Posts categorized “Friends”.

Lockdown Cinema: Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)

When you love movies, you have favorites. but it is not always possible to re-watch them all the time. Some movies always show up on cable (like Hitchcock’s The Birds), and some, like anything by Pedro Almodovar, never happen to show up.

Luckily, Turner Classics Movies in January 2021 decided to show about eight of Pedro Almodovar’s early movies, from 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom… through 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, to 1999’s Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother).

I could tell you a lot about the movie and it’s many wonderful devices of mirroring and foreshadowing and dualites, but you should see the movie for yourself, if you have not.

And if you aren’t totally gutted by the 18-minute mark, I would have to wonder what is wrong with you.

So the thing about a favorite movie that you have not seen in a long time–in this case, it’s been 22 years–is that the movie is the same, but you are not.

I saw this movie when I lived alone in Manhattan, my parents were alive, I had lovely friend, and I had two black cats. I was unhappily in the publishing industry.

Today, I live with my husband in New Jersey, my parents are now long gone, some of my lovely friends have also died (mostly female), and my cats are also long gone. But, I now have a masters in library science and I love doing research for a living and as a hobby.

Since 1999, I have done a lot more genealogy work, and DNA tests have helped me find the families of my birth father and birth mother. Genealogy and DNA has lead me to study even more women, and even more mothers.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre is a study of women, the women they are and the women they want to be, and also about men who become women. It is very difficult to watch this movie and not thing about your own mother, the other women in your life, and think about who they were, what they wanted, who they wanted to be and whether things worked out that way.

As a person who loves research and genealogy, in the time between 1999 and 2021, I have also studied genetic family members I will never get to know, from the birth mother brutally killed in an unsolved crime, to the wife of a great-great uncle who died in a Jewish old age home in Berlin in 1942, to a great-great-grandmother who, at the age of 78, wound up taking over the family business (the manufacture of Turkish cigarettes) in 1912 when her husband died–even though she had two sons right there who could have taken oven.

I am lucky to have some of my birth mother’s letters, and the great-great-aunt. So I have been able to get a peek into their lives and their minds.

What’s wonderful about Todo Sobre Mi Madre is how these women make a community for themselves, simply by being there and sometimes just listening. And what’s wonderful in Almodovar’s movies is that he often concentrates on female characters. This is in part thanks to the post-Franco era. Almodovar explained that in the Franco era, men were simply encouraged to be macho and not have feelings; consequently, women just seemed much more interesting to him.

And they will to you as well, and will serve to remind you to find what is interesting in the women around you.

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.

MORE Tony Quotes

“I have my delusions, but they’ve never been delusions of grandeur.”

“With enough duct tape, —- would’ve been a good lay.”

Goodbye to a Good Cat

Nero my beloved black cat died last month, age 15 and a half. Everyone has a cat they love, and every cat is unique. So everyone thinks their cat is the best.

When I entered my cousin’s home 15 and a half years ago, she said, “By the way, we have eleven cats in the house.” Actually, it was three cats and eight kittens. Nero and his sister were part of a litter of six, who lived underneath cousin Beth’s bed.

When I went to see the kittens, Nero came right out from under the bed, made a bee-line to me, and crawled right into my palms, just about filling them. So, I like to think that he pieked me.

Over the years, Nero had a variety of health problems,  but put up with the poking and prodding. Some of it was quite intense–the radiation treatment for his thyroid, the hematoma that had to be cared for after scratching away at his ear. Nero made a fan of his master’s friends and of his vets. It’s amazing how much he put up with, including daily insulin shots for his diabetes.

A lot of people don’t understand that cats can be quite as loyal as dogs. Nero often vied for my attention against his sister Diana, often licking her butt until she moved from the spot he wanted. After she was gone, Nero got a little bit needier, following me from room to room. Sleeping most of the time, but liking that I was always someplace nearby. Nero also made his needs known, reminding me constantly  that dinnertime was every two hours.

Black cats get a bad rap and have often suffered horribly for the color of their fur. Nero crossed my path for years, and I feel like I was the luckiest guy for a decade and a half. He was a furry little friend who saw me through good times and bad, and was always glad to see me.

Especially at dinner time.

Movie Review: GI Joe

I recently went to see GI Joe. Why, you might ask? Was it the abs on the main actor, Channing someone, whose surname seems unimportant all of the time? Was it seeing the Eiffel Tower fall over? Sure… but the main reason is that I have all three services from Cablevision, which owns Clearview Cinemas, and on Tuesday, you and a friend go free. It used to be you and three friends could go free, but a good deal is usually squished when it catches on. But seeing the Eiffel Tower fall over is always great. Always.

The main virtues of the film, outside of the aforementioned, is the successful marriage of CGI and video games to create a film in which the alpha-elite GI Joe squad, run by the only true movie star here, Dennis Quaid, pursues the evil arms dealer, who owns M.A.R.S.

The arms company has created nano-mites–robot insects that just keep eating anything in their path until they are stopped by a kill switch. This concept reminds me of the Republican party when it loses a national election, except there is no kill switch. They went after Clinton from the moment he arrived in office to the time they found Monica’s dry cleaning bills. God only knows what they will do to Obama. But I digress.

So, GI Joe settles into the rather formulaic buddy movie/elite squad movie/fighting to the digital countdown finish movie. Marlon Wayans, as “Ripcord,”  has to stop two missiles at once as they head to Moscow and D.C., while Channing Whosits has to destroy a big ray gun under the North Pole. Or some nonsense.

The movie was free, and Rob and I quipped to each other freely. Also with us was a senior who has some problems, and actually reacts better to cartoons and more child-oriented films. So seeing a lot of explosions and the Eiffel Tower falling over was perfect. The movie features prominently the Hasbro logo, and often looks like a video game.  I wasn’t expecting much and I got more than I expected.

My sole problem: A lot of the bad guys get shot in the eye with bullets or arrows. That made me squirm. Given that much of the violence is cartoonish, these grimmer images make it less than desirable for kids under 15, but not kids over 65.

Also not explained: Why is Jonathan Price and his British accent playing the President of the United States?

NB, Clash Fans: Ivan did not meet GI Joe in this film. Maybe next time.


You might have noticed in my recent posts that I hate Canada. I do not hate Canada, or even the Canadians. It’s just that I hate what they DO. Love the sinner, hate the sin.  Who do they think they are, with their universal health care, true religious tolerance, and that infernal metric system. Damn them. Damn, damn, DAMN them.

Actually, this is my own highly humorous pseudocanadaphobia, developed during Facebook chats with Susie, who lives in Saskatoon, who watched Saskatoons on Saskatelly while using Saskatel for her Internet service.

Susie says quaint things like, “It’s almost 30 degrees up here” in mid-summer, forcing me to ask her what the hell that means in Fahrenheit.

Years ago, after ABC had a mini-series called Amerika, about the USSR take0ver of the USA, Saturday Night Live did a sketch called Kanada, in which a complacent American nation just let the Canucks waltz over the border and force us in the maple-iciousness and the metric system.

Well, I am all for the maple syrup, but even I am too old now to deal with a conversion to the metric system, although I still think it’s a good idea. In retrospect, that intensive metric education in seventh grade (known as Grade 7 in Canada) was a waste of time, because I couldn’t possibly explain a hectare to you without Wikipedia nearby. I give the cat ccs of insulin, I buy liter bottles of soda (that’s litres in Canada), I have kms on my speedometer, but that’s about it.

O Canada, if only you could take over the U.S., forcing health care and university educations down our throats. There’s nothing really awful about Canada, except the winters… and Alberta. For God’s sake, what is wrong with Alberta!? But otherwise, it’s not so bad. You just might like a Canadian takeover.

That’s take-oooo-ver in Canadian.

ROTT: Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I was cool. I wasn’t convinced, but a few friends verified it for me independently.

I started late in a lot of things in life. I hadn’t a single tooth in my head until I was 13 months old, and consequently, I didn’t have braces until eighth grade, just in time to make junior high school even more miserable than it needed to be.

And so, my musical taste didn’t really grow and develop until that summer when I called in a request to WLIR for a particular Police song, and wound up hearing songs like A Flock of Seagulls’ “Telecommunications” and Haircut One Hundred’s “Fantastic Day.”

And I kept listenening, and suddenly, the boy without a stereo was buying cassettes and LPs at the used record stores around the college and around Great Neck. And for once, I wound up liking something that everyone else was likeing. Except for my friend Stu, who only seemed to like proven hits, and who would work the station buttons furiously on his car stereo whenever something he didn’t like, or didn’t want to like, came on. We heard more snippets than songs when we drove with Stu…

But for once I got to be… cool. I have proof of this, when my childhood friend Jeff, who hadn’t seen me for a few years, said to me in 1983, “When did you get cool?”

And when did I cease being cool? Probably when I turned into my mother. But my cool heydey was probably when I got to be an intern at WLIR, writing short news items for the morning DJs (Larry the Duck and Steve “The Pistol” Jones) from 6-10 am. Then, I spent another few hours working for the promotions department, sorting contest postcards by zipcodes and informing lucky winners that they could come to beautiful downtown Hempstead at their convenience to pick up the Gene Loves Jezebel album. Little known fact: DJ Malibu Sue also worked in promotions. I was out sick the day OMD came to visit the station, so she had them autograph their latest album for me. I am not coot enough to remember the name fo that album anymore though–it wasn’t Dazzle Ships or Junk Culture–but the next one.

Anyway, sometime after I got a “real job” (which I hated) and I called Julie, the other promotions person, to say hello, and she said, “Hey, do you want tickets to Simple Minds?” Of course I did. Who wouldn’t? And she also had tickets for the Cure. I forget who played first, but one Friday I was at Radio City seeing one band, and the very next night, I was at the other band’s concert. At some point, after facing extinction, Radio City suddenly looked at their own facade and realized, “Hey, we’re a music hall. We should have live music here.” And so, I went to two concerts in one weekend, for free, and Bob H., one of the WLIR volunteers in the Airline room, who took requests from listeners, was thrilled to see me again and introduced me to his sister, saying, “This is Seth. He’s the greatest guy it the world.”

It is nice that in the many years since, I have made a lot of friends who have made me feel that way also. I might not be up on all the scenes I should be, but it’s nice to have all of this music, and all of these memories, and to have met so many great people along the way.

As part of my clutter reduction and general overhaul, I am taking down a lot of the old posters in my room. I mean, I am 45 and my old bedroom looks like it could be used in a John Hughes film. Plus, some of the posters scared the hell out of my nephew (namely, the fluorescent Cure poster (In Between Days) and the creepy boy from U2’s New Year’s Day single). Here are the posters, still up, but coming down soon.


From East Egg to West Egg

I went to see Public Enemies last night in Port Washington. The most direct way to get home to Great Neck is to drive a winding road (quite fatally dangerous in bad weather) down the western shore of Cow Neck (Pt. Wash and Manhasset), around the opening of Manhasset Bay, and back up the east shore of Great Neck.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald gave these towns the monickers East Egg and West Egg. Back then, West Egg was all new money and East Egg was old money. Readers of this novel will surely remember how Gatsby gazes across the bay to see the light on Daisy’s dock in East Egg.

It’s very easy to see how anyone could romanticize this landscape. Even now, there’s something very intriguing about seeing where you live from another place, whether it’s across a body of water or from a plane or a mountain.

A few months ago I discovered that the local library here posted some books in PDF form about the history of Great Neck. One book was a collection of reminiscenses by Mills P. Baker, the son of the man who owned the farm on which my house is built. He had the entire hill, actually. Their old farmhouse is the Village Hall now, and the school behind it is named for Baker’s mother.

It was interesting to read how what is now a 20-minute car trip was about a four-hour carriage ride. It was also interesting to hear how it took hours for his mother to get from the ferry to Manhattan back to Great Neck via trolley, making about a million stops between here and Long Island City.

But one of the most intriguing stories he told was how a pair of sisters just got into a canoe in Manhasset and rowed over to Great Neck, climbed the hill, and visited Mills Baker and his friends. It’s very hard to imagine just getting into a canoe and going to visit your friends.

Americans have embraced the car, and the traffic that has come with it. I recently took a ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook with two friends so we could go to IKEA. The ferry is free, for another few days. It’s probably too expensive for IKEA to afford, and, local residents have found the trip from Red Hook to Manhattan quite delightful. If you know how difficult it is to get from the far side of the highway in Red Hook to a bus or subway, you can see the attraction of going on the water.

There is something very alluring about being near the water. Unfortunately, the average New Yorker doesn’t get to enjoy even getting close to it. Luckily, there’s a nice uninterrupted park going from the Battery all the way up the West Side, and a lot of cyclists, joggers, and walkers do enjoy it. But I get the feeling that so many more people don’t ever get to enjoy being on the water for any significant amount of time–schedules, work overload, responsibilities.

If you have the chance to get onto any sort of waterfront, do it. It’s something that really helps recharge the spirit.

Remembering Tony’s Quotes

I was just remembering just how funny Tony is. Here is a chronological look at his consistently funny one-liners.

“At the party, there were all these little creatures everywhere. Eventually, I realized they were lesbians.” –1990

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Boy, what a recession!” –1991

“You just know there’s a portrait of him rotting away somewhere.” –1992, on some evil co-volunteer at the Center

“He was ravaged by a horrifying disease. Middle age.” –on some celebrity, 1993

“That man has a whole bottle of bleach in his hair.” –Random oneliner, 1994

“He wanted to be Donald Trump when he grew up, but it didn’t work out that way.” –Tony on an errant relative, 1995

“I don’t want to drive it, I want to use it as a clothes hamper.” –Tony on the New VW Beetle, 1998

“Oh, okay. I’m going back to bed.” –After my phone call around 11 am on Tuesday, 11 September 2001

“I have done everything but breast feed that cat!” –Tony on Koshka, 2003

“You used to go there to get a new job. Now, you go for funeral arrangements.” –Tony on SLA 2009

Tony’s blog can be found at Project Alphistia at a browser near you.