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.

Still Crazy After All These Years

 

Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Aug. 18, 1984By Judy Berman

That short walk down the aisle is just the beginning for those who exchange wedding vows.

Our journey began 30 years ago this month and, like everyone else on this path, we navigated some very uncertain terrain.

Many times, we’d look back on the road not taken and wonder “what if?” Such as the decision to wait to trade in our car until it hobbled into the dealership on life support.

“This is my fault?” Dave asks, smiling, as we are out on a morning stroll.

“Someone’s got to take the fall for this, and it’s going to be you,” I inform him.

“OK. I’ll take the fall for it,” he says, laughing.

I have to thank the late Jerry Rosen, his former boss and co-worker, who gave Dave the best advice ever on marriage.

“There are two rules,” Jerry told him shortly after we married.

“Rule number one: The wife is always right. Rule number two: See rule number one.”

It was a win-win situation for me. I mean, for us.

Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Dave looking stunned - Aug. 18, 1984

Here are some other pearls of wisdom on marriage:

  1. Erma Bombeck: “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”
  2. Bill Cosby: “For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.”
  3. Barbra Streisand: “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”
  4. Nora Ephron: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (Harry, played by Billy Crystal, in the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.”)

Dave, thanks for your support, your love and for the laughter. Happy 30th Anniversary. For last year’s post about humorous tips on what makes a happy marriage, see story here.

 What’s your favorite memory? Wedding day? First day on your own? Parenthood?

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: “When Harry Met Sally” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMo36SfyQhw 

Music Video: Silly Love Songs – Paul McCartney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh15LOppcWQ 

1. Main Photo – Ah! The traditional exchange of the wedding cake – Dave and Judy – our daughters, Jenn and Danielle – August 18, 1984

2. Photo – Dave, with the typical newly-wed man look, ‘What have I done?’ August 18, 1984

Your Wish Has Been Granted

Zoltar - Watkins Glen, NY - July 2014

By Judy Berman

I wander thru the crowd, pleased to see a familiar face.

If anyone can grant me a wish, it will be this dark, mysterious stranger. His piercing, blue eyes meet mine, probing to determine what brings me to him.

Suddenly nervous, I hesitate before I ask. Then, stammer: “I want to be a kid again.”

Zoltar stares. His mouth agape. He shuffles a few cards, utters some mumbo-jumbo, and then he sits silently as the arcade machine spits out my fortune.

Big - Josh - young - and Zoltar

In the movie, “Big,” (1988), Josh Baskin (young Josh played by David Moscow) is humiliated when he’s not allowed on a carnival ride because he’s too short. When he spots Zoltar, an antique arcade fortune teller machine, he tells Zoltar that he wants to be big.

A fortune slides out. On it: “Your wish has been granted.” His transformation takes place overnight, and he must adapt to the changes. Josh is physically bigger. Now played by Tom Hanks, he has a 30-year-old body, but he’s still a kid inside – nearly 13.

Josh enjoys the perks of the adult world – being paid for what he loves to do, having an apartment and a beautiful girlfriend. But he soon discovers that he misses his family. He tries to find a way to return to them.

Big - Josh - adult - Zoltar3

Like, Josh, I look to see if the robotic fortune teller will grant my wish.

Strange. Isn’t it? We always think life will be better if we could trade places. If we could be older, younger, richer, smarter, more athletic or more popular.

When we’re young, we don’t know the adult worries of holding down a job, scrambling to pay bills or staying up nights worrying about a sick child. We don’t see the challenges. We only see what we perceive as greater freedom and to be on our own.

As adults, it’s also easy to forget youths’ troubles. Worrying about avoiding that bully who views you as a human punching bag. Fretting about failing a course … and, maybe, a grade. Trying not to be noticed when you’re with all of the other wallflowers at the school dance. Knowing you’re always on the outside looking in.

In my case, I forgot that, when I was little, everyone looked down on me. They didn’t have any other option. I was one of the smallest kids in high school – 7th thru 12th grades.

At 4 feet 6 inches in 7th grade, kids joked that my nickname should be “Squeaky” because I was too small to be called “Pip Squeak.” That’s when you learn to develop a sense of humor about your, er, shortcomings … or die a thousand middle-school deaths.

I think it will be a blast – even if it’s just for a short while – to return to those carefree days.

I miss climbing trees, exploring the woods and creeks with my Cocker Spaniel and hanging out with my friends. I long to re-experience the excitement a child feels at special times like his/her birthday or Christmas.

Zoltar - fortune2 - June 2014

I clutch my fortune in my hand as I walk away. I turn and look wistfully at Zoltar before the crowd envelopes him. Then, he disappears from view.

On the way back to my hotel room, I bypass all the shops. What’s the point? Who knows what size clothing I’ll need in the morning after my transformation?

This will be great, no matter how it turns out. As Frank Sinatra once sang: “Here is the best part. You have a head start if you are among the very young at heart.”

 

What would you wish for?

 

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 video: “Big” with Tom Hanks as Josh and Elizabeth Perkins as Susan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCmyX6CYhI0 

Movie video: Zoltar in “Big” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIeMRRGxmwQ 

1. Main Photo – Zoltar Speaks arcade machine – Watkins Glen, New York – taken by Dave Berman, July 25, 2014

2. Photo: “Big” – screenshot – young Josh Baskin (David Moscow) asking Zoltar to grant his wish.

3. Photo: “Big” – screenshot – Tom Hanks as ‘bigger’ Josh Baskin, asking Zoltar to grant his wish.

4. Photo: my fortune – June 2014 – from the Zoltar Speaks arcade machine at Circus Circus casino/hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

 

A Trip to Yesterday

Liverpool - Onondaga Lake Park -  July 2014  (3)

By Judy Berman

Nothing has changed and everything has changed.

During a trip to Central New York in mid-July, my husband, Dave, and I visit our old stomping grounds, and we return to a spot that was the scene of one sweet gesture many years ago.

We stand at the edge of a driveway staring at the home we had lived in until 1999. It is for sale.

What would it be like to live here again, to be among old friends with a shared history and memories?

Like an old family movie, scenes of our girls growing up here flash before me.

Then, as quickly as that thought crosses my mind, I dismiss it.

Nah! We’d have to re-do the landscaping, and get rid of the in-ground pool the new owners put in – which is only useful about two months a year in Central New York. Then, who knows what the owners changed inside the home we had built for us?

Plus, there’s the matter of our girls, our sons-in-law, our grandchildren, grandpuppy, kitties, grandkitties and our jobs. We couldn’t leave them in Florida to move back here.

You can’t really go back. You can’t occupy two worlds – unless you’re Bill Gates or a Rockefeller.

Beaver Lake Nature Center - Baldwinsville - July 2014  (36)

So we make the most of our visit. We meet friends at lunch and dinner to catch up on old times. Stunned to realize how much their kids have grown, just as ours have, and the changes in their lives – new jobs, etc.

Of course, we have to exercise to walk off all the meals. So we take a few strolls thru Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool. Since we left, 5 more miles of hiking trails have been added. We sit on the deck by the lake, and it still has that same calming affect on us.

We also return to Beaver Lake Nature Center and hike the 3-mile lake loop. Exhausting in the heat of the day, but also relaxing.

Then, we pour our tired bones into deck chairs at the center’s observatory. We chuckle as a little chipmunk outfoxes the bigger squirrels for the seeds that the birds kick out from the bird feeders.

Watkins Glen State Park - July 2014  (43)

A bigger hike looms ahead. We drive to Watkins Glen State Park, walk 1 ½ miles and climb 832 steps to view some of nature’s most gorgeous work – waterfalls and gorges carved out by ancient glaciers. Breathtaking.

Watkins Glen - Glenora Winery - July 2014

Seneca Lake is wine country. We stop at Glenora Wine Cellars to buy a bottle of wine for friends of ours when we return to Syracuse. As we look out over the fields, I am struck by how much it looks like a Monet painting. The wine cask resembles rolls of hay amid the greenest greens you can imagine.

That trip offers another treat as well – an overnight at the Showboat Motel along Seneca Lake. In August of 1993, it’s where one of the owners, Larry Jenkins, discovered we were celebrating our anniversary. See story here.

Watkins Glen - Showboat Motel - Judy Berman and Larry Jenkins - July 2014

That night, 21 years ago, Larry brought out two slices of Boston Cream Pie – with a lit candle on each one – and invited those at the restaurant to join in singing “Happy Anniversary” to Dave and me. I don’t think I ever told him then how special that one, small, sweet gesture made us feel.

But I did this trip. I re-introduce myself to him. Larry looks pleased when I tell him that his thoughtfulness capped the end of a perfect day and is a memory I still treasure.

Then we leave for Syracuse. On our last night there, we go to a cookout at the home of longtime friends of ours: Rick and Holly Moriarty. Dave and I have known them long before they married. They were witnesses when we renewed our wedding vows. Now,  their daughter is in college and their son is heading in that direction in a year or two.

Syracuse - Rick and Holly Moriarty - July 2014

It is a night I wish never had to end. This visit makes me nostalgic for Syracuse, for friends with a shared history and memories.

To paraphrase a woman interviewed by Humans of New York: As you get older, there are fewer of those people around who remember you in the various stages of your life.

“And they remind you who you are.”

Watkins Glen - Showboat Motel - Judy Berman reading

Is there a special time and/or place you yearn to return to – even if just for a visit?

 

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.

Thanks to all our friends in Central New York. We had a great time and we miss you already. We’re sorry that we couldn’t get to see everyone we wanted to.

1. Main Photo – Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool, taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://onondagacountyparks.com/onondaga-lake-park/

2. Photo – Beaver Lake Nature Center, Baldwinsville – Dave Berman, Baldwinsville, taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://onondagacountyparks.com/beaver-lake-nature-center/

3. Photo – Watkins Glen State Park – taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/watkins-glen-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=254

4. Photo – Watkins Glen – Glenora Wine Cellars, Dundee – taken by Dave Berman, July 2014. http://www.glenora.com/

5. Photo – Showboat Motel and Restaurant, Himrod, NY – Larry Jenkins, co-owner, and Judy Berman, taken by Dave Berman, July 2014. http://www.showboat-motel.com/

6. Photo – Rick and Holly Moriarty, Liverpool, NY, taken by Dave Berman, July 2014

7. Photo – Showboat Motel overlooking Seneca Lake – Judy Berman relaxing and reading. Taken by Dave Berman, July 2014.

A Gathering of Friends

Syracuse - Mark Murphy, Dave, Judy, Mark and Karen Bialczak - July 2014

By Judy Berman

Our strategy was all mapped out. By comparison, the invasion of Normandy might have seemed less complicated.

Private messages and e-mails outlined our plans before my husband, Dave, and I flew into Syracuse, New York, in mid-July.

Some may scramble for tickets to concerts, plays and other entertainment. Our quest was laser-focused. We aimed to see as many of our old friends as we could at lunch and dinner before returning to Florida.

Up until Wednesday, everything was going according to plan. That night, we hit our first snag when we were getting ready for dinner with my blogging buddies: Mark Murphy, Mark Bialczak and his wife, Karen.

Syracuse - Mark Murphy, Judy and Dave - July 2014

Mark Murphy and I became friends after I met him where he worked with my husband, Dave, at the Syracuse Post-Standard. We have kept in touch thru phone calls, e-mail and Facebook ever since we left Syracuse in 1999 to work at Florida Today, a Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne.

Our strongest link, besides a warped sense of humor, is a love of writing.

Coincidentally, that is also the link I have forged with WordPress blogger, Mark Bialczak. He also used to work with Dave at The Post-Standard. Karen worked at the front desk at the same paper. I worked in radio and at a competing paper, The Observer-Dispatch, in Utica.

When we lived in Syracuse, we all often hung out after work at softball games. Sometimes, after a late night at work, we’d also close a local watering hole – Dinosaur Bar-B-Q or Riley’s – and then go to breakfast.

Mark Murphy now works at Pinckney-Hugo on West Genesee Street. He showed us around the advertising agency. It was only then that I suggested we call my favorite Italian restaurant in Syracuse – Angotti’s Family Restaurant – for reservations.

It was not to be. No one answered the phone. Mark Murphy checked on the web and found it was closed that night as they were on vacation. Arggh!

This is where we had arranged to meet Mark and Karen Bialczak. I called them at home. No answer. I called his cell phone. No answer. I left a message both places.

Now, I’m not a fussy eater. But my requirement for sustenance this particular night had to be Italian. That is my main comfort food.

My phone rang. Mark Bialczak had the perfect place: Rico’s Ristorante. We’d never been there, but it was a delightful choice. Outside the restaurant, I spotted a familiar smile. It was Mark Bialczak. Dave recognized Karen from their days at the daily newspaper.

Syracuse - Judy, Mark and Karen Bialczak - July 2014

The years just melted away as we talked about old times. Then we chatted about our experiences in blogging, which stories drew the most readers, and most mysteriously, why has the Freshly Pressed Award not smiled upon us.

We just shrugged. Our attention shifted back to the food and the great time we were having.

Before we parted, Mark Murphy gave me a book he knew I’d love: “Trust Me On This” by Donald E. Westlake. It’s about a reporter who left a respectable newspaper to work at a sleazy tabloid. It’s a wonderful blend “of mystery and hilarity,” so said a Boston Globe blurb on the book.

I devoured it on our return trip to Florida and laughed at the outlandish tactics those reporters used to get the story. The author kept me guessing – until near the end – on who had it in for Sara Joslyn, the main character.

As I sat the book down, I smiled. It’s wonderful to be with people who “get you.”

They are all greatly missed as is Syracuse, the place I still think of as home.

** On Saturday, August 2nd, I’ll have more on our travels in “A Trip to Yesterday.”

Have you met any of your blogger friends and had dinner together? Were you friends in real life first with any of your blogger friends? What would be your go-to dining choice when you get together?

For Mark Bialczak’s point of view on this story, here’s a link to his blog: http://markbialczak.com/2014/07/25/old-big-daily-friends-new-blogs-to-talk-about/

For a gander at Mark Murphy’s blog, Murphy’s Craw, here’s the link: http://murphyscraw.blogspot.com/

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.

1. Main Photo: Mark Murphy, Dave and Judy Berman, Mark and Karen Bialczak at Rico’s Ristorante.

2. Photo: Mark Murphy, Judy and Dave Berman outside Rico’s Ristorante.

3. Photo: Judy Berman, Mark and Karen Bialczak outside Rico’s Ristorante.

 

Surfing Canine and Cats? Not at Our House

Dog surfing

By Judy Berman

When I heard that I’ll be dog-sitting our grandpuppy, I begin to envision a video of our two cats and the dog surfing – just like the one I saw on YouTube.

My biggest hurdle will be persuading our cats, Jean-Louis and Reggie, to take part.

After one week, with all three under the same roof, I suspect those dogs and the cat in the video are paid actors.

I just don’t see ours getting on board – so to speak.

The first signs of discontent are when our cats check out the new guy’s shiny silver water dish. Suddenly, their ceramic water bowl has lost its luster.

So, I cave in. I buy a shiny, silver water dish for our cats. I hope that will keep peace in the house and allow Riley, our grandpuppy, unfettered access to his own water dish.

No dice. Our cats sniff disdainfully as they take one look at their new dish. They march purposefully toward Riley’s dish, and lap up the contents.

The grumbling continues with their next painful discovery.

Riley - walking in the park - 7-12-14

“What! Why does Riley get to go outdoors?” they meow pitifully.

They watch mournfully thru the window as Riley and I go on our walkies.

Ever the peacemaker, I buy the cats a harness – with a hoodie even – similar to Riley’s. The saleslady at PetCo, my furry companions and I are now on a first-name basis.

Reggie tolerates the harness. She tentatively slinks around the kitchen for 10 to 15 seconds as if she was a ninja trying to avoid detection.

But, at one point, Reggie just plops down and refuses to budge.

Jean-Louis, on the other hand, wants no part of THAT. After I put the harness on him, he performs acrobat-worthy flips.

Togetherness? Only if you count Reggie and Riley snoozing in the computer room where I write and maintaining a No Animals Land about 10 feet apart.

When I take a nap, Reggie is right there next to me. Jean-Louis is also on the bed, but he’s at the farthest point away from Riley as he can get.

There is some hope. Once Reggie gave notice who was boss in the house – she’s about twice Riley’s size – they touch noses a few times.

Riley, Reggie and Jean-Louis - 7-13-14 - Copy

But family photo ops are out of the question. It takes all of my diplomacy skills and master wresting moves to get Jean-Louis to sit still long enough for a photo of the three of them.

I’m not giving up … there’s still time to make that surfing video.

Now, just where did they all go to?

 

Do your furry – or nonfurry – animal companions play nice with their guests?

 

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 – Happy Dogs and a Cat in Australia   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DePFiF-nNoE 

Story behind the cat and dogs in the video – http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/05/04/cat-trainer-gets-dogs-cats-to-rock-to-pharrell-williams-happy-video-viral-lucas-valley-mel-gibson-hollywood-james-cameron-dick-clark/

1. Main Photo: Dog surfing – taken Nov. 19, 2011 by Frank Kovalchek, Anchorage, Alaska, USA   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c3/Hanging_18.jpg/640px-Hanging_18.jpg

2. Photo – Riley walking in the park – taken by Dave Berman, April 12, 2014

3. Photo – Riley, Reggie and Jean-Louis (and me) – taken by Dave Berman, April 13, 2014

Sit Back, Relax and Unwind

Loon Lake, Washington - sunset

By Judy Berman

It was a day like any other on my long commute to work. Suddenly, I realized I must have passed my exit because the scenery was unfamiliar.

“Funny, I don’t remember seeing ice flows and polar caps in Florida before.”

That’s when I knew I had to dial it back, slow down and just breathe.

Our brains can go on automatic pilot. As we mentally sort thru the day’s to-do list, and yesterday’s drama, the gray matter steps in and announces: “Here. I’ve got this.”

Then, the brain efficiently handles the mundane while you continue to juggle the heavy-lifting issues.

There might be times when you question if it’s gone on vacation. Like the time I felt particularly stressed at work, and my brain went into the vegematic mode.

I was headed to the Utica Police Department to pick up reports for our newspaper.

Just as I parked the car, I thought I saw someone I knew and ran over to say “hi.” It wasn’t who I thought it was, and I continued walking to the police department about a block away.

As I’m ready to leave, I began to check my pockets. Empty. Where’s my car key?

I enlist the help of an officer there, and we retrace my steps. No luck.

Maybe, I dropped it on the way into the station. I search the streets frantically as I run back to my car. Still no key.

Finally, I round the corner. There’s my car. The key is in the ignition. The car is running. The door is unlocked.

I’d been gone about 20 minutes. I was lucky the car wasn’t stolen.

When I returned to work, a co-worker gently suggested that my brain was fried. I suspect he was right.

I no sooner, jokingly, told my boss that I wanted someone to escort me home, wrap me in a blanket, and give me a soothing cup of tea … when I got a call.

Documents revealing how and why the feds investigated a company I was reporting on had been filed in federal court in Syracuse. That was 50 miles away, but only a few miles from my home.

Loon on Paudash. Click to enlarge.

A saner person would have taken the rest of the day off. I didn’t.

For me, I was able to file my story from home and, then, finally, thankfully, unwind. I sat on our back porch on a deck chair and let nature wrap me in a warm, loving embrace.

Now, when I feel stretched to the max, I look for ways to tap into that same calming spot. It can be in a library, an art museum or just some alone time at home.

It can be found on a deck chair in a nature center near a quiet brook.

That’s where my mental journey takes me. I envision myself alone on a canoe trip into the wilderness with the sound of the loons (water birds) in the background before drifting off to a blissful, welcoming sleep.

Watkins Glen, New York

 

Where do you go to get away from it all, to just turn down the volume?

 

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: Loons – Sounds of Nature for Relaxation – nearly 24 minutes long. Sit back, relax and unwind. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPkCnMso5rE 

Main Photo: Loon Lake, Washington – sunset – Atmospheric conditions created by forest fire about 1 mile from location photo was taken August 2, 2004 by Nomeato http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Loon-lake-WA_-sunset.jpg/640px-Loon-lake-WA_-sunset.jpg

Photo: Loon – A Great Northern Loon (also known as Great Northern Diver or Common Loon ) swimming on Paudash Lake, Haliburton County, Ontario, Canada. Taken 2007.This work has been released into the public domain by its author,Lake Central at the wikipedia project  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Gavia_immer_-Paudash_Lake%2C_Haliburton_County%2C_Ontario%2C_Canada_-swimming-8.jpg

Photo: Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen, New York – taken August 5, 2012 by Jyothiprakash007 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Beauty_at_Watkins_Glen.JPG/640px-Beauty_at_Watkins_Glen.JPG

 

 

Hoover Dam, Ragtown and Dingbat Houses

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (9)

By Judy Berman

What would drive a man to take his family across the country and set up in a squatters’ camp in the desert where the average temperature was 116 degrees?

The three D’s: Desperation, the “Dust Bowl” and the (Great) Depression. During the 1930s, thousands fled to whatever Promised Land offered a job.

A drought turned their land into a “Dust Bowl” and rendered it useless to grow crops and to make a living. This forced thousands to leave their homes in a five-state region of the Great Plains in search of work.

“On October 29, 1929 – Black Tuesday – the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. By 1933, one out of every three Americans was living in poverty. Thousands lined up to apply for a handful of available jobs,” Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum Permanent Exhibit. (Exhibit 2: Welcome to Hard Times)

Two years before construction began on Hoover Dam in 1931, the area near Las Vegas was flooded with job-seekers.

They lived in Ragtown, a makeshift shantytown on the floor of the Black Canyon next to the Colorado River. Their “homes” were made of tents, cardboard boxes, tin scraps and anything that amounted to shelter from the scorching heat.

“When somebody … became overcome with the heat, we dashed out there with these ice buckets and we’d pack them in ice. If their heart took it and they survived, OK. But if their heart stopped, that was it. We sent for the undertaker,” Bob Parker. (museum’s Exhibit 4: A Deadly Desert Place)

Boulder City - cottages built by Six Companies, Inc. - save

Six Companies Inc., a “supercompany” made up of six construction firms, agreed to build the dam for just under $49 million. The Boulder Canyon Project authorized Hoover Dam for flood control, improved navigation and regulation of the Colorado River.

Temporary housing was built in Boulder City for those who would work on the dam.

The homes – 658 of them – were called “dingbat” houses because of the quick and shoddy way they were constructed. The boxy homes had a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom.

Two men could throw one together in about 12 hours.

They looked so much alike that it wasn’t uncommon to wake up and find a stranger sleeping on the couch. When he was awakened, he’d look around bewildered, get up and head for home.

“The dingbat houses were a great improvement over the squatters’ camp, but the ragged construction style created hazards of its own. Dust blew in thru the cracks in the walls and doorways, piling up against the houses, creating small dunes throughout the neighborhood,” according to “Boulder City,” a PBS documentary.

Boulder City - bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam - save

Despite the hardships at home and the hazards of dynamite blasts at work, the workers at Six Companies completed Hoover Dam two years ahead of schedule and well under budget, says U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Restoration.

Their work created an engineering marvel that draws millions of tourists a year. Some staggering facts (U.S. Department of Interior Department of Reclamation):

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (7)

  • Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall. That’s 171 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
  • At its base, Hoover Dam is as thick (660 feet) as two footballs fields measured end-to-end.
  • Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the USA, contains enough water to flood the entire state of New York with 1 foot of water (26 million acre feet).
  • Between 1931 and 1936 when the dam was built, 96 men were killed in industrial accidents. None were buried in the concrete.

Hoover Dam - mascot

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.

Source: Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum – http://www.bcmha.org/

Source: Hoover Dam, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

Source: Boulder City – PBS. http://www.pbs.org/bouldercity/script.htm

1. Main Photo: Hoover Dam Tour Center, Nevada – mural of construction workers – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

2. Photo: Boulder City – cottages built by Six Companies Inc.: Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – April 1, 1932  http://research.archives.gov/description/293623

3. Photo: Boulder City – bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam, capacity 150 men:Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – July 27, 1933   http://research.archives.gov/description/293924

4. Photo: Hoover Dam – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

5. Photo: Hoover Dam – mascot – memorial to dog beloved by the construction workers at Hoover Dam. Taken – April 13, 2012. Filed in wikimedia.org. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg/640px-Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg   Used with permission by photographer: Adam Kliczek, http://zatrzymujeczas.pl (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Harmony in Nature

Swans and Brevard Zoo - Viera - April 2014 058 - Copy

By Judy Berman

The harsh caw caw of one bird
The sweet song of another
As they take flight, swim, rest, or
Waddle thru my neighborhood.

Sandhill Cranes - Ichabod and Abby - photo by Craig Bailey - May 2014

The swans gliding gracefully
across the pond’s calm surface,
The mockingbird thrilling us
on moonlit nights with his song.

Mourning Dove

There’s the low mournful coo coo
of a mourning dove at dawn,
The great blue heron’s patience
stalking dinner in the lake.

Great Blue Heron - Viera - April 2014 (1) - Copy

The hummingbirds hovering
over a fragrant flower,
The robin, spring’s welcome sign,
protecting her blue green eggs.

Hummingbird

They share the same living space
In search of food and water,
a safe haven for their young
and a place to stretch their wings.

Sandhill Cranes - Florida Today - 6-26-14 039 - Copy

How different they all seem
Yet have so much in common. **

Mallard Duck and ducklings - Viera - April 2014 (3) - Copy

** My poem was inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Human Family.” http://allpoetry.com/poem/8511441-Human-Family-by-Maya-Angelou   This link also includes a link to Maya Angelou reading her poem.

 

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: Mockingbird singing – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMpe34Aign4  

1. Main Photo: Swans and cygnets, photo taken April 2014 by Judy Berman.

2. Photo: Sandhill crane – Ichabod and Abbie – taken May 2014 by Craig Bailey, photographer at Florida Today newspaper

3. Photo: Mourning dove – taken May 13, 2011. Author: Tony Alter of Newport News, USA http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/Mourning_Dove_%285717426794%29.jpg/640px-Mourning_Dove_%285717426794%29.jpg

4. Photo: Great blue heron – taken April 2014 by Dave Berman.

5. Photo: Hummingbird – Attribution – Mdf  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Featured_Pictures_of_Trochilidae#mediaviewer/File:Colibri-thalassinus-001.jpg

6. Photo: Sandhill crane chick, Frasier Crane, and parents, Ichabod and Abbie – taken June 26, 2014 by Judy Berman. (Frasier was born 6-21-14)

7. Photo: Mallard duck and ducklings – taken April 2014 by Judy Berman

The Writer’s Life – Blog Tour

Judy - birthday - flowers - at home - Nov. 2013

By Judy Berman

In a police lineup, my neighbors would be hard-pressed to identify me. Fresh air and natural light are foreign to me.

That’s what the writing life feels like to me at times. I retreat to our small office, do some research for some of the posts on my blog and I search for photos to go with the story.

It’s not glamorous. But it’s hardly like J.K. Rowling, who took her baby in a pram to a coffee shop so they’d be in a warm place while she wrote her first Harry Potter book.

What’s appealing is that I get to create, to do what I love: write. Until 2011, my personal writing was confined to about a dozen journals. Then, I began blogging. I enjoy the feedback and writing to other bloggers.

Fellow blogger Marian Beaman http://plainandfancygirl.com/  invited me to take part in a Blog Tour. It’s a great way to introduce some writers and to learn what motivates them. Plus, I get to share my own writing experiences.

As a memoirist, Marian Beaman tends to weave the literary with the familiar from growing up as a Mennonite girl on farm country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to her move south where she was a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida.  Her writing includes “It’s Not Easy Being Green, WalMart and Me,” which recounts her neighborhood struggle to keep large live oaks and tall pines from biting the dust.

1. What am I working on now?

Right now, I’m doing some historical research for a future post. I’ve already visited the location, taken photos, and gathered some historical documents and photos. While I love writing humor, stories about history excite me because I always learn something new.

Crime Scene tape - Do Not Cross

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My blog is a Personal Blog. timethief of One Cool Site says that: “Each blogger has a unique personality; each has a unique writer’s voice.” http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/04/19/personal-blogs-tell-your-story/

In April, I wrote to her about her post on blogging tips. I wasn’t sure what drew readers to my blog. Timethief said I was “a skilled and engaging storyteller and the brand you are creating is based on that and your experience as a teacher and reporter.”

While I might not know what to expect when I open a vein to write, timethief says she does: “it’s a well told story.” I thank her for that compliment, support and advice.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love to tell stories, something I learned at my Mom’s and Dad’s knees. Depending on the day, I might be writing about my family, my experiences as a reporter or as a teacher, or my interests in travel, reading, movies and music.

4. How does my writing process work?

I aim for the unusual, and for folks without filters. Then, I scribble shorthand notes on small yellow legal pads, trying to frame the story. What are the smells? The sounds? The ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe’ moments? I want to place the reader where I was so that they can experience that time as well. If none of that exists, I weep gently into my computer … and create.

Like Marian, I will tag two unsuspecting blogger friends, Mark Bialczak of http://markbialczak.com/about/  and Kate Crimmins of Views and Mews by Coffee Kat at http://coffeekatblog.com/

Mark Bialczak, a veteran journalist, lives in the Syracuse area. In early 2013, he was set free to write about whatever he wants. He has numerous blog awards for stories about his family, their beloved rescue dog, Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle, and for his music and movie reviews. In his film blog, he wrote of the connection to the song, “Bonjour, Bonjour,” in the movie  “A Fault in Our Stars,” and the city he loves and writes about: Syracuse.

Kate Crimmins shares her experiences as a former human relations executive and as a non-furry parent to her kitties: Hazel, Morgan, Mollie and Jake. Her stories about the trials and tribulations of trying to get them to use a cat tower make me laugh. As do her efforts to get her husband to accompany her to the mall. Kate has numerous blog awards.  Her humorous observations at the gym and elsewhere draw me in time and again and leave me chuckling.

OK, Mark and Kate. “Tag. You’re it.”

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.

Photo: Judy – A rare photo of me outside taking a break from my computer

Photo: Crime Scene Tape

Vegas, Baby. Vegas!

Blue Man Group 5 - Las Vegas - 6-7-14

By Judy Berman

Just mention you’re headed to Vegas, and immediately you get those knowing looks.

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the stewardess jokes slyly as we board our flight out of Orlando.

“That’s what we’re counting on,” I respond with a smile.

We hardly fit the image of the characters in the 1996 movie, Swingers, who take a road trip to Sin City. Their mantra: “Vegas, Baby. Vegas!”

Nah, the gaming tables and one-armed bandits hold no appeal for us.

It’s the entertainment and off-The-Strip action we crave.

Mt. Charleston Lodge - June 2014 (5)

OK, we’re here to visit my brother, too. Hank waves front-row tickets he bought for all three of us to see the Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo. Score!

When we arrive, I’m nervous. Our seats hold a plastic, hooded, full-length cape that we’re expected to wear to avoid flying water, cake batter and other unexpected assaults.

During the concert, one Blue Man steps onto the armrest next to me and proceeds to hunt down his next victim/volunteer to pull up on stage.

Their skits are interactive, humorous and spot-on ribs at our culture.

It’s a “thrilling, energy-infused performance that introduces wildly inventive musical instruments, a humorous look at robots and creativity, and a mind-blowing (literally) tour inside the neural network of the human brain,” according to its website http://www.blueman.com/las-vegas/about-show

Mind-blowing? How about an Elvis sighting? No visit to Vegas would be complete without that.

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (13) - Elvis and Judy Berman

Not only did we see him at Madame Tussauds, but Elvis offered me a ride in his car.

What a guy! Hanging out with the strong, silent type is right up my alley.

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (15) - Marilyn Monroe and Dave Berman

Dave lucked out, too. He bumped into Marilyn Monroe. What a doll!

Before we left the wax museum, we saw the 10-minute film, Marvel’s Super Heroes 4D.

The audience really is in on the action. Again, watch out for liquid spray from the screen, things that go bump in the dark and unknown things that race by your chair.

Squeamish yet?

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (21) - Hulk

OK. Your heart’s pounding, but there’s no need to call for paramedics.

Forget Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay or Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden at the Mirage. You need something far more soothing than a voracious shark or a white tiger eyeballing you.

Head on over to Bellagio’s Casino. There you can enjoy the water works and the action from afar. The Fountains at Bellagio – there are more than a thousand of them in front of the hotel.

Vegas - Fountains at Bellagio - 2014   (9)

Depending on the time of day, you can be mesmerized by the dancing waters every 15 to 30 minutes. Light show and music are thrown in for free.

Then, it’s back to the Vegas’ best attraction: people-watching. It’s the best show in town.

And, if you’re feeling really lucky, scope out the casinos. As they said about confidence in Swingers: “You’re so money and you don’t even know it.”

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 Clip: “Swingers” (1996) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlCprJPwBSI 

Main Photo: Blue Man Group performing at Monte Carlo Casino, Las Vegas, taken by Judy Berman, June 7, 2014.

Photo: My brother, Joseph H. Fiet IV, and me at Mt. Charleston – about 50 miles outside of Las Vegas

Las Vegas photos taken June 7 and 8, 2014 by Judy and Dave Berman:

* Elvis Presley and Judy Berman. Madame Tussauds wax museum.

* Marilyn Monroe and Dave Berman. Madame Tussauds.

* The Hulk at Madame Tussauds.

* The Fountains at Bellagio Casino.