Birthday Poem

If one is lucky enough to thrive
He will, one day, reach fifty-five.

It’s just a number, nothing more
With senior discounts — galore!

Ten percent off at the Greasy Spoon
Every Monday and Tuesday afternoon!

Buy two coffees, get one free
(Also available for hot or iced tea).

Celebrate celebrate celebrate!
Five dollars off at Motel 8!

And if all that doesn’t win the day
Medicare is just a few years away…

Such a birthday might not be funny
Without saving all that money.

website birthday

birthday cakeI was so busy Monday that I forgot to wish happy birthday to my website,

It just turned 11 years old.

We say a dog year is equal to seven human years. calculates an internet year as equal to 4.7 human years.

This would make this website almost 52 years old.  I’m 54, so we’re almost the same age.

It was born on February 7, 2000, when I made a call to, a web hosting company in Oregon.  This company has since changed it’s name to, and it’s still my host.

Two years ago I started using WordPress and changed it from a static website into a blog.  That’s been fun.  For all the years before that, I made changes, but not often.  My html skills have never been too swift.

The traffic continues to grow.  It now consistently gets over a thousand unique visitors a day.  I used to list a couple of pages of my short plays and then invite readers to email me for the whole play — respecting copyright, permission, royalty payment, etc.  When I switched to a blog, I started listing the whole plays and giving permission freely.   It’s not a money making endeavor anyway — so that’s probably been the best move I ever made.  Most of the site’s visitors seem to be students who are searching for a quick ten minute play.  I get emails almost daily asking permission to use those plays for a class project or student production. Each request warms my heart a little more.  Thanks, guys!

I realize there’s not a whole lot of interest in what I had for dinner or what my dog did that amuses me or how much I enjoyed my daily walk or what little poem just popped into my head — but every once in a while, a blog post gets a lot of attention, usually when I write something about a certain former governor of Alaska.

I enjoy it and am looking forward to sharing more and possibly making some changes — perhaps adding a guest blogger or two, or blogging more often, linking to more stuff.  I don’t know, something. Just thinking…

Bubbie's birthday, the 5th night of Hanukah

This is the fifth night of Hanukah, which is my grandmother’s birthday.

We called her Bubbie (Yiddish for Grandmother).

I never knew what her birthday was on the Roman calendar.  We always knew it as the 5th night of Hanukah.

She was born in Riga, Latavia, in 1890, which would make her 120 years old today.  She left this world at the age of 97, in 1987.

She had a rebellious nature and, at the age of 15, participated in the failed Russian Revolution of 1905.

Participating in a failed revolution was a good way to wind up in prison — so her father urged her to leave the country after this event — which she did.

Apparently she was in too big of a hurry to find out her birthday.  Or, perhaps observing it on the fifth night of Hanukah was good enough.  It certainly maintained her ties with her Jewish identity (as if there were any question about that).

Her father was a rabbi, and they lived on the top floor of an apartment building.  I’ve seen the building myself, from the street — and my memory tells me it was about six stories high.


After leaving Riga, she waited a couple of years in Copenhagen, her safe haven.  She was waiting for her brother to save the money for her travel to the United States.  Her brother — two years older and  also a revolutionary — immigrated first.

She spoke fondly of Copenhagen.  She said the language was easy to learn and she had good friends and a good time there.  Of course, those are fun years — between the ages of 15 and 17 (and no parents!) — although it’s hard for me to imagine her being that age.

When she came to the U.S.A., she spent time in Rochester, before somehow making her way south and eventually to North Carolina.

She always made a face when she said “Rochester.”

“So cold,” she said.

Copenhagen and Riga are not considered warm climates, but she said they were toasty compared to Rochester.

She arrived here in Salisbury in the 30’s.  Before that, she kept a shop in Marion, VA.  Before that, Morganton, NC.  Before that — I don’t know.  That pre-dates my mother’s birth, so I never heard anything about it.  I doubt they were lost years for her, but they’re a little lost to me.

Is Hanuka like a Jewish Christmas?  No!  It’s Hanuka.  Although it’s an important holiday that celebrates religious freedom, it’s not as central to the Jewish religion as Christmas is to Christianity.  And the Hanuka gift giving is really just an American add-on, an attempt by American Jewish parents to console their children while denying them much of the joy of Christmas.

But it’s a beautiful celebration that includes eight nights, games, fried food, the lighting of candles, chocolate coins (if you’re lucky), and a theme that expresses gratitude for freedom.

And Bubbie’s birthday.

There’s nothing like a grandmother.  Like almost everybody’s grandmother, mine was terribly wise and sweet, and a real inspiration.  Happy birthday, Bubbie.

50 years ago today

Fifty years ago today, as the country pulled an all-nighter, waiting to see who would be the next President (Kennedy or Nixon), a young couple pulled an all nighter also, waiting to meet their new daughter (Alicia).

Alicia, my wife, was born, in California, as the votes were being counted.

It was an unbelievably close election — in the country, and in California.

Legend has it that while Cristalle labored in the delivery room, the doctor spent much of his time in the waiting room, with Richard, Alicia’s father, watching returns come in.

What a historic day.  Some of us are extremely fortunate, and grateful for it.

Happy birthday, Alicia.

a mother without words

I did not visit my Mom today.

Most every day I stop in — if only for a few minutes.  Sometimes I stay awhile.

Today, I was busy from the moment my feet hit the floor until late — and never made it.

Her Alzheimer’s has progressed, and her ability to speak has rapidly diminished.

For quite some time now, uttering a sentence has taken on the difficulty of balancing a chemical equation.  Her efforts have sometimes born fruit, but most often give way to mute frustration.

In the past few weeks, she’s hardly said a word.

It’s not important that she talks — or does not talk.  That’s not why I visit.  These days, it takes all of her energy to take a step, sit-up, open her eyes.  So I don’t aggravate her frustration further by trying to get her to talk.

But when those rare, fleeting, audible moments happen, they are special surprises — and big moments in my life.

In order to speak to her, I have to bend over, get fairly low, and look up.  She tends to keep her head down, eyes pointed straight down at the floor (if they’re open).

A couple of days ago, I got in her face, as I was leaving, and said, “Bye Mom!”

She said “Where are you going?”

This was quite a lot for her these days.

A few days before that, I said, “I love you, Mom!”

She said “I love you…”  Then she uttered another sound.  I’m pretty sure she strained briefly to remember my name — and quickly let it go.

I visited her two weeks ago, on my birthday.  I think I’ve talked to my mother on each of my birthdays — if not in person then by phone.

Last year, on my birthday, we had a little party at her house that included her, my wife, and her caregiver.  We brought a cake.  She knew it was my birthday and joined the celebration.  We had dinner and I blew out a lot of candles.

In past years, she did what most mothers do:  she made a point to tell me how happy she was that I was born, and shared a few awkward details about my life as an infant.

In fact, I think this was the first birthday of my life that didn’t include an enthusiastic commentary from my mother about the virtue of my existence.  I always found this talk rather uncomfortable, tuned out most of it, and now remember few of the details — although I remember the gist of the message quite well.

This year, I knelt in front of her, looked up, and said, loudly, “Hi Mom!  Today’s my birthday!”

“I forgot,” she said.

My mother had been quite a talker.

I’ve spent much of my life waiting for her to finish talking so that I could move on to matters more important to me.

How many times did she tell me to get a master’s degree?  Hundreds.  I never did.  How many times did she tell me to get a job?  Many.  (Even though I’ve always had a job; one job was never enough for her).  How many times did she tell me to stop chewing my shirt?  So many.  (It’s a habit.  I’m chewing it now, as I type).

How many times did she help me with my writing — offering insight and critique that only she could provide?  Every time I asked.

How many stories did she tell?  That would be like counting the leaves on a tree.

Alas, those are only memories now.  She was a person who did not withhold her opinion.  If she thought she knew better, she said so.  Now, by not speaking, she’s teaching a different kind of lesson — probably the most valuable of them all.

Birthdays and Jewish Holidays Collide

My daughter, Emma, is 17 today (Yom Kippur).  She was born on Rosh Hashanah.

My other daughter, Sarah, turned 27 on Saturday.  She was born on Yom Kippur.

Technically, then, this is the birthday for Sarah and Emma (Emma on the Roman calendar; Sarah on the Jewish calendar).

My son, Aaron, missed the Jewish holidays completely.  His 25th was on Bastille Day.  (All of his birthdays are on Bastille day, since both celebrations use the same calendar).

Lots of Mitzvah’s in this family.  Our baby is 17.  Where did all that time go?

Virtual birthdays are the way to go

Thanks to Facebook — this was certainly the most festive birthday I’ve ever had.

Last year, on my birthday, I had a Facebook account — but only one friend. I didn’t know how to use it and didn’t understand what it was. Then Sarah, my daughter, said to me in January: “How do you not know how to use Facebook?” So I started using it.

In realty, it was a rather quiet day. Alicia and Emma (wife and daughter) and I went to lunch and they sang me happy birthday.

Alicia then gave me some presents: a gray t-shirt, a pair of athletic shorts, and a new yoga mat. This is because I told her I’ve set a goal for the next year of my life. This year, I’d like to get younger. I aged way too much last year — so I want to undo some of the damage by returning, once again, to my daily yoga habit.

Then I did some work.

Sarah, who lives in Alaska, called me in the afternoon. That was nice.  Except her dog is sick.  That’s not so nice.

We’re going to visit Aaron, our son, in Asheville, tomorrow. I guess that’s why he didn’t call.

In the evening, Alicia acquired a Little Caesar’s hot-n-ready pizza and brought it to Mom’s house. She also had a cake and a lot of candles. There were four of us there.

Then, I had a couple of beers with Robert Jones and Cindy Graham. That’s a pretty nice birthday — but not a huge celebration.

However, because of Facebook friends and connections, it seemed like a really big party.  All day, I enjoyed a stream of kind posts on my wall, wishing me happy birthday.

Appropriate for me, really. I’ve always spent an unhealthy amount of time online.  Cyberspace is as real for me as anywhere.

Thanks so much for all the kind words. It was the best birthday I can remember.