About Judy Berman

Stories, and the art of telling them, fascinate me. I am a writer, a teacher and former reporter - both in newspapers and on radio. In this blog, I will share some of the stories I heard growing up, from our travels, our family and experiences on the job and off.

Swans and cygnets

Swans and cygnets in Viera 058 - Copy

By Judy Berman

Spring has arrived and new life is a welcome addition in our neighborhood. Two swans gave birth to six cygnets about a week ago.

Swans and cygnets in Viera 063 - Copy

A proud Mom and Dad with their offspring.

Swans and cygnets in Viera 069 - Copy

The cygnets will grow up fast over the summer. Meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy the view.

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.

Identity Crisis

Silhouette - Arindam

By Judy Berman

The man spotted me across the room and walked deliberately my way, smiling as he did so.

Then, my terror began.

I searched my memory bank and came up empty. Who is he? Where do I know him from?

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. What do you do in a situation like this?

Why is it I have instant recall for someone I haven’t seen in more than 10 years? But I can’t remember some folks I see nearly every day.

Rose is Rose - forgetting names - 4-9-14If my husband, Dave, is with me, he bails me out. He recognizes when I have forgotten someone’s name. Then, he’ll stick his hand out and introduce himself.

So I don’t get offended when folks forget my name. Others, however, are not always as forgiving.

I’ve tried the memory tricks: focusing on the person, repeating his or her name aloud (and silently).

But, just as we’re about to wrap up our conversation, I’m like “squirrel.” I’m distracted.

Like the Absent-Minded Professor, I’ve forgotten why I’m here in the first place and the name of the person I’ve been talking to for the past 15 minutes.

The Absent-minded professor

I fake a coughing spasm as we go to say good-bye and pray they don’t catch on.

One judge, who I covered as a reporter, may have had a similar problem when he called the newsroom and asked for me. (My name, then, was Manzer.)

The judge yelled: “Mangler. I want to speak to Mangler.” (Or, maybe, that was a commentary on what he thought I did to a recent story.)

At a testimonial dinner, this same judge saw me and mentioned a story I’d done about the retiring city court judge.

“The headline said, ‘He’s a straight shooter.’ When ‘Dorothy’ Manzer asked me what kind of judge he is, I was thinking of his golf game when I said that.”

Everyone’s laughing and later ribbed me about the judge mixing up my name.

“Dorothy? I felt like I was in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ” I joked later. “Couldn’t he have picked a more exotic name?”

After dinner, I saw the judge and asked Dave: “Should I give him my card?”

Dave said: “Go for it.”

So, I handed the judge my card, smiled and said, “There’ll be a test on Monday.”

Well, the judge apologized, but I told him it wasn’t a problem. I’m guilty of this, too. It might be 2 in the morning before I remember folks’ names, their spouse’s and children’s names, their pets’ names and their favorite restaurants.

In the 10 years I’ve been teaching, more than a thousand students have been in my classroom. So, I hope they’ll take that into account if I veg out. Plus, in a year or two, they change so much – grow taller, look and/or act more mature, that I might not even recognize them.

While they’ll always have a place in my heart, my mind might draw a blank.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just saw someone I vaguely recognize. Where’s the nearest exit?

There are tricks to remembering a name. A link to Videojug is below. What tricks do you use in this situation?

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.

Music Video: What’s Your Name? (1962) sung by Don and Juan – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrZf3vRHmkw&feature=kp 

Here’s some great humorous tips from Videojug. You may – or may not – choose to follow them: “How to Remember People’s Names”: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-remember-peoples-names

Main Photo – Silhouette – Arindam Mohapatra. Copyrighted. Used with permission. Arindam Mohapatra, the author of the nonfiction book “I Wish and Hope,” has completed a second book – a novel. To learn more, here’s a link to his blog. http://arindammohapatra.wordpress.com/

Illustration: The Absent-Minded Professor (The Forgetful Professor), 1929, Author: Per Lindroth (1878-1933) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fb/Lindroth_The_Absent-minded_Professor.jpg/489px-Lindroth_The_Absent-minded_Professor.jpg

Comic – Rose is Rose – forgetting names. The syndicated comic strip features Rose and her husband, Jimbo Gumbo. It was distributed on 4-9-14 by United Features Syndicate. The comic is written by Pat Brady and drawn by Don Wimmer. (**After I wrote this story, this comic was published. Sometimes the planets align.**)

 

Drug Raid – The Cupboards Were Bare

Drug Raid - in Dudley, United Kingdom

By Judy Berman

Minutes after an undercover police officer made a drug buy from the back window of a house, I heard him over the police radio.

“It’s a go. There are three people in there.”

Then, six police officers, dressed in black, ran down a city street and around the corner.

With guns drawn and two mighty whacks with a battering ram, they knocked down the door and ran in.

The suspect tossed $350 and 12 baggies of crack cocaine out the window. Investigators said the suspect had 11 baggies on him, and he’d just sold three.

It was like the movies. Only, this time: no guns blazing or suspects jumping out of windows to avoid arrest.

This is from the way-back files when I was a cops reporter in Utica, New York.

It was a rare behind-the-scenes look for me at what goes down during a drug raid. Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo gave the go-ahead to me and to one of the Observer-Dispatch’s photographers to join the investigators.

We wanted to be in on the action from the get-go. But they were overly cautious – and with good reason. What if something happened?

“You never know what’s behind that door,” said Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, the department’s senior investigator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Liability concerns and safety are the reasons why many police agencies hesitate to grant this kind of access to reporters and photographers.

I told the police chief that a story I was working on – about 7 ½ years of drug arrests by SIU – would look a lot better if it was tied to a drug arrest – with me and a photographer along.

Rotundo was a savvy man. He agreed.

Once inside, the investigator, who wore a Stetson, smoked a huge cigar as he searched for evidence. He wore plastic gloves because “these places aren’t the cleanest,” and to protect himself if one of the suspects was bleeding.

He’s hearing nothing but polite denials and excuses from one of the women in the house.

“No, officer, I just came here to see my cousin, Angel,” she claimed.

The officer disagrees.

“You’ve been seen coming to this drug house several times and were inside when a drug buy was just made,” he said.

Then, he starts singing “Angel in the Morning.”

In the kitchen, there’s a box of baking soda on the counter. A cigarette butt is out in the drain.

I gingerly open a fridge door by using my pen on the handle until one of the investigators gives me plastic gloves. Inside, there’s only a can of Sprite.

Utica drug bust - UPD Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Berman)

Other than salt-and-pepper shakers, the cupboards are bare.

After the raid, Deputy Chief Nick Yagey joked that I was a con artist and had hoodwinked investigators into letting us go inside the drug house.

“You weren’t supposed to take any photos identifying SIU members,” he said.

Yagey claimed he could ID one who was bent over searching thru a couch for evidence.

“You couldn’t pick that face out of a crowd,” I challenged, knowing that SIU had vetted the photos before publication so no undercover officer was put in jeopardy.

“His butt, maybe,” I laughed.

Fortunately, Yagey was laughing, too, when I left his office a few minutes later.

 

Kudos to the police officers in the Utica Police Department who often assured my safe passage as a cops reporter at some very dicey scenes – especially Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo, who died in 2010, and Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, who died in 2001.

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.

Movie Trailer: The French Connection (1971) – Undercover cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in his famous high speed chase in pursuit of a criminal – great film. But this is reel life – not real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP_7ZopT6oM  

Music Video: Bad Boys (1992) by Inner Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBB2upbVys&feature=kp  

Video: Dragnet (1951) – TV show starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday. The just-the-facts ma’am detective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj-qhIGTXdU  

Main Photo: Drug Raid – in Dudley, United Kingdom – taken Feb. 22, 2013 by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg/640px-Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg

Photo: Utica Drug Raid – Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Manzer Berman) at the scene of a drug bust in Utica, New York.

 

Grapes of Wrath

Migrant Mother - Florence Owens Thompson - 1936

By Judy Berman

My role model is a paroled prisoner, an unrepentant killer.

After four years in prison on a manslaughter charge, his concerns were only for “today.”

Time and life’s experiences shifted Tom Joad’s focus from selfish self-interest to helping others in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

He is one of the reasons I root for the underdog – personally and when I was a reporter.

The politics and social injustice that existed when the book was written have changed. But the book still resonates 75 years after its publication on April 14, 1939.

Like many families in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Joads are forced to leave Oklahoma. A drought turns their land into a “Dust Bowl” and renders it useless to grow crops and to make a living.

Landowners and banks evicted tenant farmers. Some homes are torn down by tractors, leaving residents with nowhere to go.

They’re told that there are jobs in California. Before they can get to the Promised Land, they are taken advantage of by crooked car salesmen and dishonest pawnbrokers when they try to sell their belongings to pay for transportation and for their trip.

Migrant worker's family, Nipomo, California

Defeated, they pack what possessions they can and drive down Route 66 in rickety cars and trucks to California where they – and thousands of others – head to migrant camps in search of work.

Life on the road is hard and fraught with danger. The Joads and others are treated with hostility because so many Okies are flooding into California and there’s not enough work for them. Some are starving.

Ma Joad, the family’s strength, believes that helping others will be rewarded. While there is greed, she has also witnessed kindness from strangers. She repays that by feeding some of the starving migrant children at the camp.

Early on, Tom Joad and Jim Casy, a family friend and ex-preacher, begin to wonder why the tenant farmers aren’t organizing a union to fight the injustices of poverty wages and harsh treatment at migrant camps.

They’re told that if they do organize a protest that they will be black-listed from the camps. That means they’ll never find work.

When the Joads settle in at the Weedpatch camp, a government-sponsored place, it appears their luck has changed for the better. But trouble still follows them.

A Farmers’ Association plans to sabotage the camp. They fear that the Okies are a threat to their way of life.

Work is again hard to find. The migrant workers are paid far less than promised and it’s not enough to feed their families. Casy urges them to strike.

Their protest is met with violence and motivates Tom to work for the community’s good. He’s on the run.

Ma Joad fears she won’t see him again. Before they part, Tom comforts her and vows to continue to fight injustice wherever he finds it.

Grapes of Wrath - Henry Fonda - DVD cover

“I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry ‘n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there.”

My colleagues at the Observer Dispatch in Utica, New York, paraphrased that quote to reflect on my career at the paper.

It’s a comparison I’ll cherish always.

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.

Movie clip – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Famous “I’ll Be There” speech in the movie by Tom Joad (Henry Fonda)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw  

Video – John Steinbeck and Grapes of Wrath – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqaTv8cCWeg  

Photo – Migrant Mother (1936) – Florence Owens Thompson – (Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.) Photo by Dorothea Lange, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg/461px-Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg

Photo – Migrant worker’s family – Photography of Florence Owens Thompson, known as “Migrant Mother”, Pea-Pickers Camp, Nipomo, California.  Photo taken 1936 by Dorothea Lange http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg/754px-Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg

Photo – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Henry Fonda as Tom Joad – DVD cover

 

 

Spring Break – Key West

Key West - SunsetBy Judy Berman

Salty ocean spray flew up as our glass-bottom boat sped toward its destination – a coral reef in Key Largo.

Just the island’s name conjures celluloid images of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and tough guy Edward G. Robinson in the 1948 movie, “Key Largo.” They run thru my mind like reels at an old movie theater as we pull away from Key Largo’s shores.

The opening scenes of the movie were shot here.

A relic from another Bogart film, “The African Queen,” also can be found here. That boat was used in the 1951 film that stars Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. That boat was restored in 2012 to serve as a tourist boat, several years after our visit.

After we had a hearty breakfast nearby, we boarded the boat for a tour of a coral reef. Not recommended. The hearty breakfast and boat ride combo, that is. Top side, I felt much better.

After lunch, we headed to Key West. This is a nine-hour drive from our home, but getting here – well worth the view.

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

The Seven-Mile Bridge, one of the longest in the world, offers breathtaking views along stretches of turquoise water. Clear, striking shades of blue from the ocean on our left, and the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on our right.

Our hotel, the Almond Tree Inn, was conveniently located near the corner of the renowned and infamous Duval Street in Old Town Key West. We headed down to Mallory Square to see the sunsets.

On our way, a drunk staggered out of a bar exposing his shortcomings for all to see. Yes, this was our first exposure to the “wild life” there – and it was still early in the day.

Key West - Golden Man

A huge crowd gathered at the edge of the southernmost city in the continental U.S. to see the sun set. Street performers – jugglers who tossed flaming torches in the air, acrobats dancing along a high wire, and a dog jumping thru a hoop – were on hand before and after that magic moment.

The Key’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, lived here with his wife Pauline from 1931 until the end of their marriage in 1940. He wrote several of his most celebrated books at his pool house office out back of his historic home at 907 Whitehead St.

Our guide, Joe, told us that, when Pauline remodeled the home, she replaced the ceiling fans with ornate chandeliers.

“During the summer, we think about her EVERY DAY,” he drawled for emphasis. Floor fans cooled the room this March day of our visit several years ago.

Outside, Joe showed us a pool that Pauline had installed for $20,000 during the Great Depression. When Hemingway returned from an overseas venture, he took a penny from his pocket and told Pauline she might as well take his “last red cent.”

Pauline did. She had it set in the cement next to the pool.

Ernest Hemingway House - cat on bed

There were 49 cats living on the property. Many have six toes and are descendants of “Papa” Hemingway’s six-toed cats.

One of “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Blue Heaven at 729   Thomas Street. While we ate lunch there, roosters, chickens, chicks and cats wandered around the open-air restaurant.

Key West - free roaming chicken family

There’s a photo of him there when it had a boxing ring. At various times, the place was “a bordello, a pool hall, a railroad water tower, a cockfighting arena, a boxing ring and ice-cream parlor.” And, now, a popular restaurant.

If you wander over to the Southernmost Point (of the continental U.S., at the corner of Whitehead and South streets), Cuba is about 90 miles away.

On a clear day, you might see it from your back porch. (chuckle)

A man, wearing an orange-and-white “Mile Marker O” offered to take our photo. Recalling the scene from the comedy, “European Vacation,” where the photo taker took off with the tourists’ camera, we waited to see how he handled the family ahead of us.

Like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we often have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

And, many, thankfully, are very accommodating.

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.

Music video – Key West  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du4gR-_kLEs – 2012 Trop Rock Music Asociation Songwriter of the Year Nominee, Steve Tolliver, sings Key West Is The Best from his CD “Back To The Islands”.

Main Photo – Key West – sunset – taken May 30, 2011, by Serge Melki, Indianapolis. Link to http://www.byways.org/ Copyright http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg

Photo – Seven Mile Bridge – to Key West – Seeming to converge in the distance, the Seven-mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Scenic Highway west of Marathon, FL, runs parallel to the historic Flagler railroad bridge of the early 1900s with the Atlantic Ocean to the South and the Gulf of Mexico to the North. Taken March 20, 2003 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2d/Looooooong_bridge.jpg/640px-Looooooong_bridge.jpg

Key West – Golden Man – taken Feb. 1, 2008 by CederBendDrive, USA  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg

Photo – Ernest Hemingway House – cat on bed – taken March 16, 2013 by Abujoy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG/640px-ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG

Photo – Key West – free roaming chicken family – Taken Feb. 12, 2007 by Averette at en.wikipedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Chickenfamily.jpg/640px-Chickenfamily.jpg

Music video – “Blue Heaven Rendezvous” (1995) by Jimmy Buffet. The Blue Heaven restaurant inspired this song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLvg2lykLI

The Ultimate Irish Wake

Weekend at Bernies - main charactersBy Judy Berman

Going out on your own terms is exactly what Walter George Bruhl Jr. did. He wrote his own obituary, and it’s hilarious.

“There will be no viewing, as his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, so he would appear natural to visitors,” according to CapeGazette.com.

This reminded me of Bernie Lomax in the movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” (1989).

An Irish wake is an occasion for both sadness and merriment. In this movie, death is a dark comedy.

Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) had it all: a cushy executive job at a New York-based insurance company, a flashy sports car, hot babes and a beach house with endless parties.

He was the ultimate host. Just one problem. He’s dead.

Despite that, he is still the life of the party.

No one seems to notice that the party-guy is a real stiff.

That wasn’t the ending Bernie had in mind when two of his employees – Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) – discovered someone ripped off the firm for $2 million.

Hoping this would lead to a promotion, they couldn’t wait to tell Bernie. He lured them to his beach house for the weekend with the promise of a fun getaway.

Weekend at Bernie's - screenshot - Bernie Lomax arranging hitInstead, Bernie turns to his Mafia partner, Vito, and asks him to knock off Richard and Larry because they discovered his scam. The mobster, however, decides Bernie’s the one who’s got to go because he’s been getting greedy.

Having an affair with Vito’s girlfriend was the final nail in the coffin.  The mobster orders a hitman, Paulie (Don Calfa), to rub out Bernie.

Before Richard and Larry arrive at the beach house, Paulie kills Bernie. When they find his body, their weekend plans appear to be dead in the water.

Then, the partiers arrive. Richard and Larry prop Bernie up. With his sunglasses on and perpetual goofy grin from the fatal drug overdose, no one notices that he’s shed his mortal coil, and the party goes on.

Richard insists on calling the cops until he sees his office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), walk in.

The next morning, Richard and Larry discover a taped phone message that Bernie had accidentally recorded. On it, Bernie tells the hit man to kill his two employees and make it look like a murder-suicide.

That’s when they realize that their best bet for staying alive is to make it look like Bernie is still around.

Larry has rigged it so that Bernie appears to be waving as friends pass by. They also tie his shoes to theirs so it appears he’s walking with them. And Bernie keeps popping up in all the wrong places.

The sightings of Bernie convince Vito that Paulie has botched the job. So Paulie’s ordered to return and take care of Bernie permanently.

That’s a tall order for a guy who just won’t stay dead, and it’s driving Paulie crazy.

So, Bernie is having the time of his life death. But, I would rather have the last word like Walter George Bruhl Jr., who died March 9 in Punta Gorda, Florida, and wrote his parting shots in his obit.

For years, I’ve told my husband, Dave, that I want an Irish wake with me standing in the corner with a glass of wine. Also, a ticker-tape parade.

He assures me that he’s working on this as we speak. I’ve asked my friends to nag remind him of my final wishes.

That would be the ultimate send-off.

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.

Movie trailer: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCTgcZ6ImsQ 

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – http://www.stumpedmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Weekend-at-Bernies.jpeg

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – screenshot – Terry Kiser as Bernie Lomax – arranging hit

Walter George Bruhl Jr.’s obituary. http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/walter-george-bruhl-jr-dupont-co-retiree/1139838

Spring at Last

Great Blue Heron - adult and offspring

Great Blue Heron – adult and offspring

By Judy Berman

Rains persistent patter
Dancing on the porch.
Heavy gray rain clouds
Cast a dark shadow.

After the deluge,
Birds chirping
In the cool, night air.

The harsh caw of one
Competing with the
sweet sound of another.
Spring – at last!

Buds are bursting thru
Birds are nesting
New life, renewal.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator

Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator

Sandhill Crane nesting

Sandhill Crane nesting

alligator asking in the sun

alligator basking in the sun

Florida is the temporary home of birds that “winter” here. It’s also the year-round home for others.

Last weekend, my husband, Dave and I visited Viera Wetlands in Brevard County on Florida’s East Coast with Lee of Southern Photo in Melbourne along with another photographer, Jim.

We snapped away with our cameras as these birds swam in the ponds, a lake, and built their nest in a swampy area.

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.

Video – Florida Nature Compilation – Simoes Productions. Footage of nature in Brevard County, Florida. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heB4H-_jweU  

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Great Blue Heron – adult and offspring. They are year-round Florida residents. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Hooded Merganser ducks swam in a pond near us. They winter in Florida. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – White Pelicans. They winter along the coasts. Taken by Judy Berman. 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator – “Come on in. The water’s fine!” the alligator smiled invitingly. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Florida Today – A few miles from our home, Dave took this photo of a Sandhill Crane nesting. Feb. 2014.   * For more on this, read “Love and loss in the parking lot” by Suzy Fleming Leonard. Photos by Craig Bailey. Slide show by Rob Landers. http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20140301/COLUMNISTS0604/303020015/Suzy-Fleming-Love-loss-an-office-parking-lot. 

Photo: Viera Wetlands – alligator basking in the sun. Taken by Dave Berman, 3-1-14.

Radio Daze

WOLF - Judy Manzer Berman and Richie Havens

By Judy Berman

Irreverent, hysterical, saying out loud what most of us only think.

I’d tune in late at night as a teen, and listen to these bad boys of radio, wondering what it would be like to work with them.

Years later, I found out. These disc jockeys were just as crazy in person as they were on air.

Radio news director Ron Bee was one-half of the morning team, Rick and Ron, at WOLF-AM radio – a popular Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll station in Syracuse, New York.

I was still in community college when he hired me to do an early-morning on-air Sunday news shift.

This was a time when most good little rock ‘n’ rollers were safely asleep in bed.

Unfortunately, the general manager was not.

I had never broadcast live before. At best, my delivery was shaky. My career was almost over before it began.

WOLF - Rick and Ron

Ron lobbied for me to stay on to do one of the taped public-affairs programs. His confidence in me spurred me on. I couldn’t match his booming, on-air delivery. But I learned a lot from his writing, his humor and his patience.

One lesson was to really “listen” during an interview. The subjects ranged from Bill Kaysing, considered to be the father of the moon hoax, who wrote the book, “We Never Went to the Moon,” to more controversial subjects like nuclear power.

After co-worker Sandi Tams Mulconry and I taped our separate interviews – the pro and con on the subject – in the studio, I sat there pleased with myself. I had done my homework.

But, to my chagrin, when I listened back, I found the interviewees had neatly tap-danced around the situation. They never answered the question.

Lesson learned.

Also, I should take my own advice. One night, as snow pummeled the area, I was advising listeners to get off the road and stay home. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Minutes later, I headed for my car.

I got stuck in a snow bank before I even left the station’s driveway. Passing motorists stopped to push me out. Closer to home, I got stuck again. Again, someone stopped to help.

That commute – typically 10 minutes – turned into a two-hour ordeal before I got home. But I made it in time to make our daughter tacos for her 6th birthday and to celebrate her big day.

The hours were long. But, hey, I got to interview folk singer Richie Havens, golfer Arnie Palmer, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and met some of the pop singers of the day. Heady stuff.

Another bonus? Being accepted by the merry pranksters at the station.

WOLF - Charlie Brown, A & M rep Mike Van Orsdale, Captain & Tennille

Sure, I was a target for their pranks. But it was all in fun. I’d look out from the news department and see that DJ Charlie Brown was talking to me from his on-air booth. I’d frantically turn the dials, trying to open up the sound to hear him.

Nothing. Dead air.

When he started laughing, I realized he had been lip-synching. I’d been had. OK, game on, my friend.

Listeners at home had no idea what was going on. When I broke out laughing during a newscast, you can bet there was mischief afoot.

But their gags were mild compared with some stunts that I’ve heard were pulled elsewhere.

It was high school all over again, and it was a lot of fun.

There are many I worked with at WOLF that I’d like to thank for their support and guidance. I couldn’t have made it thru that first year without: Ron Bee, Rick Gary, the late Jim Sims, Peter King, Carol St. John, Sandi Tams Mulconry, John Gabriel and Rick Charles. I apologize if I’ve left anyone out.

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.

Video movie clip – Wolfman Jack and Richard Dreyfuss – American Graffiti   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99z-H_NEccU  

Video clip – WKRP in Cincinnati – TV show – Turkey Drop in 30 Seconds http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST01bZJPuE0  

Main photo – Judy Manzer Berman and Richie Havens – my own photo on the WOLF 1490 Tribute Site

WOLF – 1490 – Tribute Site – Pages 24 and 25 contributed by me (Judy Manzer Berman)  http://www.wolf1490.net/id46.html and http://www.wolf1490.net/id47.html

Photo – WOLF –  Rick and Ron – 1490 – Tribute Site – Rick Gary and Ron Bee – Page 18 -   http://www.wolf1490.net/id30.html

Photo – WOLF – Charlie Brown, A & M rep Mike Van Orsdale, Captain & Tennille – Page 25 – Wolf – 1490 – Tribute Site (my photo)

Strange What We Take Pride In

Snow - Syracuse, New York - Jan. 2014By Judy Berman

Snow is often the backdrop for terror or for light-hearted comedy in the movies. But, in real life, it can be a constant grueling battle with the elements.

Digging out and piling it on. Among five Central New York cities, my former home of Syracuse is now the setting for the dubious honor of winning the Golden Snowball Award.

My former neighbors are having a tough winter. Their claim to fame, as of Feb. 18th, is 100 inches of snow.

Snow - Mark Bialczak

I recall a record year when we had nearly twice that at 192.1 inches in 1992-93. That’s when I had a round-trip commute to work of 110 miles a day. It’s the year when Syracuse was the “Snow King in the Blizzard of 1993.” It beat out 1966’s record snowfall for one storm with 42.9 inches – just six-tenths of an inch more than 1966.

All the city did for that distinction was just sit quietly and get dumped on over one weekend in March. When all was unsaid and done, we were buried under 3-feet of snow – on top of what we already had.

The Syracuse Post-Standard boasted in its 1993 editorial page: “You have to pity the denizens of boring Southern California, or arid Arizona, or dusty Nevada, where the forecast is always the same: sunny, dry and mild. They’ll never experience the thrill of being caught in the grip of a rock-‘em, sock-‘em, knock and block’em snow storm like we had – unless they come here, to Central New York.”

I mean – you can’t buy an attitude like that.

Here are the bragging rights that no one talks about:

1)      the longest number of uninterrupted days of no sunshine

2)      the bitterest battle for the last bottle of antifreeze

3)      the tallest snow mound – piled high in our driveway.

This does get deeper. Hang on.

4)      The world’s longest and loudest recorded wail held by my husband, Dave, when he realized that he’d have to remove the white stuff.

5)      Dave also tied the record for holding his breath and turning blue during the same dramatic meltdown scene.

Fortunately, Dave got a last-minute reprieve when a couple of independent snowplow boys cruised into our neighborhood. They plowed us out after they coaxed $20 out of Dave’s wallet.

Then, six of our neighbors ran up crying and waving money at them. Before the snowplow boys left our block, they were very rich and planning to flee to Florida.

Snowman - Diane H. McDowell Gray and Donna Cox Austin

Other areas measure their success by their year-round attractions. We measured ours with something that doesn’t stick around – thank heavens!

Here’s wishing my former neighbors have an early spring and that Mother Nature takes it easy on them for the rest of this winter.

Snow - cardinals in tree - provided by Roland Allen

So, what are we in Florida bragging about? The Sunshine State leads the world in shark attacks in 2013. Fortunately, no one was fatally injured.

Florida’s lightning strikes, however, are a greater hazard. It is the lightning capital of the U.S.  Four people died in Florida in 2013 as a result of lightning strikes.

What are the strange bragging rights where you live?

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.

A movie to avoid if you’re snowed in – “The Shining” (1980) with Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the movie is based on Stephen King’s horror novel.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cb3ik6zP2I 

A movie to cheer you no matter how much snow piles up – “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) with Steve Martin and John Candy. Directed by John Hughes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKtFIgmoqoI  

Best Snow Movies List – http://www.buzzsugar.com/Best-Snow-Movies-13219938

Main Photo – Snow – Syracuse – provided by Danielle and Keith Wallace

Photo – Snow piled in a Syracuse driveway – Mark Bialczak – http://markbialczak.com/2014/02/09/more-signs-of-syracuses-significant-snow/

Photo – Snowman hitchhiking to Florida  – a reader (see comments below) says that a family friend, John Santiago, made the snowman in Andover, N.H. on Beach Hill Road. (It was provided by Diane H. McDowell Gray.)

Photo: Snow – cardinals in tree – provided by Roland Allen

“Blizzard of ’93: Why Was it the Storm of the Century? Accuweather  http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/blizzard-of-93-the-storm-of-th/62671

Hunger in the Land of Plenty

Child - El gato

By Judy Berman

The boy fought back tears when we talked. He worried about where his next meal would be coming from during the long holiday weekend.

He’d had no steady address for several weeks after his parents split up.

Our school offers free breakfasts. He, like many other children, was no doubt enrolled in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

But the uncertainty that weighs on children like him is the nagging thought about the weekends and the long holidays. Where will the food come from?

Hunger in the Land of Plenty? Unthinkable.

Last weekend, that young man was on my mind when I agreed to join my husband, Dave, and his co-worker, Stacey Barchenger, in the “World’s Largest Food Packing Event” in Melbourne, Florida.

Children's Hunger Project - Copy

There were nearly 3,000 volunteers who helped pack meals for elementary school children to take home over the weekend. It’s part of The Children’s Hunger Project.

It was an opportunity to provide the start of a brand-new day for some child.

Bob Barnes, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit organization, said the program serves more than a 1,000 children a week in 27 schools in Brevard County.

A few years ago, he said he was stunned to learn from a news report that claimed “17 percent of children nationwide are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.”

Barnes told volunteers there that he’s not going to argue about why this is happening. He just wants to do what he can to end child hunger.

I’ve heard the criticisms: parents or guardians are to blame for not managing money better, or for not having the right priorities for their spending. Or some blame charities for spending money on advertising or huge salaries for their top officials, instead of focusing donations on those it’s intended for.

But it’s the children who are the victims in this.

“The Children’s Hunger Project is driven by the belief that knowledge is power, and only by being attentive and driven in the classroom can children absorb knowledge properly.

“A hungry child is less likely to do either one,” according to its website, http://www.thechildrenshungerproject.org/about-us.html

Check your area to see what is being done to ease child hunger and malnutrition.

Children's Hunger Project - Stacey Barchenger, Dave Berman and me - 2-8-14

We found that the time we spent helping pack boxes of food was well-spent. I just wish that there wasn’t a need for an organization like this.

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.

Music Video – “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhUfVcLLvjo 

Photo – Child – El gato – Taken June 8, 2012 by Juanedc, Zaragoza, España    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9a/El_gato_%288293825146%29.jpg/640px-El_gato_%288293825146%29.jpg

Photos from the Children’s Hunger Project in Melbourne, Florida on 2-8-14:

  • volunteers packing food trays for needy children – taken by Stacey Barchenger
  • volunteers: Stacey Barchenger, Dave Berman and Judy Berman