Monday, August 31, 2009

Saturday, August 29

Saturday, August 29

The weather today was much better than yesterday's constant rain. What little rain there was, was more like a heavy mist. This made our 45-minute drive to Julie & Arnie's house in Hillsdale, New Jersey, much less perilous than it would have been yesterday (which was the day we were originally supposed to go). I didn't take the dogs with me; they enjoyed a quiet day in the Roadtrek.

I love my cousin Julie's house, especially the basement. Living in Southern California where most of the houses are built on slabs, we have no basement, no real attic, and our house doesn't even have a garage (converted to a family room before we moved in). I am extremely jealous of the

spacious storage and extra room(s) a finished basement provides. This spiral staircase is one of two staircases that lead down to Julie & Arnie's basement. When their 3 kids (born in less than a two-year period) were growing up, it served as a giant playroom. Now it contains a ping-pong table, pool table, and enough weight-lifting and gym equipment to rival any commercial gym! There are also two other rooms down here which, I am told, have served various functions over the years, most notably perhaps being where Julie operated her law practice from after giving up her downtown office. And I thought Dave and I had a lot of book-shelf space --- look at this hallway lined with solid built-in bookshelves (that is not a mirror at the end---it's more shelves!). It only appears partially empty because Julie just finished a major clean-out of all her old law books and lots of others, precipitated by a mold problem she discovered after the 29 consecutive days of rain they had in June/July.

Another thing Julie has inherited because she was the only one to really have the room to store them, is our Grandfather Ben's collection of wooden things that made. While all of us grandchildren, and some of the great-grandchildren, have wooden jewelry boxes, ferris wheels, carts & horses, or some of his other works, Julie has some I'd never seen before like this model of the White House Grandpa Ben made. These creations are even more noteworthy when you learn that most of them were made when he was in his 90's or early 100's (he lived to 104) out of little bits of wood that he would find here and there or that Uncle Sam would bring to him at the Jewish Home for the Aged on Coney Island where he live for about the last 20 years of his life. While he might not have been quite as great a whittler and carver as Mooney Warther (see post of Aug. 6), his creations were very detailed (and from memory, I think) Doors always had hinges and opened and closed. The jewelry boxes, with many drawers, were fully functional. The trolley car model he made had wheels that moved, etc. Anyway, we all treasure these things he made and I'm glad Julie has the room and willingness to store them; it would really hurt to see any of them thrown away.
Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent, wasn't it.

An hour or so after we got to Julie & Arnie's house, my cousin David Silber (my mother's brother's oldest son) arrived from his home on Long Island with his girlfriend, Myrna. Here's a picture of me, David, and Julie: three first cousins. The 3 of us, each an offspring of a different one of Ben and Rose Silber's 4 children, hadn't been together in many, many years so we had great fun getting caught up on the different branches of the family. And in addition, we got to enjoy the delicious hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken that Arnie & Julie grilled (in San Diego we would say "barbequed" but out here, they call it "grilled). And with a nice green salad, Aunt Selma's cole slaw, apple pie, and the fruit salad that David & Myrna brought, we were quite satiated by the evening's end.

I got to drive Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam's hybrid car (first time I've driven one) back to their house, where my anxious babies (Maggie and Juliet) were very happy to see me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, August 28

Friday, August 28

Early (10:00) this morning we went into town so I could pick up a prescription at Rite Aid and get a real finger splint to replace the tin foil & gauze home-made one. Aunt Selma needed to do a little shopping at Shop-Rite (a grocery store) nearby. When we were leaving the store, I noticed this neat old picture of the early days in Monroe over the check-out stands. (Monroe was founded in the 1700's). Upon blowing the picture up, I could see that it is actually a collage of at least 3 pictures. I'm not sure if they were all taken in the same time period, but it's a neat picture anyway. Maybe I'll be able to get a modern picture of the store that is shown on the left side of the collage.

Back from our outing to town, we had lunch and then planned to leave for Julie's house; she had kindly invited us and a first cousin (David Silber) of ours for dinner. But it was raining quite hard hard out and Julie called to tell us that David wasn't going to come as he didn't think the old clunker of a rental car he had at the moment would make it in the rain. After some discussion, we decided to postpone the get-together at Julie's until tomorrow in the hope that the weather will be better and David will be able to come; we plan to go rain or shine.

So we wound up staying in all afternoon, watching it rain. Here are some exciting pictures of my probably-broken finger as it looks today and the old and new splints. (Every day can't be as exciting as Niagra Falls!)

Thursday, Aug. 27

Thursday, Aug. 27

The highlight of the day was tripping in the Roadtrek and falling against the door where I'm pretty sure I broke my finger (4th finger, left hand). It hurt like hell. I immediately soaked it in ice water and Aunt Selma helped me fashion a splint out of aluminum foil and gauze. Within a few hours it started turning a pretty shade of purple but at least it stopped throbbing. Got me out of doing lunch dishes, however. (In reality, Aunt Selma hasn't let me wash ANY dishes yet; although I keep offering ---honestly!)

Despite my handicap, I decided to try metal detecting in their yard this afternoon. I had a few beeps in the grass but, like at Joel's house, couldn't find anything when I dug. I tried near the old gazebo too, with the same results. Then I went to the old stone foundation area which is all that remains from an old carriage house (with maid & butler quarters upstairs). I got some different-sounding beeps in this area, which was not grass, but more of a composting type of rich dirt (leaves from the trees in the forrest surrounding it, decaying branches, etc.). The first two areas I dug in yielded large, thin pieces of metal (tin?), one with the remains of what I think is red paint. I'm envisioning a fender or roof part of the carriage but, of course, have no evidence of that. Maybe the building had a tin roof? My next find in the same area was even more exciting. A heavy metal (brass?) round object with a slit in the center. I was thinking that it might be some type of bolt but when Uncle Sam saw it, he said it was an old (150+ years) door knob with a key hole in it. Cleaning it off a bit, I could see the letters "Q. R. S. Co" above the keyhole, and part of a "U", a corroded spot, and then a clear "A" so I'm guessing it said "USA" on the bottom. Too bad it doesn't have a date. I tried looking on the internet for an old company called Q.R.S. that might have made door knobs but so far haven't found anything.
I called it quits on the metal detecting for the day after that (well, I was influenced a little by the mean look from a very large worm who was upset with my disturbing his home).

At night we went out to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant just down the block from them. It's called Bocci's and they were his first customer when the place opened 15 years ago. Very good food, nice ambiance, and a view of the lake as the sun set.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, Aug. 26

Wednesday, August 26

Only one picture today. I don't know what kind of thistle/flower it is, but we saw it on our walk today; I thought it was kind of interesting.

We took it fairly easy today. Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam invited some good friends who live across the lake over for dinner (angel hair spaghetti with some of Julie's left-over sauce from the other night.) These friends are both retired physicians, he a pulmonologist/geriatrician and she was one of the first female endocrinologists to treat male infertility. They were very interesting and we all had a good time at dinner.

It had been raining while we were eating dinner and we were suprised to see the ground all wet when they left after dinner. I worked on the computer a little while but we all called it an early night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25

Tuesday, August 25

I got up at 8:00 am today to take Juliet to the local vet to find out why she's had blood in her urine for the past 3 or 4 weeks. He thinks it is probably a urinary tract infection and put her on antibiotics. If she isn't doing better in a few days,

the next step would be an ultrasound to see if she has stones in her bladder or possibly a tumor. Fortunately, she does not seem to be in any pain from this, whatever it is.

My aunt and uncle had a busy morning (besides taking us to the vet's office) with a carpenter coming to fix the steps down to the dock, a carpet cleaner coming to clean
the carpets, and the gardener coming to trim the hedges. At 12:30, just in time for lunch, my cousin Julie (their daughter) arrived from her house in New Jersey, about an hour away. After we ate, she helped me take out a back seat cushion from the Roadtrek so I could check the water level in my house battery (it was fine) and retrieve some packages that I had stored underneath. After stowing some souvenirs and things I've bought back under there, we set of with some chairs, Uncle Sam, and the dogs to go down to the dock.

None of us wanted to go swimming, but we all enjoyed dangling our feet in the water and talking, all while absorbing the relaxing view of the tranquil lake. Julie left before dinner and after dinner we watched a little of the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" which I'd brought along on DVD. I took a bath, worked on the blog, and then out to the Roadtrek. And thus ends another relaxing day at Walton Lake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24

Monday, August 24

Today was a quiet day. I did some more laundry (Thank you, Aunt Selma ---clean sheets feel soooo good) and worked on the computer a bit after lunch. Then got sleepy and took a nap (and I wasn't even driving!).

Took a few more pictures of the Barash's watering plants and working around the house and a nice one of the lake from the bottom of the driveway.

Around 5:00 we left and went into town. We dropped Uncle Sam off at the Monroe Tennis Club and Aunt Selma took me to an optical shop where I was able to get the nosepiece on my glasses fixed (half of it had broken off). Then we went back to the tennis courts to watch Uncle Sam play. At first he played alone, then a woman came and he played against her for a bit, and when 2 more men came, they played doubles. And, I'm proud to say, Uncle Sam's team won! He's not half bad for a man of 88! And, most of all, he really enjoys it. It's a shame that Aunt Selma can't play any more since her knee replacement surgery last year, plus chronic back problems. Uncle Sam says she was really something to behold!

After he worked up a good appetite, Uncle Sam took us to dinner at the Monroe Diner. Here (somewhere) is a nice picture of the two of them outside the diner. Service was slow, but dinner was good and plentiful enough that we all took home enough left-overs for another meal.

You may be wondering how the cat and dogs are getting along after a few days to get to know each other. I probably won't be able to get these captions lined up properly, but the first picture shows where Millie now likes to hang out. Yes, that is the dogs' bed. So when Juliet saw that, she decided, okay, she'll just sleep on the cat's chair.

Maggie, who really doesn't like going up stairs, can usually be found upstairs hiding under Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam's bed. That's if I make her come in the house; she'd rather spend the day in the Roadtrek. Poor, unsocial Maggie.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23

Sunday, August 23

After breakfast/lunch today, Uncle Sam, Maggie, Juliet and I took a long walk around their property. The first picture is the house from down by the lake. The next is Uncle Sam at their boat dock on the lake (The lake, incidently, is called Walton Lake). And the third picture is the old gazebo (150 years old, he thinks).

In the late afternoon, just when it had started raining again, Julie (Sam & Kit's daughter), Arnie (her husband), Vanessa and Cassie (Julie & Arnie's daughters), and Cassie's boyfriend Jordan, arrived. We sat and talked until the rain stopped, then headed for the lake. Jordan took off in the kayak for a trip around the perimeter of the lake. Arnie, Cassie, Vanessa, and I left in the row boat, with Cassie effortlessly rowing us across the lake. There is a picture of some of the trees on the other side. The sun had come out by then and Arnie and Cassie, being hot, decided to swim back across the lake. Vanessa politely stayed behind with me, in case I needed help rowing the boat back across.

Julie had prepared a delicious spaghetti dinner and brought it along (including salad, broccoli, and yummy carrot cake). I cannot predict how this text is going to align with the photos, but the first table picture is (L to R), Jordan, Kit, Julie. The second is Sam, Arnie, Cassie, Jordan. The third one is Kit, Sue, Vanessa, Sam. And the last is Sam, Sue, Arnie, Cassie, and Jordan. Missing from all the pictures (because he lives in Virginia), is Dustin, Julie & Arnie's son (and Vanessa's twin). They are a wonderful, bright, athletic family and it was great seeing (most of) them again.

It was a fun day.

Saturday, August 22

Saturday, August 22

One really nice thing I like about staying with Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam is that they let me sleep 'till noon, and when I come inside, lunch is on the table --- what more could I ask for? And when they take their naps (or "lay down and rest" as Aunt Selma prefers to say), I can use the ethernet connection upstairs in the office and work on my blog -- also after they go to sleep around 9:30 pm, I can work in the office . From 12:30-2:30 pm and 4:30-9:30 pm, when we are all awake, we can visit! Works out great!

Aunt Selma is my mom's younger sister. Her husband, Sam, always looked very much like my dad, although they were only brothers-in-law. Here they are meeting Maggie and Juliet.

This is Millie, their coon cat.

This is Maggie and Juliet meeting Millie.
What will happen?

Not much, fortunately. When I brought in the dogs' bed
and put it in the kitchen, Millie immediately thought it was a gift for her. Very comfy, she decided.

Speaking of gifts, when I first came upstairs this morning (I have to go up the stairs from the basement where I can enter the house from the driveway where the Roadtrek is parked), I was carrying a few things that I put on the kitchen table while I got the dogs settled. Returning to the table where Uncle Sam was seated hungrily awaiting lunch, he commented, "These cookies are a little dry." I decided to put the dog biscuits somewhere else after that.

It rained most of the day. I did laundry. When it let up a little in the afternoon, we went into town to do a couple errands. On the way back, Uncle Sam drove by where their bungalow
colony used to be. It has all been torn down and a number of nice houses now stand in the area. I was very impressed when he showed me "Kit Ct.", a street that used to run though the bungalow colony. He had named the street in honor of Aunt Selma, whom he has always called "Kit" (short for "kitten"). I have never known anyone who had a street named after them and made Aunt Selma get out of the car so I could take a picture of her next to her street sign.

This is the view from the upstairs office window that I had this afternoon while working on my blog.

Not bad, eh?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 21

Friday, August 21

It was supposed to be only a 2-hour drive today to reach Chanie Goldner's bungalow in the Catskill Mountains (more about who Chanie is in a minute), but the rain which I'd managed to avoid on all but one day (5 weeks ago) of the trip so far finally caught up with me. I didn't have any problems per se driving in the rain (thanks again Robert for the Rain-X on the windows!), but traffic was very slow. Sometimes when the rain was pelting the Roadtrek so hard, I had trouble hearing my GPS!

Chanie Goldner and I met "on line" as we were both researching the Silber Family Tree. My mother's father, Ben Silber, was next to the youngest of 11 siblings (10 boys, 1 girl). Leopold Silber was the oldest. Chanie is Leopold's great-granddaughter. This makes Chanie and me second cousins once removed. Leopold's decendents, including Chanie, are almost all Orthodox Jews. Although Ben himself was Orthodox, his decendents are predominantly Conservative or Reform Jews. (My family is Conservative). I was very anxious to meet Chanie and her family and learn about how Orthodox Judaism is practiced today. And Chanie, I think, wanted to meet her crazy California cousin who would drive all the way across the United States by herself!

Chanie and her family really live in Brooklyn but, like many others there, have a "bungalow" in the Catskills which they use during the summer months and occasional long week-ends during the year. Now, my image of a "bungalow" was a small one or two room cabin which is what my Uncle Sam and Aunt Selma's bungalow colony was like 50 years ago when I spent a summer with them. Chanie's "bungalow" is a beautiful 2-story, 6-bedroom house, decorated with beautiful paintings and works of art (including the hand-made, hook-rug (I think) wall hanging I have a picture of later. Chanie is married to Hertzy Goldner and they have 5 sons ranging in age from 11 to 20-something. The oldest, Meilech, is now married and they have a beautiful 1.5-year-old son, Mordechai, who reminded me very much of my grandson, Philip. Three of Chanie's sons were away at camp, but everyone else was out at the bungalow this day, plus Hertzy's mother (a Holocaust survivor). They were all so very nice and welcoming and I had a wonderful time talking with them ---not to mention the delicious lunch Chanie served -- bagels with egg salad, tuna salad, and baba ganoosh to spread on it, plus salad and rugalach for dessert. All very yummy.

Let me mention a few of the customs and "rules" observed by Orthodox Jews which I'm sure most of my non-Jewish followers may never have heard of: the boys wear payas, or long lengths of hair, usually in front of their ears (although I think Chanie said her 17-year-old likes to pull his behind his ears). They always wear a kipa (also called a yarmulka or skull-cap) on their heads, and when they go out, wear a specific style of hat and you can tell from the style of hat, what country their ancestors were from (I didn't know that until Hertzy showed me pictures of several different styles). Married women always keep their own hair covered by either a wig or a scarf. (All the women in the picture of the family are wearing wigs). They also wear long skirts and long-sleeve blouses almost all of the time. A married man does not touch a woman other than his wife (I knew not to offer to shake hands with Hertzy or Meilech.) When it stopped raining and we went for a walk, Chanie showed me the "men's" swimming pool and the "women's" swimming pool, which makes sense but I'd never thought about. In the synagogue, the men pray on one side, separated by a partition or wall from the women, who, if they come to schul, have to sit on the other side of the partition. (I have posted 2 pictures of the schul which I saw later on our walk, one of the men's side and one of the women's --the men's side has long tables at which they sit. I presume the tables are to lay out the books from which they are reading and studying). On Shabbat (from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday), Orthodox Jews do not drive cars, turn on any appliances, or do any manner of work. I thought they didn't use any electricity at all on Shabbat, but Chanie explained that by using timers to turn lights or other things on and off at certain times, they CAN use electric lights, etc., during Shabbat --- they just can't physically turn them on or off. I found there to be a lot of similarities between the Amish and the Orthodox Jews---not in religious beliefs, obviously, but in their conservative and modest style of dress, their strict adherence to the principles of their faith, and their desire to shield their children from the negative influences of television or internet use. (Chanie has no TV in her house, but she and the other adults do use computers).
Okay, enough Orthodox Jewish education for now.

When it stopped raining so hard, we went out for a walk. I stopped by the Roadtrek and took the dogs out. Everyone was most anxious to see the dogs and I found it almost comical. Apparently, very few of the 120 families in this bungalow colony (all Orthodox or Chasidic Jews) have dogs (or cats) as pets. There's no rule against it, they just don't seem to have pets. So my dogs suddenly became a big attraction for all the neighborhood kids and as word spread that there were DOGS visiting, people started coming out from everywhere (or so it seemed to me), bringing their babies and little kids to see the DOGS. Soon we were surrounded. I found it quite funny and gave Chanie my camera to take some pictures of all this commotion (I've posted a few here). They were quite amazed that little Mordechai wasn't afraid of the dogs and he even petted them (which they were taking their own pictures and video of). Maggie was petrified of all the attention, and the rain didn't help either, and was shaking so violently I finally decided to stop torturing her and let her go back in the camper. Juliet was happy to go on the walk around the community with us, and Mordechai held her leash all the way (more video pictures by the Goldners of this amusing event).

Back at their bungalow after our walk, I put Juliet into the Roadtrek and she and Maggie (when she wasn't under the table) looked out the windows and continued to amuse the neighborhood kids. I had to leave by 6:00 pm since it was Friday night. I could have stayed for Shabbat dinner which I really would have liked to do, but Chanie said that if I stayed past sundown Friday, I wouldn't be able to drive my vehicle until 9:00 pm Saturday night, when Shabbat was over. It would be too complicated, I felt (I would have to plug my Roadtrek in and I don't know what I would have done about lights at night because I don't have timers, etc.) and I had told Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam that I would be arriving that night. So I decided not to stay for dinner, and with gifts of a mini-challah Chanie had baked that morning and some potato kugel, I said good-bye to my second cousin once removed and her family. We may try to get together again once they are back in Brooklyn at the end of the month. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with them. Thank you, Chanie!

It was an hour drive from Fallsburg (where Chanie's bungalow colony was) to Monroe, where my Aunt Selma and Uncle Sam Barash live along the shores of Walton Lake. It had started raining again but I made it okay. It was so great to see them again! (Last saw them 4 years ago when they came to San Diego for my boys' weddings). Aunt Selma is my mother's sister. (Everyone calls her "Kit" but she's always been "Aunt Selma" to me). There will be lots more about them in coming posts; I'll be staying here a couple weeks, unless they throw me out before then. Aunt Selma made us turkey burgers for dinner, we introduced Maggie and Juliet to their cat, Millie, and called it an early night. They like to go to bed around 9:30. But they let me sleep until noon so I think this will work out nicely.