Thursday, December 31, 2015

Post 100

Talking to Omar is like talking to a 40-year old. Omar is 10. His mother says he talked before he walked. Omar loves words - the bigger, the better. I love words, too. For much of my life, though, I kept the best words inside. I am a great introvert conversationalist. More recently, with blogs and poems, I have shared my thoughts. Over the past few months, I have created this blog just to write. I might think of a topic while on my morning run. Or something I read might inspire a post. Some posts were pretty lame; some were pretty good.

As I was thinking about the words I would write in this last post, I started reading a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. That is a great example of serendipity. According to the author, Arab sea traders once called Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Serendib. An 18th century story about the island featured three princes who stumbled upon wonderful things by chance. Thus, serendipity entered the English language. 

I don't know how I would describe the path of my life if that hadn't happened. Don't talk to me about fate; serendipity is the driving force.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ring Out the Old! Ring In the New!

The week between Christmas and New Year's is a time of disorientation. Living in the present is not possible; looking ahead is stressful. When I was working, these seven days were either marked by intense activity (preparing the Mayor's budget submission for the District of Columbia) or calm respite (taking time off from doing deals during investment  banking days). 

This year is particularly fraught. I stepped back from political activity in 2015; I know I will be very involved in 2016, but I'm not sure how. The uncertainty is making me anxious. How will I manage conflicts between the new role I assumed in 2015 (taking Beba to soccer games and the movies, picking her up at school) with the organizer's job of getting the team together to register voters, phone bank and canvass? 

Death is more of a presence as I look ahead to 2016. Leslie's brother-in-law died a few days ago after a long and painful illness. He was five or more years younger than I am. This year marked 30 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the past few years, important people in my life have died, especially Comer, my former boss, mentor and dear friend for 40 years. The lighted candles pictured on the cover of my poetry book seemed appropriate for poems that celebrated memories of my dear departed family and friends.

I can't stop on this rather tragic note. I am resilient and resourceful. My survival instincts are strong. If nothing else, I know 2016 will be interesting. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Here are a few of the existential threats I'm thinking about this holiday season:

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): Will deep-learning computers and other forms of AI become so smart that humans are rendered obsolete? And what exactly is transhumanism?
  • Islamic Jihadism: Entire school systems are closed by a single email. People eye their neighbors with renewed suspicion. Close the borders! Close the mosques! Close our minds to any hint of rational thinking!
  • Global Warming: Yes, I know the Northeast had one of its coldest, snowiest winters ever this year. But now it is really warm. And the oceans are rising. What about the beleaguered reefs off Australia?
  • Ebola and Other Pandemics: Everyone likes a good movie about killer germs. Will the people against childhood vaccinations change their minds?
  • Republican Candidates for President: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review

Tsvi Bisk was known as Howard when we went to high school together in Philadelphia. Tsvi has spent his adult life in Israel. He is a futurist and an author. Here is my review of his most recent book, The Suicide of the Jews. 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats

The lines of the poem kept coming into my mind as I read Tsvi Bisk’s latest book, which describes, with extensive historical support and up-to-date detail, the forces that could bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish State. The book’s message resonated with me on many levels. While the fate of Israel and the Jews is vitally important to me, I am also deeply concerned about what is happening politically in the United States and in Western Europe. The political parties of the far right are gaining power while the center/left struggles to make itself heard. The historically low voter turnout in the United States for the 2014 mid-term elections is one indicator of the failure of the center/left to overcome the disappointment and malaise affecting a large part of the electorate. This is the picture that Bisk paints for Israel, but it is not an isolated case. If you care about Israel, read this book. If you care about the fate of Western Democracies, read this book. If you care about the future of the human race, read this book. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Coliseum Books

When I moved to New York in 1983, Coliseum Books, just a block away from my apartment, was my favorite hangout on Sunday afternoons. It was a real, independent bookstore. It was huge and maybe a little dusty. It was clear that the staff actually read books. There was jazz or other good music playing in the background as I browsed the shelves and tables, finding new reading delights.

During the economic downturn following 9/11, the Coliseum store at Broadway and 57th closed. A new store opened a few years later on West 42nd Street, but it wasn't the same. Now that store has closed, too.

One bonus of my book organizing effort yesterday was finding several Coliseum Books bookmarks, all in pristine condition. As I mark my place in my new reading matter, I will feel the glow of those Sunday afternoons in the best bookstore ever. 

Ground Game 2016

I just drafted my first post for 2016, for my Ground Game 2016 blog. So much for living in the moment.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Crossing Levick Street

One of the happiest days of my life was when I got my own library card. An even happier day was when Mom said I could cross Levick Street on my own, thus clearing the way to solo trips to the library. Yeah!

Books have always been a big part of my life, but they were becoming too big a part of my small apartment. For a few years, I donated books to the JCC seniors program. I haven't made the effort for a while, put off by the almost 2-hour round trip and the departure of the people I was close to from my stint as interim executive director of JFGO, in the same building. 

So when I saw the young man from the Orange County Library in the lobby of the movie theater where Gisela and I saw The Peanuts Movie, I asked about donating books to the library. He told me all I had to do was show up at my local branch with books in hand. On Friday, that is just what I did with about a dozen books.

The young woman at the desk was so helpful and pleasant, I was inspired to go through all the books in my apartment to find more to donate. I spent about three hours this morning pulling books off shelves and out of cabinets and storage containers. After a thoughtful reorganization (all the fiction books in the red Chinese cabinet are in alphabetical order by author, for example), I have restored order to my personal library.

One surprise: I have a lot of poetry books, now nestled together on the first shelf in the computer alcove. I didn't think I had read that much poetry. 

On Monday, I will head back to the SW Branch with about 30 more books to donate.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"It was a dark and stormy night"

The Peanuts Movie was a big disappointment. After several failed attempts, Gisela and I saw it yesterday afternoon. She liked it, and I am happy about that. For me, it was a throwback to an earlier, more conventional, less technological advanced age. The story line - Charlie Brown wants to be noticed by the little red-haired girl - was so dated. The animation was less interesting than Disney movies from the 1930's. There were only snippets of the great Vince Guaraldi music. Shaun The Sheep Movie still rates #1 with me for year.

There was an unexpected bonus for going to the cineplex yesterday afternoon: witnessing the gathering of the Star Wars fanatics for the premier of the latest episode. Some were lining up (or rather sitting up in chairs they had brought from home) for the 7 PM first showing. Others has arrived before dawn to see all the previous films in sequence to get in the mood for the new release. I had to suppress the urge to say "Get a life!" Gisela said she was afraid of them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bug Bites

In the insect world, I am considered a tasty morsel. My picture hangs in places where insects gather.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Killing Time

There is not enough time to start a major project before I leave for lunch with friends. There was a glitch with the delivery of the New York Times, and reading the digital version does not have the same appeal. So I am reduced to scrolling through Facebook posts and checking the developing stories online. Here is what I learned.

I read about the third man on the medals podium at the 1968 Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their black-gloved raised fist salute during the playing of the U. S. national anthem. His name was Peter Norman, a white Australian sprinter, who was ostracized and deprived of the chance to compete at the 1972 Olympics for supporting their cause. The most touching part of the article was the photo of Smith and Carlos as pallbearers for Norman.

I also learned that the L.A. school system shut down because of "a credible bombing threat." Several of the people commenting on the story said it was probably a prank by a kid not ready for final exams. If so, it worked.

John Stewart is incensed, as he should be, at the failure of the U. S. Congress to extend health benefits for First Responders on 9/11. I don't even what to know why the Republicans are opposed.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Boy with Golden Brown Eyes

The little boy, about 4 years old, had the most beautiful eyes, a golden brown framed by lush dark lashes. As I passed him on the jogging path on my evening walk, he grabbed me around the legs in a joyous hug. His father walked over and gently pulled him away.

The patient and loving father told me his son was autistic. I said that I thought autistic children shied away from people, but his son had embraced me physically and, it seemed, emotionally. The father said that his son approached other children without hesitation but then didn't know how to play with them. He was in a special program at a local school. 

The little boy and I walked hand in hand until I left the jogging path. I wondered what kind of life he would have. Such beautiful eyes!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saving the Planet

I don't think of efforts to ameliorate the effects of global warning as a way to save the planet. Earth will do just fine. The threat is to the habitat of my species and other species I rely on or just like. (Penguins come to mind.)

I do want to mark this date, when 195 nations committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I will not be alive when the success or failure of the accord is measured. For the sake of younger and future generations, I do hope it works.

Holiday Calls

My holiday calls are going well. It is a 2-year tradition. This afternoon, I spoke with Leslie, Phyllis, and Tom and Sidney. I told Sidney stories about working for Mario and Andrew Cuomo. The content of the calls is not as important as the fact that two people are actually talking to each other. No emails, e-cards, texts, or paper holiday greeting cards. They may be so old-fashioned, but the calls are so gratifying - at least to me.

Puppets and Puccini

In 2006, the Metropolitan Opera premiered a new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. I was fortunate to attend a performance that first season, when I was still living in New York. I have seen the production three more times on the DVD I bought to share with Melissa.

With the new staging and design, one of my favorite operas broke through tradition to become a highly stylized but intensely emotional experience. The film director Anthony Minghella and his wife, the dancer and choreographer Carolyn Choa, drew on Asian theater and puppetry to create a set of pure beauty and movement.

Puppets and Puccini may seem a surprising combination. Together, they are magic. 

Cheerful Equanimity

The English word equanimity refers to a state of being calm and balanced, especially in the midst of difficulty. In Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four great virtues (with compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy) that the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate.

Many years ago, a friend gave me a book on Buddhism; she hoped that reading it would help me chill out. The author encouraged the reader to attain a state of cheerful equanimity. Think Dali Lama. I've been working on it ever since. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What I Did for Money

At lunch yesterday, Lynn told Betty Jo and me about the League of Women Voters' lobbying days in Tallahassee early next year. I said I had done my share of lobbying in my various jobs. I didn't like it much then, but at least I was getting paid for the effort. I will pass on this volunteer opportunity. 

Here is a sampling of my work with legislative bodies:

United States House of Representatives: I was in my  mid-20's, working for the Budget Director of the District of Columbia government. The city's budget was under Congressional control, as mandated by the Constitution. I spent many hours in the office of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the District of Columbia, working on the transcript of the budget hearings. It was 1972, and no women were permitted as paid staff for the Committee. I was treated politely, but I think they disinfected the desk and chair I used after I left for the day.

Missouri State Legislature: I flew from Chicago to St. Louis the morning after an ice storm and nervously navigated my rental car along the slick highway to Jefferson City, the state capital. I had lunch with a legislator to ask for his support for legislation to authorize a new tax-exempt financing program. As he patted my thigh under the table, he told me he was on my side. I kept smiling. I was an investment banker; I had no shame.

New York State Legislature: As the head of the NY State housing and health care finance agency, I made regular trips to Albany with my legislative liaison. We always paid our respects to the most powerful Black member of the legislature. He started each meeting by noting that his ancestors had come to this country in chains. 

United States House of Representatives: It is now the late 1980's, and I am on a mission to win over a female staff member for Tip O'Neill's Appropriations Committee, who is threatening harm to tax-exempt financing for non-profit hospitals. Our regular lobbyist, a male, reports that he is making no progress. He and my male deputy think that I might have a better chance of success with a woman-to-woman approach. Of course, I get the job done.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blocking Out Bigots

I am now speeding through the New York Times delivered to my door each morning. (You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the girl.) I avoid articles about certain Republican Presidential candidates and terrorism that do nothing to enlighten, only to raise tension, fear and mistrust.

Yesterday, I read a long obituary of Janet Wolfe, who died at the age of 101. It made me smile; it made me laugh out loud at one point. These are rare reactions to the news these days. Thank you, Janet, for leading a wonderful life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

8 Years Divided by ...

On December 1, 2007, I landed at Orlando International Airport. The lease on my new apartment was active, but my furniture and other possessions were on a moving truck heading slowly in my general direction. I stayed with Melissa, bought a car, signed up for a Florida driver's license, and registered to vote in the  next few days. 

It has been eight years, but the time has been divided into distinct segments that mirror in some ways the transition stages described by William Bridges: letting go; neutral zone; and new beginnings.
  1. December 2007 - August 2008. This was one of the worst times of my life. I was an astronaut who had landed on a alien planet; survival was my sole goal. I signed up with a consulting firm primarily for the group health insurance. I had to get my own business and never earned a dime. I found that Central Florida was still the South, with a high degree of segregation of the sexes. I had never gone to so many women-only functions.
  2. September 2008 - September 2009. Persistent networking turned up an assignment as the interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. I was a one-woman turnaround team. I kept the doors open, made new friends, and decided I never wanted to do anything like that again. 
  3. October 2009 - November 2011. This was time well-spent in the neutral zone. I went to Israel, reconnected with New York clients, and moved tentatively into Democratic politics. 
  4. December 2011 - November 2014. This was definitely a time of new beginnings. With the support of the superb Obama campaign team, I re-invented  myself as a grassroots political organizer. I found a community of like-minded people. Helping to carry Florida for President Obama in 2012 was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I pushed out of my introvert comfort zone in 2013 to collect 2,282 petitions for a constitutional amendment to protect Florida's environment; I ranked 8th in the entire state in petitions collected. I spent 2014 supporting Democrats for governor and other state offices, but that was a bust. Virtually everyone I supported lost.
  5. December 2014 - December 2015. I pulled back from politics and invested my energy in other ways. I became an overage soccer mom for Gisela and spent more time with family. I  wrote and self-published my first (and very likely only) collection of poems to capture memories and feelings I usually kept to myself.
  6. January 2016 ... I plan to get back into politics, working for Democratic candidates at all levels of government, including - and especially - the President's race. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, ensuring the entry of the United States into WWII. In some ways, it also marks the beginning of my personal origin myth. 

My parents were engaged but had not set a date for the wedding. According to family stories (told mostly by my mother), my father was not yet ready to give up the single life, especially playing pinochle with the guys on a regular basis. After Pearl Harbor, my mother said "George, let's get married. Maybe they won't draft you." There were married 20 days later.

Of course, my father was drafted some months later. Then my mother said "George, let's have a baby. Maybe they won't send you into combat." I was conceived before my father shipped out to Hawaii, where he served for the duration of the war in the coast artillery. He did not see me until the war was over. I was two years old by then.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Talking Circles

I'm reading Gloria Steinem's latest book, about her life on the road. Early on, she writes of her time in India in the late 1950's, right after she graduated from college. She describes taking part in talking circles in villages in the southern part of the country.  Each person has the chance to speak; all views and opinions are valued. The practice of talking circles in those villages was rooted in Gandhi's methods of engaging the poor and marginalized. Gloria notes, however, that the practice goes back to the earliest days of human society and can be found in many cultures.

Fast forward to January 9, 2012, my first house party as a neighborhood team leader for Obama's re-election campaign. I've made hundreds of calls to invite people to the gathering. About 25 people have said they would come. I worry about how I will fit them into my small apartment and reach out to the Obama organizers for folding chairs. 

That evening, nine people show up, in addition to the four Obama staff members who are there to support me. Following the prescribed format, we start by going around the people sitting in a circle in my living room. Each of us tells why we are there: why we support President Obama, the issues that matter to us in the election.

After reading Gloria's book, I recognize that I took part in my first talking circle that night. It was the first of many that year. As the 2016 election cycle begins in earnest, I am sure I will be organizing and taking part in many more. It is so important for people to tell their stories.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Existential Threat

Here is my intention. I will approach the 2016 election cycle with the mindset I adopted when approaching chemo for breast cancer. Existential threats are inherent in both campaigns. The only thing I have any hope of controlling is myself - the way I conduct myself, my attitude, the aura I project.

I will try to stay extremely focused on the job at hand. I will not complain or become emotional. My stoic personality will take charge. I will be the calm center of my own existence. 

Friday, December 4, 2015


Because of required minimum withdrawals from my IRA accounts now that I have passed the 70 1/2 years old mark, my Social Security net monthly benefit will be reduced in 2016. The withdrawals, on which I pay taxes, have pushed my income into the high earners' category. My vision (never great) is getting worse, especially when I am driving in a downpour at night with oncoming headlights in my eyes. When I look in the mirror, I see the frown lines, wrinkles and sagging skin that makes me look more like my mother. 

At this point, I will gladly accept these indignities of growing older. I passed up the opportunity to die young when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41. I'm okay with the trade-offs. 

Impassive or overwrought, they wait for news from the OR
where smooth scalpels excise malignant growths.
They relay updates to remote family members and shut out
slow-moving time with laptops and an occasional magazine.
I witness their vigils with empathy one step removed.

It was my parents who stood vigil 30 years ago,
waiting fearfully for news of me under the knife.
Edith and George, president and vice president of my fan club,
must have clung together as never before,
praying they would not have to bury their first-born child.

Their prayers were answered. I am here to bear witness to their undying love.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


I'm so proud of myself. Not once at the fundraiser for Hillary Clinton yesterday afternoon did I say that, to me, Bill and Hillary were Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Instead, I spoke, rather boringly. of the need to register voters on our side. Such self-control.

The day was a bit of an endurance test. The event was at a huge home on a lake in Windermere. I had  5 - 6 different driving routes, none of which made much sense to me. At 2:00 AM Tuesday, I awoke with visions of Google maps dancing in my head. I got on the computer, viewed the maps again, and plotted a route that seemed to work, at least in theory. On Tuesday, I did a test run so I would sleep better that night.

Betty Jo and I navigated the trip on Wednesday in about 45 minutes without one missed turn. We arrived at 2 PM. Hillary arrived at about 4 PM. It was too warm for December (even for Florida) as we stood around on the patio, chatting with some people I knew from Democratic politics and others who were new to me. 

It started to rain as Hillary began her stump speech, which was smart and articulate. No surprise there. The rain progressed from drizzle to downpour as Hillary moved from economic policy to education to support for Planned Parenthood. Then we had to get our car, which was an exercise in patience (which I did not have much of at that point). Finally, my Honda Civic appeared.

The drive home took much longer because of rush hour traffic and heavy rain that hit us about half-way through the journey to Lake Nona. The windshield wipers were on high speed, but visibility was still poor. Lights from the oncoming traffic did not help. We got home safely, though.

We passed the endurance test. So starts the long political season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

May the Force Be with You!

The new Star Wars movie will be released on December 16th, and advance sales are sizzling. The force featured in the movie will not be gravity. As Einstein proved 100 years ago this month, gravity is not a force. It is a feature of the space-time continuum. 

I've read a number of articles on this anniversary of Einstein's lectures on his theory of General Relativity. I cannot say I understand it at an intuitive, or even vaguely intellectual, level. This description by the physicist John Wheeler does help: "Space-time tells matter how to move; matter tells space-time how to curve." 

General Relativity explains black holes, which have event horizons. They provided me with a metaphor for being stuck in a destructive relationship and inspiration for my favorite poem from my recent self-published collection.

Event Horizon

An event horizon is a strange and lonely place to live.
You balance on the rim of emotional annihilation.
Observers beyond the boundary detect
only shadows of your sadness and isolation.

Your fears, self-doubt and memories create
the fierce gravitational pull of your present life.
Your stubborn resilience powers
your impulse to break free.

Stuck between opposing forces,
You bide your time, on the lookout for a wormhole
to fall through, spiraling through space-time
to a liberating region of the universe.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Showing Up

For most of 2015, I have been hiding out. I turned inward, writing poems to capture memories and feelings that I had kept to myself for so long. Even this blog about nothing is an exercise in staying in my comfort zone. With few exceptions, I write about safe topics. Now and then, I send a link for a particular post to someone. For the most part, I am the only one reading these bits and pieces of ideas.

This is about to change. This week I will be showing up at the annual WOW holiday party for the first time in years. WOW stands for Women of the World, a group of professional women in Orlando. Since landing in this strange land, I have gone to more "women only" events than in all of my previous professional life. Is it because I am in the South? Whatever the reason, this place is more gender-segregated than any place I have lived. 

On Wednesday, I am going with Betty Jo to a fundraiser for Hillary. It is not to show my support, which is quite tepid. To me, Bill and Hillary are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. (I will not express this sentiment at the gathering.) I am going to make connections for the upcoming campaign. I need a sponsor for voter registration activities in early 2016. 

Next week, I am going to the holiday party of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee. I was a member from Spring 2010 until after the 2014 General Election. I ran out of patience with the dysfunction and bickering of the monthly meetings. According to Robert, the situation has deteriorated under new leadership. I had been thinking about rejoining, but that is now off the table. Again, I will be looking to reconnect with people for the coming campaigns. 

Also, there are some people I do like who may be at the party. It is the holidays. I will be a little social. 

Science on the March!

1. Reading the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum. Discovered in 1752 under the debris from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, the scrolls are so debased that most efforts to read them have resulted in their further deterioration. Now modern imaging techniques from medicine and physics are being used to reveal their ancient texts. Success has been limited, but scientists continue to search for the lost texts they believe the scrolls contain. It's all about knowledge.

2. Producing genetically modified salmon. New techniques for replacing genes are being used in all sorts of interesting ways. Salmon have been genetically modified to grow bigger and fatter more quickly than salmon in the wild. It's all about the money.

3. Connecting the rise of agriculture to genetic changes in humans. Techniques for analyzing the human genome of people living and long dead continue to improve. They are also much cheaper than they used to be. A recent study shows that human DNA changed through natural selection as agriculture replaced hunting/gathering in Europe.. It's all about the knowledge.

4. Raising dairy cows without horns. The genome of dairy bull cows has been modified to delete the gene for producing horns, thus eliminating the need to remove them surgically as the young bulls mature. The American Veterinary Medical Association says the procedure is quite painful. I still think it's all about the money.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Watch Out for Those Flowers!

A dear friend sent me a floral arrangement for my birthday. I am sure that the picture of "Sunflower Surprise" looks sweet and lovely on the web site. In person, however, the effect is quite disturbing.

The eight blooms in the arrangement are not even close to shrinking violets or delicate rosebuds. They have large dark centers and florid yellow petals. They are aggressive, thrusting themselves out of the square vase into my personal space.

Whenever I look at them, I am reminded of the people-eating plants in "The Little Shop of Horrors." I am afraid to turn my back!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Baruch Spinoza

Happy Birthday to Baruch Spinoza. Oh yes! My birthday is November 24th, too. The first modern man and I have a great deal in common. Our approach to the universe is more cerebral than emotional. I am definitely not a faith-based person. I don't like labels, so I will not call myself an agnostic or an atheist. I do like the scientific method. With scientific rigor, you cannot prove there is a supreme being. But neither can you prove that one doesn't exist. If there is a god, I hope she has a great sense of humor.

Speaking of the universe, tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Einstein's General Theory of Relatively. I am reading an article about it in the New York Times science section in today's paper. As a birthday present to myself, I am not reading the main section - too depressing. The world can continue its spiral into complete disaster without my attention for one day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tigers Are So Last Year

Even a 3-year-old can become jaded fast. I got a decidedly cool response from Sebastian when I tried to share the wonderful photos of tigers and elephants that Juancarlos and Sam have been posting on their Thailand adventure. It seems that Alejandro and Melissa took him to a nature preserve last year where he met his very own tiger. When he was originally shown a photo, he told Alejandro, with a shrug, that they had already done that last year.

Tigers are so last year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Nessun Dorma

I first heard Luciano Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma in the early 80's in Chicago. His concert in a major hall had been cancelled because of a snow storm. The make-up performance in early spring was in a more intimate space; Linda invited me to join her as a substitute for a friend who was not free the new date. I was transported.

I heard Pavarotti sing the great aria twice at the Met. The first time was thrilling. The second time was a bit tense. By that point, the peerless tenor of his day was having serious health problems. His legs had given out. He took a position on the stage and didn't move. He was clearly holding back early in the opera. But when it came time to sing Nessun Dorma, he reached down deep into his body and his soul to deliver a performance more beautiful than ever. 

I am so lucky to have heard him in person. Now I listen to the CD. I am still transported.

Salem Witch Trials

Stacy Schiff has just published a history of the Salem witch trials of 1692. Incited by hysterical teen-aged girls, the townspeople hanged 14 women and five men; another was crushed to death by stones. The trauma ended in less than a year.

Today, hypocritical politicians stand in for teenage-girls in the incitement of mass hysteria and fear. No, there were no witches. Yes, there are radical Islamic terrorists. There are no easy answers to combating terrorism while helping to bring stability to the Mid-East and Africa. Today's response - from both fear-mongering Republicans and spineless Democrats - doesn't come close to getting on the list of possible solutions.

Human nature hasn't changed in at least 40,000 years. We are more alike than we are different. And one way we are alike is in our propensity to see real and imagined differences in others as existential threats.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Understudy Grandparent

In the last year or so, I have assumed a new role in the village - understudy grandparent. I have been called on to take Gisela to soccer practice and matches, as well as movies aimed primarily at her generation. (What happened to those days of little art house films?)

Thanksgiving is the season of Grandparents' Day at schools in Orlando. Tomorrow morning I will represent my side of the family at Gisela's school. After a buffet breakfast, the students will present a program. Gisela was a fish in the school production of The Little Mermaid last spring. She told me she has a speaking part this time.

Next Wednesday, I will play my assigned role at Sebastian's school. I was there last year, too. I will be delighted to see his beautiful smiling face, missing a front tooth! 

Dinner in Hanoi

I have 500+ connections on LinkedIn. My Google contacts number in the thousands. I am often the go-to person when friends and families want to email or call someone and don't have the information they need.

A few years ago, Mozelle asked me how to get in touch with Bob about a business matter. They are both former colleagues from my days in investment banking and New York State government. I knew they had connected when Mozelle called me one evening. He said he was having dinner with Bob - in Hanoi! My network goes international.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cleaning House

I come from a long line of dedicated house cleaners. My material grandmother was renowned for getting down on her hands and knees to scrub the marble steps in front of 416 Hoffman Street. My mother was no slouch. From any early age, I learned to minimize clutter and keep the bathroom clean at all times, rules I still live by.

When I lived in New York, I had more money than time. Cora, a diminutive Filipina, kept my apartment spotless for 20 years. In Orlando, I have more time than money and do my own cleaning to fairly acceptable standards.

But then I met Nancy, of Mona Maids, who cleans empty apartments in my apartment complex before they are re-rented. Nancy is coming this morning to reprise her efforts of a year ago. Again, I will need sunglasses to behold the sparkling clean bath tub.                 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Four Friends and a Phone

Yesterday, Tara, Diane, Jean and I spent about an hour on the phone to catch up. This was highly unusual in the day of email, text and tweets. We worked together in Chicago from 1978 through 1983 and have stayed in touch with visits and calls since then.

There have been so many friends over the years, with a checkered history of staying connected. When I lived on Horrocks Street (6 - 17 years of age), I played Clue and Monopoly with Phyllis next store and got my first hint of the mysteries of sex and reproduction from Esther (who lived 2 houses away), who passed along the information from her slightly older aunt.

Sheila (Bunny) was a friend from the second grade through high school. We lost touch for decades, but I now stay with her when I go to New York. We see the world the same way, and our time together is very affirming for both of us.

There are so many friends from my "young-marrieds" phase. Leslie helped me get an apartment in her building when I moved to New York, and we were neighbors for years. I am making my plane reservations to visit her in Tuscon in January. 

Beginning after Thanksgiving, I am going to make holiday calls to as many friends as I can reach. I did the same thing last year. People were really surprised when I said I was just calling to wish them a happy holiday. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Running in Central Park

I wore my new running shoes this morning. The temperature was in the mid-60's and the sun's light, low in the sky, was muted by thin clouds. This was good running weather for Central Florida, but I was the only one taking advantage of the cool-down. As I ran along Narcoosee Road, I still thought about running in Central Park. I loved to see the changing seasons in the leaves of the trees. Even at 6:00 AM on a chilling February morning, there were other runners in the Park to provide a measure of psychic companionship. I was always close to a moment of magic.

The Gates

I arise in the chill pre-dawn to prepare for the ceremony
with footwear made for running and garments unadorned.
The Oracle at Delphi has foretold a time of celebration
in a great wooded area in the heart of the metropolis.

Saffron-draped gates lead from mundane to magical.
Greek drama and epic poems from school days come alive.
I am a hero, approaching the stadium under the saffron drapes
to be crowned with a laurel wreath for my valor and fortitude.

Months later, I stand guard over the heirs of Pheidippides,
holding back onlookers as the runners complete the final miles.
First are the elite women, fleet as gazelles; followed by the entire human family,
bound by their determination to cross the finish line and taste glory.

Friday, November 13, 2015

We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches

I take courage for the election battles ahead from one of my great heroes:

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender

Winston Churchill
June 4, 1940

Who Writes History?

Walter Benjamin said history is written by the victors. I am not sure that holds true for the American Civil War. 

I read in a recent issue of The New Yorker reviews of several books describing the pervasive effects of slavery throughout the country before the Civil War and the pernicious influence of Jim Crow after the war. Today, the South extols with increased vigor the glories of its heritage and the bravery of its Civil War soldiers, with little regard to the fact that all was based on the evils of slavery. The North maintains that its hands are clean and it is therefore absolved from dealing with legacy problems.

But wait! The Civil War was not about slavery; it was about States' rights, as embodied by the Constitution. And the problems of Jim Crow have been largely solved, according to Chief Justice Roberts, as he and the conservative majority ripped out the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

In our perverse present, the South is not only rewriting history; it is turning back the clock on progress made in the last 50 years to ensure equal rights for the descendants of the human beings that it once held as chattel property. 

I am close to despair. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Not Your Father's Army!

The Orange County League of Women Voters honored women in the military at their luncheon on Veterans Day. The four women veterans on the panel told their stories, which ranged from relatively upbeat to a dark tale of abuse and discrimination. There was no specific response to the report of years of harsh treatment and futile attempts to get help. The contrast between the benign setting (ladies and a few men having lunch) and the bleak tale (which did not have specifics to ground it) was not conducive to discussion. 

There was a moment of dark humor at the end, when the moderator, former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, asked about the new VA hospital in Lake Nona, Orlando (my neighborhood). It seems that the architects and planners used a decades-old layout that did not take into account the health care needs of the growing number of women serving in our military. Privacy for women did not exist. A woman veteran was quoted as saying "I won't be getting a pap smear here" after checking out the facilities. 

Hey guys! Wake up. This is not  your father's military.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I introduced Gisela to the Motown sound on our return trips from soccer practice and games. Not the original sound, but the music as interpreted by Michael McDonald on his two Motown cover albums. She liked the songs and asked for more. Quality comes through across the generations. If she comes to stay with me one night, I will play the Ashford and Simpson DVD for her. At last, we have found music with both enjoy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Walks on the Beach

Late Afternoon: Shelagh and I take our daily walk on the beach at Ocean City, NJ. Families with young children are packing up coolers, buckets and shovels, and umbrellas to head home for showers and dinner. The ocean waves advance and retreat from the sand with all-encompassing sound that evokes primal memories and calms us. We catch up on a year's worth of experience and share plans for the future. Although, superficially, our lives may seem different, we connect on a deep and intimate level. I miss those walks.

Dusk: David and I walk on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores. We comment on the architecture of the hotels and large condo buildings lining the beachfront. We find them wanting in interest and style. We stay on the alert for cars and other vehicles that are permitted to drive on the beach. When I first moved to Florida, I was shocked by news of people being killed or injured when they were run over on the beach. That would never happen in Ocean City, NJ.

101 Dugout Canoes

David and I went to St. Augustine, the first North American city, founded in 1565 by the Spanish. It changed hands several times before becoming one of the United States. Its history under European rule and statehood is dwarfed on the timeline by all that happened before. 

What made the previous history come alive for me was seeing a 500-year-old dugout canoe. It was actually a baby compared to other examples in a cache of 101 dugout canoes, some as old as 5,000  years, recently found in Newnans Lake by high school students. 

People have the very human tendency to give primacy to their own stories. When people rail against immigrants in this country today, I know we are all immigrants. Even the people who paddled those canoes 5,000 years ago had traveled to this continent across the Bering Strait long before. We are all part of the long and complex human story that started in East Africa. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Touch of Color at the Ankle

My sock fetish really took off when I moved to Orlando. I wear Puma sneakers most of the time, and I like a little touch of color at the ankle to complement my outfit. I have a large collection of socks in aqua, dark blue, green, orange, red, purple, and even one pair of white.

Decades ago, a popular stereotype was the little old lady in tennis shoes, the activist of the day. When I worked for the District of Columbia government, we decided to restructure the investments in the teachers retirement fund to get a better return. Notice went out to all the teachers. Unannounced, a little old retired teacher in tennis shoes came to my office to protest the change. It was confirmation that most stereotypes have some basis in reality.

When I wear my Pumas to collect petitions to protect the environment and to canvas for Democratic candidates, am I the little old lady in tennis shoes for today? Perhaps. But at least my socks are colorful and cute.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Where Shopping Is a Pleasure

There is a big difference between going to the grocery store in New York and going in Orlando. The checkout line culture sums it up.

The marketing tag line of Publix, the big supermarket chain in Florida, is "Where Shopping Is a Pleasure." That may be true if your idea of fun is chatting with the checkout staff while people stand in line behind you, patiently waiting for their turn to exchange mindless pleasantries. Or perhaps you have forgotten to take advantage of a BOGO offer. No worries. The checkout person will dispatch another staff member to run through the aisles to get the desired item. Oh, yes. The people waiting in line behind? That is just part of the enjoyment.

When I shopped for a few groceries at the West Side Market on my last trip to New York, I was a little concerned about the length of the checkout line. No worries. This was New York. The staff didn't chat; they checked me out with speed and efficiency in record time. That was a real pleasure!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Post 9.11 World

This Friday, I'm picking someone up at Orlando International Airport for the first time. After reviewing confusing information on parking options on the OIA site, I decided to try Express Parking. It seemed to offer short-term parking under the main terminals for a reasonable cost without the need for shuttle transport. I decided to test it out today. Little did I know I would be entering the deep paranoia of the post-9.11 world. 

Before being allowed into the parking area, I had to get out of my car; open the glove compartment, center storage area, gas cap, and trunk. The pleasant and friendly female security officer used a long-handled mirror to look under the car. I was expecting her to pat  me down, but that didn't happen. It seems that car bomb is the primary threat.

In an effort to bond, I told the security officer that I had been in New York on 9.11 and that I had not problem with enhanced security procedures. I also remembered the truck bomb that detonated under one of the Twin Towers in 1993. Even here, in the Land of the Mouse, those memories rise to the surface.

My car did pass inspection, and I completed my dry run. Now I know to leave some extra time on Friday to clear security.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Edith, My Avatar

As I grow older, I look more like my mother. I act more like her, too.

This Halloween was a good example. Pulling together a tee shirt and head band from The Party Store with shorts and tights from my own collection, I showed up at Melissa and Alejandro's house dressed as a Ninja Turtle groupie. Sebastian greeted me at the door. Smiling sweetly in recognition and comradeship, he called out: "Mommy, Tia Eileen is a Ninja Turtle!"

Thanks, Mom. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scenes from a Wedding

Walk Down the Aisle: James escorts Kimberly, his beloved younger daughter, down the aisle. She seems to trip a bit on the beautiful bridal gown. Then, James lifts her veil, kisses her, and sits down by his wife. On his face, there is the tender, aching look of love and loss as father watches his cherished daughter walk to another man, with whom she will share her life.

Sunshine Appears: There was light rain in the morning and clouds during the drive out to Long Island. About 2 PM, as we take our seats for the outdoor ceremony, the clouds lift and the sun shines on the happy couple. They take their wedding vows against a backdrop of trees and bushes in rich autumn tones picked up by the roses in the bouquets of the bride and her attendants.  

Baby Beyonce Takes the Floor: About 4 years old, the little dancer takes the floor alongside the adults. Delighting in the growing attention, she goes far beyond the usual random movements of her age cohort to create a choreographed routine. You go girl!

Back to Her Roots: As the dancing continues, Kim leaves the floor to reappear in a stunning wedding cheongsam gown in honor of her heritage. The radiant smile on her face is universal.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blog Post Anxiety

When I started this blog in early September, I set the goal of 100 posts by the end of the year. The focus would be on quantity, not quality. This will be my 53rd post. There is enough time to meet the target. But will there be enough inspiration? I am feeling anxious.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn in New York

It's autumn in New York, and the pumpkin donuts at Dunkin' are ripe for the picking. I treated myself to my first of the season at Newark International Airport on my way back to Orlando. The Dunkin' Donuts establishment is modest to a fault - just a counter with a few stools and two small tables in the passage way before you enter security. 

Despite the drab ambiance, the pumpkin pastry, matched with a bottle of orange juice, transported me to a landscape of fall foliage and crisp temperatures. It was time to recover from the subway and NJ Transit rides and prepare for the passage through the ever-vigilant TSA employees. Others may abuse drugs and alcohol in times of stress. My poison of choice is a flavorful donut every time.

New York Diners

Your basic New York 24-hour, breakfast all day, 12-page menu, Greek diner is heading for extinction. At least, that is what my friends tell me. Is there nothing sacred left in the world!

For the 24 years I lived in New York, diners were my kitchen and pantry. I knew I would never go hungry any time of the day or night. And I didn't need to bring a friend. My New York Times was sufficient company. A woman eating by herself in a diner was not remarkable in any way.

I would stop at my favorite diner on 9th Avenue after working out at the gym. On Marathon Sunday (my favorite day in New York), I stopped at the Moon Rock Diner across from my apartment for sustenance after my 8-hour tour of duty as a Central Park Marshall, holding back the crowds as the runners completed the race. 

When I moved to Orlando, each trip back to New York was celebrated with a least one diner meal. On several occasions, I picked a date, time and diner and invited friends to join me. They were happy reunions for me and meeting opportunities for people from different parts of my life. Whatever else you want to say about them, diners are efficient - for eating and socializing. 

Save the diners!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Transit

Transit papers were the holy grail
for Ingrid and Bogey.
At OIA, TSA PreΓΌ is the prize. 

What I like is arriving too early.
I disappear in the crowd
in a state of existential loneliness.

Not here.
Not yet there.

Perfect Running Partner

I run by myself; I like the quiet. There was one time, however, when I had the perfect running partner.

I was at a business retreat in Montauk, at the tip of Long Island. Before the morning sessions, I went for a run along a nearby country road. As I was getting started, a yellow Lab ran up to me. I'm not used to dogs, and at first I was a bit nervous. But yellow Labs are so sweet and friendly that I accepted his request to join me.

About 10 minutes later, a large dog, barking loudly, ran toward us. My buddy peeled off to engage with the other member of his species while I kept running. I didn't want to get in the middle of a fight. A few minutes later, I heard loud panting behind me. My running partner was racing to catch up; we finished our run together, in joyful companionship. Perfect!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Brilliant Blogging Career

I started my first blog in February 2010 as part of my executive coaching website. I posted 23 times in 2010 and 53 times in 2011. Now and then, I forwarded the link to a post to some clients. I don't think anyone else read the blog. It was a start.

My second blog was more personal. As I stated at the inception: "This blog will chronicle my adventures as the precinct woman for Precinct 437, Orange County, Florida, and Lake Nona NTL for OFA, leading up to the November 6, 2012 Election." My output was modest: 10 posts in late 2011 and 53 in 2012. I increased readership by uploading each post to my Facebook page. There were "Likes" and even some favorable comments. In addition to capturing  my exploits as a novice grassroots political organizer, the blog was an exercise in loosening up my writing style. I made progress in that regard.

This blog is about nothing. Like the Seinfeld show. But not as funny. Here I am going for quantity, not quality. I started in early September 2015; my goal is 100 posts by New Year's Eve. My readership numbers in the very low single digits ( 2 or 3). 

Law and Order

I'm addicted to Law and Order in all its varieties: the original, SUV and Criminal Intent. I'm not alone; several of my close friends have shared their addiction stories with me. I haven't heard of a 12-step program to cure the affliction, though. But who wants to be cured?

Watching the show calms me even though the stories are usually about murder, rape and other violent acts. Watching reruns intensifies the soothing effect; when I know how the episode ends, the suspense is muted.

The title of the show telegraphs its appeal. In a chaotic, unsettled world, each episode provides a coherent story line and resolution. In some cases, the criminal goes free; but that only makes us appreciate all the guilty verdicts more. We don't take them for granted. There is order in the universe.