City of Two Sides

There is nothing that says the Holidays like New York City especially at night. The glitter of Christmas sparkles in the department store windows turning every adult into a kid again. The white lights wrapped around bare tree branches all over town complement the colored lights of the Rock Center tree. No city speaks Christmas as New York does and it is worth spending a couple of nights to take full advantage of what can be.

After years of “going-to-work-getting-on-the-bus-coming-home”, retirement has afforded us the time to venture to unknown boroughs to see more of the beauty of Christmas outside Rock Center. This year, I found something off the beaten track and dragged everyone to Dyker Heights in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. It is an residential neighborhood where each house is decorated in over-the-top Christmas lights that make you wonder who lives there and how much their electric bill is. I am taking a wild guess that the inhabitants are Italian and maybe connected (wink, wink). Traveling in a crowded D train plagued with delays and redirections was an effort yet worth it. This square mile of lighted homes all seeming to try to outdo each other was spectacular. I’m grateful to these people for thinking so much of Christmas to do this and for being part of New York.

This was the first time we stayed in a hotel on the upper west side but it offered an opportunity to explore areas around Central Park. Wollman Rink who I have to credit “The Donald” who in 1986 stepped in to lead the renovation of the dilapidated rink allowing it to join the icons of New York tourism.

Yet there was a time when the city was unsafe as when we looked at the vestibule of the Dakota apartment building where on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was assassinated. There were pockets of unsafe places where high rise luxury apartments now exist. It was a time where it was considered foolhardy to walk through any of the green spaces especially at night and ones nicknamed Needle Park. 42nd Street was dictated by drug dealers, hookers and porno shops. And the subways were spray painted with bizarre graffiti and inhabited by homeless. With all that, we mourned the passing of our beloved Beatle and moved on.

The city recovered and it improved. Strawberry Fields was built, the parks and subways were cleaned up and 42nd Street became safe. Last week, Fifth Avenue was glittered up with the Swarovski crystal star hanging near Tiffany’s and the windows of Saks displayed a stunning re-enactment of the Snow White story compete with animated dwarfs.

Then on Monday, a pipe bomb went off at the Port Authority sending scores of people into a panic. Fortunately, the idiot who set it off was the only one hurt. The next day or maybe within hours, it was business as usual. Speeches by the mayor and governor boasted the resilience of New Yorkers claiming these citizens will not be deterred from their daily lives. That is true and has been tested time and time again.

I had a plan to meet my cousin in the meatpacking district where she lives for dinner on Saturday. Once again, I am moving on.



Thanksgiving As I Know It

I love Thanksgiving. Yes, it is for all the obvious reasons. The day is filled with wonderful food, it is the beginning of the Christmas Season, and lots of TV viewing that starts with the parade, and ends with a string of NFL games. For better or worse, it is the holiday family and friends gather for all of the above with the expectation of a serene day of peaceful coexistence giving thanks for all the good in your life. I am blessed.  I have the usual cast of characters to be thankful for – my husband who I love waking up to every morning, my kids who continue to want me to be part of their life, and to  the memory of my mother whose strong personality put up with more than she deserved. But there were those that have entered my life that made its impact on me and I am grateful.

Except for a bout with breast cancer fourteen years ago, and some surgeries that have rebuilt my spine and my right shoulder, I have not suffered physically. I have overcome my ailments and at the age of 66, I can say that I am relatively healthy while others much younger than I have not. Some have survived their battles while others I remember for their valiant but futile attempt to overcome their illness. I am thankful to have been one of those who survived and continue to make my life worthwhile but remember that life can change in an instant.

Living in a wonderful community with good friends and and a comfortable lifestyle makes one forget that there are others outside your walls that are less fortunate and maybe always were less entitled. I think of those who were plagued with natural disaster such as the hurricanes that hit this year in Houston and Puerto Rico. Some had the same lifestyle I had before disaster struck and others were never that better off to begin with. Why I am fortunate to be where I am is a mystery to me. Did I do something right or did I just get lucky.

When the Thanksgiving parade is over, and the ballad of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie is played and the last of the Thanksgiving dinner is done, I look forward to the Christmas Season. I am thankful for that but think it is time for me to do more to help those who are less fortunate. Not sure what that means yet but will figure it out.



My Halloween Escape

Tis the Halloween Season and every year I look forward to it. I use to enjoy it more when the kids were younger.  I had total control as to how to dress them up and would go with them running wild on the Halloween friendly-block in the neighborhood where the witch would open the door and the spooky decor would excite them. It was fun for them and for me, but there was one Halloween where I went to a party my office threw which made memories of a scare I am relieved to be able to tell with relief and humor. Here’s how it goes:

It was 17 years ago, at the height of the dot-com era and I was working for a digital marketing firm. The profile of the firm consisted of 20 – 30 somethings, mostly single, who would come to work after 10 AM. They interpreted dress down Fridays as being able to come to work wearing what they went to bed in. In other words, they were not at all like me nor I like them.

I took the job thinking the casual atmosphere would make for an understanding union between creative thinkers and a mother with three kids who came in before 8 but had to leave at 5. That theory was as wrong as wrong could get. Yet, I did have some sympathetic 40 something friends and we stuck together.

Being who this company was, instead of having an office Christmas party, the firm decided it would be more in line with their culture to have a Halloween party at Webster Hall. My friends and I decided to dress so that maybe the rest of the kids would think we weren’t as square as we usually were and could be a fun outside the office. So we pulled together whatever we could and became these “galactic hookers”.

The image was not hard to create; teased up hair, lots of makeup, a red leather jacket, short black skirt, fishnet stockings and red high heels. I have to admit, we were not lonely that night.

The problem was, when the evening ended my friends left for their homes in Manhattan and I failed to make provisions to make it back to Jersey. I got a cab without problem (remember my outfit) to the Port Authority but didn’t realize that it was after midnight and my bus stopped running!!

I am now in the Port Authority it is after midnight and in this building, I am not dressed like a galactic hooker. I am a hooker!! Realizing I am in big trouble, I went to the only restaurant that was open, some hamburger joint, and with fear in my eyes, pleaded to some bewildered server to let me sit somewhere safe so I could call a car service. In a voice of hysterical panic, I implored with the dispatcher to get me out of here as quickly as he could. He did, sending a car within minutes and I was saved.

When I arrived safely home, my husband had no clue the peril I had gotten myself into. Of course, my first mistake was thinking I could get on a bus with that outfit on. We can laugh about my stupidity now but I still wonder how I got out of the city in one piece and can tell the story with humor.


Hear Me Roar

Today I found time to sit and watch TV. My choice of shows is usually around the chefs on the Food Network and now Law & Order. But today, without many choices, I found the second movie version of Sex In The City and decided to watch it. Back in the late 90’s, I use to watch the HBO show. I was already married, raising three kids in the suburbs and thinking that everyone but me had a fabulous life in the big city going to parties and staying out late. In the earlier, single days there were fun times but not quite like what was depicted on the show. After marriage and kids, it turned into a  routine of go to work, work, work, work then run to catch the bus home. I only started to enjoy the city when I left it.  This fantasy life that I saw on TV was just that – a figment of an imaginative mind who envisioned sexy women having a grand old time while me, Cinderella, was figuratively mopping the floors.

A half hour into the movie, it was impossible to continue watching it when Charlotte had a hissy fit after her little girls made a mess of her Valentino skirt while she was making cupcakes. “Good for her”, I thought. “What fool makes cupcakes in designer skirts?” In general, the movie fell into absurdity with themes of self-centeredness, aging behavioral patterns and constant sexual glances and dialogues that seemed unnatural.

Given the latest cases of sexual harassment by the Harvey and the parental abuse of the Menendez brothers, I can’t look at this show anymore in the same way. It use to be fun to watch but it just makes me think that the sex thing was taken too lightly. I should not be surprised at abusive behavior as it seems more prevalent than I care to admit. Just because the men and women in my life were respectful, hard-working and kind human beings it should not have led me to believe all the world is like that or should be. I’m not surprised that the abusers considered themselves beyond reproach or that they considered their behavior guiltless or without fear of exposure. I’m surprised they considered their actions acceptable. What kind of people are these?

It took 2 New York publications (first in The New Yorker then in the NY Times) to uncover the Weinstein abuse. What I find interesting is that some of the abused women  tried to report their attacker but were unsupported and left feeling they had no alternative than to suffer in silence. I’m glad Weinstein was exposed. He should be arrested. He represents all that is evil. I can only hope that next time a woman is assaulted with unprovoked sexual attacks, she will not feel helpless.




My life as I wore it

I came from parents who worked in tailoring and dressmaking, both imposing their style sense on me in different ways. My mother, an excellent seamstress, leaned towards a contemporary styles except with me. My father, a dry cleaner and tailor, was conservative. Every time my mother gave him my skirts to clean, he would lengthen them 2 inches to cover my knees and then some. My mother made my wedding dress which was lovely but modest. In the heat of June, it was long sleeved and up to my neck without a hint of scandalous flesh showing.

My first career was in the garment center of New York. Nothing glamorous, just administrative but at a high profile bathing suit company. Dressing for success was important but on a secretary’s salary, that didn’t amount to much especially when you are surrounded by fashionistas. No dress down Fridays or casual Thursdays in those days. But now that I am a retired, I have a wardrobe of what I use to wear and am in jeans almost every day. I do look for a reason to get dressed up.

I admit, I love clothes, follow trends, and like to shop. I don’t always get it right but there are moments of my life relegated to memory based on what I wore and still have.

The oldest garment I have (other than my baby shoes) is the sweater I wore to Woodstock. A blue ski-style sweater that my mother shoved into my suitcase against my wishes. “Why would I need a sweater in August in upstate New York”. As we all know, the weather was terrible that weekend, cold and rainy, and that sweater was my salvation.


On the first date I had with my future husband I wore a purple silk blouse which I have to admit was a good color on me. I liked this guy so my follow up dates involved a serious plan of garments  – a knit burgundy dress with a cowl collar when we went to dinner, cargo pants and a silk shirt when we went to a dance club and a red plaid skirt when I wanted to look like the marrying type.

I hated most maternity clothes and it bothered me to spend any money on a garment with a short lifespan and a ridiculous big bow.  Around 1990, pregnant with my youngest I bought a dress in Urban Outfitter in the city that I envisioned as the perfect maternity dress that can be worn after giving birth. My husband calling it my “pumpkin dress” and hated it. A black empire waisted jumper with a full bodice with orange pumpkins all over.  Good grief! Yes, I still have it and is now kept in a Halloween costume box (no surprise).


Although there are many more memories within the clothes I wore, I have to conclude with a suit I made. I had started to sew and took on projects that included clothes for my children and for myself. At one point, I was looking for a job and decided to make the definitive interviewing outfit. This navy blue suit was the best thing I ever made. I spent good money on good fabric and lots of time on it.  It was made of a silk and had buttons covered with the same fabric.  The jacket and skirt were lined. I considered it a work of art and, although I have no where to wear it, I still keep it.

Surprisingly, many styles I see are the same as years ago but my clothing life has metamorphosed into lots of denim and shopping at H&M. Just before I stopped working, I learned how to dress down on Fridays and wear jeans more often. Its nice to be casual but once in a while, I’ll make my husband take me somewhere where I will wear a more dressy look. I still love the dress and do miss it.





Within the last 16 years, a lot has happened yet, it surprises me how I did not notice the evolution. Within that time frame, I transformed from a corporate employee, mother of three and suburban homeowner to a retiree, babysitter and who I was before the madness started.  I was forced to retire when my company moved to Atlanta and I did not. I wasn’t one of those who couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. But when my career evolved to that of a babysitter, I found the time and enjoyment I didn’t have when I was raising my own kids.  The madness stopped when I retired, moved to a town full of farms and good people and I had the time to enjoy what is out my window. My children are now who I love from afar.

During these last 16 years,I have seen all three kids move on to higher ground. Finishing college, getting jobs, managing expenses. My older son is a father. My younger son and daughter are on  good career path. And this week, I saw my daughter handle an escape from the hurricane. My kids are all adults and I sometimes have to remember that.

At the same time, I have evolved into who I always was but did not have time to express. I lost my brother last year and with it, the remains of my life as a child. No kids, no siblings. Just me and my husband. We fill our days with travel, outdoor activities and friends just like us. Not a bad life but it was a long road and with its challenges.

In 16 years, I have become fearful and cautious and at times, a hypochrondiac. I have morned the loss of friends who lost their life over some medical condition that they did nothing to deserve. It make me wonder if I too have something undetected. Did that mosquito bite exposed me to malaria?

I am aware of and have been targeted by scam artists and dishonest people who make a career out of cheating people out of their earnings. I get emails almost weekly by the likes of someone who wants to give me 8 million dollars and all I have to do is give him my bank account number.

Yes, my world has evolved in 16 years. Personally it has gotten better but out there, it is much more of a insecure place. I can never forget how I felt that day on September 11, 2001 as I left the World Financial Center watching Tower 1 come down not knowing what I was seeing.  Did I really see what I thought I saw.

So as I live in my wonderful town I pick up eggs from a bin and leave the money in a lock box on the table. Every weekend in the fall, the roads are clogged with families driving here to pick pumpkins and apples and see the leaves turn. We don’t talk about the Koreans or ISIS. We are aware but move on. Our town is not on the radar of evil.

Sixteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, I went to work at the World Financial Center and saw the buildings come down. I am glad to be safe but will never feel completely safe again.


Yes, It was The New Yorker



I never tire of being with the friends I’ve made in my 55+ community. They bring out the best in me, living for these finest of times. We have been called “the cruise ship on land”, “acting like college kids without the schoolwork” and “Sixtysomethings”. But this week, I had a reunion with people I had been close to some 40 years ago when I worked at The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker). I credit my brother for getting us together as he worked there too and these were his friends as well. We all connected when he died much like they did in the movie “The Big Chill”.

I was only 23 when I got the job as the admin for the production manager, Sam. Sam was a smart man with a humble lifestyle but a character not unlike those depicted on the TV series Mad Men. No, he wasn’t Don Drapper (thank God) but maybe more like the the leader of the rat pack. Not being very observant at the interview, I later realized he played on a different field. He was a vice-president whose office had a bunch of hand-me-down furniture and on his wall were 4 framed black and white photos. Three of the photos were of his friends who were in the business. Under each photo was a title – The Enforcer, The Consigliere, The Don (Sam) and one of the magazine’s circulation manager with a question mark under his photo. I took the job anyway. At 23, it seemed like I belonged in this world of idiotic professionals.

And so I did. Like me, he did not have a college education and worked up through the ranks. At that time, you could be a rock star if you just worked at it. Sam did and I followed that lead. Eventually, I was promoted to Facilities Manager.

At this reunion there was a HR manager, a benefits manager, two computer technicians and me. The HR manger, Tony was a gem who cared about his staff and did what he could to look out for them while keeping them in line. Mary, the benefits manager was a strong woman who knew her job and knew what was right. Don’t cross her. They had moral values that carried into their work. Francisco, the computer technician, was an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who started out in the stockroom, wearing a suit every day and doing the work of ten men. He eventually was promoted to the IT department where he became close to the operator Sally who was also a gem. They married and are happily living in Brooklyn. I suggested they come to visit me in the country and her response was she preferred the rats and mice of the city to the cows and deers of the country.

As the facilities manager, it was my job to ensure the place ran like clockwork. I did but also had to get fine china for the new editor, new furniture for the new publisher and keep up with the changes that were occurring in a world that started out with humble beginnings and ended up with egomaniacs. That came after the magazine was bought by the conglomerate known as Conde Nast. We were simple people and I was not use to the self-admiration that I encountered in a world whose executives looked upon those below them as minions. They weren’t the gems I started with.

We at this reunion were all let go in some form or another. Mostly because they wanted to push out the old guard. But for this get-together, we all sat around toasting to the magazine’s 92 years telling stories of alcohol infused meetings, sexual infidelities between the mailroom boys and the admins, and friendships that have survived some 40 odd years. Yes, it was The New Yorker then. The magazine was highly regarded and highly profitable and not at all corporate-like. Somehow, the magazine survived and made money too. I’m glad I lived then and glad to have the stories and friendships I have from it now. Happy Anniversary.

Click here: nyer-insert-1979

Nice Rides

It was the Mercedes Super Bowl commercial that got me looking at it again, evoking memories of an era that mirrored what I see today. Yes, it was 1969 the year of Woodstock, the generation of love and peace and the days of the Vietnam War.  Easy Rider  was released and made every guy want to own a bike to travel to Mardi Gras while every girl wanted to date Peter Fonda. Fonda (aka Captain America) became a cult hero from that movie. Aside from Fonda who was pretty good looking in a quiet counter-culture way, his side kick was Dennis Hopper who was a bit rough around the edges, and Jack Nicholson being, well Jack Nicholson. In New Orleans, there was no war – just music, love and partying. During the ride, there were drugs and there was and still is prejudices, nonacceptances and hatred that lead to violent endings.

I watched the movie again remembering how it portrayed the birth of the counter culture that challenge the leadership of America. Things haven’t changed in 48 years. I can’t read a paper, or sign onto Facebook without seeing strong conflicts with what is happening within our newly elected government and between friends and family who passionately express their point of view. To stand on the sidelines and say, “been there, done that” is not my usual way, but I won’t get involved by starting a argument with people I love and who are part of the life I love. Maybe this retired voice is no longer the counter cultur liberal it once once, defending her position against all odds. I had my voice in the last election. It is time for me to look closer to home now for the stability and love I crave.

Getting back to the movie, looking at it now, I see the idealism in these guys hoping to cash in on the American dream without having to succumb to the standards of a broken society. As they found out, being individualistic has it’s consequences. I think they were misinformed when they believed drug dealing was a lucrative, long term career path. (Whose parent guided them anyway?) Even though Peter Fonda was a hottie back then (and I must say, still looks good now), good looks and singing for your supper doesn’t usually pay the rent.

We must not forget that in the 48 years since Easy Rider, attitudes really have grown more liberal with the acceptance of those with different lifestyle or origins. Those who opposed gay rights, laughed at the women’s movement or practiced discrimination did nothing to stop it from becoming part of our world. It is too late to turn the clock back to 1969. We did accomplish a lot and there is still more to do. The ride goes on.

The Beauty of Aging

I can no longer say I am approaching old age. I have to accept I am old and getting older. There I admitted it. It isn’t so bad. I feel more confident now then I ever did and am having more fun than when I can remember. I hear from people that I don’t look my age but in my circle, I don’t know anyone who does look or act their age. We are active, dance up a storm and love life. It is all relevant to who you and who you are comparing them to.

As a kid, I thought my mother and other relatives her age were old and looked it. I think most of the mothers during the 1960s did look old not because they were but because they didn’t dare try and look younger. I never saw my mother or other female relatives in pants, always skirts. When at home, they wore unflattering housecoats with little flowers on them. I am sure my mother wore a bra to bed. Not that that made her old, it was just a funny thing to do. Not all females of the 60s dressed like that. Just the ones in my family. I think they thought showing skin was being risque.

I don’t look so bad for my age but I wish I took more care of myself in my younger days. In spite of what I did, someone must have looked down upon me and choose to allow my indiscretions without having them hurt me too much. I smoked cigarettes until I was 30 – a habit I am so glad didn’t stick. I drank cheap wine , sometimes too much of it, that came in a basket, or in a jug with labels like “Blue Nun” or “Cold Duck“. My friends and husband would consider my humble beginnings of wine education a stretch from the snob I am now, rejecting bottles in restaurants for being too alcohol-y. And don’t get me started on all those days at the shore I sat without sun screen trying to get that even glow of a tan. When they came out with the SPF ratings, I found out my lotion was a 3.

I have survived these and many other reckless behaviors I care not to admit to. They may come out in other posts when I think no one is looking. As I look in the mirror, I see little by little the lines in my face appearing as a natural sign of years gone by that no miraculous, age defying cosmetic will ever eliminate. So be it.

There is a dear friend of mine who I’ve known for about 10 years. I knew she was older than me but never knew by how much. I guessed her age now to be around 70. This week, I found out she is celebrating her 79th birthday tomorrow. She looks fabulous, always smiling, and is active in many ways including dancing up a storm at every church dance. Age hasn’t stopped her and I want to be like her at 79 and beyond.

Yes Virginia There Is…

santaMy whole life I have heard that line every Christmas season. The famous Virginia of a Christmas past who wrote to the NY Sun newspaper asking whether there was a Santa Claus. While the response was historic, the line I love is “Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias”.

This year, this Virginia is looking at Christmas past, present and future. The past spent in the home of my parents born of another country in simpler times, unaccustomed to the frivolity and commercialism of the Christmas season of today. My brother and I were given one gift each (not one from each person, just one gift) and were forced by my father to wait until 5 pm on Christmas day before we were allowed to open it. I suppose it was to teach us to be patient. It didn’t.

That Christmas past was much different than the one with my own family filled with lots of decorations and new traditions. For years, we started the season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving by driving to a tree farm to cut down our tree. My husband and I would have this non-sensical argument about what size tree we should have (I envisioned one comparable to Rock Center while Tony favored the love starved Charlie Brown ones). Sometime during December, we would invite friends for a traditional white elephant holiday gift exchange party giving me the chance to dazzle my friends with Armenian specialties while exchanging gifts that you would roll your eyes at. It seemed to work because they came back every year and with the same junky gift they got the year before. Then on Christmas day, the kids would get up at some early morning hour to open gifts. I have days of reminiscing looking at pictures of when our front lawn was decorated with Santa and wooden soldiers reminding me of when the kids still believed in miracles.

Christmas today is with a tree that comes out of a box and decorations that are from Crate and Barrel. The Christmas morning sound of kids running through the house has been replaced by just my husband and I exchanging gifts, preparing the meal and anticipating the kids and family to arrive. This year, we have our grandson and while he doesn’t know Christmas yet, he will and will add to the excitement of the season.

As time goes on, things and feelings change. I remember as my aunts’ aged, they passed up holidays to be alone within the quiet and comfort of their home rather than in the hustle of the day. It seemed strange to me then, but not anymore.

I always want to be in the hustle of the day, but if I don’t, I hope my family understands. I hope I always have these White Elephant parties but one year, I probably will give it up. Mostly, I hope my kids and their family will always be happy throughout their lives and love Christmas. If one year they aren’t feeling it, I hope they look fondly on the memories of the Christmas’ past and look to make changes for a better one next year.