Monday, May 18, 2009

A pleasant surprise, a sad goodbye and some thoughts

Happy Monday. It's been a while. 

Let's start out with some good stuff. 

Congratulations to Jennifer Weber, my niece, daughter of my sister, Paula, and her husband Joe Weber, of Marlborough, Conn., on her graduation from the School of Visual Arts, a prestigious, well respected college in New York. She's a cartoonist, quite a good one, and looking for a job. (hint, hint)

Those running her school, bless their little hearts, decided to have the graduation on a Friday afternoon. No biggie, unless you're an observant Jew. There are a few of those in New York. So, we weren't able to take her out afterwards, or help her move from her dorm to summer quarters in the city. 

This is going to be like Arlo's "Alice's Restaurant"...I didn't come to talk about graduations, I came to talk (not about the draft) but about honesty and wanting to do a good job.

There wasn't time to drive back to New Haven after the graduation, so we spent the Sabbath with daughter Malka (many in New Haven know her as Melanie) and family in Washington Heights, Manhattan. 

As we emerged from the subway, we meet son-in-law Josh and two grandchildren heading for the park. That's unusual for a Friday afternoon. The first words out of Josh's mouth were, "There is nothing to worry about, he'll be OK, but..."

There are few phrases as heart-freezing as those. Turns out Raphi, 4, had fallen and opened a small gash on the back of his head, and was bleeding a lot. Head wounds do that, but he had his his head hard, so Malka had taken him to the nearest hospital, Columbia Presbyterian, on 168th Street, and was not expected back before the start of the Sabbath. 

Suffice it to say Raphi was fine after treatment and Malka showed up about 10 p.m., after having walked back from the hospital. Observant Jews don't ride on the Sabbath, unless it was an emergency. This wasn't, at least not anymore. They don't carry, either. So, a bag holding their cell phone, insurance card, some $40 in cash, hospital checkout forms, identifications, and the like, had to be left behind. Malka had tried to get the emergency room guard and others to take possession of her bag, and finally, in disgust and with a few choice words, she left the bag there and walked home.

Fast-forward to Saturday night. Malka and Josh were about ready to start canceling the cell phone, applying for new IDs and the like when grandpa (me), always the optimist or at least the proponent of never assuming the worst (or anything else for that matter), urged them to call the hospital to see if the bag was recovered. 

It turns out that not only was the bag found and turned in, but the security department of the hospital had conducted a thorough inventory of the bag's contents and sealed them in a plastic bag with a copy of the inventory. Nothing was missing, not a cent and the cell phone had not been used.  Although the guard on Friday night had seemed uncaring, obviously he either had a change of heart or someone else decided to take charge of the situation.

Let's hear it for Columbia Pres' security staff and a hearty thanks to all concerned.

Page 2

Yesterday, there was a memorial gathering for Rev. Sidney Krauser, who has been a stalwart at Cong. Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in Westville. Mr. Krauser had touched many lives in the Jewish and general community for nearly 60 years before moving to Maryland three years ago. He died last month.

His daughter and many leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community talked about Mr. Krauser, but the essence of the many was best captured by a piece in the New Haven Independent by Paul Bass.  Mr. Krauser had run the synagogue, making sure there was the minyan, the quorum of 10 men necessary to say certain prayers, especially the Kaddush for the departed that ties one generation to the other, and to read from the Torah. 

He also took care of more mundane duties, making sure there was oil for the furnace, that the place was cleaned. During the days when the New Haven Orthodox community was thriving, he was principal of the Hebrew school. He oversaw the cemeteries and knew the location of every grave in the synagogue's cemeteries. 

Sue and I met him in 2002, when we joined Bikur Cholim. He so much reminded me of the men in my father's synagogue in New Britain, men with Yiddish accents who followed Jewish law to the letter and had hearts that could melt gold. Usually, they had names like "old Mr. Cohen" or "old Mr. Lifshutz." 

Nobody called Mr. Krauser old. Some people called him Sidney. I couldn't. He would stand on the Bimah, the stage from which services were conducted on Sabbaths and holidays and say things like, "Dis veek, ve got a good kiddish (post-services refreshments), no like last veek. Dis veek, it's a good kiddish,." 

It seemed to lack tact, until you found out that last week's kiddish was his. This man read from the Torah, but he had it memorized. He also knew the Prophets and writings, from Joshua to Malachi, by heart. He wasn't a rabbi, but he easily could have been. 

I'm sorry I didn't know Mr. Krauser a the height of his powers, but maybe it's better that we knew him when he could let down his guard and be himself.  I remember sitting transfixed for hours as he told me his story. 

They're mostly all gone now.  Mr. Krauser and Norman Rubin in New Haven, Max Prager in New Britain. Those who were not rabbis but held their synagogues together.

Now, I guess, it's up to us.

Page 3

And another one bites the dust. The Tucson Citizen, which had been publishing for 22 years when the gunfight at the OK Corral occurred in 1881, is printing no more. It's now web-only.

The idea how many of its 60 employees will be affected, but most probably will lose their jobs. 

Of course, one usually knows someone who works or had worked at that paper. Jon Ainsworth, still riding the desk at the Connecticut Post (at least I hope he still never know these days), labored for that publication. It's a Gannett paper, and Gannett has announced that its paper publications, even its star USA Today, will take a back seat to the Web. 

Page 4

A couple of quickies....I did a piece in the Independent about the upcoming hearings on the Journal-Register's bankruptcy and its plan to pay $1.7 million to executives, either for closing newspapers and firing people, or just for not leaving the company in its bankruptcy. That's the company that publishes the main print newspaper in the city and the second-largest in the state.

It seems the response was underwhelming. Only two people commented. One said, basically, why would anyone be surprised that people are being paid to destroy something? 

That's pretty sad.

Also pretty sad was the fact that the mayor of New Haven (choose one) pitched a fit, threw a nutty, started screaming in public at the electric company for leaving the city. 

Nobody has a quibble with his message. The mayor should be upset with the power company. That's his job: to keep business in the city, and the electric company could have cut a deal with the city on parking for its employees. That's the excuse it's using for moving to the site of a former movie theater in Orange. 

I've met some really strange people who were heads of government. Probably the strangest was Abe Grossman, mayor of Meriden in the 1970s. He was known to take out his dentures and lay them on the lectern before speaking.  He stormed out of meetings, but I never heard of him losing it on the public sidewalk.

Mario Cuomo was famous for screaming at enemies and even at staffers who didn't measure up to his standards. The late Gov. Ella T. Grasso could verbally peel wallpaper off the walls when angered and could teach a sailor to cuss. 

But never in public. Not in this country. And certainly not in front of the cameras. 

Until next time...

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