Thursday, April 24, 2014


It's been a long time since I've played croquet.  It's pretty passe', now, I'd guess, although if one noses around on the internet it's possible to find some hard-core croquet players still wielding those mallets.

When I was a kid, my family was lucky enough to move into a house in 1945 that not only had not only a big back yard but also a big side yard AND a vacant lot next door.  We also lived in a town where lots of our relatives lived too, and at least during most of the year, Sundays would find a whole bunch of "us" playing some kind of a game outside.

Children were not the reason our folks bought the various games.  To be honest with you, my sister was a poor loser in anything and it was just easier to let the adults play and the kids watch.  When the adults were finished, there usually was a row over picking out the color of the mallet and ball you wanted to play with, and then there was often an argument at every wicket about "not being fair" .... the only way a game could be be played without tearing your hair out is if my sister got to win every hole.  As I said, she was a poor loser and a great tantrum thrower, so these games didn't last very long.

But while we kids were entertaining ourselves in the back yard, my mother and all her sisters were playing a game of badminton on the side yard.  Dad strung up the badminton net from the side of the house to a tall post set in a tire on the other side of the yard.  The women who weren't "up" sat in folding chairs at the side of the game and refereed and gossiped, I imagine, until their turn at badminton came up, and when it did they tried their best to hit the daylights out of that "bird," the term they used for the "shuttlecock."

All the while my dad and the brothers-in-law would be playing horseshoes in the vacant lot, which my dad also owned.  Most of the time it didn't take very long before us kids gave up on croquet and came out to watch the men throwing those horseshoes.  We didn't care about badminton, but we sure liked horseshoes.  If we waited long enough, we always got to try our hand at trying to throw a "ringer" - but of course our tossing line had to be moved  up very close to the stake, because those horseshoes were H-E-A-V-Y for us little girls.

When the afternoon games were over, the family always sat around in the backyard cooking off with bottles of beer, and lemonade for us kids.

My mom had a big family:  Uncle Sam and Aunt Marie (her sister), Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty (her brother), Uncle Hugh and Aunt Betty (her brother), Aunt Margie, her sister, and then there was my Uncle Bill, (really not an uncle but my dad's best friend.)  Often times my dad ended up either barbecuing dinner outside for everyone, or he made a big pancake dinner for everyone.

Dad was a good and willing cook.  His own dad died when he was 8.  His mom had to take a full-time job, and his older sister was studying for nursing school, so often dad was the one who put some food on the table in the evening.  He dropped out of school in 8th grade and his first job was at a restaurant.  Then later on he did some mining in California - and since he enjoyed cooking and mother didn't, he took over whenever company came.  In those days pancakes were made from scratch - that is, no pancake mix or Bisquick existed yet.  His pancakes were to die for, and he had the pleasure of remembering, even when he was in his 90s, of how much everyone in the family relished his big pancake suppers.

The family also quite often had poker parties on Saturday night, maybe once a month.  The babies would be put down to bed in one of the bedrooms.  The dining room table is where the group sat, and my sis and I would sit on the floor at the end of that table and nearest to the bedrooms so we could hear if any little tykes needed attention.  We understood that poker was an adult game (the chips in our family were pennies.)  But we listened to what was going on and devised our own game that we called REKOP, which was "Poker" backwards.  Sitting down on the floor, we managed to get through our own game without our parents being any the wiser (or so we thought.)

About the time I turned 14 or so, my dad had an outdoor patio built out in the corner of the back yard.  He did it so that Ginnie Lou and I would be able to bring our friends to our house for fun, instead of going out somewhere.  The patio, however, took a chunk out of our croquet course.  Eventually dad built a triplex on the vacant lot; a fence was put in which meant the horseshoes went by the wayside, and TV inside replaced the games on the outside.  My dad and his pancakes were the one constant as our society left the "old times" and moved into "the age of TV."  My cousin Shirlee and I are the last ones left who remember those "old times" and we agree that we were really lucky to have experienced that tiny snippit of life that was full of croquet mallets, balls, shuttlecocks, and horseshoes.

Monday, April 14, 2014


I love words.  I love to find new words to add to my repertoire of new ways to say things. I don't much like words that reek with pomposity, but I truly enjoy finding one that makes my brain respond "AH HA!  The latest, which I wrote about in an earlier blog is Mumpsimus.  Haven't used it yet, but the time will come, I'm sure.

I enjoy sitting on the couch early in the morning (like 5 a.m. when Jerry and I get up) having a good cup of coffee and listening to the local early-bird TV commentators struggle through the news.  Apparently they are reading scripts so the errors they make may not all be theirs.  But they do say some funny things:

Last week one of the female anchors, well educated and one would like to think well read, had to talk about a Medical Center with a unique (but not bizarre) name.  It as called the Apogee Medical Center.  That name gives you confidence that they provide the highest level of service.  But she referred to it as the A-PODGE-ie. (you know, of course, that the pronunciation is really AP-o-gee.  I nearly fell on the floor laughing.  I hope someone got her on the right track and that her face won't stay red very much longer.

Another day she got all tangled up in a "when" situation.  She was talking that day at 9 o'clock about something that had happened at 8 o'clock the previous day.  Her description, with much sputtering, came out "Less than an hour ago yesterday." HAHAHHAHAH!

A more recent goof was in a late afternoon broadcast, where the talking head said that traffic would move again "when they "uprighted the jacknife that overturned."   I swiveled my head to look at the TV and said to her "UPRIGHT THE JACKNIFE??????"   She, of course didn't answer!  HAHHAHAH!

Yesterday "the truck was carrying fuel and diesel." And later I must say I don't think the writer of the news was the one who put down what came out of her mouth: "A WHOLE NOTHER BOOK"  This "WHOLE NOTHER" instead of "Another whole" is so commonly said I suppose soon we'll be seeing "Nother" arrive in the OED.

As much as I hate to say it, it does seem like the women make a lot more "off the cuff" goofs than men do.  It may be women dither more, or that they have so much more in the brain to futz with than the men.  Perhaps men are a bit more controlled.

It doesn't bother me; in fact, I get some good laughs out of it and it often softens the irritation at hearing the same events reported over and over and over....and over......and still more over.  You know what I mean.

Learning a new language can give some laughs too.  Back in one of my early blogs I wrote about a friend in Turkey who admitted to using a wrong Turkish word when she went into the little bakkal (a mom-and-pop kind of store in Istanbul).  She wanted bread some and made a big try of informing the bakkal owner (a man) and all his buddies who were talking with him, but she used the wrong Turkish word.  She asked for a large ERKEK instead of a large EKMEK.  When the men all threw themselves on the floor hooting and hollering she realized that she had asked for a big man!

I have a friend who was meeting her Hungarian father-in-law and family for the first time.  She worked hard to learn some basic things about Hungary and a few phrases that she could say that would cause them to be delighted over the new daughter-in-law in the family.  She said she will never live down the fact that the Hungarian word for Strawberries, which her husband had told her were very good there, is very similar to the word for Hemorrhoids - and of course she used the wrong word.

Now I didn't have that kind of problem when we moved to Turkey.  I tried my best to learn Turkish - and got far enough into it to learn that bread (ekmek) can be turned into "breadmaker or baker" by the addition of a little "cu" on the end of ekmek - baker becomes ekmekcu.  Tutun is tobacco; the tobacco seller or maker is handled the same way:  tutuncu.  It's pretty slick.  Which bring me to the picture above.

The fellow in the picture is our driver, Ahmet. He was assigned to us when we arrived in Turkey for a consulting agreement.  He spoke some English, a lot more than we spoke Turkish.  He was quite helpful to me in learning how I should say things.  Now before I go any further, I must say that the beautiful limo you see was NOT the car that was assigned to us.  That was the boss's car and Ahmet had called me to come over to the garage to take a picture of him standing by the car.  Prestige, he wanted.  Ahmet was a nice fellow, and I had no problem with accommodating him.  The car he ultimately drove us around in was just about the size of a little Ford Pinto.  HAHAHHAH  (Joke's on us!)

Anyway, one day he was taking me somewhere  and I was thinking about Turkish words.  I said to him, "Ahmet Bey, the Turkish word for car is araba, is that correct?"  "Yes, Mrs. Title" he replied.  Then thinking that I should be able to add the little suffix on the end of the araba to come up with the the correct name for the driver of a car, I said, "Then, is it correct to say that you are an arabaca?"   He nearly flew through the windshield from putting the brake on so fast, and he pulled over to the side of the road.   In his most authentic and important voice, he said, "Mrs. Title, that is not correct."  He looked totally crestfallen.

YIKES!  "I'm sorry, Ahmet, what is the correct word then?  He swiveled around in the car, looked at me and said, "I am a SHOFER".

Let me tell you that what I most wanted to do was to throw myself down on the floor of the car where he couldn't see me and laugh my head off.  I wouldn't have been laughing at him; I would have been laughing at myself for the whole episode.  It was not his fault that we couldn't think of him as a chauffeur.  He was the age of our kids and had knocked himself out helping us get settled in Turkey.  He was such a lovely fellow and we were SO lucky to have had the experience of him being with us for that time.  He didn't feel like a "servant" to us; he felt like one of our kids. But our error was in not taking his position seriously enough.  Nevertheless, I found it an exceptionally funny happening, but I somehow managed to get myself pulled together and we went on our way.

Words bring all kinds of fun into our lives, often when we are least expecting it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


In and around 1933 a strange confluence of events was taking place.  The western world was watching the changes in Germany as Hitler came to power.  And with that power came a Reestablishment of the Civil Service Law, which rules were designed to enable speedy dismissal of professors with Jewish lineage and others considered politically suspect from all positions in German universities and institutes.  Those professors included the great minds of philosophy, mathematics, science, psychology, physics, economics, medicine, music, architecture, languages and others.  These professions were filled mostly with German Jews, many Nobel Prize winners.  And in 1933 they found themselves without a job.

At the same time, Kemal Ataturk had come to power in Turkey. A visionary, he wanted to modernize Turkey's education system that at the time was mainly working with military and bureaucratic systems;  He knew that big changes would have to be made in the educational system, and he set out to start at the top: dismantle the one major university in Istanbul in that city and select individuals with the highest of academic credentials in disciplines and professions most needed in Turkey.  The Turkish professors weren't going to like it, but Ataturk knew it had to be done.

The catalyst for this confluence of events was in the hands of Hungarian born Frankfurt pathologist Dr. Philipp Schwarz, who was one of the first professors to be fired from his job in Germany. Through a connection – his father-in-law who was a friend of a man who had been called to Turkey by Ataturk to set up a plan for finding and hiring top professionals to staff what would be the new University – Dr. Schwartz set up "The Emergency Assistance Organization for German Scientists."  A comprehensive contract was drawn up that covered all kinds of contingencies – and Turkey extended  invitations to those men and woman who best fit the bill.  Altogether, approximately 300 academicians and 50 technicians and supporting staff went to Turkey.  Including family members, this meant more than 1000 persons. 

Most of you who know me know that I am very interested in both Judaism and things Turkish, having lived in Istanbul for two years and having married into a Jewish family.   I always have an ear (and an eye) open for new stories and new information.  Had it not been for a short interview with the author I watched on BookTV several months ago (filmed sometime before his death in 2011) I would never have known of either this book or this story.  The book was published in 2006, so it's been around a while, but I certainly never heard of it.  It is not another holocaust book.  The author has not only told the story and documented every word of it, but he also has included memoirs and reflections by some of those very scientists and their families.  You will laugh when you read the pitfalls of learning to speak Turkish, and the author includes a very funny story of Ataturk, Shah Reza Pahlavi and one of the dentist emigres over the quality of false teeth he could make. 

Don't pick up this book thinking it is going to be fast read.  It probably is not going to appeal to people who don't have a strong interest in the historical events in that part of the world at that time.  But it is a powerful book, and it shouldn't be kept hidden.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


There seems to be a lot of discussion in business circles (and legal circles) today about unpaid interns.  Here in LA a class action lawsuit has been filed by unpaid interns seeking pay for all the time he worked without pay, damages and an order barring use of unpaid interns at one of the movie companies.  According to the way I read it, the lead plaintiff was studying to become a film editor and took the unpaid internship hoping to get experience that would give cachet to his CV.  Instead, his duties for the most part were those of the ubiquitous "gofers."

The LA Times this morning published a list of typically unpaid show business internships, according to their own research:
            Making coffee
            Cleaning the office kitchen
            Compiling press clippings
            Photocopying documents
            Taking lunch orders and picking up take-out
            Assembling office furniture
            Booking flights and limousines for actors
            Checking scripts to make sure there are no missing pages.

Reading that made me laugh.  It reminded me that when I was hired as an executive secretary for one of the vice-presidents of a local company, all of the above were either listed in my job description or expected of me.  Granted, that was a long time ago – almost 40 years, to be exact.  Women's lib had already come; Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique had made its impact and moved on.  But the mindset of men running companies located in smallish towns had not been touched.  And as far as the highest level clerical jobs went, we were still "private" secretaries, executive or not, and if we wanted a job, we didn't quibble about our job description.

Yes, we had some status within the company, that status being privy to confidential financial information.  We were on the payroll as exempt employees (which actually was a mistake because we were miles away from having the authority required for that position) and we did get to sit in our own little offices or in an executive wing, out of the milieu of the departmental gossip factory.

But there truly were a few chores we had to do that were definitely non-secretarial: fill up the gas tank on the boss's car, clean out the car ashtrays, and bring the bosses hot, fresh coffee whenever they asked.  And sometimes at closing time we had to mix a drink for them at the executive bar if they were working late.  That, and picking up lunches to bring in for the bosses, were truly "gofer" stuff.

I did not ever think I would end up as a secretary.  The woman who trained me (the President's secretary) had been a secretary her whole working life; it had been her goal through school and she truly was the best teacher I could ever have had.  She had this job because she had worked and studied hard to get to this point.  I took this job because I had been recently divorced and was desperate for a job that would provide me with some security, as well as medical benefits.  I had never worked full time before, and when I applied for the job I had been working part time at a secretarial service, mainly running a small printing press that produced service club bulletins.  The only qualification I could offer for full time employment was a good work ethic, a good brain, and a fast typing speed.  I was hired at less than the job was advertised for because I really didn't have the qualifications they specified, but the VP who offered me the job said he'd take a chance on me, for which I was, and always will be, very grateful. 

I also learned that I didn't much like being a secretary, even though I was good at it.  I never could quibble about whether what I was asked to do was or wasn't in my job description.  Even doing what I would consider somewhat demeaning things – like emptying ashtrays in the boss's car – I did it as I was asked; it simply was one of the least pleasant parts of the job.  I stayed three years, and then moved on, a company requirement because I married one of the executives!

The last job I had before I retired had a perfect structure for me.  Although my title was Administrative Secretary, I was basically the only "clerical" person on staff but I had a great deal of authority and finally requested (and received) a clerk who was a terrific help. 

Getting back to the Hollywood film company's dilemma, I suspect the Department of Labor and the legal profession are going to play with this paid/unpaid internship problem for a while but ultimately will make some adjustments that might not make everybody happy but that will help people know ahead of time what they are getting into when they sign on the dotted employment line!  They may even come up with a new and better name for a "gofer."