Thursday, July 30, 2009


Life is unsettled on several fronts right now. Significant down-sizing at work has left us an office of the walking dead (those who are losing their jobs) and the walking wounded (those of us left to carry on). The economy is still if-fy, and even though it seems to be improving, I think we’re all gun-shy and protective of what little money and few benefits we have. And, geez, can we stop hearing about Michael Jackson? Sheesh!

So I’ve decided to pull the covers over my head - figuratively, if not literally. It’s all about comfort, friends: comfort food, comfort music/books/movies, comfort experiences. I’m going at things gently, gently. Avoiding as many unpleasant confrontations as possible. Tiptoeing through any potential mine-fields. Plugging in my earphones and listening to music from the early 1960s, when things were “safe” in my little world. I’m trying to eat healthy-ish, but if it’s a choice of raw veggies or homemade mashed potatoes with butter, I’m peeling the potatoes as I write.

In fact, with the heat and humidity in New York, I believe the time is right for my annual “Christmas in July (or August) Weekend.” I’ll stock up on cocoa, cinnamon, and peppermint, turn the air-conditioning down to frigid, and have a Christmas movie marathon Saturday and Sunday. Deck them halls.

Yes, I’m going to my safe place now. Cocooning. Let me know when it’s OK to come out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Coolest Thing That Ever Happened

It wasn't Woodstock or the Beatles. It certainly wasn't the Vietnam War. Or bell-bottoms, the 1964 1/2 Mustang, Jimi, Janis, or Twiggy. Nope. The thing that colored everything from education to politics and television (The Jetsons, many a Twilight Zone episode) for my generation was the Space Race.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 threw our parents - and by extension, little us - into a tizzy. Not that we didn't have a morbid fascination about the pointy satellite. I remember many a clear night we'd gather outside just to see it pass overhead. But, by gum, it meant that we Americans had better catch up here. I mean, really. Were we going to let the USSR's German scientists beat our German scientists? Hell, no!

The trickle-down effect of Sputnik on those of us sitting in neat rows in a classroom was more emphasis on math and science (I'm blaming the Space Race for "new" math. Still hold a grudge.) . Oh, and suddenly every schoolroom had a television set so that we could watch every satellite-rocket-capsule launch and orbit. Very cool. We were invested in the Space Race at a very young age, friends.

It got more interesting once we passed the monkey-in-spacesuit stage and moved to the astronaut phase. Alan Shepard and John Glenn were (and still are, I reckon) huge heroes to us Baby Boomers. Talk about reality TV! Whoa! The John Glenn flight is still a nail-biter, even though I know it turns out OK.

But, honestly, did anybody take President Kennedy seriously when he challenged us to send a man to the moon and safely return him to earth within the decade of the 1960's? Hm. Well, whether anybody did or not, NASA hopped right on it, and most of us were right there with 'em. We knew the astronauts, the various space programs (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo), and the types of rockets (Atlas, Saturn).

This week we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Yes. The Coolest Thing That Ever Happened. I never tire of watching coverage of the event. It's still so incredible that human beings ever set foot on that big silver ball in the sky. Who knew what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would find there? (And thanks, Michael Collins, for hanging around in the command module to pick them up, by the way.) Sure there was all kinds of science, but, you know - what if there was something science fiction there that we hadn't counted on? (Fortunately, whew!, not.) And a good chunk our our planet watched the whole Coolest Thing Ever on television together. Bump the coolness factor up a notch.

OK. So here's why I thing the Apollo 11 moon landing ranks as the Coolest Thing That Ever Happened:

1. It was the first time that humans touched the surface of the moon. Really. Not some flying saucer sci-fi movie. Really. And I still have a hard time getting my head around it.

2. We were all invested in it - emotionally, educationally, and - yes - financially. We wanted it to succeed because we'd been taken along for the ride from the beginning; we wanted a happy ending. This is true for Americans, but I suspect lots of folks around the world were invested in the event, too. It brought us together in a good way, not in a bad, calamitous way.

3. It worked! It could have been a disaster, but it wasn't. All those little bolts and screws and all that science and astronaut training worked. Very cool.

4. Moon rocks, baby! Moon rocks!

I feel sorry for those of you too young to remember it. Can't imagine what you'd consider the Coolest Thing That Ever Happened, but I bet whatever it is can't begin to compare. Because for 40 years the second thought that enters my head when I see the moon (right after "Wow!") is that earth-bound humans have hopped around in its dust. And that is just the coolest thing that ever happened.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ode to My Own Bed

Oh it's fine to travel here and yon
For work or rest or play -
To Bombay, Beijing, Bruges, or Bonn.
A change of scene is good, they say.

But whatever the climate or the price
Or wherever I lay my head,
Neither a sleeping bag nor silk sheets entice
In comparison to my own dear bed.

A 5-star hotel offers no finer rest,
Than my mattress that fits me just right.
No pop star or royalty ever possessed,
Such worn soft old sheets that invite.

The down of my featherbed and comfy duvet,
Afford perfect rest for my bones.
My pillows are perfect. I know it's cliche -
But nothing compares to that bed of my own.

So while travel is fun and exciting to do,
More than a few days of it causes such dread,
Because no place on earth can ever renew
Like a night in my very own bed.

If your heart is in your dream . . .

. . . no request is too extreme. Not even going back in time 50 years and being an 8-year-old kid at Disneyland.

OK. I wasn't able to actually be an 8-year-old kid, but I sure acted like one. I screamed my head off during all the "mountain" rides: Space, Thunder, Splash. I talked to all the creatures in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Snow White, and Peter Pan. I twirled those Teacups at nausea-inducing speed and sang along with the birds and flowers in The Enchanted Tiki Room. In short, I channeled my inner 8-year-old. And it was incredibly therapeutic.

I got to go to "The Happiest Place on Earth" twice during my recent visit to Anaheim: once with Lil Sis and Bro-in-Law - full day fun - and once on a Twilight Pass with a friend from work once all our work-duties were done. I thoroughly enjoyed both visits.

After years of frequenting DisneyWorld in Florida, I finally got to return to the original park that my family ventured to in 1959. Yes, my Golden Anniversary. No matter how many times I was told that DisneyWorld is massively larger than Disneyland, I just couldn't believe it in my 8-year-old-memory head. Once I went back to the original, I can attest that, yes, it is teeny-tiny compared to DisneyWorld.

My recap? Here 'tis:

  • Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle is almost laughably small. I had forgotten that it looks so different from DisneyWorld's Cinderella castle. All I can say is, when Sleeping Beauty wakes up and sees how gigantic Cindy's castle is, she is going to be right pissed!

  • The great thing about little Disneyland is that it's very doable in just a few hours. Things aren't as spread out as the Florida park. It's cozier.

  • Disneyland has a few rides that DisneyWorld doesn't, mostly rides I remember from my visit in 1959: Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Land, Pinocchio. Evidently, DW doesn't have a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride anymore (What's up with that? It used to have one.). Of course, DW has rides that Disneyland doesn't have, so I guess it's a wash. But even the same rides are different in the two parks.

  • You get to go to Hell and back in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. There's something satisfying in that. (To DisneyWorld: Put that ride back!)

  • Disneyland has New Orleans Square (with Pirates of Caribbean, Haunted Mansion). DisneyWorld has Liberty Square (with Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion - Pirates is in Adventureland, I think, at DW). Nice restaurants in New Orleans Square, by the way.

  • The Astro Orbiter that brother David loved "shifting gears" in during our 1959 visit has been revamped to look more Jules Verne than the NASA-type rocket orbiter of 50 years ago. So, in a way, the Orbiter looks more 19th-century than Jetson-like. Interesting.

  • Loved the Buzz Lightyear ride, shooting my ray gun and racking up points. Woo-hoo!

  • No Carousel of Progress. :-( Guess we've just progressed too much (though I think it's still at DisneyWorld).

  • Matterhorn - great as it was when brand new in 1959, though I did remind Lil Sis that the thing was 50 years old as we ascended the first hill. Probably not good timing.

  • The new E-ticket rides in 1959 were The Matterhorn, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarines, and the Monorail (probably not really an E-ticket) - all still going strong. Alas, the 20,000 Leagues theme has been changed to Nemo - very disappointing. Go back to 20,000 Leagues, Disneyland!

  • Worst ride? Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom. A lawsuit (or 50) waiting to happen. I love thrill rides, but this was just jarring and jolting. It hurt! Yuck.

  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse has been changed to Tarzan's Treehouse. I'm a little sad, but I can live with it.
So, if your dream is to spend a little time as your 8-year-old self, try Disneyland. It's cute as all git-out. And thanks again, Mother and Daddy, for showing us the Happiest Place on Earth fifty years ago.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hotel Sweet Hotel

Living in a hotel for two weeks is not all it's cracked up to be. Oh, sure, I have floor-to-ceiling windows, a massive down-comfortered king-sized bed, and nice flat-screen TV. Room service at my fingertips. Maid service. All the ice I could possibly want.

But it ain't home. The view from those floor-to-ceiling windows is kind of flat with some brown mountains in the background and a smattering of lights, not my funky Spanish Harlem skyline with spectacular sunsets. I would gladly trade this king-sized bed for my old double bed with perfect pillows, just right for me. And my ancient boat-anchor television set is all I really need - this fancy-schmancy TV is a waste.

Can you tell I'm homesick? Two weeks is too long to put up with complicated alarm clocks, weird bathroom faucets, tiny little shampoo bottles , and a toilet tissue roller that's almost impossible to reach. Or without my own little kitchen, easy chair, and the sound of Metro North trains rumbling under my window.

Maybe it would be different if I could spend my days around the pool or romping about in Disneyland. But this is no vacation. And not even a wonderful hotel room can take the place of my own little apartment, full of familiar things, at the end of a long day.

Believe me, I'm grateful to have a job where a two-week hotel stay is about the only thing I have to complain about. Still, I'm counting the days until those rattling Metro North trains rock me to sleep at night.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

From the "Happiest Place on Earth"

Happy Independence Day! More to come about our Disneyland adventure, but for now: Happy Birthday USA!