Friday, January 25, 2008
Again, the only musical I wanted to see and hear from the Broadway cornucopia was "Little Mermaid" (which, due to its young age, did not offer discount tickers). Ah, if I am going out with me, myself, and I, might as well treat myself all the way. So, I got myself a full-price ticket and then a very enjoyable and very overpriced dinner at Favorite Dessert (which I also did not do in donkey's age). Both food and service were fantastic (which in itself is a fantastic experience in a kosher restaurant), and the expensive musical that followed that expensive dinner was a feast for the senses!
The theater was relatively small, so, even with cheaper tickets you could see everything. As you very well know, the Disney version of "Little Mermaid" is not profound in either story or music; never the less, Disney worked its usual magic: as soon as the lights went out, all the worries, headaches, and frustration went with it. Everything was fantastic: lighting, scenery, costumes. The most ingenious, in my opinion, was the way they created the swimming illusion: all the cast members who were supposed to swim had those shoes with little rolls on the heels - the results were amazing! Of course, being extremely PC, Disney had to get on my nerves slightly by making Sebastian a Caribbean character and the whole "Under the Sea" number very Caribbean too. Plus, it was very funny to have a black King Triton, and then half his daughters very white and half black, but, I guess that is along the same lines as seeing a two hundred pounds, forty something soprano, and imagining her as twenty something young woman who is dying of grief and consumption.
The only sensible thing I did that evening was not to overstock on overpriced souvenirs. I guess the fact that I was on my turf played a role, because I am sure that if I was in another city, I would have bought out the whole souvenir shop.
All in all, the whole evening entertainment was the rough equivalent of one of my utility bills. But I got to see the original Broadway cast and, most importantly, I was able to add to my store of fantastic memories!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I love living in New York; more than that, I actually belong to the school of New York snobs that considers our fair city the center of the world. As such, I felt it was my moral obligation to introduce my niece to all the wonders of the city a baby, and then a toddler, can appreciate.
This past summer, after the appearance of her baby brother, I tried to take her mind off the fact that she is not the only one in Mama's world; as a result, we have spent a most memorable week doing "touristy" things. There was only one thing that marred our total bliss: we had to return home on the subway.
So, one pleasant sunny afternoon Golden Delicious, her trusty Maclaren Techno, and yours truly boarded the subway at Columbus Circle. Up to a point, it was OK, mainly because I had to share an elevator with a young father, whose charge was around the same age as mine and also in a stroller (to be fair to him, he looked like a decent person who was probably courteous to women with children before he got his own). Anyway, we maneuvered the elevator and turnstiles, helping each other, wished each other a pleasant day, and then I proceed to my platform; and the fun began.
First of all, some gentlemen mascarading as construction workers decided to block us on the platform, so they will be able to get into the car first. Being a veteran of long lines for watermelons and fresh fish, I prevented the said maneuver. Then the train came, we successfully boarded, continuing to exhibit the rude tendency of refusing to be pushed and shoved, and I surveyed the situation. Of course, there were no seats available; more than that, apparently women with strollers are subjected to the same treatment as do pregnant women: everyone seated lifts their eyes, pretends they do not see you, looks around furtively, or even gives you a dirty stare.
Now, if you ever traveled on the subway with a stroller, you will know that it's impossible, even with breaks, to keep it still; moreover, the only way you yourself will be able to keep your balance is to lean against the door. Basically, in this situation a seat is very desirable. So, I decided to wait two stops to 42nd Street, where lots of people would probably get off, and if that did not work, just ask anybody looking half human to remain that way. Plus, just to make me smile more, there was a dude and his girlfriend directly in front of us, who kept giving us very dirty stares. They themselves looked like what is knows is Russia as bedbugged intelligencia (yes, I know it looses something in the translation), and the dude was clutching a copy of a book on art history.
Anyway, the 42nd Street came, lots of people disembarked, and we got the seat (again, after some really crafty maneuvers on my side). During this lively process, one of Maclaren's wheels went over the above-mentioned gentleman's Duck Martin's, for which I was gifted with a stare that basically meant "off with her head". My only regret was that I was unable to re-direct those wheels for at least five more times, but, on the balance, I decided that obtaining a seat carried a bit more importance and urgency.
After that epic victory, Curly Head decided that she was a big girl and requested to be seated next to me; I complied with her request. Now, that train had bench seats, and there was literally a tiny spot next to me for her tiny behind; not even a older child would have been able to squeeze there. Never the less, my seating her on the bench earned me a disapproving stare from the woman on the left. That, I think, was the proverbial cherry. I am afraid that at that point I expressed myself pretty loudly: "Bastards! Blind mutant bastards!" That earned me the shocked stairs from most of the car, and some of them followed me for most of the road. Needless to say, I also had to apologize to my sister for using profanities in front of her young impressionable child.
So, around September of 2006, I got a news blurb that basically stated that Vatican's Chief Exorcist is apposed to Harry Potter books due to the fact that said books lure young minds into witchcraft. Now, that in itself would have been nothing: after all, he is a religious leader (although his title definitely made me chuckle), and has full right to express his opinion on the matters of the said religion. What really matters is the date, because around the same time the Pope ended up in now very famous (or infamous) soup by quoting Manuel II. You all remember the fracas that followed, culminating in repeated apologies by the Pope and faithful Muslims of Somali showing how wrong the Byzantine Emperor was by fatally shooting in the back the sixty five year old Sister Leonella Sgorbati.
Then, few months ago, there was another major news upheaval before the first movie based on "His Dark Materials" was released. Again, Catholics have full right to protest books written by a guy who portrays them in very negative light and fully admits that his mission in life is to "kill god", but when you take it in the full context of the current battles coming from and around Vatican, it only serves as the fodder for more ridicule.
Anybody with a modicum of education ( and I am sure that the current Pope and Chief Exorcists have more than that) would see that the worst threat to Western values, Western civilization, heck, Christianity itself, always originated in the Muslim world. That which defines the West and comprises the best of it: the value of human life, progress, freedom, self-determination , and even the economic structure - all that is absolutely abhorrent to Islam (no, I did not forget the Crusades). And what exactly did that long-dead Byzantine Emperor say that was not true?
This New Year's I was flipping through the channels while waiting to see the ball drop (I know, I know, I am not a credit to my Bais Yacov Alma mater), and I stumbled on the brief report from Vatican about how the Pope urges the whole world to try and live in peace. Forgive me, Your Holiness, but are you delusional or just stupid? People who truly want peace are under constant attack, and have no choice but to defend themselves; and in case that was a veiled reference to the so-called Middle East crisis, then may I humbly suggest that you go to the warm basement and stay there?
And guess what actually prompted me to write this? I hope you guessed it right: a couple of weeks ago I got another news flash to the tune that the Chief Exorcist again spoke very strongly against the Harry Potter books. May I just make one small suggestion to His Holiness and his Chief Exorcist? The proposition is very simple: at the horrible risk of contaminating their souls with witchcraft, can they still try and read Harry Potter? If the danger from all seven books is too great, can they at least concentrate on numbers five and seven? That, I hope, will teach them the true meaning of courage, humility, selflessness, self-sacrifice, courage of conviction, and the necessity of fighting true evil.
As I mentioned before, I actually enjoy going to the movies, even though my primary goal is the same as in reading romances: just disconnect from the reality and fry my non-existent brain cells some more. Add to this the fact that I am very much a chicken, meaning I really do not like to see gore and violence in surround sound, and my choice of movies becomes extremely limited. Anyway, to make a long story a bit shorter, the last movie I watched before the one mentioned in this story was the fourth Harry Potter. Basically, I was pretty much movie deprived: no time, no money, nothing showing I want to watch when I have time or money, etc. So, finally, somewhere in the fall, I finally made my way to the movie theater to watch "Stardust".
I enjoyed that particular cinematic experience, even with the usual protracted battles towards the end and the usual for our wonderful times addition of a fierce pirate captain who ended up being a cross-dresser. Basically, the whole shebang was worth my ten bucks, but that is not the main point of this story. Dork that I am, I usually enjoy the previews as well: either I know ahead what to look forward to, or, more often, what not to look forward too; this time, one of the previews was for "Elizabeth:The Golden Age."
Now, in my personal opinion, Cate Blanchette is a pretty decent actress, but Elizabeth she is not, nor is Clive Owen a believable Sir Walter Raleigh. Hollywood is also very rarely accused of historical accuracy, and I am sure this movie was not an exception. All in all, this would not be the one motion picture I would run to watch, but that preview left an impression on me. It was Elizabeth's exclamation "by god, England will not fall while I am queen!" that made me remember why I admire her so much.
I remember my history professor, who, of course, was a feminist, pointed out to us that Elizabeth's reign was an ultimate irony on her dear Daddy. What she did not mention and what the sick lesbians from NOW, who presume to speak to and for all women, will never acknowledge was that her life was actually a personification of feminist's dream. Just think about it: her birth itself was a disappointment to her father since she was not a boy; her mother was executed on the false charges of treason before Elizabeth's third birthday; she was largely ignored by her father; she was accused of treason and thrown in the Tower by her own sister! Sufficient grounds for spending the rest of her life on the analyst's couch, wouldn't you agree?
When she became queen at the ripe old age of twenty five, the country was basically in shambles: impoverished, torn by religious strive, and in danger of being conquered by much stronger enemies. At the time of Elizabeth's death England was strong, prosperous, and undefeated master of the sea; in short, according to many historians, she was the best monarch in English history. Bess not only survived in the men's world against unbelievable odds; she was the best ever man (sorry, woman) for the job!
Elizabeth was smart, highly educated (probably more well-rounded than the professors at Teacher's College who think that studying Shakespeare is superfluous and outdated), and a brilliant politician. People who specialize in her biography like to point out that she was strong and strong-willed, but not mulishly stubborn: she surrounded herself with capable advisers to whom she listened very carefully (and whom she always rewarded for their faithful service to the Crown); but, most importantly, she genuinely loved her country and her people. "England will not fall while I am queen": to her being the queen and wearing the crown was first and foremost a sacred duty from Heaven; a moral obligation to dedicate her life to her country and her people. I am not trying to romanticise the second part of the sixteenth century, but, considering our extremely jaded times and the idiotic circus usually surrounding any kind of political elections, how many politicians have that kind of vision for their role?
While I was reminiscing about Bess, I also started remembering my general admiration for Albion. In my opinion, there is no coincidence that United States emerged from the English colony: the ideas of "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" as "unalienable rights... endowed by the Creator" could only come from the country of Magna Carta. In the course of the centuries, especially in the view of this and the preceding generations' general disregard and, in some instances, the re-writing of history, people either have no inkling of what Magna Carta was, or they view it as nothing more than the landlord/tenant squabble. Overall, English history usually gave a "vibe" of limited monarchy and admirable politicians like Edmund Burke (yes, I know he was Irish); Brits were in the forefront of the industrial revolution (and personal freedom in that case was as important as the presence of working grey matter); they almost single-handedly defeated Napoleon, and were the only European country to offer any kind of serious opposition to the Nazis (geography can be blamed for this, but only up to a point). On the lighter note, I personally love their dry wit and their "classical" writers are the only ones whose books do not promote the general air of depression; but, again, that is a deeply subjective and very personal opinion.
Alas, their glory days were gone the minute they voted Churchill out of the office. Once the Nazis were defeated, Brits decided to embrace socialist ideas, and the rest, pardon the pun, is history. Now a days, they are overrun by Muslims and pacifists; the situation deteriorated to a point where Archbishop of Canterbury openly proposes to incorporate sharia law into the law of the land and, as a side note, the British flag was removed from Heathrow airport, because the compilation of three patron saint crosses, which basically comprise the English flag, were apparently very offensive to the Muslims. That is after English were subjected to the tender mercies of the Muslim terrorists, with more and more plots constantly being uncovered. What gives? So, my personal conclusion was that that country is basically finished, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes official; and as much as I love Margaret Thatcher, Jo Rowling and Helen Fielding (different kettle of fish, I know), they are not going to save the situation much. That is, until I accidentally stumbled on the article about Stewart Dimmock.
Since it is a save guess that very few people in this country heard about him, let me just summarise it briefly. Dimmock was a school governor and a father of two who protested the indoctrination of the two said children and thousands of others into the very popular church of global warming. As Joseph Farah very nicely put it, Dimmock did not want his kids tortured by Al Gore and his "Inconvenient Truth". Even though the case resulted in the decision of allowing that masterpiece of cinematic wonder and political dissent to be shown in schools, there are two major caveats: number one, any teacher showing that tripe to his or her students is obligated to point out all the major mistakes made (if memory serves right, there are seven of them); and, number two, a mere mortal went against Al Gore and got his say! Of course, all the enviros here, when recounting this episode, start by pointing out that Dimmock is just a truck driver (or lorry driver, as they say across the pond). All I can say to this is: hurray for this lorry/truck driver! He had the guts and determination to try and protect his children by going against the powerful government machine and even more powerful political establishment! I, of course, do not know his family tree, but I would like to think that the blood of his probable ancestors who fought Napoleon and Hitler boiled in his veins and gave him the courage to fight. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, more people will wake up and try to protect their country and the future generations of that country. And maybe at Heathrow, just a few miles away from where Elizabeth is buried, Union Jacks will proudly fly again.
Monday, January 14, 2008
A couple of years ago, another person whom I considered a friend, joined those ranks. I am not going to go into painful details: that is not the point of this story. Let us just say that we parted company on civil terms, even hugged each other, but that was it. No phone calls, e-mails, text messages; not even Rosh Hashana or Birthday cards. Sure, we have seen each other a few times, thanks to mutual acquaintances, but the conversations were always brief and shallow.
Fast forward to about two weeks ago; here I am, going through my OCD routine of checking all my e-mail accounts every few hours. When I got to the one I reserve for family use only, there was one new message from my sister with a very strange subject line: Ann Coulter. I opened it, frantically trying to figure out which of the kids caused my sister's strange mind set, because she has never before supplied me with any headlines of political nature; that is usually my modus operandi. After a quick scan of this unusual missive I realized that my sister did not, after all, smoke any strange substances; all she did was forward a message, which, you guessed it, was from that lost friend. The message contained a Youtube link with a short missive saying that he remembered Barb used to be a die hard fan of that woman and maybe now she will change her mind.
Zhvanetsky had a wonderful expression, which, loosely translated, means: " I dare not say it in harsh words, but there are no words to say it softly". Of all the things he felt compelled to say to me after all this time, all the news we could have shared, this was the only one thing he wanted to make sure I knew? To be perfectly honest, I got really peeved, and when I am peeved I start to dwell on all the not so good stuff about the peever, not just that one particular episode. For whatever reason, he always thought he is more mature, informed, sophisticated, and experienced than yours truly, so he probably decided that I never saw or heard about the stupid incident and decided to enlighten me (not bothering to remember my e-mail address and using a convenient messenger). That was my reasoning; but after a few minutes I lightened up and just chucked the whole thing to the great irony called life in general and human nature in particular.
That evening my sis and I had a short discussion about this and came to the conclusion that the whole thing could be summarized by vernacular expression "peeing in your pants". I asked her to forward him my blog link and was informed that he already had it; case closed (or so I thought).
Fast forward a couple more days; another discussion with my sister in between kids demanding their dues and us trying to swallow dinner. Apparently, next time he saw her, he wanted to know if Barb was informed about the great earthquake. When he, in turn, was informed that not only did Barb know about it hot off the press, but she already left her opinion in her blog, which he could check at his convenience, the response was: "I already checked that blog. Are you sure it is only Barb's, because half the entries do not sound like her at all?" Another "pants" moment, plus, I got genuinely perplexed. What entries did not sound like me? If anything sounds one hundred percent like me, it is this blog.
The wondering went on for couple more days, till my sister run into him again. Again: does Barbie know all the facts? Yes, she does. Check her blog. I checked and I disagree. Fine, leave a comment; her blog allows anonymous comments. Then comes this masterpiece of an argument: I disagree, plus Barbie makes spelling mistakes (at which point my wonderful sis just hung up on him). Oy gevalt! First thing that struck was that he, of all people, knows that I am dyslexic and I can not, for the life of me, proof-read my own work. Plus, I never pretended to be a specialist in English grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Unlike him, who was lucky enough to come here when he was a kid, I came when I was technically a high school graduate. My official education in English language consists of two semesters of ESL with a bunch of Iranian ladies, three semesters of English composition at "Dura" college, and the guilty pleasure of about six hundred romance novels. He knows that, even if he does not remember. Then came the realization of the ultimate irony: he acted exactly as Ann Coulter described! When liberals have no more arguments, they call you stupid. In all fairness to my former friend, he did not call me stupid; he just attacked my English proficiency, which still does not negate the validity of what I have to say, just makes the whole thing even more ironic.
Aside from irony, this thing really made me sad, because, bad times aside, I also remembered all the shared coffee and confidences, all the crazy shots I have of him doing goofy things, him driving us after our Mom's cancer surgery, running errands after our Gran passed away, both of us steaming the pleats on my sister's wedding gown, him saving my foot from a trip to ER, and, most important, introducing us to Bond girls. Aw, well! To paraphrase my former tutors' three year old son, "Life!"
Saturday, January 12, 2008
So, lo and behold, a few days ago I came home early enough to be able to cook dinner and hungry enough to need to cook it fast (my roomie was even hungrier than I was). Alas, the combined yield of my pantry and my refrigerator was not very promising. We did not even have cheese to spice the pasta, and not enough veggies to make a decent salad (I mean, we had mushrooms, but my roomie does not like them raw).
Then, the inspiration struck! I took one of the last onions (there was no garlic), fried most of it with mushrooms and added that to the salad. The remainder of the onion was sauteed with a bit of olive oil, a little can of tomato sauce, and whole bunch of spices (these I always add by going through my spice rack and trying to figure out what will go well with whatever I am cooking now); and that ended up being the pasta sauce.
The results surpassed my wildest dreams! My border took doubles of everything, and was duly impressed with my homemade pasta sauce. Plus, the whole thing took about twenty eight minutes! Ta-da, I am Rachael Ray!!
PS Thanks to my Mom (she should live till hundred and twenty), and both my Grannies (should they rest in piece) for teaching me not only how to cook, but how to play and improvise in the kitchen. Thank You, G-d, for never, under any circumstances, letting me go hungry.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
One of my co-workers got into the habit of "buying" stamps from me and not paying for them later. She would not have correct change at the time, and then it would just slip her mind. I am sure she was not doing it intentionally; the amount was just so not important to her that she would simply forget about it. The truth to be told, I probably would have let it slide if she then did not request petty cash for some minor purchases for the office, which equaled roughly what she owed me for the stamps. At this point I got a bit peeved. It was a matter of principle for her to collect insignificant amounts owed to her, but Barb should provide her with free stamps, which represent not only amount, but the effort to get them too.
Why I am telling this idiotic story about pettiness? Well, a couple of weeks ago she came to me for the stamp again. At this point I decided to have some passive aggressive fun. I told her that she is welcome to have it, but I only got "Reagan" stamps. She shrugged her shoulders, mumbled something incoherent, then politely refused and went back to her desk.
My hat off to you, Mr. President! Three years after you departed this world for the World of Truth, your name still gives the lefties acute indigestion!
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Amongst many self proclaimed leaders of Jewish community and an even bigger number of do-gooders, Sherry shined as, for the lack of better expression, a genuine article. She was warm, funny, kind, helpful, and down to earth; in short, Sherry was just a wonderful human being and a Bat Israel in a truest sense.
I knew she had underwent a lung transplant, and I admired her tenacity and upbeat attitude. I also heard that she was not feeling well, so, when she did not respond to my last voicemail, I did not pay too much attention to it. Then I got busy with the usual nonsense life throughs at us; next thing I know, I get an e-mail saying that Sherry was very ill, that her body was rejecting the lung, and a request for prayers for her recovery. I can't finish the e-mail for tears in my eyes; I just quickly scan for her full name and say a little prayer. Next, when I check my e-mails again in the afternoon, there is one new with "Baruch Dayan Emet" in the subject. I do not even need to open it to realize what it means; thank G-d not many people were passing by my desk that day: it would be very hard to explain why I was sitting there teary-eyed.
When the terrible news have sunk in a bit, a hard thought followed: "only good die young"; and on the heels of it another thought, something I have learned a long time ago: when a righteous person is taken from us, no matter the circumstances, it is not the fault of the person; it is our fault because we did not deserve that person. These things keep turning around in my mind, over and over again, along with a little selfish thought that now she will never respond to my voicemail, and even if I decide to visit Chicago again, I won't be able to meet her.
Above all the jumbled and incoherent thoughts, I keep thinking about her family. They have lost a mother, a wife, and, most horrible of all, a child. May G-d comfort them.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Another hilarious episode from my life. One gorgeous (or not so gorgeous) evening I have decided to visit library after work. Since my work usually finishes a bit later than I would like, plus the usual dealings with absolute genius of library clerks, by the time I got to the subway station, it was a bit after seven, and I was a bit hungry. I had the option of going to one of local kosher eateries, or getting a quick snack at the pharmacy. Since it was getting late, and I was not in the mood for more rudeness, stupidity, pushing, and shoving, I have opted for Duane Reade.
It was not late enough to go on the downtown platform, though, so I decided to do my usual rush hour "circle". So, here I was: a well-fed shrimp, totally rumpled-looking as befits every single red blooded New Yorker at the end of the day, surrounded by overflowing bags, and happily munching on her snack. Diagonally from me there was a quintessential elderly "Russian" couple, who, I correctly guessed, was on the way to Carnegie Hall. They were both busy perusing different pieces of recyclable paper which amongst Russian-speaking denizens of New York pass for newspapers. The husband, in true masculine fashion, was doing just that; the wife, on the other hand, was multi-tasking: she was also busy perusing her fellow passengers. So, as soon as yours truly got comfortable, the piercing look went straight into my direction, and then the hapless husband got a sharp elbow in his ribs. Then, about half the car was treated to her emotional tirade (delivered in Russian, so, unfortunately, not everyone understood it). "Look at this obese woman eating chips! She is so fat, she should starve herself! Instead, she is eating chips! Look at her!" To her everlasting annoyance, the husband just barely picked up his head from his reading, mumbled something about him not caring about the chips, and went back on reading.
I decided to entertain myself and return her stare, for starters. I assumed that even if she did not detect the fact that I understood her words, at least she would figure out that I know that she is talking about me. No, that did not deter her at all from her chosen course, and she continued staring back at me, pointing with her finger, nudging at her husband, and mumbling loudly about chips, fat, dieting, and starvation. Soon the train arrived at 57th Street, and the couple and their newspapers departed for Carnegie Hall.
My friends kept asking me why I did not reply verbally. What can I say? As I have repeated over and over again, our parents' upbringing always fouls our lives: I couldn't ruin the evening at Carnegie Hall for a couple of senior citizens, even if one of them was a typical homo soveticus.