Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Autumn in New York...and Canadian Capers

Niagara Falls
Katz's Deli
Frank and I leave tomorrow for a five-week jaunt. This time it's the east coast and Canada. We fly from John Wayne airport Wednesday a.m. and will spend the first four nights at the Howard Johnson Hotel by Wyndham Newport Airport, Newark. It features a shuttle that leaves every 30 minutes for the airport where we can catch a train into NYC. So Frank's focused on Jewish delis, and I'm thinking of museums. A friend tells me that the Tenement Museum is a short walk from Katz's Deli, established 1888. 

 I've been to British Columbia, but nowhere else in Canada. I've been to 63 countries, but never Boston, outside of Logan airport. So all the places we're visiting will be new to me, except for NYC, which I last saw in 1985.  The ports we visit on this cruise include Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, Sidney, Saguenay, Quebec City and Halifax.

Titanic Deck Chair
I especially look forward to exploring the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax with its Titanic exhibition and the cemetery where so many victims found their final resting place.

Lake George, Adirondacks
When we get back to Cape Liberty we spend one night at the Hilton Garden on Staten Island, and then pick up our rental car the next day. We have stops planned for Albany (detour to Cooperstown to see Baseball Hall of Fame), through Saratoga Springs to Lake George for a night, Lake Placid for a
night, and then on to Ottawa. We have two nights in Ottawa before joining our Road Scholar tour group.

With that group we see Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto and Niagara-by-the-Lake, with some outings to wineries, a play at the Shaw Festival ("Oh, What a Lovely War") and the usual informative lectures and delicious meals, before flying back on October 9 from Buffalo.
Ottawa, Canads
We'll be in Niagara-on-the-Lake for Canadian Thanksgiving, so look forward to a turkey dinner a little early this year. I checked, and yes, Canadians feast on turkey and all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie.

The one book I've had a chance to read in preparation for at last seeing Niagara, is Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies.  This sentence especially caught my attention: "Our fabulous modern lifestyle, Chicken McNuggets to 'America's Next Top Model' all began with electricity." In my Peace Corps Volunteer days I've lived in locales where electricity was scarce, intermittent or nonexistent. When I asked Grandma Gertie, who was born in 1890, what invention  had made the most significant change in her 87 years on earth, she didn't hesitate.

"Finally getting electric lights made all the difference when my children were growing up."

Niagara's history is fascinating, through tightrope walkers and the Maid of the Mist. I recommend this book. And so glad at this belated date that I'll finally be able to add Niagara Falls to my long list of  "once in a lifetime" places to see.

We'll both have computers with us, but have intermittent access while on the cruise. Nonetheless, l'll be staying in touch. See you all in October.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hooray for Hollywood...and CalJas

It's not that I never get to the heart of the Big Orange. Earlier this summer I attended the Leonard Bernstein 100th birthday concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Last summer I revisited Olvera Street after an absence of approximately four decades, and, also, for the very first time explored Universal Studios.

But the last time I set foot in Hollywood's oldest watering hole, Musso and Frank, I'd been tramping
Snuggling with Frank at Musso and Frank Grill
through the haunts of legendary detective Philip Marlowe on a Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles tour...and it had been 1979.  That afternoon I'd indulged in one of the dry martinis this bar is noted for. Yesterday, because Frank and I had a big evening ahead, we simply sipped a couple of Allagash White ales, served in elegant iced glasses, and shared a hot pastrami and rye and a Caesar salad, lavishly garnished with succulent anchovies. Scrumptious. We also demolished a few hunks of the Grill's famous sourdough bread. If I return, I'd simply make a meal of that bread alone and a couple of the veggie appetizers. And maybe try another martini, though they're no longer priced at $.60, as advertised on the menu posted next to the Gentleman's room.

Sinatra and Bacall
 I'd scrutinized the other patrons as we walked in through the back entry. (Tip: be certain to use the validated parking in the rear lot, accessible off adjacent N. Cherokee Ave.) Out of luck, alas, no stars to be seen. This steakhouse, with its roasts, chops, and made-to-order classics (Welsh rarebit, calves liver, flannel cakes), used to be a favorite drinking and dining sport for writers,
such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the aforementioned Chandler, as well as celebrities from the movie industry. The only stars we spied, though, were on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Just outside Musso's I leaned down and patted the one commemorating the actor once known as America's greatest living tragedian.

As we strolled down Hollywood Boulevard I nattered on to Frank about how I once paraded down it, tossing my baton as I did one-handed had been the Santa Claus Lane procession in 1949 when my majorette troupe, the Carpenterettes, had proceeded the Cadillac convertible carrying Grand Master Bob Hope. (Here's my story about that particular evening:

From l-r, Tull, Babad, Hughes, Boatman, Young
Then as guests of the president of CalJas, Dale Boatman, we arrived at The Magic Castle, another Hollywood landmark. I'd only been there once before when a school chum of my son's, Todd Robbins, had been a featured magician.
This time, we were there not to see magic, but to hear it at a jazz concert in The Inner Circle. Our host, Dale, an accomplished jazz singer with flawless phrasing, long has been devoted to promoting this American music form in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange Counties. Frank and I joined CalJas three years ago. We frequently attend local house concerts, but decided to fight the freeway traffic to get to Hollywood in the afternoon in order to catch the CalJas All-Stars' 25th performance at this venue. 

Becky Hughes at The Magic Castle
The Magic Castle lived up to its name. Even Invisible Irma, the ghost who plays the piano in The Music Bar, knocked out a great music hall version of Paul McCartney's "Your Mother Should Know," my request from the Beatles'  album "Magical Mystery Tour."

As we'd anticipated, the CalJas All Stars rocked the room. Dale, Becky and up-and-coming star Lia Booth, warbled, scatted and crooned. The four musicians all have worked with every famous name in the music business. There wasn't a number last night that wasn't worth the long commute from Orange County. Two particularly fascinating pieces included Luther Hughes' stunning bass solo on "My Romance," and Dave Tull's hilarious parody, "Every Other Day I Have the Blues."
Frank and I sit entranced at a recent CalJas concert in Westminster

For more about Luther Hughes' music company, Primrose Lane (where every day's a holiday), check out his website:

If you, like me, love all that jazz....consider joining CalJas. Find out more about the California Jazz Arts Society here:   

.And for more about Musso and Frank and The Magic Castle:
Hall of Fame, Magic Castle

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Different but Divine

Edited by Charles D. Brockett and Heather Toseteson

What does joy mean to you? In this new book from Wising Up Press, which releases August 15, 43 authors explore how joy surprised us. My story, "Different but Divine," relates how Dr. Frank Stern and I realized we had more similarities to build a bond with, than we did differences. This seemed unlikely when we first met.

The Table of Contents of this stunning anthology concludes with this quotation by George Bernard Shaw. I read this to Frank this morning, and he agrees that Shaw's words capture the philosophies that have guided each of our lives:

Sketch by Harry  Furniss
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
-- G.B. Shaw, Man and Superman

Here are the opening paragraphs from my story, which concludes the chapter on Community:

In Jewish history there are no coincidences.” – Elie Wiesel
 “I don’t expect you to become Jewish,” Frank said. “I’m only asking you to stay your own curious and open-minded self and come to a synagogue with me for Sabbath.”

My mouth dropped open. “But they’ll be speaking Hebrew,” I sputtered. “I don’t know a word of that language. I won’t have any idea what’s going on.”

He laughed and patted my hand. “It’s easy. It’s a Reform temple, so the sermon will be in English. Do what everybody else does. If I stand up, you stand up. When somebody says something to you, repeat what they say back to them. Works every time.”

Easy for him to say. After all, my new boyfriend was a retired university professor who’d taught the history of Judaism. “Four thousand years in fourteen weeks,” he’d quipped of his introductory course.

Though I harbored serious doubts, I agreed to go. During my childhood in rural Oregon, I’d won a New Testament for faithful Sunday School attendance at a tiny Friends Church. The Quaker philosophy stuck with me. I’ve always relied on my “Inner Light” to help me distinguish between good and evil, and to reassure me of the infinite love of God.

Friends Church, Scotts Mills, OR
In adulthood, my church-going mainly has been limited to weddings and funerals. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I’d dropped in on a few services here and there: A Harvest Festival at the “Scots” St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Belize City; a nondenominational Easter observance at the Episcopal Cathedral in Santo Domingo; even a Christmas Eve candlelight ceremony at Immaculate Conception in Victoria, Seychelles.

Frank at Church of the Foothills

Want to read more? You can order copies of this anthology here: or

Here's the table of contents, should you want to browse:,_Intro.pdf

Sharing our visions of Community

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

We're Singing our September Song

Boston Harbor
I've been around the world in a plane...again and again. Mongolia? Check. Guyana? Check? Uzbekistan? Check. Samoa? Check.

But I've never set foot outside Logan Airport in Boston. I've never gazed at Niagara Falls. I've not visited the Maritime Museum with its Titanic exhibits in Halifax nor paid homage to childhood idols Jackie Robinson and Christy Mathewson at the Baseball Hall of Fame. I've explored our southern neighbor, Mexico, from Baja to the Yucatan, from Chiapas to Chapala, by train, car and bus. But I've never wandered anywhere in our neighbor to the north, Canada, outside of British Columbia.
Child's Shoes from Titanic

Not too late. My beau, Frank Stern, and I have been poring over the AAA Tour books, the Road Scholar itinerary and the ports of call on the Celebrity Summit cruise from Cape Liberty to Halifax, and we've rolled three vacations into one.

Bar Harbor
1) The cruise leaves Port Liberty, in Bayonne, N.J.,  on Sunday, Sept. 9. We'll have three days to explore NYC from our hotel by Newark airport. We plan to take subway and buses to get around. And then the cruise goes to Boston, Portland, MN, Bar Harbor, two days in Quebec City, Saquenay, Sidney, Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and back to Cape Liberty.

Saratoga Springs
(2) We take a cab from Cape Liberty on Sunday, Sept. 23, to Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island and spend the day and night there. Maybe explore a little of Staten Island. The next morning we pick our car rental up from next to the hotel and head for leg two, our Fall Foliage drive through upper New York State. We drive to Albany and spend two nights. We will go to Saratoga Springs and visit the National Museum of Racing.

Then we continue from Albany to Syracuse, with a stop at Cooperstown to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame. Finally we drive from Syracuse to Ottawa and have a day or two to explore before joining the Road Scholar tour in Ottawa on Sunday, Sept. 30.

(3) The Road Scholar trip includes two nights in Ottawa, with tours of the Ottawa Museum of History and Rideau Hall, and then on to Kingston for two nights with Arthur Child Museum, 1000 Islands, Boldt Castle, and then on to Toronto for two nights, with Picton, McCaully Park, wine tasting, St. Lawrence Market, Elgin Wintergarden Theater, and then on to Niagara-on-the-Lake for two nights, with the Shaw Festival where we see either "Oh, What a Lovely War" or "The Hound of the Baskervilles." On Canadian Thanksgiving, we tour Niagara Falls with a boat cruise on The Maid of the Mist. Finally, we'll be transported to the Buffalo airport for our return flight home, via O'Hare.

Two countries...dozens of  "At Long Last" items to check off my Lifetime To-Do List.

Ottawa, Canada

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Keep that Breathless Charm

From L, Steve's groomswomen, Trudy Whitener, & Randi Firus, Steve, Helayne,  Helayne's bridesmaids, sister Cheryl Ross and cousin Deborah Glasser Barr.
Helayne and her entourage
Last night my son, Steve Elders, promised Helayne Perry that, as suggested by four wise men half a century ago, he would love her eight days a week. Kevin Brief, Steve's friend since childhood, officiated. Both bride and groom read their own poignant vows.

Helayne, who met Steve when he went to work on the Register,  related how their friendship of nearly 30 years evolved. They'd always been close enough to know one another's interests, tastes and even secrets. When Steve first proposed the idea a little over a year ago that maybe they could become more, Helayne admitted she hesitated, wondering if as a couple they'd be able to reconcile her "emotionalism" with Steve's pragmatism. But the idea grew on her. They became engaged last August when they went to Oregon for the total eclipse of the sun.

Both Steve and Helayne have spent their professional lives in the daily newspaper business, Helayne as a graphics designer for the Orange County Register, and Steve as a copy editor for the Long Beach Press Telegram, the Daily News, the Orange County Register and for the past fifteen years as chief copy editor for the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar. Additionally, he'd been editor of the LBCC Viking and an editor for the Cal State Long Beach 49er. Friends from all these venues burst into cheers when Steve announced that he and Helayne shared a joint pride in their work as "enemies of the people."

 Not only the Beatles, but Dorothy Field's lyrics to Jerome Kern's haunting melody, got a nod as Steve referenced this song as reminding him of his bride:
Some day, when I'm awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight
Yes, you're lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft
There is nothing for me but to love you
And the way you look tonight
With each word your tenderness grows
Tearin' my fear apart
And that laugh, wrinkles your nose
Touches my foolish heart
Lovely, never, never change
Keep that breathless charm
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you
Just the way you look tonight.
Kevin and Pam Brief
First dance with lot of kisses

Mother of the groom with escort, Dr. Frank Stern
Toasting the couple...Mazel Tov

Maria Laso and Terri Elders, "the moms."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Still Coasting Along

Frank Stern, Fr. Junipero Serra, and me on my 81st birthday.
We'd been wanting to head north to Santa Barbara for months. Frank and I planned to go to Carpinteria last December to celebrate his 81st birthday. Instead, we finally got there in late June, to celebrate mine. Torrential rains and subsequent mudslides had intervened to ruin our earlier trip. 

What lured us up the coast? We wanted to sample another cheese bagel at Jack's Bistro and Famous Bagels on Carpinteria's main drag. We'd discovered Jack's on an earlier sojourn to San Luis Obispo. We wanted to meet my newly-discovered first cousin, Deborah Crawford Shafritz, at her synagogue, B'nai Brith, in Santa Barbara. And we wanted to explore more of the antique and secondhand shops that line the main drag in Ventura. Plus, Frank doubted he'd ever visited the Santa Barbara Mission. We did it all. 

Juan Rodriquez of Teddy's
On our first evening, we dined on fish and chips at Teddy's by the Sea, a newly-opened Carpinteria restaurant named after Sarah Rodriquez's grandmother, Theodora. We'd arrived late, just before closing, but Juan Rodriquez, our wonderful host, said the restaurant's policy was to remain open until everybody was fully served. I gobbled up a side of terrific pineapple slaw, and we accompanied our meal with a couple of mugs of Hoppy Poppy. a Santa Barbara brew. In honor of my birthday, Juan treated us to a very light flan, garnished with fresh raspberries.

The next morning we headed for downtown Santa Barbara, ostensibly to visit the art museum. We never got there. Instead we visited ducked into The Book Den, established 1902 in San Francisco but operating at this location since 1933. Frank and I, bibliophiles both, don't merely browse in bookstores. We both fade into a hypnotic trance, as we wander aisles all glassy-eyed and bemused. It takes a lot of clashing cymbals to snap us out of our daze.
Frank's cell phone rang, awakening us to the here-and-now. (A quick was a happy birthday call for me from Frank's son and daughter-in-law.)

We sauntered outside to head for the museum, but were distracted once more when we spied an intriguing sign announcing Karpeles Manuscript Museum. What kind of manuscripts could it possibly house? Just about everything, we learned, including a proposal draft of the Bill of Rights, the
Olympics Torch, 1936
Constitution of the Confederate States of America, key documents related to Charles Lindbergh's "heroic" trans-Atlantic solo flight, drafts from Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and even an original draft of Eva Duarte Peron's "La Razon de mi Vida." And that's just for starters.

There are photographs, sculptures and artifacts, on display, as well, including the Olympics torch from 1936 and a model of HMV Victory, and the weather log kept aboard it by Admiral Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Sam Tanksley and Frank Stern
We learned from our well-informed guide, Sam Tanksley, who is one of four self-labeled  "attendants" who discuss the treasure of the museum with visitors,  that Dr. David Karpeles, born in Santa Barbara in 1936.  A research analyst who earned a fortune in real estate, he displays his collection of historical documents not only at this flagship museum in his hometown, but also in similar libraries in Buffalo, NY, Charleston, SC, Jacksonville, FL, Tacoma, WA, Duluth, MN, Shreveport, LA and Newburgh, NY. All are open to both scholars and the general public, with no admission charge. Frank and I will be traveling through Buffalo on our way to Ottawa in September and plan to drop in to that museum, as well.

Gardens, Mission Santa Barbara
We ducked out for lunch and decided to skip the art musuem in favor of driving to the mission instead. Glad we did. The gardens are gorgeous.  Visiting any of the California missions makes me reflect on how this state's development continues to fascinate me. I'd been to this one a time or two before, but I never tire of traipsing through California historical sites. I want to go back to once more see two historical museums and gardens in Long Beach now, Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos.

The next day, Friday, we went to Sabbath services in the lovely outdoors gazebo at Synagogue B'nai Brith. We enjoyed the "Salsa and Sangria" summery Pre-Neg and the service, led by Rabbi Cohen. And, of course, chatting with cousin Deborah and her husband, Brian. (Deborah's dad, my Uncle Howard, and my birth mother, Jeanne, were brother and sister. We found each other last year through correspondence with an international organist society. Our mutual grandfather had been Jesse Crawford, the Poet of the Organ.)

On Saturday we headed toward Orange County, stopping in Ventura to explore the downtown antique stores and dining at Main Street's Busy Bee, established 1963. It featured juke boxes at every table, with the hits of the Drifters, Diamonds and Paul Anka. Frank, a Coca Cola memorabilia collector, was taken with the Coke theme. Even the bicycle mounted above the front exit door had a Coke decal.

Our next trip north might be just as far as Los Angeles. Now I'm set on reminiscing over my tween years by going to Clifton's Cafeteria!  Not certain I want to wait for my 82nd birthday for that trek.