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The theme for week 20 (May 14-20) is Another Language.

I sometimes joke that my family spoke no language known to the rest of mankind in general. It’s more that the people around me spoke a number of languages, often within the same sentence. I am not joking when I say that I was nearly 40 by the time I realized that capisce is not a Yiddish word. My father was fluent in English, Yiddish (essentially his native language), Hebrew, German, Russian, and Italian and had a smattering of other languages. My mother was born in the U.S. but spoke Yiddish and Spanish before she spoke English. My maternal grandfather’s fluency in Spanish was useful for his jewelry business when a lot of Puerto Ricans began to move to the Bronx, though they made fun of his Cuban accent.

Other languages also come up a lot in searching for records. I have a number of vital records from Poland for ancestors on my mother’s side of the family – and they are in Russian. On my father’s side, the vital records from Lithuania are in both Russian and Hebrew. I can read names, but I need help with some of the other details. And then I have post cards in Yiddish and photographs with inscriptions in languages ranging from Yiddish and Hebrew to German and Italian. I am grateful to people on some facebook groups who have translated things for me.

My favorite language related story involves my paternal grandfather’s marriage to his fourth wife. I heard Dad talking with him on the phone – in Yiddish (with bits of Italian thrown in, as was typical for them). Suddenly, his vocabulary must have run out because he said, in English, "Pa, you don’t have to marry her. In America they call it shacking up." I swear this is absolutely true. Emes.

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14 May 2018 @ 02:52 pm
I went up to New York for the weekend. The Save the Deli group on Facebook was having a "meat-up" to try the last two kosher delis in the Bronx (as well as other events on Long Island). I had originally considered staying for the Sunday lunch, but I’m so far behind on things at home that decided I should take an earlier train. I also saw that it was a weekend with an Encores production at City Center, so that made it easy to decide what to do on Saturday night. For convenience, I used Marriott points to stay at the Residence Inn at Broadway and 54th. Aside from my usual hotel rants (why oh why do they hide the light switches? And does anybody really need 9 pillows?), it was perfectly acceptable. The sound proofing was above average. And the location was ideal for my purposes.

NYPL: I didn’t have any particular plans for Saturday morning. It was raining, so I decided against a stroll around Central Park. Instead, I walked down to 42nd Street and visited my touchstones – the Chrysler Building (the most beautiful skyscraper on the planet) and the New York Public Library. I should note that there is a lot of scaffolding up around the Salmon Tower Building, making hard to see the bas reliefs from across 42nd Street.

I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so decided not to spend it in the microforms room (which has some items of genealogical interest). Instead, I went up to the third floor and looked at the McGraw Rotunda, the Rose Main Reading Room, and the Salomon Room (where I noted that nobody ever taught the Astors how to sit on a chair.) I also noted Lego reproductions of Patience and Fortitude (the library lions). And I did a brief browse through the library shop, but did not buy anything.

Loeser’s Deli: It was more complicated getting to Loeser’s than it would normally be, since the 1 Train wasn’t running north of 137th Street. I had to switch to the A Train at 59th Street, take it to the end at 207th Street, and then use a shuttle bus to 231st Street.. It was easy enough, but annoying.

Anyway, there were 8 of us at Loeser’s and the owner came out to greet us. I tasted a little bit of a kasha knish one of the other people ordered. It tasted fine, but the ratio of filling to crust was very skewed towards filling. I decided to order a combination sandwich – tongue, bologna, cole slaw, Russian dressing. I added a little mustard as well. It was okay, but not a lot of meat for the price. Given that their sign says "where a sandwich is a meal," I found that surprising. I ate only half the sandwich, because I wanted to save room for the next place. It took a long time to get them to wrap up the other half.

The skimpy sandwiches appeared to be the case for the sandwiches other people ordered. Customers cannot see pastrami coming through the rye here. I should also note that the cole slaw that came on the side was terrible. It was cut fine and had little flavor. What was on the sandwich worked okay, but I really like bigger shreds and a vinegary dressing. There were also two thin slices of pickles, which looked anemic but actually tasted pretty good.

Liebman’s: Three of us continued on to Liebman’s, which is about 0.6 miles away, according to google maps. What that doesn’t account for is elevation, and it was a steep walk. Still, we survived the hike. The atmosphere (like the neighborhood) was definitely more upscale, though the chairs and tables looked like every diner on Sunrise Highway on Long Island. (There’s something about an aqua vinyl booth…) There was a much more extensive menu. I opted for a chopped liver platter. This consisted of two absurdly large scoops of chopped liver, a scoop each of potato salad and cole slaw, a pile of cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions, and a stack of rye bread. The presentation was quite fancy. I’m sure they could do a chopped liver swan for a bar mitzvah or wedding.

I ate about 2/3 of one of the scoops of liver and some of the potato salad and cole slaw. All of it was very good. The cole slaw was so much better than Loeser’s! I also had one slice of pickle, which was fine. They were much faster than Loeser’s at wrapping up the leftovers, too. Liebman’s was the definite winner of the Bronx deli outing. But, frankly, there is no real reason to schlep to the Bronx as long as the 2nd Avenue Deli still exists in Manhattan.

Getting back to midtown involved taking a bus to the A Train to Columbus Circle. I had plenty of time to stick my leftovers in the refrigerator, change my clothes, and check email and facebook before going to the theatre.

Encores – Me and My Girl: It was a short walk over to City Center to see the Encores production of Me and My Girl. This was not as old a musical as most Encores productions, since they were using the 1984 (London) / 1986 (Broadway) version, not the original 1937 one. Interestingly, there is a production being done right now by 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco.

Anyway, the plot is a pretty thin one. Bill Snibson is revealed to be the new Earl of Hareford, but has to unlearn his Cockney ways and play the part. That gets in the way of his romance with Sally Smith – especially as the rapacious Lady Jaqueline Carstone is determined to marry the Hareford fortune. All of this is an excuse for lively music hall style songs (written by Noel Gay) and old (but funny) lines. For example, Maria (the duchess and Bill’s aunt) says, "when I’m down in the dumps, I buy a new hat" and Bill says, "oh, that’s where you get them." Not exactly surprising or original, but stuff like that still gets a good laugh.

As for the songs, I was fairly sure I would get earwormed by "The Lambeth Walk," which closes Act 1. Actually, the title song is just as sticky. And then there is "Leaning on a Lamp-Post," and the Gilbert and Sullivan inspired "The Family Solicitor."

Christian Borle played Bill, which is the sort of over-the-top role he seems to be getting known for. (He won a Tony as Shakespeare in Something Rotten and an earlier one as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher.} He’s clearly very talented and it would be interesting to see him in a role with more emotional depth. Lisa O’Hare, who played Lady Jaqueline, was also typecast, as that role was similar to her performance as Sibella in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Other notable performances included Laura Michelle Kelly as Sally, Mark Evans as the Honorable Gerald Bolingbroke (Lady Jaqueline’s love interest), and Don Stephenson as Mr. Parchester, the family solicitor. Simon Jones also had a smallish role and I was astonished at how old he has gotten. (I checked and he is 67, which is not really all that much older than I am.) While Encores productions are nominally concert versions, I did not notice any of the performers carrying scripts and, while the sets are somewhat scaled down, they are not completely minimalistic. This can stand up to any fully staged musical, particularly given the quality of the singing and dancing.

All in all, this was a lot of fun. Back at the hotel, I ate some of my leftover chopped liver for a late supper and collapsed.

Getting Home: The train home was fine and included eating the rest of my leftovers for lunch. didn’t run into any significant metro delays, either. I ran out to the supermarket to get the Sunday Post and a few groceries. (Strawberries and sour cream for supper to counteract the meatiness of the weekend.) I finished reading the Sunday Post, but, oops, that was last Sunday’s! I don’t even want to think about how much stuff I have to do at home, sigh. Still, it was an excellent weekend.

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11 May 2018 @ 11:21 am
The theme for Week 19 (May 7-13) is Mother's Day.


This photo is from 1951 and shows (from left to right) my mother Beatrice NADEL (nee LUBOWSKY), my great-aunt Bernice SCHWARTZ (later FUCHS), my great-aunt Frieda SCHWARTZ, my great-grandmother Molly SCHWARTZ (nee Malka Ryfka MAKOWER), and my grandmother Lillian LUBOWSKY (nee SCHWARTZ). You can see just a little bit of my grandfather at the right. I don’t know if there was any special occasion for the photo. Nobody seems particularly dressed up, so I suspect not.

I think Grandma looks somewhat triumphant. I imagine her thinking something like "I’ve got this handsome husband and attractive daughter. Take that kid sisters!" (She had a son, too, but I think Uncle Herb was probably the photographer.)

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09 May 2018 @ 11:05 am
I have political rants to inflict on people, but let me first speak of what I have been up to.

Celebrity Death Watch: Sachio Kinugasa was a Japanese baseball player who played in 2215 consecutive games. Alice Provensen illustrated (and later wrote) children’s books. Larry Harvey founded Burning Man. Judith Leiber designed handbags (and died the same day as her husband, Gerson, a painter.) Abi Ofarim was an Israeli musician and dancer, best known for "Cinderella Rockeflla" with his wife Esther. Rabbi Aaron Panken was the President of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Charles Steger was a former president of Virginia Tech. Paolo Ferrari played Archie Goodwin in the Italian television adaptation of the Nero Wolfe books. George Deukmejian was the governor of California through much of the 1980’s.

Conference Going: I spent three days last week at a work-related forum that may or may not prove useful in the future. Parts of it were like having somebody read a dictionary to me, parts had me metaphorically throwing up my hands in despair on how little progress we’ve made in too many years, and only a couple of speakers seemed to have anything concrete to say. I suspect it is just that I am old and have been through a few too many fads on how to engineer systems better. Also, I am tired of people who are speaking at space-related events starting out by admitting they don’t know anything about space systems. Or I could just have been cranky because I had to drive and, while Route 28 is almost tolerable in the morning, it is inevitably a slow-moving hellstream in the afternoon.

Canadian Embassy: On Wednesday evening, I went to an MIT Club event at the Embassy of Canada. The talk was on renewable energy (hydropower on the part of the Canadians; wind and solar on the part of the Americans) and how our grids play together. The interesting part was the relative dearth of east-west transmission lines in both countries, while there is good north-south connectivity. Admittedly, it’s not like anybody actually lives in the Dakotas or Saskatchewan … (Er, yes, I am joking. Sort of.) The reception was pretty much the wine and cheese and crackers sort (plus charcuterie and excellent dried fruit and mixed nuts). One of the embassy people was from Saskatchewan and I extracted some tourist tips from her, e.g. the existence of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Museum. (I have been trying to find a reason to go to that province, without much success. This sounds like a plausible weekend trip.) Aside from that, I talked with fellow alumni.

Around the World Embassy Tour: I did more embassy going on Saturday, which featured the annual Around the World Embassy Open House. (There is a separate event for EU embassies, which is this coming weekend, but I have prior commitments.) We started at the Embassy of Nepal, which had some photos, a short film, and food that it was too early in the day for. The Embassy of Guinea was just steps away, so we walked through, looked at the building and some photos, and listened to some music. Then we cabbed over to the Embassy of Angola, which was high on my list, largely because Paul Theroux hated it so much that it piqued my interest in going there. They had excellent snacks – some sort of peanut brittle like thing, chocolate cake, coconut rolls, what looked and tasted like malasadas (though I don’t know the Angolan name for them). There was also good coffee and some weird but not unpleasant drink made from corn. They also had a fair amount of swag, including paperweights and brochures and an issue of National Geographic.

We took the bus down 16th Street to the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (roughly affiliated with the Embassy of Oman) where we dressed up in Omani clothing for selfies, drank coffee heavily scented with cardamom and rosewater, and ate dates. Then we cabbed over to the Embassy of Qatar, where we had more selfies in costume, more coffee, more dates, and some fairly substantial food (they had meat pies, chicken sandwiches, and cheese pies). They had advertised falconry but were unable to get permission for it.

That was as far as we had planned, so we looked at the map and settled on going to the northwest end of Embassy Row and the Embassy of South Africa. There was a long line, with free bottles of Nando’s lemon-herb sauce at the end of it, along with biltong samples. There was also a marketplace, mostly selling jewelry. (They had a food court, with food for sale, outside.) The Embassy of Bolivia was just across the street, so we went there and got some sort of alcoholic drinks. Inside, there was an art exhibit and a look at a fancy dining room. Back outside, there were costumed dancers. I was fading quickly and decided that I was better off going home at that point, but my friend wanted to stay to the bitter end. I abandoned her in line for the Embassy of Brazil (where, coincidentally, she was standing just a couple of people in front of a woman from my book club). I walked down to Dupont Circle and metroed home for a nap.

Paperwork: Our "improved" foreign travel reporting system at work (and, yes, that applies to embassy visits, unless you go to the embassy to get a visa for a real trip) is annoying. This is no surprise. I am especially peeved that they ignored all of my comments in the pre-rollout test session we had. Peeved but not, alas, surprised.

Team Israel: On Sunday, I satisfied my obsession with Jewish baseball players by seeing the documentary Heading Home: The Story of Team Israel as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. It was worth the schlep to Bethesda.

Crumbs and Whiskers: A few weeks ago, a friend had been talking about her struggles with depression and I asked what I could do to help. One of my suggestions was a visit to a cat café. (I have learned over the years that it is best to offer a few suggestions, because depressed people tend to be unable to think of what might help. And what helps me may not be right for you.) So we made that excursion Monday evening. Petting cats is good therapy and they’ve adopted out hundreds of cats, who get to live better in the café than they did in cages in shelters.

I mentioned that my mother sucked at naming cats. She had one named Mamacat and had named one of the ferals who hung out on her lawn Rita. So I was challenged on what makes a good name for a cat. I believe that the name of a god or goddess (ideally Egyptian, but others will do) is a good starting point. Beyond that, one should consider the cat’s physical characteristics. I’d love to have a pair of Siamese cats named Mocha and Java, for example. But avoid trite names like Tiger. Names of authors can work well. Royalty is always good. (My brother and his ex-wife had a cat named Empress Josefina, for example.) My former boss always named his cats after serial killers. Note: no matter how much I think you have misnamed your cat, I will never tell you this, because I am not a monster.

Other good therapy is walking and the weather was lovely for a stroll back to Foggy Bottom. M Street still annoys me, with large herds of slow-moving tourists, but the weather mostly made up for it.

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08 May 2018 @ 10:57 am
Berry Oat Squares: This wasn’t part of my subscription box but was bought on sale at Wegman’s. It’s two rolled oat squares with berry infused cranberries and assorted seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds). It has 200 calories. While it isn’t terrible, it isn’t nearly as good as Graze’s flapjacks are. The texture is much more cookie-like, instead of soft and chewy. And the flavor of the seeds is far more dominant than the flavor of the berries. I’d buy it again only if were at a very good sale price.

Summer Berry Flapjack: These are oat granola bars with raspberry and strawberry infused cranberries. They have 240 calories. I’m not sure why, but they were noticeably better than the Berry Oat Squares. The texture is chewier and the berry flavor is more distinct, probably because of the lack of seeds. Excellent.

Protein Peanut Butter Dipper: This consists of peanut butter with pretzel sticks to dip in it. It has 130 calories. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s pretty boring as snacks go.

Veggie Protein Power: This is a mixture of edamame beans, spicy chickpeas, and black pepper cashews. It has 130 calories. Given the name, I should mention that it also has 7 grams of protein. I like the crunchiness and the spiciness. It’s also one of the more filling savory snacks I’ve gotten, which is good for those long afternoons.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: This is a mixture of salted peanuts, raspberry strings, and vanilla fudge squares. It has 220 calories. This is a good mix of sweet and salty, especially if you eat all the ingredients together. The raspberry strings are particularly delicious.

Sweet & Spicy Beet Crunch: This is a combination of dried beet chips, sunflower seeds, and jalapeno chickpeas. It has 100 calories. The sunflower seeds don’t contribute much to the flavor (though they are, of course, high in protein), but the chickpeas have lots of crunch and mild spiciness. The beets are the highlight of this – crunchy, slightly sweet, and thoroughly delicious.

Vitamin E Defense: This consists of roasted hazelnuts, redskin peanuts, raisins, and dried cranberries. It has 190 calories. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t very exciting. It is probably the only snack I’ve ever tried which I think would benefit from having a bit of salt added.

Louisiana Wild Rice & Beans: This is a mixture of wild rice sticks and chili broad beans. It has 140 calories. I liked both components, both separately and together. I’m also glad for built-in portion control, because the wild rice sticks are the sort of thing I could easily munch on mindlessly and eat way more of than I intended to.

Peach Cobbler: This consists of almond slivers, yogurt-coated sunflower seeds, amaretti drops, and peach fruit drops. It has 160 calories. I like the combination, but want to note that both the yogurt-coated seeds and the peach fruit drops are particularly good. This was a nice summery snack.

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  1. Have you ever driven an electric car?

    No, though I have driven a hybrid. That was a Prius I had as a rental once in Los Angeles. It was pretty awful from an ergonomic perspective.

  2. Do you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes?

    We’re not especially prone to them, but we do get a tornado in the broader region every couple of years.

  3. How many closets does your house have?

    Hmmm. I have a huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom and a fair-sized closet (more step-into than walk-in) in the other bedroom. There’s a coat closet by the front door. And there is what is either a linen closet or a pantry next to the kitchen.

    So that makes either 3 or 4, depending on what you count.

  4. When was the last time you saw someone you went to high school with?

    There’s someone who lives near me who I see maybe once a year. Aside from that, I saw a bunch of folks about 2 years ago at our reunion.

  5. Have you ever eaten moussaka?

    Yes, but I am not really crazy about Greek food as a rule.

  6. What breed was the last dog you saw?

    Mostly I see mutts.

  7. How long have your parents been together (or how long were they together if they no longer are)?

    My father died a few months before their 30th anniversary.

  8. What has been your most epic cooking failure?

    I knew that 12 chili peppers seemed a lot for a recipe that serves four, but it was a cookbook I had found reliable in the past. I should have trusted my instincts.

  9. Do you read other people's survey answers on here?


  10. What's your bedtime routine?

    Brush teeth. Undress. Get in bed. Hug bear. Fall asleep.

  11. Do you agree with the saying "distance makes the heart grow fonder?"

    That should be "absence" not "distance." But it’s really more complicated. I need a certain amount of alone time, so it is true in that sense, but there’s no point in a relationship with somebody who you never see either.

  12. Have you ever been to Mexico?

    Yes, but just a long weekend in Mazatlan. I still need to get to Oaxaca. And to do the Ruta Maya.

  13. Do you have a bad temper?

    I can usually control it.

  14. When was the last time it stormed where you live?

    We had some wind storms within the past several weeks, but I don’t remember quite when. There hasn’t been a thunderstorm in months, but one wouldn’t expect them until summer.

  15. Do you ever fact-check the things you read on the internet?


  16. How long would it take you to walk to the nearest store?

    At the moment, I am in my office and there is a convenience store within a few minutes walk. At home, it would take me about 15 minutes to a largish shopping center, which has a supermarket, drug store, art supply store, crafts supply store, pet supply store, a couple of banks, several eating places, dry cleaners, and probably something I am completely forgetting about. There used to be a dance clothing store and a diving supply store, but both have closed. Oh, yes, there is also a seasonal stand for things like fireworks, pumpkins, and Christmas trees. And, what is truly unique as shopping centers go,the Thompson family cemetery.

  17. What five words best describe your mother's personality?

    Curious, talkative, lazy, frugal, imaginative. All of those have been replaced by the single word, dead.

  18. Do you know any transgender people?

    At least two.

  19. What's your dream job?

    Madcap heiress.

  20. How old were you when you got your first smartphone?

    In my mid-50’s.

  21. Have you ever had a parrot sit on your shoulder?

    Not that I can remember and I think I would remember if I had.

  22. In the morning, do you eat breakfast first or brush your teeth first?

    Generally, I eat breakfast, then brush my teeth. But, if I am going out to breakfast, I brush my teeth first.

  23. What's something you had to learn the hard way?

    We all fail sometimes.

  24. What sort of window coverings do you have in your living room?

    Vertical blinds for the sliding glass door to the balcony. Horizontal blinds for the window.

  25. Has anyone in your life ever treated you abusively?

    I doubt there is any American woman of my age who could answer "no" to this, but I haven’t had anything especially severe, particularly compared to stories I’ve heard from various people I know.

  26. What's the weather like right now?

    Beautiful – sunny and in the mid-70’s. I could live without the pollen, however.

  27. How long has it been since your last breakup?

    About 7 years.

  28. Can you concentrate well while listening to music, or do you find it distracting?

    It depends on what I am doing and what sort of music it is. I can’t read or write while listening to anything with words. I can knit or do household paperwork with almost anything on.

  29. What's the name of the amusement park closest to your house?

    I’m guessing Six Flags America in Bowie is the closest. That’s probably a 40 mile drive. There is probably some water park or the like that is closer.

  30. Do you like The Rolling Stones?


  31. What was the last single item you spent over $100 on?

    A train ticket.

  32. What's something you've been struggling with lately?

    Trying to get organized.

  33. What was the last caffeinated drink you had?

    I am drinking a bottle of Coke Zero right now.

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04 May 2018 @ 12:56 pm
The theme for Week 18 (April 30 – May 6) is Close Up. One of the suggestions for this theme was a relative who lived close to you.

A couple of years ago I learned that I had lived less than a mile from one of my maternal grandfather’s nephews for several years (basically, most of the late 1980’s). I know my mother had his address and either his or his daughter’s phone number, but, for some reason, did not want me to contact him. I suspect he was shunned because he had married a non-Jewish woman, but there may be more to it than that..

In terms of people who I actually knew, my great-aunt Bernice and her her husband, Ely FUCHS, lived in Far Rockway, which was pretty near our house. Bernice was my grandmother’s youngest sister and, even though she claimed to be the same age as my mother, she was about 20 years older. She hadn’t married until she was in her mid-40’s, so they didn’t have any children. So my brother and I (and, I suppose, my two first cousins) sort of fulfilled that role. We’d stay with them when my parents went away for the weekend. I didn’t much care for that because Bernice was a terrible cook. Just visiting them was better, especially because we would all walk to the boardwalk, where we would play skee-ball and buy knishes at an excellent place called Jerry’s.

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30 April 2018 @ 04:02 pm
I had a fairly hectic weekend. In spite of which, I did actually get a fair amount of household paperwork done, but there is, inevitably, more stuff to plow through. Still, there was time for entertainment, too.

Girlfiriend: I went to see Girlfiriend at Signature Theatre on Friday night. Despite the title (which is derived from the Matthew Sweet album that forms its score), this is a coming-of-age story about two gay men, who have just graduated from high school and are having a summer romance before one of them leaves for college. Mike is an alpha male, a football player, heading to college and a likely medical career in the more distant future. Will is awkward and doesn’t really know what he wants for the future. His fantasies are charmingly simple – like going to Safeway and shopping for dogfood with Matt. Mostly, the two of them go to a drive-in, where they watch the same movie every night. If only Evangeline, the story of a nun / cop / superhero / alien, were a real movie! The music is enjoyable and the script is funny. But what really made this worth seeing was the performances. I’ve seen Jimmy Mavrikes, who played Will, in several shows before. Lukas James Miller, who played Mike, was new to me, but also did a good job. The chemistry between the two of them felt realistic for teen romance. I was afraid that there would be a tragic ending and was relieved to be wrong. Overall, I thought this was a charming and, dare I say, sweet little show.

Storytelling: Saturday night was a Better Said Than Done show at The Auld Shebeen. The theme was Getting Busy: stories of work, tasks, and getting’ busy. I had a fairly literal interpretation, with a story about how I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. But there were a wide range of interpretations of the theme, which is one of the things that always makes this fun. There was a large and lively audience and I think it went well. Video to follow eventually.

Witch: On Sunday afternoon, I went to see Witch at Creative Cauldron. This was part of their Bold New Works for Intimate Spaces series. It had to do with a group of women – 3 mothers, their tween daughters, and the mother of one of them – staging a series of sketches about witches as part of the women’s march. The witches ranged from Joan of Arc to Rebecca Nurse (one of the Salem victims) to Margaret Hamilton to a woman in Ghana who was exiled to Gambaga. The point had to do with the treatment of women, both historically and now. There was also some material about the women’s relationships with one another, but that was not quite as fleshed out as I’d have liked. It was definitely a provocative show and I look forward to discussing it with other people who’ve seen it. (It brought out plenty of anger on the part of the friend I saw it with.) There's also the interesting irony of it having been written by two men.

I should also note the performances. In particular, Florence Lacey demonstrated the power of an older woman. And Iyona Blake continues to amaze and impress me with her powerful voice. That was particularly dramatic with a sustained note at the end of the song "Gambaga."

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26 April 2018 @ 04:40 pm
The theme for Week 17 (April 23-29) is Cemetery. I’ve spent a fair amount of time visiting the graves of various ancestors in the greater New York area. My parents and my paternal grandfather are buried at Mount Ararat Cemetery on Long Island. There’s one gravesite left in that plot and I suppose it will go to either me or my brother, depending on which of us dies first.

My maternal grandfather’s sister, Adele WASSERMAN, and her husband are buried just up the street at Montefiore Cemetery in Lindenhurst. It’s from their records that I know she died on 17 December 1968 at age 61. Her husband, Max, died on 5 September 1971at the age of 66. They’re in an area owned by a society associated with Zborow, which is, presumably, where Max was from. It’s not clear which of several towns (most of them in Poland, though one is now in Ukraine) by that name the burial society was affiliated with.

Many of my relatives are buried at the other branch of Montefiore Cemetery, in Queens. My maternal grandparents,Lillian and Simon LUBOWSKY; Grandpa’s half-brother, Max; his brother, Willie, along with Willie’s wife, Sarah, and son, Milton; his sister, Mary LEHRMAN, and her daughter, Sima SLANSKY, are all in the plot of Congregations Sons of Jacob Tiktiner Young Men. That’s a benevolent society for people from Tykocin, Poland. Another sibling, Grandpa’s half-brother, Nathan LEBOFSKY, is buried in another society’s section – New People’s Synagogue – along with his first wife, Rose; his second wife, Jennie; and his daughter, Celia.

My maternal grandmother’s siblings are buried at Beth El in New Jersey. I haven’t visited that one, though I hope to be able to go to the unveiling for my uncle Herb’s grave there. It’s a plot he bought as a member of Knights of Pythias that has that part of the family.

And then there’s Mount Judah Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens, which is where my great-grandparents (my maternal grandmother’s parents) are buried. In looking at the locations for their graves, I realized that, along with Henry SCHWARTZBARD and Molly SCHWARTZ, there are some cousins buried there, too. I need to look at their graves the next time I go there.

I’ve found photos of the graves of some more distant relatives on sites like findagrave.com. But the ones I most want to see (and haven’t seen photos of) are near Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.

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23 April 2018 @ 04:32 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Matthew Mellon was a billionaire, via inheritance and cryptocurrency. Harry Anderson was a magician and actor, best known for his role on Night Court. Bruno Sammartino was the longest reinging heavyweight wrestling champion. Avicii was a Swedish musician. Verne Troyer was an actor, best known for playing Mini-Me In the Austin Powers movies. Richard Jenrette was an investor who spent a lot of money restoring historic houses.

Carl Kassell was an NPR journalist, best known as a host of Wait, Wiat, Don’t Tell Me. Getting his voice on one’s answering machine was an excellent prize. I never entered, since the timing wasn’t convenient for me, but I do own a doll of him, bought via the NPR website many years ago.

Barbara Bush was the wife of one president and mother of another. While I didn’t agree with much of her politics, I admired her outspokenness and her efforts on behalf of people with dyslexia. She wasn’t a perfect person by any means, but all of us are products of the environments we grow up in.

I Can’t Complain But Sometimes I Still Do: Work is okay most of the time, but I could live without wrestling with administrivia. In particular, I have various mandatory training courses to do, mostly for my customer, not my company. They’re on a couple of different systems and some work only on one browser, some work only on a different browser, and some just outright don’t work. It’s a tremendous waste of time getting to them and figuring out how to get them to run.

Cirque du Soleil: Cirque du Soleil has a touring show in Tyson’s Corner right now, called Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico. The basic concept has a fool as a tourist with his various encounters including musicians, acrobats, and giant puppets (e.g. a horse, a jaguar). Cirque is very good with creative costumes and highly engineered set designs. The latter included an elaborate waterfall curtain. The circus stunts included an excellent juggler, some very impressive hoop divers, and particularly notable aerial leaping between what I think are Russian swings. There was, alas, a contortionist, but I know most other people aren’t creeped out by contortionism the way I am. The Mexican aspect came in via costumes and music, by the way, but there was less of a plotline than with some other Cirque shows I've seen.

Legal Seafoods: The friends I went to Cirque with and I had dinner before the show at Legal Seafoods. I had a tuna sashimi rice bowl, which had about three times as much rice as I was capable of eating. There was very good seafood salad and tasty mushrooms, but the spinach was bland and the kimchi was just okay. The tuna was good, but the dipping sauces for it were somewhat too salty. It wasn’t the most exciting meal ever, but it was fine and reasonably convenient.

The Best Doctor in Town: A friend told me about this play he was in. It was produced by Shoestring Theatre Company, which has a mission to build bridges between Northern Virginia and Southwest Virginia. I know a little about the southwest part of the state because I’m familiar with a bookshop in Big Stone Gap. And I’ve driven up I-81 from Tennessee. Still, I’m much more culturally aligned with NoVa.

The play was written by Amelia Townsend and tells the story of a hospital in which a surprising number of patients seem to be dying. Old people die, so it isn’t completely clear there’s anything fishy going on. There’salso a missing piece of jewelry and both a reporter and a cop who think there may be more to the story, but who are stifled in investigating it by their editor and the high sheriff, respectively. And then there’s a young resident who has his own story, but no evidence. Overall, I found the story absorbing, with a good mix of humor and a serious message about what trust means. There was also an undercurrent associated with the decline of coal mining. It was worth seeing and I will definitely keep my eyes open for future productions by this company.

It’s playing for another week, so do go see it if you are around Fairfax. And they will be taking it to Big Stone Gap at the end of May, so folks in that part of the state should look for it.

Weather: It looks like it is finally settling into springtime. The down side is that the air is now about 25% pollen.

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