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Category Archives: Musings

Baseball Then and Now

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YankeeStadium

Last night my son and I watched a video of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, in which the Mets won a sweeping victory over the Baltimore Orioles. For me, the game was interesting more from a sociological perspective than as baseball history. Following are the social changes I noticed between then and now.

(1) The players on both teams were primarily, possibly exclusively, black and white, i.e., none that I noticed were Hispanic, as opposed to comprising nearly 30% of all major league players today.

(2) Tom Seaver pitched a full ten innings, having pitched, the announcer said, just two days ago. These days starting pitchers get four or five days’ rest, and rarely go beyond seven innings.images

(3) The game was played in full sunlight. There hasn’t been a World Series day game since 1987.

(4) The fans were, to my eye, 95% male adults; these days as many women and kids attend games.

(5) The fans were mostly dressed in suits and ties, which brings me to…

(6) These days when the camera pulls back for a view of the fans, we see a virtual ocean of the home team’s color; in the case of the Mets, it’s blue, because fans are wearing Mets caps, shirts, jackets, etc. That a wide shot of the stadium in 1969 showed no such continuity indicates that fan gear wasn’t the big business it is today.

(6) Finally, fans were avidly smoking in their seats. No comment.Pap Smear

 

Mornings in Santa Cruz (Failed Haiku)

Early risers catch the moon
before daylight or birds
before clouds return.

Before clouds fill blue sky
I watch full moon
sink slowly.

Full moon sinks slowly
light fading. Birds chase
her, singing madly, joyful.

Singing madly joyful birds
chase morning moon
as she sinks.

Sleepers miss lessons
of morning moon:
loss will come again and soon.

 

fullmoon

He Left His Scarf in My Car

Having just learned that musician Billy Faier died this past year, I’m posting a poem that he inspired many years ago. 

He left his scarf in my car.
Sleepily I fingered the hand-woven wool
that had embraced his neck
on countless winter sojourns.

Then I saw my empty finger:
my ring was on his piano
or perhaps on his hand now
playing Bach.

roadAs I drove into the morning sun
a million ghosts of one-night stands
faded into history:
my ring was on his piano
and his scarf was in my car.

The Great Potato Pancake Fry-Off

It’s that wonderful time of year again…

 crispy-panko-potato-latkes-16

 

According to my friend Rita, the invention of the blender spelled disaster for the potato latke. She insists that the blood dripping from our grandmother’s knuckles as they grated the potatoes is what made their latkes so delicious.

My friend Larry swears that skimping on oil will produce an inferior latke; he fills the pan with three inches, which he regularly replenishes. He admits this makes for “an ongoing battle with grease,” but says it’s worth the fight.

My father used to criticize my mother’s latkes for lack of salt, and added it by the spoonful to his pancake batter. I had a cousin who reduced the amount of matzo meal to a scant two tablespoons. Another cousin uses flour. Martha Stewart chops scallions rather than grated onion in hers.

The point is, no two latkes are alike. I should not have been surprised, then, when my daughter Stacy, grown and with a kitchen of her own, had definite ideas about potato latkes. Thus, when we cooked together for a Chanukah party, conflicts surfaced as soon as she lined up the ingredients. which included a six-ounce bottle of vegetable oil. I immediately prepared to go to the store for more oil.

“We’re going to use more oil than that?” she asked, incredulous. I should mention that Stacy is a thin vegetarian who buys only organic produce and shops in health food stores. Using a large amount of oil in any dish is anathema to her. Ignoring her horror-stricken face, I went out and bought a half gallon.

When I returned, Stacy was putting potatoes through a food processor, from which they emerged shaped like tiny french fries. Horrified by their texture, I politely asked for a blender on the pretense that we’d finish faster if we both made the batter, and used it to grate my potatoes, onions and eggs.

When we got to the frying stage, all hell broke loose. Stacy poured in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. She was about to lower a spoonful of batter into it when I grabbed her wrist.

“You can’t fry latkes in that little bitty oil,” I insisted. “They need to be almost covered to get crispy.” Stacy pulled free of my grip. “Ma, no way am I gonna use that much oil. It’s disgusting!”

“Disgusting? Grandma Sylvia is turning over in her grave.” Stacy rolled her eyes and continued to drop dollops of batter in her nearly oil-less cephalon pan. I suggested that, as an experiment, we each fry our own latkes–hers made of the batter from the food processor, mine from the blended batter. She agreed.

I stood in front of my burner, frying smooth-textured latkes in two inches of oil, while Stacy stood in front of her pan, sautéing mounds of teensy french fry look-alikes. When she briefly left her post for a bathroom break, I peered into her pan; without more oil her pancakes were going to stick. “It can’t hurt….” I murmured, tipping over the vegetable bottle and pouring some into her pan. Stacy returned from the bathroom, picked up her spatula and prodded one of her pancakes. “Wha…? Ma, did you put more oil in here?” Her tone was one of wounded shock.

“Yeah, “ I replied sheepishly. “Just a teensy drop—they were sticking.”

“I can’t believe you did that!” she shouted, on the verge of tears. “I would never do that to you! That shows complete disrespect. You don’t have any boundaries.”

Such words have been uttered by daughters to mothers since time immemorial; I had once used them myself. As their recipient I could only murmur, “I’m sorry…I just wanted to be sure your latkes didn’t stick.”

“It’s not just the latkes,” she said, tears falling freely. “You do things like this all the time.” She lifted her arm for emphasis, spatula in hand. I raised my arms, intending to give her a calming hug, but our spatulas collided, clinking like dueling swords. Stacy  stopped crying and burst into laughter. Relieved, I tapped her spatula again and we engaged in a mock duel, our laughter dispelling the built-up tension.

Later, when our separate latke platters sat side by side on the buffet table, I overheard Stacy talking to her friend Joann, a tall thin beauty. “My mom uses so much oil in her latkes,” I heard her say. “Don’t you think mine are better? They’re not as greasy.” Joann nodded. “You know how they cook,” she said, “all carbs and grease and sugar.”

Later on, though, I noticed Joann standing alone by the buffet. She glanced around furtively, then hastily grabbed one of my latkes and put it on her plate.

“What’s so funny?” Stacy, who’d been standing next to me, asked.

“I was just thinking of the dueling spatulas, I said.

Stacy chuckled. “You’ll have to admit,” she said, “my latkes are less greasy than yours.

“Uh huh,” I nodded, feeling like I’d just let her win at Scrabble or cards.  “Less greasy. Definitely.”

 

 

I Hope Hillary Cried

I hope Hillary cried.
I hope she cried in Bill’s arms
and he came through.
I hope Bill stroked her hair
and kissed the top of her head and
whispered words of comfort.

I hope Hillary screamed.
I hope she screamed in the shower
with no one to hear
while scalding hot water
cascaded down her back
and a vein pulsed crazily in her neck.

I hope Hillary threw things.
I hope when she hiked those
magical New York woods in the fall
she picked up rocks, branches,
anything lying in the leaves
and threw them like a girl: angry, furious, fast and hard.

I hope Hillary laughed.
I hope Chelsea wisecracked
wicked and funny so she
got Hill hysterical, manic,
out of her mind with glee
and salty bitter tears rolled down her face.

I hope Hillary cried
for herself, for the tragedy, the misogyny,
the injustice and the pain.
I hope she’s carrying a righteous grudge
against half the white women of America.
I hope she cried in Bill’s arms.