Monday, July 19, 2010



It's that time of year again here in NYC. Sidewalks are baking and A/Cs are on full-blast. So far, this has been the hottest summer on record, and we're all whining about the weather. Especially those who've been queuing up in Central Park before dawn for free tickets to see Al Pacino as Shylock in the "Merchant of Venice."

But that wasn't the case for us last Thursday. My son Max and I, along with his buddy Milo and Mom, Alex, drag ourselves out of bed at 4am, grab breakfast and reading materials, and cab it to Central Park before dawn, beginning what will be an eight-hour stretch, the equivalent of a standard work day. The waiting is effortless, in a lush, glorious setting where your only assignment is to chat, read, play a game of Charades, draw, drink coffee, eat lunch, post your photos on Facebook - anything to pass the time in a line one is not allowed to leave (but for visits to the restroom and snack bar.)

By 1:30pm, we score eight tickets, two each, leaving us free agents until just before the 8pm showtime. Almost everyone in our families will welcome us weary souls back home with love and appreciation for our incredibly selfless sacrifice. The one ticket holder, however, who does not appreciate this coveted prize, this golden opportunity, would be young Julian.

Once I tell Julian how long the performance will last, he is horrified.

"Hey, that's Shakespeare, Kiddo," I tell him.

Act I: Between the occasional spurts of interest, Julian rolls his eyes and shows me his fist, while Max, who can't keep his eyes open, is fast asleep on my shoulder. Feeling guilty for denying Julian candy to keep him entertained, (OK, I'll say it, to 'keep him happy,') I promise him we'll get something at intermission. There's not much other than Gummy Worms. He has something heartier in mind, but this will have to do.

Act II: "Mom, how long is this act?" Julian whispers.
"About 45 minutes to an hour," I whisper back.

Julian slaps his hand to his forehead, and looks skyward.

"Oh My God, I'm going to kill myself," he whines. "You owe me," he whispers with indignation.

Once Julian settles in with his tub of Gummies, I begin to explain that Shylock is intent on collecting his bond for his 3,000-ducat unpaid loan to Antonio: a pound of flesh.

"I wish he would just take a pound of flesh from my head," Julian snaps.

Never too soon to start them on Shakespeare, I always say...

Saturday, June 19, 2010


There he was, that tall, strong, handsome guy in his uniform tee, tossing the ball to the player covering second base. It was an evening game, a hot, still summer evening's game. The field lights blazed with artificial daylight, while moths danced and fluttered in the shocking brightness of their glow. 'Brand X' was only just warming up.

We sat in the stands, cheering the team on through the game. The ice-cream truck on the edge of the park beckoned, and I knew it would be at least a couple of innings before our presence at Dad's game would be rewarded with the frosty treat of our choice - for me, a double soft serve with rainbow sprinkles. The anticipation of this moment was the only thing that got me through.

I had no idea what position my dad played for his team, but I know it didn't last many seasons - if only one. I didn't know how many runs he might have scored, how many times he struck out, if he stole a base, if he tagged a man out. All I knew is that as soon as the game ended, he was ours again. Uniform, wallet, and all.

The position he played on our family team, though, consisting of a wife, three sons, two daughters, a couple of dogs, a revolving door of cats, an occasional salamander, a gecko, a run of the mill hamster or gerbil (these pets not all at once though), was the ever-present, unflinching, unconditionally devoted father who I want to thank for the following, not limited to and not necessarily in order of appearance:

1. Salami and eggs
2. Papering my bedroom wall with the green ferns over the silver background
3. Drawing a portrait of Farrah Fawcett with me till after midnight, on the dry-erase board next to the olive green rotary telephone. It was uncanny.
4. Saving my life in a Quebec hotel/campground parking lot
5. Driving me to everyone's houses for sleepovers, all the time
6. Taking me to Klein's just before closing hour for the best maxi-dress EVER
7. Taking us to Friendly's at midnight for ice-cream sundaes while the Mets were in overtime (13 innings?)
8. Camping in Montauk
9. Music
10.Corny jokes
11.The candy in his suit jacket pocket (yes, that's where it all went.)
12.The change in his pocket, too.
13.The way he laughs through his teeth, like the dog from Dastardly and Muttley
14.Being the coolest, most proficient handyman, who drilled, hammered, spackled and kept our world patched together with love, kindness and patience, often with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.
15. Quitting smoking

Always the athlete, always the artist, always the beautiful soul, always The Man.

It must be Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Now that the winner has been declared, we can finally get off the couch.

I decided to let the rest of the week that followed last Wednesday’s "American Idol" results pass before uttering a word, as tempting as it was to join the fray. I preferred not to get tangled up with other bloggers and commentators who’ve been either lamenting Chrystal ‘Mama Sox’s loss, or celebrating Lee DeWyze’s victory. Because ultimately, the true victory that took place in this house did not emanate from the television.

I’d thought we were home free after the Yankees clinched the World Series last November. The house was back in working order: school projects and homework were getting done on time without the last-minute scramble, after-dinner clean-up happened - get this - right after dinner, and the evening came to a reasonable, satisfying end before the natives got too restless. We were off to a flying start towards the second half of the school year. Even the Scrabble board came out every once in a while.

But something happened. Somebody in this house, and I don’t know who, stumbled upon American Idol, and roped the rest of us into an ominous web of Prime Time television to the point that we were completely, hopelessly committed. It started with the auditions in various home towns across the land after the New Year, then on to the cut for the Top 24, down to the 12, through, among other things, the absurdity of Tim Urban’s repeatedly remarkable bullet-dodging, Siobhan’s shrieking, Big Mike’s ‘save’ and his eventual axing (I was out to dinner when it happened, and received a voice message from a pissed-off Julian with an update: “Mike lost! Stupid Casey!”) and finally, Casey’s departure. In brief, we here all agree that Chrystal’s career as a free agent will take off in a big way, and Lee’s six-year American Idol contract will either take him to new heights (we hope), or leave him writing jingles for Home Depot (we hope not).

So it’s officially summer now. Memorial Day weekend has just set the tone for a trim, healthful new beginning. Take a long, brisk walk after dinner, and don’t rush back. There’s nothing on - with the exception of the remaining “Glee” episode, the Prime-time line-up is on hiatus until the fall. Therefore, my sweet cherubs, I’d like all these things picked up and put back where they belong, K? Please. help yourself to that glass of water or bowl of ice-cream, and after that, you can take that freshly laundered pile of your clothes to your room and put it away, and make sure you brush your teeth before you’re too wiped out to do it. Oh, and on the way to bed, just stop off in the family room, turn on the TV, and tell me how the Yanks and Mets are doing, would you?

This is great. I've got 'em well trained now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I am 48 years old. I have less gray hair then most of my friends, my age and younger. I don't yet need glasses, and still look pretty damn good without Botox. My youngest son only just reached the double digits in December, and I still have a mean right-arm. In fact, on a glorious Sunday afternoon in the fall, while playing baseball with the kids, I took a heroic tumble in Riverside Park when I tripped over a protruding root from a nearby oak tree. Tossed and rolling across the bumpy ground like MacGyver narrowly escaping an explosion, I skinned my shin raw, prematurely hobbling home, stopping at Duane Reade for a new supply of peroxide, gauze and Bacitracin.

My cholesterol is under control (without medication), and I can still do round-offs on the beach. So what the hell, then, is AARP doing clogging my mailbox and jamming my paper shredder? What the hell?

In an age where 70 is the new 50, 50 the new 30, 40 the new 20 (OK, maybe that's pushing it), I find it outrageous - and a little presumptuous - that the work force has begun to consider me old hat, a used up, unproductive member of society. Why, I've only in the last few years begun a second career, in real estate, and I'm pretty darn busy. I don't play golf or lunch with the ladies, so there is no way for me to benefit from any benefits. Not yet, anyway.

There could not possibly be anything wrong with me, or anyone else my age, that should warrant any 'retired persons' organization bombarding my mailbox with weekly 'association' literature. Everyone forgets their keys, misplaces their Metrocard, loses their favorite lipstick, confuses words like 'breakfast' and 'dessert,' and so on. A neurologist I once spoke to about this said it's all stress-related, and that my brain is just fine.

So where am I going with this? I don't quite know. But what I do know is that today, when I finally decided to attack that colossal pile of bills, coupons, school papers, Holiday photo cards and other stuff that has been collecting since Thanksgiving, I came across another one of those fucking American Association of Retired Persons envelopes, unopened, with my name on it. I was horrified and infuriated that an entity completely unknown to me has invaded my home and the rest of my youth. How could they get it so wrong? So I picked up the envelope along with a pile of papers to discard, and after pulling a muscle in my back, limped defiantly over to the paper shredder and showed those friggin' whippersnappers at AARP a thing or two. Bastards.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


James, the beloved Thai-Body-Sculpt class instructor, never let’s us forget where we are, lest we ever forget where we are.

“Some of you here are already shopping at Fairway,” he’ll jest as my mind runs through the pound cake ingredients I’ll need for Thanksgiving. “Now, come back to Planet Earth,” James commands. As I prop my right foot up against my inner left knee into the tree pose, it occurs to me that I need another bottle of vanilla extract.

“Plank position into Chaturanga.” Please, I hope Max’s fever doesn’t go above 100. There’s no way we can miss Thanksgiving. He’s got about 48 hours to lose this bug. “And now Cobra into Downward-facing Dog.”

It’s not the H1N1, and it’s probably not strep. Julian had the same symptoms a couple of weeks ago - it’s just your garden variety virus. There are plenty of them out there.

James saunters around the softly-lit room with a flawless dancer’s posture. He weaves unobtrusively through the rows and spots of exercisers, correcting or adjusting a pair of tense shoulders here, a pair of misdirected hips there. We follow James’ direction in unison, thinking about our abs, our thighs, our glutes. While I can’t speak for everyone else, I am sure there are at least a couple of mental shopping lists being reviewed as we exhale.

“Prayer-lunge, and up. Prayer-lunge, and up.” Did I put that permission slip into Julian’s backpack? Do I even know where it is? “And right into a deep plie. Deeper…hold for 8 – 7 - 6…Your thighs should be quivering now.” I’ll also pick up some vegetables. Two heads each of cauliflower and broccoli should be fine. I’ll roast everything Thursday morning before we hit the road…Max will be fine…

“Oh, my Lord,” James exclaims. “Some of you have released those abs into the wild! Bring ‘em on back in!”

After Thanksgiving, James, promise!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


They came here a couple of weeks ago, planted themselves in the family room, and have been controlling the boys’ schedule and that flipping television ever since.

I have tried to be a kind and gracious hostess. I indulge them their habits and compulsions and I put up with their childlike behavior. I pay as much attention to them as possible, but it hasn’t been easy.

I understand the boys love their guests, and won’t see them for a while after they leave, so I try to be patient and just enjoy their visit. No doubt, these guys are a lot of fun to have around, but they’re also a bit immature. And while they could certainly become great role models, they have done nothing to encourage the boys to keep up with their chores and responsibilities while they take up space, so it is always me, the rotten sport, who is continually, repeatedly dragging the boys away - to set the table, finish that math homework, take their dirty plates to the kitchen, practice the piano, pick up their dirty clothes from the bathroom floor, brush their teeth, pack up their bags, and the list goes on - no matter who’s visiting our home.

Everyone here is having a blast. But Julian can’t ever bear to bid them ‘goodnight,’ even as we drag him off to bed mid-stream, and Max, who never really much cared before, has suddenly discovered his new best friends, and has lately blown off his 'suggested' nightly reading. Meanwhile, my husband David has bonded completely with these guys, and has often been up with them into the wee hours. I do eventually get to sit down and relax with them myself towards the end of the evening, but I can hardly keep my eyes open and am ready to crash not long after that.

Last night we had a break. Our guests took off for a couple of days, leaving us to our own devices. I have no idea where they went. It was great - the boys were able to focus on their homework, their chores, their lessons and have some chill time. I finally got to do a little channel surfing, catching some bits and pieces of this and that. It didn't even matter what - it was the freedom to click which I desired more than anything.

Our guests really haven’t contributed much in the way of wine, dessert, flowers or even light picking-up around the house. But I have to admit, these guys have filled this home with excitement, inspiration, hope, and the simple pleasure of having something to look forward to. And the kids have been clear that, if they finish their homework, they can definitely hang out in the evening. And if, in the off chance our guests behave like losers, they immediately make it up to us soon after.

This is not far from over. I think I can do this, because I really am fond of these guys. I’ll just ease up on my expectations, get on with the day-to-day, and try to spend a little more time enjoying these guests, because they’re almost out of here. The good news is that the Yankees have won the pennant. So as soon as they've won the World Series and run Philadelphia out of town, I’m going to politely ask the Boys of Summer to take a hike and not show their smug, handsome faces around here again until they are done with Spring Training.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


It’s a cruel joke that nature plays on us. We get impeccably glorious, sparkling fall weather right after Labor Day. The moment the Jewish holidays roll around, whether it’s in mid-September or early October, Indian summer inevitably horns in on our autumn territory, reclaiming sole rights to the sun’s intense rays, and the mercury is back up to 92. At this time of the year, I am most often in the kitchen. The oven is at 375° at least, roasting, baking, broiling – brisket, noodle kugel, whatever – which is quite a shock to the system after spending a beastly hot summer avoiding culinary pursuits at all costs.

But somehow, it’s all worth it. The excitement of these holidays combined with the new school year brings about feelings of promise and opportunity, and renewed expectations that will surely be met this time…

The perfect dinner for nine was only minutes away. The Brussels Sprouts were roasted to perfection, the Yukon Gold potatoes in the oven were almost fork ready, and the marinated skirt steak, in a Pyrex pan, was charred enough on the outside (and pink enough inside) when I took it out of the broiler and set it on the range. I have no idea how, exactly, but the pan began to slide off the burner. Startled, I gave it a hasty little push back on. Then I heard the crack of a solid, clean break. As though sitting along perforated lines, the sides of the pan had simply broken off, while the flawlessly cooked, marinated skirt steak hung hopelessly limp over the pan's broken edge. The sprouts had been waiting on the counter nearby, and I couldn’t take a chance, so I dumped them. The hunger we were about to endure - the glass, the mess, our dinner, and the clock ticking Kol Nidre away. I sank along the doorway onto the kitchen floor, landing in defeat and resignation. This was to be the last glorious meal before sundown brought on Yom Kippur.

It wasn’t as though we wouldn’t be eating for a week. It was only to be a fast for 24 hours, about one-third of which would be spent sleeping, anyway. If one was planning on cheating with a cup of coffee in the morning to stave off the possibility of a headache, one might possibly feel OK about it.

The Chili con Carne I prepared and served three days earlier had become our pre-atonement dinner. Meanwhile, the Yukon Golds, still in the oven during the incident, had come out bronzed, tender and unscathed. And it was the potatoes, now out of sorts in the unlikely company of chili, cheddar cheese and sour cream (alone, the total opposite of Kosher!), which reminded me of what else these sacred holidays are all about: Pyrex in the broiler is not a good thing.

So in the spirit of all the domestic snafus we experience, whether we are self-taught, celebrity chef-inspired or Food Network-educated, keep on shopping, cooking and imagining your ultimate hosting scenarios to be the best possible experience for you and your guests, no matter what can go right - or wrong.