How about that rain?

how about that rain

There I was, standing among a group of strangers. Brought by a dear friend, who in trying to get me out of the house, dragged me kicking and screaming to a holiday party. I might be exaggerating the kicking and screaming a little–but not much. Once faced with party revelers, my kicking and screaming ceased.  The reality is, when faced with a situation I am uncomfortable in, I become strangely quiet. “Strangely”, because I am rarely quiet.

I surveyed the room with one of my terminator glances, left to right with cyborg precision. Yup, nobody here looks interesting. This has the potential to be an excruciating event. Holiday time is stressful enough. I don’t want to talk about vacations, or gifts, or crazy families or perfect kids, or money or jobs.  But I said I would mingle. (What was I thinking?!) It occurred to me that I have a veritable arsenal of witty, interesting and somewhat compelling conversation starters depending on my audience. In this case, I immediately ruled out NASCAR, mostly because it’s off season. I ruled out football because I am a Jets fan and well… I am a Jets fan. I ruled out dining, because I often wind up with nothing to say to the health conscious, gluten loathing, palette broken exercise nuts. Music: too subjective. Movies and TV are always an option, until someone has the nerve to say they have never seen Blazing Saddles. So, none of that.

What to do! Honestly, synapse firing thoughts and ultimate decision-making takes place in seconds. At the moment I open my mouth to speak, an assembly line of thoughts has passed through my brain.

I speak. “Pretty cold out, huh?” Yes, with my plethora of knowledge and interests that span from food, to music; politics to literature, sports to Broadway, I settled in on weather. In my defense, I really am a weather fan. Dare I say, a bit of a weather geek? I had to act fast as to not have my new circle of strangers be bored into a holiday party coma. I used words like Derecho and Haboob. I spoke with delight of  the Aurora Borealis, thunderstorms and tornadoes.  I shared information on my abundance of weather apps.  I think they were riveted. (I often imagine stuff, so who knows.) You see, I had an option when I opened my mouth to speak. I had control of what a group of strangers would think of me. I could have been the girl who knows everything about sports, or that chick who no one agrees with on politics, or be that snooty literary chick… maybe even that girl that everyone remembers for her love of broadway. No, I opted, in this instance to be a weather geek. For the record, rooms of strangers you will likely not see again are great for trying out conversation “material”.   🙂

My moment in the sun—pun intended—was brief but satisfying.  As happens with topical conversation, ours veered off and inevitably led to ALL of the conversations I didn’t want to have. The weather in different parts of the globe led to where people were traveling for the holidays, and  that somehow morphed into “winter foods”, and I don’t know how but—oh dear—global warming.  I decided to slip out of the circle of strangers, feeling proud for having partaken in pointless, time killing conversation.  I was a success, in my mind anyway.  Yes, weather is my friend, and as dull as it might seem and contrary to Oscar Wilde—“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”—Hogwash!—I can stand proudly when I say I survived a holiday party because of my weather nerdines. ♥

There is a lesson in here, and it’s not just that when your gut says stay home, you should. It’s that sometimes you can have a blast just trapping people into listening to what YOU love. Maybe that’s not the lesson. Maybe, it’s that everyone has a conversation in them if they speak with enthusiasm about the weather. Maybe not. Does it really matter? I survived, it was fun… the end.

xoxo DDJ

Advertisements

A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:

Simplicity-Catering.com

Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ

 

We Need Superheroes

superhero framed-page-001

We need superheroes.  Do I say this because I was a comic book geek growing up? No. In fact I didn’t read comic books. I did however, have a pretty standard childhood filled with cartoons like Superman and the rest of The Justice League–both collaboratively and as their super LONE selves.  And when those comic book heroes came to life on TV, I became addicted to that.  I watched Linda Carter in awe, amazement and envy as Wonder Woman. Over 35 years later I dream of that Golden Lasso and how it would revolutionize the legal system—OH, it WOULD.

For me it was the TV or movie versions of the superheroes I was drawn to. Pretty normal I suppose, for a well-adjusted kid. The list for these heroes in my formative years is well—formidable. From the more recognizable heroes like Superman, Batman, and The Incredible Hulk to the near plausible Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman—I was a nerd in the herd. Even with the lesser known, if not equally entertaining, Shazam and The Greatest American Hero, having powers above and beyond normal was everyone’s fantasy—whether admitted or not.

As an adult I am still drawn. Iron Man, Captain America, any Avenger, even the TV show Heroes has me hooked. I recently started wondering if this infatuation was just a link to my childhood or something more. Is this universal love of superheroes just trying to connect to the childhood versions of ourselves or are we trying to find hope in an ever decaying world?

There is an obvious fascination held by children and adults, but what is the origin of the attraction? I know I personally don’t secretly wish for powers. Though—if I am being honest—flying and the ability to pick up a car doesn’t suck. And ninja-like skills would certainly make maneuvering crowded streets in New York more pleasant. Amazing abilities, super strength and cool toys. This list could get long! I suppose there are probably too many powers I wouldn’t mind having—even for a day.

If you spend even 5 minutes watching the news, you will see countless crimes of varying degrees of abomination. And this is where everyday life in the 21st Century creates this modern yet timeless longing for a hero to save the day. Someone to get rid of the ‘bad guys’ and clean up the streets. In essence there is a simple reason superheroes are so timeless. It is the need for good to triumph over evil. It is a concept as constant as time and as old as the bible. In a frustrated world we look for the hint of a superhero in everyday people. And when an ordinary person does a seemingly extraordinary thing—videos go viral, local news is a buzz, and it can trump a Walking Dead water cooler conversation. People smile. Even in our very human world, we seek out “super” acts. We recognize them, acknowledge them and hopefully emulate them.

We need superheroes. We need to believe. We need to act with the goodness, decency, morality and selflessness that they embody. I suppose I love superheroes now for the same reasons I did as a kid, I just see them through a grown-up eye with an even stronger wish for them to be real. It’s a tough world and we all want someone to save the day. I get cynical, but then I think… a superhero certainly could save the day. 😉

Xoxo DDJ

Geezerpalooza

geezerpalooza for blog

Our lives are made up of an endless array of solitary moments. And if we try, we can remember snippets of time from the deepest recesses of our memory. But just ‘trying’ doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes memories need a little jarring. Sometimes those memories are not necessarily vivid clips from our lives, but more akin to a warm feeling—a sensation like arms wrapped around you in a bear hug. How we pull those memories to the surface to bask in their warmth and joy is easier than you think. Take yourself back in time with a party of the kids from your illustrious childhood!

I graduated high school in 1982. We had a pretty large class—in the 500 student range. I went to my 30th reunion 2 years ago and—thanks to Facebook—once again was able to share my life and stories with people from my childhood.  Some of those wonderful people shared stories with me dating back to Kindergarten.  As incredible as that was, it was a reunion, which meant it was sort of staged and stuffy, with me having to wear uncomfortable shoes.

Flash-forward two years. It’s 2014, and the majority of my graduating class is turning 50.  A brilliant idea that we could arrange a mass celebration was conceived.  I admit I hesitated for a micro-second. Then as if speaking to my quirky, silly side—Marla came up with the name ‘Geezerpalooza’. I was SOLD. At that moment I had no idea what to expect, who I would see again or how it would leave such an indelible mark on me, but I knew I was going. Months in the process, two very, VERY hardworking, local graduates took the reins. It would be a picnic event at a local beach from our childhood. The massive undertaking was handled—from the point of view of the unwitting party-goer—effortlessly and seamlessly. There was a great deal of interest in this milestone event—turning 50—being shared with people that not only shared the birthday, but shared so many memories. People were coming in from out of town or out of state either FOR the event or finding time to get to it while seeing family. This was BIG.

Geezerpalooza weekend:

The big event would be Saturday, but those needing passes to the beach and those who had come in from out of town, would meet up at a local bar Friday night. THIS is where I began to feel a new level of excitement. So many faces, still familiar. So many stories to share. There is a common bond from a childhood like ours.  A time where there were no cell phones to call you home—maybe you had that ‘be home when the street lamp goes on’ curfew, or maybe it was a call from the stoop.  We played outside with friends we made—no play dates arranged by our parents. We were part of a socioeconomic group—middle class—that is all but extinct today. The amount of time we spent together without the myriad of distractions that come with today’s world is what I believe forged indelible memories, and lifelong friendships.  I felt it as soon as I walked into the bar. There was one common denominator, “You from North?” “Yes”, was all it took. Everything after that might as well have been talking about a movie we all had seen. I had a smile that literally hurt from being permeated on my face. We were even lucky enough to have our high school band teacher join us! There was a surreal feeling about seeing all these people who had spent the last 32 years building personal worlds, with families and careers and still feel like we were kids again—back in Commack, back in the hallways and classrooms and the courtyard, and the band room, or in any of the elementary schools, or the two junior highs. At the end of the day, the reality was we graduated Commack North together.

The morning of Geezerpalooza was awash in a steady rain. Some of us were completely indifferent to it. I know I didn’t care. It’s water… No one cares what we look like, it’s not about that. So, a few of us went—in the rain– to set up for the day. About an hour after that it started to clear. More and more people would arrive and as they approached we would stand and guess who it was. There were various circles of people chatting amongst themselves—not unlike high school—but it was ALL good. Everyone was smiling, laughing, eating, and telling stories while music from our youth blared. And by blared, I mean at one point, a female officer approaches our party inquiring who the permit holder is. She was STERN! Something about loud music… asking for Wendi! (Our hostess!) There was a moment of WTF?! Then there was the moment of HOLY CRAP! It was a fellow graduate with probably the greatest stunt I have ever been witness to. Had this day been scripted, it would have taken one heck of a writer to get it this perfect. I—personally—cannot begin to explain what this day meant. A seemingly simple get-together of friends from 30 or 40 years ago made me feel nostalgic and overwhelmed with fond memories.

The party lasted till 8 PM and some of us even went out after that.  It was crazy. And as if this wasn’t enough, a few of us had brunch on Sunday as well.

I sat around that brunch table trying to wrap my brain around why this was so significant to me. Why did I feel as if falling into a new friendship with an old friend was so easy? It dawned on me—it was the innocence of the time, and the innocence of us as kids in a middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of New York.  There is a bond that we all seemed to share that was not just the classes we took together or the places we hung out. It was a shared culture, a shared neighborhood, and a shared place in time. We were really blessed to be from Commack, and I don’t think I ever gave it much thought. But, at 50 years old, and after a weekend with my fellow ’82 Rams, I have a clarity about what we all shared.

Of all the people that attended and a couple who were SORELY MISSED—I have to hope that one or more of us will make the effort to make this an event that can take place, not as a milestone celebration, but simply as a celebration of our friendships.

As far as I am concerned, this was the FIRST ANNUAL Geezerpalooza. I hope others walked away from the weekend with a similar sense of kinship. We shall always have our youth if we have people in our lives who share our stories.

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb

xoxo DDJ        Debbie Dworken-Jaffie

A dollar and a dream

kickstarter blog-page-001

Remember when you fell prey to the slogan, “All you need is a dollar and a dream”? When buying Lottery tickets was the only way those dreams had a chance of being realized? Well lucky for us we live in a world where if you have a dream, all you really need is your friends, family and some strangers to fund it for you.  ♥

The advent of such utter brilliance as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Get Funded Now, Crowdfunder and so many more has awoken those dreams to make them a reality. And it doesn’t really matter what that dream is. There are niche focused crowd funders like Quirky if you are an inventor or Appbackr if you have the next great app design. If you have an idea, almost any idea, and you think you can get people on board to support you, there is a better than Lottery chance of that happening.

I have been somewhat transfixed on the myriad of wonderful ideas out there. And I wish I were wealthy enough to fund more of them. So until I actually DO win the lottery, I have to be discerning with my pittance and place my money where my heart says to.

That being said, in the last couple of months I have stumbled upon 2 such Crowdfunding endeavors. Both films and both having literally nothing else in common. Now were you to go to a site such as Kickstarter and go to “Discover Projects”, you could lose a good week in sorting through them all. And that is just on ONE site. Even if you were to narrow it down to Film and Video, you would—at last look—have 35,922 projects to choose from—just on Kickstarter. Scouring through them, albeit fun and interesting, is–time wise–on the lengthy side. In the case of both of my recent pledges, my other addiction—twitter—came into play. A film titled Night of the Living Deb, for somewhat obvious reasons if you know me, struck a chord immediately. I mean… I NEEDED TO BE IN ON THIS, almost before I watched the Kickstarter video–WHICH IS GREAT.  I suppose I have a soft spot for the RomComZom—Romantic Comedy Zombie flicks. (Who doesn’t?) I became twibsessed (twitter obsessed), following hashtag after hashtag, finding the names of the principals involved. I followed Kyle Rankin—the director-immediately.

NOTLDeb
http://www.nightofthelivingdeb.com

  VIEW KICKSTARTER VIDEO HERE

(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1364524925/night-of-the-living-deb-a-feature-film)

After watching, it just made my commitment to this project a virtual imperative. So much of the brilliance of a successful campaign lays in the details and the video was just the beginning. I started googling away to all those involved. Smart, talented, visionary types that made my pledge a joy far more gratifying than just handing over my $12 to $16 in a theater. I was now a part of something pretty special from the ground UP.

The use of social media is paramount in a successful campaign. If done properly, as I think getting MY attention attests to, it truly speaks volumes to what the present and future artists and dreamers can accomplish. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Vevo and even UStream can be what makes a dream a reality. Every social media available needs to be harnessed and then just let the viral world take over.

My other film pledge was to a documentary directed by Mark Marshall. Yes, this is a different direction for me, but showing my immense diversity. Again, I stumbled upon it by a tweet. It was @SeanAstin who made me take note of a historical event swept under the rug since The Civil War. THE greatest maritime disaster  in our history for lives lost.  I will admit that my knowledge of American History may not get me a spot on Jeopardy, but I thought I had a pretty good grasp of it. SO, when even those who are much smarter than me do not have bells going off at the name The Sultana, then something is clearly amiss. Again, I watched the kickstarter video and again I was moved to make a pledge. As a society we must embrace our history—good or bad—and honor those whose lives were lost. Sean Astin went that extra mile for this project.

sultana
http://www.rememberthesultana.com

VIEW KICKSTARTER VIDEO HERE

(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1060443722/sultana)

He took to Vox Populi Radio and Ustream for a staggering 17 hour ON AIR readathon from the banks of the Mississippi, of Jerry O. Potter’s book, The Sultana Tragedy. His passion for getting this documentary made was inspiring. I watched late into the night as he got a little punchy but still reading surprisingly well!

However it is done, and by whomever, the crowdfunding concept is clearly a monumental shift in how idea’s become reality—how concepts become concrete—and how anyone can change the world. Even if I never have a single project worthy idea, it is comforting to know I can support someone who does.

I am very much looking forward to both of these amazing Kickstarters and I am sincerely proud to be a part of them. For those of you who have never taken a peek at the bazillions of ideas in need of funding, I will warn you now: There are a LOT of smart, talented and creative people out there, and you are going to wish you could fund more of them. I know I do.

xoxo DDJ

 

 

ISLAND FOR SALE–does a little haunting bother you?

poveglia island - Italy

Like so many people—who probably play the lottery—I have often dreamt of having my very own island. This always seemed like a brilliant plan. My island, my rules, my choice of who gets to come to MY ISLAND. The daydream still makes me smile.

I see that Italy plans to auction off a very small Island in the Venetian Lagoon, ostensibly as part of selling many properties to offset their economic debt. Being completely unable to afford the island appears to perhaps be one of those “blessing in disguise” metaphors you hear about.

Though the history of this island is fraught with creepy, weird, scary stories, I will skip ahead to the 18th century. Ships en route to Venice would be quarantined there for 40 days to be quite sure no one had the Plague. Bad news was, 2 people did. At that point forward—things got BAD. From then on, the island was closed off and used to quarantine those with the plague or to dump those who were close to succumbing to it or those who already had. The stories—to this day—tell tales of the island being haunted by the souls of those who perished there. I imagine being tossed on an island to die could put you in a bit of a sour after life mood. But wait—there’s more. In the 1920’s, since let’s be fair, from a real estate standpoint, they certainly couldn’t use “quaint, exotic, charming, breathtaking or lovingly maintained” as selling points. Actually, dying sort of implies “breathtaking”, but still not good real estate buzz words for Poveglia Island.

Next best choice for use of this island? Well, naturally, hospital for the sick and insane. From what I have read, I am going with emphasis on insane. 1920’s version of mental health had a lot more to do with painfully crazy—pun intended—experiments and unnecessary lobotomies. The doctor who ran the place was either mentally unstable to begin with, or as some stories say, became that way from the hauntings. *The version I read has him flinging himself off a tower—or pushed by a disgruntled patient or poltergeist. (Like it matters.)

So Italy is trying to push this island as the perfect locale for a luxury hotel. And, if you win the auction, it comes with all the current structures and ruins. There is even a military fort dating back to the late 1300’s called the Octagon that can still be seen there. Yes, the haunted hospital, among the other fabulous backdrops sound like they would be perfect for the glossy brochure of an up and coming luxury resort. I know… YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT IT!

Maybe if it were purchased by someone who would lovingly bestow peace and tranquility to the island, the apparitions would lighten up a little. I think the island deserves a chance at flourishing. Italy has not yet released the initial starting price for the auction, but rumor has it at about $499,000 and expecting perhaps as much as  11.5 million. Online bidding ends May 6th…so start checking your sofa for change. I know the Venetians claim it is evil… BUT, it’s an ISLAND, it’s about 17 acres…And it’s ITALIAN. 🙂

The history and the ghosts aside, the only thing that has me a smidge concerned is that the soil is made up mostly of the charred human ash and bones of the more than 100,000 people burned there. That very well could be a deal breaker for me. BUT, getting back to the sunnier side of ME, I still really want my own island. I suppose when I really start my search I shall mention to my real estate agent that I would sincerely appreciate a NON haunted Island. However this auction goes, I for one am very interested to see what the future holds for Poveglia Island. It could very well wind up on my travel bucket list. 😉

Xoxo
DDJ

 

UPDATE 5-14-2014  The 99 year lease was sold for approximately $700,00 US. (It requires more than $25 Million to be renovated.) But I was interested to now know the origin of the word QUARANTINE.. which I now know is attributed to the Venetians.  It was Venice that coined the term quarantine, which is from how long travelers were required to stay on the island before they could be issued a clean bill of health and  be on their merry way — forty days. Quaranta giorni.  🙂