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May 2007

One of Those Days

Coffee_spill This morning I staggered downstairs to flip on the coffee machine and then went to do a bunch of chores that the Weatherman should be doing - lug out the recycling, roll out the trashcan, etc. -  but he is still atop Mt. Washington.

Upon returning to the kitchen I found what can only be described as a coffeeChipmunk explosion - there were coffee grinds and a boiling hot thick sludge all over the counter and part of the floor. (I think the filter hadn't allowed the coffee to drain, but I was still too sleepy to figure out the actual cause.) While cleaning this up I looked over to see that one of the cats had delivered a dead chipmunk to the door. I don't know who's the culprit -  both cats were looking proud of themselves.

At this moment, the incredibly loud stone grinding began for the hideous Tudor-style McMansion/Starter Castle that is being constructed across the street.

Reminding myself that these were small domestic disturbances, and not life-changing events like bad accidents, frightening diagnoses, etc., I picked up the morning paper to get a little perspective. Sure enough there is plenty there to put your own tiny dramas into place.

Bush_2 The Defense Department confirmed that 10 American soldiers were killed on Memorial Day. They ranged in age from 19 to 29. May has been the deadliest month for our troops since November of 2004. So far 116 soldiers have been killed this month.

But get this - President Bush was busy yesterday accusing critics of his proposed immigration bill of fear mongering. He accused critics of using "empty political rhetoric to try to frighten our citizens." Boy, that's rich. Well, if anyone should know about manipulating people through fear, that would be the President.

Anyway I'm over the coffee spill and the chipmunk. The construction noise is still driving me nuts, though.

The Weather Man Cooks!

Chef As faithful readers know, the Weatherman accepted a volunteer position as a cook at the Mt. Washington Weather Observatory. For a few days before he left, I gave the Weatherman a crash cooking course, and a few recipes. He left on Wednesday. There is no cell service up there, but I have been getting emails, and among the questions that have arisen so far are these:

"There is no chicken on the bone here. Can I make the lemon chicken recipe with boneless chicken breasts?" (The answer was yes, but he needed to adjust the cooking time.)

"They don't have the country Dijon mustard here for the vegetable recipe. Can I substitute Guldens?" (This was for a recipe of green beans in a butter mustard sauce. The answer was no.)

"I know you told me I had to rinse the chicken. Do I have to rinse the pork chops?" (No.)

Onions "They don't have purple onions here, only yellow. Can I use the yellow onions and do I change the amount?" (Yellow and purple onions, to my mind, are interchangeable.)

Much to my great surprise, he has also been consulting cook books and baking. He says his chocolate chip cookies were a big success. He also took the banana bread recipe off the blog and tried that. Another success. There are a few issues with the high altitude and adjusted cooking time. But so far, he is holding his own. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Pointing the Finger at the SAT

Sat Get this - some scientists in England are claiming that you can predict how well a kid will do on the SATs by looking at the length of their fingers. According to a psychologist at the University at Bath, children with longer ring fingers compared to index fingers are likely to have higher math scores than verbal scores on the  SAT. And -you do the math - with reverse finger lengths, a kid would do better on the verbal than the math.

The supposed science behind this is that different levels of exposure to the hormones testosterone and estrogen in the womb account for finger lengths, and that  testosterone is said to promote development in the brain associated with spatial and mathematical skills, while estrogen exposure does the same for verbal ability.

Hand This sounds so wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to start. First, why is a psychologist heading up a scientific study? They are not renowned for their training in statistical analysis. (Has anyone checked this profession's index finger length?) Second, this implies that boys are inherently better at math than girls. 

But most important, I have conducted my own exhaustive study of this matter. I looked at my hand. My ring finger is distinctly longer than my index finger. And trust me, my math score was so much lower than my verbal it was ridiculous.

The last time I wrote about a British doctor, it was about a doctor who claimed you could be thin and still be fat. I'm getting ready to point my stubby little index finger at the whole medical community over there.


Roadsidebomb When we were at my daughter's college graduation last week, my mother asked if any members of the class of 2007  had been killed in the Iraqi war. She was remembering her own college years (University of Texas, class of '45) and how many classmates had been lost. She also said  that about half of the boys in her high school class had been killed in the war.

Well, the answer was no - none of the  young men or women from my daughter's college class had been lost either in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have a volunteer army. In general, it is not composed of the kind of privileged kids who attended my daughter's small, private liberal arts college.

Soldiers To date, the Department of Defense has identified 3415 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. Yesterday they named the latest eight. Alexander was 19. David, Ryan and Travis were 20. Jason was 23. Joseph was 26. Jean was 27 and Christopher was 28.

My daughter is home now, and I just checked her 21-year-old sleeping form, much as I used to when she was a baby. Her face is serene and her blond hair is spread across the pillow. This morning I am thinking about the mothers of all of yesterday's dead. And the dead from the day before. And the day before that. And on and on.

Would a Sing Sing Museum Be In Bad Taste?

Published: May 20, 2007


Rendering, 1859

IN the time it has taken for the proposed Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum to get off the drawing board, you could have served a sentence for a violent felony inside the prison’s walls. It has been more than a decade since the idea was first floated to build a museum inside this town’s most infamous institution.

Since then, there have been multiple market studies, grant applications, meetings, news releases and a foundation established to raise money for the proposed museum. But amid plenty of political support, there has also been sharp criticism from local residents.

Now momentum has picked up again. The village has applied for $12.5 million in federal money for the museum, which is expected to cost $14 million. On May 8, Mayor William R. Hanauer of Ossining held a community meeting, this time to present the results of the latest feasibility study, done by a group of students from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

It came as little surprise to supporters and foes alike that the new study concluded that the museum “will be a strong tourist attraction with real economic benefits for the Village of Ossining, the Hudson Valley and New York State.” Supporters have dollar signs dancing in their eyes at the thought of how the sordid, secretly thrilling, Hollywood-pumped image of Sing Sing (“The Big House,” “Up the River,” “The House of Fear”) would draw visitors from all over the world.

“All that data we have indicates that this will be the most popular place in the metropolitan area,” said the county executive, Andrew J. Spano, adding that Westchester County was “100 percent” behind the prison museum.

The N.Y.U. students’ PowerPoint presentation emphasized the jobs that would be created through the construction and operation of the museum, along with the money that would flow into the village through tourism. They suggested that tour promoters could package different historic sites in the area together.

The design for the project has changed surprisingly little over time. The original 1825 cellblock wall still stands, and plans call for a connecting corridor that would lead to a re-creation of the original cells. The self-guided tour would review Sing Sing’s history, examining how it reflects American opinion on penology, which has tended to swing between reform movements and periods of harsh punishment.

Famous prisoners — like Willie Sutton and Lucky Luciano — will be highlighted. Books and movies featuring Sing Sing will be on display. The death house will be recreated and will house the prison’s original electric chair, in which 614 people were executed. There will also be an examination of prison life at Sing Sing today.

While there is some local concern about traffic, parking and tour buses rumbling through Ossining’s steep streets, the main objection is to the concept of a prison museum itself. This would not be the first prison museum — planners point to the huge success of the Alcatraz museum as inspiration — but it would be one of only a handful of museums about a working prison. The Sing Sing Correctional Facility is a maximum-security institution that holds about 1,800 men.

Residents at the May 8 meeting complained that the money could be better spent educating inmates and providing after-school programs to help prevent youngsters from turning to crime. They also said they found the idea of a prison museum repugnant.

“Ossining residents should look at this as a morality issue,” said Marie Gagliardi, 70, who has lived in Ossining for 50 years.

Mr. Hanauer maintains that the project is not exploitive, but educational. He said there would be no contact between visitors and inmates. Moreover, he said he believed that some prisoners would be glad to have their stories told. The state Department of Corrections also supports the museum.

“This will be a powerful venue for focusing serious examination of incarceration, the treatment of prisoners, their rehabilitation and punishment, the very emotional questions of racism and capital punishment, even the development of democracy as seen through the filter of penology,” Mr. Hanauer said.

I’ll admit to being fascinated by Sing Sing. I have been inside its walls several times as a reporter, and there is a prurient thrill every time.

But listening to the earnest N.Y.U. students talk about tour packaging, I couldn’t help imagining tourists stepping off buses to visit Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, sporting their “I Served My Sentence at the Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum” T-shirts. Nor could I shake the image of visitors leaving the death house and presenting their admission tickets to local restaurants for meal discounts — another promotional idea.

For years, Ossining tried to shake off its image as a prison town. Now the mayor describes the prison as “one of Ossining’s greatest underutilized resources.” The history of Sing Sing is rich indeed, but if the museum proceeds, critics need their own sense of maximum security that the project won’t strain the bounds of taste and decency.



Dormroom I have a recurrent dream. It's not a nightmare, but it ain't good. In the dream, it is the last day of college, the dorm is closing and I haven't started packing. Not only that, but I keep finding more and more stuff that has to get packed. In the dream, I'll discover a new room, and in it, an antique armoire. Not only do I have to pack all the clothes that are jammed into this armoire, but also the armoire itself. Sometimes in this dream, a huge snow storm is predicted, and I need to pack quickly so I can get on the road before the weather turns really bad. I usually wake up from this dream in a cold sweat.

Well, as faithful readers know, I attended my daughter's college graduation last weekend. It was lovely. A beautiful campus, a beautiful ceremony and a happy day. Graduation itself ended around 12:30. Then there was a nice lunch out on the lawn. And then it was time to get down to business. The students - er, that is the alumni - were suppose to be out of the dorms by 6 p.m. We went to the the on-campus suite my daughter shared with three other girls. We opened the door.

Boxes There are no words because it was simply my bad dream, coming to life. Stuff was everywhere. So much stuff. Big stuff. Little stuff. Stuff that needed to be thrown away. Stuff that needed to be recycled. Stuff that needed to be packed. Stuff that needed to be shipped. So much stuff.

I like to keep my posts brief, so I will cut to the chase and say that it all got done by the deadline. But I don't think my dream is going away anytime soon.

In the Blink of an Eye - Graduation

Graduation This blog will have a brief intermission while I go to attend my daughter's collegeBaby graduation. I can tell I am getting older because I think I've used the expression "in the blink of an eye" about 12 times in the last two days. Sentences like, "one minute I was putting her on the kindergarten bus and in the blink of an eye she was in college," keep escaping from my mouth. Not to mention, "we just dropped her off for freshman orientation and now, in the blink of an eye, we are heading to graduation."

The eye blinking will be a theme, I suspect. First, in the blink of an eye - ok, next month - my son graduates from high school. And then, in the blink of an eye, he'll head to college. And what do we do to hold back tears? We blink our eyes rapidly, of course. I suspect I'll be doing a lot of that in the next few days too.

Your Tax Dollars at Work Again!

Drunk Westchester County press releases are a stream of constant entertainment. I barely refrained myself earlier this week from blogging about the water tasting contest they were promoting. But get this one, which just arrived in my email - the county is now spending our tax dollars to fund a survey on how parents feel about their kids' alcohol and drug use.

If you are one of 5000 lucky randomly selected parents, you may get a survey in the mail that includes these thought-provoking questions:

"Do you think any of the following drugs (tobacco/alcohol/drugs, etc.) is harmful to your child's health?"

Hmmmm....that's a tough one. I'm pretty sure I want my kids to smoke cigarettes and pot, and snort cocaine, because those things are safe, but I'm still on the fence about heroin. I better let Andy Spano know.

"During the past year, has your child used cigarettes/marijuana/liquor/etc?"

Well, he did mention the hallucinogens from last night's party, and he is always asking me if I know where he can get a good deal on pot. But he always asks me this stuff when we're doing shots together, which is why it's hard for me to give the county a really accurate sense of his daily use.

Now that the county has a good sense of my parental attitude towards drinking and drug use,will this affect their policy?

PS-(posted the next day) It has come to my attention that some people did not pick up on the tongue-in-cheek tone of this post and took me seriously. This is meant to be dripping with sarcasm, folks. Maybe it's the writing...


Jurassicpark_2 I am completely frazzled. I am swamped with work, plus I am in negotiations for an interesting new professional project (stay tuned, too early for details yet). My daughter is graduating from college in four days and not only am I highly emotional about that, but also I'm also working on a special graduation present for her that is very time consuming. (On the off chance that she is checking my blog, the present is a surprise, so that, too, is a topic currently off limits.) Yesterday my son got a big, priority mail package from the college he will attend next year, with housing forms, medical forms, academic requirements, and the like.

So it's not any one thing that is keeping me up at night, but instead lots of life issues, nibbling away.  Does anyone remember the  first Jurassic Park? There were many large and terrifying dinosaurs, but there was also a small pack of cute little ones, called raptors. At first they look like pets. But the problem was when each one of them was taking a bite out of you, they could take you down.

Would anyone like to comment on what is wrong with me? Every one of the events I am mentioning - a good job, an interesting new prospect, a college graduation, a high school graduation, a child heading to college - these are all happy things. So why am I so wired, so exhausted and thinking about raptors?

Inviting Outsiders In

Published: May 13, 2007
Chappaqua, N.Y.


For the Curious, It’s Open House Season

Photographs by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

WHEN Betsy Isles received a phone call in early February asking if she would be willing to put her 19th-century Italianate farmhouse on a house tour, it all seemed comfortably far off: The tour date wasn’t until May. She would have plenty of time to get ready.

The cause was a good one. Proceeds from the tour — tickets are $70 for members, $80 for nonmembers — would benefit the local historical society. Besides, Mrs. Isles and her husband, Chris, love their home. Fascinated by local history, they were willing to open up their house, where they have lived 15 years, to fellow history buffs. In fact, Mrs. Isles’s only initial concern about participating was that the upstairs of the house remained off limits to visitors; the idea of strangers peering into the rooms of her two teenagers was a bit much.

13slideshow1_650 Between then and now — the tour is just days away — the Isleses have spent months preparing for the big event. Mrs. Isles teaches art at Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, Conn. Her husband, the director of construction for a small real estate company in Manhattan, is good-natured, with a penchant for offbeat collections, like the African Mancala games and fanciful folk-art face jugs that are displayed in the house. Together they have been clearing clutter, patching ceilings, planting flowers and getting their house ready for the roughly 300 visitors they expect on Thursday.

This is the height of the house tour season. May and June are prime time, but house tours — usually organized to raise money for charitable causes — have become so popular that they now extend through the fall. The Christmas season brings another, smaller round of tours of homes decorated for the holidays.

The popularity of house tours seems to be driven by a combination of admiration and voyeurism. Visitors get a peek into beautiful homes they’ve always wanted to see. Some people are simply curious; others are looking for decorating ideas.

Because the featured houses range from mansions interior-designed to the hilt to smaller homes of historical significance, reactions run the gamut from envy (sometimes mixed with a little cattiness) to genuine interest and inspiration. So many groups are running house tours these days that organizers can start to feel a little competitive.

13slideshow3_650 “You’re always looking for something to have on your house tour that might be a little different,” said Jennifer Coultas, president of the Boonton Historical Society and Museum in New Jersey, which was scheduled to hold its biannual tour yesterday. “There are just so many house tours out there that people might be wondering what you have that other people don’t have.”

The tours may be ubiquitous, but planning them is not something organizers take lightly. The Isleses’ home is being featured on a tour of six homes, run by the New Castle Historical Society. From the initial scouting of the houses to the moment that the last visitors take off their paper booties (most homes have a no-shoes-allowed policy), hours of work, dozens of phone calls and countless e-mail messages have transpired to ensure that the event goes smoothly.

Jane Lindau, co-chairwoman of the house tour committee for the historical society, began getting organized in November, culling houses from a continuing list she had been keeping of possible homes to feature. In choosing houses for the tour, she tries to balance style and period. Next comes the most challenging part of her job: courting the homeowners.

“I was an institutional bond salesperson for an investment bank, so I’m used to calling people and bugging them,” said Ms. Lindau, who added that she usually tried to appeal to people by pointing out how interesting their home was and by pitching the historical society as a worthy cause.

THOUGH a lot of homeowners are house proud, many are a little daunted by the idea of a tour, according to Ms. Coultas. Those who feel their homes must look magazine perfect may demur, saying they’ll reconsider after their floors have been refinished or once they have redecorated.

13slideshow6_450 “It’s not something that people are jumping up and down to do,” said Charlotte Bartol, a co-chairwoman of the Southport-Westport Designer House Tour, which was held earlier this month and included homes in Fairfield and Westport, Conn. “It takes the right kind of person to want to have 500 people go through your house on a tour.”

Security can also be an issue. The organizers of the Southport-Westport show hired security guards. Most tours also post volunteers in each room of the house, who act as docents — having familiarized themselves with the interesting features of the room — and as an extra set of eyes on either overly inquisitive or acquisitive visitors.

Ms. Lindau approached the Isleses about putting their home, which was built around 1850, on the New Castle Historical Society tour. After receiving assurances that the upstairs would indeed be off limits — a ribbon would be hung across the bottom of the staircase with a small sign reading “Not on Tour” — the Isleses agreed. But that was just the beginning of the process.

On a frigid Sunday later in February, the Isleses got a visit from Marian and Gray Williams, members of the New Castle Historical Society. Because the tour highlights houses of historic significance, Mr. Williams, the town historian, was called in to help prepare the written descriptions of houses that will be given to tourgoers. He was soon regaling the Isleses with the history of their home.

“The house was built by Charles Underhill probably around 1850, and the road was down there,” Mr. Williams told the Isleses, pointing out the kitchen window. “Charles Underhill is buried at the Quaker Cemetery.”

And so it went on through the years, with descriptions of surrounding farms and the cider mill that used to be nearby, tales of the railroad coming through Chappaqua in 1846 (“mostly milk trains,” Mr. Williams said), and accounts of the house’s owners over time.

13slideshow7_450 Then it was the Isleses’ turn to tell Mr. Williams about the many family heirlooms, as well as the more modern pieces they had acquired, that would be featured on the tour. They began in what Mr. Williams said was once the front parlor, but which the Isleses call the family room. The room was crowded with artwork and furniture.

Mr. Williams was taken with the older pieces — a 19th-century coal scuttle, an early American secretary, a richly carved piecrust table and a painted child’s chair. But there were also photographs of Bob Dylan and Deborah Harry, the lead singer for the rock group Blondie, taken by David Michael Kennedy. There were signs of 21st-century life, too, like the DVDs and the Nintendo remote controls, which Mr. Williams almost tripped over.

“That won’t be here,” Mrs. Isles said, apologetically. “We are going to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t mix.”

The Isleses built an addition to the house five years ago. The Williamses examined a shadow box hanging on the wall of the new room, full of things that the builder had found in the walls during construction, including a Good Housekeeping magazine from 1902, an 1890 almanac, a glass bottle and some fading sepia photographs. Mrs. Isles had put everything together in a collage.

13rhouseowners_190 Every room was dense with noteworthy furnishings. Mrs. Williams furiously jotted down details on everything from Chinese window panels to Hudson River School paintings. It took more than two hours for the Williamses to complete their tour.

In mid-March, the Historical Society sent the tour’s two house captains, Emily Haft Bloom and Betsy Guardenier, to the Isles house. They would be reviewing logistics — where people on the tour would park, what the traffic pattern in the house would be, how many docents would be needed and the like.

Snow in the yard was deep, but Mrs. Isles assured her visitors that the front path would be passable by May. The women decided that visitors would enter the front of the house, which has the original door. (The Isleses use a side entrance today.) The tour would make a loop around the downstairs, following Mr. Williams’s printed description. After some discussion, it was decided that the kitchen would be roped off but visible to tourgoers.

Mrs. Isles repeated that she would clear the clutter — some family photos, some plants, magazines — from the house. She pointed to a section of the dining room ceiling that was discolored from an old leak and said her husband would patch it. There was some debate about dismantling the swing set outside that her children had outgrown. She asked whether the pool — at this point covered in ice and snow — should be readied for the tour.

“It would look prettier open than with a pool cover,” Mrs. Bloom told her.

By late April, Mrs. Bloom was back with a crew of eight docents for training. (Mrs. Guardenier was out of town, and two docents couldn’t make it.) The snow had melted and the pool was glistening.

The Isleses had been at the nursery, but the only flowers in stock had been pansies, which they were starting to put in planters.

Mrs. Isles was still apologizing for the clutter.

“I’ve decided what I’ll do is declutter a little bit every day after work,” she said. “I always say we’ve got to get rid of this clutter, and sometimes it takes something like this or it’s never going to happen.”

13slideshow9_650 She admitted that she would probably take most of it to the off-limits upstairs, and that after the tour it would probably “go right back to the way it was.”

Mrs. Isles led the docents through her home. They would work in two shifts, allowing them to visit the other houses on the tour. Everyone was hoping for good weather.

Mrs. Isles seemed to remain calm as the day approached.

“This is really not a show house,” she said, referring to homes that have been redone by interior designers. “The point of this house tour is to show the history of the town and the history of the house.”

As the docents walked around her home, looking at her paintings and rugs, Mrs. Isles added another thought.

“I’m so happy I’m going to be at work during the tour,” she said. “And I’m really happy they’re not going upstairs.”

Mother's Day Lunch

Naturally, I cooked for my mother on Mother's Day. Also for my Dad, my sister, my niece, my brother, my sister-in-law and the Weatherman and the Boy.

Salsaguacomole We started out with guacamole, salsa and chips. For the guacamole, I took four slightly over ripe avocados, and smushed them with an old potato masher. Then I added the juice from two limes. Stirred in some fresh chopped cilantro (probably about 3/4s of a cup) and some chopped Vildalia onions (about 1/2 a cup). Seasoned the whole thing with a few shakes of the Tabasco bottle, and salt and pepper.

As for the salsa, I didn't make it from scratch, but I started with Pace chunky salsa, then doctored it up a bit by adding some fresh cilantro and sweet onions.

Mothersdaylunch_3 For main course, the Weatherman grilled lamb kabobs. I got the kabobs from the butch at Key Food in Pleasantville, who is one of the last old-fashioned butchers around here that I've found. (By old fashioned I mean he'll prepare any cut of meat you'd like and discuss preparation and cooking times.)

With this I served a green salad and curried couscous. The couscous recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and here is is:

Curried Couscous
serves 6

1 1/2 cups couscous                            1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon butter                            1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup boiling water                     1/2 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup plain yogurt                            1/2 cup minced fresh-flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup good olive oil                         1/2 cup dried currants
1 teaspoon curry powder                    1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds (I left these out)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric            2 scallions thinly sliced (white and green parts)
                                                                    1/4 cup small-diced red onion

Pour couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt and pepper. Pour over fluffed couscous and mix well with fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions and red onions; mix well and taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Fruitcobbler For dessert we had fruit cobbler. This comes from the William-Sonoma catalog.

Blackberry Cobbler

For the filling:
6 cups blackberries or mixed seasonal berries. (I used blackberries, strawberries and blueberries.)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of salt

For the topping:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish. To make filling, toss berries in a bowl with sugar, flour, zest and salt. Pour into baking dish. To make the topping, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients; fold gently to form a soft dough. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto fruit, spacing them evenly. Dough will not completely cover fruit. Bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is browned, about 45 minutes.

Needless to say, this should be served with vanilla ice cream. Fruitcobblewhand

The Weatherman's New Adventure

Chef My husband, The Weatherman, is obsessed with Mt. Washington. The observatory on topWeatherman of the mountain has recorded the world's highest wind speed, and the place is known for it's dramatic - some would say really bad - weather. The Weatherman especially likes to visit Mt. Washington in the winter, but he'll go anytime he's able.

Some time ago, he offered his services as a volunteer in the observatory. Yesterday, he got the call. They can use him for a week at the end of  May. His job? The Weatherman will be the house cook for 7 nights, preparing dinners for the staff of 8.

Does anyone know what is wrong with this picture? The Weatherman doesn't cook. The Weatherman loves to eat, and he is extremely helpful around the kitchen, almost always doing all the dishes. But cooking is my job. Basically, the Weatherman can grill when handed the prepared food (he doesn't even shape the hamburger patties) and he has two other meals in his repertoire: spaghetti with meat sauce and scrambled eggs.

When he applied for the mountain cook job, he was asked if he could make a Thanksgiving dinner for 10. He answered, "No, but I could learn." Heh heh heh.  Just tonight he asked me for the first time in 24 years of marriage when I added garlic and onions to the meat sauce. Please stay tuned for more developments in what promises to be a fascinating adventure.

Do I Look Fat?

Fatladies My husband is a smart man. He knows the correct answer to the question, "Does this make me look fat?" You are probably thinking that the right answer is, "No, it doesn't." WRONG! The truly correct answer is, "How could it possibly make you look fat? You're not fat."

But now, according to a report by the Associated Press, you can not even look fat - appear quite slim in fact -  and still be fat. Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College in London, is quoted as saying, "Being thin doesn't automatically mean you're not fat." I'm not kidding. Let me repeat that quote. "Being thin doesn't automatically mean you're not fat."

As they say in England, what's he on about?  Well, Dr. Bell says that it's internal fat we need to worry about. You can be skinny but still have fat around your internal organs, like your heart or liver or pancreas. This, of course, can set you up for disease. His solution - thin people need to exercise more. To which I say, Oh For God's Sake!

Take Two KI Pills, and Pray that There's a Morning

Radiusip More good news out of the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant this morning - now they've found traces of radioactive material in their sewage. The plant operators say that they don't know how it got there, but at the same time they are sure it's nothing to worry about. I feel better, don't you?

Yesterday I did something that I've never done before - stopped by my local town hall to pick up Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets. These pills are free to anyone who lives within a 10 mile radius of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. I got four tablets - one for each member of the family. The nice lady at town hall who gave them to me said, "this should be enough to get you out of town."

Pillsandletter1 KI can help protect you from thyroid cancer in the event of a nuclear accident, becauseIndianpoint it blocks the absorption of radioactive iodine into your thyroid.  It doesn't do a thing to protect you against the other effects from radiation. In order to be effective, you have to take this pill either 24 hours before exposure (I guess we'll know a day ahead of time about an emergency at the plant) or within two to four hours of exposure to radiation. Again, I feel very confident, because the Indian Point Power Plant is known for its cracker jack siren system. By the way, they are testing those sirens again in Croton today. If anyone actually hears them, please let me know.

It's Never Too Early

Babygraduation_2 The headline in yesterday's Journal News read, "Middle Schoolers Start Talking College." And sure enough, it was reported that more than 200 sixth, seventh and eighth graders attended a college fair at the Westchester County Center on Tuesday.

I'm particularly struck by the image of 11-year-olds picking of brochures and talking about the partying scene on various campuses.

In fairness to the organizers, Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services,  they tried to target kids from what they call "high-need school districts." I guess the idea is that kids in Mt. Vernon or Port Chester might not be thinking about college,and that the thought of a post-high school education should be planted early in their young minds.

I still can't help thinking that there is still plenty of time for that when these youngsters get to high school. Could we at least wait until they are 14 and in their freshman year? At that point, they may have acquired the maturity to actually understand planning for college.

Students  in "low-need districts" - like Chappaqua, Byram Hills, Scarsdale and many others -  do not  have any formal college informational  programs until their junior year in high school. Granted, they tend to live in households where the concept of attending college is firmly embedded in the culture and have parents who are savvy to the process.

Babyincrib_2 Even so, the idea of going younger and younger with the college stuff is misguided. And just to let you know how out-of-control it can get, here is a true story that I got from a young man who works in the admissions office at Stanford University. The office received a phone call from a father, requesting an application for his son. The admissions officer asked the father what year of school his son was in. The answer - the boy was a one-year-old baby! The Dad wanted to hang the application over the baby's crib as inspiration.

Forget the college fund. This family  better start making deposits into the therapy pool.

Planning, Policing Prom Night

Planning, and Policing, Prom Night


Published: May 6, 2007
THIS spring, there will be about 65 proms in Westchester, and there is a flurry of planning all over the county. First, there is the matter of securing a date, which can be filled with as much drama and tension as any episode of “24.” Then there are the dress shopping and tuxedo fittings, hair and manicure appointments, limousine rentals and plans for the “after-prom,” the celebration after the dance that can last anywhere from a few hours to a long weekend.

That’s just what the teenagers are doing. Police departments are also gearing up for prom season, and it is one of their least favorite times of the year.

“In law enforcement, we see the worst,” said Bruce Kelly, assistant district attorney and deputy director of training and education in the district attorney’s office. “Date rape, fights, alcohol poisoning and worse. This is a really bad time.”

So while the girls are twirling in their gowns before the mirror, anticipating an evening of excitement, the police are remembering last year, when they pulled at least one girl — unconscious and covered in vomit — from the floor of a limousine. And while boys are having their parents rent hotel rooms for after-prom parties, the police are providing local hotels with guidance on how to break up groups of rowdy teenagers who may destroy property, annoy other guests or make themselves violently ill with alcohol or drugs.

Somewhere between the Cinderella fantasies and the scenarios of debauchery and death lies the reality of the prom experience for most high school teenagers. Most will survive the night, some with happy memories, some with hangovers. But prom season can be dangerous, and the county has stepped up its efforts to combat under-age drinking before, during and after the big event.

Janet DiFiore, the district attorney, says she is not interested in locking up teenagers but rather, in keeping them safe. Andrew J. Spano, the county executive, said: “Kids think prom night is a right of passage. You are about to graduate and you can go out and drink and have a good time. Our experience is that they get themselves into difficulties.”

Last spring, the county police set up patrols and stopped 440 limousines and 56 buses on their way to proms. In addition to pulling out a 16-year-old girl, who needed to be hospitalized immediately for alcohol poisoning, the police haul included vodka camouflaged in all manner of soda and water bottles, liquor in a hair-spray can and a flask disguised as a cellphone, complete with leather carrying case and belt clip.

Mr. Spano’s and Ms. DiFiore’s joint task force, the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth, is in high gear right now. Representatives from the coalition have visited dozens of schools, meeting with students and parent-teacher associations to discuss the dangers of substance abuse. The police have conducted stings on stores and bodegas that sell alcohol to minors. The county has sent letters to limousine operators warning them not to allow alcohol in their cars. The police’s prom patrol will return this spring.

All that addresses only what happens before the prom. Because proms are school-run events, they are chaperoned by teachers, often bolstered by extra security and usually pretty safe. Drunken students are turned away and those punch bowls are strictly monitored.

It’s the after-prom parties that concern the police. Traditions vary across Westchester. Some teenagers follow the prom with trips to Manhattan clubs. In some communities, groups of students rent hotel rooms or houses on the Jersey Shore or on Long Island. Some parents in Westchester rent the hotel rooms for their children, sometimes even stocking them with alcohol before turning over the key. The police are not fans of this approach.

“You’ve got to be crazy if you’re a parent and rent a room and walk away,” said Capt. John Hodges of the county police department. The district attorney’s office has tried to impress upon parents that while supplying alcohol to teenagers may be considered a minor crime, they could be sued and held liable in civil court for anything that happens at or after a party.

“They’ll come after you, your insurance, your house — they’ll garnish your wages,” Mr. Kelly said. “That usually gets their attention.”

Many parents have tried to control the after-prom scene, sometimes with limited success. Last year, a group of Westchester parents rented a bus to take their children to a no-alcohol club in Manhattan after the prom.

“We thought we had done so well as we watched our kids board that bus,” said one mother, who did not want to be identified. “We had even searched the bus and the kids’ bags.”

But the teenagers had stuffed alcohol in everything from their bras to their pants, and several returned home sick. Some area high schools, like Brewster, have tried to arrange supervised after-prom parties at sports clubs or recreation halls. Parents love the idea; teenagers refuse to attend.

Soon enough, these teenagers will be on their own. After the prom, graduation is just around the corner.

“Graduation time?” Mr. Kelly said. “That’s really the worst. Those parties are mobile.”


Grilled Swordfish

Swordfishgrilled I am always nervous about grilling swordfish, because it is so damn expensive and so easily ruined. But last night, it came out really well. I had marinated the fish for about a half an hour in one of those - I'll admit it - pre-made lemon marinades. I set the grill low, on medium, and grilled the fish (the steaks were about an 3/4 of an inch thick) about five minutes a side. Served it with the left-over tomato-cheesy rice and some steamed green beans which I tossed in a little butter and about a teaspoon of country-style (grainy) Dijon mustard.

Westchester Wanderings

Crotondambetter I love Westchester County. I do. But the Weatherman and I often fall into a rut,Crotonreservoir_2 dining at the same restaurants and taking walks in the same parks. But no more! We have resolved to do some Westchester wandering. Yesterday, on a whim, we decided to go visit Croton Gorge Park, in Cortlandt. It was a picture-perfect spring day.

The park is a 97 acre property at the base of the Croton Dam. Not only can you picnic on the extensive grounds at the bottom of the dam, but you can also walk across the top (the road is closed to cars but open to bicycles and pedestrians) and there are spectacular views of the reservoir and the spillway. Look down the other side, and you watch the water cut a beautiful path through the woods.

Damspillover If you like hiking, as we do, you can pick up a trail that leads you to New YorkSteps State's Old Croton Aqueduct.

After all that walking, you deserve a treat of course. And you can do no better than visiting The Blue Pig, in Croton. This small gathering spot, a local favorite, offers hot dogs and chili, but the real deal is the ice cream. I had seen Blue Pig ice cream featured on menus at upscale restaurants (like Peter Pratt's, in Yorktown) but had never been to the mecca. Oh my goodness! I had a flavor called "Pig Slop." I ordered it before I even knew what was in it, based both on the name and that it looked so good. It turned out to be cinnamon ice cream, mixed with pieces of home made oatmeal cookies. It was transcendent.

Downriver So far, I am really enjoying our exploration of our own backyard.Bluepig_2

West Side Story at Sing Sing

Westsidestory Last night, I went to Sing Sing prison to see a performance of "West Side Story." This is the third play I have seen behind the huge stone walls of the prison. A volunteer program, called Rehabilitation Through the Arts, has brought theater to this maximum security facility, with the idea that skills like learning to work together as a team and improving communication skills can be truly rehabilitative.

I've written about this program several times in the New York Times, so if you're interested, please read more. Usually, the troupe performs for fellow inmates for three nights, and the fourth night people from the "outside" - usually prison volunteers, clergy and sometimes media - can attend. Security takes forever, with hand stamps, x-ray machines, body searches, and the confiscation of pretty much everything but your driver's license. All this after your name has been cleared by New York State weeks before.

Last night's performance was the first musical the program has ever attempted. It was given as a tribute to the former superintendent of Sing Sing, Brian Fisher, who is now the Commissioner of New York State Corrections. It was Mr. Fisher who first allowed the program inside the prison.

Singsing_2 So maybe the dancing wasn't up to Jerome Robbin's standards and perhaps Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics might have winced as a few inmates missed their high notes.  A handful of volunteers - including my wonderful friend Linda - played the women's roles. The rest of the cast, along with most of the production crew, were inmates.

The show was great. Naturally, the fight scenes were extremely believable. But the most poignant scenes came from the softer moments. There was one in which three very large men came on stage and sang, "There's a Place For Us." When they starting singing the lyrics, "peace and quiet and open air wait for us, somewhere..." I almost started crying.  Riff had dreadlocks, Bernardo had just the right combination of menace and vulnerability and the inmate who played Officer Krupke played him as a fool to great laughs.

One of the most moving moments of Sing Sing theater is the end of the show. The inmates are clearly basking in the applause. They are not allowed to leave the stage, but audience members may go up and greet them. Eventually, the audience lines up, to get in the small caged buses that will take them to the prison exit. (You don't just walk out either -there's security in place for leaving, as you can imagine.) The inmates start to come down from the excitement of the evening as they watch the visitors stream out.

And when you walk out into the spring night air, the freedom really is palpable.

Sing Sing Theater

COUNTY LINES; An Exercise in Maximum Insecurity


By Kate Stone Lombardi

Published: November 28, 2004

THE invitation described ''a very special evening of theater,'' and certainly it's a rare performance that begins with the audience undergoing an hourlong security screening in order to see the play. That's because this production took place inside the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, transforming it briefly into a kind of Broadway on the Hudson (or in this case up the river).

The play, August Wilson's ''Jitney,'' was produced and performed by inmates as part of a program called Rehabilitation Through the Arts, which is run by volunteers from outside the prison and financed through private donations and grants. The idea is that theater can be truly rehabilitative, teaching responsibility and imparting a sense of community, as well as valuable communication skills, to men behind bars.

The cast and crew had worked for months on the production. The set had been built in vocational woodworking, costumes had had to undergo security clearance, and the stage manager, Dexter Robinson, who is serving a life sentence, said that even in the last week, he worried it wouldn't all come together.

''Everything wasn't running right, and I thought, 'This isn't going to work,''' Mr. Robinson said. ''But I had to just keep pushing on, dealing with the different attitudes. It was a challenge.''

There were four performances: three for fellow inmates and one for a mixed audience of inmates and those invited from ''the outside,'' many of whom are involved in prison work.

Visitors had Polaroid photos taken, walked through a metal detector, were ''wanded'' by a guard and relinquished items like pens, train tickets and lipstick. (And that was after having been approved to attend in advance.)

A caged van drove them through the huge, spotlighted prison campus, past the endless rolls of razor wire that line the tall granite walls, and finally to the chapel auditorium, where the performance was to take place. Before the curtain rose, visitors were asked to remain seated after the play, so that inmates in the audience could be escorted out first.

''Jitney'' is set in a gypsy-cab station in Pittsburgh, where a group of drivers struggle to earn a living and work out their personal demons. The owner of the business, the well-respected Becker, has a son who is released from prison after having served a 20-year sentence for murder.

The son seeks a reconciliation with his father, who has never visited or forgiven. The father expresses shame that ''you were locked up in a cage like some animal.''

''I don't need this,'' Becker's son answers. ''You've done marked me. I'm saying I got no hard feelings that you didn't come see me. I did what I had to do and I paid my debt.''

''I taught you to respect life,'' his father counters, looking anguished.

It was eerie watching this drama unfold in a maximum-security prison. Audience members, who had laughed during earlier, comic parts of the play, were silent during this scene.

In the end the cast got a standing ovation. The actors were not allowed to leave the stage, but the visiting audience was permitted to walk up and congratulate them.

Acting out their emotions in the play represented a kind of freedom, several inmates said. Kelly Watts talked about portraying Becker, the unforgiving father.

''It was very hard,'' he said. ''It's so different coming from the position of being incarcerated. This is my 17th year. It's hard from the point of view of a son who has a father, and hard as a father who has been absent from his son. But it does give me an opportunity to live out some of these emotions.''

Mosi Eagle, who played Becker's son, also struggled with his role. ''Because I'm waiting to come out, some of these feelings are real feelings,'' he said. ''Dealing with these emotions gives me practice for when I do get released.'' Mr. Eagle is serving a 25-year sentence.

And then it was time to leave. The excitement from the performance began to wind down. The prisoners were told to step back from the edge of the stage. Still on the boards, they watched quietly as the visitors lined up to climb aboard the vans that would lead them beyond the gates and into the cool November night.

CLOSE-UP; Behind Walls of Sing Sing, Inmates Find Freedom Onstage

Published: December 1, 2002

JUST before the curtain opened, there was an announcement from the stage. The audience was to remain seated after the play, so that the guards could conduct a count. Such is theater at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility: a series of paradoxes, in which freedom of creative expression takes place within the quite literal confines of prison walls.

The drama that followed was the fourth and final performance of ''Stratford's Decision,'' written, performed and directed by inmates at Sing Sing. It was produced through Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a program run by volunteers from outside the prison, which has helped stage 10 plays at Sing Sing over the last six years.

The play, which ran for two and a half hours, was set in Elizabethan times and involved palace intrigue, where jealousy over the Queen's favorite, Lord Stratford, leads to conflict and murder. But while the language was mostly appropriate to the era -- ''Why hast thou summoned me?'' ''I shall go forthwith,'' and the like -- it was also spliced with contemporary street talk for comedic effect.

Lines like ''What hast thou been smokin'?'' had the audience roaring with laughter, as did many others that contained language unprintable here. At various points, the actors would break out of character with asides to the audience. The dashing Lord Stratford, played by Dino S. Johnson, an imposing man with long dreadlocks, is about to seduce Lady Pembrook when he stops suddenly to say, ''What are these writers doing to me? I've been a rogue all this time and now they give me a damn conscience!'' When young Lord Tooley, played by David James, draws out his death scene, he pops up from the grave and asks, ''Wait! What's my motivation here?''

It was odd to watch murders on stage within a comedic setting and listen to lines like ''if it would make you happy, my homicidal friend,'' and then to remember that the performers themselves may be serving time for these very acts. At times the play was so engrossing that the drama could have been unfolding on any professional stage. At other moments, the audience was reminded of exactly where they were, with phones ringing, guards' walkie-talkies squawking, and trains rumbling by just outside the prison walls.

Those involved with the theater program -- both inmates and volunteers -- say that it is truly rehabilitative, giving the men a sense of responsibility and community, and valuable communication skills, which may help them when they are released. The program is financed solely through private donations and foundation grants and is run by volunteers, many with backgrounds in professional theater.

''Theater is like life,'' said Katherine Vockins, the director of the Rehabilitative Theater Program and one of three volunteers who played the female parts in the play. ''You've got to show up; you have to be on cue; you have to work with people you don't always like; you've got short and long term goals and most of all, to pull off a production, you've got to work as a team.''

Ms. Vockins said she had discovered a great deal of talent within the walls of Sing Sing. She noted that the theater program allowed the men not only to explore their creativity, but also to help them build social and leadership skills. She said it also helped them give freedom to emotions that are often difficult to express in the harsh environment of prison.

''Drama allows you to try on emotions and see what happens,'' Ms. Vockins said. ''You can't do that in prison. You have to wear a mask to protect yourself.''

Brian Fischer, the superintendent of Sing Sing, said he had seen positive results from the program. He noted that the inmates involved with the theater projects had fewer disciplinary problems. Still, Sing Sing is a maximum security prison, and everything related to the program -- guests, costumes, props -- is closely scrutinized.

The first three nights of the play were performed solely for prison audiences; the final night was open to some visitors from the outside, including those who volunteer in other capacities at the prison, as well as some inmates. Security was tight. The audience members from the outside, after driving along the high, thick, granite walls and razor wire that surround the prison, were searched thoroughly, as were their belongings.

V ISITORS, who needed to be cleared through the Department of Correction well in advance of the performance, passed through metal detectors, signed log books and wore badges throughout their time inside the prison. Once inside the grounds, they were driven in a caged van down to the chapel auditorium where the performance took place.

The inmates said they were thrilled to have an audience ''from the outside'' and were eager to talk about the program. Sean Smith, 31, played Captain Quinn, one of the Queen's guards in the play. ''Stratford's Decision'' was his fourth play, and he credits the program with teaching him discipline and instilling a sense of pride.

''I like the freedom of expression,'' Mr. Smith said. ''It gives me a chance to explore new things and also to work with issues pertaining to my being in prison. It's a chance to get way from everyday prison life. It also gave me something to feel good about. You feel like you accomplished something.''

Many of the prisoners are physically imposing, with bulging muscles and copious tattoos. So it was somewhat surprising to hear from several performers that they suffered stage fright at each performance.

''My heart is beating so fast and I have butterflies in my stomach,'' said Jeffrey Hogan, who played Lord Hemmings. 

Mr. Hogan said that in the past he had trouble expressing his emotions. ''I was always in this box,'' he said. ''Being part of this program allowed me to communicate, to express how I feel. At first I thought no way could I do this. I started by saying 'I'll move furniture around.' But they said, 'We need you, come on, man, we need you.' Another guy said, 'I'll work with you.' Then I realized, wow, this is powerful. I got bit. This is my eighth production. I've played sensitive roles, hard roles. This is the best for me, living in that time, working with that dialogue.''

David Wayne Britton, who with Winston Ishon Williams, wrote 'Stratford's Decision,' had been trying to persuade the theater group to put on a Shakespeare play for some time. He particularly wanted to try ''Julius Caesar.''

But Mr. Britton's fellow inmates argued that the prison audience would find Shakespeare too boring. 

''Stratford's Decision'' was written in 19 days. Mr. Britton said he wanted to write a play that addressed the destructiveness of hatred. Mr. Britton starred as the villain, Lord Cross. He was beaming after the audience gave him a standing ovation.

''This feels really, really good,'' Mr. Britton said. ''I've been in prison 10 years. When I get out, I intend to pursue this. I want my mother to be proud. How proud could she really be now? I'm in prison. But some day I want her to look at me on stage or in film and say 'I'm proud.' ''

steak and pasta with broccoli rabe

Steakandpasta The pasta and broccoli rabe would have been enough dinner for me. But boys with be boys and it's not a meal without a recognizable hunk of protein. The Weatherman grilled the steaks and they were so good they didn't need a thing but salt and pepper.

To prepare the broccoli rabe, I boiled a big bunch of it for a few minutes. (If anyone knows a better way to tame this vegetable, please let me know, because I'm sure I'm losing valuable nutrients with the boiling.) Meanwhile I am sauteeing a ridiculous amount of chopped garlic - like five cloves worth - in olive oil. To this I add a couple of shakes of the hot red pepper flakes spice jar. Once the broccoli rabe is cooked - a few minutes later - I drain it, squeeze out the extra moisture (it's kind of like spinach that way) and then chop it. Then I fold it into the olive oil/garlic/pepper flakes mixture. I also add salt, because I salt everything. (I know it's bad for you, but I have abnormally low blood pressure, so I feel I get a pass.) Let it all cook together for about three minutes, and then serve on top of pasta. I used gemelli pasta tonight. Also, I like a dusting of Parmesan cheese on top.

Our Favorite Vinaigrette

From The Silver Palate Cookbook

Our Favorite Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon-style mustart
4 tablespoons redwine vinegar
1 teaspoon granlulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
minced parsley and/or snipped fresh chives, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Measure mustart into a bowl. Whisk in vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and herbs to taste.
2. Contnue to whisk mixture while slowly dribbling in olive oil until mixture thickens Adjust seasoning to taste. Cover until ready to use. (Vinaigrette is best if made just before it is to be used.) If necessary, whisk again before serving. Makes 1 cup.

Silver Palate's Silver Anniversary

Silverpalatecookbook You know how certain things can suddenly make you feel old? Like when I walk into a liquor store (infrequent as that is, of course) and see the sign on the counter that says, "If you were born after this date in 1986, you may not purchase alcohol." 1986? That was just a little while ago, so how could youngons born so recently already be 21 years old?

It happened again recently when I read that The Silver Palate Cookbook will next month celebrate it's 25th anniversary. How is it that my favorite cookbook of all times is no longer cutting edge? The photo in the corner illustrates a spanking new book, but my copy is wrinkled and covered with food stains. The recipe for "Our Favorite Vinaigrette" is so splotched with Dijon mustard and olive oil stains that it is barely readable. When I was a newly wed (also in the eighties) I started out with "Joy of Cooking," a stalwart cookbook to be sure, but kind of like your maiden aunt. It was substantive, but without style. You could learn how to make a roast or carve a turkey. But the Silver Palate! Here was a book that suggested a supper party menu of salmon mousse with green herb dipping sauce, to be followed with dilled blanquette of veau. This was great stuff, and I spent hours replicating these recipes and throwing what I considered to be very swanky dinner parties.

Come to think of it, it is still the first cookbook I reach for when I am planning to entertain. I gave up a lot from the eighties - Jane Fonda tapes, shoulder pads, and my "Jock Jam" music collection. But I will never outgrow the Silver Palate Cookbook.

Sports Mania

Jagr My household revolves around two professional sports seasons - hockey and football. Right now the New York Rangers are in the playoffs. This means the Boy is in a complete state. Normally calm and organized, today he left for school, returned home three minutes later because he forgot his cell phone, and then realized he had it in his pocket all along. He is heading to Madison Square Garden again tonight with hisMsg_2 father, The Weatherman, to watch the Rangers in their fourth game in the series against the Buffalo Sabres. (So far in the series, Buffalo has won 2; the Rangers, 1.) They were at a game on Sunday night, when the Rangers had a dramatic overtime win, and the Boy came back unable to speak. He had been yelling for three hours and he was also emotionally spent. The Weatherman was not in much better shape.

Redskins The Boy is the prime hockey fan; the Weatherman's passion is football. As other people might write "dinner with the Jones" in their appointment books, I write down "Dallas/Redskins 2 p.m." We can't even make plans during the playoffs. I call the phrase "an important football game" a contradiction in terms. He says it's a redundancy.

I'm glad I have these boys. I root hard for the Rangers and the Redskins myself, because I want my boys to be happy, not to mention in pleasant moods. But sometimes they really do seem like they are from another planet.