Posts Tagged ‘People’

My family roots are one or two levels up from what would be the Italian equivalent of hillbillies.



Mountain people. Peasants, as it were. Honest, good, godly people who were… at least until they left for the New World… always screwed by those above them.


A few months ago, I ran into a song entitled “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It has stuck with me ever since.


The people of this song… the coal miners of eastern Kentucky and their families… have almost no connection to me or my family. And yet, this song gripped me.


Like a lot of people whose roots are in the hills, my family knows what it’s like to live somewhere where the sun comes up at 10 in the morning.

(“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” – Music & Lyrics by Darrell Scott)

Poverty crosses all kinds of lines. So does a feeling of helplessness. Of being stuck and not being able to find a way out.


Knowing in the pit of your stomach that you are doomed and that your future is all laid out for you, no matter what.


Thank goodness, my family was able to get away to a new place where they could build a new life.

May the Almighty bless and protect those who have not or cannot do the same.



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Following my Freedom of the Press Worldwide atlas, I bring you…

The Bribery Atlas!

Percentage of a country’s population that has paid bribes.

bribe-map(The Baksheesh Boys!)

Again, it pans out pretty much as I thought it might.

Glad to see the Italian bribery percentage is as low as it is.

As for the No Data category, perhaps the makers of this map should have bribed some government officials for the stats.


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Most loonies with whom I have lunched are, as a general rule, positive, good-natured people.

With one notable exception…


Alyssa Krabbykova [1], the world’s crabbiest girl.

Alyssa is grumpy ALL THE TIME.

She lifts grouchy it to an art form.

Alyssa wakes up crabby. How is that possible? How does one wake up crabby? Nothing has happened yet!


And yet, people still love Alyssa despite her foul mood. Probably because of it.

I think part of it has to do with the fact that she is completely honest. She doesn’t put on the fake smile and the phony friendliness. When you talk with her, you get the genuine article – the Full Frontal Alyssa.

There’s something oddly disarming about that.

Alyssa used to work at my old hangout and office, The Café on Main. I swear, customers would come there, in part, to see if Alyssa would be more bored, impatient, frustrated, grouchy… in other words, even crabbier… than the day before. She rarely disappointed them.

alyssa-skov-2a(A rare shot of Alyssa not being so crabby)

I would like to think that most young ladies in the food service industry try to be pleasant, cheerful, friendly, etc, in order to make the customer happy. Alyssa adopted more of an ‘eat it and beat it’ philosophy. To her, customers were an annoying nuisance standing between her and the end of the day.

I am hoping to have the sincere pleasure of getting together with Alyssa later this week. I haven’t seen her in a while and I am wondering if time has mellowed the girl a bit. I don’t think I need worry. I am sure she will be every bit as crabby as she ever was.

Here’s to things never changing!

I miss you, Alyssa. Things just aren’t the same without your little bitter ray of sunshine.


[1] ‘Krabbykova’ is not her real surname. But it should be.

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The Rules to Always Being a Gentleman


Learn it. Live it. Love it!


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I learned two great truths this week.

“You don’t have bad luck. The reason bad things happen to you is because you’re a dumbass.”

One of the (many) problems with stupid people is that they do not fully appreciate just how colossally stupid they are. This make sense as it would involve a bit of self-analysis and some basic thinking.

This epiphany was followed by the second truth I learned this week.

“Sometimes you have to give up on people, not because you don’t care… but because they don’t.”

This one is particularly sad since it presumes you once cared enough about the person to get involved and try to help. At one point, you realize that of the two of you, you are the only one expending any effort. Often, it takes a long time to come to that point.

Which leads, I suppose, to the third truth I learned this week…

“Hope can be a terrible thing.”

Lessons learned the hard way.

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When I am in The Heart of the Old World [1], there is a certain pervasive sound you hear… a kind of omnipresent background music… a gently swaying ‘bed track’ to the place. It is a general all-encompassing soundtrack permeating the entire area… made up from the voices of hundreds of Jewish girls and women.

It is useless trying to explain a symphony with words,. I will at least give you a tiny taste of some of the lyrics. Try to imagine the sing-song tones blending in and through each other, above and underneath each other, mixing and intertwining, separating and repeating, like a Bach fugue.

Those who know what I am talking about are well familiar with the melodies, counter-melodies, tempos and keys. To the uninitiated, I can only say that one cannot describe a colour adequately with words… it must be seen to be fully understood. Similarly, like a Shakespearean play, the words are meant to be heard, not read. [2]

At the grocery store, on the sidewalk, in the coffee shop, in the parking lot… it binds us and keeps us together. It forms a warm comforting blanket around us.

And now… let us listen… and hear those precious voices all around us…

Boruch HaShem! Im Yirtzeh HaShem. B’ezras HaShem!

It’s all shtuss. It’s just a bunch of shtuss.

Yes, bli neder. Absolutely, bli neder! Of course, bli neder!

 Make a brochah, Shmuley. Did you make an after-brochah?

Chas v’sholom! K’neine hora! Lo aleinu!

You hold by that? We don’t hold by that! Who holds by that?

Look at that punim! What a shayna punim! Can you believe the punim on this kid?

Where are you for Shabbes lunch? You’re coming for Shabbes dinner, right?

Where does he daven? What time do they finish davening over there?

She lives in Beit Shemesh now. Ramat Gan. She’s in Bnei Barak.

Monsey. Crown Heights. Lakewood. Boro Park.

She’s engaged? Who’s engaged? She’s getting married!

Mazel tov! How wonderful! They should know only joy and happiness.

Simchas. Only Simchas! Next by you. It should happen by you.

Narishkeit. I’ve never heard such narishkeit!

Really? You’re serious? You’re not serious. You are? Really?

When’s shkiah? What time is shkiah? When’s candle lighting?

What time’s Shabbes over? Come over for havdalah!

She’s a giyeres. They’re baalei tshuvah. Frum from birth.

They’re moving to Atlanta.  It’s a very nice community there.

As my Bubbie, olav hasholom, would day, “It’s from fainting!”

Are you ready for Pesach? Oy, please. Don’t remind me!

Where do you get your challah? You make your own!?

I buy frozen gefilte fish and bake it! It’s mamish ok.

We have an aufruffen to go to. I’m at a bar mitzvah.

Nu? Shoyn? Oy, a broch! Vey iz mir!

Zeit nisht meshiggah!

Genig shoyn. Enough, already!

Again with the shtuss?

In the Heart of the Old World, as it is in any Jewish neighbourhood, this is the soundtrack to our lives!


[1] Bathurst Street in Toronto, between Lawrence and Wilson.

[2] This YouTube video, Shduss Frum Girls Say, although a comic look at the subject, gives you sort of a taste…

As does the second video in the series, Shduss Frum Girls Say 2

And how can we leave out Passover Shtuss??…

These videos are the work of Zehava G, whose works can be found on YouTube at…


Or on Facebook, at…


Zehava… you’re the best!

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I recall being in a big city law library years ago and seeing four freshly-minted and most attractive young female lawyers. It was a Friday afternoon and I asked what wild and woolly plans they had for the weekend. They said, “nothing much.”

Nothing much?? No dates? No being taken out to restaurants and movies? No romantic weekends somewhere, far away from the drudgery of the law?

The general consensus among that sad little group of young ladies was that guys of their vintage were either intimidated by intelligent successful women or their tastes drifted toward the ‘easier and skankier’ members of their sisterhood. Guys their age tended to follow the path of least resistance, both intellectually and sexually.

(Why is she working Friday night instead of going on a date??)

I was agog and aghast. This situation, rather widespread according to that mopey little gaggle of girls, could not be allowed to continue. It was an outrage. An affront to common decency. Steps of some sort needed to be taken.

The need for Big Brother to step in and take things firmly in hand was obvious. Thus, the idea for “The Board” was born.

I have long believed that there should be some kind of government tribunal… The National Relationships Board or The Federal Dating Tribunal… something along those lines.

Guys… and by this I mean otherwise decent, appropriate and eligible young men [1]… would be hauled up before the panel to account for themselves as to why perfectly lovely, charming girls aren’t being taken out on dates by decent boyfriends who treat them right.

(You got some ‘splainin’ to do, son!)

Very severe penalties would be handed down to those who cannot give good reasons as to why so many gorgeous girls are left standing on the relationship sidelines.

Any guy who could not provide a good excuse (let alone string together a grammatically cogent phrase) would be dealt with in the most severe manner.

The Tribunal’s motto… Pull Up Your Pants; You Look Like an Idiot!

Naturally, I would be head of the tribunal because I see on a daily basis how so many wonderful young ladies are reduced to putting up with rude, crude, thoughtless, heartless, brainless morons. And that’s when they can find guys in the first place!


[1] There being a glut of inappropriate guys and an apparent dearth of good guys, the Board would concentrate on the latter. As a girl can’t swing a cat without smacking some loser with it, The Board would concentrate on the eligible yet clueless within the pool of available men.

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