He Didn’t Look Dead

When I heard the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields” playing on the radio recently, I was once again in my music time machine, now en route to the kitchen of a family I was babysitting for. It was the autumn of 1969, which was the year that the rumors of Paul McCartney’s death spread like wildfire throughout the world.

That particular evening, I recall putting the children to bed and then hanging out in the kitchen as I listened to a local radio show laying out all the clues and timeline of Paul’s demise, which allegedly occurred three years previously as a result of an automobile accident.

Among the “proof” was the fact that the cover of the “Abbey Road” album was supposed to depict a funeral procession, and it was pointed out that Paul was the only one without shoes. Also, he was walking out of step with the other three Beatles, which was another subtle indicator that he was dead.

During the ending of “Strawberry Fields,” if you listen very carefully, you can hear the words “I buried Paul.” On the song “Revolution 9,”when a line is played backwards, it sounded as if someone was saying “turn me on dead man.”

The clues went on and on, and the story was that the Beatles  had replaced Paul with a look-at-like after his untimely death. Record sales for the several of the albums in question increased but eventually, the rumors died.

I saw Paul a few years ago, and I must say that he looked and sounded quite healthy. But I will always remember where I was the night WABC radio analyzed the clues of the death of Paul McCartney. For all of my contemporaries reading this, what do you remember?



More Than Just a Ride

On my recent trip to New Jersey, I decided to finally embrace another facet of twenty-first-century technology by ordering an Uber to get to and from the airport. I am happy to report that, despite my anxieties and fears, I did not end up buried in a landfill or swimming with the fish. Both drivers were professional, personable, and polite. It was my second driver, however, who impressed me the most.

When I glanced at the Uber App on my phone, I noticed that I was able to review his profile. I noticed Carlos was from the Dominican Republic, so I asked him if he had a story. He enthusiastically told me the tale of meeting his American wife while she was on vacation in his homeland. They danced the nights away, and she made many return visits to the island.

Five years ago he moved to America and married her, and now with his green card in hand, he is working as an Uber driver and studying to become a citizen. He proudly told me that he is enrolling in the local community college to study criminal justice with the plan of one day becoming a police officer. He hopes that, as a citizen, his mother will be able to join him here.

Although he did not speak English when he moved here, I was impressed by his command of the language now. I thought about all the people on the western end of the island of Hispaniola, where the Dominican Republic is located—the “shithole” country of Haiti as our president calls it—and wondered what he thought of his adopted country.

I told him how impressed I was with what he is doing with his life and said I hoped he was not discouraged by all the negativity towards immigrants of late. I thought of the talk of limiting “chain migration”—the program whereby immigrants already residing here can bring their family members to live in this country with them. (Incidentally, the correct term is “family unification”)

Carlos sadly told me how much he misses his mama. Will she be able to someday move here?

As I listened to Carlos describe his hopes and dreams, I felt an increasing sense of worry for him. When I made the decision to dip my toe into the world of Uber travel, it never occurred to me how much more than a ride it would be. I wonder who I will meet next.


Happy Happy!

Every year, the stupid talk about the alleged “Merry Christmas” ban begins anew. When I heard that our president was promising to bring Merry Christmas back again, I was honestly taken aback. I never knew those words were gone. Where did they go? Who took them away?

I say it to who I want without fear of being arrested by the Christmas secret police, but at the same time, I also am a fan of “Happy Holidays.” December is filled with many holidays, so saying “happy holidays” covers them all. It’s more considerate.

Thinking about all the controversy over what to say makes me think of my grandma. Baba, who spoke little English, would say to us with her very heavy Russian accent, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Happy!”

She was way ahead of her time. In fact, while picking up our dozen icing-covered, cream-filled, glaze-encrusted box of Dunkin Donuts for our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, I told the cheery young lady behind the counter about Baba’s expression. She smiled and said she liked it.

So I am proposing that America adopt a new expression this holiday season: Happy Happy Everyone!

Personally, you can wish me whatever you want—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa. I am just happy for the smiles and the goodwill.

A Dying Tradition

With Christmas just seventeen days away, it’s time to review my Christmas list.

  • The Christmas decorations are done—inside and out
  • The presents have been ordered and have been hidden away, waiting to be wrapped
  • The cookies have been baked and are out of site in the freezer so they will be not be stale and eaten before Christmas Eve.
  • Watch a few favorite Christmas movies. (Not done)
  • Buy a tacky Christmas sweater (Will I do it this year?)
  • However, the Christmas cards are sitting on the dining room table while I debate whether to send any this year.

I suspect that I am not alone on the last item on the list because in the past, the cards had been pouring in by now. In the early years of our marriage, we got so many that, following Grandma’s decorating scheme, I would have them all taped around the doorways. Now, not a single card has found its way into our mailbox, and I admit that I am secretly happy about this. I wonder if they are becoming obsolete—like landlines.

There are a few cards I always enjoy receiving each year, which are those with an updated family photo or a note filled with news from friends we have not spoken to in a while. But when I get a card from someone I see or speak with frequently, I feel guilty for not having sent one to them. Is that a reason for sending a card?

Instead of writing to you in this blog or working on that family cookbook, I guess I should start reviewing my Christmas list so I can decide once and for all what I will do this year.

Are any of you sending out any cards?

That Delectable Chain Cake of Friendship

Chain letters. We have all received some form of them over the years. You know how it goes: Send something to the person at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom, and then forward the letter to several friends. You are then promised great rewards as a result of your participation—money, recipes, luck, prayers.

Years ago, I participated in different sort of chain activity. It was called a friendship cake. Here’s how it worked:

I was given a cup of what looked like cake batter. It was actually called “starter” and was a key ingredient in keeping the cake alive for potentially generations. On the first and fifth day, I was instructed to add milk, flour, and sugar to the starter and then cover and refrigerate it. The only work was to remember to stir once a day.

On day 10, I was instructed to remove and give one cup of the batter and pass it on to three friends along with the instructions. To the remaining batter there were a bunch of ingredients to add—sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, nuts, and fruit—before placing in a pan and baking.

The cake was so good that I kept one cup for myself, which meant I only needed to find two friends to receive the batter.

I don’t see the friendship cake working in today’s busy world where people barely have enough time to go to the grocery store to pick up an already-baked cake. This bakery chain letter takes time and commitment. It’s too bad, because it was quite tasty.

Every Little Move Matters

Two years ago, I wrote about a conversation I had with Bryce about a train accident Grandpa was involved in when he was in the army.  Two civilians and one soldier were killed. Grandpa said the man who died had been sitting in his seat and had asked to switch seats before the fatal crash, so that man, Corporal Thomas Vest, died, and Grandpa survived with just a back injury.

I recently read a book which involves time travel, so I got to thinking about what would be the implications if one of Corporal Vest’s three brothers had climbed aboard a time machine and had boarded that train in order to prevent him for switching seats with Grandpa. How many lives would have been affected by that action?

In the most basic analysis, one could argue that the number is seventeen—Grandpa’s five children, ten grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. But what about the eight spouses, who may have married others, producing a different set of children?

We can’t just stop there, because each never-born life in that alternate scenario touched countless other lives. How would the lives of those people be altered if those seventeen people had never been born?

Would the world still be taking selfies and communicating on their cell phones if I had never been around to invent it? As a nurse, Aunt Ar has dealt with countless patients in the hospitals she has worked in over the years, so I believe that a world without her may have erased a few lives from this planet. She will argue against this theory, but I stand firm in my belief.

We all remember a favorite teacher, whether it be because of a lesson they taught, an unfair punishment they imposed upon the class, or a private conversation we had with one of them. Jamie has taught hundreds of students in her short time as an educator. Her absence may have been, or may someday be felt by at least one of those students.

Is there job that Casey’s company may not have won had it not been for her attention to detail? Is there a bride whose wedding photos may have been ruined that rainy day when Kelly went to Plan B to ensure the weather would not destroy those precious mementos? How many soldiers were comforted by the family pictures she provided them before their deployment?

How many fish may have died if Chris had not rushed into work to feed them when bad weather prevented his coworkers from doing so? And will the world be robbed of watching the inauguration of President Lily and the Mars landing of Astronaut Bryce if Grandpa had remained in that death seat on that train??

I can go on, but I think you get the idea.

Grandpa claimed that he continued to be reminded of that November day in Georgia for the rest of his life because his back hurt whenever he tried to pick up his children and grandchildren. The thing is, he had fifty-six more years—“the rest of his life.” Corporal Vest did not, but that one request gave the rest of us our lives.

Each of us touches the lives of so many others in ways we may not even know, and one small change of course can profoundly alter the future of countless individuals. It’s mind boggling when you think about the implications!







Knoshing Around the World

My recent trip to Silver Spring with Dad was like attending an international food festival. We began in Korea, and by the end of the weekend, we had visited eateries representing Venezuela, China, the Mid East, and Russia. Looking back on our choices, those all represented hot spots in the news of late, but that was not intentional.

I was most excited to dine at the Russian restaurant—conveniently located less than a mile from the White House and one block from the famous Mayflower Hotel. (I encourage you to Google the hotel and you’ll see what I mean.)

You’d think the fact that Grandpa had lived in Russia for ten years would have made me familiar with the cuisine of his people, but that was not the case at all. The only time I ever went to a Russian restaurant was when we accompanied Grandpa and his cousin, Misha, to a restaurant in New York City, where I believe I feasted on Chicken Kiev and mashed potatoes.  I ordered the same for old time’ sake.

I always have a glass of wine with dinner, but it I felt it would be wrong not to order some sort of vodka-based drink in a Russian restaurant. I ordered a strawberry-infused vodka cocktail. Delicious!

Within seconds of opening my menu, a wave of emotion swept over me and I began to cry. I don’t know why, but after spending so much time writing my book about Grandpa, being in a place I knew he would have loved just caused those tear ducts to open and begin to flow.

There were plenty of Russian-speaking patrons slurping their borscht and sipping vodka, and the bar was showing Russian cartoons. It was cozy, and the bathroom was decorated with Russian newspapers., which added to the ambience.

While my meal was not my favorite on our food tour around the world, the atmosphere affected my soul the most.