Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Intervention

My brother Sethie calls me up:

"Did Mom call you?"
"About Dad?"

"Yeah. And the Dots."
"I don't know if it's possible to be addicted to Dots."

"So did you figure out why she thinks he's addicted to Dots?"
"He buys them in bulk from the Mennonites. And he eats a whole box while he's driving."


Monday, September 22, 2008

Facebook Coagulates the Gene Pool

About half my Facebook Friends have the last name "Thomas." They happen to be my cousins. My prodigious uncles discharged a goodly number of little Thomases into the world wide web.

Or maybe I just don't have a whole lot of other friends, thus increasing the proportion of Same Last Namers in my overall Facebook Friend pool.

The Facebook is smart. As well as forward thinking. And interested in geneology for the purpose of bringing kinfolk together. It gave my Friend list the once over and must have noticed I have a thing for 15 - 25 year-old pisanos sporting the "Thomas" surname.

A little notice popped up identifying "People I Might Want To Add to My Friends." Thus notifying me as to the whereabouts of my potentially long lost cousin, Michael Thomas:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tom on The Dogs in the Closet

I wear the same things pretty much every week. I'm not really what you'd call a clothes hound."


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Harry Potter is Dangerous as a Terrorist so We'll Need to Take Away Your Freedom to Protect You from His Dastardly Band of Devil Worshipper Magicians

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves. ~ Claude-Adrien

After the Nazis torched all those books in 1933, most Americans realized with horror that burning or banning books just because one group didn't like the storyline was censorship. And censorship is what separates democracies from fascist regimes. If you can't read what you want to read, you are a subject and not a citizen.

Did you ever hear anyone say, "That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?" ~ Joseph Henry Jackson

How much must you fear an idea before you attempt to banish the thought from the planet? Do you think that just because you stick your fingers in your ears and go nah nah nah nah nah nah that the idea will curl up and turn to ashes? Do you think that you are protecting your children by shackling their brains and pretending that no one is gay or agreed with Buddhism or got their period or disobeyed their parents? Do you fear your children will forget your teachings if they so much as glimpse a differing view?

Why. Why are you so fearfully insecure about the cogency of your beliefs?

I fear for America. I fear evil aliens have snatched the bodies of the voting public and they will crush us in a bloodless revolution. No one will know what happened until it is too late.

This is a list of books which organizations Sarah Palin belongs to have wanted banned:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Ro wling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Ro wling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Ro wling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Ro wling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Ronald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gil ly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Ronald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Great Uncle Elliot Gone Wild

I have spoken to my great uncle Elliot a grand total of three times in my entire life and one of them was when I rocked the duties of Flower Girl at Ronnie's first wedding. Since Uncle Elliot had missed my Grampy's funeral last week, he drove up from Florida to pay his respects and visit my grammy, his sister. They would bond and reminisce. Speak Yiddish Pig Latin like they did when they were ten and think they're hilarious.

Just to see how she was doing, I called up Grammy, who broke out her mad skills in slathering AWKWARD across an otherwise straightforward phone call. She asked me point blank if I wanted to say hello to my great uncle Elliot. Ummm. Sure.

Uncle Elliot required little if any prodding to launch into a tale about his years at Radio City Music Hall playing in the pit orchestra. He'd watch the girls audition for the Rockettes. The first cut was a test. The Silver Dollar Test. They'd make the girls hold three silver dollars. One between their thighs, one between their knees and one between their ankles. The auditorium would get very quiet and then you'd hear a silver dollar drop. CUT!

I said, oh. ok. well. it would be nice to see you while you're in town.

And Uncle Elliot replied, Yes, I'd like to see your set.

I can't be sure, he's 85, he was low talking, but I kind of swear that's what he said.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Grandpa R : Rest In Peace

My grandfather's yarns string together all I know about his life. He always told the same stories. Just the facts. Using the same words, the same inflections. Any number of current events could trigger a hasty rocket launch into one of his memories. And once commenced, you would. always. be treated to the whole gantzeh megillah.

A dozen years ago, Grampy maybe had twenty tales he'd rotate through. More recently, he winnowed the lot down to about five. He must have known we'd heard every one of them countless times before. But the past held so much more promise then any present-tense conversation ever could. My grampy liked to be the center of attention.

Grampy escaped with his family from Romania after the Bolsheviks invaded and it became dangerous to be a Jew. He lived in the Lower East Side, eventually moving up to the Bronx. I got the feeling he was in a lot of street fights, but the fisticuffs always broke out in the space between his stories, so we never really got a full-frontal view.

Early on, Grampy hung with the no-goodniks. (Like the Italian kid who galloped past my grandparents strolling down the sidewalk on a date. The kid shouted "Hey Curly!", told my grandma he was pleased to meet her, and then said he had to go because the police were chasing him.)

Grampy had some sechel. He ran numbers in the backroom a poolhall for a bookie. He worked in the family fur business mid-town as an admittedly subpar nailer and as a floorboy. (Once he stuck scissors into a light socket in an attempt to fix it, shocked himself. His father ran over all farkrimpteh because Grampy ruined the scissors.)

Grampy danced in the Savoy Ballroom (with Ella Fitzgerald) and started a club called the Croes Nest on Croes Avenue above 174th street where he met my grandmother. He went into business driving a truck, went bankrupt and got in trouble with the mob.

Grampy went to war when my dad was two, came back two years later. He said he grew up in the army. I think he probably straightened up. Took advantage of the GI bill and got a college degree at age 38. Was proud of his work, his hatch-cover patents, his negotiating prowess. He was the first in his family to speak English, to graduate from high school, the first with a college degree. The first to have a white collar job and a house in the suburbs. He had a lot to be proud of and he liked to talk about it.

I have a few present-tense memories of grampy. The way he danced with grammy at our wedding. How he helped me determine whether it was better to buy or lease and measure for window treatments. Reading in Hebrew at Passover. "Chatting" with me on Prodigy. Yelling at me for being a disrespectful nudje. Singing made up songs about his old friends Tabachnic, Garonic and Moisch Mendelson while driving irradically in the car.

Grampy told me one of the biggest regrets in his life was that he never thanked his boss at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a guy named Abbyaddy. Abbyaddy let him study when he really should have been working.

One of my regrets is that I never knew my grandfather in any other time except before I was born. Although... many of the stories Grampy told happened when he was younger than I am now. And I don't have any stories of my ill-spent youth I'd think progeny might find fascinating. Even on the first telling.