MY MOTHER WAS A TAILOR – HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN

My husbands’s father was a tailor as was my mother.

This classic folk song was not written for either of them. These are The Animals and they did not write the song either. They did record its first major commercially successful version — but hardly its last.

The song has been around a few hundred years. Here, there … and probably elsewhere, too.

LYRICS: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new bluejeans
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in New Orleans

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk

[Organ Solo]

Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun

Well, I got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I’m goin’ back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain

Well, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I’m one

NO MORE FAKE NEWS! I AM SAMOAN! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m a Samoan. It’s something of an inside joke in local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early 70’s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was a very ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe. “The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, and politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It means (to me) that I was on the right side. One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also know as “Southie” — which was where all the action was taking place.

A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. Moving in for a serious tune-up. It was then that I had a Mel Brooks moment. An epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best, soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig__r. I’m a Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously somewhat confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Guys, I’m not a nig__r, I’m a Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered.

“He’s not a nig__r. He is Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there ASAP. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

UP TO JERUSALEM

Once upon a time, in another life, I had a home in Jerusalem, just down the road from Jaffa Gate. When I remember Jerusalem, the edges are soft. “My” Jerusalem is gone, replaced by housing projects, shopping malls, and office parks.

I didn’t know I was arriving at the end of an era. Those would be the last years the Bedouins would cross their sheep through the middle of town, stopping traffic on King George Street on their way to the greener grass on the other side of the mountain. Those would be the final years during which you could stand on the edge of the wadi by an ancient olive grove to see the great golden Dome of the Rock glowing in the first light of dawn. Now, the wadi is filled with condos. A promenade has been built where ancient olives trees grew.

At the end of January 1979, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs. Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.

My mother said she thought me very brave to leap into the unknown. I enjoyed the role of intrepid heroine. But I was not brave, just hungry for adventure and yearning for culture shock.

When we arrived, exhausted and anxious at the airport, I scanned the faces in the crowd, wondering who would be there to take charge of us and get us to our destination. Remarkably, someone was there. Somehow, we recognized each other. We were collected, processed and given official identity papers. A small amount of money. I had no idea how little it was worth. It was a while before I learned to do exchange rates in my head. I remember that the taxi driver played the radio loud and sang along. The music was 1960s American rock and roll. The driver spoke no English. I spoke no Hebrew. It was images tumbling one on top of another.

Israel-jerusalem-westernwall

The apartment  in which we were to live had a living room, a hallway with a kitchenette, a small bedroom, and a tiny bath with a half-tub. No closets. You buy closets and install them. Israeli closets combine closets and dressers. Lacking any place to put our things, we used our trunks as dressers.

We had nothing to eat. The refrigerator was empty. Hunger was gnawing at us, but we had no car nor a clue where to shop. No other choice, so we ventured out. Found a grocery store. All the labels were in Hebrew. Bread was sold in whole, un-sliced loaves. Cheese was sold by metric weight. Mostly, I recognized the fruits and vegetables, but even some of those were unfamiliar.

Culture shock really struck when I tried to buy milk. Finding milk required asking everyone until I found someone who spoke English. He then led me to the dairy case. This was unsettling since I’d thought that a dairy case is a dairy case and would be easy enough to recognize. Milk was sold in plastic bags. Not cartons. Not bottles. Bags. What in the world was I going to do with a bag of milk? Finally, I bought a pitcher. After tearing the bag open with my teeth – not having thought to bring a pair of scissors – I poured the milk into it. It turned out that there are special containers to hold milk bags and you just snip off a corner and pour the milk directly from the bag. Who knew?

We finally slept. The next morning dawned into brilliant sunshine.

“Let’s go see our city,” I said and we found the bus to Jerusalem, rode down Hebron Road, and got off at Jaffa Gate.

The walls rose up tall around us and I shivered with excitement (I suspect that Owen, lacking my expectations, was merely stunned into silence). This was what had brought me to Jerusalem. Thousands of years of ghosts floated through those narrow streets. You never walked alone in Jerusalem. Generations of ghosts walked with you wherever you went.

Donkeys, so heavily laden that they looked as if they would collapse under their loads, plied the stone streets, cruelly prodded by small brown boys armed with sticks and shrill voices. Vendors called from their stalls, garments brightly ornamented with intricate needlework. Everything rustled in a light breeze. Stall owners stood in the lanes accosting passersby.

“Come in, come in,” they called. “I make you a special deal.”

Small open spaces housed spice markets that filled the air with the most exotic smells, the scent of ginger mixed with cinnamon, cumin and saffron. Just breathing was a joy. As the day moved on, more and more people arrived, filling the shuk until it seethed with activity and noise. Everywhere, people were haggling over prices, making deals, grabbing up bargains, filling their bags. The shuk was vital and alive.

Everyone was buying or selling. Voices echoed off the stone. Jerusalem of gold, Jerusalem of stone, and in the springtime and summer, Jerusalem of flowers. All around you, embedded in the walls, is the architectural history of the city. “Yerushalmis change their minds a lot,” I was told. The walls tell stories. You could see the outlines where arches and windows had been but were now closed and see how the ground level had risen.

That first day, we wandered. The city led us into herself. She twisted us around until we found ourselves atop a hill, looking down at the Temple Mount, the golden Dome of the Rock shining in the sun. The walls, the golden dome, the stones made my bones resonate. I fell in love. No matter how difficult my life became, the city would lift me up. Jerusalem sang to me, called to me, made love to me, and now, so many years later, in my dreams, I am still in love with her.

WOODEN THINGS IN BLACK & WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Things Made With Wood


Wood armoire – dining room – black and white

The wooden dock
My deck in black and white

TRASH GOES OUT MORE OFTEN THAN ME

“We are made of sterner stuff than most people,” my son said. This was in answer to the question how come we hurt so much and still function. Well, sort of function. I have good days and not so good days, but overall, I’m slowly losing the battle to soldier on. But, I keep saying “I feel just fine, thank you.”

The other day, I bumped into this thing on Facebook.

fibromyalgia

I got to “The trash goes out more often than you do,” and I broke up. It’s true. The trash goes out at least once a week. I don’t necessarily get out that often. It depends on how things are going. Good weeks, I get out a lot more. Bad week? Barely out at all.

A lot of us have fibromyalgia. I try not to think about it because there isn’t much to do about it. No special drugs to make it go away and anyway, I have so many other issues, even if there were, I probably wouldn’t take them. Everything interacts with everything else, so the less I take, the better. This has nothing to do with how I feel, by the way. I could take a lot more stuff than I do, but I think I’d find I was even more miserable if I did.

Before I take anything, I look it up online. Ninety percent of the time, I can’t take it because I have a history of ulcers, have had a heart valve replacement, have high blood pressure, have a pacemaker … or take some other medication that makes it dangerous and this includes things like aspirin, ibuprofen, and many other over-the-counter medications.

There’s not much for me to do about the fibromyalgia except try to ignore it. Mostly, that’s what I do. If people ask me how I am doing, I always say “I’m absolutely fine,” because any explanation gets way too complicated. Too many people think fibromyalgia is a fake disease created by malingerers who want those fabulous disability payments.

This is probably true of most chronic problems. People who don’t have one or two of their own simply don’t get it. But, I believe you. I know how it feels like when you can’t find a body part that doesn’t hurt and nothing in your big bag o’ meds will help. I know the frustration of making plans, then getting to the day and realizing you aren’t up to it. How, after a while, you realize this is the way it’s going to be.

Finally, I have to laugh. Life is absurd. The world is nuts and so am I. Surely this world is a bizarre alternate reality into which I’ve unknowingly slipped. Wake me when things improve.

A TOXIC TRIP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had a cousin named Paul. She grew up with him and even babysat for him on occasion. My grandparents adored Paul and he adored them. As an adult, Paul became a lawyer and handled all my grandparents’ legal business. He was totally trusted. He was even made executor of their wills.

Paul went into the army in World War II and was assigned to MacArthur’s unit in Japan. He ended up working directly under Douglas MacArthur. He spent a lot of time in Japan and learned fluent Japanese. After the war, he became one of the few Americans allowed, by the Japanese, to do business in Japan.

Paul was working with a company in Japan in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. He discovered that one of the senior officers was embezzling from the company. He confronted the man, let’s call him Mr. Tokyo. He gave Mr. Tokyo the opportunity to confess, but if he didn’t, Paul was going to report him. Shortly thereafter there was a company luncheon which both Paul and Mr. Tokyo attended. Paul left for the States the next day.

When he got home, Paul started to get sick. He began losing weight, his hair turned grey and started falling out. He got weaker and began to shuffle like an old man. He was in his 40’s. He ended up in the hospital for months. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. In desperation, they began to look for toxins in his system That’s when they discovered that Paul had been poisoned.

A little background is necessary here. At the time in Japan, saving face was still paramount. When faced with the prospect of losing face, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to resort to poisoning each other. The poison of choice was rat poison.

Paul’s situation suddenly made perfect sense. He contacted the company and told them of Mr. Tokyo’s treachery with the company and of Paul’s poisoning. I don’t remember if Mr. Tokyo confessed. I do know that he lost his job. I’d like to think that he suffered some severe consequences because of what he did to Paul. But while the embezzlement could be proved, the poisoning was another story. There was no hard evidence, just motive and opportunity.

Paul recovered but was never the same, mentally or physically.

There’s no dramatic ending or moral to this story. Except maybe watch your back if you accuse someone of a crime. But I don’t think many modern families have a poisoning story hiding in their family trees, so I hope you enjoyed this modern-day version of ‘The Borgias.’