Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why I Became a Feminist

My annual Thanksgiving weekend blog post!

Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving turned me into a radical feminist. Or, maybe I was born one and Thanksgiving just confirmed my inate belief that women have traditionally been treated (sometimes willingly) as second-class citizens.

Of course it wasn't just this particular holiday that validated my beliefs. Every Sunday, during the eleventy-seven course extravaganza known as "dinner", the same dynamic would be present. But I refused to buy in, even as a little girl.

In this photo, I am seven years old. I'm wearing an apron, as is my grandmother, my mother and my middle sister (for some reason, my eldest sister on the near left either escaped kitchen duty or shed the apron immediately afterwards. (My mother also seems to be either admiring the nasty perm she forced on my stick-straight hair, or she's thinking "You'll wear the apron and you'll LIKE it..."

I didn't mind the prep work all that much. My grandmother always made the macaroni from scratch. (the term "pasta" was never used. It was macaroni, no matter what it looked like.) She'd let us knead the dough and then she'd roll it out and cut the squares of ravioli or strips of lasagna. She'd lay a sheet on her bed, sprinkle it with flour, and place the finished pieces on it to dry. Also placed there were the strips of dough that would never make it to the table...gobbled up raw like so many strings of licorice. We loved the raw dough.

We'd stir the gravy (no, not sauce or tomato was gravy), helped roll the meatballs, cut the provolone into little squares for antipasto. We sliced the pepperoni, put the turkey in the oven, rolled up the braciola (pronounced: bra-JOLE) and prepared plates of salad that featured iceberg lettuce, black olives and a red vinegar that came from the wine cellar in our basement. All of that was kind of fun.

The meal was generally a festive event (unlike our daily family meals, which are fodder for another post altogether). Everyone drank homemade Chianti (even the kids, and my mother who would offend everyone by putting orange juice and ice cubes in hers), and stuff themselves with everything from soup to nuts. Quite literally: Minestrone, antipasto, macaroni, meatballs and other meats, followed by salad, turkey, fruit and nuts. My grandfather would entertain us by cracking walnuts on his bald head. Then, percolated coffee accompanied by cake, pastries and cookies that were also sometimes made by my grandmother...particularly the anisette cookies with pignoli nuts. Those were my favorites.

But it was the after-party that infuriated me. The women would begin clearing the table and marching like lemmings back into the kitchen to clean up. Remember, this was before dishwashers and Teflon. We're talking HOURS worth of pot scouring, washing and drying dishes, wrapping leftovers, wiping down counters and tables and collecting linens. The men would do the thing that has spawned cliches to this very day: sit around the living room and watch TV, with their belts and flys open to free their bloated bellies.

By the time I was 7 or 8, I'd take advantage of the commotion and slip away. Thanksgiving would usually take place, as it did here, in my grandparents' apartment upstairs from us in our two-family home. I'd make my way downstairs and in the peace and quiet of my room, or better yet our "finished basement", I'd read the newspaper. When I began to do this on Sundays as well, I'd tiptoe down there and read the Herald-Tribune and my favorite comic strip: Miss Peach (little kids with giant heads).

As an adult, I once dated a guy whose family still functioned this way on holidays. The women cooked, the women cleaned up. The men ate, the men digested. When he suggested that I join the feminine cleanup brigade, I asked if we were going to pick up the plates with our vaginas. He decided to help out, and I was happy to assist him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Loss of Innocence - An Annual Repost

We were never safe. We just thought we were, and it's hard to remember what that felt like. As significant as BC and AD, 9/11 changed everything.

I've always been a morning news person, usually flipping on the TV as I get dressed for work, background music to the routine of my daily life. For some unknown reason, that day I got up, got Lucas and Emma off to school and went to work without turning on the television or even the radio in my car. (Because I work in CT, we had moved from the city to be closer to my job in 1994.)

On the morning of 9/11, as I drove to work, my cellphone rang. It was a friend of mine, telling me that a plane had hit the towers. I started laughing, thinking that he was pulling my leg because of plans we had made to go to Windows on the World in a few weeks. He kept trying to tell me what had happened, and I almost hung up on him. Then, he told me about the Pentagon and my stomach fell. I knew, then, that he was serious. And that we as a nation were in trouble.

I don't remember the rest of the drive to work. I got there and stood in the lobby of our building, watching CNN on the plasma screen TV and seeing the towers fall. I remember one of the marketing managers saying, "We need to kill the fuckers!" We all stood there in shock, not knowing what was really happening, seeing the images of an enormous dust cloud chasing frantic crowds around narrow street corners. We tried to think of people we knew who worked in the towers, or who may have had meetings there that day. Mostly I remember thinking that this was it. That World War III had started and my children would not live to see adulthood.

If you did not live in NYC or the tri-state area at that time, there are memories I can only try to describe to you. In the days that followed the attacks, the weather was almost inappropriately beautiful, and the skies without ANY air traffic left us in an eerily quiet state. Like when the power goes out in your house you realize how loud your refrigerator really is. People were extraordinarily kind to each other. We looked into each others eyes and felt a connection like never before.

Having grown up in the city and spent most of my adult life living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I had to get down there as soon as I could. I wanted to hug my city. On the Sunday after the attacks, I took the train to Grand Central, with my camera and a notepad to record my experience. As the train made its way to the city, the doors opened at one stop and several menacingly loud "gangsta" guys got on the train and started banging on the doors, seeming to enjoy the fear that they could so easily instill in the passengers whose nerves were already frayed. The rise in adrenalin was plapable. The big bad thing had happened. Now, anything was possible. We got to the city without incident.

I walked from Grand Central Station to Canal Street, which is probably about three miles, taking pictures as I went. There was still a sense of hope, that the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and children on the flyers might somehow be found. But the prevailing sentiment, the most powerful and overwhelming hope, was that our government would not use this event, use our pain and our loss, to start a war.

There were two songs I heard that day as I walked. One was Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" (what this little boy is listening to on a gramophone in Washington Square Park).

The other was John Lennon, pleading that we "Give Peace a Chance."

Here's the video I made. Wish I could say "enjoy". (put your sound on)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

These ARE the Good Ol' Days

Since there's a new variation of the old "Good Old Days" email circulating right now, I thought I'd repost one of my favorite blog posts/rebuttals for your entertainment.

OK, this "Good Ol' Days" thing has been making the email rounds for the past few years, so I like to repeat this post from time to time. It's my personal rebuttal, and I know lots of you don't agree, but hey... that's what makes blogging so much fun, right? The 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s might have been the "good ol' days" for straight white adult men, but that's about it. So here we go, line by line...

“We were born in the 40's,50's,60's,70's.
We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us."

We survived? How many people born in those decades were born prematurely, and/or at a ridiculously low birth weight? How many now have cancer, asthma, diabetes, eating disorders, alcoholism and a host of other ailments? Yep...let's bring back those good ol' days of smoking and drinking while sporting a big belly full 'o baby.

"They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing and didn't get tested for diabetes."

Yeah! And don't forget the boozing and puffing!

"After that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints."

Which apparently DID cause brain damage, based on the number of people who continue to circulate this thing.

"We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, butt pads etc."

You know, my kids' lives have really had the fun sucked out by all this "safety". I mean really. Who was ever hurt by a good skull-cracking, or by downing a bottle or two of Drano?

"As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat."

I especially liked it when we slammed into another car at about 80mph. (no speed limits either!) That feeling of sailing through the air is just something that can't be described, because those who experienced it are DEAD!

"We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this."

And there was something kind of COOL about having the same oozing cold sore as all of your friends!

"We ate cupcakes, bread and butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it (or a brewski in the case of my little cousin Joe here), but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!"

Except when we were at the dentist, or getting whacked upside the head for being “hyperactive”. And as statistics bear out, you're most likely overweight NOW.

"We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on."

In fact, we'd keep track of how many men exposed themselves to us in the course of a day, or try to take us for a ride to shop for a new puppy. Or, we'd get to spend unsupervised "playtime" with our horny older cousins. Poor kids these days have to wait until high school to see someone else's genitals.

"No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K."

See above.

"We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem."

Actually, crashing into an oncoming garbage truck was even better. We were the original "Jackass".

"We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet or internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!"

Until we grew up and sent this stupid list to everyone in creation on the [horrors] INTERNET!

"We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents."

Newsflash: no one is making money from "accidents". It's negligence that costs you.

"We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever."

Funny thing, a kid on my block actually DID lose an eye to a stick. But hell, that's why you get two, right?

"We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!"

It was REALLY cool when we walked in and their mom and dad were doin' the wild thing!

"Cheerleaders and little league had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't, had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!"

Yeah. That came in handy when those over-sensitive females or other undesirables wanted to be on the team. And now you have all those fat cheerleaders. What is this world coming to?

"The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!"

This one brings back a particularly heart-warming moment in my own childhood when my father advised us: "Don't ever tell me the nun hit you or I'll give you twice as much." Man, I miss him.

"This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!"

Not to mention psychiatric patients, child molesters, and serial killers.

"The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas."

You mean innovations like the aforementioned personal computers, the internet, child-safety caps and seatbelts?

"We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all! If YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You had the good luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers, and the government regulated our lives for our own good."

And if you're one of the unlucky ones who ate lead paint, overdosed on your mother's Valium, or became a paraplegic after being thrown from your father's pickup truck...OH WELL!! At least you had fun!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Puppy Love

The first post I ever put on my blog about Kelso...Original post date 1/6/05. In honor of his passing this past Saturday night, I thought I would post it again.

Two years ago, I made the decision to adopt a retired racing greyhound. My son's dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I thought that adding a dog to the family might help with the inevitable loss (god, was I nåive). Getting a puppy was out of the question, so I began to investigate various breed rescues. A friend at work told me about his neighbor's greyhound and I went online to do some research. Lo and behold, I came across REGAP of CT, submitted an application requesting a "big, docile male who is good with kids" and within 2 weeks we had our boy.

He arrived with the name Zider Zee (blech) but since racing dogs aren't too attached to their names we changed it to Kelso. This was a little nod to my father, who loved horse racing, as Kelso was a famous horse who ran in the 1970s.

I cannot remember life without Kelso. As I type this, he is sleeping at my feet with his head settled heavily upon my insteps. As with most things I do, not only did I fall in love with Kelso but I became involved with greyhound adoption efforts. Now that we live in Westchester County, NY, I am associated with Greyhound Rescue and Rehab

So...thinking of getting a dog? Please don't buy a pedigreed dog from a breeder (or god forbid a "puppy broker"). Rescue a mutt from the pound, or if you have your heart set on a purebred dog...consider a retired racing greyhound. They are bred as athletes, not for a cute nose or curly tail, and as such have fewer genetic health problems.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Run Sally Run!

Run Sally Run!

My father, Sal, died in 1995, about four months after being diagnosed with lung cancer and having successful surgery with a good prognosis. He, however, was convinced he was dying and managed to will himself a fatal heart attack. My mother was never very good with sick people, including us, exhibiting far more exasperation than empathy. For that reason we felt lucky that she didn't have to nurse him through a long illness, because Florence Nightengale she ain't.

Her complete disconnect from anything emotional didn't take a hiatus on the day of his funeral. You might think that the most shocking moment was when, during the post-cemetary gathering back at her house, she emerged from the back bedroom cheerily holding up a pair of my dad's golf shoes. "WHO'S A SIZE 9??" she called out to the stunned friends and family, some of whom nearly choked on their ziti.

But that was actually NOT the classic moment of the day. That took place at the gravesite, after a solemn ceremony and the lowering of his flag-draped coffin. The funeral director took the flag, folded it gently and gave it to my mother. Everyone rose to walk back to their cars, but instead of following along she ran up to the poor man and said "Do ya take Discover??"

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Shameless Plug for Greyhound Adoption

The good news is that a lot of greyhound racing tracks in this country are closing. The bad news is that there are hundreds of wonderful pups that need homes! If you are considering adding a four-legged friend to your household, please think about finding your local greyhound adoption group (I'll be happy to help with this if you need assistance) and check out the wonderful hounds that need you. Here is our group in Northern Westchester, NY: Greyhound Rescue & Rehab where you can see some "adoptables". Foster homes are also needed to provide temporary housing for the dogs that are just coming off the track until they find their "forever home". Because these pups are so lovable, "foster failure" is a common malady. ;)

Here are some Myths vs. Truths about Retired Racing Greyhounds:

MYTH: People who own racing greyhounds just keep them when their racing days are over.
TRUTH: When a racer is retired (anywhere between 18 months and 6 years of age), an adoption group will take the dog and find a home for it. No one knows the exact numbers, but in some parts of the country and at some tracks, dogs are still euthanized when they can no longer race. Thankfully more and more adoption groups are springing up every day.

MYTH: Greyhounds, since they were racers, need a lot of exercise.
TRUTH: Greyhounds, since they are retired, just want to lay on your couch. They don't need any more exercise than an average dog. During their working life they raced (for 30 seconds) every three or four days and slept in a crate for 16-20 hours a day in between. These guys were sprinters, not distance runners.

MYTH: Greyhound are high strung.
TRUTH: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Stop, yer killin' me.

MYTH: Since greyhounds are relatively large, purebred dogs, they must wind up with hip dysplasia and other genetic maladies and have relatively short lifespans.
TRUTH: Racing greyhounds are bred for health and performance, not for looks and "personality". They have a life expectancy of 12-14 years and do not suffer from many of the health issues that other pedigreed dogs have. And they still have great personalities.

MYTH: Greyhounds were abused, so they must be skittish and spooky.
TRUTH: While we don't love greyhound racing, the abusers are in the minority. Practically speaking, you wouldn't abuse something that you are counting on for your livelihood. It would be more accurate to say that in racing, greyhounds are inventory. They are not pets while working, so they need to learn how to be the object of your affection. They are quick learners.

MYTH: Greyhounds cannot live with cats or other small animals.
TRUTH: This is true for some greyhounds, usually the ones who were excellent racers and have a high prey drive. However, many are retired early because they didn't care much about chasing the lure, and go on to live happily in homes with kitties. (My greyhound is not "cat safe", but is fine with small dogs. He seems to understand the difference.)

MYTH: Greyhounds are grey.
TRUTH: "Grey" hounds are actually "blue", and they are the least common color. Greyhounds actually come in 18 different color varieties, black being one of the most common (and for some reason, the hardest to adopt out.)

Other truths you may not know:
Greyhounds don't have a "dog smell".
Many dog-allergic people (like me) can live happily with greyhounds.
Because they are on a strict schedule at the track, many are very easy to housetrain.
They make great apartment dogs. They spend most of their time curled up in a little ball, and most do not bark. (Mine only barks at non-greyhounds. He's a "breedist".)

And maybe the MOST important truth about greyhounds if you are considering adopting:

They can never, ever, EVER be trusted off-leash unless they are completely fenced in. They can see clearly up to 1/2 mile away, and if they spot something of interest (even a blowing paper bag), they will "lock on" and go for it, regardless of oncoming cars, trucks or trains. Oh, and electric fences don't work with greyhounds. If you don't believe me, put the collar on, get in your car and drive through the electric fence at 45mph. You'll be, oh, about a mile away before you feel the shock.

Bottom line: If you want an incredible companion, don't have the time or energy to raise a puppy, and would like what is basically a cat in a dog costume, then a retired racing greyhound may be the pup for you.