Posts by admin.

The Year That Was: 2017

Ironically, a year that nationally has left so many of us bilious with rage has also been a pretty nice year, personally. Eric and I got to see a lot of our family this year, both in New York and New Jersey, and out in Portland, Oregon and Seattle. In November, my aunt and uncle and three of their kids came to NYC to be honored by Keshet, a Jewish group that raises LGBT awareness. My aunt and uncle have been activists in all things for more than 70 years, and were active in PFLAG in Seattle in the 1990s. Their daughter Janet nominated them for an award. Since Uncle Jack doesn’t come out East as much as he used to, he wanted to see “as many cousins as possible” and we did that at a nice lunch on Veterans’ Day this year.

Since my aunt, who lived in Queens for 60 years, moved to Seattle, it is on us to go out to visit her, and in the process, I got to see all of my Seattle cousins (who live in various parts of the world) come in to Seattle for our summer visit. We got to see Eric’s cousins a month before they became grandparents, and I got to see the baby that made my cousin Susan a grandmother as well. Earlier in the year, Andrea, John, and Jason came to NYC for a visit and we got to see them as well.

Eric and I also went to visit Tony in Champaign-Urbana, but we actually changed our plans thanks to a DNA test. A cousin in the Goldberg family tested fairly close to my aunt and uncle who also did AncestryDNA tests. So instead of driving straight to C-U from Indianapolis, we spent the night in Indy and wound up having lunch with Annette at an Indian buffet. Genealogy takes you on some interesting detours!

Meanwhile, because AncestryDNA has practically doubled its database of testers in a year, I wound up finding and visiting third and second cousins in my (still unknown) birth father’s family. I am moving a lot slower on this search than I did on the search for my birth mother’s family. First, because this information probably means more to me than it would to the people I think are possibly my first cousins or siblings. Second, my birth mother’s siblings were such a suspicious and paranoid bunch, I figure I can take this one a lot slower.

Work was busier than ever this year since a veteran of our library retired. I taught at CUNY again in the Fall, which I loved, but I was very tired in the end. The students were great and I loved teaching again with Lisa (third Fall in a row), but when the Daily News was bought by tronc, a lot of “integration issues” took up a lot more of my time than I thought it would.

Eric got involved in a second chorus, and he wound up directing a play at the local Historic Edison Valley Playhouse, across the street from the Italian restaurant where we got married (it’s now an Indian place). So I now have several earworms related to “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”

I have also been very inspired by the many friend I have on Facebook who have renewed their activism and have shared many wonderful experiences and ideas in this “current era.”

Happy New Year!









When I speak to Eric’s cousin Liese about her own grandmother, Karolina Wolf (died 1932), she always says, “She was a real grandmother type.” I know exactly what she means. My grandmother, Sadie Bookey, was just that type. My father would take us to see her and my grandfather every Sunday, first when they still lived on Montgomery Street in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, and later in Little Neck, in Queens, about 20 minutes from our house in Great Neck. Grandma did many of the typical Jewish Grandmother things. She would bake cookies and send them to us when we were up at camp in Connecticut. Every Sunday we pretty much had the same meal–chicken noodle soup, meatballs and overcooked peas, roasted chicken, challah, and more. She was upbeat and positive and if you brought your friends to see her, she liked them also. And if you weren’t so keen on something, neither was she. She often invoked the Shma prayer as she was always thankful for so many of the blessings in her life–and even for smaller things, like our rental car in Seattle in 1979.

Grandma lived to 100 and I got to have her in my live for 33 years. So most of the time I knew her, she was retired from the workplace. My grandfather had had a stroke and her job was looking after him 24/7. But it didn’t seem like a job to her. This was her life. She never complained and she probably should not have, in her 80s, been the primary caregiver to another senior. She did have some help. My aunt and uncle lived nearby and helped her with much of the shopping. A woman from Haiti, Suzette, would come by a few times a week to help out also. Grandpa could barely walk or talk by 1980 but Grandma would get him out of bed, to the bathroom, to the table, to the couch.

Grandma was the third child to be born to my great-grandparents here in America. Before her were twin sisters, Gertie and Rose, born two years earlier. All three of them were born on the Lower East Side. But before her parents came here, the had three children back in Radzilow, Poland. Annie, the oldest, and two boys, Avram and Nisl. Their father came here first and then Baba got on the boat with three children, and disembarked with only one. The two boys died of an illness going around the ship, and were buried at sea. It’s impossible to imagine how any of them felt when Baba and Annie met Zayde at Ellis Island and he asked, “Where are my sons? Where are my sons?”

Zayde was a butcher and had his own butcher store on Henry Street. At one of the buildings were they lived, the entrance to their apartment building was in the middle, between two stores. His butcher shop was on one side and the Shers had a grocery store on the other. In the 1990s those stores were a laundromat and a videogame store. The building is still there. In 1900, living in one apartment was my grandmother, two parents, the twins, Annie, her brother Irving, and the baby, Sarah, who was born in 1899 and died in 1900. Also living with them were Baba’s brother, a furrier, and his son. In 1910, two cousins, the Levines, were living with them.

Their father had asthma problems and it was advised that they move to Williamburg, where the air would be better. Probably bigger apartments, probably a few less people per apartment. They lived on Roebling Street and you could see the statue of George Washington on horseback in the park near the bridge. Zayde died in 1915 and his dying probably saved Grandma from dying, as she had a bad appendix and he was deathly afraid of her having an operation. He died and she got  the operation. Baba then had a chicken store–handling larger animals proved too difficult. At some point, Aunt Rose, one of the twins, was teaching piano and singing, and a neighbor above or below them (I am not sure which) heard the singing and decided her ten-year-old daughter should get lessons. That woman was my aunt Mary. At some point my grandfather Sam Bookey got a look at my grandmother and to ask her out, he wound up asking out Grandma and her twin sisters Gertie and Rose. I think by the third date it was just Grandma and Grandpa. By 1922, they got married. And three children followed in the next five years.

What also followed were many apartments. The Depression led to the entire family moving in with her sister and her four children at some point. When things were better, Grandma would go up to the country with the kids and by the end of the summer, my grandfather found them a new apartment. It wasn’t until the 1940s that they spent longer periods of time in one apartment.

When my father was six he contracted polio. A telltale sign was being unable to touch your chin to your chest. Grandma bore the false burden of believing he was actually fine when she took him to the hospital and felt he contracted it there; but my father says otherwise. Part of the reason the family moved around in the 1930s was to have my father closer to his doctors. Sometimes, the one relative with a vehicle, Uncle Toby, would take them to the doctors in the truck he drove to deliver butter and eggs.

In the 1930s there was no real awareness of disabilities and there were a lot of stupid people and their comments. My grandparents didn’t treat my father like he was any different from anyone else. When the forerunner of the March of Dimes was founded, Grandma was involved on some level raising money. Grandma also worked, sometimes as bookkeeper. Not sure if she worked in my grandfather’s businesses where he made women’s and children’s clothing, but she worked. When I would visit her for dinner on my own in the 1980s, she told me her first job was to paint small designs on the handles of brushes and combs. Her father had taught her to write and one job she had was just writing numbers on shoeboxes at a store. Her earliest job was to deliver meat from her father’s butcher store to the Upper East Side, on the Second Avenue El, to a customer who had done well financially but moved to a neighborhood without a single kosher butcher shop. Grandma was about 8 at the time. People would ask her, why she wasn’t in school; she did go to school, but after she made this delivery. She took the El because the subway didn’t go to the Upper East side yet! Another early job was looking after her oldest sister’s children. Aaron, her nephew, called her “Mama” before he figured out Annie was his mother, not Sadie.

Grandma believed in Judaism and she believed in America and its  institutions. She always voted, and she believed in public officials, and was genuinely horrified when they fell from grace. Even decades later, she remembered names of teachers and other educators. She sometimes mentioned a woman named Julia Richman. I was surprised one day, after moving to the Upper East Side, that the school at Second Avenue and 67th St. is the Julia Richman Educational Complex. Grandma kept kosher at home but was never very heavyhanded  about it. As I got older I saw that she lived by a lot of Jewish principles without lecturing. One thing she never liked to do was gossip. When she lived in Little Neck, she kept away from a group of women who would sit in the courtyard and gossip about everyone. We certainly had relatives that were gossip-worthy but Grandma rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. The only time I heard her complain was about a bad cab driver and a repairman who seemed nasty. “I don’t know what the problem was. I think he was a Catholic Jew hater!”

Even in her late 80s and early 90s, she did some traveling. When she went to her granddaughter’s wedding in Seattle and was still dancing when the marimba band was ready to call it quits. We went to another wedding, on Staten Island. We left at 1 am. Grandma wasn’t ready to leave until 3 am.

I could go on and on about my grandmother, but I can say this without reservation: She was the major source of unconditional love in my childhood. My mother had a variety of problems, and my father came from a conflict-free background that didn’t make it easy for him to protect us from her anger. But Grandma was a constant source of positivity and a role model for loving. In recent years I discovered my birth mother’s family and have heard very little good about my birth mother’s parents. A relative told me, “They clothed us, they fed us, that was about it.”

I was always thankful to have Grandma in my life, but finding out how horrible my life might have been if I had been kept in that family? I feel thankful 100-fold now.


She Was an Immigrant


Meant to write this in time for #tbt and International Women’s Day. This photo shows my great-grandmother Dora Stoler (l), her daughter Rochele, and her first husband and my great-grandfather Zvi Hirsch (r) and her mother Maita Abramowitz (standing), probably taken in 1917 before my great-grandfather was killed in the marketplace by a soldier on a horse.

It’s hard to imagine what people’s lives were like back then. And my great-grandmother, from what I can tell, was clearly what we call “indomitable.” The Stollers lived in Karelitz (known today as Karelichy in Belarus) and the town, like many towns in that area, suffered the ravages of pogroms, World War I, a revolution or two, and then a civil war and a war with Poland. By 1921, her son, who had come to America, had to locate her and her daughter via the Red Cross. My mother told me that when they were finally found, “They were surviving on potato peels.” There was also a famine in those years, and the Russians were happy to let other nationalities starve.

Most third-generations think that everyone back home was poor, but indications are, she might have had some money back home. That’s often why people didn’t come here. They might have been better off not working like a dog here. In the 1950s, a man showed up at my grandmother’s house to say that he had been a servant to the family back in Karelitz. Poor people don’t have servants. My grandmother gave the man my late grandfather’s tools so that he could work here. Stoliar in Russian means carpenter, and many in the family were carpenters.

My mother recalls that when Dora Stoller came to America finally, the first thing she did was complain to my grandmother that she wasn’t rich already. “If I had come to America when you did, I would have owned all the property by now!” Not the words of a poor woman.

It has been hard to find records for Dora. She appears on no census records, nor does her son. She wound up living with her son and his family at some point, driving his wife crazy. When Uncle Ben died of his mustard gas injuries in 1934, she “blamed” his wife, who promptly cut Dora out of her life and her daughter Toby. Dora married at least once more, if not twice more, while here. Her second husband was Wolf Mechanic. Wolf lost his first wife in March 1930 and by August he was marrying Dora. On her wedding certificate and her marriage license, she signed her name in English AND in Yiddish, which I have never seen anyone else do in America, and I have seen many death certificates.

Life in America was not easy. Her youngest daughter, Rochele, had some sort of mental illness. Possibly PTSD from seeing her father killed, or worse. Rochele got married and had children, but at some point she wound up hospitalized, and her husband was notoriously alcoholic. Her two sons wound up in foster care, and not with family, which is odd.

My mother had no real fond memories of her grandmother–she probably was not the grandmotherly type–but her grandson, Rochele’s son, did have good memories. Somehow, she made sure to visit with the boys. According to the oldest of Rochele’s sons, she got married a third time in 1944 (Wolf had died in 1937). He asked her, “You’re 77! Why would you get married NOW?” and she said, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.”

I have found no record of this third marriage. It’s possible she never married him but said she did. Either way, by the late 1940s she was living with her daughter. She probably had Alzheimers. She would wander, but a cousin told me, “a little girl at the end of the street caught her before she hit Coney Island Avenue.” And she wound up dying in a hospital on Wards Island in 1950. She is buried in the Karelitzer Society’s plot at Mt. Judah.

It’s hard to imagine what her life was like. But she seemed to be a real survivor and she knew who she was and had a real sense of herself and where she came from. And she shared that with a grandson who for whatever reason was taken from the family while his mother languished in institutions.

And, she was an immigrant.





“Good Things Are Happening in South Plainfield”


From December 27, 2012

Something I didn’t notice on previous trips to our borough hall; the main hallway has a painted inscription that says “Good Things Are Happening in South Plainfield.” I didn’t notice it, but it was pointed out to me the night Eric and I went to have our civil union ceremony performed by the mayor of South Plainfield last Thursday night.

What was very nice about the entire event, beyond the inherent goodness of the event that marks our ten years together and giving it an actual, legal, recognized status, is that everyone involved at the town was very helpful and positive. Not a single odd comment or look. Quite a different experience in general than visiting the Village Hall where I used to live. Or when I went to the bank to change an account and the officer couldn’t seem to process the notion that my beneficiary is my partner.

Despite some homeowner problems, like needing a new furnace and a new air-conditioning system, and repairing damage done to the house by a mover about 90 minutes after we bought the house, good things are happening in South Plainfield. We have very nice neighbors, one of which was our witness for the civil union license. The house has withstood a few weather events, like Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot to be happy about, in a year that was, quite frankly, very trying.

In addition to the general rancor of the election cycle and the horrible destruction brought about by Hurricane Sandy, Eric and I lost a dear friend to cancer. Another acquaintence also passed on, also cancer. About five friends went through the rigors of cancer treatments and luckily, they are all doing well.

The big event of the year, beyond being joined in civil unity, was moving. Closing up a home that has been in our family for 45 years was quite difficult. Looking at homes and trying to figure out where to move? Also difficult. Someone should have blogged about it!

So, we are very happy to end the year on a high note. We’re grateful to have great friends and family, many of whom we have seen this month, and we are also happy that the house in one piece, the heat is working (and if it’s not, I have a LOT of quilts), and we have jobs. My own job went full time in September, which is a very good thing, although I am still getting used to working nights exclusively.

Happy New Year everyone!

Light, and Connection: Remembering Our Dana Gordon (1961-2012)

Every now and then, we meet people in our lives who seem to have an effortless way of being sensitive, of understanding what’s really important, and really enjoying the good things in their lives. And they often have this approach to life that comes off as elegant, simple, natural, and beautiful. I had a friend in college who was like that, who was the “Grace Kelly” of our group.

danaMany years later, after working in publishing for 25 years and after getting my Masters of Library Science, I met another “Grace Kelly,” and that Dana Gordon.

I had known Dana for years as a Newsweek co-worker of a friend, but the Great Recession put me into a special orbit with her. She helped create the Employment Task Force of the Special Libraries Association New York Chapter in 2009. Dana preferred action to being a bystander when our profession suffered endless layoffs. She put together a list of online job resources, and of course, being a New Yorker, included links for free or inexpensive activities in the city.

In Judaism, we talk about tikkun olam–fixing the world. I think Dana did this in many different ways. If she could help you get hired, by giving you a job or being a reference, or reading over your resume and cover letters, she did it. Dana mentored interns at Newsweek and Crain’s. She taught students Simmons, Rutgers, and TCNJ. She was an active participant in our professional organization. It’s no surprise she was honored by our program at Queens College as an “Alum of the Year.” [Something I only found out via online eulogies.]

Another thing I learned in the week since Dana’s death: She was admired by dozens, maybe hundreds, of people. Her joie de vivre affected us all positively—she enlisted in an exploration of happiness, and sharing it. That is part of tikkun olam. Helping others, making a personal connection, sharing a meal–all endeavors that mend the cracks in our busy, 21st Century lives, where we are often “connected,” but often not in real ways. You always parted after an outing with Dana, and her husband Steve, thinking you were very lucky to know them and be their friends. There was light–and connection.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness can be a choice, and I think Dana made that choice every day. That choice did not mean being oblivious to her compromised health, even when it took a horrible, irrevocable turn.

I cannot fully comprehend what Dana went through since her diagnosis last fall, but she had only one request: “Just don’t cry in front of me.” She did not shy away from telling me when things were bad, or getting worse. She told me, before the very bad downturn last month, that she would probably still be alive a year or two from now, but she couldn’t be sure about ten years from now, or five. I cannot even the mechanics of having to say any of that aloud. I promised her I wouldn’t cry, and I didn’t. But she is gone now, just four months after that conversation.

I have been crying all week.

I feel very blessed to have known someone, even just for a few years, who embraced life with such seemingly effortless grace, with admirable and genuine vigor. I will miss so many things about her: Always eager to see people no matter how busy she was, being so informed on so many different topics, and always enjoying a good meal out with friends. When I wanted to surprise Eric on his 40th birthday, Dana delighted in being part of a day of surprises. That wonderful laugh and smile of hers remains with me. And, the time she came to my town pool and still had on her favorite gold necklace.

It wasn’t all cakes and hors d’oeuvres. She read over my resume at least a dozen times. She was on hand to commiserate about bad interviews and exult when I landed a news library job. She was there when I lost my cat. She was there when a tree fell on my house. She and Steve were there when my mother died.

Over and over again, she was there.

No one person can fix the world. It’s a group effort. Tikkun olam begins at home. It starts with you, and if you can do that, it’s a glow that helps others. If everyone who knew Dana can understand this, and learn from her happiness, it can be something akin to Liberty Enlightening the World, for us and everyone in our lives.

Thank you, Dana.

Cataloging to Declutter

A friend of mine recently hired a professional to help her declutter her house, and I read his professional blog. In one entry, he had a woman go through a seemingly neat and orderly bookcase, next to her messy overstuffed closet. The logic being, did she actually need all the books that she had on the shelf?

Given that I probably have more than 1500 books, I decided to take the same approach. First, I went through every bookcase and box of books I have and I immediately culled the books I know I would never read or did not want anymore.

There is a good likelihood I will never, ever read all the books I Have, even if I had independent wealth and nothing to do but read.

After the initial culling,  I decided to turn go through all the books again, this time using to actually catalog the books.

I first learned of it in 2007, probably at an convention of the Special Libraries Association. I cataloged about 200 or so books. It only costs $25 for a lifetime membership–so you can go beyond the limit of 250 books.

In about two days, I wound up cataloging 1000 more books.  Using ISBNs or LC numbers, it was quite easy. It not only let me create subcollections (which I did by bookcase), but it also helped me realize I had doubles of certain titles, and also, it helped me put more like titles or themes together on the shelves.

It also helped me get a bit tougher on myself and get rid of more books.

It might seem odd, a librarian getting RID of books, but librarians do weed out collections all the time. And as a librarian myself, I have an idea of what I am likely to read, and what I can probably find at a public library if I really do want to read the book later on.

If I live that long!

Working in a Wicker Wonderland

Pier 1 frontI had a very lucrative summer during my third summer in college, working at Pier 1 Imports, before it became a “lifestyle store” with crazy Kirstie Alley hawking for them.

I had had a job that was clearly a scam earlier that summer. I had replied to an ad in the Village Voice under the heading Activism/Journalism. It was supposed to be something that would raise awareness about social programs and raise money for them. I quickly figured out that the only person making money was the man who ran the place. He lived in a dark studio on Lexington Avenue, and the ridiculous part was me taking the train to the Upper East Side, getting our assignments, and then all of us driving out to Long Island, going door to door, and then returning to NYC, and then me returning to Long Island.

Two weeks of that was enough. I quit, and immediately got a tw0-day job doing inventory at A&S, and then got a job at the new Pier 1 that opened quite literally around the corner from our house. My brother also got a job there.

Pier 1 Imports was in expansion mode then, and they were opening stores all over the area. We worked 12-hour days, because we had to put price tags on everything. The store was new and everything had to be tagged and then put on the shelves.

pier 1 backThen two guys from the corporate headquarters came up and had us change everything around, both upstairs and downstairs.

After a while, we got tired of carefully moving everything around, so we were just throwing wicker baskets and chairs to each other. By the time the store opened, and people wanted to buy wicker patio furniture, it was hard to find four matching chairs that were in good condition.

It was an interesting summer because most of my co-workers were my brother’s age. I also discovered that my brother was a much better co-worker than most of our other cohorts. We had to take a “psychological test” to get this job. Basically, the whole goal of the test was to see if you would snitch on your co-workers if they stole something and you found out about it. Anyone with half a brain could figure out how to answer these questions.

Back then, the store had more “imports” and there were more items that I found interesting then than I would now. A string of brass bells from India. Clay reproductions of pre-Columbian art from Mexico. We also had a LOT of wicker baskets. Even in animal shapes, like a wicker duck. My mother was a big fan of wicker, so she liked that we worked there.

This was also probably the first time I spent a lot of time with someone whom I would now figure out much more quickly was a big queen. Our assistant manager was  very relaxed. The polar opposite of our manager, who was always stressed out, and already spending too much time on the road, driving from Hauppauge to Great Neck. He later had to drive all the way out to Roselle Park in New Jersey.

Paul, the assistant manager, had a funny word for everything. The scissors was the “kashnips” and the little plastic string for price tags became “shpaghets.” There was a Friendly’s across the street, which he called “Happy’s.” Paul was all for taking breaks and we went for shakes quite often at Happy’s.

That was the summer of 1984 and the radio station the manager preferred played certain songs each and every hour: “When Doves Cry,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” and “She-Bop.” My brother and his friends finally turned it into a game to see who could predict the next song.

Great Neck is home to a celebrity or two , and the only one who ever came into Pier 1 while I worked there was comedian Alan King, who was cheaper than he was funny. He wanted to buy ashtrays for his poolside area. The cheapest ones we had were $1.50, so of course he complained, “Don’t you have any for a dollar?”

One by one, most of us left at the end of the summer. The first one or two people got gifts and a goodbye party. I got a rock. I was the fourth or fifth to leave and I think at least Paul said goodbye to me.

It was probably the first time I went out and got myself a job, though, which were easier to find back then. It also helped fund my LP habit, and trips into NYC to see a lot of films by the foreign directors I was studying at Hofstra: Goddard, Chabrol, Bunuel. New York had a lot of older cinemas that showed old movies in double features back then. So when I wasn’t selling wickerware, I was learning how to navigate the New York City subway system. The train cars back then were in really appalling condition. Graffiti everywhere and air-blowing fans without grilles over them.

Overall, it was pretty good summer.

The Vic Buffer

A friend of mine, Pat, introduced me to two wonderful institutions after we graduated college. One was the Indian restaurant Romna, on East Sixth Street (which we frequented for years) and the other was Huntington’s New Community Cinema, housed in an old elementary school in Huntington, on the other side of the Nassau-Suffolk border. The first film I saw there was Dance with a Stranger.


Supporting cinema with t-shirts.

I eventually joined as a member for a while, and went regularly through 1989, when I moved to Manhattan. They showed every major foreign film and independent release possible. One Sunday, Mark and I went to see Marcel Pagnol’s “Fanny Trilogy” for an entire day. That’s how we learned the term, “Escartefigerie.” Every month, maybe more, they had silent films accompanied by a live pianist.

The cinema was actually only in part of the building. It shared space with a YMCA. The theatre was actually the school auditorium. The seats were uncomfortable at times. But they had wonderful snacks–blondies and brownies, herbal tea and hot chocolate, and after a while, you became friendly with the volunteers who staffed the door and the concessions, and the projectionist.

I remember once scrambling to leave work on time so I could get home to Woodhaven via subway and jump into my car and cross Nassau County and get on Route 110 so I could see a silent movie on time. This was the age of VCRs, but honestly, until DVDs came along, I didn’t really enjoy watching things on VHS. Plus, cinemas are all about a larger-than-your-life screen and a dreamlike experience as the lights go down and you get absorbed by and absorb what’s on the screen.

This was before smartphones. All you really had to worry about was a geriatric viewer in the audience saying, “What’s going on!? I DON’T UNDERSTAND” to his wife.

I saw films there I have not seen since on TV or are not available on DVD, like Pervola: Tracks in the Snow. I often wondered just how many films they had to watch just to sift through everything to get us the good stuff.

I was out of college but had some friends who were still at Hofstra, so sometimes it was a mad dash to Hofstra to collect them, then get to Huntington. We soon learned that it was usually okay to be 10 to 20 minutes late, because of the “Vic Buffer.”

One of the cinema’s founders, Vic Skolnick, usually introduced the films, and would talk for at least 10 minutes, if not more. My friend Abdul would say, “Don’t worry, there’s a Vic Buffer. He had been a history professor, so those buffers were good lessons on a variety of subjects.

And there was usually a meal before but usually after the movies.

Buying this t-shirt helped support independent cinema on Long Island. Skolnick and his partner of 60 years, Charlotte Sky, started their effort by showing movies on a library projector on a bedsheet up in a friend’s dance studio somewhere about 40 year ago.

They eventually were able to raise money to add a second screening area in the area behind the screen–the auditorium’s backstage area, and it became the Cinema Arts Centre.

It was sad to hear that Vic died this summer at the age of 81. Read more about him.

Mister Blazak

My father was a CPA and had a variety of clients, whom he visited in person about once a month. One was Mr. Blazak, who had some sort of metal manufacturing plant in Newark, NJ. He sent this t-shirt home with my Dad one time and I have had it for years.

Mister Blazak

A simple shirt from a simpler time.

I don’t even remember Mr. Blazak’s first name. But I do remember that when my father was close to retiring, as was Mr. Blazak, my father was essentially let go by Blazak Junior, which my father was expecting  because when the younger generation takes over a family business, they often do not want  their father’s people in place. They usually want someone their own age.

Well, even though my father was expecting this and also expecting to slow his own business, Mr. Blazak was very upset. After Blazak Junior lowered the boom, as it were, Mr. Blazak came into the office, crying, and apologized to my father profusely, since he probably had Dad doing his taxes for decades.

After my father died, I wrote to some of the clients I knew he had had for decades to let them know Dad had died. I got a letter a while later from Mr. Blazak’s daughter, who told me that her own father had predeceased my father, and that in the few years since my father’s tenure as their CPA, they had had several accountants. None of them had done as well as my father. Additionally, she said she had worked for her father’s company, and that Dad had taught her a lot about keeping the books well maintained.

These are two things I have heard now several times now about my father. That he knew every penny that had from month to month, and that he helped teach the bookkeepers at his clients’ offices how to keep things in order. I heard that as recently as this year, when I visited one of the clients who has a tire store. The bookkeeper there has been there for, oh, four decades. My cousins have also told me this, as he was the CPA for two of their businesses also.

In cleaning up the many decades of clutter here in my house, I came across some more evidence of what a good person my father was. One client, not listening to his advice, had undocumented workers in their plant. The owner was fined and sent to prison for about a year. Not only did my father not abandon him, he wrote a letter of reference for his client to the federal government, citing his clients many fine qualities and their close personal association that ran for decades. This client’s mother would send Lebanese spices home to Mom via Dad. She and the entire family were invited to my bar mitzvah. Not all of Dad’s clients were invited, btw.

Most of Dad’s clients had small businesses, and had more than one generation working in them. And of course, my father and his partner had maybe one part-time employee. There’s a lot to be said about the virtues of having your own small business and how you relate to others. To this day, I am personally still benefiting from these associations. My tire man and my mechanic are both former clients of my fathers. I have benefited from having good work done, and the very occasional break. When it comes to a lot of things, I try to stick with what Dad might have done. That’s usually worked out for the best.

Except for Allstate. They’ve really been very difficult. But then again, nothing horrible ever happened to the house while Dad was still alive.

I always appreciated my father’s virtues while he was alive, but I feel like I am appreciating them more deeply, ten years after his death, and wish I could tell him how much all of that means to me.

Daring to Be Different

My musical life was changed forever one day in July 1982 when I was listening to WLIR hoping to hear a Police song I had requested, and they played A Flock of Seagulls’ “Telecommunication.” I wound up getting hooked on most of the songs I was hearing that afternoon. I think “Shock the Monkey” came out later that summer.


This was on both sides of the shirt

I had not really been a music buyer until that summer. I think the only radio station I had listened to with any devotion up until college was 99X (WXLO). I wound up hooked on WLIR after that. I think I might have gotten this t-shirt when the WLIR van came to campus. I have a clear recollection of meeting Ben Manilla, and maybe Donna Donna.

Now, this was was this new music was in fact branded New Music. Long Island was home to one of the coolest radio stations available, but many of my peers were firmly entrenched in Top 40 and more established rock stations, like K-Rock. One friend put it best (from his opinion), “Why should I listen to something that isn’t a hit yet. Why should I listen to experiments?”

Clearly, you cannot reason with someone who’s main musical fandom was Journey. And pretty much only Journey. I was shocked when he became obsessed with “La Bamba” in 1988.

I digeress, though. Getting hooked into the WLIR lineup led to other seditious activities, like reading NME and Melodymaker from Britain. By July 1983, an old childhood friend asked with surprise, “When did you get cool?”

Well, I never did get cool, but I was up on everything. In a way, though, being this much into new music was almost like coming out, almost, as I had to constantly defend or explain liking certain groups with singers of uncertain gender.

The music filled my head, and my dorm room, and gave me ideas for my column at the school paper. It was a very important part of my life, and of course, the only way to hear all of this music was to buy a lot of it (which I certainly did) or listen to the radio. No CDs and no iPods and no Internet back then. So I spent a lot of time poring over LP covers and liner notes, and making connections between my own ideas and this new popular culture.

Eventually, I wound up getting an internship at WLIR, where I wrote the news items once a week in the mornings and working with the promotions department after the morning show went off. What many listeners didn’t know was that when “Malibu” Sue McCann wasn’t on the air, she also worked in the promotions department. By the time I became intern in my senior year, New Music had pretty much taken over the airwaves and wasn’t all that strange anymore to American ears.

And now, most of my favorite 1980s songs are used as muzak at places like Fuddruckers. Oh, the tyranny of age.