Friday, September 29, 2006

Remember these guys? “BOB & RAY”, 1949

The comedy team of “Bob & Ray” was catching on like wildfire in 1949, the year that I was a Junior in Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. Their wacky radio show, “Matinee with Bob & Ray” aired on WHDH, Boston, and I couldn’t wait for the daily 15 minute segments to begin.

Their format was typically to satirize radio and TV (which was just emerging) with off-the-wall dialogue, usually presented in a deadpan style. For instance, their review of the radio show, “Mary Noble, Backstage Wife” would include an interview with Mary Backstayge, the noble wife. Corny? Yes, but very effective when done in their style.

Another spoof was their game show entitled, “The 64 Cent Question” and my favorite segment, the cowboy singer who did rope tricks on the radio. Bob was usually the interviewer and Ray would take on different accents and voice tones. He had a wonderfully flat tone that he used for all his female characters, especially Mary McGoon, a home economics advisor who shared her bizarre recipes with the audience.

By 1949 they had been airing the show for three years and, although their popularity was growing, they hired the Ad Agency that my Dad worked for to promote it even further. Dad made plans to attend a live broadcast and he took me with him. It was my first time to watch the inner workings of a radio show and it was fascinating to see the technical end of the business...especially the sound effects.

I guess the closest thing that we have to that show today would be the car guys on National Public Radio’s “Car Talk”. Although they are supposed to be giving advice on automobile upkeep, Tom and Ray Magliozzi veer off to a variety of subjects, all presented in a “tongue-in-cheek” style with lots of laughs.

They are more commonly referred to as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers and isn’t it interesting that they originate from Boston, too. Must be something quirky in the water !

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1963...The DR’s ORDERS we should have ignored

Retrospect is defined as “contemplation of things past.” How easy it is to do that & to see where life’s journey COULD have gone, instead of where it actually WENT.

In 1963 our family moved to upstate New York from the city. We needed a family doctor...primarily for Dick who was a Type 1, very brittle, diabetic. Endocrinologists were unknown then and we settled on a sweet and kindly country doctor.

Our “getting-to-know-each-other” visit went well and, in all good faith, he gave us two recommendations that he felt would ease our lives. #1 was addressed to me. He said that diabetics react adversely to stress and that I could make Dick’s life much easier if I were to always keep a calm house-hold and try not to argue or do anything that would upset him.

#2 was in answer to his question about our lifestyle. Did we smoke or drink? “No” to the smoking and “yes” to the drinking, but only on weekends or when we were out socializing. His advice was to either quit drinking or to have just one drink a day. He felt that keeping the same daily pattern would help in regulating Dick’s insulin intake.

We took his advice to heart. “Not drinking” was never an option since we’d never had a problem with it. So, now we were daily drinkers and our house-hold was as calm as I could possibly make it with three small children and a brand new Real Estate business that we were trying to make work.

I guess you can see where I’m heading with this. I was convinced that I could never express my feelings for fear that it would “upset the apple cart” and, as the years passed I regressed further and further into myself. We were like many couples who find themselves not side by side, sharing a household but little else.

The children were a great diversion and we kept our energies concentrated on them. We never lost our love for each other or for the family unit but I found myself relying more and more on our nightly “one drink” ritual. The progression had started. The handwriting was on the wall but it would be 25 years before I was able to read it.

Monday, September 25, 2006


My husband, 3 children and I were living on West 94th St. in NY City in 1962. This was a reputable address … until you turned the corner. In 1965 I wrote the following article for a Writer’s Workshop. The assignment was: “Portrait of a Neighborhood.” I think you will see why we decided to move to the country.

* * * *

To me, “off-Broadway” is not a theater production but a massive, out-dated hotel for transients on New York City’s upper West side. Hanging from the marquee is a grimy cloth banner that proclaims this to be “THE WHITEHALL”.

All shades of humanity pass through the filth-infested hallways of this building just four doors from the respectability of West End Avenue. A handful of World War II vets wheel their chairs to the pavement. They sit deceptively still in the sunlight. Then a pedestrian walks by and they spiel off obscenities from mouths twisted with hatred.

A maroon convertible purrs to a stop in front of the hotel. Five girls and the driver, a handsome black man, pile out of the car and stand around cracking jokes with the men. “Big Boy, you sure can peddle them white gals”, says one of them.

A police siren pierces the air and, as if by osmosis, the group fades silently into the building and the street is deserted. Only the men remain, their faces closed as they watch the squad car approach. The police rush into the building and the men place bets on who they’ll pick up this time. They all lose.

It’s just a family quarrel and the police are still breaking it up as they drag the couple to the squad car. The man holds his arm, blood seeping through the dirty towel that he’s twisted around it. “She used a bottle on him”, say the men, knowingly.

And so it goes at THE WHITEHALL, the transient hotel where only vice and corruption find a permanent home.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

RITA, the “FEMALE NOMAD” and I meet, 2003

In 2001 “Tales of a Female Nomad” was published. It was not an overnight success but it has gained in momentum over the years and I, for one, could not put it down. Basically it is the story of Rita Golden Gelman (author of over 70 children’s books, including the popular “More Spaghetti, I Say!”) who left a failing marriage in 1985 and began an adventure that continues to this day.

She struck out on her own and this is the story of her journey. She travels to Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, Bali and New Zealand for starters. She has little money but she has a gift for connecting with people and this stands her in good stead all over the world. The reader is privileged to be part of her transformation from an unfulfilled suburbanite to a liberal and self-assured woman of the world.

Rita has no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. But she does have a website and an active following who e-mail her faithfully. She keeps us abreast of her doings and I was thrilled to read, in 2003, that she would be spending the month of September as the guest of the Omega Institute in Dutchess County, NY. I knew that she would be giving lectures and readings for the staff but had no idea if I could be included, as a non-paying outsider. My daughter and son-in-law have a business in that County and we were all anxious to meet her.

I e-mailed Rita and she wrote back to say that the lectures were closed but that we could certainly meet for lunch. And that’s what we did. My children, a friend and I spent 3 hours over a leisurely lunch and I came away with a feeling of awe and respect for her. She is totally dedicated to “living at large in the world” and her inspirational journey is a testament to the fact that we can all live together in peace. I would recommend this book for anyone who admires those who truly live life to the fullest.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

1961.….We become a FAMILY of FIVE

My husband and I wasted no time in building our little “empire”. By the end of 1981 we were a family of 5...the two of us, two boys and a little girl born on Oct. 3rd. We were still in New York but in a much larger apartment on the West side near 94th St.

All three pregnancies were completely different. Number one was Mark, right on the figured date & with 12 hours of labor...a pretty normal birth. Number two was Matthew and he decided to make his appearance early. I complained of a stomach ache 3 weeks prior to his due date and when we called the Dr. he advised me to get to the hospital immediately.

This turned into a real fiasco. By the time we hailed a cab I was almost bent over with the pain of contractions and knew that the baby could be born any minute. That was one unhappy cab driver. He kept shouting, “I dunno know nuttin’ about birthin’ no babies” as he sped his way across town. As soon as we screeched to a stop I was put in a wheel chair and whipped up to the operating room. No time to get prepped, no medication...just one last push and out popped Matt.

Our little girl’s birth was a very different story. She gave me no cause for alarm for the first 7 months, but, at about 32 weeks I started to bleed and was put in the hospital for observation. The 2nd day I was there I felt a warm gush and I thought my water had broken. When the nurse checked me she gave a gasp and ran for the doctor on call.

I was having a placenta previa birth. That is where the placenta is “born” before the baby and leaves the unborn baby with nothing to feed on. In 1961 it was almost always fatal unless you were in the hospital.

Everything happened so fast then that it becomes a blur in my mind, but I do remember my husband saying “keep your chin up” and then promptly passing out. For a minute the crew didn’t know if they should take care of Dick or me...but they left him there on the floor and proceeded to rush me to the operating room where they performed a caesarian and our little Jody was born. She weighed less than 5 lbs. and had to stay in the hospital for 10 days, but she and I were lucky to be alive and it made our family unit even stronger.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My License Plate…………FRNDOFBW

When I notice a person who is not drinking at a party, or perhaps they say something that rings a bell with me, I ask, “Are you, by any chance, a ‘Friend of Bill W’ ?”

Bill Wilson was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and that is the universal phrase that we use in AA to identify ourselves to fellow members. My license plate, “FRNDOFBW” is a shortened version and I’ve had many interesting encounters with people who have understood what it means.

Of course I get the usual horn honks and lots of upraised thumbs but I’ve also had a few unforgettable adventures. One of those was when I was on Long Island. I was in a tremendous bottleneck and totally lost. Traffic was moving very slowly and I noticed a big white truck that had been behind me had edged up to be parallel with my car. The driver motioned for me to roll down my window and when I did he proceeded to tell me that he was in the program and how it had changed his life. When he foundout that I was lost he said, “Just get behind me and keep following. I will take you to your destination.” And he did !

Another adventure of note was when I was at a Stop sign waiting for a large vehicle on the main road to turn into the street I was on. I felt like it didn’t have enough maneuvering room so (without looking in my rear view mirror) I backed up. BAM ! I’d hit something and when I got out to look I was aghast to see that it was a Sheriff’s car. You can imagine how I felt!

The Sheriff’s deputy turned out to be a really nice guy. He had seen that I was trying to give the other driver a little more room, and, since there was no noticeable damage, he didn’t charge me with anything. “Just be sure to look in your mirror next time”, he said.

I was getting back in to my car when he added, “By the way I’m curious. What does your license plate mean?” When I told him he said that he was a great fan of AA. “I’ve seen many of the driver’s that I’ve stopped turn their lives around with the aid of that organization,” he said.

Then he proceeded to chuckle and he asked me if I’d been aware of what I hit when I backed into his car? I guess I looked bewildered because he pointed to the front grille and to the sign that was affixed to it. The placard read, “BOOZE IT & LOSE IT” . Ironically it was a little bent from the impact of my car but nothing else was damaged.

“Now you’ll have a good story to tell the next time that you go to one of those meetings”, said the deputy and I agreed. I’ve told it often and it never fails to get a big laugh.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

NORMAN ROCKWELL …an American Treasure

No one of my age can forget the covers of “Life” magazine that were so lovingly illustrated by Norman Rockwell from the years of 1916 through 1942. There were over 321 of them.

Last month I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in his home town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts and what a treat it was to see the originals. I experienced a gamut of emotions as I studied his paintings...a feeling of pride for “The Four Freedoms”, a chuckle or two at his wry humor and a loud guffaw at the many faces depicting the cover, “The Gossip”.

The picture above is a self portrait of the artist faced with the dilemma of a deadline and no idea what to paint. As Rockwell himself explained, “It was in agony of soul that this cover was done.”

The other picture is the April 24th, 1926 cover. The poor little dog is being ignored by his master and seems very sad about the whole affair. Just another of his paintings that will tug at your heartstrings.

Rockwell started his career at the age of 18 when he became art editor of “Boy’s Life”, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. When he was 22 one of his paintings appeared on the cover of “The Saturday Evening Post” and his career was launched.

There are those who will argue that Norman Rockwell paintings are not “great art” but I contend that his popularity is well deserved. He was a painter for and of the commonplace and his works could be seen across America in books, advertisements, calendars and on the covers of popular magazines such as the “Post”, “Look”, and “Ladies’ Home Journal”.

He loved the ordinary people and he was very concerned with the big issues of his day, such as racism, poverty and social injustice and he put his paint brush where his interests lay. The Norman Rockwell lifestyle may be gone but his paintings will be with us forever.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Yes, 1959 certainly was a year of beginnings and not least of these was the birth of our first child. It was a sultry, hot July in New York City and Dick and I spent the last few days of my pregnancy at the movies. I don’t have any idea what we saw…I just know that it was the only place with air conditioning!

Mark was almost a 4th of July baby but we had our celebration early when he made his appearance on the 3rd. He was an excellent baby and one of my favorite memories was when he was just 3 weeks old. We’d brought him with us to our favorite Italian restaurant in the Village. The bar was up front and the dining room and indoor Bocci court were in the back. Most of the men at the bar knew us and they insisted on keeping “lil Marco” with them while we ate our dinner. He was passed from one old guy to the next in typical Italian style and I don’t think he ever had so much attention again.

Near the end of the year we made a trip to Brattleboro, Vt. where we visited his great-grandma…my Grandma Prentiss. She was a very spry 93 year old and you can see how thrilled she was to be holding the latest of a long line of great grandchildren.

Grandma was an amazing woman. She was a rugged New-Englander who never complained. Her avocation was photography…and since that was Dick’s profession they had a lot to talk about. In her day she used glass plates and Dick marveled at the quality of her photos.

She took this picture of me in 1933 when I was just about the same age as Mark and when I see the two pictures together we could almost be twins. Grandma also took this picture of her two daughters in 1896! That’s my Mother on the left with her sister Helen.

I was so glad that we made the trip to Vermont. It was our last time to see Grandma…she died as she had lived…quietly and without a fuss.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A RABBIT’s TALE….stranger than fiction.

In August of 2004 I was in Duke Hospital undergoing the removal of a brain tumor. It was benign, but, because of the location, it was imperative that I have the operation or take the chance of losing my hearing.

I was very positive about the outcome but I was advised to make all the arrangements anyway in case I didn’t make it. My wishes were simple, a memorial service and the reading of part of “Watership Down”. This is a remarkable tale about a group of rabbits and their quest for life. The main character lives to a ripe old age and the final pages tell of his death.

“He woke to realize that there was a rabbit lying quietly beside him and that his ears were shining with a faint silver light…. ‘If you’re ready, we might go along now’ said the stranger. They went out…where the sun was shining and it seemed to him that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch…strength and speed flowing out of him and into the sleek young bodies of his rabbits.

‘You needn’t worry about them’, said his companion and …together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.”

Now the interesting thing is that my best friend Bonnie was the only person who knew of my desire to have this read so it was a great surprise when my daughter told me this:

“After you were taken to the operating room we all settled in for a 5 hour wait. At one point Brian and I went outside for a breath of air and found ourselves in a large area that was being remodeled. It was a type of courtyard with walls on all four sides and no greenery because of the construction. We sat on some cement blocks and drank our coffee.

All of a sudden we were amazed to see a small rabbit come hopping across the tarmac and, although it looked completely out of place, it was not in the least bit shy. It seemed to study us for a few seconds and then it hopped off. ‘How strange is that?’, we said to each other.”

Strange indeed…..stranger than fiction?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Who is brave enough to “BELL THE CAT” ?

To “Bell the Cat”, meaning to perform a dangerous or difficult task. It is taken metaphorically from the Aesop fable about a mouse who proposes to put a bell on a cat, so as to be able to hear the cat coming. A wise idea but who will be brave enough to do the act?

I heard this phrase today on the BBC. The discussion was about the ever mounting concern to have the Prime Minister Tony Blair step down. The interviewer was listing some of Mr. Blair’s most egregious decisions and the man being interviewed broke in to say, “It’s too late to ‘Bell the Cat’ now”.I thought that was wonderful.

Just think of the implications on our political scene, for example. If we were brave enough as a nation we could insist that our elected servants wear a metaphorical “bell”. We would be able to check their motives & decisions before we were blindsided by them. We would listen for the tinkle of the bell and be forewarned.

Our government gives lip service to free speech, while it demotes and punishes those of us who disagree with their policies. A person who hates war, as I do, and particularly this fiasco in Iraq is labeled as “un-American” and not supporting our troops. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s all “Bell the Cat” and make our politicians stand up for the values on which they are elected.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


In 1959 my husband was launching his free lance photography business. We lived in New York City and we gave and attended many a cocktail party. This was our intro duction to the strange world of business and we were led to believe that you had to be part of the “scene” if you wanted to succeed.

What a sham those evenings were. The people attending the parties were much more interested in being seen than in actually talking about business…or anything of import, for that matter. It was seldom that anyone looked you in the eye. They would talk to you but their eyes were constantly scanning the room, always in search of that one person who was going to enhance their career.

Dick and I soon learned that the best way to survive those events was with a sense of humor. This came to the fore one Spring evening when we were at a posh, and very large, cocktail party on Central Park West. There were many would-be actors and actresses there and the competition for attention was high. It became apparent that no one was actually listening to anything that Dick or I had to say.

I was pregnant at the time and I was trying to spark up the conversation so I told one of the starlets that I was a little bit concerned about the upcoming birth because so many of the children in my immediate family had been born with six digits on each foot. Without batting an eye Dick chimed in with “but we’re not really worried, since most of the children on my side of the family have had just four toes on each foot, so it should even out.”

It was all that Dick and I could do to keep a straight face, but it didn’t really matter. The would-be actress wasn’t listening anyway. She dismissed us with a wave of her hand and melted into the crowd.

Ah, yes…the cocktail party…an American institution.

Monday, September 11, 2006

BAVAGNA, ITALY….Sept. 11th, 2001

It was in this lovely piazza in the small town of Bavagna, Italy that I heard of the horrendous events of 9/11. My traveling companion, Douglas, and I watched with disbelief as the second plane hit the Twin Towers. We were unable to reach any of our family members in the States and I have never had such a feeling of total uselessness and loss.

Now it is 5 years later and I still have that helpless feeling. My heart is heavy and I can’t imagine how it must be for the victims and their families. I also mourn the loss of my good friend, Douglas, who passed away in April of 2005. He will forever be part of my memories of 9/11.

My words are inadequate…but I pay tribute to them all.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

DIABETES rears it’s ugly head……..1959

My husband was a “type A” personality and seemed to have endless energy. He was a free lance commercial photographer and most of his clients were located in the New York City area where we lived. This made it easy for him to service them and he kept very busy.

Our first hint that something could be terribly wrong came in late December of 1958. We had been married just 4 months. Dick complained of bad blisters on both feet and chalked it up to being on his feet all day for his last photography job. However, the blisters became infected and the Dr. put him to bed, heavily medicated and with his legs elevated. He was still in bed on New Year’s Eve and we drank a toast to 1959 with the hope that he would get better.

He did seem to improve and we soon forgot our worries. In July our first child was born and it seemed natural that we both complained of being exhausted. It was at that time that Dick figured it would be a good idea to get some life insurance and he was sent to get a complete physical. No wonder he was tired…his blood sugar was over 500.

Our lives were changed forever. Dick was diagnosed as a Type 1 (Juvenile) diabetic and we spent the next 31 years coping with the disease. Thank goodness that insulin had been discovered in 1921 because it was the only hope for his type of diabetes. The big problem was that he was extremely “brittle” and it was very difficult to keep him stable.

We took a hard look at our situation and decided that our NY City days were over, as was the photography, which had entailed many trips carrying lights and camera bags. It didn’t happen overnight but by 1962 we had left the city behind and were starting over in a small upstate town in New York.

The one moment of levity, in the midst of all this, came when Dick told his Mother. She had never been happy with our marriage. I think she had her heart set on a daughter-in-law that she could manipulate a little easier than she could me. Anyway, when Dick told her that he had been diagnosed with diabetes and that it was most likely genetic she turned a stern eye on him and said haughtily, “You didn’t have it before you were married, son!”

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I’m grinning from ear to ear as I write this post and I hope that Big John (from Kent, England) will read this. His latest post, called “Fruit that Leaves a Bad Taste” addresses the problem of the little shop owner getting pushed out of business by the big commercial giants.

I hope I’ve done my small bit today to try to combat this. Here’s what happened: My oldest sister lives in Hyannis (Cape Cod) Massachusetts and her 80th birthday is this Sunday, Sept. 10th. She is no longer able to drive but she still lives alone and can manage her little house very well. She has a sweet tooth and I thought it would be fun to surprise her with a gift of something gooey and decadent.

With the aid of the Internet I found some retail stores in her area but they all seemed very commercial and included very high delivery charges. I finally decided to go to the Hyannis Yellow Pages and I chose the “Village Fudge Shoppe” which is on Main St. (not very far from my sister’s house.)

Ed, the owner, answered the phone and we had a great chat. He was amazed that I’d chosen his shop since he doesn’t advertise on the web. I explained what I wanted to do and asked him if it would be possible to have the gift delivered today or tomorrow. He said that his nephew could watch the store after school today and that he’d be happy to run the fudge out to Mary. (We’d decided on a 2 lb. variety box of his home-made specialties.)

We hadn’t mentioned cost until now and Ed said, “How are you going to pay for this?” I told him I’d be happy to put it on my Visa card but it turns out that they deal in cash only. “Don’t worry,” he said, “you can send me a check!” I almost dropped the phone. Here was a man who was doing me a great favor and was willing to wait for payment…not to mention the fact that he had no idea who I was !

“Great”, I said, “now what do I owe you?” When Ed told me that it came to $19 and change I told him that I would send him a check for $25 to cover the cost of delivery. “I’ll tell you what”, he said, “Let’s settle for $22.”

So, is it any wonder that I’m grinning? I feel like I’m back in the 50’s when the neighborhood store owner really cared about his clientele.

Friday, September 08, 2006

1959.…NEW LOGO and NEW PUPPY collide

1959 was a year of beginnings. My husband and I lived in New York City and we’d fashioned one of the rooms in our apartment into a dark room for his burgeoning free lance photography business. Everything seemed to be falling in place but we had yet to come up with a logo that satisfied us.

A friend of ours was the Art Director for Swissair and he designed the logo that’s pictured above. It was clean and simple and, at first glance, seemed to be a stylized camera. Actually it was my husband’s initials (RD) in lower case (rd), and we loved it. We used it on all of our correspondence and even had little glue-backed stamps made up for us in rolls, such as you see at the Post Office. They included the words “Richard Dean Concept” and we would moisten the back of the stamp and adhere it to the finished photo before presenting it to a client.

Another new acquisition at that time was a miniature dachshund we named Tiger. She was a typical puppy and commenced to chew her way happily through most of our slippers and anything else she could get. We were paper-training her and I couldn’t believe it one day when I found four cylindrical shaped turds wrapped in the words, “Richard Dean Concept”. The glue backing must have been too tempting to resist. You can imagine the ribbing that Dick got over that !

To bring this full circle…we bred Tiger a year later and one of her pups went to Zurich, Switzerland. Our friend, the Art Director at Swissair, took the puppy home to his children.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It was a balmy April evening in New York City and my date was escorting me home after an early movie. It was a weekday and we both needed to be up early for work. As we crowded into the elevator I was surprised to come face to face with an old college schoolmate. I hadn’t seen Pete for 3 years and we were, naturally, excited to run into each other.

Pete was also on an early date and we managed to exchange eye signals that said, “Lets say goodnight to our dates and then meet in the lobby”. I’m not quite sure how we pulled that off, but we did, and about 30 minutes later Pete and I reunited. All of a sudden it didn’t matter that it was a week night. This was my old friend Pete from Upsala College days and we had lots of catching up to do.

My apartment was in Tudor City and Pete had friends who lived just two blocks away. “There’s sure to be a party going on”, he said and he was right. This was a 4th floor walk-up apartment and we could hear the music and the conversation long before we got to the door. We were warmly welcomed and I was introduced to a new and invigorating group of New Yorkers. The talk was eclectic but typically liberal and heavily concentrated on the Arts.

As the evening went on a new man arrived and I found myself drawn to him. Dick was a photographer who had just left a two year stint on “Life” magazine and was starting a free-lance business. He was attractive, in a rough boyish style and not very tall. His mother lived in the apartment one floor up and he had moved in with her while he launched his new career.

Suddenly this thought came to my mind: “He’s too short for me, but this is the man that I’m going to marry !” I guess Pete saw the hand writing on the wall because he kind of faded away after Dick told him, “Don’t worry, old buddy, I’ll be happy to see that Ginnie gets home safely.”

So there it is...three dates in one night. It was the only time that I ever did that, but I don’t feel guilty about it since my third date and I were married four months later. Dick and I tied the knot on August 23, 1958 and our marriage lasted 32 years until his death in 1990

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Recently I listened to a young man lead a discussion on “Spirituality In My Life”. He was released from prison a little over a year ago but he has almost 4 years of living a clean and sober life. This means that he learned about sobriety while still in prison. It made me think of all the selfless members of Alcoholics Anonymous that I know who week after week carry the message to the inmates.

The recovery rate of prisoners is very low. But, then the recovery rate is low for all of us…only one in 10 will stay sober, according to some reports. As another young friend of mine says “I feel sorry for the 9 who don’t make it but I want to be the one who does.”

The AA program is extremely simple…just 12 Steps that, if practiced faithfully, will change a life. It is almost impossible to explain the program to a non-alcoholic so I never try. Everyone has to find their own path and I feel that I’ve finally found mine, and have for the past 17 years. I listened to a nun tell her story once and she had this great line. She said, “If you spot it, you’ve got it!” (If you don’t get that it’s a pretty good bet that you’re not “one of us”).

I looked around the room this morning and marveled. We were a group of perhaps 60 people from every walk of life represented by all colors, races and genders, with an ex-prisoner leading the discussion. Among our audience were 4 doctors, 3 lawyers, a priest, a dog trainer, 4 counselors, 4 or 5 from the nursing profession and a multitude of ordinary workers. It also included a fair amount of retirees (myself being one of them) and some men and women from the seedier side of life who were just starting the journey.

Some people say AA is a cult and some say it is a religion. Both descriptions are wrong. I am not a religious person but I have found a faith in a Higher Power “of my understanding” in AA. That basically means that I believe there is some sort of power that I can’t define but I know that it is NOT ME.

There are no restrictions to becoming an AA member and the “ONLY requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PLAYING in NYC… on and off BROADWAY …1957-1958

In my post of August 29 I wrote about "WORKING in the “Big Apple”. Now I will tell you how it was to PLAY there. We, at WABC radio, were often given tickets to Broadway shows and it was just my luck that 2 of the finest musicals ever written debuted in the late 50’s.

“My Fair Lady”, starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews was a treat. I remember how the audience insisted on 3 curtain calls at the end of the show. None of us in my party wanted to leave the theater but we finally danced out, singing “Get Me To The Church On Time”.

I also attended the opening of “West Side Story”. It was written by Leonard Bernstein, the most famous conductor in the world at the time and leader of the New York Philharmonic. The actors were mostly unknowns ...Chita Rivera, Carol Lawrence, and Larry Kent, and this show launched their careers. Aside from the outstanding musical selections I was dumbfounded with the set changes. I loved the off Broadway shows too and it was a thrill to see “The Three Penny Opera”. Who could forget “Mack The Knife”?

Other fun things were:

The Staten Island Ferry… a ½ hour ride that provided a view of the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of New York. It cost 5 cents in 1957 and I understand it is FREE now. (that’s a switch!)

The Central Park Zoo…A story-book zoo and a fun place to meet friends for lunch or coffee.

Rockefeller Center, …with the open-air skating rink and the huge Christmas tree. I was thrilled to attend 3 of the lighting ceremonies

Restaurants of every ethnicity...boiled, broiled, fried, barbecued, baked or served raw...whatever your taste, you could find it in the “Big Apple”. (and, of course, you had your choice of "the bubbly", too.)

And last, but not least, the MUSIC...from Radio City Music Hall to the Met and everywhere in between. Piano bars were prevalent and supper clubs provided another type of music. It was my “ once-in-a-lifetime” 2 years & I savored every minute, making sure to get in some work between play dates !

Monday, September 04, 2006


In 1978 I moved to North Carolina from New York State with my husband and three children. Everything in my life changed with that move. I had to adjust to a completely different way of life and it took time and an opening of the mind. This was definitely a gentler, softer way of living and I’m ashamed to say that I missed the competition and the rush of life that we had left behind.

One of the areas of challenge was the language. I had a terrible time trying to understand what the native North Carolinians were saying. A simple name, such as Bill, became Bee-ull and “get up with” meant that I would “meet you at a specified time”.

Now it is 28 years later and I am happy to say that my immersion into the South is complete. I have found that people are people wherever I go and that some of the best of them are right here where I live. Simply put: I love it here.

No wonder that I got a big chuckle out of an NPR interview a few years back. The author, a Southerner, had written a book about the different dialects of the South. She related this story:

Seems that a young man left his small town in North Carolina to go North and make his fortune. He did well and came back a few years later driving a Lexus and flashing his bank-roll. He went back to the small family-run restaurant that he had frequented in the past and in a distinct and pompous tone he ordered “PO-TAE-TOS and TO-MAE-TOES”. He ate with relish and then asked for the bill. The owner was very annoyed with his pretensions and decided to charge him top dollar for his food. The young man took one look at the bill and shouted with rage, “This much for TATERs and MATERs?”

Proof of the old adage: “You can take the man out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the man.”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

MEMORIES OF MY DAD……….1900 to 1961

I love this picture of my Dad (1948) because it shows him at his favorite Sunday event...solving the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. I recall the times when we would hold up our usual 4 PM Sunday dinner until he was finished. The dictionary in the picture is very well-worn and was handed down to one of my sons who still uses it. Dad had little formal education but he had a great curiosity about life and he read voraciously.

Dad’s other hobby was stamp collecting. He started this in his youth and had an extensive, and quite valuable, collection. It must have been a heart breaker when he had to sell many of the albums during the Depression to keep us going. I remember him soaking colorful and exotic stamps off of envelopes, drying them and then meticulously picking them up with tweezers and adhering them to the designated pages with those little transparent glue-back tabs. He loved to show us the stamps and then point to where they came from on the World globe. (Our first history lessons.)

We were a family of 6 women (my Mother and 5 daughters) and Dad would often have a hard time holding his own. He would try to introduce a serious subject at the dining table and, invariably, one of us would start to giggle. Of course that set us all off and when my Mother joined in the laughter Dad would throw his hands in the air and say, “I give up”...but always with a twinkle in his eye.

He was never abusive but I do remember one time when we had done something “bad” and he lined the 5 of us up, threatening to give us each a whack with his belt. We were all agog since this was so out of character for Dad. I guess we were scared but this quickly changed to uncontrollable guffaws when he whipped off his belt and his pants fell down !!

Dad was a romantic and the love of his life was my Mother. He would serve her breakfast in bed with the toast cut in to heart shapes and he would use any excuse to send her a card, such as the Valentine above. But, his warm and loving heart was big enough to include us all and, although he passed away 46 years ago, I still bask in the glow of that love.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

1952.…Gayle and I fly home from San Francisco

As I mentioned in an earlier post my friend Gayle and I spent the summer of 1952 working as waitresses at the Pierpont Inn in Ventura, California. We saved our tips and were able to afford a flight home to Boston. This was a big thrill since we had made the trip out there by bus and we didn’t relish going home that way!

A friend of my family’s lived in San Francisco and she had invited us to come visit, so we decided to make our flight reservations from there. We were to drive up with my sister and husband, spend a day and night with our hostess, Lois, and then leave for Boston on an early flight.

A special treat, on the ride up, was a stop at the town of Solvang (“Little Denmark”), established in 1911 by Danish immigrants. This picturesque city is set against gently sloping hills and is dedicated to the architecture, crafts and values of their ancestors. My sister’s husband, Troels, was from Denmark and he enjoyed speaking his native language and introducing us to special treats, such as Aebleskivers, a waffle-like delicacy.

By evening we arrived in San Francisco and it was pouring rain. We had a visit to the Muir Woods on the docket for the next day and we prayed that it would abate. Morning arrived and it was still drizzly but as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the sun came out and the whole area was bathed in a magical glow...a sight I will never forget. Nor will I forget the star attraction of the Muir Woods…the enormous coast redwoods. The oldest one is said to be at least 1,100 years old!

The rest of the day was spent hopping on and off the cable cars and just plain ogling at all that San Francisco had to offer. Our hostess provided a fun dinner in Chinatown and then it was off to the airport. Our flight was to leave at midnight. We had chosen TWA because that airline had just introduced a tourist fare (unusual for that time) and it was within our budget.

We finally arrived in Boston at about 9:30 pm and it was back to the lives that we’d left behind just a few weeks earlier…but we were changed forever and had memories to last a lifetime.

Friday, September 01, 2006

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 apartment…my 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?