Strange Days

Yesterday morning, as I drove towards Newport I was listening to the BBC. Tony Blair had just stepped down, and at the moment, England was without leadership and in a temporary limbo. That’s kind of how I felt.

I met up with Debbie and Hamid at their hotel. The place was host to some kind of FBI trade show, and was crawling with security folks of all types. We headed out, and got to the cemetery with plenty of time to spare.

The service went well. There was a pretty good turnout, considering the short notice. It was very sunny out, but the road through the cemetery was lined with trees, so it was shady and cool where the service was held.

I was one of the pallbearers, the coffin was surprisingly light. There were only four pallbearers, probably because most of the people there were so frail, they could barely lift themselves. Hamid wove his way through the crowd in time to be a fifth pallbearer. The coffin was lowered into the grave, and the service proper began.

The Rabbi was a friend of Papa’s, he has a column in the paper, and Papa frequently posted articles in the letters to the editor section, and they built a mutual admiration. He pinned a black ribbon on Hamid, Debbie, and Farilyn. “In times past,” he said, “we would tear our clothes when we heard of the death of a loved one. Now, we symbolically tear our clothes by wearing this cut ribbon.” Then he walked by, cutting each ribbon. “Wear the ribbon for at least a week, and as long as 40 days. When you remove it is up to you.” The Rabbi spoke for a while, read the obituary, and a few prayers.

Hamid read something he had written the night before, and sang the lullaby “Little Boy Blue” that Papa used to sing to him, and that he now sings to his son.

Debbie read what she’d written, then Stanley Light came up. “I am here in two roles today,” he said, “as a representative of Veterans, and as Seymour’s last remaining first cousin. So I will read two things. The first comes from this Veteran’s Manual. The second comes from my heart.” He read the standard text, and then recited a nonsense poem that Papa would sing with Andrew.

Then there was some more prayer, then the Rabbi said “Now, the family can do one last thing for Seymour, each member of the family can shovel earth onto the coffin. We convert the shovel into a religious symbol by flipping it over, and carrying the first shovelful of earth on the back of the shovel.” We each shovelled some earth onto the coffin, which made a terrible hollow sound as each batch of earth hit it. The sound of finality.

Then the ceremony came to a close.

I’m trying to remember who all was there.

In Attendence:
Matthew’s kids
Sonny Friedman & wife his son
Jewish War Veterans representative
Rabbi (name?)
Joe Broker
Chris Moss
Jan Templeton (or maybe I’m confused, and some friend of Debbie’s was there… I think Jan stopped by briefly at Salas’ later)
Stanley Light & his wife and (daughter?)
Papa’s neighbors
And other people I forgot the names of…

Vito, Papa’s dog was there. The neighbors have taken him in, and brought him with them to the cemetery. He looked very happy, his fur was clean and he was outside – at Papa’s he was indoors, and his fur was matted and messy. Though he doesn’t get the gourmet select cuts of meat Papa fed him, he’s on normal dog food now.

After the ceremony, there was a reception at Salas’ Restaurant. Oddly, almost no one showed. There were three old ladies whose names I forget, Stanley Light and his (daughter? granddaughter?), Debbie, Hamid, and me. There was food for like 40 or 50 people, and only 8 of us. We talked and had our fill of sandwiches, then Debbie proposed we bring the rest of the food to the nurses on the 4th floor of Newport Hospital, the ones who took care of Papa. She called them up to see if was ok, and they said yes. We had the food wrapped up, and had the flowers picked up and brought there too.

We drove the food over to the hospital, Hamid got a cart and we loaded it up and took it up to the 4th floor nurses. It was nice to have a chance to thank them again, and do so in front of their supervisor.

We stopped by Ace hardware to make copies of the house key for the realtor, cleaners and me. Hamid was entranced by the selection and prices in Ace, which were pretty good deals, but apparently fantastic deals compared to Costa Rica. He was like a kid in a candy store.

Then we went to Papa’s house to look for the will, which Papa had mentioned misplacing. This is where the day took a bit of a darker turn. Apparently, while we were at the reception, other family members had been going through Papa’s house, taking collectibles and things. I’m not sure why, since the stuff was all going to be sold and the result divided up anyway. One of the things taken was the only thing Neil had wanted, a certain painting Nana had done. He even had Papa put his name on it so he would get it. That made me depressed, not to be able to send it to him.

I searched through the house for photos, I’m working on a family archive of photos, records, and family tree, so wanted to make sure no photos were accidentally thrown out. Many of the photo albums had been cleaned out and were just blank pages, I don’t know if that happened while we were at the reception, or just over the years. It’s too bad, because I’m trying to make a complete family record, for everyone to share.

Of course, all this really upset Hamid and Debbie, making the previous tiff into more of a rift.

After failing to find the will, we went to back to the hotel.

I helped look up info on a new laptop for Hamid, and we went over to Staples to get it. Oddly, the one they said was in stock wasn’t on display, and the one on display (the next model up?) was out of stock. But Hamid wanted one quick, so he bought the display model.

We then went to Anthony’s for dinner. It’s a seafood place with very fresh fish, I hear they have their own boats. The front part is actually a fish market. Pretty much everything is deep-fried, I got a Hot Stuffy (a stuffed clam with jalapeno in it, very tasty) and a Flounder and Chips, which is better than the Scrod places usually use for Fish & Chips.

The food was good, but not very healthy. As I looked around, I noted most of the patrons were quite large, and looked as if they had been poured into their booths.

We then went back to the hotel, I said goodbye to Debbie and Hamid, as on Friday they are flying back to Arizona and Costa Rica, respectively.

Then I started home. But moments later, I reconsidered. I didn’t really want to drive back to RI this weekend, so decided I’d go over to Papa’s house to look for more buried photos and newspaper clippings.

I spent a couple hours there, sifting through piles of junk to find the odd photo or box of slides. He was a packrat, so there were all sorts of things there, old cigarette marketing materials, unused greeting cards, clipped coupons, all sorts of things.

One thing I saw that choked me up was on the end table next to the couch, a letter from Neil with a newspaper clipping about his art show, and photos of his sculptures. It was on top, so it was probably the last thing Papa was looking at before he went to the hospital.

Being there alone at night felt odd. Not spooky, just terribly, terribly empty. I called Neil and talked to him for a while, to see how he was doing and fight off the deadness of the place.

After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore, and locked up and headed out. There were probably more records and things I could have salvaged from Papa’s desk (I know there were some army records and things somewhere), but I was feeling terribly tired.

I headed home. I was very sleepy, and nearly drifting off while driving, when a large grey coyote standing by the side of the road snapped me awake. I turned on the radio and kept myself awake the rest of the way home.

I got home, exhausted, and hopped into the shower (I’d gotten pretty grungy in Papa’s house). After the shower, I checked my emails, sent a couple, went to bed, and sank into a deep, deep sleep.

The ups and downs of biking to work

Today was “bike to work” day at Staples. I didn’t bike all the way from home, which would be around 25 miles, but instead drove to the Staples Data Center in Marlboro, where I met up with some friends to bike the more manageable 6 or so miles from there.

The ride in was nice. The weather was nice, it was sunny, but misty and pretty cool. The route we took was mostly flat, with a big hill at the end, which was easier than I remembered. When we arrived the event sponsors gave us a goodies bag (tshirt, travel mug, pen, “I’m here to save the planet” pins, bike safety booklet) and a voucher for a free breakfast (up to $5) in the cafeteria. I took a shower (being naked at work… feels so wrong, yet so right), changed into work clothes, then grabbed my free breakfast.

I got the Heart Healthy Start Special (egg beaters, whole wheat toast, turkey sausages, and a slice of melon) and a Nantucket Nectars Blueberry and Apple juice. Normally I don’t get those juices because despite being 100% juice, they are high in calories, sugar, and price, but I had my magic voucher so I figured why not. It all came to $4.45. Damn, shoulda got one more thing, Staples got out of paying 55 cents (you get no change from a voucher). Oh well.

Then it was off to meetings and coding and whatnot, the usual day at Staples.

The ride back… woo.

To start with, it was 93ºF (the F stands for “Fucking Hot”) out. We were also riding into a pretty strong wind. And not a cool, refreshing wind. A convection oven wind. It was also just me and Ben riding back. Ben is an expert biker, and though he was holding back and waiting up for me, the pace felt faster than in the morning. Also, we took a different route back, which is somehow uphill all the way, with only one or two brief spots of downhill. By the time we reached the Data Center and my car, I was soaked with sweat, and reaching the last of my CamelPack of water (thank god for that, though, or I wouldn’t have made it).

Once at my car, I hastily shoved my stuff and my bike in the car (fold-down seats are nice), Ben continued his ride home, and I started my drive home. I barely cared which direction I was going on the highway, all that mattered was that I was in the car, with sweet, sweet AC. I really, really, really loved my car at that moment. I kept the AC cranked and pointed directly at my head until I started to get an ice cream headache.

I saw two interesting things on the way home.

First was a white minivan, adorned with the diamond-shaped signs you see on semi trucks. They read “Radioactive” and had the radiation symbol. There was a company sign on the side, I’m guessing maybe stuff for medical use. Either that or a really poorly disguised super-villain.

The other interesting thing I saw was very sad. I saw a mother duck leading her ducklings across 290. 290 at around 6pm is very busy, and everyone’s going around 70 miles an hour. She strode forward, defiant in the face of speeding cars. She did not flinch or hesitate, but moved forcefully ahead at a brisk pace. As I passed, they were in the breakdown lane, I was in the middle lane. I watched in the rear-view mirror, as they reached the first of three lanes, a car swerved into the breakdown lane around them to avoid hitting them. After that, they were too far back to see, but they had two more lanes to go, and it didn’t look like traffic slowed down. I have a sinking feeling they didn’t make it.

I got home and took a nice lukewarm shower. Ahh, clean and cool again.

Farewell, Papa.

He was the captain of our family.

Here’s the obituary I drafted and Judy and Hamid completed:

Seymour Jack Kaber left this world, with courage and grace, on Monday morning, June 25th, 2007, at the age of 91. Seymour was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1916, to Hymen Kaber and Freda Friedman, immigrants from Doksycze Poland. After moving to Newport, Rhode Island, Seymour married Ida Aidinoff, the love of his life, in 1938. During World War II, he served in the United States Army and attained the rank of corporal. For forty-four years, he worked for S.Adelson Company on Thames Street, eventually becoming their General Manager. He also helped to develop and managed Adelson’s Catalog Showroom until he retired in 1976. Seymour was a good friend to many and known for his sense of humor, his ready smile, and his open heart. He was a man dedicated to his job, active in his community, and devoted his family. When his beloved Ida became ill with Alzheimer’s, Seymour cared for her unstintingly. They remained together until she passed away in 1998. Seymour enjoyed playing pool regularly at the Edward King House with his old buddies where they also shared meals and stories. A regular contributor to the Newport Daily News “Letter-to-the-Editor”, he wrote articles addressing social issues, memories of times past in Newport, and on the subject of Alzheimer’s – the latter of which generated floods of response from around the country. He also spoke about his experiences with Alzheimer’s at local community centers. Seymour is survived and celebrated by his four children: Farilyn, Hamid, Neil and Deborah, his seven grandchildren Michael, Matthew, Julie, Tevye, Moses, Jared, and Rachman and five great grandchildren Joshua, Trevor, Shifra, Gila and Rafi. Services will be held at Beth Olam Cemetary in Middletown RI on Wednesday, June 27 at 11am.

Papa and me

Death and Doom

I’ve been terribly depressed the past week.

My grandfather is dying, my father is sick, my uncle had pretty serious cancer, my aunt has a whole slew of maladies, my mother is talking about what to do if she becomes terminally ill, I’m a week behind with code at work, and my girlfriend’s work schedule conspires with my own to keep me alone.

Usually, I can deal with stress pretty well, but lately it’s been getting to me.

I need something good for a change.

The prognosis on my grandfather is that he won’t last the weekend. I was out there tonight, I’m going out again tomorrow to be with him.

My mood lately can be summed up with: *sigh*

Financial Janitor part 2

I looked up my car loan. I have $11,000 left on it, and the interest is 8.64% – high enough to actually consider cashing out some stock to pay it off.

Summer is always a low point for Staples stock though, so I may wait till September to do it, since the stock usually goes back up around back-to-school time, for obvious reasons.

Oh, also, the visioncare plan that Staples offers, that I thought I had missed the window for?
Apparently I already signed up for it the moment it was available.

Good work, past Tev! He’s constantly surprising me with his competence.


I am sitting at my kitchen counter, sipping a mixture of coffee and Nesquick, and listening to the synthesized sounds of “it’s a small world” blare from an icecream truck drifting down the street.

My grandfather is dying.

I took the day off from work today to drive out and see him. I got up this morning and printed out some photos to complete a little photobook I had intended to give him earlier, but hadn’t finished for one reason or another. It made me run later than I planned, but he really loved it, so it was worth being a little late.

He’s in rough shape. His arms are dark and bruised-looking, and covered with sores. His dressing gown reveals the edge of a large bruise on his shoulder and chest. He has a tube going up his left nostril, and a breathing mask around his nose and mouth. I know somewhere he has IVs hooked up, probably a catheter as well. His breathing is thick, as there is fluid in his lungs. He says he is really thirsty, but he is not allowed to drink, since the water would just go into his lungs.

He tells me of his first date with Ida.

“We drove to the beach. We sat there, but dammit, I didn’t have the nerve to put my arm around her. It wasn’t until later… We were at her house, and her mother and sister went into the other room. It was cold out, I was getting ready to go. She was helping me get my coat on, and was leaned in close. Her face was very near mine, and I thought ‘Well, Seymore, it’s now or never!’ and I leaned in and kissed her. It was the most delicious kiss, ever. At that moment, wild horses couldn’t have dragged us apart.”

He misses her, terribly. Since she died, there has been a void in his life.

“I need my family. Without my wife… a man without his wife is nothing. I need someone to hug me. My parents never… never hugged me. Not once. I wasn’t abused, but… I can’t remember once having a conversation with my mother or father. They just didn’t talk to us.”

I show him the photos I brought. The book has a ribbon on the front and back covers, so it can be tied closed with a bow. Instead, he has me tie the very ends of the ribbon together, so he can use it as a wrist strap. He clings to the book, rubbing the fabric cover with his fingers, as if reminding his fingers of what it is to touch.

I stay with him for a couple hours, talking and holding his hand. A nurse comes in to change his bedding. “I’m going to get some rest after this,” he says, “so you should go now. I’ll just be resting. I’ll try to see you again.” I hug him and head out. As I walk past the ICU nurse’s station with a large lump in my throat, I hear his voice. “A good boy, such a good boy.”

Forget Safari, Get Lynx!

So Apple released Safari for Windows.

I think you’ll join me here in a collective yawn. The only thing this does is perhaps legitimize time testing web apps in Safari, since it’s now cross-platform.

But why not try something really different?
Get Lynx.

Lynx is a text-only browser from the dawn of time (ok, it was 1992, but neolithic time in terms of browsers).

Text-only browsing provides a refreshing change of pace from the bling-bling world of Flash-animated, image-laden websites. Nice, clean ASCII text is your only visual in the world of Lynx.

You can also get an idea of how clean the underlying design of a webpage is by viewing it in a text-only browser.

And if someone looks over your shoulder, it will probably just look like you are typing away in a shell, or viewing “man” pages (unix manuals).

So give it a try. You might like it.

Lynx for OS X
Lynx for Windows

This blog entry posted using Lynx.


My neck’s been bothering me all day.

I switched pillows in the middle of the night, so I don’t know if it’s my new pillow or my old one that’s left me kinked.