WOMEN OF ALGIERS

Now you’re going to find out that I am somewhat of a snoot. I like art. I don’t mean just any art, but paintings in the styles of the Renaissance up to modern art. The other day, one of Picasso’s works sold for $140,000,000. The price does not bother me at all. If someone has that kind of dough and is willing to part with it, as they say in PA Dutch, zo gates.

The sad part is that a private collector bought it and the hoi poloi will never see it again unless they are invited to the buyer’s villa on the Amalfi coast. Some sales are contingent on the buyer promising to donate the painting to a museum, or at least have it on loan to a museum for a length of time. Since I don’t have that kind of dough, I don’t have to worry about such things.

I guess I began my love of art when, as a small boy, I was taken to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was always to treat to go there with my older sister, or by myself. I even went there with friends and classmates when I got older.

I became further entranced when I was made to take an art course in my freshman year in College. I was all of sixteen and had no understanding of what any of the paintings meant. I knew nothing of eras, schools, techniques, or chiaroscuro. I never noticed that the painter actually viewed his work from a particular spot. The light from a window changed the entire picture. The flat middle age paintings, frescoes or church decorations held no interest for me. They were all left to those who treasured the religious meanings of the multitudinous Mary and the Christ child.

So, you think I am anti religion. Not so. My two favorite paintings in the whole wide world are Dali’s crucifixion (of which I have a canvas in my office), and his Last Supper. You may think of Dali in terms of melted watches, but I think of him in terms of those two fantastic representations.

I was always fascinated by Rubens, Rembrandt, Jan Van Eyck, Titian and El Greco and those sorts of people. I am stuck on portraiture and dark scenes of the countryside. I pretty much halt at the impressionists. My wife especially is a Van Gogh person. We have seen his paintings in the museums in Amsterdam. They are wonderful to see in person. Nothing satisfies like seeing a painting and noticing things like brushstrokes and shadings. That stuff you can’t see in a picture of a painting. Try and capture the sense of the Mona Lisa in a photo. It is really nothing like seeing it in person and wondering why it looks like that Madonna is following you around the room.

No, I am not a connoisseur. I am just a lover of a particular kind of art. Have I seen modern art that I like? Yes, I have. However, given the choice of Franz Kline, Rothko or Chagall and I’ll take Monet, Seurat, Degas and their like. See you at the museum.

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RELIGION AND POLITICS

I am sure that many people have been taught not to discuss religion and politics with friends, family, co-workers and others. The funny thing is that at my age, the number one topic is health and the name of the pills that you are taking and your latest appointment with a physician is the main topic. Politics and religion are both a close second.

Somehow, a great number of people in our country had no training in keeping their thoughts on those two subjects to themselves. It is now a free for all as political candidates and almost every talking head on pt. rants on these two subjects. Very often they are intertwined. We now even have religionists speaking about politics through the lens of a minister, a priest, a rabbi, or an imam. How has this happened to us? When did we decide to shed our conservative mantle and start screaming about these two subjects?

We now have a minister who is running for President and a minister who talks about the news on television. We even have religious shows that contain suggestions about who to vote for. Wonder how those things are legal?

Is this a new phenomenon? Well, actually it isn’t. We have had a presidential candidate who ran on one of our major political parties, who’s main platform was a “Cross of Gold,” and a fervent belief in the his religious beliefs. He was not shy about talking about his maker. He was also the pro-creationist attorney in the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial.”

During the 1930’s, a priest by the name of Father Coughlin regaled the airwaves with his combination of anti- Presidential mewlings and a version of religion that we have very rarely seen. So, it really isn’t something new. Religion has always been part of our political process. Why else would presidential candidates and presidents make sure that the populace knows about their church attendance?

The fact that one of our major political parties sees one of its major constituencies, the religionists as a necessary base to win elections. It is not new; it’s just part and parcel of the twenty four hour news cycle and the ability of religious leaders to appear on many cable channels.

ONLY ONE NON-PROTESTANT PRESIDENT ?

I am not sure that Martin Luther would approve of this bit of information. After all, he began as a priest (as many young men did in the 16th century). We were still selling indulgences as tickets to the hereafter. The wars between the Catholics and the Protestants lasted for a very long time. Not sure who came out ahead, but in the New World, the Catholics seemed to win except for the English colonies. The Catholics even had a toe hold on the Louisiana territory until the United States purchased it.

From the outset, there was no doubt that the leaders of the fledgling country would veer to Protestantism. The only smattering of religious contention was the 1928 election in which Herbert Hoover defeated his Catholic opponent, Al Smith.

When we get to 1960, history is not something that I read about. It was all around me. There were anti-Kennedy songs about not bringing the Pope to the USA. Who would a President Kennedy owe his allegiance to first- the Pope or the American people? We all know the answer to that one- Marilyn Monroe

I thought that the non-Protestant thing was dead and buried. It was not. All of the Presidents since then have been Protestants of one kind or another. We almost had a Jewish Vice President in Joe Lieberman. No such luck. I’ll bet that some of you are crowing about an African American President. As far as I know, he is still a Protestant and is pretty proud of his denomination.

The 2016 election is going to be very interesting. The Democrats will field Hillary Clinton (although Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden will challenge her). She is Protestant. Carla Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett Packard) was raised Episcopalian and is married to a Catholic. She says that she does not go to church much.  Jeb Bush is a long time Protestant, as is his whole family.

The rest of the field is somewhat muddled. Rick Santorum was raised and baptized Catholic. However, sometime in the 2008 election he said that he was drifting away from Catholicism and that he was partial to the Protestant Judeo Christian way of thinking. He announced

That this country was settled and created by Protestants.

Mike Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister. Dr. Ben Carson is a solid Seventh Day Adventist. He was raised by his mom in that religion and still practices it faithfully. Rand Paul was raised a Presbyterian, but was baptized Episcopalian.  Chris Christie was born and raised a Catholic. He is devout, but has some problems with some church teachings such as homosexuality. He believes people and born that way. Scott Walker is the son of a Baptist preacher. He studiously avoids talking about religion, but says he gets his answers from God. There is skepticism about him on the religious right. I have not included minor luminaries such as Mike Pence and Bobby Jindal.

Other than maybe Chris Christie and Rick Santorum, all of the contenders from the right and from the left are Protestants of one kind or another. I am sure that there would be heated discussions about what the correct Protestant religion is, but there it is- Protestants.

QUAGMIRE

Haven’t used that word in many years. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that I have heard it in many years. It’s one of those words that have kind of gone out of style. It has been replaced with barbaric Anglo-Saxon cuss words that don’t really describe anything. I am using it now to describe the situation that Carol and I are in with our home.

In January, we decided to sell our home and move to a place called Sun City, South Carolina. You know South Carolina, too small to be a country and too big to be a mental hospital. People keep on asking us why we would want to move there, other than the weather.

The reason we are moving is the nexus for moving to S.C. Our friends have either died or have moved away from the area. Furthermore, the synagogue that we joined so enthusiastically 22 years ago is losing its members because of age and is now headed by a part time rabbi. Things are not as they once were for both of us.

In 1992, when we were contemplating moving to Harrisburg, on advice of our good friend Mark Widoff, since moved to Austin, Texas, we found a great realtor and friend, Pat McLenahan. He showed us about 60 houses and never lost patience. He became part of our family. When we decided to move to our current location, he helped us sell our house and helped us find a new one. He remained part of our family, even if we did not see him that often.

So, in January, we called his office and found out that he had died about one and one half years ago. We were devastated. That’s the kind of thing that blows you up and never really settles. We spoke to his wife and his secretary who recommended one of the people in Pat’s office. We signed the necessary papers in January.

We really did not expect to sell our house in the lousiest winter in many years. As things dragged out, it appeared that our realtor and Carol and I were not on the same page. We knew that was happening. Few people came to look at our home. Our friends, who moved to Sun City, actually sold their home on their own and are now ensconced in Sun City and having a ball. We also have other friends who have moved there and are having a ball.

Carol and I have no intention of just recreating. We have already made some contacts. Our nephew teaches at the University of South Carolina. We have already spoken to some people at the branch campus in Beaufort (a mile from Sun City) about doing some work there.

Here comes the problem. We started our listing of the home at $245,000, which was 15,000 dollars lower than what we paid for it in 2006. We understand that prices have come down. However, there is a limit on the down side of what we should charge. We need a certain amount of dough so that we can purchase a home down in Sun City. If the only way we can sell the house is to reduce it to some ridiculously low number, then we won’t be able to move at all.

We have accumulated a new realtor. She appears to be a go-getter. Her approach is very different either from Pat or our former realtor, who agreed to terminate our contract early. We are most anxious to see how the new person fares. Our home will appear on all of the appropriate site- Zillow, MLS, Realtor.com and others.

Our new realtor has given us strict instructions about how to present our home to those who might come to look. We are startled by her suggestions, but she has been in the business for 20 years and is very successful.

O.K., who is ready to buy?

WOMEN

I do not claim to be an expert on women. My experience over the years have been colored by the women who raised me (my dad died when I was 4), the woman that I married fifty two years ago, the daughter that we raised, my granddaughters and my daughter-in law. Although I have had individual experiences with many women through my work life, my years as an educator, my friends, and the many young women for whom we provided scholarships, the women in my family have taught me so many things.

I have described my grandmother Frieda many times in these tomes. She was born in Belarus, as was my mother and her siblings. She spoke mostly Yiddish and was as staunch a person as you can find. Her values were ironclad. She brooked no interference from others, including members of her family. Yet her love for her children and grandchildren was boundless. How then can you be so stiff necked (as the bible refers to the ancient Hebrews) and still be a loving person. Evidently that was something that my grandmother had in profusion. She taught me that there were absolutes in the world. Her chief concern was the concern she had for her children and her inability to countenance conceit, two-facedness, and outright liars.

Grandma would call people out in a butcher shop if she saw that there was hanky panky going on. She took out her temper on nosey neighbors and those she felt were not really following the Jewish religion. She never lied, nor had she any need to show a different face to different people. She was who she was. Take it or leave it.

Mom was somewhat different. She was consumed with her family. She was kind and thoughtful to others, but always put her family first. She was much more lighthearted than her mother. She worked with “the public” as a waitress for thirty five years. Her view of life started and ended with her children. She re-married so that I could have a step father. She insisted that I change my name so that he would feel a responsibility for me.

Mom was proud of the fact that he had no friends at all. Yet, she had deep feelings for people who were in trouble. Her world was tattered as a result of World War I. Her life in the “old country” was, in her eyes, a benign and bucolic paradise. I am not sure that is true, but that was her view. I am not sure that my mom’s stories were as accurate as they could be.

She was an inveterate singer of Yiddish songs. Since that was mostly the language of grandma’s house, we all took turns singing up a storm. My older sister and my mother had wonderful voices. They always encouraged me to sing. In 1946, I was going to be in a play, produced by Herman Yablokoff. It was going to be presented to D.P. camps in Europe. It was in Yiddish and I had a major role. Unfortunately, grandma decided that our first stop, Montreal was too far for her taste.

My older sister was the star of our family. She could do almost anything. She could sing beautifully, dance, write, direct among other things. She was actually on the Horn and Hardart Children’s hour on the radio. She was not a small time person. She was my hero growing up. I even helped her study for tests. Her comments on the Rime of the Ancient Mariner were something, I could understand at age 8. She was kind to me and took me along on her dates when no one could watch me. She took me to the library when I was four and five and began my lifelong love of books.

I met my wife of 52 years at a going away party for a friend in 1960. She is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people that I have ever met. She is a task completer, a visionary and the best teacher that I have ever scene. She is an entrepreneur, a wise woman and someone who delights in solving problems that others have given up on. She tolerates my eccentricities and odd behaviors. Thank goodness, I do not sing in stores any more, nor feel women’s undergarments (which I did when I went shopping with my mother and older sister when they went into the changing rooms at department stores). She is pleased that I do not say, “It is a pleasure for you to meet me.” She laughs at some of my jokes and goes ballistic when we see any of the Clouseau movies with Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom.

She has taught me to wait, rather than to react immediately and to do much more listening than talking. She still does not like me telling so many stories when I make presentations, although she knows that it does do some good. I do miss her when she is not around.

My daughter is a special person. She combines all of the talents of their forbearers. She does not take any guff from anyone. She can sing, run an upscale furniture store when she was a freshman in college, invent new jewelry, run an organization of artists, run a psychological corporation at the same time that she and her husband are raising three children. She has the kindness of all the aforementioned women and is a forceful advocate for the down and out and her friends who are having problems. Her affect is a departure from the women in my life because her experiences have been different. She and her brother were the only Jewish kids in the schools that they went to. That had an effect on her, for the better.

Her daughter, my granddaughter is another special person. She is kind to strangers, helps other kids in school who are having trouble, and is an excellent athlete in many sports. She is a talented singer (although she will deny it) and someone who can play many instruments and has settled on percussion. She is a talented academic, and a sweetie pie to the nth degree.

I have not known my daughter-in-law as long as I have known the other women in my life. She and my son make a great pair. She is an only child of two only children. Therefore family is exceptionally important to her. It kind of reminds me of my mother. She is a fierce defender of her family, of which we are a part. Recently, we had some problems selling our house. Her reaction was to blame the realtor and to contact her friend who was realtor to help us get the house sold.

She also was an accountant in her working life and helps us when we need help with some financial issues. She is close to us and would always help us out in a pinch. We certainly can count on her. Her daughter is a wonderful ten year old with aspirations of being an actress. My mom had such dreams, as did my older sister. She can do many ethnic voices and can act up a storm. We have seen her. She loves when her grandma makes dresses for her American dolls. I can see some of the skills and ways of the women in my life in her.

This has nothing to do with the males in my family. Since my dad died early, my thoughts turn to those who raised me and those women who were and are close to me. I fancy myself unbelievable lucky. I really don’t have to understand women. They are at the forefront of my mind.