Red Light Rockfest

Joke: It’s okay to argue with yourself as long as you don’t lose the argument.

Google the word “books” and the phrase “Be your own best friend” and no less than five permutations on the title will come up.  I concede that I could probably use a “positive self-talk” refresher every now and then, especially, say, after a meal like the one I generally have on Thanksgiving, if you know what I mean.  But, five different books telling me how to be a friend to myself? Don’t need ’em. I’m already my own best friend. I mean, I must be, right?

After all, I’m always talking to myself or, at any rate, some invisible person. I  give counsel, ask questions and remark (quietly!) on the behavior and attire of others. Chatting with my unseen pals has its benefits. It’s helpful in sorting out problems. It reminds me of things I might otherwise have forgotten. It keeps “the creative juices” flowing and it makes time pass … except when I’m stuck in traffic.

In those situations, I default to singing.

When I sing, I take center stage and lose myself. The world around me simply vanishes. It’s just me, the music and my legions of hidden fans who especially enjoy when I belt out tunes at top volume. I can’t disappoint them, so … you know how the story goes.

Of course, like that child’s game where you cover your eyes and say, “You can’t see me,” the rest of the world is still out there somewhere. Invisible audiences are a lot more forgiving… .


Now Read This!

By now, I’m going to guess that most of you know about my unexpected citation in The Washington Post this past Sunday. It came about following a simple Facebook query in which I asked the woman who runs the Style Invitational (a humor-writing contest open to the public) — known to contest fans as “The Empress,” — if she takes fans’ contest ideas. (Rarely, is the answer, by the way.) After considerable discussion, the matter was dropped and I concluded that the case was closed.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I saw my name in the paper. Of course, I couldn’t keep my good news to myself! As a writer and an “ideas” gal, I had to share it with, well, everyone. So I posted it as a Facebook status update and I shared my news on “The Writer’s Post” and, of course,  I emailed all my relatives.

Then I started to panic … .

If I was creative enough to submit an idea and have it accepted, I needed to show that I was good enough to enter the contest, too. I never like to make life easy for myself. Yikes! Nevertheless, I set about submitting my work.

Fortunately, for me, the current contest — entries for which must be received by midnight tonight — is a mite easier than the one I dreamed up because I have material to work with already, in a manner of speaking. Even so, I’m up against some fiercely creative minds and I’m just a newbie.

Not knowing whether any of my entries will survive the judging, I thought I’d share my submissions here for “Style Invitational Week 996: A Life-Time opportunity — Combine two magazines or journals and describe the result, supply a marketing pitch, or suggest a story or two that it might publish.

I’ve got 13 ideas. Lucky 13? Only time will tell — literally. Contest results will be published online on Dec. 6th. Wish me luck and, without further ado, enjoy my magazine titles!

  • Combine “Antique Trader” with “Everyday Food” to wind up with “Everyday Antique Food Trader,” a publication featuring recipes for pot luck suppers that use only ingredients found at the very back of the fridge.
  • Combine “Flyrodder” with “Foreign Affairs.” The first edition of this brand new publication, “Foreign Flyrodder Affairs” will feature an “intimate” look at General David Petraeus.
  • Combine “Gourmet” with “Southern Living” to get “Gourmet Southern Living.” Articles include, “Preparing Possum for a Prince” and “Git Yer Lardon.”
  •  Combine “Real Simple” with “People” to get “Real Simple People.”  Marketing pitch: “We only use small words in our stories so we can be sure you ‘get it.’” (The editors initially considered this pitch: “We only use words with fewer than two syllables to be sure you understand.” However, it was rejected as too complicated for the target market.)
  • Combining “Senior Living” (a Canadian publication) with “Playboy” yields “Senior Playboy Living.” Check out the cooking section in the latest issue which includes a recipe for “Spotted Dick.”
  • Combine “More,” “Money,” and “People” to get “More Money, People!” In this edition, a “how-to” guide from NHL players and management personnel and letters from ‘The 47%.’
  • Combine “Jewish Currents” with “Parenting” and you get “Jewish Parenting Currents.”  The marketing pitch:  “Would it kill you to read our magazine?!
  • Combine “Disney Adventures” with “High Times.” The result? “Disney High Times Adventures.” Articles include, “Man! Mickey’s ears are sooo big!” and “I’m flyin’ like Dumbo, Dude!”
  • Combine “Wired” with “The New Yorker,” to generate “The Wired New Yorker,” featuring an out-of-towner’s guide to all Starbucks locations in the five boroughs.
  • Combine “Gourmet” with “Freshwater and Marine Aquarium” to wind up with “Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Gourmet.”  In this edition, “Don’t flush those floaters, fry them!”
  • Combine “Giant Robot” with “Girlfriends” and you get “Giant Robot Girlfriends,” a publication for socially-challenged heterosexual men. Marketing pitch:  “No need for understanding when there’s programming!”

  • Combine “Mad” with “Washingtonian” to yield “Mad Washingtonian.”  Featuring in-depth interviews with Metrorail commuters. Marketing pitch: “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world and we’re at the center of it.”
  • Combine “W” with “Time” to create, “W Time,” a publication devoted entirely to the 43rd president. Marketing pitch:  “This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating so we thought we’d publish a magazine instead.” Alternative marketing pitch, “All Dubya, All the Time!”

Here is a link to a list of 600-plus magazine titles to get you started: Magazine Titles for The Washington Post Style Invitational Week 996.  Can you combine two (or more) titles to come up with an “alternative” magazine? What would it be called and what would it be about? Please share!

All Full All The Time

I like to think that I know the English language pretty well. After all, I’m 43 1/2 years old, so I’ve been speaking it for, I’d say, about 42  years. It’s obvious to me that in all those years, I’ve taken my ability to understand the language for granted. After all, when prompted by Angela at Journey of Life to blog on the concept of the glass being half full or half empty, I found myself running to the dictionary.

“Full,” as defined by Merriam-Webster means, “containing as much or as many as is possible or normal.” By contrast, Merriam-Webster defines “empty” as, “containing nothing.” Therefore can something be half full or half empty? Half containing nothing? Half containing as much as is possible? I should say not.

Furthermore, as I see it, regardless of how I look at the glass there is always “more” in it. Huh? If I conclude that half of the liquid is gone and therefore, the

glass is “half empty,” you might say I’m a pessimist. I beg to differ. After all, I still have the other half of whatever’s in the glass to sip and savor. Apply that to life.

As I said, I’m 43-plus years old. According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, the average life expectancy for women in the United States is 80 years. Lemme tell you, I’m not sitting at home bemoaning the fact that I may well have already lived more than half my life. Hey! I’ve still got 36-plus years to travel, garden, write, learn, love, etc. Awesome!

Now take the other approach. The glass is “half full.” That’s supposed to be the positive outlook. And I agree. It is. But it’s no more positive than the glass being half empty. It’s just a different viewpoint.  With an empty space to fill, the possibilities are endless! A thrilling prospect, wouldn’t you say?

In terms of life, the second part of mine has recently begun to unfold. How will I live it to, dare I say, “its fullest”?  Wow.  Thank goodness I have half a lifetime yet to answer that question…

So dear readers, I’m sorry, but the half full or half empty outlook on life or individual situations “translated” to mean “Do you think positively or negatively?” is a fallacy and I’m here to debunk that myth. From here on in, I will never again see the glass as half full or half empty. It just isn’t possible.

Instead, I’ll see the glass as all full all the time. Kind of like this:

School Daze(d and Confused)

It’s Monday peeps, so it’s time to blog! Today’s topic comes once again from the Washington Post Editor’s Query. I’m trying to get away from negative self talk, especially in this season of Thanksgiving, but the theme — “Tell us about a time when you weren’t as smart as you thought you were” — was way too good to pass up. So … .


I was born and raised in New York City. For those unfamiliar with the magnitude of that statement, let me explain briefly. We, who were lucky enough to be born and raised in NYC, consider ourselves to be morally superior to the rest of society. We (think we) are more worldly than the rest of you hayseeds from states like San Francisco and Chicago and small towns like Houston and Philadelphia. Face it. We. Are. Smart. When we talk, people listen, because we know things.

Okay, you get the picture … .


When I was 17, I hadn’t been west of Pennsylvania, but, as I said before, I knew things. The summer before my senior year of high school, I attended Harvard Summer School. (Did I not say I was smart?)

There I met students from all over America and some foreign countries, too. Because we were all rising seniors, a frequent topic of conversation was college. Where are you applying? What’s your first choice? Are you applying early? What are you going to major in? And on and on … .

In the crowd of kids I hung out with, there was a girl named Julie. Julie was from California. It kinda figured to me that she was from California, ’cause she was blond and laid back and, I thought, sort of stupid. Julie was distinguished by the UCLA sweatshirt she never took off.

Now I had heard about UCLA. Well, to put it more accurately I had heard UCLA. That is to say, I’d heard the term UCLA and erudite young woman that I was, I knew it had to do with the California university system. (I’m guessing I knew the term from the 1985 movie “The Sure Thing.”)

One of the schools I was mulling applying to was Cal Berkeley — for their journalism program, if memory serves. So I was chatting with Julie one day about colleges and I confidently said, “I’m looking at UCLA Berkeley.” She kinda gave me a blank stare. UCLA Berkeley?

She tilted her head, furrowed her brow and said to me, “You know, Daphne, UCLA stands for University of California, Los Angeles. There is no such thing as UCLA Berkeley. It’s UC Berkeley.”

Whatever, Lady! You’re blond and from LA. Don’t try to educate me about things I so clearly already know all about. I’m from New York City and I’m obviously out of your league… . 

Call 9-1-1! Please!

It seems oddly appropriate that as I write my Thursday Blog Hop  post, I’m expecting a phone call from Special Investigator Laura Smith of the US Office of Personnel Management Federal Investigative Services. Sounds pretty serious, eh? It is.  But not to fear, no one’s in any trouble or anything like that. I just have to answer some questions about a neighbor who is being considered for, “a position of trust with the US Government.”

How, you might wonder, does this picture-as-prompt relate to my current situation?

Of the four types of keys, three of them taken together—the telephone keypad, the computer keyboard and the keys on the ring—take me back to my days as a newspaper reporter. I was a general assignment reporter for a daily paper in upstate NY about 10 years ago. My beat in Saratoga County included two public school systems, several town governments and … the sheriff’s office.

Now, when you write about crime, you deal with—surprise!— criminals. And I did. I was in court regularly and the District Attorney was practically my BFF. I “hung out,” although not by choice, with some pretty unsavory characters.

How it is, though, that they tracked me to my house is beyond me. Mind you, I lived alone, so it was more than a little bit disconcerting. I’ve lost track of the
number of calls I received at home that began thusly when I picked up the phone: “This is the operator. I have a collect call from (insert man’s name here) at (insert name of prison here). Will you accept the charges?”

Um … no.

Eventually, those calls ceased to freak me out. However, just when I thought I was getting used to odd law-enforcement-related calls, I got this message on my voice mail. “Hi, it’s Bernita, calling for Detective Swanson. I need to discuss some details of my case with you. Call me back at 555-3621 or I’ll try to reach you again.”

That scared the bejeezus out of me, although, I’m guessing that if Bernita had known who she’d really reached and how helpful I could actually be to her “case,” it would have put the fear of God in her.  Even so, I thought to myself, “Dear God, I hope she doesn’t call me in an emergency!”

Today, my career as a reporter is behind me and I’ve moved on to other types of writing. Inspired by a trip to Nashville, TN, I’ve been dabbling with writing a country music song. How I would love to write and publish a country music song… . That’s where the piano keys come in.

I understand that country musics often deals with life in and out of jail. Sounds like I’ve got the basis of a song right at my fingertips. I’m think I’m going to call it, “Call 9-1-1! Please!”

A VIP on the QT

I’ve largely been away from blogging this year due to family health issues that put demands on my time and attention and a new volunteer job that put demands on my creative energy.

I was motivated , however, to “take up my pen” again by an invitation I got this summer to participate in a blogging “festival” of sorts. Last month, inspired by BlogFEST 2012, I posted almost every day. That’s hard. I don’t think I have it in me to keep up that frenetic pace, but it’s important to me to keep my creative writing skills fresh—especially if I’m going to write “that book” I’ve been talking about for longer than I can remember.

So I’ve decided, to the best of my ability, to post twice a week. With spare time on Mondays and Fridays and ample time in between for thinking, I hope to share something new with you, fellow readers, at the beginning and end of each week. Starting right now….

One more note: One thing I learned about myself during BlogFEST 2012 is that if I’m given a topic to write about, I usually do much better than if I just pick something out of thin air. So I went looking for topics and found The Washington Post Editor’s Query.

This is a description of the Editor’s Query: “Storytelling is a tradition that has a rich history across many cultures. True stories have the power to move minds and hearts.

Do you have a 100 percent true story to share? The Washington Post Magazine’s long-standing feature ‘Editor’s Query’ is looking for your submissions drawn from your own experiences. We start each prompt off with: ‘Tell us about a time when…’”

With any number of prompts to choose from, I’ve decided to kick things off with this one: “Tell us about a time when you took advantage of a loophole.”

This past March, Gary and I went to New Orleans for the NCAA Men’s Final Four. For the non-sports fans out there, that’s the college Division I basketball championship. However, the weekend typically features much more than just high-caliber basketball games.

To ensure that fans were entertained around the clock during the three-day weekend, in the afternoon and evenings there were concerts. This year’s acts included Debbie Harry of Blondie fame; the renowned 70’s heavy metal rock band, KISS; and everyone’s favorite folk rocker, the legendary Jimmy Buffett.

As always, there was also a daytime fun zone where fans could meet basketball celebrities, including well-known college coaches and TV commentators, and participate in a variety of games (I found out just how badly I play golf, putting me off the sport even more….). In order to participate in the games, you have to sign a waiver and wear a wristband indicating that you’ve signed the waiver. No problem. Really, no problem.

On Saturday morning, Gary and I went to the fun zone to meet Syracuse Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Boeheim (I got his autograph!) and play some games. As required, we signed waiver forms and got wristbands, which out of nostalgia and a bit of apathy, we didn’t take off all day.

That night, we went to the concert venue to see Jimmy Buffett, only to be told at the entrance that the venue was at capacity and no further fans were being let in … unless you had a VIP wristband. There’s an exception to every rule ….

Gary and I had begun walking away when a security guard said, “You two, you have the VIP wristbands. You can go into the concert.” We were quite taken aback. VIP wristbands? We just had junky wristbands from the fun zone.

Gary often says, “We don’t want our best and brightest to (fill in the blank).” Agreed. We don’t want our best and brightest to work security at Jimmy Buffett concerts. So we played along. Yep! We’re VIPS.

We passed through level one of security and at level two, where bags were being checked, we were told, “The concert venue is closed to further members of the public. No one else is allowed in.”

“But we have VIP wristbands and were told by the security guard at the entrance that we could come in,” I said, quickly flashing my wristband. 

“Who told you that?” the second level security guard asked.

“That guy over there,” I said, pointing at a young man in uniform. The guard barring us further passage—a woman—called over to the young man. “She says you said they could go in,” she hollered. “Yup!” he shouted back, “They’ve got VIP wristbands.”

And that’s how we got into the “sold out” Jimmy Buffett concert. I still have my “VIP” wristband. It makes me feel very important—and very happy and very amused —whenever I look at it.

That’s My (New) Name, Don’t Wear It Out

Mine was an afternoon wedding in New York City.

In accordance with Jewish tradition, my sister and her husband, who live in New Jersey and are Orthodox, were throwing us a Sheva Brachot party the next day, so we needed to stay in the area overnight. To make our first night as a married couple special, Gary arranged for us to stay at the world-renowned Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 

A guy who is full of (good) surprises, Gary managed to make the evening even more amazing by treating me to an order of champagne and strawberries from room service. It was beautiful. 

At some point during our evening, we needed something in our room. So I picked up the phone and called down to the concierge. When the staff member on the other end picked up,  I said, “This is Mrs. Steinberg calling from Room … . My husband and I would like … . ” I have no idea what I asked for or really anything that came after those most significant words.

But I can picture myself on the phone, referring to myself for the very first time  as, “Mrs.” and saying something about, “my husband.” It was a moment — perhaps the moment — that I had been waiting for all my life.

Almost seven and half year later, I still remember those nanoseconds as if they were yesterday and hearing myself saying those words sounds just as awesome and amazing as it did then.

Do you remember, BlogFEST 2012 readers, the first time you used the word  “husband” or “wife”?

Is It a Hybrid or What?

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily my favorite Halloween memory, but it’s certainly my most memorable one. 

I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s. Let’s just say that New York City in the 1970’s wasn’t the warm, fuzzy place that it now is, having been brought to you by the Disney, Mars and Hershey’s Corporations.

Back then, the concept of “the mean streets of New York” wasn’t entirely inaccurate. There were some mean, nasty, scary people out there.

So it wasn’t without reason then, that when Halloween rolled around, the general warning would circulate, “Whatever you do, don’t take apples from anyone. They might have razor blades in them.”

Lemme tell you: Odds are I wouldn’t have taken an apple in the first place. C’mon man, that’s way too healthy! But if the thought of taking an apple while trick or treating had ever crossed my mind, the idea of said fruit with a razor blade in it scared the bejeezus out of me, ensuring that no such taking would occur.

The thing is, young children are impressionable so, even now, every year on Halloween that pseudo-admonition reverberates in my head, “Don’t take apples… .”

Cut to 30-plus years later and I sit here, stupefied. If an apple had, in fact, had a razor blade in it, wouldn’t I or my hawk-eyed mother surely have seen it before I ate it? I’m at a loss to think how someone could insert a razor into an apple and leave no trace of its presence.
Not that I’m going to put the theory to the test, mind you… . Still as a passionate gourmet and a somewhat-more-than-casual gardener, it makes me stop and think.

This is my question, dear BlogFEST 2012 readers: Could you grow an apple with a razor blade in it? Would such an apple be a hybrid or what?

Monster Mash (?)

Hooray! Today I’m your host for BlogFEST 2012 and it’s my half birthday. Yes, at my age, I still celebrate half birthdays… .  So to celebrate turning 43 and a half, being the “foodie” that I am, I think I’ll have some cake and maybe some ice cream.

Alternatively, in “the spirit of the (Halloween) season,” these fruits (Yep, they really are a food!) are mighty tasty. Perhaps I’ll have one or two of them.

I also love sushi and enjoy having it to mark a festive occasion. This occasion is as good as any to have sushi. I’ve had the kind shown in the picture. It’s really good. LOL!

Seriously though, with Halloween around the corner — tomorrow, to be exact — there are all kinds of wacky recipes out there on the web for such delicacies as “brains” on lettuce, “heart” on a plate and “worms in dirt.”

Most of these spooky foods are delicious sweets and treats made to look frightening.

There are, however, those dishes that we eat regularly, that leave our friends and family scratching their heads in wonderment. I’m partial to a sandwich of mashed fresh avocado mixed with soy sauce and dried onion flakes (which become reconstituted by the soy sauce). Want some?

What? What’s that? You’ll pass, thank you very much?

Disappointed as I am, I kinda understand. It’s what I like, not what you like. I developed a taste for this hair-raising concoction when I was a kid and wouldn’t ingest healthy avocado any other way. Those days are past, now, but from time to time I still enjoy a good avocado, onion flake and soy sauce sandwich. Credit my mom. She’s creative!

So fellow bloggers, use this prompt to ‘fess up. We all know each of us has a dark secret concerning a weird food we just LOVE to eat. I “showed you mine.” Will you show me yours? Your topic is: What secret weird food/dish can’t you live without and how’d the predilection develop?

An “Engagement” in New York City

Ap·point·ment noun : an arrangement for a meeting. Synonym: Engagement.

The best day of my life. Oh my goodness, fellow BlogFEST 2012 readers. I’ve had so many wonderful days in my nearly 43 1/2 years that it’s hard to say that one is the best. But if I were to pick one day of my life that stands out in my mind, it would have to be the day I got engaged. Yeah, engaged. Not married.

Don’t get me wrong, my wedding was everything I’d ever hoped for. But … . My engagement was an unforgettable personal New York story.

We were all gathered at my folks’ house in Brooklyn. It was the first time “the parents” were meeting each other, so, of course, there was some nervousness. However, Gary and I had discussed that we would get engaged when we were all together, so I kind of knew it was coming. But no one could have prepared me for the drama that was the proposal and the moments surrounding it.

It was Saturday afternoon. My parents and I had gone to temple that morning while Gary and his mom (his dad is deceased) had knocked around “the city.” My folks had to make an appearance at a party in Manhattan, so that left me, Gary and Ellen (my then future mother-in-law) alone to do as we pleased for several hours.

We opted to take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge — one of my favorite places in NYC. When we got to the middle of the bridge, Ellen walked off on her own and Gary dropped to one knee. I knew what was coming next … or so I thought.

Gary reached into his pocket. I fully expected him to pull out the box that held the ring I’d helped him pick out and had been eagerly waiting for and secretly taking peeks at and trying on for months.

From out of his pocket Gary produced .. a bar of really nice dark chocolate. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He said, “I looked all around for this just for you.” As I laughed and cried with joy over this unexpected romantic twist, he took the ring from his pocket and asked, “Will you marry me?”

Guess what? I said, “Yes.” And in that moment, I knew that I would no longer have to weather life’s storms on my own. What a great feeling to be loved…. Without question, one of the best moments in my life.

Shortly thereafter, Ellen reappeared and took some photos of us celebrating.
Then we walked the rest of the length of the bridge into Manhattan, stopped a while and took a few more pictures at City Hall Park and headed back.

Back on the Brooklyn side, we were stopped by a group of women who asked if we could take their photo. With pleasure, we said.

While they set up for the photo, Ellen asked they were doing in NYC.  They were six sisters, they told us, in from Minnesota with their mother to celebrate her milestone birthday.

Wonderful! “While you’re celebrating,” Ellen said, pointing at me and Gary who was behind the camera, “you should know that these two kids just got engaged a few minutes ago.”

Pandemonium broke out.

All of a sudden, six women from Minnesota, who we’d met perhaps 90 seconds earlier, were shrieking and throwing their arms in the air with joy. It was the first of many celebrations of our engagement and though I didn’t know these ladies from a hole in the wall, their expression of joy made our special announcement even more grand, special and important.

Only in New York….