Category Archives: Personal

We Were Kings!

I made two shopping trips yesterday. Well … actually, it was one trip to two places – Trader Joe’s and Vons grocery store. During most of the pandemic I’ve been shopping every Wednesday and Sunday morning, when TJ’s designates the first hour they’re open (0800 – 0900) to us old farts, as well as immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass not to be able to just run out and get something I forgot or just discovered I need for a recipe, but I’ve gotten used to it … and I do run out on occasion.

I bring this up because when I checked out at Vons I was given a handful of these game tickets for their newest gimmick to bring people in. I didn’t buy much there—Trader Joe’s gets the bulk of our business, but they don’t carry lots of things we do fancy—but it was enough for the cashier to hand me about eight of these “tokens.” So … despite my being a bit averse to these side shows, they were offering lots of “free” things, so I downloaded the app and scanned in the bar codes to see if I could win anything. When my wife, Linda, saw what I was doing, she gave me a bunch of tokens she had received when she stopped at Vons the other day.

One of the things I “won” (I’m still not entirely certain how I can claim it without spending more on shipping, handling, etc. than I care to) was a 5 x 8 notebook from Shutterfly. In order to claim it, one must go to Shutterfly’s website and enter the code, etc. Truth to tell, I had forgotten I was a member of Shutterfly, but LastPass (my password memory hole) remembered for me and I soon discovered I had a bunch of pictures uploaded there. When I say forgotten, the last time I uploaded a photo to their site was in late October of 2009, well over 11 years ago; that’s quite a span, IMO.

One of the photos I found I am sharing here, but the thrust of this post (the title might be a bit of a giveaway, but probably not until you’ve read what I’m about to write) has nothing to do specifically with the photo; it merely reminded me of something I’ve noticed over the years and gave me a bit of an “aha!” experience. Let me explain.

Arthur, Harold, Samuel, and Richard

This picture was taken sometime around 1980 and, I believe, was at Gulliver’s Restaurant in Marina del Rey, California. My wife at the time was a waitress there. My father’s oldest brother, Sam, was in town from Chicago and we were getting together for the first time in quite a long while.

A little family background from my father’s side: My father is the fourth of five children; the first born in the United States, and the third boy of four. My Aunt Sophie, who was in Chicago, her home, when this happened, was the only girl and the oldest as well. She, Sam, and Al (not pictured here) were all born in the Ukraine. My grandfather who, by the way, I have no recollection of, had come to the U.S. and it took him eight years to save up enough money to send for my bubbie, my aunt, and my two uncles to book passage to the states. They settled in Chicago, where my father was born a bit later.

Although I never heard much detail, I do believe they were escaping the pogroms taking place in Russia targeting Jews and they were lucky to get out intact. My zayde, his name was Max Wladofsky, came here (if my info is correct and I remember it correctly) around 1915, my bubbie and my aunt and uncles came around 1923, and my father was born in 1924.

So, as I’m looking at this picture I’m reminded of how many members of my family are named after English or Anglo-Saxon royalty. My father’s name was Edward, my name is Richard, and my brother’s name is Stephen. My mother’s name was Annette and, although I can find no Annette in a list of English monarchs, there is an Anne. It goes further. Note my one cousin in this photo was named Harold and his father, my uncle, was named Albert (no kings with that name, but there’s a famous Prince Consort named Albert – Prince Albert “in a can”) who was married to Queen Victoria. Harold’s older brother is named William.

Unfortunately, both of my parents are long gone and I can’t ask them about this somewhat strange number of people named after British royalty, but I can speculate it had something to do with a desire to not be discriminated against and to “blend” in to the new country they now called home. Having been born shortly after the end of WWII, I’m well aware of what I refer to as Jewish angst, the feeling that one is waiting for another shoe to drop, another insult or slight based on being Jewish, or that something bad might happen at any moment.

It’s worthwhile to note the two oldest siblings of my father were named Sophie and Samuel (more something like Schusa and Schmuel in Yiddish, which my paternal grandparents spoke fluently, as did my father.) Why the middle child was named Albert, though, I can’t figure; maybe it was in anticipation of their new home, despite the length of time it took to realize that dream. After that, it was Edward and Arthur.

At any rate, I’ve likely spent far too much time blathering on about my family but, hey, this is my blog and I’m allowed to sink or swim … or totally make a fool of myself. I started this blog in part as a way to record my thoughts, regardless of how valuable they might be or whether or not they resonate with anyone else. My interests tend toward the eclectic and I sometimes write as a sort of stream-of-consciousness activity to sort out my thoughts on a given subject. I’ve thought about this subject before; I’ve just never written about it, so here ’tis.


Wood Ranch BBQ’s Coleslaw

I am a lover of coleslaw, especially the creamy deli coleslaw I grew up eating in small Jewish delis in the San Fernando Valley, as well as the Fairfax area (I’m looking at you, Canter’s) and, later, Langer’s. However, I discovered an somewhat different way to prepare coleslaw when I first had the opportunity (at least 15 years ago, maybe more) to eat at Wood Ranch BBQ, near my current home in Simi Valley, CA. Instead of creamy and sweet, it’s oily and vinegary and savory … and it’s delicious.

Since I’ve been cooking a lot more lately, and have spent some time searching out and gathering recipes, I had found a recipe for Wood Ranch BBQ’s peanut cole slaw and wanted to try it out. I had no choice but to make a few adjustments, as I didn’t have any red cabbage and only had a 14 oz bag of shredded cabbage and carrots. I had no intention of going shopping. I made some adjustments in ingredient amounts to compensate, and left out the salt, since the only peanuts I had were salted. I had two small bowls and am looking forward to dinner, when I will eat it again. My wife is thrilled as well. It tastes very much like I remember, and my memory tells me it was—and IS—deliciously wunderbar! I’m sharing the recipe, just in case.


Gimme Some Skin!

This post reflects two basic “discoveries” I’ve made within the past couple of years. The first is the magnification my iPhone is capable of providing through its camera. I have been able to take some fairly spectacular pics of various items seen extremely close up and in sharp focus. I find the pictures I can take with it are (or can be) interesting and, at times, beautiful and ornate.

The second thing I discovered is that, although I come from a family whose elderly members weren’t very wrinkly as they aged, I recently began noticing I was developing “chicken skin” on parts of my body, most notably my arms. At nearly 74, I expect I can accurately be described as elderly, so I was a bit taken aback at first. I don’t recall exactly how I took the first magnified photo of the inside of my elbow or my forearm closely adjacent to it, but I found the contours and texture of my aging skin to be quite fascinating, if not at times somewhat freaky.

Here are four pictures—extreme closeups—of either the inside of my elbow or of my forearm just below it. I find the patterns both pleasing to look at and a bit mind-blowing to think of how evolution has developed this envelope for us to live in and be protected by. Its construction and flexibility are truly a wonder, especially when viewed up real close. We humans will no doubt one day be able to replicate human skin (we’re already getting there) and it’s fascinating to me to contemplate how we, in a matter of decades (centuries at the most, depending on how you define progress and accumulated knowledge) we’re creating analogues to naturally occurring physical elements that took millions of years to evolve. Don’t know about all y’all, but I’m fairly gobsmacked by the whole thing.


Trump’s Lap Dogs

Based on the activities of these six senators (at least these ones) I worked this up a while ago, then forgot about it. Just want to put it out there. These six are, in my estimation, particularly egregious in their subservience and sycophancy, though we all know it’s based on naked ambition. If there is a better argument against allowing these kinds of people to run for any office of public trust, I don’t know where it’s to be found.


On The Cusp!

There are two books that have had an inordinately large effect on my life. One of them I can remember large parts of and can offer reasonably intelligent analyses of what the author was trying to say. The other one I can hardly recall one thing about, save for the overall message the author was trying to convey. The reason these two come to mind—and have affected me so greatly—is that they’re closely related conceptually and their messages resonate and overlap, at least as I see them and I’m pretty sure that’s about all that counts.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The first of these two books is “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” by Alan Watts. The second of these books is “Passages,” by Gail Sheehy. Without going into any detail, I’ll merely note that each of them speaks to the inexorable rhythms of life and the inevitability of change. They also offer a philosophical approach to dealing with those rhythms and changes that offers one a chance to navigate them with as little friction and pain as possible. I read the book by Watts in my early twenties. At the time I was head-over-heels in love with a young woman, but the relationship wasn’t to be and she broke up with me. I was young, impetuous, and prone to bouts of manic happiness and deep, dark depression.

I somehow found the book; how is lost in the mists of my slowly calcifying synapses. Perhaps it found me. It wasn’t the first book by Watts I had read. That was “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” which I found quite helpful in navigating the changes I was going through shortly after high school, a short stint in the U.S. Navy, a slightly longer stint as a businessman, a somewhat shorter flirtation with Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of ’67, and a steadily growing antipathy toward the nation’s conduct of the war in Vietnam.

Another thing I thought interesting, and somewhat serendipitous, was the juxtaposition of the release of two Beatles records that coincided with my reading of these two books by Watts. When I read “The Book: …” the Beatles had just released “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.” The book was kind of my introduction to Zen Buddhist philosophy and the concept of the dialectic as represented by the Yin-Yang symbol. I was beginning to understand the duality of nature and the essence of all forms of evolution. Some of the lyrics in the song point out that same kind of duality, e.g. “Your inside is out when your outside is in. Your outside is in when your inside is out,” and the title of the song seemed to resonate with Watts’s message that we needed to get in touch with our actual selves (our “inner monkey”) if we were to understand our place in the world and not color it with the expectations of others.

The second song, which coincided with my reading of “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” was “Let It Be” which, as I understood it was the message Watts was conveying about the reality there is no such thing as security, that all things are in a constant state of flux, and the only way to (paradoxically, a very Zen concept) achieve any semblance of security—no matter how ephemeral and transient it may be—was to stop seeking it.

Sheehy’s book, as I recall it (and I only read it once, whereas I’ve read The Wisdom of Insecurity three times) had a similar message, but it was less on a spiritual and philosophical level and more on a practical, everyday “here’s what to expect” kind of approach. She wrote of what she referred to as the “passages” we all go through as we age and gain experience, while everything around us is changing and moving forward.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I have reached a point (a passage, if you will) in my life where I find far too many reasons to prepare myself for the end. I’ll be 74 years old three months from today. Next month I will be fourteen years older than my father was when he died. I realize I’ve reached an age where I could, conceivably, live another decade or more, but I could also drop dead tomorrow. There sure are a lot of people doing it who are younger than me.

Throw in the reality that I still have two daughters at home, one of whom is a Junior in High School, the other a Freshman in College, and it’s producing a bit of a tension arc that I’m struggling to put behind me.

I’m not trying to be morose, or overly glum. I am, however, attempting to approach what is definitely the autumn (more likely winter) of my life with as much spring in my step and lightness in my heart as I can muster. I need to understand what this passage I’m experiencing is all about (Sheehy did not write about septuagenarians) and position myself to take advantage of all it might offer. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s always benefit to be found in nearly every situation, at least until there isn’t (if that makes sense.) I am an optimist, so even when I get deeply (perhaps depressingly) introspective, I usually snap out of it within a few hours or now more than a day or two.

I’m looking forward to what the next stage of my life is going to offer. Both of my girls will be on their own in a few years, God (or whoever’s in charge of these things) willing and the creek don’t rise, and Linda and I will be on our own again. The difference for us, is we won’t be in our early to late fifties, like most people who have their families when they’re no older than their thirties. As long as I know my girls are doing well and taking care of themselves (which is an entirely different story) I’ll be OK with whatever happens. I will say this. Not having to help with high school homework will be deeply enjoyable!

If I live that long. 🙂


White History Month’s Greatest Hits

I’m not normally fond of using WordPress’s “Press This” function, because it only pulls a few words into my blog from the original post. It’s good because it means anyone wishing to read the article can see it in its entirety as originally published, but it also means I might have to copy some words over to make the post a little more intelligible and to provide some needed context.

Nevertheless, this article is one I consider extremely important . . . for white people to read. As I commented when posting it to Twitter and Facebook: “We may not have invented racism, but we sure as hell have benefited from it these last 3 or 4 centuries. It’s up to us to end it. That’s the real “White Man’s Burden!”

Check this article out. You might want to read more at The Root as well.

After a grueling 28 days of watching corporations, institutions and random white people pretend to care about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and that other Black guy with the big part in his afro (I think it’s Booker T. Douglass), we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Source: White History Month’s Greatest Hits


Manzanar & Toyo Miyatake

In the Spring of 2018, my wife’s niece arranged for a few members of the family to take some portrait photos. She chose the studio of Toyo Miyatake, a photographer who was imprisoned in the Manzanar concentration camp, during World War II. My wife is Sansei (3rd generation Japanese-American) and grew up on Monterey Park, CA, where most of her family continues to reside. The studio is currently being run by his son, Archie, who took some wonderful pictures of my wife, our daughters, and her mother, sister, and niece.

Caption on photo reads “War Relocation Center – Manzanar, California”

The studio is in San Gabriel and it’s filled with lots of photos taken by Toyo and Archie and I snapped some pics with my phone to share. I didn’t get around to doing anything until now, for reasons I’m incapable of reciting. Nevertheless, here they are. In looking for information on Toyo and Manzanar, I came across the Densho Encyclopedia, which has this to say about their work:

From the Densho Encyclopedia’s website:

The Densho Encyclopedia is a free and publicly accessible website that provides concise, accurate, and balanced information on many aspects of the Japanese American story during World War II. It is designed and written for a non-specialist audience that includes high school and college students and instructors, multiple generations of Nikkei community members, confinement sites preservation groups, amateur and professional historians, librarians, journalists, documentarians, and the general public.

The Encyclopedia is thoroughly cross indexed and articles are linked to relevant primary and secondary materials from the Densho archive and from other websites that include still and moving images, documents, databases, and oral history interview excerpts as well as standard bibliographical sources.

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/about/
Caption on left reads, “Manzanar Spring 1944”

The history of America’s treatment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII is a stain on everything this country is “supposed” to stand for, yet rarely seems to be able to provide. It was the result of racism and chauvinism, of nationalism and white supremacy. It set the Japanese-American community back years, if not decades, especially for those families whose property was stolen by white citizens who remained behind. Some were able to reclaim their homes and farms, but many didn’t. Toyo Miyatake was imprisoned here in California, at Manzanar. Here is what the Densho Encyclopedia has to say about his time there.

From the Densho Encyclopedia’s website:

The exclusion order forced Miyatake, his wife and four children, to the concentration camp at Manzanar. He was able to store his photographic equipment but managed to smuggle a camera lens and film plate holder into the camp against government orders. Miyatake told his son Archie that he felt it was his duty to document camp life. An Issei carpenter in camp constructed a box to house the lens, and Miyatake was able to get film into camp by way of a hardware salesman and former client. The photographer eventually asked camp director Ralph Merritt if he could set up a photo studio, and Merritt, who learned about Miyatake from Edward Weston, consented with the provision that Miyatake only load and set the camera, and a Caucasian assistant snap the shutter. Eventually, that restriction was lifted, and Miyatake was designated official camp photographer, and granted the freedom to take photos of everyday life at Manzanar. While there, Miyatake met and began a longtime collaboration with Ansel Adams, who wanted to capture candid photos of people there; the two men later published their work together in the book Two Views of Manzanar. Miyatake’s groundbreaking Manzanar photographs have also been featured in a 2012 exhibition at the Eastern California Museum called “Personal Responsibility: The Camp Photos of Toyo Miyatake.”

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Toyo_Miyatake/

The collage I’m sharing, below, is of Archie recreating one of his father’s more iconic photos. He was able to find the now grown men who were originally pictured in Manzanar and bring them to the site for the shoot. I think the photos are pretty self explanatory, but the second row has the money shots, IMO.

Manzanar then and now!

I’ll share three more photos I took while we were there. The photo on the left is of a portion of the front of the studio, where much of Archie’s work is displayed. It was there I saw large photos of people like Condoleezza Rice and Vin Scully, in addition to many others. The center photo is of Archie shooting photos of my family, which consisted of my wife, my MIL and SIL, along with My SIL’s daughter (our niece), her grand daughter by her other daughter (deceased) and our two daughters. The photo on the right is a collage of photos Archie took at the wedding of “Uncle” George Takei and Brad Altman. Click on any of the pics to see a larger version.

Aaaand . . . since I’ve mentioned George and Brad, I have one more photo to share, below these three. On September 19, 2019, Linda and I attended a talk at The Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, in Hollywood, where George was discussing his newest book, “They Called Us Enemy.” We purchased a copy and, while waiting in line to get it autographed, Brad walked through the line greeting everybody. We got a nice photo with him. Here’s how George’s book has been described:

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s-and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon-and America itself-in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/12579768

Linda, Brad, & Moi

TJ’s 5-Tab Browser

A friend of mine posted an interesting picture the other day. She’s a librarian and often posts items of interest regarding libraries, books, reading, and education in general. It was of a 300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven books open at once. She also commented, “Now they’re all just browser tabs,” referring to how we do research nowadays using multiple tabs on whatever browser we happen to be using, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc. Below is the photo from her post.

Old-Fashioned Browser

Seeing it instantly reminded me of a tool I had seen over a decade earlier when I had the opportunity to visit a vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia, the owners of which I had become friends with. I was on my way back home from a conference in Maryland and stopped to visit with them for a couple of days. Inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and slave plantation, Monticello, was nearby, I felt obliged to check it out. It was in Jefferson’s library that I saw the item this tool had reminded me of. It was another type of research tool (depicted below) that served the same purpose. Also, I remembered it specifically because, at the time, I thought the same thing my friend did; this was the 18th/19th century equivalent of having five (Jefferson’s wasn’t quite as lavish as the one above) browser tabs open simultaneously.

TJ’s Monticello Five-Tab Browser

I also had the pleasure of visiting the University of Virginia, which had been founded in 1819 by Jefferson. Seven years later, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University where, apparently, he had to raise money for tuition by gambling because his father hadn’t sent him to school with enough money to get my. Below are a few more pictures from my visits in Charlottesville.

Fully-Mustachioed Rick Apres-Visit
Jefferson’s Burial Plot Marker
I Think This Is The Entrance To The University Of Virginia
Edgar Allan Poe’s Dorm Room, Which Is Sealed. This Photo Was Taken Through A Window On The Other Side Of The Room. Can You Say, “Nevermore“?

Geese & Ducks & Coots, Oh My!

Yesterday I had to take my youngest daughter to the orthodontist to get her braces checked. She’s almost done with what is looking like a two-year ordeal to straighten her teeth. After she was done, we stopped by a local pet and feed store and picked up a bag of duck food, which they sell for $1.00/lb. We then went to Rancho Simi Community Park, which has a fairly large pond and is always filled with lots of ducks, geese, coots, and various other species of birds.

I took a bunch of photos as she was feeding them and they were milling around waiting or congregating to snatch up the tiny pellets of food she was throwing to them. I’m not conversant in all the different types of ducks there are, but I recognize Canadian honkers when I see them and I’ve researched the other species of goose that seem to live there year round. The first picture here is of Chinese geese. The only thing I can say for sure about them is . . . they’re assholes; at least the males are. They’re very aggressive. A couple of months ago I had to lightly kick one of them to keep it from attacking me.

The second photo is of a duck that has a pompadour. Not sure why that happens, but I’ve seen this duck at the pond before. Another reason I’m pretty sure all these waterfowl reside here year-round. The third pic is, I believe, a Mallard Drake. The fourth is a nice closeup of a Canadian goose who was unconcerned enough to come right up to me. Fifth is another Canadian, maybe the same one in the fourth. Sixth is also a Canadian and I can’t quite figure out what it was doing; whether it was begging for food or trying to intimidate me. No other goose has exhibited this particular behavior.

The seventh photo is of my daughter feeding them and gives you an idea of the various species that live there. Thankfully, the Chinese geese didn’t come by and ruin it all. The eighth photo is of a bunch of birds eating right in front of the bench I was sitting on, and the ninth is mostly coots and a few Mallards in the water. My daughter loves feeding the ducks at this park and we’ll be going there again soon.


Becoming a Switch Hitter

I am a southpaw, a left-hander. Big time! So much so that when my father tried to get me to golf right-handed (he said golf courses were built to favor righties) I just wasn’t able to do it. I played a little—he even bought me a beginner’s set of left-handed clubs—when I was 15, but came to the conclusion surfing was more my speed and gave up golf.

I actually have no plan to become a right-handed golfer, assuming I can ever golf again (that’s another story.)

When I took it up again at the tender age of 46, I still played left-handed, though I realized it would be helpful to my game if I spent a little time strengthening my right side, as well as improving my right-handed coordination. I set about doing some exercises and using my right hand more frequently. It was a bit haphazard, but I managed to become a bit more comfortable with it as time went by.

Last night I believe I came to the conclusion I need to change my handedness from left to right. The reason for this has nothing to do with golf, however. Sometime around a decade ago, I began to experience the effects of what is known as essential tremors. Also called familial tremors, the malady is genetic and generally affects one or more of three areas: the neck muscles, the hands and fingers, and vocal chords. My mother had them in her neck; she was, in her last years, a bobble-head.

My tremors show up in my hands and, ironically, they are worst in my left (dominant) hand. I am almost certain sometime in the next few years, I will experience them in my neck muscles as well. I can feel it coming on when I’m drinking any liquid I don’t sip. Not all the time; my hands don’t shake all the time either. When they do, though, it can be pretty had to do certain things. For instance, typing becomes next to impossible when they’re shaking, as is eating with a fork or a spoon.

Ironically, eating with hashi (chopsticks, in Japanese; my wife is Sansei) is much easier than eating with a fork. It might present a bit of a problem if grabbing whatever it is I wish to lift to my lips, but once I’ve got it grasped I can hang onto it because they shake in the same amount and same direction, and the food is securely pinched between the two pieces. This does not work with a fork or a spoon unless whatever it is I’m eating can be stabbed with the fork. Spoons are even worse because one eats things that are liquid and can spray all over the place when shaken as thoroughly as my left hand is capable of when it gets going.

For example, when I was in the midst of my battle with Covid-19, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t eat for a couple of days. Even though I could neither smell nor taste, I finally got hungry and my wife brought me a bowl of homemade chicken soup. She served it with one of the large, Chinese soup spoons we have, which are reasonably deep. As I raised a spoonful to my mouth, my hand began to shake violently and I sprayed hot soup all over myself and the bed. It was frustrating.

Last night I was eating some canned pears and cottage cheese; one of my favorite comfort foods (actually pineapple is my real fave, mixed with cottage cheese) and I was having a difficult time getting the spoon to my mouth without dropping or flinging the food hither and yon. Having done it once or twice before, I decided to try eating right-handed. It went much better than I had hoped for. So now, difficult as it may be at 73 years old, I’m going to start re-training myself to be right-handed. It won’t help with my typing, but I’m pretty sure it will improve my dining satisfaction … and that’s important. I may even begin eating with hashi right-handed as well. I’ve done it before and I know I can.

PS – Did you know that all the synonyms for “southpaw” are negative? According to thesaurus.com, these words are: ambilevous; awkward; clumsy; dubious; gauche; insincere; maladroit; sinister; and sinistral.


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