Saturday, November 28, 2009

French dessert? No, it's from Brooklyn

Whenever the paper cups filled with cake, topped by a couple of dollops of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry were lined up behind the glass delicatessen case, my mother would come home with two as a special treat for her daughters. I still remember the delectable fun of pushing the cake from the bottom of the cup until you had a mouthful of whipped cream and cake.

Until this weekend, it had to have been at least five decades since I had a Charlotte Russe. I was visiting a couple who also recalled the days when a Charlotte Russe was a popular dessert in Brooklyn.

Though some will tell you that the original Charlotte Russe was made with Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfingers, the simpler Brooklyn version was, to us, la crème de la crème!

Though there are several explanations of how the original Charlotte Russe was named, it is generally credited to a French chef in the early 19th Century who named it in honor of his Russian employer.

The most meaningful historical fact to me, however, is that the Charlotte Russe gained popularity during the 1930s and 1940s throughout the five boroughs of New York City. If more elaborate versions appear today, I don’t think they could be any more luscious than the Charlotte Russe we enjoyed as children.

Friday, November 27, 2009

“What goes around, comes around.”

Every January 2nd, January 24th and April 6th for years, my three children could expect to hear from me the story of the day they were born. My delight in retelling the events of those days ended before they became teenagers, however.

That’s when I began to hear “You already told me about it. You tell us every year.” I was crushed. To me, those three days were the most special days of my life and I loved reliving those moments.

On my granddaughter Maeve’s sixth birthday this month, Trish started to tell her the story of the day she was born. Without missing a beat, Maeve piped up with “You told me all about that last year.”

I guess it’s only when you become a parent yourself that you recognize why your own parents felt certain stories were so meaningful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deck the halls? Please, not yet.

Okay, I give up. After years of bellyaching about the too-early start of the Christmas season, I hereby do solemnly swear that from 2009 on I will not complain when I hear Christmas jingles in November or see holiday ads before Thanksgiving, or grumble when I see living rooms with their Christmas trees all lit up on December 1st.

I promise not to repeat “When I was young we decorated our tree on Christmas Eve.” I will keep my mouth shut when I see a Christmas tree lying at the curb on December 27th instead of being kept until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.

I will remember that traditions may change with the times. So I will welcome the spirit of the season weeks before December 25th. With that thought in mind, let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do I take the A, the 4 or the 6?

If I’d been more adventurous yesterday, I might have changed my plans and stayed on the Queens-bound train until it reached Woodside, my frequent destination decades ago. Instead, I got off at Grand Central and transferred to an uptown train - which I continue to call the Lexington Avenue line - to reach the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.

I was surprised a while ago when Mike, my son-in-law, showed me how I could get from Times Square to the east side, Fifth Avenue and East 60th Street to be exact, by taking the “N” train. What? Never heard of it, but then I can’t tell an “M” from a “C.” All these years I thought the only way to reach the east side was to take the shuttle to Grand Central and change to the Lexington Avenue line.

Ever since the subway system changed over to letters and numbers - the A, B. C, D, E, F, 1, 2, 3, etc. - I check the subway map to make sure I get where I want to go. The decision used to be so simple. It was the IRT, BMT and Independent lines and everyone knew the route of their own system.

When returning from Manhattan, I took the IRT’s 7th Avenue line and only had to choose between trains destined for Flatbush Avenue or New Lots Avenue. And, if I mistakenly took the train bound for New Lots, I’d merely have to change at Nevins Street for the one that would take me to Flatbush Avenue, the last stop.

That was way back when I was a frequent subway rider. My friend Carolyn and I would hop on the subway and go into Manhattan when we were teenagers. Other times I’d take the subway to Times Square, head for Port Authority and take the bus to Hoboken to visit the Hildemann branch of my family. But the sweetest ride was always to Woodside to visit my Aunt May on 47th Street. I’ve often thought I’d like to retrace the ride I took many years ago. I didn’t do it yesterday but I will, one of these days.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Glory at any price?

Disclaimer: I’ve not been a huge sports fan since the Dodgers left Brooklyn. But I understand the baseball fever that hit millions during the recent World Series. Yet I wonder when is it all too much? Or is it ever too much?

Today I saw a Bloomingdale’s ad for limited editions of a 3” Yankees baseball made of Waterford crystal for $165; a Yankees 9” baseball player made of Waterford crystal for $190; and a Yankees 3” baseball cap made of Waterford crystal for $170.

Am I a Scrooge? Someone who doesn’t appreciate a fan’s ecstasy? Or, aren’t there more sensible ways to commemorate the victory? A T-shirt perhaps? I guess I just don’t understand.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking the Bitter with the Better

Before my first trip to Europe many years ago, my Aunt May gave me this advice: “Take the bitter with the better.” Plans sometimes go awry. You may experience disappointments, delays or cancellations, she said. I guess I took her words to heart because more than forty years later all I recall are the wonderful memories.

“Take the bitter with the better” has been my travel mantra ever since. On my recent trip out west, the advice was well taken, especially when a forest fire at the eastern gate of Yellowstone National Park and a few road closures meant a detour and a long ride to the western entrance. Disappointed? Of course. But as a result of the detour an unplanned and a relaxing day at the Old Faithful Inn allowed the opportunity to take a tour of the hotel and learn about its unusual history and design by an untrained and inexperienced architect. The seventy-six feet height of the inn lobby is supported by lodgepole pines. There’s even a tree house high above the lobby and a huge fireplace.

One of my main reasons for selecting this tour was the chance to raft down the Snake River but snow and cold cancelled the plans. “Take the bitter with the better,” I muttered.

Overall, of course, the trip was wonderful. After all these years I finally saw Mount Rushmore up close (which, in actuality is not really that close unless you zoom in with camera or binoculars).

The Crazy Horse Memorial is an amazing monument that’s been in construction for 60 years with no apparent timeline for its completion. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, upon seeing Mount Rushmore, declared “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.” A sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski was hired and today his family continues his work.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana is quite moving. The battlefield memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In 1876, more than 260 soldiers and U.S. Army personnel, led by Lt. Col.George Armstrong Custer, met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. The battle is often referred as “Custer’s Last Stand,” Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.”

The rest of the trip took us through glorious vistas and the amazing expanse and beauty of this country.

My traveling companions and I did not let the “bitter” overtake the “better.” Changes in travel plans often don’t really matter. Sometimes, they’re a blessing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Clotheslines flap blowing stronger

Am I hung up on clotheslines? Yep. If you're interested in reading the latest in the clotheslines controversy you might want to see the article in the October 11 edition of The New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt from the article.
“Driven in part by the same nostalgia that has restored the popularity of canning and private vegetable gardens, the right-to-dry movement has spawned an eclectic coalition.

“The issue has brought together younger folks who are more pro-environment and very older folks who remember a time before clotheslines became synonymous with being too poor to afford a dryer,” said a Democratic lawmaker from Virginia, State Senator Linda T. Puller, who introduced a bill last session that would prohibit community associations in the state from restricting the use of “wind energy drying devices” — i.e., clotheslines.

"At least eight states already limit the ability of homeowners associations to restrict the installation of solar-energy systems, and legal experts are debating whether clotheslines might qualify.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's around the corner?

 
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When I was a teenager, my friend Carolyn and I “discovered” the fountain that sits in front of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. I learned years later it was called the Pulitzer Fountain but to us at the time it was a charming place we’d found accidentally.

Yesterday, I discovered something else I hadn’t known of before. As I meandered my way from the Upper East Side to Port Authority and turned west from York Avenue onto East 61st Street, I noticed a small “sandwich” sign advertising a museum shop. A museum? Here? I looked up, past the wrought iron fence and saw the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum.

With time to spare before my bus, I decided to find out more about the Mount Vernon Hotel. I walked up the steps and rang the bell. The docent on duty gave me a 45-minute historical perspective and tour of what had been a 1799 carriage house for a 23-acre estate originally owned by Colonel William Stephens Smith and his wife Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of John Adams.

In 1826, years after the manor house burned to the ground, the carriage house was converted into a hotel. Situated in the countryside, four miles from New York, it was a 19th century resort for New Yorkers who wanted to escape the crowded city below 14th Street. Today, concerts are held in the back garden, an oasis surrounded by tall buildings.

The Colonial Dames of America, a woman’s patriotic society, purchased the building in 1924. After extensive restoration to the structure, the Colonial Dames opened the site to the public in 1939. To find out much more about the Mount Vernon Hotel and Museum and Garden, visit www.mvhm.org.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hangin’ it out to dry



Dilapidated cars propped on blocks on grease-stained driveways? Messy yards? What is this neighborhood blight that they're talking about? According to some people, it's a clothesline. Don’t you know they’re so déclassé?

More and more you hear about homeowner associations and town ordinances stipulating “No Clotheslines!” I saw a woman on the news the other night who said she was going to file a complaint with her town because a neighbor had a clothesline in her backyard that you could view from the street if you craned your neck. Imagine!

I miss hanging my wash outdoors. Living in an apartment or a condo as I have for the past several years means having to forego the fresh-air smell of sheets that have dried in the breeze. True, that with fabric softeners today, towels are softer when they come out of the dryer, but it’s not a choice I’d make if I could.

Clotheslines are also a reminder to me of the days as a child when one of my first jobs was to help my mother by removing and folding the wash that hung in the backyard.

We actually had two parallel clotheslines. Sometimes my sister and I would drape a blanket or old sheet across the two of them and make ourselves a tent. We’d have our dolls there and pretend we were on a Conestoga wagon heading out west.

I am somewhat optimistic that clotheslines won’t disappear completely, however, when I am in the aisle of a supermarket and see them for sale along with bags of clothes pins. (Do children today know what clothes pins are for besides creating little characters with faces?)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nan


The calls were occasionally brief - often just an update on her medical condition. Other times we speculated about politics and cheered for our team. We shared opinions about books and movies. We reminisced about our childhood, the years growing up in Brooklyn. We spoke about our children and our grandchildren.

A simple phone call every day, touching base with a sister who knows and understands, a person who shares the same sense of humor. She was the brave one, fighting with all her might against the illnesses she endured for more than fifteen years.

Her daughter Carol told those gathered at the church service that her mother’s favorite movie was Harold and Maude, a story of a love between an 80-year-old woman and a young man. When Maude decides she’s lived long enough and Harold argues that she mustn’t go because he loves her too much, Maude says “That’s great, Harold. Now you must go and love some more.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What now, Pope Benedict?

I will be forever grateful for the Dominican Sisters at St. Vincent Ferrer and the Sisters of Mercy at Catherine McAuley High School in Brooklyn for educating me and giving me the incentive for life-long learning. So I became incensed this morning when I read U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny in today’s New York Times.

To me the investigation of women’s religious orders is another incident of a male-only clergy not only out-of-step with the times, but one that refuses to recognize the important history of women in the church. The old men of Rome and leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States not only continue their adamant stance against women priests, their new aggressive actions display more openly their fear of the role of women in the church. Underlying all this, I believe, is a historical distrust of women in general.

Below you will find three excerpts in today's article guaranteed to cause intense discussion, especially among those of us who were educated by these devout and dedicated women.

1) Nuns were the often-unsung workers who helped build the Roman Catholic Church in this country, planting schools and hospitals and keeping parishes humming. But for the last three decades, their numbers have been declining — to 60,000 today from 180,000 in 1965.

While some nuns say they are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities, many fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world.

2) The second investigation of nuns is a doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that claims 1,500 members from about 95 percent of women’s religious orders. This investigation was ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is headed by an American, Cardinal William Levada.

Cardinal Levada sent a letter to the Leadership Conference saying an investigation was warranted because it appeared that the organization had done little since it was warned eight years ago that it had failed to “promote” the church’s teachings on three issues: the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.

3) Besides these two investigations, another decree that affected some nuns was issued in March by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops said that Catholics should stop practicing Reiki, a healing therapy that is used in some Catholic hospitals and retreat centers, and which was enthusiastically adopted by many nuns. The bishops said Reiki is both unscientific and non-Christian.

Nuns practicing reiki and running church reform groups may have finally proved too much for the church’s male hierarchy, said Kenneth Briggs, the author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns,” (Doubleday Religion, 2006).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stoops




Our stoop was ordinary, just plain wood with four steps and a small platform at the top. Even when it was redone in brick, it could not measure up to the stoops of such Brooklyn brownstones as the one on President Street where my father grew up or the more elegant ones seen in a recent Museum of the City of New York exhibit, Stoops of Manhattan - Railing and Shadows, paintings by Andrew Berrien Jones.


I’d never thought about the origin of the word “stoop” until my recent visit to the Museum of the City of New York where I learned that “stoop” is derived from “stoep,” a Dutch word for a small porch, platform, or staircase leading to the entrance of a house or building. Settlers from the Netherlands brought stoops to the Hudson Valley of New York. “Stoop” is a common word in the Northeast and is gaining more popularity elsewhere.

The thirty paintings by Andrew Berrien Jones depict the intricate and beautiful details of iron railings and the shadows they cast. The railings on homes in lower Manhattan date from 1830-40. Viewing the paintings I had to wonder why the focus is only now. Artists and photographer have long been attracted to doorways, yet I cannot recall any earlier focus on the visual elements of city stoops. Streetscapes can project their own kind of beauty and I hope there will be more in the future.

My Flatbush stoop was the place where on warm days and early evenings my sister Nan and I would sit and say hello to our neighbors passing by. Since there was a bus stop in front of our house, the stoop was the spot to wait when our Aunt May was due to arrive. It was always exciting for us to see her step off the bus, carrying an Ebinger’s bakery box.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Unexpected Memory

If there hadn’t been an accident on Route 3 West, the bus from Port Authority would not have had to drive through Union City, New Jersey. And if I had been seated on the other side of the bus, I would not have looked out the window and seen the theatre. It looked so familiar. Suddenly a memory of attending the Passion Play burst into my mind. The marquee was somewhat dilapidated but above it, on the stone façade, there was a cross. Yes, now I was sure. I had been here many years ago when my high school class made the pilgrimage from Brooklyn to see the play about the last days of Christ.

Funny, isn’t it, how a series of unexpected circumstances can trigger a particular memory?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can go home again (for just a day)

Quiznos Subs has replaced Barron’s Books on Hillel Place and a huge Target store now casts a shadow on the street which ends at Brooklyn College. Changes in the neighborhood and on the campus itself, however, were downplayed yesterday as the Class of 1959 recalled its four years there. The reunion brought graduates from as far away as Israel and some who still lived in Brooklyn.

Our group of five relived some of our experiences as if they happened yesterday. We all agreed that we received a wonderful liberal arts education from some great teachers. John Hope Franklin was chairman of the History Department. Burgoyne Diller was a member of the Art Department faculty. Most notably, however, was Bernard Grebanier, professor emeritus in the English Department and a highly respected Shakespearean scholar. One of his books, The Other Love, still sits on my bookshelf with his personal inscription. (Pulling it from the shelf just now, I see I also saved his obituary which appeared in the New York Times in May 1977.) He was just one of the many professors who had a profound impact on students. As we poured over the yearbook, we critiqued them all, remembering, too, the idiosyncrasies of some who left us cold.

Our courses included a year of science, history, a course in speech, a foreign language, classical civilization, art history, English, philosophy, economics, mathematics, political science, sociology-anthropology, psychology, education, health and physical education. The cost? $14 registration fee a semester plus books. A year later when the college wanted a 100% increase in the fee, student protests erupted throughout Boylan Hall!

Brooklyn College accepted its freshman class not by SAT scores but by the high school grades of applicants. And, since generally girls had higher grades than boys, girls made up the major share of the class. That is, until the administration decided they should balance the population and decreased the grade level needed by boys.

We reminisced yesterday and laughed about life outside the classroom, too - the sorority meetings, our brother fraternity and the beer rackets. Among the stirred-up memories was the cafeteria dress code for girls. Bare midriffs, navel piercings, and baggy pants are such common sights today that it’s strange to imagine that back in the 1950s, girls were not allowed in the cafeteria in pants. This presented a problem for many, especially in the winter, according to my friend Paula, who traveled by bus from Bensonhurst. She said she’d often sneak in past the guard, hide her legs under the table and ask someone to get her something to eat.

Life has changed us all, of course, but yesterday we were sorority sisters once again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Melody Lingers On

Listening to WNEW while growing up, I often heard the DJs talk about the big bands of the era that played at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook Ballroom in New Jersey. I imagined the Meadowbrook Ballroom as being somewhere near Weehawken, close to New York City.

On my trips from Albany to Cedar Grove over the past five years as I drove past Sts. Kiril and Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church on Route 23 I never realized that it had once been the Meadowbrook Ballroom. Even after I learned that the church had a ballroom attached, called the Meadowbrook, I didn’t connect it with the headliners who played there in the 1930s and 1940s: Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Count Basie, the Dorsey Brothers, Harry James, Doris Day, Helen O’Connell, Woody Herman, and so many more.

Now I see that the Glenn Miller Band will perform a benefit concert for veterans on Memorial Day. The evening will include dinner and dancing. So once again the strains of “Moonlight Serenade” will fill the Meadowbrook Ballroom.

To see the Meadowbrook’s full roster of entertainers and photos, see http://cg.meadowbrook.googlepages.com/home

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Page

The Book Corner is a new blog I’ve just created that will focus on language, writing, books and their authors. Though Footnotes will continue as a blog about personal experiences, The Book Corner will be devoted to my love of reading and good writing. I hope you’ll join in the conversation at www.barbarasbookcorner.blogspot.com


Turtle Back Zoo, Scene Two

An incident at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, last week reminded me of a similar – but more scary one – that happened several years ago when I was eight months pregnant with my youngest child. My husband and I and our two young children were in the petting zoo where we’d gotten feed for the chickens, the llamas, the goats and the sheep. My son and daughter delighted in putting out their little hands spilling with food pellets for the animals. When I decided to do the same, however, three large llamas rushed toward me. Fearful of being jumped on or knocked to the ground, I threw the pellets into the air and fled.


Fast forward to the same petting zoo last week. Dante, a Belgian draft horse, walked over to the fence where I was standing with my granddaughter, Maeve. She stepped back, somewhat apprehensive. As I turned to reassure her, Dante startled me as he began nibbling on my sleeve. This time I laughed, as did Maeve.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

World Hunger Day

When you see a map of current swine flu victims, it’s an instant reminder of how one person somewhere distant can affect thousands around the world – for good or for ill. Today, April 29, is World Hunger Day.

A group called Bloggers Unite has asked bloggers to post a reminder to readers about the number of people around the world who do not have enough to eat. Here are some statistics:

Right now, more than 500 million people are living in "absolute poverty" and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.

• The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.

• Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

Organizations like Heifer International are the solution. Every day, Heifer International lifts people out of poverty by providing communities with livestock and agricultural training to improve lives and inspire hope. What can you do?

If you Google World Hunger Day, you’ll find several other sites that are devoted to lessening hunger in the world, opportunities to have a positive effect on an individual, a family, or a community here in America or in a distant place.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tradition Hops Along


This year, the role of the Easter Bunny at the Cedar Grove Public Library was played by my son-in-law Mike. The Cedar Grove Junior Women’s Club needed someone to act the part and Mike obliged. As I watched young children scramble to sit on his lap while their parents took photos, I realized that Mike was part of a family tradition.

Many years ago while I was the director of public relations at a New Jersey hospital, I was approached by a freelance PR person for a favor. She asked me if I would be willing to help her with an Easter project she was doing at the Shop Rite store in Manahawkin. She planned to set up table where children could dye Easter eggs and a table for arts and crafts. Sure, I said. The night before the event, she called to tell me that I should probably wear shorts so I wouldn’t be too warm. That was considerate, I thought.

The next morning when I arrived at the store, Francie handed me a costume and directed me where I should stand to greet customers. I’m the Easter Bunny? I thought I’d help children with their Easter eggs. “Oh no,” she said, “I thought you knew. And I have no one else right now to wear the costume.” Being a good sport, I donned the outfit, complete with a mini-fan in the headpiece to keep me cool.

I wondered, has it come to this?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Footnote to March 12th

In my previous comment I’d wondered how the Broadway critics would receive Mark Jacobs’ new play Impressionism. It opened last night following several weeks of previews. If you’re interested in the New York Times’ review, read Ben Brantley’s opinion in today’s edition. Or see John Simon’s review at the Bloomberg website. As I had predicted, these professional critics agreed that the play has its problems.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Please remain seated

It happened again yesterday: a standing ovation which I believe was undeserved. The play Impressionism is still in its preview phase so there’s been no critical appraisal yet. Perhaps the New York theatre critics will agree with yesterday’s audience and give the highest praise to the playwright Michael Jacobs and to the actors, especially Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen. In my opinion, however, the standing ovation was undeserved.

I’m not the first to notice the prevalence of standing ovations. It’s been a growing trend over the past few years. Given too freely, they diminish the standards of the work and of the performances. They also diminish the audience who show they will reward a mediocre or even a very good performance with highest praise.

Where’s the discrimination? Though I recognize tastes differ and it’s difficult to quantify a performance, it stands to reason that just because a play has ended is no reason for a standing ovation. Or because well known actors head the cast. Usually, one or two people rise in the front section of the orchestra. Then a few more, until finally the entire audience is on its feet.

I think the best standing ovations are those that arise spontaneously, when the whole audience shows its unified agreement with an immediate outburst of applause.An example is the current August: Osage County. The audience roared its approval and deservedly so.

I wonder if you remember the last time you stood up to applaud an exceptional performance.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Twitter? Facebook? Instant Messaging?

What’s it all about, Alfie? I’m comfortable with e-mail, thank you very much, and don’t feel the need to expand my communications outlets. Nevertheless, as anyone knows who’s mistakenly sent an e-mail message to the wrong person, e-mail does have its drawbacks. (Like the time I accidentally confided a delicate diagnosis from my doctor to a “boy” who’d been in my elementary school class!)

Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Abcarian in an article this week relates how some fired employees are using email message to take parting shots at their employers. “The farewell e-mail suddenly has become commonplace, a new art form in the electronic age. Yet like so many aspects of the Internet era – how to unfriend on Facebook, how much to reveal on a personal blog – the technology has gotten ahead of the etiquette. There are no rules.”

Remember letters? The kind the mailman brings to your door? This week, I received a letter from an old friend, following a luncheon that she and I had with two other friends from college. It had been a few decades since we’d last met, so the time was enjoyed reminiscing, updating, and showing pictures, of course, of our grandchildren.

What a delight it was to receive a few days later a letter, an actual letter with a stamp and a signature, as a follow-up to the luncheon. Mailed letters are rare these days, so it was quite nice to receive one. I’m one of those people who save letters. When I moved last summer I brought with me a box of letters I’d received over the years from my parents, my Aunt May, my daughter, my sons, even a couple of old love letters. Letters keep. E-mail messages – unless you save them to a special folder – can be deleted by the stroke of a finger.

Another factor may soon affect the decline of letter writing. The U.S. Postal Service is planning to cut mail delivery to five days a week. I remember the days when the mailman came to our front door twice a day. Yes, until 1950, mail was delivered in the morning and in the afternoon. (For a perspective on the U.S.P.S., click on the article in The Oregonian on February 5th by Susan Nielsen.
Of course, we don’t want to go back to the “old days.”

Instant communication has its advantages. Yet there are many times when the need calls for a longer, more personal message, one that can only be put in an envelope and dropped in the mailbox.




Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ah, Technology! It’s Music to my Ears….

This blogger thing has taken on a whole new dimension! I just discovered how to add some of my favorite music. I plan to change it every so often, but for now, here’s “Cousin” Frankie, Madeleine Peyroux, Stacey Kent, Count Basie, Ella, and Ray Charles. Check out the sidebar on the right and enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

“At Last”

Beyonce was wonderful on Tuesday night, serenading President and Mrs. Obama as they danced to “At Last.” This beautiful song is from the era defined as the Great American Songbook. (Of all the songs performed at the various Inaugural Balls, it’s probably the only one whose words I knew.)

In today’s New York Times, Jon Pareles has written about the song and how its title may be interpreted in several ways. To me, however, “At Last,” written in 1941, will always remind me of the days of WNEW in New York City. The station first went on the air in 1934 and was “the standard bearer for the best in classic American music.”

WNEW was my station (“1130 on your AM dial”) and I cannot overestimate its impact on me and so many others. Here was Sinatra and Ella and Ellington and Miller and Basie and Steve and Edie and Tony and Nat “King” Cole and every great band and singer of the time. Even when Elvis entered the scene, I remained loyal to the music played by William B. Williams, Ted Brown, Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins and others.

An era ended in 1992 when WNEW became an all-business-all news station. It was resurrected when it moved to 1560 AM, WQEW, but it just wasn’t the same.

So when I hear “At Last,” it takes me back to my WNEW days “where the melody lingers on.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day
Hail to our new chief, President Barack Obama. For the past two years we've admired his intelligence, grace, strength and determination.
May God bless him and give him and his leadership team the wisdom and compassion to lead America ahead, undaunted by its immense challenges.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Now that I live just 30 minutes away from “the city,” I plan on taking advantage of the events, sights and highlights that weren’t as easy to access when I lived near Albany. Noted authors at the Barnes and Noble at Union Square? I’ll be there. The Brooklyn Museum? It’s next on my list, not only for the art work, but also as an opportunity to go back to the borough where I lived for nearly 30 years.

On January 2nd, when I arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was to meet my son John. Each year, he celebrates his birthday by going to a museum or another interesting place in New York. I had no idea, however, that thousands of others would also decide that John’s birthday was the perfect day for the Met.

Though I grumbled about the hordes at the entrance, at the lines for the coat check and at the admission booths, the crowds soon were dispersed through the Met’s many galleries. However, I’ve promised myself that I won’t go there again on New Year’s Day weekend.

A few months ago I visited the Museum of the City of New York for the first time. The first time, despite having lived in Brooklyn until my mid-twenties. Despite its location several blocks north of the Met. Despite my stated love of the city. I’m remiss, too, in not any recent visit to the New York Historical Society. Could my last visit have been when I was in college?

The Guggenheim and MOMA are due for another visit, but I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do. So, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

A few people have told me they find posting comments on this blog too cumbersome. So, you may want to email me with your ideas: barbara1037@gmail.com.