Monday, June 27, 2011

My Little Girl is a Capitalist !!!

They made $22 in less than an hour. Pretty good entertainment provided for the cost of a glass of lemonade or a cookie, I'd say. I especially like the part about "kick your boyfriend out of town."  That saves me the trouble ...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kelly gets a camera ... and drives everyone crazy ... especially her sleepy brother.

I don't know if I should be happy that she seems to have great genes for comedic and acting talent ... or if I should be worried about her mental health.

Some time ago, after losing a tooth, she carried it around all day long. I told her she was going to lose it again ... and she did.

So, she wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy and tucked it under her pillow. It read:

"Dear Tooth Fairy,

Guess what? I lost my tooth. I can't find it anywhere.

After it came out I brushed it and put it in a glass of mouthwash. So it would be clean for you!

But now I lost it and I can't find it. So, could you just give me $10 or something?

Love, Kelly"

After she fell asleep, I took the note and replaced it with a note from the Tooth Fairy:

"Dear Kelly,

$10 ??!! Are you crazy little girl? Here's $3.

Love, The Tooth Fairy"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Remembering My Mom and Mr. Feder

Mom and my eldest sister, Joann

In 1969 I was 10 years old, living a comfortable life in a beautiful house on one of the most exclusive streets on the Westside of Los Angeles. On our street lived quite a few people who were, or had been, involved in the entertainment business. Our neighbor was the actress and singer, Kathryn Grayson. How many times that summer did I walk past her house, her pack of guard dogs on the other side of the fence loudly expressing their desire to tear me apart the entire length of her property? It was worth it. I was once again on my way to the Cowsill’s house (the singing family who inspired the TV show, “The Partridge Family”) to ask if Susie Cowsill could go to the beach with me. My request was always denied by her mother, but I was invited to watch them rehearse on a few occasions.
This was reality. Fun and care free.  I had a vague sense that perhaps I had it a little easy. My parents grew up working class in Chicago. My father came from the German Lutheran family in an otherwise Czech (my mother) working-class neighborhood. Upon entering the service in WWII, my father scored 160 on the IQ test and was sent to officer’s training. (He felt validated being the first in his family to go to college, against his father’s demands to get a job straight out of high school.) After the war, my dad worked a couple years as a research engineer for a Chicago firm. But, after writing a letter every day to my mother for two years, he followed her to Phoenix (my mom’s family had moved there in search of dry, sunny weather to help my grandmother’s health),  married my mother,  and they head out west to Southern California in search of the American dream.
Anyway, it was during this thoroughly enjoyable summer that I met Mr. Feder. He worked for my father. My dad was a busy company president.  That not enough, he also started a chain of what grew to be seven convenience stores, the day-to-day management of which he left to my poor, painfully shy mother.
One day while accompanying my mom to one of our stores, I pulled my usual slick routine. Upon parking, it always took my mother a few minutes to gather her things before entering the store. Just enough time for me to dash in, get to the magazine rack and rifle through one of the Playboy magazines for sale. The young men I knew on a first-name basis who worked in our stores must’ve found it funny. Well, there was a new guy in town, and he didn’t. I hadn’t bothered to look to see who was behind the counter that day. I held up the magazine and let the centerfold drop open. She was gorgeous. But this beautiful main star in my daydream was about to lose top billing in a dramatic plot twist. As I stood frozen with fear and embarrassment over the next few minutes in this awkward pose, unable to move, this beautiful girl finally got to become the spectator.
“What do you think you are doing, young man?!” the stern-looking man with the German accent demanded. I can’t remember a word he said after that in his blistering lecture. All I could think was “Who is this man?” as I watched my mother enter the store, her initial look of surprise turning to one of profound disapproval as she saw the cause for the commotion. Years later, watching the climax scene in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” this episode from my childhood flashed in my mind. You could hear Morricone’s tension-building soundtrack as my mother approached us with the last few steps. Suddenly you could hear a pin drop as the three of us stood in a circle. Mr. Feder now looked embarrassed as it dawned on him he was chewing out the boss’s son. I was frozen in embarrassment for obvious reasons. My mother looked like she would die of embarrassment. Looking back, I could read her mind perfectly; “What kind of mother must Mr. Feder think I am?” Even then, I was a bit surprised and somewhat dismayed at her earnest apologies to him, and assurance of, “Rest assured, Mr. Feder, he’s going to get it when he gets home.”  (It became obvious to me over time that Mr. Feder and my mother adored each other. Every time I hear the phrase “mutual admiration society,” I think of the two of them.) Soon Mr. Feder was trying to make light of the situation to ease the tension, attempting to laugh a little and with words to the effect, “Well, boys will be boys.” With an embarrassed smile, he slowly took the magazine from my hand, folded up the centerfold and replaced it on the rack.
On a summer day already full of too many surprises, one more awaited as I got in the car. I was full of dread.  I had no fear of my mother. She was the most gentle creature on earth.  What filled me with fear was the anticipated, “Wait until I tell your father.” But that never came. Instead, on the drive home, her tone became serious. “I want to tell you some things about Mr. Feder,” she began. “Mr. Feder is a Jew.” My mom proceeded to try to define and explain who the Jews were. I listened, but found it comical. I already knew some Jewish kids at school. I didn’t see the point in this, yet another lecture on a beautiful summer day already full of too many lectures,  albeit this time in a gentle tone. But that was okay, because I sensed that for some reason I was off the hook.  When my mother then brought up World War Two and something “horrible that happened to the Jews,” I thought I sensed where this was going. But the story became even worse than I thought. I was fascinated with World War Two. I had built dozens of model airplanes. I had illustrated books of the war I’d bought which were prized possessions.  Unknown to my mom, I was aware of the Holocaust. My mother fought back tears, but they were soon flowing down her cheeks as she told me Mr. Feder had been in a Nazi concentration camp. It only got worse. I can’t express how difficult for her it was to get the words out to tell me that his wife and only child had not survived. A very long silence ensued as my mother regained her composure. Just before pulling up to our house, she started to speak again. “You will probably be seeing Mr. Feder from time to time. There is a number the Nazis tattooed on his arm. You are not to stare at it or mention it. You are not to mention any of this to him. In return, I won’t tell your father what you did today. Understood?”
That night in bed before going to sleep I lay thinking about the man I had just met. I replayed in my mind our meeting a few times. But I mostly tried to imagine his experiences during the war. Chief among my questions were, what had his wife and child been like? Was his child a boy or a girl? About my age?
It wasn’t long before Mr. Feder and I had put our differing opinions on exactly what age a boy had to be to enjoy Playboy behind us and become friends. Whenever I was with my mother on the way to visit the stores, I would ask her if Mr. Feder was working that day. If so, I’d ask to visit that store first to be dropped off while she made the rounds to the other stores. Mr. Feder would beam with joy each time my mother asked if it would be okay for me to help him while she visited the other stores. He obviously loved children. Together we would stock the store (he would take care of the magazines). He loved asking me about school, my classmates and friends, and all our exploits. When there was a delivery he would have me help him check that everything was exactly the way it should be. Everything had to be just right.  He would always have the deliveryman leave smiling. An energetic and animated man, Mr. Feder would often mention my mother’s beauty. I wondered whether he saw some of his wife in my mother. Finally, when my mom arrived to pick me up, he would invariably tell her of all I had helped him to accomplish in a proud manner.

[Note: Google Blogger is having problems recently and I am unable to post comments, not only to other blogs, but even to my own!! I want to insert here an anecdote that I intended as a response to a comment to this blog ... Blogger will let me make posts, but not comments! Here is my response to a reader's comment:

I'd always imagined that, although heartbreakingly tragic, his story was probably one of simply wasting away in a single camp. Turns out he had an amazing story to tell.
Years later when I was a college student and my father had opened a chain of stores similar to Kinkos, he told me to go to the one in Mar Vista he had just opened. He told me to go and relieve Mr. Feder so he could go to a doctor's appointment. I was surprised and thrilled that Mr. Feder was back with us and rushed over to see him. (I don't think he really needed to work ... I think he just liked to stay busy and productive. And my parents would do anything for him, he was such a sweetheart.)
When I arrived, as usual when I saw him, he kidded me about the Playboy incident. When he told me he was going to the doctor because of hearing problems, I kidded him back affectionately about aging. But he said it wasn't really because of aging ... it was the result of beatings from the Gestapo.
I felt so terrible and apologized for kidding him, but he just laughed and said of course I had had no idea and not to feel bad. He looked embarrassed that I felt bad.
After all he suffered through ... he was a sweet, dignified soul to the end. ]

I could go on and on. My mother and Mr. Feder were such wonderful role models; the kind of role models we need more of today. Pure class, both of them.  My brother had driven Mom from Palm Desert to Santa Monica and dropped her off at my sister Joann's house. She came out here so we could all get together at my little sister Judy's house in Woodland Hills for Thanksgiving.
He dropped her off the Monday before Thanksgiving. Tuesday morning she awoke with horrible pain in her abdomen and Joann took her to the emergency room at St. John's Hospital. She had emergency surgery and 2/3 of her small intestine was removed. In intensive care she was making progress until her colon ripped and she became septic. She had another surgery, but she went steadily downhill and passed away on December 18, 2010, one week after her birthday and one week before Christmas.

Bored one day at work a few weeks before my mother's illness, I had googled Mr. Feder's name on a lark. I thought there might be some tiny chance I might find his name on some list that showed at which concentration camp he had been imprisoned. I doubted I would find anything. I was shocked to find his story at the top of the search list. I had printed it out and was going to surprise my mother with Mr. Feder's story at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I never got the chance.

Why was I thinking about Mr. Feder after all these years? Well, the last time we visited my mom in Palm Desert, a few months before she passed, we were sitting on the back patio watching the kids playing in the pool. Somehow we got on the topic of education and she moaned how embarrassed and ashamed she had always felt because she didn’t have an education (she quit high school to marry my dad). I told her that was ridiculous. I told her I had learned more from her example than any class I’d ever had or any book I’d ever read. I told her that almost anybody could get a university degree—it was just a matter of putting in the time. I told her that some of the stupidest people I had ever met had masters and doctorate degrees, and some of the smartest people I’d met were people who simply didn’t have the chance to get an education. For some reason, her telling me about Mr. Feder in the car that day so many years ago appeared in my mind. I wanted to tell her that that was something no book or class could teach a child. That was a life lesson. But I knew the words wouldn’t come out right, so I told her to stop being silly.
It was after her passing that I remembered an example of just how smart she was. I remember being proud of my high SAT math score in high school and saying to my dad, “I guess I take after you.” I was shocked when he responded, “No … you get that from your mother.”

I remember thinking, “Mom??  Mom never even finished high school!!” Not long after that I was helping Mom doing a little bookkeeping for our stores one day. I was doing just fine until she stopped me and told me I was taking some unnecessary steps. She showed me some shortcuts she had devised herself. My ego was a bit hurt … I figured she had to be mistaken. There was no way my uneducated mother could possibly have intuitively devised some short cuts working with numbers that high-math-SAT-score yours truly didn’t see as obvious. I did it my way … then I did it her way. The same results. How did she do it? I was amazed … and my ego was really hurt. Even though she had shown me her shortcuts solely for the purpose of helping me, not to show me up, I no longer wanted to help. What a dopey kid I was. It kills me that she felt embarrassed for not being “educated.” My ego has recovered, and I feel so proud of her. I tell our daughter, who is studying engineering, that she gets that from her grandmother. Mom never had a chance to pursue an education but, she will always be my greatest educator.
I love you so much, Mom!!!  Any goodness in me … any good I do … is because of you. I wish everyone had your heart. You are truly how a mother should be!!!
Click here to read the story of my dear old friend, Mr. Feder.

Please click on the following link. My inspiration to do this thanks to:

Wonderful parents and the memorial lecture for their beloved son, Ariel Avrech. The Eighth Annual Ariel Avrech Memorial Lecture.

My little sister, Judy, has all the pictures of Mom. I just have these few on my computer. These are not the best pictures of her. They really do not do her justice. But I think you can still see she was a great beauty. The graceful kind of beauty that one seldom sees these days.  That being said, she was even more beautiful on the inside !!!  After the pictures, I’ll close for now with the letter I wrote to Mom which the pastor read at her service. More pictures and stories to come.

Joan Arlene Priebe


Mom was very shy ... I'll bet she couldn't wait to get home from
this party and be with her favorite kid (me!)

Easter, 1960 (I was born muscular)

Mom and Joann

At the Jonathan Club. I was trying to ruin the picture.


During the service, the pastor read one letter each from the four children. This is my letter to our mother. (My sister, Joann, read me hers a few days before and it was very emotional. So, I tried to make mine a little lighter.)

From your loving son, Tom
Dear Mom,
Do you remember this? Walking home from kindergarten one day, I found a dead Blue Jay.  I thought it was so lovely.  After brushing off the ants, I picked it up and admired its beauty. “What a wonderful surprise present to give to Mom,” I thought. As I carried it home, I kept imagining how thrilled you’d be when I presented you with this beautiful blue bird. I was so excited when I rang the doorbell and hid the Blue Jay behind my back.
You opened the door and I said, “I have a present for you, Mom!”  You saw I was hiding something behind my back. As long as I live, I will never forget your smile as you asked me what it was. “Surprise!” I shouted, as I thrust the dead bird forward with both hands.
 I will also never forget your screams and what seemed to be an eternity of your trying to slap it out of my hands as I held it tight. After at least a dozen or more hysterical slaps finally dislodged the beautiful present from my hands, you grabbed me by both wrists, led me into the bathroom, and proceeded to wash my hands at least a dozen times. Thanks for the lifelong obsessive-compulsive hand washing disorder, Mom.
The morning you went to Heaven, I called Uncle Jim on the phone. Uncle Jim said, “My sister, your mother, was the kindest, most decent person I have ever known.  She was also the cleanest person I’ve ever known.”
 I don’t always agree with Uncle Jim … but I have to agree with him this time … on both counts. You were always so kind and gentle your whole life, (except when dead birds suddenly appeared) and you were always so clean, whether it be washing hands that had been holding dead animals or your ability, as Joann once said, to “enter a room and immediately spot a single tiny crumb on the far side of the room.”  Well, Mom, your kindness and cleanliness will always be next to godliness … now for eternity.
I’ll always love you with all my heart, Mom, and think about you fondly every day the rest of my life. Your loving son, Tom.
P.S.  I know times were different back then and I know that school was only a block away … but why was I walking home alone in kindergarten? Why wasn’t Tim or Joann looking after me? I always tried to look after my baby sister, Judy.  That time when Joann was on rollerskates … holding two-years-old Judy upside down by her ankles and then dropped Judy on her head … resulting in a trip to the emergency room … I swear that I tried to intervene. Tim just stood by and watched. Boy Mom … as with all families, I now realize a lot of matters remain unresolved.  Obviously we all still need to talk. So, I will not say goodbye … I will simply say … until we meet again. I love you, Mom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In the beginning ...

... there was a test. Not a post. Just a test. Well, maybe it was a post. Post-Test Stress Syndrome already ! You know, I'm told that I take after Mr. Kimball on Green Acres ...

People I know keep telling me to start a blog.

I dunno if it will ever get up off the ground. And if it doesn't ... it could still crash and burn.

Wow, that's enough for one evening's 10-minute stretch.

Gonna experiment and try some links and stuff ....

About me: foxy.

About my politics and worldview: Staunchly pro-America (I advocate Agent Orange-like spraying of Compound W on our warts for the lefty worry warts who wring their blemished hands about our warts and our mission-creep prone, Compound W-spraying military).

Staunchly pro-Israel because, although I'm not Jewish, (well ... 1/8 due to my maternal G-Grandma Hirschbein ... hey, that makes me legally Jewish, I think), I still have faith. The UN is not Disneyland's It's a Small World and the Muslim Brotherhood is not secular and anti-violence. Let's stand with Israel and all of our other allies, okay? It's a dangerous world out there and we need our friends and they need us.

About me: Often falsely accused of narcissim by those who will never, ever possess as many mirrors as me.

About me: Crippled with the curse of social phobia. A social quadroplegic, I am. I blush, I sweat bullets, my mind goes blank, I panic ... in social settings. See Albert Brooks in Broadcast News when he finally gets the chance to anchor if you want to understand me.

Okay ... gonna do a little experimenting and try to link to some of my favorite blogs. My goal is simple; $4,000 of annual dividend income by the end of 2011. My other goal is hard; 100 readers of this blog by that time.

Okay ... let me try to link to Hot Air, Instapundit, Powerlineblog, Legal Insurrection, Hugh Hewitt ... and other must-read blogs.