A Rude Awakening (Part 1)

By Judy Berman

My first apartment. I now understand why parents have sleepless nights.

It seems like an excellent choice, even though the home, which is converted into apartments, reminds me of the house on the hill behind the Bates Motel in “Psycho.” Rent is affordable. I can walk to work and save bus fare.

My third-floor walk-up, one-room apartment is quiet. That changes when a tenant moves in across the hall.

Roger is almost a myth. Let’s just say that Dracula makes more daytime appearances than he does. I rarely see Roger, and when I do, it is usually just his back as he is about to enter his apartment.

One incredibly hot June night, my apartment is like a sauna. So I leave my door open to let in what little breeze lingers in the hallway.

I am reading when I hear someone coming up the stairs. It’s Roger and a woman is with him. Roger is a quiet man who has never spoken a word to me. He’d brought a woman home with him once before. Nothing unusual, I think. Still, I close my door for privacy.

Within 15 minutes, I hear the muffled sounds of an argument across the hall. Then, there is a knock on my door.

From the window in my door, I see the woman who Roger brought home. She looks upset.

She asks if she can use my phone to call the cops because Roger kicked her out and won’t let her get all her belongings.

Her cool demeanor changes after she makes the call. The woman races across the landing and kicks a crack in Roger’s door.

I just stand there in shock, clutching my poodle. Paris is no guard dog. He’s quaking almost as much as I am.

While I’m still trying to regain my composure, my downstairs neighbor steps out into the hallway. Eva heard the commotion, and wondered what’s going on.

Minutes later, a heavy-set cop comes up our stairwell two steps at a time. After talking to the woman, he gives me a fleeting, reassuring smile. Then, he strolls over and pounds on Roger’s door.

“You’re puffing up my ulcer, Roger,” the officer bellows.

That’s all the convincing Roger needs. As he cautiously opens his door, I join Eva downstairs in her apartment. A grandmotherly type, in her late-50s or early-60s, she makes tea to calm our nerves.

“I swear I’ve never seen anything like that,” Eva says, “and I’ve lived here for five years.”

As we try to draw comfort from one another, we see someone climbing the fire escape next to Eva’s window. This is particularly unsettling because the fire escape ends outside my apartment.

Short hair. Masculine jowl.

“Hey, fella,” I yell. “Where do you think you’re going?”

The intruder ignores me and continues to climb the fire escape. The second time I yell, the “fella” turns, snarls and informs me in extremely profane language that she is a lady and not a fella.

I’d disagree on the “lady” part, but I’m not about to argue.

When I look closer, I realize it was the woman who’d been in Roger’s apartment. Apparently. when the cop took her away to end the squabble, he just dropped her off at the corner. She returns. looking to get a piece of Roger, but thinks better of it when she realizes she’s been spotted. The woman scurries back down the fire escape and runs off.

I’m hot. I race downstairs. I’m not even sure why. If I ran into the “fella,” well, I’m not sure I would be here to tell this story.

Roger is outside. sitting on the bottom step. He sits there, dejectedly, holding his head in his hands.

“You ought to be more selective about the type of person you bring home,” I say indignantly.

Poor, bleary-eyed Roger looks at me, as if through a haze, and watches as I storm off.

Two months later, Roger is linked to still another police visit. But. this time, Roger might be forgiven. He isn’t even home when it begins.

That’s all the wake-up call I need to find somewhere else to live. The rent may be affordable, but my peace of mind is worth a lot more.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Photo: Queen Anne-style home seen in the movie “Psycho” and the video clip “Thriller” – author: Laëtitia Zysberg. Date April 22, 2012 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/87/Sanders_House%2C_1345_Carroll_Avenue_%28_1887_%29.JPG/450px-Sanders_House%2C_1345_Carroll_Avenue_%28_1887_%29.JPG

Photo: This is a photo of Ray Simpson of the Village People (not of the officer who responded to the incident at my first apartment). Taken at Asbury Park, N.J., on June 3, 2006, by Jackie of Monmouth County ,N.J. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Village_People-Cop.jpg/289px-Village_People-Cop.jpg

Photo: This photo, taken January 2008, is of a Delran, N.J., police car – not the one that responded to the incident at my first apartment. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/Delran%2C_New_Jersey_police_car.jpg/320px-Delran%2C_New_Jersey_police_car.jpg

The Case of the Missing Lunch

By Judy Berman

Loss is something we all have weathered, whether it’s a defeat in a game, keys you can’t find or the loss of a friend.

This story, however, is about more than a missing lunch.

There must come a time in every kid’s life when they ask: “Just what were they thinking?”

“They” being their parents. That moment came for me in fifth grade.

I was not a fussy eater. Mom never had to worry about leftovers. Our cocker spaniel, Rusty, scarfed up any unclaimed meat – even if it was only unsupervised for a minute or two. I cheerfully gobbled down the remaining potatoes and veggies.

But there was one thing I hated: egg-and-olive sandwiches. Separate, fine. Together, repulsive.

I don’t know what possessed my Mom. She packed one for me for lunch. I looked at it in disgust and reluctantly plucked the bag containing the sandwich off our kitchen table.

By lunchtime, it was nowhere to be found.

I opened my desk in class and gasped, “Where’s my lunch?” A fellow student told the teacher he’d seen my lunch earlier that morning. Everyone was puzzled by its disappearance.

We had no cafeteria. So I was sent to the principal’s office, where he shared some crackers and milk with me. He looked bemused like: “What the heck is going on here?”

When I got home, I told my Mom about my missing sandwich. She didn’t say anything, but, after that, I was packing my own lunch every day.

She was on to me. Guess I wasn’t as slick as I thought.

What happened to that lunch? I’m sure the statute of limitations has run out on this one. So here goes. I ditched my lunch – sandwich and all – in a trash can on Main Street across from Harvey Brothers’ grocery store on my way to school. The student who said he saw it in my desk meant well, but he was mistaken.

Sorry, Mom.

So, what else was lost?

My little white lies, fibs, tall tales and outright whoppers … finally caught up with me.

My “ah-ha” moment happened after a really minor incident. I realized my parents doubted even the smallest things I’d told them even when I WAS telling the truth.

I knew I’d gone too far. I decided I better clean up my act to regain their trust.

Now, nothing could persuade me to tell a lie. OK, I lie ALL the time on surveys where they want to know your age, weight, income and the location of all your valuables. (Valuables? Fuhgeddaboudit! Our 12-year-old TV is the newest thing we’ve got.)

I’d make one other exception. If a friend asked: “Do I look fat in this dress?” Well, if she did, I’d sooner take a bullet than tell the truth.

Trust me on this one: The truth is out there. But, sometimes, that’s not what we’re really looking for.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Photo: Egg salad sandwich

Photo: Alley Grafitti – Lies – graffiti seen in a downtown alleyway in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada– May 18, 2008 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alley_Graffiti_-_Lies.jpg

Vegas views – beyond The Strip

By Judy Berman

Casinos, gambling, the shows, the night life. That’s what many think of when they first hear “Las Vegas.” But on The Strip and off, there are many delightful surprises.

On our recent mini-vacation to Vegas, we visited Bellagio. The Fountains provide a light show of water and music. A mesmerizing attraction found along Las Vegas Boulevard. But it’s not the only beautiful site here.

To escape the desert heat, we walked thru blocks of gaming tables and stores to view  the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. http://www.bellagio.com/attractions/

The art gallery will feature Claude Monet: Impressions of Light through Jan. 6, 2013. It showcases 20 works by Monet and eight other canvases by Impressionists such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Camille Pissarro and Eugene Louis Boudin.

A carousel, egrets, a blue and white sailboat, and soaring balloons bring back memories of a carefree summer at the seashore in the Northeast. They are featured in the Summer Garden display of flowers and plants, part of Bellagio’s Conservatory that opened May 21st and will end on Sept. 8th.

Get off The Strip and check out the sites outside Vegas as well. One morning, we had breakfast at Mt. Charleston Lodge which is 7,717 feet above sea level. It’s about 50 miles outside of Vegas at the end of Highway 157. http://mtcharlestonlodge.com/#/mtcharlestonlodge/

From the restaurant’s deck, we breathed in the fresh mountain air and enjoyed temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than in the city. The restaurant was overshadowed by mountaintops. It was surrounded by views of juniper, pine trees, aspen and rustic log cabins. (Photo on left: Mt. Charleston)

Had we been in the mood for a walk, there were 50 miles of marked trails. Tempting, but we decided to linger over breakfast and enjoy the view. (Photo: I’m with my brother, Hank Fiet, at Mt. Charleston)

If it’s desert areas you are hankering for, Dry Lake in Clark County off Interstate 15 might quench that thirst. At a distance, it does look like there’s a lake up ahead. But there was no water on that terrain the day we visited.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_lake

The Dry Lake, at 2,096-feet elevation, is about 20 miles outside of Vegas. It’s where my Dad used to walk his dogs in the predawn hours before the sun was blazing and scorching every living thing in its path. (Photo below of Dry Lake)

Sometimes, it’s when you go off the beaten path that you make the richest discoveries. That’s what we found in Vegas.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Main photo: Dave Berman and I at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Las Vegas

To Dad, With Love

By Judy Berman

With his western cowboy hat tilted at just the right angle, my Dad looked like he’d spent his whole life rounding up cattle and riding horses.

Looks can be deceiving. But the Philadelphia native shared at least one other trait cowboys are known for. He played it close to the vest, not always revealing what he thought.

Like E. F. Hutton, when my Dad spoke, people listened. For good reason. He was knowledgeable, a superb storyteller and easily cracked me up with his jokes – even the corny ones. OK, especially the corny ones.

This year is the first year Dad won’t be with us to celebrate Father’s Day. As I meander down thru Memory Lane, so many thoughts and memories rush to the surface.

Growing up, I thought my Dad could do it all. He was a true Renaissance man.

He made the first radio I owned – a crystal radio set. A memory I treasure because I loved to listen to the music and programs on radio. Dad also made the first TV set we ever owned. Talk about bragging rights.

As an electronics engineer, Dad tinkered with many electronic gadgets at our home long before they became staples in just about everyone’s home.

When he wasn’t building or fixing things, he’d unwind by playing the guitar. I can still recall haunting tunes, upbeat jazz and classical music that he entertained us with.

Dad was the gold standard that I measured all my dates by.

His curiosity was passed down to me. It led me to discover new ideas, new cultures and places.

He also challenged me by giving me riddles to solve. What do you know? What can you infer? What’s going on?

Here’s an example of a riddle he might have posed to me that I found online:

“A man was shot to death in his car. There were no powder marks on his clothing which indicated that the gunman was outside the car. However, all the windows were up and the doors were locked. After a close inspection was made, the only bullet holes discovered were in the man’s body. How was he murdered?” (Answer below)

This meant I had to think outside the box, to look beyond the superficial. I had to deduce. Great life-shaping skills. Sometimes, I succeeded. Other times, Dad had to supply the answer.

Then, I’d do the hand plant on my forehead. Oh! That was so logical. Next time, I’d try harder to figure it out.

That, more than anything, helped guide me in life.

I’d like to be able to tell him: “Thank you, Dad for providing me with love, security and making me think. Thank you for everything you did.”

To all fathers, whether it’s by birth, step, adopted, mentor, Big Brother … Happy Father’s Day on June 17th and on every day.

(** Answer to riddle: The victim was in a convertible. He was shot while the top was down. **)  http://www.funnyriddles.net/A-Strange-Murder-Riddle-225.htm

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**  A special thank you to C.J. of Food Stories who nominated me for the Illuminating Blogger Award. Check out her website at http://foodstoriesblog.com/  and find many creative ideas for desserts, meals and dining. She quotes Hippocrates: “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” She said he knew the power of proper nutrition well before current science became aware of this fact.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Main photo: Dad and me, Nelson, Nevada (2002)

Photo: Dad in U.S. Army (1943)

Photo: Dad (in center) and his classmates in Chicago, Ill.

Life’s Endless Possibilities

By Judy Berman

The days shortly after high school graduation – parties, drag races, broken hearts and promises, and new love. Adventure awaits.

Hot rods cruising the streets of a suburban California town. Rock ‘n’ roll music blaring from the windows. Waitresses roller-skating to your car to get your orders.

Those are the images that the movie “American Graffiti” (1973) captured. The posters asked: “Where were you in ’62?” That question is as valid today as it was then. What do we hope for in the future? What are our next steps in life?

This was a time of innocence – one year before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The movie’s also a reminder that we don’t have to stop dreaming just because we’re now grown-ups.

The coming-of-age film focuses on four high school grads who meet at Mel’s Drive-in – Burger City – to share their last night together. In the morning, Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt Henderson) and Ron Howard (as Steve Bolander) will leave for college on the east coast.

Curt’s not sure he wants to go.

“You just can’t stay 17 forever,” Steve chastises Curt.

Steve tells his girlfriend, Cindy Williams (as Laurie Henderson, Curt’s sister), that maybe they should see others while he’s in college. She decides to take him up on that before the evening is over – almost permanently as a result of a drag race on Paradise Road.

The guys go their separate ways. While Curt’s riding around, he sees the woman of his dreams, Suzanne Somers, in a white Thunderbird. She mouths, “I love you,” before she disappears from view.

His search for her is interrupted when he runs into some hoodlums, members of The Pharohs (pronounced FAY-rows). They spot a police car in a parking lot that’s on the lookout for speeders. The Pharoh’s leader, Bo Hopkins (as Joe), convinces Curt to hook a tow cable to the rear axle of the police car.

Curt hesitates, afraid he’ll get caught.

“Look at it this way. Now, you got three choices. One, you chicken out, and, in that case, I let Ants (another Pharoh member) tie you to the car and drag you around a little bit, and you don’t want that. Right?” Joe asks Curt.

Right. Nor is Curt prepared to deal with the alternatives. Option 2? If the cops hear Curt, well …

Option 3? If he’s successful, Joe says Curt can “join the Pharohs with a car coat and a blood initiation and all that.” Uh, Curt’s not too keen on that idea, either.

After Curt hooks up the police car, the hoods race their car past the cops. Curt yells out, “Stand by for justice.” The cops start to peel out. The cable stops them, tearing the rear axle off their car.

Once Curt gets out of the gang’s clutches, he goes to a local radio station to appeal to Wolfman Jack to help him find his mystery woman. The man in the control booth claims he’s not Wolfman. Curt also confides that he’s not sure if he’ll go off to college. Wolfman advises Curt to go out and experience life.

“The Wolfman comes in here occasionally bringing tapes, you know, and to check up on me and what not, and the places he talks about that he’s been and the things he’s seen. There’s a great big beautiful world out there, and here I sit, sucking popsicles,” he tells Curt.

In the morning, all four guys meet at the airport. As The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” plays, only one of them is aboard the plane. From the plane, a familiar car is spotted as it threads its way through the street.

This captivating film has many funny, romantic, touching and scary moments and well worth the view.

And Wolfman’s advice? It’s one we all could heed, no matter where we are in life. Venture out there. Explore life’s endless possibilities.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Poster: American Graffiti (hanging in our office)

Movie clip of American Graffiti (1973) – Go to “Videos – Trailer” on IMDb data base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069704/

Photo: Wolfman Jack in 1979 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wolfman_Jack_in_1979.jpg

Photo: Ron Howard (as Steve) and Cindy Williams (as Laurie) – dancing http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791092

Music video: The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” (with stills from the movie) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iOhxiO-ngc

Photo: Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt) and Bo Hopkins as (Joe) http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791095