Thursday, September 27, 2007


Don’t you just love the way little children take everything on face value? It’s either, “Hi, there...I like you” or it’s “you’re not my type and I’ll find someone else”. There doesn’t seem to be much in between those two ends...whereas we grownups have to make all sorts of inquiries and judgment calls before we let down our defenses and take on a new friend.

This was very clear one night recently when my 3 yr old Great Grandson Tristan (in the orange shirt) met my friend Leslie’s Grandson Charlie for the first time. There was an immediate rapport between the two little guys and they spent a good hour mimicking each other’s moves and facial expressions.

Leslie and I and their mothers had met at our local Burger King. Not a gourmet meal, that’s for sure, but the ambiance was perfect. They had the jungle gym to play on and a “Kid’s Meal” complete with a little stuffed tiger.

I couldn’t believe the energy that both boys displayed. It’s been many a year since I had children of my own that age and I could barely keep up. But it was a treat just to watch their antics. They seemed to play off each other and whenever one or the other would take on something new the other one would copy it to a “T”.

I hope this is the first of many times that Tristan and Charlie will get together. The expression “two peas in a pod” comes to mind and I was touched by the way that they took such joy in each other.

As I watched them at play I was overawed by their innocence. Their young minds were not clogged with racism, prejudice or hatred...all the things that they will hear about soon enough from this cynical world. I wished they could stay 3 years old forever, but then I realized that was just a dream.

They will grow older day by day and it will be up to us, their families, to offset the negative lessons of the world. A huge order, that’s for sure, but not impossible...and just imagine the kinder, simpler world that it could produce !

Saturday, September 22, 2007

1954 Joseph McCarthy on TV….the Communism scare

In 1953 I transferred from Upsala College in New Jersey to Boston University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Communications. I lived at home during this time and commuted to school by train.

That was a very special time for me. All my siblings (4 older sisters) had left the nest and I had come back to roost for a bit. We lived in a large 13 room, Victorian house and my parents gave me the third floor to make over into an very own private quarters.

I used to hibernate in my special place and read or write to my heart’s content. But I also reveled in the fact that I could have my Mother and Dad’s undivided attention and we spent many hours discussing all sorts of things...not least of them being the politics of the day. It was the time of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his intense anti-Communism tactics.

My folks and I would listen in dismay to his free-wheeling accusations and we couldn’t believe that he was given so much latitude. People at every level of society were being persecuted by him and his cronies.

In the Spring of 1954 the Army-McCarthy hearings were televised from the Senate Caucus Room. It was the first time that anything of this sort had been brought before the public and I would rush home from school every day to listen to and watch the proceedings. It was a ridiculous trial concerning G. David Schine, a consultant on McCarthy’s staff, who was drafted into the army. Roy Cohn, Chief Counsel for McCarthy, claimed that the army was holding Schine “hostage” to deter the committee from exposing communists within the military ranks.

The 36 days of televised hearings were ludicrous and just one of the many ways that Joseph McCarthy played havoc with the lives of so many innocent people. I remember that time very clearly and how relieved I was when it seemed to come to an end.

It is with dismay that I see some of those same scare tactics being used today. “McCarthyism” is defined as “the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence”.
Sounds a little close to home, doesn’t it?

Monday, September 17, 2007

An ANGEL blew into our lives, in the wake of KATRINA

It was the first Tuesday in September, 2005, and I was running late for my regular noontime AA meeting. The usual gang was there when I arrived but I noticed a newcomer among their midst. She was tall, slim and attractive…and I would have guessed her age to be in the late 50’s.

A first AA meeting in a strange place can be a bit intimidating, but I saw that this new woman was very much at ease. I also noticed that she was sharing some photos and I was shocked when I saw them. They showed the devastation of a house in complete ruins, and I realized that she had been a victim of the horrendous Katrina Hurricane.

She had literally lost everything and had called a friend who lives in Pinehurst and asked if she could bunk in with her for a bit. Of course her friend agreed and also assured her that we had a good AA community here in Moore County.

From the first minute that we all met we were amazed at her positive attitude and her thankfulness at being a survivor. She never complained and, within a few weeks, was able to find a place to live. She fit right into the AA way of life and attended three meetings a week faithfully.

Before long she decided to do some volunteering and became a valuable member of the Red Cross organization in town. She even spoke to local groups...reliving her Katrina experience for their edification and helping to raise money for those remaining victims.

Her cheerful and humble persona was a great addition to our AA meetings and our lives were enriched by her presence. It never occurred to us that this wouldn’t continue for years ... and then the unthinkable happened. Her cancer, which none of us knew she had, came out of remission.

The first half of her second year was spent with radiation and chemotherapy treatments and she became bald as a cue ball. She still attended her 3 meetings per week however, and never once complained. Our little day to day misfortunes seemed to fade away in comparison as we watched her bravely face each hurdle.

Then, miraculously, she revived and her beautiful hair grew back, soft as silk and a lovely dark brown. She was our brave and beautiful AA Angel and even had the strength to attend her daughter’s graduation from College and to chair meetings.

Then…with brutal force the cancer attacked again. She became extremely fatigued and short of breath, but she insisted on making her meetings and, barely 24 hours after her last meeting, she quietly passed away. She had literally blown in to our lives and she taught us acceptance, humility and an abiding love. Those of us who were lucky enough to have known her will be forever blessed.

We will never forget you, Louise.

Friday, September 14, 2007

AIR TRAVEL…….in the 50’s and now

In 1957 I was living in New York City and one of my favorite pastimes was to people-watch at LaGuardia airport. In those days it was a luxury to travel by plane and the customers dressed accordingly. It was not uncommon to see a known personality, dressed to the nines and accompanied by 6 or 7 peons carrying elaborate luggage and all varieties of pets, on leashes and in cages. I would spend hours mesmerized by the glamorous scene.

Another aspect of that time was that you didn’t have to be the traveler to get up close to the take-off area. A viewer, like myself in the photo, could pretend to be waiting for someone and would have a front-row seat in the terminal. My romantic, 22 year old, imagination would take over and I would be the one departing or arriving. Ah, youth...tragedy and elation rolled into one long afternoon.

Fast forward to today. The airport is still one of my favorite people-watching places but humanity itself has changed drastically. I actually prefer it now because it represents real life as opposed to the Hollywood version of my youth. I love the variety of skin colors, the ethnic outfits and the languages that I don’t understand. I especially enjoy seeing young people travel but so many of them have the air of world-weary travelers. I want to shake them and say, “forget being so cool...cherish the moment.”

The new airport regulations have made it a little more inconvenient to travel by plane but it is well worth it for the sake of security. The one area that annoys me, however, is the inconsistency between scheduled flight times and the actual times of departure and arrival. I have spent many a harrowing moment wondering if I would make my connections.

I will never forget a ticketed flight that I had from Florence, Italy to Munich, Germany and then on to the United States. On arrival at the airport…at 5:30 AM… we were told that they were repaving the Florence airport and that our flight was cancelled! (Only in Italy could they pull this off...with many hand gestures and expressions of sympathy and assurances that our plane would wait for us in Munich! HAH !!)

Then there was the time that I was stuck…on the plane…for over 7 hours in Dallas. It was February and an ice storm was creating havoc. Our pilot was fit to be tied because we were a small plane filled with vacationers and the tower kept bumping us for the larger commercial flights. He finally spoke over the intercom and told us to feel free to write to the airline with our complaints. He even gave us his name to include in our letter.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: I will continue to travel by plane as long as I am able. With all it’s flaws and inconveniences it still gets me to magical places.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My type of B&B……BLUEBERRY HILL FARM,* Maine

In August of 2002 I treated myself to 3 days in this lovely B&B near Damariscotta Lake in Maine. From the moment I turned into their driveway I felt like I was in a Grandma Moses tableau. The small farmhouse, circa 1780, connected to a large addition which, in turn, connected to a barn complex. It is architecturally pleasing to the eye and greatly expands the living quarters.

My host and hostess, Ellis and Jo-Ann, are a hard-working couple who devote many hours (besides the B& B) to their organic gardens & to their other business… processing and packaging specialty foods under the label “Spruce Bush Farm”. I became intrigued with Dilly Beans and Pickled Fiddleheads...just two of their many products that I planned to take home as gifts.

My little room was in the original farmhouse section and adjacent to a lovely living room/library filled with antiques and books. One of these books was especially intriguing. In it were testimonials and letters stating sightings of a ghost on the property.

When I mentioned this to Ellis he told me of his own personal experience concerning the ghost. He was in the kitchen with his brother who suddenly remarked , “Who is that lady? I didn’t think you had any guests now”. When questioned further his brother described seeing a lady, dressed exactly as she would have been in the 18th century, walking across the living room of the old section of the house.

Since I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of ghosts, rather than being scared by it, and since this area was right outside of my bedroom, I tried hard to conger up a sighting during my three day stay, but to no avail. The bed was very comfortable and I guess the ghost knew I needed the sleep !

Every morning I woke to the smell of fresh baking. Jo-Ann would add Maine’s famous wild blueberries to her “baked-from-scratch” scones or scramble up some farm fresh eggs. It was the perfect way to start my day.

Those three days passed too quickly but I will always remember my “Grandma Moses” sojourn and perhaps I’ll get back there one day. I hope so.

*(Ellis and Jo-Ann are members of the Maine Farm Vacation B&B Association. This is not an advertisement for their place but an honest testimonial of my stay. It was picturesque, very clean and extremely affordable.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Some of you may remember that I spent a week recently in the hills of North Carolina trying to learn the basics of playing the dulcimer. It was a wonderful experience and opened wide a new area of interest for me. I really hated to say goodbye when the week was over.

My friends Bonnie and Wendy felt the same way and we were thrilled to find that one of the instructors, Sarah, wanted to retain our friendship also. This led to our making plans to meet for a weekend at her country home between Boone and Blowing Rock.

Since Sarah is a dulcimer instructor we all went home and faithfully practiced on our instruments. We couldn’t wait to get to her house to show off and to learn some new techniques. We arrived on Saturday the 25th of August.

The name of Sarah’s retreat is “Watersmeet”. It is a renovated cabin bordered on two sides by a rippling stream. There are outside decks, a front porch and an enclosed side porch. The juxtaposition of the modern facilities and the old-world charm is perfect. I felt like I could snuggle up and just “be” … a feeling that is hard to come by in this busy life.

Although the four of us thoroughly enjoyed our “plunking” and getting to know each other better, the highlight of the weekend was on Sunday. Sarah yearly hosts a pot-luck afternoon for the patrons of the “Mountain Music Concert Series” and by three o’clock the house was overflowing with entertainers, patrons and more food than the table could hold.

The music was as varied as the looks of the entertainers…from the 3 very young girls playing fiddles, to the banjos and guitars, to Sarah on her dulcimer and even to a guy playing the “jew’s harp”.

I sat back and felt the world fade away as I listened. I was swept along on the wings of fellowship and music and I realized that this would be a memory that I would keep forever… a treasure to be brought out when needed.

Thank you, Sarah.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Compassionate Pumpkin

When an early Spring heat wave is followed by a severe frost it wreaks havoc on our fruit trees. My son, for instance, has over 40 blueberry bushes. They have been great producers and he always has more than he can possibly use. This year, however, he didn’t have enough to fill a quart jar.

So, it was not a complete surprise when I was visiting near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, recently to see a stand of apple trees that were devoid of fruit. The frost had attacked them also. The owner said that these 4 or 5 trees had produced a few wrinkled and sour apples but nothing worth eating or putting into a pie.

The strange thing, however, was what did manage to survive. He had used a mixture of compost and loam around the trees in hopes of buffering the effects of the freeze. This didn’t seem to work but, much to the surprise of he and his wife, a healthy and robust vine started to grow at the base of one of the apple trees.

It was a pumpkin vine…the tendrils wrapping around the trunk and moving protectively up into the branches. It was almost as if the vine was saying: “I’ll be your fruit for this season”...and, sure enough, as the owners continued to watch in amazement, a seedling appeared far up in the crook of the tree limbs.

Nothing could stop the progress of this hardy little guy and it wasn’t long before the seedling took on shape and color. IT WAS A PUMPKIN...proudly on display in the tree. And there it is now...growing larger and happier with each passing day...the compassionate pumpkin who couldn’t bear to leave the apple tree fruitless.