Thursday, May 31, 2018


The Ideal Nametag

Thanks to my job, and my membership in various organizations, I regularly sport nametags or other labels. On different occasions, I represent our Lutheran synod, the Naval Academy Parents Association, The American Society of Journalists and Authors.  Sometimes my name is preprinted; other times I am given a marker and the freedom to self-identify. Depending on the circumstances, I tag myself as Elise, Elise Seyfried or Mrs. S (the latter for my younger students, for whom “Seyfried” is just too high a linguistic mountain to climb). Sometimes I wear an adhesive label, which I invariably forget to remove after the activity ends. Why just yesterday, several weeks after our primary election, I walked around all day sporting an “I Voted” sticker on my shirt, which gave the viewer two impressions: 1) I am inordinately proud of having cast a ballot at some time in the past, and 2) I wear my shirts twice without washing them.

A few of my labels

Long, long ago, I held various positions in the kids’ school PTA, including Head of Room Mothers, Fundraising Chair and Assembly Coordinator. I do not recall specific badges for these jobs; however, I do remember being inadvertently labeled prior to an address I once made to the entire parent-teacher organization at Fitzwater Elementary. As I approached the podium, there was a wave of laughter and applause—which would have been fine had I’d said anything ovation-worthy. It was not until (much) later that I discovered the source of the humor: one of my children had festooned the back of my shorts with huge Disney Princess stickers. Ask not for whom the clappers clap; they clap for Ariel and Belle.

Nowadays, I am labeled by my appearance. Each wrinkle and gray hair confirms my membership in the Baby Boom generation. I am also labeled as a white woman, which allots me certain privileges my sisters of color do not have in this country. When I open my mouth, my accent gives me away as a daughter of New York City (try as I vainly did to neutralize it during my acting career).

I have very mixed feelings about labels. In an ideal world, our uniqueness would render any labels unnecessary—how big would a label absolutely defining you have to be? Wouldn’t “Human Being” do the trick? I must say it is sometimes nice to be part of various groups of folks with like interests and passions. However, in this current, ΓΌber-polarized climate, labels bear risks. I could certainly be called a liberal Democrat, for example, but do I really want to be jeered at as a “libtard democrap?” No, thank you!

As I prepare for the next church event, I pull out a huge roll of blank name tags. Some of these will be filled in so sloppily that they’ll be useless for ID purposes (Jane Smf? Bill Derlllllgg?) But I hope to see another label similar to one a little child wrote this winter.

 Instead of his name, he simply drew a heart.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Tripe Sandwich! Several meals on a bun!
Viva Cicchetti!

From photos of our recent trip to Italy, the casual observer might conclude that Steve and I did absolutely nothing but eat. But that is not (strictly) true.

We took lots of pix of various art treasures in Rome and Florence. Our usual museum habit is to notice, not just David, and The Pieta, and The Birth of Venus, but also some of the weirder artistic offerings of eras gone by. Therefore, we have in our collection of photographs a bizarre painting of children put into a pickle barrel, an Adoration of the Magi that includes the art patron who had commissioned the work, standing around adoring Baby Jesus. There were the MANY arrows sticking out of poor Saint Sebastian, and the large but placid lion curled up at the feet of Saint Jerome. We traipsed from one gallery to the next, until it was all a blur of oil on canvas. But my point is—these photos prove that there were distinct moments between meals!

We also lit candles in cathedrals, attended classical concerts, climbed towers in Lucca and rode in vaporetti (water buses) in Venice. At no time during these various activities were we eating!

However, most of the rest of the time, we were.

I thought I did not adore Italian cuisine, largely because I have a thing about tomato sauce coating everything. I’ve consumed way too many sub-par pizzas and mushy bowls of linguine in the US. Indeed, before the trip, I wondered how our meals would stack up compared to what we had consumed in Barcelona and Paris on our last journey together.

Well, pictures, as they say, don’t lie. For every one snapshot of an historic building or beautiful garden, we have five of us stuffing our faces.  Spicy tripe sandwiches from a street cart! Cicchetti (the Venetian equivalent of tapas) featuring scallops in their shells, robiola cheese and fig jam on toast, and huge, succulent marinated prawns! Salami and other cured meats drizzled with local honey! Lucca’s specialty, ravioli in browned sage butter! And the gelati! No matter how full we were, we always made room for several scoops of stracciatella, panna cotta, zabaglione and darkest chocolate flavors of frozen awesomeness. 

We couldn’t bring much home in the food department, alas…not much more than some amazing biscotti from the bakery next to our Airbnb in Florence. But perhaps that is just as well…we aren’t getting nearly the amount of exercise that we did abroad, to burn those calories (I went from walking nine miles every day, right back to my old, slothful, four block drive to work).

I almost dread my next visit to an Italian restaurant stateside, because I know it couldn’t possibly compare. Which means, of course, we have to go back! Let’s see, if I stick to yogurt for the next year or two, I might be ready to tackle another incredible, candied orange-studded cannoli from Paticceria Ballarin…

Not that we remember the food in Italy most. Not at all.

Ho-hum. Another inedible meal in Rome:-)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dave's Best

Florence, exactly a week earlier. Little did we dream our big adventure was still ahead.

So many tales to tell about our trip to Italy! But first, I had to share this:

Such a good idea: a comfortable and speedy ride home after a nine hour flight! No parking! No trains! Perhaps we should have read the reviews for “Dave’s Best” airport shuttle service first, including their “F” rating from the BBB. 

After going through customs, we phoned the dispatcher at Dave’s. It was 4:30 PM. The dispatcher first informed us that we would be leaving Kennedy at 7:00 PM, more than two hours hence. But then, what luck!! He told us a Dave’s Best van awaited us outside right now! We oozed through the humid air, and into said van, where we met our driver, Russell. Luggage loaded and away we went!

Russell hates air conditioning. He cranked open the driver’s side window to let in every bit of stifling air, and we sweltered. The Belt Parkway was closed, so straight through Brooklyn and Staten Island we slogged. At the Jersey Turnpike at last, Russell announced that we would be heading to Newark Airport, to pick up more people! Plus, Russell was sick! Coughing, sneezing, and rubbing his head, he called the home office, asking that a co-worker pick up his prescriptions from Walgreen’s, because we wouldn’t get home by the time they closed (9:00 PM!)

In Newark, an elderly couple joined our party on wheels, along with their huge number of suitcases. On the road again, finally! But wait! Another fine “Dave’s Best” vehicle had broken down on the side of the highway several miles ahead. Russell needed to head over and pick up THOSE passengers! We soon spotted the van and the folks descending from it—five people in all, toting what looked to be their entire worldly belongings. It took a good 20 minutes just to load in these extra guys and gals and their stuff (they insisted on opening and checking each bag). By now, our dreams of a timely return home had been dashed—we just wanted to get home at SOME point. Surely our last interruption?

Surely not. Russell exited the highway at Feasterville, PA for a reason that was soon clear: Newark couple was expecting a door-to-door lift to their house. As the van chugged to a halt in their neighborhood, Russell sloooowly carried their bags into their condo. Our five extra wayfarers also got out, and checked their bags yet AGAIN, in case anything had magically vanished.

When it looked like our come-lately companions were about to ask for a drop off at THEIR home in Jenkintown, Steve had had enough, and asked Russell to ferry us to our door. And so it was that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang pulled up to 122 Apel well after 9:00 PM, and Russell departed in a cloud of exhaust.

For a mere $120, we got five hours of hell, to welcome us back to the USA.

The Longest Day...

Next time, we’re walking home from JFK. How much worse could it be?