Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” Jon Stewart

On Thanksgiving Day, I would ask my family what they were thankful for. My mother used to do that. It was a tradition – something I wanted to carry on from my childhood.  Thanksgiving is a day to remember to be grateful. We never prayed before a meal but one day a year we said thank you. 

I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my mother in many years. Our families lived back East and Thanksgiving was the holiday that my in-laws came to visit.  My sister-in-law loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner and we had it at their house. Since we were not cooking, we had Thanksgiving movie before going to dinner. There are always big movies that open on Thanksgiving. That was our family holiday tradition.  

When our life changed, Thanksgiving became one of those days that we didn’t know what do with.  We didn’t have a tradition anymore. There are so many expectations and family issues that come up with holidays. It is hard for me not to have a plan but I try to let go of that now.  Sometimes I do it at the house and sometimes we go somewhere.  We spend it with other people’s families or we do something by ourselves.  I miss the security of having a tradition but I have learned to go with the flow. Whatever we do, it always turns out to be fun and delicious – different, but fun. 

My mother died on the weekend before Thanksgiving so I am always a little sad now around the holidays.  Wherever I am celebrating, in my head, I hear my mother’s voice asking, what are you thankful for today?

Here is my list.

Sunsets. I can see the sunset on the beach every night.

The way the light hits my house in the morning.

My dog – even though he is not the same as my first dog.

My kids are happy, healthy and doing well.

 Morning coffee.

I’m still traveling.

Having an amazing day in a country not your own.

A great walk through the Venice Beach canals to have lunch.

Opening a beautifully wrapped present.

An interesting conversation.

The feeling I have in an airport.

Someone who makes me laugh.

A good hair day.

Fun with my friends.

A great movie,  museum, play, ballet or TV show.

Dessert.

Kindness.

Walking or driving by a beautiful street art mural.

Having an amazing meal.

Pizza night.

Great music and  rock concerts.

Getting lost in a book.

Healthyish.

Writing something that I’m proud of.

My favorite jeans.

Shoes that do not hurt.

The endorphin rush after exercise.

Still able to have some of my photographs and art.

Hitting every green light on Venice Blvd on the way home (especially at Lincoln Blvd – the world’s longest red light)

Happy Thanksgiving.

JAZ

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How I Learned To Play The Piano #metoo

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“There are about forty cats and dogs on my property.  One cat can open doors. All those animals see us going in and out of doors every day but only one animal learned how to do it. He jumps up on the door handle and it pushes down. The door opens. He walks through.  If I didn’t see one cat open doors, I would never know that a cat could do that.”    Al Wei Wei“

When I was ten years old I was molested by my piano teacher. I did not know how to handle it or how to stop it. I knew that I did not want to talk about it to anyone. In my ten-year old wisdom, I decided that I could handle it for five months until the end of year concert at Carnegie Hall. Everyone knew that I wanted to play there. I would “choose” in the summer to stop taking piano lessons. If I quit before, there would be too many questions. Eighty per cent of childhood sexual abuse happens from family members or someone you know. It is usually not done in a scary way.

I remember this day. After the concert I thought – I did it.  This is finally over and no one knows anything. My mother walked into the bedroom and said, “Everyone was so good at the recital. Next year I will start your brother and sister with piano lessons.” I blurted out, ”But you will go with them. You shouldn’t let them go alone.” My mother thought that was a weird response. I wouldn’t explain and she wouldn’t stop asking. Several hours later, I put my face under the covers and told her.

Everything happened really fast after that. My father went to his house to kill him and my mother took me to the police station. That was so much worse than being molested. I remember lying on a cold metal table having my first physical exam with a lot of people and police in the room. I was staring at the ceiling with the exposed light bulb and ugly green paint, pretending to crawl out of my skin and be anywhere else.

My father had walked into a large family dinner with his accusation and the piano teacher sued us for slander. My parents counter sued. Now the story that I did not want to tell even once, got repeated many, many times to lawyers. This was not going away so quickly.  If you were wondering why women don’t talk, telling was definitely much worse than not telling.

The lawsuit kept getting postponed. The story was repeated and practiced every time we got a new court date. I kept thinking that if I had not told, it would have been buried in the dark somewhere and not following me around for years. A kid can only carry so much before it starts to unravel. I was lucky in the way that my family stood behind me and never doubted me for a second  – even though the neighborhood turned against me for a while.  He was the best piano teacher the area. I wasn’t the only one it happened to. I could see it in the eyes of kids who had heard the story. I have found that victims can recognize each other. But no one else was talking-especially after they saw the reactions. Predators pick their victims carefully. I had taken piano lessons for two and a half years before it happened. They know who lacks confidence and who won’t tell. The people who it didn’t happen to never understand that.

I was fourteen years old when I finally went to court. He was found guilty and his punishment was that he had to stop giving piano lessons. Sexual abuse was not even a category for children until 1984. He was eighty years old and died a year later.

I was not the same person I was before. I had learned at ten years old that anything can happen when you are in a room alone with a man.The dark side had taught me the signs to watch out for.

Men seem to be much more shocked than women about all these current sexual accusations. It is called living in the world while female. Every woman I know has sexual harassment stories.  I have these stories but I have learned not to be the victim ever again.

As a child, you feel that the best way to survive something is to do nothing. As a woman up until now, it has been the same. Telling your stories, makes you a survivor and not a victim. It makes others feels that they aren’t alone. But the scars never go away.

When I had kids I wanted to be a stay at home mom because I had a working one at a time when mother’s didn’t work. It was also because I knew the world could be unsafe for children and I wanted to protect them. I sat in every private dance lesson with my daughter. I had them take self-defense classes and put them in programs like kid power. I forced myself to give my children piano lessons. i interviewed many teachers.  I rented a piano and stuck it in my open dining room (where it did not fit). I could see it from any angle in the house. Once a week, I relived the story with every wrong note. Luckily they gave it up after ten months.

I never listened to classical music. I never played it for my children. I thought  that I did not like it but I had forgotten until now that he used to listen to it. The music made me feel invisible. Your mind sometimes puts memories that are too hard into your unconscious to protect you.  I listen to it now. Eleven years ago I got a dog who loved classical music. I downloaded music for him to stay alone and realized how beautiful it was. I have recently added some piano concertos. I am ready to let it go. It wasn’t my fault. I was ten years old.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Things That I Have Learned From Uber Drivers

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“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” Vernon Howard

Millions of people use Uber all over the world to get a ride. But what about the people who drive for Uber? I always want to know what else they do, where they are from and why they have a job where they make their own hours. I don’t need to travel all the time to explore the world. Sometimes the world comes to pick me up at the click of a button.

There are many good Armenian authors besides William Saroyan that I have to read.

You can only work for Homeland Security for twenty years and then you must retire.

A few twenty somethings did not vote in this election.

An Iranian American legal immigrant voted for Trump because he thought that Trump would bring more jobs. He wishes that he did not but is not ashamed to say it because he now lives in country that has Freedom Of Speech. He can say whatever he wants and not worry about it.

Vladimir Putin is probably a body double. The original is dead. The KGB in Russia had body doubles for all the dictators.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented scissors.

It is illegal to eat mince pies in the UK on Christmas Day.

Nicaragua is the most stable country in Central America at the moment.

The Hollow Earth theory – I had to look it up.

Chile has the best economy in South America now.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

Venice, California Street Art

Venice, California Street Art

“I spray the sky fast. Eyes ahead and behind. Looking for cops. Looking for anyone I don’t want to be here. Paint sails and the things that kick in my head scream from can to brick. See this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall.”Cath Crowley

When I walk down the streets in Venice, California there is everything from simple tagging to beautiful complex scenes. I always see art- despite the sometimes rough locations. Cities are the best art galleries to me. When I am looking at freedom of expression or paid murals, I am forced to acknowledge their existence. It is color and expression instead of drab walls. I  have always felt  – better spray cans then guns. Here are some examples of art that I see every day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

So Jewy

So Jewy

“I am a Jewish mother. My dying words will be, “Put a sweater on” Amanda Craig,

My kids think that I have become so Jewy.  What does Jewy mean anyway? Does it mean too Jewish? Jewish seem to describe birth or upbringing. Jewy sounds like more of a choice.

I wasn’t observant but I did not want to raise my children without religion. It was important to me that they knew where they came from. I wanted them to have an understanding of the beliefs and identity of their great grandparents who escaped pogroms to come here and of all the Jews who died in the concentration camps. I believe in traditions and rituals—whether it was lighting the Hanukkah candles, going to temple on the High Holy days, the rite of passage of asking the four questions at a Seder, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, birthday parties, the Tooth Fairy or sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed after a nightmare. These things make up much of the fabric of our childhood memories and sense of family.

I did not go to Temple every week or celebrate the Sabbath.  Secretly I wish we had done that now, more for the family to get together than real Jewish study. I learned when my children were studying for their Bar Mitzvahs that our tradition comes with all sorts of advice about how best to behave in the world. What is a person’s obligation in this chaotic world? I could have used these life lessons.

And then there is the God thing. The Ten Commandments sound pretty easy yet it seems very hard for human beings to follow them. If you do not want to follow them, then it is easier not to believe in them. Are you a person of reason or a person of faith seems to be the dialogue. Why can’t you be both?

I thought that I had done everything right in terms of creating a religious background. But one of the most cherished myths of parenting is that parents create the child. There is no guarantee that your children will absorb everything you think they will. I believe that children are born more hard-wired than one would think. The nature/nurture debate goes on.

My job is done. I did my best to raise them that a little faith is important. It is understandable that young adults feel that celebrating the Jewish holidays is hypocritical (and boring) because it no longer goes along with their beliefs. Going along with family occasions as a respect to your parents without feeling defensive is a sign of maturity. A reality of modern life is that people get to decide for themselves what to believe, and emerging adults today feel they have not just a right but an obligation to make that decision on their own.

This year the events in Charlottesville make me feel the need to be more Jewy. My obligation in this chaotic world is to increase my good deeds, study,  go to temple on the Jewish Holidays and pray for a world that has gone insane.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In The Napa Valley

Things That I Have Learned In Napa Valley

 “God made water, but man made wine.” –Victor Hugo

I’m not the right person to be writing about Napa wine or any alcoholic beverage. I’m a one drink one drunk kind of girl and wine just tastes like wine to me. Truthfully, I was much more interested in eating my way through the Napa Valley.  I do like the wine culture and the quiet beauty of the vineyard landscape.  I have visited them in many countries so it was fun to see it here. I learned a lot.

Four per cent of all the wine grapes grown in California come from the Napa Valley.

Ninety-five per cent of all Napa Valley wineries are family owned.

There are more than three hundred stone arch bridges in the Napa Valley.

Winemaking history began in Napa Valley in 1838, when George Calvert Yount, founder of the town of Yountville, planted the first commercial vineyards in the valley.

Napa Valley is one of the most renowned winemaking regions in the world, but it is also one of the smallest. The valley floor spans across five miles at its widest point and 30 miles at its longest point.

Napa Valley was once a little-known wine region, and nobody thought that its homegrown wines could beat the dominant, classic French wines. That all changed though in the Judgement of Paris, a competition where wines were judged through blind-tasting. Two Californian wines — Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon — overwhelmed the renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy, and won the top honors.

A Mediterranean climate is characterized by long hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters, where rainfalls are most scarce. Only 2% of the world’s landmass has a Mediterranean climate which is conducive to growing wine grapes.

There are over four hundred wineries in the Napa Valley.

The most popular grape in Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon,

The sloping vineyards on rolling hills make up at least a dozen microclimates in the Napa valley  all known for being amenable to certain varieties of grapes.

Robert Mondavi had their first grape harvest in 1966 and has produced fine wine ever since.The wine is rooted in family generations, passion, knowledge, and experience. Robert Mondavi Winery Tours were some of the first to exist in the region.  There are a few different tours you can take. The signature tour includes a behind the scenes look of a well-known large brand. https://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/

Most of the wine being produced here is for premium or reserve bottles and we got to taste a few. The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun and clearly loves her job.

Calistoga’s Schramsberg Vineyards is a historic estate in the forests of Diamond Mountain and home to the oldest hillside vineyards. The tour will take you through the history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves. These are the first caves dug in Napa for wine storage. You’ll learn about the method of producing Schramsberg wine as well as the fact that their sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every US presidential administration. Perhaps you’ll find someone “riddling” the bottles to move the spent yeast into their necks, or catch a glimpse of the bottling process. Schramsberg is the first U.S. winery to commercially produce sparkling wine in the traditional method developed in Champagne. http://www.schramsberg.com/

K. Laz is a by appointment only, private sit down wine tasting experience in downtown Yountville.  It appeals to a high-end crowd. There is a personal lesson/tasting geared to your knowledge and what you want to learn and try. https://www.klazwinecollection.com/

 I made it very clear that I was just company on this tasting and was quite intimidated when I walked in. My lack of wine knowledge was very evident here. Garrett made me feel completely at home. We didn’t just taste the wines but heard the stories and back stories. I ended up buying some. I highly recommend this tasting for those interesting in learning about hard to find interesting wines.

Choosing a restaurant in the Napa Valley can be a tough decision with so many wonderful choices. Luckily the daughter made me a list. We got to some of them – Farm, Redd Wood, Oxbow Market, Cook and Ad Hoc – all good. For me, Ad Hoc was the standout.

Ad Hoc is in Yountville and from what I  can see, Yountville is Thomas Keller town.  There is Bouchon, the always crowded Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc and somewhere on that road is an unassuming ivy covered cottage which houses the French Laundry.

We couldn’t get into the French Laundry so back to Ad Hoc. https://www.thomaskeller.com/adhoc

For 55 dollars you get a price fixe menu of Thomas Keller’s food. It changes every day.

The delicious food is served family style with generous portions. – tomato fruit salad, steak, barley risotto, mixed green beans, cheese plate and milk shake with an oatmeal cookie.

The most important thing I have learned about wine is that decanting, swirling and sniffing wine does not make you a pretentious Ahole. Decanting really does make most wine taste better. It is important to swish but not like you are on spin cycle in the dryer. Swirling your wine is scientifically proven to increase aromas and improve flavors.  Sniffing the wine enhances the flavor by enjoying the scent first. Sniffing with your eyes closed and a fake gratifying smile while you inhale for a weirdly long time is not as scientific. Pulling out your phone and posting a photo of you holding the wine can have the pretentious Ahole look on Instagram and Snap Chat. 

If you buy a cork screw in Napa depending on if there is a knife in it, the rule of thumb is whoever is doing the screening at the time your bag is going through will decide if it will be confiscated. if you have a strict, observant TSA screener or “paratrooper’ it will be confiscated or checked. I didn’t see that it had a knife.

I came back from Napa relaxed, refreshed, replenished and totally glad that I had gone.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

“The Napa Valley is Disneyland for alcoholics. Be honest, you’re not visiting wineries in four days because you’re an oenophile, you’re doing it because you’re a drunk. It’s the only place in America where you can pass out in a stranger’s house and it’s okay, because it’s a B&B and you paid for it.” Bill Maher

  1. Visit Wineries and Vineyards. There are many. You can do wine tasting, visit wine cellars, stomp grapes, blend your own wine, experience food and wine pairings or drink wine and view art. Ride the wine train. Purchase a wine tasting card to all the tasting rooms in downtown Napa. Drink wine and have a cooking lesson. See a winery with historic caves. Visit wineries owned by famous people.
  2.  Sample beer at micro breweries.
  3. Eat. The restaurants have more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world.
  4. Visit farmers markets and taste the local olive oil.
  5. Hike. Do yoga and have spa treatments.
  6. Visit Old Faithful Geyser of California in Calistoga which is not to be confused with Old Faithful of Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the three faithful geysers in the US due to regular eruptions. They are geysers that you can count on. It is one of the most photographed places in California. Add in mud baths and hot mineral pools when you are there.
  7. Go antique shopping and take a historic walking tour of downtown Napa or Yountville.
  8. Take a hot air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over the Napa Valley.
  9. Stop in at the Di Rosa Gallery. In the 1960s Rene Di Rosa introduced grapes to the Carneros region, but ultimately it was contemporary art that became his passion. With nearly 2,000 pieces created by 800 artists, Di Rosa has three galleries, a sculpture park, 35-acre lake and a wildlife preserve.
  10. Visit Greystone which is the original Culinary Institute of America in St Helena. Chances are good that if you are a wine connoisseur then you also like food. Take cooking classes or see chef demonstrations of food to go with all that wine. Maybe some hangover specials would be good to learn.

    Fly safe,

    JAZ