My Uncle Max Levin

My Uncle Max Arnold Levin was born on February 12, 1927 and died July 24, 2012 in Millbrae California at age 85. Max was born to my Grandmother Dora and My Grandfather Joseph Levin in San Francisco. He was known as one of the twins.  He was a true sports fan and was loyal to the S.F. Giants, 49ers and a Warrior fan for his entire life.

I knew little about his life and his growing up years. I was not even born for some of it and then, he lived in San Francisco and I lived in Los Angeles.  I would visit my family in San Francisco and got to know Uncle Max.  It wasn’t until I was grown did I really understand my Uncle Max’s talents. He was quiet until he spoke and when he spoke everyone within range heard his booming statements. He thought for a long time before he made a statement.  Everyone did not agree with him all of the time, but all of the time he was right. I realized that those that did not agree did not understand his well thought out truths.

My Uncle Max had many bosses in his life that told him what to do and he did it.  When he got to be his own boss, he was happy and satisfied that he did a wonderful job.  Now that he was the boss, he made decisions he had made all of his life, but this time he made them and carried them out to fruition in his own time and in his own way, the right way.

Later in his life, a painter put a paintbrush into my Uncle Max’s hands. He dipped and stroked the paper with great and true abandonment.  His works of art dripped and strode across the page.

He created masterpieces with remnants of his life story. They were the simple truths of his reality. They told of his struggles and his gradual coming through to the light. They are few, but they are brilliant statements he alone could have made. They stand unaided in all of their beauty. The artist born in my Uncle Max marked him and enlightened the world.

When Uncle Max told you some thing, it was something he had been thinking about for a long time.  If he asked you something he wanted to know the truth. If he was quiet, he was thinking. He was always thinking and then sharing. Uncle Max was a caring man, but he didn’t care if you believed him or understood him, but if he liked you, he wanted you to like him.

When Uncle Max’s parents became ill one by one, he took great care of them. He made promises to them that he carried out to the letter until the day he died. He was a man who if he made a promise, always followed through.  Knowing this about my Uncle Max has led me never, ever if possible to make a promise for fear I might not keep it.  Uncle Max never worried because he had always kept his promises and knew he always would. He was so diligent, conscientious and attentive to all of his tasks.

The tradition in the Levin family was to keep in touch. The two business locations were in different cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  A designated person, family member and manager in one city would call a designated person, family member and manager in the other city on a certain day, at a certain time every week, week in and week out. When the managers and family members began to die off, the tradition continued, but the designees changed. Uncle Max, the last of the tradition called my father Martin, every week until Martin died, and I called Uncle Max until he could speak no more and soon died.

My Uncle Max was a successful businessman and enjoyed the fruits of his labor.  He was generous, big hearted and a loving man. If he loved you, he wanted you to love him back and we all did. We love you dear Uncle Max and thank you for being our Uncle Max!!!

New York City, Hershey Pennsylvania followed by Lovely Historical Philadelphia

All photos by Colby, Marci and Sheila

Experiencing traveling through the eyes of your child and your grandchild has no words to describe the visceral experience. It comes instinctual rather than thinking, or  emotional rather than mental reasoning. I have tried to explain something grand and rewarding. Something enchanting. Something we all need to strive to experience and when we have, share it. When we go out to eat, our twelve-year-old grandson orders steak and lobster, shrimp, hamburgers and chicken Caesar salads.  Our daughter swells up from bouillabaisse, enjoys chicken, deep green salads, a gourmet hamburger here and there, but mainly keeps it low fat. I can sit in a chair all day and watch them enjoy their new experiences, which is new and rewarding travel knowledge for me.

We were able to inhale most of the tourist’s sights, bask in the crowds in Times Square and shop, as well as enjoy two plays, Spiderman and War Horse. It was thrilling to see both of these performances. Spiderman flies all around the audience several times and if you have the right seats, he almost flies into your lap. The horses in War Horse were beautiful and their handlers made you feel they are real even though they are exquisitely crafted puppets. It is joyous to spend evenings in the theatre.

Visit to the Main Library and Bryant Park

Visited the Top of the Rock this day.

God Bless America!

We also enjoyed having dinner with our friends. J & A. Your apartment high above the crowds is a lovely oasis and your new parquet floors are so authentic. Keep them uncovered, and put some dazzling rugs in the right places; you’ll be happy with the look.

I was able to chat and have dinner with beautiful Joy, a former student of mine, a number of years ago.  When we first met: I asked, “ Joy, are you old enough to share a drink before dinner?” She said, “Sheila, and I can call you that now because I am thirty-three years old.”  See time flies and yes, we are having fun.  Hopefully your move to Brooklyn was gentle on you. This reminds me when we retuned home from our trip, there was an old movie I got sucked, and I mean sucked into: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I cried non-stop through nearly all of it. To our friends in Brooklyn, the next time we have the good fortune to come to New York, we are going to plan some time to STAY in Brooklyn because I feel I need to be there. There is something in Brooklyn I need to know, something that has been waiting for me for a long time.

All and all we had an “I Love New York Experience!” Skip wants to follow his dream and rent an apartment in Manhattan for a month. I will follow him, because home is anywhere he is…so all of you in the vicinity, let’s us have fun.

On to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Look, making Smores on the lawn amidst high heat and even higher humidity, but oh so good.

In lieu of sounding like an ad for Hershey, Pennsylvania, let me tell you it is booked as “The Sweetest Place On Earth.”  Well, not for me. Remember age plays a factor in this equation.  They also advertised that they have a world-class amusement park and they do. Families would depart the hotel soon after breakfast and not return until after ten o’clock when the park closes. They have a wonderful water park associated with the theme park and certainly a relief for the hot and humid weather that greeted us. They also have a Hershey Museum and Chocolate World where you learn about how the candy is made and the day we arrived they were setting up for a huge concert that night. I wish I could be more descriptive of the park, but I can’t because I did not go there. I did experience the Pennsylvania countryside on the drive from New York City to Hershey and the charming ride into Philadelphia.  Let me tell you, driving out of NYC is a challenge, but the countryside awaiting you is a lush and green everywhere as far as the eye can see. You can travel countryside’s all over the world and not see anything prettier, greener or heartier.  I noticed that there are opportunities for “Farm Stays,” which are similar to B&B’s only located on a working farm allowing you an opportunity to be up close and personal with the workings of farm life and the people work and live there.

Days and nights of fun at Hershey Park.

You do eat chocolate during your stay in Hershey.  The hotels received a bad name in the past and were considered cheap and stingy with chocolate in various write-ups, so I noticed a lot more candy is provided for hotel guests to enjoy. I would not call it generous, but not stingy either.

We continued on to lovely, historical Philadelphia.

Natives on an Eight-Day Mexican Riviera Christmas Cruise From San Diego To: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La Paz, and Cabo San Lucas

First of all, let me say how lucky and blessed all sixteen of us are to have been granted this wonderful cruise experience and second of all you have just observed the most expensive family photo known to man. The shipboard photographers hold the most observable, most documentable evidence that the sixteen of you really appeared, acted and participated singly and collectively in this memorable experience.  This being said, they hold the money key. They can charge you the sun, the moon and sky and they do. For each copy collectively and or individually, is $39.95 per sheet. On each sheet is a pose with two-wallet size of each. There are sixteen of us. For formal night alone at $39.39 each is big money, so will you do the math? Who are they kidding? The thing is they are not kidding.  You pay and you pay big or you do not receive any visual documents of your trip. You see the family formal night photo don’t you? We took brownie camera shots, but they do not do justice in comparison to the gorgeous shots taken by the ship’s photographers. Plus let me add that when one of you is clicking, you are not in the photo. All and all what I am trying to say is they have you by the earlobes.

Traveling with a family of sixteen uniquely individualistic people has its challenges. In spite of the challenges we melded and bonded on this trip and became whole.  For any amount of money you can name, we would not have been able to buy this perfect experience from beginning, middle and end. It just happened by the grace of God and the forces that bind that the memories; the melding and the bonding are still in place. I am not saying that a family cruise will solve all of your problems, it could even exacerbate them, but for us it was heaven sent. If you think this is for you I know a great and wonderful travel agent, Glenda, at Frosch Classic Cruise and Travel, who will work out all the kinks for you; there are kinks and tricks to putting this all in place and she will do it as graciously for you as she did for us.  You too, may just have all the luck and marvel we had, so let me know, I will give you her particulars and she will wave her magic wand over your exciting departure, your splendid adventures and your safe return.

Brilliant idea: Some members of the group stopped at Best Buy on the way to the ship and bought sets of Walkie Talkies for each family. We were able to easily keep tabs on each other and join up more easily. We decided to adopt code names for the members of our group.  We are not quite sure we are finished, but for now, meet: Bright Light, Jackpot, Wonder Woman, Starfish, Queen Bee, G-Man, Morning Glory, Food Snob, Pita, His Majesty, Ladder, Justice, Chipmunk, Bandage, Dream Girl and Maybeline.  So guess who’s who?

Ports of Call:

PUERTO VALLARTA

After two days at sea on a nice ship, but one that needs to be put in for refurbishing, we docked in Puerto Vallarta. As the sun began to rise and the ship was secured, we took a walk on the promenade deck. The first thing you see is Wal-Mart, but beyond that, Puerto Vallarta is a bustling town full of traffic and people coming and going. The town center has maintained cobblestone streets and most of the homes and buildings look unfinished and rough. There is a reason for this state of the structures.  If you finish your home or building you have to pay taxes and if you are still working on it you do not.  Would you finish construction on your building? Neither does anyone else. The total look of the town is bumpy, course, ragged, frayed, tattered, and shabby, but you get to keep a number of thousands in tax money in your pocket.

Each member of our family was able to procure a souvenir or two from Puerto Vallarta, the unfinished, town of cobblestones, nearly paved and dirt roads full of unfinished homes and buildings. My souvenir was a small watercolor painting given to me by my son-in-law, Ladder. The people we encountered are friendly, seemingly happy, sweet and good looking. We bargained with a few vendors, which is the national way of tourist business.

MAZATLAN

We all loved arriving in Mazatlan because we have been waiting for the treasured sights that abound in this Mexican seaside town.  We saw the sights in town and out of town.  After a visit to the high divers, we visited an area in the heart of Mazatlan where they have every conceivable type of store in a huge intense market.  Included are some photos of the meat stalls. As you can see I was intrigued by the preparation of meat from the whole animal to it’s parts and pieces.

 

After visiting this fantastic market, we had lunch on an inviting sandy beach, followed by a trip to the Golden Zone to a visit some of the beautiful tourist hotels.  We had time to spend at a gorgeous hotel offering beach lounging. Activities offered on the beach are: parasailing, banana boat rides, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, and other great water activities. The day passed all to quickly.  Mazatlan is a place one must consider for a return visit.

LA PAZ, BCS, MEXICO

We docked a ways from town and all we could see looked like a semi-deserted area in a full desert environment.  We did not know what to expect and were anticipating this new experience. What a charmingly beautiful surprise awaited our arrival. La Paz is as beautiful and authentic as it gets. As soon as you leave the deserted dock area, there is an endless array of natural beauty connecting land and sea, and then, you come to the little town built on a hill with all you will ever need and full of places to explore. Needless to say, independently, the 16 of us spent the day in La Paz. We even had a little time to spend on the beach looking into the bluest, greenest water, in competition with the world’s most beautiful water scenes.

CABO SAN LUCAS

Cabo San Lucas is beautiful. It sits on the south end of the Baja Peninsula. Whatever you are looking for, you will find in Cabo.  The hospitality of this town surrounds you the minute you step into its charm. The harbor is beautiful and very busy.

Our family went Swimming with the Dolphins. Everyone had a wonderful time in Cabo!

Cabo presents world-class golf courses, world-class hotels, boats of all nature in a classically dazzling harbor, shopping galore, fabulous food and sport fishing. I mention sport fishing because we had an opportunity to visit Cape Marine, a store owned by Emily and Harold’s son, Phillip. Who are Emily and Harold?  They are our friends. They have a Condo in Cabo and come often from Pacific Beach to visit their son Phillip and family.  We had afternoon tea together and walked around the harbor until it was time for us to board our tender back to the ship.

Lastly, and by no means least, I must let you know that lady luck did not desert Skip. He DID win the Blackjack tournament on the ship with the usual T-shirts and a hefty monetary prize as well.  I note this because as you now know, he has won every blackjack tournament on every cruise we have ever taken. He wonders if it is skill or luck?  What do you think?

In conclusion, this is what we achieved and how I appreciate the wisdom and effort it took all of us to get here: Taking sixteen of your family members on a cruise has many epic tasks. It is like opening a million-piece puzzle set, dumping the pieces out on your dining room table and beginning to put the pieces together.  At first it is slow going. The pieces are stubborn and just a few come together leaving the field open. More and more as you work on it, the pieces slowly but surely come together, and the puzzle is formed. That’s exactly how our cruise came together. Putting the puzzle parts together was work, love, and respect. The lessons learned are observable and hidden.

The addition to our lives and the putting of the puzzle together involved the shedding of our old selves, the good, the observable, the hidden and the unexplainable. Then came the adding of the individual collections together; created the forming of a cohesive family. The divisions are individual and deep seated. They remain with each individual piece, but added together makes the unit complete.  Pieces get moved, shuffled, re-arranged making room for new additions and or subtractions, but the nucleus remains an important hub and as the puzzle forms and comes to fruition, it is ready for the glue and the shellac.

You ask, what did we do as we worked on pulling all of the million of pieces together? We ate, ate, ate, and ate some more. On sea days, we had breakfast; brunch and lunch, tea, snacks, dinner and some went off in search of late night munchies. There were daily shipboard activities presented all day long to whet the intellectual appetites as well. We began to move and wander together like a school of fish.

At each port there were many shore excursion suggestions: We collectively visited a tequila factory, snorkeled, participated in a Mexican Fiesta, learned to make tortilla’s, swam with the dolphins, rode distances into the countryside, discovered towns, visited authentic villages, shopped, danced, cooked, observed sea lions, viewed sculptures, creative and awesome art work and learned to appreciate the creativity and diligence involved in hand made goods; met new friends, visited with old friends and soaked up the warm Mexican sun. Let me end this much too long elucidation that traveling with a family of sixteen uniquely individualistic people of varying age ranges is not easy, not hard, but it had its challenges. Mostly we got to know the pieces of the puzzle better, and paved the way for a future of closer family ties.

Okay you skeptics, you say it can’t be true and it isn’t totally, because , we had to come home to real life scenarios. Real life trumps everything else.


NATIVES ON TOUR IN LAS VEGAS FOR THANKSGIVING

Natives on Tour in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving

 

How can I begin this saga? I will begin with regret. Regret that we chose Las Vegas for our Thanksgiving weekend and high regret for the place we chose to stay.  I cannot name the place because that would not be fair, but perhaps you can guess.

The check in process went smoothly and when you are checking in for seven rooms, this says a lot about the registration department of this hotel. I mention “the hotel” because; I never set foot outside of it due the trauma that was to unfold on the inside.

Everyone began to settle into their room assignments.  I upgraded ours because I felt we needed a larger space to meet and greet.

At first the upgraded room from hell looked good. It was on the 62nd floor facing the airport. After enjoying a few take offs and landings we set about nesting.  Within the first twenty minutes my black pants were full of blonde hairs. I called down and asked the front desk if perhaps this was as doggie room. She assured me it was not. There were further masses of hairs clinging to my pants. I called Housekeeping and they came to increase the cleaning process.  Then, an inspector came up to see that the job was done. I took my black sweater and rubbed my arm all along the sides of the bed and furniture. More masses of hairs clung.  The woman’s jaw dropped and she said the house cleaners would come again. They came and this time I stayed to watch the process.  They changed all the bedding and vacuumed all along the sides of the furniture several times and that seemed to solve the problem for cleanliness for the most part. It took the rest of our day to get this job done. What irks me to no end is that I paid good hard earned money for this upgrade from Hell. It was not a free upgrade or a compensated room.

I need to mention that the phones did not work, except for the ones in each bathroom. I spent a good amount of time on the potty seat talking from the bathroom, which possessed the only working phone to call the various people when I needed to get help. They never did fix the phones for normal talking; they got them to work on speakerphone, which is a yelling kind of talking. Talking exclusively on speakerphone is frustrating and headache producing for certain.

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An Ethical Will To My Children: I Did Not Give You Life to Prolong Mine.

1971

When I was very young, I explored dying. Not the horrid slow, suffering kind of dying I came to view as I grew into my aging years, done by grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and friends. As a youngster, I viewed dying as leaving some very sad people and how they would grieve for me.

I am not afraid to die; I am afraid of the pain and long suffering and I do not want grieving. I want my death to be a celebration.  I am afraid of the care that I will need to survive.  Please God, please children of mine, do not make me survive past the time I can rise from my bed, take the pills I need to keep my systems going, comb my hair, brush my teeth, pee, poop and feed myself.  Do not let me live past giving myself life-giving care.

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Four Daughters

Here they are, four daughters in a row. Can you pick out the twins? I can.  When the twins were babies I could be blindfolded and tell them apart just by their smell. I was very animalistic then about my babies. I still am. Better be careful. I bite.

No, I have not forgotten our wonderful loving son. He comes into view when we brought the twins into the house and he said, “Mom you had a girl and a boy and then you messed it all up.” Now, he cherishes all of the girls and they, him.  But later we will talk son, talk, but for now it is daughter talk.

What is a daughter? Goodness, a daughter is so many things it would fill pages and pages, but let me see if I can condense it for you.  A daughter is a challenging and trying human being that you love no matter what. Sometimes you think you have created a monster and other times an angel.   Daughters do not take all that you have to give, they tend to leave a little more for next time. They give you only so much of what you need from them and keep you waiting to hear more. You want to know how their day went and how they are feeling.  They say the word “fine” and you leave it at that creating a lull in the conversation. Sometimes on the other hand you get way more than you wanted in all ways. Not all daughters are the same; even if they share exact DNA, trust me.

You have heard many quotations about daughters no doubt. For example to quote a few, “A daughter is a gift of love.” “A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”

Here is one that is priceless: “Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing over a million dollar Stradivarius to a Gorilla.” Jim Bishop.  Then, there are ones like:

“ A mother’s treasure is her daughter.”  “ To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. “  Oh this is all hogwash; ok not all, but mostly.  Sorry, but I’ll bet each one of you can come up with a saying, a personal quote, closer to home and truer than the words I have quoted above.  So I am waiting. Post your personal quote. Here is mine

“If you have a choice of a son or a daughter, order both.” Or, like my mother told me; “ I wish you a daughter just like yourself.”

THE TEA PARTY

THE TEA PARTY:  SEPTEMBER 19, 2010

Sometimes a party just clicks and it is spectacular from the conception of the idea to the planning stages as well as the event itself. This was one of those magical gatherings of the clan.

Musings: You have an idea that you haven’t used your collection of gorgeous teacups since the major earthquake in 1994 when you gathered them from the broken mess of so much clatter and clutter. You must have a tea party so you can use and enjoy the ones you saved that day. Okay, but what does as traditional English Tea Party, entail?  It entails research. This was the birth of our Tea Party. By the way having an elegant tea party is very fashionable once again.

Get ready: First of all the tea is the star of the event, surrounded by dainty cucumber sandwiches, as well as sandwiches lightly buttered and topped with egg. Another popular tea sandwich is ham and watercress. Cream cheese is used in many combinations to craft and create fun tasty tea sandwiches. To make proper sandwiches, you have to have very thin bread minus the crusts. More

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