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 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.