Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction stories and essays.

The Richest Boys in New England

The following is a true story told to the Editor of East Coast Stories by Raymond J. Farrell. When I knew him he already  seemed impossibly old, and was just known as “Papa”. This is the story of what it was like many years earlier when he was still a poor young boy in northern rural Massachusetts. The season was mid-winter and it was so long ago that there were not yet even any cars in that rural town.

PAPA 002

It was still pitch black when Raymond woke up. He ran into town with his ice skates hanging around his neck tied together  by their laces.  He had to get to the newspaper factory while the presses were still going or it would be too late.

Raymond’s boots crunched on the packed snow, and the air was so cold that it hurt his lungs as he ran. Ray got to the factory just as his friends Joey and Billy arrived. They went in together and felt the sudden rush of warmth from the newspaper  presses.

Big men ran the presses and did all the heavy work. Ray. Billy and Joey were just the scrawny kids that folded newspapers at the end of the line. The presses usually ran fast each morning and the boys had to work as hard as they could to keep up. Between the exertion and the  heat from the machines, the boys were soon sweating profusely.

When the presses finally stopped and the folding was done the boys got their pay. There was no money. They were each given a few newspapers to sell or trade and they thought it was a great job.

Now it was time for breakfast. One newspapers was traded to  Mr. Mitchell the  baker for a loaf of bread.  He was a heavyset nasty man  who always looked at the boys like they were about to steal something. Still, they traded a newspaper for bread with him every morning. He was a mean man, but he was a terrific baker.

Then another paper they traded  to get hot chocolates from Mrs. O’Shea who ran the tea shop.  She was always happy and chatty and wore flowery dresses even in the the darkest days of winter. She gave them 3 big mugs of hot chocolate  and trusted the boys to return the mugs when they were done. They always did. The boys saved the rest of the papers to sell after they were done skating.

They sat by the side of the road at the far end of town  eating their bread and drinking their hot chocolate.  They had to wait a while before the first sleigh would come through town.  Only the rich people could afford horses and sleighs and rich people got up a lot later than everyone else. The working classes like Ray and his friends had no horses. If you needed to go somewhere you walked.

While they waited for the first sleigh they took off their boots and put on their ice skates. Then they went out to test the ice in the  road.

In those days streets were not plowed.  There were  no automobiles and the sleights depended on the snow. In the beginning of winter the snow was soft, but as the winter continued and hundreds of sleighs passed through town the snow got packed down more and more until the snow on the main road through town was nothing more than a sheet of solid ice.

The boys skated up and down the street and looked for any ruts that might cause problems later. Then they heard the bells and knew a rich person’s sleigh was approaching.

It was an open sleigh pulled by one magnificently strong white horse. The man and woman riding in it were bundled in furs and scarfs.  Before the sleigh even reached town, Ray, Billy and Joey started skating as fast as they could. They had to really build up speed to be able to catch on to the back of the sleigh.

It was a real athletic feat to catch a sleigh. If you skated too fast you could end up in front of the sleigh and be trampled. If you were too slow you missed the sleigh entirely.

Billy was the strongest as well as the fastest skater and he had no trouble grabbing on to the back of the sleigh. Joey’s right skate hit a rut in the ice, and he fell face forward onto the ice. Ray skated past Joey and at the last second reached and grabbed hold to the sleigh right next to Billy.  His arms felt like they would be pulled out of their sockets as he held on.

The speed was incredible.  Ray and Billy held on as the powerful horse trotted through town. The rich folks had undoubtedly noticed them but paid no attention. To them the  poor kids in town were a minor annoyance that was just part of day-to-day life.

This sleigh was not stopping at the end of town so Ray and Billy let go  after having ridden about 3 miles. Their arms were exhausted, and their legs were tired, but it had been such a great ride they laughed as they watched the sleigh continue off and disappear in the distance.

They skated back to where they had started and found Joey sitting next to their pile of newspapers. Joey’s face was bruised and a little bloody. He had made a snowball and was holding it against his face with a gloved hand, so his face would not swell.  Joey did not complain. Sometimes you could catch the ride and sometimes you missed.

The town was starting to fill up, so the boys took off their ice skates and put on  their boots. They returned the mugs to Mrs. O’Shea. Then they divided up the newspapers and split up. They boys each went to different parts of town to sell the papers for whatever they could get.

Papa was 8o years old  when he told this story. One of the listeners  mentioned how terrible  it  must have been to have to work that hard as a little boy for just a few newspapers.  Papa smiled and shook his head. “It was wonderful” he explained.  “To be young and strong and fearless and flying over the ice as fact as a big horse can run. We were not poor. We were the richest boys in New England. ”

Gentle Woman Jumping Bunny Video

Our Gentle Woman Bunny  stories have been some of our most popular posts. We have tried adding videos to the blog , but the problem is that the technical limitations of Word Press means that we can only load a video a few seconds long directly to the blog.

However, we can upload our videos to You Tube and then link the blog to that.

Therefor, for the enjoyment of our blog readers, (and now watchers) that is what we have done.

So, to see East Coast Stories’ first You Tube Video entitles Bunny Jump, just click this link.

Please realize that this is a very rough cut as we are still learning the technical aspects. Going forward, we will hopefully improve our skills.

Let us know if it works, and what types of videos you would like to see.

Meeting Eleanor Roosevelt

The following is a true story about when Jack Farrell met and spoke to Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.

Jack stood in the cold along with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people on the lawn in front of the Columbia University library waiting for the First Lady to arrive.  Eleanor Roosevelt was going to give a short speech before attending a meeting on campus.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

Jack was there with two of his friends. All three of them were in the uniforms of Army Privates.  Jack wondered if the other two felt like complete frauds the way he did. After all, Jack was not really a soldier.  He was just a guy going to medical  school who happened to be in an Army Uniform.

It was not supposed to be this way. Jack was supposed to be out there in the front lines as an officer in the greatest war in the history of the world. Jack had even gotten an appointment to West Point. Appointments were very hard to get. You had to be recommended by a U.S. Congressperson which meant that a lot of times only the sons  big campaign contributors even got the chance to try to get in. You still had to have the right grades and pass the physical, but first you had to get someone in Congress to recommend you.

Jack did not come from a wealthy family. His father owned  a used car lot and his father’s father had been a poor farmer in rural Massachusetts.  But it turned out there was another way to get an appointment to West Point.  Jack’s father had been an artillery Captain in World War I. West Point had set aside places for the sons of World War I combat veterans. Jack had excellent grades and he was all set for West Point.

Until the Physical.

As a boy Jack had suffered a ruptured appendix which had nearly killed him. Toxins had poured into his body from the rupture and an emergency operation had to be performed to save him. In fact, he had needed a whole series of operations over the  course of almost a year, to get his insides right again. The doctors at the hospital joked that he had so many operations he should have a zipper installed in his abdomen. Jack thought that was so funny he named his little puppy dog “Zipper”.

Jack had recovered and grown up into a muscular six foot three inch tall young man. It never occurred to Jack  that he could not pass the physical at West Point.  But when Jack took off his shirt for the exam the doctor immediately saw that the entire front of Jack’s body was a mass of intersecting scars. Jack pleaded with the West Point doctor to mark him as fit, but the doctor refused.

“I’m sorry young man, ” said the doctor, “but those kinds of operations never fix things one hundred percent. Under extreme physical  stress there could be complications with internal tears or bleeding. And let’s face it, the Army  would put anyone under extreme physical stress. ”

West Point

So instead of going to West Point, Jack had gone to Columbia University. America got into World War II just as Jack was graduating from Columbia. If he had been at West Point he would have gone directly into the war as an officer.

Instead,  Jack applied to and got into Long Island University Medical School.  Anyone else would have been thrilled with that. But Jack felt like a coward, hiding out in school while guys he knew were fighting and dying in the war.

As the war went on, Jack read stories about  how the Army needed so many men it was lowering its physical standards. He decided this was his chance. Jack and two of his medical school friends took the train to New York  and went to enlist at the Army recruiting station in Times Square.  It was great. They filled out all the forms and as far as they knew they were in. No one even asked for a medical history or gave them  physical.

Seeing their ages, the tough looking  recruiting  Sergeant asked them what they had been doing all this time and why they had not enlisted earlier. When one of Jack’s friends blurted out that they were in  Medical School, the Sergeant gave them a strange look, but did not say anything.

The Sergeant told them the paperwork would take a few days that they should  come back the beginning of the following  week. Jack and the other guys were ecstatic. They were going to finally be “real men” and get into the war! Medical school would have to wait.  A few more days and they could finally put on a uniform.

The next day, Jack and his friends were heading to class when a professor spotted them and said, “The Dean would like to see all of you. Right now.”

The Dean of the Medical School was a very serious man. A superb  surgeon who still taught classes as well as being Dean. He was also very formal and completely serious at all times. He was the kind of man  who you could not imagine ever smiling.

Jack and the other 2 young  men sat in the plush leather chairs in the Dean’s massive wood paneled office.  The Dean himself sat behind a large oak desk and turned his glare on them.

“I got a very disturbing call from an Army Sergeant yesterday,” said the Dean. “He and I had a long conversation. He was quite an intelligent man. You see, unlike you three, the Sergeant understood that what this country needs right now is more doctors, not more men to carry guns.  Even if this war ends tomorrow there will be hundreds of thousands of people who desperately need medical care.  The type of care you are begin trained to provide.  That is where your duty lies.  Don’t walk away from that responsibility.”

Jack and his friends felt very ashamed as they returned to their classes. They realized that they should  have been thinking about how to best serve their country instead of just what would make them look good to other people.

JACK 003Jack Farrells’ medical bag & Army cap

In the end, Jack and his friends and all the other  men in the medical school got to wear an Army uniform anyway.  Almost losing 3 medical students had worried the Dean so much that he spoke to some very senior officers in the military. A few weeks later the U.S. Army drafted every man in the Medical school.  They were all given uniforms and issued a direct order. Their assignment was to stay in medical school and become doctors. Upon graduation the Army would  find an assignment for them.

So that is how Jack and his friends ended up in Army Uniforms, standing in the freezing cold with a crowd of people waiting for Eleanor Roosevelt to speak. They had taken the train in from Long Island  to Jack’s old college, just to see her.  There was a sudden push in the crowd and then a cheer. She had arrived.

There was a little wooden platform set up for Eleanor to make a short speech to the crowd before she went into the University for a meeting.  The photographers with her wanted to get a good shot for the papers. Suddenly a photographer spotted Jack and his friends in uniform. Some of Eleanor’s entourage jumped off the stage and pulled Jack and the other guys up to stand behind Eleanor. It was always  good to have soldiers in  uniform in a picture with the First Lady . They tired to protest that they were not really soldiers but the entourage was not listening. They were only interested in how to line them up for the best possible picture.

Jack only got to speak to Eleanor for a few seconds. He wanted to ask her how she felt about his being safe in medical school while guys he grew up with were being killed every day. But up close she looked so tired and so stressed that he realized how inappropriate it would be to try to burden him with his own problems.

It was obvious that she wanted light conversation, so Jack asked her if her last name was pronounced “Ruse-a- Velt” or “Rose-a-Velt”. To his surprise, she said the proper pronunciation was “Ruse-a-Velt”. The entourage loved the banter.  This was a happy photo-op appearance. They did not want anyone asking any deep philosophical questions.

The medical students were technically in the Army and wore the uniforms to class each day.  However, the war ended just before they graduated. The army was trying to wind down its numbers dramatically so it gave all the medical students honorable discharges. Jack and his fiends never got to become “real soldiers”.

JACK 004Jack’s prescription pad

Jack became a well known doctor in Connecticut and had a long career. However, he always felt guilty about not getting into West Point.  Of the West Point class he would have been in, 25% were killed in the war and many more were wounded. There is a good chance that Jack’s ruptured appendix as a child had actually saved his life; an example of what is now called the “butterfly effect.”

If anyone ever said Jack was in the Army during the war he would quickly correct the person and note how he was never in the “real” Army.  He also would quickly correct anyone who mispronounced Eleanor Roosevelt’s name.

John Farrell_Columbia University Yearbook_8_26_12

John Farrell_Medical School Yearbook_8_26_12

Vietnam Diary – Part 4 Going Home

This is the final part of a 4 part series by and about Steve A. who was a draftee combat soldier in Vietnam. If you missed Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 just click on the link to read them. Steve continues to live in New Jersey and almost never speaks about his Vietnam experiences. These are the true stories as told to the Editor of East Coast Stories.

It was my last day in Vietnam and I had never been more scared.  There were hundreds of  us lined up at the airfield waiting  for transport planes to arrive to take us home. Everyone was nervous and there was not much taking.

It all had to do with the old-time war movies. In every war movie every one of us had ever seen as a kid, there is always some guy who gets killed just before he is going to go home. It sounds stupid, but that kind of thing ends up having a real impact on your subconscious.

We had been standing in line in the oppressive heat for hours and no transport planes had arrived.  Finally a whole group of them landed in succession and we thought we would be getting on them any minute. But the lines did not move. The planes had to be fueled and prepped and that takes a long time.

Then it got dark.

If ever a VC sniper was going to start picking us off now would be the time.  That’s right, the airstrip sniper rumor was back and it was making the troops nervous as Hell.  Guys started to push forward. They could see the planes and they wanted to get on them.

About 50 feet in front of me 2 guys got into a fight. Other guys tried to break it up but these two just kept at it. They were both big muscular guys and both of them were getting bloody.  Whistles blew and  eight  MPs  with batons and helmets came running in and   grabbed the two guys. They were wrestled to the ground and then loaded into jeeps to be taken to the Stockade. The worst fears of these guys had come true. They would not be getting on the transports home. They would be remaining in Vietnam for a while.

About a half hour after the fight the line began to move and I boarded a  plane. I got to sit in the middle. I did not know any of the guy around me.  Unlike today’s Army, men did not move in and out of the war in complete units. We came in and went out as individuals whenever our time happened to be up.

The plane rolled down the runway and the engined roared as it built up speed. Then it lifted off and the wheels left the ground.

A huge cheer went up from all the men.  It was the best cheer I ever heard in my life. Better than the cheer from any crowd at any sporting event.

We were out of Vietnam. And we were alive.

The engine hummed on an on  and men started to dose off.  We thought it was all over, but the Army had one more piece of shit to throw at us. One more thing to remind us that we were  draftees that did not matter to them.

Guam

It was not a non-stop flight. The plane landed in Guam to take on fuel. Before it landed were were ordered to stay in our seats and not get off.

When the plane landed in Guam the door opened and onto the plane came a Sergeant, a Major,  a civilian woman and two small children. It turns out that the Major and his family were going back to the States. Due to his rank, four soldiers were going to be bumped off the plane so that the Major and his family could travel.

The Sergeant picked 4 seats and ordered 4 men off the plane. So four men returning from war were going to have to wait on Guam instead of going home; so that some Major and his family would not have to wait for the next plane.

At the time I wasn’t even angry about it. That was just the kind of thing you expect the Army to do.  I was just glad I was not one of the 4 men told to leave the plane.

After the re-fueling the door closed and the plane left Guam.

This time there were no cheers. We were going home. We had made it through the war and we were going home.  I guess I was supposed to have some great revelation about everything I had been through but I did not.

A lot of people over the years have asked me how I felt coming home from Vietnam . They expect some complex philosophical answer.  But here is the truth.

All I felt was tired. Just absolutely, completely tired.

Vietnam Diary – part 3 – Satchel Charge

This is the third part of a 4 part series  about one man who was a draftee into the Vietnam War. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 please click on the link to read them. Steve A. lives in New Jersey and related this story to the Editor of East Coast Stories. The first 2 parts were told in the first person.  However this episode is so painful to Steve that he still has trouble speaking about it directly.

The days continued to pass slowly in Vietnam and Steve actually did something he never thought he would do. He lost track of how many days he had been there and how many were left. Somehow in the transfer North to The Tower and then back South he had lost the special calendar he had created to tick off the days until he went home.  After a while he was glad he had stopped counting, since the days actually seemed to go faster that way.

Steve was beginning to feel pretty good about things. He had been been in some terrible firefights but had not been wounded.  He was starting to accept what he calls the “absolute randomness” of combat. Sometimes a great soldier or a officer with lots of combat experience will be killed, while a complete klutz with little training survives the same battle.

Steve was back in Saigon and looking forward to getting drunk. He walked into a bar,  and had a few beers.  He decided not to stay since he did not see anyone he knew and the place was a little dull.  As he walked out he thinks he remembers two guys going in but he is not sure.

Steve was halfway down the street looking for a place with more action, when the bar he had just come from blew up. It was a tremendous explosion and he could hear screams.

Then Steve did what he calls the biggest mistake of his life. He decided to run back into the bar and see if there was anyone he could help. He wishes he did not.

satchel charge

There was nothing anyone could do for what was left of the people inside the bar. Steve will not describe exactly what it looked like other than to say that they were not really people anymore.

The next day the rumors started about what had happened.  Guys on the base were saying it was not the Viet Cong that had blown up the bar. They said it was two soldiers who had gotten “Dear John” letters on the same day. They had stolen satchel charges, brought them into the bar and blown themselves up.

satchel charge 2

Steve did not want to believe it.  Even on the plane ride to Vietnam there had been ridiculous rumors that turned out to be false. Still, in the back of his mind he seemed to remember two guys going in as he was coming out. Were they carrying or wearing anything that looked like satchel charges? For years Steve has asked himself that question and finally had to admit that he just can’t remember.

The official story was that the Viet Cong had planted a bomb. No one could explain why that bar was chosen. It was not very crowded and had no officers in it.  Maybe the complete randomness of it was the point. The Viet Cong always wanted to create maximum terror and were very successful at it.  Steve admits that as strange as it sounds he hopes it was the Viet Cong and not some depressed fellow draftees.

So that’s the story of what Steve identifies as his worst day in Vietnam.

The next  and final post of this Vietnam Series will be about what Steve calls his happiest day of the war. That is the last day and his trip home.

Vietnam Diary Part 2 – The Tower

This is the continuation of the story of Steve A. and his days in the Vietnam War. This is a true story as told to the Editor of East coast stories. If you missed Part One just click the link. 

Day 47 – The Tower

It was my 47th day in Vietnam that I was sent to the top of The Tower. I know what day it was, since like every other soldier in Vietnam I counted the number of days I had been there so I could figure out how long before I could go home. The best part of any day was when I could go to sleep, since it meant that when I woke up it was one less  day before I could go home. The officers pretended they did not count the days, but we all knew they did.

I got sent North. Further North than I had even been before and that was a bad thing. The further North you went the stronger the enemy positions. I had never heard of any towers, then suddenly I was told to man one.

The towers were sort of like fortified Forest Fire Ranger stations like they have in the Northwest of the U.S.  They were built so that we could get above the canopy of the jungle and observe what  was going on.

Late one afternoon I was told to climb the ladder to the top of one of the towers.  In the tower was a powerful pair of binoculars and a phone that directly linked to an officer on the ground.  My job was to watch for and report any enemy movement.

For most of the past 47 days I had been in the sweltering jungle, and it was an amazing feeling of freedom when I climbed up the ladder and through the canopy of the jungle. There I was above everything. I could see for miles and miles in every direction. It was like I had suddenly escaped the war by climbing out over the top of it.

Jungle Canopy

Then I began to get scared. I got the feeling that I was a sitting duck for any VC or NVA on the ground. There was some armor plating in the tower, but I was worried a sniper on the ground would be able to get me.

I crouched low and  scanned with the binoculars. I could see that about 10 kilcks to the West  was another tower. Far away to the North was something else that looked like a tower but I could not be sure. Later another guy told me that was the North Vietnamese tower but that the U.S would not bomb it because it was further into North Vietnam than they were allowed to bomb. By this point in the war however, I stopped believing every rumor. It might have been an enemy tower. It might have just been a big tree.

For three days my job was the same routine. When my turn came I climbed up into the tower in the late afternoon and stood watch through most of the night until I was relieved. There was a young Lieutenant who would call on the phone to test it and ask if I spotted any activity. The answer was always no. Nothing was going on.

The one night all Hell broke loose. There was a bright flash to the West and the sound of lots of automatic gunfire. Three seconds after the flash my tower phone rang. It was the young Lieutenant.

“What do you see?”

“Sir it looks like the West tower is being attacked.”

“Anything near us?”

“No Sir. Nothing that I can see.”

I put down the phone  scanned everything around our tower. Then the phone rand again.

“Anything going on near us?”

“No Sir.”

I put down the phone again and 15 seconds later it rang. The Lieutenant asked the same question and got the same answer.  This happened five time in a row.  On the sixth call when the Lieutenant asked his question I screamed into the phone, “Look Lieutenant, if I see anything, you’re going to be the first God-damned person I call!” Then I slammed down the phone.

I watched throughout the night as we all waited for our position to get attacked just like the tower to the West. But nothing happened. We were all petrified.

In the morning when I climbed down the ladder the Lieutenant did not say anything.  He could have had me court marshaled for insubordination, but he let it slide.

I had not thought about my nights in the tower in many years, until I saw an item on the T.V.news.  It was about all the American tourists who go to Vietnam these days. For some extra money they can visit items left over from the war. One of the things they can do is climb the few remaining American observations towers.

The T.V camera showed a view from the top of the tower and that brought back old memories.  There was the old fear and tension that we might be attacked.  But there was also the feeling of that first wonderful  moment when I climbed through the top of the jungle and actually thought I had climbed out of the war.

Vietnam Diary – Day Zero. Plane ride to the war

Steve A. (who asked his last name not be used) owns a paving company in  New Jersey. Below is the story he told to the Editor of East Coast Stories about his time as a U.S. soldier in the Vietnam War.

Day Zero – The plane ride to the war.

It was not like today’s Army. Despite multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, the American Army of today is a professional fighting force with good morale composed of volunteers.

That was not us. Many years ago I was on a transport plane which was taking a lot of other soldiers like me to the war in Vietnam. None of us wanted to be there. We had all been drafted into an Army we did not want to be in and were heading to a war we did not want to fight.  By that point the war had been going on for a very long time and there seemed to be no end in site.  You can’t imagine how bad morale was in the Army at that time.  In addition to the tension of the war, there were a lot of racial problems in the Army. There was no feeling of togetherness at all. The only feeling anyone had was how do I get out of this alive.

The only people on the plane who were volunteers were the officers, but they did not look like they wanted to be there any more than the rest of us. I was sitting in the front row. On one side of me was a baby-faced  Lieutenant  fresh out of ROTC, who was a few years younger than me. On the other side was a skinny Private with glasses who looked like he should be checking books behind the counter of your local library.

About an hour before we landed the sniper rumor started. The rumor was that the V.C. had stationed an expert sniper in the jungle near the airstrip where we were to land.  In order to crush U.S. spirit, the sniper would kill the first man who stepped off each troop plane that landed at the airbase.

All these years later I can look back and realize what an idiotic rumor it was. The Army would not let a sniper just continue to pick off the first soldier from plane after plane. And if that ever did happen it would have been on every T.V. station and in every newspaper in  America.

Rifle

On the plane ride, however, the sniper rumor got stronger and stronger and we really came to believe it.  Some psychologist would have a field day calling it a case of mass hysteria. The officers should  have put a stop to it but they just sat there and said nothing as the troops got themselves into a panic.  Oh, that is something else I should mention about the Army officers then versus today’s professional army. When I was in the Army a lot of our officers were really really bad.

So by the time the plane landed, every man on the plane (including the officers) was convinced that the first man to step off the plane would be killed by a V.C. sniper. The plane rolled to a stop and the ground crew opened the door. Bright sunlight and heat poured into the plane. None of us moved.

The entire planeload of men just sat there in complete silence and no one got up.

At least 5 minutes passed and no one budged or spoke. Then the silence was broken when a huge Sergeant stepped in from the outside and yelled, “What the Hell is going on!   Why the Hell didn’t anyone get off the plane?”

The librarian Private next to me spoke up in a squeaky voice and explained that we were all told that a sniper would kill the first man off the plane.

The Sergeant laughed loudly and said. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard! The first man is not going to get shot. Watch!”

And with that, the Sergeant took his massive arms and grabbed the baby-faced ROTC Lieutenant sitting next to me.  The Sergeant picked up the Lieutenant and threw him out the door of the plane. There was no gunshot. The Lieutenant was bruised and embarrassed, but no sniper killed him.

With that we all stood up and I stepped out into the blinding sunlight to begin my war.

vietnam

I learned three things that day that I would keep repeating to myself during my time in Vietnam.  The first was not to believe every idiotic rumor. The second was that Sergeants are the ones who actually run the Army. The the third and most important thing, was that I might actually survive the war.

Editors note: This is the first of a 4 part series about Steve’s time in Vietnam.

The First Witch – Lilith and her origins

This is the story  of the First Witch, as has been passed down for centuries.  When people first began to read the Bible they were fascinated with the story of Genesis and how all things were created. People read Genesis over and over and soon they realized there was something missing.Genesis 1.27 says”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them.”

But ancient people noticed that in  Genesis 2.18 the statement is made that “Then the Lord God said, “it is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” Why was man alone? What happened to the First Woman who had been created?

Genesis goes into great detail about how the Second Woman (who we all call Eve) was created. Genesis 2.21 states, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up the place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

witch 2

Scholars and peasants alike debated the two great questions. What had happened to the First Woman and why did God make the Second Woman from a part of Adam himself?

They finally agreed that the answer lay in the phrase where God says “I will make him a helper fit for him. ”  It was obvious that the First Woman was somehow unfit. But how?  What had she done?

Again, the ancient peoples came to a consensus. It was not what the First Woman had done. It was what she had not done. She had refused to be a helper.  She wanted to be herself. She wanted to be equal;  and because Adam could not accept that she had run away. And all of those characteristics in the eyes of the ancient world branded such a woman as a Witch.

 Eve was then made out of a part of Adam himself (his rib) so that she would be a piece of him and subservient to him.  The Witch had not been created from man. She was completely independent of him.

witch 1

The”Witch story” is never mentioned in the Bible. It is something people in the Middle Ages labeled the first woman as.

In modern times, we portray witches as old an ugly, but that is not how the people of the Middle Ages saw them. To them the Witch was a beautiful and sexual young woman. She had left the Garden of Eden long before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and then covered themselves with fig leaves to hide their nakedness.  That means that The Witch was naked when she left, and remained proud of her nakedness.

The stories of the Middle Ages do not end there. There are many tales of the Witch periodically luring Adam away from Even and tempting him with her open naked sexuality.  These tales became so lurid over the centuries that the Catholic Church itself put great effort into changing common picture of a witch into an ugly hag.

So every Halloween, when you see little girls dressed up as ugly old witches with green faces, remember it was not always so. The Witch goes back to the beginning of time, and she was much different than the Trick or Treaters could ever imagine.

SIX DAYS BEFORE HALLOWEEN 005

Over the centuries, people even gave the First Witch the name of Lilith. This, of course, was also the name of Frazier’s wife on Cheers. The writers, purposely gave her this name. The name Lilith continues to be a source of either pride or hatred, depending on how someone views a woman’s role in society.

Monster From the Deep

In the city of Stamford Connecticut, Shippan Point was a world unto itself. It is a peninsula that sticks out into Long Island Sound with Shippan Avenue being the only road running in or out.

Shippan Avenue ends at  a  beach at  the very tip of Shippan Point. Like most Connecticut beaches it is more rocks than sand. Despite that it was very popular with young couples looking for a place to be alone at night.

It was supposed to be closed at night, but the police did not bother to enforce the rule. There had never been any trouble on the beach. That is, until the Donahue boys decided to have a little fun. There were a lot of Donahue kids around Shippan point. Ten boys and two girls to be exact. Keeping track of them was such a chore for their parents that they actually had a book in their front hall for the kids to sign in and out. The parents often only knew where all the kids were by checking the book.

No one worried about their kids. Shippan point was safe. It was a wealthy mostly Irish community and the chief of police himself (also Irish) lived their. At the entrance to the Point, where the homes were less expensive, lived Officer Mickelson. The families on the Point paid him a stipend to do  extra patrols in the area.

That’s why it was such a shock to the residents when the killer attacked.

It wasn’t a real killer. On the fateful night, Jeff Donahue hid on the other side of the jetty and put on a black wetsuit. Then his brothers covered him from head to toe with seaweed, until he had a very close resemblance to the Creature From the Black Lagoon. For an added touch they gave him a fireman’s ax.

Jeff was a very good swimmer. He held his breath and went underwater and swam around the stone jetty and swam towards the beach.   His brothers peered over the jetty to see what would  happen.

The nighttime beach was full of young lovers as Jeff swam underwater towards it.  He emerged from the water and onto the beach and screamed at the top of his lungs as he did so. He waved the ax and shook the seaweed.

creature from the black lagoon

The Donahue boys thought the people on the beach would scream and then laugh, just like you do when someone give you a Halloween scare.  They assumed that after the initial shock people would  realize it was just a silly kid covered in seaweed.

What they did not expect was that people would scream, and just keep screaming. The lovers all ran off the beach and got into their cars as fast as they could . They roared down Shippan avenue and raced away to find the police station.

The Donahue boys had forgotten that Jeff was a big guy. He was on the football team after all. And it was night. And he was carrying an ax.

It was dark enough and there was enough seaweed covering Jeff so that no one recognized him. So he got out of the costume and ran home with his brothers as fast as he could. They dried off the ax and carefully put it back in the garage. The wetsuit went into a separate bin.

Their hearts were pounding, but it still seemed very funny. It did not seem funny anymore  next day when they found out that the police had set up a roadblock and sealed off Shippan Point. Half the police force was in Shippan looking for the killer.

Jeff and his brothers decided to just wait it out. The police would go away after a few hours and things would get back to normal.  But police don’t really go away when they think they have a killer cornered. The search was in its third day when Jeff and his brothers had to make the terrible trip they had been dreading. They walked down the hall opened the door to their father’s den and walked over to where he was sitting behind his huge desk.

Their father showed no reaction at all. That made it even more frighting than if he had actually yelled. He simply reached over picked up his desk phone and called his friend the Chief of Police.

No charges were filed and no police reports were typed up.  In those days the Irish of Stamford handled things among themselves in various unofficial ways.  There are no records at all, to the point that some people claim the incident is just a legend that never really happened.  But those people never knew these kids.

Another thing no one really knows, is  what sort of punishment Mr. Donahue doled out. It must have been pretty bad since to this day the boys will not talk about it.

Things went back to normal in Shippan Point for the rest of the summer. The only thing different was that Officer Mickleson drove his car extra slowly whenever he passed the Donahue’s house. If the boys happened to be in the yard at the time they would quickly move into the house. The look in Officer Mickelson’s eyes told the boys that their days as practical jokers were over for good.

The Hot Seat

In my senior year at Duke, Larry, Bill, Bruce, Glen and I rented a big house off-campus. It was not easy to do.  It was in a nice residential neighborhood and the landlord was very wary of renting to a bunch of wild college guys.

We convinced him we were the complete opposite of wild. We were all trying to get into different types of grad schools so it was all studying  and no parties. Larry was the one who convinced the landlord. Larry was pre-law and a real smooth talker. Plus it was Larry who had convinced us all to move into a house that was really much more than we could afford. Most of us had wanted a much smaller place, but somehow Larry talked us into it. He was going to be a great lawyer.

We could barely meet expenses. The only  good thing was that there was no heating bill since the house had oil heat and the tank was full when we moved in. Larry calculated that the oil would last through the entire winter and we would never have to pay  penny to heat the place.

Larry was wrong. All the oil in the tank got used up and there was still a long time before the winter was over.  Of course,  winter in North Carolina is not anywhere near as bad as it is in New England, but it still gets pretty cold. It was in the coldest part of the winter when the oil ran out. Day by day the house got colder, until eventually it was the same temperature as the air outside.

DUKE 1

We ended up spending most of our time in the living room which had a giant fireplace. A pile of wood had also come with the house. We burned the logs from the woodpile, but but eventually the wood pile was fully depleted

Larry happened to be taking a night class when the wood finally ran out. As the fire started to burn down to nothing, Bill happened to say, “Well I know where to get some more fuel.”

Then Bill disappeared into Larry’s room. A couple of minutes later he came back with the wooden legs he had unscrewed from the easy chair in Larry’s room. He tossed them into the fireplace and the room started to heat up again from the warm glow of the burning legs.

As the fire consumed the chair legs, Glen went out to the garage and came back in with a saw and a bunch of other tools. He proceeded to Larry’s room and we heard a lot of sawing and banging. Then he came back into the living room with the rest of the chair in pieces and threw the pieces into the fire.

DUKE 2

As the fire began to roar, it was no longer about keeping warm. It became a kind of crazy game to find whatever in Larry’s room would burn. It turns out the answer was everything.

A wooden bookshelf, a desk, a desk chair, a night table all went into the fire. Then things that were not even wood got tossed in. Pillows, blankets, cushions all went up in flames. The fire was actually making a  roaring noise. The room was becoming uncomfortably hot, but the craziness continued.

It turns out that a box spring and mattress will actually burn too. Of course, first you have to do a lot of work to chop and cut them up, but it can be done.

The burning went on for a long time, and by the time it was done there was nothing left in Larry’s room but piles of books on an empty floor.

It was very late at night when Larry came home. The fire had died down until there was just a lot of smouldering embers. He said “Hi” to everyone then went into his room. A second later he came back out to ask where we had hidden all his furniture. He did not believe us when we told him we had burned everything. But when he finally looked into the fire place he could see the metal springs from his box mattress. They were the only things that refused to burn. They were still glowing red and giving off a lot of heat.

Larry was too stunned to be angry. He thought that all his roommates had somehow gone temporarily insane while he was in class. He was probably right. The fire was not about Larry. No one had been mad at him. It was about releasing the constant pressure from exams and classes and grad school applications. We all felt badly  about it afterwords, but we all still thought it was funny.  Except for Larry.

We ended up re-furnishing Larry’s room with various pieces of furniture from our own rooms. Slowly Larry forgave us, and the house got warmer when Spring arrived.

Bill, who had started the whole furniture burning  episode, went into Forestry Management. Ironically, the main thrust of his job is developing better ways to prevent fires. Larry got into the University of Virginia law school. As we all predicted, he turned out to be a great lawyer. He now lives in a beautiful custom deigned house.

The architect was very surprised when Larry insisted the house be built without a fireplace.

The Tourist’s New Pet by Gregory Farrell

I was walking down West Broadway yesterday evening and passed one of those miniature parks which is surrounded by cobblestones.  There were two middle-aged woman tourists from the Mid-West oohing and aahing over some tiny  animal which had come out of the park and was not able to get back in due to the low cobblestone wall.

They were looking at a small black creature and one of the women was saying, “poor little baby. Are you lost? Can’t you figure out how to get back in?”

Just then an attractive young woman in a short skirt and a tight top walked past and looked at the scene disgustedly. In a loud Brooklyn accent she shouted “It’s a baby Rat Ladies!” and continued on her way.

The tourists either did not hear her or at least pretended not to.  I also decided to leave, since I could not stand to  watch any longer. You see, the woman from Brooklyn was correct. The creature that the tourists were treating like some lost kitten was, in fact, a baby black rat. Not like  nice clean lab rats. It was the disease-ridden, unbelievably dangerous type of animal that ever city in the world tries unsuccessfully  to wipe out completely.

As I walked away one of the woman was crouching down getting ready to pick the rat up while the other woman was looking for some of bag or box to put their new pet in.

I have the feeling that in some hotel room in New York tonight there is a rat in a cardboard box being fed crackers and cheese from a mini-bar.

So; if in the next week or two you hear a story about a couple of tourists dying from some bizarre infectious disease, you will know how they got it.

You never know what you are going to see in New York if you just look around while you walk. Just don’t pick anything up.

Running for Cake

Our high school wrestling coach was Mr. Hess. He had been a star athlete  at Princeton in both wrestling and track. He was very discouraged that we were all not more like him and he wanted to whip us into perfect shape. Mr. Hess was also the history teacher and his favorite topic was ancient Sparta.  He wanted us to be just like the Spartans.

He was always devising bizarre training techniques for us. Like the day he decided to improve our reflexes by splitting the team into two groups and having us play Dodge-Ball. The only problem was that Mr. Hess could not find the keys to the locker where they kept the soft bouncy-balls. So instead he handed out a bunch of basketballs for us to use.

Being high-school kids, we of course aimed the basketballs for each other’s heads and genitals. You could only protect one part at a time, so we all got hit in the head a lot. I still remember what it feels like to have multiple basketballs smashing into your head repeatedly. Just like ancient Sparta. Mr. Hess thought it was such a success that he had us play “Spartan Dodge-Ball” 3 items a week.

Then Mr. Hess decided the problem was not with our reflexes but with our stamina.  He decided  that what we really needed was to run. Not just a little warm-up run before practice, but a really long run for an hour or more.

The only problem is that the wrestling season takes place in the middle of the winter and the school had no indoor track.  Mr. Hess had also not told any of us about this ahead of time so we had not brought any warm running  outfits to wear.  After all. wrestling is an indoor sport.

So Mr. Hess gave us all thin grey sweatsuits and sent us outside to run in the middle of one of the coldest winters Connecticut had seen in 50 years.

It turned out that Mr. Hess had an ulterior motive. He was way behind on his teaching responsibilities.  He had piles of essays and tests he needed to read and grade. While we were running in the cold he was going  to stay inside and catch up on his work. So he sent us outdoors and set up his papers to grade.

The rest of the team just ran around the parking lot of the school, shivering and wondering how long before they could go back inside.  But I had a plan. I took off and ran off the school grounds and down the street.

About a mile from the school was the home of my friend John Hoffecker, and that’s where I ran to. It turned out that not only was John home, but that his mother had just finished baking a chocolate cake.

John and I ate delicious warm cake and watched T.V. I ended up staying a lot longer than I had planned. When I looked at the clock I realized that I had been at his house for over an hour and a half.

In a panic, I ran back to the school, dreading what would be in store for me when I met up with Coach Hess. When I got the parking lot none of the team was there.

I ran into the gym and there was the whole team doing push ups and looking  miserable. It turns out that they had only stayed outside for a few minutes before they got too cold and headed back inside. Mr. Hess was furious with them. The team had ruined his plans to catch up on his work, so the was punishing them by making them do push-ups until their arms ached.

Then he turned to me. I awaited whatever evil punishment he was going to give me for cheating on the run.  Instead his face broke into a wide smile. “There’s my little Spartan!” he said. Then he addressed the rest of the team. “Farrell has been outside running for almost two hours and you wimps couldn’t even take it for 15 minutes.”

I felt badly for the rest of the team, but I never told anyone I had really been eating chocolate cake the whole time.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of the team’s reaction. I just didn’t want to ruin the pleasure Mr. Hess had gotten. He actually thought that he had turned me into a Spartan.

Some of the parents eventually complained about Mr. Hess and he was forced to change his training methods.  The administration gave him a manual and told him he had to use normal  training methods like other coaches used. It was probably better  for us, but somehow it just was not as much fun. Knowing that our coach was a little insane and might suddenly do anything at all was the best part of being on the wrestling team.

I thought about this story because the other  day I was driving through town and I saw a group of high school kids running. One of them fell back from the rest and as the others turned a corner he stopped running. He then turned back and walked into the local bakery.

I wonder if he was getting a piece of chocolate cake.

Sneaking Up On Seagull

On this incredibly warm October 15th is was 75F degrees in New York.  Even the animals were enjoying the last warm days before Winter really begins.

In the series of pictures below a seagull  lets  me get closer and closer as he relaxes on a railing in Hoboken looking across at the New York  & Jersey City skylines.

Seagull 001

Seagull 002

Seagull 003Here he is lifting up one foot and thinking of flying away as I get too close. But he decides to trust me.

Seagull 004

Seagull 005

The Seagull’s view

Alone and Afraid in Texas

The following is a true story told to the Editor of East Coast Stories.

Nolan does not tell this story to very many people. Even though he is now a middle-aged man he still gets a frightened look in his eyes when he talks about that time.

Nolan grew up in Texas and it happened 45 years ago when Nolan was 10. To understand it you have to realize how just how alone you can really be in Texas.

Every summer Nolan’s parents would send him to spend a few weeks on his grandparent’s ranch. Nolan loved the ranch. It was 70 miles from the nearest town and was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places he had even been. His grandparents were always happy to see him. His grandfather loved teaching Nolan what it meant to be a “real Texan”.

Texas 2

His grandparents also spoiled Nolan.  They let him eat whatever he wanted and he could stay up watching T.V. shows. Grandpa had put a special T.V. antenna on top of the house just so Nolan could get reception.

One night his grandparents were going to drive into town to have dinner with friends in a fancy restaurant.  They invited Nolan to come along, but he was looking forward to staying home and vegging out in front of the T.V. instead.

Nolan was sitting in front of the T.V. finishing off a giant bag of potato chips when he heard a loud banging from the garage.  At first he thought it was an animal stuck in the garage, but it sounded like some sort of chopping.

Nolan went to see what was going on, and as he entered the kitchen he became frozen with fear. He could see thick door to the garage shaking. Someone was trying to break into the house by chopping through the door with an ax.

Nolan got up his courage and screamed as loudly as he could.  He shouted that he was not alone and that he had called the police. There was no answer from the other side of the door, but the chopping continued.

Nolan ran to the phone and called to the police. The dispatcher told him that a a car would be sent immediately but that they could not get there for at least 45 minutes.  With the town so far away even if the police car went 120 miles per hour the whole way, Nolan realized that he was totally alone.

The chopping continued and Nolan could hear the wood start to splinter.  Nolan didn’t know what to do. He looked for a place to hide. It was a small house there  there were not a lot of hiding places.

Nolan ran to the closet to hide, and when he opened it he saw  his grandfather’s 30-06 rifle. Nolan knew how to use it since his grandfather had taught him. On the top shelf was a box of shells.

Rifle

Nolan is not sure how he got the courage, but he loaded the rifle and ran back to the garage door. The chopping continued and he could see the head of an ax coming thought the door with each stroke.

Nolan screamed that he had a gun and was going to shoot but the chopping continued.  Nolan put the barrel of the 30-06 right up to one of the cracks in the door and pulled the trigger. The sound of the rifle indoors was deafening.  Then Nolan heard screaming. Several minutes later there was a screech of tires as some sort of vehicle raced away.

Nolan wanted to open the door to see what had happened but he was afraid that someone else  might still be outside. Nolan realized that he had never seen the intruder’s face and the intruder had never said a word to him.

When the police arrived they all told him how brave he had been. That was the same thing Nolan’s grandparents told him when they got home. There had been no way to call his grandparents. This was before the days of cell phones, and Nolan had forgotten what restaurant they said they were going to.

The police spent a long time at the “crime scene”. They told Nolan he had definitely shot the intruder. There was blood. A lot of blood.

The police never found the person who had been trying to break in.  One policeman told Nolan that the intruder had lost so much blood he had probably gone off and died somewhere. Not exactly the most sensitive thing to tell a 10 year old kid.

Nolan now lives in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S. In most New Jersey towns if you call the police they can be at your home in 5 or 10 minutes. Nolan points out that we don’t know what it means to be truly alone.

Nolan’s house has an alarm system and thick solid doors. If you ask him if he has a gun in the house he will never give you a straight answer. Let’s just say if you go to visit him it would be a good idea to call first and let him know you are coming.

Terrorist Deer

The following is a true story. The names and places are real.

Will is the kind of guy salespeople love. That’s because he believes anything they tell him. This is the story of one purchase a salesman talked him into.

Will and his wife Marilyn live in a lovely house in Mendham, New Jersey. That is the same town where the late  Whitney Houston used to live.  Will was always very proud of the landscaping, until two years ago when there was an exceptionally dry summer.

Will watered the grass and bushes every day, but they started to look worse and worse. Parts of the bushes were disappearing every night. There was only one explanation – Deer! He never saw them during the day, but every night they were eating anything green they could find.

Will went to the Home Depot and found that there were lots of things you could do about deer. A high fence would be the most effective, but Will did not want to destroy the look of his home. There were also all sorts of pellets and sprays that were supposed to repel the deer. One of the sprays was made of real Coyote urine, as disgusting as that sounds.

However, the salesman was able to get Will to buy the most expensive contraption in the store.  It was an entire system of motion detectors hooked up to a water sprayer that ties into your outside hose. Supposedly, when the deer got close enough, the motion detectors would send out a signal to the hose which would  then shoot out a stream of water to scare away the deer.

Deer Story 5

The salesman told Will that these are the same type of motion detectors that U.S. Special Forces set up around their campsites to detect the approach of Al Qaeda. Now, I am no expert on military equipment, but I really don’t think that our soldiers are using the same type of hardware available at the local Home Depot.

So Will bought the entire system and set it up to ward off the terrorist deer that were attacking his bushes every night.  It seemed to work, since in the middle of the night he could hear the hose spraying again and again.

However, despite the nightly  hose spritzes the bushes kept getting more and more chewed up. They had become nothing more than little stumpy shrubs. Will decided to find out what was really going on at night. He went to a local electronic and gadget store and bought a high-end pair of night vision goggles. (As I said, salespeople just love Will).

Deer Story 3

That night he put on his goggles and  stayed up looking out his bedroom window into the backyard.  When it was completely dark he heard the hose go off. That’s when he saw something completely unexpected.

Will had not realized how much the summer drought was impacting the deer. They weren’t just hungry. They were also thirsty.   All the local sources of water had dried up and deer were having a hard time finding enough water to survive.

Will’s motion activated hose sprayer was the best thing that had ever happened to the deer.  Over the summer nights the deer had come to figure out that if they came to that particular spot water would magically appear.

DEER STORY 2

Will looked out his window, and through his night vision goggles he saw the deer lining up to get near the motion detectors, and then thirstily  lapping up the water as fast as the hose could spray it out.

That night Will realized the deer were not terrorists intent on destroying his landscaping. He suddenly understood they were just beautiful fragile creatures trying not to die during the worst drought in 20 years.

Will left the motion detectors and hose set up all summer, and even set out out some buckets filled with water. His bushes got smaller until they were nothing more than little nubs. Will didn’t care. He loved staying up at night and watching the animals he had saved.

Will doesn’t spend much time worrying about his landscaping anymore. Now he is into buying gadgets for his car.  The last time I saw Will he had just installed into his car a device that was supposed to change red lights into green. All you had to do was push a button on your dashboard and the car would send a signal to the light automatically turning it from red to green.

DEER STORY 1

Will and I took a ride in his car to test it out. We pulled up to a red light and Will pushed the button on his dashboard. The light stayed red. Will explained that the saleswoman had told him that sometimes it took a few minutes for the signal to reach the light. We sat at the light for several more minutes and then the light switched to green. Will was happy that the device he had paid $395 for had actually worked.

Yes, salespeople everywhere love Will. So do deer.

Bun-nanza Volunteers Photo

Below is a new photo of  all the Volunteers who helped at last week’s Bun-nanza event.

News12photo

You can see more about the event at the Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue website, including pictures of all the rabbit winners.

If you missed Bun-nanza  we will keep you informed of other upcoming events.

One of the statistics mentioned at the event pointed out how much help was needed. In the past year Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue was asked to take in over 400 abandoned rabbits. However, due to space and financial constraints they were only able to take in an additional 12.

Please help this excellent cause.

The Gentle Woman Visits Bun-nanza!

The Gentle Woman was at Bun-nanza today in Martinsville New Jersey. This an annual teaching and participation event held by Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

Bun Day Oct 5 023

The public came to learn the proper ways to care for rabbits, and many brought their long-eared friends to get a nail clipping.

Bun Day Oct 5 003

The fellow comfortably resting in the hut is Joey who Rabbit Rescue has up for adoption.

Bun Day Oct 5 007This large male Lop is Mistletoe who was brought in by his owners for a nail trim.

Bun Day Oct 5 019

Michelle was the resident nail trimmer, who has a very soft touch with all the bunnies.

Bun Day Oct 5 022We did not get this little grey rabbit’s name. He was too busy enjoying his parsley to tell us.

Bun Day Oct 5 012

Pictured above are Sherry and Peggy, two of the volunteers. Peggy grew up on a farm and is currently writing a children’s book entitled “Chatham Hill”  based on the experience. The book has 3 bunnies as the main characters with a cat as the protagonist.

Bun Day Oct 5 015

This Young lady brought in her two rabbits Bella and Buttons to say hello.

Bun Day Oct 5 013

In addition to seeing rabbits, visitors to the event learned many useful facts all rabbit owners should know.

Bun Day Oct 5 016

Karen, the founder of Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue holds a very curious young bunny.

Bun Day Oct 5 014

Nina helped raise money by selling bunny logo T-Shirts and sweatshirts.

Bun Day Oct 5 024

A contest was held to announce the winners of the Photo Contest.

Old Mom Photos 004The Gentle Woman’s bunny Sunshine actually won a prize!  His picture won the “bunny loafing” category.

Bun Day Oct 5 030As you can see, Sunshine was thrilled with the gift basket prize when it came home.

This was a wonderful event at which we learned much and had a lot of fun.

The Nasty Woman’s Retirement Card

O.K. I’m not proud of this but since this blog always tells the truth in its stories, here is what happened.

Every office has someone who is just plain nasty for no reason. In our office it was Nancy. She was an older woman who for some reason the boss put up with. In addition, it was as if her job functions had been specifically designed so that she could cause the maximum number of problems for everyone else.She was the Office Manager so you just could not avoid her.

For example, one of her responsibilities was to backup the data on the  computer system . Now there are a lot of ways and a lot of times you can do that without interfering with other people’s work. But Nancy really didn’t care about the other people. When she thought it was a convenient time for her to back up the system she would simply shut it down without warning and do the backup.  If you happened to be half way through a project at that exact moment, you got kicked out of the system and your data was lost.  It was always easy to tell when Nancy had decided to do the backup.  If you suddenly heard one or more people in the office start  swearing about having lost everything they just worked on for the last hour you knew Nancy had struck again.

The boss was very big on having a little get together whenever anyone left or retired. He thought of us as one big happy family. We thought of ourselves as one big dysfunctional family.  Nancy was in charge of getting a special gift for whoever was leaving. She always chose the most inappropriate item possible. It was obvious to everyone but  the boss she was doing it on purpose.  For Sally the diabetic, Nancy got a huge box of chocolates. John the recovering alcoholic got a bottle of scotch.

Yes,  Nancy put real effort into her meanness, but for some reason the boss kept her. We were all convinced that she had something on him. Either she had proof he was embezzling, or maybe she had an affair with him many years ago. Considering the fact that the boss and Nancy were both ancient and extremely unattractive, none of us wanted to picture the affair.

Then the happy day came. It was time for Nancy to retire. Of course, the boss planned a little celebration at lunch time in the office. He did not know what kind of gift to get, so he got a card with a big envelope. He told us to pass it around in the office. We were all to sign the card and put cash in the envelope for Nancy.  He started off the cash donation by putting  $50 in small bills of his own money into the envelope.

When the card and envelope came to me, the first thing I did was to take it back to my cubicle and make sure no one was looking. Then I signed the card and took $5K out of the envelope. Then I brought the card to the next person.

At lunchtime we all gathered in the cafeteria.  On the table was a cake, the card and the envelope. When Nancy opened the envelope and pulled out the money, I was close enough to see there was about $12 in total.  Apparently I was not the only one in the office going home with a little extra cash that day.

The cake looked very odd. Nancy had one of those rare allergies to blueberries and somehow whoever had ordered the cake had managed to get a bakery to make a blueberry cake. The writing on the cake said, “It won’t be the same without you”.

The ironic part is that Nancy actually gave a weird sort of crooked smile when she saw the blueberry cake and the message on it. As a professional nasty person herself, perhaps she appreciated that we had all gone the extra mile for her.

The Gentle Woman Presents “All My Bunnies”

This title,  of course,  is a spoof of the famous soap opera All My Children. In a way, rabbit owners do think of these lovely creatures as children. They are totally innocent and completely dependent on their owners for everything they need to stay alive.  Like children; by complete chance they can be brought into a good  loving home or a terrible environment.

The Gentle Woman has been caring for rabbits since she was a little girl. When she was just 8 yeas old her parents got her a New Zealand Albino, which she named “Alvin” after the popular cartoon chipmunk.

Children 1

She was so excited about Alvin that she put him in a little green wheelbarrow and she and her brother took him around the neighborhood to meet everyone. They spent a summer afternoon pushing the wheelbarrow from house to house. Looking back on it she realizes that Alvin must have been a very patient fellow not to jump out along the way.

Years later when she was in Junior High she performed her first bunny rescue.  Her friend Stanley was moving to Texas and his parents would not allow him to bring his rabbit, which was a lovely Blue Dutch

children 2

She named him Illya. This was after the Russian spy  Illya Kuryakin from The Man From Uncle T.V. show.

illya

Why the name of a T.V. spy was a good fit for a rabbit is not really clear, but the junior high girl had a real crush on David McCallum, so she was eager to name anything after him.

When the Gentle Woman entered high school she rescued another bunny from a local shelter. Her father made a two dollar donation to the shelter and took home a brown domestic mix.

children 3

This was a female bunny and got the name “Jackie” after Jackie Kennedy. Jackie was a lot more adventurous than Illya or Alvin had been and used to run around the house. One afternoon it seemed that Jackie had run away for good. It turned out she was just relaxing quietly under the bed.

Years went by and with the rush of college and then marriage  and careen there were no bunnies in the Gentle Woman’s life for a long time.

Then came Summer.  When he came into her life she suddenly remembered what she had been missing.

GREG PICTURES 007

Summer was a New Zealand Albino Dwarf and had not had a happy life until that point. This was the first time The Gentle Woman had owned a bunny as an adult. Summer was not well and was much more work than any rabbit she had owned before, but he touched her life like no other. She cared for him when he was sick and he loved her for it.

When Summer died she never wanted  to get another rabbit. But every time she went on the internet she could not help looking at pictures of rabbits. Then she came on a link for Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

Bunny and Cat 004

She ended up adopting “Thomas” who she renamed Sunshine. She named him that in memory of that warm day from long ago when she took her first rabbit from house to house to meet the neighbors. Sunshine is a domestic mix and was hard to place since most people considered him too lively.

Sunshine is now a pert of the Gentle Woman’s home and she knows that whatever she does in the future and wherever she lives, there will always be a rabbit with her.

The Girl Who Won’t Eat Fish

This is a true story given  told by “Maria” (not her real name) to the Editor of East Coast Stories.. Maria was a little girl in Colombia when the drug lord Pablo Escobar was at the height of his power. The name Escobar still commands such fear that she does not want to use her real name.

Maria works in customer service at a major New York area airport. She is perfect for the job. Maria is fluent in Spanish and English and is what some would call a “classic Colombian beauty.” She has long flowing jet black hair and a warm inviting smile. She has a charming way of dealing with people that immediately calms down even the most troublesome customer. You may think that nothing bad had ever happened in her life. You would be wrong.

She grew up in a  rural town in Colombia. Her family was very poor but Maria did not realize it. Unlike a lot of poor people in Columbia her family always had enough to eat.  The little town was located near a wide and slow moving river with plenty of fish. Beans, rice and fish were the main sources or nutrition, along with whatever vegetables they could get.

Even as a little girl Maria knew something big was going on in the country. The adults were often gathered in groups having animated discussions, but would stop speaking when a child came near.  Wherever she went Maria heard the name “Pablo” repeated,  as if speaking the name of a saint.

These were the days of Pablo Escobar, the most powerful drug lord the world has ever seen.

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar ruled the Medellin Drug Cartel and the poor people loved him. They thought of him as a sort of Robin Hood. He sold illegal drugs to wealthy Americans and distributed the profits to the poor of Colombia that the rich Colombian politicians had forgotten. If a poor family’s house burned  down one of Pablo’s men would show up with cash and pay to have it rebuilt.  If a constriction laborer died in an accident, Pablo would send cash to the widow and children.  The people loved Pablo.

But then Pablo stopped loving them. Pablo was not afraid of the Colombian justice system. He had been to jail many times and he was not afraid of it. He could walk out of a Colombian prison whenever he wanted. He had an arrangement with judges and police in Colombia.  He called it “plata o plomo”. In English this is “silver or lead”.  If you went along with the cartel you were rewarded with a generous bribe (silver). If not, you died in a spray of bullets (lead). The system work well, until the Colombian authorities agreed  to extradite  Pablo to the United States the next time he was captured.

Escobar felt betrayed. He knew that if he ever landed in a U.S. prison he would be there for life.  So Escobar and his cartel started their campaign of violence within Colombia. Murders and bombings were every day occurrences.  There had always been murders of rival gang members or uncooperative policemen, but this was different. Pablo was punishing the authorities by random mass killings of ordinary citizens.  Bombings in marketplaces and random shootings became common. Escobar swore they would continue until Colombia passed a law stating there would be no extradition to the U.S.

As a little girl Maria was only vaguely aware of these things. They all seemed like events in the far off city that did not impact her. Then one late afternoon she walked down to the river to see what the fishermen were bringing in for the day’s catch.  When she got to the river, she saw that most of the town was gathered at the banks of the river. A body had washed up. It was riddled with bullets.

This would have been traumatic to see just once, but that was not the end of it. Every day more bodies would wash up. Maria’s town was at a bend in the river, and all the murders that were happening upstream ended up on the shore of Maria’s town. Day after day bodies came down. It became a daily ritual as people rushed down to the river to see the bodies from Pablo’s revenge.

As a child, Maia began to have nightmares. She was afraid to go down to the river she used to love. She stopped eating fish since she associated them with the river and the dead bodies. She just wanted it all to end and to get out.

Her parents somehow got the family out of Colombia. They were smart enough not to speak out against Escobar or say that was why they were leaving.  Maria does not know what her parents did or paid to get them out. Her parents won’t talk about it.

Pablo Escobar died  in a shootout with the Colombian police on December 2, 1993.  The drug trade continues stronger than ever.

Every few years Maria’s mother forces the whole family to go back to Colombia and visit relatives. Maria doesn’t like to go but makes the trip to keep peace in her family.  She is always amazed at how hot and humid it is and how small her old town looks. She won’t go near the river. She is always glad to get back to the U.S.

You may have seen Maria at the airport without even realizing it.  She is the beautiful woman with the jet black hair.  She is behind the counter smiling at the passengers. Perhaps the smile is because she knows that the problems of a delayed flight or a missing bag are nothing compared to what she faced as a child.

It Wasn’t Worth The Money

Carmine Marasco used to tell a story about a rather nasty trick an old judge played on him while Carmine was just a struggling young lawyer. It was one of his favorite stories. Not only is it true; it even has a lesson to learned.

CARMINE 004

When Carmine was first starting out in the legal profession he had a case where his client had a claim against  an insurance company. It was a very small claim and the insurance company decided to settle out of court. The only formality left was for the judge to approve the settlement and the legal fee to be paid to Carmine by the insurance company. That would take place in open court on Wednesday as part of the many “housekeeping” functions of the court. So Carmine was surprised when he was called into a meeting in the old judge’s chambers on Tuesday afternoon.

He was even more surprised that the insurance company’s lawyer (we will call him “Mr. Smith”) was there. The old judge got right to the point.

“Mr. Smith tells me you two have reached a settlement, ” said the judge.

“Yes we have your honor,” replied Carmine.

“How much were you going to submit for your fee?” asked the judge.

“Well your honor, it was not a very complicated case so I am going to charge $250.”

The old judge leaned forward and in a serious  voice explained the situation to Carmine. “That’s too little young man.  This is what will happen tomorrow. I will ask you how much of a fee you are submitting and you will ask for  $1,000. Mr. Smith here will object and I will cut the fee back to $500. Everybody comes out ahead. Mr. Smith looks like he has saved his company money, I look like I am keeping legal fees down and you get twice as much money as you thought you were going to get.”

Carmine knew it sounded wrong. Hell, he knew it was wrong, but he went along with it. Not for the extra $250, but because it seemed impossible for a new young lawyer to go against an old respected judge and an experienced corporate attorney. So the plan was set for the next day.

On Wednesday the courtroom was packed. There were a lot of cases and motions to get through that day and the minor insurance settlement was just the first of many items on the docket that day. Every seat was filled with lawyers and their clients waiting their turns. None of them was paying any attention to Carmine. At least not at first.

Carmine and Mr. Smith presented the settlement to the judge who approved it without comment. Then Carmine presented his request for his $1,000 fee and Mr. Smith objected. Carmine knew that the next step was that the judge would agree with Mr. Smith’s objection. What Carmine did not expect was that the judge would start screaming at him at the top of his lungs.

“This is outrageous!” screamed the judge. “You should be ashamed to  even try to submit a fee that high. Well young man I am going to teach you a lesson! I am going to cut your fee in half! You are only going to get Five Hundred!”

Every eye on the courtroom was now giving Carmine a hostile stare. They all thought of him as some sort of money gouger. The type of sleazy lawyer that made them all look bad. On top of that the other lawyers in the courtroom were all now mad at Carmine for having gotten the judge in a bad mood before their cases came up.

Carine left the courtroom with his head down trying not to meet anyone in the eye. He realized that financially it had all worked out exactly the way the judge had told him it would. He had not realized, however, that the  way the old judge would make sure everyone knew he was keeping legal fees low would be  to shout it to the world, and shame Carmine in the process.

There was nothing technically illegal about  what Carmine, the judge and the insurance company lawyer had done. But Carmine knew it was unethical. It bothered him so much that it was the first and last time he ever crossed that line.

Carmine Marasco went on to have a distinguished legal career and eventually even became a judge himself.  He always kept in the back of his mind the old judge from the insurance case. He was Carmine’s perfect example of what type of judge not to be.  After all, giving up your integrity isn’t worth the money.

The Girl In The Terrycloth Shorts

The August day was ridiculously hot and the apartment was not air-conditioned. Greg decided to get out and go for a walk to the park where he hoped it would be a little cooler. Besides, someone was moving into the apartment across the hall and the noise of the moving furniture and the swearing of the moving men was getting annoying.

He hoped whoever was moving into the apartment was better than the last people. They were an attractive young couple who when they first came to the building seemed very nice and totally in love. But shortly after they moved in the screaming began. They yelled at each other at all hours of the day and night. One night the woman had actually locked the man out of the apartment while he was completely naked and would not let him back in. Exactly how she had done that  was a mystery.

He pounded on the door and screamed but the woman would not let him back in. He finally had to go naked to the basement and ask old Mrs. Stanton the Superintendent to let him back in. After that a petition was circulated in the building to get the young couple out. It was a large building but 100% of the tenants signed the petition. The building was owned by a corporation  in New York somewhere, but the petition got the corporation’s attention.

A week later the young couple was on their way out. As they were moving out they made a ridiculous display of acting all lovey-dovey. They were kissing and calling each other pet names.  Some of the tenants who had signed the petition wanted to take bets on how many years it would be until one of the young couple killed the other.  Most assumed it would be the woman who killed the man.

So that was how the apartment across the hall from Greg’s apartment became vacant. He had no intention of meeting the new tenant, he just wanted to go for a walk and get out of the heat and the noise.

Then Greg stepped out of his apartment and there in the hallway was a beautiful young woman in a pair of light blue terrycloth shorts and a matching terrycloth top. The outfit was very small and tight and her figure was striking. She was watching the moving men lug her furniture into the apartment. She heard Greg come out of his apartment and turned and smiled at him.

Greg was by nature an extremely shy person.  He would normally never try to just walk up and  introduce himself to a beautiful girl. But she was right there and it seemed perfectly natural to introduce himself and welcome her to the building. He assumed she would give him the “how dare you speak to me” look that many beautiful woman use. Instead she was very nice and incredibly  easy to talk to.  They spoke about how difficult it was to find an apartment. Greg decided it would not be a good time to mention how the apartment had become vacant.

They finally  said goodbye and Greg went for his walk to the park. When he returned he was disappointed to see that the apartment door across from his was closed. The girl in the terrycloth shorts was all moved in. He felt like knocking on her door, but was not sure what to say and thought  it would seem too pushy. So he went back to his own apartment and watched some T.V.

It was getting late in the afternoon when there was a knock on his door. He opened it and there she was. Her phone was not working and she asked if she could use his to call her mother and tell her the move went O.K.  Greg pretended not to listen to the call, but of course hung on every word. When she told her mother that she had not yet gotten any food for her apartment, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

When she got off the phone, Greg said, “I could not help overhearing that you had no food. There is a great new Swiss restaurant near here.  I would love to take you there.” To his surprise she actually said yes and  agreed he would pick her up (by walking across the hall) in two hours.

When dinner time came he knocked on her door and when she opened it he got a surprise. She was no longer dressed in her skimpy terrycloth outfit.  She had changed to something that made her look like a schoolteacher from the 1890s.  She was wearing a plaid skirt and boots and a long sleeved white shirt that went all the way up to her neck and clasped with some sort of ivory broach. The only parts of her that were not covered were her hands and her head. She still looked great but it was a bit of a shock after the outfit from the afternoon.

At dinner he found out that she actually was a schoolteacher, and she loved it. She taught physical education to kids in the K through 6th grade. Greg was smart enough not to say she didn’t look like his idea of a “gym” teacher. He had never thought someone so feminine and charming would be in that line of work.

A good thing he had not voiced his thoughts since the phrase “gym teacher” turned out to be taboo. Apparently there was a whole new philosophy in the world of physical eduction.  In the old days a few kids who were good athletes liked gym class and everyone else hated it and never exercised again after they got out of school. But she taught “fitness for life” so that all the kids enjoyed themselves and had fun. He pictured her surrounded by a bunch of little kids all day and he liked the scene.

Greg had never met someone so easy to talk to or so nice.  The Swiss restaurant was the first of many dates. In less than a year they were married. The wedding was a huge Italian-Irish celebration, but that is another story.

A couple of secrets came out after they were married. It turns out that the terrycloth outfit had been borrowed from her sister and was way too small for her. She had not expected to meet anyone while wearing it.  She also confessed that her phone had been working perfectly and that she actually did have some food in her apartment. She had liked Greg immediately and knew he was too shy to ask her out without a little hint.

What ever happened to the Girl In the Terrycloth Shorts? She is still around and still with Greg.  Some of the readers of this blog may know her better as The Gentle Woman.

Tidal Wave of Kids

My mother was an actress, and her mother was an actress. So my mother somehow assumed that my sisters and I must have inherited  vast acting ability. She was wrong. Still, that did not stop her from trying to turn us into major television stars.

She did succeed in getting us into three local T.V. commercials at Channel Eight in New Haven Connecticut. After that success she thought we were ready to hit the big time T.V. stations in New York City.

Old TVOf course, the major T.V. networks are a lot more professional than Channel  Eight. Just to get in to talk to them you need to have a professionally done portfolio, full of action pictures, head shots, a professionally prepared resume – the works.

The problem is that type of portfolio costs a lot of money. Especially if you want it done well enough to compete with the thousands of other mothers who are all trying to turn their kinds into T.V. stars.

That’s when my mother came up with her Big Idea. She knew some people who were in the process of preparing a brochure for above-ground pools.  You know, the type of junk-mail advertisement you get in the Spring showing a lot of happy kind swimming in an above-ground plastic pool while the adults have drinks and hamburgers nearby.

My mother made a deal with the people preparing the brochure. They could set up the pools in our backyard. They could use our home’s water and electricity, and the film crew would even use the kitchen to prepare snacks.  In return, my sisters and I would be the stars featured in the brochure and the photographers would also create a complete portfolio for the three of us all free of charge. What could possibly go wrong? It tuns out a lot.

We thought the whole thing was going to take at most a couple of hours. That was a major under-estimate. On Saturday, trucks started rolling  down our driveway and unloading pools at 6 A.M. My parents had thought there would be one or two pools set up in the backyard, but the pool company had other ideas. We had a very large flat backyard and they decided to take full advantage of it and set up one of every model pool they had.

I had no idea there were so many different styles, sizes, shapes and colors of pools. Big burly men with hammers and crowbars assembled the pools as quickly and efficiently as a group of carnies setting up a Ferris wheel. As soon as they were done with one, they would put a hose in it and begin setting up the next pool while the last one filled with water. We had 3 outdoor faucets, and all three were running continually at full blast. As a kid, it never occurred to me what that must be doing to our water bill; but I bet my father thought about it. He didn’t say anything, but spent the morning nervously pacing the house and looking out at the mess in the backyard. Finally, he made up some excuse about an emergency at work and left in his car, not to be seen for a good part of the day.

By noon time the pools were set up. Evey square inch of the backyard was covered with pools all filled with water to the very top. The pools were no more than one foot apart. There was just enough room for the photographers to set up their equipment for our big modeling debut. My sisters and I were already in our bathing suits waiting to be told what pools to jump into.

That’s when the barbarian hoards descended. It turns out you can’t set up 50 pools in your backyard without attracting a lot of attention from the neighbors.Kids from miles around were streaming into our yard. The kids were of all ages shapes and heights, and every one of them was wearing a bathing suit.

The director of the photographic shoot was thrilled. This was great for his brochure. Instead of having pictures of the same 3 kids over and over, his brochure would now have lots of different kids of different ages. It would be a much more interesting brochure.

Pool Pictures

My mother was furious. This wasn’t the deal. Her kids were supposed to be the featured stars. On the other hand, she couldn’t really tell the kids to leave. They were the children of her friends and neighbors. Adults had started arriving too. Many of them were bringing plates of food and coolers of soda. It had turned into a major unexpected block party.

The Director of Photography was ecstatic. He got his wish to have lots of kids in the pictures and my mother had to compromise and make sure that my sisters and I were featured on the cover. Part of the deal was that my mother also had to change into her bathing suit and be part of the photo shoot . After all, she was a legitimate television actress so it was a big deal to get her to appear in a throw-away pool brochure.

Mom pool 001

My mother may have been upset, but I was having a great time. We may not have been T.V. stars but we were stars in the neighborhood. After all, how many other kids had 50 pools in their backyard, and a giant party? My dad pulled into the driveway, having returned from his work “emergency”. He couldn’t believe his eyes. However, after he adjusted to the idea of the unplanned party, he started having a good time joking and eating with the other fathers.

The best part of the day was the very end. When the photo shoot was over the  big men started draining the pools by opening valves at the bottom. Then they told us kids it was time for some real fun.  There was one pool which was much larger than all the others. It was blue and round and about six feet deep. It was so big that all of the kids at the party could fit in it at once, although it was a tight squeeze.

The big men told all the kids to jump into the round pool, and we were happy to comply. We thought they were going to open the valve at the bottom and we would slowly float down. But the big men had a better idea.

When all the kids were in the big pool, the two men took their tools and suddenly removed a large side panel from the pool. This caused the entire pool to collapse at once and all the water rushed out onto the lawn in a tidal wave of water and kids. The mothers and fathers watching roared with laughter.

So what ever happened? Did my sisters and I ever become major television stars? I think you already know the answer to that. We did get professional portfolios and  while my sisters got no calls, I did actually get one audition. It was for a toothpaste commercial being produced by a major New York advertising company.  I went to New York with my mother and we waited two hours to see the producer casting the commercial. I stood in his office and he asked me to say the line “Cleaner Teeth!” while smiling. I had to repeat the line 5 times and then he politely told me he would get back to us. He never did.

I don’t mind not getting the commercial. After all, a lot of children have appeared in toothpaste commercials. How many of them can say they rode a tidal  wave of kids in their own backyard?

Quick Sketeches

These are pictures of some quick sketches made by the Gentle Woman’s daughter.

ROBIN PAINTINGS 002Drawn with pencil free-hand.

ROBIN PAINTINGS 001The Gentle Woman’s daughter does not consider herself a good artist. Most of these drawings were rescued from the garbage after the Gentle Woman’s daughter had thrown them out.

ROBIN PAINTINGS 003A sad girl gets comfort from her cat.

ROBIN PAINTINGS 004If you look closely you will see that one of the anime figures has a small tear.

ROBIN PAINTINGS 006

Burning Leaves Cooked the Perfect Potato

The best  baked potatoes in the world were those cooked in piles of burning leaves. This is the nostalgic story of that lost culinary art. When I was a boy in Stamford Connecticut, Fall was my favorite time of year. By October, the sun was still bright, but the crisp wind off Long Island Sound hinted that Winter’s cold was just around the corner.

FALL TREES

All the yards in my neighborhood had huge old maple and hickory trees. When the wind blew, brightly colored leaves rained down on us. This was long before the days of recycling and mulching, so my father would simply rake the leaves into a gigantic pile at the curb and light it on fire.

I know this wasn’t good for the air quality index (a term which didn’t exist then) but burning leaves was one of the highlights of the Fall. The children would circle around the fires for warmth, watching in amazement as the leaves  quickly caught fire and burned; giving off a wonderful aroma and crackling sounds.

My mother would give each child a large raw potato to throw into the burning leaves. Then we’d search the neighborhood for the largest sticks we could find and periodically pull the potatoes out of the fire to check on their progress.

After what seemed like forever, the pile of leaves was reduced to a fine ash and our potatoes were done. We held them in gloved hands as we brushed off the blackened skin. I can still taste that first delicious bite!

baked potato

Over the years, I’ve eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the country, and I often order a baked potato with my meal. But I’ve never had one that tasted as good as those I ate as a child, while a cold October wind blew a million leaves through the air.

(Note: This story was written by the Editor of East Coast Stories and first appeared in the book We Made Own Fun.)

The Gentle Woman’s Bunny Settles in

So many people have asked how the Gentle Woman’s bunny is doing that we decided to post some new pictures.

Old Mom Photos 013Before we had Sunshine we never realized that some types of rabbits can jump up onto furniture as easily as a cat can.

Old Mom Photos 015Here he is contemplating his next move.

Old Mom Photos 007This picture captures an actual “Binky” with Sunshine jumping and turning mid-air.

Old Mom Photos 004Not at all camera shy.

Old Mom Photos 016Aaah!

Old Mom Photos 008Trying to figure out how to climb an iron table leg.

Old Mom Photos 002The stairs are always fun.

Old Mom Photos 017Chewing on a pajama.

Old Mom Photos 005Taking a break.

The Real Arthur Ashe

It was so long ago it seems like a different world. Forty-four years to be exact when the American  Arthur Ashe faced off against the Australian John Newcombe in the Quarter Finals of the 1970 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Forest Hills New York. My friend Michael’s father was in the publishing business and somehow he had not only gotten us tickets to the event, he had managed to secure us Press Passes which included access to the locker rooms and all the club member areas.

Tennis was different then. We wore jackets and ties to the event. The rest of the crowd was equally dressed up. People who now go to tennis tournaments dress like they are pretending to be players, in tennis outfits and  sports gear. The players themselves now dress in multicolored fancy outfits often with their own design labels.

Arthus Ashe

Forty Four years ago the sport was a lot less colorful. Players dressed in all white. Tennis was mostly played at private clubs with all white membership. The professional tennis players themselves were white. Then Arthur Ashe came along.

He did not actually look like a professional athlete. He was tall and skinny and wore glasses. He did not have what would be called a dramatic style, but he was persistent and chased after every ball.

John Newcombe was considered the top player that year. He had been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

John Newcombe

Newcombe was ruggedly handsome, very muscular with a wickedly fast serve that could actually knock the racket out of an opposing player’s hand. Everyone assumed that Newcombe would crush Ashe and move on to the semi-finals.

As we watched the first set it appeared that all the predictions were correct. Ashe was unable to return Newcombe’s serve. Michael and I took full advantage of our press passes and went down to the members-only restaurant which was at court level. It had a plexiglass wall that looked out at the court directly behind Ashe. We sat there as Ashe missed serve after serve by Newcombe. The tennis ball would fly by Ashe and then smash into the plexiglass with a bang hard enough so shake the whole window.

Newcombe did indeed crush Ashe in the first set beating him 6 games to 1.  However Arthur Ashe showed no emotion. As one of the first African-Americans to go pro in the sport, Ashe had been given strong advice from an early coach on how to behave. The coach warned Ashe that there would be some prejudiced officials who would be looking for excuses to throw Ashe out of a match.

The coach told Arthur never to show anger if he was losing and never to gloat if he was winning. Ashe followed that advice and soon found that it actually gave him an advantage, especially over very emotional opponents.  He found that it drove some opponents crazy that they could get no reaction from Arthur no matter what they did.

Instead of getting upset, Ashe must have re-examined the techniques of his game, because somehow in the second set he was like a new man. He was able to return the serves and volleys and began winning games. He still lost the second set, but it had to go to a tie-breaking game and when the second set was done Newcombe had only won 7 games to 6.

By the third set Ashe seemed to have found the weaknesses in Newcombe’s play, and Ashe won the third set 7 games to 5. The score was now Newcombe 2 Sets Ashe 1 Set. It took 3 sets to win a match.

The next set was incredibly exciting. Both players were terrific.  They had long volleys, smashing overhead returns and dropping net balls. The set was tied at 6 games each.

There would be a tie-breaker game. If Newcombe won the game he would win the match. If Ashe won, then play would continue into a fifth set.  The officials blew a bugle and hoisted a red flag to show the seriousness of the tie-breaker. Looking back it seems silly that adults would do that, but it was really exciting and the crowd loved it.

The tie breaker seemed to go on forever, with Ashe returning almost every shot Newcombe could hit.  But in the end, it wasn’t Ashe’s day, and Newcombe won the game, set and match. Arthur Ashe had lost the match, but he had won the crowd, which was on its feet loudly cheering both men.

Michael and I made our way down through the crowd and used our press passes to get into the locker room. It was exactly like what you would expect in a tennis club in those days. It was spacious with oak paneling and thick plush carpet. Sitting on one of the benches was Arthur Ashe himself quietly discussing the finer points of the match with two other men who seemed to be coaches. As so-called “reporters” we had the right to go up and ask him questions, but we did not. Somehow it just seemed wrong to disturb such a sports gentleman and ask him a lot of stupid questions about why he had lost. He may have lost but what was more important was that he had never stopped trying even when he had been crushed 6 games to 1 in the first set. Michael and I slipped out of the locker room and left Arthur Ashe and his coaches to discuss strategies for future matches.

Unfortunately the Arthur Ashe story itself does not have a happy ending. Despite being rail thin and a professional athlete he had congenital heart problems and underwent heart bypass surgery. Even in the 1980’s hospitals were not routinely screening blood for HIV and  Ashe was given blood contaminated with the virus during his operation. He contracted HIV and died from AIDS in 1993. Getting a fatal disease that way would have been enough to make anyone bitter, but that was not his stye. He used it as an opportunity to raise AIDS awareness and raise money for research. He continued to be a philanthropist and  inspiration right up until his death. He faced this final episode in his life the way he faced his opponents on the court, with a quiet dignity and determination.

Ashe with Glasses

The Real Taylor Swift – 13-13

This summer has been very cool, after a long cold winter. In fact, this summer has been so cold that it is easy to forget how unbelievably hot last summer was. It was in the peak of the heatwave in 2013 that Taylor Swift gave an outdoor concert at the Meadowlands in New Jersey as part or her Red tour, and East Coast Stories was there on July 13, 2013.

Taylor Swift July 13th 2013 174

Taylor has not had good luck with outdoor concerts. When she gave one in Boston she was caught on stage in a torrential freezing cold rain storm that left her unable to perform  for several weeks. In New Jersey she had the opposite weather problem. It was 95 degrees and 85 percent humidity at an outdoor concert with no shade.

The crowd started to arrive hours before the event and the first thing they noticed was the large police presence. These were not ordinary crowd control police. These guys were dressed in full battle gear with bullet-proof vests, helmets and M16s . It turned out that the government intelligence services had picked up what was later described as a “credible terrorist threat”. Taylor Swift had been notified of this, but the crowd at the time did not know. We just thought the police were a little over the top with the battle gear. After all, it’s not like it was a hockey game.

If you have never been to a Taylor Swift concert then you may not be prepared for the crowd. They don’t just watch the event. They are an integral part of the show. A lot of the people are in costumes relating to the various videos Taylor has done. People have intricate hand-made signs that light up.  Despite the heat the woman next to us was dressed in a full body cat suit with fur. We were afraid that at any moment she would pass out from the heat and we would have to carry her out.

The concert was in Metlife stadium where this year the Super Bowl was played. We were lucky enough to get seats on the field, near the stage. Before the concert starts, Taylor’s mother comes out and walks through the crowd.  She does this every concert and picks out about 10 or 15 people who get invited to come back stage at the end of the concert to have pizza and soda with Taylor herself. They usually get picked based on how good their costumes are and how enthusiastic behave. A fellow near us got picked. Since it was the Red tour, a lot of people had dressed in red, but this guy had gone the extra step. He had fashioned a costume made entirely out of those giant red plastic beer cups you see at every company picnic. He was wearing hundreds of them including a hat made from them. He looked like an enormous red porcupine with beer cups instead of quills.

There was a stir in the crowd as the concert was about to start. No, you don’t get to see Taylor right away. There are two warmup groups first. There was Florida Georgia Line which is a good but not well known country band. After them came Ed Sheeran who has the hit song The A team.

Ed Sheeran is an incredibly energetic performer. He has no band, so we were expecting him to sit and play the guitar and sing a series of sad songs like The A Team. It turns out that is not his style. He has his guitar fixed up so that it can do repeating and even drum  sounds, which makes him a one man band by himself.   He gets the audience on its feet and singing along with him. He runs around the stage and jumps onto the speakers, at one point coming very close to falling off and into the audience., all without missing a beat.  And he was doing this in 95 degree heat.

The Sun went down we all expected the air to begin to cool. That did not happen. There was no breeze and the stadium was now so packed it was actually hotter than it had been when the show started.

Then came the big moment. Taylor appeared on stage. The noise was unbelievable. Not from the amplifiers, but from the crowd.   A Taylor Swift concert is not just a concert. It is a complete stage show, with multiple scenes, costumes, dancers, acrobats and, of course, music.  Taylor herself not only sings but dances and jumps around the stage. She never hangs back. She works from the very front of the stage getting as close to the audience as possible,  We were hot just sitting in the audience. She must have been roasting.

At one point in the concert she actually walks  through the crowd and sits on a small back stage so that a different part of the audience can see her.

Taylor Swift July 13th 2013 173

The pictures we took at that point are a little different than those you usually see of Taylor Swift, and they are not the clearest. However if you look closely you can see that she is drenched in sweat and her hair is matted down and dripping. Despite that, she never once faltered in her singing and never complained about the heat or the lack of air flow. She was on stage and moving constantly for over three hours giving everything she had for her fans.

When the concert was over and we were leaving we noticed that there were about a thousand people who were in lawn chairs in the parking lot. It turns out that a lot of people who could not get tickets sat in the parking lot just to hear the music.

zz burka

The parking lot was still being patrolled by police with M16 rifles. Now that we know about the terrorist threat it does not seem as far fetched as you might think. It was not just about having a big crowd in one place. Taylor Swift herself is exactly the kind of woman who groups like Al Queda are afraid of. She is beautiful, intelligent, talented and ambitious.  None of her songs are the old time county tunes about “standing by your man” even when he treats you badly or cheats on you. Her songs  all about women who stand up for themselves and don’t allow anyone to mistreat them. Like her song Should’ve Said No.

When some people think of Taylor Swift they visualize one of her pictures from a magazine ad when her hair and makeup are perfect. When we think of the real Taylor Swift we think of someone  who gave 100% for a group of fans in New Jersey despite a death threat and blistering heat. She is beautiful, strong, talented, and never ever Mean.

ZZ TAYLOR

More Fun Than A Barrel of Money

I was a child T.V. Star! Well maybe “Star” is exaggerating a little but. OK. maybe a lot; but I was on T.V. in 3 television commercials.

Old Mom Photos 022I had the angelic face and the blonde hair that showed up great on black & white T.V.  Yes, this was in the early days of television. Back when even the big studios in New York City and Hollywood were primitive by today’s standards.

I was not making commercials in New York or Hollywood.  My commercials were written, produced, filmed and aired at Channel 8 in New Haven Connecticut.

My mother was an experienced  actress. She had been on Broadway and had appeared in the original Car 54 Where Are You? Like most actors she supplemented her income with commercials. She was the spokeswoman for a chain of discount stores named W.T. Grant. She did all their commercials on the radio.

As Christmas time was approaching, the executives at W.T. Grant decided to go all out and make some T.V. commercials advertising their toys.  They had a very low budget, and needed them done fast. My mother was asked to do the commercials and they needed some kids to play with the toys while she did the voice-over.

WT GRANT

My mother volunteered my sisters and me to be in the commercials. What could be cheaper and faster than using your own kids? When I say fast I mean it.  I have heard that some modern commercials, like the kind they air at a Super Bowl can take 6 months to make. At Channel 8 we completed 3 commercials in 1 day, and we didn’t even work overtime.

Mom drove us to New  Haven and showed us around the studio. Old Mom Photos 021

We were excited to be there. None of us kids had ever seen a real T.V. studio before. The first thing that struck us was how fake it all was up close. We saw one set that looked like a boat on T.V. We were shocked to see that in real life it was made of cardboard and paper.

The other strange thing was how few people there were.  To film our commercials there was one cameraman, the director and a  sound engineer. That was it.

The cement floor was covered with a cheap rug. Some furniture and a fake Christmas tree were moved onto the set to make it look like a family’s living room. While  the cameraman  set this up the sound guy kept us kids amused by playing any song we asked for. We really liked The Elephant Walk.

The cameraman was a massive muscular guy with U.S. Navy tattoos.  Most people would find him scary looking, but he was nice and great with us kids. All cameramen were big in those days. The cameras themselves were large and heavy. They were on wheels but with no motors. Cameramen had to be strong enough to smoothly slide the cameras around so the film would not look all jerky.

When it cam time to shoot the commercial, my sisters and I just had to play with the toys while my mother spoke. My sisters got dolls, but I got the fun toy. It was a flying saucer with miniature Martians.  If you cranked it up it would spin.

But there was one line in the voice-over that my mother just could not get right. She was supposed to say, “these toys are more fun than a barrel of monkeys” . The camera was rolling, we kids were playing with our toys and my mother loudly proclaimed that “these toys are more fun that a barrel of money!”

The director, cameraman and sound engineer all roared with laughter. The cameraman called out, “honey, there ain’t nothing more fun than a barrel of money!”

My Mom tried it 5 more times and she kept saying “barrel of money.”  Somehow it got funnier each time and everyone was hysterical.  The director suggested changing the script, but my Mom refused. She was a true professional and insisted she get it right. Finally she took a 15 minute break and had some coffee.  Then she came back and delivered the “barrel of monkeys” line perfectly.

Our 3 commercials done we kids said goodby to the nice people at Channel 8, piled into the station wagon and Mom drove us home while we kids dozed off.

It had been a wonderful day, one I will remember fondly forever.  Looking back now I realize that my mother was right all along. There are not too many days like that. Being with your mother and sisters, and getting to spend the day playing with toys while everyone laughs over and over at something funny.

To a child, a day like that really is more fun than a barrel of money.

Answers to the Gentle Woman’s Anniversary Quiz

We had a big response to the Anniversary quiz. Thank you for all the comments and good wishes from the readers. Below are the answers to the quiz.

  • Question # 1- Answer is # 2 -. Ronald Regan was the the President when the Gentle woman got married.

ZZZ REGAN

  • Question # 2 -Answer is # -2 – The Gentle Woman has a daughter named Robin.

ZZZ ROBIN

  • Question # 3 – Answer is # 3-  Bob Hope said that the key to a good marriage is separate bank accounts.

ZZZ MONEY BAGS

  • Question # 4 – Answer is # 3. – The Gentle Woman has spent her  career as a public school teacher.

ZZZZ OLD SCHOOL HOUSE

  • Questions # 5 – Answer is #1 –  The favorite drink is Kendal Jackson Chardonnay. However she also likes Louis Jardot. If you are a Baby Boomer from the New York & Connecticut area you will get the joke about  Boone’s Farm Strawberry wine. 
    At the time the Gentle Woman was in high school, the drinking age in New York State was only 18 and very loosely enforced.  It was easy for a 15 or 16 year old to buy wine in a liquor store.  Boone’s Farm was an awful tasting wine but an entire bottle only cost one dollar. It came in ridiculous flavors like apple and strawberry to cater to the younger crowd.  The drinking age in Connecticut was 21. However, there were many many liquor stores literally a few feet over the border in New York State. All of them had cases of  Boone’s Farm stacked floor to ceiling waiting for high school kids from Connecticut. The heyday of Boone’s Farm ended when New York raised the drinking age to 21 and decided to actually enforce it. The Gentle Woman wants to point out that she was never a Boone’s farm drinker.

ZZZZ RABBIT WINE

  • Question # 6 – Answer is # 5. – Summer is the Gentle Woman’s favorite time of year.  The hotter the better. That is probably why she named one of her Rabbits Summer.

ZZZ SUN

  • Question # 7 – Answer is # 3 – However, we had an error in the story. The name was supposed to be Tom Carvel. We had mistakenly put down the name as Lou.  Later in life the Gentle Woman did live near Whitney Houston. However, when she was a little girl Tom Carvel was the nearest celebrity.

ZZZZ ICECREAM

  • Question #8 – Answer is #5 – Although the Gentle Woman has been married to the same man for  33 years, she has changed her last name many times. She started the marriage using her husband’s last name. After a few years she legally changed her name so that it was her  maiden name hyphenated with her husband’s. The problem with that was that people kept leaving out the part prior to the hyphen and kept calling her by her husband’s last name.  Therefore she legally changed her name again so that it is now a combination of both names with no hyphen. These changes continue to confuse computers for every tax filing and job application .  She is currently thinking of changing her name again back to her original maiden name.

ZZ COMPUTER

The Gentle Woman’s Annversary Quiz

On August 8, 2014 the Gentle Woman and her husband celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary. Below is a little quiz related to it.

wedding cake

Question # 1 – Who was President of the U.S. when the Gentle Woman got married?

  1. Bush (senior)
  2. Regan
  3. Ford
  4. Lincoln

zzz rabbit

Question # 2 – The Gentle Woman loves animals so much she named one of her children after an animal. Is the name:

  1. Fawn
  2. Robin
  3. Bambie
  4. Squidward

Bob Hope

Question # 3 – Bob Hope was also married for a long time. He said the key to a long and successful marriage is:

  1. Separate Careers.
  2. Separate houses.
  3. Separate bedrooms.
  4. Separate bank accounts.

Question # 4 –
The Gentle Woman has spent her career as a successful:

  1. Writer.
  2. Architect.
  3. Teacher.
  4. Reality star( before the Kardashians ruined the business for everyone else.)

Vino

Question # 5 – The Gentle Woman’s favorite drink is.

  1. Kendal Jackson Chardonnay.
  2. A good Pinot Grigio
  3. Louis Jardot  Pouilly Fuise.
  4. Boon’s Farm strawberry.

Question # 6 – The Gentle Woman’s favorite season is:

  1. Winter.
  2. Spring.
  3. Summer.
  4. Fall.

Question # 7 – The Gentle Woman grew up close to which following celebrity?

  1. Walt Disney.
  2. Whitney Houston.
  3. Lou Carvel.
  4. Roy Rogers.

Question # 8 – While married to the same man for the last 33 years, the Gentle Woman’s last name:

  1. Is the same as before she was married.
  2. She took her husband’s last name.
  3. She used a hyphenated name of hers and her husband’s
  4. She combined her name and her husband’s with no hyphen.
  5. Numbers 2, 3, & 4 combined.

The Gentle Woman’s Second Quiz

People enjoyed the first Gentle Woman’s Quiz so much that we have followed it up with a second:

ADOPTION DAY 026

Question # 1:    Your rabbit throws up a mixture of Timothy Hay and pellets. This is a sign that:

  1. You have been feeding the rabbit too much hay and need to cut back.
  2. He may be developing Katz disease and needs to be checked by the vet.
  3. He just finished watching an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians
  4. It is a trick question. Rabbits cannot vomit.

rabbit temparatures

Question # 2 :  What is a rabbit’s normal body temperature?

  1. 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit the same as humans.
  2. 82.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Their fur coat insulated their core/
  3. Between 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Bunnies average 107 degrees Fahrenheit. This drops to 100 when they mature to full grown rabbits.

Zealand

Question # 3: What was the name of the Gentle Woman’s First bunny?

  1. Sally
  2. Alvin
  3. Mr. Binky
  4. Fluffy

x

Question # 4: Who said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

  1. George Carlin
  2. Mark Twain
  3. Paris Hilton
  4. George Bernard Shaw

zz

Question # 5: What was the name of the rabbit Alice followed in “Alice in Wonderland”?

  1. Timothy Hay.
  2. The Timekeeper.
  3. Mister Blue Coat.
  4. Known only as The White Rabbit.

We will publish the answers in a few days.

Enjoy!

The Gentle Woman Visits Adoption Day

Today the Gentle Woman visited Adoption Day at the Community Animal Hospital in Morris Plains NJ. There were rabbits, dogs and cats all up for adoption.

ADOPTION DAY 043

Our friends from Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue were there with some adorable rabbits.

ADOPTION DAY 042

ADOPTION DAY 025

This fellow is a very friendly Mini-Lop named Taco, who has had a lot of bad luck. Taco has been adopted twice and returned twice. One couple returned him since they did not want his fur getting into their air-conditioning. Another woman returned Taco after she got pregnant.  She had the odd notion that the rabbit would somehow interfere with the health of her unborn child.

ADOPTION DAY 026

This is Kelly, a Lionhead born on March 12, 2013. Her fur is unbelievably soft.

ADOPTION DAY 011

There were also dogs galore. This is Ozzie, a 4 year old Bulldog/Boxer mix. Despite his fierce looks, is is very gentle. He is available for adoption through the Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter.

There were also adorable cats and kittens.

ADOPTION DAY 018

ADOPTION DAY 032

There were many types of dogs available.

ADOPTION DAY 020

This is Peanut, a happy little Chihuahua ready to go home with a lucky family.

Some people brought dogs just to visit.

There was a Labradoodle.

ADOPTION DAY 010

And a very excited Irish Setter. He was so excited to see the other animals that this was the most clear shot we could get since he did not want to hold still.

ADOPTION DAY 041

Two Shelties came in to say hello.

ADOPTION DAY 036

So, whatever type  you like, there is sure to be a rescue animal just waiting for you to bring it home.

ADOPTION DAY 015

ADOPTION DAY 013

The Dance Instructor

I had no interest in Ballroom Dancing, but I was very interested in the dance instructor’s daughter. Cindy, who I knew from King Low Heywood School, had the classic dancer’s body, long flowing black  hair, and piercing dark eyes. She was also very nice, and  not at all stuck up despite her looks. She was very easy to talk to and hinted that she was also interested in me . All of which was why I signed up for lessons at her father’s dance studio, where Cindy and and father were the two instructors. Despite his age, Cindy’s father was in great shape. Tall and thin, he seemed to glide around the floor making even the worst partner look good.

Three different groups came to the school. There were old retired couples, who always got very dressed up since this was their main social event of the week.  Then there were the kids who did not want to be there. These were the days of heavy metal bands, and that is what kids wanted to listen to. It was pure torture for them when their parents sent them to the Starlight  Dance Studio.

Then there was the group I really hated. These were the other young men who took lessons just to flirt with Cindy. Of course I was there for the same reason, but at least Cindy was interested in me. The other guys were crude and a little too “touchy” when they would dance with her. I wanted to intervene, but Cindy told me not to.

She actually did not need my help fending off unwanted advances. Years on the dance floor in revealing dresses had taught her how to take care of herself. She she was able to avoid a man’s hands with a quick spin or a slide backwards. Some guys would try to grab her during a dance, only to discover that her body had moved away long before his hand reached its intended destination. It actually became funny to watch.

At the end of the night, when everyone else had gone home, I would stay and help Cindy and her father clean up the studio. Then Cindy’s father would pour a glass of wine for each of us and we would sit and listen to one of his war stories.

It was hard to reconcile the old man dance instructor  with the young man he described in his stories. You see; he had been part of a B-17 crew in World War II and his stories were always about that.

b17 below

He has been one of the waist gunners. They were stationed in England and flew the long and dangerous bombing missions to Germany.  But he never spoke about the danger or the combat. Like a lot of men who had been in the war, he spoke about everything but the actual war.

He liked to tell Cindy and I about the funny parts of his war experience. Like the fact that there was a guy in his outfit they all called “Frenchie”.  Every night “Frenchie” would talk in his sleep. It was always in perfectly fluent French. In the morning they would tell Frenchie about it and he would swear that he had no idea how to speak French.

He also told us about how the Army Air Corps encouraged them to drink. Many of the men were so young they had never even tasted alcohol before the war. After a bombing mission, the returning crews were all marched into the Mess Hall. Lined up on the tables were shot glasses full of whiskey.  The young men were ordered, that’s right ordered to drink at least one shot each. The  senior officers somehow believed that this was the best way for the men to reduce the tension after a mission.

His longest story was about the time his own plane was hit by flak. The flak  was the anti-aircraft shells the Germans fired at the planes. In the front of each B-17 is a glass bubble where the Bombardier sits.  The Bombardier was a happy and talkative guy named Mike.

After dropping the payload on its target, the plane was hit by flak, right in the position where Mike was. The shell did not blow up since flak shells are designed to explode at a certain altitude, not when they impact with an object. The shell whet right through the glass bubble and continued up another two hundred feet until it explored.

The pilot got on the intercom to call Mike but got no reply. The rest of the crew could not check on him since the hatch to his compartment was jammed shut.  The rest of the trip back to the base in England the crew was silent, not wanting to see what Mike’s mangled body would look like when they got back.

When they landed, the ground mechanics swarmed the plane and pulled Mike out.  They could not believe their eyes. He was uninjured. The flak shell has passed through the plane inches from where Mike sat and had not touched him.

The rest of the crew surrounded Mike to ask him about it but he wouldn’t talk. He would not speak at all. They went into the mess hall and Mike had two shots of whiskey, but did not say a word. Then they all had chow. He ate, but still did not say a thing.

The crew took Mike to see the base doctor. The doctor advised them to see if they could get Mike to sleep, and if he did not then they  should stay up with him to watch him.

It was a very long night. Mike sat on the edge of his bunk just staring off into nothing. No one could get through to him.  Hours and hours went by and he did not say a word. Then as the light was beginning to break on a new day, Mike suddenly looked up and said, “That was close.” Then Mike was back to his old laughing self and his crew cheered.

Cindy and I laughed and she told her father to stop telling silly stories and help lock up for the night.

I often wondered if the war stories were true. Then one evening while couples were dancing I happened to notice Cindy’s father sitting off to the side by himself.  He did not look at all the way he looked when he knew people were watching him.

He looked like someone who had the weight of the world on his shoulders and had seen things no person should ever have to see. I realized he had never told us the other war stories. The ones about the guys who never made it back to have a drink of whiskey. The ones about the planes where the flak hit and did explode.

Then the music stopped and he got up with a big smile clapped. He told everyone how well they danced and how beautiful they all looked tonight. Then he put on more music, and Cindy and I went out to the dance floor, while her father smiled.

Answers to the Gentle Woman’s Bunny Quiz

Dear Readers;

Below are the answers to the Gentle Woman’s Bunny Quiz.

  • Question # 2 – The Answer is # 3. Pancakes lives in Florida.
  • Question # 3 – The Answer is #2. Beatrix Potter wrote the Peter Rabbit stories.
  • Question # 4 – The Answer is #3. The bunny pictured is a Lionhead.
  • Question # 5. – The Answer is #1. The bunny is a Mini-Lop
  • Question # 6 – The Answer is # 3. Judge Doom framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Question # 7 – The answer is # 2. The jump is called a Binky

We hope you enjoyed the quiz.  Keep reading the website and look for more quizzes in the future.

The Gentle Woman’s Bunny Quiz

Test your bunny knowledge! Take the quiz below. In a few days we will publish the answers.

Question # 1

GREG PICTURES 006Summer, the bunny shown above is a:

  1. Mixed breed Domestic.
  2.  New Zealand Albino Dwarf.
  3. A Netherlands Dwarf
  4. A Mini Lop

Question # 2

10405491_10202353916866202_8674453966035016723_aPancakes, the rabbit shown above lives in:

  1.  New Jersey
  2. New York
  3. Florida
  4. Pennsylvania

Question #3

Peter Rabbit

The stories about Peter Rabbit and his family were written by:

  1. Laura Ingalls Wilder
  2. Beatrix Potter.
  3. Kim Kardashian
  4. LLoyd Miller

Question #4

LIONHEADThis adorable fellow is a type of rabbit know as:

  1. Dutch
  2. Rex
  3. Lionhead
  4. Toy

Question #5

MINI LOP

This is a

  1. Mini-Lop
  2. Brown Lop
  3. Long fur fuzzball
  4. Dwarf Dutch

Question # 6

roger-rabbit-photos-149Who actually did frame Roger Rabbit?

  1. His wife Jessica Rabbit.
  2. The detective Eddie Valiant.
  3. Judge Doom.
  4. No one framed him. He was guilty.

Question #7

Sunshine 003Sunshine likes to jump high in the air and kick his feet while is does so. Sometimes he even spins around while in the air. When a rabbit does this it is called:

  1. A Kicker-Bounce.
  2. A Binky.
  3. An Air Stretch.
  4. Pretending to be a cat.

The Gentle Woman to visit Adoption Day at Community Animal Hospital July 20th

Readers keep asking about how the Gentle Woman’s new bunny (Sunshine) is doing.  So here is his latest picture.

ANIMALS 002 Sunshine and Lubby are fascinated with whatever is outside the screen door. Most people think that rabbits and cats cannot co-exist in the same house, but the Gentle Woman has found that as long as you show the cat that the bunny is also a member of the family, they can get along just fine.

ANIMALS 003Sunshine is always fascinated with whatever the cat is doing.

The Gentle Woman is so good with animals that people in the neighborhood often ask her to watch over other creatures while they are away.

ANIMALS 007This is Oakley, a very young Golder Retriever who lives in the neighborhood. In case you are wondering; don’t worry. Oakley is never allowed near the rabbit or the cat.

ANIMALS 017Oakley relaxing on a hot afternoon. Golden Retrievers are one of the friendliest breeds of dog.   However if you are going to get one, don’t forget that they are big and extremely strong and need lots of room to run and exercise. Also, if you have a pool or live anywhere near one, you will find that they are true “water dogs.” They will dive into any body of water they can find. That includes pools, lakes and  mud puddles. If you get a Golden Retriever make sure you also buy  a leash and a big towel.

ANIMALS 013This is Hailey Girl an 11 year old Mountain Cur. This breed of dogs were originally guard dogs. They are friendly to the people who own them, but are very distrustful of others. They are about 2/3 the size of a Golden Retriever.  The one drawback to this breed is that Mountain Curs love to bark. It seems to be their main joy in life.

If you love animals, then come to Adoption Day at Community Animal Hospital in Morris Plains NJ on July 20th. Our friends from Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue will be there, as well as the Gentle Woman herself.

There will be food and fun and lots of animals in need of a good loving home. East Coast Stories will be covering the event and posting pictures of it. See you there!

Details are:

  • Sunday July 20th 11am-3pm
  • 921 Rt 53 Morris Plains, NJ
  • Info: Telephone (973)-267-4220

Comfortable Rope

We actually thought of ourselves as experienced sailors. We were racing Lightnings.

lightning

There were 3 kids in each boat and with a stiff offshore wind were going like bats out of hell further and further into the Atlantic. The oldest of us was 13.

Of course we were not suppose to be out there. The boats belonged to two of the kids dads, who like all the other dads worked in the city. It was a Wednesday afternoon and the first dad would not be back until at least 7PM.

It got really fun when the wind was directly behind us and we put up the spinnakers.  Not many kids our age even knew how to do that. We had been sailing for years, and we knew what to do on the water. We were real sailors.

Of course a real sailor would have looked at the sky.

thunder storms

We had been racing further out to see for almost two hours when Billy Brett suddenly pointed at the sky and shouted to the rest of us. We looked up and saw the sky was black.  We all knew that a major lightning storm was just about to hit and we were the highest objects for 20 miles in any direction, with two metal masts just daring the lightning to hit them.

The wind and rain started five minutes later with full force.

sea storm

The spinnakers were still up  and when the wind started picking up and continuously changing direction the boats spun around and spinnakers dipped and began filling up with sea water. The boat I was in was being dragged under by the spinnaker. Billy Brett’s boat tossed around so much that he had been thrown out and was splashing in the ocean.

The rain was coming down  hard and it felt like little needles hitting our skin. Then the lightning flashes started.  The waves were getting higher and seawater was pouring into both boats.  Billy was swimming as hard as he could, but the current kept pulling him further and further away  from us. Billy did not have a life jacket on. None of us did.

At one point the boat bounced up on a wave and I could clearly see the skyline of New York City in the far distance.  The squall was only in our area. New York was in the bright sunshine. Somewhere in those buildings our fathers were buying and selling stocks, totally unaware that their kids were about to drown.

Then I heard  the throbbing of the engine. It was a big twelve cylinder Chrysler in an old solid wooden powerboat. I had seen it around the dock lots of time but never paid much attention to it. It was owned by two old guys who were a solid as their boat.

The power boat pulled up alongside Billy and one of the men leaned  over the transom and lifted Billy to safety. The old guy had massive muscular arms with U.S. Navy tattoos on both forearms.

Once Billy was safely on board they brought the powerboat along side each of the sailboats. In a matter of minutes they had lowered the sails, bailed out the boats and tied them to tow behind the power boat. It was amazing to see real sailors work.

We kids were all shaking with cold and went to the hold of the power boat to get out of the rain.  The boys stretched out exhausted. I went to the bow where there was a rope locker and lay down on top of piles of expertly coiled rope, and dozed off. It was one of the best feelings ever. The storm raged outside, but I was safe in the strong hold of a strong ship crewed by two strong men.  It is the kind of safety that only a child can feel.

The old guys towed the Lightnings all the way back to the docks. They tied them up for us, stowed the sails ad even coiled the ropes. They never told our parents about what had happened.

rope

Then we kids stood on the dock and waved goodby to the two old guy when they motored off in their perfectly maintained ancient wooden boat with the Chrysler diesel  humming smoothly. They don’t make boats like that any more. I am not sure they make guys like that any more either.

The Gentle Woman Presents 5 Famous Bunnies

As the Gentle Woman was watching her new bunny romping the house this morning, she realized how much rabbits are a part of our culture and have been  for a very long time. Here is a list of 5 famous bunnies in American culture.

TORTISE AND HARE

#5 The Hare from Aesop’s Fables – “The Tortoise and the Hare”

This poor fellow does not even get a name. The Tortoise is the hero of the story. We do not know exactly when this story was first told, but we do know that Aesop was born around 620 B.C.  The story is about a race between a hare and a tortoise. The moral is all about persistence and hard work versus natural talent. The Hare should easily win, but instead runs all around exploring and having a great time then takes a relaxing nap. The Tortoise, on the other hand plods along and eventually wins the race.

The moral, of course, is that we are all supposed to be more like the Tortoise  and this story is still told to American children today.  But who wants to be a tortoise? The Gentle Woman takes a different view of this story. The race is life itself, and it is the Tortoise who is losing. The Hare has a great time exploring everything around him, plays until he is tired and then plops down for a quick nap. Anyone who has a pet bunny knows that is exactly how they behave. Maybe the real moral is that we should be more like the Hare and less like the plodding Tortoise. After all the Tortoise did not even get a prize for his “win” while the Hare got a lot of fun and a good nap.

Peter Rabbit

#4 Peter Rabbit

Many people who have bunnies as pets today do so because they first fell in love with these animals after reading the stories of Beatrix Potter. Peter first appeared in “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” in 1902 along with his siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail. This family of rabbits lived in Victorian England, wore human clothing and were always getting into trouble and adventures. Beatrix Potter wrote a beautiful series of children stories that are still loved by modern readers.

 

roger-rabbit-photos-149

#3 Roger Rabbit

Roger Rabbit is a silly and not very bright cartoon bunny, introduced to us in the 1988 film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. Roger is accused of murdering Mr. Acme in a rage over Roger’s beautiful wife Jessica. As silly as Roger is however, we like him because he is basically a very good individual. He is totally in love with his wife and she is totally in love with him. As a side note it turns out that Mr. Acme was the owner of Acme Products, the company that Wile E. Coyote used to buy all the contraptions he used to try to catch the Road Runner. Considering the fact that Acme’s products never work it seems like the coyote should be the prime suspect rather than Roger Rabbit.

easter bunny

#2 The Easter Bunny

The tradition of the Easter Bunny goes back much further than most people think. It is actually a centuries old tradition. Bunnies are associated with Spring and re-birth, since wild rabbits seem to magically  re-appear after each long Winter. However, there is one downside to the tradition, and that is a lot of people still get their kids rabbits as pets on Easter. Many families do this without realizing responsibility and commitment adopting a rabbit requires. The number of rabbits found abandoned or dropped off at shelters spikes  a few months after Easter. For this reason, most good breeders will not sell rabbits just before Easter.

bugs bunny

 #1 Bugs Bunny

Bugs appeared as early as 1938, but he first appeared drawn as we know him today in 1940. Sure, some of the other rabbits on the list have a more ancient or glorified heritage, but Bugs is an American original. With his brash attitude and Brooklyn accent, he became world famous. As an audience we always root for him against the hunter Elmer Fudd.

Well, that’s the Gentle Woman’s list. Let us know if you think we missed any.  So if you have a pet rabbit or just love them, maybe its because rabbits have been an integral part of our culture for a very long time.

Soho Summer -Pictures of Soho in the Sunlight

One of our readers asked for pictures of the streets of New York, especially Soho. The pictures below show a walk from the World Trade Center Path station up West Broadway, all the way to Soho.

SOHO IN SUMMER 024This is the newly refurbished World Trade Center Path Station.  

SOHO IN SUMMER 007This is a mural on the outside of a Mexican Restaurant on West Broadway a few blocks from Ground Zero. The painting pays tribute to the people who died on 9/11. The mural has been on the wall for so many years that the wall now also has graffiti on it.  However, notice how even the graffiti artists show enough respect for the victims that they put their “tags” on the outside edges and do not deface the mural.

SOHO IN SUMMER 008This is another view, in which you can see the sign for the restaurant.

For more on the victims of 9/11 click to read our tribute.

Continuing up West Broadway, we come to a store called Balloon Saloon, which claims to have been voted “the most fun store in New York.” Exactly when and where this vote took place they never actually say.

SOHO IN SUMMER 009They will deliver balloons anywhere in New York.

SOHO IN SUMMER 010A closer view of the balloons on display every morning.

SOHO IN SUMMER 013This graffiti covers a door next to a polished brass sigh which says, “The Goatsingers Upstairs”.  We have no idea who or what the Goatsingers are, but they seem to always keep the brass sign polished but never remove the graffiti.

SOHO IN SUMMER 014We are now in the heart of Tribeca at the Tribeca Tavern.

It is still early in the morning so it is not yet open. At night there is a line down the block just to get in. For more on Tribeca click  here to see our pictures of the Tribeca Film Festival.

SOHO IN SUMMER 015Leaving  Tribeca to get to Soho we pass through a small park, the center of which has a bear sculpture made from leaf bags.

SOHO IN SUMMER 016We are now in Soho itself. This is a view up West Broadway at 8:30 am

SOHO IN SUMMER 022This is the architecture for which Soho is famous.

SOHO IN SUMMER 023People crowded outside a popular restaurant in Soho. On this particular late afternoon all the bars and restaurants were crowded with people watching the World Cup of soccer.

SOHO IN SUMMER 020Last stop in Soho. If we cross West Houston street we will enter NoHo, where the NYU students give the neighborhood an entirely different feel.

The Gentle Woman’s New Bunny’s Cousin

398641_10151327105324885_141327247_nIt turns out that the Gentle Woman’s Bunny has a cousin. Well, he is not a real cousin, but he is a floppy eared black rabbit named Pancakes who lives with the Gentle Woman’s sister. He is five years old and lives in an air-conditioned house in Florida.

10405491_10202353916866202_8674453966035016723_a

He is a very affectionate little fellow with soft luxurious fur who would be very hot without the air conditioning.

Here he is celebrating his 5th birthday.

702665_4184598610174_1661334000_n

For those of you who know something about rabbits, don’t worry. The Gentle Woman’s sister did not actually let him eat any of the cake.

The funny thing is that the Gentle Woman did not even know that her sister had a rabbit. The Gentle Woman and Sunshine live in New Jersey and had never seen Pancakes.

It turns out there is a whole community of friendly rabbit lovers out there we never knew existed, until we started running the Gentle Woman series.

566385_4074236251184_801620382_n

Most people still don’t realize how much fun an indoor rabbit can be as a pet.

The Gentle Woman stories have been some of our most popular posts. If you would like us to publish a story or pictures of your rabbit or any other type of pet just e-mail the pictures to us at cedartree@live.com   We will not publish your e-mail address and will only use your name if you give us permission.

1486870_10201366839389882_600539698_n

Pancakes relaxing on a Christmas stocking. (As we all know Santa spends the off-season in Florida).

734395_10151523490374885_264929297_n

The Near Sighted Caddy

The following story is true, as is Woodway Country Club. The names of the golfers have been changed.

When Greg was 12 his father insisted Greg get a summer job.  Since Greg was small and skinny, the father wanted  the job to  be something healthy and outdoors. The dad  was delighted when Greg jot a job as a caddy at Woodway Country Club in Stamford Connecticut. Greg’s dad told him it would be a good way to not only develop himself, but to see how adults behaved in the real world. Greg did  both, but in a way his dad had anticipated.

Woodway was an old fashioned sort of club that still required caddies. Golfers could ride in carts if they wanted, but most preferred to walk. The course was beautifully designed in such a way that except for the First and the 18th hole you were completely out of site of the club house.

An experienced caddy got six dollars for lugging the bag around 18 holes. A newbie like Greg only got five dollars. But there were perks. On the ninth hole there was a little outdoor bar the golfers stopped at. Tradition had it that the golfers would buy cokes for the caddies. So the caddies got to sit in the grass and drink cokes while the golfers sat at tables on  the patio sipping beers and Gin & Tonics.

There was also the matter of tips. Each golfer tipped his own caddy (there were almost no women players). The tip was a big deal. Getting a one or two dollar tip meant a lot if your total pay was only five dollars. But the tips varied tremendously. Some players gave zero and some gave as much as ten or ever twenty dollars. It all depended on whether the golfer had won or lost.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that the golfers bet on the rounds. And they bet a lot of money. They bet on who would have the overall lowest score. They had side bets on the outcome of particular holes. They bet on whether a player could make a particular shot.

That’s when Greg discovered the first rule of adults. That their personalities completely changed when money was involved. The greater the amount of money the more their personalities changed.  Doctors, lawyers and other respected members of the community would smash clubs, scream, jump up and down if they missed a shot. The second rule of adults turned out to be that they did not take responsibility for their own mistakes.  Any error was instantly blamed on the caddy.  A missed drive was because the caddy had distracted the player. A missed putt was due to the caddy’s shadow on the green. For five dollars a player got a whipping boy for 18 holes. Caddies were trained to take all this abuse in silence. It was just an accepted part of the job.

The worst mistake an caddy could make was to lose a ball. A gofer would hit a ball into the rough or the woods or the edge of a water hazard and expect the caddy to know exactly where it was. Most of the caddies were great at this. Greg was not. He actually needed glasses but did not know it.  Up close he could see things just fine. Reading books was no problem. At school he sat in the first row so reading the board was no problem. But that summer he found out that he could not see things far away very well.

When a golfer hit a long drive, other caddies would spot the ball going into the distance and note exactly where it landed. For Greg, the ball would go off into the sky and when it got far enough away it simply disappeared.

After the golfers hit their tee shots the caddy’s job was to run down to where the ball was and stand next to it with the golf bag. Greg would run extra fast into the direction he thought the ball went and hope to find it. After all, how hard could it be to find a white ball on a field of green? Unfortunately, there are a lot of small while objects on a golf course.  Little pieces of paper, gum wrappers, even a dandelion with white seeds  all look like golf balls until you get up close.

Most of the time Greg could scurry around and find the ball. Then one day he lost one and a very large middle aged male golfer screamed at him for a full five minutes until another caddy found it. At the end of the day the golfer made sure to not only not give Greg a tip but to show Greg he was giving a tip to the other caddy who had found the ball. Greg swore he would never let that sort of humiliation  happen again. No matter what.

Golf bags are amazing contraptions. They have all sorts of pockets and zippers and hidden flaps.  When the golfers are not looking, or are drinking at the 9th hole bar, the caddies search through all of the pockets just to see what is in there. One caddy claimed that  in Doctor O’Toole’s bag he once found a naked picture of the doctor’s beautiful young second wife. All of the other caddies called “bullshit”, but after that they tried to caddy for Dr. O’Toole whenever they could. Mr. Wilson told all the other golfers he had given up smoking but there was always at least one pack of cigarettes tucked away in his bag somewhere.

There were a lot of golf related items in the bags too. Extra tees, rags for wiping clubs, small tools to tighten cleats, but especially lots of extra golf balls. It was these extra golf balls that were soon to make Greg the most successful caddy at Woodway.

The first instance was during an an oppressively hot Saturday when Greg was caddying for Mr. Saunders who was a mediocre player at best. As usual, the players were betting big bucks. There was a side-bet on the 12th hole and it looked like Saunders actually had a chance to win it. Then he hit a drive that hooked off high and out of site. The fairway had a dog leg to the left, so a hook on a tee shot might actually turn out to be a good thing. There was no way to tell from the tee.  If the ball had gone left just a little it was a great shot. If it had hooked a lot then it would have gone into the woods.

The caddies all ran down to find the balls, carrying the golf bags with them. The other three caddies went off the the right since the other players had sliced. Greg found himself alone and saw no trace of the ball. It might  have gone into the woods. On the other hand it could be in the rough at the edge of the fairway.

Something in Greg snapped. He just could not take having another six foot adult scream at him inches from his face for losing a golf ball. While the players and other golfers were still out of site he reached in the bag and pulled out a spare golf ball. He walked back into a good position on the fairway and surreptitiously dropped the ball and stood next to it with the bag.

Mr. Saunders was delighted with his great shot. The other players congratulated him. His confidence got such a boost that he not only won the hole, but he ended the day winning the entire round. At the end of the day Mr. Saunders gave Greg a ten dollar tip.

Greg told himself that this would be a one-time occurrence, but of course, it was not. Taking a ball out of a bag and dropping it in a good position became sort of like an addiction. Golfers stopped yelling at him. In fact some of them started specifically requesting Greg as their caddy. The tips were big every day. There was also the adrenalin rush of getting away with it.  He no longer searched very hard for lost balls. It was so much easier to cheat and pull one out of the bag.

It got to the point where he started moving the ball even when he did not have to. Greg would find the player’s ball in the rough and before everyone else got there he would use his foot to kick it back into the fairway. A ball would be right next to a tree in an impossible lie and he would move it to the other side of the tree.

Did the players know? At first Greg thought he was getting away with something. But as he got to know more about the game of golf he began to think they must have known.  A player knows how good he is. A player can feel if a tee shot was good or bad. But none of the players ever said anything or made any accusations. They would end the round and give Greg a big tip. Once or twice Greg was sure that a player he had cheated for gave him a little smile or nod. But maybe that was all in Greg’s imagination.

The summer ended and so did Greg’s days as a caddy. That winter he got a pair of glasses.  Looking back Greg realized that his dad was right. The summer job did make Greg develop, and  teach him a lot about how people behaved in the real world. Maybe too much.

True Subway Stories

The Subway Stock Trader

I was riding the uptown #6 train on the Lexington Avenue Line from Spring Street to Grand Central, when I heard the broker speaking. I assumed he was some kind of stock broker or bond trader. I  had my back to him but he was speaking  very loudly on a cell phone about the various stocks and bonds he was buying ad selling.

Then It occurred to me that I did not understand how he was getting any cell phone reception underground in a moving subway.  I turned around to take a look at him and saw that he was not speaking on a cell phone, but instead had a banana held up to his ear.

Couch and Bananna 006

It was not a cell phone in the shape of a banana, but an actual banana he was speaking into. The New Yorkers around the crazy person were all completely ignoring him while he traded millions of dollars in imaginary stocks and bonds. I got off at Grand Central, and the banana subway trader continued his journey uptown.

A Bag of Treasure

Last Winter I was on the Path Train from 33rd Street to Hoboken very late at night. The only other rider in the car was a homeless man who had gotten on carrying clear see-through plastic bag. It was very large, the type of leaf bag used in the Fall.

The man was about fifty years of age and was  wearing a pair of old faded jeans and no shirt. He was guarding the bag like it had all the treasure in the world. Inside the bag were hundreds of different types of men’s shoes. There were sneakers, dress shoes, construction boots, rain boots, loafers, even saddle shoes. No two pairs were alike, but all of them were old and used. I never realized how many different styles of men’s  shoes existed..

The man guarding the shoes thought they were very precious indeed. Too precious to actually use. Despite the winter weather and the hundreds of shoes to choose from, the man was barefoot.

The train stopped in Hoboken and the doors opened. The homeless man eyed me suspiciously. I was careful to use the door furthest away from him, so he would not think I was trying to steal his treasure.  He stayed on the train to ride it back to 33rd street. Like many homeless people in winter he would ride the train back and forth for hours just to get out of the cold.

It is odd how a chance encounter like that can affect you. Ever since  that ride, I notice what type of shoes men are wearing, ad wonder if they appreciate them.

There’s No Place Like? Living at General Foods

The following is a true story. Names and places have not been changed. It took place at General Foods Corporation back when General Foods was a stand-alone company. (It is now part of Kraft)

Martin was very happy with his new job at General Foods in White Plains. Marty had gone right from college to business school to get his MBA. He had graduated near the top of his class at NYU and got a job in Marketing at a great company. Everything was looking sunny. Except for the debt.

Marty was already loaded with student loans and credit card debt. Since General Foods was in the suburbs Marty found he had to buy a car just to get around. Even the piece of junk used Chevette he bought put him further in debt. He hated the car and the color

chevette

but it was all he could afford; and the sleazy used car dealer was actually willing to give him a car loan.

The big problem was rent. Apartments were expensive and hard to find in White Plains. He got a small place on a month-to-month basis. But even this small apartment  was taking up almost half his take-home pay. He didn’t even sleep  well there. The people in the other apartments were very noisy, and you could hear everything they did through paper thin walls.  Often Marty went to work exhausted.

Combined with utilities  and the minimum monthly payments on all his loans, Marty had exactly zero dollars left at the end of each month. Some months he actually had less than zero and had to build up more credit card debt.

Still, Marty loved going to work. It was like a sanctuary for him. The General Foods “campus” was a little world to itself. It had a subsidized cafeteria open for breakfast and lunch, and a gymnasium open until 8 PM every night. It even had a barber shop on premises.

Marty started spending more and more time at General Foods. He had breakfast and lunch there and worked out at the gym every day. He just hated going home to his cramped noisy apartment for the night.

Then one day the Marketing people had a big meeting in one of the conference rooms to discuss a new product launch. It was a very large room with a big oak table. Along the sides of the room were several large plush couches. Marty was very tired since he had not slept well at his apartment the night before.  During one of the Power Point presentations, Marty kept looking at the couches and thinking how nice it would be to stretch out and take a long nap on one of them.

Couch and Bananna 007

That’s when Marty and an epiphany. He realized that the solution to all his financial problems was for him to live at work full time. Over the next month, he put his plan into action.

The first step was to move his clothing to the office. This took a lot of imagination. The General Foods gym had lockers but you were not allowed to leave anything in them overnight, and the gym instructors actually checked. (Yes- General Foods had such an employee-friendly atmosphere it had certified trainers on staff to guide employee fitness).

With the gymnasium off-limits for clothing storage, Marty had to get more creative.  He only had a cubicle, not an office, so space was limited. The first thing he did was to empty out his file cabinets and  arrange the files on his desk and the floor of his cubicle. This left his work space a little cramped, but it meant he could put his underwear socks and shirts in the file cabinet drawers.  He always kept the file locked so that no one would accidentally stumble on  his secret.

The building had large coat closets and no one really paid any attention to what was in them. Way in the back Marty hung all his coast and jackets. He threw his sweaters and other bulky items  on the shelf at the top. Everything else he needed he kept in the old Chevette.

Then Marty took the plunge. He gave notice to the landlord and vacated his apartment.  It was time to become a full time resident of the General Foods campus.

On the first night Marty developed a routine. He worked all day and then went to the General Foods gym to exercise. When he was done, he showered and shaved then drove his Chevette off site to a nice bar and restaurant where he spent a couple of hours having dinner and talking to the other patrons while everyone watched sports on a big screen T.V.

Then it was time to sneak back in. Marty has planned out every detail. He parked his car behind the gym where the maintenance vehicles were. Then he used his key to get into the main building through a side door. He had a key, since  after Marty had decided to live at the office, he had volunteered to be one of the General Foods fire marshals.

Every department in the company had to have one fire marshal. No one wanted to do it since it meant attending a lot of training meetings, and there was no extra pay. However, Marty had noticed that the fire marshals were  all issued special access keys so that they could search the building for missing people in the event of a real fire. They were “hard keys”. That is, they were actual metal keys and not electronic security badges. That way the keys would still work if a fire knocked out the electricity. It also meant that when Marty used the hard key there would be no computer record of when he entered the building after work hours.

Marty used his key in the side door and quietly slipped down the hall to the the Marketing  conference room.  Then he closed the door to the room and stretched out on the couch.  General Foods did have guards that made a sweep of the building each night, but they did it only once. Their main job was to make sure all the employees had left,  and to turn off any coffee pots or other devices  that people had left switched on which might cause a fire hazard. After that the guards stayed in the main lobby.

Marty set an alarm on his watch, stretched out on the biggest couch and fell promptly to sleep.

Marty did this every day and at the end of the first month he was amazed at how much extra money he had. No rent or utility bills meant a lot of extra cash.

At first Marty had just planned on doing this for a short time until he was able to pay off some of his debts. But then he began to really enjoy himself. He felt  like he was a spy with some sort of secret life.

He woke up every day early in the conference room and then used the company bathroom to change, shave and brush his teeth.  Then he worked at his desk until the cafeteria opened. He had breakfast at the cafeteria and then was back at his desk. As far as his manager and co-workers were concerned he was fantastic. He was always the first one there in the morning, and got a tremendous amount done.  He looked great since he was working out every day.

The only tense part of the day was sneaking back into the building each night after dinner, but he guards had such a regular routine that it became easy. Marty became very comfortable with his new life. In fact, a little too comfortable.

He had not really considered weekends when he came up with his master plan. The company was closed every weekend, which meant no cafeteria or gym.  He would have to go out of the building to eat, but he was a little worried about sneaking back in in broad daylight.

Then he realized that a lot of people went into the office for a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday to catch up on work. So Marty would get up early on the weekend and sneak out the side door and walk down the street to a diner for breakfast.

When he was done he would come right back into the building through the main lobby where the guards were and tell them he was there to do some work. It got so they realized he was a real “go-getter” and came to expect him every Saturday and Sunday.

Now that he was “legally” back in the building he was free to walk around and talk to the other people who were doing weekend work. Some of the executives began to take notice of him. They liked this guy who was always putting in extra work time.

But all good things must come to an end and so it was with Marty’s living arrangements. His downfall was that he had just let himself become too relaxed. Marty got sick of sleeping in his work clothing, so he started switching to pajamas before he went to bed. He had been living at the office for almost a full year and it was now winter time. Marty had stashed a bathrobe, pillows and blanket under the conference room couch. Every night he put on his pajamas, made up the couch like a bed and went to sleep.

Three unrelated events and plain bad luck ended Marty’s tenure as an nonpaying tenant at the office. The first was that he had eaten a very large dinner and was exceptionally tired. The second was that after a year of  waking up at the same time every day he had gotten out of the habit of setting the alarm on this watch. The third was that the Finance Department had borrowed the Marketing conference room for a 6:30 am meeting to discuss some issues they were having with developing the budget for the next year.

Marty was having a pleasant dream about swimming in the Caribbean, when he woke up to find fifteen accountants staring down at him like he had landed from outer space.

Marty was fired and escorted out of the building the same morning. It took more than 10 trips back and forth to his Chevette to get all his clothing and other personal items out of the office. He had really made it a home.

Over the next month security was significantly upgraded. Every  lock and code at the General Foods building was changed. Those of us who still worked there had to sit through a series of lectures given by senior management about what was and was not “appropriate” behavior.

We never heard from Marty again, but there were a lot of rumors about what had happened to him. Some people said he is now a wandering homeless bum. Others said he landed in jail. But those stories don’t sound true to me.

The story I believe is the one I also happen to like best. People said he drove his lousy Chevette all the way to California where he got a job with a start-up software company.  Instead of trying to hide why he got fired from General Foods, Marty decided to tell his prospective employers exactly what had happened.  Most of them decided not to hire him, but the software start-up people loved it. They decided they definitely wanted a guy with that king of initiative and imagination.

This winter I thought about Marty  many times. The winter weather was terrible and the daily commute had become a nightmare.  I sometimes found myself looking at the lovey couch in the conference room and thought, “who would really know if I slept there for the night?”

What the Flight Attendant Said

plane passanger

The following is a true story. None of the places or names have been changed.

OK I admit it. I don’t like to fly. I don’t like the crowds or being manhandled by security or being cramped in a small metal tube called a luxury jet liner. However, unlike a lot of other nervous passengers, I have never actually worried about the plane crashing. That is, until last year when I happened to sit in the last row of a United/Continental flight from Chicago to Newark.

I was in  the worst seat you can get on an airplane, but I had a rush business trip and it was all they had left. In the last row you cannot recline the seat and you are right next to the bathroom.

The flight was uneventful and it was towards the end of the flight. Two flight attendants were standing in the service area at the back of the plane, and I could clearly hear every word they said. One was an older fellow named Kevin and the other was a very attractive young woman named Mindy with an adorable Georgia accent. Despite the seat not reclining, I was actually quite relaxed until Mindy started speaking.

” I bet you Billy bounces the plane!” , said Mindy.

“Why would you say that?” answered Kevin, somewhat nerviously.

“This is Billy’s first time landing in Newark. And Newark is real hard to land at. There are a lot of strong cross winds, and the runway is not that long; so he is going to be really nervous.”

I glanced at the passengers around me, but lucky for them they had all dozed off.  I, on the other hand, was now gripping the seat armrests so hard my knuckles were turning white.

But Mindy was not done yet.  “I think just before the plane lands, I should get on the phone to the cockpit and shout out, “Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!”

“I really don’t think you should do that,” insisted Kevin. I turned my head for a quick glance and saw than Kevin was now visibly sweating.

Oh great! Not only do we have a pilot who has never landed at a dangerous airport before, but we have a flight attendant who thinks it would be a great practical joke to distract him while he is doing it.

Seconds later the pilot (Billy) announced that the flight attendants should take their final positions for landing. Mindy did not answer, so apparently she had second thoughts about distracting him.

The plane came in smooth and level and then suddenly slammed into the runway and bounced not once but twice before Billy finally managed to get it to stay on the runway. Some guy’s laptop came out of the overhead bin and crashed into the aisle.

As we exited the plane some of the  passengers were visibly shaken.  Mindy, on the other hand had the big smile of a kid who has just gotten off a roller coaster. Pilot Billy wisely chose to keep the cockpit door closed while the passengers deplaned

So apparently Mindy really does know a lot about airports or pilot Billy or both.  However, next time I wish she would just keep that information to herself.

bouncing plane

The Girl on Stage

The following story is true. None of the names or places have been changed.

Francis White 001Francis (Frank)  White circa 1903;  Columbia University

It was a good time to be a young gentleman in New York and Frank White wanted to make the most of it. He had graduated with a degree in Engineering from Columbia University and then proudly served his country in The Great War.

WWI 001Francis’ White’s World War I medal.

After the war, he got a good job and his life had settled into a regular routine. He worked hard in the “high-tech” field of the day. He was an engineer at the Okonite Company. This company manufactured the amazing trans-Atlantic cables that allowed people to communicate across an ocean in seconds.

His social life consisted of lunch at the Columbia Club or the Engineers Club. Occasionally he would see a play at one of the many theaters in the city. He lived the satisfying, if very routine, life of a working gentleman in New York.

Then one evening his entire world was changed when he saw the girl on stage.

Frank had gone to see a light comedy by a British acting company. The play was an amusing little farce about an English upper class family. In one scene the family was having tea, and it was served by a young actress playing the family’s maid.

The second he saw her, Francis White fell in love. The girl only had a couple of lines and then exited the stage. Frank kept waiting for her to re-appear in another scene but she never did.  At the end of the play, Frank decided to do something rash; totally out of character for him.

Long after the play was over, Frank waited outside the theater by the side door where the actors and actresses would come out. After what seemed like hours, the actors and actresses came out in a group. No doubt they were headed for a late supper after the show. The girl he was seeking was in the middle. He was astounded that she looked even more beautiful than she had on stage.

Overcoming his innate shyness, Frank approached the group and asked he if he could buy her dinner. Without hesitation she told him, “certainly not!”. She noted that they had not been properly introduced and that she had no intention of going off with some “Stage Door Johnny”. The other actors all laughed and the actors and the girl went off in a group, leaving Frank alone in the alley.

The girl was named Elsie Clayton. She was English, but not the type of English woman she always played on stage. Actresses in those days did not come from the upper classes and Elsie was no exception. She was a Cockney. She came from that poor part of London where people have  the type of accent that all other English people immediately identify as “low class”.

It had taken years for Elsie to learn to speak with an Upper Class British accent. If she spoke in her real Cockney accent, English audiences would have laughed, and American audiences would not have been able to understand a word she said. She came from a family of actors, but they were comedians and Vaudevillian types. They could speak like a real Cockney on stage and get away with it. But Elsie wanted to be taken seriously on stage.

Elsie had finally gotten  a job with a real British touring company and made it to America with them. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt soon after and she was stuck taking whatever bit parts she could get.  She felt lucky to have finally gotten the small part of a maid.

Elsie had liked the shy young gentleman who had approached her after the show. Of course, a young woman had to be careful of her reputation and he was after all, a total stranger.

The day after Frank White tried to meet Elsie Clayton the theater manager was at the theater very early to start setting up for that evening’s performance.

The theater manager was a tough-as-nails middle aged  man named Jack Kelly. Jack did not own the theater, of course. He was the type of man theater owners hire to take care of all the details the owners don’t want to bother with.  He had to get there hours before the actors and stay after them just to make sure everything was running smoothly.

Frank White entered the theater and walked over to Jack Kelly. Mr. Kelly was about to tell him to get lost, when he noticed that Frank was holding out a crisp new one-hundred dollar bill.

That evening, Frank was back at the theater it the front row and saw the same play again. He eagerly anticipated Elsie’s entrance. When she came on stage, she caught his eye for a second and gave him just the hint of a smile.

After the show, Jack Kelly lead Frank back stage and formally introduced him to Elsie Clayton. Jack Kelly gave a beautiful little speech about how he had known Frank and his family for years, and that Frank was “a good lad with a fine reputation”.

That evening Elsie Clayton did consent to allow Francis White to escort her to dinner. Less than a year later she consented to be his wife. They had a long and happy marriage. Frank loved her “real” Cockney accent, although he had to admit it was sometimes hard to understand.

They had been married for over a year before Frank admitted that he had bribed Jack Kelly to “properly introduce” them. Elsie then admitted that she had known a the time that Jack Kelly’s fine speech was a fraud. After all Jack Kelly was a good stage manager but a terrible actor.

And that is the true story of how my grandparents met. – Gregory Farrell

The Gentle Woman’s New Bunny Part 2

We have received overwhelming response to the stories of The Gentle Woman’s Bunny and The Gentle Woman’s New Bunny. Many people have asked for an update on how Sunshine is doing.

Well, he has settled in very nicely to his new home. He is still not too sure about the other animal in the house, a 10 year old Ragdoll cat named Lubby.

MOVING BUNNY 014

Sunshine is out of his cage and exploring the living room, where he loves to jump effortlessly on an off the couch.

MOVING BUNNY 006

If you click on the link above to  this Moving Bunny video you can see Sunshine just as he is about to leap.

MOVING BUNNY 016

Despite the looks of the picture, the cat is very accepting of Sunshine, but is a little startled about how much energy this young bunny has.

MOVING BUNNY 011

The Gentle Woman asked us to pass along her thanks for all the kind comments people have posted.

The video clips below show Sunshine jumping out of and into his enclosure.

NEW MOVING BUNNY 008

NEW MOVING BUNNY 006

Enjoy!

The Gentle Woman’s New Bunny

Sunshine 003Sunshine Explores the camera

When the Gentle Woman’s Bunny passed away, she was so sad she vowed that she would never get another rabbit.  But whenever she went on the internet, she couldn’t help clicking on stories and pictures about rabbits.

Then one day she was on the internet and she happened upon the website for Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue Inc. This is a non-profit origination that cares for and finds homes for abandoned, stray or abused domestic rabbits.

Sunshine 007Sunshine explores his new home.

Unfortunately it turns out that abandoned bunnies are  common. People get rabbits as pets, get tired of caring for them and then just dump them.

Some people drop the rabbits off in a woods or park thinking they will “return to the wild” and be free.  These people are unknowingly sentencing these bunnies to death. They cannot make it though a Northeast winter. Even in the summer or spring, they will be quickly eaten by the many predators roaming the area.

Other people are simply cruel. Domestic rabbits have been found by the side of highways, or even in dumpsters. One woman brought a bunny to Safe Haven  Rabbit Rescue, after she happened to see a motorist drive by and simply throw the rabbit out of the car window while the car was still moving.

Sunshine 008This fellow was abandoned by the side of a road.

The Gentle Woman was taken by the story of a bunny which has been found abandoned on Route 27 in Edison, N.J.  A Good Samaritan took him to Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue, where he turned out be be a lively little fellow.  He was a real jumper and had to be put in an extra large cage with a very high top so he would not hit his head when he jumped.

A lot of people did not want to adopt him since he was a little too lively. However the Gentle Woman thought he would be perfect. After taking care of a very sick bunny for a few years, it would be fun to have one whose only issue was too much energy.

Summer Bag 001Sunshine examining a new bag

But Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue will not let you just stop by and get a rabbit. After the bad experiences these animals have already gone through, Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue wants to make sure that the new owners will have a serious interest in caring for their new friend. They interview you to make sure you know how to care for the rabbit, and even come to your house to make sure your are set up properly for your new friend.

Finally the new bunny arrived and the Gentle Woman named him “Sunshine”.  He is slowly getting used to his new environment, and is very curious about everything around him.

Summer Bag 002Testing out a grocery bag

It is interesting to see how different rabbits have different personalities. Although the cat pays no attention to Sunshine whatsoever, Sunshine instinctively freezes and watches carefully until the cat has walked by.  The last   bunny (Summer) used to hop up to the cat and actually bump into him.

If you are interested in helping these abandoned rabbits you may want to join the “Bike for the Buns” ride in the Bull’s Island Recreation Area.  All proceeds go to a good cause and are tax deductible. It takes place Saturday June 14th.

The Blue Eyed New Jersey Indian

In Basking Ridge there is a 23 acre park called the Sons of Liberty Farm. The story of how it came to be is the story of Irwin Richardt , one of the most colorful characters the East Coast has even known.

He was born in 1928 and lived in Basking Ridge his entire life. During that time the town evolved from a small rural community into a very wealthy upscale suburb. As the town got bigger, it expanded the infrastructure including the roads. Then the town council made a big mistake.

It tried to take a piece of Irwin’s land.

Unfortunately, the farm was on the corner of what had become two main roads, and the town government decided to widen one of them. Most of the land owners were happy to take the money the town offered for a piece of their property. All except Irwin. He refused to sell any part of the property. Eventually the town went to court and through the use of “eminent domain” took a part of his land and made the road 10 feet wider. Of course, the town had to pay for the property. They issued a check for the fair value of the land. All Irwin had to do was show up at town hall and get a very sizable check. He never did.

Irwin had never been a fan of government even before then, but after that he hated, absolutely hated the town council.  Irwin was sure it would just be a matter of time before they took more and more of his land until there was nothing left. He was determined that would never happen.

He started by writing  directly to members of the town government what they considered “threatening” letters. They even had him charged with a crime and took him to court. When the case got to court, the judge took one look at the letters and dismissed the case. What Irwin had done was to simply send direct quotes from parts  of  the Old Testament. Nothing added or deleted to the passages The government people took it as threats since Irwin had chosen the especially bloody and violent parts of The Bible to quote. No doubt that Irwin had chosen those particular versus on purpose; but there is no judge anywhere in the United States who is going to lock up a man for quoting The Bible.

After that Irwin tried to have his land declared an Indian Reservation. He claimed that he was an American Indian and that as an official reservation his land could not be touched by local government. The flaw in that argument was that one look at Irwin would show anyone that he was of Nordic stock, with bright blue eyes and pale pale skin.

Irwin hated any intrusion by any form of government. He objected that the State of New Jersey said he had to have insurance, so he got rid of his car. It is not an easy thing to get around in New Jersey, but Irwin did it on his bicycle. Residents of the town got used to the sight of this old man with his long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail riding his bicycle for miles to buy supplies and groceries. It was on old bike onto which he had fashioned a basket with a cross on the back.

He was a loner most of his life. He never married and never built up his property. He liked a simple life. Given the location of his property he could have sold it at any time for millions of dollars. Instead he continued to live in an old wooden house. There is a small pond on the property, and on hot  summer days passers-by could see  Irwin floating peacefully  in an inner tube around the pond.

Irwin considered himself an old fashioned conservative. On the property right next to his is a nudist colony. Some modern “conservatives” might rant against that, but Irwin’s feeling was that what people did on their own property was their own business.

The biggest scare Irwin ever gave the town government was when he ran for Town Council himself. After years of fighting them he decided to just get them voted out. He didn’t win, but the vote was very very close.

Irwin died in 2006 at the age of 78. He had no family, so he left the land to a neighbor. The neighbor donated it to the town with the proviso that it be turned into a park and preserved exactly as Irwin had left it. The town accepted the offer. So in the end, Irwin beat the town government after all. Not only would his farm be preserved forever, but the town government would have to be paying to do it.

Some people called Irwin a fighter for individual rights and some just called him a crazy old man. But everyone agrees that the town will be a little less interesting without him.

The Man Who Didn’t Drive

The following is a true story. None of the names or places have been changed.

People hated to see Bill Fitzmaurice on the train.  Oh he was a nice enough guy. In fact, he was very nice. He always remembered your kids names. He would ask you how you were doing and then actually listen to your answer.

The problem was that he did not drive. That meant that when the train pulled in to Stamford he would hit you up for a ride home. You couldn’t very well say no after having chatted with him for the whole long train ride from Grand Central. But he lived all the way down at the tip of Shippan Point. If you happened to live in North Stamford, or even in the Cove, it was really inconvenient.  The last thing anyone wanted to do after a tough day at work in New York and a long commute home was to spend another half hour driving Bill home and then coming back.

In the mornings, Bill’s wife dropped him off at the station.  She could have picked him up for the ride home too, but Bill preferred to “hitch” a ride with his friends. It was weird for a middle aged man in Connecticut not to drive. To get anywhere you really needed a car. Weird and annoying. He had a wife and family. What kind of man was too lazy to drive and make his wife do all the chauffeuring?

Bill’s son Michael did very well in  school, and Bill was proud of him. On Michael’s  fifteenth birthday Bill took him aside and gave him a box with a special present. Inside the box was a short green Army jacket. It had Sergeant’s stripes and some special  hash marks on the sleeve. There was a small “T” inside the Sergeant’s stripes.

“Try it on son. It’s my old Army Jacket.”

“I didn’t know you were in the Army,” said Michael. “You never mentioned it before.” Then he put on the jacket, which as predicted was much too large for him.

“I was in the Army for nine years. I was in before the war, and of course through the whole war.”

“What did you do in the war dad? ”

“I was a truck driver.”

ARMY TRUCK

Michael was stunned. The man who would never get behind the wheel of a car was an Army truck driver for nine years.

That’s when Bill Fitzmaurice told his son about the war.   Bill had loved the Army. He got to travel all over the world and had even spent a lot of time in India. He drove trucks and worked his way up to Sergent.  When the war came he continued to drive trucks. They were the big kinds you see in every World War II movie.  In the back were either troops or supplies.

Bill and his unit served in the Pacific. The worst part was not the Japanese, but the heat, humidity, mosquitoes and bad roads. The whole war, Bill dreamed about getting back to the cooler weather of Connecticut.

It was an assignment like any other. Bill was told to transport a group of men and their Lieutenant from one base to another. Bill was alone in the cab.  Normally an officer would have been up front with Bill, but the Lieutenant had ridden in the back with the men, so he could  talk to them about the details of their new assignment.

The road was awful. It was a rutted dirt road up the side of a mountain. Bill had to keep the truck in the lowest gear and still the tires slipped unless he was really gentle with the acceleration.

They were about half way up the mountain when the Japanese plane struck. It came out of  nowhere and was all alone. By that part of the war the Japanese air force was almost completely destroyed, so it was unusual to even see a plane.

The plane came straight at the stuck with the guns blazing. There was nothing Bill could do  for protection. The truck was completely exposed on the mountain side. There were no trees or rocks to hide behind and there was no place to pull off.

The plane strafed the truck and then pulled up and disappeared into the sky. The whole attack lasted no more than 30 seconds.  The bullets had damaged the back tires and the truck started to slip backwards. Bill pulled the emergency brake, tried to compensate with the steering, but the truck slid off the road and tumbled down the side of the mountain.

It bounced over the rocks. Bill’s head banged against the side as it fell. When the truck finally stopped its decent, it just happened to land upright. Bill sat behind the wheel for several minutes in a daze. He used his hand to feel the lump on the side of his head. The wound was bloody, but did not seem that bad. He checked and found that he had no broken bones, so he cautiously got out of the cab.

Bill walked to the back of the truck and tossed open the canvas covering to check on the the men. They were all there in a pile with their bodies at odd twisted angles. Bill climbed into the truck and checked each man one by one hoping that someone had  survived. But they were all dead.  He still remembers vividly how young the Lieutenant looked. Like a little kid playing dress-up soldier.

Bill never drove another vehicle of any type after that. He was in the hospital for a short time with a concussion, but aside from that had no injuries. Not physical ones anyway.

Bill stayed in the Army until he end of the war. He still worked on trucks; doing oil changes, changing spark plugs and so on, but somehow always found a way to get out of any actual driving. The officers looked the other way and never pressed him on the issue.

When the war ended Bill came home with millions of other guys. He ended up living and working  in New York City where he never had to drive. One day he met a wonderful young woman. They were married and when she became pregnant she announced that she wanted to move to Connecticut where Bill had originally grown up. She knew it would mean doing all the driving. She was the only person who Bill had ever told about his wartime experiences. Until he told his son Michael.

For everyone else, Bill is just the annoying guy on the train you want to avoid on the way home.