A-to-Z Challenge Reveal — The Flashing of New Jersey

I love this state.  It’s got everything mashed into one easy to navigate travel size.  You can go from gritty urban streets to the beach and then to the mountains all in the same day if you wanted.   You can eat the sweetest fruits and juiciest sun-warmed tomatoes every summer at our many farmers’ markets.  You can hear great music, drink great beer, get a terrific education and enjoy cultural and ethnic diversity.  It’s true we have some big problems, including high property taxes, and we can be a rough crowd.  But when you get to know us you’ll discover that we are champions of the underdog, and share his correspondingly soft and vulnerable underbelly.

So for the A-to-Z Challenge this April I’m giving it my all and posting a “flash” piece a day.  A little literary homage to my beloved Garden State inspired by stuff  seen, heard or connected to my beloved New Jersey.    They may be short but just like New Jersey, they won’t all be sweet.

See you soon.

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

Do you remember taking standardized tests or reading some arcane documentation and coming to an empty page with those words on it?  The world has left me feeling the need to take a little white space myself.  But before I do, I’m going to comment on the “rule of three” I observed this week.

The week opened with the ignominious suspension of Brian Williams for embellishing a story featuring himself and a military helicopter.  Concurrent to this event my candy-boy of satire, Jon Stewart, announced that he’ll be retiring from The Daily Show by the end of 2015.  And then, tragically, by week’s end Bob Simon of CBS News was killed in a car accident.

I like my journalism “neat.”  I hold journalists to a higher ethical standard.  Even my faux journalists, like Mr. Stewart, should exhibit full disclosure and transparency. I had a soft spot for Mr. Williams is the early days of his career because he seemed like a guy from Jersey who worked hard and recognized that he was the beneficiary of a few lucky breaks along the way. And he’s only human — who doesn’t like to get a few laughs palling around with the late night guys or making a cameo on a hot sit-com?  Then, maybe, he began believing his own legend a little bit too much, didn’t listen to his friends, and took a dangerous, Icarus-inspired flight too close to the sun.   America loves redemptive second acts so I wish him the best, but I think the business side of the media is going to consider him more of a “personality” and less of a journalist.  Maybe he’ll go back to college and get his degree?  That could be both a humble and inspiring act: we are never too old to learn and should never stop trying.

I am sad to see Mr. Stewart go, but I also know that The Daily Show is in good hands.  Remember that nice man Jon Oliver?  He did such a good job while Jon was on sabbatical making Rosewater that HBO lured him away with his own show.  I watch it — it’s pretty good.  And maybe we’ll finally get a female late-night host.  That would be nice…. and about time.

Bob Simon graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in history (not journalism), and started his career as a foreign service officer.  He joined CBS News in 1969 as a foreign correspondent and was actively working at 60 Minutes until his death.  He won three Peabody Awards and twenty-seven Emmy Awards.  Unlike Mr. Williams, I don’t know anything about Mr. Simon personally, but I trust his body of work will remain standing as testament to the practice of his craft.

Note:  Can I Take A Nap? is not going “blank,”  but I am working on something new for the A-to-Z Challenge in April that may take most of my juice for the next month and half.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Rise Up From Your Recliners!

Welcome to 2015. Like an astronaut returning from deep space and discovering the weakness in her atrophied muscles, I’m returning to this space with a yawn and stretch, (not to be confused with the perky “bend and snap” moves of Elle woods in Legally Blonde) and the motivation of one Mike Helbing.

Mr. Helbing was profiled recently in Lehigh Valley Live for his ambitious project of being the first person to hike the perimeter of NJ, approximately 500 miles. It’s clearly his passion: he has been leading hiking groups since 1977.  He’s also the founder of Metrotrails, a hiking group celebrating and fostering the education and preservation of hiking routes in the NY/NJ/PA tri-state area.  There is also a great profile of him over at Driving Jersey.

I admire Mr. Helbing, and not just because he’s walking the talk, so to speak, but because he’s “just doing it.”   I’m guilty of thinking too much about doing something.  Or, maybe I’m just talking myself OUT of doing something, because it’s really easy to do that from underneath a blanket on the La-Z-Boy  scrolling through Twitter.  And hey, I like Twitter, but every so often I feel an ironic twinge when I call it social media?  (Merriam Webster’s definition below:)

so·cial

adjective \ˈsō-shəl\

: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other

: liking to be with and talk to people : happy to be with people

: of or relating to people or society in general

So even though it’s winter here in the northeast, I’m making a pledge to get out from under both the snow and the blankets and get out there.  Call my friends, take a walk, check on the neighbors, learn something new, maybe even join Mr. Helbing & friends on a future hike.  Wishing you all a glorious 2015 — wherever you may wander!

 

Facing History

I suspect I’m not alone when a glance in the mirror shocks me, because it’s my mother’s face looking back at me.  Why does this unsettle me?  My mom is a feisty woman.  The first generation of her family to go to college, she became a teacher because that’s what her parents told her to be.  She missed both the “swinging 60’s”  sexual revolution  and the “consciousness raising 70’s” because she was too busy working and raising her family.  Both of my parents are part of the Silent Generation, children of parents who lived through the Depression and learned the best way to get along was to conform, work hard and strive for security above all else.

I’ve grappled with identity and transition all my life.  Not that I’m confining this conversation to women, but I’ve found that as a group we spend a good portion of our energy managing physical change throughout our lives.  We undergo many physical changes marked by our bodies:  as we pass from girlhood into adulthood, from month to month, during and after pregnancy, and then, menopause.  And I’m not even going to address the themes of body image and not-so-subtle pressures to maintain a standard of beauty bench-marked by youth.

We also manage emotional and psychological change as become workers, wives, partners, mothers, bosses, caregivers, empty-nesters, grandmothers, even widows.     All of these changes occur over timelines that vary from woman-to-woman, and we look to our friends and elders for insight and reassurance that we’re not going through this alone  (or to reassure us that we’re not crazy, weird or delusional).   So after all this time and effort I put in working on my own issues, why wouldn’t I just look like an older, wiser version of myself?   In my mind I picture my face at 21, but it’s just framed by grey hair and a couple of crinkles at the corners of my eyes and lips.  I forget about the changes the years and environment have made to my skin, that gravity slowly pulls at my cheeks and chin(s). My own twenty-something daughter has taken to raking her hands through my hair to “see her future” in the pattern of its graying.

But just because I resemble my mother it doesn’t mean I AM my mother. We’ve both had different life experiences and outlooks.  Is our shared biology destiny?   Or is it a form of fear that shocks me? I’m fortunate that my mother is still here – so I can compare the arc of my aging to hers, but I’m struck by the realization that I’m just as limited by biology and time.  Lately my mom speaks about her decreasing energy, and how limited she feels by her body and its aches. She is frustrated that everything just seems to take more time and effort, and I get it.

So I am face-to-face with what really scares me, and it isn’t that I’m turning into my mother, it’s that I’m watching the future — my future — unspool before me.  The good news is my mom is independent and healthy, but there is still so much more I want to do, to create, to see, to work on. As  a greedy child I thought my supply of sunny days was infinite, but as an adult I’ve learned that the amount of both sunny and rainy days is finite, and I want to make them all count.  Which makes this blog all the more important to me – and grateful for the eyes who read it.

Thanks, Mom.

 

 

The Tale of Goldie Fishbein

I never met Tante Goldie, but I’m proud to flash her moniker from time to time.

Little Estelle had a beloved aunt named Goldie, her father’s sister. Since Estelle lost her mother at a very young age, the other female adults in her life made great efforts to spend time with her. Estelle and her Tante would go to the beach in Brooklyn in the summer. Goldie was a very strong swimmer and she and Estelle would swim way out past the wave breaks, lock legs and float in the sea. It was magical — until the time Estelle broke their leg chain and tried to stand up. She realized that they were so far out in the ocean that she couldn’t touch the bottom and she panicked. Goldie brought her back to the beach, but Estelle was too frightened to go back into the ocean. By the time I met Estelle she proclaimed she didn’t care much for the beach — all that sand, but she did allow that early experience made her afraid of the water, too.

I’ve never seen a picture of Goldie at any age, but in my imagination she is tall, statuesque with a formidable bosom.  She has the large Spegiel cranium and curly blond hair.  I have seen photos of her brother — the Guitar Man resembles his grandfather to a great degree.  But rather than taking the lazy (and humorous) way out and imagining Goldie resembling G-man in drag, I think of her as an athletic woman.  Tan, fit and strong, but she’s also brainy and confident.  I can see her playing tennis and then going for a refreshing swim.  Then I see her in reading glasses, and I can imagine her having robust arguments with anybody trying to limit her (or any woman’s) freedom.

The story, or family party-line, is that Goldie was a communist, and she was ostracized by the family because of her political leanings. I have no way of verifying this, but Estelle told me that she did reconnect with Goldie herself as an adult. She didn’t keep the reunion a secret but she didn’t broadcast it to the family either. Despite her communist leanings, Goldie did all right for herself. She even gave Estelle a hand-me-down fur jacket that in turn was handed down to me. It’s a short, mink jacket that is almost too warm to wear. And there is the whole moral issue over wearing fur that always loops though the back of my mind.

So “Tante Goldie,” the communist vintage fur coat, usually only comes out on very cold occasions of high importance.  Bless you, Tante Goldie, and the warmth of your spirit.

Tanta Goldie

Pre-Thanksgiving

I’m taking a break for a quick post to wish everybody a wonderful Thanksgiving this week.  Whether you are the host or the guest you have an obligation to savor the food and the day.

Hosts:  I know that this week brings a frenzy of planning, cleaning, shopping, searching (for the gravy boat, recipes and table extensions), and cooking.  Your guests are going to love the meal, and you already know the ones you want to join you in the kitchen to “help.”  Please remember to relax and enjoy your guests.

Guests:  I know you are grateful for the invitation and will show up on time, praise the cook, and follow all pertinent instructions.  Please remember to enjoy yourself responsibly and prepare your list of safe conversation topics, unless you want to remembered for the years to come as “THAT” guest.

 

So, in order to capture the spirit of “pre-Thanksgiving”  (which in many ways brings more laughs and memories that the actual holiday)  here’s a “BEFORE”  photo of a turkey prepped to enter the oven, a symbol of our homespun spirit.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Foot

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Foot

 

Fat & Happy

The problem with being fat & happy is that it’s a distraction in itself. I’ve spent the last month and a half doing the following:

  1. Picking apples … and eating apples.
  2. Reading newspapers.
  3. Ignoring TV news (the newspapers picked up this slack) — it was election season and I can no longer take the negative ads and political acrimony any more.  People:  can’t we act like forward-thinking adults and find some common ground?
  4. Watching The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver as my primary sources for political commentary.  These jesters and their astute writers are driving in-depth conversation around national issues.
  5. Reading books.
  6. Working on a home improvement project.
  7. Going to the gym, sporadically.
  8. Cooking, also sporadically.
  9. Scribbling stuff down to eventually turn it into a productive blog post.

This last list item is just a weak plea to my weak self to get some word count in every day.  It’s NaNoWriMo month, and I’m sitting on the sidelines watching the parade pass by.  That isn’t altogether a bad thing.  I cheer the novelists who are in the throes of word passion.  I admire their grit and fortitude, because if writing a novel was so easy, we all would be publishing books every December.

Which brings me to my friend and inspiration, D.D. Syrdal.  I’ve known D.D. for a goodly amount of time, and she inspired me to take the plunge into the blogosphere.   Her work, Revenants Abroad, has recently been published!  Find it for sale on smashwords (a real bargain, if you ask me) and serialized on wattpad.  It gives me great pleasure to tell all of CanITakeANap’s elite followers about this labor of literary love.   Again, she inspires me with her dedication to many hours of BIC (butt in chair), and the leap of faith it entails to send her story out into the Universe to stretch its legs and find a home in readers’ imaginations.

Kudos, my friend!  D.D., well done!