Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lucky Aunt Ray

This article in yesterday’s paper caught my eye. After reading the story, I sent writer Clyde Haberman the following email:
Dear Mr. Haberman:

Thank you for your article in today's paper about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Thanks to my father, the anniversary never goes unnoticed in our family, and yesterday was no exception. It was marked by this Facebook status:

JanetheWriter is thinking about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, 99 years ago today...and my father's aunt who was scheduled to start work there on Monday, March 27, 1911.

Your coverage is much appreciated.

New York, NY
Shortly thereafter, I received this reply:
Many thanks for this note, Ms. Herman. And good for your great-aunt's timing. It may have saved her life.

All the best,
Clyde Haberman
Later in the day, I forwarded the exchange to my Aunt Bea, my father’s sister, with whom I share an interest in family history. (It’s not deep enough for either of us to undertake genealogy research on the Rabinowitz/Robbins or Charmatz/Herman clans, but definitely fun to talk about at family gatherings.)

She wrote back with this: “My mother spoke to me often about the fire. I have an idea she may have been a spectator, having lived on the Lower East Side at the time. She was able to relate in great detail. Soooo, my feeling is that the great aunt that dad speaks of is my mother's Aunt Ray. Ray lived on the west side of Manhattan, actually in Fort Washington. She had a doll hospital in a store front on Broadway and about 179th Street. She lived not far from the store on Wadsworth Avenue. My mother and Ray had a very close relationship and Mom would very often take the crosstown bus and visit her. When I was able to travel by myself I would also very often visit Ray. I loved her. If you want more history, I'll try to jog my memory.

Yes, Aunt Bea, please try to jog your memory. I’d love to know more about lucky Aunt Ray and the rest of her mishpucha.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Passover Match

It soon will be seder,
With friends I will dine,
Lots of good food,
And four cups of wine.
The chair next to mine will be empty that night,
But other than that, my life is just right.

We’ll retell the story,
Of fleeing the place,
Where we were held captive,
And Pharoah lost face.

The onslaught of plagues,
They were not so pretty:
Diseases and locusts,
Frogs, blood and some hail,
Oh how the Israelites wanted to bail.

Alas, I know frogs,
I’ve smooched my fair share.
But none has transformed
To a prince oh-so fair,
Just into warts, on my skin and my hair.

Of all of those kisses,
Not one’s been a hit.
I’m sad to report that most have been misses.
So I’m still alone,
And not part of a pair,
I don’t mean to kvetch,
But it doesn’t seem fair.

Where are you, my mensch?
I’m looking for thee…
Do you think you are the one for me?
I'm smart and I'm funny,
A really good catch,
Perhaps you are my Passover match?

I live on the east side, have a job I adore,
Am seeking a great guy, not asking for more.
Neither too fat nor too thin,
I'm just the right size,
With long curly hair and warm brown eyes.

You are kind and gentle, Jewish and more,
Somewhere near 50, and not a big bore.
You're seeking a woman, a smart one to boot,
To find her online, wouldn't that be a hoot?

You read the Times to get the news,
You care about Israel, what's good for the Jews.
Your family is central, you seder with them,
Some chicken, some matzah and lots of flanken.

You've got your own place, it's filled with great books,
These things are important, as much as your looks.
Your job and your friends, they all are fulfillin',
The only thing missing's a wonderful woman.

You’ll ask the four questions,
You’ll open the door,
You’ll eat lots of matzah,
Sweep the crumbs from the floor.

When the seder’s over,
And you've had your fill,
Drop me a line,
I sure hope that you will.

Answer this post,
There's no time to waste,
If you're not a good typist,
Use Word’s cut and paste.

I hope that you’ll write and tell me the score,
Tell me your name and some things you adore.
Music? The city? Movies and films?
Who are you? What do you do?
What are your dreams for love so true?

We’ll start with these, and if we’re lucky,
Things will go well and all will be ducky.
So send me a post and tell me some more,
And for you, like Elijah, I'll open the door!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Tom Petty sings about it in The Waiting. Carly Simon sings about it in Anticipation. Ani DiFranco sings about it in The Waiting Song.

And now I, too, am waiting (but most definitely not singing)…for Nachshon ben Aminadav, my favorite Tweet the Exodus character to make his appearance toward the end of the classic (and oft retold) drama currently making its debut on the Twitter stage. Read more about it here and here…and then take a front row seat at your nearest electronic device. Oh, and one more thing: Beware The10Plagues…no doubt they’re waiting in the wings.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Panoply of Personals

With an online presence as “JanetheWriter,” I’m frequently asked what, exactly, it is that I write. My stock answer goes something like this: “Executive correspondence, reports, online and web content, status updates, blog posts, and the like.”

Sometimes, just for fun, I write personal ads and over time, I've amassed quite a collection. I'm thinking of updating my JDate profile with one. What do you think? Shoot me an email and vote for your favorite.

Personal Ad #1: Share and Share Alike

Bright, sincere, attractive and down-to-earth (but certainly not perfect) 40-something happily DJF with no kids, manageable baggage, and a rich and balanced life seeks age appropriate, honest, gentle, kind, liberal Jewish guy for sharing long strolls, silly jokes, dessert, smiles and laughter, knowing glances, romantic dinners, time at home, bumps in the road, playful banter, meaningful conversations, walks in the woods, Scrabble games, hugs and kisses, lazy weekends, secrets, movie popcorn, time away, new adventures, favorite places, ice cream sundaes, books and music, ideas, Ferris wheel and subway rides, dim sum, the Sunday Times, hopes, dreams, wishes, and more.

Personal Ad #2: Chemistry Test

Fun, funny, intelligent, affectionate, attractive and real (but certainly not perfect) 40-something, city-dwelling DJF with a rich and balanced life (but no kids and minimal baggage) seeks age appropriate, honest, gentle, kind, liberal, legally single/divorced Jewish guy (tall, dark and handsome would be great, but warm, caring and genuine work just as well for me) for a chemistry test. Don’t panic – no beakers, Bunsen burners or periodic chart of the elements here…just coffee and conversation to see if we’re reactive or inert.

Personal Ad #3: Recipe for Love

One nice Jewish guy
Nearly 50 years’ experience
Ample kindness
Sufficient smarts
Lots of honesty
Generous dose of integrity
Kids optional

Gently mix all ingredients together.
Slowly add one intelligent, fun and affectionate divorced Jewish woman.
Place mixture in a bowl and see what happens.

Personal Ad #4: Time to “Fall” for Someone

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to turn, the days are getting shorter…it’s time to “fall” for someone.

Happily DJF, 46, with no kids, manageable baggage and lots to offer the right guy seeks 40-something happily divorced (or equally seasoned) divorced Jewish male for meaningful long-term relationship.

With fall in the air, maybe we’ll “fall” for each other?

Personal Ad #5: Shana Tova

Will you be eating chicken soup and brisket at a holiday table tonight, grateful to have friends and family close by with whom to celebrate?

Perhaps tomorrow morning you’ll park your tush in a pew at a synagogue in the tri-state area? After services you’ll be glad to loosen your tie and get home, optimistic that good things are in store for you in 5770. Am I right?

If one of the good things you’re hoping for is to meet someone special, I’d like to hear from you. I’m 46, youthful, Jewish, attractive (although ultimately you have to decide that for yourself), and have lots to offer the right guy. You should be age appropriate, Jewish and real.

Shana tova.

Personal Ad #6: Don't Be a Turkey...Answer this Ad!

Real, down-to-earth and youthful 40-something Jewish woman with much to be thankful for seeks a mensch in the hope that compatibility and friendship might lead to something more.

Please be Jewish kind, gentle, real, age-appropriate and not already married.

Personal Ad #7: Jewish Haiku

40-something Jew
Seeks same in a male version
Are you my bashert?

Personal Ad #8: A Shavuot Haiku

Saw you at Sinai
Celebrating that day now
Should we reconnect?

40-something DJF seeks similarly aged mensch for LTR.
Substantive note and photo appreciated.
Chag sameach.

Personal Ad #9: Let’s try things in reverse here…

I don’t really enjoy jazz, comedy clubs or fancy restaurants where the waiters refold the starched linen napkin every time you get up from the table. Give me the back booth in a neighborhood diner, a bottomless cup of coffee, a brownie ala mode (with two forks) and a good conversationalist to share it all and I’m a happy camper.

I also don’t really enjoy the sun, so sitting on a roof deck or the beach all day isn’t my idea of a good time either. One line responses and bad grammar, spelling and capitalization are other things that don’t exactly appeal to me.

And despite this laundry list, here I am, silly me, looking for that special someone (40-something, divorced and Jewish would be ideal) whom I believe is out there for me…I just haven’t bumped into him yet. If you think you may be him, this 46-year-old DJF with a good job, varied interests and, I think, lots to offer – humor, smarts, compassion, a great smile and more -- as part of a meaningful LTR would like to hear from you,

And lastly, Personal Ad #10: Looking for Love with a Limerick

There once was a girl in the city,
In search of a Jew who is witty,
The word “mensch” comes to mind,
Though they’re quite hard to find,
It really is quite a pity.

Contented DJF seeks DJM (45-55) for LTR

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandma

March 9th is my grandmother's birthday. Even though she’s been gone for almost 19 years, this day never passes unnoticed by me. Earlier today, without realizing the irony until later, I quoted her while IM’ing from home with a colleague.
Colleague: "How’s home?"
Me: "OMG…some of the best writing gets done in sweats. As my grandmother always used to say, 'it’s a mechaiya'…not sure of the spelling on that, but you get the idea. :)"
Colleague: "Close enough."
Close enough, indeed, for the woman who, although she was born in 1896, had us all convinced that she was only as old as the century. In fact, she had four years on the century, but until Social Security told us otherwise, who knew?!

Close enough, indeed, for the brave young twenty-something who left home and country to make her way in the new world…learning English in night school and working as a milliner before marrying and raising two daughters during hard times.

Close enough, indeed, for the grandmother who, despite badly impaired vision, couldn’t cook enough for us…salmon croquettes, spaghetti and meatballs, rice fleish, stuffed cabbage, potato salad, latkes, almond crescent cookies, Jell-O with sliced bananas, and the ever popular New York toast, a favorite of my sister and me.

Close enough, indeed, for someone who saw Kaiser Wilhelm II ride into town on a white horse, remembered the sinking of the Titanic, watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and still described air conditioning on a hot day as a mechaiya.

Close enough, indeed…

Happy birthday, Grandma!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Your Grammar Would Be Proud

This past Wednesday night, tired of reading poorly written personal ads (and unaware that the next day was National Grammar Day), I posted this message as my Facebook status:

If you're so interested in taking advantage of all that life has to offer, you should--in between romantic walks on the beach, quiet nights at home and outings to concerts and museums--take a basic grammar course so you'll know the difference between "your" and "you're,” be able to distinguish among "there," "their" and "they're," and use each one correctly in a sentence.

Almost immediately, Carol commented: “Very timely suggestion, as tomorrow is National Grammar Day! :)”

Before I fill you in on the rest of the conversation as it unfolded, I’ll share the corny old joke that came to mind when I heard that:
A traveling salesman knocks on the door and little Joey answers.
Salesman: “Is your Ma home?”
Joey: “No, she ain’t here.”
Salesman: “Where’s your grammar?”
Joey: “She ain’t here either.”
Now, back to the conversation, which actually evolved into a list by grammarians of their biggest pet peeves about our language and how people use—and misuse—it.

Pet Peeve #1 is from Peggy: “How about s or 's. That drives me crazy.” Strunk and White would agree. It’s the very first rule in their classic volume.

Her sister, Marianne, chimed in with Pet Peeve #2: “than vs. then!!” According to S&W, "than" is used to express comparison. A concise explanation of the difference between the two—and when to use each—can be found here.

Next came Bonny (please, not Bonnie), with Pet Peeve #3: “When I was hiring an editor for a book proposal, so many of the applicants spelled my name wrong!” Indeed, correct spelling and careful attention to detail are as essential as proper grammar and usage.

Pet Peeve #4 came from David, who had this to say: “How about ‘it's’ and ‘its’ while you're at it? They are misused far too often.” Yes, they are, but at least they’re real words, unlike its’, which I see everywhere!

Back to Marianne for Pet Peeve #5: “Here's one that bugs Facebook notification reads 'So-and-so commented on their status.’" LOL! Here’s what The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has to say about this matter.

Pet Peeves #6, #7 and #8 come from my buddy Larry, who said, “Between you and I, my pet peeve is the total breakdown in differentiating among who and whom, of which the New York Times and The New Yorker is frequently guilty. P.S. I count three on-purpose errors in my previous sentence -- but maybe I missed something.” Grammar Girl (that's her up there in the top left hand corner of the page) can fill you in on proper use of the pronouns “I” and “me” and the prepositions "among" and "between." Click here to read about the nuances of “who” and “whom,” and here to brush up on subject-verb agreement.

Carol, the person who launched this whole conversation in the first place, piped in with Pet Peeve #9: “One of my pet peeves is that no one (in the media, ironically) seems to realize that the word ‘media’ is plural. They always say, ‘the media IS...’ Grrr. (Same for data and bacteria!)” Click here to see the singular forms of these and other words with irregular plurals.

And finally this: Although not exactly Pet Peeve #10, it deserves special mention if only because it crossed my desk yesterday, National Grammar Day: “I officiated at his wedding this past July and him and his wife are both now members.”