This Is Why i Don’t Sleep

Random Musings 6 Comments »

Don’t you lie awake nights wondering how many words end with “-ly” that are NOT adverbs?

Me, too!! Here’ s my list from last night; add your own, please! Note that almost all of mine are adjectives, and also that most are adjectives that you’d rather not be! I wonder why that is. A good language historian, like John McWhorter, could tell us, i’m sure. But figuring out how to get in touch with John McWhorter … that’s a job for another night.

Anyway, in alphabetical order, here are the adjectives i’ve thought of so far: bristly, burly, comely, courtly, cowardly (how come there are  no “heroly” men?), deadly, early (i know this is ALSO an adverb, but i decided to admit such words to this list because it seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do), friendly, frilly, gentlemanly, ghastly, ghostly, giggly, girly, gnarly, gravelly, grisly, gristly, heavenly,  hilly, holy, homely, jolly,  jowly, kindly, knightly, lively, lovely, lowly, manly, masterly, matronly, mealy, melancholy, neighborly, niggardly, oily, pebbly, pimply, portly, prickly, princely, roly-poly, scraggly, seemly, shapely, sickly, silly, slovenly, sly, smelly, spindly, squiggly, squirrelly, studly (should we allow that one?), surly, timely, treacly, ugly, ungainly (Where are all the “gainly” people? We hardly ever hear about them), unseemly, untimely, womanly, and woolly. (To spare readers unnecessary torture, i deliberately omitted all words like easterly, westerly, northerly, north-northwesterly, southeasterly, etc. Likewise for daily, hourly, monthly, yearly, biweekly, semimonthly, etc.)

The nouns: ally, anomaly, belly, bully, butterfly*, contumely, dilly, doily, dolly, filly, gully, holly, jelly, lily, monopoly, panoply, philately, pully and tally. (Pretty sickly list, right? But i’m so proud of “contumely”!) (I disdain to include the nouns caddisfly, fruitfly, dragonfly, etc., as too easy, and in fact have included “fly” itself in the “verb” section below.)

And finally, the only verbs i could think of last night: dally, fly*, ply, rally, sally and sully.

Come on, everyone! Send me your non-adverb “-ly” words! If we get a big enough list, maybe we can send it to the Guinness Book of Records and set the record for … something-or-other! (And now, sleep peacefully, knowing that i’ll be up all night trying to think of a good category for such an effort.)

What is the sound of iron bars slamming behind one man?

Journalism No Comments »

That was the headline i wrote for the following story last night. In a move that curdled my heart, it was changed to: “Cops called to Zen monastery, arrest man on assault charge.” Here is the story, a classic in the category of “You can’t make this shit up”:

SUMMITVILLE — State police have arrested a 42-year-old man after an assault they say took place at a Zen monastery on Mount Vernon Road on Saturday night.
Min Jae Hwang is facing two counts of assault in the second degree, a felony, and an array of misdemeanors in connection with the incident.
Police say that they they responded to a call at the Catskill Zendo. There, they said, Hwang had struck a 45-year-old man with a broken bottle and had forcibly touched and used force to restrain a 38-year-old woman.
The man struck with the bottle, who had lacerations to the head, was treated and released at Ellenville Hospital. Hwang was sent to Sullivan County Jail without bail.

Newburgh’s Erin Brockovich

Newburgh, G-d help us 2 Comments »

… or, Newburgh’s Pain in the Ass: i’m sure i’m being one or the other. Today i called the Department of Environmental Conservation’s regional office in New Paltz to report, after months (years?) of smelling it, this really, really awful smell. It’s almost always there … but not always. It’s there on both weekdays and weekends. And i have always smelled it at mid-day … but then, i’m never there any at any other time, so it might last all day and all night.

“There” is around the Kinney Apartments, at the corner of Dickson and Walsh’s Road. That’s also where the Sunoco station is located, and the new health center that’s right next door to it (but there’s also some kind of other business in between them, that often has so much bundled-up cardboard next to its loading dock that it looks like it’s a recycling center, but it’s not), and within a half-block or so of there is a Hispanic “disco,” more low-income apartments, the Iglesia de Dios church, the new-ish Unitex laundry plant, a NYS Dept. of Transportation rock-salt storage facility and the Mobil Life Ambulance headquarters.

What finally got me to call was, LAST Monday, Tim was walking past there with me and the smell was so strong it made me feel a bit dizzy. Tim identified it as something from an organic chemistry lab, “perhaps in the aldehyde family.” This cannot possibly be good. So today, a fellow named Joe Battista with EnCon told me he’d send some guys down to “smell around” that area, and see if there are any illegal discharges they can find. He told me to call him back in a week if i don’t hear from him by then.

Meanwhile, i plan to go over there every day and take notes. Por ejemplo: last Monday, it was very windy and cold when we were smelling the stuff so strongly, and Tim pointed out that those conditions area the hardest under which to smell anything. And the wind was blowing from the northwest. Today we walked there again, and the wind was almost still, but what there was, was blowing from the southeast, and it was quite warm, and there was no smell.  Also, the smell is in no other neighborhood that we’ve noticed; just right around the Kinney Apartments. Where a whole lot of low-income children live.

So, i’m all over this. One day, when i was walking around there by myself, i asked a guy coming out of the apartments if he smelled anything, and he said he had a cold and couldn’t smell. i asked him if he smells something around there very often, and he said, “No, but I’m not from around here” … and then he got into his UPS truck and took off.

Oh, well: I’m not letting it drop. Newburgh’s Erin Brockovich is on the case! (Only with not as much cleavage.)

Audience Participation Post

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OK, boys and girls: Everyone on the right side of the room do the following: Sing the great Carl Perkins song, “Blue Suede Shoes.” (“Well, it’s one for the money/Two for the show/Three to ready/Now go, cat, go/But don’t you/Step on my blue suede shoes/You can do anything, but lay offa my blue suede shoes./You can knock me down,/Step on my face,/Slander my name all over the place/But don’t you/Step on my blue suede shoes/You can do anything, but lay offa my blue suede shoes/You can burn my house/Steal my car,/Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar/But don’t you/Step on my blue suede shoes/You can do anything, but lay offa my blue suede shoes.”  That one. You know it from Elvis’s version.)

Those on the left do this: Sing the great Carl Perkins song, “Honey Don’t,” which was the B side of “Blue Suede Shoes”  in 1956. You know it from Ringo’s cover. (“Well, how can you say you will when you won’t?/Say you do, baby, when you don’t?/Let me know, honey, how you feel,/Tell the truth, now: Is love real?/But oh, well, honey, don’t!/Honey, don’t! Honey, don’t! Honey, don’t!/Don’t say you will when you won’t;/Uh-uh, honey, don’t!”/Well, I love you, baby, and you ought to know/I like the way that you wear your clothes/Everything about you is so doggone sweet/You got that sand all over your feet/But uh-uh, honey, don’t!” You know it.)

Ready? On the count of three. Let the “Blue Suede Shoes” group start first, and get all the way through the “lay offa my blue suede shoes,” and then the “Honey Don’t” group should join in and start their song when the “Blue Suede Shoes” group starts its next verse.

Practice! Practice! We must take this on the road.

When it dawned on me yesterday (while listening to an old Beatles album) how great those two songs would sound when sung in counterpoint to each other, my daughter, Rachel, who’s quite the musician, said, “Well, ANY ’50s songs could be sung that way: They all had that same 4/4 beat and that boring I, IV, V chord progression that was all anybody knew back then!”

But i say: Sing! Sing! This is gonna be good.

So the Columnist Wrote …

Journalism No Comments »

… in the Sunday edition of the Record that the biggest achievement in a father’s life is when his kids have all graduated from college. The next bigggest, he wrote, was when they are all happily married. But since HIS sons, he said, seem to be showing no interest in marrying, the third biggest achievement — potty-training his kids — has risen, in his case, to second place on that list. 

And so the Copy-Editor headlined the column: “Among life’s achievements, potty-training is No. 2.” For the Web version, i seriously considered embellishing it to say: “Of life’s accomplishments, potty-training is a solid No. 2.” But then i had a rare flash of good taste, and didn’t.

Either the publisher didn’t see that headline, or my second stint at the Record will be ending shortly. i’ll keep you posted.

Oh, so THAT’S why Times Square is Still Standing!

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The Times Herald-Record has a story referenced on Page One today about the failed Times Square bomber being sentenced to life in prison. This is the guy, Faisal Shahzad, who put a bomb in a car and parked it in Times Square in May, but it didn’t go off, and a street vendor helped cops catch him, and they yanked him off a plane just as he was about to fly out of the country.

Funny thing is, when i got home last night after helping to put the tease to that story on Page One, there waiting for me was the new issue of Granta, a great literary magazine that i subscribe to every few years, when i talk myself into believing that i can afford it. Each issue has a theme, and this issue’s theme is “Pakistan.” There was a short article that i read standing up with my raincoat still on, called “The Trials of Faisal Shahzad,” by Lorraine Adams with Ayesha Nasir. It’s all about Shahzad’s weird family life — his poor birth family that became wealthy and his mediocrity in school and his arranged marriage, and how he came to attend the execrable University of Bridgeport and work in Connecticut as an “account analyst,” and all — and it quotes extensively from his remarks at his trial.  It was pretty frightening and depressing in that he seems to represent many of his Pashtun people, if not most Pakistanis, in hating the U.S. because of all the innocent civilians we’ve killed in Pakistan while trying to find Osama bin Laden (or whatever we’re doing over there).

But most arresting was the very end, where they quote a police source as giving the reason why Shahzad’s “triple-redundant” bomb failed to ignite on that Saturday night: “The timer on the detonator, it was on military time. He set it for 7. That was 7 a.m. on this thing. For 7 p.m., what he wanted, it should have been 19.00.”

A good summer; a good year

Random Musings, Uncategorized 1 Comment »

This was a good summer, ending a good year. May 5771 be as good!

5770 brought me some great fun with my book, starting with an interview in February by Anita Manley in the Senior Gazette. She did a great job with it, even though the accompanying photo, which she snapped with her digital camera while we were sitting 2 feet from each other at my dining table, looked like it was taken with a wide-angle lens, and I consequently looked like an elderly mental patient. They ran it on Page One, though, and that drummed up some business for my “signing event” at Barnes & Noble shortly thereafter. The first “customer” who came up to my table at B&N was an elderly lady who had brought with her Anita’s article, carefully cut from the paper and encased in a clear plastic cover with a white plastic slip-on spine like the English papers we wrote in high school. She gave it to me, and bought two books, G-d bless her! I managed to sell 18 books there. Rachel came with me and helped me out and kept me company at the table during my 2-hour stint. Also at that signing, a woman named Jane chatted with me and we exchanged phone numbers, because she said she wanted me to teach her how to write her autobiography. We set that up and, sure enough, a few weeks later, she came over for lunch, and brought me a nice white plastic tray decorated with cheery blue and orange flowers.

Then I was invited to the TBJ Rosh Chodesh group meeting at Lorraine Wernow’s home in Marlboro one evening, because their “topic” was “Louey Levy!” That made me happy because these were really, really smart women.

Sales of the book continued steady at Newburgh Art Supply, the sweet shop run by my friend Michael Gabor on Liberty Street; every month or so he lets me know that he has run out, and I bring him another 5 signed copies.

A really fabulous event was when the Newburgh Historical Society on Sept. 19 invited my pal Mary McTamaney and me to do a song and dance about Newburgh in the late 1950s and early 1960s; she showed photos from that era, and I read from “Louey” and then signed and sold 28 books! That led to a cool thing that I hope pans out: A young English teacher at NFA was in the audience (of about 50 people, total) and said she was planning to teach “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” this spring, and now she wanted to add “Louey” to that list! I told her I’d be glad to come and speak to her class, and she seemed very excited about that, and took my contact info. WAHOO!

On Nov. 11, I’ll be on that great lefty radio station, WBAI, from 2-3 with Louis Rivera, talking about “Louey” with my fellow member of the National Writers Union. I sooo look forward to that! And on Dec. 5, a Sunday, I’ll be at the Wallkill River Art School in Montgomery, for a reading and signing. (Just in time for holiday book-buying! Perfect!)

Other than marketing my novel, this year was great because one of my other Big Projects got done: the Snake Hill Cemetery is now fully enclosed by its nice new fence, thanks to the good people of Kiryas Joel, who financed it and put it up for us. And it now sports not one, but TWO signs! (WRITE YOUR OWN JEWISH JOKE IN THIS SPACE.)

 That’s right: After the Mandatory Dickering Period, we put up a bare-bones, 12” x 16” black-ink-on-white-metal sign saying that “this historic cemetery” (my contribution) had been around since the late 1880s and belongs to TBJ; and unbeknownst to me, the Kiryas Joel Hasidim paid for and put up (rather crookedly, I couldn’t help but notice), on the other side of the gate, their own sign, twice as large as ours, in Yiddish, saying … something or other. It mentions the name of their congregation and has, I think, a few prayers on it, too, and some phone numbers. The TBJ phone number was one item I wanted on our sign, but was overruled on. So what does the one bit of English on the Hasidim’s sign say? It says, “For any info on this cemetery, call …” Oh, well: G-d bless them! And let our people rest in peace.

Jeez, this is turning into a cross between a blog entry and one of those horrifying Christmas letters you get where people tell you about everything that happened to them over the past 365 days. But now that I’ve started, I might as well finish it.

Tim and I spent our tax refund this year on two important things: getting our wills made out (important to me) and buying a washer and dryer (important to him). I must say, each purchase has been about equally useful, so far. I’ve had to call the plumber twice about the dryer, which doesn’t work at best, and which fills the basement up with toxic, damp, hot air and lint at worse. Last time, they told me to call Sears about it, because, as they say on the oncology ward, they’d done all they could for it; and Sears subsequently told me it’s no longer under their warranty and I’d have to ship it back to the manufacturer (General Electric) at my expense, or have GE send someone out to look at it at $200 minimum. G-d, I used to loooove going to the laundramat! It was peaceful there, and I loved the people, and it created time in my day where I could do things (clean the kitchen, do the dishes, make the beds, etc.) while the washer, and then the dryer, was running. It was almost always just 11 quarters to wash, and 4 quarters to dry all my laundry, because I could usually stuff everything into one washer and always into one dryer, and I could do all my laundry at once, taking about an hour, total, whereas with these machines, you have to do each load one at a time. Now I’m thinking of taking the top off of our dryer and turning it into a $400 planter, like the old one, that I set out in the back yard a couple of years ago.

Rachel went to Europe for 5 months to do organic farming in France, the Isle of Guernsey and England, and while “Over There” she also visited Barcelona, stayed a week at a friend’s apartment in Cambridge, and went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! What a year for her! Now she’s applying for jobs in radio again, and we’re all hoping she gets her top choice and becomes assistant producer of WNYC’s “On the Media.”

Good luck to her, and good luck to us all in 5771!