Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Talking to strangers on the train

Boarded my evening commuter train a bit early. There was a couple sitting where I usually sit. I could tell they weren’t commuters. We spoke and I asked them where they came from. They said they were from Honduras but their accent said told me they originated elsewhere. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked them if they were originally from Minnesota. They looked at each other and then at me. They were and they wanted to know how I knew. I told them I'm married to one and they sound like Minnesotans. They laughed and we talked a little about it since I’ve been there a few times myself.

Turns out they are visiting NY, staying with a friend in Westchester. They were coming back from a private group tour at the MMA which they booked a few weeks earlier. They odd thing to them was that their tour guide, a Russian born docent, was married to a childhood friend of the woman. When he saw their names on the tour list he bought some gifts to give them: Georgian wine and chocolate from Azerbaijan. 
In the first picture the woman has a Minnesota expression on her face that says, with that accent, "Oh no, you want to take my pictureOh Goodness, I guess it's okay."

 The train was crowded and a couple took to the last two seats in our section. To make the connection complete, the woman, though raised in Brooklyn, was born in Azerbaijan, too. Her husband, as it turns out, is from Norway. 

If this was fiction, you’d think it was too amazing to be true.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Havana Without Makup book release and discussion

Herman Portocarero
From the announcement for the event (indeed not one word in the following paragraph was written by me)

"As Havana prepares for inevitable transformations, Herman Portocarero offers an essential exploration of “the complex soul of a unique city.” Join us as we discuss his just-published book, Havana without Makeup, an homage to a city of contradictions, marked by rich architecture and culture on the one hand and dilapidation and isolation on the other.
Portocarero has been at the forefront of the island’s recent history for over two decades; he served first as the Belgian ambassador and later as the European Union ambassador to Cuba. With his unparalleled understanding of Cuban history, politics, and society, the insights Ambassador Portocarero has gleaned are indispensable for understanding Havana at this significant moment." 

The book is published by Turtle Point Press.

The event was at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. The panel consisted of:
  • Herman Portocarero, former EU Ambassador to Cuba
  • Alana Tummino, Senior Director of Policy and Head of Cuba Working Group, Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Senior Editor, Americas Quarterly (moderator)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Radomer Mutual Culture Center Annual Yizkor Service, 9/24

We gathered at our grounds at New Montefiore Cemetery in Pinelawn, NY on Sept. 24, for our annual memorial service. There was a terrific turnout on a beautiful Sunday morning. The number of first generation, the survivors, shrinks slowly now, but those who could make it were part of the four generations that gathered.

It was a moving service.

Here are 39 photos taken at the event. Depending on which browser you are using to view them, clicking on one might simply expand it to full size or open a slide show.

I hope you enjoy them.
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Second and third generation

The great-grandchild of a survivor and her mom in front of the memorial to those who have no grave.

A little personal history: my parents survived the Holocaust. Because they were Jews, and for no other reason, they were starved, enslaved, tortured, forced to witness the worst brutalities, yet the persevered and survived. When my father retired to Florida, he asked me to become more involved in the burial and social society he helped to found in the early 1950s. These people, the remnant of a thriving community of more than 30,000 Jews from the city of Radom and it's surroundings, pulled together to create a new community in the United States and Canada. They bought land at New Montefiore Cemetery,  for many years they published a monthly bulletin. Those in the NYC area met monthly, the third Saturday night of the month, if I remember correctly, at a rented hall in the District 65 building on Astor Place, where for those hours they could heal among their landsmen. 

It is my opinion that the society helped them heal.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Just another Sunday in the East Village while Irma stormed toward Florida

I owe myself a major post where I show pictures of the high plains of Montana, of oil derricks bobbing up and down in western North Dakota, of railroad crossings across the nation, and whatever else I feel like from my railroad trip from NY to Spokane, WA, but that's a ton of work - I took so many pictures that it's a major job just to choose which ones to use and then edit them, post them and try to think of something to write that goes with them.

But that will have to wait because while Hurricane Irma was hitting land in southwestern Florida, I was wandering around in NYC's own East Village, camera in hand. I took a few photos and at least a couple of people asked me where I'm posting them and I told them here. So there.

That said, first Mabel, that very handsome dog, and her human companion whose name I can't remember. It might have been Christine, or that might have been her friend with the orange sunglasses. Love those shades.

Next I ran into two poets who have been associated with the Unbearables, Eve Packer and David Huberman.

 Then in the bar at the Sidewalk Cafe I got into a conversation with John and Sarah, or is it Sarah and John who are a musical group called Sweet Lorainne - they are playing the Pianos on the Lower East Side on 9/24. They were definitely fun to talk to and they inspired me to tell stories I find so full of oddities and outrageousness that they just had to be true.

And finally on my way out I stopped to ask this quartet why they were toasting each other. Turns out it was a birthday toast. So this picture's my birthday toast to them.

Hope Florida survives the tempest.

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