Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First snowfall - Driving Rosemary / Poem: Meeting Bernice at the Dunkin Donuts

Depending on where you live, you either got snow or you got rain.

My poor daisies were smooshed. My colorful pansies were covered up.

Not surprisingly, the pink Buddha took it in stride.

Driving the backstreets to Rosemary's in Abington was difficult. I tried to avoid Overlook Road where years ago I crashed into a schoolbus, but I found myself on Overlook just the same.

There was the house with the persimmon trees in front.

I drove slow, changing gears from first to second, only sliding once a little tiny bit.

"Am I on time?" I asked Rosemary.

"You're early, Ruth!"

By now, we were out of danger. The snow had turned to rain.

Rosemary, a beautiful woman, had become a blond, at the suggestion of her hair stylist. She looks terrific! And of course younger, though she's probly only 50.

We pulled up to her hair salon, a spectacular place in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia.

She told me that the owner of this most successful salon, which he runs with his wife, has dementia, and he's only in his sixties.

Heartbreaking, we exclaimed.

I spent the next two hours waiting for her down the street at the Dunkin Donuts.

Alternated between two great books:

Scott gave me this one. A fellow worker at SEPTA retired and left all his books in his locker. No one wanted them so Scott lugged them home, gradually. Many are hardbacks.

Can't wait till bedtime so I can get back to reading.

When do YOU do your reading?

This is about Hitler coming to power in 1933 and gradually amassing more power. On a blistering day in the summer of 1934, he had his enemies gunned down. One of his generals was shot in the back as was the general's wife.

Scott knows all about this. I like discussing it with him. He said the best book he read about the Nazis was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Wm Shirer.

He was about 19 when he read it and it was the first book he ever enjoyed reading. From then on, he's been a reader. But only on the train.

I have my Xmas lights up already.

And in case we forget what I look like, I took a foto.

I started using GEL in my hair.


Told you I’d be back Amanda
ordering a toasted croissant
- it smelled like fake butter -
dunked it in my decaf
watching to see if it would

My beret still on from our first snowfall
collar turned up
Russians at the far table
old man sitting in the drafty seat
I gave up

Saw my mother enter the store
wipe her feet and smile at Amanda
So nice to see you again, she said,
fiddling in her pocketbook

I hoped she’d sit with me
but, no, she didn’t even glance my way
Bernice! Bernice! I wanted to call out loud
as she took her styrofoam cup reading “Joy!”
into the parking lot
while I thought of my own Bernice back home
tethered to her kitchen table
shuffling papers and trying to decide
what to throw away
letters from my father
old issues of the Cleveland Jewish News
she is ninety
but Foxhall said her heart is strong

Maybe tomorrow I’ll return
to Dunkin Donuts and insist
she eat with me.
For once, I'll pay.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Throwing things out / Poem: Experiment on Death

While waiting for Scott to come over so we could walk the Pennypack, I started cleaning out the papers from this chest of drawers, given to me by my late Aunt Ethel.

It's filled with paperwork.

I threw out all my notes and handouts from grad school at Hahnemann when I became a MGPGP, master, group process and group psychotherapy.

I loved the classes!

Barely visible, darn.

My teachers included Fabian Ulitsky, now in his 80s, the deceased Mike Vaccaro, and Joyce Keene.

Six weeks after I defended my thesis, I got a job at the now-defunct Bristol-Bensalem Human Services. As a souvenir, I kept my schedule - see top - with the names and phone no's of my clients. Linda Cleighton typed it up for me.

Mediphors, below, was a magazine that published one of my short stories, Eugene Radice, MD, editor.

I always kept little notes to remind of things. On the top is some advice by child psychiatrist D W Winnicott. Hopefully, if I double-click I can read it. I threw it away.

The middle thing is some advice I gave someone about being a group leader. Everyone, of course, has their own style.

The pink paper was some advice I gave myself about getting manic.

"If you are filled with an overwhelming desire to do something now, you may be getting manic," I wrote. "And then again...."

See, there's a thin line between mania and reality.

This is an envelope I kept from the PEW Foundation where I was a finalist in 2005 in Creative Nonfiction.

I decided to call myself the pretentious Ruth Zali Deming.

Now I call myself the pretentious Ruth Z Deming, but those words feel like me.

After Bristol-Bensalem closed, my boss wrote a letter of recommendation for me. I had forgotten his name but remembered his personality. Wrote a great poem about him, which is somewhere in the piles.

Yesterday I dropped off a whole-wheat challah loaf to neighbor Patrick and Sue and their two kids. We had a great time.

I walked up the steep hill to their house. Feels good on my legs.

Patrick told the story of his blue van being hit by a deer.

He was going to work at 4:30 in the morning down County Line Road. It was dark. Suddenly he hears a thump and see these things like brown arms flailing across his windshield. And then blood.

He pulled over and called the cops, who dragged the deer to the side of the road.

What a traumatic experience! The convergence of two unrelated beings who impacted each other in a major way.

My friend Judy Lipchutz stopped over for some challah. We reminisced about our days at Hahnemann. She was a movement therapist who also had Mike Vaccaro.

Got the idea for the below poem last night.


A scene on the show The Closer goes like this:
Young man dying, must get information before he exhales his last breath.
Our sly star, Kyra Sedgwick, extracts the desired spelling of the killer’s name
after which our young man breathes his last and the monitor flatlines.

Someday I will exhale my last breath.
If it should happen this afternoon I would be sad.
I want to know what it feels like to be seventy.

Amazingly, I have reached the august age of sixty-six, having nearly died of self-annhiliation and later of kidney annhilation.
Imagination, a relic of my childhood, when I authored “The Mullagaring is a very strange thing” still resides within.

When it goes, I go too.

But now I lie dying. My earthly journey is over. The firepit of ashes awaits me and I shall be gone. Let us now praise famous women but only for the generation after me.

I have chosen my death-bed companion.
It is You.
I lie on my red living room couch.
I no longer look out the windows for my thoughts have turned inward.
In my hand, I squeeze a tiny pine cone, detached from the conifer next door.

I have always done experiments – Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? – Hershey chocolate or Stutz?
One final experiment and I’m done.
After my body decides it’s finished, might I artfully keep myself alive the way Kyra did her boy?
I resist the snatch of death.
The window! Look, there’s Patrick’s house on the corner, there’s the old tulip tree....
My eyes close.
I am received by gentle arms,
a baby coming out of the womb.
Out into the brilliant darkness I'm tossed

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Day After, Buoyed by delicious food I make more / Poem: Death of a Tree

Two views of upended tree on Terwood Road and Greyhorse.

This huge ole tree, plus a few others were the source of our Hurricane Sandy power outage which lasted three days.

When I was on my way to Thanksgiving carpooling yesterday, I passed the tree - with a wow! - and immediately thought of a poem I want to write about it.

All day I cooked, read, slept, and watched the great American Masters' documentary Inventing David Geffen. Slept thru much of it cuz this little girl was tired!

If you love rock n roll watch it!

I just discovered Campari tomatoes, known for their "sweetness, juiciness, and lack of mealiness."

I stopped using canned tomatoes b/c the sealer of the can leaches out noxious chemicals, so when I make chili or soups with tomatoes I've been using live tomatoes.

Two people at Giant recommended these tomatoes - Barb the self-checkout gal and Robin, up in the community room.

This is how new products get discovered by families - or blog readers. I told my mom about Compari when we spoke today.

I can't believe how delicious my new breads are - whole-wheat challahs again. I gave Scott half a loaf and offered some to neighbor Patrick, via email, but haven't heard from him yet.

I get into the 'zone' when I'm making bread, esp. when kneading. I take the phone off the hook so I can totally concentrate and have a relationship with the ever-evolving dough.

For lunch, I had a hankering for something out of the ordinary. I drove off, literally not knowing where to go, and then spotted a new restaurant near the health food store Nature's Harvest.

It's called Colonial Quy-Bau and was wrin up here.

They've been open since January - 10 months - and seem to be doing quite well. When I got there at 12:30, the place was crowded. I brought a reprint of the Grateful Dead article to read and kept my insulin pen on the table, ready to shoot up after I ordered.

My Japanese eggplant and tofu dish was delicious, with a nice assortment of crisp veggies. The decaf was fresh, delicious and hot.

It all cost $9, plus $5 tip. That was my contribution to Black Friday.


She stood at attention watching the cars along Terwood Road
Each year she grew a little taller
better views 
the Tyvek House across the street
the flowering magnolia with creme-soft petals
the snowman with silly stick arms at the corner house

Tulip Tree took it all in
standing guard on Terwood and Greyhorse.
Never complaining,
as her leaves shivered into curled hands during the rainy season
she laughed when the squirrels built their many-chambered nests
in her topmost branches
and felt tickled as the woodpeckers drummed for insects deep

Our Tulip Tree had but one wish she kept to herself.
If only I had feet, so I could stroll across the street and see how people and animals move about. 
My pretty leaves, like hair, would wave about as this giantess moves with the grace of a flower.

Come a windy day in November, our tulip tree got her wish.
She laughed, she cried, she howled
Titanic winds tore at her skirt
violating her modest being
whistling down her precious yellow leaves
"I’m falling, I’m falling," she cried,
and in those moments of pain
as her feet uprooted from mother earth
she witnessed the world,
a child taking its first steps,
she tried to see it all
the pelting rain
the rooftops of the houses she guarded
and the final thump
as she lay senseless 
but beautiful still
in the middle of
Terwood Road.     

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Another Thanksgiving Blast at the Cartagena-Roches plus I got to read my poem! / Let us now eat our daily bread

Rich drove Donna's Prince Valiant car (just made up the name) across the Ben Franklin and into Clarksboro, NJ. I was in shotgun while Donna and Nikki were in the back seat.

Donna routed us to the cheapest gas station around, a Citgo. Let's see who owns Citgo. 
Citgo Petroleum Corporation (or Citgo) is a United States–incorporated, Venezuela-owned refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products.  - Wiki
Hey! Before we forget, what's the significance of today's date? November 22.

Thinking time.

JFK was assassinated on 11/22/63, Terry Greenstein's birthday.

Always a lot of outdoor activity on Colonial Drive.

Paddy smiles even when he's knocked down. Later, we went for a walk. He rode his bike while I walked fast. When we got to the RR tracks at the end of the street, Paddy, who is 8, asked, "Is Santa Claus real?"

We had a long discussion about this. Paddy believes he's real but that when he arrives on Xmas Eve, Paddy won't hear him cuz he'll be asleep.

We also talked about the death of a young child, Isaac, who had been a neighbor. Isaac's parents moved out, said Paddy, b/c of the sad memories they had of living there with their only son, who had a disease that made swallowing difficult.

Mom arrived with Jade, husband Matt, and Jade's brother Miles, fresh from Boston University. She's greeted by her g'daughters Nikki and Melissa.

Donna cuts our whole-wheat challah, which Mom pronounced "Dry."

"Well," I said, unruffled, "it's not sposed to be moist."

Here's my new friend Jim Sutcliffe, a super-interesting guy. Dyou believe we were both reading a recent New Yorker story called The Vast Recorded Legacy of the Grateful Dead.

He subscribes to the magazine while I read only selected articles online cuz I'm too cheap to subscribe. I told Jimmy my cousin Ray Sewell of Eugene, OR, was the chef for the Dead.

He works in marketing at Live Nation and gets to see lots of rock concerts.

I watch them at half-time at the SuperBowl.

Jimmy was recently married to his beloved Angela Cordovano at San Francisco City Hall.

We raised our glasses to the two of them. And also to Jade and Matt, who just returned from a European honeymoon.

Oops, sorry I missed your face, Angie!
Jim said that in SF public nudity was acceptable, but they just rescinded the law.

San Fran City Hall. They enjoyed the various districts, such as the Mission, Presidio....names I haven't heard since I was 19 and lived in the Haight-Ashbury with my black boyfriend Curtis Branch. He used to hang out on the corner with his buddies and drink Chivas Regal.

Where are you now Curtis?

I came running out of the house when my daughter Sarah arrived. We gave each other a gigantic hug.

I was sposed to sleep over their house tonite but I didn't bring enuf insulin, dammit! We were gonna have a slumber party like we had back in Shaker Heights when I'd sleep over Mary Truby's, my best friend.

She brought me a beautiful gift from Paris.....picture postcards, plus a silver coin. Guest what? I left them at Nikki's. Aargh!

Two simply terrible pictures of my mother, who was in fine form. She was born in 1922.

Okay, that's better! Nikki looked lovely in purple and here's Angie, the newlywed, and Quinn and Donna.

According to tradition established by Steve Roche, we hold hands and go around the room telling what we're thankful for.

Steve, we think to ourselves, the food is hot and I'm starving. Why don't we do this after we're stuffed. I'll suggest it to him next year.

Crowd shot. That's Jade with the long hair.

Ah, my nephew Al Pomper now lives in Philly. He's loved taking photographs since he was young. Next to him is my nephew Miles Greene, on leave from Boston University. And there's host Steve Roche who made sure the beer was cold and frosty.

A few times when I saw an abandoned can or bottle, I took a sip or two. I do love my booze but I don't really drink. Got outa the habit at age 38 when I took psych meds for manic-depression.

Enter the turkey! It had been soaked in brine and was tender and delicious. Sarah made the mmm-good gravy.

Oh darn! I didn't get a picture of Tyler's friend Roxanne, who wants to be some sort of teacher.

Jimmy Sutcliffe asked me what short story writers I like. Alice Munro, a Canadian, I said, and also Chekhov whose "Lady with a Lapdog" is a masterpiece and can be read here.

I also told him that I'd recently read that Turgenev had wrin possibly the best love stories ever. Here's The Torrents of Spring.

I think I'll print out Torrents and read it in bed. But, first, lucky you get to read my poem.


Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2012

Please accept these loaves of bread
the way Jesus fed the multitudes at Cana in Galilee
I am not Jesus, though I was born on Christmas, and
thought when I was manic, I was Christ, better than
feeling like Stalin

You’ll want to know what’s in these breads
they have no label or universal product symbol
Eggs are the basis of all challahs, which, Jew or gentile,
Democrat or Republican, I insist you pronounce like the Jews,

Now there’s a perfect challah for you.
Then we add some cooking oil for lightness and don’t forget
the sweetener, I like honey, but Donna and I used agave nectar
from Mexico or South Africa

Raise your hand if your people are from South America!

My people are from Hungary, the tough Magyar race who lived
in the mountains, but my family rode the seasick ships to America
bringing their paprika and gefilte fish

Have I mentioned yeast?
I buy mine in a jar. It keeps forever in a machine called the fridge but
if you haven’t one, you may bury it in the cold ground or under the snow

Forget measuring cups. We have hands, don’t we? Cup your left hand
and you’ll find the perfect tablespoon which is how Donna and I measured
our yeast.

This bread is made with love.
We took the time to roll, with our lovely non-arthritic fingers, long sticks that we braided like Rapunzel’s hair into one magnificent egg-washed braid – don’t forget the poppyseeds - that rose in the oven

Then we turned the oven on, not like the Wicked Witch in Hansel and Gretel, but Donna’s oven beyond the granite countertops
“Light on!” we pushed and watched carefully until the three loaves were as
golden-brown as beloved retrievers who once passed our way or a few cats who are still with us

A challah is much more than a bread.
It is the history of our people, your people, my people.
Think of this with every delicious bite.

What I learned today at the Giant gas station!

I brought in two Giant bonus cards, mine and Scott's. Who has the most points?

I went inside and the man on duty, Rob, said he could COMBINE both points, so I got 40 cents off the $3.59.

While inside and waiting, I noticed they have a sink in the back AND a sign that read something like WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE DRIVES OFF WITHOUT PAYING.

Of course I asked Rob about this. Yes, sometimes they forget, but often they do not.

Get a good description of the driver and the car. Then call the store manager.

Once, when I was manic, I went to Big John's Texaco in Hatboro (it's now a Sunoco station). Oh, my mind was racing a million miles a minute.

I got out of the car, went inside with my credit card, and left without any gas.

While I was running back n forth to my car, a man in a purple Harley pulled up. "What a beautiful bike that is," I said.

"Thanks," he said, smiling beneath his helmet. "Happy thanksgiving."

I'll tell ya, I just wanted to linger around that sexy gorgeous Harley. The man wasn't bad either, until he pulled out a cigarette.

I asked the men behind the counter What's your busiest day of the year, Black Friday?

No, they said, the Saturday after that.

How dyou know, I asked. Did they tell you in a meeting?

No, they said. From experience.

I understand today is Thanksgiving. The Greenwold Family is still trying to figger out how to get to New Jersey where we'll spend the holiday.

Conflicting messages come thru the email and over the phone.

"My car can fit us all"


"Go with Dan."

I'm going with Donna. And my breads. And with Melissa and Rich. Gotta bring all my paraphernalia. Scuse me while I pack.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Teaching Donna to make a Whole-Wheat Challah

Grace, how did you show up? She likes Mr. Tiger who protects my house.

But who's gonna protect me and Donna from wolfing down all the loaves of bread we made today?

I got to her condo around 3, and just got home at 8:30. In between we watched the first part of To Kill a Mockingbird on TCM, which'll be followed by Gone with the Wind. Can you believe it?

Scarlett, I've gotta miss you b/c I needed to come home to take my antirejection meds. I did bring my diabetes paraphernalia there so I could eat.

Some of the ingredients. King Arthur Whole-Wheat Flour from Kansas wheat is the best there is in the USA.

I also use about 2 cups of unbleached white flour to add a little lightness to the bread. I don't like dense whole-wheat breads, and, after all, this is a challah, light and fluffy.

When we were growing up in Cleveland, we'd buy our challahs at either Hough Bakery or New York Bakery and eat half a loaf on the way home. Is that right, Mommy?

Since Donna didn't have honey, we used 2 tablespoons of her agave syrup. I like my challahs to be a lil sweet.

The amount of liquid you use determines how many breads you will make.

I wanted four cups of liquid, which included warm water, 1/4 cup cooking oil, 4 eggs (warmed up in warm water), 2 egg whites, save the yolks for the 'egg wash' you'll put over the loaves.

You want everything to be warm to encourage the yeast to rise.

All you need is one tablespoon of yeast. Simply measure it in the palm of your hand. I don't use measuring cups or spoons. That way, you don't have to wash them.

I add a tablespoon of salt after I've added flour to the batter so it won't impede the rising of the yeast.

Donna had a nice stainless steel bowl we put the dough in.

After it doubled in size, we made a huge mound and got ready to divide it up. Donna and I would each work on our own half.

See those thin pieces of dough in the middle? These three will be kneaded into a braid.

We start the braid in the middle. When it's completed, we secure the ends by pinching them and 'gluing' them underneath with water.

The finished challah breads. We spread the 'egg wash' over each braid....

Egg wash is yolk mixed with a lil water.

Poppyseed on top is a must.

Now we pop it into the oven to rise half an hour. Then we bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

The risen dough is now baked.

Fini....and lookin' delicious!

This is actually raw dough, waiting to be crafted into one more whole-wheat challah braid, this one for Donna and me to chow down.

Go Donna go!

Donna is painting the egg wash with heavy cream. She read in her new bread book that heavy cream gives it a nice crust.

We're gonna bake this for half an hour. And then we're gonna add a special mix like you find on bagels. Donna chopped up raw onions and garlic. We don't want them to burn, which is why we're adding the garnish during the last 20 minutes.

It came out beautifully. I set the timer for 20 minutes to let the bread cool and make sure it was done inside. A 'tigey' bread is the worst!

I like mine with butter. Absolutely scrumptious!

Put in your order and I'll bake one just for you!

In 2008, I wrote a post about Breadmaking as a Holy Activity.