Monday, June 30, 2008

Memories on the Treadmill 1

This may, or may not, become a recurring theme. I have talked in a handful of earlier posts about old memories that were brought to the surface while I was working out at the Cardiac Rehab center (my health club). All of us using the facility are heart patients. I started my 3 times a week workout about 6 weeks after my August 30, 2004 triple coronary bypass operation. Most of us there are in my age group and we have long memories (although the short memory is sometimes missing). Many new friendships have developed across the rows of treadmills and stationary bikes. And we trade stories of growing up and our younger days.

This morning my conversation with David was triggered by the sight of, what I am told, is an F-114 parked at the Torrance Municipal Airport across the way. That led to talk about military aircraft and planes in which we have flown. For me, the memory was of flying cross country in 1958 aboard the Navy's version of the DC-3, which I thought at the time was appropriately designated the R4Q. From there we moved on to airports. David, knowing I grew up in Detroit, remembered flying into Willow Run airport outside Ypsilanti which served the area in the 1950s before Metropolitan Airport was built. We reminisced about now defunct airlines like Capital, Mohawk, Allegheny and Air Illinois.

Somehow, we started talking about summer jobs when we were young and I was able to recall the time I was a gas station attendant (in the days when drivers were not allowed to pump their own gas) at a Speedway 79 station in the Detroit area. And I thought about other part-time jobs I had in my high school and college years: driving a limousine for my uncle's funeral home, stock clerk in a woman's clothing store, selling coal door-to-door during the summer (that didn't last too long), telephone solicitation of leads for an aluminum siding company, parking lot attendant. I worked at a lot of odd jobs but, thank fully, never experienced working fast food. Of course, this was all before McDonalds came along.

The stirring up of old memories is a pleasant additional benefit that comes with the physical activity at the rehab center, especially those conversations on the treadmill.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Memories of Making Chopped Liver

It all started with a conversation among friends this morning at Cardiac Rehab. One of the guys (Steve) mentioned that he had gone to the new deli that opened at a nearby mall. We talked about the food and the prices and the ambiance and all that. He made reference to the difference between ordering a corn beef sandwich as opposed to a "lean corn beef sandwich." Another fellow mentioned that his favorite at the deli was the sweet and sour cabbage soup.

My mind wandered to my youth. I remembered the incredible sweet and sour cabbage soup my mother made and often served at the Shabbat dinner. And then I mentioned my mother's wonderful, made-from-scratch, moist chopped liver and how I rued that I could no longer eat that or many of the other foods that regularly appeared on our dinner table as I grew up. That rich, fat laden diet contributed to my excessive weight in adulthood and the health problems that went with it, including Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol and, ultimately, my triple coronary bypass surgery of nearly 4 years ago.

But the memories are still wonderful. And somewhere buried in the boxes in the garage is the original 70+ year old meat grinder that my mother used when making the chopped liver. Steve said he had one too and that his wife still used it on occasion

Isn't it interesting how a casual conversation among friends can evoke long buried memories. That sure brought a smile to my face this morning. :~D

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thank You Doctor!

The good doctor was here at the house yesterday. He arrived about 4:00 p.m. and did not leave until after midnight. And while Colin is an outstanding MD who has a special way with children, that is not why he was here. For the price of one of Donna's wonderful brisket dinners, he was willing to apply his skills to attacking the various gremlins that have afflicted our computers recently. Like the good doctor that he is, he arrived with not one but two emergency kits. And he went to work.

As a result of Colin's visit we now have a true wireless network among our computers. . .and it is secured against outside intruders. Unwanted software is gone from the computers, Donna's Vista operating system is running a bit more smoothly, Microsoft XP's Service Pack 3 is now installed on my computers and I am a much less cantankerous curmudgeon than I was a day ago. The only remaining obvious glitch is that Microsoft Office Outlook still won't send and receive messages but I can simply stay with Outlook Express a bit longer.

There also is some back story that goes with our friendship with Colin. We met him in the latter 1980s when he was a classmate of my eldest son Bill at Occidental College. I can't remember what he did right after college but around 2000, he decided that he wanted to become a doctor and was accepted to medical school. If my memory is accurate, he received his MD from USC the same weekend that daughter Alicia received her B.A. from Occidental College. Prior to yesterday's visit, Colin's most recent act of friendship to The Ancient One's family was to accompany Alicia on her drive last week from L.A. to Wilmington, DE. (By the way, they were there by Friday, the moving van arrived Sunday, and Alicia is settling in.) Colin truly is both a true friend and a member of this family!

So, as I sit here writing this on a more perky, responsive computer, there is only one more thing to say. . .

THANK YOU DOCTOR!!!! Your assistance makes technology a bit more agreeable!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Just How Hot Was it?

I rarely complain about the weather. Living in southern California for the past 26 years, I know how lucky I am. I don't have to deal with snow, ice and extreme cold in the winter. And when it gets hot, the humidity stays low. I generally appreciate the wonderful climate in which I exist. But there are exceptions. . .

We are in the midst of a heat wave. At our house on the Palos Verdes Peninsula the temperature yesterday hit 91°F. It rarely gets that high in this area where few houses have air conditioning. But I had to drive to Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley for a meeting. As I was about to exit my air-conditioned car, I noted that its external temperature gauge said the temperature was 104°F. The blast furnace that hit me as I got out of the car was as hot as I've ever felt and I had to walk over a block to get to the meeting place which was cooled (?) by a fan blowing on a room full of 20 people. Even with low humidity, that was hot!!!

It was still 104°F as I returned to the car to head home. Once I was back on the freeway heading up into the Sepulveda Pass which took me out of the Valley and back to L.A., I glanced at the gauge. It read 108°F. (And I understand that it hit a few degrees higher nearby.) Fortunately, by the time I got home, the temperature here was only 86°F, substantially cooler than it was in the Valley.

Today was a bit cooler but not much. For the most part I vegetated, even keeping the lights off so as not to generate any extra heat. And I now fully understand why they caution folks in my age bracket to avoid strenuous exercise and to be sure to consume lots of water on days like this.

I really do love the weather in southern California except on the rare days like yesterday and today. I don't like it when the heat makes me feel my age.

Okay – that's all the complaining for today! Now to get on with my life!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Those Gremlins Are Driving Me Crazy

The gremlins are back and I am going crazy. When we got home Wednesday evening, I had no connection to the internet. I was convinced it was a "signal" problem and was poised (on Thursday morning) to call my ISP in order to chat with one of its friendly Techs in India. But before I did. . .

I decided to first try to reconnect through my old ethernet hub and. . .lo and behold. . .I was back online. But without the wireless router, no one else in the house was. I couldn't get the ethernet to work on Donna's computer and my laptop was dependent on the wireless network to gain access to the outside world.

Today I spent about 2 hours trying to reinstall the wireless router but it insists that it is not receiving an internet signal. Alas, alack and many other stronger epithets!

So here I am back via the ethernet hub and when I post this, I will figure out how to get Donna's computer to work on it as well. I do need some luck and a lot more patience than I have had the past couple of days.

Technology! Bah!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Little Girl Has Gone Away. . .

Alicia will always be my little girl! As she approaches her 27th birthday, she has gone away to start a career. She is living life as exactly the person we raised her to be. She left today for Wilmington, DE where she will be the Director of Engagement for Hillel at the University of Deleware. While we are sad to see Alicia go so far away, we are incredibly proud of her.

Below is a photo of her heading up the aisle after receiving her M.A. in Jewish Communal Service last month from Hebrew Union College here is L.A.

As she leaves, I think of one of my favorite phrases about parenting (not clear as to source): "You raise your children to be independent, self-sufficient and to live their own lives. And when you are successful, you really get pissed off at them." Not really! But it is hard to let go and watch my little girl who is now a beautiful, self-confident young woman begin a new journey in her life. And by moving across country, she's doing to us exactly what I did to my parents 47 years ago.

Good luck Alicia! We love you!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert (1950-2008)

I guess it was about 1:00 p.m. (PDT) today when I heard that Tim Russert, chief of NBC's Washington Bureau, had died suddenly. The news nearly immobilized me! I spent the next several hours sitting teary-eyed in front of the TV watching MSNBC and learning about his life from people mainly in the worlds of news and politics. Why have I been so affected by the death of someone I know only from the television screen?

Because of my own background, I am a bit of a political news junkie. But I am driven to distraction by most political commentators and pundits who seem to be more enamored of their own agendas than they are by learning and sharing what is happening around us in the political world. There are very few outstanding political analysts who find answers without becoming overly adversarial toward those they interview. Tim Russert was among the best; he was a pleasure to watch and I always learned something from him, his guests, and his interview subjects.

Watching analysis of election returns just will not be the same without Russert. In the past 6 months, his Saturday program on MSNBC has provided most of the intelligent discussion I have heard about the presidential primaries. His moderating of Meet the Press always was masterful. His knowledge and incredible good humor seemed to rub off on those around him. Maybe that is why his death feels like losing a member of the family.

Rest in peace Tim! I hope those who follow in your footsteps will demonstrate some of what you offered us. You will be missed!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Baldacci Maze. . .

Reading David Baldacci's Last Man Standing (2001) is like finding your way through a never-ending thriller maze. It goes on and on (638 pages) and the pieces don't really come together until the very end where you are left with one last piece of an unanswered puzzle.

The novel follows a tortured FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) hero, Web London, as he pieces together what went wrong on an operation and is led on a twisting path that ties together some disparate events present and past.

Along the way, we are exposed to some long, detailed discussions of the inner workings of the FBI and its HRTs, psychiatry, operations of a horse breeding business and a handful of other related topics. But the action carries the day. Little by little, new events reveal the path through the maze (or is it mazes) until we reach a mostly satisfying end. The reader has to make decisions about characters who display both good and evil traits. Really, just who are the "good" and "bad" guys? In some cases, these are not easy decisions. But when this thriller ends, most of the good folks are still alive albeit scarred and unsure of their own futures.

Yes, this was classic Baldacci.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The View From La Venta. . .

We attended the wedding of Jessica Kiss and T.J. VanMarter this afternoon at the La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes Estates. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception/dinner following was most enjoyable.

In the 26+ years The Ancient One has lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, this was the first time he had been to La Venta. Although the day was a bit hazy, the view from the Inn looking up the coastline along the beach cities (Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach) was spectacular, even when seen though the lens of a cell phone camera.

Enjoy the view!

Friday, June 6, 2008

At the Top of Disney Hall. . .

We attended the Kindred Spirits fundraising concert last night at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

This was our first visit to Disney Hall and we had a bird's eye view sitting in the next to last row of the balcony. It did provide a fascinating view of the concert hall:

The concert itself was outstanding although I do not intend to review it here. We were treated to musical performances by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony conducted by Dr. Noreen Green; Cantors Ilan Davidson, Alberto Mizrahi, Alisa Pomerantz-Boro and David Propis; and the Mass Choir from the First A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles. There were also spoken word presentations by: Ed Asner, Mike Burstyn, Valerie Harper, Rev. Dr. John Joseph Hunter, and Millie Perkins. An advance article about the concert appeared locally in The Jewish Journal.

Thank you to Cantor Davidson of Temple Beth El in San Pedro, and his committee, for a beautiful, inspiring, spiritual, ecumenical evening. Kindred Spirits and its efforts are worthy of our support.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Baldacci Double Entendre. . .

The title of David Baldacci's 1999 thriller, Saving Faith, is a double entendre. Much of the focus of the action is directed at saving the life of lobbyist Faith Lockhart. But I saw a challenge, after reading the book, in "saving faith" in the American political system as it operates in Washington, DC.

In this novel, Baldacci does a good bit of character development in the early chapters. I came to appreciate the likes of Lee Adams, Danny Buchanan, Faith Lockhart, Brooke Reynolds, even Robert Thornhill. I found the clandestine competition between the FBI and CIA interesting. But I found some of the early going a bit tedious as Baldacci talked about the inner workings of Congress and lobbying; it was almost like I was back in my political science courses of over 40 years ago. But that's me, not the average reader. My having specialized in legislative politics and behavior while pursuing graduate work in political science and having a brother who shared much of what he experienced as Staff Director and Chief Counsel of a U.S. Senate subcommittee in the 1960s must have been the reason.

But once what seemed like overly descriptive lessons were completed, the pace picked up and by the end I reached that "can't put the book down phase" which saw me finally finish Saving Faith about 1:30 a.m. the other day.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and have moved on now to a 1970 Baldacci wok, Last Man Standing.

Baldacci is a wonderful, prolific writer who also has done outstanding work supporting literacy efforts through the Wish You Well Foundation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

. . . It's off to work I go! Well, actually, it was off to work I went this morning, leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. But first, a little back story.

Two weeks ago when I was musing about how busy the middle of May had become, I alluded to "other events I may talk about later." Part of that reluctance was superstition; I had a couple of commercial auditions and was afraid that if The Ancient One mentioned them at that time it might jeopardize chances of getting cast.

Well, this morning I participated in a commercial shoot for the First National Bank of Omaha. And, what is more significant, I was not an extra! I was a college Dean in a commencement scene. It was my first role as a SAG principal actor since I became a member of SAG last December. And it was both fun and different. But first things first!

When called for the initial audition, The Ancient One decided that he was going to book this job. It was not an inflated ego at work. Having retired from a career of more than 40 years in higher education, I figured that I knew something about playing a Dean. Besides, when I entered the audition studio, I was asked to improvise a commencement address. I was ready. After all, last November I was the college President in a play which opened with my delivering a . . . commencement address! This just had to be my job! A week later, I was called back for a 2nd audition at which the Director was present. I felt that it went pretty well.

Then, I was offered the job last week, went in for a wardrobes session and was scheduled to shoot today. I had a 7:30 a.m. call on location at the University of Southern California. That was wonderful. USC is a relatively easy ride from our house, compared to most of the studios and locations used in L.A. As I walked into the "base camp" area from the parking lot, a young man greeted me by name! He was the 2nd 2nd Assistant director [that is not a typo] who apparently was assigned to spot me and other principals as we approached. He immediately showed me where I could get breakfast and then led me to me to my own dressing room in what is called a "Star Wagon," a fancy name for a specialized trailer.

Why, they even had my name on the door!

I got into my academic regalia! That was a bit emotional since I was wearing my own cap, gown and hood (which was better for me than what wardrobe had to offer) that had been given to me as a gift from my mother when I received my Ph.D. 43 years ago. Mom never could have imagined that she had given me something that would be used in plays and commercials as well as worn at commencements and convocations throughout my career.

While the facial expression is not wonderful, this is how The Ancient One looked just before he was driven to the set.

It was a little strange as I climbed into the van while watching the extras leave to walk to the location being used on the campus. I am not sure how to describe what I was feeling as I received special treatment because I was a "principal performer" on this shoot and not an "extra."

My part of the shoot went fairly quickly. I stood on the stage, passed out diplomas and congratulated a handful of the "graduates." We did this over and over again; somewhere between 10 and 20 times. After a few takes, the camera angles would be changed and we would do it all over again. And that process was repeated several times. That's all I had to do! I was not asked to deliver any phrases from a commencement address as was the case in the auditions. I just handed out diplomas, smiles and handshakes.

We finished that part of the shoot, took a break, and . . . I was wrapped! I was done with my "acting" job for the day. I was driven back to the base camp, signed the paperwork, and was back home by 11:00 a.m.

It wasn't very hard! I got the job because, like with most commercial casting, I had the look the director was looking for when he saw me at the callback audition. And I met a lot of nice people and had a great time. And, yes, the paycheck will be at union rates.

But, most importantly, this septuagenarian had his first principal role in a SAG commercial production. I feel like I am glowing inside and out!