Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trouble With the Truth

I'm having trouble writing. 

I haven't had trouble the past 17 months because I've been writing about places, people I've met, things I've watched or seen — episodes in my past, reflections about the present and the unknown future.  

But now I'm up against the ugly.  

The things that are seeping through my fingers onto the keyboard aren't pretty.  The words recall the darker side of things, the seamier side of one's life with the pictures we try to keep secret and hide from everyone.

My in-laws they always see the bright side of things.  Ask them and they'd say that everything is "perfect." They choose to focus on the cheerful and happy and good and that is not a bad thing. But coming from where I've come from — coming from my family, it isn't perfect, it's doom-and-gloom.  

Take company, for example.  After a gathering, my in-laws focus on how wonderful it all was.  Even though they may have run out of food for their guests (sacrilege in my family) or forgot to include someone that should've been invited or had some of the relatives cluster and keep to themselves and not mingle — in their eyes it was all PERFECT!

In my family, after the company left, the conversation always seemed to zero in on what went wrong. Too much salt or not enough on the pilaf.  The meat was a bit overdone.  How could so-and-so wear that when it wasn't at all flattering? 

It was going from one extreme to another.  Theirs was probably a healthier way to live life, but coming from my background, honestly,it didn't seem honest.

So, I am faced with facing what I know to be true but what I know is only my version of what happened throughout the course of my life.  It may be the truth to me but there's always more than one truth.

And the truth hurts.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Being Armenian

April 24 is the day that commemorates the genocide of the Armenians.  And despite what anyone says, the history in our family is that my grandmother came to this country in 1911 when she was eleven. My grandfather (not yet her husband and quite abit older than she) was already in this country having escaped from Diyabekir, his hometown in Turkey, after witnessing the massacre of his father and the abduction of his mother and sister and that predates the "official" start date of 1915.

I hope you will read one or all of these posts about the Armenian aspects of my life...

From One Stove To the Next


                                             Losing My Religion


                                                                                   Rolling My Way Back Home

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sarah Jessica Parker's First Fan?

This is starting to bother me because I know I found it once before and now I can't find it.  Maybe one of you will know. But first the backstory — 

I was shopping for a baby gift in what I think was the basement of what was then the favorite Manhattan store-of-choice 
I was in the children's department where I saw a mom and her little, maybe nine-year old daughter also shopping. I recognized the girl.

Excuse me," I said looking at the mother but speaking to the girl, "weren't you in a movie about a young Jewish girl and her older brother who were in the Warsaw Ghetto and escaped through the sewers?"

"Yes," she said clearly with a smile breaking across her face but her eyes looking to her mom, a bit shyly and politely.

"You were terrific!" I gushed, "How did you do it — crawl through that dark tunnel with those rats?!  That was so scary!"

I don't remember her reply but I asked her her name.  She seemed self-possessed and yet completely poised in a nice way.

"Are you still acting? Doing anything now?"

She sparkled as she answered. "I've been in the chorus of Annie but I'm going to take over the lead," she said with great pride.

"Well, that is wonderful!  You're on your way — I'm very happy for you!" I remember she said she had a lot of brothers and sisters and then that was that — we all said our goodbyes and she and her mom continued on.  At the time I wondered if I was the first person to recognize her for her acting.

Years later I would see that little girl grow up and appear in films and on TV.

It was Sarah Jessica Parker.

Now tonight when my husband and I are both seeing Footloose (for the first time) I'm surprised to see her as one of the secondary characters and I want to find the name of that movie I saw her in and try to see if it's on Netflix so I can watch it again — but I can't.

It's not listed — in imdb.com, Wikipedia, or any other source I Googled — not even in her entry in the Jewish Virtual Library! Which is crazy because she was in this movie and she was phenomenal!  It had to be pre-1977; I think her character's name was Rachel and I think it was black-and-white.  I even looked on what seemed to be SJP's official (possibly?)  website   http://www.sarahjparker.com — and it wasn't there either!  They listed no film credits before 1983 and when I tried searching to see if it was a made-for-TV-movie, that link said "Error - Page Not Found."

I may actually have been the very first person to recognize Sarah Jessica Parker  in public. Her first fan.

Anyone out there know the name of what I think was her first film ??

And wouldn't it have been great if I had asked her for her first autograph?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Nashville You MUST See

Visit Headquarters when you're in Nashville
There is the Nashville of bluegrass, country and honky tonk music that most people go there to see, but that's not the Nashville I'm urging you to see.  In addition to Rhino Books, here's what I hope you'll scout out. 

Now you know I'm not a coffee-person — and I've explained that I'm not part of the coffee-culture in this country.  But everyone I'm around is and inevitably, no matter where I am, or who I'm with, someone is always looking for a cup of coffee.

It was no different in Nashville when we were on our thrift-store rounds (well, my thrift-store rounds) and Lynn and Susan were told about this unique shop called Headquarters — a little storefront that completely surprises you when you walk in through the handcrafted door and immediately see the brick wall from another era with the painted signage for Dr. Goodsey's (?) Millinery and Shoe store.  With a wide selection of teas, some baked goods, furniture handmade by the owner, and a shelf-full of thermoses from the more recent past, this place was more than a great local cup of coffee — it was a wonderful trip into what one customer called a "happy little shop."

As part of our this Nashville adventure, I was lucky to get an inside look at the success of homegrown entrepreneurs John and Carey Aron with a personal tour of The Pasta Shoppe, a company that uses old-world Italian manufacturing machines to make fancifully shaped pastas that will make your kids smile and raise funds for your school or organization. Care about the Buckeyes, Hawkeyes or Wolverines ? Into bicycles, shamrocks, cats, dogs or patriotic themes?  They have over 250 shapes to choose from! Specialty pastas in Nashville?  Who would've guessed?

More on the beaten tourist path are two places I wouldn't miss.  

When you're traveling you might get lucky and see a city's reuse of a Union Station, and in Nashville, the massive train station is now a luxury hotel. 

As we step inside the massive side entrance, the first thing we see is a framed paper timetable, signaling we are stepping back into history.  First open in 1900, the lobby wows you with its beautiful tiled floors and gorgeous barrel-vaulted ceiling with stained glass windows.  It is a magnificent space. Behind the front desk is the timetable board as it was when the station closed in the late 1970s.  If you get to Nashville, even if you don't stay there, you've got to see this place. It's a real treat. 

The darker vertical section shows what
the metal looked like before it was cleaned.
And while you're at it — after Union Station you can just cross the street and go in to an old Art Deco post office which thanks to the philanthropy of the Frist family was repurposed as the Frist Center for Visual Arts.  Though I have my own photos, they pale in comparison to the virtual tour you can take from their website — the panoramic view of the Grand Lobby will give you a look at the stunning grillwork that graces the walls. Don't forget to pan up so you can see the coffered ceilings and the decorative medallions honoring industry.  It's quite a place!

Well, I hope you can tell I had a great time exploring Nashville, but best of all was being there with friends.  And being there with my gal-pals, made me one happy cowgirl.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Nashville You May Not See

Whenever I visit a place, finding the local thrift shops is a must  and it was no different during my recent trip with friends to Nashville. [Or "Nashvegas" as it's referred to — in homage to the glittery glitz of its music-inspired downtown strip.]
All the thrift stores were in what I'd call a transitional part of town.  Though I searched high and low I only found a lovely signed photograph that I thought my daughter would like.  She tends to collect art, usually photographs, of doors and windows and since this photo of a painted window Madonna could have been in Italy or New Orleans (two places she really had attachments to) it a small gamble to risk for the grand sum of 39¢.

Make sure you visit if you're in Nashville and love
books (or rhinos) ! They have more than one shop.
Disappointed at my lack of finding a treasure we drop in to Rhino Books — a used book shop that clearly was a book lover's trove — sort of one of those secret book stashes from the film Fahrenheit 451 — crowded shelves piled high with books and when room ran out in a particular section, the books would be stacked on the floor, tabletops or crammed into the many nooks and crannies of this place.  With its twists and turns, metal-gated "rare" book room and spilling-over children's corner, this shop was also stuffed  with all things rhinoceros! [If you want to get some sense of the place, check out the Spooner's site, though I must say the photos portray everything as very orderly and when we visited, that wasn't the case!] In addition to the books and all-things-rhino, the walls were adorned with some great art.

"Is the art for sale?" I inquired of the two women "manning" the shop.

"Well, sometimes  but not if it's anything rhinoceros," I'm warned.  "If it's for sale, it's usually marked on the back."

I'm having a field day examining the etchings, photos, and great posters that are tucked here and there when I come across this unusual and wonderful framed silkscreen hanging on the door to the bathroom.

"Third Street" by Jamey Ponte
Close-up detail — so you can really admire this!

Completely drawn to this gray/black and green work of art that seems a scene captured from the thirties in small-town USA, I can't stop staring at it.  It's not like anything I own.  I shouldn't be spending the money (I'm not working, remember) and I certainly don't need another piece of art and it's not even got a single TREE!  Still, I can't stop staring.  

Reluctantly I remove it from the door, turn it over and don't see a price but do see a typed sheet with everything I need to know.

The artist is Jamey Ponte.  He made this silkscreen and entered it into a Governor's competition in 1984 — 

 when he was a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL!

Oh my God.  In 12th grade?  He made this gorgeous work of art 30 years ago when he was a teenager?  SO...throwing financial caution to the wind, I tell the women I really want to buy this and they tell me the owner Fred is on his way.  After a bit of back-and-forth, Fred sees that I will cherish this art and agrees to sell and it's carefully packed up for me to cart home on the plane.  

Though I tried searching online to see if Jamey Ponte won that year, the Governor's
Youth Art website only lists winners since 1998.

As far as I'm concerned, Third Street takes the prize.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Calling McCall's

One of the benefits of working at Random House was that every June or July we would receive this stapled set of about ten pages with three columns of tiny print, single-spaced and double-sided that looked like the pages of a phone book but the paper wasn't tissue-thin and instead of names, addresses and phone numbers, the listings were of book titles.  

Books, books, and more books — must've been 1000 titles on that list —  the list that was delivered to each and every one of us by the mail guy who came down the aisles with his rolling cart cubicle-by-cubicle and deposited mail onto our desktops.  [I remember the buzz when after much corporate angst and deliberation, finally the first females were hired to do this entry-level job.]  The best part about that list?   You got to choose ten book titles and get them for FREE!  While it wasn't a raise or a cash bonus (we were making about $8 -9,000 a year) it was what we all loved and could never have enough of — BOOKS.  It was the Random House way of saying thank you to its employees and we loved them for it.

Everyone scoured those lists for days and days trying to decide what to get. Circling one, then another, then changing our minds because we'd found something better.  I think they were in alphabetical order and not grouped by genre, so unless you actually knew the book, there was no way to know what was what without looking the title up in the Random House book catalogue.  It was the 70s. IBM Selectric typewriters were the high tech of the day.  No one had a computer so finding information took time. But it was so much fun.  Don't waste any of your choices on paperbacks.  Look for the expensive coffee-table over-sized specialty books that would look great in your apartment.  Find books you could give for gifts.  People poured over those lists the way I imagined children in the 1900s searched through the Sears catalogue for their Christmas and birthday presents.

Step-by-step picture instructions
One book I was sure I wanted was The New McCall's Cook Book. If I was going to have one, it had to be McCall's because it incorporated ten+ "McCall's Cooking School"recipes.  Lifted from their monthly women's magazine, "The Cooking School" featured a step-by-step recipe on a two-page spread with detailed photographs that showed you what you were supposed to be doing. Color photos in a cookbook were a novel feature at the time and a way to hook buyers.

Another marketing stroke of genius was that you could get the NEW McCall's Cook Book in four different colors.  Someone had come up with the idea that women would love to have their cookbook match their kitchen decor so you could get this cookbook in yellow, red, green or blue. Genius! Now at the time I was single, living in an 800-square foot studio apartment with no natural light, but I did have a great little kitchen, with light wood cabinets, Formica countertop, wall-oven and all.  But the kitchen I imagined I would have one day was this very modern red,black and stainless steel kitchen with one of those refrigerators with glass-front see-through doors, and so — the red-covered McCall's cookbook was for me!

Come October — when you least expected it — the mail guy would come, rolling down the aisles with his book cart stacked high with large shrink-wrapped bundles of books. Your list would be on top showing through the plastic.  By then you'd forgotten about the books, forgotten what you'd chosen.  It was this huge exciting gift to unwrap — it was Christmas in October!  

Of all the books I got that way, there is only one that I still have and remember. 
My cookbooks proudly displayed — on the bookcase I designed to fill 3 inches of unused space
behind my kitchen door.  My sweet husband took my sketch and had it built for me as a surprise!

It was and is my go-to cookbook. Though I have cookbooks galore — plus the Internet to search for the millions of recipes available for every possible dish you'd want to make, still that McCall's cookbook never fails me.

The other night when I wanted to make coleslaw (and I am very picky about coleslaw) I searched for an Ina Garten recipe and then a few others but not satisfied, back I went — to my forty-year-old, food-stained, falling apart, red-covers held together with a large rubber band cookbook and happily found two recipes for coleslaw that I combined in a way that suited both my tastes and the ingredients I had on hand.

This coleslaw is going to be a satisfying creamy crunchy complement to those country-style ribs I'm making.    Wanna come for dinner?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"You Can Do It!"

So I am taking another community ed course entitled (exclamation mark and all)   

"You Can Do It!

"Are you going through a transition in life or in your career? 

Need strategies and support to take charge of your life 
so you can move forward and grow?"

Sounded just right for me. 

Before the first class got started, the teacher was moving chairs and talking to those of us who were in the room and offhandedly she said, "You know, purge to emerge."


Coming from a depression-mentality family where nothing could be thrown away, you can guess what my house looks like...

Two days after that class I spent three hours going through boxes and piles of paper that were choking our den.  I can't say it's much of a den.  It's where the desktop computers are (the Mac they all use and the ancient Dell that's more than ten years old). It's where the TV is that no one watches, but my son uses as a monitor for Playstation 3 when he's home and the modern (but 20+ years-old) leather couch from my sister that needs recovering but converts to a great sleeper (it ratchets down instead of folding out)that I cannot bear to remove.  And then of course, there's art filling the walls.  My skyscraper art (a small but inspiring collection), the beautiful painting of the sun that my childhood friend Susan made for me when my sister died, the LILY orange crate label and some of the art that has been with me the longest.  While most of it may not be valuable, it is to me.

In addition to all that, and the non-working fireplace that is somewhat covered up (it really is a small rectangular wood-paneled room) there are boxes, boxes, and boxes of stuff.  Most of the stuff is papers from a job I left five years ago! There are cords and cables and connectors to things I don't know even exist anymore and two printers that work (or don't) but are not hooked up to anything and then there are things I'm saving.

Saving for when I MIGHT need the item again.  Saving so I can get it fixed and working again. Saving because of who gave it to me.  Saving because someone MIGHT need it one day. Saving for the future.  

During the clean-up I came across a a nice shiny yellow oversized cardboard shoebox with a post-it that said, "For Jason's first child."  What the ___ ! ?

I opened the box and inside was a stuffed animal turtle that was also a puppet.  ou could stick your arm inside and retract the head of the turtle into its soft fuzzy shell.  It was something I had given to my nephew when he was small and at some point when they moved to California and it was left behind, I rescued the little critter and thought I'd pass it back down to my nephew once he had a child of his own. 
If you're on this track with me, you get it, you understand.  

If you're not a person who has boxes of clothing and toys in your attic labeled "Sentimental Keep" — then you won't get it.      
Better hope this class does the trick.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Not-in-Brooklyn Brooklyn Deli

JFK-American Airlines Concourse C
I have a hard time with food in airports.  I always want to find the best food at the most reasonable price — but that’s hard if you haven’t done any online research beforehand.  I always ask the people who work at airports and no matter the airport they always reply, “I don’t eat here.  It’s too expensive.  I bring my food.”

There are gems that travelers write about or you can discover.  There was a Cuban place in Miami’s enormous airport that was terrific.  And you can’t go wrong with Jersey Mike’s subs as a good staple  — and — I’m a sucker for Nathan’s hot dogs wherever they have ‘em.

So knowing I'd be hungry before the end of my trip, I scouted my options for an early lunch at American’s terminal.  While there may be good food at the sit-down grills or restaurants, I skip the high-end options because of price. And since I’d been in Manhattan and not had a Sabrett hot dog I was thinking a hotdog might be fine and then I saw a possible choice:  The Brooklyn Deli.  Looked good, looked clean, and they had hot dogs.  But they also had a “New York Pastrami Sandwich” for $9.99.  Hmmm.  Pastrami.  It looked good.  It was reasonably priced — considering the hot dog was $3.79 and surely I’d need two.  A guy who clearly was the manager was checking the display cases and greeting customers.

"How's the pastrami?” I asked.

“Wonderful!  Lean, delicious, it’s great pastrami!  Look at the picture!”  he exclaimed.

“Well, sure it looks good in the photo, “ I said skeptically.  “But  what about in real life?”

He looked offended.  “You won’t be sorry with the pastrami.  It’s terrific.”

Still, I wasn’t convinced.

But I was hungry and I wasn’t gonna be getting any NY pastrami where I was going down south.  I could have hotdogs any time.

“Do you have seedless rye?”

“OF COURSE,” he said defiantly.

I ordered the pastrami on seedless rye.

“With cheese?” the counter guy asked.

“No, no cheese.”  Geez, cheese on pastrami?   It wasn’t a Reuben.

I put my card down to pay, “Pastrami on rye”

“With cheese?” the girl asked. 

“No, NO cheese.” I replied and the two cashiers were chattering in Spanish and I saw that without cheese dropped the price of my sandwich to under ten bucks.  You can’t buy a pastrami sandwich in Manhattan for under ten bucks.

As I saw the counter guy making my sandwich I looked atop the display case and saw a big bottle of fat pickles.

“Does it come with a pickle?”

“We give you a pickle m’am” said the Hispanic sandwich-maker.


“Mustard over there," he pointed and handed me my sandwich.

I opened the nicely wrapped pastrami and saw what looked like a really decent pastrami sandwich!  Sliced thin, piled high, seedless rye and true to his word lean.  No fat, no dripping grease.

I took the little packets of Gold’s mustard (Gold’s of horseradish fame) and even though I used three — I shoulda used four to make the taste of mustard complete.  The pickle was a sizable wedge — of an appropriately sour Kosher dill and the sandwich was delicious.  Lucky me!

Now if only they had Dr. Brown's Diet Cream soda — my New York pastrami experience woulda been complete.