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All posts for the month October, 2006

AMERICAN UNDER SIEGE

Published October 26, 2006 by jean cohen

It’s about thirty five days before I’m deported from ‘this royal throne of Kings, this sceptered isle’. I hope my friends are planning a huge "Deportation Do." What does one get as ‘deportation’ presents?

I’ve been busy playing "Five Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and asking my friends, to ask their friends, and so on, but have had no luck finding a corrupt, or failing corrupt, helpful, go-to Immigration Guy.

My friends have been very supportive and helpful.

Lou has very seriously offered to marry me. This is extremely kind, as he is Karen’s partner. He said we could have our wedding reception at the Grotto. I suspect we would both need to do a LOT of drinking if we got married. I never really considered the idea seriously, for a variety of reasons, including that that would make Karen my "sister-wife." (I’ve been watching "Big Love"). However, when Jerry visited last week in my dreams . . . well, I haven’t seen him so mad since the time I got clocked doing 85 mph on I-95 in Maryland in the Jaguar and then pulled over for harassing a tractor trailer driver who had pissed me off. I had PMS. (No worries. Maryland’s finest was sure sorry he ever stopped ME.) Anyway. Jerry said it was a bad idea. He didn’t say it exactly like that. Wow. He knows a lot of curse words. In Yiddish AND English.

I’ve considered becoming an Overstayer, like another friend did for four years. But he’s a Commonwealth citizen, and I’m an American. I don’t relish the thought of being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night by the British equivalent of the Gestapo and being incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs until they put me on a plane (probably in coach) to Anywhere, USA. I think it’s Wormwood Scrubs. Darren and Justin . . . the twins . . . who are cops . . . were warning me about trying this option. It was pretty noisy in the Grotto that night.

In the land of the free and home of the brave, I’m battling the Department of Homeland Security. For a bloody form that I need for the wonderful folks at the Italian Consulate. Why did it have to be Homeland Security? Why couldn’t it be Housing & Urban Development, say, or Janitorial Supplies? Let’s just say if those idiots I’ve spoken to on the phone, after I’ve persevered and hung on hold forever, are protecting we Americans, we’re all doomed.

On the American side, I rang up my friend, Ellie. He lives in New Jersey. I appear to have, unfortunately, burned my bridges in the Keystone State. That scathing funny and utterly brilliant piece I did for the Rockall Times about Sen. Rick Santorum has pretty much made Pennsylvania a non-starter. Ellie is a dentist, and I figured the powerful and well-connected get gingivitis and cavities, too. My cleverest and dumbest moment was when I asked Ellie if he perhaps knew . . . Jim McGreevey. Note to British readers: This would be the place to insert a joke about Brokeback Mountain, but I can’t think of any. I just thought that the disgraced ex-governor probably had cavities, gingivitis AND plaque, given his heretofore hidden sexual proclivities. Ellie’s working on it. He also said that the people at Immigration and the Queen probably all read my blog, and. obviously, I should just give up.

Karen and I are having a ‘gar-age’ sale on Saturday. Not a garage sale. A ‘gar-age’ sale. I guess you can’t tell the difference. I can. I get corrected a hundred times a day for saying ‘garage’ (American) instead of ‘gar-age’ (British). Karen’s relative has a shop, and gave Karen lots of brand new bric-a-brac and Christmas stuff. Karen mentioned that she was popping over to Katie’s to pick up some more stuff, and I said, " Great. See if she’s got some Thanksgiving stuff. That would really go fast." Yeah. Probably not.

We made posters and flyers to put under "windscreen wipers", and then we started making the cards with the prices. My neatly printed price tags all had to be binned because I put dollar signs instead of pound signs.

I got a lot of mail this week about the Remembrance blog. My friend, Janet, said it made her cry. Hey! She lives in Delaware. Have I pissed off anybody in Delaware lately? And my friend, Tombstones, rang last night to say how much he loved it. On a side note, friends here were grossed out by the fact that my name is already on our tombstone. Tombstones (who MADE the tombstone) is going to pop over to Har Yehuda this week, have a natter with Jerry, and take a picture of it and email it to me. Dearest Tombstones misses me, and cabbage soup. (Don’t try to figure it out.)

I’m off this afternoon to London for lunch with Eileen, followed by shopping at Divine Harrods. Maybe on Deportation Day Minus One, I should chain myself to the counter in the Louis Vuitton Department.

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THROUGH THE MIRROR OF MY MIND . . . REFLECTIONS

Published October 20, 2006 by jean cohen

Oy vey. Another first for me in Weybridge.

I started thinking about the ‘yahrzeit’ (anniversary) of Jerry’s death, and although I am a non-believer in God or an afterlife, just in case, I feel an obligation to observe certain customs. (My custom of choice, on a sad anniversary, would be to go buy a new, very expensive, Louis Vuitton bag.)

Anyway, I asked my best mate Karen if she knew where there were any Jews. That really stumped her, and she did inquire if I was hitting the Zinfy before breakfast again. I explained, sort of. It was another one of those British/American/throw in a little Yiddish/ conversations. Basically, I need a Zahrzeit candle for the anniversary. Anyway, she said let’s look it up in the Yellow Pages. Brilliant!

Yahweh wept! There’s a synagogue in Weybridge. So there must be some Jewish people, although I am pretty sure I’ve not seen any. "What’s it called?" I asked Karen, expecting the traditional kind of name: Har Zion, Beth Am, Adith Israel, Avodat Yisrael. "North West Surrey Synagogue," she replied. Oh. Catchy name.

So I rang them, and asked the nice lady with the posh English accent, "Do you have a Judaica Shop? I need to buy a Yahrzeit candle." "Of course we do" she replied.

"Zay gezunt!" said I.

Okay. I know you’re all confused. Follow along.

Zay gezunt (Yiddish); Jolly good show (British); Totally awesome (American, left coast); Good (American, right coast.)

She graciously gave me directions, and Karen and I hopped in the car, and drove over. Arriving at the synagogue (which is very cleverly disguised to look like your basic CofE church), Karen asked, somewhat nervously, "Are there any things I should or shouldn’t do?" "Yep" I replied. "Don’t eat a ham sandwich in the Sanctuary." Honestly, my sparkling repartee even astonishes me sometimes.

Following the signs, we walked to the side door, where the congregation had erected an awesome Succah. Karen, not very surprisingly, asked, "What is that?"

I put on my Yeshive hat (metaphorically). "It’s a succah. It’s the Festival of Succat, which is eight days. The congregation builds the succah to commemorate the dwellings the Israelites built in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. The walls are wood, and the ceiling is greenery so you can see the stars. It’s decorated with fruit and vegetables, and it has to have palm, citron, myrtle and willow branches. You eat your meals in it."

Karen is looking at me quite strangely, and I realize that during all of those Saturday mornings I spent in synagogue, my subconscious was obviously paying attention, while my conscious was daydreaming about Ted Koppel or that really, really hot Strong Safety dude on the Eagles. Note to American readers: Wes Hopkins)

We go inside, and I embarrass myself by mistaking the black lady from the phone for the Rabbi. The sign did say the Rabbi’s name was Rabbi Jacqueline Tabick. I’m in England. Everything is pear-shaped. I thought maybe she was a Yemenite. Honestly. Anyway, she was the Administrator, not the Rabbi.

I bought my Yahzreit candles, and got into a discussion with her about saying Mourner’s Kaddish, would the Minyion say Kaddish for Jerry, can one make a contribution for the Oneg Shabbat, and all that kind of stuff. Karen, meanwhile looks like she really wants to get out of Dodge City (or Oatlands Park, if you want to be technical about it). Preferably, without me. Not only am I American, which is bad enough, but I am turning Jewish, right before her eyes.

And I think about Jerry, and how, when I dream about him (which is often) he speaks to me in Yiddish. (He complains about me spending money, too, but we can’t really expect him to change just because he’s dead). I am a different person in England, but I can’t and shouldn’t forget the person I was with Jerry. He was proud of his Jewishness, and I was proud of him. I loved him. I feel as though I have been denying my Jewish-by-associationess. He called it something else; I’ll keep what that was to myself. That was my life for a long time. Denying it is the worst form of revisionism.

I’m not one for proscribed mourning rituals, like the unveiling. Even though I feel that I remember him in the ways that are meaningful to me, I will say the Mourner’s Kaddish and light the Yahrzeit candle on his anniversary, as the symbol of his life that burned so brightly, and illuminated the life of the wife who loved him very much, because Jewish rituals mattered to him

Then I’ll go to Divine Harrods for a new Louis Vuitton…

 

 

 

 

WAR IS HELL – OR A HELLUVA LOT OF FUN

Published October 17, 2006 by jean cohen

Although I’ve not mentioned it in my blog recently, my visa problems continue. In fact, I’m fighting simultaneously on three fronts: America, Italy and Britain. I’ve started my own World War. How awesome is that?

Speaking of wars, I decided to buy my cousin, who is ill, a boxed set of a war drama newly released on DVD that we watched together religiously every week when we were kids. Well, it arrived here, and I thought "Why not watch it before I send it on?" Hey, I paid for it. Big Mistake. I am addicted.

It’s called Rat Patrol, and it’s about a Long Range Desert Group unit in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Korps. It’s historically inaccurate; it was banned from telly in Great Britain due to it’s loose interpretation of which country’s troops actually defeated the Desert Fox. (Answer: The British.) It also plays fast and loose with dates and locations of battles. Not really a problem in the States; most Americans couldn’t locate Tunisia on a map, if you held a gun to their head. Additionally, the Germans in the show are the most inept soldiers ever; at least fifty or sixty get blown away in every episode, as well as assorted trucks, tanks, jeeps and half-tracks. You’re probably wondering why the hell I’m watching it.

Obviously, for the hot guys.

There’s sexy blue-eyed guy (the leader of the unit), hunky English guy (he’s very public school and says things like, "I think that’s my wicket, old man).so-so silent guy in a helmet (he gets to say one line about every third episode), dreamy blond guy with glasses (even his CHEST HAIR is blond!), and my personal favorite, hot, hot, hot German guy (the enemy, of course, but honorable). Honestly, in spite of all the blood and blowing up ammo dumps and assorted buildings, this is a chick show. I’ve seen Time Magazine’s World War II, and believe me, the troops’ pants were not nearly as tight-fitting as the Rat Patrol’s. Big Sigh. And even though they’re in the desert, it probably isn’t actually necessary to take their shirts off quite so often. Bigger Sigh.

Anyways, my advice to readers of the female persuasion is to make a quick trip to Ann Summers in Woking (YOU know what for) and prepare for thirty hours of total heaven. Requests to borrow my DVDs are on a first-come basis. (Little joke.)

Thursday night at Live Music was really strange. The singer was Surfer Boy, and for some really strange reason, he kept chatting me up. He came and sat with me before he started, and during the interval. I seriously was beginning to suspect Colleen was taking the piss, and had told him he was my favorite or I had the hots for him. (He’s not; and I don’t. I’m holding out for Robbie Lee.) He sang four songs for me- this is true – and made sure to tell me when he’s playing next, "so you’re here". ???

Saturday night, I went to Twickenham with Lou and Karen, to meet Stephen (Lou’s brother) and his partner, Sharon, whom I met in Scotland. We went to a local and it was a pretty good night. I must add, however, that I’ve determined I’m never going to meet Mr. Right in any of the locals I keep ending up in. Unless his Rolls Royce breaks down outside one of them, if you know what I mean.

Live Music Sunday night was Julie Clifton. A quick text to her in the morning confirmed that she would NOT be singing "Sweet Home . . . " She was excellent, not just because we’re now friends, and not because she sang "Daydream Believer" and dedicated it to me. She’s just really good.

The Eagles lost on Sunday, prompting a spate of snotty texts from James. Too bad the G-men won, and I couldn’t reciprocate.

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‘REAL’ FOOTBALL IN WEYBRIDGE

Published October 10, 2006 by jean cohen

I got a lot of emails commenting on the "700 Level" reference in my last blog. Since access to my blog is public, I occasionally get an email from someone who stumbled on it whilst surfing (probably porn sites, judging from the spelling and content). Anyway, I got an email from an ex-Philadelphian living in Flagstaff, Arizona, who said:

"I don’t miss Philly at all, but your reference to the infamous "700 Level" brought back fond memories of freezing my ass off at the Vet. There’s a picture out (maybe from the Daily News?) of eight of us guys, after a snowstorm, shirtless, spelling out 7-0-0-L-E-V-E-L…."

He went on to reminisce about those"special moments" dear to all Eagles’ fans hearts. Who can forget throwing snowballs at Santa Claus? Booing Ronald McDonald? Cheering when Michael Irwin broke his back? Pelting Jimmy Johnson with frozen mini hotdogs? Sign guy’s infamous message to Norman Braeman in French?

God, I miss real football! I don’t miss much stuff from home, except, of course, cheesesteaks, ESPN, Jon Stewart, and Hamish, but I sure miss Sundays and the Eagles.

It was just an ordinary week in Weybridge . . . sort of.

Thursday night was Live Music, and it was off to the Grotto for Paul Stroble. When I got there, the musician was setting up, and I noticed something odd.

"Um, Pat," I said. "I don’t mean to take the piss, but that’s not Paul Stroble."

"Oh, yeah" she replied. "Paul’s sick and John Dale is filling in."

"Okay. As long as he doesn’t sing "Sweet you-know-what."

John was pretty good, right up until the end, when he said, "This last song is dedicated to Jeano." Yep. You guessed it. Sweet Home Fucking Alabama.

My friend, Eileen had rung me on Thursday, to say she’d been given four tickets to the Old Vic Theatre in London to see O’Neill’s "A Moon for the Misbegotten", with Kevin Spacey. It’s causing quite a stir, and it’s been sold out for months. I was chuffed to train it up to Waterloo and have an evening out with Eileen and Jan, and their friend, Edward. The Old Vic is incredible. It’s two hundred years old, and opulent, although rather small. O’Neill is a playwright I avoid; too much doom and gloom. "Moon" didn’t disappoint in that regard. It was extremely dark and depressing, and there were certainly no happy endings for any of the characters. Kevin Spacey was powerful in the starring role.

Karen came over on Saturday. As there is some kind of soccer thingy going on, with teams like Macedonia and Croatia playing teams like the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, Lou simply had to be at the Grotto watching all 17 hours of action, most of which seemed to end up nil-nil. (0 – 0) I guess their players are not very good at P.K.’s. I was, however, gracious, and when Karen and I popped in for Thai food, I did ask, "Is anything actually happening?" to the guys.

I did cook dinner on Sunday; two weeks in a row. A personal best for me. Lasagna. As I mentioned earlier, I had found a Redskins jacket in a thrift shop, and there was a little ceremony planned at the pub. Lou helped me prepare by painting rude and crude sayings on the jacket (I picked GREEN paint. Get it? Eagles.) Mike hung it over the fireplace, but decreed it was too nice to burn. So we poured some beer on it, and decided to leave it up until the Eagles play the ‘Skins. We didn’t get the Giants-‘Skins game on Sky. It turned out to be Da Bears and the Bills, which was all Bears and no Bills. Sky doesn’t do a sports ticker; in fact, I don’t think anyone at Sky knows anything about American football. They would show a highlight from one of the early games, and neglect to mention what the score was.

The second game was the Eagles-Cowboys game, and Mike gave special permission for the tellys to all be on during Live Music. The British commentators are a couple of prats, so I didn’t mind no sound. It was awesome. I tried to explain the action to my friends, and taught them a few new expressions to use for T.O. He sucked, didn’t he? It was a brilliant win, and probably the best night ever at the Grotto.

 

 

 

 

GUNS ‘N CHEESES

Published October 4, 2006 by jean cohen

Lou tells me I was not sufficiently remorseful over the "Silly Philly Incident", as I have dubbed the Cream Cheese shocker. A confession in my blog was apparently not enough. I am waiting, with trepidation, for an onslaught of "piss taking". The slew of text messages saying simply "CHEESE!" were funny, the message, "There’s sure a lot of cream cheese recipes on Google" was a bit ominous, given my unfamiliarity with kitchens, and all things related to them. A challenge is hereby issued: BRING IT ON, MATE! I’m ready.

Speaking of kitchens, my moon was in Aquarius or something, and I bestirred myself to cook dinner on Sunday. NOT a Sunday Roast. A proper dinner. Served at the proper dinner time. The Irish Lad and Amy and Eamonn came over. My laptop need some tweaking, and Terry is my "go to" Computer Guy here, even though he doesn’t provide the full range of services Computer Guy in King of Prussia does, if you know what I mean. I’m doggie-sitting for Paula whilst she’s on holiday in India, and Eamonn was quite chuffed to come over and meet Rufus and Louis. It was a lovely meal, I think, and Terry was so moved that he told the children that "any occasion involving Jeano, a kitchen, and cooked food" should be preserved in their memories. Paula flew by to drop off the dogs while we were eating, and told me later on the phone that she was gobsmacked by such a homey picture. I think that was a compliment, but I can never tell.

Since the Eagles played Monday night, this week, I was spared a slew of taunts and jeers from Giants fans at Live Music Sunday night. New band; really, really good. The Giants did not lose on Sunday. Most probably because they had a By Week. Note to James: how many interceptions did Eli throw last week against Seattle? This Sunday, the G-men play the Redskins. I found a Redskins jacket at Oxfam, which Mike is going to burn in the fireplace at the Grotto this week in a solemn ceremony.

On a somewhat more serious note, there was an awful lot of coverage here about the school shootings in Lancaster. The news reports all seemed to use the terminology "a suburb of Philadelphia," prompting hordes of people, especially at the Senior Center to mention it to me. And yes, several people actually asked me if I knew the shooter. Bad Jeano (my alter ego who is more sarcastic, meaner , but much thinner than me) had several responses ready. "Yes, of course. We worked together at the cream cheese factory." "Only by sight. He sat in the 700 Level." Note to British readers: Nah. Never Mind. I can’t explain it. And, best of all: "Sure. We bought our guns at the same Drive-Thru Weapons Shop." I could have tried to explain that Lancaster County may be only 55 miles from Philadelphia, but that it’s like being in a different universe. Do I have to explain about that movie, "Witness," again? If I’m going to drive 55 miles, you can be sure it’s in the other direction, to Atlantic City, where they have casinos and slot machines. The people here were very conciliatory, however, assuring me that they didn’t blame me because "America is a violent place, with no gun-control."

In closing, I decided to be pro-active in the War of the Cheese, and invited Lou and Karen to mine on Sunday for dinner. The menu:

*Cheese Antipasto

*Cheese Lasagna

*Cheesy Garlic Bread

and, obviously…..

*Philadelphia Cream Cheese cheesecake.

 

 

 

 

 

CREAM CHEESE AND OTHER THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD

Published October 2, 2006 by jean cohen

Gee Whiz! Take a few days off from the onerous job of blogging, and people send you hate mail. I thought James did an excellent job. Okay. I know he’s no Jeano, but then, who could possibly live up to me?

This is my first autumn in England, apart from the odd week here and there when I was escorting groups. Nobody warned me that it rains seventeen times a day in the fall. It’s no wonder they needed us to come over and solve their little "German hiccup" for them. They were too waterlogged or depressed to fight. Karen and I have plans to have a boot sale, but there hasn’t been a clear weekend in ages. Why, coming home from the Grotto the other evening, Pinkie, Terry and I had to stand on Monument Hill in a little huddle, under the umbrella Terry had "borrowed," because it was pouring down so hard.

I went to the Cinema (Movies) for the first time here, with Paula, to see "The Queen". The other choice was Oliver Stone’s 9/11 movie. No thanks. Jane Mirren was brilliant, and I give the film Three Hats. I do wish she had worn more of them in it; I only spotted one.

On Wednesday, I went up to London to see dearest Scotty. We wandered around, stopping to admire the Old Vic, and just enjoying the breathtaking London skyline from Tower Bridge. London is a most beautiful city. We had lunch at a colorful tappas restaurant, and solved all the world’s problems as we ate. Scotty has a friend who may be helpful with publishing my book, if I ever get it written.

Thursday night, I stayed in. Ha! Ha! Just kidding. It was Live Music. The singer was Jim Sole, whom I don’t really like, but I actually go for the erudite conversation, not the music or wine. Example of erudite conversation:

Pat: (owner of the Grotto and fellow American) "Jeano! Can you come over here and lend some American expertise?"

Me: "Huh? Sure"

Pat: "Please confirm for this very pissed gentleman here that Texas is NOT a state in America."

Me: "Texas is NOT part of the United States. Everyone knows that. It’s part of Mexico, and it’s chockablock full of Mexicans and cowboys. We don’t know which are worse."

Very pissed man: "Dallas is a great city!"

Pat and me: "A great city? Dallas sucks! No self-respecting person from the East Coast would be caught dead in Dallas."

Very pissed man: "You two are just taking the piss out of me."

Us: "Us? No way, Jose. We know what we’re talking about."

Pat: "I’m from New York, and she’s from Philadelphia. We’re from the sophisticated side of the country."

Very pissed man: "Philadelphia? Where they make the cream cheese?"

Conversations like this are what makes foreign travel such a worthwhile experience.

This next part is very exciting. Better than that time I ran into the Queen in the dairy aisle at Sainsbury’s. In the interests of good journalism, that actually never happened. But an awful lot of people believe it did, for some strange reason. Karen and I were having a girls day out shopping in Addlestone. Note to American readers: Imagine getting up and thinking, "I have always wanted to spend the day puttering around in Upper Darby." Anyhow, that’s not important. We ran into Robbie Lee. Outside Tesco’s. Carrying a loaf of french bread (sexual symbolism). We all said hello, and I got a HUGE snog. Karen said afterwards that she didn’t think he was ever going to let me go. That last bit is actually true.

I had plans on Friday night to go out with Monkey Joe. He is generally under house arrest, so I don’t see as much of him as I’d like. I adore Monkey. I must confess that the last time I went out with him for "a beer," I don’t remember how, or when, I got home. We met up at Dexter’s and sat outside chatting, until it started to rain. Monkey had Leechy’s Jaguar, so off we went to the Grotto, after stops at the Volunteer, the Queen’s Head, the Crown, the Minnow and the Jolly Farmer, not necessarily in that order. I had enough sense to text Lou to come and get me, before everything went pear shaped.

Lou had cut an article out of the Daily Mirror for me titled "Philly: City that gave birth to the land of the free." It was quite a nice piece, and had some good suggestions for things to do and places to see. I got around to reading it on Saturday. Very late in the afternoon, when my head stopped pounding. Anyway, there was one part that really had me howling with laughter. I quote:

"The city loves its food. Walnut Street is known as Restaurant Row, with several top-class eateries in old converted bank buildings. … For cheap eats, head for the ethnic areas such as Chinatown, Germantown, and the Italian Market."

Germantown??? Is the Daily Mirror, not exactly renowned for journalistic integrity, really recommending that unwary tourists go to Germantown to get wienersnitzle? This is why I don’t believe anything I read in the newspapers here, even about George W.

Well, this last bit today is difficult to write. But I am an honest woman, and admit when I make a mistake. Since I’ve been in England, almost every single person I meet, upon hearing that I’m from Philadelphia, says, "Oh, where the cream cheese comes from." I always reply, with a superior American look, "No. Cream Cheese has nothing to do with Philadelphia." Honestly, from the city that gave the world Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe, M. Night Shyamalan, and Rocky Balboa, all they can come up with is cream cheese? After the most recent encounter with a clueless Brit, I decided to Google "Philadelphia Cream Cheese" to find out the real story. And here it is:

In 1872, a dairyman in New York State developed a cheese made from cream and whole milk. In 1880, a distributor began marketing the product in tin-foil wrappers, calling it "Philadelphia Brand." The term "Philadelphia Brand," was selected because at that time, top quality food products were often referred to as being "Philadelphia quality." Today, in many parts of the world, cream cheese is called simply "Philadelphia". In Latin America and South America, it is called "Queso Philadelphia." In Germantown, it is called "that white shit I be puttin’ on my bagel."