Friday, November 28, 2008

You Do the Crime, You Do the Time

I admit it: I’m a Barry Manilow fan. Yup, ever since high school when Donna Joselson first introduced me to Tryin’ to Get the Feeling, the album with the sculpted piano player on the red cover, I’ve been a fan of this 70s crooner who just keeps on writing the songs. This One’s for You and Greatest Hits soon joined the vinyl disks that went around and around and around on the little phonograph in my room.

A year or so later, my parents took my sister and me to our first- ever concert -- Barry Manilow at the Garden State Arts Center, now the PNC Bank Arts Center. We had lawn seats, which is really a misnomer since there were no seats involved. Instead, we spread a blanket on the grass lawn behind the amphitheater – and it was BYOB (bring your own blanket). The folks a few feet away brought more than a blanket, but I, of course, had no idea about that sweet smell that wafted over to where we were sprawled out enjoying our pre-concert picnic. (Today, with the possible exception of my sister, none of us could any sooner get down on the ground for a picnic than we could get up from the ground at the end of the concert. But that was a long time ago…)

Even now (no pun intended!), all these years later, I sometimes find myself singing along (yes, I freely admit this) to Mandy, Weekend in New England, Can’t Smile Without You and I Write the Songs when they pop up in my iTunes player. Needless to say, therefore, I was maddened by an article in today’s New York Times about Colorado Judge Paul Sacco, who regularly sentences noise ordinance violators to one-hour, high volume Barry Manilow listening sessions.

Judge Sacco: sign me up!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Update: Ready, Set, Date!

Alas, it appears that I dissed 8minuteDating a bit too fast. Earlier this morning I received an email from them with news of a match. Included was contact information for Guy #5. Thankful for the possibility of further conversaton with him, I'll dash off a quick email shortly.

Right now, though, it's time to go watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

For other musings about our many blessings on this important day, check out my most recent post on

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ready, Set, Date!

Last night a friend and I went to a “speed dating” event, the round-robin singles forum in which you meet eight different guys and spend eight minutes with each one. We’d registered for one for Jewish singles between 40 and 50 through 8minuteDating, which touts their events as “Eight Great Dates – One Fun Night!”

Well, not exactly…

For starters, although events are held only if a minimum of eight men and eight women register, at last night’s event, which had the minimum number of registrants, only five men and six women actually showed up. So, each woman had to sit out a round and, instead of meeting a total of eight men, we met only five. Likewise, each man met only six women, not the eight promised. It’s hard to believe that in this great city of more than eight million people, only 11 Jewish ones between 40 and 50 are interested in meeting other 40-something Jews of the opposite sex. Go figure…

With the ring of a bell, the first round starts and Guy #1 sits down across from me. He’s not bad looking and pleasant enough. He’s a corrections officer and we chat about various things. He’s originally from Long Island, has a sister who lives in Livingston and knows of the Eldridge Street Synagogue restoration from what he’s read in the press. When our eight minutes are up, the bell rings and he moves on. I, as instructed, jot down a few notes on my 8minuteDating “dance card.”

When round #2 starts, I’m the “Old Maid” and so the young woman who’s the event organizer comes and sits with me. We chat and those eight minutes fly by.

Round #3: Guy #2 sits down across from me. He’s French, speaks with a fairly heavy accent and seems otherwise non-descript. Frenchie’s an IT professional and proceeds to tell me all about anti-Semitism in France, but nothing much about himself. Eight minutes elapse and he’s gone. I fill in some details on my dance card.

Guy #3 introduces himself with a slimy handshake. Unfortunately, his personality matches and our eight minutes feel like 80. During that eternity, I learn that he’s a civil servant in human resources in Westchester, and likes to travel and work out. Thankfully, the eight minutes end and he moves on. Next to his name on my dance card, I write one word: slimy.

Then it’s my turn with Guy #4, who’s pushing 60 if he’s a day. He tells me he’s in commercial real estate, but before my eyes can glaze over, he (thankfully) picks up on the fact that I work for a Jewish organization. He asks me if I’ve ever heard of Central Synagogue. When I respond in the affirmative, he proceeds to tell me that he’s not religious and doesn’t keep kosher but when he attended an event there once, they had butter on the table when chicken was served. He thought that was totally disrespectful. We spend the balance of our time together discussing kosher style catering. Thank you, Biennial!

Finally, Guy #5... He’s cute and seems nice. Turns out that like me, he’s older than he looks and we marvel at our good fortune. Another civil servant, he works for the Social Security Administration and enjoys his role as a medical investigator. The conversation is easy and our eight minutes pass quickly.

With the last ring of the bell, the event is over and we all scurry home to sign in at 8minuteDating and indicate which of these people we want to see again. If a match is mutual, the company emails contact information to the “winners.”

Alas, I didn’t win any guys in this endeavor. The booby prize? A $5 coupon off my next 8minueDating event. Yeah, right…

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A New Camelot

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the end of Camelot. If you’re at least as old as I am, you know exactly where you were when you heard the news on that fateful day in the history of our country and of the world.

Me? I was in a stroller, says my mother, in Flair Chevrolet in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (The dealership is long gone and thus there's no hyperlink to the site.) I’ve never asked her, but because those were the “graduate school days,” my guess is that we weren't there to kick the tires, slam the doors or road test a 1964 Chevy Impala. Instead, in my mind she was sitting on a tacky, turquoise blue vinyl chair, absently pushing the stroller (with me in it) back and forth and back and forth, waiting for the grease monkeys to finish working on her old clunker that happened to be a Chevy. Had it been a Ford or a Chrysler, I bet we’d have been at one of those dealerships instead. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s my guess.

Anyway… that was the end of Camelot. Right there in Flair Chevrolet. Finished, the end, done.

At least for a while.

But now, a generation and a half later, it seems that maybe, just maybe, we are on the brink of a new Camelot.

Despite the dire financial news we hear and feel anew each day, the two wars on the other side of the globe that go on and on and on, and the graft, corruption and fraud that run rampant in the corporate and public sectors, I believe that we are in for a sea change. Or at least I hope we are.

Like so many others, I anxiously await the inauguration of our new president and a return to a leader of whom we can be proud. More important than our pride, though, are his deliberations and his actions. May he do right by this country and by all of us, and indeed, may our Camelot arrive swiftly and prosper long.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hoosiers All Around

An op-ed in today’s New York Times about daylight savings time in Indiana (and the fact that it was only recently instituted in the state) reminded me of Chelsea I-Can’t-Remember-Her-Last-Name, who was born and raised in the Hoosier State and moved from New Paris, Indiana to suburban New Jersey in the late 1980s. Shortly thereafter, she came to work for the same company as I did. A few weeks later, along came a particular Friday in April – the one right before “spring ahead” Saturday – and we all reminded each other not to forget to change the clocks. She looked at us as though we each had two heads and purple and yellow striped antennae growing from our scalps.

And once my memory was jogged about Chelsea, for some reason I was on Hoosier overload and had these random thoughts throughout the day:
  1. There are a lot of Mennonites in Indiana. In the winter of 1997 (during Christmas week specifically), in a driving trek from Hanover, NH to Los Angeles, CA, I saw lots of them, mostly stretching their legs and using the facilities (as was I) at the rest areas along the interstate. For the most part, they were dressed like Ma and Pa Ingalls, Mary, Laura and Carrie. And, although they didn’t ride around in horse drawn wagons, their cars were the most basic of black sedans -- Chrysler K cars and Ford Tauruses.

  2. Unlike me, I’m sure they weren’t listening to whatever Top 40 pop station came in most clearly on the radio dial. And, whatever station that was, the DJs played more music of native son John Mellencamp (I knew him originally as John Cougar Mellencamp) than DJs in other states. On that particular day, I must have heard “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane” nearly a hundred times.

  3. When I was a sophomore in college, Sharon Basso lived down the hall. She was from Zionsville, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. I don’t know why I’ve been wasting neurons all these years remembering her name or her hometown. If I wasn’t, maybe I could remember what I had for lunch yesterday or what Chelsea I-Can’t-Remember-Her-Last-Name’s last name really is.

  4. Twenty years after I knew Sharon Basso, I went to work for the Union for Reform Judaism. It owns and operates 12 summer camps throughout North America. One of them, Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI, pronounced Gucci, like the handbags), is in Zionsville, Indiana. How weird is that?

  5. Wait, it gets even weirder. When I lived in New Hampshire I worked with Mary, a woman who became a good friend. She’s married now with four daughters (a unique blessing, she always says) and guess where she lives? Yup…Zionsville, Indiana.

  6. But wait, there’s more. A while back, I corresponded with a guy who answered one of my Craigslist posts. He told me he’s originally from Michigan City, Indiana. Not so bizarre, right? Right, but wait: longtime family friends spent a few years in Indiana when the husband took a job there. Where, you ask? Yup…Michigan City, Indiana.

  7. Remember Jane Pauley? She’s from Indiana. So are Florence Henderson, Red Skelton, David Letterman, Dan Quayle (oh yeah…remember him?), Cole Porter, Steve McQueen, James Dean, Larry Bird, and Orville Redenbacher. Oh, and don’t forget those quarry-swimming, bike-riding guys in “Breaking Away,” the town vs. gown, Academy Award winning classic film from the late seventies.

OK, enough with Indiana already. It’s late and I’m off to bed… Go Hoosiers!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making Change Happen

Earlier this week, I blogged extensively on about my attempts to change the Friday night online registration timeslot that was assigned to me the week before by Baruch College. As I was emailing with the Hillel director and the rabbinic chaplain and trying – ultimately without success – to speak with someone in the registrar’s office, I was reminded of an earlier time in my life when I also opted to challenge a school's policy...

It was 1977 and I was a freshman in a typical suburban New Jersey high school. Intent on following in an older cousin’s footsteps, I wanted to join the local chapter of the Key Club, sponsored by Kiwanis, the international service organization. As I learned, however, much to my dismay, in my high school membership in the Key Club was limited to boys, although there was a Keyette Club, the girls’ equivalent. Separate, but equal didn’t do it for me, though, and at the tender age of 14, I was ready to buck the system.

I notified the president of the Key Club that I wanted to join. Although he tried to persuade me to join the Keyettes, I persisted and was granted an “interview.” This was 1977, remember, and so what I really got was a “hazing.” On the assigned day, I showed up after school to the chemistry lab where the meetings were held – the advisor was a chemistry teacher – and faced a roomful of snickering upper class high school guys. Undaunted, I followed their instructions and, after donning a lead apron and a blindfold, stood on a worktable and did what they demanded. I sang the national anthem, sniffed the obnoxious but harmless fumes rising from beakers they held under my nose, ran my hands through the unknown goo they held in front of me and followed a host of equally sophomoric commands. Finally, my ordeal was over and I was free to go home and await the Club’s decision.

About a week later, it arrived. My request to join had been denied – no explanation given. Before the end of the day, my parents were in the principal’s office and within a few months, the Key Club and the Keyette Club were one. By then, however, I’d made my point and felt no need to join.

More than 30 years later, though, the lesson about change and the incredible power we possess to make it happen – even if not on the first try -- lives within me still.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can We Fast Forward to Tu Bishvat?

With a full two weeks still to go until Thanksgiving, the airwaves are already full of holiday cheer. Call me what you will, but at the moment, “Scrooge” seems to be just about right. Buy-me, buy-me commercials for classic Barbie dolls, Leapsters and the other latest fad toys and games fill the airwaves while catalogs, catalogs and more catalogs -- Lands’ End, L.L Bean, Harry and David and the Vermont Country Store, among others – fill the mailboxes. That ho-ho-ho bearded guy in the red suit is starting to show up everywhere you turn and soon enough we won’t be able to escape the music -- endless refrains of silver bells, chestnuts roasting and Felice Navidad.

Ah, yes, Election Day is over and the holiday season has arrived. Can we fast forward to Tu Bishvat?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crunching the JDate Numbers

In a recent post on, my blogging buddy, Larry Kaufman, did some number crunching and analysis of the blog with regard to the number of writers, responders, their degrees of anonymity and the like. Although I don’t generally possess Larry’s meshugassen (which he loosely translates as idiosyncrasies and I would loosely translate as craziness) to “count the house,” – I possess my own meshugassen, thanks very much – his post got me to thinking about analyzing and crunching my JDate numbers.

I first joined JDate in October of 2003, about a year after I moved to New York, and, with “beginner’s luck” shining brightly upon me, met a good guy in less than a month. We dated for almost two years and are still in touch from time to time. After that relationship ended and I was ready to re-enter the JDate marketplace, I re-upped in January of 2006 with a six--month membership. Since then, I’ve been on and off the JDate merry-go-round countless times, sometimes re-joining just to access and answer a “Someone’s Trying to Get in Touch with You” email, ever hopeful that even if it’s not “Mr. Right” at the other end of the laptop, maybe, just maybe, it’s “Mr. Possibility” who’s waiting there. Unfortunately, more often than not, these unsolicited messages have been sent by game-playing 20- or 30-somethings in Florida, California, Colorado or other geographically undesirable locales whose profiles are nearly incomplete or wholly nonsensical. Most frustrating of all, however, was re-joining several months ago only to find an I-need-your-financial-assistance-to-travel-to-the-U.S. message from a JDater in Nigeria. Talk about a scam…

Now, on to the number crunching: During my JDate tenure, 477 different guys have viewed my profile and 52 (almost 11 percent) have emailed me, either proactively or in response to an email that I sent to them. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve opened and read all my incoming messages -- responding to most, even if just to say thanks, but no thanks.

On the other side of the equation, I’ve looked at the profiles of more than 500 different guys, most of who claim to be professionally accomplished, to work out with great regularity and to love dining out, travel, long walks on the beach, jazz, good wine, the outdoors and taking advantage of all that life and the city have to offer. (Many, it seems to me, however, could use a lesson in the proper use of apostrophes, as well as the difference between "your" and "you're" and “there” and “their,” as well as other grammar basics. That, though, is neither here nor there -- and it most certainly is not “their!”).

Nonetheless, I’ve manage to send some form of communication -- emails, IMs, “flirts” or e-cards -- to more than 100 different guys. In some instances, a conversation gets launched, accounting for multiple messages to the same person. In total, two hundred and twenty seven of my 270 sent communiques (84 percent) have been opened and read. The balance hang unopened in cyberspace. Many of the guys who opt not to open these messages (and many who do open them, but choose not to respond), do, however, view my profile instead -- most likely just to see the picture.

What, if anything, do their actions (or inactions) indicate about the recipients? They’re “visual learners?" Shallow? In search of a certain, very specific physical “type?” Not really interested in investing time or energy getting to know someone who, based on brief answers on a cyber-questionnaire and some pixels masquerading as an image, doesn’t fit their likely way-too-idealized notion of a potential partner? Oh, but I’m sounding oh-so jaded…

And, what is it that I have to show for the little bit of cyber-communicating that’s going on here? Sadly, not much; aside from a few IM conversations and even fewer phone calls, I have not even one single coffee JDate to my name. Yup, that’s right. With the exception of Sam, the guy I met in this crazy cyber-marketplace and dated for nearly two years, my JDate escapades have netted me zero JDates. Nada, nothing, nil…zilch, zip, zero.

So, what, if anything, can we conclude from all this JDate number crunching? I surely don’t know the answer to that one, but ever the optimist, I continually dole out hefty fees to renew my JDate membership, trusting implicitly in the New York State Lotto tag line: "You've gotta be in it to win it."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reflections

At lunch today, Naomi, one of my colleagues, told the following story:

Her father was a poll worker in Wisconsin yesterday. An elderly African-American woman came in to vote. She was carrying with her a small package. The poll workers asked her what it was and she said, "I brought my ancestors with me." With that, she opened the package and took out pictures of several deceased relatives. The poll workers helped her set them up in the voting booth so they could be with her when she voted.
Naomi said that she's told the story three or four times and gets teary with each telling. She isn't the only one.
* * *
As always happens when I go to vote, I think about my grandparents. My grandfather died in March of 1986 and my grandmother in July of 1991. And, while I observe their yahrzeits at the appropriate season each year, I also think of Election Day as a pseudo-yahrzeit for each of them. In this, their adopted country, they savored the right to step up, to raise their voices, and to have them count. Never did either of them miss a trip to the polls on Election Day. Indeed, it is a most fitting tribute to their memories.

It was these thoughts that occupied my mind yesterday as I left my polling place. On the short walk home, I began to compose this post in my mind. And then this morning, I found the following poem on the blog of Rabbi James Stone Goodman:
Prayer After Voting

I voted
O holy God, I voted,
I felt good voting.
I honored my predecessors –
My grandparents, my parents of blessed memory –
Knowing, for them,
Was an ascendant experience.
They had complete confidence in our country
To provide opportunity for us
Their children
– That they did not have.

That is a matter of memory
Because I have had all opportunity,
But their stories reminded me that they
Did not.

I voted with the intention to honor them.
This year I voted from frustration too.

I voted against negativist language
Stiff, formal, and unbelievable to me –
The handlers speaking through puppets
Playing off fear in our country
When I want to vote for hope.

I voted for hope.
I voted for a deeper level of discourse
For a lower timbre of speech
Don’t yell at me pundits and politicians
And don’t think I am so easily played.
You couldn’t reach me with your strategies –
This year your strategies were transparent
And ugly –
And I turned off your voices
When they weren’t honest voices.

The problem is always discernment –
This year it was easy.
I know the truth when I hear it.
I voted out of discernment.

I voted for hope
I voted with the intention of honoring
Those who voted before me
During periods of higher expectations.

O holy God, I voted for higher expectations
Purification of purpose
Real talk from real people.

Politicos — don’t sweet talk me.
I’ll vote again.
Indeed, after such eloquence, there is nothing left to say.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Marathon Spirit

Knowing that I had attended a marathon brunch this morning, my sister asked me later in the day how it was. “The human spirit,” I said, “is alive and well in New York City.”

“You’re going to blog about this, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Her response? “Here comes the schmaltz.”

Schmaltzy? Maybe, but I stand by my initial response: The human spirit is alive and well in New York City.

It is alive and well and was most visible this morning from the balcony of my friend’s apartment at 81st and First. From this extraordinary vantage point (thanks, Donnie!) 17 miles into the race and nine floors up from the street, we saw it first in wheelchair entrants who, one by one, raced up First Avenue, their powerful arms and spirit propelling them forward. My biceps burned and my eyes teared up just watching them.

Then we saw it in the women, their sneakered feet rhythmically pounding the pavement as they’d been doing for hours, their toned and muscled legs -- and their spirit -- pushing them onward.

Then came the Kenyans, their powerful, lanky legs -- and their spirit -- carrying them swiftly past us on the street below.

A colorful flood of running humanity followed – men, women, more wheelchair racers, more men, more women – individually and collectively pressing on in body and spirit.

And we were there to help.

On the street directly below us, a group held a sign for Tommy. When he ran past, detouring briefly to the curb for hugs and kisses, we cheered as though he belonged to us. In fact, at that moment, he did.

We did the same for Jessica and for Billy when they ran by, and for Zoe, who’s family and friends were waiting for her on a balcony across the street from ours.

Big cheers, too, for Minnie Mouse, Elvis, the Dunkin’ Donuts cup – running on Dunkin’, of course, -- and some especially gray-haired runners as they chugged past our vantage point.

We cheered most loudly though (or so it seemed to me) for those who ran by on prosthetics and those who, temporarily felled by cramps, slowed or stopped right below us to work them out. When they began to run again, a bit of their spirit bounded up to our balcony and buoyed us all.

Schmaltzy? Yes, perhaps, but would that the spirit of the marathon and those who took it on today could stick around for a few more days. We could all use it.