Friday, December 23, 2005

Hey, Canadian moms who rock! Read and get in touch if you wanna rock with us!
Lynda on behalf of Mamapalooza

Recruitment underway for "mom" talent showcase;
first-ever in Canada

TORONTO, Dec. 23, 2005 -- When the Mamapalooza festival comes to Canada for the first time this May, local area moms who rock and perform will be on hand to strut their stuff.

In preparation for the May momfest, organizers have begun a recruitment effort. A pre-festival open-mike showcase will take place on January 21, 2006, from 1-4 p.m. at the Safari Bar and Grill on Avenue Road. It will be an opportunity for moms to share their talents and get to know each other.

Mothers who wish to perform original motherhood-themed or -inspired music, comedy, drama or dance are being encouraged to sign up for the showcase. Non-professional or semi-professional performers are welcome. Original material is preferred.

"We are looking for mom artists to join a growing movement in mom-inspired music, poetry, drama or dance," says local organizer Lynne Atkinson, who reached out to the New York-based Mamapalooza headquarters after hearing about the festival and reading about its runaway success in the United States. "We are creating a culture and joining thousands of moms around the world who are becoming part of this movement, too. It's exhilarating."

Toronto-born Lynda Kraar, who now lives in New Jersey and who participated in Mamapalooza in New York City last year, also suggested to its founders that the festival be staged in Toronto. Having spent years in the clubs of Toronto as a solo performer, then with singing partner Ardene Shapiro and with her bands Lynda Marks and the Marksmen, and later with her reggae dance band Culture Shock, Kraar realized that Toronto was the right place for Mamapalooza.

"Toronto has always been a tolerant place which fosters all kinds of creative expression. The music scene here is the best in the world. You can go into any club on any night of the week and see incredible talent for a decent price. To do the same in New York City may set you back a few hundred dollars for an evening out. Most Moms don't have the time, latitude or luxury to get out there in many big American cities. Toronto is much easier for moms to manouevre. We're going to capitalize on that and help mothers tap into their creative side."

Atkinson and Kraar want prospective performers to know that Toronto's mom-inspired programming will be kid-friendly so that women can bring out their families and not be concerned that they are not welcome.

Toronto's first-ever mom-inspired music and arts open mike showcase will take place Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Safar Bar and Grill, located at 1749 Avenue Road in Toronto, south of Highway 401.

For program details and to sign up, contact

For more information about Mamapalooza, visit Prospective mom performers can register as part of Mamapalooza on the website.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Polish Jewish transport to/from Leninogorsk, Nov. 1939 to May 1945

Dear Friends,

Please excuse the impersonal nature of this note. I need your help.

When my mum passed away this past May, she left me an incredible trove -- a typed memoir of her experiences during the war years. I am now researching to learn more and would like to create a public work of this incredibly detailed document.

My mother was part of an eastbound transport of young Jews who departed Poland at the end of November, 1939, headed for Leninogorsk in the Soviet Union. This group stayed in that area until May, 1945. My mother was from Lodz and was 14 when she left Poland (she traveled with her older brother, but the two split up soon after their arrival. He would die of tuberculosis and be buried in Leninogorsk in an unmarked grave two years later, and she would travel on to Ust-Kamenogorsk until it was time to go back aboard the transport).

There are some unanswered questions in the document which need to be resolved. I would like to know who organized these transports, or if any documentation, registries, pictures or footage exists about them or the passengers anywhere. Any and all information about this era, locale, and especially the people who made this journey is greatly appreciated.

Please feel free to cut and paste this note if you know of anyone who might be helpful.

A freiliche chanuke,
Lynda Kraar

Photo credits: Polish Jews 1939-1945. Created by Tomek Wisniewski as a project of "We are in search of Poland Society" in Bialystok (Stowarzyszenie Szukamy Polski). See our exibitions at The animation of these photos see at: Hebrew translation:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Good news from the
French Quarter!

Hurricane Katrina may have subsided, but the work of rebuilding New Orleans goes on. I am very happy to have heard from Jeff Chaz, a screamin', kick-ass blues guitarist whom I met in the Quarter one sultry August day several years ago. He is the Real Deal. He is pitching his new CD. Go to and put yourself on Jeff's mailing list to qualify for his special deal. So while you're out buying my merch at for the holidays, you can put Jeff's CD high on your list, too.

I just want to thank you, all of my wonderful fans that have bought my cds at my live shows in New Orleans, and on tour.

Now that Hurricane Katrina is over, I'm back home in New Orleans, and have a special offer, only for my fans on my Fan Mailing List. Everyone else must order online or at a cd store. My latest cd, JEFF CHAZ IN EXILE has 12 great original songs,and is almost all recorded live in the studio! It's got a hot, live feel with a great four piece blues band that really has a blues-New Orleans music sound.

To order signed copies directly from me,please send a check or money order for $15.00($18.00 for foreign orders) to:

JCP Records
PO Box 9669
Pensacola, Florida 32513

All of my mail is sent immediately to me in New Orleans by my partner, so don't worry! When I can get another PO Box here in the French Quarter, all mail will automatically be sent to me here,but anything sent to Florida will still be sent to me by the Post Office automatically. I really need my fans' support at this time,so please order your auto graphed copies of JEFF CHAZ IN EXILE today. Get extras for friends and family! Thanks for your continued support.

Jeff Chaz

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who owns the Falashas now?

There's a new book out by Stephen Spector, titled, Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. It tells the story of the 1986 airlift rescue to Israel from Ethiopia of 36,000 Falashas - Jews of Ethiopian origin. The airlift took place over a day and a half. El Al jumbo jets were emptied of their seats and made the trip to bring their precious cargo to Israel. It happened without a hitch. In fact, there were a couple of live births during the airborne hours and some wonderful human interest stories which were widely reported at the time. Since there is a press corps of 800 or so international reporters in Israel, there is never much that goes uncovered there. Operation Solomon was no exception.

I digress for a moment - Falasha is not exactly a polite term. It's more derrogatory than anything, but once I heard the Ethiopians in Israel refer to themselves as Falashas, I realized that like everywhere else, names are not really what counts here.

One more digression: I have to brag about my husband for a minute. Marty played a significant role in the airlift matter at the time. I don't say that lightly. Everyone in the philanthropic and social service world of Jewish federations surely would like to be associated with that heroic and historic event. But Marty was really there, doing the important stuff like the inter-governmental negotiations, shuttling between the States, Israel and Ethiopia,and fund raising. I have the pictures from the loan guarantee signing, faces smiling, glasses raised.

Having said all this, I want to empower you with the other side of the coin, which will be known heretofore as The Truth.

Around 1983 in Toronto I had a band called Culture Shock. I'm sure that you remember us if you were a Queen Streeter, a Kensingtonian or an Ontario College of Art student. We were six or seven musicians, including three dreads and three white girls plus an assortment of horn players and people we loved who were great musicians and just wanted to sit in with us.

One night my friend and percussionist, Kwame, called to invite me to see some clips from a yet-unfinished film about the plight of the Ethiopian Jews. True, I was from the ghetto, but it was the Holocaust survivor ghetto of Bathurst Manor. I did not know anything about African Jews, other than those of North Africa. I called a few other band members and the group of us made our way to the synagogue where the intriguing film clips were being screened.

The houselights dimmed. An image of a teenage boy dressed in a white frock flashed on the screen. He was strumming a krar -- yes, that's what it's called. Fateful now, looking back. Anyway, it's a stringed instrument played with a plectrum. This boy, David, was singing of his longing for Jerusalem. It was a stunning moment for me. Black. Jewish. Music. Suffering. Longing. The story of my heritage. My father's experience in concentration camps. My mother's wanderings throughout Russia and Siberia during the war. The shattering of families. Our inability to feel at home in a place. Jewish oppression again. I am sitting with members of my band, Culture Shock, several members of whom were of the reggae band Truths and Rights. The Truth. All converging. A few more clips and then the houselights went up again.

The filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici, gave his pitch. He told about sneaking cameras into Ethiopia and finding communities to visit. The fund raising ensued. Susan Pollack, director of the Canadian Association for Ethiopian Jews was on hand. What a dynamo. Wow. Who even knew such a thing existed? Who was having "culture shock" now?

I had no money. Culture Shock had no money. But I knew I could put on an event on Queen Street, attract a few bands and come up with some cash and raise some awareness. At my suggestion of this, Simcha and Susan were completely underwhelmed and skeptical. But when my childhood friend Rob Gasner offered to help pull it off, they perked up. Rob's family had been helpful in supporting the project. It showed The Truth.

That night I did not sleep. I had many, many more sleepless nights, thinking of our -- yes, OUR people! -- and the pending fate that awaited them if we did nothing. Most of the people who were deeply involved were Holocaust survivors and their children. I attribute that to the fact that we'd just been through a genocide and that we were not going to be passive. We were/are still angry and active. My people do for others. That's already been transferred to a third generation.

And I read what scant academic things I could lay my hands on at York and U. of T. I read The Falashas by David Kessler and Falasha Anthology, which is an amazing book of Ethiopian Jewish apocrypha compiled by Wolf Leslau. I followed the news stories about the political and military struggle in Ethiopia.

Meantime, CAEJ continued its work, raising money to pay for individual bogus student visas for Ethiopians. Since Canada had the diplomatic ties that the States did not have, we did the work. The cost was around $2,500 per person. Imagine, little old ladies and men waving their student visas at the Immigration officers upon their arrival in a German airport. And then they were diverted to El Al planes and taken to Israel by our operatives.

It took a year of back-and-forth, but finally we mounted our event at the Rivoli. In the process, Simcha and many of the Canadian Association for Ethiopian Jews members came out. I was so proud and humbled by their presence. We drew a crowd. It was 10 bands and me, the hostess. I took the heat for not performing that night. I am still ambivalent about it all these years later, but I was on a mission. We had media. We had a room filled with people who were talking to each other about Falashas and human rights. We had raised $1,700. The centerpiece was an impassioned plea by the passionate, energetic, incredible, charismatic and articulate Baruch Tegegne. Not a dry eye in the house, including his own.

In the weeks before the event, I got to know Baruch Tegegne, an Ethiopian Jew who came to Montreal after living for many years in Israel, since the 1960s. He was the most vocal advocate on behalf of Falashas at the precise time when the Jewish federation people were telling us to tone down while they were doing important work. Baruch was from the other side. He represented The Truth for many of us at that time.

We were not the well heeled, well educated Federation Jews. We were immigrants. Holocaust survivors and their children. Students. Poor. Undereducated. But mostly, we were angry about the possibility of another Jewish genocide going ignored until it was too late.

Who could blame us? We could not keep up with the comfortable uptown crowd whom we perceived were sitting around expensive conference room tables in their tailored suits. And we felt put upon by their arrogant insistance that we stay silent when the Baruch Tegegnes of the world were telling us to SPEAK UP. How could we stay silent? We were crying. Our hearts were crying. We sought out and found sympathetic people wherever this cause was taken - throughout Canada and the United States. We spoke out. We raised money. Because that's what was needed for those crucial student visas, Baruch told us.

There were many Falashas in Israel who felt that now was not the time to keep our mouths shut. The Jews kept their mouths shut during World War II while the SS St. Louis tried to dock in the States and ultimately returned its persecuted human cargo to the ovens and gas chambers of Nazi Europe. No, we were not going to stay quiet. Not this time.

Baruch and Simcha were speaking to groups, to anyone who would listen. Meantime, Simcha's movie got made and it exploded on the scene. He was banished from the Knesset, threatened by Ethiopian officials and shunned by the mainstream Jewish community. A roaring success in making everyone uncomfortable and enlightening them at the same time.

The weekend of the Rivoli event, Baruch and his family stayed in the Bathurst Manor ancestral home where I grew up. My father, who survived Auschwitz, Buna and Poznan, and has a tattoo on his arm, understood Baruch right away. They were both survivors who had to do many unspeakable, unthinkable things in order to survive. It was a bitter-cold weekend. Baruch had a Cadillac, Gd Bless him, but he did not have a warm coat. My father gave him his own coat off his back and told him to keep it. My mother doted over his daughter and wife, and we all became a family that weekend. I will remember that weekend for the rest of my life.

I am running too long already. But I will update you now. It is not pretty. There are no laurels. There is no happy ending. In the years that followed the airlift, Ethiopian Jews faced hardships in Israel. They were not recognized as Jews and thus had to undergo ritual conversion. They did not want to "blend" into the melting pot of Israel. They wanted to keep their own traditions. There were big problems. Very big problems. Suicides. Malnutrition. Truancy. Health issues. Xenophobia. And culture shock.

I spent 1984 in Israel, on the receiving end of CAEJ's mission, helping newly arrived Ethiopians settle into their new home. I kept up an apartment for the new arrivals and made sure they were in touch with local Ethiopians who spoke their own dialect -- it has long been reported, although not in Spector's book -- that there is a historic rift between the two groups of Ethiopians who have their own language. I reported this work to CAEJ in lengthy, typewritten letters.

Simcha is making some of the finest documentaries around. He has come a long way from the midnight hockey-playing gorgeous guy who was traipsing around the world doing amazing things. Now he is a settled-down dad (still gorgeous) who is traipsing around the world doing amazing things.

As for Baruch Tegegne, his fate has not been as gentle. Now 61, he suffers from severe kidney disease and has dialysis several times a week. He awaits a kidney transplant. Please read and respond if you can help. It's not too late if you ACT NOW.

Meantime in Israel we are seeing a lot of Ethiopian men working as security guards, checking bags for bombs and explosives at public spaces such as malls, stores, and so forth. There is a generation of angry youth now, too. They listen to angry music and dress and act the part of the gangstas. Bleak futures and crime are on the horizon. These are the children of those who came on the airlift. What did the people sitting around the Federation tables do for them since then? Or was getting them to Israel the end of the job? That is not really fair to say and I recognize that.

What did we do? Those of us to spoke out? Did we help:? In the beginning we thought we were doing it right. We wanted to see them come to the Jewish homeland with open arms.

Yes, there are agencies in Israel that are helping integrate this community as a whole, and yes, there are plenty of good people who are giving their all. But we should not assume that there is nothing left for the rest of us to do.

This is not the time for any of us to sit back and pat each other on our backs, whether we are in Brooks Brothers or Birkies .

How will we prevent the probable race riots and social injustice that we have helped foster by staying silent since we checked "airlift" off our To Do list?

This time NOT ONE PERSON should stay silent. Now that we have brought the Falashas to Israel, no one should be silent until they are integrated as every other wave of immigrants have been integrated.

Simcha, if you're reading this, NOW would be the time to update your excellent documentary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Buy Militant Mom tee shirts, tank tops and CDs and SAVE NOW!

'Tis the season to get a unique gift for your loved ones!

I am offering a nice price on my merchandise especially for Guitargirl's Digital Diary readers. The following information comes from my website, I will give you top priority because you are so nice. :)

NOTE! For now, until I get the Paypal working on the website, contact me through the website and we will take your order manually. Thanks for your patience!

The "Fetching Militant Mom Tee Shirt"

In your Fetching Militant Mom tee shirt, your place will be in public! Nikki of British mom band The Mothers, her son Elvin and husband Neil (pictured) agree! Elegant and egalitarian, our high-quality tee shirt is the perfect shirt if you:

* Are a Militant Mom
* Live with a Militant Mom
* Are the child/ren of a Militant Mom
* Know a Militant Mom!

Flashy, Fabulous and -- of course -- Fetching, it's a head turner for casual wear or even a night on the town. Our Fetching Militant Mom tee shirt is 100-percent cotton and made by Anvil. Available in S, M, L and XL. Silk screen imprint. Machine washable. Cuts are perfect for all, so pick your favorite size. SPECIALLY PRICED AT $12 EACH! Buy now at

The "Militant Mom Boy Nurturer"

Here's Claire, also of the British mom rock band The Mothers (and Callum's mum), sporting the Militant Mom Boy Nurturer. Go ahead -- make your statement! You'll be the mom who's got it going on in our eye-catching Militant Mom Boy Nurturer. We hope you like attention. You'll get a lot of it when you wear this flattering tank top, because every day is Mother's Day when you wear this little heart-stopper. Our Boy Nurturer is a 100-percent rib-knit cotton tank top made by Classic Girl. Available in M, L and XL. Washable with a silk screened imprint. Sizes run small. SPECIALLY PRICED AT $15! Buy now at

Militant Mom CD

This sampler CD features two songs which were unleashed at Mamapalooza 2005 festival during Lynda's appearance at Arlene's Grocery in New York City. SPECIALLY PRICED AT $5! Buy now at

Prices are in $US. Please add $3 for s/h on US orders. Canadian orders please add $5 for s/h.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A bloated, er, belated Thanksgiving wish
for my friends who worship at the altar of
Urban Legends

I received this Thanksgiving message and thought I would share it with you. If you cut and paste it, and send it to EVERYONE YOU KNOW, they say I will receive a date with Joaquin Phoenix and will be entitled to give him a lifetime's worth of free guitar lessons. And you will receive a coupon redeemable for free groceries at your local supermarket. At least, that's what the e-mail from my friend's mother's cousin's co-worker said. So don't blow this for me, okay? :)

*I wish to express my thanks to all those who forwarded such informative e-mails, for instance, the one about rats in the glue on envelopes because I now have to get a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing.

*Also, I scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

*I want to thank all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me your chain letters over the past 12 months. You have made me feel safe, secure, blessed, and wealthy. Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

*I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr Pepper, since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

*I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

*I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with HIV/ AIDS.

*I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

*I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

*I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

*I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.

*I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan.

*I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

*I no longer date the opposite sex because they will take my kidneys and leave me taking a nap in a bathtub full of ice.

*I no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike.

*I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neimann Marcus since I now have their recipe.

*I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl who is about to die in the hospital (for the 1,387,258th time).

*I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

*I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me and St. Theresa’s novena has granted my every wish.

*Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

*Yes, I want to thank you so much for looking out for me that I will now return the favor!

*If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM (CST) this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband’s cousin's beautician!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Weizmann Institute President Ilan Chet, me, Marty and outgoing Weizmann chairman Stuart Eizenstadt. Taken at Cipriani's in NYC during the recent American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science's New York Gala. It was a beautiful event. Kudos to all who delivered this memorable evening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My dear friend David Amram asked me to share this with the world. This show is a rare opportunity to celebrate a musical legend and raise money for Katrina victims!

···Amram 75th Birthday Gala Tribute!! ···
Nov. 19, 2005 - 8 PM - Tarrytown Music Hall
13 MAIN STREET, Tarrytown, NY 10591

Amram Jam II - 75th birthday tribute to David Amram, celebrating his music and his pioneering work and collaborations with stars from the worlds of music, theater, film and literature, celebrating FIFTY YEARS of Amram's collaborations since moving to New York in 1955.

The first half of the program celebrates his symphonic and operatic compositions as well as his music for the theater, films, opera and what 48 years later is known as Spoken Word, Classical saxophonist from the BOSTON SYMPHONY Kenneth Radnofsky will perform a movement from Amram's saxophone concerto "Ode to Lord Buckley," and Metropolitan Opera violist Midhat Serbagi will play instrumental excerpts from Amram's opera "Twelfth Night" with a libretto by Joe Papp. Also featured in Amram's lifelong work in championing what is now called World Music are Oud virtuoso George Mgrdichian, and Native American flautist David Little Eagle.

In addition, celebrating Amram's work in the theater and films, are ACTORS John Ventimiglia ("The Sopranos"), Keir Dullea ("2001"), and Jerry Stiller, with whom Amram worked for the very first summer of the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1957. Prize-winning author Joyce Johnson will recount Amram's ground breaking collaborations with Jack Kerouac in 1957 at New York's first-ever Jazz/poetry readings. Amram's three children, Adira, Alana and Adam will also perform.

The second half of the program, AMRAM JAM II, features MUSICIANS Paquito de Rivera, Jerry Dodgion and Vic Juris, in an all star jam session of Amram's jazz, Latin and World Music compositions, with surprise guests sitting in. A portion of the proceeds from this concert will be donated to the Jazz Foundation of America for Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts for New Orleans and Gulf Coast area jazz musicians. For tickets, call Jazz Forum Arts at 914-631-1000. For further info and ticket info, see


David Amram has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works,written many scores for Broadway theater and film, including the classic scores forthe films "Splendor in The Grass" and "The Manchurian Candidate;" two operas, including the ground-breaking Holocaust opera "The Final Ingredient;" and the score for the landmark 1959 documentary "Pull My Daisy," narrated by novelist Jack Kerouac. He is also the author of two books, "Vibrations," an autobiography, and "Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac," a memoir.

A pioneer player of jazz French horn, he is also a virtuoso on piano, numerousflutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries,as well as an inventive, funny improvisational lyricist. He has collaborated withLeonard Bernstein, who chose him as The New York Philharmonic's firstcomposer-in-residence in 1966, Langston Hughes, Dizzy Gillespie, Dustin Hoffman,Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Charles Mingus,Lionel Hampton, E. G. Marshall, and Tito Puente. Amram's most recent work"Giants of the Night" is a flute concerto dedicated to the memory Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac and Dizzy Gillespie, three American artists Amram knew and worked with. It was commissioned and recently premiered by Sir James Galway, who alsoplans to record it. He is also completing his third book Nine Lives of a Musical Cat.

Today, as he has for over fifty years, Amram continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, bandleader, visiting scholar, and narratorin five languages. He is also currently working with author Frank McCourt on a newsetting of the Mass, "Missa Manhattan," as well as on a symphony commissionedby the Guthrie Foundation, "symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie."Amram and his son live on their family farm in upstate New York, when not on tour. Visit

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

After 10 years, Marty still finds the way to pleasantly surprise me ;->

In honor of my mother's memory, my sweet husband dedicated a plaque and sculpture at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, this past Monday. Housed in the Belfer Building for Molecular Genetics, the sculpture was created by an Israeli artist who specializes in scientific renderings. Yes, it's hard to miss the fact that it's a very erotic sculpture, but life is and should be erotic and sensuous and delicious and scrumptious and pleasing and happy.

I know that Mum is smiling down from the heavens, as Suzette said to me when she heard about this dedication.

And anyway, when you see the context of the pieces, it is apparent that, like life itself, these erotic little statues are part of something much, much bigger. I am glad that we are able to help advance science just a little bit through my family's generous gesture. Maybe one day we will eradicate the killer disease that took my mother from us, and other diseases that rob families and friends of their loved ones. One day soon those who elude these killers will be able to take a bite of the yummy, sexy, big ol' life that they might otherwise have missed.

Way to go, Marty. You got me where it counts.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pink and Black Flamingos

I'm back! I spent the past few days in Toronto. While I was up, enjoying the amazing weather, tending to family biz and seeing friends, I got back into my winter sock knitting mode. This is my latest creation. I call it, "Pink and Black Flamingos." They were inspired by my best friend's daughter, who asked me to make her a pair of house sox. Within 24 hours (with time in between to socialize, eat, sleep, get to the airport, commute from Toronto to Newark, make it to the house and do some grocery shopping), they were complete.

In case you're interested, it's a Sherman toe-up pattern which is so easy to do and so mindless that you can actually watch TV and yell at the kids at the same time. I made them up on bamboo double pointed needles (size U.S. 2) using my favorite sock yarn, Red Heart Lustre Sheen in flamingo and black colours. The trim is done by mixing Lustre Sheen black with Bernat Envy. If you want the pattern, get in touch. :)

On Halloween, the night before I left for TO, I took a run with Miriam down to Staten Island where we cavorted with guitar god John Castellano and his family. His son Richie, who is also an incredible guitarist, is the bass player for Blue Oyster Cult. We had been invited to see Richie's own band this night. The costumes were a riot and it was great to get my kid into a club where great music played by gifted musicians is appreciated. Here's a pic of Mir with Richie. Two chips off the ol' blox.

TO notes: I took Dad to see our cousin Brenda and her family. She is a great pianist whose son is also a great pianist. We are a very musical bunch on all sides! At the lunch table Dad started singing an old song that he and Brenda's mother used to sing in the old country when they were little children, before the Nazis. He started to cry. This is the second time in my life I've ever seen Dad break down. I guess this is what happens when you are 91 years old and memories of a world lost come swelling up.

It was Holocaust Education Week in Toronto and there were many programmes taking place most days and evenings. My mother had to cancel her appearance at last year's event due to her illness. It was hauntingly empty to be here during this week and not have her around. I found myself seeking her out, wanting to tell her what I saw or heard. A very, very raw nerve.

Our other cousin, Larry Anklewicz, is the programming coordinator of Toronto's Jewish Film Festival. We bacame very close this past year. As a sort of welcome to TO, Larry took me to a special screening of The Protocols of Zion with director Marc Levin in a Q&A afterward.

It's more heartening than it sounds, although I'm sure you're getting shades of Woody Allen taking his date to see The Sorrow and the Pity in the movie Annie Hall. This is the kind of thing that children of Holocaust survivors do for one another as a friendly gesture -- they take you to programmes that address anti-semitism and the Holocaust.

(To wit: Later in the week my girlfriend would take me to see Helen Epstein who gave a very creative and informative how-to presentation on collecting family memoirs. Helen wrote the landmark book about people like us called Children of the Holocaust. She did much of her research in Toronto, where a critical mass of survivors and their families came to live.)

After the screening of Protocols, on the way home, Larry informed me that his son Mike, who is also a great musician, has just completed a project called The Golem of Bathurst Manor. He gave me a copy and what can I say? It's killer avante garde jazz klezmer, and should be on your compulsory listening list! Having just written a song about Bathurst Manor called "Manor Girl," I was astounded by Mike's choice of title. Back in The Day, the Manor was a Holocaust survivor enclave. But when we were growing up, who knew?

Also while I was in TO, the Hadassah Bazaar was on. It's been called the world's largest one-day flea market, although it's mostly new items for very cheap. My mother was a perennial president of the Masada chapter. Every year, the night before the Bazaar, Mum and I would go down to the Automotive Building at the Exhibition grounds to take the last-minute donations in. You needed special ID to get in that night. We were special! We would also get to shop around to see what everyone else was selling. Sometimes they would sell stuff to each other. That was the best part. Masada was the largest chapter and rented three booths. I always got interesting and fun stuff there. In fact, I still have a pair of leather and down ski mitts that I bought for a buck years ago.

All that aside, let's face it: I was the child of a celebrity -- a chapter President! -- and I went down cruising for my mother's friends. I was not successful -- although I did manage to buy a few lovely things for the girls. While waiting at the streetcar, I bumped into Mrs. Kurtz, a fellow chapter member and old friend of my mother's who had met my folks before I was born. We rode together all the way back up north. She told me stories about my parents and about their friends. Then she reached into one of the immense shopping bags, which were filled with things for her grandchildren, and handed me a bag of cookies for my girls. She gave me a big hug and kiss before she got off at her stop. That was worth the whole trip.

The rest of my trip was spent in the joyous, uplifting labour of planning Yona's bat mitzvah and the less joyous also equally spiritual purchase of my mother's headstone and planning of her unveiling. These events will take place on the same weekend in June, and the following week the girls will be off to camp, if all goes according to the plan.

Of course, there's also Mamapalooza news. But more on that later.

Back to the grind.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bid on two tickets for Bruce Springsteen's Fall 2005 U.S. tour and support two great causes!

Musicians On Call (MOC) and The Kristen Ann Carr Fund (KACF) have secured a pair of great tickets for all 17 new shows on Springsteen's Fall 2005 U.S. Tour and this is your chance to win them! All seats are in the first five rows. Most nights these seats will be in the front row but we won't know which nights. This is your chance to bid on and win a pair of tickets. All winning bids will be tax deductible above the face value of the tickets.

This is a continuation of Bruce Springsteen’s tour to celebrate the release of his nineteenth album, "Devils and Dust.” This is his first solo tour since the 1996-1997 "Ghost of Tom Joad" tour. Many thanks to all of you who have bought tickets during the Spring and Summer U.S. and European Tours and supported two great causes while seeing a great show and artist!

In order to bid on these tickets, please click here: and contact: .

We will do our best to keep the current bids up to date throughout the day. Please state the Date, City and Bid Amt in the Subject Line. When bidding, please be sure to send:

Your full name
Your daytime phone number
Your bid amount
Which concert (Date and City)

The bidding starts at $500 per pair and the bidding will increase in increments of $50. Tickets will be at the "Will Call" window the evening of the concert.

About the Charities: Musicians On Call ( ) brings live and recorded to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities through bedside performances and CD Pharmacies. To date, MOC volunteer musicians have played for over 50,000 patients, their families and caregivers.

The Kristen Ann Carr Fund ( ) provides grants for cancer research and seeks to improve all aspects of a cancer patient’s life, with an emphasis on adolescents and young adults.

Monday, October 24, 2005

GuitarGirl's Excellent Scrabble Adventure

I can't imagine recreating the wheel when I have chicken soup on the stove and an impossible lace pattern on the needles already driving me crazy (not to mention Miriam is out of school and Yona has half a day), so I will update you on this past weekend's excellent Scrabble adventure simply by cutting and pasting portions of an e-mail which I had written to my Scrabble brother, Seth Lipkin. More on him later.

Background: This weekend was the Nor'Easter Scrabble tournament in Lake George, New York, where I was able to meet and mingle with roughly 100 Scrabblers from all over northeastern Canada and the US for several orgiastically magnificent days of unabashed board game play.

There is no way I could possibly top Stefan Fatsis's accurate, colourful depiction of this fascinating scene in his best-selling book, Word Freak, so instead I will suggest that you go to your local book seller and pick up a copy and also a highlighter. Within the first few pages you will find yourself making lists of the juicy words so that you can be ready for the next tournament.

And who knows? One day you might find yourself -- as I have -- in the midst of this borderless, family-like scene. There are English-language Scrabble clubs throughout the world, including the world's largest club, which is in Jerusalem, and was modeled after Toronto's hugeous club. Of course, if you are a Scrabbler, you can contact me and tell me on which list you might find the word HUGEOUS.

Without further ado, here is a selection of my e-mail to Seth Lipkin. If you don't know about Seth's accomplishments, I urge you to check out his Scrabble stats website at for a real treat. I'm in there, too. Hey, you could be, too. :)

Division 5 highlights...
...I had two ties (!) which turned out to be with two guys from Ottawa who were roommates. Does it get any freakier? The one game with our division winner, Chris ten Den, was a real yawner. Such a dull, dull game, we both agreed. At the end, we decided to do a recount. That was far more exciting. I was up two points which I had missed, then a vile little miscount put me at three points behind to lose the game by one lonely little point. This put Chris ahead by 1/2 game, thanks to my other true tie with his roommate, Dean Porporo, which was also recounted and remained tied after the recount (reporter's note: Incidentally, after that recount and in the spirit of true Scornsmanship, I did go around referring to Chris as Chris Ten Point Five Den until I felt better).

There was another vile discrepancy which I did not catch, but fortunately my math "consultant," expert player Paul Avrin, did. As he looked at the standings which were posted, and then at my own personal record sheet, he noticed a HUGE gap of more than a hundred points in spread. The posted mistake put me neck-and-neck with what seemed at the time to be my next closest competitor -- Dean Porporo -- at least according to the posting. In fact, Chris Lipe, who would take third place, was actually closer to me in our cumulative scores.
When Paul and I trotted the paperwork over to our data entry mavin, Vernon Jones, he went into the files and noticed that one of my point spread entries had not been saved in the program. Therefore, my true record was not reflected in the posted standings. Whilst this probably would not have affected the final outcome for first place, it certainly could have put me in third place rather than second. And since I was so fuckin' close to that first place spot, I was now educated and eager to have the mistake cleared up for all comers to see.

Joseph Bowman of Toronto, despite his two bingos to my none, lost to me by 50 points. He took third place, and what a fun game that was, no matter the outcome.

Ida Scaglione had studied up the top 15 stems list. She had opportunity and ability, and played REaGENTS to a triple and then LEARNeRS to another triple and took the game. She tried ANNEARS*, which I challenged, but again, I pulled the IOU and clunkers and lost by 45 pts.

In the deciding game with Chris ten Den (pictured, above. That's Chris in the orange sweater and your humble GuitarGirl in her faceless, silver haired, sinister-pawed, black-sweater-clad glory), he opened with AI and then played two more twos before we finally got started in the game, when he played SCANTiER for 80. I countered with PORKIeR, which he held and then let stand. After that, it was his draw vs. mine, with me pulling the all the IOU and clunkers while he got the bingo prone tiles. I pulled the Q at the end and was able to play QAT for 35 pts, so I did give a good fight to narrow the spread. All my little plays were pointy, and so were his. But we really three'd and four'd our way to the end of the game, which he won by 63 pts.

My significant bingos (and biggies):

AXILLAE (challenged)
URINOSE (challenged)
STONEMAN * (anagram is MONTANES, but hey, sometimes you forget)
ZEAtINS (challenged)
Opponents' bingos:
I am ready for my next challenge of killer word lists, or risk languishing in lower divisions for life, where nary a board is left with a lonely A looking for a cheap date.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tidings from the New Orleans Potholes Brass Band

Good news! The Potholes have a tour lined up in Europe. If you are anywhere near where they will be, go see 'em! Here's the post which I received from band leader Rob Espino last night. I can't rave enough about him and the music that he creates.

To all my music, knitting and Scrabbling friends -- this is a do-not-miss! Support New Orleans' finest!


Hey beautiful!!!
Thank you so much for everything! You are the best! Thankfully we have been putting together a huge New Orleans show in Europe. So far it is myself on tuba, Mark Braud on trumpet, Lucien Barbarin on bone, Kerry Lewis on Bass (we will switch off between sets), Gerald French on drums, Charmaine Neville on vocals, and Tom Fisher on Clarinet, and I'm not sure who the piano player is.

But here is a rough schedule of where we are going. There is more to add on but so you can get an idea.

thanks again

31 London

01 London
02 London
03 London
04 London
05 London
06/07 Edimburgh
08 Inverness
09/10 Madrid, Spain
11 Madrid, Spain
12/13 Pamplona, Spain
14/15/16/17 Barakaldo, Spain
18/19/20 San Sebastian, Spain
21/22 Valencia, Spain
23 Murcia, Spain
24 Vitoria, Spain
25/26 Lisbon, Portugal
27 Oviedo, Spain

Friday, September 30, 2005

Love and special thanks to Richard Flohil who sent me this press release, and extra love to Danny Aykroyd for never forgetting his roots. Big shout out to Donny Walsh and a moment of silence for brother Hock and the beautiful and extraordinarily gifted Jane Vasey. Too soon, too soon, alas. I urge my Canuck compatriots to tune in.


Don Walsh, the leader of Downchild - which calls itself Canada's blues band - is the subject of an hour-long special to be seen next Tuesday, October 4, as part of Studio 2 on TVO. Actor Dan Aykroyd, who calls Walsh "one of Canada's greatest musicians," is also prominently featured.

Airtime for the show is 8 p.m.

The season debut of Person 2 Person, a series of profiles hosted by Paula Todd, the show illustrates and summarizes the long friendship and mutual admiration between Walsh and Aykroyd. From Aykroyd's viewpoint, Donnie Walsh and his brother Richard "Hock" Walsh - partners in the early versions of Downchild - were the direct inspiration for the Blues Brothers phenomenon. And from Walsh's point of view, the Blues Brothers helped build an audience for blues as a whole, and for Downchild.

Both musician and actor talk to Paula Todd about the losses in their lives: Ayroyd lost his original Blues Brothers partner, John Belushi; Walsh lost his brother, who died in 1999 - and with whom he had not spoken in a year - and, in 1982, his girl friend Jane Vasey, who had played piano in the band for many years.

And both talk about the perils of being entertainers - excessive drug use and drinking included - and finding the strength to continue. And the pair are seen together on stage in power-packed versions of Downchild hits "I've Got Everything I Need (Almost)" and "Shotgun Blues."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dredging up a year-old past

I was sifting through some old mail that I had sent out when I was at the pit of my despair, shortly after my mum was diagonsed with inoperable cancer, which had spread from its initial site as a polyp in her colon to an uncontainable scourge which was devouring her organs. It mostly stayed silent for more than ten years, which is the scary part. By the time she was ready for treatment, it was too late. She was shy of her 80th birthday when she died this past May 7. She had known she was ill only for ten months. In that sense, I guess she was blessed.

After a deafening silence since then, for the past couple of weeks, my mother has appeared to me in my dreams. At first she looked terrible and was bedridden. But slowly, in the past few days, she has appeared to me more healthy, walking a bit more upright with every vision. Last night, in my dream, she came out and joined us while we were out shopping. She was dressed. I had not seen my mother dressed in a very long time, with the exception of two outings to the casino: She lived for the slots.

So here is an entry from my e-mail, dated, "Sat, 31 Jul 2004 12:47:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time."

Well, I've done it. I've finally hit the wall that I thought I was holding up for this past few weeks. My journey into the world of saying goodbye to my mother began just about five weeks ago, and it appears it is almost over.

This afternoon, the nurse who is assigned to my mother's homecare was in a car accident. She was injured and was in hospital before they sent her home tonight. This set off a series of mistakes which culminated in my mother's visit being neglected and anxious for three and a half hours while she waited for a nurse who never came. During that time, I spoke to some of you, I thought about all of you, and I called every single agency involved in this fiasco to get some answers, and also to let them know how furious I was about the situation. I did not receive one phone call. It was only after I began to poke around that I heard what had happened.

After leaving the third round of messages (it's a long weekend here), a car pulled up, and I met Linda the nurse, who only lives up the block, and only hear about this omitted homecare visit an hour ago, thanks to the confusion after the car accident.

My fortune was that Linda is a palliative care specialist. She took one look at my mother and I knew at that instant that she could give me the most objective and honest long view possible, so here it is. (She also understood that she may be in charge of my mother, with the other nurse possibly laid up for at least a week.)

My mother's illness has caused her to have a lack of appetite. My mother wanted to know when her appetite will return, and Linda was honest in a very frank but caring way and said, "Your illness is causing this, and you won't really have much of an appetite anymore." She suggested instead to drink Gatorade. A lot of palliative care people say this.

At the end of the visit, after all the meds were administered, I had a frank talk with Linda. She told me that in the best of all possible worlds, my mother has a few weeks to live, and maybe a month or two more if her vital signs stay strong. Because she still quite aware, now is best to see her friends so that she can say goodbye. The nurse said that my mother's body will begin to rapidly change now, and the children are best seeing her as soon as possible, knowing that this will be the last time they will get to see her, and so that they will not be disturbed by how she looks in the near future.

Once the appetite goes, the body begins shutting itself down. Linda says this is an amazing feat -- that the body turns on a switch, and begins preparing itself for the inevitable. She says that my mother will begin sleeping more and more. These are actually more like little comas that will slowly get longer and deeper, until one day she will not wake up. It is a gentle departure, with no pain at all.

I was not shocked to hear this since her sleeping has changed and she does not look the same in sleep now as she did when she was vibrant and healthy. But it did transform me, and I am much less innocent than I was a few hours ago. Particularly as I saw my mother laying in bed, like a baby, with a diaper, covered in punctures from the tubing, a pickline in one arm, butterflies in her thighs, not really aware of what all this means. Not really aware that this time must be spent in the pursuit of "good bye" and the celebration of an incredibly triumphant life.

She has been telling me that she will call her friends "tomorrow," but of course she doesn't. It is unlikely once I leave here that she will use the phone to speak with me or to any of us who love her. So now her friends speak with me and get an update, and sometimes I convey the back and forth messages as my mother sits next to me. Some of her friends cry, but most of them are just sad and careful not to upset Ann's little girl -- me.

A couple of them have come forward to prove themselves that they have never been friends at all. But none of this surprises me as much as it makes me hurt and angry.

None of us who have been with my mother lately really feel that she is aware of what is happening -- she innocently asks about when her appetite will come back....what about the next round of chemo (Linda thinks it's a terrible idea, but agrees with me that if this is my mother's wish, it must be honored)...when will the diarrea stop...why she is sleeping so much...and so forth. We let her believe whatever it is that she is believing, and I don't ask her what she is thinking about too much, because I don't want to hurt her. When she is awake, she stares a lot, and there seems to be the look of regret in her eyes, which now gaze out from her drawn, ashy face.

Now, there could be a miracle, and she could make a complete recovery. It has happened before, as Marty and I heard from my mother's oncologist. However, I am also hearing the reality as I perceive it -- that the palliative care team at Baycrest is top notch, and once they begin their work, it will be comforting for my mother and for those of us around her until the end.

As for me, I am 45 and living in my mother's basement in Toronto where nothing much has changed since we moved to this house when I was a kid. I am not sleeping. I miss my bed most of all. I wish I could have spent all of this time with Marty, focusing on the kids' upcoming school year in new schools, and fussing over each other, fighting over the remote, dining on Indian food, walking the track, him letting me bicker about narishkeit, playing Scrabble and laughing a lot, in a world free of illness and tragedy. I wish we could get back all of the Saint Martins, New Orleanses, Europes, Niagaras on the Lake, Muskokas, Chattanoogas, Arizonas, Seattles, Las Vegases and Nashvilles that gave us such a joyous time together. We crave one week to celebrate life and live it to the fullest. We have vowed to take that time. Not "some day," but as soon as we make an opening we can squeeze through.

Before I continue my complaining, let me give you the good news. The good news is that I will refrain from detailing for you the following current events from our Summer That Wasn't:

- Other family health matters
- NJ garage flood with 6 inches of water that I waded in for around an hour as I dredged and tried to get the sump pump working
- My resulting acute tonisilitis, high fever and strep episode that started in the plane, en route to TO
- Broken boiler in mom's house during my tonsilitis
- Dad's soiled stuff and my inability to launder anything or bathe due to broken boiler
- My cancellation of the Scrabble event that would have taken us to my beloved New Orleans
- My lack of favorite activities -- sleep, rollerblading, tae kwon do, and proper meals
- How much I miss and appreciate my husband, our life and our home
- My pre-menopausal PMS and its miraculous property of making me able to get everything done, all at once, all the time, without anyone getting in my way.
- Beautiful Miriam and Yona, who are truly my life and my reason for being; they do not leave my thoughts for a moment. I am in their service, and this is how I can suck it all up and stay strong.

From my communication center in the ancestral basement, I am orchestrating my war. I am at war with neighbors on all sides, with zoning police, a pending trial, and other matters of intrigue. I know that at the end of the road I will have done the right thing for the right reasons. I may actually win some of these wars, but they are not important to me now. Doing what's right is what matters most to me. So that one day, when I do manage to get some kind of regular sleep pattern going again, I will be able to sleep with a clear conscience.

A few positive things have come out of this: My mother is happy to have Josepha the domestic coming to live in the house starting Monday. She is a wonderful woman who knows exactly what is going on. She worked for a couple -- both dead now, but both of whom lived into their late 90s, and she knows what geriatric and palliative care is about. She will be a great companion for my mother and my mind is at ease knowing that she will be in good hands. We are looking for 24/7 round the clock care for my mother on the weekends now, and the community palliative care unit is able to fully subsidize this through the government. My mother has it right: "Josepha is an angel."

Marty and I have taken care of the power of attorney issues and the banking. I have successfullly put my father in a temporary home and he is well on the way to permanent and subsidized living in a nursing home. He is still strong, but crazy and toxic, and after decades of abuse, my mother just wants him kept away from her. He is safe, housed and fed, and despite the wagging tongues of all the cackling hens, that deed is done. It's over. And I'm sure I'll get some grief over it for a few years, yet. The alteh kacker keeps on ticking.

And there has been a core of amazing people who have been there for my mother. Most are cancer survivors, or people who have lived with loved ones who put up a fight and won for a long time. They have been a source of inspiration to my mother. She is tough -- she asked for the strongest course of treatment, and she also wants to go ahead with her commitment to speak at the Wychwood Library this November about her remarkable wartime experiences. I am encouraging her to do it.

My mother has touched the lives of thousands of young people, telling her story of how she survived the Holocaust. She truly reached many of them. My mother has all the letters of appreciation. This is her greatest source of pride -- those beautiful letters. The storytelling aspect of her life came late in her life, and I am really proud of her even if she was somewhat obsessive about it -- enough to cause us real concern! She kept writing, and eventually compiled and completed a memoir about her life. She remembered every detail, from the time when she was practically a babe in arms. We are all amazed at her recall.

She was an ethical and dedicated retail store owner who for 26 years just wanted to bring home the money and do a little traveling. I will always remember how she answered the phone when I'd get home from school and call her: "Good afternoon, Albion Style Shoppe." She threw a great Christmas party with pastrami and corned beef from Schmerel's, the kosher delicatessen near our house. The customers and other store owners, mainly Anglicans and Italians, loved to come by and leave a fruit cake or some Christmas cookies just so they could have a sandwich with rye bread, a kosher pickle and a little whiskey. My mum always gave a Christmas bonus and a gift to her girls -- usually a silk scarf or a bottle of Seagram's in the purple velvet bag.

As a kid I used to sit on the little waste paper basket in her tiny office and keep her company as she did the books at the end of the day on Saturdays. Although later in her life my mother would throw her fashion consciousness away and replace it with the obligatory dowdy Bubbie attire, I did learn a few things from her: grey pinstripe flares; a few good career girl wash and wear dresses, and rib knit sweaters. And of course that I should stay away from pastels, favoring olive greens and reds instead. My affinity for all things black broke her heart. She also told me to have a decent coat. For most of my life I shunned this advice until she sprung and got me a gorgeous black Jones New York midi coat with fastened elegantly with a single button, which I wore to threads.

And the Hadassah Bazaar -- the world's largest one-day flea market and sale? My mother and I learned that sometimes "used" is actually better than "new" -- a valuable lesson that I have passed down to Yona and Miriam. The Bazaar was a central part of our lives for many, many years, especially since my mother was elected to at least 10 terms of President of her Hadassah chapter. Bazaar day still is an unofficial Jewish holy day which falls on the third Wednesday of October, when you see everyone while having fun and buying lots of cheap stuff -- all for a good cause. I still have the down vest and leather/down ski mitts that I got there. Total cost -- two bucks. I also have the videotape that I made one year, featuring the infant Miriam and lots of great interviews with my mother fellow Masada Chapter members. Happy times -- selling merchandise, doing a mitzvah, being social and happy and comfortable. And laughing, and healthy.

I am watching and see the expression of what she has give me and my family -- a love of Israel, and the gift of Hebrew language. A love of all people. In her day, she could be so animated, sassy and funny. That was a very, very long time ago. Hard to believe now.

An annual colonoscopy would have prevented all of this. By all accounts, my mother has been silently ill for a minimum of ten years. But things really fell apart after her blockage, just two short weeks ago. As I watch the video of the Hadassah Bazaar, I am eerily reminded that my mother might have been saved if she had a polyp removed around the time that the video was made, some 14 years ago. She could have rung in the dawn of her Eighties at the Hadassah Bazaar this year, as a laughing and healthy old Bubbie.

So forgive me if I am not my usual goofy self tonight, but this is all so new, and I am terribly alone tonight, as my mother lay sleeping in the other room, possibly in the best health that she will have for the rest of her time here on earth.

Maybe once we get over this hump I will be able to objectively reflect and understand that my mother had symptoms for many years, and that things were going south when her mood changed, and she didn't enjoy the mall anymore, couldn't walk too well, started to sleep a lot, and became harsh and bitter. I wonder what she was thinking -- if the fear of possible illness ever crossed her mind. I will not waste her precious time by asking her these things. I will sort it out in due time for my own peace of mind, so that I can try and understand what has happened here. For now, I want her to focus on being comfortable and at peace. She is so happy with me right now and happy that I am managing her affairs and taking care of her. If this is what the job is, and if I am doing it well, then I am satisfied, even if I don't really understand the job.

After being sucked up in the vortex of this harrowing and other-worldly experience, I have only one prayer: May G-d protect us all, and may we all have the good sense to take care of our eventuality matters so that it does not rest on the shoulders of our children. Let's not let our kids wonder for the rest of lives whether or not they did the right thing. I'm here, I'm doing that, and I don't care for it much.

Keep the cards and letters coming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Toronto Holocaust Committee Enrichment Day

It was unfortunate that I was not able to join Judy Cohen and the Toronto Holocaust Committee for their special Enrichment Day program, which took place today. They were giving my mother a posthumous honour. Although I could not be there, I did send these words, which were read by Judy:

I am sorry I could not join you today. But on behalf of my family -- my husband Marty and our daughters Miriam and Yona, I would like to express to you how grateful we are to the Holocaust Committee for having been able to give my mother the most enriching experience of her life -- sharing her personal story of triumph.

My mother believed that there were no coincidences in life. She died on a Shabbat, which is an honour for the most righteous. She was buried at the precise time when 2,000 March of the Living participants were leaving Poland, bound for Jerusalem. This was her reward -- to leave the world a little bit improved; to see a State of Israel and to see children learning about the Holocaust; and to be chosen to leave this world on Shabbat.

My mother gave us life and enriched everyone who knew her with her vitality. We miss her terribly. On behalf of our family, I would like to thank you all again for helping make my mother's life one of fulfillment, purpose and validation.

It will be the first time that I will be receiving a plaque and bringing it to New Jersey. I am almost tempted to leave it in the Bathurst Manor Ancestral Home, because I really feel it belongs there. I can see how this will be a year of transition. Just trying to roll with it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

David Amram at the Hunter S. Thompson blast off...

I simply had to share this. Check out David's website at He's a national treasure. He knows the world. Literally. I had no idea that he was friends with Hunter. I was still bowled over by his recent book, Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac, about his friendship with Jack Kerouac! I wish I had half his energy, and he's turning 75. Rock on, baby! xoxo

Subject line: to lady lynda naches and nachos

Dear Lady Lynda,

I got your nice e-mail but still haven't gotten a night's sleep after returning home at 3 am Tuesday morning two weeks ago from Woody Creek and Aspen Colorado, after performing for Hunter Thompson's final big blast off, and received phone calls and e-mails for all over the world from people who heard about the event.

I wanted to wait to write you back after I finished writing my own review of all my crazy experiences leading up to the event for Hunter Thompson's unforgettable night, where I closed the show with a theme and variations on My Old Kentucky Home, where i was joined by Johnny Depp on guitar, LyleLovett and Hunter's brother singing, as well as Jimmy Ibbotson, one of the founders of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band playing with me, as I got the audience to sing, but...... it is taking a long time to write about it, so I am sending you this short note for now.

I leave next wednesday for Richmond Ohio, where my cello concerto Honor Song for Sitting Bull is being played, and leave after the performance Sat night the 17th and drive 500 miles all night to Tinley Park outside of Chicago to play with Willie Nelson for Farm Aid Sunday the 18th, (I realize those venues are a little far to go for you to go to by cab or subway) and back to NYC the 19th and then leave for Stevens Point Wisconson for college programs there with the crazy professor who founded the Beat Meets East Festival i did in China last summer.

Then a bunch of concerts all month celebrating my Nov 17th big 75th in Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, London England, Cork Ireland an Amram Jam gala concert at the Tarrytown Theater in new York Nov 19th.. whicch will benefit homeless survivors from New Orleans.With all this activity, I won't have time to get into any trouble!!

Below are some of the reviews sent to me for Hunter Thompson's event..I wish you could have been there. It was an amazing night.All cheers, as I try to catch up with a ton of mail and phone calls, before all the upcoming concerts, plus composing a new symphonic piece, Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie and working on a new book, Nine Lives of a Musical Cat.All joy and creative energy to you and prayers for all survivors from New Orleans and the Gulf states.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Macleans magazine

September 08, 2005

Mothers rock out with songs like Pick up Your Socks


Go home now and tell your mother
Not to waste another day
Tell her to unplug the Hoover and
Plug in stuff the punky way!

-- from Punkymum by the British band the Mothers

Lynda Kraar is a 46-year-old suburban mom of two by day and a rocker in leopard print by night. Driven by a need to escape the daily grind of suburban life, the self-identified militant mom and Toronto native has found an outlet in her music, in between driving her daughters to school and tae kwon do, buying groceries, cooking dinner and helping take care of her sick mother. "I am not Britney Spears, nor do I have any desire to be running with the twentysomething pack," says Kraar. "I have survived birthing two children, becoming a mother, losing a mother, and now I have no intention of growing old gracefully." So Kraar, with her black velvet jacket, vintage guitars, Napolean Dynamite T-shirts, Phat Mom bracelets and black Frye boots, rocks out her frustration with songs she's written, like Suburban White in a White Suburban and Militant Mom.

Kraar, who divides her time between Toronto and New Jersey, is part of the mom rock movement breaking out across North America and finding a voice in England. Suburban women are dying their hair pink, donning fishnet stockings and rocking out in groups like Placenta, Housewives on Prozac, Frump and Candy Band. And they turn to themes they know to pen songs with such titles as Pee Alone, Pick up Your Socks, Toy Hell, Eat Your Damn Spaghetti and Fuzzy Slippers.

It's a movement Kraar and Fredericton native Alana Ruben Free want to bring to Canada next year through Mamapalooza, a festival for moms who are musicians, artists and writers. Launched in New York City in 2002, Mamapalooza has expanded to eight cities, including Chicago and Detroit, and draws thousands to some of its spring and summer events. "Just because you are a mom doesn't mean you have to give up everything," says Free, editor of Mamapalooza's magazine Mom Egg. Even for those who never plan to perform in public, rocking out can be a liberating form of expression. "Some people may see it as frivolous to make a song that nobody hears or to write lyrics no one reads," says Free, "but for the person, it can be the very thing that affirms and saves them."

Joy Rose, the 48-year-old singer for Housewives on Prozac and founder of Mamapalooza, agrees. It's not only rock's potential for fun, success and critical acclaim that draws these women, Rose says, but also its power as an antidote to the disorientation women feel when they become moms. "When we snap on the apron, snap out the kids, suddenly we don't know who we are."

For Rose, this is what happened when she left New York City for the burbs and gave birth. "I realized how we get stuck in the middle of the grind of working and raising children and how weary and dull life can get," she says. "I didn't want to be stuck anymore." She escaped through music, using everyday life to inspire her. When her daughter refused to eat dinner, she wrote: I've been standing in the kitchen since / a quarter to noon / Eat your damn spaghetti or leave the room. The song was featured on the Housewives' national album, I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping at the Mall.

Rose feels being a mom rocker has allowed her to reclaim part of her old self, if only in a small way. "We all have a dream or two we put on the back burner when we get caught up with the responsibility of life, motherhood and general adult issues," she says. So as she keeps busy juggling the creative life and the responsibilities of motherhood, Rose says it's important to remember that "life doesn't end at 30, you can be expressing yourself and rocking at 20, 30, 40 and 50."

As for Kraar, she confidently predicts the mom rock movement will take off in Canada. "We are here and we are waiting for our moment," she states. "You will see a long line of mom bands who have been holed up in basements, garages and chat rooms all over the country coming out."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Marty!

Seven years of marriage, and ten years of being together. Hard to believe you tamed the ol' serial bride, but here I am.

Here's to more of the same, only bigger, better, healthier, happier and with more life experience. It's been a trip, my love. You are still my whole world.

Toronto Star
Aug. 22, 2005. 11:26 AM

'Nobody's daughter' spoke up
Ann Szedlecki's Holocaust tale

Survivor told her story until the end


Ann Szedlecki was a powerful and popular speaker for Toronto's Holocaust Centre.

"I think you are brave for standing up in front of a bunch of students to tell your story; it must have been hard to tell us some of those awful memories from your past," wrote one student from King City Secondary School.

"I don't think I would last as long as you did. Unlike me, you never gave up," wrote another.

"It opened my eyes and informed me about something I knew little about," a third student commented.

And a fourth wrote: "I believe that people like yourself, who struggled during the war, should speak out and share their stories."

But Szedlecki, who died of cancer May 7 at 79 and was buried on Mother's Day, had to be talked into telling her story. At 14 she was alone in Siberia, sentenced to six months of hard labour, her brother imprisoned for supposed political crimes, but she always said she was never in a concentration camp and therefore really wasn't a Holocaust survivor.

"At first she was a bit reluctant to talk, especially with an Auschwitz survivor like me," recalled Judy Cohen, who as co-chair of the Holocaust Centre's speaker bureau interviewed all potential speakers four or five years ago when Szedlecki was approached to tell her story.
"I said `Ann, you lost your family. The end result is you are a Holocaust survivor of a different sort. It's good for people to know there are varied experiences.'"

That accomplished, Cohen had to then talk Szedlecki out of telling her story the way she was accustomed to: as an adventure story of a spirited young girl.

"I think she missed the point of her own suffering," said Cohen. "I told her to tell them the absolute truth and put it in an historical context, otherwise it is just a sad story. As I said to her `You didn't enjoy the adventure.'"

Szedlecki listened and became a fine speaker, someone who understood that this kind of storytelling is more educational than cathartic.
"Her story became what it should be," said Cohen.

But first she wrote it down over the 10 years in which she attended Toronto author Sylvia Warsh's creative writing classes at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living.

"My mother became a whole other person once she muttered the words `I am a writer,'" said her daughter, Lynda Kraar.

"She was a natural storyteller," said Warsh, who helped Szedlecki produce a 200-page autobiographical manuscript. "Look at page three, starting `I am nobody's daughter.' It is great stuff."

Her manuscript begins as Ann Frajlich is leaving the Soviet Union after six years, leaving behind the unmarked grave of her brother Shoel — dead at 23 from tuberculosis contracted as a result of being arrested for cooked-up political crimes, tortured and imprisoned — and leaving with only a bag of dried bread, a jar of melted butter, a few clothes and size 12 shoes on her feet.

She is returning to her hometown of Lodz, Poland, even though her entire family had died in the Warsaw Ghetto.

"I am nobody's daughter, nobody's sister, nobody's granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt or cousin," she wrote. "My past is all gone, it disappeared."

In 1940, her worried parents had sent her off with her brother to the Soviet Union where they would work for one year to "wait out, hopefully, the short war," as she wrote. They were transported to Ridder (later renamed Leninogorsk) in western Kazakhstan, in Siberia, about 500 kilometres from the Chinese border.

And it was true, she was a bit giddy over what she considered to be a great adventure, excited to be going to a new place and to be out on her own. She didn't even mind when she was put to work painting bathhouses and enrolled in school. But after her brother was arrested, she was thrown out of the school and ended up hauling bricks, then later peeling potatoes and washing dishes in a mining cafeteria.

When she took three days off work without permission to bury her brother in the frozen spring of 1943, she was sentenced to six months of hard labour in appalling conditions at a labour camp. She lugged railway ties to build a new line, shovelled snow to clear roads, cut down trees and freed logs from a frozen river, but she was also carrying the grief of her brother's death and her guilt that she wasn't with him when he died.

After being released she volunteered to work underground in the mines, loading the ore into wagons. She hated it but, typically, wrote instead about "the miracle of my survival" in which she left the pile of ore she was sitting on to boldly ask the foreman for a cigarette — and just as he handed her a smoke, the pile collapsed. "I could've been buried under tons of ore," she cheerfully concluded.

"I can even go so far as claiming that smoking saved my life."
(The children and students to whom she later told that story just loved it.)
"Since she was 14, my mother has been invincible," said Kraar.
She married soon after the war, a man who was 11 years her senior, a concentration camp survivor with the numbers forever burned into his forearm. Abraham Szedlecki was "a wounded, traumatized and sad guy," according to his daughter and the marriage was never a happy one, although it lasted until her death.

The couple moved to Canada in 1953 after three years living in Israel and both went to work in the garment district. He pressed coats, she sewed on buttons. But it wasn't long before the boss promoted her to bookkeeping duties in the office and even though she'd had no experience doing books, she learned fast.

Although Abraham stayed in the factory, she left her job in 1965 when a store out on Albion Rd. became available.

"She took out a loan for $5,000 — this little Holocaust lady with Grade 7 education — when all her friends were saying don't do it," her daughter recalled.

For years, her women's clothing store was the most successful business in the Shoppers World Mall on Albion Rd. Kraar — Szedlecki's only child and travel companion on holidays — had married and moved to New Jersey by the time Szedlecki retired in 1990.

"They were close, closer than I could imagine," said Masha Ami, Kraar's best friend since they met at camp when they were 11.

"I could see they were not only mother and daughter but friends."
The friendship was always volatile, however, as both were strong, talented and stubborn women who liked to do things their way.
As Szedlecki and her husband had long been leading separate lives although continuing to share their Bathurst Manor area bungalow, she threw herself into volunteer work.

She had always been involved with her Masada chapter of Hadassah-WIZO, but she began driving for the Kosher Meals on Wheels program and serving on a committee managing funds provided to survivors through the Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc.

She kept up her writing and her talks until the last year of her life.
Her husband, suffering from Alzheimer's, moved into a care facility, but she stayed where she was determined to be, in her own home. Kraar said she kicked into overdrive, often staying for weeks to care for her weakening mother in her home.

Szedlecki died in her home listening to show tunes and singer Theodore Bikel.

And as far as Kraar is concerned, her mother's story isn't over. She's writing a show about her mother's life. One song is finished, which Kraar, a musician and publicist, performed in a small club in New York City recently. It was part of Mamapalooza, a celebration of mothers.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


In the midst of this chaos and tragedy, I have two incredibly good pieces of news:

1. I heard from Joe Lastie, drummer of the Preservation Hall Band. He is okay and in Georgia with his daughter and some relatives. His house, car and drums took the brunt. All he wants to do is get back on the road and keep playing. This is me with Joe in happier times, earlier this year.

2. I heard from Rob Espino of the New Orleans Brass Potholes Band. My understanding is that they made it out in time. As a band leader, Rob is trying to get some gigs lined up for his band. Rob is a superb leader in that regard. A true soldier.

All of these wonderful musicians and their families are suffering the trauma and hardship of having to start from scratch. Life as they knew it is over. But in the true spirit of musicianship, all they really want to do is to get back to gigging, and upliftthe spirits of people by bringing them together through music.

In the case of Preservation Hall, I understand they have a September tour scheduled. The Potholes are currently and actively looking for gigs and have asked me to help them.

Any ideas? Get in touch with me. Let's be creative, gang.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Musicians on Call

Your humble GuitarGirl reporting from the plane, en route to Italy. Go get your coffee, gang. I’m running long today.

Guitar backpack strapped on tight, I am walking along Sixth Avenue on my way downtown. It is a very pleasant afternoon. I hear Hebrew, Italian and Greek spoken in the street. It’s the day before our cruise to Italy, Croatia and Greece with the Israel holiday add-on. I am going to places where I will probably hear nothing but English in the street since apparently all of the locals are here in New York on holiday.

I arrive at the Foundling Hospital. It’s exactly as my friend Lisa Ludwig the rock star says it will be. I have come as a volunteer to perform music for three floors of kids, infants through teens. Most of them are too sick to be home and there are a too many palliative, non-responsive kids.

This is my first gig for Musicians on Call, a non-profit organization that arranges bedside visits by musicians to hospitals and homes. I learned about it from my first chance meeting with Michael Solomon, its founder, who also manages the fabulously gifted singer songwriter John Mayer.

Michael and I met when I attended a fund raiser for the Kristen Ann Carr Foundation, which labours tirelessly in its pursuit of a cure for sarcoma. When we first arrived, a wonderfully energetic and dashing young turk came by to say hello. In no time I learned that Michael had been the fiancé of Kristen Ann Carr, who was stricken with the disease which tragically robbed her of her life. Having lost a young love myself, I connected with Michael. Although you can never really recover from such loss, Michael was a true leader who took tragedy and made from it something positive and hopeful.

Kristen’s parents, Dave Marsh and Barbara Carr, were at the event and were surrounded by many of Kristen’s friends who now participate in the foundation’s events. They also get a lot of support from Bruce Springsteen and the E Streeters. Barbara is Bruce’s manager, and Kristen had basically grown up in the music business around these people. Dave is “That” Dave Marsh, the prominent rock journalist from Rolling Stone.

As we spoke, Michael mentioned that his father was a prominent Jewish communal professional. It turned out that his father was a longtime colleague of my husband. Furthermore, he and his wife had given us a lovely wedding gift, which adorns our house to this day. In fact, we had socialized with them and had been to their home for dinner. His parents were on the board of Musicians on Call.

Michael really inspired me. We kept up. The day came that I would be meeting him at his management office on the Upper West Side. I will never forget that day. It was gorgeous out. I figured I’d go for a walk in the park before the meeting. I even remember what I listened to that day: a reggae compilation.

I got to the house, feeling mightily righteous and ready to start my day. I called Michael on my way out the door at 9 a.m. The phone was out of order. There was only one other problem.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

So now it’s four years later and I’m walking down to the Foundling Hospital, ready to do my thing.

It’s an amazing little hospital in what must be a historic building, filled with fabulous staff, all smiling and friendly. The kids are everywhere. I am being led around by a host from Musicians on Call who is also training a new volunteer host. We make our rounds together. They guide me and I go in there and do my thing.

Lisa Ludwig, who has a killer band called Black Flamingo and is a New York City icon, is a tough act to follow, but I do my best. I am the maverick cowgirl with funky jewelry to her black/leopardskin/sparkles rockstar. It’s a good match. The kids are thrilled to hear that we are connected. So it’s like a visit from a favorite relative. That makes me feel good and I am in top form, working the room, learning the names, improvising and playing with the kids as though I were one of them.

There are many rooms that are sealed off because there is a bug going around the wards and the kids are very susceptible. Or because some of the kids are very excitable or can’t handle the stimulation. Reasons for everything and signs up to let you know if you absolutely can’t enter a room.

I do manage a few smiles down on the third floor, where most kids are on respirators and are not responsive, other than eye contact. Yet, a few tiny kids in wheelchairs reach out to strum my guitar when I come around. I let ‘em. I sing. I talk to them. Sometimes we even laugh. Mostly their smiles made me laugh and that made them smile more.

Up on the fourth floor my first encounter is with Lisa’s “boyfriend.” He is in his single digits, wheelchair bound. And at the computer station, playing a game. He has no time for music today.

“Uh-uh, not today,” he says, and I get brushed off, as does another kid. But he’s funny about it and I’m actually kind of flattered when he is told, “This is Lisa’s friend.” Even so, I am shooed away in favour of the game.

A West African kid with a gorgeous smile is flirting with me. I say to him, “Here’s a song your parents know for sure,” and launch into My Girl. He is excited and very appreciative. Doesn’t want me to go.

I turn to walk away for a moment and then I turn back to him.

“Parles-tu francais? I ask him.

He vehemently shakes his head no and laughs. I ask again. Of course he does. Note to myself: Next time, a French song.

I’ve loosened up now, in a room filled with three girls who are my teenage daughter’s age. I’m now singing in Hebrew if I sense that the child is Jewish. And I throw in a French song, too. These girls transcended their bodies and were just being girls.

I sang Stand By Me. I hadn’t done that song since the Passover seder at my mum’s, which was the Seder To Remember: her last one. My longtime musical partner, the wildly talented Ardene Shapiro, joined me in a little concert of all my mum’s favourites from our old band days. It was the last time I saw my mum smile and really interact with her friends and loved ones.

In this room, with these girls, I felt the presence of my mother for the very first time since she died. She was with me, and she was happy.

Before I know it, two hours have passed and it’s time to go.

A quick debrief with the music therapist. I mention to her that I sort of ethnicated my song list and tried to play to the crowd. We talked about certain kids’ responses. She was thrilled to hear that some kids actually sat up (or really tried to) and participated.

On the way home, I walk with the new volunteer and we talk about our experience. Uplifting. Profoundly sad. A little piece of Gd on Sixth Avenue.

You can really learn a lot from these kids, like how precious every second is. I was fortunate to be able to serve them a little piece of quality time. I hope I did a good job.

Great news. Musicians On Call asked me back. I’d love to take my girls next time. Maybe I will.

Huge shout out to Michael Solomon and to Lisa Ludwig. We need more people like that.