📝 My Father: A Remembrance (2018)

userpic=father-and-son

Every year on my dad’s birthday I post a remembrance that I wrote the day after he died in 2004. Today he would have been 94. As I wrote last year: As I get older, I see more and more of my father in me — and I like what I see, and I’m grateful he gave so much to me that makes me who I am.

My father was born in Flushing NY in 1922. He was the eldest of four brothers; the son of a tailor who lived over his shop. I can’t give you too many details of the early days. His mother died young, when he was in his twenties, and sometime thereafter, his family moved to Los Angeles (how’s that for glossing over details). My dad went to Southwestern School of Accounting, and was a Public Accountant. He married his first wife in the late 1940s, and my brother was born in 1952. He loved my brother very, very much. He divorced that wife in 1955, and retained custody of my brother. He married my mother in 1956, and I was born in 1960. My mother was a CPA, so they formed an accounting company of their own, Faigin and Faigin. My brother died, reportedly due to an accident (I never knew the true details) in 1970. It devastated both my parents. My mother died in 1990 on my wedding anniversary. My father remarried a year or so later to Rae, who had lost her husband. This brought me some new wonderful family members. This should bring you up to date on the familial backstory.

So, who was my dad, and what do I remember. This is a jagged collection of memories.

I remember being in Indian Guides with him, painting rocks and bark to invite people to meetings. I remember going on Indian Guide campouts with him. It is because of this that I did Indian Princesses with my daughter, continuing the tradition. I recommend this program to anyone who is a dad.

I remember going on trips with him to East Los Angeles, to visit his clients. We would hit small mom and pop grocery stores, Mexican candy companies. I’d always get sweets… and get to sort the paid bills afterwards.

I remember him taking the time to be with me.

I remember him telling bad jokes, and being enamored with old-time radio stars, such as Al Jolsen (his favorite), Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, and so on.

I remember his teeth. Specifically, I remember how he would remove his dentures just to gross out us kids.

I remember him taking me to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see musicals, starting in 1972 when my mother was too sick to attend The Rothschilds. From this came my love of musicals.

I remember him reading Robert W. Service to me, especially Bessie’s Boil.

I remember him, at the Passover Seder, reading the Four Sons. He loved to act, mug, and play with his voice to make a point during the story.

I remember him being active in the Masons and the Shriners, especially with his good friend, Raymond Schwartz. I remember him going to the Masonic Picnics.

I remember him playing bridge with my mom and their friends, the Cohens, the Schwartzes, and the Strausses. Perhaps this is where I got my love of gaming.

I remember him telling stories of his time in the Navy, when he was a pharmacists mate, 2nd class, at Camp Elliott, which is now part of Mirimar NAS in San Diego. He found it ironic that he was in the Navy, as he could never swim.

I remember his disorganized tool-bench, where eventually you could find what you need. I still have his 30 year old power drill, which I still use today.

I remember him taking care of my mother as she died of cancer, and fiercely defending her when we would fight.

In his later years, I remember him fighting with the computer, and eventually learning to use it and to use Email. However, he could never quite get the printer figured out. I would get calls from him that stuff wasn’t printing, and it was because he had been playing with the printer queue again.

I remember him cooking. He loved to cook peppers and onions in olive oil. He made a mean spaghetti sauce, and a great pot roast in tomatoe sauce. Rae says that I got my cooking skills from him, with which I must agree, as I don’t think my mom could cook.

I remember him collecting autographs and first day covers. For many, he would frame them and put them all over the walls.

I remember his love of baseball, which never rubbed off.

I remember him taking pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures. And still more pictures. I’ll probably find about 50 cameras at the house, together with probably 200 photo albums. In particular, I remember a few specific cameras: His Konica T-3 SLR, which I have. His Fuji POS, which he received at a special party my mother threw for him at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

I remember him loving fountain pens, just like me. He had boxes of pens, and even more ink. He’s the only man I know that has a quart bottle of Schaeffer Black Quink Ink in his supply closet. There are about 6 bottles of ink on his desk (I only have 3).

I remember him being a luddite when it comes to computerizing financies. He left me loads of two-peg journal books to go through to figure out stocks and bank accounts.

I remember him being a packrat. He collected office supplies. He collected biographical books. He collected CDs. You name it, he collected it.

I remember him being a good friend and caring about other people. After my mother died and he remarried, his new wife’s children were treated the same as his natural children, with the same love. He was a second grandfather to my sister-in-law’s children. He was there when people needed him. Until his last year, he volunteered to help seniors with their taxes.

For many years, I remember him being a staunch Republican, going counter to my mother, the strong liberal. I remember him backing Nixon and Reagan. This year [nb: this was written in 2004], however, had he been strong enough, he was going to vote for John Kerry. [I think he would have been disgusted with Trump.]

I remember him being a people person. He would just light up when he was around people, especially those that hadn’t heard his stories before.

I remember him being there for me and my family. We spoke weekly on the phone, something I will miss, talking about everything. He had good advice, which I grew to respect as I got older. To the youngsters reading this: listen to your parents. They’ve been their and made the same mistakes. They do know what they are talking about.

I remember his love for his granddaughter. He had pictures of her everywhere, and she loved him. I remember him taking her to Disneyland when she was three, and being there in the hospital when she had her open heart surgery at the age of four.

I remember his love for his family. He enjoyed spending time with his brothers, Herbert, Ronald, and Tom, and researching family history. [I’ll note we lost Uncle Herbert in 2011, and Uncle Tom just last year; luckily, Uncle Ron is still going strong.] When my daughter was little, we picked up a copy of Grandfather Remembers and gave it to him. He filled it out, and now it is a lasting memory for her of her grandfather. To those of you who are grandparents: take the time now to write out your memories for your grandchildren. Record an oral history. Annotate your photo albums. It is worth the time. You will create that memory that will outlive you.

I remember how he loved Yiddish and Yiddish stories. I remember him reading the Freiheit. [ETA: I think he would have been extremely proud to see his granddaughter become the Yiddish scholar that she is.]

I remember (or have discovered) how he loved his wives. I remember how he loved my mother, Nancy, even through the depths of her depression, her anger, her rages, her illnesses. I remember how he rarely lost his temper (and when he did, you needed to worry). I remember when he first told me he had met Rae, and how they quickly grew to love each other. Even though there was an age difference there, I saw the deep affection that existed between them. He chose well.

I remember how he touched people. A few months ago, I went to a funeral that was packed to the gills of people who loved the deceased. My father had friends all over the world, and helped many people.

In short, I remember a deeply caring man, who I really think was responsible for making me the way I am today (both for good and for bad). He does live on in me, and I think he lives on in my daughter as well. As long as we remember someone, they never die.

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☕ Tea Time 2019

As I’m down to my last tin of tea, other than my large tin of Iranian Ceylon, it is time to do another tea order. My previous order was in May 2017, and before that in July 2015, in November 2013, and in April 2012,  so it is just about a 2 year cycle. Again, the bulk of the order is from Upton Tea (who has great varietals), except for teas that they are out of. Here’s what I’m ordering this time (as before, teas shown with ✨ are new this year (the addition of ⑰ indicates new due to updates at Upton); ☕⑰ indicates teas first ordered in 2017; ☕⑮ teas first ordered in 2015; ☕⑬ indicates teas first ordered in 2013; and ☕⑫ teas first ordered in 2012; further ☕ indicates black teas, and 🍵 indicates green teas; and (2017 Price)):

  1. TD50: No.1 Tippy Orthodox GFOP Darjeeling. ☕⑬. An exceptional golden tip Darjeeling blend. We first introduced this tea in 1990 and it continues to be our most popular Darjeeling. $10.25 ($9.75) / 125g.
  2. TA20: Tippy Orthodox FBOP Assam. ☕⑰ A uniform, broken-leaf tea with bold character and strong, malty flavor. This tea is a great choice for breakfast and throughout the day. $7.00 ($6.50) / 100g.
  3. TA27: Halmari CTC BOP. ☕⑰ A bold CTC style tea with rich flavor. The dark liquor will readily take milk. Especially suited as a bracing morning tea. $6.75 ($6.25) / 125g.
  4. TN10: Nilgiri Broken Orange Pekoe.  ☕⑬. Located in southern India, Nilgiri produces teas similar to those of Ceylon, yet with a distinctive character. This British style Nilgiri produces a flavorful cup that is excellent with milk. ($4.00 ($6.402013/ 100g (125g2013))
  5. TP12: Premium China Keemun. ☕⑮ Often called the burgundy of China teas, this North China Congou is rich, flavorful and appropriate for any time of day. We offer this as our basic Keemun, although it is in the middle range of the standard series. $7.00 ($6.50) / 125g.
  6. ZG20: First Grade Gunpowder Green. 🍵⑫ Superior grade of green tea in the style of gunpowder teas (tightly rolled tea leaves resembling gunpowder pellets). $5.75/125g.
  7. ZG14: Young Hyson Imperial Organic. 🍵⑮ This organic tea has the bold flavor of a high-fired tea, yet it has a pleasing smoothness with delicate sweetness. The thin, well-twisted leaves produce a liquor with a pale green color. This is a very popular style of China green tea with a bolder leaf. $6.50 ($6.00) / 100g.
  8. ZO20: Roasted Oolong. ✨☕. This tea begins as a classic, medium-oxidized Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong, processed in the traditional style. It is finished and cured with a slow firing in bamboo baskets over a charcoal fire. The result is a tea with smooth, rich and inviting character. $6.25 / 125g.
  9. TB49: Darjeeling-Ceylon Iced Tea Blend. ☕⑫ Half whole-leaf Darjeeling and half OP Ceylon. A great hot tea as well! The brewing information provided is for making an iced tea concentrate. $7.50 ($7.00) / 125g.
  10. TB15: Java Blend. ☕⑬ A rich breakfast blend especially suited for those who enjoy a powerful cup in the morning. This also is a great choice for iced tea. Java teas are never expensive, so you get the best produced for a few cents a cup. $6.25 ($5.75) / 125g.
  11. TK12: Rukeri Estate Rwanda BOP Organic. ☕⑰  The cup has a full flavor and aroma, with a medium body. May be enjoyed plain, but it is strong enough to accommodate a touch of milk. Longer steepings yield a robust cup with notes of rose and peppery hints. At briefer steepings, the liquor is sweeter and more delicate. $7.00 ($6.50) / 125g.
  12. TC32: Kandy OP. ✨☕⑬. A whole-leaf Ceylon tea of excellent flavor and good color. Highly recommended for the Ceylon enthusiast. This is a new bolder leaf version of this popular selection. $7.75 / 100g. ($5.70 in 2013)
  13. TC52: Somerset Estate BOP Breakfast Blend. ✨☕ A perfect choice for breakfast tea, this broken-leaf selection wakes you up with its brisk, refreshing aroma. Notes of honey and a light floral hint blend harmoniously with a rich, toasty character. $5.00 / 100g.
  14. TC05: Ceylon BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe). ☕⑮  A choice blend of regional Ceylons. $6.50 ($6.00) / 125g.
  15. TB02: Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend. ☕⑮  A tribute to the famous London tea auctions, our Leadenhall Street Breakfast Blend is a blend of two classic British teas: a brisk Ceylon and a thick, malty Assam. The result is a flavorful mixture which lends itself to the addition of milk. $7.00 ($6.50) / 125g.
  16. TB05: Mincing Lane Breakfast Blend. ☕⑫ For this blend, we paired a hearty Assam with a smooth and flavorful Yunnan, for a cup that is highly enjoyable. The invigorating liquor has a full mouth feel, subtle spicy notes, and a lingering aftertaste. While milk is recommended, it is enjoyable plain. $9.25 ($8.75) / 125g.
  17. TB14: Scottish Breakfast Blend. ☕⑮  Blended to appeal to those who favor an eye-opening experience in the morning, this tea yields a cup with a round, full flavor, malty notes, and brisk character. A perfect choice to start the day. $6.75 ($6.25) / 125g.
  18. TB30: Kensington Breakfast Blend. ☕⑰  A bit lighter than our River Shannon Blend, this English Breakfast style tea is a rich blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun. Best with milk. $7.50 ($7.00) / 125g
  19. TB75: Baker Street Afternoon Blend. ☕⑮  A bit of Lapsang Souchong is blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift. Another special (whole-leaf) blend from our London source of fine teas. $8.75 ($8.25) / 125g.
  20. TB86: Richmond Park Blend. ☕⑮  A mellow, whole-leaf blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. An exceptional tea which is smooth enough for drinking plain, and sturdy enough to take milk or lemon. From our London blender. $8.75 ($8.25) /125g.
  21. NT01 Naturally Flavored Earl Grey Creme Vanilla. ✨☕  This naturally flavored black tea selection provides a wonderful balance of a classic Earl Grey with creamy vanilla notes. The rich cup is smooth and satisfying. $9.00 / 100g. This is the replacement for the Monk’s Blend I used to order.
  22. TE92 Naturally Flavored Almond Vanilla Delight. ✨☕ This naturally flavored black tea produces a dark copper liquor fragrant with notes of vanilla and a hint of marzipan. A lovely sweetness envelops the almond vanilla notes, finishing with a hint of spice. Add your choice of milk to create a delicious latte, hot or iced. $5.50 / 125g.
  23. TF92 Naturally Flavored Tropical Black Tea. ✨☕  A melange of dried papaya, passion fruit and pineapple, blended with a rich black tea, creates a decadent tropical fruit experience. Fragrant and sweet, this tea is wonderful hot or iced. $7.25 / 125g. This is my fruit-blend selection for this order.
  24. NF90 Naturally Flavored Vanilla Tea. ✨☕⑰ This naturally flavored, whole-leaf black tea is smooth and rich with creamy vanilla flavor. The aroma is fragrant with notes of sweet vanilla bean. Enjoy this decadent treat any time of day. $10.50 / 100g. This replaces the previously non-artificially flavored version.
  25. NT85 Naturally Flavored Creme Caramel Tea. ✨☕⑰  Small caramel pieces are added to a black tea base, giving this naturally flavored selection a sweet creamy fragrance and rich caramel flavor. Enjoyable hot or iced, savor this delicious blend any time of day. This product contains dairy. $9.50 / 100g. This replaces the previously non-artificially flavored version.
  26.  TD06: Darjeeling BOP Blend. ☕⑰ The best value in Darjeeling tea. Broken leaf Darjeeling is often overlooked, either because the price is so reasonable or because too much value is placed on a more stylish leaf. This flavorful BOP blend offers a great cup at a very attractive price. $12.75 ($8.25) / 125g.

Additionally, I ordered the following for my wife:

  1. ZG30: Special Grade Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green. ✨🍵.  This high-grade Gunpowder tea is rich and full-bodied with a pronounced sweetness. A hint of tobacco complements the herbaceous flavor and lingers into the finish. $6.00/125g.
  2. ZJ41: Chung-Hao Special Grade Jasmine. ✨☕. Chung-Hao Jasmine belongs to the same series of China Jasmine tea as Yin-Hao, but is less expensive. Delicate silver tips adorn the well-made leaves, producing a light, refreshing cup redolent with the heady fragrance of jasmine blossoms. A rich sweetness blooms and lingers into the finish. [May be out of stock – if so, substitute TP70 China Jasmine, $6.50/125g]
  3. NT90: Naturally Flavored Christmas Tea.  ✨☕⑰. This naturally flavored black tea is decorated with orange peels, almonds, cloves, cardamom, vanilla and rose petals. A sweet cinnamon aroma with a light floral hint introduces a flavorful cup with notes of citrus and spice. The finish is smooth and lingering. The perfect treat for those festive occasions. This product contains tree nuts (almonds). $9.50 / 125g. This replaces the previously non-artificially flavored version.
  4. NT94D Naturally Flavored Melange de Chamonix.  ✨☕⑰. Fine black tea is blended with cocoa, cardamom and cinnamon to produce a balanced and warming cup. This naturally flavored selection offers a decadent treat for any chocolate or tea lover. This replaces the previously non-artificially flavored version. $20.00 / 250g.
  5. TG11D Green Tea Blueberry. ✨🍵. Dried blueberries and natural flavoring complement the smooth China green tea base, yielding a pale gold liquor with refreshing blueberry notes and a crisp, clean finish. This well-balanced blend tastes delicious hot or iced! $9.50 / 200g.
  6. TX30D Decaffinated Masala Chai. ✨☕ A wonderful blend of warming spices – ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper – complements the rich flavor of this CO2 decaffeinated black tea selection. Great hot or iced. $24.75 / 250g.
  7. BH45D Organic Spearmint. ✨☕  A select lot of our organic, coarse cut spearmint (formerly BH43). Great for blending with green tea or steeping alone as a refreshing, caffeine-free beverage. $9.75 / 100g.

Note: This order was equivalent to 37 100g or 125g bags, meaning our average price overall as $7.62 per bag.

For reference, here are some links to even older tea orders: 2012 (Franklin Tea (which, alas, closed in 2015), Stash Tea, Upton Tea), 2011 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea), 2010 (Special Teas (which was owned by, and later merged into, Teavana, and of course Teavana was later purchased by Starbucks), Stash Tea, Franklin Tea), 2009 (Stash Tea), 2008 (Franklin Tea, Stash Tea, Surfas, Lupicia, Teavana), 2007 (Stash Tea), 2006 #2 (Stash Tea), 2006 #1 (Stash Tea, Adagio Tea), and 2004 (Stash Tea).

 

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🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5779

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown Sunday night, September 9th (yarrr, Errrrev Rrrrrrosh Hashanah is Talk Like a Pirate Day). Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5779. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 18th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

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Thoughts of the Day – The Fool on the Hill

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” — Tom Lehrer

April Fools Day became meaningless when Trump was inaugurated, making every day more foolish than the other. Nowadays, one reads Twitter or watches TV Journalism, and what we might hope to be real is fake, and what we hope is fake is, far too often and alas, real.

I had thought about doing an April Fools joke about either deciding that Trump was right, and I was going to move to being a Trump supporter, when I realized that there are those who would not understand the joke. With Trump’s inauguration, our sense of humor has been lost as well. I then thought about doing an April Fools joke about ZJ day†, either along the lines of an Elvis sighting or conversion — but again, people wouldn’t get the humor.

I’d even thought about wishing that next year’s April Fools Day would seen a return of the humor, a return to normal Government in Washington — a wish that November begins the turnaround. But again, there are those who might see that as a joke as well.

Sigh. The fool is out golfing for the weekend, and we’re the bigger fools for electing him — whether you voted for him, or voted for “the other clown” (or didn’t vote at all) because you believed the rhetoric that the propaganda engines pumped out of the Book of Face, on behalf of the fool’s overlords.

†: ZJ = Zombie Jesus. After all, they say he returned from the dead. Many of his followers these days mindlessly follow the April Fool, only seeing brains as junk food, not food for thought. No insult intended for those that are more than just followers in name, for those followers remember the dictums of the religious observance I celebrate:

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourself been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
(Leviticus 19:33-34)

You shall rejoice before Adonai with your son and daughter… and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow in your midst. Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt.
(Deuteronomy 16:11-12)

You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

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Rolling Stock

Subaru UserpicThe user pics (those icons on posts at the top, to the right) have traced the evolution of how I have traveled since I joined LiveJournal back in 2004. From personal vehicles to vanpools, through Hondas, Toyotas, and now Subaru, they’ve shown how I’ve gotten from there to here:

 

From my wife’s 2002 Honda CRV, to my recent 2006 Toyota Matrix (which replaced a 1999 Honda Civic that got cow-tipped), and to the Matrix’s replacement, a 2016 Subaru Impreza; from all the various vanpool vehicles I’ve driven. All have been portrayed in userpic.

For the last few days, I’ve been teasing a different picture on my Facebook:

For those unfamiliar, this is a picture of a Outback towing an Outback, parked in the outback of an Outback. There was a reason: we were in the process of replacing my wife’s car. ALthough she picked out the car last Saturday, it took a week because the car dealer’s server was down. Mind you, this didn’t shut down just one dealership, but an entire family of dealerships, the week before Christmas. The server came back on Thursday. Friday we were out in Santa Clarita, and I posted another picture:

We are now a two-Subaru family, having added a 2018 Outback to the family for my wife. Guess it is time to make a new userpic…

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Me Think Thou Dost Overreact

My erstwhile employer has recently implemented an alert system from employees after a nearby police incident a few months ago highlights problems with the old system. This is all well and good. However, I do believe there are a few bugs to be worked on.

The first time was when there was a power-failure in a building…. that was resolved in 20 minutes. We received alerts via email to home and work, and calls to cell and work, about both the failure and the all clear.

The second time was during a lock down drill — the drill where there is supposedly an “active shooter”, and you are to remain quiet in your office. So, of course, everyone’s cell phone goes off during the drill with an alert notification about the drill… and then the office phones ring with the same notification.

Today we got another alert about a fire alarm activation in a building in our campus that I’m not in. It came via email to work and home (OK), and by phone to cell, work, … and my home number, for some bizarre reason (if I’m home, I’m already not in the building). This, I guess, is all well and good. But a few minutes later came the all-clear, with the following:

“The current emergency at Building XX has concluded and an all clear has been issued by the [Locality] Fire Department, alarm activation due to burnt toast. You may resume normal business activities. “

Burnt toast.

Somehow, I think they need to tweak and fine-tune the system and its use a bit more.

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What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie? (A Thanksgiving Tradition)

Today is the day when we are thankful for many thing. Home. Family. Loved ones. Stan Freberg.

Yup. Stan Freberg, who reminded us in his 1962 album “The United States of America” that this is national “Take an Indian to Lunch” week. I wonder if he would have to change the words these days, although the sentiment is equally true… [Luckily, today, Native Americans have moved past this stereotype and taken control of things.]

Take an Indian To Lunch

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we

Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share our Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch

Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate
Indians, Indians, rah; rah; rah

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it

Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower)
Take an Indian
(Not a wooden Indian)
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

Stan Freberg also reminded us about how the first Thanksgiving really went…

The Luncheon Under The Trees

Narrator: Needless to say, the luncheon there under the trees was a great success, and a good time was had by Puritan and Indian alike. Everything came off beautifully with the exception of one minor catastrophe.

Mayor: What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie?
Charlie: Well, I cooked the turkey, that’s all.
Mayor: You put our national bird in the oven. Is that correct?
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings.
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: You did a thing like that?
Charlie: Well, the two birds were lying there side by side.
Mayor: The *turkey* was for the centerpiece, Charlie, I mean …
Charlie: Well, they looked so much alike that I, uh …
Mayor: Well, we blew it now. They’re all sitting down at the tables out there.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah.
Mayor: … starting on their little nut cups already. Just have to switch the birds, that’s all.
Charlie: Yeah, well …
Mayor: Serve them turkey instead of eagle. But it’s kinda scrawny-lookin’, isn’t it?
Charlie: Yeah, well I thought I’d stuff some old bread in it and make it look a little fatter.
Mayor: You do that, OK?

May all my friends and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember the holiday for what it originally was: shopping later that evening at the Mall of Plymouth for those stylish belt buckles. Stay safe!

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Thirty Years

Today was our annual volunteer day at the Rail Festival, otherwise known as Day Out With Thomas at the Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB). It was an odd day: I only had one shift, and my wife got none; further, walking around the museum I saw fewer and fewer people that I knew. It wasn’t always that way, however….

Walking around the museum, I came to the realization that it had been 30 years since we had joined. 30 years since our first rail festival. In those thirty years we had gone from the youngsters to the old folks. And although I truly appreciate what our friends Thomas and Percy have brought us, I couldn’t help remember the days gone by, and what we had lost.

OERM 1987 RailfestBack in 1987 and into the 1990s and early 2000s, rail festivals were a very different beast. They were run completely by the members of the museum themselves; you would get a volunteer bid sheet and request your assignments — from Loader to Car Attendant to Car Barn Attendant to Street Guard (a very boring assignment). Over the years, you would get to know the members quite well. They would bring their kids as they got older, and they would grow into car attendants in their own right and regularly come to the museum. I remember Maurice and his kids Sondra and Jeff, and quite a few others. In this way, the museum became a family: you knew everyone and they knew you. If your kid ran off, even at a festival, they knew who to direct them back to.

We ran the tracks to capacity — you can see the schedule from 1987 on the right, including two pictures from back then (including DOT 12, which is now OERM 1956 (I think, could be OERM 1975), and my lovely wife after 2 years of marriage). We would trypically run a diesel on the main line, the Key System Unit (which hasn’t run in years) down to Barn 4, a steam engine pulled caboose train, and sometimes the big Red Cars (usually a blimp – such as 418-498) on the main line. We’d also run quite a few cars on the loop line, including the really old Kyoto car from Japan. Back in the early days, we only ran part of the way to downtown Perris — as far as we had electrified the track. I still remember the vines and gourds that grew out there. Later we finally got permission to run to the Perris Depot: we would have three trains alternating, and yet another train in Perris continuing to run North to Neuvo. The first year in Perris we were mobbed — I still remember Ray Ward and I figuring out how to put out the stanchions to control the crowd.

The museum itself was a lot of dirt roads — or perricrete (hard pack Perris dirt). Stanchions were made at the museum of yellow rope, poles, and rail wheels. It was a very informal family thing. We would all gather in Town Hall at the end of each day for Ed Vandeventer to give us the attendance numbers, and then most of us would adjourn to the Sizzler (later Tres Amigos) to get together for dinner.

Family is a good word to describe what the museum was in those days. Even if you got out to Perris infrenquently due to the drive — twice a year for Rail Fest — you knew most folks from the festivals. People were treated with respect.

But times change and things grow. In 2002 a little blue train came to Perris for the first time. It was back in 2003. Since then, it has been back every year, and is now back twice a year. The museum has added Thomas’ friend Percy the last three years, as well as adding the Peanut’s characters to our Pumpkin Patch event. This is all well and good, but has changed so many things.

First, the nature of membership has changed quite a bit. Back in the 80s and 90s, all members were volunteers interested in Rail history: in addition to rail fests, they would come out to work on train restoration, learn how to be operators, and take care of the museum. Since Thomas, membership has (at least to me) expanded to what I could call the parent brigade: parents who join museums for their kids for special admission prices and such. These folks don’t volunteer, they don’t become integrated into the family. It like being a member at the Zoo or the Art Museum. Such members are vital for a success of a museum, but they represent the move into the larger world, and the transition away from the small family. Casualty of growth.

Our little blue friend has also changed the physical plant. The blue friend brings in a green friend that isn’t Percy: one that can be spent on infrastructure improvements. Thomas has brought better signage, significantly more paving, better landscaping, and a whole host of big and little improvements from drainage to bathrooms. Members and donors have also met the challenge: new building such as Grizzley Flats (Barn 6), Four Tracks Out Back (Barn 7), and the Archives Building came from the members, as did more storage land that allowed all the old trains cluttering the interior of the museum to move moved away from visitors. Safer, cleaner, but less character. Infrastructure improvements are a good thing.

The growth of DOWT has changed the festival. The traditional railfest has gone by the wayside. There’s a member event still in the Spring, but it is nothing like what we did during the old railfest with just members as volunteers. In many ways, that’s because many of the older members have gone on to the big depot in the sky (and we miss them) or have moved away (and we miss them). Railfests are primarily DOWT these days, and the volunteers are provided by loads and loads of sharp and capable young men and women from groups like the Civil Air Patrol, Explorers, ROTC, nearby Military Schools — all earning service credit and doing good for the community. It is really wonderful to see these hard-working youngsters — you know there are good kids out there. But it is different than the family that we had.

The festival is now different in terms of events — largely because a festival of diesel, steam, and trolley cars just isn’t the draw it was 30 years ago. Now in addition to Thomas, there are kids areas and Thomas merchandise and photo-ops and food vendors — and it really is a well planned day. Here’s a mom’s eye view of DOWT that was shared this year. It really shows how the event is so so different. It is a celebration of Thomas, not the museum itself.

The museum has grown and added new events, such as the Steampunk Weekend. They’ve added things for the kids, like Daniel Tiger to the Trolley Car night. There has been increased thinking about the museum as a museum and its mission of preservation and interpretation as opposed to simple collecting. [To understand, contrast something like the Valley Relics Museum with the Museum of the San Fernando Valley]

I’m not trying to say that the museum has lost its way, or that Thomas is a cult leader like Sun Myung Moon or L. Ron Hubbard. Far far from that. I think that my buddies Thomas and Percy and their friends Charlie and Daniel has been great for the museum. Instead, I’m just noting the culmulation of incremental change that I’ve seen from 1987 to 2017. I miss the old days, the hard work, and most importantly, the people. But times change, and people pass and move away, and institutions grow and mature. OERM is still instilling a love of trains and travel history in our young, and bringing back memories to the old. But it is different, and festival feels oh so different.

But I still plan to be there next November.

Dining Notes: As we got out of the museum early (around 4pm), we meandered back home. Along the way, we found a great Salvadoran restaurant in Pomona, Hot Cazuelas (FB). We had a wonderful and inexpensive dinner, and talking with the owner later we discovered he used to own Salvadoran restaurants in our neck of the woods (North Hills) that we loved. One he sold and it has become something else, but the other (FB) has the cook from the one we loved and we still frequent them. We plan to go back. Hot Cazuelas is on Holt about 2 blocks W of Route 71, 1395 W. Holt Avenue. I had their Chicken with Grilled Onions and it was great, but their specialty is seafood.

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