Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Real Find

I'm reading a great book that I ordered from Octavia Book Store 

New Orleans ... What Can't Be Lost. 

Whether you are from New Orleans or just love the city ... you will absolutely love this book. There are 88 stories (same number as keys on a piano). It's a beautifully written love song by 88 authors about everything from "Yat language" (dawlin, chawmas, hawts) to "Sno-balls" (Not the kind you throw ... the kind you eat on a hot day). One of my favorite stories is Lost Names. Here's a synopsis:

New Orleans is a city with a distinctive past. Here are six past business names gone now and especially missed by the author (and by me as well). These were not lost after Katrina ... Regrettably, there was decline even before the storm.

1. KRAUSS. The last of the locally owned department stores, Krauss was not grandly decorated. Located on Canal and Basin Streets, it was THE place to find notions, drapes, fabrics and such. The name is gone but the building still stands as converted condos. What a shame to have lost the name in the process. Coming home to Krauss would have had huge appeal. 

2. D. H. HOLMES. Meeting under the clock at Holmes was part of the downtown shopping ritual. Ad-copy writers had a field day "there's no place like Holmes" ... "Holmes is where the heart is" ...  The clock, by the way ... is still ticking. It now graces the hotel that stands in its place.  

3. MAISON BLANCHE. Holmes and Maison Blanche were the city's twin retailers. Downtown, customers moved easily across the side street that separated the two Canal Street stores. The Maison Blanche name always had more of the local flavor because of its Frenchness and because of its resident Christmas snowman, Mr. Bingle, who shared his initials with the store "MB". I remember the song to this day ... "Jingle jangle jingle ... Here Comes Mr. Bingle".

4. HIBERNIA BANK. This is one name that lasted past Katrina, though it was already endangered. In the bank's last days (before merging with Capitol One), displaced New Orleanians stood in line at far flung branches hoping to withdraw money to finance their evacuation. The familiar green logo was an appreciated symbol of home. The tower atop the downtown building still glows with different colors to reflect the seasons ... and to guide its residents.

5. SCHWEGMANN'S. The supermarket king ... Schwegmann's looked like it was never to be defeated. Outlets across the southern part of the state ruled ... as did family members who were politically active for years. Low prices and "consumer advocates" were part of their reputation. A Schwegmann endorsement printed on a shopping bag could be political gold. It also was the favorite disguise of football fans when they used to dress as "The Aints".

6. KATZ & BESTOFF. Gone forever is the familiarity of the local name that had been whittled down in native language to KB. The drugstore chain's oval purple sign became part of the urban landscape. There was a time that New Orleanians regularly shopped at the two Bs ... MB and KB. But alas it's not Two B anymore.  

If you want a terrific post-Christmas present to grace a coffee table ... buy this one. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I'll admit that sometimes we, of the Jewish faith, don't have a true appreciation of the wonderful Christmas traditions handed down through the generations ... until we see the joy on the faces of all the little  children ...

Have a Wonderful Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Conversations with Grampy (Sammy)

Today, Nikki, Alissa and I took Grampy to Bob Evans to get his favorite breakfast ... pancakes and bacon with HOT coffee. I say HOT because no matter how hot they bring it ... it's never hot enough. He has never ... I mean never ... accepted a cup of coffee without giving it back to get it hotter.

Here were some of todays gems:

"I went to Walmart last week on the (Menorah Manor) bus. I brought a coupon for Subway ... you know ... buy a 6 inch sandwich and get one free. Well ... I'll be damned ... I ordered a sandwich that didn't qualify for the deal."

"What did you do?"

"What do you think I did ... I had to buy two sandwiches. I took one back with me. I couldn't eat it all."

"I had a date the other day. Yeah ... she's got a car ... you know? Doesn't live there ... her husband was a resident who died a few months ago."

"So you asked her out?"

"Sure. She's got a car and she always brings me cabbage soup. What else could I do?"

Say ... I went to the podiatrist to get my feet checked."

"Are you okay?"

"Oh yeah. He couldn't believe I was 89 ... told me I had legs like a teenager."


By the way ... we don't have a home for Christmas. It's now to the point that we can no longer stay there ... unless we brave the dust from the floors being sanded and the walls torn down. AND ... the kids are all in town.

I found a place to do Saki shots last night!

Merry ... um ... Whatever!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oddball Scientific Research

I read this today. It's an excerpt from the British Medical Journal's Christmas issue ... Oddball Scientific Research for 2010:

So That's Why They're Redheads

Patients with red hair are believed to bleed more during surgery, feel pain more strongly, and develop more hernias, according to Jonathan D. Barry of Morriston Hospital in Swansea, Wales, and colleagues.

They conducted a Google-based literature search for well-conducted studies confirming these beliefs, largely coming up empty. What they did find was that "many anecdotes have been recounted about the clinical behavior of people with red hair."

But they did identify two systematic studies suggesting that redheads need more anesthesia during surgery.

"The clinical implications of red hair phenotype remain questionable," they concluded.

Ikea Pencils, the Surgeon's Friend

Anybody who has shopped at Ikea, the Swedish furniture and housewares megastore chain, is familiar with its three-inch pencils for making onsite shopping lists. In some segments of Britain's National Health Service, they are apparently also surgical instruments.

"As popular as these pencils are, we were still a little surprised to be handed one halfway through a surgical case," wrote two NHS physicians, Karen Eley and Stephen Watt-Smith, though they noted that pencils have been used previously to mark osteotomy cuts in facial surgery.

Available by the pocketful in Ikea stores, Eley and Watt-Smith indicated, one visit can yield a supply lasting for months -- "important in the current financial climate."

The chief problem with Ikea pencils is that they don't survive autoclaving very well, the physicians added, causing splits and extrusion of the graphite rod.

"We have solved this problem by wrapping silicon cuffs around the pencil," Eley and Watt-Smith wrote. "Maybe we could suggest this to the designers at Ikea?"

Alcohol Blocks Fondue Overdose

Researchers in Switzerland at long last confronted a burning issue in that country -- whether water, tea, wine, or schnapps might delay digestion of cheese fondue and thereby suppress the appetite.

The Swiss researchers conducted a real trial, with 20 participants and a randomized, crossover design.

Happily for the fermented and distilled spirits industries, they found that the two alcoholic beverages cut the rate of gastric emptying relative to black tea or plain water by about two-thirds.

However, self-reported appetite was reduced only when participants drank both wine and schnapps.

Alcohol Must Be Drunk to Get Drunk

Science has smashed another urban legend, thanks to intrepid Danish researchers who immersed their feet in vodka.

According to Peter Lommer Kristensen of Hillerod Hospital in Denmark and colleagues, some Danes believe it's possible to obtain the psychotropic effects of ethanol ingestion without drinking the stuff, but rather by soaking one's feet in it.

Kristensen and two fellow physicians bravely underwent a 24-hour ethanol washout period and then placed their feet in a large bowl filled with 75-proof Slovakian vodka for three hours.

Ethanol in venous blood samples remained undetectable throughout the study. Self-assessed drunkenness did increase modestly over the first 60 to 90 minutes, at least suggesting a basis for the urban legend. But the lack of a control group precluded firm conclusions.

Off With His Head ... It's Henry IV

That's the conclusion of a 20-member international research team, including art historians and perfumers, who examined a mummified head reputedly belonging to France's first Bourbon ruler, assassinated in 1610.

His remains had been placed in the St. Denis cathedral near Paris, a traditional resting place for French monarchs. They were all dug up during the Revolution and Reign of Terror, with many lost entirely. A head supposed to have been Henry's ended up in a series of private collections, but its true identity was uncertain.

The researchers matched markings and lesions on the mummified head to contemporary drawings and descriptions of the real Henry. They also determined that it had been severed from the rest of the corpse long after death in a manner consistent with the 1793 desecration of the royal tombs.

Beauty Sleep is No Myth

The BMJ also included in the Christmas issue one study without humorous intent -- conducted at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, with external grant funding, addressing the relationship between sleep duration and physical attractiveness.

The bottom line: "Sleep deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive, and more tired compared with when they are well rested."

The finding emerged from a study of 31 young people randomly assigned to normal or deprived sleep, then photographed. The pictures were then rated on the appearance of health, attractiveness, and "restedness" by 65 blinded, untrained evaluators.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Laundry Quandary

Here's where we were tonight.

I was transported back to college days as we loaded the first of our 6 machine loads of laundry at the corner Discount Coin Laundry.

Why, you might ask? ... well ...  REMODELING time at our house continues. The kids all come home next week and we are staying at a hotel. Meanwhile, the washer dryer is disconnected, we watch television in my office and we eat on TV trays. There's a huge hole in the backyard and a fine layer of dust each day when we come home.

But tonight ... tonight was the best.

We loaded the car with two big baskets of clothes, joined the two college students who were crouched over their laptops, the 4'10" haggard looking mother with three kids hanging onto her pant leg and the homeless man watching the Simpsons on the TV in the corner.

It brought back memories of days past.

The difference today is that the machines actually work and the coins don't stick in the slots.

So ... if anyone has a spare room (and a washing machine) after the holidays ... call us.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not-So-Bright House

I don't like cable companies.

Truth is I despise cable companies. Okay, now I feel better. They are truly equal opportunity offenders. I recently had the "pleasure" of canceling Direct TV and REconnecting with Bright House. I guess I hadn't learned my lesson. It went from bad to worse ... To worse again.

I'm sure they all share the same call center. Here's how the conversation went:

Phone rings ... Mechanical voice lady, "Thank you for calling Bright House. Please listen carefully and pick one of the following ... Press 1 if your call is for new service, press 2 if you're calling about a bill, press 3 if you need repairs, press 4 if you are Hispanic and want to get even more confused by listening to a translation that makes no sense at all, press 5 just for the hell of it ... Or just hold for an operator."

Stupidly, I held for an operator. I had to give the machine my account number and the next hour was filled with recorded messages about how wonderful Bright House was and how sorry they were that all operators were currently assisting other customers (so how the heck did they find a way to get through?).

Finally I got an answer ... "Hello. This is Kumar. Can I have your account number?"

Me .. "You can have my whole account Kumar."

Kumar ... "Sorry, I don't understand. You have account number with Bright House?"

Me ... "Yes .. Yes I do ... Sorry I was being a smart aleck ... It's 123456789."

"Thank you Mr. Alec."

"No ... I was just BEING a smart aleck."

" I see. Well I have no one by the name of Alec with that account number ... Perhaps you want to talk to our help center ... I'll connect you"

"No ... Wait ... Kumar. Kumar!" Too late I was back in phone hell. Forty five more minutes and more of the same bad music and propaganda ....

"Hello. Service Center. Can I have your account number?"

"I gave it twice ... "

No answer.

"It's 123456789."

"Thank you .. Please hold."

I heard the sound of what was probably fake keyboard clicks ...

"Is this Mr. Mamberg?"

"No it's MOMberg."

"I see ... Did you want to correct the information we have for you?"

"If it's incorrect ... Sure."

"Please hold for the systems operator ..."

"NO ... It's okay I'll be Mamberg or WHOEVER you want me to be ..."

Too late ... Phone hell ... Another half hour. Finally ...

"Hello this is Shirley. Can I have your account number?"

"Yes .. I'll give you anything you want Shirley. Just don't leave me ... Please."

Shirley actually giggled. "I take it you have been transferred around a lot."

"Yes! Shirley ... You understand ... You are a normal person. How did I get so lucky?"

"Well ... Let's just get you the help you need. Account number?"


"Okay ... That's Mr. Momberg correct?"

"There is a God!"

"Now what can I do for you?"

"I want to reconnect with Bright House."

"That's great news Mr. Momberg. We are happy to have you back. I have your old account here and I merely have to check some data and set an appointment and send you on your way. Okay?"

I was dreaming. This couldn't be happening. I'm speaking to someone competent. Shirley is gonna make it happen ....

"Thank you ... Thank you Shirley!"

"Happy to be of service . Now if you would just hold for a sec ..."

Silence ... Dial tone ... Oh no ...

"Shirley? Shirley? ....... SHIRLEY?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More of "What I really meant to say ..."

Here are some more phrases you always wondered about ... or maybe not. 

Bare Faced Lie:  It comes from the fact that a clean-shaven face could not conceal any lies, unlike a bearded man who could conceal things. Who knows? Honest Abe might have had a dark side.

Nitty-Gritty: This had its origins in the 18th Century slave traders' phrase for debris left at the bottom of a slave ship after a voyage. A visit to the hold was described as going to the nitty-gritty. The phrase was banned in the UK as one which would be offensive.

Butter Someone Up: No ... not what you do after consuming large amounts of alcohol and telling your mate "Hey ... here's an idea...". It actually comes from an ancient Indian custom of throwing butterballs at the statues of gods to seek favor. Why butterballs? I don't have a clue.

Give The Cold Shoulder: Actually giving someone the cold shoulder originated back in England when someone wanted to signal a guest that it was time for them to leave. The host would give the guest a cold slice of meat from the shoulder of beef, mutton or pork. I guess it was MORE impolite to say, "It's time for you to go."

Cat Got Your Tongue: Painful for another reason, this actually comes from people who were whipped with cat-o-nine tails. In other words they were flogged for doing something wrong. So, with all of this flogging going on, the victims were usually left speechless.

Goody Two Shoes: Debbie will like this one. It comes from the nursery rhyme "The History of Goody Two Shoes" which was written by Oliver Goldsmith in 1765 in London. Goody owned one shoe. When she was given a pair she was so pleased that she showed them to every one saying "Two shoes".

Probably bragging just like everyone does when they have two shoes, huh?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What I really meant to say ...

As I sat in the bathroom yesterday... I thought about all the sayings and expressions that we use every day and wondered where they came from. (Don't you LOVE that open?) Here are a few I looked up for your viewing enjoyment:

By the way ... if you want to share some of your favs be sure to leave your comments below.

Bad hair day: This phrase originated in the 1992 film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ... Buffy said to the one armed vampire, "You're obviously having a bad hair day."

Baker's dozen: In the 15th century, street vendors could directly buy 13 loaves of bread for the price of twelve from the bakers . By doing this, the baker regulated the middleman's profit or commission. Maybe we should float that idea to Congress.

Balls to the wall: Hah .... I betcha thought it had something to do with anatomy. Nope ... it's aviation lingo. The throttle handles are often topped with ball shaped grips. Pushing forward toward the wall of the cockpit is applying full throttle.

Bone up on: A guy named Henry Bohn produced English translations of Greek and Latin classics in the 1800s. Used by students cramming for exams , they would "Bohn" (became bone) up on their homework ... (I won't even ask what you thought it meant).

Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey: Since we've got a theme going here, this is one of my favorites. Story has it that when cannon balls were kept on the deck of ships and stacked in triangles on a brass rack called the monkey ... you guessed it ... when the temp dropped, the monkey contracted and the balls spilled out on the deck.

Crocodile tears: There is evidence that crocs have glands near the eyes that secrete saliva and salt. Underwater, a stream of small bubbles come from the tear ducts.

Cry all the way to the bank: Liberace coined the phrase after a critic mocked his talents. He sent a telegram saying, "What you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank." So did his friend, George.

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth: As early as the 5th century, horses were desirable gifts. Of course, a young horse was more desirable than an old one. Teeth revealed age ... so it was impolite to look at the teeth when accepting a gift. Debbie always checks my teeth out (I wonder if she's trying to tell me something...)

Hair of the dog: An old belief that a burnt hair of a dog would act as an antidote to the bite of a dog if placed in the wound. Today, of course it means if you have a hangover and a dog bites you, go back to sleep or roll over (or something like that).

Hat trick: In cricket, the "dismissal" of three consecutive batters from the same bowler is a rare feat and was rewarded years ago ... by the gift of a hat from the bowlers club. Today, the hat is called a lucrative contract extension.

Kick the bucket: When slaughtering a pig, you tied the hind legs to a wooden beam (French buquet). As the animal died, he kicked the buquet. Maybe that's where they get buquet list, huh?

Lily livered: People once believed that your liver was where your passions came from. If your liver was lily (white) it was devoid of blood and devoid of passion ... a coward.

Oh oh, Debbie is screaming at me to get out of the bathroom. She said something else .... um ... "courtesy spray"? I wonder where that originated ...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Conversations with Sammy

Sammy called the other day ... Debbie was the unfortunate one to answer the phone.

"Debbie, I want to order something for one of my friends out of the Harry and David catalogue. I don't have a credit card so what do I do?"

"Okay Sam ... I've got a catalogue here and you've got yours there ... so ... let's go through it together. I'll order it for you. "

"Okay ... now how do I do this without a credit card."

"I'll take care of it and you can pay me back if you want ... but it'll still come from you."

"But if I don't have a credit card ..."

"Sam ... just look at the pictures and tell me what you want ."

An hour later ... Sam finally figured out what he wanted and what page it was on. It was painful, but Debbie is very patient. I would have just gone over there and had Sam point and by the time I came back home with an answer it would still been half the time it took to do it over the phone.

"Okay ... So that's The Tower of Sweets and it goes to Frank Bricker right?"

"Yeah ... Page 12 ... it's on page 12."

"I got it ... so what do you want to say on the card?"

" Um ... Put on the card ... Let's see ... Thank you for being so nice. I miss you and love you ... and put it from Sam ... no, wait a minute make it from Sam and Joel ... or you know what? Put your name on it too ... wait ... you don't even know Frank ... make it Sam and family."

"Okay ... I'll send it tomorrow."


Three days go by ... Sam calls back.

"Debbie ... I made a big mistake!"

"Oh no... did you give me a wrong address?"

"No ... Frank's wife is diabetic. I just remembered. We have to cancel the order and order something else."

"Well Sam ... it's already been shipped."

"What do we do? You have to call them and tell them it was a mistake."

" But Sam ... it's already gone. I think they will understand ..."

"No ... this is awful."

"Sam ... I tell you what ... I have to go to the office for a closing. Here's the 800 number. Do you want to talk to them?"

"Yes ... I will do that."

Well ... you probably know what happened next. An hour later ... Sam calls Debbie again.

"I can't believe those people. First of all it's all recordings so I got really confused ... then they asked for my account number. I told them I don't have one (he of course did have an account number and Debbie had him write it down)  Those people talk so fast .. I'm gonna call Frank and tell him to make them come get it and get something different."

The next day ...

"Debbie ... I just want you to know she is NOT diabetic. I am so glad we didn't cancel the order because she is so happy."

"Awww that's great Sam."

"They loved it ... they said it was so nice of me and guess what?"


"Their daughter is a doctor."

"Well ....... isn't that nice?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fundraising Calls Gone Bad

My good friend David Gillig from San Diego has been a fundraiser for about 20 years (That's over a hundred in fundraising years). David and I were members of a great organization, Children's Circle of Care, which represents some of the leading children's hospitals in North America.

Each year, we would meet with other Chief Development Officers and share best practices from our respective hospitals. Who am I kidding ... it was just an excuse to drink and tell war stories. Fundraisers LOVE to tell war stories.  David actually created a name for it during our meetings "Fundraising Calls Gone Bad".

Here are a few of my personal favorites that are near and dear to my heart. (I'd tell you others from around the country ... but they threatened to kill me).

My predecessor at All Children's Hospital is a great guy and a legend among fundraisers. That means he can suck up and grovel with the best of them. Lloyd Horton was raised in North Carolina (which meant that whenever he introduced himself, people thought his name was Lawd Hotten).

One of Lawd's major donors was a wealthy widow I will refer to as Ms. M. She lived in a penthouse overseeing Tampa Bay and would invite Lawd over for drinks and dinner from time to time. One particular evening, Lawd and Ms. M were sharing cocktails with one of Ms. M's friends (a "veteran" actress who was doing the dinner theater circuit in St. Petersburg). It was late in the evening when Lawd excused himself to go to the bathroom.

He was in there for a while. Apparently as he was standing there ... he was taken aback by the fact that M's bathroom walls were completely covered with mirrors. In the distance he heard the phone ring. Suddenly Ms. M threw open the door ...

"Lloyd. Your wife Carolyn is on the phone." Lloyd saw M in every mirror ... He turned quickly, trying to zip up his pants but unfortunately created a new watercolor across the closest mirror.

"Um ... I'll be right out," he said weakly.

The second Lawd Hotten story I love to tell is the one about a benefit event I attended with Lloyd. It was a fashion show and we were seated at the head table. After the mandatory small talk with the dignitaries at our table the lights dimmed and the runway filled with music and strobe lights.

Lloyd raised his eyebrows at me ... the universal sign for "what the heck is going to happen next?" All of a sudden, women danced out on stage from every possible corner. All of them wore very skimpy outfits and moved quickly back and forth.

"We thought this would be a wonderful change for the ladies this year." One of our hostesses screamed to us over the music.

Lloyd started to turn to answer her, when one of the models spun right in front of him and accidentally slipped right out of the top of her dress.  Lloyd practically leaped out of his seat and fell back into the lap of the hostess, landing with his arm in her key lime pie as he yelled ... "Holy S***t!"

"Lloyd is trying to tell you how much enjoyed the change as well," I screamed to the hostess.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Boys Will Be Girls

This is a classic boy/girl role reversal video produced by some Harvard students. My daughter Alissa told me about it ... You will laugh out loud.


Ballad of the Big Prostate

Here’s a little country tune I wrote just yesterday to commemorate a dark day in my history. I don’t have a tune but realized you can use an...