Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Holiday Message from Charlotte (Part Two)

After deciphering Charlotte's rambling message, John and I decided to donate a bunch of Christmas ornaments for her to use on the school tree. I called her back one evening to let her know we would be bringing some over.

"Hell-ooo??" Charlotte asked answering the phone in a sing songy voice.
"Hey Charlotte, it's Marc from next door. How ya doin."
"Why hello Marc from next door. I am fine." 
There was an awkward pause ....
"Uh well, I wanted to tell you that John and I are gonna bring you over some Christmas ornaments."
"Well, I don't know why ... I haven't got a Christmas tree...."
"Uh... you said you wanted some ornaments."
"I don't think I did, because I  haven't got a tree this year, just my decorations out front. I put up the lights and the garland. I have a wreath for the side door and a wreath out front and ...."
"Charlotte!" I interupted laughing. "Not for you, for the tree in the school."
"What tree in the school?"
"The one you said you needed ornaments for! You called us ... yesterday ... left a long message and got cut off?"
Another awkward pause.
Her light bulb went off. "Oh YES! Bring them over!" She hung up on me.

John and I brought over the ornaments. Charlotte was waiting in her kitchen with hot freshly made turkey pot pie in hand. True to Charlotte's form, she quickly opened the fridge before we could even get the ornaments on the kitchen table and started handing us chili, zuchini bread, potato soup, and whatever else she could get her hands on. As I have written before, we have become her surrogate sons ... willingly ... as she feeds us constantly GOOD FOOD. We drew the line on the two pies she pulled out of the freezer.

"Here, TAKE THESE!"
"NO!!!!" We both yelled with arms up waving the pies away.
"What?" she said looking dejected.
"Charlotte," I began slowly tiptoeing over my words. "We love the fact that you give us food, but we are trying not to eat sweets."
She quietly put them back in the fridge. "That's fine..."
We felt so guilty.
"OK, but just bring them to our Christmas Eve open house, OK?" John stated giving in.
"OK you got it!"

She walked us out to her back deck to say goodbye. John and I had our arms full with containers of frozen food.
"Now remember boys, I have an entire fridge in the basement filled with wine in case you need anything for the party. I just stocked up!" she smiled.
John turned around and thanked her. I turned around and said dryly, "Imagine that, Charlotte with a full fridge of wine. Who could ever imagine?"

All three of us bust out laughing so hard and she suddenly hugged me tightly. It was sweet. There we both were, me juggling a containers of turkey pot pie and chili and her hugging me.  Ahhh, the warmth of the season!  (Maybe it was just the turkey pot pie.)


Monday, December 17, 2012

Konichiwa?

I was in a large department store when I overheard this conversation. To my right, was a young Asian man of about 18 or 20 who was speaking into his cell phone in an Asian language I did not recognize or even try to guess.  I was busy looking at shirts when I heard the conversation begin. I quickly ducked behind the ties so I could listen in.

A thirty something father with his young son looked at the young Asian man and said, "Konichiwa." Now I don't profess to know any Asian language but I do know that this is a Japanese greeting.

The young Asian man halted his phone conversation, turned to the father and responded in English, "I'm South Korean."

The American man replied, "So? What's the difference?"  YES HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT.

The young Asian dude politely and calmly responded to him, "Well, you said 'Konichiwa' which is Japanese. I am South Korean and am speaking Korean."

"Oh ... I dunno the difference. That's the only word like, that I know."

The young man, now known to be South Korean, shook his head and walked away.

The moral of the story is that if you do not know what language someone is speaking, don't try and openly guess it or fake it! You will look like an idiot. If you must know, simply ask, "What language is that?" Is that so hard?  Forgive me, but it is people like this man which makes us look like the dreaded "ugly crass American."  Please remind your kids to pay attention in school so they do not make stupid comments like this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stuff I Hated to Eat


When I was a child, I used to hate peas. My Mom always served them for dinner and I just couldn’t stand them. I would hide them under the chicken bones, under mashed potatoes, under noodles, or even in my napkin. It was a very dramatic event, trying to get Marc to eat his peas.

Mom and Dad would tell me that I couldn’t leave the dinner table until I ate them. I would hold out and once even sat there for an hour after dinner until Mom finally gave in and let me go. There the peas sat on my plate, cold and mushy.

I think it had to do with the peas being canned. They may have been hot when served, but still ended up being mushy. Mom bought the canned peas because they were readily available and more importantly, cheap! Once we could afford the splurge of fresh frozen peas, with their fresh “snap” when you ate them, the tide began to turn for those peas. Now they still weren’t my favorite, but they were now palatable.

There are a lot of foods I disliked as a kid but began to like as I got older. Sour cream is another example as well as marmalade and rhubarb. My Dad grew up with marmalade and rhubarb pie. I shuddered at the thought as a kid. Now, not so bad! One food item I still don’t like to this day is cottage cheese. BLECH.

My Nana used to love cottage cheese and would serve it with fruit or jam for lunch. I refused to eat it and would go hungry. People must have thought she neglected me. My Nana’s friend Mrs. Block once asked what I had for lunch and I would say exclaim curtly, “She didn’t feed me at anything at all!!!” She gave my Nana this look of horror. Nana would roll her eyes and sigh.

Lastly, my brother Adam and I tried dog biscuits when we were 7 or 8. Now before you go “ICK!” it happened just a couple of times and more out of curiosity. We dared each other to eat one, I don’t know who went first, but I remember them being in different colors: brown, yellow, and green. We ended up snacking on them.

Gretchen, our German Shepherd, looked up to us sadly begging for her cookies back. We hid the box under Adam’s bed until Mom discovered them. She was completely mortified. She screamed to my Dad, “BOB! The boys are eating dog biscuits!” Dad hid the biscuits up on the highest shelf in the top cabinet of the breakfast room so we couldn’t get to them. Looking back at my dog biscuit eating days, I figured I have eaten far worse.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Holiday Apology to my Brother Adam

One Christmas, many years ago back in the late 70’s, my grandparents from Colorado came to visit us for a week over the holiday break. I was about 9 at the time. It was Christmas morning and we had all opened our gifts, had breakfast, and were just relaxing in the living room going through our new toys and presents. My brother Adam, a year older, had gone upstairs for about 30 minutes and came down dressed as Santa Claus wearing his red bathroom stuffed with newspaper for a belly. He has fashioned a white beard out of cotton balls and was walking around to everyone saying “Merry Christmas!!!” It was really cute and he did such a good job until I started getting antsy.


Feeling left out of the limelight (imagine that), I got up from my seat on the couch and much to everyone’s dismay, tore off his cotton beard while yelling dramatically, “YOU’RE NOT SANTA! YOU’RE AN IMPOSTER!” and effectively ruined his holiday show. Santa Adam, started crying and ran up to his room screaming, “You’ve ruined EVERYTHING!”

And I did. And now, I am formally and publicly issuing an apology for my immature horrible attention seeking behavior. I was extremely jealous of my brother’s spotlight and wanted the attention back on myself. Well I got it, and got the wrath of my parents, grandparents, and sister on top of it. So Adam … I am sorry for ripping off your extra large cotton ball beard and ruining your Santa impression. I hope your little brother has not scarred you emotionally.

I guess I should also apologize for accidently spraying my brother in the face with Windex while washing the car and accidently clocking my brother in the nose with a snow shovel while shoveling my other grandparents driveway. They were honestly and truly accidents. Nevertheless, I still feel bad for all of that.

But I do not feel bad or apologize for any of the drooling, punching, pinching, kicking in the shins, mutual noogies, wedgies, wet willies, la-la’s, hitting and or scratching of arms. They were not accidents and just me being a spoiled pain the ass little brother. No guilt there! And in my defense, my brother did the same to me on a regular basis minus the pinching, scratching, and kicking in the shins.

Adam also had on occasion, harassed and beat me up (as big brothers do), locked me in a cubby hole under the stairs, locked me in the dusty attic which aggravated my allergies, left me hanging upside down on my grandparents backyard fence after I had fallen from it and my pants got caught at the top, encouraged me to jump from the top of the house stairs (about 12 of them) when I had dreamt that I could to it, put me into the toy chest and sat on it so I couldn’t get out, and prevented me from joining he and my sister’s fort on the top bunk bed time and time again, effectively shutting me out from their fun.

So anyway, where was I … oh yes, sorry Adam! Love ya bro!






Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Holiday Message from Charlotte

By now, most of you know of my beloved neighbor Charlotte, a feisty 70 something woman with a small side of daffiness which adds to her wonderful personality. She is extremely active in her church and volunteers at the local school. She called John and I the other week asking for holiday ornaments to decorate the tree in her school. 

Below is the 'word for word' message that she left on our answering machine. We were touched by her sincerity with a bit of chuckling from the rambling nature of it. I think we have all been there though, rambling on someone's voice-mail until you are unceremoniously cut off! Try and follow it now!

Charlotte leaving her message:

"Marc. Hi John. No need to worry, it's Charlotte, your neighbor ... next door. We're doing a multiple Christmas celebration on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever it is for whatever we celebrate the birth of and whatever the celebration is for the holiday season. Do you have anything we can use, I have a Charlie Brown tree from Phyllis, I mean Linda next door, you know Linda on the other side, that she gave and we took into the school, to put on the tree that YOU DON'T WANT (Charlotte yelling this into the phone) that would be able to qualify for your holiday seasonings celebration or anything that we could, TELL US what we could use for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever celebration for this time of year so that the children could put it up in the hallway for us. I will..." (BEEEEP. CHARLOTTE GETS CUT OFF.)

From what we gathered and later confirmed, she was looking for ornaments for the tree which we gladly donated. I think Charlotte was day drinking again. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

See Spot Run

I had a twentysomething woman in my office the other week that could not read or write. She could sign her name but just barely. When I asked her to write down her children’s names because they were oddly spelled, she could not. Her children's father had to write down their names. It was very sad. Adult illiteracy is still prevalent in our county. According to the US Education Department, 14% of adults in the USA cannot read or write with basic proficiency.

I remember back to the 1st grade when I was beginning to read. I actually remember Mrs. Broomall, my 1st grade teacher from Wenonah Elementary leading our small reading group of 6 classmates. We sat in a semicircle reading from a Dick and Jane story with Spot the dog. I remember looking at the three word sentence and sounding it out. "See Spot run."  I am proud of this memory; my first true memory of reading on my own.

As we progressed with reading, I remember reading a children’s book in 1st grade on an young girl named Josefina February. She was a Caribbean island girl who lived with her grandfather. It was about her adventures as a child. I remember going home and telling my mother that I would marry this little black girl, Josefina February, when I grew up. I would travel down to her island and FIND HER! OK OK, so my idea of reality was a bit off as a 6 year old child. At that age I still had an imaginary friend named Baboon who was actually a baboon.

These days, I have three or four books along with some magazines bedside. I try and read every night at least for ½ hour. I just like having a bunch of different books available depending on my mood for the evening. If I want something light, I will grab a magazine: National Geographic, Country Living, Philadelphia Magazine or Men's Fitness. If I want something a little deeper, I hit the books. Right now, I have on my nightstand a pretty varied selection: Impressionists in Winter, The Biography of Monticello, Room with a View by EM Forster, and Fire by Sebastian Junger.

I tend to read a lot of art and architecture books. I don’t get to as many museums as I would like to these days so I try and expand my knowledge base on these subjects. The only problem is that I am usually sleepy and forget ½ of what I have read so I have to reread it! The evening drink count also sometimes affects my remembrance of what I’ve read.

If you are ever wondering about a charity to support or donate to, consider any child or adult literacy programs which are out there. Your local library has information on programs. You can also Google “adult literacy” or "literacy programs" for programs in your area. Here are a couple of programs that I found:

www.kidsneedtoread.org

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/adult_basic_and_literacy_education_(able)/8703
(Adult Basic and Literacy Education or ABLE in the Commonwealth of PA)

http://www.famlit.org/ (National Center for Family Literacy)





Monday, December 3, 2012

You Don't Look Jewish...

One recent evening out at the bar, a couple I was speaking with asked me about my plans for the holidays. I started talking about celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas and living in a multi-religious household. I was raised and am Jewish, but my father is Christian, and I actively celebrate those holidays for him and other Christian members of my family. And honestly, I just love Christmas!


At a table next to theirs was seated two good friends who I will call Michelle and Rihanna, whose nice evening was crashed rather abruptly by another woman who frequently drinks to the point of embarrassing inebriation. I will call her Mrs. Tequila. I actually had wanted to just say hi to my two friends Michelle and Rihanna but Mrs. Tequila wasn’t budging, so I chose to be polite and say hi to her as well. It just so happened though that I had caught Mrs. Tequila before she had begun imbibing so I figured it was safe. Little did I know...
Mrs. Tequila had overheard me telling the older couple that I was Jewish and loudly asked me, “So you are Jewish???”
“Yes I am Jewish,” I answered.
“So your mother and father are Jewish?”
“Well (not that it was any of her business) my mother was Jewish and my father is Christian. I was raised Jewish and again, I am Jewish.” I responded wondering where this was going.
“Well why do you celebrate Christmas?” she inquired.
“I celebrate both holidays. Alot my family members are Christian.”
She looked at me and said matter of factly, “Well you don’t look Jewish.”
I shook my head in disbelief and asked “What is that supposed to mean?”

At this point, Michelle and Rihanna were growing visibly uncomfortable.

Mrs. Tequila said, “Well, you are cute and you don’t look like other Jews.”

I responded raising my voice, “I just asked you what the hell is that supposed to mean?! I am cute and other Jews are not?”

“Well Jews have a certain look, dark looking and swarthy, You know what I mean. You don’t look like them.”

“No, I don’t know what you mean!” I exclaimed. “This is so ignorant, let me tell you about Jewish people…” I began schooling her on how Jews are not just one “look”. They are as varied as any group of people in the world!

“I know Jewish people, I grew up in North East Philly!” she retorted.

“WHAT? What are you talking about? You have no idea what you are saying or talking about, do you??” I yelled at her.

I began to tell her that my family mostly descends from Jews from Eastern Europe. “That group includes Jews from Slavic countries, Poland, Russia ….” I started.

“Oh my God, Russian people are horrible!!!” she belted out.
“WHAT?! I am a Russian Jew!” I exclaimed.
Mrs. Tequila continued rambling on. I just shut her out.
I stopped and stared into her eyes and stated, “I am so offended by you. I am done with this conversation.” I walked away.

Michelle and Rihanna just sat at the table in shock, equally offended.

At that point, one could begin screaming at or possible drench Mrs. Tequila with my drink, her drink, Michelle’s drink, and Rihanna’s drink but I did not. Sometimes even in this day and age, you come across such blatant idiocy and ignorance that it leaves you just absolutely speechless. There was no point in schooling Mrs. Tequila on her ignorance. The better thing to do is walk away and later, possibly have a conversation with Mrs. Tequila on how offensive she was IF I were to approach her again on the slim chance that she is sober.