Friday, June 29, 2007


At one minute to six this morning, I was jolted awake by an urgent feeling; there was something I needed to do.

Stumbling over the boxes of my office -- still unpacked after four days in the bungalow -- I staggered to the bathroom, passing Little Babe asleep on the living room/kitchen couch/high-riser.

More boxes of my office stuff stood like a mini Manhattan in the middle of the living room/kitchen. Outside the bungalow, the sky was an inviting pale blue and birds were singing prettily, Snow White-style.

Once I arrived in our crazy day-glo bathroom (the tiles are accidentally retro...installed in the seventies or eighties, before they were cool, which they most certainly are now) it dawned on me that there was nothing more urgent for me to do than get to the gym before my work day began.

Blame it on carbs, hormones, age or my exercise-lite regimen of this past year, but my Bungalow Bod isn't looking quite summer-ready. Though HOBB and the Babes protest to the contrary, I feel like a huge container of cottage cheese when I put on my Isaac Mizrahi bikinis (Target, of course) from bungalow summers past.

To counteract the lumpy look, I have undertaken four draconian measures until I see some improvement:
  1. No coffee (I was seriously, impossibly addicted, downing several cups a day of Zabar's, Starbucks and/or Oren's Beowulf blend, with generous amounts of half and half)
  2. Daily visits to the gym
  3. No to Cheetos and potato chips and other carby foodstuffs
  4. Yes to the Fat Flush Plan, or at least a liberal version of it (visit
So, within half an hour of waking up -- and two massive cups of green tea later -- I arrived at Straub's Fitness Center in Monroe. Claiming my fave treadmill -- the one with a good view of four television sets -- I plugged in my headphones, pressed Quick Start and was on my way to svelteness.

The danglings television sets had all been set to news stations and I had before me ABC, FoxNews, CNN and CBS. The story about the defused car bomb in London's theatre district dominated each network. For the 45 minutes I trod, I heard the story over and over again, listened to snippets of press conferences from London, saw diagrams of the location of the parked and smoking car, heard from the man whose car was parked next to the failed car bomb, listened to pundits and anchors and reporters alike, viewed the area -- Haymarket -- from a multitude of London security cams, got various updates on the situation, heard about the heroism of the bomb squad that disabled the device, packed, incidentally, with nails, learned of the potential catastrophe that had been narrowly, perhaps even accidentally, averted.

And learned a roster of new names in the news: Gordon Brown, the newly appointed PM whose name I kept forgetting; Peter Clarke, the chief of anti-terrorism for the British police; Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, a former head of MI5.

And tried to squelch my frustration hearing CNN's Christiane Amanpour skirt the issue of Islamic fundamentalism, reminding viewers that most Muslims in Great Britain are peaceful, linking the radicalism to the war in Iraq and the fact that Muslims do not enjoy the same standard of living in the UK (and France) as they do in America.

Just one teensy-weensy step further and terrorism becomes a sociologically and morally justified act.

Kind of like when it happens in Israel.

Naturally, the pundits and talking heads on TV hearkened back to the attacks of July 7, 2005 or 7/7, as we are almost at that ignoble second year anniversary.

It is a day that I will never forget because of the irony of where I was when the attacks unfolded.

On July 7th, 2005 I was hiking with my family in the lush Galilee, enjoying the second part of my Israeli nephew Alon's bar mitzvah. We were staying at a beautiful kibbutz right outside of Kiryat Shmona and had gotten up early to hike through Ein Tina, a river trail. The day was spectacular: sunny and clear with a sweet breeze. Camp groups gathered in the shade, applying sunscreen and checking their water supplies.

About three minutes into our hike, Little Babe slipped on rocks in the riverbed and fell, cutting his leg open in a gaping wound. A female medic nearby took one look at our sobbing son and proclaimed, "tefarim" -- stitches. Five minutes later we were on our way to a Magen David clinic in Kiryat Shmona.

After the doctor had stitched up a brave Little Babe who was now buoyed by the impending celebrity he would enjoy among his cousins on account of his five stitches, HOBB and I, who were limp with post-traumatic stress and the late-morning heat, decided on a trip to the Kiryat Shmona mall for some ice cream.

The mall in Kiryat Shmona is a dismal, two-story affair with a handful of cheap stores, a pharmacy, a post-office and a food court with a pizza place, a falafel joint, two ice cream establishments and a burger place. Like our retro dayglo bungalow bathroom, this mall hailed from the seventies, but there was nothing remotely chic about it.

Instead, it reflected the depressed local economy.

Yet the gelato was fresh and delicious and we opted for large servings to counteract the heat of the day and the memory of the morning.

It was as we were sitting down to enjoy our treats that we saw the horror of seven-seven unfold in real time on the television set suspended from the ceiling of the food-court. With the two-hour time difference between England and Israel, we caught the news as it was happening.

Eating ice cream in the very town that witnessed a massacre of eighteen of its civilians in 1974 (including nine children), it was surreal to say the least to watch London reel under the impact of a calculated terrorist attack on its underground and bus system.

Being in the world's most popular terrorist target, it seemed illogical that elsewhere on the planet -- England, in this case -- innocent civilians were also being killed in ideologically-driven murder plots.

For the next hour, we sat glued to the television screen, broadcasting BBC Worldnews, stunned to find ourselves safe in Israel while others were maimed and killed by terrorists in that most cultivated of European cities -- London, where we had spent a large part of the previous year.

So, when today's news from London dominated the airwaves, I felt myself transported back two summers, trading my treadmill-top location in Monroe, NY for the mall of Kiryat Shmona, Israel, recalling the cold shock that washed over me on that day as I watched the news.

Though I learned the truth on 9/11, the events of 7/7 reinforced the lesson: Nowhere in the world is safe anymore.

Terrorism lives, fueled by the conviction of those who wish to annihilate us.

By "us," I mean anyone who is not "them."

And passively aiding and abetting the terrorists are the Christiane Amanpours of the world, who fail to ask the proper questions, such as why moderate Muslim leaders repeatedly fail to speak out in force against acts of terrorism; and infer that opposition to the war in Iraq or an inferior social status satisfactorily explains why people of a certain religious and ethnic group are driven to kill innocents.

If the recent, Nazi-like boycott of Israeli academics in England didn't alert the world to a basic failure in British society, perhaps today's barely-averted disaster might serve as a wake-up call.

There is a murderous hatred in the heart of England, flowing through the veins of its citizens, poisoning the body of the nation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Love Shack is the fulfillment of my fondest fantasies.

Modest and unassuming, it resides on the edge of a lush forest, one half of Unit 10 of Rosmarin's Cottages and Camp in the town of Monroe, NY.

The Love Shack is Bungalow 10B. After years of skipping through other units -- all charming in their own way -- we settled on this one, outfitted with a generous front lawn, set far apart enough from the 99 other units so that we enjoy something that bungalow colonies often have in short supply -- privacy.

Because of our location, I often (happily) refer to our bungalow as the Anti-Social Shack.

The Love Shack has an enclosed porch where we have moved our round breakfast (and lunch and dinner) table; a combination kitchen/living room, a small bathroom and two bedrooms. Our front lawn has a combination of resin Adirondack chairs, a wooden picnic table and assorted end tables.

By 8 in the morning, sunlight filters onto our front lawn, drenching it in golden light for most of the day. By 4, the sun begins to recede over the top of the trees and the lawn becomes a sheltered oasis, protected from the glare of the sometimes relentless sun.

Early in the day, deer, bunnies and turkey vultures often cavort on our grass.

In my bedroom, the entire contents of my office surround me. It took eight hours, from 8 pm to 4 am, starting on Sunday evening, to pack up my work life, organize it, and prepare it for transport to the Love Shack. Since I started my business in 2002, this has been a yearly ritual -- transplanting my professional life into the Catskills.

Now, I am truly Bungalow Babe.

Where I fail to clean properly for Passover, I meticulously scour through files, notebooks and materials at the end of school in late June, organizing projects and clients, preparing them to make the trip with me from Manhattan to Monroe.

Thus within Bungalow 10B, I am able to run my business for the summer, working out of my bedroom, taking phone calls while stretched out on a blanket in the sun, invariably decked out in bikinis, running clothes, or not very much at all.

When we first came up here, in 1995, Little Babe was three weeks old and his brother and sister (Big and Middle Babe) were about to turn 11 and 7, respectively. For those first few summer, I had all the Babes with me up at the Love Shack. During the day, they attended the excellent day camp and when it was over, we met at the pool to swim for hours, or visited the nearby Ananda Ashram or went to play in "Airplane Park" in downtown Monroe, or hiked down to Walton Lake or caught a double feature at the Drive-In in Fair Oaks, Middletown or Warwick, or simply hung out inside the bungalow.

After my first summer, when I was on maternity leave, I worked during the day, commuting to Manhattan before I left my job to open my business, employing nannies to cover for me when I was not here. For a few summers, we even had young women live with us in the Love Shack. It was miraculous how our bungalow was able to accommodate so many people without seeming cramped.

Since Big and Middle Babe hit their teens, however, the prospect of a Bungalow Summer paled next to European travel or Israel trips and their visits have primarily been restricted to weekends or days off from their programs. With the allure of Summer in the City, it has been harder to lure them up to the Love Shack, though this summer I have been heartened to see their renewed appreciation and longing for our family tradition.

And speaking of tradition, HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) stays mostly in The City, coming up with other husbands for the weekend in classic Catskills style.

Some of our most delicious memories are of being in the Love Shack together in the middle of the day, when no one else is around.

It is now 8:08 in the morning. The new folding table I picked up at Target last night is resting on the floor next to my bed. My printer is on the bed to my left, where I left it last night before I fell asleep reading this past Sunday's Times Magazine. Next to the printer, Alfie the Pomeranian is stretched out, snoozing blissfully. In our kitchen/living room, Little Babe is sleeping deeply. Though the entire back bedroom is his, filled with toys, books and momentos, he prefers to sleep in our common room, lulled by the hums of our fans and the refrigerator.

Shortly, I will have to wake Little Babe up and get him ready for camp. Shortly, I will have to begin my work day. Later, there is a Shortline bus I need to take to The City for a midday meeting. When I return, after Little Babe has had his fill of post-camp swimming and a snack at The Concession, I will drive him to Tae Kwon Do in Monroe, next to Straub's Fitness, where I work out. Later, I will host his friends for a summer dinner -- hamburgers and potato chips.

I am typing in my bungalow bedroom, wearing the tank top and shorts I slept in. My short black hair is standing up in spikes around my head. After one weekend in the country, my skin is already deeply tanned. I think with pleasure of the contrast between my brown thighs and the oatmeal linen walking shorts I will wear to my meeting today.

Bags from Target still litter my kitchen floor. My summer reading has still not been unpacked from the suitcase I hauled into Little Babe's bedroom but, as if with x-ray vision, I can see the books I plan to read: Don Quixote; The Stories of Mary Gordon; Londonistan; New Essays on Zionism; The Book of Disquiet.

And the Collected Works of Isaac Babel.

I have been shlepping Babel around since Passover, losing him once in SoHo, failing to finish his work but determined to keep trying.

The Love Shack is filled with the artifacts of my life -- my laptop, my work, camp photographs, knick-knacks from the local 99 cent stores, tag sales, roadside leftovers from garage sales.

There is just enough space inside Bungalow 10B to accommodate my summer life. The humble rooms harbor my memories and my dreams. Sweet sleep overtakes me at night; sweet summer air surrounds my slumber.

The view outside my enclosed porch is of a lush and deep woods.

It is this view that calms me when I have fears that I may cease to be.

This scenario is the epitome of my desires.

Friday, June 15, 2007


It was only a matter of time, in fact, I’m a bit surprised the refrain did not sound sooner.

The real, underlying cause of the civil war in Gaza this past week is (drum roll, please)…Israel!!!

Oh, and America.

But really, Israel.

Like Arnold Horshack, the famously stupid yet overeager student from Welcome Back Kotter, the New York Times has the distinction of raising its hand first, Horschack-style -- “Oooh!! Oooh!! Mr. Kotter! Mr. Kotter!!! I know!! I know!!! -- to (reflexively) identify the root cause of the reason why Gaza has turned into Hamastan, in a matter of days, with over 70 Palestinians dead.

But the Times was queasy about naming names. The reason behind the recent nightmarish warfare in Gaza rests in the failed policies, it says, of “Washington” and “Jerusalem.”

But readers, abandon your shock and above all, do not despair. There is yet hope. Though Israel (...whooops, Jerusalem) screwed the whole thing up, now is the time that it -- together with America (...whooops, Washington) can set everything right by “exert[ing] constructive influence in this dangerous situation.”

(Okay, I’m listening, even if I am wondering why only Washington and Jerusalem are being addressed when there is an entire international community watching Gaza implode.)

Hmmm. So, which “constructive” means does the Times have in mind?

*Impose a “total freeze on settlement building and expansion"
*Promptly ease the “onerous, humiliating and economically-strangulating blockades on Palestinian movements within the West Bank and
*Swiftly release “all tax revenues rightfully belonging to the Palestinians” to Mr. Abbas’s office

In other words, if only Israel had done this earlier, Hamastan would not have happened. And dismal as the situation is, taking the advice of the optimistic Times editorial staff constitutes a “new and wiser approach to Palestinian politics.”

Before I even dive into the heart of the specific recommendations of the newspaper of record, let me deconstruct the above statement. While I am all for some deus ex machina solution to the tragic drama of Gaza, I am against the subversion of language. To call what has unfolded over the past few days “politics” is preposterous. Politics has nothing to do with this, unless politics simply means power-struggle.

Politics dignifies the primitive, bloodthirsty violence that has taken place as an ineffective, internally corrupt Fatah has been overtaken by the sword-swinging Hamas fundamentalists bent on creating an “Islamic State,” whatever that means, ridding their conquered land of “heretics” and utterly ignoring a social agenda so that it might devote itself to rid the entire world of these so-called heretics, and, as the icing on the cake, eradicate Israel in the process.

And now to shoot down the Times’s three points, quickly and painlessly:

*Israel’s “settlement building and expansion” has about as much to do with igniting the Crips and Bloods-like warfare in Gaza as my mother’s new kitchen renovation. If the Times wants to be utterly irrelevant, it might as well toss in the O word at this point (occupation).

*Regarding the “onerous, humiliating and economically-strangulating blockades on Palestinian movements within the West Bank,” the Times is confusing cause and effect. These checkpoints are utterly essential in order to prevent the murder of Israeli civilians at the hands of new and eager recruits, such as the two Palestinian moms caught en route to blowing up Netanya and Tel Aviv last month.

If only Israel didn't have to worry about building blockades.

*Hey, instead of releasing the “monies” to Mr. Abbas, I’ve got a better idea! Let’s just hand them directly to Hamas! This way, we can at least save a few members of Fatah from being gunned down in front of their wives and children or thrown off the top of a high-rise building or shot in the back of their knees!

I admit it. Reading the Times this morning utterly ruined my day. Its lead editorial is more akin to something I’d expect to read in a college newspaper of a campus famous for its left-wing politics, and ill-informed student leaders.

But the Times editorial is depressing for another reason. To state that the ball for stabilizing the situation in Gaza rests fundamentally in the courts of “Washington” and “Jerusalem,” is to admit (without admitting it, of course) that the Palestinians are such animals/ incompetents/lunatics that the world can have no expectations of them. That they are so morally-challenged that the concept of accountability does not apply in their case.

So many analogies come to mind reading today's lead editorial in the New York Times.

Reading today's Times is like watching an episode of Law and Order that was produced after Hamas militants stormed the set. After shooting the interim DA Nora Lewin in the head, kidnapping Jack McCoy and throwing producer Dick Wolf off the top of the NBC building, the newly-cast judge, played by Mel Gibson, would render a decision that found Israel culpable for the crime at the heart of this episode -- an infectious virus that spread to humans because an animal activist stormed a laboratory where infected monkeys were being experimented upon – as well as every crime on every episode of Law and Order, including Law and Order: SVU and Law and Order: CI and other spin-offs I'm not aware of.

Because Law and Order is no longer watchable, I cruise the channels, only to discover reruns of Welcome Back Kotter, but it seems like Hamas stormed the set of that show as well, turning Horschak into a newly-converted Wahabist Muslim who honor-kills Hotsy-Totzie because she was seen talking to Epstein and recruits Barbarino and Boom Boom Washington as suicide bombers.

Mr. Kotter is killed, of course, because he is Jewish, and replaced by a new teacher – Mr. A. Dolph -- played by Mel Gibson. Horschack changes his name to Hamid and renames the Sweathogs the Palestinian National Struggle Against Zionist Imperialism.

Hamastan has taken over the American media, seeping into our homes and our minds.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


When I was a little Babe I shared a room with SOBB, my little sister, two years younger.

My chief occupations as a young girl/boy were reading books that were at least a decade too old for me and often sexually frank, if not pornographic (ie -- The Godfather, Candy, Blue Movie, Tropic of Cancer, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care) writing adventure stories and suicidal poetry, practicing my spying skills and fantasizing about running away from home.

My sister's chief occupations were playing school, playing mother, singing and talking to her dolls.

Aside from the basic fact that as my younger sister she barely deserved to live, SOBB -- who is my best friend today -- was absolutely the world's most annoying person. I, on the other hand, was a budding sophisticate. As a result, most of our discourse was nasty. Yelling, shouting, insulting and name-calling were our main modes of communication and there was plenty of hand-to-hand combat as well.

When things reached a certain pitch we approached our mother to mediate. Instead of offering cool diplomatic conflict resolution, her reaction invariably was something along the line of "Go ahead and kill each other for all I care!" delivered between bared and gritted teeth.

Which invariably shocked us into declaring an immediate ceasefire.

I am reminded of my mother's reaction as I read the headlines out of Gaza, which get more and more horrific by the minute. Instead of building an infrastructure for their oppressed people, the Palestinians have decided to turn on each other -- Fatah vs Hamas, brother against brother -- each vying for leadership of their fragile nation, executing each other in the street, tossing handcuffed prisoners off highrise buildings, killing UN workers, lobbying grenades, missiles and mortars at key installations in a nihilistic bid for supremacy.

Also, conducting a form of torture -- according to today's front page New York Times article -- known as "kneecapping," which I had to look up on-line. So, what is kneecapping? Shooting someone through the back of the knees.


Watching from the West, I cannot help but recall the words of the great Abba Eban who famously quipped that the late, corrupt PLO chairman Yasser Arafar "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

After conducting a fairly successful decade-long public relations campaign where they managed to explain their lack of social infrastructure by portraying themselves as victims of Israeli aggression and occupation and even raise support for an obscene lie -- that the suicide bombers they were producing were but a symptom of an oppressed, desperate people, hence, morally defensible and ultimately Israel's own fault -- the Palestinians have fallen down on the job, severely wounding their own image as victim of imperialistic outsiders.

Turns out that they are their own worst enemy.

I just tuned into to see the latest in this explosive situation, which has not yet been called a civil war by observers, but is surely that, if not the Palestinian version of Armageddon. What I learned, in addition to the escalation in fighting and the threat by Hamas to invade Abbas's compound, is that Israeli security forces revealed that in late May it caught two Palestinian women on a suicide bombing mission to Tel Aviv and Netanya.

Both are mothers. One is pregnant, with eight other children. The other fabricated a medical reason for her travel to Ramallah to be fitted with an explosives belt. Both hail from Gaza.


Mazel Tov, btw, to Human Rights Watch, who woke up to brand the activities of Fatah and Hamas over the past few days as crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was the gun battles that were being waged near hospitals, the tossing of shackled people off of rooftops, the misappropriation of press markings on a vehicle to be used in an attack against the IDF, the habit of killing civilians and other such activities which led HRW to speak out.

The long-ago battles I used to wage with my little sister are the stuff of stories we both tell our our children, much to their amusement. The stories are funny now because it is obvious that we have grown out of that primal rivalry/hatred into soul-sisterhood. The stories are also funny because of our mother's un-PC reaction to our warring...and our own penchant for offering intervention services to our own children.
What is not funny in the least is what is happening in Gaza. Brother versus brother, a fight to the death. A twist in the Palestinian narrative that somehow reveals an uncomfortable truth that lies beneath the other narrative that has been neatly presented to the West, a narrative in which the chief offender has been Israel, a narrative in which it all might have turned out differently if only....
Within the bedroom of Gaza, Palestinian brothers have marked each other for destruction. Within the house of Gaza, young mothers leave their children to strap on belts of death and devastation This is not a story with a happy, heartwarming ending. No one is going to laugh when they look back at this scene.
Watching from the West, I hear the long-ago message of my mother, delivered through gritted, bared teeth telling the warring siblings to go ahead and kill each other for all she cares.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Any woman who has attempted the feat of derring-do known as working while raising children has likely developed a theory about the Almighty that allows for one of the following:
  • God is a sadist

  • God is a misogynist

  • God has one hell of a sense of humor
Being fond of God (check earlier posts where I have declared that Hashem is my homeboy), I am going to go with the concept of God as a cosmic writer for the Colbert Report.

And the comic situation most beloved by God is the one in which the needs of one's children come into direct conflict with work deadlines and commitments, causing maximum stress and embarrassment to the mother who is struggling to appear as competent and professional as possible.

With Big Babe approaching his 23rd birthday and Little Babe just newly turned 12 (and Middle Babe about to celebrate her 19th B-Day...not to leave out my only daughter) I have over two decades-worth of that initimitable experience known as "feeling like crap" because I have fallen down on the job as a mom or as a professional...or both.

There is a log somewhere (in heaven most probably...just next to the Book of Life and a bit to the left of the Book of Deeds) that has recorded every birthday I was absent for, every school event I missed, every trip permission form I failed to fill out, every late payment to camp or school, every lame-ass gift I have bought and every unfair allegation I have lobbed against my blameless children.

Next to these entries is the work-related reason for the maternal slip-up. The conference in Washington on Little Babe's birthday, the interview that took me away from Middle Babe's kindergarten play, the deadline that kept me up late at night so I didn't wake up in time to sign the trip permission slip before the school bus left in the morning, the birthday shopping spree at the local 99 cent store because we were flat broke because a client was late in paying, the sharp words because a child exceeded a budget and we were flat broke because a client was late in paying...etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And next to this particular book is a book written by my clients filled with testimony of missed deadlines, broken promises, failed campaigns, bad press releases, cancelled meetings, interrupted meetings, meetings I attended with unwashed hair and clothes, meetings in which I was barely awake and/or coherent that is, in turn, accompanied by the child-related reason for each transgression -- the child sick with flu/bronchitis/pneumonia/croup/stomach virus/mono/PMS/diarhea/chicken pox; the child inconsolable following the break-up of a relationship; the child with nightmares; the child who had to endure an anti-Semitic tirade at their school in England; the child marooned in a foreign city/airport/beach; the child bullied at school or camp; the child who is scared/sad/depressed/filled with existential angst; the child who is graduating; the child who has a test/homework/term paper/project; the child who has a prom; the child who has a birthday... etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

One day -- after one hundred and twenty years, God Willing!!! -- an accounting will be made of both logs to see if the screw-ups on both fronts cancel each other out.

With such grown-up children underfoot, one might conclude that my life has become easier, that I can pour myself into my work with a clarity of focus. In fact, just yesterday, as I trod on the treadmill during lunchtime, a friend who has four children younger than 5 waxed poetic about the magical, manageable lot that must be mine.

Well... yes and no.

Yes, when the Babes are out of the house and Hell No!!! when they are around.

In fact, with Big Babe home from college and Middle Babe returned from her gap year in Israel, the house is suddenly alive with the sound of children. Not to mention their music, their friends, their phone conversations, their complaints and their, requests that I spend quality time with them (i.e. -- talk to them) in the middle of the work day.

Making it really challenging to keep my home-based business afloat or to even finish one e-mail in peace.

Making me pull all-nighters that are still interrupted when Big Babe arrives home at 2 am and proceeds to blast the soundtrack from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover or launch into a spontaneous discussion of what to do for the rest of his life now that he's graduated from college.

Making me lose my concentration when -- in the middle of a conference call -- I hear the biggest scandal that happened on Middle Babe's Israel program and I know the parents of the child involved.

Making me unable to rewrite the lead on a simple Media Advisory because I realize I never filled out the school registration forms for Little Babe that were due two months ago.

Somewhere in Heaven, God and His/Her pals are having the laugh of their (eternal) lives tuning into the sitcom that is my life:
Bungalow Babe in the Big City Tries to Have a (Professional) Life
While Not Totally F$%^&ing Up as a Mom.