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Monday, February 15. 2021
Last week I spoke with Gary – you know Gary the SCRABBLE GURU, your friend, and word guide. well, The Pandemic has finally gotten to him.  He like many of you misses playing SCRABBLE in person, not one game a week but multiple games whether at club or socially with one his colleagues.  But COVID has not made it safe to share in this activity and being medically vulnerable he is spending his time sitting in his recliner.

For the past year he was involved in blogging, podcasting, as well as creating lists and puzzles to learn words while having fun.  But the first of the year hit him straight on that this Pandemic is not predicted to end anytime soon.  Gary and his wife have received their first vaccine and in three more weeks, they will get their second dose.  Although he may be safer he (like you) is not free to socialize less than 6 feet apart and that is not conducive to playing his favorite game/sport.  So stay-tuned, Gary will return to his love – drop him a note and let him you are thinking of him.

Scrabble is a Trademark

If you wonder where Gary is – contact him at https://just4thespellofit.com/contact/

Tell Gary you Miss him and his blog writing…


Tuesday, January 26, 2021
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   (Part 7)
When does WISDOM arrive?  Where does WISDOM come from?  Is it always there even before we recognize it?  What becomes of the color RED in a red-tinted world?

Think back to a moment when you had an ‘AHA,’ like when your math teacher was demonstrating to you how to do long division and you struggled with the process for days.  Then something clicked for you and YOU GOT IT.  From that point forward long division became easy for you.  Remember when you first attended a scrabble club and learned that there were 100+ 2-Letter-Words?  Remember watching your opponents score bingos in almost every game and you struggled to play even one bingo during an entire evening?  Then something clicked for you and YOU GOT IT.  You began to master HOOKS which in turn allowed you to connect your bingo finds onto the board. You understood STEMS which increased your word knowledge tenfold.

I think knowledge and wisdom live in the ether.  When we’re ready we tap into it.

It was 1956 when I began my high school career at MUMFORD in the 9th Grade.  I was still living on Northlawn and taking the Wyoming public DTA bus to and from school.  Most of the other kids lived close enough to walk to school or arrived in their carpools.  I had always been a good student and earned good grades.  That first year at Mumford I did just fine.  I was becoming increasingly involved with the youth group, on weekends, and devoting less time to my school work.  I didn’t see my mom and dad as much that year; we lived like ships passing in the night.  They were working, I was working, they were working, I was at school, they were working, I was at the youth group.  I was 14 and my hormones were beginning to take over and change my body and mind.  Good old puberty.  I was perfectly okay by then, being a loner.  My mind was working overtime with all kinds of thoughts.  I cut back on sharing.  Mom was not shy about sharing her feelings.  I found myself being judged for my choice of friends and my mom was very outspoken.  She snobbishly didn’t like some kids I met who lived near Dexter.  She preferred that I hang out with the 7-Mile crowd (she never considered that I couldn’t afford to do the things they did or dress the way they did).

Mom’s oversight drove me to become sneaky.  When I met a girl from out of town, whom I especially liked, at a local synagogue conclave, mom’s comment was “Why do you like her?  She has fat ankles”.  I never noticed her ankles.  When she invited me to attend a special party in Cleveland and I knew Mom would not give her consent, I accepted the invitation, saved up my own money, feigned illness on the Friday morning before the party, waited for mom to leave for work, called a cab, headed to a Greyhound bus station, and I was gone.

I left a note so my folks wouldn’t worry and told them that I had arranged to stay with Joel Baron, a friend from the youth group.

Six hours later the bus pulled into the station in Cleveland.  I was met by Joel and Mr. and Mrs. Baron who promptly put me onto a return bus to Detroit.  Six hours later I was back in Detroit.  Dad grabbed my suitcase, escorted me to the back seat, and not a single word was spoken; we drove home to Northland in silence.

I’d show them, I thought.  All my energy now went into the youth group and my grades in school plummeted to ‘D’s and ‘E’s.  I didn’t think ahead to how I was damaging myself.  It was my teenage revenge.  Two years later my school counselor called me into her office and told me I was a loser.  One strange thing did occur while I was shooting myself in the foot at Mumford.  Word of my leadership skills in the youth group leaked out and I was invited to take an honors class at Mumford called LEADERSHIP.  Members of the class were invited by Mrs. Rosenthal who conducted the class.  All the other students in that class were leaders with 4 pt. GPAs.  I participated as I belonged there.  I earned an ‘A’.

Looking back when I grew older I regretted missing out, not plugging-in to my high school years.  I don’t regret excelling in the youth group.  My accomplishments there led me to jobs as youth director at other synagogues and taught me skills that I used well into my professional life.

I have great empathy for parents.  Especially the first-timers.  Most of them never had a class in parenting before they became one.  Those lucky enough to have had great parents may at least have a blueprint and some idea about ‘HOW TO’.   But considering all the factors and luck that steer us through TIME, if we come through it feeling okay we’re lucky.  I realize that my folks did the best they could and must have been scared as hell at times when I was standing up against to their wishes.

In spite of all the time I wasted while my schoolmates absorbed Biology, Latin, and Economics, I still know 70% of the answers on Jeopardy and I can play one hell of a game of scrabble.

Scrabble is a trademark

Monday, January 25, 2021
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   (Part 6)
One of the most powerful happenings that occur in our lives that gives birth to ‘CHANGE’ is the ‘significant emotional events’ that confront us.  These events do not show up in the same way for you and me.  These events happen at different times in our schedules.  The extent to which we are overwhelmed may be different due to our character and maturity; when we come face-to-face with these challenges/events they likely are times of introspection and growth.

I was a busy kid with all the pieces of my life while living on Northlawn and coexisting, getting along with others, still learning subtleties that made me very different from most of my neighbors and school friends.  I was so well accepted by the time I hit 8th Grade, the senior year at Noble, that my classmates elected me as president of our senior class.  Noble School was a feeder school to Tapan Junior High School which then fed Mackenzie High School.  I was looking forward to both, heading there with my friends.

Due to ideas of her own, unbeknownst to me, my mom managed to schedule a sit down with the Superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools, where she made a plea to not send me to Tapan with the ‘goyim’ (non-Jews), but instead to Post, Jr. High School and then to Mumford High School, to be with fellow Jewish students.  No one ever asked me for my opinion.  It was a done deal.  There were no school buses from Northlawn to Post.  Post was only a couple of miles away (as the crow flies).  But, there was a small swamp, railroad tracks, and light industry in the way, prohibiting a direct route.  I would have to endure riding the city buses, including 2 transfers both going and returning.  The weatherman showed me no mercy that year with all the extremes that Michigan weather can serve up: cold rain in October and November, brutal cold and snow from December thru March, bone-chilling wind, ice and rain from March thru April, and higher than average temperatures in May and June.

Initially, it felt like a punitive sentence.  I never saw most of the friends I had cultivated at Noble,  I felt extreme sadness and very much alone every day as I rode the public transportation on my own.  There were a host of new challenges for me at Post which I had never considered.  In spite of the improving economics in my household, we were still were part of the ‘HAVE-NOTS’.  I was still wearing hand-me-downs from my rich cousins and uncles.  Post was made up of the Jewish ‘HAVES’ and non-Jewish working-class families.  The Jews didn’t openly look down upon the have-nots, but they were cliquish and clannish.  One could see the distinction in their brand new ‘penny loafers’ and ‘saddle-shoes’.  The girls wore cashmere sweaters and they were adorned with gold chain necklaces, rings, and wrist-watches.  They were dropped off and picked up in carpools of shiny cars of the newest vintage.  After school, they headed out to play golf or tennis or to take dance lessons.  They attended parties on the weekends while I was left rushing to catch my bus to go back to Northlawn to do my homework or to head off again to one of my many jobs.  At first, I wasn’t angry or bitter, I just did what I had to do.  I continued to get good grades but I didn’t have the social skills or the same history as my classmates,  I became even lonelier and all the while mom and dad didn’t have a clue.  I withdrew and became a loner.  My outlet for connecting to others continued to be at the synagogue.

Maybe everyone has a story like mine.  With all the isolated time during the Covid pandemic, I find myself reviewing my past and asking myself ‘How did I get here’.  I did enjoy many successes and joys over the years.  Some of these same challenges and hardships contributed to my path and successes.

Deprivation of close friends on Northlawn drove me to find friendships in the synagogue youth group.  Being a have-not created sympathy for me by persons who held the purse strings to the scholarships I received to attend leadership camp and classes which in turn catapulted me into becoming a leader/prodigy of sorts by the time I was 13.

I’ve always been able to empathize with young people who have emerged into the spotlight and plummeted into addictions of all kinds, pushed a blind parent, coach, or manager.  How glorious, how sad, how predictable, how tempting.

As I was rising in the ranks of the youth group I was afforded many introductions and connections with adults who wielded power.  I was used as a conduit between the kids and the adults.  I enjoyed this station, paid attention, and absorbed the knowledge of organization and event production.  I ran meetings, organized budgets, prepared and presented sermons, planned and produced social activities, represented my chapter and region at synagogues across 6 Midwest states.  I made hundreds of acquaintances but very rarely a best friend.

Maybe I was afraid of making a friend for fear of being torn away from that friend with any control to hand on.  And yet, I loved being recognized, adored, and the bright lights on the bimah.

When I entered High School at Mumford I lacked the maturity to look and plan ahead.  My rising star as a youth leader left to my own devices was about to create a dilemma of my own making.


SUNDAY, January 24, 2021
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   (Part 5)
How do we become our own people, develop and express our own world views?  When does that process begin?  Just like there are genes within us that have codes which influence our height, eye color, and skin color, something more and different triggers when and how we step up and into ourselves,  develop our own beliefs that drive our personal actions.
Just like you, I was influenced greatly by the living experiences in my parents home and by my parents’ words.  Every friend, neighbor and teacher said and did things that made an impression on me.  My internal judgements of right and wrong, good and bad, and acceptable or unacceptable landed on every action and message I processed with my moral compass.  We each possess an almost unlimited inner capacity to store our lessons and judgements.  While some people have shorter fuses and are people that may be reactive, I believe that most of us build, store, and filter information, shaping our ultimate responses.  I further believe that these influencers are not static.  Our beliefs and judgements are like the needle on a Geiger-counter, swayed by the way we see the evidence that defines our personal truths as we get new information from others or fact-checking.

My Jewish parents identified with the Jewish Conservative Movement and the traditions and beliefs handed down to them by earlier generations. father-to-son and mother-to-daughter.  Mom kept a kosher home (most Orthodox Jews would find mom’s version of kosher to be laughable).  While non-kosher foods were not permitted to touch her dishes or silverware, she would permit non-kosher items to be brought into the house and served on paper plates.  Mom’s logic was mom’s logic; there was no arguing about it with her.  Mom’s hypocrisy was one item that made me scream and challenge other practices in the world.

Conservative Jews attended religious services on Saturday mornings and all their sons were expected to have a BarMitzvah at age 13.  Preparation for BarMitzvah began for most boys at age 8 by attending Hebrew School four days a week, after Public School.  At 3:30 PM when Noble School dismissed I headed straight to the curb at the front of the school and boarded a Hebrew School bus.  Initially it required a lot of explanation from me to my school friends.  My Greek friends who attended after-school Greek School understood.  At Hebrew school, we learned how to read Hebrew phonetically, chant and sing traditional prayers, and learned about the Hebrew calendar, holidays, and customs.  The Hebrew School schedule was from 4PM – 5:30PM followed by a bus ride home, arriving home at about 6:30PM.  Dinner was usually waiting at home after which there was an hour for homework from both public and Hebrew schools, a half hour of TV then bedtime.  Somehow I continued to be a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout.  In my 12th year as a Boy Scout I pursued the Ner Tamid Award, a merit badge related to Judaism.  For this I worked 1:1 with Rabbi Irwin Groner who certified my successful completion of study.  I received my award at my BarMitzvah ceremony on 8/27/1955.

Every spring we usually see a visual on TV of a mother duck waddling across a road followed by a long caravan of her baby ducklings.  In much the same way, most of us have been launched by our parents.  There were other religious practices that I was expected to partake in: attending Saturday services at Congregation Beth Aaron in their junior congregation, attending Sunday School, being part of a Sunday Morning breakfast/prayer meeting,  and joining the USY (youth group).

Being so involved within the synagogue spawned other paying jobs, readily available.  I assisted photographers at weddings and BarMitzvahs by holding lights focused on their subjects.  I was put in a rotation for working the coatroom during social events where I worked for tips.  After my BarMitzvah, with no longer a requirement to attend Hebrew school, I landed a coveted job supervising a game room at a Hebrew School where kids congregated before attending their classes.

Finding favor in the synagogue community was one of my strong suits; people liked me, trusted me, coached me, and used me.  It seemed that anything I chose to do affiliated with the synagogue found favor with my folks.  So I became totally absorbed in the social culture there too; it was almost like a part-time job and a calling.  Soon after I was making friends, being noticed and elected by my peers to leadership positions, and even being tapped to attend scholarship regional conferences and summer encampments.  I was pleased.  My folks could have never have afforded to help me by subsidizing these opportunities.  They were grateful too.  They volunteered their time and energy becoming youth group chaperones and advisors.

Every Action Has Equal Reaction.  While I was a rising star in the youth group arena I was ignoring that I was crashing in Public School and being enabled by my parents.  I don’t know if they could have righted my ship.  For me the Youth Group was my drug of choice.  Can you spell A-D-D-I-C-T-I-O-N?


THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   (Part 4)
1/23/21
Most kids are not fact-checkers.  Most kids are sponge-like in regard to the way that they learn; they soak up data and information.

I was walking through an International Airport and there I witnessed a small child of about 3 years of age and she was speaking fluent Japanese.  Then I overheard a boy of about 8 years old spouting Hebrew in a conversation with a woman who could have been his mother.  Duh!  We learn through our circumstances. 

Q.  If a Russian orphan boy, is adopted at 3 months of age by a family from Brooklyn, NY, and then is raised in Brooklyn where the family speaks English in the home, what will be the first language the child will speak? 
A. Duh.

Q.   If a child lives in a home where the adults have gaps in the way they speak of and treat others.  If a child lives in a home where the adults mirror racism because of what they had been ‘carefully taught’, without ever fact-checking,  What will most likely be the end result?
A. More of the same.

  • I don’t believe my parents, my Northlawn neighbors, or my school teachers were diehard racists.  They would all have denied such a charge.  98% were true to their ‘small ‘c’ clan’.
  • I don’t believe 170,000,000 who voted for TRUMP are all stupid and racist.
  • I do believe that people are generally lazy and believe things that are conveniently heard on broadcasts and then become vulnerable to latching onto some bandwagon.

Many of our leaders are skillful at manipulating us.  Yes, me too.  Look around my home and see all the things that I’ve purchased late at night online, or while innocently watching some late-nite infomercial, or picking up some midday call from a phone-line-fisherman who wanted my money.  Many of us are the low fruit on the tree, easy picking.

It wasn’t until I was into my early teenage years that I developed the courage to challenge my parents and teachers.  You know how that feels.  It’s scary.  Being right can be costly.  Unjust punishments may be the price of being right: being grounded and missing a school football game;  restricting my visits to the homes of friends who are perceived as BAD INFLUENCES on me; assigned chores to eat up my TIME when I could have been doing other things; risking the LOVE and FAVOR from my parents when it’s way too soon to move out or move ahead on my own.

The home I grew up in was very structured.  My routines kept me very busy from the time I awoke until bedtime.  While I may have been judged by others as being a goodie-goodie that wasn’t it.  I was compliant; I was afraid of the undefined consequences.  Like the time my parents took a very rare weekend getaway and parked me with my aunt and uncle (age 7).  I was a picky eater, known for a primary diet of PB&J or Bologna.  Tuna fish was out of the question and disgusting in my universe.  My aunt and uncle had a dinner policy of eating everything put on your plate before leaving the table.  At one of the meals that weekend they served me a tuna sandwich.  I nearly fainted.  I immediately began to sweat and feel nauseous.  My uncle stood over me and in a fierce voice warned me, “If you refuse to eat that . . . we’ll feed it to you like they do in Chicago!”  I had no idea what that meant but it sounded ominous.  I took one small bite then vomited all over the table.  I never went to their home again.  I still can’t stand the sight or aroma of tuna fish to this day.

At age 7, I joined the Cub scouts.  Our base was Pack 328 at Noble School.  My den met at the homes of members in the neighborhood and was supervised by all of our mothers.  Our dens met weekly and the Pack met once monthly.  There were always hands-on projects that spurred entrepreneurial ideas.  The goal was always creating, promoting, selling, and money.  At one den meeting, we made some wall-hanging knickknacks in the form of Maple Leafs with a small shelf.  My friend Arnold owned a jigsaw that could be used for woodworking.  We created a partnership and brainstormed a business plan.  He and I walked a half-mile to a lumberyard and asked permission to take scrap pieces of lumber.  We worked on the weekend cutting, sanding, then nailing and gluing the pieces together.  We bought some paint at the Five & Dime and by the second weekend, our first batch was ready for market.  People seemed to love them.  Everyone we approached purchased one.  We made two more batches, sold them all and it was time to move on to other projects.

We were small but ambitious.  We mowed lawns, raked leaves, shoveled snow, printed and sold business cards, and by the time we turned nine, we were delivering newspapers:  The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, and The Detroit Times.  At times I juggled delivering 2 and even 3 routes at a time.  Mom was very proud of my ambition.  Whenever I would sluff off she motivated me to focus and get back on the job.  One of my proudest moments was when mom took me to the bank and I opened my personal savings account.  That felt special. 

Both my mom and dad really loved, cared for, and supported me.  In my teenage years, I often lost sight of that in my struggle for independence.  I was often angered at some of the things mom said.  She was very opinionated and biggot-like (never to somebody’s face).  She had been carefully taught.  Dad frequently reminded me that we were Jewish and that the Jews were God’s chosen people.  I’ve always love Tevya’s line in ‘Fiddler On The Roof,’ “Lord, please choose someone else to be special for a change.”


THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   (Part 3)
1/22/21
At first glance, to a 6-year-old, all white people look like other white people.  I have no recollection of knowing any black, brown, or yellow people living on Gladstone or on Northlawn.  The only black person I remember from those days was a sweet old lady named Mary who worked as a house worker for my paternal grandparents.  I had no reason to even consider differences, let alone that I could be different.  **The period of ‘carefully teaching’ doesn’t have to happen while sitting in a classroom; it often happens in plain sight, every day, in small actions and attitudes of the instructor.  The cues are there, words matter, facial expressions can easily convey discriminatory beliefs.  Believing lies without fact-checking is relied upon by haters.  Haters know that the more often people hear a lie, the more likely they fall under its influence. (Example: POTUS 2016-2021.)
 
My total naivety was my reality before I began to meet and know some of my neighbors on Northlawn.  We had moved in at the beginning of August 1948 and my sixth birthday on August 20.  My mom was the in-house party planner and wanted me to have a great birthday and enjoy our new home.  So, in true mom fashion, she walked-up one side of Northlawn to the corner and back on the other side, knocking on every door,  introducing herself, and inquiring if they had a 6ish boy child and when she got a hit she’d invite them to my birthday party.  It was a glorious party.  She served my new friends’ lunch, cake, and ice cream;  we played Pin The Tail On The Donkey and Bingo; she sent everyone home with party favors.  I became a very popular kid.
 
During the course of time, the neighbors came to know that we were Jewish.   The mezuzahs on the doorposts were a giveaway. Most of the neighbors had never known or seen a Jew before.  We became a curiosity.  It was just a few years after the end of WWII.  Jew had been in the news and at first, the atrocities of the Nazis upon the Jews found little sympathy around the globe.  There was still a lot of ignorance and anti-semitism (just like today).  Swastikas soon appeared drawn on the windows of our home and car.  Our immigrant, Polish, next-door neighbors (Tessie  & Andy) shunned us for no particular reason at all.  Ignorance is as ignorance does (go back no further than January 6, 2021),,  While the world has changed dramatically, 95% of people continue to remain clannish.  ‘WE’ continue to be afraid about that which we don’t know and continue to be tribal and self-righteous.
 
Obviously, some people had been ‘CAREFULLY TAUGHT,’ usually by other people who had been carefully taught.  Some neighbors approached me, standing very close, sniffing and scanning me from head-to-toe.  They were assessing the size of my nose and ears or looking for my tail.  (I always kept my ‘tail’ inside  my pants.)  One adult woman (a fact-checker) who met my mom asked her permission to run her hands through my hair in order to feel my ‘HORNS’.  Really?  1948 America?  We all believe so much of what we are told.  A lot of what we’ve heard or learned were lies.  (That happens in scrabble too when you learn to play from people who do not know all the rules.)
 
Northlawn was in the center of a ghetto that was foreign to me.  The residents were mostly Catholic and Denominational Christians.  I didn’t have a clue other than they ate bacon and had never tasted fried matzah.  Beyond that, not only my neighbors didn’t have a clue about me, but my teachers were ignorant too.  Many seemed timid and afraid of me because I was an unknown to them.  Teachers also expected me to be very smart and very wealthy because of the myths and lies they had learned falsely.
 
The way to break down barriers requires real-time interaction and open minds.  We have all been brainwashed by our families, our communities, our churches, the media, our course of study, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy.
 
How many ‘FRIENDS’ do you have that are significantly different from you?  Black?  White?  Brown?  Latino?  Poor?  Wealthy?  Homeless?  Volunteers?  Veterans?  Democrats?  Republicans?  Independents?  Foreign-Born?  Cancer Survivors?  Holocaust Survivors?  Communists?  Militia Members?  Extremists?  Policemen?  Gays or Lesbians?  Alcoholics? Passive-Aggressive?  Left-Handed?  Mechanics?  Engineers?  Clergy?  A-Type Executives?  Felons?  CHRISTIANS?  Christians?  Muslims?  Little Old Ladies From Pasadena?
 
What preconceived notions do you have about the above,
without fact-checking?
 
Scrabble is a trademark

The Basement Today- No more coal chute

 

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.  
(Part 2)
1/21/21
My family of four in 1948 was still poor but making a little headway so they decided to follow the lead of other upwardly mobile people.  They decided to use some of their funds to rent a bigger cave.  Anyone reading this who has walked in these shoes understands the predicament of the lower economic class.  While you WANT and NEED space it stands in line with other essentials like food, utilities, clothing, transportation, telephone, and an occasional night at the movies.
One of the biggest factors for the price of a home, as you may know, is location, LOCATION, LOCATION.  And that’s where and why I had my very first abrupt introduction to the ‘WORLD OF DIFFERENCES’.
I have no idea how many apartments and other locations my twenty-something parents looked at before putting down a deposit on our new abode.  But I can imagine that their limited earnings demanded that they sacrifice their ideal location.  Circumstances necessitated that they go across the tracks and out of CANAAN into a land of strangers.  They left the familiar comforts of the ghetto with an expectation that we’ll be just fine.
They ended up on Northlawn.  It was a second floor flat with a bit more space than Gladstone.  Joel and I shared one of the two bedrooms.  We all share a single bathroom.  We had a kind, hunchbacked, elderly (50ish) landlord, Charlie, who lived with his teenage son, Jimmy, in a filthy, cluttered space on the floor below.  We all shared a common entry door to the house.  A second door separated Charlie’s space from the foyer.  We had to climb a few more than a dozen wooden steps to a small landing in front of two more doors.  The door to the right entered the living room; the door straight ahead went into the kitchen.  One of my chores each Friday was to sweep down then wash down that stairway.
Both Charlie and Jimmy seemed odd to me.  The aromas that floated up the stairs to our living space from Charlie’s kitchen into our home were both powerful and unfamiliar, sometimes offensive.
There was a basement in the house where there was a washer and dryer.  The basement was dimly lit by a 25 watt lightbulb in a hanging socket; it smelled both musty and of dead rats.  I hated having to be in that basement.  While down there on some chore I’d have a glance out of the corner of my eye of something dart across the floor.  Every now and then there would be a loud snap when a trap was triggered and another mouse or rat would bite the dust.  There was also a strong smell of coal.  The house was heated by coal.  A small 8 x 8 coal room was filled by a delivery truck which dumped the coal through a chute into the basement and later was shoveled into the furnace.  The driveway at the side of the house was broken and uneven, leading to the backyard and a leaning, aged garage.  The two-car garage that barely stood atilt was filled with relics;  cobwebs strung from the rafters; filth was the disorder of the day and piles of dirt, nearly two feet high, piled along the back perimeter.  The dirt had obviously been the architecture of the rodents who lived there.  Outside, on the right side of the garage was another broken cement path that led to the alley.  Garbage cans sat there where we’d deposit our garbage and trash.  In summer the cans would usually be home to scores of maggots and larva.  For me, this was more unsettling than the rats.
One nice feature in the yard was a mature peach tree.  The fruit of the tree was delicious and Charlie canned peaches with gusto, enough to enjoy the whole year round.  In front of the house along the street stood a tall canopy of Elm Trees, taller than the roofs of the houses which provided shade for the hot summer days we all endured before air conditioning. 


A similar Gladstone Apartment

 

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE UNTIL THERE IS.   
(Part 1)
1/20/21
The first place I lived when I came home from the hospital in August 1942 was a small apartment, shared by my two parents and my mother’s parents (my Baubee & Zaydee).  It was on Gladstone off of 12th Street in Detroit, Michigan.  WWII was still raging,  My folks had very little so families did what families did . . . they helped one another.  Zaydee was a tailor and had his own shop on Claremont where he earned a modest living.  Dad would have gone off to war but was classified 4F, so he worked in a war plant making radio equipment.  I had no idea that I was Jewish or poor or that many of my distant relatives, who hadn’t gotten out of Europe fast enough, were being ethnically cleansed across the pond.  I just laid there on my back in my crib, having my diapers changed and putting up with a bunch of giants bending over me, speaking gibberish, and poking my belly with cold, boney fingers.  I didn’t know how good I had it, being taken care of and pampered 24/7.  What I’d give these days, during the 2020 pandemic to have a few of those carefree days again.
I continued to live on Gladstone for my first 4 years.  In ’46 when my specialness was diluted by the arrival of my brother Joel it became too cramped living with my grandparents.  So we moved about 10 yards away . . . just across the hallway.  My circle was forever widening as I grew older and wiser and discovered pieces of independence that came with the territory.  First came extended family: all the aunts and uncles, cousins, and what seemed like an endless stream of great aunts and uncles.  My dad’s dad was the youngest of more than a dozen siblings so there were clearly too many to track.  Even with my ten toes in addition to my ten fingers I was out of sorts.  Most Sundays, for me, were spent at some relative’s home playing with Tinker-Toys and being quiet.  This was before TV when people entertained one another by telling their stories of the episodes of their lives during the last 7 days.  Then there was all the celebrating of holidays and birthdays which required feasts of ethnic specialties: bagels and lox, herring, smoked fish, matzo balls, latkes, cheplach, noodle kugel, and handmade challah.
Two favorite treats for me included walking hand-in-hand with my Baubee on most Friday mornings, down Gladstone, across 12th Street, to the first alley on the left.  There, in a feather-covered garage were cages with live poultry and the ‘Shached’ who would slaughter the one singled out by Baubee when she’d pointed to ‘THIS ONE’.  You’ve never had fresher chicken than at those sabbath dinners.  TRADITIONS.
My other favorite was going with Zaydee down Gladstone to 12th Street, making a right, and going to the end of the first block to Zukins.  He’d lift me onto one of the stools at the counter and buy me a vanilla ice-cream cone for a nickel.  Delicious.  I felt so big and special.
There was no stranger-danger on Gladstone.  It was a ghetto-like community.  The little I saw and observed was the assortment of like-minded-neighbors all living their lives in peace and harmony.  The only tragedy I witnessed was an accident.  The older boys were forever playing baseball on the steps of a duplex across the street from our apartment building.  One day when Sollie was running to catch a ball, not noticing that he was running into the street, a speeding car coming up Gladstone hit him and sent him flying.  Sollie was mostly upset that he didn’t catch the ball.  For a moment we all thought he’d be dead.  But soon we heard the sirens, the police and the ambulance arrived and scraped Sollie up off the pavement and loaded him onto a stretcher.  The game was suspended and crazy parents screamed warnings at their kids.  Sollie lived.
In the ghetto, pretty much everything and everyone was the same.  If and until you see something different a young child would think that everything is the same as it appears.
And then one day, when you least expect it, things are different forever, not necessarily better.

(Today’s blog is not about Scrabble – Scrabble is a trademark)


Tuesday
1/19/2021
In a move to be more inclusive and attempt to break down some of the walls Retrumplicans hide behind, I invited them all to put down their weapons and join the group pictured below. I didn’t receive a single response. A source close to the thugs tells me THEY were in their own garages, basements, and attics cleaning their guns, sharpening weapons, and surfing the net in search of the next secret prompt from ‘Red’.

Join me at Starbucks where we’ll raise a cup of Joe to MLK, JB, and KH.
Wear a mask and stay safe.
 

Monday
1/18/2021
Time can be fleeting.
One day friends are arriving at your 6th birthday party
And WHOOSH you’re driving on I55 on your 55th.

You’d been trying to procreate for four years and finally a daughter.
Three months later she’s gone to something called SIDS
And you still remember that shock on the 1st Night of Chanukah each year.

Some days you still feel 18.  The guy in the mirror is some 78-year-old dude.
Only a few Tiger Lillies remain in your garden among the ever-growing
Number of Forget-Me-Nots. And TIME will never forget.

Time can become frozen like ultra-slow motion
Especially when you’re experiencing the throes of pain.
My finger inadvertently closed in a jackknife that I wasn’t supposed to touch.
A metal sliver in my eye; that’s what I got for not wearing protective goggles.

The insidiousness of a Diabetic LOW and the race to the ER.
The fear that sent a chill every time the phone rang at 3 AM from the angel of death.
The pain of a broken heart from a love lost or abandoned, the pain’s the same.

The panic on high ledges; white-knuckle fear of flying; being caught
With my hand still deep in the cookie jar.
Time is never the same, with more variations than a game of scrabble.
At times it feels new; at times it feels old; it sometimes feels young; then ancient.

When you want it most it can escape like the air from a pinhole in a balloon.
When you want it to hurry along it defies you like ice trying to melt at the South Pole.

Time can be saturated with anticipated joy or heart-stopping fear.
Time can be the barrier that holds you back from consummating your goal.
Time can move so swiftly that it can project you right past your intended target.
Time simply IS.

Dedicated to our friends and family, no longer here, but still very much
Somewhere in time.

Scrabble is a trademark

Sunday
1/17/2021
G is for Gary
Do you want his words of wisdom??

ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR A FINAL TRIBUTE TO TRUMP.
In consideration of his stellar leadership during the last four years, it is only fitting that our outgoing leader receives his due. In as much as the Capitol, the White House, and the National Mall are unavailable as sites for a tribute, It would be fully appropriate that 

  1. The Department Of The Interior designate 4 Deluxe Portable Port-A-Potties on the site where POTUS held up his Bible in front of the church during the Black Lives Matter march,
  2. Provide POTUS a 22 caliber pistol and 21 blank cartridges for his 21-bullet-salute,
  3. In lieu of a red carpet . . . use the teal blue drapes from the Blue Room if POTUS agrees to clean and return the same prior to his fly-away.
  4. Relating to the concern that TRUMP would likely not return Air Force One to the military fleet under his personal ‘Finders-Keepers’ practice, the FAA will provide a crop duster from confiscated planes from drug cartel runners to fly the TRUMP family to their Florida club.
  5. Nancy and Rudy will be granted 33 minutes each to rifle through the boxes which Trump has designated to be removed from the White House; they may confiscate contraband
  6. If illegal items amount in value of more than the average household income of four in New Your, the 9 Supreme Court Justice shall create a U-tube shame film of the Clan of Nine saying things like “Shame, shame”.
  7. Refreshments for the reception will be provided by Del Taco and Ripple Wine on D.C.picnic tables on the street-art which proclaims “Black Lives Matter”.

Now what?


Friday
1/15/2021
Today’s Word is MOTIVATION
Many of you come to this webpage to get motivated to do the work you need to be a BETTER U.  The letter U is about the person reading this.  The tips and tricks and methods of becoming an accomplished Scrabble Player are the same techniques WE can utilize to be the best version of ourselves.

We are currently living in a time of separation and confusion which for some is causing anxiety and a lack of the M-word, MOTIVATION.  However, we have choices and the first one is, kick yourself in the ass and get-up.  It’s time to do finger pushups to get our hands reattached to our brains so when we place the Scrabble tiles down on the board we can play words like:

Happy, Joyful, Advantageous, Propitious, Auspicious, Favorable, Untroubled, Jocular, Intoxicated, Convivial, Chirpy, Exultant…

The Letter M brought to you by Karen Moss Hale

Scrabble is a trademark

Friday
1/8/2021
This has been A WEEK  OF Turmoil – Gary Is fine and will begin writing soon.  However, he has a podcast scheduled for tomorrow and you can watch his last podcast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YMos4Cv1ws&t=210s


SUNDAY
1/3/2021
NO SHORTAGES, NO DELAYS
While people are standing in long lines all around the country for Covid inoculations, food handouts, entrance to the DMV, and tickets to the Tiny Tim Revival Concert there is no waiting at all for enrollment into ‘SCRABBLE 101’.
While starting your journey to greater word power and knowledge is on a first-come, first-serve basis, we can get you up and going in an hour after you register for this powerful online class.  If you register by noon you’ll be in full learning mode before tea-time.
WHEN is the best time to choose Scrabble 101.  The answer is: “when you decide that you want to rise in the ranks and move up toward the upper-crust”. 
At the beginning of every new year, we witness hoards of eager plebians enlist themselves into programs related to weight-loss, Zumba, bodybuilding, learning Sanskrit, and Tough-Love.  Most (82.4%) of these wishful thinkers pay the fees and DROP OUT before the next FULL MOON.  Don’t throw away your money only to feel like a LOSER when you give up the ghost.
Enroll in the online, Scrabble 101, class when you are fully committed.  Don’t be a mamby-pamby; don’t be a loosey-goosey; don’t invite failure by thinking that this is something good for you UNTIL and UNLESS you know that you will follow through.  I can promise you that with a fervent commitment from you and an honest effort every day for the 21 days of the class I can get you moving and on your way upward in the world of STEMS, HOOKS, ANAGRAMS, and more. . .

  • Learn new words like NGWEE, ABOIDEAU, and WHATSIS. 
  • Become the life of the party and be the conversation piece. 
  • Become one of the HOTSHOTS on your block and be able to spout out words like tutu and moomoo and grigri and atlatl.

Leave your scrabble opponents scratching their heads wondering if those are real words that you are playing, or should they be challenging the likes of BASHLYK?

  • Call me at (949) 510-1673
  • Let me instruct you and share with you the first new word of 2021, MAVIN!

Scrabble is a trademark

SATURDAY
1/2/2020
WHAT IS A WORD?
Two days ago I clicked on an icon on my MacBook which took me to Netflix.  I’ve been spending more time than usual on Netflix since the Pandemic arrived.  I would bet that in the last 90 days I’ve watched over 200 movies.  I cannot tell you the names of them, many are a blur.  They don’t live on in my memory very long.  The most annoying thing about watching so many movies without writing down or remembering their titles is that now and then, after watching something for 15-30 minutes I recognize a scene or a character that jolts my memory and I know that I’ve already watched this one.  When that occurs I do a fast calculation and decide whether or not to watch it again in its entirety.
Reading the title of a film often does not identify what it is going to be about.
That was the case when I chose ‘The Professor And The Madman’.  To my delight, it was a winner.  I’m frequently delighted and amazed when I stumble upon a gem such as this.  I wonder how I came to miss seeing this before.  I wondered if anyone of my friends had ever suggested that I watch it.
Does that ever happen to you?  You come upon a movie or a book or a performer that is fantastic and you can’t believe that you somehow missed it.  And now, just by random chance, you discovered it on your own.  Two of the lead characters are Mel Gibson and Sean Penn.
The story is about the birth and undertaking of compiling the Oxford Dictionary. (If you’re read this scrabble blog, I sure that you’ll enjoy it too.)
It set my mind to wondering about words in general, their origins, who created them, how do they wear out of the language and become lost from common usage.

Did you know that the OWL (Official Word List) used in the game of scrabble by NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Association) is being changed again?  In this sensitive era, when some words carry with them the ability to hurt others, the ‘WORD COMMITTEE of NASPA’ plans to delete such utterances from the OWL.  I will make that list available to my readers as soon as I officially secure it.  I imagine that the 140+ ‘naughty words’ will all go away.  My source tells me that no additional words will be added at this time.
The void created by the lack of these words can hardly remain empty.  What will people do without them when you want to use the name of an utterance to injury or attack someone?  I guess we’ll all just make up different utterances to vocalize our rage and disgust.  OR, we’ll go back to throwing punches or using knives and guns to express ourselves.

Scrabble is a trademark

 


FRIDAY,  1/1/2021
THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING
2020 is past; good riddance.  I have been a responsible sheep; I stayed home, socially distancing, wearing a mask in public, and maybe not washing my hands as frequently, but enough to be compliant.  I’ve only been tested once and that went well, being negative.   Since March 2020 I’ve gained 15 pounds and I’ve worn a path in the carpet from my easy chair to the kitchen.  Before this all started I had two light-lifting part-time jobs right here in Laguna Woods Village, working 25 hours each week and supplementing my retirement income.  My whole financial world flipped upside down when all the clubhouses closed up shop when the virus invaded,  First I was furloughed and then let go.  The backup promise of unemployment pay is/was frustrating.  All the unemployment offices closed too.  While one could register online, it is not as simple as it sounds.  It’s not automatic.
So I’m still sitting here at home, in my recliner, in front of the TV, watching CNN, and channel surfing now and then, with my computer on my lap, spending way too much time on Facebook, playing Words-With-Friends, and playing other games now and then.  I’ve become very good with the Mag-Jong matching game.  It’s on a timer and my best score completing the board is 4 min 34 sec.
I’ve been writing this blog compulsively, day after day and month after month since August 2019.  I missed only 1 or 2 days during that time due to writers’ block.  And there have also been my weekly podcasts.  It’s amazing how much I can find to say, relating to scrabble.

  • I really miss going to work. 
  • I really miss running my scrabble club and playing at the other clubs I frequent. 
  • I miss the people I’d interact with and the good feelings that my contribution made in the lives of others.

I treasure my memories and the journeys where my thoughts and imagination have taken me, while still sitting in my chair.  Each photo saved on my computer can whisk me off to a different place and a different time, whenever I so choose.  How lucky I was last year to travel on my ’77 Sunset Trip’.
I’ve developed a true understanding and empathy for the animals we humans have caged in our zoos.  Many times this year I’ve felt caged by the self-imposed quarantine in my condo-cave.  If I could I’d release all those animals back to the wild.  I’ve been sharing my cage with my wife, Adrienne.  So far we haven’t killed one another.  There is some sense of hope that our lives will return to ‘normal’ someday.  But it doesn’t seem that normalcy will be returning anytime soon.

I have developed my Sudoko skills and read more than two dozen novels and watch more than 100 movies on Netflix.
I don’t have any clear answers as to what I might do to make this time in my covid-cave doable and fun.  I will dedicate the coming week to create a TO DO LIST and lighten up while remaining vigilant.
My wishes to you and yours are to Stay Safe, Find Fun, Be Resilient.

Scrabble is a trademark