Archive for April 2013

In Search of a New Four-Letter Word   7 comments

When I was a kid, I used to spend the month of August at a Girl Scout sleep-away camp. Come the end of July the counselors had had a month of camp songs and there was always one that they were thoroughly sick of. So it would be officially banned by the time I got there.

Well, that’s how I feel about a particular  four letter word  – the one referred to as the f-bomb. That baby’s been dropped so many times, I find it merely annoying, especially when people use it three or four times in one sentence. I’d be willing to start a movement for its retirement on the grounds that it’s become a cliché.

Let’s test that out.

From the Merriam-Webster online Dictionary:

Definition of CLICHÉ

1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it

2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation

3: something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

Yep! It passes.

But it wasn’t always so. When I was growing up in the fifties, hearing it on the school playground, (the Catholic school playground)was extremely rare. And if it was heard, it would bring forth a chorus of

Ooh, I’m going to tell Sister what you said.

And at home, our parents mostly used thinly disguised phonetically-altered hybrids  like Gosh, Darn, Heck, and Shucks. You could go to a slew of movies and never hear more than Hell or maybe Damn.

Then came the 60’s, which as anyone who lived through them knows, didn’t really happen until the 70’s. But somewhere between The Summer of Love , the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the Student Uprisings, we found, (yes you and I fellow Baby-boomers) we needed something a bit stronger than Shucks. But when we dropped f-bombs we did it with conviction, and as a verb. It wasn’t a mere place holder in our sentences.

No, for that we had like, you know, and man.

Like you know what I’m saying man? Like we were just standing there rapping, like you know, like it went on for hours.  And then before I knew it, it was like, you know, time to go home.

In the 70’s  people had started using it as an adjective. The first time this was pointed out to me was at the Jersey Shore where I used to go in on a time share house. It was early in the summer when the Atlantic retains its chill, and there we were, a bevy of bikini clad beauties standing at the water’s edge when  a couple of Jersey Boys decided to show off their prowess by running and diving headlong into the surf.

I was standing next to Marty, who despite her name, was a fragile looking classical beauty with long blond hair and a sensitive nature that served her well as an art teacher. When the tough guys came slinking out, complaining about how cold the F-ing ocean was, Marty turned to me and, in all sincerity asked “What did the ocean ever do to him?”

I hope Marty,wherever she is, is wearing earplugs these days.

I’ve been thinking about this need for a new four letter word for a while now, but I didn’t really take up the cause until St Patrick’s Day. No, no, it was the day before St Patrick’s Day when I displayed lack of judgment by going  into Manhattan. I’d already made the commitment before learning the St Patrick’s Day parade was being moved up a day because the 17th fell on a Sunday. Now if you’ve been following my blog you might remember that, for me, the St Patrick’s Day parade ranks up there with a quadruple root canal.

I soothed myself with the thought. How bad can it be? It wasn’t like  I’d be taking the last train home, the one that, on St Patrick’s Day, is called The Vomit Comet (need I say more?) No, I planned on taking the 5:10 when all the  revelers would still be reveling for hours.

Well, I was wrong. The 5:10 was worse.

It resembled a high school field trip exploring the effects of alcohol. I walked through seven cars trying to find a quiet one with a slightly older crowd, like over 18. Then  I turned around and walked back. I considered taking the next train, but feared it would be worse. Finally I found a middle aged man trying to hide in a book and settled in next to him, hoping no one would upchuck on the hour long ride until I could escape at Peekskill.

It was the longest hour I’ve ever experienced. I’d picked a winner of a train car and a bonus seat –  in  front of three rowdy girls who were cheerleaders for discord as in dissing (as the young folks say) every boy who was within shouting range.

Man, like you know, those f-bombs’s were flying like all the way home, you know

It was then, probably to preserve my sanity, that I started trying to come up with a  substitute. It hasn’t been easy. For a while I thought about spam. Not the canned meat – the computer junk mail. Everybody hates wading through it .

Like you know, man delete, delete, delete. It just like drives me crazy.

I tried using it in context  “This is really spammed up!”  “What a spamming pain in the A…

Then I realized it would never catch on with the young. They don’t email. They text.

Then yesterday –Eureka –  I came up with it.  The four letter word that the younger generation discovers at an early age and uses ad nauseum. Come on, parents and teachers you know what it is. B O R E as in “I’m bored!” “This is boring!”

Whaddya think? Let’s try it out in re-describing that train ride home.

“I got to boring Grand Central and I had to walk through seven boring cars filled with boring teenagers to find a boring seat. Now how bored up was that, I ended up in front of a  pack of boring loud girls and……”

Yep, that works for me!





Hearing The Who   1 comment

A mystery left unanswered for over 30 years has been cleared up. Finally! I have proof that I wasn’t crazy. But unfortunately it’s a satisfaction that will go unshared since I’m certain I’m the only one of the four of us who remembers that night. Sure, they probably remember the WHO concert but I’m sure they’ve long forgotten the lisp. Who am I fooling? I’m probably the only one who even remembered it the next day – or cared!

What I don’t remember is the exact year. Let’s settle for 1980-early something or other. The WHO Were appearing at the Oakland Coliseum and I went to see them with the man to whom I was married, and another couple. Husband and friend, being technology types, and other wife, being a nurse, all brought earplugs to use once the concert was underway.

“What are you nuts?” Yes, I’m sure that’s what I said.  “We’re here to see a group that bills itself as the loudest rock band in the world……

loudest band


………and you three are going to plug up your ears?!”



Well, one of us didn’t.

We had great seats. Balcony? Loge? Mezzanine? Whatever they were called, they were upper left of the stage so I could down for a side view of Roger Daltrey as he kept up his non-stop marching steps and twirled and caught his microphone throughout the entire concert.


twirling mic

Sure Jagger has his moves ………




but it is my strongly-held opinion that Roger is overlooked when it comes to putting on a non-stop show. He may not prance and strut like a rooster, but he never stopped moving. And, to this day, no one has perfected the rock and roll scream like Roger Daltrey.


rock and roll scream



And ,as I said, I had a perfect seat to verify this. And the pyrotechnics that that culminated “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – A full sensory assault.

Ha! I thought, too bad these namby pambies with me aren’t getting their money’s worth.  

Later on the drive home, maybe I was tired or cranky, but I didn’t appreciate the joke the guys were playing on me, talking with a lisp, saying things like

“Did you thee the colorth in the thmoke after that exthplothion?” asked friend

“Stop talking like that!” I whined

“Thtop talking like what? What am I doing?” he asked.

“You’re talking with a lisp!”

Here’th the thtop thign where you need to turn,” advised husband who was serving as his navigator.

“You too, Cut it out!!!”

“Why are you so upset?” Other wife turned around to look at me in the back seat. “They’re not doing anything.”

“ They’re talking with those phony lisps. Don’t you hear them?”

They continued this way the entire ride home. I gave up, but I never forgot, and finally, last month, I discovered the guys were innocent after all.


Smart Planet is a newsletter I follow online at work. It often serves up material I can curate for our Twitter account. An interview with a woman named Katherine Bouton, who began losing her hearing at age 30, caught my eye although it had no application for work. I began reading, and there it was in black and white – the answer I’d been searching for all these years……

I understand that high-frequency sounds are the first victims of hearing loss and then comes the inability to hear the frequencies associated with speech.

Audiologists refer to the speech banana. This is the pattern on an audiogram that shows where speech sounds fall. If your hearing does not fall within the speech banana you’ll have trouble understanding speech, though you may hear it. Very few vowels or consonants fall in the low frequencies but in the high frequencies, 4000 to 8000 Hz, you find the consonants f, s, and th. So people with hearing loss in that area can’t distinguish between “fish” “fist” “fifth” or “fit.”

Finally, vindication was mine. I wasn’t hearing things, after all.

Hmm, I wasn’t hearing things?! I wasn’t hearing? What does this mean?????

I need time to think about this. But if you’d like to learn more about hearing loss. (No, I didn’t say my hearing loss, I just said hearing loss) you can read the entire article at

When Relativity Clashes with Reality   1 comment

Did you ever  look at reality and relativity? If it weren’t for two letters, the v and the second i, they’d be the same word.

Speaking of letters, when  one arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago it got me to thinking about reality and relativity.  Actually it was a card, not a letter, and it was from my friend Connie


I first met Connie the year after I moved to San Jose – at a 10K race. It was the era when running was in its heyday. We began participating in races all over San Jose, joking that the only reason we raced was so we could go out to breakfast afterward. And you know what?  The jury is still out on that.

Connie and I had other things in common besides a passion for running and a fondness of food. We were both East Coast ex-pats, she being from New Jersey. And here’s where relativity comes in. Connie was nine years older than me, but since she and her husband, Jerry had started their family very early, and my parents, fairly late, my youngest brother was only a year older than her oldest son, so in a way, I fell between the generations.  Whenever I wasn’t journeying back to New York for the holidays, I had a standing invitation to spend them with her and her family. I used to say Connie adopted me.

The one holiday I never missed was Easter, and her Polish brunch, a somewhat raucous event with Easter Egg fights (rules available upon request), ham, kielbasa, potatoes, and bottomless glasses of champagne to wash it all down. When I saw how she signed the Easter card, I assumed she was referring to those days.



But then, this fell   out


Early on in our friendship we’d driven up to San Francisco to run  in a 10K on the beach. Yes on the beach, as in on the sand…… in clunky running shoes.

When I looked at the results page, I was taken back.

It wasn’t the hyphenated name I haven’t used in nearly  twenty-five years.

Nor was it my time; 45 minutes was a little slower than my normal pace, but .. did I mention it was 10,000 meters ….. in the sand? Actually I was surprised I’d come in second in my age group. But that was it – the age group. looking back from the high peak of today, it seemed so young




That settled it, I had to call Connie. I checked my watch, something I always do when calling the west coast. She’s still out there, but now up in Washington. It was great to hear Jerry’s familiar singing of hello, “then the same old “Connie, it’s Ginny,” as if I were still just across town.

Connie  knew me well. She was expecting my call, but was surprised when I admitted it had taken me a while to remember this particular race.

“You didn’t remember that old guy changing his clothes right in front of us?”

She was exaggerating. He changed out of his running shorts behind his car.I picked up the results sheet and turned the page, searching  for his name “Here he is, Walt Stack.  He finished nine seconds ahead of you.”

She laughed.  “But I wasn’t last!”  Connie always ran with the fear of being the last one to finish a race.

We were so young,” I moaned. “Do you realize my niece is the same age as I was then.”

Connie came right back at me with a more alarming reality check.

“Do you realize Lori is a year older than I was!”

Until that moment  my mind had preserved Lori, her youngest daughter,  in the whirling drama of high school. In a flash, reality set her free.

Having thoroughly depressed each other with the relative reality of our “happy” memory, we ended the conversation with promises to keep in touch.


I did leave out one relative point, though.  That old guy? The one was  nine seconds faster than Connie? The one with no inhibitions about changing out of his running shorts? Connie is now a year older than he was.

But I don’t think she’d have wanted to hear that, do you?


Posted April 15, 2013 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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Soho Underfoot   1 comment

I am no stranger to Soho. My hairstylist is in Soho and I make an event out of each visit, wandering along different narrow streets, discovering new architectural treasures along the way. But there is always something new to discover and this time I found it by altering my gaze. I began to look down and never looked up again. Except to avoid collisions with wandering tourists

Maybe I should pause for a quick description of Soho just in case you’ve never been there

(Soho is a historic neighborhood ruined by, oops I mean  filled with tourists traipsing in and out of fashionable shops on the narrow side streets, and emerging from Broadway’s conglomeration of  chain stores such as HMS and Old  Navy, laden down with shopping bags filled with items they could have bought at their local  mall.

Among the oldest in New York City, the streets of Soho, deep down in lower Manhattan, have withstood a number of identity changes: farm land to elite mansion-filled neighborhood to red-light district to light industrial manufacturing and wholesale trading area. This last phase, starting in the Forties and lasting through the next two decades, saw the streets bustling by day, but ghostly at night.

That changed in the early seventies when artists in neighboring Greenwich Village found themselves priced out of their studios and apartments by encroaching gentrification. And they drifted into Soho, just to the south. They soon gobbled up the low rent lofts with the high ceilings and tall windows providing light and space for their works of art. And guess what – a typical story in New York – Soho now has the highest rents and most expensive real estate listings in all of Manhattan. Say good-by to the starving, or even successful artists and hello to media celebrities and  technology wunderkind.  

Oh a word of warning  for non-New Yorkers, Soho is an acronym for South of Houston, referring to the street that marks its northern boundary. If you happen to looking for that street, it’s pronounced House-ton.)

But back to me! There I am eyes cast downward, camera-ready

My awakening began early on when I was still en route to my hair cut, so technically I was in pre-wandering mode. Crossing a narrow street, even by Soho standards, and clumsy being my middle name, I was careful to take a second look at what seemed to be  a very high curb bordering a rather un-level street and that’s when I marvelled

Cobblestones! You don’t see these in other parts of the city.


A couple of  hours later, now officially exploring, I chose Prince Street as my route west and began to notice what seemed  to be an inordinate variety of pipes. No, not the smoking kind.

This kind.



In pairs


In Crowds


In all shapes and sizes



And pipes weren’t the only cast iron sights. Although New Yorkers tend to detour around these


I’ve only heard of one or two incidents when they gave way beneath a pedestrian– but you can’t be too careful, it would be a nasty fall.


And then, there were  the delightful odds and ends.

Glass baubles



The Fancy



and The Un-Fancy



Mind you, all this was, and I was still on Prince Street!

Where they love their trees



Eventually I had to head north for the trek up to Grand Central Station. But I had to take my camera out one more time – on Lexington Avenue . I wanted to show you that we, New Yorkers do have manners.




So if I bump into you because I’m looking down, I’ll be sure to say “I’m sorry”.

Spring in My Steps   3 comments

Spring was here; for one brief day; Saturday. Others think of spending the first warm(ish) day, hiking or biking in the country. I think of making my way down city streets. And as luck would have it, I just happened to be going into Manhattan. Bonus!

The first hint of spring was the fact that I was able to stand on the Peekskill station’s platform while I waited for the train. The station is right on the Hudson and the winter wind blowing across the platform can turn your head inside out. I swear,  it could move half the cars in the parking lot if the station’s structures  didn’t block its force. I take no chances. Winter finds me waiting for the train up here



Or in here.


But no matter what time of year, I always take a minute to take in the view. It’s always fit for a postcard. And Saturday I was able to take it all in without the distraction of shivering muscles and chattering teeth.




By the time I arrived in the city an hour later it was absolutely balmy – for March.

I took the downtown subway halfway to my destination, and since I had nearly an hour to spare before my appointment, I got off three stops early and walked the rest of the way, my route confined to the narrow side streets which hold the “real” New York


After my appointment, I decided to walk the two and half miles back uptown. But first, I needed sustenance. If you recall in an earlier blog I boasted about never eating at one of the city’s trendy food trucks. Well I can boast no more. I joined the trend.


Actually it was very efficient. At first I was discouraged by what I thought was a line but was pleased to discover that everyone had already placed their orders and were actually milling about, waiting to receive them. I stepped up to  the window reserved for placing orders and decided on a spicy cheese empanada from the Veggie listing.I handed over my $3.00, and like the obedient patrons of Seinfeld’s famous Soup Nazi,  stepped to the left to await its being called out at the next window. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am,  those orders just came flying out, and the line dispersed, myself included. In less than four minutes, I was heading uptown, taking happy bites out of my empanada.

I thought of taking a picture, but too late. By the time the notion entered my head,  the empanada was close to morsel size.  But if you’ve ever had a Jamaican Patty or a British Pastie, picture one of those, but, in my empanada’s case, no meat filling, rather, four types of melted cheese, mixed in with caramalized onions and speecy-spicy seasonings. Luckily they supplied a handful of napkins.  I don’t know what needed them more – my hands or my face.

Ahh, food, warmth, fluffy clouds in a blue sky – life in the city was good.



Next stop ….


….where people flocked to the benches to re-acquaint themselves with the sun.


….where kiddies in the playground remembered what slides and swings felt like without winter gloves.



And where, in their own playground, the dogs frolicked…


….or chose not to



Meanwhile back out on the streets, even busy dogs, out on errands, stopped to say hello.


All too soon I reached Grand Central Station for the trip back north.

Alas the next two days were damp and chilly and the remainder of the week seems to be stalled in what the weather forecasters like to call unseasonably cold temps. But I’ll take unseasonably cold in April over that one unseasonably warm day in November when Mother Nature shows her sadistic side,cackling at us suckers who hope against all odds that it’s going to last while knowing all along  that the next, we’ll be freezing our sweet patooties off.

Days like that are oh so wrong.

But Saturday was oh so right.