Archive for October 2013

House Know Best   1 comment

I’m not talking about Dr Gregory House, the anti-social doctor with diagnostic prowess of the TV program House. I’m talking about The House of Mars.

As is my wont, I try each year to put off turning on the heat until November 1, not so much for economic reasons, but as a stubborn matter of principle. Some years, it’s a struggle. But dressing in layers does the trick. Other years, I’ve had to give in. This year it looked like I was actually going to make it. It didn’t dip below 50 until last Wednesday –  October 23. I only had nine more days to go.

It wasn’t easy though. The windshield thermometer in my car registered 37 degrees on Thursday morning and 38 on Friday.  I took to taking showers at the gym and at night, piled on the blankets. Each morning I awoke to a pile of cats beside me. Anyone remember the 70’s group, Three Dog Night? I had Three Cat Night.

Then Friday happened!

I came home Friday evening to what smelled like burnt popcorn. At first I thought it was coming  from outside, that neighbors were burning some sort of weird logs in their wood-burning stove.  But when I went outside. the smell vanished. Then I realized – not only was it originating from inside, but it was burnt cat hair. Marceau had gone  through a period of sleeping on the heating unit this summer.

I went over – touched it – sure enough – still warm.


Insubordination!!!!!  It took it upon itself to heat the house. But not by much. You see I never turn it all the way off because two years ago when  I did, the pilot went out and I had to get the propane company to re-light it. I now set it to the lowest temperature, I can, without actually turning it off, assuming the house would never get that cold

Looks like I was wrong!


It came on twice more overnight. I guess the house was saying “I’m @#$!! Cold.

This weekend was warmer and by this Friday, November 1, it’s supposed to reach 65 so I’m going to stick it out. Technically, I think I’ll win. After all, I wasn’t the one who turned it on.

But I did winterize  outdoors on Saturday so outside could catch up with inside.

The  patio is empty.


The shed is full.


The screen door is out.


The storm door is in.


And now I’m ready for the long cold winter

As soon as I finish Fall.


There’s Bullying And Then There’s Bullying   1 comment

Recent news accounts about the latest poor teenaged bullying victim who saw suicide as the only way out has set me thinking. Is bullying more prevalent today then it was in the 50’s and 60’s when I was learning my way in the world? I doubt it. Bullying has been around forever. Goliath comes to mind.

  • Is it that  the media is more omnipresent today?
  • Does the internet makes it easier for bullies to throw constant barbs at the bullied?
  • Does the idea that the internet may have already spread the viciousness before the victim has even seen it make him or her even more victimized

Yes and yes, and maybe.

What’s different about today’s bullying is the way it’s carried out. But I think that in blaming the internet I’m shooting the messenger. I should be shooting the computer, lap top, iPhone iPad, – all the devices that have made a best buddy out of the almighty screen. So when that best buddy delivers all those barbs and vicious names, who is there to turn to?

When I was young (aagh, did I just write those four words? How many times did I silently gag when either of my parents uttered them) But as I was saying, back in the day bullying was “in your face.” This was because we spent every waking hour out playing. There was nothing worse than going out and finding “No one to play with”. We  were out in the street after school, weekends, summers, and at lunchtime recess – yes we played outside on our lunch hours ( and yes it was a full hour. )

And so when bullies struck they did so out in the open. Bullies need an audience, otherwise why bother. But whereas  today’s victims suffer the verbal slings alone, at home, in front of their screens, the bullied back then, if she was lucky had a friend or a kind-hearted soul who at best would stand up for her, or at least, offer a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. Not to toot my own horn, but I can recall befriending two different girls on different occasions in third or fourth grade when they were made fun of for whatever reason. Hold on, maybe I touched on it right there. Made Fun Of.

Although it was anything but fun for the bullied, and undoubtedly left scars, the bully almost seemed benign and as if he/she was having fun as compared to today’s spineless bully sitting in the silent safety of  his/her keyboard, typing a relentless destructive onslaught to go out instantly to who knows how many screens

The old fashioned open, in the present bullying may also have brought fellow victims together and forged friendships, in a Revenge of the Nerds, in numbers there is strength, type of pact.

I myself had an early encounter with bullying.  Very early! I was probably about 4 when I’d come upstairs to our apartment crying that “Roni hit me. ” Yes, lower your jaws, at four, I was allowed out by myself – right in front of the building. All the kids were. Back then every city block was its own little small town. Neighbors were coming and  going, and mothers did keep an eye on us from the window.  Roni was my age, and lived in the next building.

After the second or third day of this, my mother had had enough.  And although her method will never appear in the politically correct parenting handbook of modern times, she solved my problem instantly and once and for all.

She didn’t come downstairs and have a  heart-to-heart eye level talk with Roni; nor did she have a talk with Roni’s mother.   She had a talk with me. “If you don’t hit Roni back, the next time you come home crying, I’m going to hit you too.”

And so the next time it happened I hit Roni back, and ya’ know what?  Not only did she never hit me again, we were best buddies from that day on, and all through grade school until high school when her family moved to California

So what am I trying to say? I don’t really know. I’m not making light of the effect of bullying on victims now or then. I just think that when it was delivered out in the light of day,  The victim had to act. Maybe it was to run away. Maybe it was to cry. But it was instant and direct, in a Bart Simpson  type of way. There wasn’t as much time for it to fester.

So make of this rambling post what you will, all I’m saying is social media can be awfully anti-social.

And if you have any thoughts on bullying I’d really like to hear them.

Posted October 21, 2013 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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Fessing up to Old   3 comments

I just arrived home from a weekend in Washington DC to celebrate the birthday of an old friend. And no, that’s not a bad camera shot, although I am quite capable of them; it’s that I can’t show you the whole picture because he’s retired from a post with the State Department where he was involved in covert operations from time to time.

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“Old friend”applies every way you look at it.  Old FRIEND because I’ve known him since first grade, and OLD friend because he’s older than me, by two months, a fellow card-carrying member of the first year of baby-boomers to grace this earth.  As if this wasn’t enough to remind me that time has marched on, the next day I found myself officially declaring to the world that yes, indeed I am an official old person.

I was traveling back to New York on Amtrak and arrived at Washington’s Union Station with over an hour to spare. And as my dad would say I “had to run my mouth.” so I called a friend. And after 15 minutes or so of running  my mouth I saw that I’d been oblivious to that fact that a line was forming at  the boarding gate.  and by t he time I got myself over there it was a long line snaking clear out of the waiting area. So I trudged to the back,kicking myself for not being more mindful of what was transpiring.

Fifteen minutes before departure, the boarding process began with the announcement

“Priority boarding for seniors, the disabled and business class travelers. ”

l looked at my ticket. Yes, there it was SENIOR!!!  Can you believe I almost let vanity keep me there at the back of the line?  I can’t believe it!  But yes, I was thinking I can’t go up there with all those old people

Well the thought was distinguished by a voice in my head that sounded awfully like Mr T  –

“FOOL!” It said.
so I gathered up my bags and made my way through the crowd. I admit I had to use my NY aggressiveness those blocking the way who didn’t know the meaning of “excuse me.” Well,  actually I prefer to think they thought I was a gate crasher because I couldn’t possibly be 62 or older

Still mired in this vein of delusional thought, I was delighted when the boarding agent stopped me and scolded “There’s a line here.”

“I’m a senior,” I proclaimed,

Yes, there’s the line And sure enough there was a line of  white and grey hairs waiting to have their senior tickets checked.

I got on line, and was soon admitted – no questions asked, sigh, no proof of age requested

We still had to wait another 15 minutes but al least we were in. and I began to feel a camaraderie with all these fellow seniors.

I must mention how different the boarding procedure is at Unions Station,  from New York’s Penn Station, where I had begun my journey. At Penn, there is are no airport-like individual gates nor do  they even announce the track until 15 minutes before boarding so one has to wander around or sit in one of the main waiting areas wondering if you;ll find the gate in time. Nor is there senior boarding – or even a line, for that matter!. Instead it’s a  pushy NY type funneling action with passengers jockeying for position as they wave their tickets at the agent waving  them through. Mind you I’m just saying I’m not disparaging my beloved Big Apple. Besides with my multi-year existence as  a NY’er I am most adept at wiggling through small spaces. but that’s a subject for a future blog.

Anyway, that was my train of thought and I’d just  begun to believe that the mystery surrounding the New York track departure was a security measure, when right then and there I saw that Washington has the Big Apple beat on that front too. As we seniors waited “In an orderly line,” as we’d been commanded. A security officer walked past accompanied by his bomb-sniffing Chocolate  Labrador Retriever. Then he walked past again, and once more, and then, one more time for good measure, as the dog indulged in cursory sniffs of our luggage.

I smiled as I realized these dogs are also trained to sniff drugs. Wouldn’t it be funny if he found something referred  to in 60’s vernacular as “Some good sh*t ?

Think about . Those of us line standers in our 60’s were the 60’s!  That would have been Outta Sight, Man!

A Girl Named Miss Fair   5 comments

Way, way back, a long time ago, eons and eons before Facebook existed, a student tried to “friend” her teacher.  It was a Saturday morning, mid-September 1968, and I was that teacher, a brand new third grade teacher with two weeks under my belt. Still living at home, I’d gone to the neighborhood supermarket to stock up on bread and bologna for lunch. It was an age of innocence when grocery shopping made me feel grown-up.

While I was gone, the doorbell rang and my mother went to the door to find an eight year old girl, asking “Does a girl named Miss Fair live here?” As a historical mile marker, let me pause and point out that this was five years before Ms was officially recognized! Yep, that long ago. By 1973 when I could officially call myself Ms, I had moved to my own apartment and relocated to a school far enough away from home to remain a mystery to my students.

But two of my kindergarteners from that school recently found me, and much to my delight!

About two years ago, I gave in and established a Facebook account. Last year, I received a message. It  was from KM who had been part of the last Kindergarten class I taught before moving to the Left Coast.  Now a teacher herself, she asked “Do you remember me?”

“ Not only do I remember you,” I wrote back, “I have a picture of you at my wedding.”

Her mother had brought her and her newborn baby sister to the church where I was married, and the official photographer, who happened to my own baby brother, had captured a picture  of the bride and groom leaning over and smiling at the infant.

(Another historical mile marker, that newborn is now 34 years old!)

Well I officially accepted KM as a friend. Since old habits are hard to break, and perhaps since she is a teacher herself, whenever she comments on one of my posts, she refers to me as Ms Fair because, as opposed to that third grader knocking at my door, who had Miss Fair for a teacher, KM had Ms Fair. At any rate,  Miss or Ms, I’d been meaning to tell her to call me Virginia, but never got around to it.

And I’m glad I didn’t because CH, one of her friends who’d also been in my last Kindergarten in the Bronx, upon seeing a comment KM had commented on my comment to her comment (Yes, FB can be complicated) . Now where was I? Oh yes, CH asked KM. Do you mean THAT Ms Fair.

To make a long story short. She is now my friend too, and she had the same question “Do you remember me?”

Of course I did , and both she and KM have laid rest to my fear that in the shadow of all those shall I say vibrant  little boys who hogged so much of my attention, thousand of sweet little girls had been erased from my memory.

And in that light, I second KM’s motion that we have a reunion (while I’m still ambulatory and have all my teeth.)

I promise – I won’t embarrass you by drooling over my lunch. At least I’ll do my best not to! And I won’t write a word about it!

Posted October 7, 2013 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

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