Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Are Men (Who Hate Women) Necessary?

Monday morning got off to a surreal start. A guy from the West Coast was eager to break onto the East Coast circuit with his book and message. He had a unique approach for men who need help dealing with women. He was a favorite of talk shows and had recently been quoted in the NY Post on why Valentine's Day is such a drag for guys. To this end, he wanted to talk to someone with the ear of the local media and program directors at places like the 92nd St. Y (www.92Y.org).*

Okay, I said to my friend, Judy. Send him on.

Five seconds later, my phone rang. The voice on the other end told me he wrote a book for guys who are sick of being taken advantage of by women. He wanted to come to New York to promote it, but he wondered if New York is the right venue because it is "full of princesses."

Come again?

Evidently clueless that a New York woman might have special disdain for any guy who alleges that her city is filled with princesses yet all-too-eager to reveal the crux of his philosophy to a citizen of this regal city, West Coast Phone Dude immediately followed up with a statement that was stunning in both its brevity and its vulgarity:

Women, he told me, want men to kiss their asses.

It's not every day that a conversation with a prospective client opens with such bold self-expression, such brio. Women want men to kiss their asses. Wow. I pondered the meaning of that provocative statement. Now, I know that he didn't mean it in the literal sense, with apologies to Owen Wilson (http://www.wilson-brothers.com/owen/) who reportedly spent two hours this past summer licking some lassie's bare buttocks. Did he mean it, perhaps, in the defiant "go to hell" way that someone you've succeeded in pissing off might yell at you --hey, kiss my ass!! Or did he mean that women want men to grovel at their feet, dote on them, worship them, do everything humanly possible to please them, buy them expensive gifts, take them to fancy restaurants, ignore their PMS, never tell them they look fat and essentially, build their lives around them??

He meant the latter, vomiting out the various ways in which women step all over the male race. Moreover, there was an epidemic of man-hating going on. Just look at Maureen Dowd! Did I know that when she spoke at the 92nd Street Y, she packed the house while Elie Wiesel could hardly get people in to hear him? (No I didn't and I doubt it is true. Note to self: call the 92nd St Y and check in with the PR office.) And that terrible title of her book: Are Men Necessary? only stokes additional man-hatred. Could I imagine if a man had written a book called Are Women Necessary? He'd be pilloried!!

In the face of this rampant, rampaging race of princesses who longed to have their hindquarters snogged by hapless males -- and whose idea of recreation was guy-hating -- this enterprising He-Man, this social visionary, this enlightened prophet had a message: Stop the Madness. Ask me how.

As he yammered on, my Upper West Side brain began to wake up...and get really annoyed. It was not even 9:30 in the morning and some strange dude from the West Coast was basically spewing his hatred of my gender right into my tender ear. So obnoxious was he that I concluded that there was not a woman alive deserving of his loathing...not even such loathsome characters as Courtney Love or Anna Nicole Smith or Leona Helmsley or Imelda Marcos or Jackie G., the biggest bitch in my elementary school class at North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, or even Elsa, She-Wolf of the SS. Perhaps the poor schmuck had dated some of these babes! Yeah, that could kind of sour a guy's appreciation for regular girls.

Hey...aren't ya generalizing just a little bit? I ventured. None of the women I know are remotely the way you describe...

Women lie to each other, he asserted, cutting me off. They scheme and they compete with one another and they hide important information. But alone with me, they reveal themselves, they let their hair down, they stop playing games...they become naked, he said, his voice descending into a dramatic whisper.

As the word naked fell from his lips, I thought I heard the sound of his injured masculinity stirring to life. This was beginning to remind me of phone sex. (Not that I'd know, really...) Horrified yet oddly fascinated, I stayed on the line. Then, as if the conversation was not already weird enough, he began deconstructing naked, telling me that he meant it figuratively -- without artifice -- and, yes, literally. When a women talks to him, you see, there's always sexual tension. That's just a given. It oozes from his He-Man essence. Yet, being the fearless princess-slayer that he is, Mr. Refuses to Kiss Women's Asses is able to skillfully seque from sexual tension into seduction, bedding women who fall captive to his powerful, er... powers.

Listening to him, I began to wonder what was the matter with me. How come I didn't spend my every waking moment plotting Female World Domination? And what about my lovely teenage daughter, Middle Babe? No princess she, in fact, just this evening, she gave a powerhouse performance in her high school's production of The Princess and the Pea where, come to think of it, she starred as Princess Winnifred the Woebegone. Hmmm. Must ponder her playing the part of a princess. But my dear, sweet mother, MOB (mom of Bungalow Babe)! How could this strange man accuse her of crimes against MANkind?? And my beautiful friends, especially the single ones who have been far more screwed over by the men in their lives than the other way around!! And my dearly departed Grandmas! Never had a day passed when these selfless balabustehs weren't nurturing the men in their lives!

Enough, I heard my grandmothers whisper in my ear from the Other World where I sincerely hoped they were having eternal mani-pedicures after a lifetime of hard work. Get off the phone, darling. Stop wasting your time with this yutz.

And so, before Mr. Misogyny could go one step further, I interjected, telling him that our conversation had come to an end. I could not work with him. It wasn't a good shidduch.

The marriage metaphor must have thrown him, because he stammered. That's an interesting choice of words, he said, his voice suddenly panicky. Yeah, it's the way we princesses blow off guys here in New York, I thought, turning on my computer.

But why? he whined as I started reading my e-mail. The guy didn't need a publicist. He needed a Clockwork Orange-like procedure to deprogram his hate-poisoned brain.

But I wasn't going to tell him that. He might not get the allusion. And so, inspired by his forthright candor earlier in the conversation, I decided to return the favor.

"Because you're a complete jerk," I said, as the line fell blessedly silent and his words evaporated in the restored momentum of Monday morning.


*When not residing within the blogosphere of Bungalow Babe in the Big City, I run a public relations and marketing firm in NYC.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Skewer Me, Stephen!

Here's what I love about today's NY Times Week in Review section: The two leading stories nearly scared me to death and nearly made me laugh to death... nearly simultaneously. (go to www.nytimes.com)

Over half the cover of today's Week in Review section is dominated by a terrifying illustration of two gargantuan, Golem-like creatures engaged in mortal combat, fingers digging into each others' faces. Their figures blend into a primitively-rendered map of the Middle East -- from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the South to Turkey and Iran in the North. Guess which country the fighting Golems represent? The headline of the article is: What a Civil War Could Look Like.

The article, by Steven R. Weisman, won its front-page placement because of the ubiquity of the question being asked earlier this past week in the wake of the attack on the Shiite mosque in Samara: is Iraq on the brink of a civil war? Phrased any number of ways, this question opened up innumerable news broadcasts and was posed to pundits and politicians alike by concerned-looking television journalists. Naturally, it made its way onto several of this morning's highly-addictive Sunday morning political roundtables on television.

(Though I listened to the kaffee klatch chat that uber-cutiepie George Stephanapolous had assembled on This Week and tuned into CNN's Reliable Sources, I will admit to not having read Weisman's article yet, chiefly because the graphic nearly scared me to death and because I was moved to go to Ikea instead to buy a wall unit for Big Babe's room.)

If you look at that horrific image for more than five seconds, your adrenaline levels will start spiking and you'll be reaching for the nitro-glycerine pills, so I advise you to direct your gaze downward, past the paper's fold, where your equilibrium will be instantly restored by a reassuring photograph bearing the far-friendlier visage of political satire's reigning It-Boy -- Stephen Colbert.

Draped above this reassuring image (a clip from a recent broadcast when he is fake-interviewing Bill Parcell, Jr.) is the headline: Laugh, and the Voters Laugh With You, or at Least at You.

Colbert is huge. He's gargantuan. He's bigger than you-know-who. Rather than accept and enjoy this simple fact, however, journalists have been tripping over themselves recently trying to deconstruct his mystique, rendered all the more mystifying by the fact that he appears for only 30 minutes on a late-night slot...when many Baby Boomers are already en route to shluffy-land.

But there is no mystery in Colbert's monster fame. He is brilliant. He is fearless. He is original. He crafts his comedy out of a place that perceives our current political reality as utterly and dangerously screwed up. Through his shtick, he blows the whistle on hypocrisy, abuse of power, liars, idiots, egomaniacs and those who would opt for truthiness over truth. (Check out Marc Peyser's Newsweek article at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11182033/site/newsweek/)

The one mystery about Colbert is, however, why politicians continue to agree to be interviewed by him when they have fairly certain proof that they are going to end up looking like morons when the Colbert Report's editors finish editing the footage. Moreover, knowing Colbert's uber-liberal weltanschuang, why would Republicans submit to requests for interviews, i.e. public humiliation before millions of viewers?

Such questions dogged me, robbing my soul of peace. Therefore, it is with tremendous gratitude-- and no small measure of relief -- that I salute Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the aforementioned NY Times article, for finally solving this mystery. To quote Ms. Stolberg: the show reveals an essential truth about Washington: being humiliated on national television can be better than not being on national television at all.

Whoa. That's sounding suspiciously S&M and low-self-esteem to me. Like, if my boyfriend beats me, it's better than him ignoring me? Also, it kinda reminds me of a recent analysis I saw on CNN of the Kid Rock/Scott Stapp sex-in-a-trailer with four skanky women (eww, eww, eww!!!!) video, which predicted that the scandal could catapult his career in much the same way that Paris Hilton's One Night in Paris video did for her. (Actually, I was unaware that she had a career and that it was, in fact, catapulted by the tape, but I'll accept the argument.)

Or is it just the "no such thing as bad publicity" ethic at work?

Cataloguing some painful pranks Colbert has played on his political interviewees ( he asked Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank about his "wife"; he asked Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) if "somebody bigger" put him up to the idea of proposing anti-bullying legislation; he got the explosive James R. Moran (D-VA) to fake-throw a punch at him; he got Eliot L. Engle (D-NY) to allow him to comb his thick mustache), Stolberg turns to Republican strategist Rich Galen to offer some Rashi 'n Tosefot* on why his party's politicians bend over for Colbert's whip.

Galen notes that it is the young, hip congressional aides who are convincing their bosses to stretch their appeal to "Generation Y." Also, to lose their stodgy, humorless affect. One young turk, David All, the 26-year-old press secretary of Jack Kingston (R-GA), organized a whole pr- fest around Kingston's embarrassing 15 seconds of fame.

Evidently, there is no better way to reach the young 'uns and have a stab at pretending to possess a sense of humor than by being skewered by Colbert.

I think I'll go online and try to track down that Kid Rock video.


*Yeshiva world shorthand for commentary. Rashi -- Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki -- was the famous 11th century French Biblical commentator; Tosefot are anonymous additional commentators. When used in the sentence, "Gimme the Rashi and Tosefot on that way-weird confrontation," it means, hey, dude, clue me in! What the #$% was that about????

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Magazine Antidote to Mad World Syndrome

Ah, Shabbos.

Also known as Shabbat or Sabbath, the day of rest is truly a mekhiah. (All new visitors to this blog are instructed to refer to the posting from February 23rd if unfamiliar with the meaning of mekhiah.)

The way I was raised, which was on the cusp between Conservative and Orthodox Judaism (known for a while as Conservadox), Shabbat ushered in a magical, work-free realm of delectable food, special meals, Saturday morning shul (synagogue) services followed by a thrilling kiddush -- a collation consisting of bowtie cookies, frosted brownies with walnuts, dense pastries shaped like maple leaves, topped with chocolate, herring with little cellophane-adorned toothpicks, gefilte fish and horseradish, tuna salad, egg salad and all the Dr. Brown's soda you could ever hope to drink -- Shabbos clothes and Shabbos shoes, which would be shed for playclothes and sneakers upon returning from shul, playdates with friends but best of all, hours upon hours of uninterrupted reading accompanied by noshing (snacking for the Yiddish-challenged).

There was no television, no phone conversations, no radio, no running of dishwashers or washing machines, no school work, no writing, no traveling by vehicle, no turning on or off of lights, no purchasing or exchanging of money...a real respite from the regular world of commerce and responsibility.

These days, my Shabbatot (plural of Shabbat, the Hebrew version of Sabbath) are composed of pretty much the same elements and my love and appreciation for the 25-hour zone grows exponentially with every year of my adult life. As a kid, I adored Shabbat, never finding it boring or restrictive, experiencing, in fact, sheer freedom in being able to read for hours lying down on my bed, my hand darting in and out of a bag of barbeque potato chips. As an adult, I find myself reaching for Shabbat in the middle of my work week, often praying for its speedy arrival, clinging to it when it arrives, mourning its departure at sundown on Saturday evening.

Shabbat is a time when all my responsibilities to others (except my immediate family) cease and I take refuge in this knowledge, curling up inside it. Hearkening to my childhood habit, I can usually be found on most Shabbat afternoons, or early in the morning before leaving for shul, curled up in much the same manner as I had when I was a child, reading for hours.

Truth to be told, the Shabbat reading I do these days is a bit less literary than that of my childhood when I devoured novels in one sitting. Though I am currently reading the Henry James collection, The Figure in the Carpet and Other Stories (Penguin Classics/1986) this week's Shabbos reading consisted of The New Yorker and the Weekend sections of the New York Times last night (respectable); The New York Times' Womens Fashion Spring 2006 supplement (a little less respectable) this morning; the rest of the paper minus the sports, real estate and business sections this afternoon (back to respectable); and Us Weekly (www.usmagazine.com) and InStyle (www.instyle.com -- completely egregious), which I read avidly in the last hour of Shabbos while sweating it out on the non-electrical Sharper Image stepper we retrieved from the garbage room last month.

Yes, I felt intellectually enriched by my intercourse with The New Yorker (hurrahs to David Remnick for his fine, if frightening Letter from the West Bank; Roz Chast for her hilarious Limited Edition Cards, and Jane Kramer for her Talk of the Town on the meshuganeh response of radical Muslims to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed...visit www.newyorker.com). And yes, Sam Apple's essay, No Laughing Matter, in The Funny Pages section of the Magazine made me guffaw and Leslie Camhi's highly readable if rambling essay in the Times's Women's fashion supplement completely captivated my attention (visit www.nytimes.com).

(Starting off as an essay on the late, great melodramatic actress Sarah Bernhardt, the piece segued into a discussion of her Jewishness and then opened up into a piece of Jewish beauty, Jews and beauty, Jewish designers, Eastern European supermodels with possible Jewish ancestry and the actress Rachel Weisz -- pronounced vice, Camhi helpfully instructs us -- who is proudly Jewish.)

Yes, I admit that I added a couple of books to my Must Read list after visiting with the Book Review supplement, read the op-ed page contributors (Maureen! How can you go on book tour at a time like this???!!! Now what am I going to discuss with my father after Shabbos???) and checked in with news from around the world.

But the biggest bliss of the day came from my perusal of InStyle and US Weekly, when my brain slipped into low gear, my jaw went slack and I was all about haircuts and cute little swingy skirts and which shoes to wear with what length pants and why Tom and Katie are NOT breaking up and how Angelina and Brad are so normal, not like a celebrity couple, and Demi Moore's fashion retrospective and Nick Lachey's reasons for suing Jessica for support and new skin products and a couple of dresses I'd like to try to track down at Loehmann's and...

As my feet trod upon the stepper and my pores pushed through perspiration, I looked at pictures and read captions, my entire body rejuvenating itself, my actual cells regenerating. Without the immediacy of television news or the internet, without the constant ringing of my cellphone and the urge to dash out the door to something or other, I was cloistered for a handful of hours in a Do Not Disturb zone, enabled by the religious laws governing Shabbat observance and my particular reading material.

When I emerged, I felt ready to return to my regularly-scheduled life. Fifteen minutes later, I marked the end of Shabbat (after the ceremony of Havdalah ...http://judaism.about.com/library/3_blessingsprayers/bl_havdalah.htm) by turning on my computer and diving headlong into the celebration of Mardi Gras in post-Katrina New Orleans, the mistrial of the woman who cut off her baby's arms and let the child bleed to death, the ongoing mayhem in Iraq, the suspected ricin found in the Dallas dormroom, the death of Don Knotts, South Dakota's imminent move to ban abortion and other dispatches from our mad, mad world.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shabbat Shalom!

See you after sundown tomorrow night!

Right on Target

Are you familiar with the Yiddish word, mekhiah? Adapted from the Hebrew word for life-giving, the Yiddish version has a more pragmatic connotation: pleasure-giving. The proper use of the word mekhiah (meh-chai-eh) is demonstrated by the following paragraph:

"Shopping at Target is such a mekhiah! The store is so clean and well-laid out and the staff is so helpful and the prices are simply unbeatable! Since they opened the Target near my house, I've stopped going to W#$%^rt, which is a filthy, depressing store that showcases Christian right-wing books, exploits its workers and has refused to carry the morning-after pill. Plus, if you've ever been there at, say, 2 in the morning, you're bound to meet up with one of America's Most Wanted in the power tool aisle. Target sensibly closes its doors before these characters are on the loose."

If you are an American citizen, visitor or resident, chances are that you know all about Target (www.target.com), even if you have never visited one of its gajillion locations. Its clever ads and commercials, its simple yet riveting logo, its genius strategy of snagging high-profile designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Philippe Starck, Luella Bartley and other seriously-cool names, its ubiquitous sponsorship of programs in the arts, education and social services, its amazingly affordable merchandise...coupled with its well-organized, well-stocked, airy and brightly-lit stores make it truly one of the most pleasurable shopping emporia I have ever experienced.

(Other shopping venues that win Bungalow Babe in the Big City A-list billing include IKEA (www.ikea.com); Trader Joe's (www.traderjoes.com) and Whole Foods (www.wholefoodsmarket.com), especially the branches located in Cambridge, Mass.)

I am moved to kvell about Target because earlier today I patronized the location in Central Valley, NY, about five miles from my summer dwelling at Rosmarin's Bungalows in Monroe, NY, the foothill of the Catskill Mountains. Piling Little Babe and Alfie the Pomeranian into our red Dodge Caravan mid-afternoon, we set off along the Palisades Parkway to visit our summer kuchalein (Yiddish for a small cottage, usually with a bed in the kitchen) -- and incidentally, return the stepping stool and unnaturally-shaped red bra I had bought a week ago at the Target in the Bronx.

Because it is such a mekhiah to shop at Target, Little Babe and I ended up making many spontaneous purchases in addition to returning the stepping stool and the unnaturally-shaped red bra. (Nothing frivolous. Mostly stuff on the order of Garnier Fructis shampoo; Bounty dinner napkins; Pria power bars; Yu-Gi-Oh cards; tons of stuff from the dollar section -- great for housegifts!; a Janis Joplin t-shirt for Middle Babe and an excellent Luella black miniskirt for me with strategically-placed zippers and crinoline.)

Following the mekhiah-inducing Target expedition, we headed over to our beloved bungalow at Rosmarin's, on School Road in Monroe, where we've been spending our summers since 1995, when Little Babe was born. Bereft of its canopy of leafy green, the cacophony of voices hailing from all five boroughs of New York (plus Miami) and the bungaleers who inhabit the 100 kuchaleins, the property looked downright dejected. Beneath our feet, the ground was cold and soggy and one could see through the branches of the trees of the mighty forest nearly all the way down to Walton Lake.

It is one of my favorite rituals to visit our summer cabin during the winter with Big, Middle and/or Little Babe, marking the visit on a piece of paper attached to the dead fridge by magnet. I usually scribble something like, "Feb. 23rd. Freezing yet beautiful. We cannot wait until summer!!" and when summer finally does arrive, the refrigerator notes seem like messages from the distant past, appearing as if by magic.

Today, Little Babe, Alfie and I fairly ran to our bungalow, marveling to find the electricity still flowing. "See? If we needed to escape Manhattan because of a terrorist attack or something, we could come up here and live, even during the winter!" I triumphantly told my ten-year-old son, detailing how, with the help of, oh, about 5 spaceheaters, we could keep the uninsulated shack toasty warm in the winter.

There is no rational reason to visit an unwinterized bungalow in the dead of winter. Everything is boxed up, the drawers are filled with mothballs and softener sheets (anti-mouse measures), the toilet and faucets are drained, the mattresses are standing on their sides, and the static cold makes it particularly uncomfortable to endure. Still, being inside our bungalow fills me with a speechless joy. It connects me to the past 11 summers and to my older children's childhood, but there is something more. It reminds me of my distant past and offers me a preview of the future.

I once told HOBB that when the time comes (at the age of 120-plus) I should like to be placed on a cushioned chaise lounge right in front of my Rosmarin's bungalow and be allowed to die with the memories of the best summers of my life surrounding me.

Don't pay attention to the time of the posting at the bottom of this entry. It is actually 3:35 am right now. I am up at this hour because I went to a literary event at the JCC of Manhattan (www.jccmanhattan.org) that lasted until nearly 10 pm and then was about to head out to NJ to pick up Middle Babe from a hockey game when I learned that BOMB (boyfriend of Middle Babe and star of the evening's hockey game) offered to drive my daughter back to NYC.

Naturally, I was relieved, chiefly because I didn't want to miss the Colbert Report (www.colbernation.com), which is an essential part of my daily life. And while Middle Babe assured me that BOMB was imminently about to drive her over the GW bridge, she in fact returned home at 1:30 pm, which was no problem except that we got into a conversation that lasted over an hour and here I am one hour beyond that, still blogging away.

Which might mean that my half-serious plan to take off by myself to Boston for the weekend via the Fung Wah bus (www.fungwahbus.com) might not materialize.

Still, it was worth it. All of it. The trip to Target and the trip to our bungalow and the literary event and the almost-trip to NJ and the Colbert Report and the conversation with my daughter. Especially the conversation with my daughter. A poignant sadness dwells between us at the prospect of her graduating from high school and leaving home at the end of the summer. Also, there is the highly-charged relationship of a mother and a daughter. Raising a girl has been a far more humbling experience than raising sons, I have found. I entered into the enterprise thinking that as long as I didn't duplicate the errors of my own upbringing, I would be blameless.

I have found out otherwise in ways that have stunned me.

As the hour approaches four, I consider the merits of grabbing three hours of sleep to bouy me through the upcoming day, then again, if I wait an hour, I can go work out at the JCC gym! Hmmm. Sleep...exercise...sleep...exercise. It's a tough call.

At this hour, Little Babe and HOBB have been asleep for centuries, and Middle Babe is only a recent inductee into slumber. The intermittent Amsterdam Avenue traffic outside my living room window creates a comforting aural backdrop; it is too early, or late, for honking horns or screeching brakes. Alfie is nowhere to be found, having sought refuge in some warm place, most likely the pile of laundry-bound shirts at the bottom on HOBB's closet. In his dorm room one block away, Big Babe (aka Adam) is probably awake.

Once upon a time, I used to wake up at this hour one day a week to write a column on the life of my family and I know at least one novelist who routinely wakes up to write every morning at 4. I can no longer imagine being able to work at such an hour! Still, it is a rare and marvelous feeling to be awake at this moment, to be alone with my thoughts, to move away from global concerns and focus, if only fleetingly, on such a momentous and bittersweet passage as my only daughter preparing to leave home.

It is, as they say in Yiddish, a mekhiah.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The World is Too Much With Us

The day began with news of a bomb attack on the Askariya mosque in Samarra, Iraq, an impressive, gold-domed house of worship, beloved by Shiite Muslims. The attack, which destroyed the mosque, managed to completely destabilize the country, resulting in rampaging riots, demonstrations and gangland-style violence against Sunnis Muslims, causing the deaths of about 15 civilians, including several imams.

By mid-day, talk was about Iraq being on the "brink of civil war." I hate to quibble with language, but I would offer a different word to describe what seems to be going on in Iraq right now and it would be pandemonium. Complete and utter chaos. Civil War is simply too, well, civilized, kinda like a planned thing. And are things really on the "brink" right now?? I'd say that the pandemonium in Iraq has some real momentum behind it. It is a living, breathing organism, fueled by a vengeance-bent, enraged nihilism.

Not that things are much better here in the US of UAE. Today's installment of the US port management drama revealed at least two terrifying facts:

  • That Bush might not have known anything about this deal until it was fait accompli.
  • And that, surprise, surprise, even without Osama's cousins controlling six US ports, only 5% of all containers coming into this country through our ports are even inspected.

How this is possible in a post 9/11 world under the watch of an Administration that loves to brag about how we haven't been attacked since 2001 defies my comprehension. If anyone can explain the situation to me, please weigh in below by pressing the comments button.

These are the questions that keep me awake and blogging at 1 a.m.

So, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with the picture of the cute and fluffy little Pomeranian puppy at the top of this entry. I'll tell you. The more insane the world becomes, the more essential becomes the time-honored role played by man's best friend. I'm completely serious here. As I write this blog in my dining room (because HOBB kicked me outta the bedroom, like, two hours ago, claiming that he wanted to go to sleep), I am saved from sheer despair by the presence of Alfie the Pomeranian, who is worriedly watching me as I file my post.

The scarier the news becomes, the more dependent I become upon my pint-sized Pom nestling in my lap, presenting his belly for a vigorous scratching and licking my feet when I return home from the gym. The picture up top is, in fact, exactly what Alfie looked like 6 years ago when we acquired him from a breeder in Liberty, NY, for Middle Babe's Bat Mitzvah. When the world is too much with me, I abandon it and enter into Alfie's realm of canine imperviousness.

It seems completely redundant to use the word cute together with Pomeranian, however, if you want a mega-dose of cuteness to help you overcome your angst, visit www.pomangels.com.

A note of clarification. Rereading the above, I wonder if I gave the wrong impression that I have spent the night fretting about current world events and doing nothing else. Not so!!! For one thing, I can happily report to having been a guest at the sumptuous residence of President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University to celebrate the creation of the Institute of Jewish and Israel Studies (see the resolution at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/senate/committees/education/jewishinst.htm).

The event was quite lovely and moving, allowing the university's leadership to breathe a sigh of relief now that the horrible drama of last year involving certain members of the MEALAC department and student accusations against them is long past. Professor Yosef Yerushalmi spoke elegantly in gratitude for the university's decision of naming a chair after him and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time chatting with members of the Columbia faculty and Jewish community, some of whom are personal friends.

Yet as I stood talking with a Jewish Studies professor and author, he pointed out a puzzling detail in the carpet upon which we were standing. And that is the pattern of swastikas around the perimeter of the carpet, woven into the rug most innocently, no doubt hailing from some pre-Nazi dynasty, perhaps India, or even Iraq, land of the legendary flying carpets.

But I quickly forgot about those pre-Nazi swastikas when I returned home to cook dinner for the clan (hamburgers, sauteed green beans and walnuts, pasta and salad), hang out with Little and Middle Babe and HOBB. I didn't think about them as the Colbert Report was getting underway and Alfie ran barking to the front door to herald a surprise visit from Big Babe (aka Adam) who had come from his dorm on East Campus to pick up some dry cleaning and say hi.

I didn't think about the swastikas at all, actually, until now, when I was reminded of them while composing this post. I am certain that they bear no significance, only a hint of irony, appearing weirdly underfoot at an event that attests to the eternal nature of Jewish history.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Port-obello Mushroom

Yeah, I admit it. It took me the better part of 24 hours to untangle this US port insanity. When I first heard about it yesterday, I was en route to the birthday party of NOBB#2 (the second oldest Niece of Bungalow Babe) in Great Neck and heard only a smidgen of the story before being cajoled by Little Babe to move the dial from NPR to Radio Disney. The news was so unbelievable that I figured I had heard wrong. (WHAT??? Handing over control of our ports to the UAE? NAH!!!)

Pushing the thoroughly incredible news from the forefront of my mind, I spent a charming evening with the five little N&NOBBs (nieces and nephews of Bungalow Babe), my beloved MOBB (mom of Bungalow Babe) and dear DOBB (dad of Bungalow Babe), heading back to Manhattan at 10:30 with a talkative Little Babe, then falling asleep within minutes of walking through the front door.

By morning, it was clear that I had heard correctly but with the verification of the news I was overwhelmed by a sense of disbelief. (WHAT??? Handing over control of our ports to the UAE? NAH!!!) Now that I've read dozens of articles and blogs, and listened to talking heads and pundits and press conferences with politicians on both sides of the aisle (special thanks to Wolf Blitzer and Lou Dobbs), I must conclude one of three things:

1-- That this inexplicable decision to hand over oversight of six major United States ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami to a "subsidiary of United Arab Emirates government-controlled maritime management firm Dubai Ports World" (thanks for the wording, CNN.com: www.cnn.com) must be a bizarre, half-baked and swiftly boomeranging public relations strategy to win support among Administration-hating liberals.

2 -- That this inexplicable decision to hand over oversight of six major United States ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami to a "subsidiary of United Arab Emirates government-controlled maritime management firm Dubai Ports World" (thanks for the wording, CNN.com: www.cnn.com) must have to do with Bush Family interests.

3-- That this inexplicable decision to hand over oversight of six major United States ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami to a "subsidiary of United Arab Emirates government-controlled maritime management firm Dubai Ports World (thanks for the wording, CNN.com: www.cnn.com) must have to do with some scary-ass deal that none of us really wanna know about.

So, here's what I'm thinking. Unless #2 or #3 are actually true, Bush and some thinking-outside-the-box strategist (or strategists...perhaps those forward-thinking Bush twins?) musta come up with this counter-intuitive move, high-fiving each other after they dreamed up the concept, leaning back in their chairs as they fantasized about the PR shock 'n awe 'n admiration it would inspire around the world.

How else to explain why the president of the country that is on the Search and Destroy list of Arab and Muslim radicals choosing to compromise the security of his nation's ports by handing over a contract to the United Arab Emirates -- hometown of two of the 9/11 hijackers and homebase of the Dubai banks that the terrorists drew their funds from?

How else to explain the president that won/stole the second election by scaring the shit out of everyone about the imminence of another terrorist attack on our soil turning now to a country that is a known threat to the United States and basically handing them the keys to our house? Come on in. The kids are sleeping upstairs.

The Bush brainstormers must have been convinced that this move -- so bold, so unexpected, so liberal -- would win support from those nasty critics of wiretapping and racial profiling and US support of Israel. And, as Bush himself said in his Charles Lindbergh-like press conference aboard Air Force One today, it really looks bad around the world for America to oppose this deal just because DPW is a Middle East company and furthermore, he would exercise his veto power should Congress oppose him. Hrrmphh!

The bipartisan tsunami of outrage (credit to Dana Bash of CNN for using that apt and most 21st century word in her emotional dispatch this evening) to Bush's outta-touch-with-reality move today was most gratifying. I haven't especially liked Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the past, but I loved the guy today. Also lovely to behold were Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and NY Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) standing shoulder to shoulder on the issue. King, incidentally, is no less than the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

And speaking of homeland security...isn't it frickin' weird that the pasha of paranoia -- Michael Chertoff -- is standing foursquare behind this bizarro proposal??? With no details being released on the process that his office went through to investigate DPW, I would expect him to be a wee bit more sensitive to the American public whom he managed to scare to death over the past few years and offer some proof of DPW's America-friendly agenda.

Okay, I gotta move on...

Some highlights from my day: I got the chance to try out the Ab Lounger (As Seen on TV...check out http://www.fitnessquest.com/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=/link?src=KWPABUC) at my gym tonight. How cool is that! They had just unpacked the contraption when I finished with my low-tech crunches on the mat. Timidly, I asked the highly-muscular trainer Keith if I could test-drive the Ab Lounger and 25 crunches later, I know my six-pack impressed the hell out of him.

Following in the footsteps of this cool experience, I hailed the cab of an extremely joyful Egyptian driver by the name of Ahmed Ibrahim. Extremely joyful and extremely famous, it turns out. Plying me with laminated newspaper articles, he told me that he is the Matchmaker Cabbie (check it out at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002164720_cabbie30.html) and this is his last week of driving a cab because he is going to have a television show about him.

Yeah? I inquired, squinting to read the newsprint in the dark of the backseat. Well, he replied. The TV show would take time, but a movie would be coming out. Mazel tov, I told him, though not in those exact words. I could make out the masthead of People Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Yup, he was the real deal. A celebrity cabbie. "Google me," he urged me as I got off at my stop, right across the street from Columbia University.

I thought it was a good idea to refrain from asking him what he thought about Bush turning over the control of our country's ports to an Arab country.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Morning After

Day two and all is jiggy here in the blogosphere of Bungalow Babe in the Big City. Today is Presidents Day and Little Babe went off to vacation camp in Riverdale with his best buddy, while Middle Babe went off to a full-day rehearsal at her high school for the senior class's production of Once Upon a Mattress. Middle Babe plays Princess Winnifred the Woebegone. Big Babe has classes at Columbia. Husband of Bungalow Babe (HOBB) is reviewing applicants for the graduate program where he teaches and when I finish this entry, I will return to my work, drafting a press release to announce a major literary award.

Kudos to Krugman

Paul Krugman, that is, for hitting the nail on the head with his excellent NYTimes Op-Ed column today, The Mensch Gap (www.nytimes.com). I couldn't say it better, Mr. Krugman and I wish I'd said it first. There is an extreme absence of menschlichkeit (menschiness) in the current administration. Or to quote him directly:

"Be a mensch," my parents told me. Literally, a mensch is a person . But by implication, a mensch is an upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions.

The people now running America aren't mensches.

In the course of his essay, Krugman delivers his anti-mensch list:

"Dick Cheney isn't a mensch."
"Donald Rumsfeld isn't a mensch."
"Michael Chertoff isn't a mensch."
"Michael Leavitt isn't a mensch."

Krugman charts the innumerable fuck-ups of the administration -- from the Twilight Zonish flipping of blame for Cheney's gun-gone-wild onto the victim, 78-year-old Harry Whittington to the VeePee's misleading info on WMD's to the screw-up that is the war (or American occupation) in Iraq to the destruction of New Orleans by FEMA's inaction in the face of Katrina to the "catastrophic" prescription drug plan to the holding of prisoners of dubious guilt at Gitmo.

Posing the pressing yet poignant question, "where have all the mensches gone?" Krugman goes on to deliver his blow of blows:

"The character of the administration reflects the character of the man at its head. President Bush is definitely not a mensch; his inability to admit mistakes or take responsibility for failure approaches the pathological."

Amen, Mr. Krugman. America hears you.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

In the Beginning...

Welcome! Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Shalom!

A momentous day in the life of Bungalow Babe in the Big City. I borrowed my son (Adam J. Goldman -- visit ajgoldmann.blogspot.com)* from his regularly-scheduled life as a Columbia University student and asked him to explain the inner workings of blogs to this time traveler born in 1960. Ten minutes later, I think I've got it under control. Enough, at least, for the rudimentary aspects of blog-keeping, that is, the verbal entries. Such advanced matters as linking, pictures and other stuff will hopefully follow as my cyber-proficiency increases.

Ya might be wondering, though, with this disclaimer, how I got that way-hot image of Stephen Colbert onto the blog. The answer is that I copied it from my wallpaper. No, silly, not from my actual walls (though, come to think of it...) but from my laptop, where it recently replaced the way-boring image of Stonehenge that had been there since I bought the machine.

Stephen In the Shower became my wallpaper this past Friday after I copied it onto my desktop after spending, oh, about an hour cyber-stalking Stephen while I should have been doing at least twelve other, more pressing tasks, including working. Yes, life is a series of difficult decisions and we must learn to live with the consequences.

I won't dwell on my admiration-obsession with Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report and honestly would not even have written about him/it right now were it not for the fact that I copied this image onto my very first blogger entry as Bungalow Babe in the Big City sorta, almost as a test. So, please, let's move on...

About this blog: I intend it as an experiment. Not in the pretentious, experimental-art way, but in the "let's see how it goes" pragmatic way. As someone whose life is fairly filled with commitments to work, family, physical fitness and friends (sometimes, scarily, in that order), I'm frankly a bit worried about committing to the upkeep of this blog...though not worried enough to refrain from even embarking upon the journey of blogging.* So before you grow too attached to Bungalow Babe in the Big City...

It is the evening of a magnificent day in Manhattan -- sun-drenched, shimmering, shockingly cold. I spent the majority of the day at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (www.mjhnyc.org) in lower Manhattan, drawn by the new exhibit Life in Shadows, about hidden children during the Holocaust. Going through the exhibit with Little Babe, my ten-year-old son, I was exceptionally moved throughout, in fact, I found it hard to keep from weeping. Anyone who has a child or loves children will be touched by the stories of the Jewish parents who made the brave and risky decision to hand their children over to Christian families, orphanages, monasteries and other venues, knowing that the chances of either's survival and eventual reunion were slim to non-existent.

Tonight, I want to debrief Little Babe on his reaction to the exhibit.

There is much to say about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which is a cultural treasure. The location and the architecture alone make a trip there completely worthwhile. Just walking along the southwestern-facing windowed corridor on the third floor of the museum was a treat, offering a wide view of New York bay, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New Jersey and more. Their permanent exhibition explores the contributions of Jews to world culture and it was fun reviewing the roster of writers, composers, filmmakers, directors, actors, singers, dancers, conductors and other cultural icons who were Jews.

There is much to say, but I'd like to focus my comments on Ours to Fight For, which celebrates and documents the role of Jewish American GI's in WWII. Aside from the artful layout of the exhibit, which takes you into rooms and shacks and through corridors, and the cool assemblage of artifacts, weapons, uniforms, documents, newsreels, mezuzahs, dogtags, photos and videotaped interviews with the GI's, one cannot help but admire the unified spirit with which the leadership and citizenry of America entered into WWII, confident in its knowledge that its soldiers and forces were engaged in a battle with sheer evil.

Viewing this exhibit in the winter of 2006 -- against the backdrop of the travesty of the War in Iraq made me painfully away of how America has plummeted from greatness during the administration of George W. Bush.

Hey, I could go on, but need to get to the gym (www.jccmanhattan.org) if I am gonna work off the donut I ate mid-afternoon. My daughter Middle Babe announced that she is en route home for dinner with her bf so I just popped some Trader Joe's spanakopita (www.traderjoes.com) into our oven and will wash some lettuce for salad before abandoning my family for my rendezvouz with the treadmill. We tend to eat dinner together most nights, but tonight is the Sunday evening of a vacation weekend so I'm jumping ship. Anyway, HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) made some pierogie for Little Babe and Adam (aka Big Babe) is making some gourmet concoction which smells pretty damn good. I'd better get outta here before I get seduced into eating anything more!!!!

Thanks for reading this far, if you have indeed read this far.

Bungalow Babe in the Big City

* You'll be introduced to my younger children as Middle Babe (daughter, age 17) and Little Babe (son, age 10) in due course. I was going to call my oldest son, Big Babe, but he's already 21 and has his own blog, so he can fend for himself.

** I first identified the urge to blog sometime over the summer while staying at my actual bungalow -- Rosmarin's in Monroe, NY. A few summers back I had a weekly column called Bungalow Babe in the excellent local paper, The Times Herald Record (www.th-record.com). Borrowing the name of my column for my blog seemed a stroke of genius; it enabled me to export a bit of my summer sensibility back to the Big City, where I spend the majority of the year.

In any case, I have been too busy and cyber-intimidated to create the blog until today when I came back from my visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage to find Adam rifling through his old papers in a frantic search of some (very fine) poetry he had written two years ago and which he feared lost when his computer crashed last year. Turns out, he had e-mailed the poems to me while I was living in Oxford, England and I was able to locate them and e-mail them back to him. In gratitude, he shared his expertise with me and...voila!!!