Keyless Entry: The Movie

I am pretty good with technology. It all started with the Commodore 64 and I have tried to keep up ever since. It’s not that I know so much about technology. I’m just not afraid to press buttons till I get what I want. The goal is, and if this were a movie it would be a classic line of dialog, Never let the machine win. So it was especially humiliating when I locked my keyless entry fob in the trunk of my new car when I first got it.

My daughter and I had just shared a lovely meal. It was the sort of evening you flash back to when remembering the simple joy of being with those you love. We swapped eyeglasses and ate off each other’s plates in the kind of on-screen actions that establish the relationship between characters.

But the night was about to go from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “The Matrix.”

After dinner, we went to the car. I opened the trunk just by touching it; this was doable because I had the key fob in my purse. I put my purse in the trunk as did my daughter. And here we would cut to a shot of our purses strewn in the trunk because it is essential to the plot that we don’t have cab fare.

You see, as long as the fob is on your person, you have security access to open the doors and operate the vehicle. So I figured putting the fob in the trunk was covered.

Not so fast, Private Benjamin.

Before I closed the trunk, my daughter said ominously, “Get the key.”

Next came my famous line, “We don’t need no stinking key.” (Sound effect of trunk slamming shut.)

A slow-motion sequence played in my mind with garbled sound as I went to the driver’s door and pulled the handle. It normally releases to a sequence of lights, beeps, and screens like something out of “War Games.” But this time…nothing. I was locked out of my brand new keyless car. The access code, which can be entered on the exterior door panel at times like this, was stored in my smart phone—you guessed it—in my purse. In that moment my phone was smarter than I was. The code eluded me and I didn’t have on my ruby slippers.

Fortunately, we used one technology to save us from another. My daughter had her phone in her coat pocket. I called the Ford dealer to get the access code. He asked for my Social Security number and the cat’s name. But when he told me the code my face contorted into a quizzical double take.

“Is that some kind of dealer master code?” I asked.

“No, lady, that is the only entry code for your car,” he said, evidently forgetting that he was speaking with Sigourney Weaver.

I instantly knew that the number he gave me was wrong. Like Jason Bourne, I recalled that my real code was an even number that contained two prime numbers followed by an integer and its square. I just couldn’t remember what those numbers were.

I fatalistically entered the dealer’s code into the car door as violins from the “Psycho” soundtrack screeched in my head. I yanked the locked door handle to no avail and did a Harold Lloyd impression, running around the car trying to open every door.

At this point I was in a dream sequence with my own mother invoking one of those Yiddish expressions that sounds like she is about to spit. “It’s bashert. It’s destiny,” I heard her say in a gauzy sepia tone.  Suddenly, her face morphed into Obi-Wan Kenobi. The force would soon be with me. The dealer was on his way to take us home and retrieve the other key fob. (Like Meg Ryan’s fastidious Sally, I had put a lockbox on the front door so we could always get into the house.)

I waited for our ride with the resolve of Sarah Connor. The machine would not win; it was a tie. The power of technology equaled my mastery of it. But why did this ill-fated episode happen? I imagined, in menacing handheld footage, that the delay was for some greater good. Would we have gotten into an accident if not for this diversion in our travels through Middle-earth?

“It’s bashert. It’s bashert,” I heard in an echo chamber. As God is my witness, I will never leave the key fob in the trunk again.

Kirk Douglas and The Forverts

Remember the movie “Hester Street”? It was based on the writing of Abe Cahan, who was editor of the Yiddish newspaper, The Forverts (The Forward).  The link above is to a funny story about it as told to my daughter…

Kirk Douglas

On this occasion of his passing, take a moment to hear Mr. Douglas in 2002 singing in Yiddish when he received a lifetime achievement award. The song is Mayn Yidishe Meydele, My Jewish Girl, link below. You won’t believe his eloquent speech and presentation despite suffering a stroke. Such a poignant reminiscence perhaps only a gifted actor could convey.

Olev hasholem.

Camp Nitgedaiget

If I didn’t have photos of this you would think I was making it up: During the depression my mother, poppa, my aunts and I went to a summer camp in Beacon, N.Y. called Camp Nitgedaiget. This was not a fancy place. In fact, it was originally founded by Communists! But what did I know? I was a kid. Here are some pictures, and to hear all about it, scroll down to play the audio where I explain it to my daughter.

Bottom row center, Aunt Goldie; bottom right, Aunt Anna


Aunt Goldie at the pool

Play the audio clip below to hear all about Camp Nitgedaiget…

My Mother’s Favorite Joke

You would not believe the week I just had. It was beyond belief.

But now back to the blog: Below you will see a very old photo of my mother and me taken on the rooftop of our building on 69th Street in Bay Ridge. I won’t reveal my age due to security reasons but this photo was taken in the early 1920s.

If you have moment, I also wanted to tell my mother’s favorite joke. Please click on the audio player below the picture…

The Definition of Chutzpah


I have just learned from an actual accountant that the IRS has been hacked and codes used for electronic filing have been compromised.

Now, is that chutzpah or what? How can they think they will get away with that?

I have a feeling this is not going to be pretty.

The Inaugural Explained in Yiddish


I am not going to spout my opinion of the President. I won’t politicize or pontificate. I will bite my tongue and not say a word. But my mother, if she were still here, would have said something in Yiddish at a time like this:

Es iz a lebedike velt.

Click the audio player below to hear me explain it as best I can…

“Senty” Claus

Photo: Charles Rondeau
Photo: Charles Rondeau

Jewish or not, as a little girl, I got a present every Christmas. I’d wake up in the morning–of course I didn’t want to sleep–and Poppa and Momma would be there and there would be a present on top of my feet. I always knew it would be there. Whatever it was, I was hocking them about it all year long and it would be on my bed Christmas Day, absolutely. And Poppa would be laughing his head off and he would always say, “Senty Claus was here!”

One year I drove them crazy. I drove them out of their minds. I only wanted this xylophone toy with a hammer to play. Sure enough, Christmas morning, there it was on my bed.

Donald Trump Explained in Yiddish

trumpA certain political candidate finds himself in hot water. Perhaps you know someone like this: They are unable to think before they talk. They have no “filter” and just come out and say whatever is on their “mind.” My mother had a Yiddish expression for this type of person:

Voss iz bei ihm afn ling iz bei ihm afn tzing.

What’s on his lung is on his tongue.



How My Husband Got His Name

A boy called "Wolf"
A boy called “Wolf”

Velvel (his Yiddish name), pictured above, was born in London in 1914. When his parents went to record his birth, they told the registrar his name was “Wolf,” the English for Velvel. The well-meaning bureaucrat advised, “He’s going to be a nice English boy. You don’t want to call him ‘Wolf’. Why not call him Walter?” And that is how my husband got his name.

Mind, you, Wolf is a perfectly good English name. Remember the writer Wolf Mankowitz who wrote “A Kid for Two Farthings?” It was made into a film with Celia Johnson and Diana Dors.

So there’s nothing wrong with a kid called Wolf.

When Harry Met Fanny

Harry, Fanny, Fanny, and Harry (left to right)
Harry, Fanny, Fanny, and Harry (left to right)

Pictured in the photo are two couples both named Harry and Fanny. On the left are my cousins from Providence, and on the right are my parents. At one time, the name Fanny was very popular for girls. You may remember the comedienne Fanny Brice who was the subject of the musical and movie Funny Girl.  I must have had at least six relatives named Fanny. It may have a lot of meanings and origins in names including Frances. But “Fanny” has fallen somewhat out of favor among English speakers. Click the player below to hear the Yiddish meaning of my mother’s name, “Fanny.”