Archive for March, 2014


Dorothy was transported to Oz while hitching a ride on a twister. Mary Poppins blew into Cherry Tree Lane on a wind from the east. Dorothy followed a yellow brick road while Mary Poppins pulled some amazing tricks with a little “winkle” of her nose. Dorothy’s creator, Lyman Frank Baum,  lived a hard life.  He followed a yellow rick road but the path was filled with potholes. He struggled to find his way to Emerald City.  Pamela Travers (aka P.L. Travers) who was born Helen Goff, created Mary Poppins out a bolt of damaged fabric.  Her life was a series of sad events tied mainly to the love she had for a father who was not only an alcoholic but was not grounded in any sense of the word.  He was a dreamer and he filled his daughter’s head with the dreams that eventually gave birth to her beloved Mary Poppins and the Banks family.

I have read two biographies on L. Frank Baum and did see the rather tepid television movie that was supposedly about his life. I have never read a full biography of P.L. Travers, but I have read, read again, and re-read two volumes containing some of her amazing essays.

Before watching Saving Mr. Banks, I knew all about Travers rough and tumble relationship with Walt Disney and the creation of the musical film, Mary Poppins.

It was an amazing movie. It went to great lengths to show you how much a created character means to an author because most of those characters are actually cut from the cloth of the author’s life.

I always knew that the movie was not really about the Banks children, but rather about their father.  He was the one in need of Mary Poppin’s magic, as was Travers’ real father.

But then I did some digging and learned that while there is much truth in the Pamela Travers portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks, but….

It failed to tell you the truth about the real Travers and the life she did live.  In the early 40s she had every intention of adopting twin boys, but when it came time she, according to one story, had consulted an astrologer and decided that she could only take one of the boys…and she chose the first-born twin, leaving with him to lead a life of some affluence, while leaving the other twin in let’s say a more Oliver Twist environment.

Unfortunately neither of the twins thrived.  Travers lied to he adopted son, at one time telling him he was actually her natural son.

The point of this blog?  Life is very to the tenth power…complicated. And when it comes to telling stories about real people, we often tell it  through a lens of many facets. And in the end we either eliminate those parts of the story that don’t fit into the story we want to tell or we embellish other parts to make the story work the way we want it to work.

What we are really left with are the stories created by people who have often been battered and bruised by real life. And it is those stories that nourish us and make life better.

When I read The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins, it is the characters that fill me and I give thanks to the authors for sharing their characters with me.


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Twisted, not a twister.

Twisted, not a twister.

March 25, 1911

So many events have eclipsed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, but even though the victims are now faceless, their names remain etched on stones in a number of different New York City cemeteries. When it happened, this tragic fire shocked a nation and brought a skyscraper city to its knees.  And while I don’t expect anyone to read the names of the 146 victims, most of them young, immigrant women, think of them as one of the yellow bricks on the yellow brick road:

Aberstein, Julia

Adler, Lizzie

Altman, Anna

Ardito, Anna

Astrowsky, Becky

Bassino, Rosie

Belatta, Vincenza

Bellotta, Ignazia

Benanti, Vincenza

Bernstein, Essie

Bernstein, Jacob

Bernstein, Morris

Bernstein, Moses

Bierman, Gussie

Binevitz, Abraham

Brenman, Rosie

Brenman, Surka (Sarah)

Brodsky, Ida

Brodsky, Sarah

Brooks, Ida

Brunette, Laura


Carlisi, Josep

Caruso, Albina

Carutto, Frances

Castello, Josie

Cirrito, Rosie

Cohen, Anna

Colletti, Antonia (Annie)

Costello, Della

Crepo, Rose

Denent, Grances

Dichtenhultz (Fichtenhultz), Yetta

Dockman (Dochman), Dora (Clara)

Dorman, K

Downic, Kalman

Eisenberg, Celia

Feibush, Rose

Feicisch(Feibish), Rebecca


Fitze, Mrs. Dosie Lopez

Forrester, May

Franco, Jennie

Frank, Tina

Gallo, Mrs. Mary

Geib, Bertha

Gernstein, Molly

Gittlin, Celina

Goldfield, Esther

Goldstein, Esther

Goldstein, Lena

Goldstein, Mary

Goldstein, Yetta

Gorfield, Esther

Grameattassio, Mrs. Irene

Harris, Esther

Herman, Mary

Jakobowski, Ida

Kaplan (woman)

Kenowitch, Ida


Kessler, Becky

Klein, Jacob

Kupla, Sara

Launswold, Fannie

Lefkowitz, Nettie

Lehrer, Max

Lehrer, Sam

Leone, Kate

Lermack, Rosie D.

Leventhal, Mary

Levin, Jennie

Levine, Abe

Levine, Max

Levine, Pauline

Maltese, Catherine

Maltese, Lucia

Maltese, Rosalie(Rosari)

Manara, Mrs. Maria

Manofsky, Rose

Marciano, Mrs. Michela

Mayer, Minnie

Meyers, Yetta

Miale, Bettina

Miale, Frances

Midolo, Gaetana

Nebrerer, Becky

Nicholas, Annie

Nicolose, Nicolina  (Michelina)

Novobritsky, Annie

Nussbaum (Nausbaum),  Sadie

Oberstein, Julia

Oringer, Rose

Ozzo, Carrie

Pack, Annie

Panno, Mrs. Providenza

Pasqualicca, Antonietta

Pearl, Ida

Pildescu, Jennie

Pinello, Vincenza

Poliny, Jennie

Prato, Millie

Reivers, Becky

Rootstein, Emma

Robinowitz, Abraham

Rosen, Israel

Rosen, Julia(widow)

Rosen, Mrs. Leob

Rosenbaum, Yetta

Rosenberg, Jennie

Rosenfeld, Gussie

Rosenthal, Nettie

Rother, R

Rother, Theodore

Sabasowitz, Sarah

Salemi, Sophie

Saracino, Sara

Saracino, Serafina

Saracino, Tessie

Schiffman, Gussie

Schmidt, Mrs. Theresa

Schneider, Mrs. Ethel

Schochep, Violet

Schwartz, Margaret

Selzer, Jacob

Semmilio, Mrs. Annie

Shapiro, Rosie

Shena, Catherine

Sklaver, Berel (Sklawer,  Bennie)

Sorkin, Rosie



Spunt, Gussie

Starr, Mrs. Annie

Stein, Jennie

Stellino, Jennie

Stiglitz, Jennie

Tabick, Samuel

Terdanova (Terranova),  Clotilde

Tortorella, Isabella

Ullo, Mary

Utal, Meyer

Velakowsky,  Freda(Freida)

Vivlania, Bessie

Vovobritsky, Annie

Weinduff, Sally

Weiner, Rose

Weintraub, Sally (Sarah?)

Weintraub, Celia

Welfowitz, Dora

Wilson, Joseph

Wisner, Tessie

Wisotsky, Sonia

Wondross, Bertha

Zeltner, ?

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piece of ceiling

After projecting the above image on a screen, I asked the students in my college public presentation what they thought the image was.  I gave them more than enough time to look at it and do some “pondering.”  Before moving on I asked them to write down their response on the back pf a piece of paper. The majority of the students (about 85%) said it was a “crack.”  One student said it was an egg. Another student said it was the Liberty Bell.

Without saying I was disappointed…I was disappointed, and not necessarily because most of the students said it was a crack…because it actually is an image that “contains” a crack, but because of the lack of imagination or creative (out of the box) thinking.  I  sort of  applaud the students who said it was an egg or the Liberty Bell because their answer evidenced some outside-the-box thinking.  And that’s what I was looking for. Unless the student was an expert in Renaissance Art, there was no way he/she could identify the image for what it was.

ceiling full size

The image was a piece of Michelangelo’s creation of Adam scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Had they said anything but a “crack,” I would have been able to sigh a sigh of relief.  My faith in the creative potential of college students would have been restored. Had some of the answers been: a dried paint spill, a slide of an animal cell, the side of an old ship…then I would have been encouraged.

My “lame” excercise actually had two purposes.  One to give the students a chance to think creatively, and the other to make a point about the current aim of higher education.

After showing the “big picture” I said that I believe that because today’s college students are so pragmatic and so focused on learning that leads directly to a job that they are missing the big picture. I went on to add that unless you broaden your horizons and step back from a limited view of the purpose of a college education you risk only seeing a small piece of the picture, and at that you can only hazard a guess as to what it is the big picture.

On her journey to the Emerald City,at first  Dorothy did not see the big picture. She was only focused on getting home. However, once she met other people and opened her mind and heart to learning new things, she began to see the big picture. As a result she was able to declare at the end of her journey (in the movie version, at least): If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.

Dorothy saw the big picture. And I’m sure she saw a few cracks on the YBR along the way.

We need to do our best to step back from our parochial way of thinking and see the big picture.

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daylight savings on the YBR

Tonight we spring forward and set the clocks ahead one hour, losing an hour, or perhaps, giving back the hour we borrowed when we set the clocks back in the fall. Either way it is a custom I don’t believe they observed in Oz, or at least I don’t remember reading about it in the book or seeing it happen in the movie. Nevertheless, it reminds me of a time in my childhood when I asked the question, “How can you save daylight?”

Obviously my question was met with looks that ranged from total befuddlement to downright fear. But come to think of it, my question still remains. How can we save daylight?

Think about it. Setting clocks back and forward are just ways for us to manipulate time in our favor. In the pre-tech world it was equivalent to “rewind” and “fast forward.”  Which is another thing that troubles me.  In the old days of my childhood and youth if something happened it happened more or less in real-time.  You couldn’t push the hold button, your couldn’t record the event, and you most certainly couldn’t rewind to watch it again or catch it if you missed it. And your certainly couldn’t fast forward past things you didn’t want to endure.

Unfortunately I believe the whole idea of manipulating time has a serious downtime. And I don’t mean when it comes to watching a marathon of a show you stored on your DVR. I mean we’ve actually employed the concept to the way we live life.  While we’ve always looked forward to the future and looked back on the past with a degree of fondness, we no longer know how, not to just live in the moment, but to savor the moment.

And while on a Monday we can’t physically fast forward to that Saturday event we’ve been looking forward to, we often do it mentally and emotionally. We watch the clock and try as hard as we can to make time fly.  And if it’s not focusing so much on a future event, we do the same when it comes to looking back.  Even though we are in the moment, we close our eyes and drift back to a particular time that filled us with joy.

There’s nothing inherently looking forward or look back, but when it diminishes the present, I think we’ve gone too far. It’s true that we are prisoners of a 24-hour day. It’s also true that two-thirds of the 24-hour day are spent sleeping and working. That leaves us only eight hours. But wait. The eight-hour work day involved getting to and back from work, so we reduce that eight hours to six, and in many cases, five hours.  Five hours!

What do we do with those five precious hours? We shop, we pay bills, and we do all those other things that consume our time, further cutting into those five precious hours and giving us maybe an hour or two…that we either spend watching shows we’d DVR’d or playing Candy Crunch and getting angry with helpless birds.

I think we, as a species, enjoy filling every working hour with sometime mind numbing distractions. The challenge is to make every hour count, even the ones we sleep through and the ones where we sit in our cubicle.

Regarding sleeping. I say, sleep well. Open your mind and heart to the possibility of refreshing dreams that could every easily be the antidote for a weary soul. Regarding the work day. Be present there, but don’t be a prisoner to it. Don’t let the ever-slow work clock damage your spirit. Take your work seriously, but don’t be so serious.  Look for those moments when levity can creep in.  If you are fortunate to have an hour lunch break, make it a point to do something different. With warm weather showing its head, go out and enjoy the beauty of the day. Take a walk. Find a nearby park and do nothing.

And for the hours not owned by sleep and work, live them in the moment. Relish them. Savor them. Break the mold. And by doing so, you will actually be saving daylight…the daylight that lights up the spirit hidden deep inside of us.

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