Friday, December 21, 2012

Our 50th Annivrsary

     It hardly seems like 50 years and when I wonder where did the time go, I look at our children and grandchildren.  They mark the passage of time as surely as the rings on a tree trunk define its age.    

     A mutual friend introduced us and warned me that Edgar is a really nice guy but he is very shy and quiet.  My mother scoffed at that description.  She knew that a successful salesman could not be shy and quiet.  She was right.

     It's difficult, if not impossible, to rank our experiences over 50 years, and to include all the memorable ones.  We are proud parents of three successful, talented, and accomplished children and seven grandchildren who are finding themselves and searching for their identities while trying to carve out their position in life.

     We have met and so far conquered our medical misfortunes and each bout made us stronger, both as individuals, a couple, and a family.

     Once Edgar retired, we traveled and traveled and traveled - from Key West through the rest of Florida, to Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland to New York and through most of New England.  From Puerto Rico to Montana and Yellowstone National Park, to Washington state, Oregon, and California, and to Alaska and Hawaii.

     Our second careers as photo journalists gained us interviews with usually silent people like Col. Norman Vaughn, to people who are in history books like Wally Hickel and Alexander Haig (both in Nixon's cabinet), members of the WWII 442nd/100, Tuskegee Airmen, and the Original Flying Tigers.

     We appeared on radio and TV from CNN in Hawaii to Philadelphia-area local TV and radio.  We sat down with governors and mayors, newspaper editors, TV and movie stars, hall of fame sports figures.  We even attended rehearsals of the Pro Bowl cheerleaders and local cheerleaders too.

     We produced music festivals in Montana and Washington state, attended concerts, music festivals, rock and roll gigs, ballets, operas.  The city didn't matter, only the music.  And dramas, comedies, and musicals in theaters.  Among the plays we saw "Love Letters" three different times over the years, in three different venues.

     We won prizes for journalism and photography, appeared on Baywatch Hawaii and were guest lecturers in high school journalism classes.  I wrote and published four crime novels that take place in Hawaii.  Robert Wagner said that they would have been perfect for "Hart to Hart" if it hadn't been canceled.

     We survived today's "end of the world prophecy" and can't wait to see what our next adventures will be.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chanukah Gelt - American Style

     Tomorrow night, Saturday December 8, is the first night of the 8 day holiday of Chanukah.  Among the many traditions is distributing money, called Chanukah gelt, to children.  I've tried to find the origin of this custom, but to no avail.  Anyway, when the candy makers caught wind of this money-gifting, they made chocolate discs, shaped like coins, wrapped them ib gold or silver foil, and came up with their own version of Chanukah gelt.  It's fun, harmless, and delicious.

     Now, let's go back in time, to when our children started kindergarten.  The creative teachers tried to engage their young students with holiday stories.  And as the year progressed, they went from Halloween, through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, May Day, and Mothers Day.  For each holiday, the kindergarten teachers tried to dress the part and decorate the room appropriately.

     One year, at St. Patrick's Day, the teacher dressed all in green and explained the legend.  Our child was so excited when he came home - "Mom, do you know what the leprechaun gives the good girls and boys on St. Patrick's Day?" and, without waiting for an answer, he opened his hand to show the gold foil wrapped chocolate candy and said "Chanukah Gelt."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lower Merion's Winter Concert 1

     We enjoyed a wonderful evening on Tuesday night, December 4th at Lower Merion High School.  The music department presented the first of two winter concerts.  This included the freshman chorus, the choir, the jazz band, and the community sing along of the Hallelujah Chorus.  I participated in the sing along even though when I was at Lower Merion, I played the cello for this event.

     We remember the seemingly interminable concerts when our children participated but this evening was enjoyable and not too long.  Perhaps that was because our grandson performed in his first of these concerts. The chorus and choir sang in tune, in harmony, and in rhythm even when there was no accompaniment.  I have sensitive backs of legs that hurt when notes are out of tune - there was not one pain, not even a twinge of pain.  And the jazz band generated such enthusiasm that we felt like getting up and dancing.  Felt like it.  Didn't do it.

     In the audience was our favorite teacher of all time - Dr. Herman Giersch.  He applauded with gusto, stood up first for the standing ovation, and was enthusiastic when it came to singing the Hallelujah Chorus.  He insisted on climbing up the risers to stand with the basses.  He was my teacher, and my childrens' teacher.  He looked just about the same as he did when he was my teacher in 4th grade at Bala School in 1948.  His handshake is as firm and strong as ever.  And his memories of his students appears to be as fresh as when he first taught them.  My children were lucky.  They too had Herman Giersch as a teacher.  He is truly a Lower Merion treasure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 elections

     It's been 2 weeks and I'm thrilled with the election results - both national and local.  We've been voting at the same place, more or less, since 1969. the Bala Gym - the polling site moved a little bit, to different buildings but the ritzy-pitzy condo owners objected to the influx of us common people and we were moved back to the gym several years ago. As an aside, the gym had been attached to the Bala School, where I went to school, as did our children.  But the ancient stone structure was torn down and the newer Robert Means gym remained standing.  And it is still there, sans its name.

     It was fun, our usual twice a year meeting with neighbors that we hardly ever see.  An old Bala School classmate, a cousin of our inlaws, a military man who has bought all 4 of my novels, and the whole gamut of politicians.

     We arrived around 8:00 AM and our voting numbers were 205 and 206 - high for that hour.  The two voting machines appeared to be working perfectly but either due to inattention on the part of the worker, or an effort to discourage voters by lengthening the waiting line, she worked only one.  Until I spoke up.  And not too quietly.  And then the two voting machines were working again.

     While standing in line, a well dressed young man came by and said hello.  When I say young, he looked like a Junior High Student.  I asked what he was doing and he told me that he was "something" from the Republican party.  I didn't understand what he said and I really didn't care enough to have him repeat it. I told him that he affiliated with the wrong party and that in my whole life, I only voted for two Republicans - Arlen Specter and Lita Cohen (she was a high school classmate of mine).

     The young man said that he was considering running as a Republican and would I vote for him sometime in the future.  I told him "never."  That he was with the wrong party.  That I would never vote for anyone that supported or was supported by a group of misogynistic men.  I also told him that when I graduated from college in 1961, I fought hard for and thought I had won the battle for women's rights.

     That stopped him.  He became hung up on 1961 and questioned me and finally said "you look great."  And I thanked him and said "this is the way a 73 year old woman looks."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Godspell at Lower Merion High School

What a show!  If you missed it last night, you still have tonight, Friday, and tomorrow night, Saturday, to be entertained and amused, and be carried back to the "flower power" feeling of the early 70's.  I will write a longer and more detailed review later.  I just wanted to let you know of this fabulous opportunity that exists in Lower Merion.  Play starts at 7:00 and is at Lower Merion High School.

"Godspell" is an early 1970's representation of the Book of Matthew (and other Books). It recreates the "flower children" energy of the time - the useless fighting in Vietnam, the distaste with the establishment, and the ever present feeling of "make love, not war." 36 minutes ago

It was fun to see a lot of gray-haired people in the audience - we who lived through those turbulent times and could rejoice now in the message of "get along with everybody."
The audience reacted with cheers, claps, standing ovations where appropriate and complete silence when that was appropriate.
Hard to believe that the cast is comprised of high school students. Everyone from the set designers and construction workers to the lighting and audio technicians to the stage manager, to the musicians - all were remarkably accomplished and professional.
And the actors performed their roles and never stepped out of character. When they romped through the audience, looking for participants to dance and move to the inviting music, they retained their professional personas. During intermission, they frolicked on stage as if they were really in NY's Central Park - riding a skate board, riding a bicycle, and hitting a golf ball.
This is really a MUST SEE production. Saturday night is the last performance.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

1991 Perfect Storm and the Frankenstorm

     The 1991 Perfect Storm, also known as the Halloween Storm, was followed about a month later by another huge Atlantic Ocean storm.  The second storm stirred up the Atlantic Ocean even more than the first one.  Then, in the beginning of January, Edgar and I took a trip to Atlantic City, on a beautiful day, to walk on the boardwalk.  What a surprise greeted us.

     The beach was covered with clam shells from the ocean line to the boardwalk, at least a foot deep, and as far as we could see, from Longport to the Inlet.  The clams were still alive and were spitting out water.  We later found out that they were called "pisser" clams.  We took photos of this massive covering of shells and marvelled at the restauranteurs who were loading up bucket after bucket of the live clams.  The specials of that week turned out to be clam stew, clam chowder, clam pasta, etc.

     We stopped at the Philadelphia Inquirer building on our way home and the photo editor could hardly believe his eyes.  He asked for permission to print Edgar's photo, not only in the local papers, but also for the rights to syndication for national distribution.

     A day or two later, we received a phone call from a geology professor from the University of Pennsylvania.  He was both delighted and full of questions and wanted to know where we took the photo, and where did the massive collection of shells occur, and so on and so on.  He told us that our photo helped to solve a problem that geologists had puzzled over for years.  There are banks of sedimentary rocks, interspersed with other rocks, that seemingly had no business being there, and now, the professor felt, the mystery had been solved.

     We also collected some conch shells which we took to the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences for authentication.  The expert told us that those shells had not been on the Jersey Shore for more than a million years.  He too wondered at our experience and told us that we had, indeed, a veritable antique and relic.
     I have a tangential relationship with a young women who is working for Women on Waves.

Quoting from its website, "Women on Waves sails a ship to countries where abortion is illegal. With the use of a ship, early medical abortions can be provided safely, professionally and legally. Applicability of national penal legislation, and thus also of abortion law, extends only to territorial waters; outside that 12-mile radius (or 2 hours sailing) it is thus Dutch law that applies on board the ship, which means that all our activities are legal. Millions of women worldwide have used Mifepristone and Misoprostol to terminate pregnancy with impressive safety and efficacy. Therefore the medicines have been on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines since 2005. Women on Waves has already created enormous public interest in its efforts and has completed successful campaigns in Ireland (2001), Poland (2003,) and Portugal (2004), and Spain (2008)."

     If, and it is a big if, Romney gets elected, or even worse, if a Republican Congress gets elected too, the WAVE organization won't have far to go. They can anchor their ships off the Jersey Shore.

      I remember the olden days when back alley abortions resulted in the death of the young woman.  Polly Bergen said that she had an abortion as a teenager and the resulting butchery left her unable to ever have any children. There was a major tragedy tragedy in the Philadelphia area when the daughter of a prominent family became pregnant. Her mother did not approve of the social standing of the father and, even though they were in love and wanted to get married, the mother took her daughter to a back alley for an abortion. And the daughter died. Mediczlly approved abortions were not available.

      And all of this hoopla over women's reproductive rights is being generated by 17th and 18th century thinking men. Their thinking must be that women don't have the right to express an opinion. Is their next step to deny women the right to vote? We must keep the narrow minded politicians out of office.  

     Hooray for the people who have strong moral principles and adhere to them but part of that morality must be not to infringe on my freedoms. Those zealous, fundamentalists must be kept out of office. You know how to read. Protect everybody's rights.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Inheritance

I should have known better. Mitt Romney drives me nuts. I should know not to listen to him any more, but my inquisitive nature gets the better of me and I work very hard to keep my blood pressure under control. The nerve of him to say that he did not inherit much from his father - ONLY about a million dollars. He certainly did not inherit his mother's advocacy of the truth. The videotape of her, when she stated that the year they were on relief was very difficult, had to stir up emotions in the viewer. But, apparently not in her son. It's obvious to me that Mitt Romney did not inherit his father's intelligence, compassion, people skills, and empathy. I inherited a great deal from my parents: perfect pitch and other musical talents, intellectual curiosity, sense of humor, compassion for the less fortunate, determination to see a job through to its completion, analytical ability; and a tendency to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I have more or less tamed the latter two with rigorous attention to diet and exercise.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Verge

Learned a new word. The grassy plot between the sidewalk and the curb is called a verge. And here comes the aggravation.

This summer, the Bala Avenue playground was closed for quite a while for renovations and repairs. We asked why the summer time was chosen for this mess and we were told that even though the private schools and day care centers do not pay taxes to Lower Merion, their people use the playground quite a bit and that no time really seemed convenient for everybody.

So, our tax dollars were used to spruce up some equipment and put in concrete pathways. Our tax dollars were also used to destroy a tree that was growing in our verge. One of the heavy cement trucks backed right into the tree and damaged it so severely that it presented a hazard and had to be taken down and carted off. Until that point, the tree served at least two purposes - it provided shade to the sidewalk and prevented cars from parking on the verge. The township cut the tree at the grassline, did not remove the stump, and took the tree away.

Talking to our commissioner, via email, and the township manager, also via email, resulted in only negative replies. Even though, the damage was caused by someone who was under contract to Lower Merion, the township, through its representatives, have refused to do anything. Nothing. Nothing at all. And, we were told that since Bala Avenue is a State highway, that's a convenient out for the township, it's only a state highway when the township doesn't want to get involved, the state would have to replace the tree because it was in the verge.

Catch 22?

We cut the grass on the verge, and edge the side, and the township does nothing, neither does the state.

In our conversations with the township, we found out that the township is going to put in a streetlight in our verge. Remember, Bala Avenue is still a state highway, but the township is erecting the light. We even have a number, P 22, and a circle painted on our grass in the verge.

So, to sum up, our tax dollars paid for the renovations and repairs to the Bala Avenue playground, during the summer, when the neighborhood children could have used it and, our tax dollars, also paid for the destruction of one of our trees which had stood there for many years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"No Man Is an Island."

No matter how hard anyone works; no matter how intelligently; no matter how much money each person spends on building up his business; he cannot do it by himself. To start, each person receives an education, either in school from teachers who are paid by the community, or by his or her own parents who also received an education from someone.

Next, in order to get from here to there or from here to anywhere, one needs to travel on roads, built by others with community dollars; or by train, bus, airplane, boats, even bicycles.

There is water, electricity, sewers, gardens, playgrounds, traffic lights, automobiles, and so on and on. Each person does not have to reinvent the wheel. Each person builds his own business and his own experiences on the past.

Jumping to today, e-mail, cell phones, internet, instant access to information - all require satellites. And these satellites were put into space by the government through tax dollars and also, by private industry that received major financial incentives to do it.

We feel really old, quoting the founding fathers "we must all hang together or surely we will all hang separately," and yet, we cannot believe that one person alone, without the help of many others, can be successful at anything no matter how hard he works. We believe, as Obama tried to express it, that we all need teachers, police, firemen, weathermen, road builders, aviation directors, air traffic controllers, and so forth.

We hope that the narrow minded people who pretend to be insulted by the mere suggestion that someone else might have helped them grow are not that arrogant to really believe it.

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Hi - Wow - 2500 miles is a lot to cover in a car. And an up close and personal way to see the country.

We ran into neighbors of ours in the Kalispel airport years ago. We were in a 22-seater, flying from Big Sky to Seattle, via Kalispel and Spokane. We loved Kalispel.

Glad you were treated nicely by the hospitality industry workers. We're happy to say that, almost all of the time, we have met with the same good treatment and we're just plain ordinary Joes.

We are distressed by your one-sided introduction of politics. Of course your parents, Roy and Estelle Kelley, worked very very hard and intelligently and built a fabulous business as a foundation for an empire.

But, and here comes our disagreement, they could not have done it by themselves, no matter how long, how hard, how intelligently they worked. The tourism business in Hawaii depends on jet airplanes and ships. Without the pilots, navigators, engineers, designers, builders, engine makers, air fields, piers, etc., there could never be the tourism industry that exists today. And each one of these careers required training and money. Surely, no one would expect Roy and Estelle Kelley, or their heirs, to shell out the money to train the pilots, navigators, engineers, designers, build the airfields, build the planes, build the ships, build the roads, put in the signs, etc.

Jumping to today, e-mail, cell phones, internet, instant access to information - all require satellites. And these satellites were put into space by the government through tax dollars and also, by private industry that received major financial incentives to do it.

We feel really old, quoting the founding fathers "we must all hang together or surely we will all hang separately," and yet, we cannot believe that one person alone, without the help of many others, can be successful at anything. We believe, as Obama tried to express it, that we all need teachers, police, firemen, weathermen, road builders, aviation directors, air traffic controllers, and so forth.

We noticed in the list of summer interns a familiar name - Kelsey Kitagawa from the University of Hawaii. Several years ago, we wrote about the heroes of the 442nd/100. One of the men was Arthur Kitagawa whose father helped build the Golden Gate Bridge. Arthur Kitagawa was working at Fort Ord when he was hauled off the bus and arrested. He was given a choice of prison camp or the army, he chose the army, and was in the 442nd/100. He moved to Pennsylvania and we interviewed him in his house, near us. After the article appeared in the Main Line Life, his daughter called us to thank us because she said that he never revealed his WWII adventures to his family.

We don't know how, but Tom Brokaw saw a copy of our article, and asked if it would be OK if he put it, along with several other of our WWII articles, in the WWII archives at the University of Florida.

Please let us know if you will be in our neck of the woods so that we can get together on the East Coast too.

Love, Selma and Edgar

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kleig Lights and Jane Fonda

We remember the "good old days" of TV and movies when the scenes were light enough to see the action and the actors spoke loud enough to be heard.

Nowadays, the night time scenes are too dark to see even though the film, or whatever medium is used, has images. We could not understand this change in production until - we heard Jane Fonda on Letterman's show.

He asked her what differences she has noticed during the course of her long career in show business. She said she remembered the waiting, the interminable waiting, until the huge klieg lights were set up and nowadays, a scene is shot with a single small LED light. That explains it.

Even though the digital media can pick up images in the dark, we, the viewing public, cannot see them. She did not mention audio, but we suppose that similar improvements in audio pick up must exist with the same disastrous results. We cannot hear the dialogue recorded in this audio dark, no matter how loud the volume.

We enjoy watching and listening to the old TV shows like the original Hawaii Five-0, It Takes a Thief, and Columbo. We can see and hear everything and the well crafted story lines do not require go-go dancing, car chases, or semi-naked men.

We have a familial association with Jane Fonda. Cousin Christopher Davis's book "The Lost Summer" was scripted for the theater by Daniel Taradash (he did From Here to Eternity) and Jane Fonda played the lead when the show opened in Philadelphia in 1950 with the title "there Was a Little Girl." Rave reviews greeted the Philadelphia shows but it closed in New York after two weeks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Health, Taxes, and Payroll

My ideas for a better Congress, for a functioning America, on 3 fronts - health care, taxes, and payroll.

Let's talk about universal health care first. Certain members of Congress oppose the Affordable Health Care Act. I would like them to put their principles where there mouths are and refuse to accept the wonderful health care insurance that comes with their jobs. To digress just a little, I know a person who ran in the Pennsytlvania primaries for U S Senate in 1992 because, and just because of the health care benefits. Fortunately, not a winner. Nevertheless, the members of Congress who oppose universal health care should, unless they are morally bankrupt, refuse the health care that comes with their jobs. And all of their staffers should too.

Taxes - Since it may or may not be true that Mitt Romney paid no income taxes - all legal - changes must be made in the tax laws. I'd start with eliminating taxes on all taxable income of less than $40,000.00. Income over that amount would be taxed at increasing rates. I don't have access to all the numbers and the number crunchers, but I'm sure the people who are analyzing the moneys in and the moneys out can figure out the right percentages and rates.

And finally, payroll. Members of Congress, their supporting staffs, their expenses, their petty cash accounts are all paid from the taxes that we pay. Every member of Congress should take pay cuts, so that their salaries are no higher than the median salaries of the people who pay them. That's US.

A little about me. I am almost 73 years old with a BA and MA from an ivy league university. I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Edgar and the PTC trolley

In the 1930's, you could go almost anywhere in Philadelphia by trolley for 7-1/2 cents. We kids would sing "you can't get to heaven in a trolley car 'cause the PTC don't go that far." But they did make their way to San Francisco. Selma and I rode an old Philadelphia trolley with the PTC logo still visible when we visited San Francisco.

This opened up a lot of questions for me. When did they get there? How? why doesn't Tony Bennett sing about them?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Orange Tomatoes

My mother's sister, Aunt Florence, and her husband, Uncle Alec lived in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Not nearly as romantic or picturesque a place as its name implies. Uncle Alec was one of the first soldiers who freed the prisoners from the concentration camp where lampshades were made from human skin. He remained an injured veteran of WWII for the rest of his life. He left their small Variety Store daily, to walk the half a block to the tiny railroad station to pick up their delivery of newspapers and magazines. That was it!!

We used to visit them 4 to 6 times a year - driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, getting off at Exit 8, Hightstown, and wending our way through the small New Jersey towns. We never went the same way twice and one time, we saw 2 young boys, manning a card table with two or three mounds of tomatoes, corn, and peppers. We stopped. The boys told us that the produce came from their own home garden. We were suckers. We stopped and bought tomatoes - red, yellow, and orange. I'm sure we bought peppers and corn too but I don't remembeer them at all. The only taste and color I remember was the orange tomatoes.

Every year, we plant tomatoes and peppers and every year we have a very nice supply of different sized tomatoes - from the little grape tomatoes through the juicy and large beefsteaks. But they have always been red. This year, and I don't know how, we have orange tomatoes. And they have the same taste, smell, and color as the orange tomatoes that I remember from one of our trips to Atlantic Highlands.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Mother's Friends

The array of women that pretended to be my mother's friends fascinated me. My mother never learned how to drive so, by and large, at least half of the women had cars. And my mother's generation believed in very small families. I have no brothers and no sisters.

One of her friends thought of herself as a gourmet cook and whe willingly agreed to share her recipes. However, she always omitted a key ingredient. Eventually, everyone learned to throw her recipes away. She had no children but bragged extensively about her niece, her brother's only child.

Another friend, also a nondriver, had two sons. When the boys were in their early teens, the family planned an automobile trip to Florida. All four of them were in the car and one of the boys complained and whined that he didn't want to go. So they stopped the car, he got out, and the three of them proceeded on the automobile trip to Florida. When my mother heard the story, she was horrified and asked, "Weren't you worried?" "No. I knew he would make his way to his grandparents' house." Many years later, my mother's friend didn't feel well and after listening to her complaints for a couple of weeks, my mother encouraged her to make a doctor's appointment. She told my mother, who asked "Is he any good?" Her answer, "I hope not. I don't want him to find anything."

Another of her friends, also childless, but a driver, would take her shopping from time to time. This woman was very tiny and I wondered how she could see over the steering wheel. But her driving saved my father and me many trips.

Perhaps her best friend, short and very stout, a driver with a wonderful sense of humor and two daughters, never lost her patience with my mother. I don't remember the reason, but shortly after the Roosevelt Boulevard extension of the Schuylkill Expressway opened, my mother and her friend went shopping in the NorthEast. My mother was a brilliant woman but she had a limited sense of direction. For example, when she came to Philadelphia from New York, 1934, she told me that she had to go to the Eagle in Wanamaker's (now Macy's) in center city to get her bearings. Then she could figure out where she was. So - my mother and her friend drove along the Roosevelt Extension and my mother told her friend, "all I know is that you have to stay all the way on the left. And, the two of them were chatting when my mother's friend started to giggle. She was not angry. Not even a little put out. My mother got the directions wrong - First, the driver had to take a right exit before getting over to the left. Not a problem for her friend who got off at Girard Avenue and wended her way back through the city streets. This same friend was told to eat at least one banana every day for its potassium. "That's not a problem," she told my mother. "I have a banana split with two scoops of ice cream over my banana every night before I go to bed."

Of course, there were women connected with the PTA but they were activity specific. And neighbors who either actively tried to convert her to their church, or sell her their latest remarkable antique finds.

Monday, July 2, 2012

We had no power on Friday night.

Our power went out around 7 o'clock on Friday night. We called PeCO and reported the outage on the automated system and were left "in the dark" as to what and where the problem was and when the power would be restored. Remember Friday night? It was VERY HOT.

Fortunately, our daughter lives not far away and, even though she did not answer her phone, we drove over. She had said, many times, you don't have to call. Just come over whenever you want to or have to. So we did.

On our way over, we met a PeCO repair team who had found the problem and figured it would be 2 or 3 hours until power was restored. Fair enough.

At our daughter's house, delightfully air conditioned, we watched "those dummy Phillies" until we couldn't stand it any more. Then we called PeCO and the automated system said that the workers are trying to locate the problem. Hmmmm. Different from what we observed. But, we called every 30 minutes or so, and the automated system kept repeating the same irritating message. Finally, our daughter tried a different tact and she got a live operator. Don't know how she did it. And the good news was that our power had been restored about 15 minutes earlier.

Hooray. We left. Drove home. And went to bed in the blessed, cooling air conditioning. PeCO's work crews did a commendable job in locating the problem, fixing it, and restoring the power.

PeCO has a major problem with its automated outage system and needs to be able to update it and assure its customers that power is back when it is.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My impending 55th HS reunion

My 55th HS reunion is scheduled for the end of September. I graduated from LM in 1957 and since my children and some of my grandchildren attend(ed) the same schools that I did, I don't have to "come back" to see the school.

I've kept in touch, more or less, with those who were friends in HS.

I know I have 3 months to make a decision, but, I can't figure out how to decide.

I am successful. I have appeared on local and national TV. I have written for and been written about in local and national media. I have had 4 crime novels that take place in Hawaii published and Robert Wagner himself told me that the stories would be perfect for Hart to Hart if the series is ever renewed.

We have been married almost 50 years (Dec 1962). We have travelled extensively from Key West to Alaska, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. In spite of 3 major health issues (in the past) I am now more fit, healthier, and look better than ever. I don't dye my hair. I started turning silver when I was 23 and now people ask me if I use a rinse. I don't.

We work in our garden, weather permitting and our corner property is known for its lush blooms ad\ccording to the seasons - starting with forsythia and azaleas, moving through tulips and daffodils, peonies and roses, to sunflowers, rose of sharon, crepe myrtle, and to chrysanthemums.

I still butt in with local politics and nobody ever has any doubt concerning which side of an issue I support.

So, if any of my classmates want to see me, just let me know.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Friend Bonnie

I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around Bonnie's death. We had known each other for ever. Bonnie remembered that our mothers used to walk us side by side in our strollers.

We were classmates at Penn and shared many cultural moments - from U of P football games, to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, to every show that premiered in Philadelphia. And, after the shows, we'd go to the Russian Inn on Locust St. for a snack. One night, Lucille Ball came in with her fellow cast members from Wildcat.

Bonnie moved to New York. She rented an apartment in a 5-story walk up. i remember that Bonnie told me that, no matter what she forgot, nothing was worth the 5flights up and down. And, if it was critical, she'd buy another one.

She married, had two beautiful children, got divorced, got married again, and divorced again. After her second divorce, Bonnie motored across country, to California. She stopped here one morning on her way out West and said that she would call from California when she got settled.

She did, married a wonderful man, and involved herself in San Francisco's many cultural events - from the opera to the art museum, and even to political activities.

We visited her in San Francisco many times. She guided us through all the ins and outs of San Franciso streets - sometimes at slightly less than break-neck speed. When I couldn't remember someone's name, I asked Bonnie and gave her a hint out of left fielde - the same name as Artur Rubenstein's wife. Bonnie didn't even bat an eye or miss a beat "Nella" she said.

Bonnie always made time for us when she came back for her Friends Central reunions and, and of course, we always made time for her.

As strange as it sounds, we introduced Bonnie to a dear friend of ours, Shep Shepherd who lived in San Francisco. His story is in the Smithsonian Oral History of Jazz collection and, unfortunately, Shep was the one who called us to relay the sad news about our dear friend.

It goes without saying that I will miss Bonnie.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June in Wisconsin

Every time we fly to Madison, WI, we fear the airplane ride but love the result. After all, we go to visit our three grandchildren and their parents.

Even though our American Airlines flight had a 45 minute delay, we still arrived in Chicago in plenty of time to catch the puddle jumper to Madison.

Our children and grandchildren gave us the kind of warm and welcoming greeting that typified the old TV shows like the Brady Bunch and Father Knows Best.

We toured the extensive stone-work landscaping around their house, put in to prevent erosion and promote environmental causes. Thousand pound boulders, cut to fit and mesh with each other by skilled stone masons, provided a beautiful sea wall that reminded Edgar of the photos he saw of the Mayan pyramids. It was a little too chilly to go swimming in Lake Kegonsa and much too windy. But not too windy for the water skiers that we saw on Lake Manona - the Mad-city water ski team performs every Sunday afternoon and this is their 50th year.

I asked if the "Mad" was short for crazy or Madison and the official had to think for a minute before he answered, with a smile, Madison.

They performed ballet-like maneuvers, pyramids, jumps and turns in spite of the wind. The Mad-city ski team has won many water skiing championships. Their web site is

Wisconsin, although known as the Dairy State, is replete with farmland. Corn grows like blades of grass as close together that only mechanical harvesters can handle it.

The state also has abundant fruit crops and we went strawsberry picking at Lutz farm. The seven of us managed to pick about 30 pounds of delicious, juicy, sweet, red, ripe strawberries. What to do with them besides eat them right out of the rinsing bowl. They were very sandy. Strawberry flan served as dessert; strawberries sweetened the breakfast oatmeal; and strawberry jellies would fill the freezer.

The farmer said that birds did not bother the strawberries but raccoons were a nuisance. He catches them in traps that entice them because raccoons have a natural curiosity.

The town of Stoughton, founded by Norwegian settlers, sports both flags from the United States and Norway. The quaint stores include a bakery, a cheese shop, a movie theater/pizza parlor where the patrons sit at tables in regular chairs, eat, and watch the movie. There is a U.S. Post Office, a shop that sells hunting equipment and fishing supplies, a frame shop, and so forth. But the economy has taken its toll and there are many empty stores now. A new development is under construction and there is hope that the new owners will bring money and revitalize the town's economy.

The landscaping around Lake Kegonsa deserves to be in House and Gardens. Each house has blooms of various sizes, shapes, and colors, ranging from bright yellow marigolds to orange tiger lillies to cleamtis vines in vivid purples, pinks, and whites, to fragrant roses. A street-side walk refreshes the mind and the emotions.

We enjoyed our stay and were not the only ones who were sad when it was time to leave. Our grandchildren gave us meaningful hugs and kisses and said that they wished we could stay even longer. A funny thing happened on the puddle jumper from Madison to Chicago - the flight attendant told Edgar that he was from Philadelphia and went to Central High School too and the copilot said that he went to Cardinal Dougherty and LaSalle College. "what a small world."

BTW, without trying, I sold two of my Hawaii crime novels - one in the Chicago airport and one on the plane from Chicago to Philadelphia. So glad that Edgar made me take them along.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Edgar, Deadman's Box, and the Ghostly Dirigible

Mhy encounter with the Hindenberg. It was 1936. Kida had to amuse themselves with whatever was on hand. No X-Box or Tech Games.

I was playing in the street on 68th Avenue in Oak Lane in Philadelphia. The game, as I recall, involved shooting bottle caps at a circle marked in chalk. I used caps from Canada Dry Ginger Ale, my parents' favorite soda. The game was called Deadman's Box.

It was a bright sunny fall day and I was on my knees, in my corduroy knickers when suddenly, a large shadow put me in darkness. I looked up and saw the silent dirigible. As I watched, awestruck, it glided by. On the tail was a swastika. Although I was only 8 years old, I knew what that hateful symbol meant. I had heard a radio broadcast from Germany with a screaming Hitler threatening the world and especially Jews like me.

The massive Hindenberg, ghost-like, disappeared and I resumed mhy bottle tops game.

Incidentally, that was not its last flight but, shortly after, it burned and crashed in New Jersey. These many years later, I still have a vivid recollection of that experience.

Friday, June 1, 2012

League of Women Voters

Let me start with a little bit of history. My mother was a New Yorker, through and through. She moved to Philadelphia when she married my father, and the New Yorker in her moved with her to Philadelphia.

Eventually, one of her New York friends also moved to the Philadelphia area. Her friend had been and remained active in the League of Women Voters and this puzzled me. I had met very little gender discrimination in my life. Once, in fifth or sixth grade, when I thought I would run for class President my mother scoffed and said, "you don't have a chance. The girls will vote for the boys and the boys will vote for the boys. Save your energy." So I did - save my energy that is - and never ran for a class office.

And then, not until I applied for graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and had already been granted an NIMH fellowship, did gender discrimination raise its ugly head again. At the interview, I was asked, "why should we give a spot to you, a girl, when you're just going to get married and not use it when we can give it to a man?" I was incensed, gathered my dignity, and said, "because I'm smarter than all the boys who have applied." I was admitted, got my MA, and have been a happy degreed person since.

Now to the League of Women Voters and I have to admit that I see the necessity of this organization. I never thought that we would see the day when the politicians are trying to deny the right to vote to women and are trying even harder to deny women the rights that we have struggled to obtain - the right to preventive health care, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to be free from violence in our homes and in the workplace, and the right to our privacy.

And, in the name of preventing a mythical voter fraud, the politicians are trying to disenfranchise many, many voters.

My only conclusion - vote for the DEMOCRATS.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

To watch TV ads or not watch . . .

This is inspired by an article in, by Wendy Davis.

"It's fair to say that people always had ways to avoid commercials on TV. Long before the days of the VCR, people who didn't want to watch the ads would stretch their legs, get a snack, or change channels during the commercials. Once the VCR came around, people could fast-forward through the breaks."

To watch the TV ads, or not to watch the TV ads,--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous hype
Or to take a remote against a sea of dancing animals,
And by opposing end them. To sleep, to nap, to grab a snack,
and by a sleep to say we end the noise. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.
To sleep--perchance to dream: of TV shows without commercials.
of remote controls with batteries that need no charging.
Where's the respect that commercials give the viewers?
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The to be continued episodes, the angrily shouting politicians,
The adverrtisers' increasing volume,
The arrogant prognosticators,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the miracle toothpastes.
And yet, without these regular interruptions, where
would TV be? Who would pay?
Thus boredom and lethargy makes cowards of us all.
And good books lie unread.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Years ago, when Edgar and I contributed to a community newspaper, an editor asked us to photo and write about a fashion show. Sounded like fun. We drove far out into the sticks, interviewed the models, and took photos of the designer gowns. Then, we took the film to be developed and enlarged. We requested doubles of our 4 by 6 inch color prints and put one set away in case we needed them. This was our SOP.

The editor loved the photos and the story and then dropped a bombshell that she had promised copies of the photos to the models, "as partial payment," she said. I bristled. "Edgar never gives away his photos," I said. Especially when one considers that we viewed our whole experience with the community newspapers as a hobby that didn't cost us too much. The editor shrugged, agreed to payment, and examined the photos that were 100% perfect for the paper. And, although agreeing that the photos were beautiful and would reproduce wonderfully in the community paper, "they were somewhat blurry," and not quite "tack sharp." This episode reminded me of the hilarious test in "My Fair Lady," when the language expert prounced Eliza Dolittle a fraud. "Her English is too good, he said. This clearly indicates that she is foreign. Whereas others are instructed in their native language, English people aren't."

So, rather than calling the editor a fraud, we agreed to having the photos redone by a photo lab of her choice. We waited two days, and brought in the second set of photos - the duplicates that we had originally made. "Oh, these are much better," she announced. "Can't you see it?" she asked, as she cocked her head and put the two sets side by side. I put on my glasses. Peered at both sets of photos, and shook my head. "Whatever you say," was my response. "I'm glad you like these."
And she did. And she paid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Secret of Secrets

I remember, many years ago, a radio show called "Name that Tune." It followed Walter Winchell's weekly Sunday night broadcast - "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press. . . " At the end of Winchell's show, he presented his best guess as to the jackpot song. When the contest began, the radio station played one note, and, believe it or not, people called in with their guesses. The next week, the stations played two notes, and each week, the jackpot increased and the number of notes increased, until finally, enough of the melody was played that someone could accurately "Name that Tune." And each week, millions of Americans would tune in to Winchell for his exposes and tune clue.

After a while, TV presented a similar paradigm - People would choose a genre of music and say that they could name that tune in X number of notes. Sometimes they could and sometimes they couldn't. It didn't matter.

All of this, as a preface to the current day fascination with secrets:
the secret of losing weight
the secret to being fit
the secret of living longer
the secret of more energy
and so on.

I can reveal most of those secrets in two words:
losing weight - EAT LESS
being fit - EXERCISE MORE
more energy - LIFT WEIGHTS
living longer - STOP SMOKING
being less tired - SLEEP MORE

And so on - - -

There are no secrets. The proponents of secrets make these secrets sound mysterious. The proponents claim that the secrets are revealed to them and they are prepared to share the secrets with the world.

Sometimes there is a price involved to be privy to these "secrets." Sometimes, the price is money, other times, it is fame and glory.

Did I miss any secrets?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life Among the Cannibals by Senator Arlen Specter, a book review

Vigorous and feisty, Senator Arlen Specter names names, dates, times, and places in his newest book, "Life Among the Cannibals."

This insightful primer on political shenanigans reveals layer after layer of treachery, lies, difficult decisions, and ever increasing party squabbles and vindictiveness - written by somebody who was there.

This historically accurate diary of Congressional and political activites moves forward at an amazing pace. I have to offer this caveat - do not expect to take this book to bed, read a couple of pages, and put it down. That won't happen. It's a page turner and the reader wonders will Senator Specter survive or be knifed in the back again.

Senator Specter suffered defeats for Philadelphia mayor, for Philadelphia DA, for senator, and for Pennsylvania governor before winning the senatorial seat in
1980. Born in 1930, Senator Specter's first career ambition was to be a sports broadcaster. He joined the debate team in Russell High School in Kansas and said that debating was the best education he ever had.

His role on the Senatorial Judiciary Committee resulted in his unhappiness with justices Roberts and Alito who both promised to follow prcedent and promised to follow Congressional fact finding but they didn't. He laments that the Supreme Court has become a super legislature, an imperial court, with no TV's. It's almost as if the Supreme Court is saying "let the public be damned."

Specter's main thesis is that the people's business is not being done. Congress is gridlocked and dysfunctional. The extremists of both parties show no inclination to minimizing their views, even a little bit. "I always called them as I saw them," Specter repeats many times, using different words.

Senator Specter, discussed his vote for Obama's stimulus bill. He lived through the "great depression" and the economic disasters and shortfalls are permanently imprinted on his memory. "I voted my conscience to prevent another depression." He viewed this as a very important vote and he had to do it, as an act of patriotism. When Senator Reid, President Obama, and Vice President Biden backed down from their assurances that they would back him, he writes that of course he took it personally.

Many times, during the course of this book, Specter writes that "it is important to compete and take your chances of winning and losing." Once you win one, you forget the losses. He also chose his fights carefully, reminding me of the lines from the song "you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em."

His optimism and hope for the future is evident in this book. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," Specter asserts over and over again.

I'm still looking forward to an interview with Senator Specter. I have lots and lots of questions for him.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bogus e-mails sent to postal customers

Some postal customers are receiving bogus e-mails about a package delivery or online postage charges. I was one of these customers and, carefully, checked the website to discover the following warning.

The e-mails contain a link or attachment that, when opened, installs a malicious virus that can steal personal information from your PC. The e-mails claim to be from the U.S. Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery or online postage charges. You are instructed to click on a link or open an attachment. But Postal Inspectors warn: Do not click on the link or open the attachment!

Clicking on the link or opening the attachment will activate a virus that can steal information—such as your user name, password, and financial account information.

The fradulent email that I received also said that because the package, addressed to me, could not be delivered, I would be charged $20 something dollars a day for storage and I should be sure to click on the link provided to end the charges and determine what I wanted done with the package. This is not the first kind of fraudulent email that I have received and, as warned by my children and grandchildren, I NEVER click on a link unless I am 100% sure that I know the sender and know what the link contains.

In spite of all my care and diligence, my email accounts still get hacked, and I change my passwords with regularity. My credit cards also get hacked and, fortunately, the credit card companies are on top of the illegal activity and get in touch with me to confirm the charges as OK or unauthorized. The unauthorized charges result in no penalty to me and the credit card companies send replacement cards with speed.

Nevertheless, please take this warning to heart. If only the crooks would use their cleverness for legitimate activities.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Red Eye flight interrupted

LOS ANGELES >> An American Airlines flight from Hawaii has landed safely on one engine at Los Angeles International Airport after the pilot reported engine trouble.

This story, from today's Honolulu Star Adveertiser reminded me of the time that one of our American Airlines flights from Honolulu to Philadelphia, via Dallas, had a problem. The pilot of this red eye flight woke everyone up with the announcement that we were about 160 miles east of San Francisco but had to turn around and go back to San Fran airport so that "something" on the plane could be fixed and, the pilot assured us, that this airport was the only place that the "something" could be fixed.

As we approached the airport, the pilot announced that "all the precautions that you see when we land are perfectly normal." We looked and saw a fire engine and an ambulance parked, at the gate, on each side of the plane. Oh sure. Perfectly normal.

We all deplaned, waited for a couple of hours in the airport, talked and complained among ourselves, and, after being told that the plane could not be fixed as rapidly as expected and so, we were all being put on another plane for the trip to Dallas.

This plane must have been dragged out of mothballs. But it worked. Forget about assigned seats. It was first on the plane, first served. But no one hurried. Everybody was too tired. And, good news, as is obvious, the plane landed in Dallas OK and, although our scheduled flight to Philadelphia took off hours before we got to Texas, we were put on another flight and arrived home just fine.

There's more to this story. These events took place about a month after 9/11 and I was sure that our plane was being forced down by military jets because of a terrorism threat. I'm happy to say that I was wrong.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Sew goodWorking with a needle and thread is regaining favor as a valued skill By Nancy Arcayna POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 16, 2012
Sewing was once a required skill for females, passed from mother to daughter or taught in home ec classes and by 4-H clubs in the days when store-bought clothes were a luxury.

This appeared in today's Honolulu Star Advertiser and reminded me of a momentous occasion in the sewing lives of my mother and one of my daughters.My daughter came home from school, with a pattern for a blouse and instructions on things she had to buy to make this blouse.

First things first, I know almost nothing about sewing. If forced, I can sew on a button, or put up a hem, but I am useless when it comes to cutting out patterns or (horrors) using a sewing machine. But, my mother learned extensive sewing skills when she was a teenager and apprenticed to a seamstress in her small upstate New York town. My mother took one look at the pattern, said that this was not appropriate for a novice sewer, and my daughter should make another choice. My daughter insisted that the teacher said that anything from this book was OK and she was adamant - this was what she wanted to make.

"But it's cut on the bias," my mother said. And looked to me for help. I had no idea and backed out of the room. So, time passes. My daughter acquired all the materials necessary for this blouse - in yellow - and we heard nothing more about the project until the day before it was due.

"I had to sneak all this home," she said and then asked my mother for help. My mother threw her hands up, took one look at the progress, and got to work.

The next morning, the blouse was finished, and beautiful. She was up all night. My mother ripped out every stitch that my daughter made and resewed the blouse so meticulously that, without a sewing machine, the seams looked as if they were completed on the machine.

By the way, my daughter wore the blouse to school and got an A for the project. Fortunately, my mother also passed the course.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Phillies Opening Home Game

This past weekend was not a happy one for Philadelphia sports' fans. And, if the Eagles were playing, it would have been a four for four weekend - all losing. The Phillies reminded me of the old time Phillies when my young children would ask, in the morning, "how did those dummy Phillies do?" In the late 60's, they thought that "those dummy Phillies" was their name. It could have been. And it could be again. Fielding is slightly better than atrocious and hitting is missing. It's going to be a long summer.

I remember, a long time ago, when my mother, who was a National League fan insisted that my father take us to an American League game. The Athletics were still in Philadelphia and playing the New York Yankees. My mother's favorite player was Joe Dimaggio and she said that she wanted to be sure that I got to see a "real" baseball player. That's all I remember of that experience.

Edgar's cousin Herbert took him to an Athletics game and Herbert caught a home run ball, hit by Indian Bob Johnson - right to him in the Left field bleachers at Shibe Park.

One of Edgar's business acquaintances owned a small part of the Philadelphia Phillies. Jack Cherry was a sport in the real definition of the term. Anybody who came near him received a tip - parking lot attendants, policemen, and all the vendors. He had a box right over the Phillies dugout at Veterans' Stadium. He supplied us with programs, pennants, as much food as we could eat, and loud earfuls of cheers - both positive and negative. He had a VERY large vocabulary.

We took our children to several Phillies games. The youngest was 6 or 7 years old and was play-mocking the fanatic and then said, "is he looking at me?" This was during the second inning because after an ice cream, a pizza, some french fries, a soda, and a program, this child was ready to go home.

Back to today's home opener. The pageantry at the beginning captured the imagination and hopes of the fans. The team walked in from center field to the dugout and then, upon individual introductions, ran out onto the field. What a great beginning! If only the game had ended then. It's much too early to say "just wait until next year," or is it?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jane Ellis Gitomer

One might say that Jane Ellis Gitomer of Penn Valley, was born to her position on the Women's Guild of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and on the board as a voting member. But, one would be wrong. She worked very hard to attain her status. Her grandfather, Fredric R. Mann, envisioned an environment of fresh air and world class talent presented free, as a gift, to the people of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.

Jane Gitomer started working for the Mann Music Center when she was still in college where she obtained her degree in Fine Arts. Later, she received a master's in interior design which actually helps her, now, in her career in real estate with Long and Foster. At first, Gitomer worked in the Box Office, then she was in charge of ushers and security. But, when the Mann Music Center moved to its new location, security was put into the hands of the professionals.

As a member of the Women's Guild, Gitomer brought in influential people to raise funds, donate money, and participate in the various activities. At the time, she was granted non-voting status on the board of directors, but that did not sit well with Gitomer and she has been on the Board of Directors for four years as a voting member.

The Indie concert circuit, a group of independent bands, brings a large number of customers to the Mann, but security "could be a nightmare" if not in the hands of the professionals. The rock bands, there could be as many as 8 in a day, are money producing events. The six or so Philadelphia orchestra concerts present no problems in terms of security, but they are money-losing propositions. The main revenue stream comes from parking and concessions. And now that there are liquor licenses, Gitomer has high hopes for profits from the two bars.

The main fundraiser, the Party in the Park Gala, takes place on Friday May 11. Cocktails and dinner begin at 6:00 and the performance is at 8:00. Entitled "An Evening of Brahms and Bernstein," this is a collaborative effort presented by the Curtis Institute, the Rock School for Dance Education, and the Mann. A ticket can be obtained for as little as $500.00 each. This entitles the guest to cocktails and dinner and premium concert seating and VIP parking. The Curtis Symphony Orchestra will perform the Brahms Academic Festive Overture, Brahms Symphony No. 2, and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story will serve as the music for the dancers from the Rock School. Jane and Glenn Gitomer are in the eighth year as co-chairs for the gala. Glenn Gitomer's specialized law practice handles people who were wronged by the stock market if their brokers gave them advice that, at the time, the brokers knew was wrong.

The monies obtained by the Guild's fund raising is used for education as an outreach to the City of Philadelphia. Following the philosophy of Fredric Mann, they are trying to develop the next generation of musicians and people who appreciate fine music.

The physical structure at 52nd and Parkside Avenues in Philadelphia was built in 1976 and is now in need of repairs. In addition, the slanted grassy hillside has outgrown its need and plans are underway to move the fence back and extend the hillside to accommodate the large number of people who want to sit on the grass.

The following concerts have been scheduled: Il Divo & orchestra on Sat. June 9; The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform Beethoven's 9th on Wed. June 27; the Philadelphia Orchestra with an all Tchaikovsky Spectacular and fireworks on Fri. June 29; Idina Menzel Barefoot with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sat. June 30; Chris Botti and the Philadelphia Orchestra on Thur July 19; The music of John Williams to celebrate his 80th birthday with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Fri. July 20; Symphonic Spectacular of the Philadelphia Orchestra on Sat July 21; the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on July 24 and July 25 (starts at 8:30); and Jackie Evancho in dream with me in concert and the chamber orchestra of Philadelphia on Sat Aug 25. All those concerts begin at 8 PM. Individual tickets to each concert are available and vary in price from $12.50 to $129.50. Information about tickets and gift giving can be obtained at 215 893 1955.

The rest of the summer schedule is not yet complete.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hawaii Five-0, Ed Asner, the Netsukes and the Devon Horse Show

Our favorite TV series is and has been the original Hawaii Five-0. In last night's version of the new series, Ed Asner reprised his role as August March, the sinister and clever murderer, blackmailer, and thief.

During the 30 years since he appeared with Jack Lord, Asner retained every drop of his acting ability and did not try to disguise his age. Interspersed with the current show, clips of the younger Asner reinforced his guile and murderous ways.

During the first show, Hawaii Five-0 characters talked about and showed netsukes. Ed Asner's character tried to discredit Jack Lord's character by planting a valuable, stollen netsuke in Lord's/McGarrett's collection.

That show was our first introduction to the miniature, intricately carved figures. A little research later, and we discovdered that they started in Japan in the 17th century and were functional. Since the kimonos had no pockets, men carried their money, papers, and recreational items in a pouch that attached to a rope around their waists with a netsuke.

Later on, these carved miniatures became valued as collectibles. They were carved out of boxwood, sometimes out of ironwood and rosewood, and even out of ivory and bone. Now, faux ivory is also used.

During one of our 35 trips to Hawaii, we happened upon a charming shop that offered some netsukes for sale. We bought a fish and a horse. I fell in love with the fish because, we had just seen an exhibit of kimonos at the Honolulu Academy of Art and the fish had idealized status on one of the pieces.

The horse reminded us of a very funny experience. One day, one of Edgar's aunts was visiting at the same time as a friend of ours whose daughter rode horses in competition. She had just won a prize at the Devon Horse Show. Edgar's aunt heard the word horses in the conversation and said, "they're more valuable when two feet are off the ground."

Out guest looked puzzled but shrugged off the comment and Edgar's aunt just continued talking. Later, we realized that his aunt had been given a gift of a ceramic horse and the one who gave it to her wanted to toot her own horn.

Back to Hawaii Five-0, the new version. After 30 years in prison, the Ed Asner character had not reformed. He killed one of his henchman and walked off with millions of dollars and stollen diamonds. We look forward to seeing him in future episodes.

And we still have out netsukes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gefilte Chicken and the London School of Economics

When our children were in college, we encouraged them to bring their friends home for the holidays. Our Passover Seder usually resembled a League of Nations. We had guests from Germany, Bangladesh, England, Italy, Canada, Denmark, and of course, our three children. One year, we had a mother of one of the students, she was a professor at the London School of Economics.

We ran a semi-traditional Seder - at one point, we eliminated all gender references and no one even seemed to notice let alone care. (The four sons became the four children.)

I cooked a traditional array of food, but, I noticed that no one seemed to really relish the gefilte fish, at all. And, since I could never eat it (or anything that swam or kept company with swimmers), I decided to make something that I would and could enjoy. I took my mother's traditional gefilte fish recipe and substituted white meat chicken for the fish. What a success! I served it with horse raddish and the guests even asked for seconds.

Time passed. We saw the Bangladesh guests a while later. He said that he was in New York, walked into a Jewish Deli, saw the gefilte fish, and his mouth started to water. "I asked them for gefilte chicken. They looked at me like I had two heads. They said that there was no such thing. I told them that yes there was, it was delicious, I ate it, and I have not been able to find it anywhere since."

Talk about starting new traditions!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flower Show, Hawaii comes to Philadelphia

Hawaii crossed more than 6000 miles and five time zones (six during DST), to come to Philadelphia and advise and set up a piece of their sacred home at the Convention Center for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show.

Waterfalls, exotic flowers, blooming trees, and Aloha permeated the Philadelphia Convention Center. For nonvisitors to Hawaii, the atmosphere exuded paradise. But to people like us, who have made more than 35 trips to these enchanged islands, something was missing. It's true, the flowers at the Philadelphia Flower Show were gorgeous, plentiful, arranged with taste, and proliferating. But there were no cooling and calming trade winds, no peaceful sounds of the Pacific Ocean, and no warm and genuine greetings of Aloha (stress and prolong the LO syllable) from tourists and locals alike.

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku, with his arms outstretched and his neck surrounded with orchid leis reminded us of the statue in Waikiki. At least one could see this piece of Hawaii in Philadelphia. Mostly, the show was too dark and Edgar almost stepped right into a baby carriage - the people were crowded together and there was not enough light. Fortunately, he stopped himself just in time.

Chairs for sitting were not plentiful, but we found one which was all that we needed.

The hula dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center put on their beautiful, athletic, rhythmic, sensual, and seductive dance. They posed willingly for photos as did Danielle from Maui with her arms full of protea flowers and Kainoa Daines from the Oahu Visitors Bureau. As a special treat for people who are planning a trip to Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is offering a special coupon with 10% off all full day packages. The promo code is PAPHL03412.

I was especially struck by the representations of Madam Pele, made with dried flower petals. Madam Pele is my favorite of all the mythological people from all the cultures. In fact, she plays a major role in all four of my crime novels that are set in Hawaii (Hula Kapu, Surf Kapu, Coffee Kapu, and Pro Bowl Kapu).

The many vendors had crowds every time I looked at their wares - from the wine tasting, to the cheese shops, to the basket sellers, to the flower wares. There were lines and lines and more lines and people were happy to stand in the lines and turn over their money. The vendors I saw came from Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island - with spices, T-shirts, coffee, chocolate, and of course, the beautiful tropical flowers.

The tropical displays consisted of artistically arranged flowers around a stylized Surf Shop, waterfall, Hula statue, and a fruit and vegetable stand.

It turns out that this was a wonderful week to have a Hawaiian Flower Exposition in Philadelphia because the islands were deluged with rain. Major flood alerts had been issued for all the islands, and I heard from my Hawaiian friends, that the tourists said, "at least it's warmer here than at home."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Making of Psycho

Just heard that Scarlet Johansson is going to play Janet Leigh in the new movie, "the making of Psycho." This is supposed to be a behind the scenes look at all the adventures that occurred during the filming of this iconic horror flick.

We were lucky enough to interview Janet Leigh when she came to the Bala Theater for a screening of "Psycho" to promote a "save the old movies" campaign. Those old movies were filmed on a medium that was destroying itself.

She looked beautiful, dressed in a flowing white outfit, and graciously acknowledged all the applause that she received. She answered questions from the appreciative audience and, in a private session with us, she talked frankly and freely about her movie career.

Janet Leigh made movies with both Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock as directors. She referred to Mr. Welles and Hitch when she spoke about them. Welles was a spur of the moment director, always looking for new objects in the environment. Specifically, in a "Touch of Evil" the oil well was a last minute addition to the movie script. On the other hand, Hitchcock planned every second of every scene. She told us that he worked tirelessly on the "mother" model - with a different body structure and a different face until - one day, "while I was getting my make up on, he spun the chair next to me around, and I screamed and almost fainted. He knew he had his mother."

Another Psycho story involved the fall in the bathtub after the stabbing through the shower curtain. "I fell in a very awkward position and I was beginning to feel it in my neck. Then the moleskin started to melt away and I wondered if I should give the boys a show or move and have to redo the whole scene. I stayed still because I knew that Hitch would edit out what he had to."

A myth connected with Psycho is that the water in the shower was icy cold so that Janet Leigh would not have to act to scream in horror. She denied that. "The water was comfortable and warm," she said. "That's why the moleskin melted."

We hope that the movie makers keep the integrity and do an honest job in revealing the stories behind the making of the movie, "Psycho."

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I received the second communication in about a week from a grandmother whose grandchildren have peanut allergies. Each one wrote about the necessity of carrying two epipens, benadryl, cell phones for calling the ER's, and the constant worry and panic of both the parents (their children) and their own concerns.

Lita Cohen, retired member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a friend of mine from Lower Merion High School, founded the Food Allergy Research Initiative to determine the cause of food allergies and allergens and develop effective treatments. This will undoubtedly be a very long process with multiple steps to induce allergies in animals, isolate the immune cells, change the immune cells in some way and then introduce the changed immune cells into allergic animals. Sounds like a very worthwhile, but very long-range project.

Meanwhile, what to do.

I am 72 years old and have had allergies my entire life. My poor mother had the pediatrician at our house every week (in the olden days, the doctors made house calls) because I had developed a different rash in a different place. I eventually outgrew the rashes, but I still had allergic reactions to food and airborne particles. I even had allergy shots for 5 years, never improved my tolerance to the allergens and had to have adrenaline twice because of my bad reactions to the allergy shots.

The worst offenders were tobacco smoke and the smell of nuts and buckwheat. Tobacco smoke was such a problem that we couldn't fly in an airplane until the US declared smoking was forbidden on flights, couldn't go to a theater because at intermission, when the patrons went outside to light up, the tobacco smoke drifted back into the theater and sent me into asthma. Most, unimaginable of all, we couldn't even go on the beach because, if someone lit up in Longport, and we were on the beach in Ventnor, the tobacco smoke made it right to my chair. Nowadays, second hand smoke is much less of a problem because smoking is either illegal, or greatly curtailed.

I have learned how to manage my many food allergies in a very simple way - if I don't make it, I don't eat it. At first, people were offended when I refused to even sample any delectable offered to me. I explained I was not being rude, just very careful. When we are invited out to eat, and there is no way to politely get out of the invitation, I insist on a dish of plain lettuce leaves - and I emphasize, no dressing, no salt, no lemon, no pepper, no seeds, no nuts, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, etc. I don't have to make the request more than two times at any given restaurant.

I'm certainly rooting for Lita Cohen and her Food Allergy Research Initiative (FARI).

Chocolate Has Miraculous Powers

Chocolate tastes good and is credited with being an antioxidant. All good. But, in addition, chocolate can turn bad moods to wonderful in just seconds.

We were in Honolulu, and the hotel asked me to please have a book signing in the lobby one day. I agreed. The hotel staff set up a table with chairs for us and put an arrangement of flowers on the table. One of the staff draped a beautiful lei around my neck with the appropriate kiss/kiss on each cheek. Edgar and I filled a woven container with chocolate kisses.

A couple arrived who had just gotten off the plane from the East Coast. We know that the 14 or so hour trip is grueling and tiring and this couple exhibited all the signs of exhaustion. He appeared patient and resigned. She just wanted "to go to our room and lie down." The room was not quite ready. The hotel staff suggested that the couple take a short stroll up and down the street, do a little shopping, and return in about an hour when the room would be ready. She was too worn out from the trip to even consider this and became slightly intolerant.

We recognized the symptoms immediately and called the couple over to our table with a friendly "why don't you sit down here?" They both reluctantly shuffled from the guest check in window to our table; he was quiet and resigned, she looked just awful. We held out our basket of foil wrapped kisses and said, "why don't you have a piece of chocolate or two?" She looked at us as if we each had two heads but took one, unwrapped it, put it in her mouth, let the chocolate slide down her throat, and asked if she could please take another. Of course. She performed the same actions with the second piece of chocolate; he ate one. Her mood changed instantly and she said, "let's go shopping for a while," and they left.

The hotel staff thanked us immediately. The couple thanked us when they came back. And since that day, the hotel now offers a piece of chocolate to every incoming guest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

What could they have been thinking?

A photograph is supposed to be the permanent record of a decisive, specific moment in time. A photograph is not supposed to distort reality. The photos in the SI magazine are just slightly less distorted than the paintings of Picasso and Modigliani.

Anyone with eyes, or a brain, knows that women, even very beautiful women, do not look like those that have been photoshopped out of reality in the magazine. Women have attractive curves, not unrounded bodies. Even very skinny women, unhealthfully so, have curves.

Granted that artists see women's bodies differently from the nonartists. And everyone accepts that artists - using paints, pastels, charcoals, pencils, pens, and other materials - encompass their own vision into their works. And the great portrait artists from the past used to paint their subjects with lots of jewelry, to inflate their worth even more.

But not photographers. Their goal should be to present reality. Really great portrait photographers use light and shadow to enhance the beauty (or masculinity) of their subjects. Photoshopping out the imperfections is cheating. At least to me, if a photo does not acknowledge that it has been computer enhanced (in any way), then the photographer is not telling the truth.

Photos that have been altered through photoshop or other computer methods should be identified as being altered, as being fantasy, not reality.
I am definitely NOT a Republican. I do not believe in the heavy-handed, public be damned attitude of the so-called "conservatives." Here comes the but - - -

The public service unions, the professional athletic unions, even the private sector unions have held the governments, bosses, and public as hostage. Look at Medford, NJ as an example. I heard yesterday that soon, in Medford, there will be no publc pick up of trash and garbage. Medford is broke. What are the taxpayers to do? Part of the problem is with the Governor - this actually started when Christine Whitman was governor and lowered state taxes. That move resulted in a decrease in funding to the towns, townships, counties, and communities. So the smaller political entities had to raise taxes for police, fire, education and other public services until the residents cried "uncle" and either moved out or refused to pay.

Caterpillar closed the plants in Canada where the workers had been earning $35.00 an hour, with benefits. Then Caterpillar offered them back their jobs at $12.50 an hour with reduced benefits and if the workers refused this, then Caterpillar said that the company would move these jobs to Mexico. Both of the hourly wages seem ridiculous - both too high and too low.

Look at the NFL. Peyton Manning is scheduled to receive $28 million dollars this year, if he can play. This job is not eligible to be outsourced, but where is the money coming from? From TV? This amount is largely what the traffic will bear, but a community does not need Peyton Manning except if he is willing to collect the trash, or police the streets, etc. And remember the teams that threatened to leave the cities if new stadiums were not built for them. Another example of holding a city hostage and its citizens who are then stuck with the huge bill of paying for them.

School teachers go on strike. That deprives the children of their education, even though there are state mandated minimum days of service that the schools have to be open and teach. But how dedicated are the teachers if they are foced to be in the classroom against their will? And, maybe the teachers are right. After all, a well educated public is the necessary foundation for a democracy. However, there does not seem to be a correlation between teachers' pay and classroom achievement. The one factor that appears to correlate with education achievement is students' attendance at school.

The Air Traffic Controllers threatened to go on strike. Ronald Reagan, as President, told them that they couldn't. They thumbed their collective noses at him and went on strike. He fired them, all of them. And replaced them with trained military controllers until more civilians could be trained and agree to work at the previously agreed upon wages.

The baseball umpires decided to strike. And then, they decided to quit. So the league accepted their resignations and hired replacements. And the national pasttime continued.

Back in the days of the Great Depression, Campbells Soups advertised jobs at 50 cents an hour and were over-run with applicants. So then, a Campbells representative came out and asked, "How many will work for 40 cents an hour?" And some left, but most stayed. And then he asked, "How many will work for 30 cents an hour?" And some more left, but still some stayed. And finally, people were hired for less than 30 cents an hour and when the story became public, thanks to the free press and the newspapers, Campbells Soups was boytcotted. The management, on rethinking, agreed to pay the advertised 50 cents an hour to all that they had hired.

Both unions and management have to share in the responsibility of lost jobs, unemployment, egregious public relations, and poorly elected representatives.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My comments from

Selma Davis
Bala Cynwyd, PA

In 1961, I was notified that I won an NIMH fellowship for graduate school. I just had to let them know where I was going. I was still attending the University of Pennsylvania and had applied for admission to their graduate program in psychology. During my interview, the men had the nerve to say to me - you're a girl. You're just going to get married and have children. Why should we give the place to you when you're not going to use your degree?

My answer - because I am smarter than any of the BOYS who applied.

I got my MA in psychology in 1962 from Penn, and was married in December 1962. And we have been happily married for more than 49 years. We have 3 accomplished and successful children and 7 beautiful grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I have written and published 4 crime novels that take place in Hawaii; won an award for journalism (1st place for a feature article from the Pennsylvania newspaper association); and wrote the English language summaries for the "psychopharmacology and drug abuse" section of what started out as Medline in 1968 and the years that followed until the grant ran out.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pro Bowl 2012

The NFL Pro Bowl was last night. Poor Hawaii. The tourist agencies hope against hope that a cold, windy, snowy, blizzard blankets the mainland so that the football fans who watch the Pro Bowl in sunny Hawaii think "I wish I were there." Oh well, those circumstances did not occur this year.

We were lucky enough to travel to Hawaii 35 times since 1990. And we were there during parts of every month. Truly, it was wonderful. Perhaps the best time was August 2011 when we were fortunate enough to take our daughter and her four children, our grandchildren, with us.

Back to the Pro Bowl. Extensive research for my crime novel, "Pro Bowl Kapu" revealed that, until this All Star game was moved to Honolulu, the appearance of the football stars was iffy. But a trip to Hawaii for the athlete and his family just about guaranteed their attendance.

We were taking photos, as spectators one year. The rookies were playing a game of touch football on the Fort DeRussey beach. One of the first round draft players for the New England Patriots fell, hurt his knee, and ended his career. There have been no more of those types of games since then.

Over the years, we attended the Pro Bowl press conferences and luncheons. At one of the events, Jeremiah Trotter answered questions from the press. Edgar asked if he was resigning with the Philadelphia Eagles. He said that he wanted to but the negotiations were in the hands of his able agent. Later that month, he went to the Washington Redskins.

But the luncheons were always my favorite. No so much for the food, although the fruit was delicious, but because I was usually the only nonmale in the room and the cheerleaders sat next to me. What an interesting bunch of women. Teachers, nurses, lawyers, and even a navy aviator who was from the San Francisco Forty Niners. She graduated from Annapolis with a degree in computer sciences, then she went to Pensacola and bedcame a top gun and then she earned a Masters degree in Systems Analysis. I asked her if she was flying any planes now, "Yes, a P-3." I knew that the P-3 has the large umbrella-like structure over it that covers radar equipment. "You're a spy," I whispered. She put a finger to her lips and said, "Shush."

One year the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader sat with us. She lived in Narberth and taught school. One year, another cheerleader called us in the evening and asked if we wanted to go to dinner with her. It was late. I had been asleep and said "No, thank you." Edgar has been the envy of every man who has heard that story.

We were interviewed by members of the Hawaii press and we even appeared on CNN. The NFL demands payment from Hawaii before it will agree to hold the Pro Bowl there. The controversy revolves around the question of if the Pro Bowl brings more monehy into Hawaii than the NFL extorts. Our answer has always been shame on the NFL, but pay them.

The TV media kept to itself and looked down their collective noses at us print media people with the exception of Andrea Kremer. It must have been her Main Line experiences and background. She answered our questions and, even though the TV cameras wait for no one, she pretended to have ample time for us.

One of the afternoons, Referee Ron Winters spent a few minuts with us. He hailed from Seattle where he was a religious leader in his church We asked him about the mess on the field after a fumble and he acknowledged that the fighting and grabbing is fierce. He mentionede Brian Urlacher by name as the toughest. On his way to catching the bus, he gave me an NFL pin for my Eagles ball cap.

As one of our Pro Bowl memories, we have the time that Edgar spotted a shop lifter at the NFL event in Kapiolani Park. A kid snatched a ball cap off the table of Michael Henderson's Authentic Gear wares. Edgar pointed him out. Henderson nabbed him and convinced the young thief to turn away from crime and return the cap.

Although the hoopla is fun, we never had to attend the actual game. After 9/11, the patrons could not bring anything into Aloha Stadium except ID and a ticket. And last night's game was the typical high scoring, no defense, showcase. Funny thing, during our last experience in Hawaii with the Pro Bowl, a young man rushed over to us and said he was about to make a bet. Then he asked for our advice. "Take the points and the over," we told him. The next day we saw him and he couldn't thank us enough for "the killing" that he made.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

City Avenue Rezoning Workshop

We attended the meeting this Saturday morning, (1/28/2012) and its title really should have been: if we build it, they will come. That's a great title for a movie, but not for planning how to spend Lower Merion Township's tax dollars.

The effective date for the rezoning of this large piece of ground that fronts on City Avenue is April 30, 2012. But that's not a real date because if the map is not ready, according to Bob Duncan, then the date can be pushed back until the map is ready. There was no outer time limit set. One of the recurring problems in Lower Merion is storm water management and that is acknowledged but not addressed.

This is an interesting map. It shows current buildings, current roads, current pathways, and a bunch of imaginary objects. The purpose is for Lower Merion to definitively establish roadways, bike ways, pedestrian paths, open spaces, parks, etc. in the area between Conshohocken State road and the Schuylkill River. The pie in the sky idea is for people to be able to get out of their office buildings and walk the corridor. The purple areas on the map are designed for walkers and bikers. The gold areas are for new roadways. The hope is for the pathways to connect with railroad stations and bus stops. According to Bob Duncan, both Septa and the Railroad people have agreed to increase service and stops according to the needs of the people who come.

It would be nice to have evening and late evening railroad and bus service in the area to make attending Center City events easy and convenient. But so far, no additional public transportation opportunities have been committed.

The 50 or so people who attended heard that there might be an additional 2800 automobile trips a year predicted over the next 20 years and there might be 4 to 5 million dollars a year in additional real estate and other taxes. There was no prediction, or apparently even any thought given to, the number of extra police officers that would be required to maintain Lower Merion's high standard of safety.

Incentives for developers who want a higher density than proposed under the City Avenue Rezoning include public improvements, greater than those required under the zoning. It was acknowledged that if all the public spaces and connecting lines were not able to be accomplished by the developers, then the township would have to acquire the land for improvements. There was no mention of cost. The public gathering spaces would be open and would not include enclosed structures such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, skating rinks, etc.

In touting the advantages of all the connecting bike and walker pathways, one of the audience members said that the Cynwyd Heritage Trail has 150 users an hour. When pressed on what exactly those numbers meant, there was no answer. Further questioning of 150 per hour, is that every hour, 24 hours, 7 days a week, or every hour, 12 hours, 7 days a week, or just the 1 hour when the count was made - all good questions to a scientist - there was no answer at all.