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Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Word From the Weiss

Pattie in orange hat.JPG        For months now, I’ve been alluding to the big trip I will be taking to visit my daughter in Hong Kong. Well, it’s time for the alluding to be over. Let the eluding begin!
That is to say, my husband and I are about to embark on a three-week trip to Asia. In addition to spending time with Allegra, who is singing at the Hong Kong Four Seasons for seven months, we’ll also travel to Beijing and Bangkok and a Thai beach. And as much as I would love to take you along for the ride, the fact is that I’m anxious about schlepping my computer on such an elaborate journey. This also may be the only time I ever get to visit these distant destinations, and I don’t want to sit in a hotel room writing when I could be out climbing the Great Wall or devouring dim sum or pad thai.Bangkok lit up.jpg
This is my way of saying that I have no intention of breaking up with you, but I’m about to take a break for three full weeks. I hope you won’t forget me while I’m gone.
With that in mind, let me assure you that I will be back in mid-October with exciting new adventures. Not only will I be hanging out with my daughter in many exotic locales, but we’ll be observing Rosh Hashanah in Hong Kong and then Yom Kippur in Bangkok. How cool (albeit unorthodox) is that?
And if you actually find that you miss me that much (as if!), feel free to “friend” me on Facebook, where I’m sure I will be posting plenty of pictures as Patricia Weiss Levy.ITALY 2011 meet the Levys.jpg
Yet whether or not you miss me, I promise that I will genuinely miss you. Then again, I cannot tell a lie. It may be a great relief to take this much-needed respite. As of this week, I've been writing in this space for four years and have only taken off two weeks in a row once, when we went on our last real family vacation to Italy three years ago.
What I have never taken (since I was a zaftig teen, anyway) was a three-week trip. Seems impossibly extravagant, doesn't it? It’s just that after taking a 16-hour flight, I feel we should get our money’s worth and see as much of Allegra and another continent as we can.Kugel I made.jpg
Still, I must admit that I’m feeling a little guilty about leaving all of you behind, especially during the High Holy Days. (Shouldn’t I be home posting tips about making kugel and brisket?) But what I’m really feeling guilty about (nice Jewish mom that I am) is leaving behind our dog. You know where I’m going and that we will be back soon. How do I explain that to Latke?
        Never fear, however. She will be having a vacation of her own with her many friends at Wags, her favorite puppy “playcare” center. Also, just before leaving, we treated her to an extra special day on which I can safely say she had the time of her life.Latke and pals in pool 2013.JPG
Our local JCC swim club was once again hosting a Doggie Funday, held after the facilities closed for the summer, but just before they drained the pools.
When Latke attended this illustrious event last year, she not only had a total blast diving in and out of the kiddie pool with reckless abandon, but also entered the talent competition, in which, to our amazement, she managed to clinch third place.Latke leaping up last year.JPG
Although she thoroughly impressed the judges with her ability to leap over a stick, I doubted that reproducing the same trick a year later would produce the same results. So the moment that we decided to attend again, I began wracking my brain for a new stunt.
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but at 2½ Latke is far from old. As a Portuguese Water Dog, she’s also pretty sharp as canines go. However, we’d spent much of last summer perfecting her jumping skills. With only a few weeks left, we might not want to stick with the stick, but she’s still a dog. We couldn’t be too ambitious.
My first impulse was to attempt that oldie but goodie, getting Rover to roll over. Detailed instructions that I found online indicated that this could be achieved by holding a fragrant treat by her ear while she was lying down and getting her to follow the scent. When that didn’t work, I tried manually rolling her over. Gravity and growling intervened.
A clerk at the pet supplies store suggested getting her to stand on her hind legs and pirouette by holding a treat above her head. Latke was very interested in the treat. Spinning, though? Not so much. She’d balance for a few seconds on her toes before planting her paws painfully on my stomach. Sharp as she is, a ballerina she’ll never be.Latke three card Monte.JPG
As a last resort, I tried capitalizing on a novel skill that Latke already possessed. For years, we have been playing a sort of three-card Monte game in which I conceal a treat in one of my hands, hold them both closed, palm down, in front of her and get her to choose which one it’s in. She is pretty good at this feat, but let’s face it – it’s not all that impressive. She hits one hand with her paw, and if she doesn’t get it on the first try, then she always does the second time around because there’s only one other choice.Latke three card Monte 2.JPG
What would make the trick more impressive was if she could get it right every time (which seemed possible if I resorted to using VERY SMELLY treats). Better yet, what if I could teach her to know her left from her right? Or at least appear to know her left from her right?
We worked on this for awhile, with me exclaiming “Left!” and looking pointedly toward my left hand, then doing the same thing with the right. Any luck? Yeah, right!        Latke was happy to keep practicing, but it remained a clear case of hit or miss. Maybe it was time to give up and simply stick with the stick.
The day before the big day, with none of her new skills quite ready for prime time, we came up with a final inspiration. We went to the store to buy a Hula Hoop. I figured she could jump through that as easily as she could leap over a stick, but it would look like it was something new.

        We bought a very impressive lemon yellow hoop with bright pink plastic doohickies that lit up on contact. Latke took one look at this and ran the other way.

Latke and Zoey with hula hoop.JPG
Until, that is, her bff Zoey came over. Zoey, at about 6 months, may be only a puppy, and less than half of Latke’s size at that, but she took one look at the treat we were brandishing on the other side of the hoop and stepped bravely through. And not to be outdone in the treat department, so instantly did Latke.Latke and Zoey with hula hoop 2.JPG
They practiced this new prowess until it was perfected and we were out of treats.
The next morning, before leaving for the JCC, I dressed Latke in her costume, a shocking pink feathered boa I had found in my daughter’s closet. This may sound a little over-the-top as dogwear goes. But it was so light that she didn’t notice it, and even smiled for the camera.Latke in pink boa.JPG
Then I took her into the yard to practice jumping through the hoop one last time. She took one look at it and ran again.
We were back to square one.
With only minutes left to prepare, we couldn’t begin to teach her a new trick now. The best we could do, we figured, was demonstrate all of her half-baked skills hoping that one would work.Cirque de Lat-Kay sign.JPG
My husband came up with a clever name for this circus act: Cirque de Lat-Kay. I quickly fashioned a sign on my computer, adding a pretty pink tulle bow. We were off!
Before you cast any aspersions about my trying to get my dog to perform, let me just mention that under most circumstances, I am far from a competitive person. No, it’s beyond that. I am probably just about the least competitive person you know.
Growing up in a family of fiercely competitive people, I quickly learned when I was young that I was never going to win and set about learning instead to lose graciously.
As time went on, I began to realize that other people enjoyed winning so much more than I did that it was in everyone’s best interest that I lose. So the real challenge for me became to lose not just graciously but deliberately without making it too obvious.
So when it came to Latke winning or losing, I didn’t care because she wouldn’t care. The person who would care was my husband, and I wanted to try for his benefit.
Besides, in the end, win or lose, it is always much more fun to participate than just sit and watch.Doggie Funday On your mark.JPG
The moment that we arrived, we discovered that there was once again a whole lot of participating to do.
Dozens of dogs and their owners had gathered for the fun and games in store.
First, everyone lined up for the doggie dash, a nearly 2-mile, on-leash walk-run around the property.
Latke thought this was pretty cool, but after it was iver she was all ready to cool off. One look at the adult swimming pool and she took a sudden leap in, only to think better of it and scramble out with a whole lot of tugging from us.Doggie Funday A tall order.JPG
Then I did my best to dry her off because the talent show was about to begin.Phred catching Frisbee.JPG
A black and white dog named Phred (yes, Fred with a Ph, “just to be different”) impressed everyone by catching a Frisbee (or was it a Phrisbee?).
A dinosaur of a dog named Daisy perched on her hind legs to retrieve a treat (although the most notable part of the act was her sheer height, which exceeded that of her young owner).Doggie Funday talent contest.JPG
Latke watched intently as her next competitor, who looked a lot like her, simply sat and gave his or her paw.
Then it was our turn up at bat. My husband donned a wizard’s hat I had brought while I held up our nifty sign for all present to see.Harlan in wizard hat.JPG
Latke balanced on her hind legs just long enough to snatch a treat without leaning on me, which looked somehow much more impressive performed with that pink boa on.
Then she leapt over her good old stick in both directions before catching a bright pink ball that lit up in her mouth.
Dare we even try for the grand finale? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We held up the hoop. I proffered a treat. She didn’t leap, but didn’t run either. Dogs are nothing if not natural performers. Egged on by an appreciative audience, Latke stepped through. One small step for a previously skittish dog. One giant leap for canine-kind!
Raucous applause ensued.Doggie Funday Charlie rolled over.JPG
Next up, unfortunately, was Charlie, a little spaniel who had come in first last year.
Last year, all Charlie had done, as far as I can recall, was a whole lot of standard dog stuff like sitting and giving his paw. The secret weapon in his act was his pint-sized owner, who looked too damn adorable to settle for second-best.
This year, that owner had grown a bit. But so had Charlie’s repertoire. He sat. He gave a paw. He went down on all fours. And then, with stunning aplomb, he rolled over.
Upstaged again.
It took the judges only moments to come to a decision.
Charlie, no surprise, nabbed first place. Again.Doggie Funday 2nd place certificate.JPG
But then – big surprise – Latke came in second!
Our prize was merely a certificate bearing her name. Still, victory was sweet.
Maybe losing, however graciously, isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be – in my book, anyway – after all.Send in the clown.JPG
Although I knew we had already garnered our share of recognition for the day, I still entered Latke in the costume contest, requiring us to parade around in a circle with theCharlie the sailor.JPG other pets who had dressed for the occasion. As glam as Latke looked still sporting her flaming pink boa, there were many other worthy contenders, including one of the saddest clowns I’ve ever seen and Charlie, our arch rival, who looked awfully cute all dolled up in his itsy bitsy sailor suit.And the winner was....JPG
First prize, however, went to the dog in the football jersey, with an owner to match. Together, they made a great team. Touchdown!Dog looks like owner.JPG
The next event – dog who looked most like its owner – was one contest for which I was content to sit out and watch. But others were less proud and I must say the winners made quite a spectacle of themselves. Almost literally.Doggie Funday obstacle course.JPG
I let Latke take off her fine feathered regalia for the next competition, a race through an obstacle course, for which she made a good enough showing to come in fourth place.Latke in pool 2014 3.JPG
But soon enough it was time to do what we’d really come for all along – not to win. To jump in! All summer long, I had felt guilty every single time that we had gone to the club for a swim on a hot, sunny day and left poor Latke languishing inside at home. Now was her moment to make up for lost time.Latke in pool 2014 1.JPG
Last year, it had taken a ball tossed into the water to get her to dive in. This time, she needed no props, nor encouragement. There were countless other hounds already having a blast in the water and she eagerly joined the wet and wild throng.
So, however, did several children present, who didn’t quite get the idea that the kiddie pool had been taken over by other bathers for the day. Diving in with dogs may be even more exhilarating than swimming with, say, dolphins, but I hope that these youngsters’ mothers hosed them down afterwards. After seeing many a dog squat in the water (including my own, I must confess) I can assure you that I bathed Latke.Latke in pool 2014.JPG
But first she got to swim her fill and then some, and by the time we left we had one very wet, waterlogged, yet thoroughly satisfied pooch. And the knowledge that we now had a full year to pick, learn and perchance perfect another talent for her bag of tricks.
Assuming that they hold the event again, in which case you know we will be there.Latke and me 1.JPG
Here, for those who may not get it, is the great thing about dogs. Sure, they’ll jump through hoops for you (or at the very least walk reluctantly through them). But far better is how boundlessly they love you, even if you only take them swimming once a year. They erupt in full-blown ecstasy whenever you just return from taking out the garbage. Can you imagine how Latke will react when we return from Asia after three long weeks?Latke will jump through hoops for me.JPG
Right now, it’s a little hard to imagine leaving her behind for so long. But that’s a small price to pay for getting to see my daughter’s face for first time in three months.
And I know somehow that Latke will forgive me for going. I hope you will too. See you after September. After Columbus Day that is. Don’t forget to check back then.
        Until then, happy new year!

5:57 pm 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Word From the Weiss

Pattie keeping cool.JPG        Sorry that I posted so late (yet again!), but thanks to Labor Day it was a very short week last week, and I’ve been laboring frantically ever since just trying to catch up.
The best thing about Labor Day, if you ask me, is that you don’t – labor, that is. The closest thing I did to work all that weekend – beyond swimming languorous laps in the local JCC pool – was to prepare an epic end-of-summer feast including grilled salmon, chicken, corn on the cob, and some succulent trayf that I’d prefer not to name.corn on the cob.jpg
Yet the fact is that along with a national holiday that celebrates work by avoiding it, the past two weeks have included two other major events that obliged me to plead for time off from that triumvirate of taskmasters for whom I work – me, myself, and I.
        Aidan's 28th birthday cake.jpg
The first was the anniversary of the birth of my firstborn child. You might think that our son Aidan would have better things to do on his 28th birthday than hanging out with his poor old nice Jewish mom and dad. We assumed that too. But the birthday fell midweek, and he preferred to celebrate with his friends at a jazz club the following Saturday night.Aidan and friends on his 28th at Fat Cat.jpg
Besides, he has never been much of a party animal, particularly when it comes to his own birthday. Sure, I threw some pretty elaborate festivities in his honor back when he was a kid, notably including an X-Men-themed party when he turned 8 and a soccer match (for which I  tie-dyed t-shirts for all his friends) the year that he turned 9.Aidan's X-Men birthday cake.jpg
But he now far prefers to keep things low-key. Modest and unassuming to the max, he hates to toot his own horn and hesitates to ever make himself the center of attention. A few years ago, when someone asked him what he’d been up to lately, I heard him reply, “Not much.” That wasn’t true then and could not be further from the truth now.Aidan's soccer 9th birthday party.JPG 
Let me tell you about some of the “not much” that he’s up to these days (since as his supremely proud nice Jewish mom, I am a little less reticent about it). He just began his Ph. D in English at Columbia University last week, even though he’s busy writing a book, a biography of musician Lou Reed, which is due to his publisher in November. He’s also an active jazz journalist on staff at both The Village Voice and JazzTimes magazine, still works occasionally in his “spare time” as a stagehand in TV and film, and continues to play a weekly gig in a Big Band Era swing band at a nightclub in New York.
Yet he somehow still found time to go out to dinner with us on his actual big day.Aidan and Kaitlin.JPG
Given that the occasion fell on a Wednesday, the same night as Aidan’s weekly gig, we decided to stay overnight and go hear him play afterwards. The awful truth is that we hadn’t been there in over a year, which made me feel awfully guilty. It’s just that Wednesday nights are awfully tough because my husband still has a regular job, we live over two hours away from NYC, and the gig runs extremely late, from 8:45 to 11:45 p.m.Becco.jpg
But first we met Aidan and his girlfriend Kaitlin at Becco, a bustling Italian eatery a few doors down from the club on West 46th Street. We love this place largely because it has a nightly special that is among the best deals in town. Called Sinfonia di Paste, it includes a choice of a phenomenal Caesar salad or mixed antipasto appetizer, followed by unlimited servings of three different pastas of the day – that is, all you can eat for a very reasonable $22.95.Becco Sinfonia di Paste.jpg
All three pastas that day were scrumptious, as always, and after we’d eaten all that we could eat, I suggested that we order a dessert with a candle so we could sing to Aidan. He adamantly declined, having truly eaten his fill… until, that is, I readily agreed, proposing that we save the dessert and singing for later at the club instead. That made his cheeks grow ruddier than the marinara sauce on the linguini we had just devoured.Aidan and birthday cake.JPG
“I don’t want anyone at the club to know that it’s my birthday!” he declared. (Big surprise.) So rather than deprive a nice Jewish mom of singing to her son, he succumbed to a slice of chocolate mousse cake served with a loud and hearty serenade from half the Becco wait staff.Allegra called from Hong Kong.jpg (Not exactly low-key.)
        As stirring as that may have been, I must confess to one maudlin moment. My daughter Allegra called from Hong Kong via FaceTime to wish her brother a happy birthday, which let us see her and her see us. I had already been beyond sad to have her miss a big family occasion, but imagining how she must have felt to glimpse her whole family sitting around the table celebrating without her was unbearable. So I'm sorry to confess that I completely lost it and (despite Aidan's attempt to head me off at the pass by entreating "Don't cry Mom!") my eyes unleashed a flash flood.Aidan's birthday dinner at Becco.JPG
        But t
hen, for his sake, I managed to pull myself together. Besides, it was time for presents.
        The truth was that we already had made him go buy his own gift earlier in the week. He’d desperately needed a new computer to start his six-year program at school, and it seemed more prudent to let him go pick one out himself than for us to presume to choose it for him.MacBook Pro.jpg
To me, though, buying him something so utilitarian -- albeit from Apple, and no matter how pricey -- smacked of the days when my parents would give my brother and me new socks, mittens, and PJ’s for Chanukah. How much fun is that?
So I surprised him with a few unexpected tchotchkes, including a nifty new speaker to amplify the music that he’ll listen to on his new MacBook Pro. Useful? Yes. But also fun.
Then it was time to rush over to the club in time for the performance to begin.Swing 46.jpg
Swing 46, on West 46th Street between 8th and 9th avenues, is a jazz and supper club in the center of the theater district with live music seven nights a week. Aidan plays the bari saxophone there as part of the Stan Rubin Orchestra, a.k.a. SRO, a 16-piece combo that performs jazz standards in the style of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. If you are looking for an authentic swinging throwback to better days gone by, Stan is your man. He and his troupe have been on the music scene long enough to have played at Grace Kelly’s wedding in 1956.Swing 46 Aidan's friends.JPG
Aidan's desire to keep things low-key, Kaitlin had invited several of their friends to join us, including two of Aidan’s former college roommates. It seemed a little sad and unfair that we got to socialize with the birthday boy’s friends for hours while he labored onstage. But the fact is that, as much as Aidan hates to toot his own horn, he loves to play it – hisAidan with his bari sax.JPG saxophone, that is. And at least he was able to join us for two long breaks.
What he was not able to do was join us on the dance floor, on which we managed to thoroughly embarrass ourselves, despite any skills we managed to glean during the club’s nightly swing-dancing lesson. So my husband decided to horn in on Aidan’s act by dragging Kaitlin out on the dance floor once or twice. Talk about embarrassing!Harlan and Kaitlin dancing at Swing 46.JPG
        Then suddenly, to
my surprise and delight, the band launched into a jazzy rendition of "Happy Birthday." But it turned out that they were just singing to a patron who was there celebrating her own special day. Aidan, as planned, told no one about his own simcha.Swing 46 Lynn singing.JPG
So the most memorable moment of the evening occurred when the band’s longtime singer, Lynn McCune, took the stage to croon several jazzy numbers. She always performs with such passion and verve, swiveling her hips sassily as she sings, that as she passed me after taking a bow, I congratulated her by declaring awkwardly, “You’ve still got it!”
I realized as I said this that it was a pretty lame and corny thing to say. But it was not nearly as corny or lame as what my husband thought I’d said. Hearing loss runs in his family, and at 70 he has more than his share of it. (Once, when I called upstairs to ask him if he had any laundry, explaining that I was washing reds, he replied, “Fred? Who’s Fred?)Swing 46 Stan Rubin Orchestra.JPG
But his hearing issues are particularly challenging in a loud room, and between the music and the din of the crowd, this place was really LOUD. So after Lynn passed, he asked me to repeat what I had said to her, explaining that what he thought I’d said was, “You go, goddess!”Swing 46 dance lesson.JPG
Ever since then, he has continued to cheer me on with that bizarre exclamation whenever it remotely applies.
Which brings me to the other major event that made me abandon my usual labors.
I have written about it in this space before, and I’ve been there far more often than I’ve written about it. But the antiques and collectibles show in Brimfield, Massachusetts, was on last week, and two unusual things happened there that made this Brimfield like no other Brimfields.Brimfield tchotchkes.JPG
This lively event, which bills itself as the largest outdoor antiques show in the country, is held three times a year, for six days at a pop, in May, July, and September. My cousin and I go there at least once each summer, but this year she convinced me to go all three times, which I must confess didn’t require a whole lot of arm twisting.Susan and me at Brimfield.JPG
Of course, there is never anything that we really need. Until we see it, that is. With over 5,000 dealers from throughout the U.S., we’re guaranteed to spy countless things so compelling that once we see them we can no longer live without them.Brimfield Lusterware plate.JPG
Adding to that sense of must-have-or-I’ll-die is that most of the prices are far from high, and nearly all are extremely negotiable. If you pay full price, then you are a fool. For those who like to hondel (Yiddish for “haggle”), this is a bargain-hunter’s heaven.Brimfield Noritake bowl.JPG
This time around, I seemed to come across more gotta-haves than I ever have. These included a lovely antique Lusterware plate (marked $8 but for which I only paid $6), and a Noritake bowl featuring swans on a lake, marked $12 but surrendered for only $9.Brimfield teapot.JPG
Then there was the orange polka dot teapot (also marked $8 but relinquished for $6) and a glass condiment bowl with a glass-bead border that was priced at $10 but I got for only $7 because I “bundled it” with theBrimfield condiment dish.JPG matching glass goblet and serving platter. (The more you buy at any booth, the more willing the merchant is to give you a break.)Brimfield statement necklace.JPG
Our greatest score, no doubt, was at a booth stocking vintage clothing and jewelry, from which I walked away with three pairs of earrings, two pins, and two necklaces – including this black and white “statement necklace” – for a measly 30 bucks all told.
But my sense of buyer’s euphoria over all this booty would soon enough go bust.
I was killing time in another tent while my cousin haggled over a lamp when I happened to glance down at a table and see some items that made me recoil in horror.
There, arranged neatly in a shallow glass case, was a collection of German World War II medals, Hitler figurines, and other such memorabilia embellished with swastikas.
Although I’ve seen them in books and newsreels, I’d never seen one up close.
“Let’s go!” I barked sharply to my cousin, interrupting her chat with the merchant.Nazi memorabilia.jpg
“O…K.,” she agreed reluctantly, clearly mystified.
“Now!” I added, punctuating my initial overture with a clearly urgent command.
“Did I do something?” the merchant asked, bewildered to see us beat so hasty a retreat.
I merely glared back, so shocked by the gruesome sight that I could barely speak. “Yes, you did,” I finally managed to mutter back almost under my breath.
“Am I allowed to know what it is?” he persisted.
We were 10 yards away by the time I turned back in his direction to answer. “You’re selling Nazi memorabilia?” I cried. “Seriously? That’s… that’s disgusting!”old man at Brimfield.jpg
The vendor, a disheveled older man with wispy white hair and matching stubble on his cheeks, simply shrugged. “Hey, just ’cuz I sell it doesn’t mean that I agree with it,” he replied defensively. “But there’s a market for the stuff. Why not keep an open mind?”
“An open mind?” I shouted back over my shoulder. “Really? Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of the Holocaust?”
How dare he tell me to keep an open mind? Was he out of his mind?!? Six million Jews and many people of other faiths were brutally murdered during the Holocaust. This is not the sort of thing that should be commemorated with knickknacks. And even if there are sick people out there who collect such items, that doesn't make it perfectly fine to display them in places where nice, well-meaning people will casually encounter them.
Perhaps I should have stayed and tried to explain how deeply offensive this was. But what was the point? He wasn’t going to change his business to accommodate me.
        At the same time,
I began to think, how entitled was I to my righteous indignation? Yes, it was despicable for anyone to try to make a profit by trading in Nazi collectibles.Amputations sign.jpg
On the other hand, there were many more booths there offering Civil War mementos. This included a large wooden sign emblazoned “AMPUTATIONS.” (Who in G-d’s name would actually buy that?) But there was also no shortage of Aunt Jemima figurines. I saw many of them that day, along with a copy of the children’s book Little Black Sambo.Aunt Jemima figurine.jpg
Aren’t these things similarly offensive, commemorating slavery as though it were an institution to be remembered fondly and even used to decorate one’s house?Little Black Sambo.jpg
Clearly, there’s a market for these, too. Of course, I would never consider buying one. And yet when I saw them, as uncomfortable as I felt, I said nothing. I simply cringed silently inside and walked away.
But who cares if there’s a market for all of these items? There’s a market for drugs. Does that make it OK to sell them?
Selling Nazi and slavery memorabilia may not be against the law. But what sorts of people have such low morals that they’re willing to profit from trading in atrocities?
It was so upsetting that it sucked the joy out of the entire experience for me. But it would be eight more months before Brimfield resumed again. And we'd driven over an hour to get there. So we didn’t leave.
Instead, we proceeded to remain on the prowl for more (and more innocuous) treasures. And minutes later, I happened upon one that made up for my earlier distress.
My husband always enjoys seeing my finds when I return from these excursions, but none of the tchotchkes I’d bought so far were truly for him. I wanted to return with some small gift. So I stopped into a tent that I often frequent which stocks men’s shirts.Brimfield Hawaiian shirt.JPG
Well, not just any men’s shirts. Hawaiian shirts. Loud, colorful Hawaiian shirts. My husband actually likes these things, and so do I. The louder the better, if you ask us.Harlan in Hawaiian shirt.JPG
The last time I’d been to Brimfield, I’d bought one for him and another for Aidan. They both seemed to be enjoying these items so much that I wanted to buy some more.
Typical of transactions at Brimfield, the vendor – an affable fellow with a white ponytail named Gary – said that the three shirts I selected cost $15 each, but if I took all three I could have them for $30. I didn’t really need three, but it was an offer too good to refuse.Brimfield shirt guy.JPG
This particular vendor also sells t-shirts, records, and other music memorabilia. After paying, I saw some other customers leafing through a large album of rock posters. And to my amazement, there on one of the pages was a vintage 1986 poster featuring Lou Reed.
“Wait! I need that!” I exclaimed, not even waiting to ask the price, which turned out to be a mere $15 (evidently the magic number at that booth).Lou Reed poster.JPG
As the vendor wrapped it, I explained that my son was writing a book about Reed.
He replied that not only was he a longtime fan of the late musician, but one of his best friends had been the manager of The Boston Tea Party, a historic club in Boston at which Reed’s original band, The Velvet Underground, had often played back in the ’60s.
Aidan had been telling me that he needed more information about “The Velvets,” but had been unable to contact anyone intimately involved with the group.
I asked the man if his friend might be willing to be interviewed for the book. He was confident that he would, adding that he and his friend knew everything about the band. Or as he put it, rather graphically, “We can tell you about every time that a Velvet peed and where he did it.”Aidan in Hawaiian shirt.JPG
I instantly phoned Aidan to pass on the news and the man’s contact information. And I’m happy to report that they connected, Aidan got to speak to the friend, and it was a great interview.
Talk about must-have experiences! I would say without reservation that in all my years at Brimfield, this may turn out to be my greatest find ever, and it didn’t cost me a cent (beyond the 30 bucks that I shelled out for three very loud and very colorful shirts).
I also would wager that this may prove to be my best gift to Aidan of all… not that I can claim to have been clever to find it. For in the end, it was really a matter of beshert (meant to be).
Meanwhile, still stewing about my earlier experience, I finally wrote to the man in charge of Brimfield telling him about my close encounters with relics of the Third Reich.
“As a Jew, I was genuinely sickened by the sight,” I told him. “But I don't think you need to be Jewish to object to the Nazi Party being treated as a subject for nostalgia.  There are plenty of events in history that belong on our shelves because they remind us of better days gone by. Genocide should not be among them.”Pattie shopping at Brimfield.jpg
I urged him to establish rules restricting what vendors may exhibit there, assuming that such guidelines don’t exist already. After all, there were limits to what should be acceptable, I argued, especially at such a wonderful and welcoming place as Brimfield.
“I don't recall ever seeing sexually explicit merchandise there,” I observed. “I find Nazi memorabilia to be far more obscene. I don't care if someone will buy it. It doesn't belong there, and that doesn't make selling it right.”
I don’t know if he will respond, or if my remarks will have any influence. But I feel better to have tried. At the very least, it is always worth the effort to stand up for your beliefs. Or as my husband would say, “You go, goddess!”
5:02 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.