I’m not dating Bill Wheatfield

When I was newly married I used to have a dance group that met once a week at our house. It was a Romanian folkdance ensemble–I called it so because we were also musicians and singers, as well as dancers. Fine. It also happened that the Romanian community was split as it was because of the war–the second one–which, among European Romanians meant there were two sides: communists and fascists. If you were insecure and needed to feel self-worth, you likely succumbed to the Marxists, who first seduced the intelligentsia (the insecure intellectual class who were above insecure proletariat class whose very identity was sealed to the collective) and you embraced communism. The “union” dues began with a complete surrender of individuality, self-reliance, and logic. In opposition to this, you had the fascists, so named by its titular hero, Benito Mussolini, who peddled the same abhorrent surrender of all identity, except packaged in a more uptight, starchy ideology. Naturally, they hated each other as much as their singular enemy: free individuals, who led, or participated in a lifestyle driven and sustained by capitalism. For children of immigrants, such as myself, we had a third option: American.  Looking back now, I see where the great divide in this country took root, and how it led to the present decline of a once great nation of free men and women. But that’s another story.

The relevance of communists and fascists and a Romanian folk dance group is that the great waves of immigration during the post World War II years admitted lots of communists and fascists into America, who used their culture to advance their separate agendas. Today’s parrots (not birds, but an ilkish array of small and big mouth, learned or opinionated missionaries of every stripe) will caw relentlessly that the communists sowed their ideology in universities, while the fascists fomented their racism in various enclaves of zealotry, such as certain kinds of religious stereotypes. Further simplified, these imported European malcontents took advantage of a free land and instituted their pernicious ideas using two of the most effective means of mind control: the media (including Holywood), and politics. But again, this is another story.

Because the Romanian community was split (literally by fascists who stormed the seat of the Episcopate and then used the courts to swindle, bambozzle, or simply outwit the founders–you know, the communists), any kind of cultural activity was controled by either of the factions: the Episcopate whose alligience lay with the Romanian Patriarchate (communists), or the other Episcopate (the fascists) whose divorce from the mother church forced her to ally with the Russian Patriarchate (just as communist as the Romanian Patriarchate, but what do I know?). Put simply, the political division of the Romanian community took place in its 2000-year old religion–Eastern Orthodoxy. People of one episcopate (the communists, for example), did not associate with the fascists from the other. So cultural and religious events were never fully supported by the entire community. The larger point of this digression, however, is that the first wave of immigrants who founded the first churches in America, were largely peasants or skilled trades who didn’t indulge in politics. They, like the archetype immigrant, came to America in search of freedom and a better life. But the second wave–the political malcontents–the communists who fled the fascists, and the fascists who fled the communists, brought their ugly, divisive baggage with them. Suddenly, a regular American, or first generation American Romanian was branded communists or fascist by new arrivals. Worse yet, the shabby intelligentsia slithered into Academe, or the media (including print).  It was a slow, but deadly infection that spread.

So when I resolved to make a dance group, the yankee in me decided it would be a free and independent dance group. I know. And to its distinction, its rebellious and daring claim of being free and independent of any church or cultural authority made it very attractive to young people, both Americans, and First Generation Americans. Before we knew it, we had kids from opposite sides of the political/cultural/religious divide joining my group. And if the kids were participating, then the parents had to cross those 50 year-old lines of demarcation. It isn’t recorded in any history books, but my dance group actually began the seminal process of reuniting the broken Romanian Orthodox community. But back to the center of my story.

A Romanian girl, 6 years new to America, joined my group and became a good friend of mine. Along the way a young man, from the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, also joined my group. We’ll call the girl Ana, and the guy, Milan.  Ana danced and sang, and Milan danced, and sang, and played the accordion with one hand. He hand both hands, mind you, but most of the work was done with the right hand only. I play the accordion, only I use both hands vigorously. Milan used to love to play with me because I did all the left hand work, leaving him free to finesse the keys with his one handed-Serbian trills. He had a very suave style which made his voice seem more than it was. In no time, therefore, Milan worked his Yugo magic on Ana who, cooing melodically in her proud Romo fashion, sent affirmative signals to all who cared to observe. it didn’t seem to bother either one of them that Milan was married.

After a few weeks of practice, I started getting phone calls from one very angry and spurned Mexican woman. “Stop sleeping with my husband, ” she yelled. “What are you talking about?” I asked, as if stupified by the command, given I was married and happy, and exceedingly faithful to my husband. “I know my husband is there,” she continued, and I, “No he isn’t–wait–who are you talking about?” Click.

Everytime we had a practice, I would get a phone call from an angry, spurned, Mexican woman, accusing me of having an affair with her husband, Milan. Soon I found out that the Yugoslavian hearthrob would go to visit Ana after they both left my house. Then I discovered that Milan’s wife, Maria, was convinced I was a homewrecker. She was extremely hot-headed. But why would she think Milan is having an affair with me?
Because Ana and Milan needed a scapegoat.

Maria surmised it must be me, because Milan told her that’s where he was every week. If he came home in the wee hours of the morning, or sometimes not at all,  I guess it was a small leap to conclude I was the “other woman.”  But it offended me deeply that neither Ana nor Milan felt any remorse about their betrayal of Maria. It also insulted me further that neither thought to clear my name as the “adultress.” It should have bothered them. It sure as hell bothered me and Maria.

It’s been years, and Maria divorced Milan, and Milan married a very brutish woman, and Ana married a guy who makes her miserable continuously. My husband left me for another woman–never saw that coming– and just the other day I heard, that someone attempting to deny an affair used me to explain away a man’s name. The man of course, is keeping his head low, and the woman complicit in the affair is happy to use me as a red herring, just as Ana and Milan did.  So just to set the record straight, not that anyone even cares anymore, I did not have an affair with Milan, and I am not dating Bill Wheatfield.

 

 

Sock it to me

I want to talk about socks. They come in pairs, but I prefer to wear two different colors, and the reasons are pretty straightforward. First, I love colors. I love complementing colors, one to the other, same like with food, or people, or clothes. And pairs should complement one another: nobody wants two left feet. But just so that we are clear, the socks, though different in color or pattern, should still have some symmetry in terms of fabric or style. I would never mix a wool sock with a cotton sock, and for that matter, I hate nylon, rayon, or any other kind of synthetic. Cotton is the best. Wool is for sweaters and sheep, which I also like abundantly—both sweaters and sheep. I like sheep very much. Sweaters too, and of course, socks.

But the second reason I am thinking of socks is that I have had many vexations in that direction. For example, I am extremely hard on shoes, most likely on account of the activities I undertake while wearing them. A great deal of walking, to be sure, but also walking on contrary terrain, jumping over things and landing on things, arguing with logs and bricks, stones and big dirt objects. So as a result of the beating my shoes take, they usually spring a leak, which means that my socks now take on water, and after many years of trying to overcome the cold and the water, I am particularly intolerant of wet socks, paired or colorfully reconciled.

My jeep used to leak too—a running theme in my life, it seems. And this meant that whenever I drove it in the rain or snow or slush, water would drip from behind the dashboard, directly onto my shoes, as they worked the accelerator and brake and clutch pedals. By the time I made it to Wayne State, my feet were cold and wet like my cocker spaniel’s nose. Inevitably I carried extra socks with me, though the shoes were more of a challenge being that one pair would leak as much as another.

I love my socks. But once the hole begins, they are remanded to a kind of critical care shelf for socks. I am not prepared to throw them out, and while I am not above darning them, I never feel quite the same about them either. I keep them for years, as if some sort of renewal option might present itself.  So they reside there, on a shelf, like those pets in cages at the mall. They look as if they are saying “please.

Good socks are really expensive. Colors are not as great an option anymore either, except for those ridiculously thin excuses for socks. This year I got some wool socks with fleecy insides that defy explanation for their dreamy and sturdy attributes. The thing is, I am so mindful of cold wet feet and broken shoes, that I care deeply that I have good, warm socks. They have a magical, illuminating quality—something all blessings should reflect. That is, I pause to regard them in my hands, thinking of the wonderful resources that provide the materials, and then the industry to manufacture them, and whoever those people are that show a little zeal and choose cool colors and patterns. Then, as I pull them onto my feet, I think of how many times I was cold, but more importantly, I think of how many people have no socks. Some have no shoes, and worse, some have no feet, or “foots,” as my grandson calls them. So I remember many things with each act of pulling on a pair of socks. It’s kind of cosmic. I wish, on this first day of 2014 that everyone should have a nice, warm, pair of socks. But more than this, I wish that those of us who have nice, warm socks pause to think about how good that is, and maybe about those who haven’t what we have, or even if they did, but had no feet to put them on, what that would mean. I hope that we can start thinking a little more about important things, instead of all the silly stuff we spend time posting and twittering which, by the way, is not limited to technological gizmos like iphones and laptops. I hope we have more meaningful exchanges, face to face, that go deeper than utsup, or hey, or like, like, like, dude, like, sweet, cool. I hope we get back to humanity in all of our daily deeds and actions by thinking about what the hell we are communicating. And not just about socks, though it seems a good place to start.

Happy, healthy, warm and safe New Year to all!

Minutiae

I have a theory about doing something before you know why, or more importantly, before you know what it is called. It involves minutiae—a Latin word for little details that are presumably trivial, which we define as something having little importance. But my theory assumes that these minutiae are really not that trivial at all. To explain the theory, I have to apply another interesting word—interdisciplinary—meaning, something that involves two or more academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines, or fields. Put another way, it’s more than using a metaphor or an analogy to illustrate or describe something. To apply interdisciplinary method, you actually think about one thing in terms of another. What follows is a long story that demonstrates the technique behind the theory of minutiae.

Let’s say that to explain my take on the real importance of trivial details (minutiae), I will use the metaphor that has as its subject, atoms, which are the tiny building blocks of everything in our world. Elements are the kinds of atoms that we have, like carbon, or hydrogen, or oxygen. These atoms, then, such as carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen, bind together to form molecules. So one hydrogen atom can bond with another hydrogen atom and produce a molecule of hydrogen. If an oxygen atom binds to the two hydrogen atoms (a hydrogen molecule), it becomes a molecule of water, or H2O. Still with me? My theory about minutiae, those seemingly trivial details I mentioned above, is that they are like the bonds between atoms and molecules. Instead of reasoning that you did something—let’s call it A, and then another thing right after it—we’ll call that B, and another and another (you get the idea), we often draw a conclusion about a chain of events we think of as cause and effect. Now, sometimes this is useful. For example, you step on a banana peel, and slip and fall. You reason—correctly, that because you stepped on the banana peel, you slipped and fell. Cause and effect, with a dash of stupidity. But this can be a misleading strategy. Let’s say that you called in sick to work because you just didn’t feel like going. After lying to your boss on the phone, invoking a weak and raspy voice, you later decide to have a banana, and you are so distracted by your cleverness at having deceived the boss, that you carelessly drop the banana peel, while thinking you tossed it into the sink, but it only landed on the edge of the counter, from which it fell mischievously to the floor. Minutes later, as you make plans to spend the day in sheer pleasure, you step on the aforementioned banana peel, and slip into a painful, embarrassing fall. You might think for an instant that because you lied, the banana was payback. Put another way, the lie was the cause of the fall, or, the fall was the effect of the lying, which was the cause. You might call it karma, where what goes around comes around, good or bad, as an inevitable result of your own action. But in philosophy (and physics, too, I think), it is a fallacy (anerror in logical reasoning). That is to say, just because there is a correlation between events, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a true case of cause and effect. Oh, boy, this is harder to explain than I thought. Just work with me.

My point is that we tend to summarize things we do, and focus on the perceived causes, or the equally perceived effects. What we overlook is what binds the one to the other. And to return to my opening point, I call these bonds, minutiae. I dragged you through my cumbersome digression of atoms and molecules so that I could use the metaphor to describe my theory. Hello?

Now that you have the relevant terms, let me describe my theory by dragging you further on through a personal anecdote, boring, but true.

There was a lamp at my mom’s cottage by the lake. I noticed it one weekend in the summer when I was unloading supplies on the counter, and opening a bottle of wine (minutiae). I admired it for its shape, which was a tapered, vertical cylinder; the top was rounded, and narrower than the base. The tapered, vertical cylinder was clear plastic, and fluted besides. That is to say, it had vertical ridges from the tapered top, to where the clear, fluted, cylinder sat in the broader black base. I know you must be wondering what’s to admire here, so I’ll tell you now. Inside the clear fluted plastic cylinder was a fabulous scene of a yellow moon and stars, and sun—the kind with rays spiking outward and a face. The sun and the moon and the stars, all a mature shade of yellow, were contrasted against another scene (also cylindrical) of two flat circles, populated with various astrological symbols and constellations. These flat circles in turn were surrounded by blue seas, which had other figures that could have been reflections of the celestial counter-parts in the flat circles. But the really keen part of the lamp is that the picture of the sun and the moon and the stars, revolved anti-clockwise inside the plastic, fluted, tapered, cylindrical lens, while the zodiacal circles revolved clockwise, when the lamp was plugged in. The movement of the separate, cylindrical, panoramas was all the more dynamic for the light bulb burning behind the pictures—inside the lamp.

I know you are thinking this is all minutiae.

Where did the lamp come from, I asked my mother, as I rushed over to marvel at the optical effects of the counter-revolving images through the fluted plastic lens. It was Alex’s (my niece), she explained, who got it from Cristina (my daughter-in-law), for her birthday, but she didn’t want it anymore because it makes a noise.

Then I noticed the noise. It was a slow, low, churning sound, but it was all I could think about afterwards, rather, it was all I could hear, afterwards. And when I wasn’t hearing it, I was anticipating hearing it (minutiae, minutiae, minutiae).

I returned to my wine and my mom said, with unbridled enthusiasm, take it. Take it home, because you like it. I know I suffer from the same condition my mother does: someone admires something, and you want them to have it, which makes the whole subject of compliments very dangerous. For example, mom makes some Hungarian chicken, and you taste it, and say “wow, this is really good (because it is). So she will say, here, eat some more. Here, take it home, why don’t you. She will even forego her portion, which is tiny at best, just to give you something you like.

Suffice to say I took the lamp.

Happily I plugged it in at home and delighted at the soft blue and mature yellow glow cycling off the fluted plastic lens, though the growling noise got worse, no doubt, from keeping it constantly plugged in. So I decided to move it a bit further from earshot, but when I plugged it in anew, the gol-rammed thing stopped turning altogether. No churning sound, no growling, no nothing. Shall we say then, that because I moved it, it stopped working? Think about the banana peel…

I have a condition which does not allow me to leave broken things unexplored and unrepaired. The series of events from the cottage and acquisition of the lamp to its untimely, but not entirely unexpected demise, can easily be classified as minutiae, and by extension, the veritable bonds that hold various atoms together as molecules. In other words, I would have to disassemble the lamp and try to fix it. It came apart easily enough to reveal a set of seven little plastic gears or different sizes, whose tiny, and I mean tiny plastic teeth fit together in a splendid ensemble. The problem was, as I surmised, the spindle from the equally tiny motor had a plastic collar that was cracked, which prevented the spindle from seating properly into the center of the gears. If I were to say that I couldn’t even properly see the tiny crack in the tiny collar that needed mending, I would be exaggerating.

The new problem was that my fingers were too big, and the tiny plastic collar too frayed to simply mate and glue. So I foraged through my junk drawer in the kitchen and found a tiny piece of gasket (a thin piece of cork that acts as a seal on a machine, such as a pump, or a carburetor). I fashioned a circle of sorts, hot-glued it to the tiny plastic collar, and then poked a hole so as to slip the spindle from the tiny motor through it. Feels like a lot of minutiae, even for me.

But here is the moment of illumination. For two hours I concentrated on nothing else but the menial task of repairing the rotating panorama on the lamp, which otherwise, still functioned as a lamp on account of the working bulb. I was so pleased that once reassembled, not only did the lamp perform effortlessly, but it also lost its growl. On the heels of such a magnificent accomplishment, I decided to do some work on an icon I had started on my window, feeling as uplifted as I was, but had to bring up my paint box from the basement. Just as I snatched the box from its place, I discovered a drill that had been missing for seven months. Really.

What all of this means is that the minutiae—the broken gears—turned out to be the cause to free my mind of non-productive mental activities, which in turn, directly led to the recovery of my drill. Put another way, the general problem was solved using an interdisciplinary method (knowledge of machine and engine repair), literally making a part I couldn’t have bought for all the tea in China, which gave me back the working lamp and my missing drill besides. SO I solved two problems for the price of one, contemplated the zen of gears that though tiny and made of cheap plastic, moved the sun and the moon and the stars.

Common Denominators and Dangerous Combinations

Like many people, I am frustrated at the ways things are today from the most personal to the most global of scenarios. Fond as I am of thinking about things (a lost activity these days), I set upon contemplating the subject. It’s easy to say “what the problems are”, but harder to figure where the problems started, and how they can be solved. Because I am a professor of literature, I invoke my critical thinking skills to help me as I study the world around me as if it were a story in a book.
Something about reading a stoy that gives us tremendous insight: we see the character flaws, we understand the motives, we root for the good guy and crave the fulfillment of a moral message. But somehow, when provocative and incredible events unfold in our reality, we become isolated, or paralyzed, unable or unwilling to think, not to mention, to act. On the other hand, we become roiled into drawing conclusions, hurling accusations, and defending our ill-conceived position with violence in word and in deed. It occurs to me that our country, the blessed United States of America, is polarized, with one half trending towards a fairly progressive, and bureaucratically engorged governemnt, while the other half dreams of restoring a once great nation, founded on principles that have become the late night fodder of self-agrandized commentators and comedians. I think to myself, how has this happened, and how can it be fixed?

The answers to both questions turn on my following observations.

First, I look for common denominators. This is a mathematical technique where top heavy fractions, like 20/5, become simplified by finding common numbers by which to divide the top-heavy numbers. You simplify the problem so it becomes more manageable to solve. The point is, it is an actual procedure in solving math equations that has become a fabulous metaphor for solving problems outside of math, and it is relevant.

I see around me in these diametrically opposed groups (not limited to America, by the way), intelligent people on both sides. Let me qualify intelligent: you can be intelligent and not educated, which means you can have the faculties of logical reasoning, or astute awareness of circumstances, a sense of right and wrong, a moral compass, a civil manner of speaking and listening, integrity, sincerity, and life experience, to name a few. Conversely, you can be ignorant, for a variety of reasons: you had no opportuntity to learn certain tings, whether by chance or by your own hand. You can also be stupid, where critical corridors of reasoning are simply not available to you, either as a consequence of illness or self-imposed limited brain function (think alcohol, drugs, exposure to evil, and the like). The factor that determines the true humanitarian value of intelligence, is humility. Its opposite, is hubris–excessive pride, vanity, narcissisim (abnormal love of oneself to the exclusion of all others). What this means is that humility is the common denominator to both intelligence and ignorance needed to insure a decent outcome. For example, you can be intelligent–a genius, even, but if you lack humility, then all intelligence is self-serving. By contrast, you can be ignorant and yet humble, which means you recognize that there is always something greater than yourself, so you will be inclinded toward civility, kindness, selflessness, and largesse. The most dangerous combination is to be either intelligent or ignorant and to suffer from excessive pride. This means that nothing you do is ever intended to serve anyone or anything but yourself, and very often to the detriment of those around you.

Consider the variety of people from different disciplines, such as politics, entertainment, academics, service-oriented industries, health and science. You can be humble and devote your talents and expertise to humanitarian goals, or you can be vain and elitist, and think that your policies mean something more to the world than reflections of your own ego. The litmus test is hypocrisy. When someone espouses something but is unwilling to follow one’s own model, it means their policies or opinions are meant for all those lesser than one’s self, because they have an elevated, egotistical, unrealistic opinion of how great they believe they are. When someone is prepared to meet the same expectations for themselves, as they demand for others, hypocrisy is eliminated from the equation, and even if the idea they espouse is stupid, at least they are not a hypocrite. Ideally though, what we need from both ourselves and others who profess to have our best interest at heart, is genuine humility, and intelligence to lead by example. It is this very example that enlightens the ignorant, and strengthens the moral collective.

Look around you. We all know what the problems are. How they came to be is most certainly a result of a dangerous combination of intellgence and hubris, or ignorance and excessive pride. We never seem to find an example of something that went horribly wrong because humility was involved. And yet, nearly all of the problems before us, from our personal lives to global forces, are most certainly influenced by somebody’s hubris. Think about it. The greatest military leaders fight on the front lines with their men, eat the same food, slug it out in the trenches, listen to their stories and fears, and longings. The tyrants and dictators remind you of duty and sacrifice, but eat well, enjoy luxurious lifestyles, exploit every advantage at the expense of those they oppress.

The greatest teachers will take your questions, admit when they have no answer, and yield when you do; the greatest doctors will treat you as they would themselves be treated. The greatest priest will admit his sins and errors even as he points these out in his flock. Strive for humility in all things, and in this way you will see the best leaders, teachers, doctors, priests, and parents to the right and left of you, whether in the trenches or at a table. It is the hypocrites who will never walk in your shoes, because hubris fuels tyranny.

Therefore, if we want to solve problems, we must aim for humilty as the common denominator for a good and moral outcome from ourselves, and those who think they know what’s best for us.

Circle of Fifths

My Accordion

I remember my first baseball mitt, a coveted prize from the S&H Green Stamps my mother used to get from the grocery store which, after licked and pasted into a book, could be redeemed for a sundry of items in a catalogue. I wanted a baseball shirt too, the one that commanded my gaze every time I read the catalogue, but I was lucky to get the glove. Thrilled when it finally arrived, I slipped my eager hand into its stiff finger compartments and ran down the street to Bobby and Chi Chi’s house where the neighborhood boys were playing baseball. I leaned against the fence, heart pounding, and a mixture of pride and anticipation on my face. Surely they would notice me and the brand new mitt, though I do remember slipping my hand behind my back. As the game wore on, the boys began to taunt me and make great sport of my awkward and anxious state. Young as I was, I realized even then that people make observations and assumptions that almost always miss the point. In my young mind I reasoned that to play baseball with the other kids, I needed a mitt. But the lesson I learned was that I was being judged by a herd mentality that wasn’t interested in whether or not I could catch a ball, but rather concerned only that I didn’t fit a certain criteria—neither did my baseball glove.

I went away that day broken-hearted, but with my spirit intact. It was the first step on a solitary path I walk to this day.

And then I got my first accordion. I was sad and angry that my sisters earned more graceful instruments, like the violin and piano, but there was no hope my protest would win the day. I would be stuck with a bizarre contraption that seemed to me an instrument of torture. I dreaded the weekly lessons, and the reproach of Mr. Carmichael, my teacher who smoked a pipe while I struggled for a half an hour to get through my lesson at Gus Zoppi’s music store and studio. But I found a way to make peace with my Inquisitor: I learned the regular American pop music (like the famous bellow-shaking rendition of Lady of Spain), to satisfy Mr. Carmichael, but taught myself Romanian and Serbian folk music—something I truly loved. The moral of that story was that if I had to play an instrument I would not have chosen on my own, I could at least play music that I liked. Soon after I learned that girls could play baseball without boys, and the accordion was something I could literally embrace, rather than a perpetual burden on my arms and chest.

Sort of a preface

Everyone has a story to tell and I am no different. Everyone wants to get something of their chest once it’s on their mind, everyone wants to unpack their heart or unburden their soul so why not me? I have a story to tell, but no one wants to hear it. It’s too—what—quirky, offbeat, and what does that mean, afterall, offbeat? Now there’s a metaphor worth its weight in wine. (Here is where I start pouring). Offbeat means that it is not the same as the prevailing beat, the one everybody else is dancing to, walking to, living to; as if there is some fantastic universal metronome keeping universal time. Offbeat is disruptive, weird, irritating, like dancing with someone who is one step behind or ahead or removed, so yes, it can be a real problem. But I am not offbeat because I can’t count or can’t dance, in fact, I am a very good dancer and musician besides. I know all about beats and measures and rhythm. Rhythm. But I digress. When Thoroeau said to march to the beat of a different drummer” it was really innovative, brash, cool, even, romantic civil disobedience. Right. Metaphors appear larger when they come from someone aloof. (Now I sip).

 

My father, as you know, came from a poor village in Bukovina, which was a part of Romania that was taken by the USSR in 1947. This meant that my father, who had immigrated to Canada with his family, by boat, would never again be allowed to visit his birthplace, on account of the near impossibility of obtaining a visa (until the fall of the USSR). He was sixteen when he, his mother, sister, and three brothers were sent for by his errant father, who had left years before. They settled in Windsor, and my father was assigned to grade six in school, a formidable humiliation that drove him to drop out. I went to the school of life, he would always tell me. Not long after, he left home and traveled all over Canada, working farms and learning about life. Later he became a waiter with aspirations to be a singer. He had a beautiful voice, it’s true, and no wonder the restaurant owners let him sing with the house bands when his shift was over. But as a popular newscaster of the 60s, Jack Legoff told him, singers are a dime a dozen. So my father took up the trade of carpentry and worked for a few years with his crazy brothers. He was a popular man not only among the Romanian community spread throughout the provinces, he simply had a lot of friends of every possible sort. Oh, also he had a lot of girlfriends. A lot. When he was 26 he met my mother in the States at a Romanian picnic at Transylvania Park—that’s correct—Transylvania Park. She was 16, but it was one of those matches made in Heaven. Two years later they were planning a February wedding, but my mother called it off when they had a huge argument instigated my Bunsa (no translation on this one), my father’s mother. When the long-sleeved satin wedding dress was clearly out of season, my grandmother (this would be my mom’s mother) told my mom that Aurel (my dad), was a good man and she should reconsider. Add to this my father’s moving serenade beneath her window and the wedding took place in May, long sleeves and all.  This is where the story begins. Quirky? Yes. Offbeat? I suppose. Worth telling? Hell yes.