Nice Try on the Fathers Day Gift

talking-stick-23631004 (1)I was browsing in a gift shop one June day when I came upon the simple-looking staff that I think of as a “Talking Stick.“

Labeled a “Rain Stick,” it is a varnished section of cactus inside of which are many spoke-like slender thorns and tiny pebbles. When you tip it at an angle, a delicious pattering sound ensues as the pebbles fall from one end of its four-foot length to the other, tumbling past spoke after tiny spoke.

The tag accompanying this Rain Stick told that in Aztecs culture the males would confer using such a staff, which helped preserve order, since a person was only allowed to speak while holding it.

In fact I had used something very much like a Rain Stick the day my middle school daughters and her pals fell into an argument. I went and fetched a small broom from the closet by the back door and explained the rules.

And it worked like a charm: There was no interrupting, the pace of talk slowed way, way down, and at the end of 20 minutes the four girls had not only had their say but had wept, hugged, blown their noses, and gone to the fridge for a little snack.

Remembering this, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this gift-shop doodad. This is it! I thought. Here it was almost Father’s Day so why not give my children’s father a Rain Stick, which, as the tag pointed out, would “help make life more enjoyable, meaningful and even complete”? Anyway, wasn’t the dad in this family ALL ABOUT male-bonding activities? Didn’t he have those pals he got together with every week to play cards, inhale Scotch and highly-salted snacks, and insult each other’s moves? Couldn’t a Rain Stick elevate THEIR level of communication?

I paid the 30 bucks and took it home.

On Father’s Day itself, the kids and I had planned to take our honoree to an open-air concert performed by a bunch of people dressed like 19th century serfs. But as it turned out, actual rain was pouring like water from a busted hydrant and the concert was canceled.

Then the dad received an invite from a buddy-dad to watch the Stanley Cup finals and somehow in there the Rain Stick got forgotten.

Days later, when we at last got around to presenting it, we let him play with it a while. “It says self-realization follows,” we told him, reading from the tag.

“So… are you realizing anything yet?” we added.

“Yeah, I’m realizing you guys really blew Father’s Day,” he said.

Nothing daunted, the next time the scotch-and-sodium pals came over for bridge, I brought the Talking Stick forth to show it to them.

They looked up from their brimming fists.

One grunted.

Another picked it up and swung it like a bat.

Then they all looked back down at their cards.

A month later, the youngest in our family whacked it on the floor and we saw 10,000 pebbles explode like confetti all around us.

The child yelped in glee. On hearing about this later, so did his dad.  We three remaining family member, females all, sighed deeply. Then, in the ceremony of resignation common to families everywhere, all five of us adjourned together to the fridge to have a little snack.

No Fences

gated (1)Seen from the air, the Florida development where my sister used to live reveals a pattern of houses that seem to pose like a group of ladies in white flanked by rectangles of turquoise: the in-ground pools that accessorize them like bright costume jewelry.

These homes have small windows in the street-facing walls meant to ensure privacy and keep out heat. Access to them is gained chiefly through attached garages, which yawn open on command, admit a car, and then shut again, tighter than a bulldog’s jaws.

The development has fancy stone gates out front and a Homeowners Association that pays visits to any families not conforming to the association’s ‘aesthetics’. One family, newly arrived from the other side of the globe, thought it would be okay to hang their laundry inside their open garage. It wasn’t, as they were quickly advised.

I couldn’t live in a place like that for a week.

When I was just starting out in adult life I lived in a series of cramped and shuddery walk-ups in Boston and Cambridge. Then after marrying, my husband and I moved to the city of Somerville, back when Somerville was just a regular town and not the trendy burg it has since become. 

Housing aerial Somerville, MA
Housing aerial Somerville, MA

There we lived happily and unselfconsciously – until the day a friend told us what she had just said in the car on the way to our place: “Lock your doors, kids. This is Somerville.”

For years I seethed over that remark and when we bought our own house farther out from these cities, I vowed I would never be like that. I took comfort in the fact that we were just five miles away from the close-packed streets we had known. Here, we live less than 200 yards from the commuter rail, less than a third of a mile from the public beach of a little lake to which people from Cambridge and Somerville and even Boston come to swim, and grill, and enjoy their kids.

On fine days, people from half a dozen other suburban towns pass outside our windows and sometimes even pick a few blooms from our hydrangea trees. I can hear their every conversation and I am glad I can. I like to feel the press of people and sense the larger community of which I am a part. And I pray I will never cringe from people I do not know, or choose not to open the door to some hardworking person with a clipboard or a Bible.

Late last summer, an out-of-town friend came by and, after having a nice visit with us, set out to look around our Town Center. Confused, she went right instead of left at the end of our street.

“I knew I’d made a mistake when I came to the beach with all the Mexicans,” she said upon returning.

Mexicans?!” I wanted to say. “The people you saw there are from Cambodia and China, Sri Lanka and Portugal!” 

I felt such indignation.

But then not a week later, our oldest daughter blew by for a quick visit and reported how she had just pulled over at that same beach and delightedly waded in its waters.

“Why didn’t we ever go there?” she wanted to know.

Well, why on earth didn’t we? It was a reminder to me: either keep reaching out or risk turning inward toward a stifling homogeneity. 

I’m thinking I might put up a clothesline myself now that summer’s here and hang me out some laundry. But  for sure I am going to that beach.

The More You Learn the More There IS to Learn 

  Frantically copying down what I just learned at my Apple Store session. (Glad I always carry my legal pad even if the top page is my daily list : 

  • “One, Diary  for a bit; 
  • Two, Create the blog; 
  • Three,  write  ’til your  back hurts..”

Fella said you’d be surprised to know how many people can only do one thing on their computer. He said a woman 20 only knew how to use Word. Can that be true. On the other hand remember the old Word Perfect days when even Merge Mail was a walk in the park?  Our technology is too smart for us now. 

Have to say though, I bless the satellites that see me bumping along various highways and byways and correct my every error. (You could weave a theology around that  phenomenon alone. :-))

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Vanity Vanity


You can’t obsess about what you’re going to wear to a particular event because Fate will punish you.

She will punish you for your foolishness and your vanity.

I took these pictures of myself so I could really examine how I looked in the navy dress I thought I might wear, something not seen in 20 years and found in the back of a third-floor closet. 

How I fretted over just the right thing to show up in for that evening wedding in Manhattan! 

I was trying to test it from every angle….

Close up and far away …


I did know that if I wore it I’d have to shorten it on account of the website I came upon of fashion Do’s and Don’ts for people my age. It said you definitely couldn’t show up at an event in an ankle-length dress from the 80s and the kind of  chunky white sandals that only Florence Henderson and I would think were just dandy. A dress like this say;IMG_5097

Do you still have this dress? I still have this dress!

But that website schooled me soo I had my pal Bob at Esquire Tailoring lop a foot off of it. 

And yes, the short sleeves made me look like I have upper arms like curtain swags but hey I actually DO have those arms so come on. For them I bought a white satin tuxedo-jacket kind of a thing at Nordstrom’s The Rack. It cost $125 – high for an accessory –  but it was marked down from $400 so I thought hey, I’ll wear it in my casket .

Anyway … the hour came to leave for the wedding , and I donned this get-up and stepped outside our hotel ….into a downpour such as you would expect to find only in the tropics. Even walking 15 feet to the waiting taxi drenched me. And when I slid onto the vinyl seat, slick with rain from the last passenger and his umbrella, the disaster was complete: both the white satin jack AND that navy silk dress puckered like the lips of Betty Boop., sprouted suckers like you see on an octopus’s arms, The last time I looked this bad was that time at Camp Fernwood wet my pants up onstage during the big Parents Weekend play King Hale of Health Land in which I played Our Friend the Beet, in a costume of purple crepe paper.

My togs looked like that crepe paper but you know what, do you know what? It didn’t matter a bit because it’s pretty much true that nobody’s looking at YOU Mom as my fifth grade son once told me. The wedding was truly memorable with a moving ceremony under the huppa, an open bar and platters of passed appetizers, mounds of cheeses and raw veggies, blintzes and I don’t know what-all else – oh I wait do know – a station where they serving the best hot roast beef and roast turkey I have ever eaten. And all this BEFORE we went upstairs for the real meal to enjoy a thousand vodka shots and many funny toasts.

The dress and jacket came back like new from the cleaners.


I’m still pretty partial to it so maybe I’ll l wear it to the bridal shower I’m attending this weekend. It’s so kind of Jackie O. in her Maurice Tempelsman phase don’t you know, bowed a bit by age but still …. still lovely and still sort of respecting any given day and dressing nicely for it.

(God Bless Jacquie gone too soon ! What a lady she was!)


Good Hotel


Online, the pictures looked amazing. Here we were right on Wall Street in Manhattan and we’d have THIS spacious a hotel room? Unheard of in my experience with New York accommodations!  

I could hardly contain myself the day we drove here for the wedding of one very dear to us, who we have known since he was 15. And now here he was in his high 30s getting married to possibly the most beautiful woman in all five boroughs. And the event wasn’t until Sunday night and here we were all checked in by 3pm on Friday and all this hotel fun ahead of us!

It’s true that the lone terrycloth robe we found was still damp – from the drier we fervently hoped – but Housekeeping brought two fresh ones up right away. Oh and the TV didn’t work right away but somebody arrived to fix that almost before we had hung up the phone requesting help with it. So the service was great. Plus – this was even better! –  the room had this 12-foot long window seat you could sit on and look right into 100 different apartment windows directly across the street . In one window, a woman’s naked legs on an ottoman! In another, a man starting to make his bed and then thinking the hell with it and flopping down on it instead. It was better than movies!

“Do you think those people can look in and see US ?” I asked my man. “I’m sure the hotel coats the windows with something so they can’t.”

“Doubtful,” said Dave.

But if they couldn’t see us in our birthday suits, we sure could see each other, since – wait for it – the bathroom had no walls, or rather the walls were just glass, whose doors that swung freely, like saloon doors in an old western. No privacy for the toilet part, no privacy for the bath part. In fact, when you sat in the tub, anyone in the room could watch your every move through this big sort of picture window which you see here  on the left. I know I felt like a large pale reptile in a terrarium. And it was the same way with the shower.

the andaz bath

It almost began to feel like a spooky place with all these odd quirks,  this on-display feature and then with the way the plaques holding room numbers in the corridors repeated in illuminated fashion just below themselves.


And yet here was a minibar whose drinks were all free, except the ones containing alcohol! – and who needed alcohol with a cozy bar downstairs and the wedding of the century looming before us? Plus the bride and groom had put a very nice red wine in all the wedding guests’ rooms.

I loved the place I decided. I loved our room, with the super-long windowseat that I lay stretched out on by the hour, watching the action outside.  I loved the five extra feet behind the long ‘island’ that held the desk and drawers and the TV .


This I loved not just because you could stash all your luggage in behind it  but because when you walked back there you found  not one but TWO nicely upholstered banquettes and a  reflective surface on the back of the television so you could sit and do your makeup or fool with your hair. (That’s me to the left, the morning after the wedding, when I was in need of attention to BOTH hair and makeup.)


But most of all I loved to an odd revolving architectural ‘element’ that actually spun, so that – spin! –  here you had shelves and drawers – spin! – here a fat hook for those terrycloth robes – spin! – here a full-sized closet-  spin!  – and  here a full-length mirror. Some guests might want the mirror facing the sink and some might want it facing the bed (since you just don’t know what people have in mind when they take a room haha) and you had all these options. And now, because a picture is worth a thousand words,, here’s my narration of that odd slightly planetary rotation.

So think of the Andaz Hotel at 75 Wall Street in the town so nice they named it twice the next time you’re in Manhattan! You do that and I’ll wait and say more about this NY jaunt in another post. 🙂