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February 2008

Hey! Check This Out - I'm a Star!

Youtube_logo I have a friend whose apartment was robbed. Normally, the police told her, these crimes weren't solved. But this case was different. The thieves - who evidently wanted to capture their moves for posterity - picked up her camera and took pictures of themselves in the act. There were actually photos of one guy smiling while he hauled her vcr out the door. (This was awhile ago - thus the vcr.)

Anyway, these brain trusts not only photographed themselves in the commission of a crime, but also left the camera behind. The police used the pictures to identify the burglars, who were later arrested.

I thought of this today when I read about four teens from a nearby town who got arrested after one of them posted a video on YouTube of their assault on another teenager. There for the world to see were four young men beating the crap out of another 18 year old - punching him, kicking him in the face, and cutting him with a knife.

The victim will be ok. As for the guys who attacked him - you have to wonder what possessed one of them to first record the attack on his cellphone and then to broadcast it to the world.

The technology has changed but the competition for the world's dumbest criminals remains wide open.

Bad Hair Day

08227214716_kidmohawk227 Kids get suspended from public school for carrying drugs or weapons, threatening teachers or fellow students, starting fires - that kind of thing. And well they should.

But an Ohio elementary school took discipline to a new level this week, when they suspended a kindergartner - that's right a six-year-old - for his haircut. Bryan Ruda evidently thinks he looks pretty fab with his mohawk and wants to hang on to the look.

School administrators say that the haircut is disruptive to the learning environment. Evidently Bryan's classmates wanted to talk about the mohawk, and it was distracting them from their kindergarten work.Glare_and_purple_hair

This isn't the first go-round young Bryan has had with his school. He originally showed up with what is described as "a styling product" in his hair, accentuating the 'do. School officials told his mother to lose the mousse. But even after Bryan just went au natural, the hair cut was unacceptable.

Byran's Mom is fighting for his right to have really bad hair. Which I say is one of our cherished human freedoms. And as mohawks go, Bryan's is pretty mild.

Still, someone might want to tell the folks in Ohio - who may hold the Democratic primary in their hands - that the 1980s ended quite awhile ago and that look is so over.

Men Will Be Dogs

Billclintonraped I've commented once before on the press' tendency to use dog imagery to describe former President Bill Clinton. But I must say, this morning, The New York Times has outdone itself. Check this out - it's from a story by John Broder:

"The long campaign has taken some of the fight out of the Big Dog. Bill Clinton is dutifully traveling from state to state and small town to small town on behalf of his wife's presidential candidacy. But the growling and snapping Bill Clinton the nation saw before the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries has been muzzled and leashed."

Holy Cow! (Or perhaps the expression called for here is "Hot Dog!") They better not ever use that kind of language to describe a female politician, or they'll be hell to pay. Woof.

Sons and Mothers

Georgewashingtonpicture I am working on a project about mothers and sons. In the course of my research I have come across various quotes on the nature of the relationship. They are as revealing about the speaker as they are about the bond. Check out what these famous men have to say about their Moms.

-"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."Picassophotoportrait_3
-George Washington
(He was a good boy.)

-"My mother said to me,'If you become a soldier you'll be a general; if you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."
-Pablo Picasso
(I swear Mama Picasso most have lived in my town. Anyway, if she had, she would have been very comfortable here.)

Bernice_abbott_james_joyce_1926 -"Few misfortunes can befall a boy which bring worse consequences than to have a really affectionate mother."
-W. Somerset Maugham
(What happened here? Maybe it's a British thing.)Napoleon_bonapartes_portrait

-"Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not."
-James Joyce
(Ah, the Irish.)

-"Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons."
-Napoleon Bonaparte
(Viva La France.)

Grandmother Lawson's Sour Cream Enchiladas JUST WON'T GO AWAY!


I KNOW, I KNOW  - you keep seeing this photo and recipe of my grandmother's enchiladas. But a very weird thing keeps happening. Every time I try to post this blog to the "food and drink" column, it shows up on the main page. I can not get it to move. I've tried deleting it, reposting it and everything else I can think of, and it just wants to show up front and center of this blog. This has never happened before.

If I ever doubted the after-life, I'm having second thoughts. I can't help but wonder if my late Grandmother Lawson (born in 1899) has something to do with this. Grandmother, they are wonderful enchiladas -but please - let me put them where they belong, with the rest of the food entries!


OK - I have been working with tech support on this - bear with me and I hope to have this dish and recipe back where it belongs soon. Meanwhile, I am afraid it's just going to keep reappearing. Spooky.

2 cans cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup sour cream
1 can diced green chiles (not hot)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cups chopped green onions (scallions)
(If you have left over chicken, you may add it here too.)

1 dozen corn tortillas
Wesson oil

-Combine ingredients for sauce, beat only until smooth
-Mix cheese and onions together
-Dip tortillas in hot oil to soften (This is important, as it really softens them)

Layer your casserole with tortillas, sauce and cheese mixture until casserole is filled. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly - about 15 minutes or so.

Dream Friends

Rich_frank_credit_fred_conrad_the_2 Can anyone out there interpret dreams?

Get this - I have had a series of dreams where famous and interesting people want to befriend me and hang out with me. First, New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich wanted to have a long, chatty dinner at a fancy restaurant with me. And he was paying!

Next, Caroline Kennedy wanted to get together to talk. It wasn't clear if we were dining together or just going out to clubs. Either way, she was my new gal pal.


Jamieleecurtis Last night it was Jamie Lee Curtis. We met at a benefit and just hit it off beautifully. Next thing you know, the actress just wanted to hang out.

What on earth is this about? Raging insecurity? (There's a new one - not.) I am in no way dissatisfied with my current crop of friends who I adore and who keep me wonderful company.

Good Lord - you'd think I'd at least have some kind of romantic fantasy, but no - evidently I just want some quality time with my new dream buddies. I welcome any interpretation on this - but try to be kind. I can't control my crazy subconscious.

Lap Top Vacation

Boraboraislandtahitifrenchpolynesia Snow, snow, snow. The Weatherman is thrilled, of course, that we got what is unceremoniously referred to as "a big dump." There is a whole lot of white out there. Not only am I looking at it, but also I'm reading about it. There is  an article in the local paper about people's psychological reactions to snow storms. (Not much there - some people over-react, running to the store to load up on milk; and others are in denial and race around icy roads in their SUVs. Wow - hold the presses on that insight. And this was a page one story.)

But I did come across the fact that the Buffalo News has its own snow reporter.  When I looked for this guy online, I found he covers things beyond the weather, but that he writes a weather blog for the paper. Always one to check out my fellow bloggers , I  visited his site. And what do I find?  The guy waxing rhapsodic about getting away from winter weather and - get this - a link to a webcam image of Bora Bora. Weather Guy - I salute you.

Times Bashing

Ap_john_mccain_070425_ms "Since it was in The New York Times, I don't take it at face value."

So said John McCain, when commenting on a front page article that ran yesterday, which said that a top adviser had confronted the candidate during his first presidential run about his ties to a female lobbyist.

Well, he wanted to rally the conservatives around him and this has done it - even McCain's arch enemy Rush Lindbaugh rallied around to support him, always willing to bash the evil liberal media.

The McCain campaign questioned not only the article itself, but also the timing, running shortly before the candidate has pretty much nailed the Republican nomination. Here's what I don't get - do they think that this crazy, liberal bastion known as The New York Times is secretly trying to undermine his candidacy so that we can have evangelist Mike Huckabee as the Republican nominee?

The Times endorsed McCain. He's got the nomination wrapped up. If they 539w_2 really considered this a big bomb to drop to undermine McCain, why not use it during the general election?

Of course, most likely the truth is that the Times had this information, was sitting on it, and when they found out The New Republic also had it and was going to publish it, they didn't want to get scooped.

This is also the same paper that ran front pages articles during the primary on Obama's past drug use and Bill Clinton's unsavory post-presidential dealings. Liberals didn't cry out that there was a secret conservative agenda.

I guess it's like family. People who work for the Times can internally criticize it like crazy. But when outsiders are nasty, we start to pull ranks.


Clutter_before_1 This is not my office. I swear. It is simply an illustration of clutter run out of control.

I have been thinking about stuff lately. I mean stuff- things - clutter - those piles of non-urgent mail and magazines that have been sitting in the kitchen for a couple of weeks, the pile of clothing that needs mending, the piles of paper on my desk that need filing. You know - stuff.

I have a theory about people based on exhaustive research, i.e. chatting about this among a few friends. There are those who can live with a certain amount of clutter and there are those who simply can not tolerate it. For some reason, they often seem to be married to each other.

The Weatherman has struggled for years with my tendency to let stuff build up.

"Does this have a final resting place?" he might ask about a magazine that's been sitting on the family room table for a month or more. He itches to "process" the mail the minute it arrives. Sometimes I put down a half a cup of coffee, and when I look for my next sip, the cup is already rinsed and in the dishwasher.

He drives me nuts. But I think I drive him even more nuts. (One benefit - early in the marriage I found him re-washing the dishes. It became immediately apparent this was a waste of time, so he took over dish duty completely.)

Anyway, today we are having a new television installed, because the old one completely gave up the ghost. The old one also weighs a ton and Best Buy won't take it away. What to do with it? Hmmm....well for now let's just stick it in the garage. Or in the basement. Next to all the other defunct stuff. You know, in that pile....

Community Cooking

Whatscookinglogo I'm always cooking. This family barely knows the meaning of the words "take out;" nor are they familiar with such concepts as "frozen dinner." Sometimes in the grocery store I pass boxes labeled "Healthy Choice" or "Lean Cuisine" and I wonder who gets away with serving them.

Anyway, this week I am doing some community cooking, which to me is a direct way of giving to people in need without wondering what percentage is going towards administration and overhead.

Yesterday I made 25 sandwiches for the Midnight Run. The Midnight Run is an organization that travels into Manhattan at night and distributes hot soup, sandwiches, clothing, blankets and toiletries to homeless people. One of the key parts of the program is to go beyond simple hand-outs, and to make personal connections with the men and women on the streets. Many local churches and synagogues participate in this project, click on Midnight Run to learn more.

Usually I make 50 sandwiches, but someone this month agreed to split it with me. I made ham and cheese on whole wheat with Gulden's mustard. I only like to prepare food I'm willing to eat myself; so bologna or peanut butter and jelly are out.

Tonight I am preparing dinner for about 15 homeless people who live in and around our neighboring town. These are mostly Latino folks who come to Northern Westchester for seasonal work like landscaping. When winter comes, they find themselves without jobs and without money to pay rent. There was a horrific case a few years ago of one of these men freezing to death while sleeping in the woods.

Again, a consortium of churches and synagogues have joined forces to provide food and shelter for these men - and a few women. Each church or temple hosts the group (the numbers change from night to night). They arrive at about 9 p.m., have dinner and sleep on cots. A cold breakfast is also provided.

I am going to make my Grandmother Lawon's recipe for sour cream enchiladas, and serve it with salad and coffee cake for dessert. You can check out other recipes in the food column too.

Human Growth Hormone

Clemens190 The sports headlines have been dominated with baseball players testifying  before Congress about using - or insisting they were not using - human growth hormones.

Honestly, I can't work up a healthy interest in this story, basically because professional sports is just that - a business. It's a money-making venture so it's not surprising that athletes will do whatever it takes to gain a competitive edge and the leagues will ignore it as long as they can get away with it. It seems to me it's all about the $$$.

But the controversy does bring me back to a time when The Boy was about 8 years old. It was his annual visit to the pediatrician. The pediatricians all use a "growth chart" and there is a curve plotted on it by height and weight that reflects normal physical development. One's child falls into a percentile, usually pretty close to that curve.

Except neither of my kids did. Once my daughter hit the fifth percentile0380_2 (that's .05, not .50) for height. The Boy was so small he was barely on the chart. And that is why his doctor asked me if I wanted to consult an endocrinologist about putting the child  on human growth hormones.

I explained that on both sides of the family, children grew slowly, but that they eventually reached a normal height. The doctor pressed me - wasn't I worried about my boy's social development, and how his size might affect it?

The answer was no - The Boy was an easy going kid with a sense of humor and I sensed he would be fine. Every damn year from the ages my boy was 8 to 15, the doctor brought up HGH. Every year, I told him I wasn't interested.

Anyway, The Boy is home from college on a winter break. He is STILL growing. He is now over six feet tall. God knows how freakish he'd be if I had given him growth hormones, let alone what the side effects might ultimately have been.

Fresh Faced Candidate

Hillary_2_2 Last night I was at a dinner party where I was seated next to Hillary Clinton's dermatologist. What a stroke of luck! I have been paying close attention to the candidate's face lately, and with frank admiration of how good she looks.

Let's face it - she's 60 and she's got be absolutely exhausted. But when she arrives at a campaign event she looks fresh faced and often radiant. How does she do it?

Well, this doctor, of course was not going to betray the confidentiality rules of the doctor/patient relationship. But he did allow that it was nothing invasive or extraordinary. To me this implies that she has not had a face lift. So what gives? She doesn't seem to have that plastic-y Botox look. Maybe it's fillers and or some sort of microdermabrasion? 

Well, even after a couple of glasses of wine, he wasn't spilling - to his credit I must say. But I almost feel like going in for a consult - just so I can ask, "if I wanted skin like that, what would it involve?"

For Patients, More Comfort and a Bigger Does of Respect


Published: February 17, 2008


Mount Kisco

JOHN CARPI was lying under a sage-colored blanket, receiving a gentle massage. The room smelled of lavender; soft, tinkling music played in the background.

Annie West, a nurse at Northern Westchester Hospital here, asked Mr. Carpi, 80, if he was comfortable.

“I haven’t been this pampered in 50 years,” he responded.

Mr. Carpi was being treated at the hospital for prostate cancer. He is also being treated to the type of gentler methods of delivering care that have been embraced by some area hospitals.

Part marketing strategy and part effort to offer more humane treatment, the approach, hospital administrators say, is creating an environment of tenderness, compassion and respect that is not only the right thing to do but that can also help people heal better or more quickly.

Hospitals have long had an image as a place where personal dignity is checked at the door. Brusque doctors who handle patients without greeting them first, embarrassing gowns that gape open at the back, and indifferent and impersonal care are such common complaints that they have become stereotypes of the hospital experience. Even hospital officials acknowledge it.

“There’s traditionally been nothing more disempowering than becoming a hospital patient,” said Joel Seligman, president and chief executive of Northern Westchester Hospital.

“If you went into a store, you’d expect respect and courtesy, so why shouldn’t that happen when you’re having an operation?” he said. “If someone is making an incision in your body, why shouldn’t you be able to fully understand that, fully understand the choices, fully communicate with people about what the plan is and how it’s going?”

Some of the changes Northern Westchester has made over the past six years are simple and relatively inexpensive. Patient rooms now have whiteboards, on which are written the names of the medical staff members who will be caring for them and the procedures patients can expect. Patients have easier access to their medical records. They can generally order meals when they want them and choose from a menu, rather than have a tray dropped off on a table.

Nightgowns with pink flowers and pinstriped pajamas have largely replaced thin cotton gowns. Integrative medicine — like aromatherapy, acupuncture, reiki and guided imagery — are offered in conjunction with traditional medicine.

Special attention has also been given to the ambience. Announcements on a public-address system are used only for emergency situations; rubber flooring further mutes noise. An instrument called the Yakker Tracker monitors decibel levels on the floors, and there are signs reminding staff members and visitors to quiet down. Original artwork, donated by a local museum, lines the hallways.

At Hudson Valley Hospital Center, in Cortlandt Manor, a new addition under construction will create a similar healing atmosphere, hospital officials say. Patient rooms will include more natural light, better views and natural plants. The project, scheduled to be completed in 2009, also aims to reduce noise and stress, all with an eye toward creating a calming atmosphere.

Many hospital changes are not cosmetic; they have more to do with attitude. Linda Rowell, staff development director at Four Winds Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Katonah, said that care could be transformed simply by remembering that a human being remained at the center of all the hospital’s work.

For instance, in the past, with large numbers of patients living in the same unit, shower times were scheduled throughout the day.

“From our point of view, you think cleanliness and structure,” Ms. Rowell said. “But as a patient, you think, ‘I’m being told my shower is at 3 p.m.’ From the human point of view, who wants the 3 p.m. shower? You want one in the morning or the evening.”

So at no cost and with a little flexibility, patients gained a little autonomy on when they would get clean.

Both Four Winds and Northern Westchester Hospitals are affiliated with Planetree, a nonprofit organization based in Connecticut that seeks to transform health care by understanding the perspective of the patient.

“The pressure that staff is under in all hospitals is just unbelievable,” said Janet Siegel, executive vice president for external affairs at Four Winds. “An affiliation with Planetree gives you a focus to rally around. There’s no more money, there’s no more people, there’s no more time. Now how are you going to make it better?”

At Northern Westchester Hospital’s outpatient cancer center, one way was to hang pictures of nature scenes on the ceiling, so patients who lie down during treatments have something to look at. If they choose, they are given headphones and guided imagery to help manage anxiety.

The waiting area has an almost spa-like feel, with lemon water and snacks of dried fruits and rice crackers. Volunteers offer hand massages, and patients wear thick terry cloth robes. Nurses offer aromatherapy — peppermint seems to help with nausea from chemotherapy. There is an herb garden, where aloe — which can be rubbed on radiation burns — grows.

There is also increasing recognition that hospitals might be nearly as traumatic for family members as they are for patients. More flexibility and support for visitors can help. The intensive care unit once strictly limited visitors’ access; now a family member can get a sleeper chair in the room. Even if a patient is facing a life-threatening situation, loved ones are not shooed away.

“When a family is present during an emergency procedure, it lets them see what we’re actually doing for a patient,” said Judy Kinkel, a nurse and manager of critical care at Northern Westchester. “Sometimes it works as a closure; they see that we did our best. Sometimes they just want to hold their hand for the final moments.”

When the stress of having a hospitalized family member is too much, relatives can visit Northern Westchester’s new center for “caregivers.” With its cozy chairs, faux fireplace, massage chair and waterfall sculpture, it is meant to be an oasis for visitors who need time away from a chronically ill patient’s bedside.

The center was the brainchild of Marian Hamilton, of Armonk, whose husband, Ken, died of lung cancer in 2004. Mrs. Hamilton said that when her husband was ill, his care was good, but no support services were available to her.

“It was such an overwhelmingly difficult time in our lives,” she said. “Every day is the same, and it’s relentless. I’d sit in this depressing waiting room thinking, what was I going to do with my life after my husband died?”

Mrs. Hamilton raised money for the center and planned it in detail, from stocking it with comfort food (peanut butter, oatmeal, cheese, cookies and warm drinks) to services — computers (“I’d go home exhausted and face a long list of e-mails,” she said), a library and volunteers trained to work with families in crisis.

Mr. Seligman, the Northern Westchester executive, said that many hospitals were working to improve the way they deliver care.

“We created unhappiness in the population at large by forcing them to give up all control of their lives when they enter a hospital,” he said. “Everyone is really playing catch-up in that area.”

My Weatherman

Valentine04 The Weatherman and I have been married for a long time. This spring we will celebrate our 25th anniversary. Some times I look at our wedding picture - we were so darn cute in our twenties - and think about how little we knew about life and about each other when we made our vows.

We have grown up together. We have raised children together. We have gone through a great deal of change together. And God willing, we will grow old together.

As anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows, it's easy to settle into dull patterns, with the every day transactions of running a household and coordinating schedules.

But here's what I want to say about my Weatherman. Sometimes I look over at him - usually when he is not paying attention to me, but thoughtfully reading, or getting excited about a snow storm or even something as mundane as when he's washing dishes - and he still takes my breath away.

So Happy Valentines Day to My Beloved and to All of You too!

More Politics

Bclinton Talking to The Boy yesterday about the presidential primaries and he said something that really startled me. He said he couldn't remember a time when anyone supported the president.Georgewbushpicture

How could this be? Our country has gone through it's ups and downs, but surely he remembers something positive, some rallying behind our leader? Nope.

The Boy, who is 19,  said his first political memories are from when he was about 11 years old, and it was about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. There were jokes and innuendo, not to mention impeachment hearings. In his middle school, there was hand-wringing as parents and teachers thought kids would pick up the lesson that oral sex wasn't "real" sex.

The Clinton presidency, of course, was followed by two terms of George Bush. Maybe if The Boy had been raised outside of New York and by a different family, he might have been surrounded by people who respected the president as a leader. But suffice it to say, he did not, so he was also witness to mockery and sometimes outright despair, about our current administration.

He is paying close attention to this primary and I have the sense that he is wavering between dismissing it all as rhetoric and campaign platitudes and wanting to believe and get energized by the political process. Stay tuned.

Fate Song

Letitbe I played "Fate Song" again this morning. This is the game where I am listening to the radio, and I decide that whatever song comes on next will give me the answer to whatever is currently troubling me.

Well, lately I've been wondering about my career future. It's no secret that the newspaper business is not doing too well. I'm looking to branch out in a few directions, while keeping a steady presence at The Times. What will the future bring?

Well, according to the radio, "Nothing's Going To Change My World." Yup, I got The Beatle's "Across the Universe." Of course, I can interpret this lyric in a lot of ways - that no wonder what happens in my career, the fundamentally important things in my life will remain unchanged.

From a job viewpoint, maybe the newspaper business is more solid than it appears. Alternately, maybe I will become incredibly famous through some other means, thus known "All Across the Universe."

Before I go any further with this incredibly grandiose interpretation, let's take a peak at some of the other lyrics in this song:

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,Georgeharrison
They call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om

And then there's the grand finale:

Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva

Anyone got any thoughts on the meaning of those last six lines? If nothing else, they make me miss George Harrison.

Escorted From The Premises

100_jefferson_valley Holy Cow! I just got thrown out of the Jefferson Valley Mall!  That's the one great thing about reporting - you just never know what you're going to find.

I had been grumbling about being assigned a story on mall walkers - those generally older folks who get their exercise by lapping around the insides of mall. There had been a bit of a controversy up at the JV Mall. The manager had changed the hours the mall opened for walkers, and restricted their access to the ground floor. I was interviewing a group of walkers who were upset by this, when I was approached by a security guard and asked if I had secured permission to do so.

You should have heard my spluttering! Permission? To talk to people in a mall? This is America! Then the manager came along and he and the guard escorted me to the exit. Basically I was done with my reporting anyway.

The only other time I have ever been thrown out of a place in the line of duty was at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. It was just after 9-11, and the security guard had an assault weapon. I didn't argue with him at all. The mall security guard, poor guy, was more elderly than most of the people I had interviewed and I could have taken him out. But I didn't put up a struggle. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Obama Wins Maine; Huckabee Can't Add

C10qkennedy_0312_2 The Weatherman has a theory that Barack Obama is doing so well on the ground organizational front, because he's got the support of young kids, who - unlike Hillary Clinton's older, female demographic - will go out in all hours and all weather to do the footwork.

Witness the Boy's experience. The Boy is in college in Maine. Ted Kennedy spoke at his school on Friday. In order to get into the lecture hall where Kennedy was to address the students, The Boy had to sign in with his name and phone number. On the day of the Maine caucus, The Boy was getting messagesHuckabee_2 on his cell phone reminding him to support Obama, and asking if he needed a ride to the caucuses. Clinton was also in town, but off-campus and on a Saturday morning. The Boy didn't have a way to get there and he wasn't inclined to skip his other plans, anyway. (OK - here's the thing about the youth vote. There were several inches of fresh powder, and the skiing that day was amazing.)

In other campaign news, the quote of the week goes to Mike Huckabee. In response to the daunting number of delegates that McCain has amassed, Huckabee said he was not pulling out of the race, noting, "I didn't major in math. I majored in Miracles."

Wow! I'm already imagining him as Commander-In-Chief, whether looking at the budget deficit, inflation, or troop casualties. What an inspiriation!

Ladies Room Lines

Seafarerprod200_2 Like most women, I've logged a lot of time in lines for the ladiesBathroom_2 room. Sports stadiums, restaurants, concerts, you name it - as every woman knows, the line for the ladies room will sneak down the corridor, while men blithely go into the men's room, promptly do their business and return to what they were doing.

This can be profoundly irritating, especially if you are worried you are going to miss part of a game, show, or even worse, the chance to order dessert.

But last night, I got a new perspective on the ladies room line. My friend Carin and I had gone to see "The Seafarer" at the Booth Theater in Manhattan. It's a terrific play, by the way, and while the link I just provided is from the NY Times review, you will be able to read more about it on Carin's blog, in a day or so.

Anyway, we were both in line during intermission, waiting for the two tiny stalls up on the mezzanine level to be free. The first act of the play had been a bit difficult to understand (not conceptually, but to make out the words) -  especially for Carin. I was not only struggling to understand the strong Irish accents, but also wondering - out loud, as usual- why the play was called "The Seafarer" when the whole thing took place in a claustrophobic living room, with no sea in sight.

Immediately, we got relief, and not of the bladder kind. One woman told Carin that there was a device available in the lobby that would amplify the sound. Not only did it work for her so she could hear every word of the second act, but also by virtue of my being next to her, I picked up enough sound to clarify the Irish accents. Another woman informed me that "the seafarer" is another name for the Devil. This proved extremely enlightening. I don't want to tell you more in case you see the play. Which I recommend that you do.

Oh - and we both made it back to our seats in plenty of time for Act II.

Trigger Finger

Rrtrigr1a No, I am not stuck in yesteryear, despite yesterday's post and today's illustration. That there is "Trigger" - Roy Rogers' famous horse. But the only reason I'm using this photo is that I am pretty phobic when it comes to medical stuff so I didn't want to use anything graphic to illustrate the minor hand surgery that The Weatherman had today.

I just tucked him into bed. It was outpatient surgery. He has been losing control in two of his fingers - this surgery cleaned some stuff out. I'm not sure what. Because it's medical. And gross. And I'll faint if I learn the details.

Anyway, he also had something called "trigger finger," which is painful and has something to do with your tendons. Which I guess they dealt with.

I am not proud that I am so pitiful about medical conditions. (Let me put this in perspective. About 23 years ago, when I was given a TOUR of the maternity ward of the hospital where I would later deliver my daughter, I passed out when they showed me the fetal monitor.I woke up, still very pregnant, in a wheelchair.)

Luckily (especially for The Weatherman) I'm fine on the aftermath - happy to bring trays of soup, fill prescriptions and dispense sympathy. But I'm glad I have him back home. Just seeing all those people in scrubs got me woozy.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A lot of post-primary election analysis today, and some of it about how voters broke down by age group. Well, here's a different poll - if you are familiar with the following objects, sorry folks - you are in that older 45_rpm_spindle_3 demographic. Young ones - check out these artifacts from days gone by.

What is this? Why it's a 45 rpm spindle, so we could play hit songs on our record players. The first 45 I ever bought was "See You In September," by The Happenings. My sister talked me into trading it for "Blue Navy Blue." (I can't remember who sang it, but it was a woman, and the chorus was: "Blue, navy blue, I'm as blue as I can be, 'cause my steady boy's gone ship ahoy, to join the navy." It was as bad as it sounds and a terrible trade.)

Metal_icetray Before there were automatic ice makers in every refrigerator, there were these metal ice trays. You poured water in them and put them in your freezer. You released the ice by pulling on the metal lever. They were nasty to the touch and not easy to work.

S_h_greenstamps These are S & H Green Stamps. They were like little trading stamps and probably one of the first reward programs, long before airline miles and the like. You'd get them at the check out line in grocery stores and at gas stations. Then you could redeem them for items sold in a big catalog. My sister and I spent hours licking these stamps and pasting them into books. It was right in there with paper dolls for entertainment.
And speaking of my sister, this last one is for you, Amy. Yes, it's Topo Gigio. Little Topo used to engage in friendly banter with Ed Sullivan, the host (of course) of The Ed Sullivan show. Topo spoke in an embarrassing, exaggerated Italian accent, and ended each segment by asking, "Eddie, will you pleeez kiss me goodnight?"

Super Tired

Ap_obama_070424_ms I have been really busy and tired lately. But before I started whining, I instead began thinking about the Presidential candidates. Can you even imagine how exhausted they are? Forget today's Super Tuesday, for which they have all beenHorowitzhillaryclinton1h_2 frantically trying to cover 20 states. The strain and fatigue from the last year must be overwhelming.

I've read Barrack does an intense work out every day which probably helps. Hillary Clinton's MySpace page says that her favorite activity is walking, and she also finds doing crosswords and - believe it or not - cleaning out closets to be stress reducing. (Just looking at the disheveled space of my closet stresses me Mccain out.) I don't know what John McCain does, but if he can survive years of being a prisoner of war, he can certainly manage this campaign, even at his age.

At some point, someone will emerge triumphant. (Of course, after briefly savoring victory he or she will then have an enormous job to do.) But in the spirit of celebrating perseverance, here's to Eli Manning, who after taking a beating in every way, will be waving to adoring crowds while the ticker tape rains down. (OK, there's no ticker tape anymore - trades on the NY Stock Exchange are electronic now. But they are going to shred some newspaper.)


8-Year Clinton Veteran (And Yes, He's Just 21)

03rclinton190_2By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: February 3, 2008
DAVID HELFENBEIN said he would love to talk about the many years he has worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton. But his political instincts are finely honed, and he wouldn’t chat until he got permission from the campaign.

Once approval was secured, Mr. Helfenbein then needed to check his schedule. He might have an opening between 6 and 7 on a Friday night, between flights. Where was he going? He’d like to tell you, he said, but the campaign schedule may still be embargoed. (It turned out he was on his way to Tennessee, to do some advance work for Mrs. Clinton before she made a campaign appearance there.)

None of this would be remarkable — the Clinton campaign is known for its tight control and staff loyalty — except that Mr. Helfenbein is only 21, a college senior. He has already racked up eight years of experience working for Mrs. Clinton; he has been a devoted supporter since the age of 13.

It says something about his political connections that in the frenzy before Super Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton obliged with an e-mail comment about her young devotee.

“David is one of my top supporters in the state,” she wrote. “When I met him as a student at the Robert E. Bell Middle School in Chappaqua, I knew his intellect, passion for politics and maturity would take him far.”

Mr. Helfenbein, who lives in Chappaqua, remembers vividly the day the Clintons moved into town.

“I was standing on the corner,” he said, “and I dragged my mom out in the cold to catch a glimpse of the motorcade.”

He met Mrs. Clinton in March 2000, when she came to visit the middle school that he attended. Even at 13, David Helfenbein was no political novice. He had been involved in student government since fifth grade, was class president in sixth grade and school vice president in seventh grade.

“I think I took a year off in eighth grade,” Mr. Helfenbein said, before noting that he held a school office every year after that. By his senior year, he was president of Horace Greeley High School.

When Mrs. Clinton visited his middle school, he was determined to meet her. He asked the principal for permission to speak at the event, a naturalization ceremony for new citizens. He was assigned one sentence, but managed to welcome Mrs. Clinton from the podium, and tell her, “You really do light up the room.” Later, he talked his way into a reception for Mrs. Clinton, where he offered to work on her Senate campaign.

From Day 1, his ambition was evident. Instead of office work, he suggested mobilizing young people. He founded “Kids 4 Hillary,” a group that would attend parades and events holding up signs. In 2003, he worked as a Senate page, after being nominated by Mrs. Clinton. Over the years he has worked as an intern, volunteer and staff member in Mrs. Clinton’s offices in the Senate and on her campaigns, gaining more and more responsibility.

Mrs. Clinton is not only a mentor, but also a maternal figure, Mr. Helfenbein said. She has watched him grow up. She kept up to date on his prom plans. When she couldn’t come to his graduation party, she sent a surrogate — her husband, who arrived an hour after the party ended bearing a tie with an American eagle design.

“I’ve always been incredibly impressed by both of them, but when I met her she was so incredibly warm,” Mr. Helfenbein said. “I’m not just spinning this; she cares so much about people.”

Now a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, with a double major in political science and communication and public service, he is busy with the presidential campaign. Does he see himself as a one-day resident of the White House?

“I think kids who walk around at age 13 and say, ‘I want to be president,’ are ridiculous,” he said. “I absolutely love politics, but you have to see where life takes you. I’ve had an incredible ride so far.”

In the Clinton Home Field, An Effort for Obama

Published: February 3, 2008

THE meeting of Westchester Obama Women was supposed to take place at the Chappaqua Starbucks, and you can’t get much closer to the heart of Clinton territory than that.

Bill Clinton, in particular, has logged a lot of time — and autographed a lot of napkins — at his neighborhood coffee shop. The hamlet, of course, is also home to the current presidential candidate in the family, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Maybe it was political karma that on a busy Saturday morning, the store was closed for renovations. A young woman stood outside its shuttered doors holding a “Barack Obama ’08” sign, redirecting supporters to another coffee shop across the street. There, about 20 women talked about how to prepare for Super Tuesday in an area that even supporters of Mr. Obama concede will most likely go for Mrs. Clinton this week.

Judy Aydelott, of Katonah, a delegate candidate and full-time volunteer for Mr. Obama, was blunt.

“Obama knows Hillary is going to take New York,” Ms. Aydelott said. “He can’t waste his time; he’s got 22 states to cover. We are doing this all on our own. It’s up to us to surprise the pollsters and everyone and get the vote out.”

Ms. Aydelott arrived at the meeting with posters, bumper stickers, fliers and campaign pins. She also brought some basic, grass-roots strategy. First came the 149 pages of registered Democrats’ phone numbers. Phone banks had to be set up. Yes, a script would be provided. Check to see if anyone needed transportation to the polls.

“I’ve been going door to door, but it’s taking too long,” said Sarah Preston, of Bedford. “Some people say, ‘No, I’m already for Hillary,’ or if they are for Obama, they really want to talk about him.”

Ms. Aydelott said canvassing was important, as was creating a visible presence in the county. Plans needed to be made to cover every train station on the Harlem and Hudson Lines.

Westchester Obama Women has roughly 300 volunteers, said Ashley Craig, the county coordinator. Rose Cohen, who runs the Chappaqua effort, told the group she had hundreds of Obama ’08 signs in the trunk of her car. She reminded them that the signs could be placed only on private property, but to look for high traffic areas.

Plans were made for small rallies in Bedford, Peekskill, White Plains, Tuckahoe, Rye, Mount Vernon and Chappaqua for this weekend. Sunday would be quiet — there was to be no canvassing in the morning, and no interference with the Super Bowl. “But Monday and Tuesday,” Ms. Aydelott said, “are all day, full out.”

Along with the strategy was conversation about why these women, who seem to perfectly incorporate Mrs. Clinton’s demographic — female, liberal and from her home county, if not her hometown — support her main opponent.

Some, when asked, seemed to like and admire Mrs. Clinton. They just like Mr. Obama more.

“I’m not a Hillary basher,” said Kym Vanderbilt, of Chappaqua. “In fact, I think she’d be a good president. But I’m tired of just good. Why can’t we have great? I think Obama is great.”

Ms. Vanderbilt is a nursery school teacher. Her husband, Arthur J. Fried, served as general counsel of the Social Security Administration during the Clinton administration. He remains loyal to the Clintons; she does not. Their political split — a first in their marriage — is not straining the relationship, she added, because Ms. Vanderbilt knows that she and her husband will come together to vote Democratic in the general election.

“People say to me, ‘It’s Hillary’s turn,’ and I say, ‘Is there a line?’ ” Ms. Vanderbilt said.

Ms. Cohen said that some Obama supporters in Chappaqua were keeping a low profile. She does not consider Mrs. Clinton a true local.

“She’s not from here; she moved here when she ran for Senate,” Ms. Cohen said. “I’ve never seen her in town. Bill I’ve seen — he’s very social; he works the crowds and he’s very well liked. But she basically moved here, bought a house and that was it.”

Corinne Menn proudly displays an Obama sign on her Chappaqua lawn. Dr. Menn, an obstetrician/gynecologist with a practice in Cortlandt Manor, said she and her husband had voted Republican in the past but were drawn to Mr. Obama’s message of change, hope and what they see as his “electability.”

“As far as the experience issue goes, Hillary’s husband had no foreign policy experience and he was governor of one of the poorest states in the country, yet he was very skillful in international affairs,” Dr. Menn said.

She added that she was increasingly put off by the Clintons. “In the beginning, it wasn’t a vote against Hillary, but it’s become a vote against Hillary,” Dr. Menn said. “The idea of having Bill and Hillary back in the White House, the win-at-all-cost mentality, the divisiveness, that’s a big turnoff.”

Dr. Menn, who has two daughters, 3 and 21 months, volunteered to work the phone banks.

When the meeting broke up, several small groups organized to demonstrate around northern Westchester. Ms. Aydelott suggested chants: “Be a Part of Something Great — Vote for Obama in 0-8,” along with “Fired up! Ready to Go!” One group planned to gather on a corner of downtown Chappaqua. Another would travel to the Target parking lot in Bedford Hills. Obama posters in hand, they headed out into the cold winter morning.

How Women Choose Their Superbowl Team

Bdd_tb_gb_nyy_inf Ok - obviously there are women who live and breath football. They understand every intricacy of the game and they are die-hard supporters of their team.

Then there are the rest of us. I support the Redskins because it's The Weatherman's team and I want him to be happy. I have followed the team over the years and really do enjoy watching the games.  But when the Redskins aren't playing, I don't feel too strongly about anyone else.

Now we have the Superbowl this weekend with the Patriots playing theElilady Giants. If you are a Redskin fan, you hate the Giants, because they are in the same division. But if you live outside of Boston, you also hate the Patriots, because they are so damn good.

But what fun is watching a game if you can't root for someone? Here's how it comes down for me - and my daughter, raised a Redskin fan, agrees. Let's look at the two quarterbacks.

Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback,  is not only dating a super model, Gisele Bundchen, but last year he got another super model, Bridget Moynahan, pregnant. (She had the baby; he moved on to Gisele.)

Then we have Eli Manning, who looks like he is about to cry before every play. He is still dating his college sweetheart. He is close to his mother. He's a good boy.

Throw in the fact that I live in New York, and this female Redskins fan has to say, "Go Giants!"