Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Ubiquitous CELL PHONE…A plea for etiquette!

In this digital world of ours the cell phone is here to stay...and rightly so. I have used mine to advantage many a time. I have a very inexpensive Tracfone. It is a nationwide prepaid wireless phone and I buy about 60 units of calling time every three months. The cost is approximately $8 per month and I can choose to cancel anytime that I want to.

I bought the attachment that connects my cell phone to the car and that is where I keep it most of the time. Very few people have access to my number because I only use it for emergencies...or for the occasional time that I am not near a phone and need to contact someone. This is how it works for me and I know that I am in the minority.

My son and his daughter both have very elaborate, extra-slim cell phones that do just about everything but pick up the weekly garbage. (Hers is actually pink!) He is in business for himself and his phone is his I can understand the need there.

The thing that annoys me about cell phones is that they encroach on my privacy. I really do not want to hear someone’s life story when I am trying to concentrate on what to buy for dinner...or trying to enjoy dinner out, for that matter. When I was in Italy I would have sworn that every Italian male seemed to carry a cell phone. We used to joke that they were probably calling Mama to ask what to order for dinner!

I will never forget the time that I was stuck in an airport for hours waiting for the weather to change. A sloppy twenty-something male slouched down next to me and proceeded to phone a buddy. He then spent the next hour describing in great detail every female under the age of 50 that passed by his sight. They were having a great laugh over this and when he saw my look of disgust he said, “Hey, don’t have to listen”.

But that’s just the can we NOT listen? I really resent this intrusion and hope that someday there will be a cell phone revolution. Those of us who still treasure privacy will rise up and, at the very least, conduct courses in cell phone etiquette. The plan to restrict the use of phones while driving is gaining momentum and is actually enacted into law in some States. So, maybe there is hope after all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

“FANTASIA” Re-visited . . . 66 years later

In 1941 I was living in New Jersey and my oldest sister treated me to a day in the “Big Apple” for my 8th birthday. The Radio City Music Hall was our destination and the featured movie was “Fantasia”. I wrote a blog about that amazing experience last July.

Recently, on a trip to our local Goodwill store (where I purchase most of my books) I came across a tape of the original version of that wonderful movie. For a mere 99 cents I was transported back to that magical day 66 years ago when Mary and I were glued to our seats and I don’t think we missed one note that was played.

Now as I sat in my living room, watching the movie alone, I couldn’t help but compare that time and now. The ending was especially poignant. It contained two songs…”A Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky and “Ave Maria”. As the narrator said, “It points out the disparity between the profane and the sacred”, or, more simply put... the difference between good and evil.

In 1941 we, as a nation, were not yet aware of the atrocities that were being perpetuated against our Jewish friends. We were naïve in many ways, but the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th set our nation in motion. We joined in to fight World War II and the opinion of many a scholar is that it was the last of the “honorable” wars.

The final scene in “Fantasia” is the one pictured above…it, too, seems almost naïve, but is a lovely rendition of a stylized mountain with the sun’s rays radiating toward the heavens. Whatever happened to that sense of hope and rejuvenation?

Here we are 66 years later...mired down in a preemptive war that is robbing us of our most valuable assets...our young people, our resources and our standing in the world. I pray that we can turn this around before it’s too late.


Monday, August 20, 2007

The MERV GRIFFIN I knew……..1958

The legendary entertainer and entrepreneur Merv Griffin has died. (July 6, 1925 - August 12, 2007). I’ve followed his career for many years and couldn’t help but remember the short time that he crossed my path.

In 1958 I was working for WABC Radio in New York City. It was an exciting and exhilarating time for me but it was a very shaky time for the radio industry. The stations were losing audiences by the droves, as TV was just cresting over the horizon.

WABC was making a last ditch stand with their promotion, “Live and Lively Radio”. My job was to write promotional material aimed at selling time on these live shows. We had the “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club”, out of Chicago and the NY based “Jim Reeves Show”, which was music and not much talk, and a prime-time game show called “Keep Talking”, starring the young and up-coming Merv Griffin.

Our studios were on West 86th Street and I was in a constant state of turmoil. I was either writing a proposal, presenting one of re-doing it. (This was where I learned that it is possible to manipulate facts and figures to say what you inference, leaving things out, etc., and I‘ve never trusted advertising since then.)

I never actually met Merv but I was in his presence quite a few times. It was part of my job to evaluate the shows and then to be “inspired” to write a winning proposal. Merv certainly exuded charisma, both off and on the air but I never would have guessed that he’d become one of the most successful business men in the world.

I knew that he was a great ladies man and one night I spied him in the same restaurant where I was. He was squiring an older woman who was literally dripping in jewels. Their conversation was anything but private since it became louder and louder with each drink they consumed. At one point it looked as if they were both going to end up under the table but they managed to stagger out before that happened.

Merv was still pretty heavy at that time and it was just a short time later that he decided to “clean up his act”. He lost a lot of weight and either quit or cut way back on his drinking. I guess he knew that TV was in his future and he was right. When NBC TV came out with color it was the end of the live radio era as I’d known it...and the beginning of the “newly invented” Merv Griffin.

“The Merv Griffin TV Show” was a huge success and “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” are just two of the many legacies that he left for us to enjoy. I’m glad that Merv’s many talents didn’t go to waste and that he lived a long and full life.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

COLLEGE BREAK, 1952...First trip to California

When I was between my Sophomore and Junior years in college I spent the summer break in California. A classmate and I traveled there from Massachusetts by Greyhound and I will never forget that long, l-o-o-o-ng bus trip.

There were many stops but only two of them gave us enough time to shower and wash our hair.. Gayle and I decided we’d “beat the system” and save 25c in the bargain. . We crowded together in one booth...vying with each other for every drop of precious water. The only problem was that the booth had a door that reached only half-way to the floor & the attendant saw our four legs. We ended up paying the full price after all!

The trip took 5 days and by the time we landed in Los Angeles our ankles had swollen to twice their size and we could hardly walk. We were met by my beautiful slim sister and her handsome Danish husband. They looked like an advertisement for the good life in California, as compared to us, the pasty complexioned and fat relatives from the East.

An active day or two got us back to our normal selves, however, and we did manage to get jobs as waitresses in the historic Pierpont Inn, in Ventura, overlooking the ocean. (In the photo that’s Gayle (on the left) and me in our waitress garb.) It was hard work. We were taught to carry the big trays, loaded with food, balanced on our shoulder. By the end of the summer my right arm was actually larger than the left. But, the ambiance and the clientel were delightful and the tips were plentiful…enough to enable us to fly home!.

A memorable Pierpont moment was the night that I had Rory Calhoun as a customer. The Pierpont was often visited by celebrities but it was seldom that I had a chance to wait on them since they were usually assigned to the older waitresses. Rory was dressed in his usual outfit...white cowboy boots, white pants & fancy white shirt. I emphasize the “white” because it was hardly that after I spilled chilled gazpacho on it. I tripped and upset a whole tray of the tomato-based soup into his lap. What a gentleman he proved to be. He insisted that I remain as his waitress and left me a huge tip!

That was truly a magical summer...hard work, sun, sand, ocean and my first chance to explore this amazing country of ours.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hot August Days bring back memories

This past week in North Carolina has been one of the hottest in memory. They say that it broke all records but I remember an August in 1983 that came darn close.

My husband and I were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and we’d invited a bunch of friends and relatives to join us in an outdoor, all-day picnic andcelebration. About 40 people joined us and the two couples who came the furthest were Mary & Filippo, friends from NY and my sister Peggy and her husband Clif from Massachusetts.

We laughed when Clif said that, as they were approaching our area, they heard a weather forecast. It declared that Fayetteville, NC (within 25 miles of us) was the hottest spot in the United States for that day. As Clif said to Peg, ”We must be nuts to be going to an outdoor celebration in this heat.”

We did appreciate their coming, however, and it proved to be a HOT but wonderful day and evening. We had rented an area that included a covered pavilion, many picnic tables and chairs and a sandy beach that bordered a small lake. Horseshoes, chess games and lots of good talk were enjoyed by all.

The highlight of the day came when Dick delivered the 150 lb. barbecued pig on a 4x6 board on the back of his truck. Luckily we had a few guests who were expert carvers and they took over. The other specialty was the three tiered cake that my friend Linda had presented to us as her gift. It was actually more elaborate than the one that we’d had at our wedding !

I have very fond memories of that day too. It all started on August 23rd when we said our “I Do’s” at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in NY City. That was in 1958 and I think that the last thing I would have imagined was that 25 years later we would be sweltering in Pinehurst, NC.

And now it is 2007 and those are long-gone memories brought back to mind by the extreme heat of this August day. But the heat is has already “cooled down” to the low 90’s... and the memories are receding too; but they will never be gone, however, and for that I am thankful.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dueling Ducks.............1964

In 1964 my husband and I and our three children were living in New York City. We would take regular trips to the country and on one of these jaunts we fell in love with a lake front property with a large home and boathouse.

We loved the city but felt that the children would be better served in the country, so we bought that property and made the transition to "small town, USA". It was a culture shock, to say the least, but we loved the sounds and sights of the lake. In many ways it was actually noisier than the city. The night critters kept up a constant hum and during the day we would watch all sorts of water fowl and other wildlife.

We thought we were attuned to these sounds until one Spring morning when we were awakened before dawn by a strange, loud noise. It was difficult to place where it came from, but it sounded very much like the rustling of many newspapers.

As the dawn brightened we were able to discern three ducks in the water very close to shore. Two of the ducks were fighting...the thrashing of their wings and their bodies colliding were producing the strange rustling sounds. The other duck was at a discreet distance...aloof to the whole sordid affair and we finally deduced what was happening. Obviously these were two male ducks fighting for the attention of the fair, feathery maiden. We watched in amazement as the battle played out and finally one of the ducks gave up and skulked off. The duck-duel was over and the winner could claim his prize.

I don't know what we expected at this point...perhaps a tender touching of bills or a graceful encircling of two ducks in ecstasy. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The male duck swam behind the female and proceeded to prod and nudge her on her feathered rump. He was anything but gentle as he pushed her along toward the middle of the lake for one and all to see. "After all", he seemed to be saying, "I am the conqueror and to the conqueror go the spoils........"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Welcoming Guests with Cross-stitched signs

My good friend Bud faithfully reads my blogs. He emailed me recently to say that my poem entitled “Peddling Posies at the Pennsy Pavilion” had triggered his memory about a message that his mother cross-stitched and had framed and displayed in their guest bedroom. It was signed with her name and dated 1938.

“GUESTS …we warn you every night
We must dine by candlelight.

Table cloths that are worn…
Sheets and pillows tattered, torn.

And we are blessed with little boys
Whose chief delight is making noise.

WELCOME…but we press the point,
Things ain’t poifect in this joint”.

Isn’t that wonderful? Thanks, Bud.

Of course it conjures up all sorts of images of framed samplers that I have seen over the years. There is the ubiquitous “Home Sweet Home” and any number of witty, religious or sacrilegious sayings.

But my favorite message, along these lines, is one that I saw posted on the living room wall of my friend Denise’s retreat in Fancy Gap, Virginia. It is very simple and only two lines...but as far as welcoming guests, I think it says it all.

You make both.