Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dick Clark, 1957, and me

I graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1957. Every year, the guidance counselors arranged a career day during which people from various occupations would talk to groups of students.

One year, I signed up for the TV and radio seminar. The featured guest was Dick Clark. That was not as big a stretch as one might imagine. He worked at WCAU-TV which was, and still is, about 3 miles from the High School. He was personable and charming and talked about "batching it" for the week while his wife was away. He romanticized the TV and radio industry and I knew, right then, that a career in broadcasting was for me. Don't laugh. The inspiration that Dick Clark gave me led to my joining the WXPN radio staff at the University of Pennsylvania as an on air personality, for a while. I digress a little. My most favorite interview on WXPN was with Jimmy DePriest. And after that, my own attention to music went from interviewing and talking to playing and practicing the cello. I played in all the Penn musicals, the Penn orchestra, and I was the first "girl" to play in the Mask and Wig (the all male shows) orchestra. They were really desperate for a cellist.

Back to Dick Clark. We have watched the "Dick Clark Rockin' New Years Eve" TV show every year since its inception. But, midnight is on the late side for us. We usually are asleep by 10:00 for sure, and sometimes by 8:00. The phone is turned off in our bedroom and any calls after 8:00 go to the answering machine. So, we tape New Years Eve and watch the ball drop in New York's Time Square the next day, on January 1. The emotion of the moment is real. Some years, the feelings that are aroused are more alive than others, but I cry every time.

And, it will not be next year, until we hear Dick Clark count down to the new year.
I frequently remembeer the very young Dick Clark of 1957, and each year, I am grateful to Dick Clark and the welcoming of the new year with all the hopes and aspirations that come with the leaving of the old and the coming in of the new.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The week with two Saturdays

During one of our many trips to Hawaii, we were lucky enough to spend some time with Navy Chaplain Haman of the Aloha Jewish Chapel on Pearl Harbor. He enthralled us with his stories about his visits to Japan, Nagasaki to be exact (more of that to follow), and his duties on Pearl Harbor naval base and on the navy ships. But, the most interesting one was his story about the year with two Saturdays.

We are reminded of that story because the island nation of Samoa is moving to the other side of the International Dateline and is giving up December 30, this year.

Chaplain Haman's story - he was on a ship, in the Pacific, travelling from east to west, going to Japan from Hawaii. The International dateline is confusing to me, but, if you cross it from west to east, you repeat the day. He conducted Friday night services and Saturday morning services for the Jewish sailors on board. He was east of the International Dateline at the time. The next day, for him, was Sunday. His navy ship passed another navy ship, going from west to east. A message was sent to his ship, asking if a Jewish chaplain was aboard and if he could helicopter to their ship to conduct Saturday morning services. It was Sunday on his ship, but still Saturday on the ship that was west of the International Dateline. And he did it. Fhat was his week of two Saturdays.

This story came to mind because Guam is shifting its time position to the other side of the International Dateline, from the East of it to the West, and, in Guam, this year, there will be no December 30.

Chaplain Haman told us about his visit to a Jewish cemetery in Nagasaki that was almost at ground zero when the atomic bomb was dropped. The stones and markers were in relatively good shape and the most recent gravestone was chiseled, death in 1901.
But, Chaplain Haman noted that many of the grave sites had remembrance stones left by people who had visited. He looked around, and saw no one. And, no one he asked knew anything about the cemetery, the people who were buried there, or the visitors.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weight Loss - a Boondoggle from the insurance companies

OK. So you want to lose weight. Along with almost everybody else in the country. So what do you do? First, you think about it. Second, you think some more. Third, you ask your friends and neighbors what worked for them. Then, you go to interview Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, etc., etc., etc.

There are no shortcuts to weight loss. It's simple arithmetic. One pound equals 3500 calories. Every time you eat 3500 calories less than you expend, you lose a pound. In other words - eat less, exercise more. The mouth trumps exercise.

You've heard, or maybe even said, but I like cinnabuns so much. Or, I need ketchup on my french fries. Or, toast without butter? All of this reminds me of an Aunt Jenny story. Aunt Jenny, a very elderly relative who lived in Florida, used to stop the buses on the street by standing in front of the bus and waving her cane at the driver. She had the usual health complaints of the elderly and her doctors kept encouraging her to lose weight. "But doctor," she protested, "I don't eat very much. For breakfast today, I had a soft boiled egg, a piece of toast, a glass of juice, a cup of tea with a cinnamon bun. For lunch I had a salad with chicken, a cup of tea with a piece of pound cake. For dinner, I had a cup of soup, a piece of fish, some vegetables, and a cup of tea with a slice of pie."

"That sounds great, Aunt Jenny, but tell me, why did you have the cinnamon bun for breakfast, pound cake at lunch, and pie for dinner?"

"Oh doctor," she said, "who can drink dry tea?"

The dry tea syndrome is what is driving today's epidemic of obesity and overweight. If people stop eating when they are no longer hungry, weight will be lost. And, if it's difficult to tell when you are no longer hungry, just measure smaller portions and don't eat any more.

Eat when you're hungry - not by the clock. Don't eat when you're not hungry. And eat only foods that are nutritionally beneficial - lots of vegetables and fruits, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread (my recipe is included in my blogposts), no poultry skin, no fat, lots and lots and lots of water, as little sugar and salt as is possible, nothing artificial. Oatmeal and raisins for breakfast, low fat yogurt and fruit for lunch, skinless chicken and broccoli for dinner with whole wheat pasta.

And don't charge the insurance companies or medicare for this.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The dogs who rolled their eyes at me.

We travel to Wisconsin to see some of our grandchildren and their parents. It's an arduous trip - probably because of the terrible airplane connections and the uncertainty of Chicago weather where we have to change planes.

During one of our spring time trips, a tornado warning sounded. We followed the instructions, went to the basement, stood in the designated "safe" corner and waited for the all clear to sound. We watched the progression of the storm on the computer (electric lines are underground) and waited for the magical ten o'clock hour when, we were assured, the threat would be over.

Ten o'clock arrived and I headed for the door, to leave. Mabel, the beautiful blue tick hound, stood up, walked over to the exit door, stretched out on the ground, crossed one paw over the other in front of her face, and rolled her eyes at me, as if to say that there was no way that it was safe to leave and we all had to stay there. I don't think she was protecting us so much as she was protecting the three children.

Eventually, Mabel stood up, glared at me, and stood aside so that we could leave the basement. The next day, we read that 3 tornados touched down right around our location during the 15 minutes that Mabel guarded the door.

The other night, we were visiting our 4 grandchildren who live close by. I sat on the sofa, and their dog, Shayna, jumped up next to me and stretched. She inched her way closer to me and put her paws out in front of her. I took a finger, and gently stroked one of her paws. That was OK for a few minutes, then she stuck that paw under her leg and looked at me again. I stroked the other paw. Then she rolled her eyes at me, inched her body closer, and put her head on my lap. She was obviously saying, in dog language, that she wanted me to stroke her head. When I didn't move as quickly as she wanted, she rolled her eyes again, picked her head up, and put it down more firmly. I finally understood.

Second Careers, from the CHS 2011 Alumni Journal

This appeared in the fall 2011 Central High School Alumni Journal, written by Merrill Freedman, class of 208.

Does anyone recognize the name of our fellow alum,
Philip Francis Nowlan (111)? That should be easy
for sci-fi fans. But I digress. Perhaps I should start from
the beginning:

Edgar Davis’ (184) retirement from the Philadelphia Gas
Works in 1988 marked the beginning of a new adventure
that, with his wife, Selma, shows no sign of slowing
down. Edgar’s passion for photography, and Selma’s
for writing led them to becoming freelance journalists.
Years before the blogosphere gave space to aspiring writers
and journalists, Selma and Edgar were meeting with
and writing about some of the world’s most famous and
interesting people. Local newspapers were happy to pay
modest sums for their interviews.

My wife and I visited Selma and Edgar at their home on
a chilly Friday morning. The first thing we saw was the
floor covered with laminated newspapers bearing their
photographs and articles. From the Tuskegee Airmen
to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, from actor
Robert Wagner to actresses Stephanie Powers and Janet
Leigh, the pair has interviewed a seemingly endless
number of famous people. We came wanting to know
stories about the people they interviewed, but found
that we were more interested in getting to know Selma
and Edgar themselves.

How does a retired couple, frankly journalistic amateurs,
get to meet and interview so many famous and influential
people? “We call and we ask,” Selma said, as though
the question was almost silly. Credentials? Gatekeepers?
“Never a problem.”

Not satisfied with that straightforward answer, I asked
who was the most difficult individual to get to interview.
“That would be Luther Smith.” Luther Smith? “One of
the Tuskegee Airmen. He lived not too far from our
home, so we called to arrange an interview. When he
answered his door, he didn’t want to let us in, but eventually
he softened, and we spent two hours in his living
room hearing many stories about the war.” The story of
the Tuskegee Airmen — the first and, initially, the only
African-American aviators in the racially segregated
U.S. Army Air Force — is among the most fascinating of
World War II.

The Davises’ stories went on and on. Finally, I asked
which of the interviews was the most interesting to
them. They both agreed that it was with Alexander Haig.
I wanted to know if he discussed his brief moments
when he put himself in charge of the nation — and they
said he had. Haig said, in a matter-of-fact tone, that
President Reagan had been shot. When he was asked
if anyone knew the condition of the president, no one
had any information. He was asked the whereabouts of
the vice president. He said that Vice President Bush was
in Texas, but it wasn’t clear if he had been advised of
the assasination attempt. Not having been asked about
the Speaker of the House — third in the line of succession
— Secretary of State Haig announced that he had
taken charge until the facts were determined. Many of
us remember those moments in 1981 vividly, but how
many of us got the story from the source?

I almost missed the reference to “Buck Rogers.” It seems
that the Davises had interviewed the elderly son of
Philip Nowlan, the creator of comic strip character Buck
Rogers. They mentioned that Philip Francis Nowlan
was a fellow Central alum. When I asked if they knew
his class, they did not, and the son they interviewed
was long since deceased. Thanks to our own archivist,
David Kahn, we found that Philip Nowlan was, indeed,
another Central alum of note. He was in the Chess Club
and a member of the 1905 championship football team,
and is ultimately credited with creating the story of
Buck Rogers.

From an historic Central perspective, that was the most
interesting discovery of the interview. What impressed
me most, however, was their walk-on appearance on
“Baywatch.” How did they manage to get on the show?
“We asked.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David Hallberg

I could call myself a musician, but I am more than just that. I am a writer, I used to be a dancer, I am definitely a wife, mother, and grandmother, and I like to analyze - everything - words, pictures, actions, and the subtle tells that go with them.

I saw David Hallberg, for the first time, on the Cobert show. Hallberg is the young American ballet dancer, with the American Ballet Theater, who joined the Bolshoi Ballet to dance Sleeping Beauty. On the Cobert show, he seemed to defy gravity like no other dancer I ever saw. And all of his actions gave the illusion of effortlessness. Then, on the Sunday Morning show, excerpts of his dancing from Russia confirmed his gravity defying leaps and spins. His interview revealed that he sprained his ankle at the beginning of the show and, instead of running to a trainer and strapping on bandages and taking some kind of pain killers, he continued with his breath-taking performance. No one could imagine the pain he must have been in.

Compare this with the so-called macho athletes who play football, tennis, basketball, baseball, soccer, and so on. We saw Ben Rothlisberger quarterback his Pittsburgh Steeler football team last night. He limped onto the field, wore different shoes on both of his feet, and anyone who watched knew that he was mustering up his courage to play his best, even though he had a sprained ankle. This is an athlete? I have said, for years, that ballet dancers are stronger, more fit, more able than traditional athletes. Can you imagine what would happen if you took a football team and put those large men into a class of junior high girls who were working out at the barre? I am sure that they would have "jelly" legs and very achy muscles and probably never want to try for that Marvelous toned look and flexibility again.

As I said, I started, or I should say restarted, ballet lessons when I was 49. I used to take ballet and tap when I was a kid but many years intervened before I realized that I like the look of ballerinas. They walk with poise and good posture. So I took lessons for about 6 years (with a slight interruption for brain surgery) and I eventually wound up on point. Who would ever have thought it. And I still use the practical lessons I learned to keep my balance - keep muscles tight and stare at a nonmoving object.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chanukah Memories

My most vivid memory of Chanukah happened about 35 years ago, on St. Patrick's Day. My youngest child was in Kindergarten. I met him after school and he danced around with excitement. His kindergarten teacher made a VERY big deal about each holiday. It started in September with Halloween and on the actual day, she dressed up as a cat. The students loved it. Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine's Day and finally St. Patrick's Day. There might have been a few in between, but I don't remember.

For St. Patrick's Day, she dressed all in green - from head to toe - and explained the legend of St. Patrick's leading the snakes out of Ireland. There might have been a few games played in the kindergarten room that were particularly Irish, but I don't remember that either. What I do remember was the delight that my child had when I met him after school.

"Mom," he shouted. "Mom, do you know what the leprechaun gives the good boys and girls on St. Patrick's Day?"

He waited patiently for me to say no and then he opened his hand and showed me the gold foil wrapped chocolate coins and said "Chanukah Gelt."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Hawaii Five-0

CBS has ruined one of my all time favorite TV shows, the new Hawaii Five-0. The music is spectacular and perfect. The scenery is gorgeous, lush, and hard to spoil. The acting is adequate. But, the actual stories are unimaginative, don't take advantage of the settings, and really test one's ability to suspend disbelief.

The old show had outstanding guests: Helen Hayes, Theodore Bikel, David Wayne, Lyle Betcher, Tyne Daly, Lew Ayres, and so forth in addition to a stock company where the various actors played different parts in the series. I can't remember even one time when Jack Lord stripped to the waist to show off his muscles. He did go running on the beach but he wore a shirt over his shorts.

And the writers knew how to keep the viewers' attention with a beginning, middle, and end. Our favorite writer was Jerome Coopersmith. He attended University of Pennsylvania with Edgar. They were even in German class together. Jerome Coopersmith had Dr. Ventnor as one of his characters and he even named one of them after Edgar. In the story with Helen Hayes, her seat mate on the plane was "Mr. Miller, Edgar P."

I don't want to seem immodest, but the story lines in my four Hawaiian crime novels are better. And they would lend themselves beautifully and easily to a TV series.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Medicare and Me

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm old. I've been on Medicare since the first day I was eligible and have paid for Medigap since then. I also have saved every piece of paper that Medicare, the Medigap insurer, and the medical profession has sent. What a mess!! I have the papers filed by year and I tried to file them by doctor and/or hospital but that didn't work and I tried to file them according to the patient - me or Edgar - but that doesn't work because multiple medical people and multiple patients appear on the same papers. So much for background.

On Saturday, I received a statement from the billing service used by our doctors. It was wrong and I had the paperwork to prove it. Since they agree to take whatever Medicare pays, the charge was too high. Then, they deducted the medicare payment from the high charge, did not deduct the payment that was sent by the medigap insurance people, and billed us for the amount they said we owed. The medigap payment was considerably less than the amount they billed us.

I sat down this morning with three pieces of paper: the statement from the billing company, the statement from Medicare that outlined the approved cost and what they paid, and the statement from Medigap that outlined when they paid the difference. I called the billing company, waited on hold for about 3 minutes, gave the identification information to the polite but officious woman on the phone, and was told that the money from Medigap had not arrived when the statement to us was generated.

I was polite, and told her that the statement was wrong. She bristled. She said that they deducted the Medicare payment. I told her that the total amount was much more than Medicare approved. She tried to talk over me, but, channeling Judge Judy I told her that she could not talk over me but she had to listen to what I was saying. I asked her to please send a zero-balance statement. She launched into her prepared speech, to wait, then to call back, then, if the money was received, if I asked, the zero balance statement would be sent out. I told her that I was prepared to make copies of these 3 pieces of paper and send them to the Medicare Fraud division. She put me on hold. I waited patiently. Then she said that the correction was made on the statement concerning the approved Medicare amount and that as soon as the payment was received from Medigap, the statement would show a zero balance.

I thanked her and told her that I knew that the extra $50.00 was not going into her pocket, nor was it going into our doctor's pocket, but it was just sloppy bookkeeping. This could have cost us but, thanks to saving every piece of paper, it didn't.

In closing, I feel like I'm writing this over and over but I have to stress the importance of keeping records. They don't even have to be good records. Just keep all the papers in a carton that says - KEEP. DON'T THROW THIS AWAY. EVER.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hawaii lost the Aloha Spirit

Starting in 1990, Edgar and I made 35 trips to Hawaii - most of them to Waikiki, one to Kauai, and two to the Big Island. Kauai was much too quiet for us. Although beautiful, I said many times, if you feel you're going to have a nervous breakdown and never want to see another person again, two weeks in Kauai and you're cured. The Big Island was interesting - with at least two different and distinct personalities - the volcano and the agricultural areas. Never had we seen any landscape that resembled the lava covered grounds connected with the volcano. We heard that the astronauts walked there in an attempt to train for walking on the moon and we can believe that. The newly hardened lava looks like it is sprinkled with diamond dust. The hot lava flows into the Pacific Ocean and that releases large plumes of steam. The National Park set up barricades to keep the tourists out of danger but, a foolhardy person ignored the purpose of the barriers, stepped over them, looked over the edge of the clif into the Pacific and the soft ground gave way under his feet and he became a sacrifice to the volcano.

The agricultural area, around Captain Cook, is high in the hills and coffee, bananas, chocolate, exotic fruits, and tropical flowers all grow with just a little help from the land owners. A serious drug epidemic has forced the large farmers to hire armed security guards to safeguard their crops.

Waikiki, on the island of Oahu, is the center of commerce, culture, and people. Edgar and I were so impressed with the people that, in spite of the l-o-n-g flight from Philadelphia, we continued to return even though Florida and Puerto Rico are much closer. And we returned regularly to enjoy the warmth, both from the sun and the people. But something changed and we have finally been able to identify what appears to us to be the catalyst of change. When Ben Cayetano was elected Governor, he invited everybody to come to his inauguration and we did. The ceremony was held at the Iolani Palace and we were later interviewed by CNN - we guessed that it was because we did not look Hawaiian. In the course of our many travel articles, we had several interactions with Governor Cayetano including photos, and long Q and A sessions. He even arranged for us to have a walk-through part on Baywatch Hawaii. Then the Republican Linda Lingle became Governor and, the office door closed to us. Whenever we requested an interview we were told that she was either tied up in meetings or "off island." And that lack of availability to tourists transferred to the rest of the people.

Before her inauguration, we, and other tourists, were treated as valued guests. Afterwards, we became coins in the state cash register. Amenities that had been a part of everyone's experience disappeared and "blue suede shoe" guys annoyed us to buy time shares on every corner. Instead of enjoying leisurely strolls up and down the beach and up and down the avenues, we had to predetermine a destination and not stop to enjoy the scenery or the flowers.

Mayor Jeremy Harris appreciated the value of tourists and beautified Kalakaua Avenue with fountains, statues, flowers, and public rest rooms. Most of the Hawaiians faulted him for "wasting" money on tourist sites and forgetting the needs of the locals who never appreciated that the tourists brought the money for the locals to have jobs.

We had been staying at the same place during our many trips, and enjoyed it. Then, the next generation of hotel owners took over and forgot how important the return guest was. They renovated or tore down the older hotels and built lavish, expensive, modern structures. They thought that the Aloha spirit that permeated Hawaii during their parents' and grandparents' times could be replaced with wall coverings, bedspreads, and curtains that looked like old Hawaii but could be bought in any store that imported goods from Asia. And this lack of enthusiasm for the life-blood of the State, tourists, permeated the help. The attitudes of the workers reminded us of the saying "it's not the job that I hate, it's the work." Simple tasks, like fixing a telephone connection, took more than a day; reparing a leaky faucet took more than a week; and being available to sign in the guests ranked way down on their list of priorities.

We are glad that we were able to enjoy the "real" Hawaii when we first started vacationing there and are happy that we took so many photos, met so many very interesting people, made friendships that continue to last across the miles, and continue to have pleasant memories of concerts, operas, ballets, theater, surfing, hulas, luaus, whales, spinning dolphins, and the Aloha spirit before it vanished.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

sports and everyday living

Who would have thought that Alan Iverson and Jim Mora would become relevant in our every day life? With Iverson's "practice!" and Mora's "playoffs!" we notice similarities with every day people and their reactions to events.

For instance, the mother of a friend of ours is receiving physical therapy. The therapist, paid for by medicare, comes to her house once a week. After the last session, she called him. "You left your things here. Don't you need them?" The therapist could not believe his ears. "I left them there for you to use. So you can improve your balance, not fall, and require my services less and less."

"Practice?" she said. "I don't practice anything." And her daughter confirmed that she never practiced anything - not the piano, not tennis, not golf, not how to learn new techniques on the computer, not anything. By the way, she is not at all related to Alan Iverson.

I have a neighbor who is elderly, opinionated, and not well. She takes taxis every where she has to go and does not believe that she needs to watch her diet (Type 2 Diabetes). When reminded that she can no longer eat ice cream, she claims "Ice Cream! I love ice cream. I used to eat a half a gallon at a time." And she quickly changed the subject to oatmeal and vegetables. Reminded us of Mora and playoffs.