Friday, August 26, 2016


     On National Dog Day I’d like to share a few memories of Jackie—the Pavlova of Toy Poodles. She weighed just under seven pounds and looked like an emaciated mouse when soaking wet but she was able to jump from the floor to the top of the Murphy bed in the theatrical hotel we were staying at when we brought her home from the kennel. My husband said a dog would never sleep with us but by the third jump he gave in and Jackie claimed the middle of the bed while we were pushed to the sides by her little paws. She could also jump to the top of the dining table when tempted by home-made rice pudding or baked beans and we had gone to answer a phone call. If she stayed with my mom, she turned up her nose at dog food and was fed lamb-chop, steaks and ice cream for dessert-had my mom well-trained.
     She was offered a job in a small production of “Wonderful Town,” but suffered from stage-fright although when a tenor sat down at the piano after dinner she howled right along and when on the road enjoyed the Christmas party we threw for all the dogs in the company. Jackie always knew when we were taking her to be groomed and would refuse to move when we were two blocks away. After she had received her beauty treatment she strutted all the way home though she hated the girlie ribbons placed on her ears. Her taste in males was interesting—she preferred big, muscular dogs. The type you might see featured in a kennel romance.
Jackie passed on when she was almost sixteen. We miss her.



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Tuesday, August 16, 2016


     When I was a kid, my mom and I took the train from New York to Richmond, Virginia to enjoy the southern hospitality of my dad’s 

family for a week. I spent the long hours of travel gazing out the window, wondering about the lives of people who lived in tumble 

down shacks situated near the railway. Sometimes I could peer into windows without shades and get a glimpse of a table or a wood

crate, a baby being held close to a thin body. Boys waved to the train as it passed, I imagined they were wondering where we came 

from, what we would do once we arrived at our destination. Sometimes the boys ambled past accompanied by an all-American dog, 

occasionally rough-housing with each other. Once I spied an elderly man sitting on his porch, newspaper covering his face, cane at his 

side. He woke as we passed and I thought I saw—perhaps it was my imagination taking over—a dark look pass slowly over his 

sun-burnt face.

     A boy—maybe my age—sat swinging his legs at one of the station where the train made a stop. I smiled but he ignored me. When 

he  stood and I saw he wasn’t any taller than me and weighed less. Did he want to get on the train and leave his town, move to another 

state, see the country, find out about the world. Find someplace where there was plenty to eat, and more to see than trains rumbling 

past. A shinier future. Something he could believe in. The train passed fields--I saw a cow lunching on grass--my first cow and a horse 

as bony as the boy and I wished, wished I had the power to make his life better.

     Some days I take the bus at Port Authority and watch a kaleidoscope of humanity rushing through on their way to who knows 

where. People stopping for a minute to pick up a free newspaper. Military personnel and police studying everyone who passes. 

Teenagers talking on their cell phones, ignoring everyone trying to get by. Derelicts opening the heavy doors that lead into the 

concourse, holding out a hand hoping for a tip that would buy them a coffee or something to eat. Men and women in suits, carrying 

leather briefcases and looking important—are they bankers, lawyers, engineers? Women with accents that make me try to guess which 

country they left to make a home here. Aides? Housekeepers?  A visitor taking a bus to a hospital or home to visit a sick friend or 


     I want to know more about them all, their lives, their hopes, their dreams and when I get home I will sit at my computer and make 

up a story that will tell me about their lives.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016


     In the heart of Queens, in Corona, New York stands a house filled with the spirit of Louis Armstrong—a significant, perhaps the most significant jazz artist in the history of jazz. Though a long-time fan and a resident of Queens, I had never visited the house until a few weeks ago. I learned that Armstrong and his wife Lucile—a dancer who Armstrong met while working at the Cotton Club made their home in a working class neighborhood filled with warmth, friendship and love. Decorated by Lucille and donated on her death to the city, the house welcomes visitors interested in the man and his music, a man who began life in the Storyville District of New Orleans in 1901 and left school by the fifth grade to sing in the streets, hawk newspapers and deliver coal before he became the first important improvisational jazzman to perform both on an instrument and as a vocalist.
     Known as “Satchmo” to his fans, he loved to record—reels of tape were used during his day—and his voice is heard as you tour the comfortable two story building. Drawn to music at an early age, he bought a cornet with the help of a family he did odd jobs for named Karnofsky who had a junk hauling business. Armstrong taught himself to play and began playing with a casual group of musicians.
     He developed his skills playing in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs where he had been sent for delinquency—he had fired his stepfather’s pistol into the air at a New Year’s Eve celebration. At the home he learned discipline and musical training from Professor Peter Davis. The band performed around New Orleans beginning Armstrong’s adventures in music. He played in brass bands and on riverboats and matured as a musician—by the age of twenty he began to do featured trumpet solos and to use his voice.
     Invited to join Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1922, Armstrong landed in Chicago. Oliver’s jazz band was one of the most prominent in the windy city and Armstrong could make a high enough income to afford his own apartment with his own private bath (his first.) He arrived in New York City in 1924 and was soon playing with Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra—the foremost African-American orchestra during this period—and switched his instrument to the trumpet.
     As his music and reputation developed, his singing became more and more important. His recordings became hits—he improvised and used his voice as ingeniously as he used his trumpet. He played and sang with the top people of his day—Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Earl Hines, Bessie Smith, Louie Bellson, Buddy Rich—the list of talents goes on and on. In 1964, he recorded the song, “Hello Dolly” and it climbed to number one—the top of the charts and won the Grammy for the best male vocal performance and in 1969 he appeared in the motion picture version of the show.
     On one wall of Armstrong’s home studio is a portrait painted by his friend Tony Bennett. Armstrong told him he was the new Rembrandt.
     Concerts are held in the Japanese Inspired Garden, designed by Lucille, and soon the Museum will expand with a Visitors Center right across the street that will include an exhibit gallery, archival center and performance space. This summer jazz will be heard in the garden on warm summer days.


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Sunday, May 29, 2016


     On the west side of the Greve river, approximately 7.5 miles south of Florence, Italy, set against a backdrop of hills dense with London Plane trees, headstones belonging to 4,402 American Military Dead stand on 70 acres of foreign soil. Pine, cypress, willow, oak and cedar trees enclose the section along with oleander, crepe myrtle and laurel-cherry shrubs.
     A bridge set between the cemetery office and the visitor’s center at the entrance to the cemetery leads us to row after row of crosses and stars of David. The cemetery is hushed except for the occasional rustle of a leaf or a fragment of a bird’s song. We wander among the headstones that bear the names and dates of birth of the servicemen and women who were lost to friends, loved ones and our nation. Here and there, we see a pebble placed on a stone; a way to say “We are here. We came to see you. We will never forget you.”
      Americans, traveling through the area, stop at the cemetery, on the west side of the Via Cassia, a major highway that links Florence with Rome and Sienna, to pay their respects to the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. The majority died in the fighting that occurred after the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and during the fierce battles in the Apennines right before the end of the war.
      The cemetery is one of 14 permanent memorials built by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The site was liberated on August 3, 1944 by the South African 6th Armored Division; the stone used to construct the chapel and headstones was supplied by Italy. 
     On the highest of three terraces located in back of the burial site are two open sections partially enclosed by walls; to the east is the American flag. Tablets of the Missing, constructed of Travertine stone, connect the two sections. Visitors barely breathe as they read the Baveno granite panels; on the tablets are inscribed the names of 1,409 Americans—United States Army and Air Forces and the United States Navy—who died in our nation’s service and rest in nameless graves. They came from every state in our union but Alaska and Hawaii. 
     Men and women study the north section’s west wall where two marble operations maps tell the story of the American Forces in the area. Inscriptions in English and Italian provide an explanation for the maps and the military operations. A forecourt at the south end of the tablets leads to a marble and mosaic chapel—a place to meditate and pray for the peace represented in a sculpture that rests on a pylon.  May we never forget.
     The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from April 16 to September 30 and from 8:00am to 5:00pm from October 1 to April 15. Staff members in the visitors’ building will accompany family members to the graves and memorial sites.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016


It’s Mother’s Day Weekend and I miss my mom. Supportive, funny, interested in everything, and a good listener—perfect strangers would stop her on the street and tell her their problems (used to drive me crazy when I was a kid.) She was an avid reader and the library was a second home to us. I was told stories whenever it rained—family stories and I imagine her stories led me to write my own.

My grandparents and their oldest children came to America escaping the pogroms against the Jews in Russia. The eldest child, my Aunt Betty was responsible for their escape. According to mom, they were hidden by a countess who couldn’t have children and had become very fond of my aunt. The rest of the family agreed but they said their savior was a neighbor not royalty. I’ve always liked my mother’s version better—she tended to add what she called “A little local color.”

Another tale was about playing with my Uncle Johnny in a field near their house in Rhode Island. Mom was wearing a red dress and they attracted the notice of a bull. They were saved by Veterans living in a Home who gave them milk and cookies and thoroughly impressed my mother. After my uncle served in the army, she told him he would now always be able to live at that Veteran’s Home.

Mom had a boyfriend who gave her a box of chocolates whenever they dated. By the time mother returned from the date the chocolates were gone—there were seven children in the family. She decided to hide the candy in the piano. Didn’t work.

She had a job selling hats and was quite successful. The neighborhood housed working class people and the shop sold hats that would meet their budget. Mom made every woman feel like a Vogue model and they returned to the shop whenever they needed a hat.

When I write fiction I try to add a little extra added color and I wish that my mother was here to read each story.

Thanks Mom.
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