mamas and Papas. 45's fit neatly into my coat. I held myself as if I was chilly and walked out of Woolworth's. I worked up from 45's to a full sized albums. One day,  my mother, without explanation decided that i could no longer hang out with Margaret. I don't know if she saw Margaret's mother in her nurse's uniform, driving her Mustang, or if she saw Margaret walking along Benjamin Parkway after dark....but those were the days when parents didn't explain to their children. They simply said NO- you can't...and that was that. My brief vacation from my bubble was over, I was guided out of the fast lane and directed back to the kiddie rides. 
   I can never listen to the Mamas and Papas without thinking about of my reckless days of crime.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bat Mitzwedding

 My Bat Mitzwedding

Back in 1968 I was in 7th grade. It was a pivotal year in many ways. 7th grade meant leaving elementary school and going to junior high school. I would no longer be sitting in one classroom all day. Now I would change classes for each subject. These were the big leagues; and I was on the precipice of teen-hood.....just one training bra away from womanhood. Junior high had the day broken up into multiple periods for each and every subject. Bells would mark the end of one class and then another bell marked the beginning of the next. All of the shuffling through the halls would occur with a stack of books under one arm and a pocketbook on the other wrist. I had rehearsed the "one arm book hold" from the very first time i saw Sandra Dee do it. My greatest aspiration was to be a teenager!  Having an older sister and two older brothers, i had taken careful mental notes.Now I was entering junior high school and it was my turn to be Gidget.

The first stop into "Teendom" would be the Bar and Bat Mitzvah circuit. I had enviously watched my sister when she was 13 as she readied herself for all of the fabulous parties. They were formal affairs or creative theme parties. My favorite party  that I wished i had been invited to was a cowboy themed "Barn-Mitzvah" The invitation came on yellowed card stock, with type looking like a wanted poster. There was a small card with information that had a loop of twine holding a very tiny six-gun revolver.
I would sit in Roberta's room as she teased her hair into a poofy crown and then place a small velvet bow, in an indent between the poof and her bangs. Then she would select a party dress and slide on hose that attached to her garter belt. I yearned for the day i would no longer wear socks or patent leather maryjanes.

I had never been one to put a lot of effort into things. I wanted to be good at ventures, but never liked involving myself with either, practice or study. I took up violin in the school orchestra solely for the cool factor of walking through the school halls carrying an instrument. I can honestly say, i never, ever practiced. The orchestra leader had no choice but to show me the door, ending my chances of becoming the next Yehudi Menuhin. Then there was the time my parents had me take piano lessons. We had a magnificent baby grand in our living room that i never touched. At the year end recital, I sat at at the piano, played one note, looked out at the audience, then got up and ran out of the building and all the way home.

Now, my lack of effort was going to be directed at my Bat Mitzvah lessons. By 7th grade, i was in my 5th year of Hebrew "studies". The word "studies" is in quotations because in those 5, I had Hebrew school for 2 hours twice a week in the afternoons, Sunday school, Saturday Jr Congregation, and yet, i managed to only learn the letters Alef and Bet. For those of you who are also not Hebrew scholars, there is apparently an entire alphabet that follows those two letters. With my impending Bat Mitzvah looming over me,  never learning Hebrew was certain to be a problem.

One after the next, all of my Hebrew school classmates were Bar Mitzvahed. I was the youngest in my class, making mine the last. With each one the ante was raised. This was not just a rite of passage, there was a lot of one-up-manship.

During this time, i was not the only Kabat celebrating an important life event. My brother, Lee, became engaged to his college sweetheart. He was the handsome guy that was the country club life guard. She was the 6 foot, model bodied blond. They had that "it" quality. They weren't exactly the couple with whom i wanted to share the spotlight.

For convenience and economy, my mother thought it would be a terrific idea to combine the two events in a one week Kabat extravaganza. The week of Christmas was selected since all of our relatives had nothing to do and nowhere to go. While all of the rest of the world celebrated the Christ child's birth, we would have a Jewish Jamboree. All of our relatives could come from the New York tri-state area. We offered them two fabulous affairs with only one fare south....what a deal!! They would all come, my Long Island cousins with all of their children, my great aunts with their freshly blued hair and ample bosoms, my elegant uncles, my fat grandfather who smelled of cheap cigars and herring, and all the rest of the cast of "Goodbye Columbus".
All of the family was there

Everyone came to Greensboro, then we all drove together in cars packed like circus clowns to Sumter, South Carolina for my brothers wedding. Not since Moses lead the slaves out of Egypt had there been such a Semitic spectacle. Car after car, on winding two lane highways, the extended family found our way to this small southern town. Sumter was completely unprepared for the likes of us.

The brides mother was a southern Jew, complete with a refined southern accent and elegant, WASPified mannerisms. She politely greeted us at the hotel and said that there were very few restaurants in town...especially being Christmas Eve, so the pre-bridal luncheon would be at a small truck stop. My relatives all chuckled at her droll sense of humor. When we arrived at the luncheon and saw that it was indeed in a building behind a gas station all conversation stopped......but only briefly.

The wedding was a lovely affair at the Sumter Holiday Inn. It was the finest establishment that could....or would....be available for a Jewish wedding on Christmas day. The bride was beautiful, my brother was handsome, everything was perfect. The morning after, we all loaded once again into our caravan and headed back to Greensboro for my Bat Mitzvah.

The excitement of the wedding and my duties as junior bridesmaid kept me from thinking about my own ceremony. Driving toward Greensboro, i sat in the back of my father's Cadillac, and it occurred to me that i hadn't studied for my Bat Mitzvah that week. Even more troubling, it also occurred to me, that i hadn't studied at any time during the last year. The realization that i did not learn my Haftorah was now water over the dam. I had exactly 48 hours to learn 13 years worth of Baruch Atah Adonais.
My mother inscribed the wrong date

Back in Greensboro, the following days were a flurry of beauty parlor appointments and last minute dress alterations. On Friday morning my father started to complain that he wasn't feeling well. By the time we needed to get dressed to leave for Friday night services, he said he was too sick to go. My father apologized and said that he needed to go to bed so that he would be better for the important Saturday service. I don't have a strong memory of this moment, but i have never been someone who handled disappointment well. I am sure i gave my father a dose of guilt making him feel even sicker. The guilt I served up made my mother nod with appreciation that i had indeed become a Jewish woman that evening.

Usually the Bat Mitzvah girl would lead the Friday night service, but the Rabbi and my teacher had long given up the hope of me being able to do that. They had me read a few English responsive reading passages. There seemed to be a murmur in the congregation as they noticed my lack of Hebrew participation. I felt their disapproval, but as long as they sent me a good gift, i didn't care what they were muttering!
 Wearing the bridesmaid dress for my Bat Mitzvah portrait 

Saturday morning, my father awoke with a raging fever and a case of full blown flu. He was going to miss my Bat Mitzvah....i couldn't believe it!! His dear friend Al sat beside me on the bima, where my father should have been. I led the few prayers that the Rabbi had hastily transliterated for me in his final act of resignation. Even with that, i stumbled over the words . Then, my Haftorah...it was a mangled amalgamation of sounds that had little to do with Hebrew...or any known language on our planet.Most of the congregation and guests didn't really know what it should have sounded like, but it was clear to all, by the expressions on the faces of my instructor and Rabbi, i wasn't even close. The two men shot glances at each other over the opened scrolls. It seemed like i had struck a terrible blow against all Judaism...i had committed  "Haftorah Holocaust "

It was as if my mother psychically knew that this was going to be the worst Bat Mitzvah in all chronicles of Beth David Synagogue's history. With this in mind, she planned the most second rate party ever. My two older brothers and sister had beautiful receptions. Unfortunately, with all of the planning and excitement of my brother's wedding, who had time to organize a decent luncheon? Not my mother, that's for sure! It was downstairs in the basement of our old shabby synagogue. Tuna salad and Lender's bagels, ginger ale and sherbet punch, Mogen David concord wine and stale, week old Challah brought down from New York by my cousins.The one detail my mother took care of was hiring an accordion player. ...........yes, an accordion player!

Every child in our congregation would give a speech at their Bar Mitzvah luncheons. It was supposedly written by them, but was almost, without fail, written by a parent. My father wrote a fabulous one for my sister, complete with stage notes in parenthesis saying (look up), (pause), (speak slowly). He did not write one for me, after all this is the same father who didn't even come to my Bat Mitzvah! It never dawned on me to write one for myself...what, with all of the studying for the service that I was not doing, I was entirely swamped! Therefore, in between bites of my bagel, I composed a speech. One of my friends and i worked on it and thought we had just the perfect amount of sincerity and humor that was called for on this important day. As everyone ate their sub par kosher meal, I stood up and thanked everyone for coming. I also thanked everyone for their thoughtful and generous gifts. After that, I picked up my knife from my place setting, waved it furiously in the air, then thrust it forward saying, "and for those of you who haven't gotten me a gift...I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!! Anticipating howls of laughter, i looked out at the tables of people who stared back at me looking like they were posing for Edvard Munch's "The Scream".

Lunch ended and we returned home. My final memory was of my mother telling my father how lucky he was to have been sick


Greensboro Recipes

Sumter Recipes

A Bit of Herring

A Ham-A-Roni

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Penpals and Girl Scouts: The Road to the Presidency

 Penpals and Girl Scouts:
The Road to the Presidency

I think the reason I genuinely love Facebook so much is because it is the New Century's version of penpals.

 Facebook has let me correspond with strangers, or friends, or friends of friends of friends. I can share a story without the uncomfortable problems of face to face meetings. If I haven't washed my hair this week, or if I am simply in the mood to go "pant-less" ...no problem. instead of pulling on pants or washing my hair, I will post a photo from 20 years ago. i will find a picture that shows me before time and gravity took it's toll. People will reply with smiley faces or hearts. Having no idea that someone who needs a burlap bag over their head, like John Merrick, sits typing on the other end.....as i talk freely with someone who is probably on a neighborhood sex offenders list.

  When i was a little girl, my sister, Roberta, had a pen pal. His name was Edmon Sum from Singapore. Back then, the thought of receiving an international Air Mail letter, written on tissue thin paper, was awesome! The world was so much bigger then, and far away places were actually far away!

 His letters were filled with thrilling tales about a bowling alley...the First bowling alley in all of Singapore was being built near his home.What luck... He loved to bowl...INCREDIBLE!! A young boy in Singapore was bowling.....Who Knew?!  Tell me More!!!  How could i not be part of this electrifying narrative! 

This Singapore penpal  was asking  Roberta to send him a pair of Beatle Go Go Boots. He had the customary assumption that all Americans were rich. Edmon wanted her to send him a pair of stylish and very expensive shoes. 

 Just a side note, neither Roberta nor I owned Beatle Boots...our mother selected our clothing carefully...she had an eye for fashion...fashion that suited 45 year old matrons and dressed us that way. Our sensible ensembles screamed, " i may be in elementary school, but I'm already planning to be a spinster....

  Those were the years of Mod and Mary Quant. Living in North Carolina, we would take magazine pictures of Twiggy with her Famous "Elfin" cut ,or Mary Quant sporting a Sassoon creation to the hair salon. We went to Mr Leon, himself, at Leons Beauty Parlor. He was Greensboro's "Corky St Clare" from "Waiting for Guffman".... he would lose himself in a flurry of washing, snipping, spraying, setting and drying. Then, Ta Da...the moment of magic.... when he turned your chair toward the mirror....the reflection staring back at you was one part Mamie Eisenhower, one part Tammy Wynette and 2 parts closeted gym teacher.

  A year or so after Roberta stopped exchanging letters with her Edmon Sum, i snuck into room her room and stole from her desk, the letters from her foreign friend. I wanted the excitement and mystery of an exotic confidante.  i wanted to be part of this story, but i did not want to actually do the work of writing any letters. That seemed like an exhausting task... so i used my time more wisely. With no expertise in the complicated "Art of Forgery", I craftily changed my sister's name on the letters and replaced them with my own. 

At that point in time, I was in Girl Scouts. Dressed in my new green uniform with an empty badge-less sash, i brought in my badly doctored letters to my scout leader. I submitted them as my own correspondence for a Penpal Badge. My leader looked at my submissions and shook her head. I felt her eyes on me as she spoke to the other leader showing her the letters. Like Chuck Connors in "Branded", my fly-up wings were pulled off my uniform and i was cast out of the cottage...I was kicked out of Girl Scouts, never to hold hands in the friendship circle again...all for bad forgery skills.

Now you might be wondering how does this all tie in together?? Well, I will tell you, my loyal readers, this is where my run for president starts to take form.

From my questionable international correspondences, to my short stint in a green uniform where i pledged my honor (with fingers crossed) "to serve God and my country", i was already laying the groundwork for my #VOTEFORRUTHIE campaign. Until now, there has never been a time in history where the greatest qualifications for being considered for Leader of the Free World are "Truth Bender and a steadfast commitment to do nothing"

Bask in my moment ....join in my movement....Be part of #VOTEFORRUTHIE....

My blog catalogues a lifetime of bad decisions, and I promise that I can make bad decisions for you too!

 My candidacy is where integrity is just a slogan. 



as long as i am cheating on my Girl Scout badges,
here is a delicious cheat on how to make their famous Samoa Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1-2 T milk

3 c shredded coconut
12 oz chewy caramels
1/4 t salt
3 T milk
18 oz dark chocolate chips

preheat oven 350
cream butter and sugar- add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla...dough will be crumbly. add 1 T milk to get dough to come together...can add the other T milk a little at a time if needed
roll out dough 1/4" thick cut into circles...1 1/2" biscuit round, use back of decorating tip to cut out center to make ring
bake 10-12 minutes until light brown
turn down oven to 300
spread coconut  on sheet pan toast 20 minutes
in pot add caramels, salt, milk ...melt on low heat stirring all the time... add toasted coconut mix well

spread mixture over cooled cookies...let set
melt chocolate in double boiler
dip base of cookies in chocolate and drizzle remaining chocolate on top

or order Girl Scout Cookies

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lord of the Lies

Lord of the Lies

Childhood is a treacherous journey. No one passes without incident or harm. Mine of course was the most horrible. I lived in a beautiful home with parents that doted on me, 3 siblings that loved me, neighbors to play with on quiet suburban streets, a country club and summer camp. So you ask yourself, “how did she navigate the horrors of such a life?” My answer is simple, I was a liar. Not a white liar with little tales, (although I told many of those as well) I was a big liar. Any accomplished spinner of untruths will tell you, while weaving your yarn, start with the truth and build you story from there. If only I had been given these directions back then.

In 1960 we moved from our Long Island home, and away from all of our relatives, settling in Greensboro, NC. We had left behind my grandparents in Paterson NJ, my great aunts and uncle In Brooklyn, and my cousins in Plainview, Long Island. Twice a year we would make a journey back to New York. We went to the home of my mother’s cousin Barbara with her booming Brooklyn accent, her husband, Mitch, and their many children. I loved my cousins so much....those visits were my very favorite times of year.

Our Christmas vacation trip in 1963 was filled with all the usual events. It was a vacation for us but also a business trip for my father. During the weekdays, my father and Mitch would go into the city for work and be gone all day. My mother and Barbara would cook, shop and play mahjong. I would play with my cousin Nancy who was just a little bit younger than I....but young enough to completely follow, trust and believe me.

The fun on this trip started with a purple ink pen. The first evening, after we had our baths, I took the pen and with Nancy as my willing canvas, I colored her entire body purple. Her flat chest cried out for adornment. I made her breasts into big purple flowers with stems and leaves trailing down to her belly button, then on and on and ever downward. Upon completion, she went into her parent’s room to show off her new embellishments. A second later, her father charged out of his room screaming, “Who did this to her?!??” I stood there with the pen in my hand and purple fingertips, my eyes searching the empty room, looking for someone to blame.... then I shrugged and said, “I don’t know”. Mitch wasn’t my father, he wasn’t going to punish me, but I knew, that he knew, that I knew, that he knew.

The following night, with no real-life drama to share, I began one of my “altered truths”. I told Nancy all about President Kennedy’s funeral. I explained that just a few weeks ago, Caroline Kennedy (my close dear friend) had called me. She had implored, since we were such good pals, would I please come to her father’s funeral. Not one to leave a friend in a time of need, of course I assured Caroline that I would come. I told Nancy how adorable John-John was as he saluted the casket.....and dead father aside; the funeral was really was a lot of fun!

These were conveniently the days before google searches. No “fact checking” to worry about, I was able to tell Nancy that there were probably photos of me standing next to my BFF, Caroline.The pictures showed me giving Caroline the consolation and strength she required in this time of need....and of course i was entertaining with an impromptu ballet recital or a song.....   This tale made me not just a great friend, but a great patriot.

Some of the particulars of my tale were left out....

1- How does a 7-year-old get from Greensboro to DC without even as much as a learner’s permit?

2- Where does a 7 year old, traveling solo, stay while in DC?

3 -Did I hang out at the White House with Caroline or with the other invited guests and dignitaries?

….. Nancy was kind enough, (perhaps because she was only 6) not to press for answers.

Before we retired for the evening, we still had time for some games. I loved running up and down their staircase since I lived in a one-story ranch house in Greensboro. As I got up to the top of the stairs it occurred to me that the wrought iron banisters were just like a jail cell....so I wanted to play “Prison”. I would be the warden and Nancy would be an incarcerated criminal. I had her stand on the landing behind the bars, then I told her to put her head through the bars as if she was attempting to breakout. I don’t understand the science behind this, but it was easy to put head through the bars, but impossible to get her head out...Nancy started to cry. Once again, her father angrily came flying out of his bedroom. This time in his tightie-whities and comb-over flapping. I knew this wasn’t going to end well for me. As he slowly maneuvered his little girl's head out from between the railings, Nancy had of plenty of time to him all about my trip to DC and the JFK's funeral...... If only she had been quiet! But Nancy was able to recite every detail that I had I told her. This was 1963 and parents still believed in spankings. Mitch wasn't standing on ceremony, he may not have been MY father, but I’m pretty sure that evening ended with me getting spanked.

The next day, the men went back into the city and the moms went shopping. My cousin’s house had an open front porch leading to the garage. For theatrically minded girls like me, it looked like a stage with entrances, both stage left and right. There were about a million or so kids living on their block, so there was always an audience.... but I wondered what kind of show could Nancy, her brother Douglas and I put on? EUREKA!!! Thanks to that purple ink being non-washable, Nancy was still festooned in my handiwork. Why not a striptease? Douglas could be the Barker/MC, Nancy the painted lady and I (of course) the main attraction. Douglas was great at getting all of the neighborhood kids to come over. They gathered on the front lawn, He would grandly introduce us, and then Nancy and I would run naked from the garage side door, across the front porch and into the house. With each performance, the crowds got larger and more enthusiastic. Nancy and I waited, naked in the garage for Douglas's signal for the two of us to streak across the porch. Children were screaming and cheering on the front lawn. Nancy and I charged across the front porch in our all together. At that very moment, my mother and Barbara pulled into the driveway. Seeing our two mothers, we bolted up the stairs to Nancy’s room. We jumped into the closet. Moments later in her dulcet lilting voice, Barbara shouted, “WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING?!??” Nancy and I, naked, sitting on the closet floor, looked up at her and I answered, “Nothing.....”

I don’t remember the drive back down to North Carolina after this vacation, but I'm pretty sure it included at stop in Washington DC for lunch with Lady Bird.


Chewy Chocolate Chunk-Cherry Cookies

Family favorite cookie....perfect for relatives, even if they are liars!
Makes 40 Cookies


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (2 1/2 cups)
8 ounces dried cherries (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Beat in chocolate and cherries. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Roll dough into 1 3/4-inch balls (about 3 tablespoons each), and arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets set on wire racks for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks; let cool completely.

Sunday, April 10, 2016



    And in the beginning.... I was born on Long Island, but my strongest memories are from our move to North Carolina when I was 4.

My memories of Long Island are fuzzy. Some are actually true, some are just stories in my head from looking at photographs. Some are déjà vu that comes to me when I watch movies like “Radio Days” or “Avalon”.
   Our little house in Glen Cove was the weekend destination for our city dwelling relatives. The small house would fill up with my mother’s family; grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Conversation was loud and food was plentiful.

   The women were all bosomy and opinionated. They brought babka and rugelach from Brooklyn in big white boxes tied shut with red and white string. The house smelled of brisket and roasted chickens that were always dry and overcooked. My mother had  a big white meat grinder that was attached to the counter that pushed out streams of chopped liver. It looked like soft bowel movements pouring thru the grates and did not seem more appealing once on the platter. There were mushy canned vegetables and stuffed derma all coming out of the kitchen in steady succession.

   We were not the “no driving on Sabbath” or “always wear a yarmulke” kind of Jewish family, but we were certainly a Jewish family. We had a varied assortment of relatives.  Camps were divided between my mother’s family and my father’s. They didn’t mix.

   My father’s team was Manhattan. His father lived with us. Living with us was against his will and my grandfather made sure anyone within earshot knew it. He thought my mother’s family was very déclassé. My grandfather believed that my father had "married down", and took every opportunity to express that opinion to everyone.

   My mother’s was Eastern Parkway and Paterson. Yiddish speaking face-pinchers, card-carrying communists, intellectuals, bad joke tellers, cigar smokers and the rest of the casting couch for Woody Allen movies were all in attendance. 

   My father was a textile salesman and traveled all the time. Never being home was hard on him. It was also hard on my mother, who was left for weeks at a time to care for four children and my grandfather. This was the reason they decided to move to North Carolina and leave all of their family.

   For our move to Greensboro, we split into two groups; the flyers and the drivers. My brothers, sister and father drove down in packed cars; my mother and I flew with my very sick grandfather. He was so sick actually, that his doctors told them that this move could likely kill him. But we were moving. Grandpa was coming with us, like it or not....and he did NOT!

   My grandfather was angry and vowed he would never live in Greensboro. Proving the doctors correct, my grandfather was collected by ambulance on the tarmac at the Greensboro airport, and died a few weeks later. His massive heart attack on the plane was possibly his final act of defiance. Grandpa never stepped foot in our new house.
  December 1960, the white meat grinder was unpacked and put in the kitchen of our new house in Greensboro North Carolina. Leaving behind all of our assorted relatives, we started a new life in a  New World.

    • One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)
    • Unsalted butter
    • Dijon mustard

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.
  2. Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.
  3. Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.
  4. Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.