Friday, July 18, 2014

Patricia, Jan 23, 1954 - June 28, 2014

Patricia and Marty during their time in Costa Rica

This is the final entry in Word in the Woods. But that doesn't mean it's the last word. Patricia Jempty, the author who always signed her posts PJ, passed away -- peacefully, in her sleep, in hospice -- in the early hours of June 28 in Brooklyn. In the days before, she had been embraced by her friends and her family -- her husband Marty; her children Mariel, Mark and Harry.

As a reader of Word in the Woods, you know them, and how much she loved them. (And she could kid because she loved; as she once wrote on this blog, "My son Harry went to Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee, and hasn't been heard from in more than a week. I'm sure his phone is dead. Should I assume he'll be home for dinner tonight?"

Her friend Ronni Gordon wrote a lovely tribute to Patricia on her own blog:
"She was feisty, funny, smart and compassionate." (You can read it in its entirety here:

Patricia had a thing for the color orange long before Netflix decreed it cool; she also liked shoes, earrings that matched her clothes and a good cocktail. But it is her love for Marty, Mariel, Mark and Harry that runs through every post on this blog.

That love lives on, through her family and her many friends, and through her writing; and because of it, so does she. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Passover Country

Brie, Mark, Esther, Lenny, Frances, Marty, Patty
I was trapped in a  Passover factory in Pennsylvania. We arrived Saturday afternoon to a scene of intense preparation for a feast not arriving until Monday night. You can't be too careful.  They're rules on top of pseudo rules that make for debilitating doubt. Fortunately my sister-and-mother-in law managed the whole affair.

On Sunday, we went to see friends in North Wilmington. We had a nice brunch and talked about an upcoming wedding we were planning to attend in May. For me, it was all about the wardrobe. No dress fit me, and this was a black tie affair. I had already checked out my local consignment shop only to find over-the-top gowns, stuff that looked cheap, or didn't fit.

We hit the jackpot in a nearby Marshalls. I chose five dresses to try on, and Marty was allowed to come in and help do me up. The first looked a little trashy like I'd need Farrah Fawcett hair to pull it off. There was an all-black number that had to much froo-froo in front. The third was the winner. Tapered black at sides and back and brocade-like front panel that is either white or gray. One dress I can't recall trying on. The last was for Harry's graduation and a less formal wedding in July. The dress is multi-colored print (peach, green, brown, scarlet) on an ivory background. It has a crossover bodice and it is waisted and flowing, on the short side. It has a scarlet lining. I even managed to get low patent leather shoes!

The Seder went off without a hitch except the potatoes weren't boiled so there was a small delay. Other than that, the 7 of us had a wonderfully traditional Seder except we neglected to read the second half, which we always avoid.The following night we read the last half first, an innovation I strongly recommend.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Long, Cold Winter Makes Great Excuse to Read

You all know I don't need a reason to read. I always find time.

I just punched my way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm not going to give a summary of the novel here, just a few comments about style et cetera.

Some parts of the book are riveting, but about 200 pages should have been trimmed. There's a lot of repetition.I grew tired of Theo and Boris's antics in Las Vegas. Boris himself was a character I grew to despise. So he loves Theo and will do anything for him. He does bad things to his friend, including something I won't write about because it's near the end of  the book.

If you like to muse about the meaning of life, Tarrt gives you passage after passage through Theo's young-adult eyes. It seems a stretch that even though you've lived through a truly rotten teenagehood you would ponder these issues, even if you could.

I enjoyed the art history lessons, and Theo's travels through Amsterdam. I felt beaten over the head with the wetness metaphor, a thread throughout, and that it was always Christmas or Thanksgiving or a stormy night. This wasn't subtle enough for my tastes.

Since it's probably the most-read novel at the moment, even if it's not coming soon to your local book club, you might want to read it for water-cooler discussions. Or if you want important snippets about plot and character development, you can go to Cliff Notes. It's on-line for all I know, or at least a modern version of an English class's best friend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

John Kennedy Toole

Have you ever heard of John Henry Toole? You probably know of or have read his only book, A Confedracy of Dunces published 10 years after his death by suicide. A biography of Toole, Butterfly in Typrewiter  by Cory MacLaughlin, was sent to me for my birthday by my brother George who knew I would like to read the life story of the quirky misfit author who wrote a book whose main character is insane and who provokes some of the most hysterical events imaginable. The book is a also a portrait of New Orleans and its unusual characters.

Do you like hot dogs? This is just one of the awful jobs Ignatius Reilly does to try to earn money as his mother demands. Mostly, he eats all the hot dogs, but he also gets involved in a porn caper, and is charged with a $500,000 lawsuit from an office job he was fired from.

Now, what should you read first, Confederacy or MacLaughlin's bio (if you were so inclined)? I read the novel some 30 years ago, then read the bio, then re-read the novel. The book wasn't as funny as I'd remembered it but that could have been from all the details in MacLaughlin's book. They were interesting but I think diminished the character. Or maybe after 30 years I'm a different person with a different sense of humor. Toole's mother, who worked tirelessly to have her son's book published is a real character worth reading about, though. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Mango Madness

I don't like college basketball but I sure love mangoes. Mango season is in full swing. I remember it lasted for about five months when we lived in Costa Rica. We ate them, Marty brought them to work, we gave them to friends, our employees, teachers and even people on the street who politely asked for one.

Mangoes come in different varieties. We had the large green/red ones, but I prefer the small yellow ones. I just made a fruit smoothie with mangoes and other fruits. That's when I remembered about all things mango. We also had all things banana four or five times a year, but that's another story.

Speaking of stories, I wrote one called "The Mango Lady." My friend's kids always referred to me as such. I also wrote a poem called "The Mango Wars." Mangoes were an obsession, a delicious one.

Never be shy about cutting up a mango, which is very hard to do, and just eating it over the sink with the juicy pulp running down your chin. Here's an excerpt from my"Mango" poem.

There's glory for all

here among the fleshy perfumed orbs,

unless you're shelled while snoozing in the hammock.

If you survive, you have this story to tell:

I watched the mangoes rain down.

It was hell, and I lived.

Oh yes, I lived.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Holidays

Mid-March is a busy time. We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes washed down with Guinness. The Jewish celebration of Purim began last night, so I made hamentashen for dessert. These are little pastries shaped like a hat that the evil Jewish-hater Hamen wore.

I've already noted March 4th. Friday, 3/14 was Pi day, so I hope you all celebrated with pie.

And yesterday was the ides of March, which I hope you all navigated without mishap.

March Madness has kicked off in College Basketball.

An otherwise dull, between seasons month has its fair share of holidays. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sitting in the Past, With Popcorn

There's an old (1930) movie theater 20 minutes away from where we live. It shows a new film each week and they are usually the best (in my opinion) the movie world has to offer. Two weeks ago we saw 12 Years a Slave which is a remarkable (and true) story of a free black man who is snatched from his comfortable life, sold, and spends 12 years picking cotton, cutting sugar cane and doing carpentry work. Abused, beaten with a whip and treated as an animal, he never loses his personal integrity and dignity.

Yesterday, we took Harry with us to see Her. I felt the movie was a tad too long, but the acting was terrific and the story intriguing, mainly because although it's set in the future, it feels like it could happen sometime soon. What does it mean to be human? Can our faults and anxieties be ameliorated by another person (or in this case by a personal operating system you tote around like an i-phone)? Can love change us for the better? In Her the answer is yes. Harry approved of the music by "Arcade Fire." It's always nice to learn things from your children.

This mono-plex theater is a gem, open only Friday through Monday. The seats are comfortable and it's kept as neat as a pin, whatever that means. Matinees cost $7 and I take the opportunity to make my lunch a huge bucket of popcorn with real butter. Yum.

What a great way to spend a dreary winter afternoon or evening, when the tickets rocket to $9.