Saturday, May 23, 2015
Word From the Weiss
Jews may not as a rule believe in reincarnation,
but I finally know what I want to come
back as in the next life, should there be one – not a grasshopper, or a great world leader like
Mahatma Gandhi or Golda Meir. Just someone who grapples with life by making decisions firmly and
decisively and then moving on. As opposed to what I am.
For the past month or so, you see, I have been agonizing over a choice that I had to make. It was a choice that for most grasshoppers, great leaders, and everyone
in between would have been what is commonly known these days as a “no-brainer.”
(I hate that expression and usually think whoever
coined it clearly didn’t have one. But to me this choice was so irresistible that there’s almost no other way to
That is, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join my daughter on a trip to Japan.
Granted, Japan might not be everyone’s cup of (green) tea. My
cousin Ilene says she still has vivid memories of World War II, and that you couldn’t pay her to go there.
for as long as I can remember, I have longed to go there. I adore Japanese art. I love
Japanese culture. I love Japanese fashions and God knows I love Japanese food.
It has always been at the very top of the list of places I would like to go someday. For most of my life, I believed
that “someday” would never come because I’d developed
a longtime, serious fear of flying. I just couldn’t imagine enduring that long a flight.
All that changed when my
husband and I went to visit our daughter in Hong Kong. Never mind that this required taking a 16-hour flight in each direction; she’d been there for months, and I missed her so much that I would
have flown to the moon to see her.
As long as we were traveling that far, we decided to
extend our trip and visit Beijing and Bangkok as well. That journey kept us
up in the air for a total of 48 hours round-trip. To my surprise, those flights, which I’d dreaded for months, ended up being no big deal.
I watched a few movies, ate, slept a bit, ate some more, and arrived. Big whoop.
And when I came
back, having realized I could do it, I felt wonderfully
If I could go there, then I could go anywhere. OK, maybe not the moon. But at least, at long
My daughter, Allegra, has always wanted to go there as well, and we agreed to do it together, preferably before she returned from Asia. She’s
now slated to come back in June. That made it sound like our going was pretty much now or never.
We decided to go now.
After all, she was living in Hong Kong, a mere four-hour flight away from
Tokyo. And although this blog keeps me busy, it leaves me free to come and go as
Although you’d assume she might have preferred to go with her boyfriend, JP,
he was very busy with work and only free to join her there for the long holiday weekend. (Yes, Monday was also a national holiday in Hong Kong. No, not Memorial Day. The birthday of Buddha.) She was determined to go to Japan for at least a week.
That’s where I came in.
She proposed that I meet her in Hong Kong and accompany her to Tokyo. From there, we planned
to take a high-speed train to Kyoto. JP would join us for the weekend. He said he was happy to have me come along. (That’s the kind of mensch he is.)
And I would have been happy to be there with them. Not just happy. A trip to the place I
have always wanted to go, with my daughter? I would have been happier than a non-kosher animal
in non-mud (if you get my drift)!
Adding to the pleasure, I will dare to confess, was
the notion of going without my husband. Of course, it would have been fun to have him come
along too. But he was busy with work, and he wasn’t
nearly as thrilled about seeing Japan as I was. Besides, a girls-only getaway
with my daughter would’ve been the ultimate adventure and fun-fest.
Plus, there was an added bonus – the prospect of getting
to meet JP’s parents.
They spend about half the year in Hong Kong and
the other half in Vancouver. For months, they’d been asking Allegra when her father
and I might visit. They were returning to Canada in mid-May. This was our last chance to meet them before they left.
Allegra and agreed that I would plan to arrive in Hong Kong a day or two before they departed, then she and I would go to Japan for a week and have JP join us at the end.
For Memorial Day-slash-the-Birth-of-Buddha.
But then something unexpected arose.
It was a good thing, maybe even a great thing, but it was a problem nonetheless.
I ran into a friend who told me about an opening for
a wonderful job. I ran into this friend in my doctor’s office while my daughter was waiting to go in for an appointment.
Until that moment, I had not known that this friend and I
see the same doctor. And had Allegra’s appointment
not perfectly dovetailed with my friend's appointment – or had the doctor not kept us waiting… and waiting…and
waiting until my friend emerged from hers – we never would have bumped into each other and I never would’ve heard about the job.
Talk about beshert.
I will tell you more about this job at a later date. All you need to know at this point
was that I went on an interview for it earlier this month. And the interview went well.
The people in charge said that I needed to submit a written proposal, however. And after I submitted the proposal, they said that
they would get back to me shortly.
But shortly, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
A week went by. Then two.
My husband was so excited that he bought me roses the day that I had the interview. And
long after they had wilted, then shriveled and died, I still hadn’t gotten a definitive answer.
The job was only a summer job. But if I got it, it would start in late June.
Japan is 11 hours ahead
of us, and the last time that I returned from Asia, I was jet-lagged for weeks. Did I really want to be
jet-lagged when I was starting a new job?
Plus, I would need to prepare for the job if I were to get it.
Did I really want to go on a major trip while
worrying about having to prepare for a new job as soon as I returned?
Then again, what if I didn’t get the job and
missed out on the trip too?
One night, JP overheard
Allegra talking to me about my upcoming to visit and freaked. Sure, he
wanted me to meet his parents. Eventually. (I
guess.) But not necessarily right now, and definitely not the night before they left for
six months in Canada.
Turns out that his mom is a little nervous about flying, too.
If I wasn’t going to meet his parents, then I couldn’t go to Hong Kong while they were still there. How rude to them that would seem.
And I certainly couldn’t arrive the day after they left.
That would seem even ruder.
The only thing that made sense was for me to fly directly to Tokyo and meet Allegra there.
spent much of my days checking flights. Flights to Hong Kong. Flights
to Japan. They were all extremely pricey and getting pricier by the minute.
In fact, when Allegra saw the airfares taking flight themselves, she booked a flight for herself. She wanted me to come, she insisted. But she was going whether I did or not.
Should I go?
Shouldn’t I go?
How could I go?
could I not?
Every time anyone invited me to do something in late May or early June, I hemmed and hawed. I was afraid to make any plans, since I might be in Japan.
(A likely story, they must have thought.)
Meanwhile, the airfares soared so high that JP realized
it was sheer lunacy for him to fly over to Japan just for a weekend himself.
If he wasn’t going to go, Allegra decided, and I wasn’t going to go, then maybe someone else would.
She asked her friend Sheray, who happened to recently have moved to Hong Kong with her
boyfriend. Sheray agreed to accompany her provided that they flew back
to Hong Kong to spend the upcoming three-day holiday weekend with their boyfriends. This only allowed them time to go to Tokyo
and back. I really wanted to visit tranquil and serene Kyoto, which I hear is the most exquisite place imaginable.
to be a former student of mine from the years that I served
as the faculty adviser to the student
newspaper at a local high school.
She wasn’t just any old former student. She was the only student on staff who actually
wanted to be a journalist when she grew up. So she was particularly close to
my heart, and long after she graduated we
stayed in touch. I absolutely love Sheray.
Could there be anything more fun than going to the one place that I always had wanted to go with my daughter and one of my favorite students?
On the other hand, could there be anything crazier than going to Japan for only five days? Not only would it cost a
fortune just to fly there, but I probably would be
jet-lagged the entire time I was there and then jet-lagged for weeks after I returned.
“You’re worrying too much,” Allegra
wrote one night. “Either you come and make it a spontaneous, fun thing, or you just don’t come this time and we
plan better next time.”
“Are you sure there’ll be a next time?” I responded. What if there weren't?
This might be my only chance.
go? Shouldn’t I go?
How could I go? How could I not go?
Less than a week
before Allegra left, I finally began to realize the answer.
my thinking that this opportunity was a matter of now or never was nuts.
I always tell my
kids that there are no such things as rain checks in life. If you get a chance at something – something that you really want – then you
need to act on it right away, because it won’t be here tomorrow. It may not even be here ten minutes from now.
That seems to have become even more valid as I advance in life. I’m in good health now, and so is everyone in my family. But you never know what life will bring.
But life could also bring better opportunities. Better than
a whirlwind trip to Japan.
At least half the joy of almost any journey, for me,
at least, lies in the anticipation. At this point, there was
no time for anticipation left. I barely had time to pack.
Besides, if I actually was going to Japan, I probably wasn’t going
to go twice. So I wanted to see a whole lot of the country, and I wanted to plan it well and do it right.
It wasn’t realistic to plan
the trip in five days, or to see the
whole country in five more.
Maybe I should wait until I could.
I was almost heartbroken bidding Allegra goodbye the afternoon that she left.
But I wasn’t completely despondent. Because
I was excited for her… and Sheray.
Besides, guess what? My husband bought me new roses.
I finally got the job!
I’m glad that I will have
time to plan for it properly and won’t be drowsy at work.
I’m also getting plenty of vicarious thrills as the girls keep me posted night and day.
They’ve sent shots of the tiny
but cute Tokyo apartment that they rented
on Airbnb.com, and videos
of masterful sushi chefs giving them a true "raw" deal.
They’ve sent photos of the jazz clubs they’ve visited at night, at some of which Allegra was asked to get up and sing.
They also sent photos of their biggest and craziest indulgence of all, a visit to Tokyo's top nail artist. (It's all there
in black and white... and bling.)
Seems like I didn’t have to fly halfway around the world to have the
time of my life, after all. They’re having the time of my life for me. Japan is all that I expected and more.
want to move here,” Allegra wrote. “I can only live in New York, Paris, or Tokyo.”
As they say, how are you going to keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen… Tokyo?
No matter. Sounds like
she’s definitely going back sooner or later. Probably sooner. And if she’s going,
then I’ve made up my
mind. Firmly and decisively. I’m going with her.
Next time. No matter what.
Job or no job.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Word From the Weiss
Happy belated Mother’s Day to all my fellow mothers and others out there from NiceJewishMom.com!
In the interests of avoiding sadness, self-flagellation, and all those not-so-good things, I decided to not let myself get all choked up (or more than moderately verklempt) about the fact that my daughter would be spending Mother’s Day with her boyfriend’s
mother this year instead of with me. After all, they’re both in Hong Kong, and I’m NOT…
so how could we twain possibly meet?
Instead, I decided to thank my lucky (Jewish) stars that I had at least one child here with whom
to spend my favorite Hallmark holiday. After all, only days earlier, both of
my kinder had been
out of the country.
Aidan was on the verge of finishing up his first year of
grad school at Columbia, but still managed to find time to spend the week in Paris.
Yes, actual Paris.
In April, no less.
He has continued working throughout the year as a jazz journalist, on top of his full-time studies (and on top of writing a book about rocker Lou Reed in his “spare time”), and JazzTimes magazine
had sent him abroad to cover an annual event called International Jazz Day.
But even with
all of that, he managed to get back in time to
celebrate with his dear old nice Jewish mom.
Having two out of two children
out of sight, earshot, and the continental US of A – even for a matter of only seven days – helped point out to me the cold hard truth: I am clearly no longer a full-time mom with offspring to nurture and mouths to feed. Far from. But
as everyone unites to acknowledge once each year, a mother’s work is never done.
Not even on Mother’s Day.
With no mother of my own to pay tribute to anymore, you might think my work was indeed done when it came to making plans for
this illustrious occasion. Last year, for the
first time, I let my kids make all of the arrangements and we had a terrific time.
But I generally hate to leave things to chance. And with Allegra away and Aidan juggling so many balls in the air at once, I
decided to take matters into my own hands again. So I booked a restaurant for Sunday brunch
and invited my family to join me.
Since Aidan still
had final papers to write, that restaurant was very near to where he lives, in NYC. And as long as we were going into the city from Connecticut, we decided to make a whole weekend of it. Now, that’s a celebration.
I was hoping that Allegra wouldn’t take it too hard that she was
missing yet another family occasion. Presumably, way over in Hong Kong, she would not be inundated with constant reminders about the holiday on TV, in stores, and virtually
Americans evidently don’t have the market cornered on anything anymore, and that goes
for sappiness, national celebrations, and the commercialization of just about everything. Valentine’s Day and Halloween are just as big in Hong Kong, she tells me. And Mother’s Day may be even bigger.
After all, no matter what your nationality, race, or religion, everyone
has a mother.
So the occasion remained very much on her mind, and to my infinite surprise,
a box arrived midweek all the way from Hong Kong.
I didn’t have
a clue what was in it, but I knew it was a Mother’s Day gift because it was addressed to me. And all over the box she had scrawled one intriguing word.
No, not “mom.”
“You shouldn’t have!” I texted her after writing
to say that a parcel had just arrived. According to the label, it had set her back a full $241 in Hong Kong dollars just to mail it. Fortunately, by my calculation that was only 31 U.S. bucks. If you can call that “only.”
“You really shouldn’t have!” I declared.
But she insisted
that it was worth it to be able to participate in the holiday from afar. The cost of doing
business when you happen to be an international jazz singer, I guess.
To make us both feel as though she were actually right here, and to
make the day feel even more special, I decided to
wait until Sunday to open it. But I couldn’t help gazing
at it expectantly all week, as though this
fragile thing were an egg about to hatch.
standing guard over this presumably precious cargo, I couldn’t help but worry.
What if I accidentally left it at home and forgot to bring it on our trip to New York?
What if I dropped it in transit and the fragile item inside it shattered into pieces?
What if on its journey halfway around the globe its contents had
Just to be sure, I picked
it up and gave it a good shake. I didn’t hear broken glass.
The morning we left, I carried it carefully out and put it
into the back seat of my car.
So I freaked out hours later when I learned that my husband,
who had dropped me off to briefly visit a relative, had put the car into a garage for the remainder of the day.
My box from Hong Kong was sitting inside in plain view. What if somebody stole it?
I worried about this well into the evening, although the play we saw that night proved to be a wonderful distraction.
“The Spoils,” written by and starring nice but
clearly neurotic Jewish actor Jesse Eisenberg, had just begun previews at the Signature Theater on West 42nd
In this dark yet
wickedly witty production, a young man named Ben, played with manic intensity by Eisenberg, teeters precariously on the precipice of adulthood. Stalled
in his career and abrasive enough to alienate everyone around him but his affable Nepalese roommate, he wallows in inertia while avoiding
reality round-the-clock via a steady diet of pot, beer, and other forms of self-medication.
All that threatens
to change when he learns that a former grade-school classmate is marrying his longtime childhood crush, and he resolves to win her affections for himself.
To tell you any more about “The Spoils” would warrant a spoiler alert. Suffice it to say that the dialogue truly crackled throughout, and all five characters involved
were portrayed with enormous skill and impressively nuanced complexity. No wonder the audience ultimately erupted in a unanimous standing
It was only after we’d exited the theater that I remembered my package
in the car. We virtually ran all 20 blocks to the parking garage. Good thing I was wearing
Phew! No need
to have worried. It was right where I’d left it.
Mired in a mysterious traffic jam,
we didn’t arrive at our hotel until after midnight. But there we were due for another pleasant surprise.
I never miss a chance to tout
the advantages of spending the night in Long Island City, where you can park on the street for free and hotel rates are only
a fraction of those in far tonier Manhattan. However, the chain hotels we opt for there, while perfectly nice, are often a little dingy and out-of-date.
Feeling that I deserved
at least a small step up for Mother’s Day weekend, I’d chosen to book a hotel we’d never
tried before. The Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Queens/Queensboro Bridge turned out to be a revelation. Only two years old, it boasted a bright,
modern lobby and up-to-date, spacious rooms that were smartly furnished and pristine. Our
king room, including breakfast, was only $151/night, and we managed to make a future reservation for only $143. You won’t find rates like that in Manhattan.
Unfortunately, while pausing in the lobby to make myself a late-night cup of tea, I put
my suitcase down and it toppled over… and right onto the box marked “FRAGILE.”
Now what had I done?
There was still no sound of broken glass. But I wanted to make
sure, and I had waited long enough. Besides, with Hong Kong 12 hours ahead of us, it was already Mother’s Day there, and I’d be able to thank Allegra before she went out for the day.
So safely in our
room, I dared to slice open the taped corners and open it at last.
There, swaddled in bubble wrap, was an exquisite antique jewelry box. And not just any jewelry box. It was the same one I had admired at a
street market the day after we had first arrived in Hong Kong last fall. Allegra had remembered and hunted it down.
And then mailed it in time to arrive for Mother’s Day. How thoughtful was that?
favorite part, of course, however, was the card enclosed. The one that pronounced me
“completely and utterly brilliant.”
She, of course, was
the utterly brilliant one to have found a card that referenced an inside joke we have about my late mother,
a.k.a. Grandma Bunnie, who had been
known to exclaim, “I’m so smart! I’m so brilliant!” every time she unraveled some mystery or other
Clearly, though, Allegra was in anything but a joking mood about the holiday at hand.
“I’m so sad not to be there for the Sunday NYC ritual brunch and stroll,”
she wrote. “From here on out, I’m sticking closer to you.” Or I maybe I would just have to stick closer to her. “Next
year in Japan?”
For now, we would have to settle for her wishing me
a happy Mother’s Day on my iPhone via Facetime just before we met Aidan and Kaitlin at a café
the next afternoon.
As heartbreaking as it was not to have Allegra with
us, it was thrilling to have them regale us about their respective recent travels
over such brunchy delicacies as eggs Florentine and kale and leek quiche.
Aidan told us all about
the many jazz concerts he had attended, featuring
major performers including Herbie Hancock,
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter
and Al Jarreau, culminating in an after-party at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.
As he had noted in his JazzTimes article, "A
mist hung over the City of Light, but despite the light rain, Paris was abuzz with syncopation for a 24-hour blue period...
Public performances, jam sessions, master classes, roundtable discussions, a boat cruise and film screenings provided a rhythmic
backdrop across the city long considered the European capital of jazz."
He had been privy to all this and more. Then, after filing his story for the magazine, he had managed to nip
over to London to visit with a friend who is studying at Cambridge. Just hearing about it gave me a vicarious thrill far more
potent and uplifting than the effervescent mimosa I was sipping.
Kaitlin, who is also getting a Ph.D, had regretfully been unable
to accompany him because she’d been scheduled to give a lecture at an academic conference in Toronto.
Still, she told
us about how lively and cosmopolitan she had found that Canadian city to be, “although it’s
not Paris,” she confessed.
After the meal, Aidan proffered a colorful shopping bag from
the popular chain “L’Occitane en
“Is that from Paris?” my husband ventured brightly.
Aidan looked a little sheepish and just shrugged. No matter.
Inside was a yummy Godiva chocolate bar and a lovely assortment of body lotions in scents
including “Jasmin & Bergamote” and “Iris Bleu & Iris Blanc,” and
presumably they had originally come from France.
Besides, the most meaningful part (aside from knowing that my son had found time to think of me
and be with me at such a hectic period in his life) was the card enclosed, which stated in part, “You are the best mom I know… and the best one I’ve got.”
Given that he still had final papers due the next day, I fully expected them to bolt the
moment that the meal was done.
We exited the restaurant to find a bustling street
fair in full swing, and to our surprise the kids
spent close to two hours more wandering around with us, just chatting, buying tchotchkes and enjoying being out in the sunshine together.
No, that wasn’t Paris, either. But it was even better, if you ask me, because we were with them.
And we had no doubt whatsoever that they wanted to be with us.
So in the end, I may not have been all choked up.
But I must admit
that I ended up a little more than moderately verklempt.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
A Word From the Weiss
Between drawn-out waits in the waiting room and the dreaded ordeal of being weighed in (fully dressed, no less), going to the doctor can be a real pain in the neck.
But one day last week I went to the doctor mostly because I had a pain in the neck.
OK, to be honest, I actually went in order to have my annual physical… and if you haven’t done so within the last year or so, then so probably should you. (I have a friend who never goes to the doctor, which is strange considering that she happens to be married
to one. No, I’m not going to name any names. But
if you are reading this, you know who you are!)
Having a physical is not something I typically enjoy, or look forward to in any way. But for
once I was actually very glad I was going… because I had a pain in the neck.
I’d had this pain in the neck for over two months. Maybe even more. It wasn’t there all the time. And sometimes it
wasn’t even pain, exactly. It was more
of a creepy tingling sensation. But it was there at some point every day, and it was bad enough to worry me.
It wasn’t ever quite bad enough, however, to make me go to the doctor just for that.
I really wanted to know what the heck was causing this pain in my neck. But let’s be honest. There was also a part of me that didn’t want to
What if it was something really bad? Then again, what if it was nothing
all that bad? If it was nothing all that bad,
then it probably would go away
by itself in due time. Why subject myself to doctor’s visits, X-rays, MRIs, and other expensive or invasive procedures when it would most likely turn out to
be nothing (and go away in due time)?
Of course, I had my own suspicions about what was causing the pain, and the amount of worry
that these caused me was arguably worse than
the actual pain itself.
No, I am not a doctor, but I play one regularly on
the Internet… and in this space.
And as I once documented here, about three or four years ago I was diagnosed with two small nodules in my thyroid gland, which
is located more or less in the neck.
These nodules were initially detected during my annual physical (one of many reasons that I don't
like to go for my annual physical).
doctor was doing all of the usual routine stuff with a stethoscope and whatnot.
He listened to me breathing audibly and with emphasis from both the back and the front. He
tapped my knees with a rubber doohickey to see
if I automatically kicked back. (I did.)
Then he felt around my neck and the center of my throat as though looking for something he had lost and he asked me to cough.
At this, he made
the kind of horrified facial expression that
you only see on Kabuki masks or in old, silent movies and asked me
to cough again.
Then he told me I appeared to have a thyroid nodule,and he sent me for an ultrasound.
He also sent me for a fine-needle biopsy,
which I would venture was about the most excruciating thing I had ever endured, had I not gone
through natural childbirth…and heard Ariana Grande perform at The Grammys.
I don’t want to bore you with the entire story all over again. Suffice it
to say that he advised having my whole thyroid removed because, even though it was functioning just fine, it would be too big a hassle to keep monitoring those nodules for the rest of my
Preferring to preserve all of my original parts for as long as possible, I decided to seek a second opinion. Dr. Second Opinion told me that he was around 99 percent sure that those nodules were benign, rather than malignant. And in the years
since, they have both grown slightly smaller,
rather than larger, substantiating his
to be sure, though, he has continued to monitor
them via an annual ultrasound, the most recent of which, in December, exhibited no perceptible changes.
some reason I was now in pain, and that pain had given way to anxiety. The discomfort
in my neck was on the left side. As far as
I could recall, one of the nodules I had was dead center and the other was on the right. But perhaps I was wrong about that. Or maybe
there were new nodules now, and these were not quite so benign.
And so I found myself walking around worrying that maybe I had… you know what.
you spell hypochondriac? I can. But I don’t spell it with a capital H, or honestly believe that I am one. I just knew that I had nodules
in my thyroid, and now I had pain in
my neck – a mysterious pain that came and
went, but would never go away for good.
As preoccupied as I was with those persistent pains,
and my growing fears, I did not mention one word about them to anyone. Even
though I was in agony, I kept mum. For months.
I didn’t tell my husband because he actually is a hypochondriac – with a capital H. He would
have nixed my wait-and-see approach and insisted I go to the doctor at once.
I didn’t tell friends because I didn’t want to bore them, particularly with ailments that might not even exist.
And I didn’t tell my
daughter when she came home from Hong Kong recently to visit for three weeks because I didn’t want to alarm her. Nor did I want to alarm my son.
The pains were so bad that it often felt like there were little knives inside my neck.
They were so bad that I couldn’t wear a necklace of any kind – not even a virtually weightless chain – nor any piece of clothing that
touched my neck.
They were so bad
that I sometimes found myself on the verge of tears.
Late at night, when my husband wasn’t looking, I would stand before the bathroom mirror,
craning my neck upward, trying to detect if there were something visibly wrong. Gently and gingerly, I
would probe around the vicinity that
felt most tender to the touch. But mostly I tried not to touch it at all because that only made the pain worse.
I did this for
a month… then another month… And then another month began.
One night, about a week before
my annual physical, I resorted to taking naproxen. It was the night that I was
going out to dinner and the theater with my daughter, and I didn’t want to risk having anything undermine that, including a pain in the neck. I’m not a major fan of taking medications that
merely mask pain, but drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen
are supposedly anti-inflammatory, so I thought that this might help.
To my amazement, it did offer relief that continued into the next day. But then, like a cat stealthily creeping back out from under the bed, the pain suddenly reappeared.
So, as I said, I was actually happy for once that it was time to go for my physical.
Well, not entirely that happy. I was still dreading the weigh-in sequence of events. Only the
day before, I’d run into a friend who goes to the same doctor as I do, and she’d confessed
to me that our doctor had admonished her that she needed to lose weight.
If my doctor (who
is no longer the doctor who discovered the nodules) told me that I had to lose weight, I would die.
The truth is that I know I need to lose weight because I put on 4 pounds this winter – 4 unwelcome pounds, needless to say – and all 4 are still there. But I want
to be the one who says I’m fat. I would be mortified if it got to the point where
my doctor said it to me.
The exasperating thing is that you weigh even more at the doctor’s
office than at home because they weigh you fully
dressed. (Then they tell you to take your clothes off. Go figure!)
To minimize the amount to which I would tip the scale at the doctor’s
office on top of those 4 unwelcome extra pounds, I dressed for my appointment as lightly as I could.
The lightest outfit I could find was a black tank top and a pair of thin cotton pants printed
with elephants that I had bought last fall in Bangkok. The cotton in these pants was so thin that I almost weighed less in them than I
did when I was completely naked. However, I did not look thin in them. Not thin at all. They made me look like an
When my svelte friend Liz came to visit later that day and she began to complain about the “tire” that she was developing around
her middle – a totally imaginary tire, I might add – I said to her, “Tire? What tire? ---- your tire! I’m wearing elephant pants!”
But I digress.
The wait at the doctor’s office wasn’t all that
long, and my weight at the doctor’s office wasn’t all that bad – only those 4 extra pounds, thanks to the
Soon enough, I
found myself in an exam room telling the young resident who was assisting the doctor that day about the mysterious pain in my neck.
I told her it hurt more when I exercised and after I ate. I told her sometimes it wasn’t a pain at all, just a creepy, tingling sensation. I admitted
it had been there for months.
She noted all of this on my chart and left. Then the doctor came in.
She did all of that usual routine stuff with the stethoscope and whatnot. She listened to me breathing
audibly and with emphasis from both the back and the front. She tapped my knees with a rubber doohickey to see if I automatically
kicked back. (I did.)
She told me that Livalo, the statin drug that she had
insisted I start taking for my high cholesterol, was
working. In only four months, my numbers (unlike my weight) had dropped 50 points!
Then she asked me about the mysterious pain in my neck.
repeated much of what I had told the young resident. She nodded solemnly.
she gently probed around my neck in the vicinity in which it
When she found the spot at the root of the pain, she squeezed
it and I screamed.
“You have a strained tendon there that is very inflamed,” she explained.
A strained tendon? That was it?
She wondered what I’d done to strain it. “Have
you been talking a lot?” she asked.
Talking a lot? As a blogger, I mostly stay home alone all day with my dog, Latke. Sure,
I talk on the phone a bit. And I talk to my dog. But how much could I really say?
“Have you been singing a lot?” she asked.
Singing a lot? Yes, actually come to think of it, I had been singing a lot. For the first time this year, I had been given a number of short solos in my temple’s
annual Purim spiel – the Broadway-style
musical extravaganza that I write the lyrics for
each year. This year, I had recast the
lyrics to 13 Beatles songs for the show, which we called “Across the Jewniverse.”
I had been so anxious about those solos that
I had practiced them night and day.
Practiced them for months… mostly for my dog.
One of my solos had occurred in the song “Yellow Submarine.” In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I hadn’t been singing
“Yellow Submarine” to my dog. This would have bored her. Rather, I had been
singing a song that I had written just for her, “Doggie
We all live in
a doggie submarine
Doggie submarine, doggie submarine.
We all live in a doggie submarine
Doggie submarine, doggie submarine.
And our dogs are all aboard
more of them live next door
And the dogs begin
She had unquestionably enjoyed this, encouraging
me to sing it even more.
I did not say this
to the doctor, though. Nor did I sing it to the
told her that I’d thought the problem might have been my thyroid nodules.
thyroid nodules?” she asked, clearly mystified. She told me that my nodules were in the center and on the right of my neck. The inflamed tendon was
on the left.
Then the young resident came back into the examination room. “Look!” the doctor told
her. “She has an inflamed tendon in her neck!” She reached over
to indicate the painful spot that she had located, but I screamed
again before she could even get close.
“I wasn’t going to touch
it,” she assured me with a hearty laugh. She went on to say this was no big deal. “Just take Aleve for a week or so, and the
pain will probably go away.”
I dared to address the elephant in the room. No, not my pants -- my weight. She shrugged.
“It’s only 4 pounds,” she said. “They will go away, too.”
I wasn’t completely convinced the pain in my neck had been caused by singing. Perhaps I simply had strained that tendon while lifting a suitcase when we’d gone to Florida in January.
The good news was that
it wasn’t my thyroid nodules. And it wasn’t you know what.
So I guess I was going to live. Live and take Aleve.
The fact was, though, that I didn’t actually get around to taking the Aleve. I
was so relieved that it wasn't you know what that I stopped peering at my neck, and poking around on my neck. And within a week or so the persistent pain finally did subside and pretty
much went away on its own.
In fact, I’m wearing a necklace right now for the first time in several months. And feeling very fortunate.
But also like a fool.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds – or ailments, aches, and mysterious pains -- although many problems do eventually get better and go away on their own.
more often than not, putting your head in the sand is no real solution at all. Denial just prolongs your medical problems and maybe even allows them to get worse.
At the very least, it allows you to spend months consumed with unnecessary worry.
And that can be a real pain in the neck.
Friday, May 1, 2015
Word From the Weiss
The old adage about trying to live each day as though it were your last is a lovely thought, but a losing proposition. How can you savor every single moment or morsel of life when a sense of impending doom
hovers over you, ready to sabotage
It’s also a losing proposition financially for those who need to “bring home the bacon” (excuse the cliche and trite
reference to trayf). I mean, if anyone actually knew they were going to die tomorrow, who in their
right mind would go to work?
But let’s face it – we bloggers don’t bring home a whole lotta bacon (let alone kosher chickens, which are worth more than their weight in gelt). So I decided to treat myself
to a rare break last week and live as though it were indeed my last – not on earth, per
se, but with my daughter home. For it was. After a
three-week respite, beginning with Passover, Allegra was slated to return to her charming b.f. JP and her exotic life as a chanteuse in Hong Kong.
Given that, the last
thing I wanted to do was sit home alone tapping
on a computer. Can you blame me for not posting one word?
Of course, all play and no work might make Mom not just a nice, but
a very happy girl, but my daughter – being a rising
jazz singer with a new CD to promote – wanted to perform at least once while she was back in
the States. No matter. Her going to work merely meant my going to hear her sing. And what could make me happier than that?
That, at least, is what I believed… until the night of the big gig arrived.
First, though, the fun.
Following a few fleeting days that she spent home in Connecticut after our family seder, Allegra had departed for NYC, her usual milieu, to visit with
my son Aidan and his girlfriend Kaitlin and catch up with her many friends.
My husband and I planned to join her the following weekend in time to see her perform. Then I came up
with a better plan.
Since Allegra would be away for Mother’s Day, I suggested I come in a day early so we could have our own Mother’s Day celebration.
Make that Mother’s Night – a mother-daughter night out on the town.
Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get bigger every day… but not too big
to go to the theater every now and
then with their moms.
To our delight, a new stage version of one of our favorite movies of all time, Gigi, had just opened on Broadway. Even better, I’d learned that a girl named Hannah Chin, with whom Allegra had gone to high school, was not just in the show, but the understudy for
the lead, Vanessa Hudgens, for whom she is practically a dead ringer.
How could we resist?
My good friend Liz, who lives in Brooklyn, agreed not
only to let me hitch a ride down to the city on Thursday, but
also to put me up for the night. I met up with Allegra in Manhattan late that afternoon, and
we immediately set out to find dinner.
Not just any dinner,
mind you. Sushi dinner. I’m such a big fan that I think I could eat it three meals a
day. My husband, alas, is not. So raw fish was long ago relegated for me to the realm of Mom’s night out.
Seeking a restaurant as close to the theater as possible, we stumbled upon Ageha Sushi, on Ninth
Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets. The decor was pretty yet unpretentious, and the prices beyond reasonable.
The portions, however, were not.
I’m not complaining,
mind you. Quite the opposite. We ordered a $52 combination platter of sushi and sashimi for two, and were soon presented with a fishy feast not
only gorgeous, but so gargantuan that for the first time in my life, I couldn’t eat it all.
Besides, it was already time to leave this midtown slice
of Tokyo for turn-of-the-century Paris.
For those unfamiliar with the classic Lerner and Loewe musical Gigi – based on a novella by the French writer Colette – it is a wry coming-of-age story about a spirited young woman being groomed for the life of a courtesan (a quaint euphemism for “kept woman”).
As I had gathered
from the New York Times review,
this lively and endlessly amusing new stage version incorporates many subtle but key
changes from the beloved 1958 movie starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, and Maurice Chevalier. Most of these alterations seem geared to make the production more, uh, politically correct.
The title character, for example, played by Ms. Hudgens (of High School
Musical fame), is now a relatively seasoned 18-year-old, rather than a mere 15. Meanwhile,
her love interest has lost a few years; Corey Cott, the actor who portrays the wealthy, world-weary Gaston, is only 25 (as opposed to Mr. Jourdan, who was a decidedly more mature 37 when the movie was made), making their liaison seem a lot less
"skeevy," as kids say these days.
Yet another possible “ick” factor also has been given the axe by
putting “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,”
that anthem to youth and feminity, into the mouths of Gigi’s grandmother “Mamita”
and her sister, Aunt Alicia, rather than having it crooned by the middle-aged
actor who plays the role originated by a 70-year-old Chevalier.
No doubt there are people who resent having anyone tamper
with a single detail of classic shows they
love so well that they know every word by heart. Not us. Allegra and I were in sheer show-tune ecstasy, and it took every ounce of self-restraint we possess to resist singing along, not to mention jumping out of our third-row seats during the effervescent number “The Night They Invented Champagne.”
And as if that weren't thrilling enough, knowing someone in the cast added yet another
soupcon of drama. That is to say, I must confess that I alternated between being ready to levitate or to almost plotz
every time Hannah would appear and approach our side of the stage. Afterwards, we waited at the stage door until
she appeared, and Hannah (who has adopted the stage name Hannah Florence)
seemed genuinely delighted to see us.
Then, despite the massive quantity of uncooked sea critters we’d managed to consume only hours earlier, Allegra confessed to a craving for a "New York slice." I think it was less a matter of hunger, frankly,
than her own version of living each day as though it were her last – in this case, her last in New York, which for the moment it practically was.
With luck, we realized that we were only a block or so away from Don Antonio by Starita, our favorite pizza vendor in New York (the American cousin of a famed pizzeria in Naples, Italy, that purports with ample
justification to be the world’s best).
I agreed to go along with her just for the company and a glass of wine. But one look at the gooey cloud formation
of freshly melted mozzarella atop her sizzling Margherita pie and I must confess that I did my share to make it disappear
(although once again we had met our match and only managed to down half).
It was a good thing that by then I'd nearly had my fill of both fun and food,
for the next day was gig day and we hit the ground running.
Being a jazz singer may sound like a life of pure glamour, but like anything else it takes hard work behind the scenes. Allegra had managed to book the club weeks earlier and
hire a four-piece band to back her up, all
arranged by emailing back and forth from Hong Kong. She
also had already held a rehearsal
the day before, but still needed to make copies of all the music they would perform
and then go get her hair cut and curled.
By the time we had returned by subway to her apartment on Roosevelt
Island, we were both already exhausted. But this was no time for a nap. By the time she had warmed up her voice while throwing on a curvy polka dot dress, high heels, and makeup, we were already dangerously late.
her only New York show for the foreseeable future, we had compiled a fairly extensive guest list. Many of Allegra’s
friends were coming on their own, but
my husband and I had reserved 16 seats to accommodate our own group.
So I was alarmed to arrive
at the club, WhyNot Jazz Room in the West Village, at the same moment as two uncles of one of Allegra’s former boyfriends, who remain family friends. No, that isn’t quite accurate. I was absolutely delighted to see them, but alarmed to learn that they didn’t have a reservation. The place was fully booked.
I promised to try to fit them in at our table, but to my horror the hostess
proceeded to usher me to a table for eight beside a table for four. How would we ever fit 16 people there, let alone an additional
two? Maybe kids are happy to squeeze in and make room for one more, or maybe even six. Our friends, however, are no longer kids.
Moments later, one of my son’s former college roommates turned up unexpectedly with
a young woman in tow. They didn’t have reservations either.
our good friends Sally and Dial appeared, only to announce that their son Sam would be joining them. Hadn't he called to let
He had not.
I don’t know why I feel like I am throwing a bat mitzvah every time Allegra
performs. But as a nice Jewish mom, I want everyone to be happy, and that means everyone needs to have a seat, whether they
have reserved one or not.
My husband would have told me to relax –
that it was really NOT MY PROBLEM. But my husband was somewhere stuck in traffic. So for now
it was my problem.
So was having to explain repeatedly,
as people began to arrive, where the heck he was.
I stood around sweating and fretting while trying to warmly greet everyone who walked in. It was a bat mitzvah
all over again, minus the Torah portion, motzi and
my husband surfaced after being MIA and told me that a cousin had canceled at the last minute. Then Sam squeezed in beside
his folks and a pair of Allegra’s friends failed to show up, so the uncles got the table saved for them.
And by the time my daughter suddenly launched into her first song, I realized that this
wasn’t a bat mitzvah, after all. Nor was it a matter of life or death. It was just fun.
The fun continued
when Allegra invited us to join her friends for dinner after the show at a nearby Italian ristorante.
And if spending the
night before in Gay Paree hadn't been the pinacle of pure fun, we reached it while treating
Allegra and her entourage after that to dessert at my favorite spot in the Village, Big Gay Ice Cream. (I recommend the cone
called American Globs, soft-serve vanilla dipped in sea salt, chocolate-covered pretzels and dark chocolate. Need I say more?)
The succeeding few days continued to be so lively, lovely and action-packed – and yes, fun – that if they
had been my actual last days on earth, I would have gone a happy woman to my grave.
My husband and I were invited to an elegant brunch at the exquisite New York apartment of
a wonderful couple named Stacey and David, who are close friends of our friends Sally and Dial.
Then some other friends of our friends took us on an epic
tour of the many art galleries in Chelsea, where we spent the rest of the day viewing everything from sleek modern sculptures
to framed originals of the incomparably witty and sardonic nice Jewish cartoonist Roz Chast.
Then, although I was ready to collapse, we took a subway to Roosevelt Island and had our
first lavish barbecue of the year on the roof of Allegra’s building overlooking the city skyline.
Then we raced down to the West Village because (just when you would imagine
our daughter must be getting sick of us by now), she invited us to join her and her friends to hear famed Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez perform at the Jazz Standard.
Never mind the usual, “Are we having fun yet?” Rather, how could it be that we fogies
were still having fun? That was the question.
And still the fun was far
from over. It continued. For three more nights… reaching a decided crescendo on our last evening together, when our
entire family went out for dinner and dancing at Swing 46, a classy nightclub on West 46th Street where my son plays the bari saxophone every Wednesday night as part of the renowned Stan Rubin
And still, before turning in for the night, to top it all off we stopped in for, yes, yet
another New York slice.
It is any wonder that my spirits crashed the next afternoon when three weeks
of fun came to an abrupt halt in front of an airline terminal at JFK?
Perhaps it was that Allegra had been home
long enough this time for it to seem like old times. We had begun to feel like she was back for good. Then she was gone again in a flash.
Or perhaps the problem was something else. They say that you can’t be too thin or
too rich. But perhaps you can have too much fun.
Oh, well. Given the choice, I would happily have it
all over again.
Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get
bigger every day… but never too big to come home again.
Those days with my daughter may not have been my actual last days on earth. But at least now I have memories to last…
until she comes home again, and the fun begins anew.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015