It All Started With a Pink Pig   3 comments

I came home one March evening to discover a waiting line at the litter box.DSCN1318

I knew where he had come from but I went upstairs to check, just the same.



These are stuffed animals which a boyfriend used to win for me at festivals, or send as gifts while we were together. They’d been gathering dust and I had been successful at procrastinating over how to dispose of them. By the way, they were neatly arranged against the wall last time I remember being up in the loft. I guess I don’t go up there as often as I should!



Over the next two weeks or so, I’d come home from work to discover that the migration was continuing.



Some didn’t quite make it down the stairs.


Some made it down the stairs, but just barely.


Had word gotten around that I was considering evicting them after all these years, or was something else going on?  I was leaning toward the latter but I had yet to catch him in the act.

As you can see by the look on his face,  Marceau knew but he wasn’t saying.


Aha! Finally. Who else but Marble!


Now that the cat was out of the bag, he showed no restraint


I must say I was impressed. She’s bigger than he is


I decided to experiment. I’d set them up down here and see if he’d get  bored and bring them back upstairs.


A few days later.


He’s moving them. But this isn’t quite what I had in mind.


 I’d do it myself but Marceau seems to have taken a liking to the arrangement. (Look closely!)


Posted April 15, 2014 by virginiafair in Cats

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Perception vs Reality   2 comments

Recently I’ve come up against conflicting opinions  regarding the relationship between reality and perception. The funny thing is up until a few months ago, I’d never ever stopped to consider the possibilities, but then a coworker commented that 97% of reality is perception. It intrigued me and I thought a bit about it – but not that much!

Then this past Saturday I stopped for some take-out food and as the owner went back to the kitchen to bag my order I noticed a piece of paper put up next to the swinging door, proclaiming that perception is not  reality. I wanted to ask him what it meant but by the time he came back, I had forgotten. Oh, well.

This all fit in with a blog idea I’ve been tossing about for a while, even taking notes for, but never managing to get around to putting it into words. This is kind of funny because it’s all about words, and  mis-perceptions that have brought a smile to my face when I realize I’ve read something too fast, or listened with half an  ear and a quarter of a brain.

While listening to a food show on PBS, I heard

  • “Use a nice dirty baking potato.”
  • Everyone else heard ” a nice sturdy baking potato.”


On another PBS show, this one on travel, I heard the host  lament

  • the hunting of “an endangered wino”.
  • Everyone else heard “endangered rhino.”


I guess I watch a lot of PBS shows. This time it was a gardening show. I heard

  • “Let the seeds urinate.
  • Everyone else was  told to “Let the seeds germinate.


On a health and beauty segment of the news about weight loss. I heard

  • surgery is often necessary to tighten up blue skin
  • Other listeners hear it was  loose skin that needed tightening up


And last but not least, on a health and beauty show, I was reminded how important it was to my health

  • to get lots of wedgies
  • A whole different reality than getting lots of veggies.

If you think I don’t listen well, wait until I tell you what I’ve read. But that will have to wait for another time, another place. For now, so long, it’s been real!

Posted April 8, 2014 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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There Oughta Be a Nostalgia Attack Warning!   2 comments

There I was minding my own business, driving home from a day at work and an evening at the gym. I had a mile to go when one word, Ebinger’s reached out from the radio speaker and dragged me back to 1961 (or thereabouts) to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where my grandfather and two aunts lived.  Ebinger’s Bakery! It didn’t take long for the faded-to-mist memory to rise up and flesh out. And it brought an old friend – Fudge Marianne. Meanwhile  back in the present, as I waited for the light to turn green in 2014 Putnam Valley, a woman related how twenty years ago she went to extremes to to duplicate an Ebinger’s cake for her 80-year-old  Brooklyn grandfather.


Ebinger’s was a long-standing Brooklyn  icon, kind of a 20th century Junior’s . (Not being a cheese cake  aficionado, I venture to say Ebinger’s turned out better cakes) I don’t think the bakery was famous outside of Brooklyn since I never heard  it spoken by anyone while growing up in Manhattan. Most likely,  if not for Aunt Ginny, the NPR account would have only elicited “huh?” from me. But instead I find myself in the living room on the first floor of the two family home where my grandfather and my two aunts lived.   My brother Jim and I are anticipating being called into the narrow mahogany dining room, dominated by a long rectangle of a table, six high-backed chairs, and a sideboard. Finally it comes.  “Time for dinner.”

Ever since my grandmother  had passed away in 1960, my mother’s youngest sister,  Aunt Ginny had assumed the role of hostess whenever we came to visit, we being me, my parents, and my two younger brothers. Whereas I recall my grandmother’s meals as being gravy-drenched and over-cooked, especially the canned spinach, my Aunt Ginny’s dinners were definitely worth the hour and a half drive all the way from Harlem in northern Manhattan,  through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel at the tip of Lower Manhattan and then all the way through Brooklyn, the largest of the five boroughs to Bay Ridge . If you saw Saturday Night Fever – you’ve witnessed Bay Ridge. In fact the disco where John Travolta danced his signature solo was just a couple of blocks away and like Grandpa’s two-story two family  house, also situated on  Fourth Avenue . But disco wouldn’t arrive for another 13 years so it was still the neighborhood movie house,  The Harbor.

What was so special about Aunt Ginny’s cooking was that she didn’t!  Aunt Ginny was what in those days was known as a career woman. She worked at the New York Times and knew not a thing about cooking, nor do I think she cared to. But she knew her way around a deli and a bakery, and she aimed to please. My brother Jim loved ham and potato salad so there would be a platter of cold cuts  on the table with carefully rolled slices of not only ham, but salami, turkey, and roast beef, as well as heaping bowls of potato salad, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. As for my eating pleasure, I kept my eye on the Ebinger’s Box perched on the sideboard, 99.9% sure that when  opened it would reveal a Fudge Mary Ann,  resplendent in all its smooth chocolate icing, layers of yellow cake, and sumptuous  butter cream.

Which brings me back to my car in 2014 where this woman on the radio is rambling on about how hard it was to replicate this landmark Ebinger’s cake, the confection they were known for. So I’m waiting and waiting for her to string together  those three glorious words  – Fudge and Mary and Ann. That’s when she says Blackout Cake. And I say, “say wha?  She goes on describing it, a dark chocolate cake, with dark chocolate frosting and dark chocolate crumbs sprinkled on top, so named for the mandatory black out periods imposed during World War II.

But back to Brooklyn, finally the meal is finished and  already stuffed, I proceed to top it off with a piece of ….yes,  Fudge Mary Ann,  or maybe it was two pieces. We then retire back to the living room where Jim and I are certain we’re going to burst and die. I swear to never eat that much again…….But I do,the next time and the time after that, until I went off to college. By the time I graduated, Grandpa had died and Aunt Ginny sold the house and moved to an apartment, an apartment with no room for a mahogany dining room set. And so like so many other fond memories, Fudge Mary Ann faded away to nothingness until…….

Back in my own living room in the Google Age I decide to resurrect it . Aha, first off, I find thisi

Ebinger Baking Company, with a chain of stores across the borough, was founded in Flatbush in 1898 by George and Catherine Ebinger. Famous for their cakes and pies, and especially their Blackout Cake, they closed in bankruptcy on August 26, 1972, “going the way of the Navy Yard, the Dodgers, and Luna Park”, said the New York Times.

Their what? Their blackout cake?!?!? Not one mention of Fudge Mary Ann? I don’t give up that easily. I march into Google Images and type in Ebinger’s Fudge Mary Ann cake. But instead I’m shown pictures like these.


A blackout cake

A blackout cake



I scan through rows and rows of cakes until I’m cross-eyed.


Hmm, is this what Fudge Mary Ann looked like?


Is this what Mary Ann looked like

 No, not fancy enough





Or maybe this is her, she may have had slices almonds

fudge Mary ANn

No, maybe not


Gradually I come to realize I have no idea what she looked like but I sure remember how that scrumptious cake tasted………or do I?

Hmm, what did it taste like?

A horrifying thought crosses my mind.  What if I’m the only one left in the world who remembers Fudge Mary Ann, but I don’t? Does that mean she never existed? Kind of like that tree falling in the forest. How depressing. If only I’d been listening to the classic rock station instead of NPR!


Hope Springs Eternal?   5 comments

Hope Springs Eternal? Or is it Spring Hope is Eternal. No, no, I’ve got it! We all hope spring is going to arrive, if not eternally, at least starting Thursday. According to the calendar, and the constant reassurances by the meteorologists, that’s when it’s scheduled to arrive  – on Thursday. Will  it? We’ll see. But one thing we know for sure: The Groundhog was right!

To be fair though, winter is leaving but he’s taking baby steps up here in the north country;  bigger steps in and down toward the city. Witness his retreat southward along the Hudson River:

Still Frozen in Peekskill

Still Frozen in Peekskill

Go 7 miles south to Croton

Go 7 miles south to Croton

3 more southward miles to Ossining.

3 more southward miles to Ossining.

Tarrytown - 6 more miles. Nothing!!!!

Tarrytown – 6 more miles. Nothing!!!!

Boy, 16 miles can make a big difference, can’t it?

As for the House of Mars, we’re making progress (I guess). Remember my clothes line back in February?


Here it was Sunday…..DSCN1404

My “parking spot” back then?



Almost walkable!

Almost walkable!

My walk in February

My walk in February



Hey, I guess it’s not so bad  after all! Pipe down, Marble. Spring is a-comin’


Tattling on Myself   2 comments

Last week’s blog on the ubiquity of customer satisfaction surveys elicited a discussion with a good friend who was all for them, feeling that

a) employers need them to know how effective their employees are, and

b) employees will keep on their toes,  knowing customers will be quizzed.

It kind of reminded me of the role of student monitors back in my elementary school days. Although we knew how we were supposed to behave , but if it were not for the monitor and the fear of “being told on” who’s to say how many kids would walk quietly to class or behave if the teacher left the room. But just as surveys can get out of control so can the monitor, and I should know.

The Secret.Monitor

It was fourth grade and our teacher was Sister Christina, a fresh-faced young nun. So young that even “us kids” who thought everyone was old, and could only see  what showed through the face window of her Franciscan habit, recognized her youth.  For some reason,  one day she made me secret monitor, probably because she hoped it would keep me quiet for the whole day. My job – to write down the initials of anyone observed talking in class. And at the end of the day, they’d be kept after school

Well, yesiree Bob, I took this seriously. So seriously that I decided to catch everyone talking. Now this happened nearly sixty years ago, so I couldn’t swear to it, and I’d like to think I didn’t, but I may have talked to some of  the”good kids” and when they answered, ……oops, another one bit the dust. But, hey remember -  I’m not sure!

The outcome – Sister Christina took one look at the long list of initials jotted down on the page I’d ripped out of my assignment pad, and sneaked me out the back door of the  class room a few minutes early, on the pretense of  a doctor’s appointment, or some likely excuse  After all how secret could a secret monitor be if her name was the only one missing from the list?

As for the rest of the class – I found out the next day, she’d dismissed them on time. My covert operation was over but I kept it secret, telling no one but my family. However four years later, a new position opened up.

The Hallway Monitor

A coveted position for eight graders,was to be appointed the weekly hallway monitor. This roughly compares to today’s Student of the Week. But whereas these kids earn a lousy bumper sticker, we got to man our hallway and stairwell posts for a whole week,  making sure ‘the younger grades” behaved themselves as they trooped in and out in the morning, to and from lunch recess, and at dismissal.

Finally my turn came. Let me say beforehand that by eighth grade , I had outgrown my fourth grade zeal, and stood  my post with dignity and bearing, breaking my pose only to  smile and mouth  “hi” to my brother in second grade each time his class passed. He’d respond by looking down at the ground,  keeping his arms rigidly at his side, save for the fingers of one hand he wiggled my way.  Figuring this was just my little brother being weird, as he could be from time to time, I didn’t give a lot of thought to it. However my curiosity got the best of me that weekend and I asked him,

“Jimmy, how come you’d never say hi to me in the hall last week.”

His answer, “I was afraid you’d write my name down.”

Posted March 13, 2014 by virginiafair in School Days, Uncategorized

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Be Careful, Big Survey is Watching   3 comments

Have you noticed, or is just the circles I travel in, that the survey has taken the place of Big Brother? Or maybe the survey is today’s hallway monitor. Here’s what I’m talking about.

Every time I take my car to the Hyundai dealership for service, everything is impeccable, the service, the price, the clean and comfortable waiting room equipped with wi-fi, coffee, and TV. And every time as I’m leaving,  the courteous super-helpful service manager walks me to my car, opens the door and while I’m fastening the safety belt, reminds me yet again that “Someone will be calling or emailing you with a survey about your experience here today.”

Different scene, similar survey:

Once a year I go to my local hospital for ultrasound testing. Since ultrasound is utterly painless and non-obtrusive I actually enjoy it. But then the experience is tainted  when the technician walks me to the front desk and not only reminds me, verbally,  that I will be receiving a survey in the mail, but hands me a paper reminding me of the same.

And then there are the times I don’t even have to leave the house to be faced with that ghostly specter. Case in point, I came home Friday night at about 10 PM to find that not only was I lacking  access to all but three stations on cable TV but my internet was out too.  After an hour of reading about trouble-shooting and trying my hand at  it, I gave up  and called Optimum, my service provider

Believe it or not, not only was I  able to reach a real live person  at that time of night, but  he was in Connecticut and not India! After a bit of trouble shooting and futile  attempts to remedy the situation remotely, he told me he could schedule a technician to come out the very next day  – Saturday!!! And then he had to go and ruin it. Yes he asked me if I would stay on the line to answer a brief survey about my experience on this call.

So what am I getting at here? all three individuals, the service manager, the ultra-sound technician, and the customer service agent were all very forthcoming about asking me to give them a positive rating , saying that their job performance reviews depended on it. This leads one to wonder would they be quite so super-nice, so utterly professional and so competent, professional and efficient without that survey dangling over their heads? I’d like to think so.

PS   my cable and internet are working better than ever after the technician’s visit. “The Cable Guy” discovered I was getting absolutely zilch, zero, nada signal so he had to trace my connection outward to locate the problem. Speaking of someone doing his job well!  He started with  the basement – nothing.

So he checked the  connection into the house

DSCN1302Unfortunately, still no signal and if you think that involved a bit of climbing,

his next stop was the utility pole.

DSCN1303But before you say yeah, that’s his job…….

Take a look at the other side of the story .

DSCN1304That’s quite a lean angle for a ladder to reach the top of the pole.

And there lay the problem.  Squirrels! Squirrels had eaten the wires!

So despite the frigid temperature he put up a new line from the pole to the house to the basement junction box, and  now I have a super strong signal and faster download times.

But there was one problem. As he was leaving he told me I’d be contacted for a survey!

Hanging Out at The Beach   5 comments

Last  week’s post was about The House of Mars under the siege of snow, and it included a picture of my poor forlorn clothesline; the clothesline I bought when my dryer died last April. Why didn’t I buy a new dryer? Because it was of the same vintage as the  washing machine, and I just knew that if I went through the hassle of buying a dryer, taking time off to wait for delivery, etc etc, The washer would probably up and die the next day. And I’m glad I did.

The washer spun its last spin in July.


Now you may ask – why did I put off replacing them?  A natural inclination toward procrastination might be # 1 on the list. Fear would  be #2. fear? Yes fear…

That neither could pass through here.


Well, July turned to August, and August to September, and I settled into my laundromat routine. Having spent more of my life living in apartments than houses, I am quite familiar with the motions of going to the laundromat.

My best set up was my last California apartment, in Los Gatos; a tiny five unit complex. The laundry room was kitty corner to my backyard. I’d step out the door, cock my ear and if it was  quiet,  I’d come out with my basket of laundry, then go back in and continue on with whatever I’d been doing. When I heard the washer stop, I’d run out and transfer to the dryer. It actually entailed far fewer steps than here at The House of Mars.

The worst arrangement had to be my first apartment ever, in Yonkers, N.Y.  There were three washers for 60 apartments. And as if that weren’t bad enough, there were only two dryers! I was teaching at the time and, if I timed it right, I could nab a machine while the stay at home moms were cooking dinner, and before the nine-to-fivers came home. When I set out for school on washday morning, I’d leave my laundry basket just inside my apartment door and  that afternoon when I came home,  I’d enter the building by way of the  service entrance, peek into the laundry room, and if a machine was free, run like a banshee up to my apartment on the second floor and get my laundry.

But now! Doing laundry fits seamlessly into my regular routine……..

thanks to The Beach Shopping Center in nearby Peekskill.


Let’s get the question of the name out-of-the-way.  I have no idea. There’s no sand, and the nearest water is – the Hudson River about five miles to the west.

Unless you count this.


I put my laundry in the car in the morning, and after work,  go straight to the aforementioned shopping center

and park near the laundromat


walk across the parking lot and work out at the gym.


Besides doing laundry, the Beach Shopping Center also offers opportunities for take-out on nights when I have no food at home. Twenty minutes before I’m about to  leave the gym, I call next door


or maybe the other next door.


So you see it isn’t so bad. Will I ever get a new washer and dryer?? I’ll let you know if  I ever measure that door!


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