A Mother’s Love & Humor

It’s Mother’s Day today, and it’s only natural to think about Mom. That’s not all that unusual, because there isn’t a day that passes where I don’t think about her. She’s been gone since 1995, when she died at the age of 76, after a five-year battle with lung cancer. Those were very difficult times.

But through it all, what has kept Mom alive in our hearts and our minds is our memories of her. She was a Force of Nature to whom everyone turned—friends and family—for love, strength, inspiration, and a laugh. A sense of humor was certainly among her top character traits.

I’m thinking of one specific time that illustrates this. It was in the summer of 1988. I had recently earned my doctorate, and we had gone out for the evening. Mom joined me, my sister, and my friends Elaine Thompson and Gema LaBoccetta for a night out on the town. At the end of an evening of fun and entertainment, we made our customary journey to the local diner, to finish off the festivities with a bite to eat.

Mom ordered some coffee, while we were all looking over the menu, and the waitress returned with the coffee and a bowl of those little sealed, flexible milk containers that are used to lighten your coffee to your desired hue.

We put in our orders, and I swiftly picked up one of those little milk container thingies. And I started squeezing it lightly, observing how full the containers were with that cherished milk inside.

Mom (to her 28-year old son): Stop playing with that! You’re going to break it.

Chris: Oh, c’mon, I’m not gonna break it.

Mom: You’re going to break it open. Leave it alone.

Chris pushes a little bit too hard on the container thingy and its milky contents hit Mom square in the forehead.

As the milk drips down Mom’s forehead, moving toward her nostrils, a single drop falls off the tip of her nose. The table grows silent.

Mom: What are you a moron? My son! The Ph.D.!

All of us became so convulsed with laughter that we were literally crying.

She was a great sport. And a great mother. And I miss her very much.

Happy Mother’s Day to All the Moms Out There!

Mom (Ann Sciabarra), 1988

Big Apple 100!

Larry McShane, in yesterday’s New York Daily News reminds us that May 3, 2021 was the 100th anniversary of the first time the term “Big Apple” was used to refer to New York City (by New York Morning Telegraph cub reporter and horse-racing writer, John J. Fitz Gerald). In his article, “Apple of Our Eyes: 100th ann’y of Nickname that’s Synonymous with City,” McShane relies on the work of Gerald Cohen and Barry Popik, who traced the lineage of the term:

Back in 1921, when Babe Ruth was in right field for the Yankees and Mayor John Hylan in City Hall, a horse-racing writer for the New York Morning Telegraph overheard a Louisiana chat between two Black stablehands. The pair mentioned an upcoming trip from New Orleans to New York — the Big Apple, as they called it. …

“Back then, if you wanted to refer to New York by its nickname, it was ‘Gotham’ or ‘Li’l Old New York.’ But not the Big Apple.”

The nickname was resurrected in the 1970s, during the days of rising crime and declining fiscal policy. Of course, folks at that time were talking about how the Big Apple was “rotten to the core.” But jazz aficionado Charles Gillett (and president of the NY Convention and Visitors Bureau) seized on the term, regularly used “among Harlem musicians of the ’30s, who hailed a New York gig as playing the ‘Big Apple’.”

Alas, there is no recognition anywhere in the city of Fitz Gerald (who is buried in an unmarked grave 160 miles north of Belmont Park). Nor has there been any attempt to track down those New Orleans stablehands who used the term that Fitz Gerald brought into print. Just “one more instance of the African-American influence on the language” and on New York City lore.

Happy 90th Anniversary to the Empire State Building

It took them only 13 months to erect the greatest building in the world: The Empire State Building, which opened on May 1, 1931, ninety years + 1 day ago, (h/t to my friend Mario Rizzo for reminding me of the anniversary).

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Back in 1983, they put a King Kong balloon on the building to mark the 50th anniversary of the original film classic!

Happy Easter to the Easterners!

Christos Anesti” to all my Greek (Eastern) Orthodox family and friends: Happy Easter. Enjoy this celebration of renewal and rebirth.

Song of the Day #1863

Song of the Day: Come on-a My House features the words and music of Ross Bagdasarian (yes, “David Seville” of “Chipmunks” fame) and William Saroyan. Based on a traditional Armenian folk song, it was performed in the off-Broadway production of “The Son” (1950) but became a huge #1 hit for Rosemary Clooney the following year [YouTube link]. Check out some other renditions by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima (with a few Italian delicacies thrown in), Kay Starr, and Julie London [YouTube links]. Today is Moderna Second Dose + 14 Days, which means that if you too have the proper paperwork, you can “Come on-a My House” and—as the song says—I can give you candy and figs and grapes and cakes and everything, even a Marriage Ring! Well, I’m not that easy. 😉

Roark Rolled

This one came out of a chat with philosopher and friend Roderick Tracy Long! For those who have been “Rick Rolled”, consider yourself “Roark Rolled.” For like Rick Astley, Howard Roark has Red Hair and Never Gives Up [YouTube link]!

😂

“Lucky to Be Alive, & We Ain’t Kitten!”

Why anybody would attempt to rid themselves of a pet by throwing it in the trash is beyond me. Hopper the Cat is “Lucky to Be Alive” thanks to two sanitation workers in Queens, NY! Yay! Check out the story in today’s New York Daily News.

Awww…

Be Kind …

This being the Greek Orthodox Holy Week, I can think of fewer messages more important than not giving into the very things you dislike in others. It reminds me of some great dialogue from “Ben-Hur” (1959). His family destroyed, his childhood friend (Messala), who betrayed him, is now dead, and Judah Ben-Hur is turning toward the dark side. Esther, who loves him, tells him:

“It was Judah Ben-Hur I loved. What has become of him? You seem to be now the very thing you set out to destroy, giving evil for evil! Hatred is turning you to stone. It is as though you had become Messala! … I’ve lost you, Judah.”

The “miracle” at the end of the film has less to do with leprosy being cured and more to do with Judah laying down the sword, upon which his own soul was being impaled.

Song of the Day #1862

Song of the Day: Tribute to Film Composers [YouTube link], arranged and conducted by John Williams, is a celebration of some of the greatest scores—and their composers—to have ever graced the silver screen. It includes wonderful cues from such composers as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, James Horner, Henry Mancini, Ernest Gold, John Barry, Maurice Jarre, Malcolm Arnold, Jerry Goldsmith, Bill Conti, Elmer Bernstein, Randy Newman, Ennio Morricone (that “Cinema Paradiso” theme from yesterday), Nino Rota, and the maestro himself. The performance of this kaleidoscopic medley was a highlight of the 74th Academy Awards back in March 2002. Tonight, a new film score will take its place among those awarded over the last 93 years of Oscar.

(In the title YouTube link, Harrison Ford tells us back then that Williams had only 45 Oscar nominations, and 5 Oscars to his credit; he now has 52 Oscar nominations, second only to Walt Disney’s 59 lifetime nominations!)