Friday, October 31, 2008

Goodie, the weekend!

Thank God it's Friday. Not just TGIF, but the whole shebang.

Every Friday night for about 20 years, Howard and I have had "date night" at Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City. Even with his mother living with us, we have managed to get her settled with her dinner, good books and tv and off we go. Our cars know the way so we almost only have to point and put the gear in "Drive."

Each time we make the trip, I realize all over again why I love living in New Jersey. We drive through a little road that's lined with the prettiest trees, particularly in fall when they are dressed out in yellows, reds and oranges. We pass a glistening lake and then ride on a long, perfectly straight roadway for 15 miles or so until we reach our first turn. Along the way are deer alongside the shoulder, towering pines that gradually give way to stubby scrub pine so characteristic of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A lot of the landscape is scarred from fires that burned huge acreage last year. As we go along, it's evident we are nearing the shore as the exposed ground turns from reddish topsoil to white sand. Trails for dirt bikes and ATVs snake off on either side of the road and the sky takes on the azure dotted with white that tells us we're close to the ocean.

The Garden State Parkway takes us all the way to Atlantic City where we hook up with the Expressway, a crowded six-lane parking lot on most weekend nights. We are usually early enough to avoid the crush; often we watch the traffic snaking slowly into the city from the Top of the Trop where we end up for dinner on weekend nights. We know the back roads into the city but this is usually the fastest. Most of the time, Howard drives and I snooze, always managing to wake up before we make the final turn into the glitz and neon of the casino row at Atlantic and Michigan Avenues.

As a child, I took a weekly bus ride into Atlantic City to the orthodontist. Starting at age 12, I hopped the bus in Egg Harbor, rode to A.C., had an adjustment on my braces and made the reverse trek. By the time I was in high school, my stepfather had gotten me a job at the Hotel Roma on Florida Avenue, right next to the parking lot for the Convention Hall. The Roma is gone now and an extension of the Hall fills what was the lot. But as we pass Florida Avenue on weekends, I never fail to remember the good times spent behind the front desk there. Atlantic City was a mecca for entertainment, family fun, movies, restaurants and, of course, the Boardwalk back then. I miss those days, especially in light of what the city has become.

But I digress. We usually get to Trop, have dinner and then seek out our favorite poker machines for a night of fun. Trop has been very good to us over the years and we usually either break even or win (the same thing, as far as we are concerned).

We stay late.

Very late sometimes, often pulling into our driveway at home after 2 a.m.

In the casino, there is no sense of time. The flow of adrenaline makes you feel as though you are never tired. The lights are bright; the crowd noisy. We know a lot of people there, more, really, than in our own neighborhood. We feel at home.

Each week, we work, do what we have to do and mark time to the weekends. Without the casino, we would undoubtedly preserve date night. We enjoy movies, going out to dinner with friends, Real Time with Bill Maher or a show we've DVRed for later viewing.

But it's the casino that gives us our fun, that makes up for the stress of the week that goes before it.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

We're almost there

Couldn't believe we did it, but we'd planned a dinner out with friends last night instead of staying home to watch either Barack's half hour or the Phillies game! Thank goodness for DVR! Our friends, almost lifelong for Howard and twenty-odd years for me, are good Republicans, so we usually try to avoid talk of politics. We have grandchildren to brag about, stories of life in a 50+ community to share and other passions in common, so the friendship does just fine without politics, thank you very much.

Last night was different. The topic was approached gingerly, but it was soon evident that this year, this election, neither of them is comfortable pulling the Republican lever. They aren't nuts about voting Democrat either, each for a different reason. But what amazed me was that they were willing to listen to our feelings and beliefs about Barack's potential as a great president with interest and a lot of agreement. We've always felt that good friends should be able to talk about anything without the discussion sinking to rancor, but in many cases that just doesn't happen, so we take cues from our companions and either venture in or not. We were thrilled to have an intelligent, open-minded give-and-take about the coming election! It didn't hurt that we left them after dinner with the firm belief that they will be pulling the same lever as we.

I was a graduate student in the era of John Kennedy, a young mother in that of Robert. Like so many of my generation, I saw in Bobby a hope for a better, more peaceful and respectful world, where the differences among peoples were minimized and we finally had a leader who would teach us, by example, how to love one another and achieve peace. I've always believed the world would have been a much different place had Bobby lived and served two terms as president. No use wondering, however, because that was not to be. Now, I feel the same stirrings of hope and excitement when I listen to Barack Obama. Perhaps this time, this election, we will get that chance again. We will have an intelligent, compassionate and wise leader who will appeal to the best in all of us. We will be able to show the world that the United States can do better than it has; that the bellicose face of unilateral action isn't really who we are. Our president will look like most of the people of the world, but he is an all-American man of principle, faith and love for his country, his family and his fellow man.

Four years ago, I listened to Barack as he gave the Keynote for the Democratic National Convention that nominated John Kerry. I remarked to my husband that we might have the wrong guy running, that this young man had the mark of greatness and I saw him as a future president, maybe even four years from then should Kerry lose. Way back in the 80s, I saw a young goalie named Ron Hextall come leaping out of the gate at a Philadelphia Flyers game and told Howard that I thought the kid would be one of the greatest goalies in Flyers history. Right then, too! I'm a pretty good predictor, huh?

Like most of my friends and acquaintances, I'm tired of the campaign. It's gone on far too long and has gotten so hideously ugly and filled with fear that I can't wait for Tuesday. Perhaps after we've all done our civic duty and a president-elect is declared, we can rest a bit and wipe the airways and tv stations clear of the constant barrage of political discourse/attacks/propaganda. It will be a pleasant relief.

In January, whoever we elect will face the daunting task of beginning the repair of everything that's gone wrong for our country in the past eight years. I hope he surrounds himself with the best and the brightest in each area so the job gets done well. We have a country to save.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another friend lost

One of the worst things about growing old is how many friends you lose.

I started losing them with Marie in 1994. She was like my sister and to this day I think of her with fondness and a quiet laugh or two, remembering her wagging finger, her Irish laughter and her unconditional love for me. Read "A Hand Across Time" on my website: www.jeannehoward.com and you'll understand how much she meant (and still means!) to me.

Now comes another loss. Wendy Acrish.
Wendy was my buddy when we were in college at what was then Trenton State together, she a year ahead of me and thus the role model and big sister I never had. We were "adopted" and loved by the college's first psychologist, Doris Perry, and the three of us shared so many happy and wonderful times together! Wendy was an insecure gal, just like me, who wasn't sure of her Jewishness and didn't quite know where she fit in. Doris took us under her wing and gave us self-confidence and the strength to go on with rich lives.

In 1960, Wendy and I were recruited by the U.S. Air Force. The captain who shepherded us through the process was gorgeous and I'm sure I was as much enamored by him as by the idea of uniforms, travel and glamor. I chickened out before signing on the dotted line; Wendy didn't. She served for four years as a Personnel officer and recruiter and I'm sure many Air Force cadets owe the experience of a lifetime to her work with them.

When she left the Air Force, she married a rabbi and, after a long and illustrious career in mental health as Director of the Hudson Valley Psychiatric Hospital in New York, she realized a life dream when her one and only novel, A Time for Love, was published. It was my honor to edit and help with rewrite on that manuscript and I know Wendy was thrilled when she saw the first copy and did signings at local bookstores.

Wendy retired to Naples, Florida after having visited one time and fallen in love with the area. She sold her home in Connecticut and soaked up the sun, taking up golf and making frequent trips north to visit her growing family.

Although it's been years since I saw her or even had an e-mail or phone call, I was thinking of Wendy this morning, remembering the good times we had and just wanting to reconnect. I dashed off an e-mail that, surprisingly, came back undeliverable. So, I called her house, stunned to get a message saying the number was no longer in use. I called her son's house in New York and left a message ... how can I contact your mom? And then I put her name in my Google box and got the worst possible news. Wendy passed away in March of this year, obviously after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She died at the home of her son and left many friends to mourn her loss.

Now I am one of them. I wish I had known. I wish I'd kept better contact. I wish she could have visited again before all this happened. I wish I could have helped her work on the second novel she had in mind. I wish ... I wish a lot of things that won't happen now.

Most of all, I wish her peace.

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Getting started after all these years

Let's see ...it was in 1995 that I wrote my last "blog," although no one knew that word yet and I simply called it an "Editor's Note." It went on Page 4 of my weekly newspapers, The Journal and trend of Voorhees, papers I'd founded in 1973 and 1985 BR (Before Recession). My readers waited eagerly for those columns and I loved writing them. Hated losing those papers the way I did ...sort of a blatant testament to my lack of managerial skill. My sales staff were friends from my neighborhood, too dear to fire but eventually ending up enemies anyway. I blamed them for the papers' descent into financial ruin and their eventual takeover by the last person I would ever want to have them.


That was long ago, huh? Have I gotten over it all? Sure, the enemies part, at least. They were good friends at one time; I was the lousy manager who didn't know how to be tough enough to make the business last longer than 21 years. Now that I look back, 21 years is a very long time for a business to last when it's run by an incompetent owner, so I guess the recession really was to blame. At least I'd like to think so.


So here I am, "blogging" to no one in particular. Hoping someone somewhere might happen upon it and want to read regularly. Presumptuous. But welcome to this collection of musings that began today. I hope you don't get too bored.

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