Things I Lost In The Fire

Image

Things I Lost In the Fire

“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence” Haruki Murukami. 

When I was a teenager my house burned down in an electrical fire. It was a controlled fire by most standards and we didn’t lose everything.  We moved to the top floor of an apartment building and a few years later during a bad storm, it was hit by lightning. Another fire. 

I never thought about how it affected me. No one was home during the first one and I was away at grad school for the second. I hadn’t lost my room in the first fire. Most of my things were on the roof and covered in soot and ash. It took a long time to get that smell out. 

 I happened to sit next to a woman in a restaurant who had just lost her house in the Malibu fire and was still in shock.  She was telling me about her lost photos. I remembered that I kept my albums and photos in fireproof boxes in a downstairs closet close to a door. They could be dumped in a nearby garbage can and rolled away quickly. I’m not normally that organized. I realized as I spoke to her that I have always lived my adult life with the knowledge that things can be lost instantaneously. 

We all process events differently. What I remember most about the first fire is the dream. The night before I had a very vivid dream that I was walking in debris in my new shoes. I kept wondering why I had worn the shoes. There was a hole in the right shoe from the debris. The next morning I got up and put the new shoes on with trepidation, wondering if I should wear them. Hours later I was walking in what was left of the downstairs and looked down at the wet burned wood  and there was the hole in the right shoe. I never really processed anything but the fact that I had a premonition about it.    

 I thought at the time  that it was just stuff. Kids don’t think a lot about memories.  I  listened to the woman tell me about her lost mementos.  I understand now why I saved every toy and all my children’s schoolwork from birth through high school. I didn’t have anything like that from my own childhood after two fires.  

 She started talking about her books.  Every once in a while throughout my life, I remember a book that I am sure I have. I don’t have it because that library was gone. I think this is what happens after a fire. You don’t remember everything you lost all at once.

Our homes should be places of safety.  Because so many strong memories are formed in our homes, they are very special places to us. House fires can never take those memories away but we lose the feeling of safety which is more of a loss than the stuff. I never dwelt on why this happened to my family twice. We just stayed in the moment and did things one step at a time. Life is busy after a fire and not always in a good way. The best thing is not to stay in the past. It was strange to look back and reflect on that time in my life. I know that this woman, her family and the people who were affected by the California wildfires will get through it also.

Fly safe,

JAZ 

Advertisements

9/11 Memorial

Image

9/11 Memorial

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” David Levithan

Maybe it was from a sense of obligation, to pay tribute to the lives lost; or a need to see the site of the World Trade Center tragedy to try to comprehend something that 17 years later is still hard to grasp. Maybe it was because I had just come from seeing Auschwitz in Poland. Maybe it was because I worked in Lower Manhattan when the World Trade Center was being built. But while planning a visit to New York, there was never a moment I considered not going to the 9/11 memorial and museum.

Inside this immense expanse of the museum, you’ll find various artifacts on display such as pieces from the planes that struck the Twin Towers, one of many fire trucks which assisted in rescue efforts, a three-story metal beam covered with missing posters, photographs, and messages of resilience named the ‘Last Column’, as well as a retaining wall that survived the destruction of the original World Trade Center.

There are the smaller but just as significant artifacts like damaged fireman’s helmets, World Trade Center ID’s, faded subway cards, police uniforms, and dust-covered shoes.

The museum is thoughtfully divided into several exhibits, with the main two being the Historical Exhibition in the North Tower and the Memorial Exhibition in the South Tower.

The Historical Exhibition is filled with artifacts, photographs, first-person accounts, and archival audio and video recordings. This exhibit is made up of three sequential parts: the Events of the Day, Before 9/11, and After 9/11.

The Memorial Exhibition is situated within the original footprint of the South Tower, and contains portrait photographs of the almost 3000 people who lost their lives in result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.

The Memorial is located where the Twin Towers once stood. There are now two large grey chasms in the ground from which water cascades down all four sides before gathering in a pool and finally plunging into a dark void in the middle.

On the brass rims around these twin pools you’ll find stencil-cut names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.

you are encouraged to touch them.

I did not know anyone personally who died that day. My son had just been dropped off for his freshman year in college in Boston. His father had taken that flight back to LA on American Airlines the week before. My mother who lived nearby had gone to a concert at the World Trade Center that Sunday. On September 11 at six am Los Angeles time, I was in the airport at American Airlines (three hours earlier than New York) waiting to get on a seven AM flight from LA to Boston because I had gotten a call a few hours before that my son was in the hospital about to have his appendix out.

“There but for fortune go you or I” Phil Oaks.

Fly safe,

JAZ

My Anthony Bourdain Day

Image

My Anthony Bourdain Day

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors. Tennessee Williams

There has been a lot written about the death of Anthony Bourdain.  He inspired those of us who travel, cook or are foodies. i wrote one of my earliest blogs about him. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/09/04/anthony-bourdain-i-love-you/ .  Anthony Bourdain’s vulnerability and openness about his past struggles with drugs and depression were part of the fascination that I had with his show. He visibly carried so much darkness and yet, seemed to have the life that everyone wanted. He inspired a lot of people to cook and travel. He taught us to eat differently when we traveled. Everyone is a travel foodie now. I carry Immodium on every trip like he did, just in case a chief from a tribe offers me food and I am too polite to say no. Anthony Bourdain saw the amazing in the small everyday things that people did around the world and he shared them with us. 

Bourdain worked hard, took risks, and craved authenticity.  All of those traits are to be admired but it doesn’t make him a perfect person (none of us are perfect).  Admiration can be a dangerous thing. Make sure you’re admiring the values while maintaining a healthy and realistic understanding that everyone has flaws, even your heroes. 

We decided to have an Anthony Bourdain day in NYC. We started at the 9/11 Memorial downtown. Bourdain always included recent historical events.

We had lunch at Le Bernadin the three-star Michelin restaurant. The chef Eric Ripert, was his best friend.  

Chef Ripert is talented, crafting an elegant and tasteful lunch menu. It is a seafood restaurant and the fish courses are delicious and filleted to perfection.

  We laugh through lunch certain Bourdain would want us to enjoy it.

 Our dinner was hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya. It was a New York hot dog chain that is down to one store on Eighth Avenue and Fortieth St. The hot dog was the original NYC street food.

It is the classic New York Sabrett hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut. We lean up on a ledge and wash it down with a Papaya drink.

Afterward, we go to the Blue Note in the village and listen to some Jazz. He often ended his shows with local music. 

 It turns out that travel can’t fix you. Having your dream job does not make it better. I think he fought hard to stay alive and battle his demons. In the end, he needed to stop the darkness and pain that made him so compelling to watch. If this sounds like you, get help. 

Fly Safe Anthony Bourdain,

JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In NYC

Image

Ten Things at That I Want To Do In NYC

“New York has a trip-hammer vitality which drives you insane with restlessness if you have no inner stabilizer.’ Henry Miller

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million people entered the United States through the Ellis Island Immigration Center. This place was the first point of entry for most immigrants, My Grandparents came through there. Its’ a good time to see and contemplate an era when the United States answered the pleas of refugees for a better a life.

Big museum plans. The Whitney Museum has moved downtown to a cool  space in the Meatpacking District. The Metropolitan Museum Of Art  is leasing the space for its Modern Art call the Met Breuer. Giacometti is  at the Guggenheim and a there is a great  photography exhibit at MOMA. Henri Cartier Bresson is at the International Center For Photography.

NY is a city of foodies and chefs. There are so many  restaurants to try. I will let you know how I do.

Take a walk through Central Park. It was always our bit of nature in the city.

There is the best shopping in NY. I want to visit my favorite department stores, Bergdorf Goodmans, Barneys and Henri Bendels. I also loved shopping in Nolita, Chelsea and the Lower East Side.

There are so many Street Art  Walking Tours  to choose from. Painted murals, graffiti, mosaic installations, sculpture, art embedded in the pavement, stencils and stickers are found all over the city. 

I grew up seeing  Broadway and Off Broadway Theatre in NY several nights a week. We have our tickets and I can’t wait.

How cool is this? Apparently they built Highline Park on an  unused elevated subway line on the  West Side. 

I’m glad to have the opportunity  and privilege to finally visit the 9/11 Memorial. 9/11 is not a past event; terrorism and acts of violence continue to be a current part of our everyday life.  So, the museum is a visit to a horrible act of the past, but one that continues to persist and be a part of the modern world. 

Visiting Lincoln Center and my mom. My mom asked that her ashes be strewn over Lincoln Center so she didn’t miss anything-especially the opera. She said that she wanted us to stop by and visit her and see a show in NY. 

Fly safe,
JAZ

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,  Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 10.21.09 PM

Growing up in New York, with immigrant grandparents, the Statue of Liberty meant something. “Tell us the story of when your parents saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time again” we asked.   My mother would say that to her parents and many like them, the statue meant freedom to live in a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be. America was the place to go to flee from oppression, racism, class-ism and poverty. We understood that it was something special to be born in a country with ideals like that.

America is not perfect. We have racism and poverty. But that doesn’t destroy the dreams it was built on. Millions of people came to America to build a better life for themselves and for their families and still do to this day.

On the Statue of Liberty, there are words I know so well: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That’s the spirit that made me feel like an American.  I wouldn’t be here without that philosophy.

Fly safe.

JAZ

Ten Immigrant Words That New Yorkers Use

Ten Immigrant Words That New Yorkers Use

“I like good strong words that mean something…” Louisa May Alcott

Whatever their ethnic background, New Yorkers are also all a little Jewish, Spanish and Italian.

In Spanish, the word bodega means warehouse. It is a word that Spanish immigrants brought with them and it transitioned into what would be called a convenience store. Originally owned by Puerto Ricans, it found its way into mainstream New York culture. In my mind I see red and black awnings, signs advertising cold cuts and beer, dusty groceries and  people speaking Spanish. They are not necessarily Spanish owned today,  but still called a bodega. It is used like this. I’m grabbing coffee at the bodega on the corner and then I’ll get on line for tickets. On line is New York for in line. A corner is the best location for a bodega.

Schlep is a word of Yiddish origin. It means to drag, haul, trudge. Schlep can be used as a noun or a verb. He is a schlep (jerk, loser, doesn’t pull his own weight). Move on, he is not worth your time. The verb usage can also include guilt. I schlepped downtown to see you.  This can sometimes translate to, I took two trains and had to stand the whole time.  Train is what New Yorkers call the subway. 

Agita (Ah-jita)  is Italian for heartburn or anxiety. It is something you give your mother. “Don’t tell me these things, you are giving me agita.  It is a common phrase heard by New York teenagers from their moms.

Schmuck is a Yiddish word which means idiot. Is it offensive to call someone a schmuck? Only if you are the person being called one. It definitely sounds a bit harsher than idiot which might make it the better choice. Another meaning is penis. We thought that was hysterical when we were kids. 

Prosciutt.  It is pronounced pra jute. When I was growing up I thought it was the Italian word for ham. Do you want “pra jute” on that?  I never saw it spelled until I was older. I learned that it was prosciutto, a particular kind of ham.

Schvitz is a Yiddish slang term for steam bath but also used to mean sweat. You will see many people schvitzing when they are riding on a subway or bus without air conditioning in the hot, muggy summer. It is not a good look.

Goombah is little confusing to me. I always thought it was an Italian slang word meaning best friend  – like family. Whenever someone introduced me to their goombah, it was always a big Italian guy that you wouldn’t want to mess with. Fuhgedaboutit.

Schmear. I have only heard the term when ordering a bagel in New York. I think it means the right amount of cream cheese to put on a bagel – not too much, not too little. “I will have a pumpernickel bagel with a schmear”.

Paesan is short for paesano and means a fellow Italian countryman. It’s supposed to be a compliment if an Italian calls you paesan. “You love pizza like a paesan.” It is often used like homie.

Klutz. The literal translation from Yiddish would be a block of wood but it is most often used to describe a clumsy person.  That would be me. I’m such a klutz.

Bahdabing, bahdaboom.

Fly safe,

JAZ.

Dying Around Thanksgiving

Dying Around Thanksgiving

“There is no death. People only die when we forget them,” my mother explained shortly before she left me. “If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” Isabel Allende

My mother died the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now I always associate the planning for Thanksgiving with the helplessness I felt knowing that my mother was dying. I need a constructive way to get through the day.  It involves lighting a memorial candle,  going to temple and saying the prayer honoring the dead.  I do something she loved in nature or in culture and I talk to her in my head.

I was supposed to be ready when my mother died. She was ninety-one when she went into the hospital for the first time since the birth of her children. She had a long life.  “Who is the president?,” they ask to check her mental capacity. The correct answer was Bush. Her answer was “Don’t get me started.” I should have been ready, but I wasn’t.

When we lose a parent as an adult, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be  more ready to accept it when it does happen. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly and move on. We should not require so much time to “get over it.” This loss is expected and in the natural order of things.

Losing a parent is extremely difficult for most adult children if you have had a good relationship with your parent and even if you haven’t. (That is harder) My husband had left a couple of years before that so loss was becoming a theme in my life. My mother was my best friend and my support system throughout that time.

She was not religious.  But she went to temple one day a year to say the Prayer of Remembrance for her parents. When I was twelve I started offering to go with her. She replied that  she didn’t need company. She was going to say  “Yiska”.  It sounded very mysterious. Yizkor is the Jewish memorial prayer for the dead. The word means remember.

My mother  didn’t believe in celebrating death. She would say, “Do for people while they are alive.” She had stopped going to funerals  for her dying friends many years before. She must have done a lot because one hundred and fifty people who I did not know showed up for her memorial service and many spoke. They were her theatre community.  They were the people she had met and given theatre tickets to throughout her life. She opened their world or she shared their love for the arts right up to the end. They became her friends and ranged in age from thirty five to a hundred. 

My mother had requested that her ashes be spread over Lincoln Center and Broadway, so she did not miss anything. ‘When you come and visit me, see a play, ballet or an opera”, she said. None of us knew when we said yes, that it was illegal, but we did it.

I sit in temple feeling a weird kind of peace.  “Who is in the first seven days of mourning?”, asks the rabbi.   “Who is in the first eleven months of mourning?  Who is celebrating a yortzheit today?” I stand and say her name.  The ritual seems to help me. As we start the prayer, “yit gadal va yit gadash….  I struggle to keep up with the words in Aramaic. I have the same conversation with my mom every time I say the prayer.  “What are you doing in temple on such a beautiful day?” she asks.

I leave the temple thinking of  a conversation that I recently had with my children. “Can you get us Hamilton tickets in NY?” asks my son. “No,” I reply.  “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it already,“ said my daughter. “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it in preview, at the Public Theatre for half price,” he answered. My son said that he would try for the day of show ticket lottery when he is in New York. The legacy lives on. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Fly Safe Mom

JAZ