Mad Lib Me

Not yet on the National Historic Register: the house where I am from

This post was the result of a brilliant idea from the brilliant mind of the brilliant Mama Kat. People like me — with no original ideas of our own but plenty to say — were prompted to copy this template and then fill in the blanks. The finished product strikes me as a poetic Mad Lib about “Where I’m From.” One of my favorite prompts, and one of my personal favorite posts. Thanks AGAIN, Mama Kat.


I am from the smell of clear nail polish applied by my mother on Saturday nights in the 70s, from blue-boxed Ronzoni pasta that guaranteed I would eat dinner, and middle class New Jersey.

I am from a fairly modest 50s-era ranch house on a “glen” shaped like the number 9, a blend of Country French furniture and formica, a certain suburban smell I can neither describe nor forget.

I am from shiny green bushes with little red berries that are toxic when ingested but satisfying to smush, and from massive pine trees that seem grandfatherly against the rest of the yard.

I am from endless dinners at Ferraro’s, “secret recipe” matzo ball soup at Passover, August vacations on Cape Cod and routine anxiety. I am from Ethel and Phil and Mildred, and from Hannah and Irving.

I am from intellect, kindness and malaise, from insane generosity and differing levels of emotional intimacy.

From pulled muscles as the root cause of all discomfort and the idea that “Sweet Valley High” books rot the brain.

I am from survivors, from homemade bright pink borscht and primary-colored Hanukkah candles, from the trumping of theology by tradition. I am from fluctuating faith exemplified by this question, posed to a rabbi and resulting in ejection from Hebrew school class: If I said God spoke to me, you’d put me in a mental hospital.

I am from a medical center viewable from the FDR Drive, from the shtetl, from Hungarian peasants living in Czechoslovakia with head scarves and mules. I am from great-aunts and great-uncles who did not get out in time, some who made it home again and some who did not. I am from “the casbah” and displaced persons camps, from letters written in foreign languages by relatives I never met, from a tavern in Irvington, from places in Newark torn down for the highway.

I am from the bottom drawer of a massive wooden night table, where good report cards and poorly drawn birthday cards mingle with ancient address books and black and white photos with ruffled edges. I am from carousel after carousel of Kodachrome slides kept under lock and key, from shoe boxes filled with 35mm pictures capturing life in exotic places like Holland, Woodbridge, Scotch Plains and New Brunswick. From journals written on loose-leaf paper and later typed and dot-matrix’ed, telling what is basically the same story over and over. I am from a childhood that never felt happy, for no good reasons other than faulty wiring, family feuds and yes, some tragedy. I am from a childhood I will always strive to fix, knowing, as a British royal allegedly said, that there is no cure for the past.

Mad Lib Me

Night Fall on a Different World

Never forget

This post is dedicated to everyone who lost loved ones or was otherwise directly affected by September 11th, but especially the R family.

Special thanks to my lil sis, Jamie, for her editing assistance.

Everyone talks about September 11th like it was a single day. But to me, it was more like a season with days that blurred together.  I don’t know when or even if that season really ended.  I still feel like New York is a ticking bomb.  I worry that the next time, I won’t be so lucky.  Not one day goes by when I don’t think about the absolute awfulness of the whole thing.  I now divide my life into two sections: pre- and post-September 11th.  I see the Empire State Building and automatically picture a plane crashing into it. I see a low-flying plane and automatically wonder if that’s really where it’s supposed to be.  Not one plane trip, subway commute or car trip through the tunnels goes by without disaster crossing my mind.  And I definitely can’t walk outside on a mild, cloudless day without getting an ominous feeling.

I am exceptionally thankful that I don’t have much of a September 11th story to tell you. But at Mama Kat’s prompting, here are some of the things I associate with that day.

  • Making tacos the night before with my sister Jamie and then not being able to eat them again. I’m sure we had plenty of things on our minds, but since then, that whole night has seemed like the calmest, most innocent of my life.
  • Running late the next morning and watching footage of what turned out to be the second plane flying straight into the South Tower.  I assumed it was a prank until, a split second later, I heard Janice Huff – the local weatherwoman – screaming, “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD” as she did the voiceover.
  • Sitting in our window-less living room with my friend Mike and then Kiki, glued to the television and literally unable to comprehend what we were seeing. The magnitude of the destruction was just too big to fit in my mind.
  • Wondering when and if the attacks would stop and if this was actually the end of the world – wondering if this was the day we would all die
  • Thinking how ironic it was that in the end, it wasn’t the Russians or the bomb that we had to worry about
  • Certain TV stations getting knocked off the air because they broadcast from the Trade Center
  • Kiki saying we needed an emergency plan
  • Remembering my only trip to the top of the World Trade Center, when I was about six and the towers were about the same age. It was a cloudy day and we couldn’t see very much, but being that high up was fascinating. I was wearing a red velour jumpsuit (god help me) and we ate jelly fruit slices my grandma had bought us in a candy store there.
  • Remembering my last trip to the World Trade Center, in 1995, with my journalism school “boyfriend” (note quotes). He had some problem with his ticket to California, and I was accompanying him to one of the little retro airline ticket offices that used to occupy the ground floor.
  • The unforgettable smell of burnt air the next day
  • The strangeness of no one going to work
  • Having lunch with Jamie and Kiki at the now defunct Victory Café, which was packed with people sitting in silence as they watched the TV in the corner of the bar
  • The desperate faces in the sea of people looking for their husbands, wives, daughters, sons, siblings, parents and friends
  • The near-miss stories
  • Finding out that one of the antenna engineers at Thirteen, where I worked at the time, was killed
  • Hearing the ordeal of my publicist friend C, one of the now infamous “Thirteen Girls.” She’d been working in Montana on the set of “Frontier House.” An hour into her flight home, the captain announced that six planes had been hijacked and that theirs would have to make an emergency landing in Canada. In Canada, she got on a bus to Detroit, where she and another co-worker spent almost a week in “skeevy” hotel before finally renting a car and driving back to New York.
  • Thinking of totally random people I hadn’t thought of in years and wondering if they were okay
  • Jan telling me about her 12-year-old student whose dad worked in the World Trade Center and was in class when she found out what happened
  • Driving to NJ two days later with my dad, Jamie and Kiki, and feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort, when we got there … yet knowing something intangible wasn’t right
  • All of us and Jan having a sad dinner at Charlie Brown’s, site of countless carefree childhood meals
  • The song “Overcome,” by Live, permanently running through my head
  • “Let’s roll” and the details of what happened on Flight 93
  • Bernie Kerik
  • Viewing the return of Saturday Night Live as a sign of semi-normalcy.  Lorne Michaels, the man I dreamed would one day be my boss, asking Mayor Giuliani if it was okay to be funny, and Giuliani saying, “Why start now?”
  • The loss of my “North Stars,” as I used to call the Towers, which always helped me get my bearings downtown
  • My continuing inability to recognize the skyline of my own city
  • “My City in Ruins”
  • This quote from the speech President Bush gave on September 21st: “All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.”
Night Fall on a Different World