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.**)

 

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

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

Overheard While Just Passing Thru

alligator - marshamallowBy Judy Berman

As a tourist, you get only a quick glimpse of what life might be like in the places you visit.

What I’ve found is sometimes you’re in on the joke that the tour guides tell. Other times, you’re the butt of the joke.

Still others, it’s like you walked in the middle of a movie and leave before it ends. You’re left wondering how it turned out.

It took only a few minutes on a bus tour in Seattle, Washington, to realize there was a real culture clash between the logging industry and environmentalists who were trying to stop trees from being cut down because of its effect on the wildlife.

The bus driver, over the speaker, told his passengers: “We’ll be stopping for lunch. You can have the condor or the spotted owl.”

Many passengers erupted in laughter at the inside joke. Both are endangered species – and will not be found on any menu.

On a swamp tour in New Orleans, we saw nutria (a large rodent that is not a native of Louisiana), great blue herons and alligators.

To make sure we saw more than the bulging, beady eyes and snout that were just slightly above the water line, our guide threw marshmallows over board.

A gator scooted over to the boat and scooped up the bobbing treats from the water.

A woman, with a Boston accent, piped up, “Don’t you ever feed the gators anything but junk food?”

Clearly irritated, the guide retorted, “Sometimes we feed them Yankees. But I guess that’s junk food, too.”

Now, I’m from New York (Syracuse). Maybe I should have been offended, but I burst out laughing at the guide’s joke. Or, at least, I hope he was joking.

dog sled - Alaska

Mealtime can also provide a few laughs. At a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, we chuckled over a meal offered on the kids’ menu: liver and onions.

Well, the little wrangler will be delighted to know that, even if he is real ornery, it’s unlikely his Mom and Dad will order the yuckiest thing on the kids’ menu. The reason? It cost $28,212.99.

Now, that’s something to cheer about. That and the folks in Fairbanks obviously have a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

What a long, strange trip it was when we hit the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. There, apparently, were still some folks there that looked like they were trapped in a time warp – leftovers from the Sixties when Flower Power ruled the area.

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco

As we walked along Haight Street, a guy ahead of us is trying to get the guy he’s walking with to change shirts with him. No dice.

“We got to get into a bar before the cops come,” he said.

As if on cue, a cop car pulls up. A cop steps up and politely says, “Can we talk for a second?”

“Sure,” the guys says, acting nonchalantly.

Ten minutes later, as we walk by on the other side of the street, the “talk” continues. Now, four cops are on the scene.

This is where I’d thought we’d stumbled into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s pranks.

Ever the Master of Suspense, he’d appear to be in the midst of a gruesome story when new passengers stepped into the elevator he was on. Naturally, they were all ears. But, as luck would have it, they reached the main floor before he wrapped it up. Which was Hitchcock’s mischievous scheme all along.

No telling what you’ll see and hear on your travels. But I sure wish I knew the rest of the story about that “talk.”

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.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4  

Photo: alligator – marshmallow – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/11/20/the-alligator-and-the-marshmallow/  

Photo – dog sled – Alaska – A musher departs Slaven’s Roadhouse in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during the 2005 Yukon Quest sled dog race. Taken Feb. 5, 2005 by the U. S. National Park Service http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg/640px-Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg

Photo: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California – Piedmont Boutique on Haight   Street. Taken by Bernard Gagnon, Sept. 3, 2008  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg/640px-Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg

Here I Come To Save the Day

Mighty Mouse - cartoonBy Judy Berman

Did you ever notice how eager folks are to offer help when you’re nearly done with the job?

The nine most terrifying words in the English language? President Ronald Reagan identified them as: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

This is true whether the message is from the government, your job or at home.

All the heavy lifting has been done, and someone swoops in like Mighty Mouse to save the day, and cheerfully offer to take the load off your shoulders. They then take the easiest part of what you have to do and leave you with … you guessed it … the most onerous part of the task.

Take, for example, one of the chores at home that you put off until you can’t any more.

You’ve sorted the clothes, pretreated the laundry, run the water, added the detergent and have nearly finished dumping the clothes in the washer. When, out of nowhere … well-meaning hubby enters the picture.

“Here, I’ll press the (starter) button. You go and rest now.”

Push button - receive bacon

You might feel as if you’ve been punked.

Remember Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy routine about cleaning up and ashtrays?

Foxworthy notes that women “still clean up about 99 percent of the things around the house.”

“A woman could be out repaving the driveway. Men have enough gall to run out in the yard and go: “Hey baby. Man, it’s hot as hell out here! Look, don’t worry about emptyin’ that ashtray in the den, I done got it, all right? Did it for you, sweet pea. I’m gonna take a nap now.” And Foxworthy makes his exit.

Jeff Foxworthy

But the “real” helpfulness comes from the government and corporations.

When we were planning a family vacation, Dave made airline reservations months in advance. The airline decided on random seating for our family. The children would have been seated rows away from their parents.

How to solve this? Well, in the old days of customer service, an airline employee would correct this via one, quick phone call.

We called. An automated voice answered, “The next available representative will be available in 27 minutes. Please hold. Your call is important to us.”

Right! Twenty-seven minutes? Well, we had no alternative. We waited. When we finally got thru …. “bzzzzz.” We were disconnected.

Arghhhhh!

Despite numerous calls, we still had not resolved this before we got to the airport.

Then, this caped crusader rushed up to us and quickly ushered us to the proper seats, and we were on our way.

Thanks for the help, buddy. If only all good intentions worked out this smoothly.

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: Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, Redneck Comedy Roundup http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7qZIRtbFJ8 

Main Photo – Mighty Mouse – cartoon – Still frame from the animated cartoon “Wolf! Wolf!” (1945). The film has fallen into the public domain, as its copyright has expired. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Superraton.jpg

Photo: Push button – receive bacon – taken June 24, 2010 by jimmyweee (Note: “But wait, there’s more! New in this model, push the flap to receive bacon directly to your face!”) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Push_button%2C_receive_bacon_%284731546246%29.jpg/640px-Push_button%2C_receive_bacon_%284731546246%29.jpg

Photo: Jeff Foxworthy – wikimedia

No Place Like Home

The Wizard of Oz - Haley, Bolger, Garland, Lahr - 1939By Judy Berman

Sometimes, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

That thought comes to mind when I consider a little girl who’s swept away with her best friend to a very strange land. She spends the bulk of her time trying to return to a place of comfort and love.

I’m talking about the ultimate road trip movie, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

This movie might seem an odd choice for a Thanksgiving offering. But it has it all: a buddy movie/road trip made up of an odd cast of lovable characters.

Just like many of us gathered around the table this holiday, each has a different personality and a personal quest. For some, it’s the drumstick. For others, it’s something much deeper.

For Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), an orphaned teen, she’s trying to avoid a nasty neighbor, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). The cranky woman, upset that Toto bit her, threatens to have Toto put to sleep. Dorothy runs away with Toto to protect him.

She didn’t get far when she ran into a phony fortune-teller, Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan). The Professor tells Dorothy that her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) has fallen ill worrying about Dorothy.

Dorothy returns home, but the family is hunkered down in the storm cellar trying to avoid a tornado. Dorothy darts into the house with Toto and is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, her home drops right in the middle of the Land of the Munchkins.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says as she surveys the neighborhood.

Good news. They’re OK and the little people – the Munchkins – are welcoming. Bad news. Her house fell right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East and she’s deader than a doornail.

The Wizard  of Oz - Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland - 1939

Her mean sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), is not too happy about this. She warns Dorothy: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”

Before she can carry out her threat, Glinda (Billie Burke), the Good Witch of the North, comes to Dorothy’s rescue. Glinda quickly transfers the dead witch’s ruby slippers onto Dorothy, telling Dorothy that they have powerful magic and will protect her. Dorothy and Toto go skipping off down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Wizard of Oz who will surely help her get back to Kansas.

On the road, Dorothy runs into a talking Scarecrow (Ray Bolger). When he finds out where Dorothy is going, he asks if he can go along. He hopes the Wizard will give him a brain. Soon, they spot a rusted out Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and oil him up. He’s in search of a heart. The last one to join this little group is the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who confides that he’d like the Wizard to give him courage.

Wizard of Oz - 1900

In their travels, they encounter the nightmare that most of us do. Flying monkeys. (Hey! We’ve all been there. Right?) Fatigue. For us, it’s the long road trip and the big meal. For them, the witch casts a spell as they’re running thru a field of flowers.

“Poppies … poppies will put them to sleep,” she cackles.

Eventually, Dorothy turns the tables on the old bat. When the witch tries to set the Scarecrow on fire, Dorothy throws a bucket of water to douse the fire … and drenches the witch … which proves her undoing.

“I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!” the witch screams … and, then, she is no more.

In a road movie, the main character grows as the story progresses. Such is the case with Dorothy and her friends. They find that they had it within them all along to achieve the things they went in search of.

Glinda tells Dorothy that she’s always had the power to return to her family.

Dorothy clicks her heels together three times, repeating the magic phrase that will take her home, “There’s no place like home … There’s no place like home.”

Soon, Dorothy and Toto are back with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. And that curmudgeon, Miss Gulch, is no where to be found.

Now, if only a turkey wishbone had that kind of magic.

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 Wizard of Oz - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8PrPVqCd8 

Main Photo: Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Bert Lahr – The Wizard of Oz (1939) – MGM film http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg/635px-The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg

Photo: Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland – The Wizard of Oz (1939)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Margaret_Hamilton_Judy_Garland_1939.jpg

Photo: Wizard of Oz – Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cb/Cowardly_lion2.jpg/459px-Cowardly_lion2.jpg

The Big Night

Judy - birthday - California Pizza Kitchen - Nov. 2013By Judy Berman

Memories are made of this – family get-togethers. Any misty-eyed moment doesn’t last for long. That’s just our family’s way.

Last weekend, we gathered at Buca di Beppo’s to celebrate my birthday. For me, the kitchen and dining area reminded me of a scene out of the movie, “The Big Night” (1996). My family gave me a memory book of my life in pictures with brief stories attached.

It made me feel like I’d received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. Before I could blurt out (Sally Field style), “You like me. You really like me,” the jokes began.

Danielle, my eldest, pulled out a copy of a newspaper clip from The Syracuse Post-Standard’s editorial page. In it, my story, “Surviving the Summer With Teens.”

I shudder as I recall the final straw that summer. Our daughter’s car, and the tree in front of our house, is swaddled in toilet paper, and the paper hangers leave cackling loudly and squealing their car’s tires from here to the state line in the dead of night.

That mental snapshot and others emerge. From the moment our children are born, we gasp in amazement and wince with every milestone they pass. Their hesitant first steps across the floor, riding a two-wheeler unassisted for the first time, leaving home and going off on their own.

Buca di Beppo

Then, Danielle handed me a letter I’d written in 1991, just days after she moved to Florida to go to college. Their furniture was sitting somewhere in a moving van that apparently had taken a detour. She told me she’d converted the Faberware box that their electric fry pan came in into a makeshift kitchen table.

So, I did what any loving parent would do. I wrote offering to send her “my empty Faberware box. That way you can have matching tables. Kim (our neighbor) says she may send you some empty boxes, too. You can use one for the end table – one for the nightstand.”

I talked around the edges of things. I didn’t ask if she was homesick. I tried to keep it light. She toughed that out, as well as a number of other hurdles, and did us proud.

Just like our youngest, Jenn, did when she was on her own in Oklahoma in 1999 and an EF5 tornado slammed thru just miles from her apartment. She’d heard from others at college that when there’s a sound like a freight train, head for a closet. She did with her hamster, Thumper, until the danger passed. Dave and I were in Florida interviewing for a job when we saw TV coverage at our hotel of a monster tornado (winds in excess of 260 miles per hour) and a smaller funnel cloud. The tornado pummeled Moore, Oklahoma. It was several days before we could reach her and learn the reassuring news that she was safe.

It turns out that our daughters, however, were more worried about how we’d handle the empty-nest syndrome. In a photo with Dave and I posing next to an SUV I’d flipped in Alaska, Danielle noted that I’d “forced Dave into her mid-life crisis with crazy hair days. Eggplant and violet for Judy, and blue and pink for Dave! Maybe they would be better off with some supervision.” (NOTE: I did not “force” Dave to dye his hair. I URGED him to. Family joke dating back to the movie, “L.A. Story.”)

In the memory book, I saw myself as my children see me. They viewed my early start in life, as a preemie, as an indicator that I was a fighter – as one who considers setbacks as challenges to be overcome and forges ahead.

The Big Night - Stanley Tucci

Fortunately, my Big Night turned out much better than it did for the brothers (restaurant owners) in the movie. They were struggling to make a go of it. Another restaurant owner offers to call a friend, a popular jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) prepares his specialty, a gourmand’s delight, for the big night. But things don’t go as planned.

Maybe, they turned a negative into a positive. That’s the outcome I hope for – for myself and others. Cheers! Here’s to a wonderful year ahead.

Do you have a favorite family memory? Please share.

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 – “The Big Night” (1996) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvDb_OVbju0  

Main Photo: Dessert with the family at California Pizza Kitchen, Orlando

Photo: Buca di Beppo, Orlando – let the party begin! http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=buca+di+beppo+orlando+florida+mall&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=23E12796091F3014F6EF19A7CAF328F960C58BFA&selectedIndex=48

Photo: “The Big Night” with Stanley Tucci   http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/stanley-tucci/images/34074283/title/big-night-photo

 

Those Are Not My Parents

The "grands" bucket list ...

The “grands” bucket list …

By Judy Berman

Giant muffins and dangerous boardwalks. Just what else would you offer your grandkids on an outing?

They had their bucket list of things to do while visiting us for the weekend: zip lining over alligators at the zoo, rappelling down the side of a mountain and traversing a suspended bridge. Uh, no.

Instead, we searched for a muffin so huge it had its own ZIP code and tentatively walked along a boardwalk with no handrails over deep water in the harbor. Mission accomplished.

When their parents returned, our grandchildren excitedly told them about their mini-vacation with us. The “grands” held nothing back, including the soft-serve ice cream we got them that was five swirls high – not three.

I waited, dreading they would start singing that song Bill Cosby’s kids sang to him around the breakfast table. “Dad is great. He gives us chocolate cake … for breakfast.”

My daughter’s eyes and mouth widened. I knew what was in the back of her mind: “Those are not my parents.”

What their parents envisioned ...

What their parents envisioned …

Growing up, she thought we were strict. There were no sweet treats for breakfast that would send them zinging around the house on a sugar high.

A stroll along an unprotected walkway over water deep enough for manatees to frolic in? No way. We hovered over her and her sister until they were in their late teens like they were unsteady toddlers.

Like Cosby, she’s looking at me and thinking: “This is not the woman I grew up with.”

What can I say? I learned from the best. My Grammy set the gold standard for relaxed ground rules.

What we really did ...

What we really did …

Once our kids were grown, we quickly learned that breaking a few rules was not going to scar them for life. Pizza and wings for breakfast? No problem. Staying up past 10 to watch a nail-biter of a Red Sox game? Fire up the popcorn machine.

OK. Grammy did give my Mom a real scare once when we were late returning from the movies.

We’d been gone for hours. My Mom said she had her hand on the phone ready to dial the police just as we walked in the door.

“Where have you been?” she asked anxiously, fearing the worst.

Grammy, attempting to placate Mom: “We went to a double-feature and sat thru it three times.”

Mom: “What did you do for dinner?”

Grammy: “After the second double-feature, we went out for a hot dog and soda. Then we showed our tickets to the cashier and she let us back in.”

My Mom’s aghast. Aliens must have abducted her mother. That has to explain the odd behavior.

Come to think of it. That’s exactly the look Danielle threw my way as her son – exaggerating now – told her we’d bought them a 32-ounce soft-serve ice cream. (It was only 12 ounces.).

Fortunately, in their excitement, they left out the part about the … Oh, but I’ll save that story for another time.

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 – Bill Cosby – Dad is Great – Chocolate Cake for Breakfast  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuamlBQ2aW4 

Photo: zip lining – (What the “grands” might have envisioned for their outing.) Pfc. Jessica Y. Pacheco, an armorer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 screams down a zip line in Belize, Sept. 14, 2011. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7c/USMC-110914-M-AF823-091.jpg/512px-USMC-110914-M-AF823-091.jpg

Photo: Child pushing grandmother on tricycle – (What my daughter and son-in-law envisioned about our weekend) Taken Aug. 11, 2008. Author: Catherine Scott http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dc/Child_pushing_grandmother_on_plastic_tricycle.jpg/640px-Child_pushing_grandmother_on_plastic_tricycle.jpg

Illustration – (what we really did) - Norman Rockwell – Gramps at the Plate -  The cover of the Saturday Evening Post published Aug. 5, 1916 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/Gramps_at_the_Plate_Rockwell_Print.jpg

I Feel Your Pain and Other Annoying Comments

Work smarter, not harder? It is what it is?

Work smarter, not harder? It is what it is?

By Judy Berman

A slow, persistent pain began to crawl across my brow and down to my neck.

My friend, Bob, asked if I was OK. I confessed that a friend’s troubles caused me to flash back to a bad experience.

“I have empathy. But too much is not a good thing. If you have a pain, I feel it, too,” I told him.

At this point, Bob began to laugh.

“What if I have hemorrhoids?”

“Well, that would be a pain in the butt,” I said, immediately seeing the humor in the situation.

Boss: "I feel your pain, but you can't take time off work to go to the hospital."

Boss: “I feel your pain, but you can’t take time off work to go to the hospital.”

It’s about working smarter, not harder.

This got me to thinking about the meaningless platitudes we toss around to fill our comfort zone. I pondered about some of the annoying ones I’d like to turn on their ear.

After downsizing at an office I once worked at, the workload was divided among the remaining staffers.

The staff already stretched thin grumble under their breath. The manager walks by, perky and upbeat. To inspire the troops, she says patronizingly: “It’s about working smarter, not harder.”

What she implies is: “If you were smart like me, you’d figure out how to do this.”

She’s not offering any solutions on how to do the work more efficiently. Roll up your sleeves, pitch in and show us how it’s done.

Yeah, if I were smart like you, I’d be working somewhere else.

Everything happens for the best

Everything happens for the best

Everything happens for the best.

This phrase reminds me of Voltaire’s Candide. It’s the byproduct of someone who takes positive thinking too far.

Once Candide is thrown out of the baron’s castle, he leaves his idyllic life behind. Left to fend for himself, he witnesses and experiences great hardships.

Initially, he maintains his positive outlook, despite many worse-case scenarios.

Many, like Candide, believe that we live in “the best of all possible worlds,” no matter how harsh life might be. Their response is to shrug their shoulders and say “everything happens for the best.”

Your house was destroyed by a tornado? Your finances are in a shambles and you plan to live in a cardboard box under a bridge? In no time, some jokester will inevitably say: “At least you have a cardboard box. Everything happens for the best.”

This is not a reassuring statement when someone is reeling from one of life’s blows or dealing with a tragedy. It’d be better to say …

It is what it is

Actually, this is a bad idea, too. When you say “it is what it is,” that implies that you have relinquished all control of your life to the whimsy of fate.

It’s an updated version of “what will be will be.”

It’s time to take charge and dump those meaningless clichés.

Here’s a platitude I can endorse. Hunter S. Thompson, that gonzo journalist, said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Alrighty, then.

What irritating platitude gets under your skin?

 —

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.

Main Photo – Gorilla scratching his head. Taken by Steven Straiton, June 15, 2010. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/08/Gorilla_Scratching_Head.jpg/640px-Gorilla_Scratching_Head.jpg     (It is what it is? Work smarter, not harder?)

Photo – accident – indoors (Everything happens for the best.) May 9, 2011   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Indoor_accidents.jpg

Photo – work – accident – (translation) A man is having heart attack at work. The manager says he cannot leave, because if he allows this employee to take a half-day off work for medical reasons, then he will have to let every employee who is having a heart attack to take a half-day off.  (I feel your pain.)  Owned by: Gaspirtz http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/Herzanfall_am_Arbeitsplatz.jpg